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The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix

- Friday, October 31, 2014
Listening to an interesting story of the fig tree with spiritual powers.  Building our Swahili vocabulary with words such as jambo, karibu, and asante sana. Falling asleep to the voice and sounds of Africa, the roar of a lion, and the whooping of hyena; most distinctive noises of the African bush. This and much more lay ahead of us on our eye opening safari to the peaceful and friendly country of Tanzania.

Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix

After landing at Kilimanjaro Airport situated outside of Arusha, and catching up on some shut eye at the Machweo Wellness Retreat in Arusha, we met up with our private guide, Jabshir Rashidi. Armed with many years of experience and knowledge on the Africa Adventure Company guiding team, he drove us to Ndarakwai Ranch where we would begin our safari. Skilled at driving he navigated through the buzzing traffic and interesting towns in our super comfortable customized safari vehicle (4x4 Land Cruiser).

Ndarakwai Scenery a Giraffe and  Zebras Ndarakwai Ranch

Ndarakwai, what a lovely place to begin in the foothills of Mt. Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro! After receiving smiles, a moist facecloth and a welcome drink from the staff that greeted us we were briefed on the camp and shown to our tents.  Wow! These tents were great. Clean, comfortable with a great viewing deck, from which later that day we would observe mischievous baboons up to their antics.

We enjoyed great homemade food, a game drive, a walk to see the trenches from WW1, a visit to a local Maasai village where we met the chief who has 9 wives, many children, over 300 goats and sheep, and over 800 cows.

We also got to meet the owner of Ndarakwai, Peter Jones who has committed himself to a bold experiment in self-sustaining conservation and restoring the Ranch’s health to support wildlife populations and creating a compatible balance between the needs of man and the environment. Thomas the resident guide joined us as we enjoyed sundowners in the treehouse observation deck and then after dinner and hand feeding a bush baby with banana, we were treated to a night drive under the African blanket ceiling of millions of stars while viewing nocturnal animals such as the civet and spring hares.

the owner of Ndarakwai, Peter Jones the treehouse

Next on the agenda was a visit to Tarangire National Park which has a long river running through it, being the only source of water for wildlife during the dry season. En route we stopped at the magical Tarangire Treetops Lodge for a delicious lunch at the central dining area which is built around a large Baobab tree that is more than 800 years old. Zebra came to drink from the waterhole in front of the main area.

Scenery Pool Tarangire Treetops Lodge Tarangire Treetops Lodge


We entered the national park and along the Tarangire River we saw a high concentration of wildlife such as wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, warthog, ostrich, baboons and plenty of elephant for which this park is famous for. We went a little off the beaten track and stopped at Little Oliver’s which is an intimate camp located in an area with a high concentration of wildlife. The main area and the 5 en-suite tents have great views over the river bed.

That evening we stayed at the Tarangire Safari Lodge which has spectacular views over the river with its plentiful wildlife and birds among the many acacia tress. After waking up to the sounds of baboon playing in the tree and dik-dik eating between the tents we watched the procession of elephants moving away from the river which could all be seen from our tent. After a large breakfast we continued our exciting adventure.


Scenery at Tarangire Safari Lodge Scenery elephants at Tarangire River

Tarangire Safari Lodge Elephant in Tarangire River


Ngorongoro – where you have several choices for loges in the area. We stopped at Gibbs Farm, Exploreans and Escarpment Lodge along the way – each offering something a bit different in terms of style and experience.   We arrived for our overnight stay at Ngorongoro Sopa.

Signage at Ngorongoro  Ngorongoro Sopa

After breakfast with views, and breathing in the crisp air we jumped into our vehicle and descended the winding road down the side of the rim and then onto the floor of the crater. What a spectacular scene, abundant wildlife and a pristine environment that took our breath away. One stand out experience was watching the lioness who could not find her cub. She walked back and forth in desperation calling and looking. Along with her sister and another cub she walked past our vehicle down the road searching.  Small sounds came from some vegetation nearby and the cub came running out to meet her mother -  a touching reunion between mother and child.

Bird sighting in Tanzania Lioness met her cub

The Serengeti field with Wildebeest hippo pool with wildebeest, birds, and zebras

After a picnic lunch at the hippo pool we ascended the crater, drove through the highlands and across the open plains to our first camp – Namiri Plains. The Serengeti is everything we imagined and more! Two lions greeted us on arrival at camp – this was a great sign of amazing sightings to come. We had a very interesting conversation with Pako at Namiri Plains who is currently working on the habituation of the chimpanzees on Rubondo Island in the south-western corner of Lake Victoria.

A tree in Namiri Plains Namiri Plains

From falling to sleep listening to the unforgettable sounds of lions and hyena at Namiri Plains,  following hunting cheetah on your journey to the next camp,  lions walking right through our season mobile camp sight and an attempted migration crossing at the Grumeti River – the Serengeti lived up to its reputation.

Namiri Plains Namri Plains

The following morning we were off to our next camp in the Serengeti taking time to follow a hunting cheetah along the way.

Cheetah in Serengeti Cheetah in Serengeti

We visited several properties in the Serengeti including lunch at Mbuze Mawi, Pioneer Camp, Migration Camp, Sayari Camp and Lemala Mara – now that’s a whirlwind trip!


One of our favorites was the Serengeti Shared Camp which is a traditional mobile tented camp nicely located between a rocky hill on one side and a large flat topped rock on the other which the local lion frequently lie on and simply watch the people moving around camp. That evening three lions walked past the camp and once again early in the morning (that we were aware off). Hyena outside the tent woke us up a couple of times in the night. This is a camp where many of our AAC clients stay!


Serengeti Shared Camp - Where many AAC clients stay Serengeti Shared Camp - Where many AAC clients stay


Our last night Africa we were so close to the migration we could watch the wildebeest and feel the ground rumbling as they ran past heading south.

Wildebeest Migration heading south two zebra drinking on the river


The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatenda airstrip for our scheduled Air Excell charter flight back to Arusha and the Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.


Wildebeest Migration heading south Two lions playing


This being our first time to East Africa - Tanzania did not disappoint. We had the highest expectations, and we were constantly surprised by the high level of accommodation, food, and most of all service. We have done much international and domestic U.S. travel and the level of service was highest in Tanzania. In hind sight this adventure allowed us to visit a large and diverse group of camps and lodges, as well as get a first-hand view of the logistics involved in traversing Tanzania. We will now be extremely effective in presenting the best and most customized routing of itinerary for our travelers, by calling upon our experiences from this adventure.


Although the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire Parks surpassed expectations with their game viewing and their sustainable camp requirements – it is the memory and impact of the people of Tanzania that we will cherish most…and the Lions… definitely the Lions too!


The next morning after breakfast and a short game drive we headed to the Kogatende airstrip where we bid farewell to Jabishir.  A final departure for our scheduled Air Excel charter flight back to Arusha and the dayroom at Mt Meru Hotel for lunch, rest, dinner and a freshen up before leaving on our flights back home.

The Voice and Sound of Africa in Tanzania by Kollin Buchholz and Frank Dix Arusha Airport


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.


 AAC Tanzania guiding team member Mkenda Landing at Tanzania

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!

Game viewing experience from an open vehicle Scenery with Elephant

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.

Scenery with wildebeest and zebra Rain clouds sprinkling over on the Kenyan side of the border

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.

Lion starring at Lioness Two cheetah are playