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Plains and Primates Through The Looking Glass: Experiences in The Serengeti and Rwanda by Ian Flores

- Thursday, October 09, 2014

This trip was planned to get me to the plains of the northern Serengeti in September and off to see the primates in Rwanda for two gorilla treks. This trip could not have been more action packed from a game-viewing or experiential perspective. 


PLAINS OF THE SERENGETI

I arrived into Tanzania and transferred to the Lake Duluti Serena Hotel. This is a great option after the long flights due to its cleanliness and proximity to the airport. 

It was awesome to meet our AAC Tanzania guiding team member Mkenda at the airport and to catch up since we last met on his roadshow around the US.


 

The following morning I was on the way on the scheduled charter flight (a 12-seater) to the Lamai airstrip in the Northern Serengeti, with a couple of stops along the way. I saw from the plane a spectacular view of Mt. Kilimanjaro above the clouds – a mountain I climbed in 2011 (click here for that trip report)!

On arrival in the Serengeti I was met by Godsend, my guide from Kimondo Camp for the next two game drives. It was fantastic to be in Tanzania and have my game viewing experience from an open vehicle – one of the benefits of flying to the Serengeti versus driving!

 

The drive back to camp took about an hour and we spotted a fair amount of game including lots of antelope species such as topi, impala, eland and more. 

We arrived in time for a nice lunch followed by our first game drive. We headed out with the sound of seasonal thunder constantly rumbling in the distance with those rain clouds sprinkling over on the Kenyan side of the border. Armed with ponchos and camera we headed out to the Lamai wedge.

 

This is a vast area with very few vehicles to be seen. The scenery was that of what one imagines the Serengeti being: sweeping views of open plains with wildebeest, zebra and other game roaming about. We saw elephants, giraffe, a large range of birds species, and a pair of mating lions.


As the day was drawing to an end, we got the call that cheetah had been spotted. So we left our amorous lions and headed to our next sighting – two cheetah were walking around and playing and chasing with each other with the speed and dexterity only a cat could have. These two brothers were sharpening their hunting skills while playing at the same time. Godsend had thus far delivered ½ of my wish list.

 

That evening back at camp we compared tales over dinner. One Indian couple had spent 5 hours sitting by the Mara River waiting for a famed river crossing. The stage was set, zebra and wildebeest were all congregated at the edge of the water, the crocodiles were all strategically positioned, the only thing that was missing was the one brave (and not so smart) zebra/wildebeest to take that leap of faith, but it never happened. Another couple echoed their experiences on the previous day whereby they sat for 4½ hours with nothing to show. Little did I know what was coming the next morning...


My stay at Kimondo Camp, a seasonal mobile tented camp in the Lamai wedge to the north northwest of the Serengeti, ideally situated for Migration game viewing for this time of year (September).


 

The next morning after breakfast we continued on our tour of the Serengeti, this time crossing over the Mara River into the northern Serengeti. It is amazing how much the landscape could change from wide open plains to the hills peppered with oversized boulders, canyons and hills. This is where we found our next lion encounter. This pride was about 20 strong with different aged lions in the group. They were on top of a rocky hill purveying the landscape and the multitude of wildebeest that were slowly coming closer to their domain.

  

On this side of the river I also saw the beautiful Sayari Camp with its Asian-esque flavor of wooden floors, sliding doors to the bathroom and an impeccable and luxurious setting from which to see the Great Migration!


  


We didn’t stay long enough to if this scene would play out, but shortly thereafter we found a beautiful leopard also amongst the rocky outcrops enjoying the sunshine and a stretch. Of course there was game all along the way, and after our leopard we were on a hunt for the rhino that was spotted the day before.


That was when we received the call: River Crossing! We quickly turned the vehicle around and got the river about 5 minutes before the first zebra jumped in. There were about half a dozen Crocodiles in the water, but only two that were really going in for a meal.


Over the next 40 minutes we watched zebra and wildebeest jump in and swim for the far side, we saw several attempts by the crocodiles to take down full sized animals, and eventually took down a young wildebeest. This is a very raw moment that shows the power and beauty of nature at its most elemental state.

 

 

PART II - PRIMATES

This had been an action-packed day in the Serengeti and from here I went directly to the airstrip for my charter flight to Rwanda – home of the highland gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park. The scheduled charter flight from Mwanza to Kigali was about 1hour 15 minutes with great views of Lake Victoria along the way.

In Kigali I stayed at the Kigali Serena Hotel which is a fine option. This business hotel offers a clean place, great dinner and breakfast options, swimming pool and everything you could hope for in hotel before heading out for a gorilla trekking experience.  I also saw the Hotel des Mille Collines which is a step down that feels that has modern elements to it while still an older feeling hotel. Lastly, the Flame Tree Village is a great option for a more boutique hotel type of stay, with nice rooms (I definitely recommend the suites), pool area and bar.

The gorilla trekking was going to be the cherry on the safari cake for me. This is an experience that after having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, was something that I knew I had to do at some stage in my life. The time had come.


We drove around the city seeing some of the different sights. What struck me was how clean everything was, only to find out that the last Saturday of every month everyone participates in a general cleanup clearing the streets and parks of any litter. I was also amazed at how much construction and development was going on. It gave a sense that Rwanda in general, but Kigali in particular was moving forward with its growth after a horrific epoch in its history with the genocide of about one million people in less than one hundred days.

The drive to the Volcanoes National Park area was about 2½ hours winding through the Land of 1000 Hills. Along the way you drive through eucalypt forests that were imported from Australia and have done very well in that wet environment.


 

My accommodations were at the Gorilla Mountain View Lodge which is a great our entry level option property for clients looking to use as a home base for the gorilla trekking. The cottages were large, as were the bathrooms, with enough hot water for two people and fireplace. It did have a little space heater that was sufficient enough to warm the room for sleeping. The main area of the lodge has two large fireplaces inside the lodge with chairs around for people to use while reviewing their pictures on iPads or conversing with other trekkers. Dining was in a large room that was served buffet style and individual tables.

  


Other properties I saw were Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, the luxury upmarket stay at a lodge with beautiful rooms, views and great taste in décor. It is as far from the park headquarters as Gorilla Mountain View. One thing to point out is that it is a steep climb from your vehicle to the lodge entrance, so be prepared.


Lastly, Jack Hanna’s House is a lovely that only has two rooms and feels like you are at home. The wood floors, lounge area with fireplace, long wooden kitchen table and more make this a comfortable option for a romantic stay for two or a homey stay for a small family. All three options are great and suit different styles of travel and budget ranges.


  
Sabinyo

  
Jack Hannah's

We set out on the short journey the next morning at 6:30am to the park headquarters where we would find out about the gorilla family we were assigned to. I had put in a request for the Susa group on the first day because it was the largest of the different gorilla families and as it was known as one of the harder treks.

On arrival there are singers and drummers filling the air with a festive spirit as tourists, guides and trekkers alike come to find where they will be trekking that day. It’s a bustling atmosphere where you can purchase souvenirs, use bathrooms, get coffee/tea and just enjoy the anticipation of what’s to come. I was eventually told that I got my first choice group… Susa. You can put in request, but it isn’t always a guarantee for many reasons.

 

I met our gorilla trekking guide, Patrick, and the rest of our motley crew. There are 8 trekkers per group. We were briefed and after some introductions and other general questions we headed off to the hike.

Our trek started alongside the forest where the farming land ends and the natural gorilla habit begins. Here we were briefed about the particulars in gorilla etiquette such as no pointing, no touching, no running, and of course, no flash photography. We started our way through a bamboo forest.

 


Once we were out of this unique setting we trekked into some pristine forest that opened up to green valley’s lush with vegetation, red ash trees and tons of foliage. This is where we came upon our first encounter after about 2½ hours of trekking. For the next hour we spent our time admiring the beautiful highland mountain gorillas in their habitat.

They were playing, sleeping, foraging, preening, and just being gorillas. We had ample time to photograph them and follow them around as they wandered. The experience was amazing and humbling at the same time. It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. The whole day took us about 6 hours before we were back at our vehicles, but we were only going as fast as the slowest person.

   
 

The second day of trekking was a vastly different experience in almost every way. Our guide was the renowned Francois, one of Diane Fossey’s original porters. Our gorilla family, the Amohoro group, was much closer and the overall experience was much more laid back. The word “Amohoro” means peace and everything about this trek was just that.

 



Francois our park ranger, is such a large personality, someone who has been in trekking through these forests for the last 32 years amongst the gorillas. He is not bashful or shy and is engaging everyone and getting them out of their comfort zones by having them imitate gorilla vocalizations that means “good morning” or “every-thing is ok”. I saw him swinging from a bamboo, eating plants and roots just as a gorilla would.

The trek was shorter this time around only being an hour long and the gorillas this time were just hanging around then on the move. The lighting was much better as we were more out in the open and of the five silverbacks of the group we got to see four of them. There were babies, blackbacks (aka teenagers), mothers, young ones and of course the silverbacks. The whole experience would not have been the same if I didn’t have this second this second trek and really allowed to absorb the whole experience on a different level.

I was told that tourists don’t trek the same family twice in a row because the gorilla start to recognize them and feel comfortable enough to approach them. As Francois had been doing this for over 30 years I asked if he personally knew all the gorillas. His response in that moment encapsulated the whole history of gorilla conservation, research, tourism and everything in a single phrase. He said, “We know each other”.

Combining the Plains of the Serengeti with the Primates of Rwanda is, in my opinion, the best way to see East Africa and really get the best wildlife experience with a true adventure!





Eyes of the Elephant Safari to Zimbabwe by Szilvia Hegyi and Elena Theodosiou

- Monday, September 01, 2014

Our safari to Zimbabwe started with an overnight at the African Rock Hotel in Johannesburg. The hotel is in close proximity to the airport and a great option for overnight stays. The staff was friendly and the food was great! After a delicious breakfast we were ready to start our adventure in Zimbabwe.


Our flight to Harare was a little less than 2 hours. Our guide Nick Murray met us at the airport and together we boarded our charter flight to Mana Pools, and already enjoyed the fantastic scenery of Zimbabwe from the air (just over an hour flight).

On arrival in Mana we began game viewing immediately. Our first sighting 15 minutes from the airstrip was Fred (Astaire because he can dance!) who then promptly went onto his hind legs (not once but twice!).  What a nice introduction to Mana Pools, wow! We enjoyed a lovely sundowner at the Zambezi River and continued our afternoon game drive with many nice elephant, jackal and buffalo sightings. We enjoyed a very nice dinner at Vundu Camp and a restful night listening to a hippos and birds through the night.

 

 

Next morning we went on a shared walking safari with Alistair Chambers who took us on a quest to find the wild dog den. It was a great walk, cool morning and Alistair led us – barefoot – which was a wonder to all the Americans! We got to the den and crawled on our behinds, the dogs were behind heavy brush – however we could see the puppies and also the minders who were left behind to take care of them.  While we were sitting there the rest of the pack came back and we could hear the whole greeting ceremony!  Lots of chirping and retching….once the rest of the pack realized we were there a lot of loud growling ensued and after a while Alistair pulled us out slowly.  It was an amazing experience!

In the afternoon we drove around with Nick Murray until we found Mudzi. We parked the vehicle and the second walk of the day began. Our walk involved walking over that fine Kalahari sand which is like walking on a beach – challenging.  When we got to Mudzi – he was with a whole lot of other elephants: Some juveniles, some females with young calves.

 

Mudzi was close to the river waiting for water to seep up through the sand and very busy drinking and almost dozing. We walked to the river bend and sat down in front of the ellies, only a few feet away from them. We were closer than we ever imagined being to a wild bull elephant but it was so peaceful it was surreal! We then pulled back a little bit and sat around some trees, sometimes on buffalo poop and many thorns, but we did not care. All we cared about was the amazing elephant sighting we had a chance to experience.  We spent the next two + hours sitting with the ellies. We actually got mock charged by a mommy and managed to take a short video. It was amazing that one ‘Hey’ from Nick was all it took and she backed off and walked away like nothing had happened (while we were already behind the trees)!

 

Next morning we had a morning game drive and came back to camp to collect bags and say goodbye to the staff.  Nick drove us to Mana West where the Ruckomechi vehicle met us.  Both of us cried when we left Vundu. Nick was lovely and gave us lots of hugs and told us we could come back, but I think he was a little overwhelmed with the two crying woman on his hands!

We left Mana West and drove slowly to Ruckomechi – our guide was Gadrick. Upon arrival at Ruckomechi we enjoyed a greeting committee of 3 elephants roaming around the main area of the camp. Even when we returned for our high tea we found the elephants were in camp and walking around the dining room area!  Elena had to move from her seat because one of the ellies started to walk in her direction.

For our afternoon we choose to enjoy a flat bottom boat ride. It was lovely being out and the Zambezi river was truthfully awe-inspiring – very wide with lots of islands.  It was a little windy so the water was a little choppy and a little brisk. Again, we had some fantastic elephant sightings, saw ellies roaming around on the islands. Lots of hippos and crocodiles completed the idyllic atmosphere of the river. When the sun was starting to set we came round the bend and could see a lovely little fire on the banks.


We had wonderful sundowners with a chef actually cooking wings for us over the fire.  The vehicle was waiting for us and the gentleman who had driven the vehicle then took the boat back to camp.  So after very nice sundowners (gorgeous sunset) and a walk through the ‘adrenaline grass’ to water the daisies we were off on a night game drive. Dinner was delicious as always, the food is definitely one of the wonderful elements of the entire safari experience.

The next morning we had breakfast and a game drive, came back to camp for nice brunch and then onto  Mana West for our scheduled charter flight departure. We very briefly saw a lovely young female leopard (our 1st leopard sighting on this safari!) right on the side of the track – gorgeous but we were both so taken aback no photos were taken. What a nice farewell sighting for our departure from Ruckomechi!

From Mana the flight took about two hours to Hwange. We were lucky and got a Caravan plane.  On arrival in Hwange we were met by Themba who was our guide at Little Makalolo. He and his lovely wife Bee manage Little Makalolo Camp.

Our first afternoon we sat at the log pile elephant hide! It was probably the most perfect afternoon for this experience – clear sky with fluffy white clouds, tons of elephants coming in drinking and moving off with other elephants waiting to come and drink, and all the reflections of the sky and elephants in the water of the waterhole!! We could have sat there for hours.

Themba is a larger than life character who turned out to be a really great guide and saw things in the bush that ‘normal’ human eye cannot spot.

 



Continued on for the afternoon game drive and went and saw the site for the future Linkwasha Camp – which will be in the same approximate area of where the original Linkwasha was. Beautiful location with a wide open plain, the water hole is close to camp which will definitely be a big favorite. We had sundowners here again the ellies came down to drink while we had a lovely drink.  Nice dinner with everyone sitting around the fire and lots of buffalos very close to the dining area.

The next day we went out early and first sighting of the day a female leopard busily plucking the feathers off a guinea fowl!  She was a distance from us but then Themba (the eagle eyed) saw that she had cubs hidden in a tree across the track behind our vehicles.  She eventually made her way across the track and called to her cubs so we saw the whole family! It was fantastic and everyone around the sighting was over the moon.  We say some plains game and came back for brunch and enjoyed a nice siesta!

We had a great afternoon drive – and went and saw Davison’s camp which is a lovely alternative option in Hwange.  The upstairs deck is a great addition to the renovated main area allowing travelers a fantastic view of the waterhole.

 

Again nice sundowners, and great dinner at Little Makalolo for our last night at the camp. The next morning we left early to begin the drive to Hwange Main game viewing along the way. This turned out to be a great morning as we saw a very handsome lion pair (beautiful black maned lion and his lady love).  They were walking on the side of the road so we kept up with them for some time.  Fantastic photo opportunities and considering our only other lions were a few moth eaten, lazy lionesses at Vundu we were very happy to see them. We also had a fantastic ostrich sighting here – one poor male wooing two females – he was all over the place!  Lovely to see the joy of the mating dance!

 

On arrival at Hwange Main we were met by Lauren who drove us through to Ivory lodge which is an excellent addition to the Mother Africa voluntourism itinerary. We also went and saw Khulu Ivory which is looking gorgeous.

Departed by road to Bulawayo, which was about 2 hours. Continued onto Amalinda which is about 20 minutes away – what a special place!  The camp is built among rocky outcrops and offers a wide variety of activities including walks to rock paintings and a cultural opportunity to visit an orphanage. We had room 7 and 8 set in the one corner close together so this could also work for older kids. Room 7 has a little wooden bridge to the door and a lovely outside patio and an original rock painting inside the room, what a treat! Both rooms were gorgeous (the electric blankets on the beds!!). And the first hair dryer on the trip!!!

 



After breakfast we went off to Ethandweni and met Lucien who is in charge of the orphanage. What an extraordinary man!  It was incredible what has been achieved and how well organized the orphanage is. We walked around the orphanage and looked at the rooms, the vegetable gardens (with the roster of who is on ‘baboon watch’) and met a few of the children.

The trip was ending, so sadly we drove to the Bulawayo Airport (a very impressive clean and tidy small airport) and flew back to Johannesburg. SA Airlink served us the best meal out of all our flights – a very nice cold chicken salad with a beautiful blueberry mousseycheesecakey pudding and crackers with cheese (and this is a very short flight about an hour and 20 minutes)!

After both of us having been on many safaris we can confidently say that Zimbabwe is one of the best safari destinations offering superb wildlife and cultural experience! We will be back!!!



6 POSTCARDS from the AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013

- Thursday, May 01, 2014
Alison and Nicholas Nolting / Susan and Elizabeth Clemons / Anne and Caitlin Hampton

Matobo Hills and Hwange
- Zimbabwe is a country rich in wildlife and pristine ecological surroundings, one of the few places in the world where it’s possible to see the Big 5 in pristine wildlife areas.
- The uniqueness of this project arises from its truly magnificent ecological surroundings coupled with the communit ies living around Matobo and Hwange.
- Mother Africa is established to assist communities and conservation near Amalinda in Matobo Hills including WhiteWaters and Ethandweni .
- Children in the Wilderness is active with the Ngamo and Ziga communities around Hwange Park, situated near to their safari camp, Davison’s.

"So you may be asking, what kind of trip was this! 
This was a  “purpose-driven safaris” tailor-made for unskilled mothers and their student  children who wished to donate their time and leave a la…sting and tangible impression on Zimbabwe, in so many ways.

And that we did! We sourced over 6 large duffel bags of Grade 5-8 books for  both schools we visited. We acted as a “connector” in the classrooms  and community helping the next generation of children in Zimbabwe who are the future of their country.

We all came away with a mutual acceptance of one’s culture, beliefs and the lives they lead."

Alison Nolting – Trip Leader



Lizzie Clemons



Anne Hampton


- by: Alison Nolting


Mark and Alison Nolting in South Africa

- Sunday, April 20, 2014

South Africa 2013
Mark and I cemented key partnerships in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.  The weather was stunning with meals enjoyed outside with stunning ocean views and green, lush vineyards.   We were there for two weddings - and the funeral of leader Nelson Mandela.

November 28, 2013 in Cape Town                                Bakoven Luxury Apartments near Camps Bay
 


November 30 – Constantia Winelands Wedding

 


My brother, wife and lovely daughter – my niece



December 02, Meeting Wilderness Touring – lunch at the Boat House by chef Bruce Robertson

                        

Meeting our Cape Town Guides -  Andrew, Lucia, Janice and Lazarus
   


December 03, Meeting the Singita Operations



Meeting all at the Asilia Office and Operations



December 04, the Cape Grace 5 start Hospitality



Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace
  
 


December 05, Visiting Colin Bell – Conservationist and author of “ Africa’s Finest”



Ellerman House and their 6 start Wine Cellar!



December 06, Iliso Care Society in Kaylicha Township – visiting with Vivian



Visiting the Winelands–Delaire and Bablyonstoren



December 07,  country wedding in Kwa-Zulu Natal
Good to see Yvonne and Blessing.




 Nelson Mandela memorial–a country in mourning



December 08, the Saxon Hotel – 6 star hospitality



December 08, Johannesburg Wilderness Safaris


- by: Alison Nolting


Ian Flores Going Green in Botswana

- Monday, January 06, 2014
January 2014
There have been some amazing specials as incentive to travel in Botswana ’s Green Season: November thru mid-April. This is the Wet season when there is more daily rain, and afternoon and overnight thunderstorms are to be expected. Ironically, this is also the low flooding season as the waters have not made it to the Delta from Angola yet. Yet, these amazing rates have lured wildlife enthusiasts in their non-Peak season. I was going for a firsthand look during this time period.



I flew via London to arrive into Johannesburg early enough to connect with the flight into Maun, Botswana and onwards to my first safari camp. A preferred method for many travelers from the US is to go directly into Johannesburg, spend the night and then continue the following day. This routing allowed me to also see first hand some rest areas in London and Johannesburg.

In Johannesburg I had a pass to one of the many club lounge areas, in particular the Bidvest Premier Lounge.  This is a great place to kill a few hours with access to showers, appetizers and snacks, and wide range of drinks (alcoholic and non).

Onwards to Maun…

I arrived in Maun and was surprised to find out that there was free Wifi available (for 10 minutes) so it was my last bit of communication before connecting with my flight to spend six days in the Okavango Delta and Linyanti areas of Botswana. In this time I would stay at a different camp each night in Wilderness Safaris’ portfolio of Classic and Premier level camps.

 


My trip included a night at each of the following camps: Vumbura Plains North, Little Tubu, Xigera, Chitabe Lediba, Mombo Main and Kings Pool. I was also to get a look at Little Vumburra, Tubu Camp, Chitabe and Duma Tau. They are all in the Okavango Delta except for Kings Pool and Duma Tau, which are located in the Linyanti.

My introduction into both Botswana and the Okavango couldn’t have been better than my first camp, Vumbura Plains (North) Camp! This is a premier level camp in which the rooms are not so much a tent as it is a compound! As you enter your private area you immediately see un-obstructed views of the Delta. On further investigation one will notice outdoors sala with an L-shaped couch, private plunge pool and small breakfast table. Oh year, there’s also an oversized tent. As you enter there is another sunken lounge area with minibar stocked with your preferred beverages, king-sized bed, open shower (with optional drapes for privacy), bathroom, desk and dressing area as well as bathroom. If that isn’t enough you also have a second outdoors shower. This is a Premier Camp for good reason.

 
 

The staff was attentive and my guide, Moronga (aka Mork) has been guiding for over 10 years. The game viewing was very productive and we found a pride of 4 lions on a zebra kill on our first afternoon game drive. Mork spun a tale about a larger pride of 8 that was split up the week before, presumably by a buffalo. In any case, two sister lionesses each with two offspring (1 boy and 1 girl each) had been split up and each lioness ended up with her sister’s youngsters. According to Mork, if they don’t meet up again soon they could end up as their own prides in their respective right, in which case they could be confrontational. It’s these dramas that unfold in the heart of the Delta that are only made known to you by your guide.

After my morning game drive the following day and finding the lost sister and two other cubs on a kill of their own, I was off to my next camp… Little Tubu!

 
 

Little Tubu Camp is a brand new tent that only opened June 2013! Just like Vumbura the two different camps are connected by a single boardwalk, but that’s about it. Little Tubu only has three tents and is great for small groups or a larger family. The bar is made of an old tree and fits beautifully into the camp making it a natural congregational area. The tents are large for the Classic Level standard and includes all the usual details you find in the type of rooms – writing desk, outside chairs with great views, en suite and double basin vanity, and of course, an outdoor shower.

The camps are located on Hunda Island which renowned for their population of leopards (if this is on your game wish list). This is also where we had our Boma night! This is a festive occasion that happens at all the Wilderness Camps every Monday night! There is lots of singing and joy in the air as you enjoy your evening cocktails before your special dinner. This is an experience that will put a smile on any face.

I continued by charter flight again to my first of two camps in the Moremi Game Reserve, Xigera Camp. This is a great camp to begin or end with if you are on a small circuit of camps around Botswana . Xigera is a water-based camp that offers lots of great water experiences including game viewing by boat and makoro rides. The camp has a very relaxed atmosphere that I think is partly due to the management team I met – Neuman and Rauve. There are a lot of trees that offer ample shade and the breezes that come through camp make it a nice place to miss a game drive and read a book or sleep in. This camp is run on an advanced system of solar panels, purpose-built batteries and generators (just like Mombo, Duma Tau and soon Vumbura Plains).

 

I said farewell to my new friends and continued to the eastern part of the Delta at Chitabe Lediba.

The camp is a beautiful and open with what is now the “standard” sweeping views of the Okavango Delta. The camp is shady and just like all the other camps I’d visited I was given an introduction with safety briefing. Part of this is the relaxed philosophy to help yourself to a drink behind the bar if there isn’t anyone around. This kind of attitude makes you feel like you are at a friend’s house and feels inviting. This is something conveyed by the staff as well.

 
 

My guide here, Gordon, was stellar. He is another cool character that is relaxed in his manner and elaborates and enunciates perfectly. However, if a guide is well-spoken but can’t find any game, then it’s not enough. However, this was not the case with Gordon. As we did our afternoon game drive we explored the area finding playful hippos in the water, herds of elephant drinking and foraging as well as reading animal tracks and listening for tell tale signs of predators in the area – animal alarm calls.

We were enjoying sundowners as we noticed a tower of giraffe slowly meandering our way out of the bush. Oh, I almost forgot to mention each and every place had the most stunning and spectacular sunsets that literally changed in color from moment to moment. Purples and oranges blazing in the sky as you start making your way back to camp for pre dinner drinks and dinner. Dinner at all the camps was communal and very jovial. I did not have a bad meal at any of the camps.

The next day we found a beautiful leopard resting in a tree after a long and unsuccessful night of hunting. You see a leopard it feels like you have won some sort of karmic prize. These elusive cats are elegant and seductive. Spending time here was one of my highlights. From here it was off to find a pride of lion, lots and lots of elephant, hippo, and more.

I next flew to the famed Mombo camp. Of all the places I was visiting this is the one that I was holding the highest expectations for from all the feedback I’ve heard over the years from clients and colleagues. All I can say is… Believe the Hype!

 
 

From the moment we got off our plane our guide told us to be quiet and quickly get in the vehicle as there was a pride of lion right by the runway… are you kidding me?!?! Awesome! We got in and made our way to spy on these relaxed beasts. In fact every moment spent in that game vehicle was amazing.

Our specialist guide, OB, who is now based out of Mombo, has 17 years of experience. The two most used phrases he used were, “Oh my god” and “Wow!” Here is someone who has been doing this for a long time and yet he gets as excited as a first time safarier. He embodies passion for his job and gets you excited.

There were so many highlights here but the other one that stands out was finding and following a male lion completely in his prime and oozing the confidence that only a male lion can. He was roaring and letting it be known to those unwanted intruders that this was his home, and they’d better leave or come and talk to him about it. I’ve never experienced hearing a lion roar so close to me. It vibrates in your chest and in the floorboard of the vehicle. It is equally impressive and unnerving and reminds you of your own vulnerability and still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

Game viewing aside the rooms here are very long and comfortable. There is an outdoors day bed, indoor and outdoor showers, comfortable bed and everything else you could hope for. The rooms are elevated so the game viewing doesn’t just have to happen in a vehicle, it happens out your back door.

The camp is number one when it comes to details from the coffee beans on your bed that spell out, “Welcome to Mombo” to the little mason jars of snacks you can bring with you on your game drives. The staff is genuinely friendly. They are proud to be there and it shows. However, accommodations and service aside, you go to Mombo or Little Mombo for the unparalleled game viewing.

My last stop on this whirlwind tour was Kings Pool. This was the final leg on my stop and apart from Vumbura and Mombo the only other Premier Camp. Kings Pool definitely had the biggest “wow” view as you enter into the camp after getting out of your vehicle. You arrive into camp and walk up two or three steps only to see this beautiful river. As your eyes wander down closer you can see this very big and inviting semi-circular couch that could sit around 20 people with a fire pit in the middle and a hippo filled river just in front.

 
 

These rooms were also large and my second favorite after Vumbura. Instead of it being long like Mombo it was like a large square with two shower heads, bathroom area, lounge area and outdoor private plunge pool and day bed. From here you can hear and see the hippos playing hide-n-seek in the river. It’s a great water and land camp. For my evening activity we went out on a two tier barge where we had our sundowners and cruised amongst the tall grasses and pods of hippos.

The following day on my way to inspect Duma Tau we found a pack of 18 wild dogs! This was another one of my highlights. They are much more active than lions and leopard from a game viewing point of view. They are forever moving, adjusting, scratching, getting up and laying down in a different spot. If you made a noise they would look to see what that was. Other activities you can do from Kings Pool are fishing, viewing elephant from a hide and nature walks.

 
 

This was the perfect way to end such a short and sweet trip. Botswana in the Green Season is awesome.

The other amazing thing was all the babies we saw. Baby warthogs, hyenas, elephants, lions, hippos, tons and tons of baby impala and more. There were more types of birds than I could count. If I lived around here I could easily become a birder.

The last thing I learned on this trip was to never say goodbye. It’s not because of cultural differences or anything like that. It’s simply because you don’t know when you will run into these people you meet on safari again. On six of my seven charter flights I had the same pilot whom I sat next to. She was a great Australian girl who had been on the reality show Bush Pilots. We had great conversation and shared a few laughs. Another was a couple on their honeymoon, whom I ran into on four separate occasions. I learned that in Botswana it’s never about goodbyes, but what’s next.

On top of everything else I mentioned, a huge incentive for many people is that traveling this time of year can potentially save you thousands of dollars per person. If you want a premier level safari trip at a fraction of the price with world class game viewing, then there is no question about doing this, but when.

Go… you’ll thank me later.

- by: Ian Carlo Flores


Lynne and Elena's Adventure to Kenya

- Tuesday, October 22, 2013
October 2013
After a couple of nights spent in Nairobi and inspecting some properties, we both agreed that the new Hemmingway’s is definitely a fantastic addition to Nairobi’s accommodations. We spent a wonderful overnight at Giraffe Manor (every bit as beautiful as one would imagine) and then we were off on safari!

 


On arrival in Laikipia we were whisked off to Solio for two nights.  We had fantastic wild life viewing at Solio where the rhinos were the true stars – both black and white!  We spend a full day in the Aberdares which opened up another whole experience – the green hills and valleys, streams and waterfalls provided gorgeous scenery, as well as some interesting wildlife!

 

 

From Laikipia we went off to Samburu and our next lodge Sasaab.  Sasaab is a stunning property – a mix of Arabian nights meets African Bush and set the side of a hill overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River.  Hot and dry with some very interesting additions to our wildlife viewing – Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk (who amazingly never drink water) and lots of elephants.


 


Last but certainly not least we flew to the Maasai Mara.  Here we were fortunate enough to spend two nights at Sala’s Camp.  We hit the game viewing jackpot on the way from the airstrip to camp.  Our guide spotted mating leopards!

 
 

Sala’s is small and intimate and tucked away in a secluded area with views of the Sand River looking towards the Serengeti ( Tanzania ).  Great game viewing but the lions roaring all night was definitely a favorite experience!  We then spent a night at Rekero Camp on the banks of the Talek River and a night at Naboisho Camp in the Naboisho Conservancy – both tented camps with excellent locations and game viewing.

We were very sad to come home but brought back with us great memories, fantastic game viewing and incredible experiences to share with our colleagues and our safariers!



- by: Lynne Glasgow and Elena Theodosiou


Gorilla Safari to Uganda and Rwanda for Allana Botha

- Monday, May 13, 2013
Queen Elizabeth Park/Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda
Little did I know what a whirlwind adventure awaited me. After an overnight in Entebbe, Uganda greeted my senses with its old world charm. My drive from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth National Park meandered through villages and green hills, banana plantations, small crop farms and eager children calling 'hello'. Enterprising 'bike taxis' and stall keepers of a ll merchandise highlighted the road ways as we crossed the Equator.



The beautiful plains of the Queen Elizabeth National Park le ft me speechless with its never ending vistas. Prolific Uganda kob and topi with elephant and tree climbing lions made for fabulous game viewing. Ishasha Wildern ess Camp was welcoming after a hectic day offering a peaceful haven along the river, until the evening when a lion came roaring through the camp! The camp staff was attentive and the food was sumptuous!



We continued onwards to Bwindi National Park. Climbing up mountain passes we viewed red tail monkeys, black & white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys and r'host along the roadside. The valleys and sights were just breathtaking. Arriving at Gorilla Forest Camp was mesmerizing with the forests and rumbling skies in the late afternoon.



There was great excitement the morning of our gorilla trek. We were trekking the Habinyanya family. We met with our guide and trekked for two hours. The guides, trekkers and porter s were just great. Any tiredness from the trek faded immediately on sighting our first gorilla. The lazy sounds of them munching away and rustling leaves made one aware that they were all around us. The guide cleared the vegetation for better viewing an d seeing our first silverback was breathtaking.
The Gorilla Forest Camp was wonderful to return to. The ladies enjoyed a massage before dinner at our camp. The staff was exceptional as was the food.



The next day we climbed and curved through mountains and valleys to the Rwanda border. We cleared customs and continued onwards to Gorilla Mountain View Lodge with Sabyinyo Volcano in the background. In the evening w e enjoyed a cultural show.



The following day brought the excitement of a golden monkey trek. This was different than the gorilla trek as we hiked through farmlands and a bamboo forest. These delightful creatures were all around and quite at home with us being there.



The following morning I left our group and went onwards to Kigali which is a clean, developing city. After a very emotional visit to the Genocid e museum, I did some last minute shopping at the local market before leaving for the airport to connect with my return flight home.  



An amazing journey and adventure!

- by: Allana Botha


Legends of Zimbabwe

- Wednesday, May 08, 2013

This was my first vacation to Zimbabwe since 1997, so I was very excited to be travelling with my husband and two very good friends, none of whom had been on a real safari adventure before. We had begun the planning p rocess just after Joanie and Bill married last October, and this was to be their honeymoon! None of us knew at that time that it would also be a celebration of Bill beating cancer (our departure was just days after his final radiation and chemo treatment), so I had some trepidation that my love of Africa would not live up to their expectations. Africa did not let me down!

Finally, the departure day arrived, and we were off!


 

Bill and Joanie Richardson  / George and Lynne Glasgow


After a long and ti ring flight to Johannesburg and an overnight to recover, we set off to Victoria Falls, where we met our pilot and flew in a small charter aircraft to our first camp, Davison's Camp in Hwnage National Park. We were greeted at the airstrip by our guide, Dixo n with our safari vehicle, and moments later encountered the first of what would be very many herds of elephant!




Hwange does have lots of other animals, and over the next two days we saw many!


  


The accommodations at Davison's Camp came as a very pleasant surprise to my travelling companions. No matter how much I had reassured them that they would love staying in a '˜tent' they really did not believe how comfortable it would be until we arrived!


  

Lounge area Twin Tent (no Wi-Fi!) A visitor to the fire -pit!

All too soon we were beading back to the airstrip to board our charter flight to Mana Pools National Park, which is right on the edge of the Zambezi River. When we arrived, we were whisked off by open safari vehicle to Vundu Camp by our fabulous guide, Nick Murray.

  
Nick Murray / First glimpse of the river / Lunch at Vundu Camp

We had time to enjoy a sumptuous lunch and unpack, and then it was off on our first adventure to find '˜Handstand' a huge Bull elephant that has learned to balance on his back legs to reach the higher, succulent branches of his favorite trees!



The fun continued, as we walked across this open floodplain and came across one of Nicks best friends.. Mudzi!

Over many years, Nick has gained the trust of this beautiful elephant, to the extent that Mudzi now expects some special '˜treats' and is not too happy if none are provided! We spent several minutes gathering acacia pods and juicy branches to share with Mudzi.



The next morning, Nick walked us to a pride of lion, very happily snoozing under shady trees and on a termite mound. They had just spent 2 days gorging on a young elephant, and all that was left was a pile of thick hide and a rib -cage. Thankfully they were SO full they had no interest in us!



The whole walking experience certainly got the adrenalin flowing, so we decided that we would take a relaxing afternoon canoe ride on the river, after lunch.



We enjoyed the afternoon so much (including the '˜rush' of a pod of hippos charging into the water just as we went past!) that we decided to spend the whole of the next day canoeing, and took a picnic lunch along with us. This proved to be one of my best days in Africa, ever!

The scenery was stunning, the sky a perfect blue, and the hippos and elephant did not disappoint in providing some exciting moments!

 
  
Lunch- prepared by Dany ………………….. And Mudzi decided to join us!

Once more, we returned to camp and enjoyed a wonderful dinner, before heading back to our tents for sleep in our cozy bed, listening to the night sounds and the river flowing gently by.

 
 

But our fun was not over. We headed back to Victoria Falls to spend our final two nights at Elephant Camp, just a 10 minute ride from the center of Victoria Falls town. Jonathan, the camp manager, welcomed us into a little bit of paradise! Each room has: a lovely sitting area beautiful bedroom and a plunge pool!

Dinner that evening was the best meal of the whole trip. The food ove rall was terrific, but the attention to detail at Elephant Camp was five star.

 
Esther' best guide at the Falls! /       Lynne at the Devil' Cataract

The whole reason to go to Victoria Falls is of course to SEE the falls, so the next day we had a guided walking tour with resident guide, Esther. Esther has looked after and guided our clients for many years, and is now a grandmother, but each day (sometimes twice!) she strides out along the path edging the Falls, and shares her knowledge. She is indeed a treasure of Zimbabwe, and we are proud to have her as part of our exten ded family.

It is awesome seeing the Falls on foot, but to get a real perspective of the size, the best way is from the air, so we all jumped on board the helicopter for a 13 min ute ride over the Falls and the surrounding area. WOW!!!

 

The Falls are subsiding as the water level drops. From the air, you see the gorges, carved out over the millennia. Our adventure was over, but will remain in our hearts forever.

Africa is already calling us back..
Next time.. Cape Town!



- by: Lynne Glasgow


Okavango Delights - Alison Nolting inside scoop on the latest food trends from Botswana

- Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Our very own Alison has just returned from a wonderful trip where she not only saw Pula and her week old leopard cub at Mombo, but also she had the pleasure of samp ling many tasty food delights. The culinary delights featured from Jao, Vumbura and Mombo that can be sampled when traveling on our 11 Day Premier Wing Safari to Botswana - for more information, visit our website: http://www.africa-adventure.com/safari/11_day_signature_wing_safari_to_botswana_premier_camps

The team at Jao will go out of the way to giving you an incredible dining and hospitality experience. Getting your feet wet for a surprise champagne breakfast in the wilderness is certainly something to write home about after a morning activity!



There's nothing like a good breakfast in the bush to start off the day and the setting a t Jao is perfect for Cindy Swart, the high -energy, bubbly executive chef. A sampling of menus included the 4:00pm High Tea of spring rolls, melt - in- your mouth quiches, tartlets, and divine fudge (yum!) right before setting off on a boating excursion thro ugh the waterways.



Brunch at Vumbura is always a treat, with a buffet of fresh and healthy options coming out of the splendid kitchen. Vumbura Plains Camp comprises two separate seven -roomed North and South camps, each with its own raised dining, loun ge and bar area tucked beneath a canopy of cool, shady, indigenous trees. The sister camp is the delightful Little Vumbura - an oasis island retreat!



The dining deck at Mombo overlooks the floodplains. The view is nothing short of spectacular! Kenny the chef cooked up some dream menu items. High tea included ostrich meatballs on sticks and mini chicken pot pies. Had surprise sundowners with fried bream. A dinner menu consisted of a choice of starter of cream corn soup or a salmon gravlax; followed by a combo platter of Chicken Wellington and Kudu with a peppercorn sauce. One of my favorite desserts was a Banana Sorbet. Breakfast included a basket of still warm freshly baked passion fruit muffins, each in their own paper parcel.



One of the dining experiences at Mombo (be there on a Monday night!) is dinner in the Boma - an unforgettable experience for guests with entertainment put on by the whole camp staff with singing and dancing and storytelling - a highlight for me is watching the characters tr ansform from daytime jobs to night-time performers! A huge appetite is needed for the spread that is on display. The staple menu item, served in a three -legged-iron pot, is Seswaa, a savory Botswana beef stew which tasted delicious with added spices of c urry powder, ginger, and chutney. Other dishes on a Boma night may include a kudu casserole, couscous, pumpkin, cream spinach crepes, local ground maize meal with tomatoes and onion. Enjoy the delicious Cape Brandy Tart for dessert.



Pula found a perfect den- a hollowed out tree trunk to hid her new born cub Alison does leave this thought- what does Pula have on her dinner plans today to ensure that her young cub is going to survive?



Mark Nolting in Tanzania

- Monday, May 06, 2013
My most recent safari to Tanzania featured the southern circuit where wildlife is plentiful, whereas fortunately, tourists are not! The trip began in Arusha, then onto Ruaha, Selous and finishing in Zanzibar.

After a short visit in Arusha I flew by scheduled charter flight to Ruaha - now the largest national park in Tanzania. Known for its great populations of elephant, buffalo, greater and lesser kudu, hippo, crocs, it is also one of the country's best national parks, and because of its location, it is one of the least visited.



Ruaha's scenery is spectacular. The Great Ruaha River, with its impressive gorges, deep pools and rapids, runs for 100 miles (160 km), close to the park's southern boundary, and it is home to many hippo and crocodiles. Black riverbed rocks are contrasted against golden grasses and baobab trees that line the riverbank, creating a unique and beautiful sight.

The dry season, June to October, is the best time to visit the park, when game is concentrated along the Ruaha River. Large numbers of greater and lesser kudu, elephant and impala can be seen, along with eland, sable antelope, roan antelope, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, ostrich and giraffe. Lion, leopard, spotted and striped hyena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox and African wild dog are also present in significant numbers. Black rhino are present but seldom seen. Over 573 species of birds have been recorded.

This is also one of the best parks in East Africa for escorted wildlife walks, and for those interested in walking, Jongomero Camp is undoubtedly your best bet. Jongomero is located on the banks of the Jongomero Sand River in the southwestern section of Ruaha and has 8 classic luxury tents with double vanity and solar-heated showers. The camp offers game drives in open vehicles, escorted walks with armed professional guides, bush breakfasts and bush dinners. As the camp is in a remote part of the park, other travelers are seldom if ever seen.

 
Jongomero Camp

Mwagusi Safari Camp, located on the seasonal Mwagusi River, has 10 large tents with hot-cold running water showers and comfortable lounge areas under thatch. Game drives in open vehicles and walks are offered. Elephant may often be seen digging for water in the dry riverbed right in front of camp - very entertaining indeed!

The Ruaha River Lodge is located on the banks of the Ruaha River and offers stunning views. The simple yet spacious 29 stone-and-thatch bandas are located on the river bank, each with a private patio. There are two dining areas, one on the river's edge and another on a hill overlooking the river. Game drives are offered, but walks are not. This is the best option for travelers on a budget.

 
Ruaha River Lodge

My next stop was the Selous Game Reserve - the second largest game reserve in Africa, and a World Heritage Site. Unexploited and largely unexplored, no human habitation is allowed in this virgin bush, except at limited tourist facilities. The Selous is a stronghold for over 50,000 elephant, 150,000 buffalo (herds often exceed 1,000), and large populations of lion, leopard, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, greater kudu, hippo, crocodiles, and numerous other species, including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, African wild dog, impala and a small number of black rhino. Colobus monkey can be found in the forests along the Rufiji River. Over one million large animals live within its borders. Over 350 species of birds and 2,000 plant species have been recorded.


View from Beho Beho

The Rufiji River, the largest river in East Africa, roughly bisects the park as it flows from the southwest to the northeast. High concentrations of hippo and crocs are present. Exploring the Rufiji River and its channels, and lakes by boat is another great way to view game and experience the reserve.

Morning walks accompanied by an armed ranger and guide are popular and are conducted by some of the camps. On one of my walks from Beho Beho Camp we encountered 3 female elephant as we tried crossing a dry river bed. We backtracked to another crossing point but as we went down the path we met these same elephants walking up it. Our guide had us quickly move back down the path we had come.

Fly camping for a few nights is also available from select camps. This reserve can give you the feeling of exploring the bush for the first time, because you will encounter relatively few other visitors during your safari.

Beho Beho is my first pick of camps for an overall quality safari experience - especially for those wishing to walk in the bush. Beho Beho has been completely refurbished and the 10 luxury stone cottages have a light, breezy feel and offer panoramic views over the Rufiji River flood plain. Game drives, boating on Lake Tagalala and superb walking are offered. There is a swimming pool to enjoy between game drives. Next to Beho Beho is Bailey's Banda, a new private villa, features 2 bedrooms, private pool and deck. Guests enjoy exclusive vehicle, guide and staff.
  

I also visited Amara Selous, located in the remote western part of the park on the Great Ruaha River, featuring 12 deluxe air- conditioned tents with large wooden decks and private plunge pools. Activities include open-vehicle game drives, walking safaris and boating on the river (water levels permitting). Serena Mivumo River Lodge is built on the Rufiji River and has 12 thatched air-conditioned rooms and one suite. Game viewing by open vehicles and by motorboat area, and spa treatments are offered. This is a great choice for those traveling October - December and looking for relief from the heat.

My final stop was Zanzibar. The narrow streets and Arabic architecture of historical Zanzibar City are exceptionally mystical and beautiful on a moonlit night. Main attractions include the Zanzibar Museum, former British Consulate, Arab Old Fort, the Anglican Cathedral built on the site of the former slave market, Sultan's Palace, town market and Indian bazaar. Livingstone's and Burton's houses are near the picturesque old Dhow Harbour, where traditional dhows are repaired and built. Antique shops stocked with Arab clocks, kettles, brass trays, Zanzibar beds, carved doors and frames have special atmospheres all their own.

The more pristine coral reefs off Zanzibar offer a superb diving or snorkeling experience. In addition to a mind-boggling diversity of brightly colored reef fish, dolphins, green turtles and the largest of all fishes'” the harmless whale shark'” are fairly numerous in the waters around Zanzibar.

Baraza is a "6-star" property located on a fabulous beach with 33 very spacious 1- and 2-bedroom villas with private plunge pools, several restaurants, swimming pool, and one of the top spas in East Africa. For guests looking for the best in food, service and accommodation, this would be my first choice.

 

The Palms is situated along a pristine white beach next to the Baraza and consists of 6 villas featuring a bedroom, living room, Jacuzzi and private terrace overlooking the Indian Ocean. There is a swimming pool, dining room, evening bar and pool bar and massage facilities.

Kilindi is located on a pristine section of beach and has 15 luxury pavilions - each with private plunge pools (some units with 2 pools). Guests enjoy regional cuisine, an infinity pool, superb spa and lush tropical gardens. Extensive water sports and excursions are available. This is a great property for honeymooners and others wishing for privacy.

For those looking from something smaller and more remote, Matemwe Retreat features 4 exclusive 2-story suites with air- conditioned bedrooms on the first floor and a private sun terrace with plunge pool on the second. I love the 15 minute or so drive on the sand road along the coast through a fishing village to get to the property. This really sets the scene for the remote beach holiday! Matemwe Lodge, perched on the cliffs overlooking the northeast coast, has 12 bungalows with private verandahs with hammocks to enjoy the sea views. There are 2 swimming pools, restaurant, dive center and a variety of optional excursions that can be booked. This is a good option for a mid-priced property. Matemwe Beach House, a private 3-bedroom villa set right on the beach, has a swimming pool and is rented on an exclusive basis. Ideal for families, the house has a dedicated butler and chef.




- by: Mark Nolting


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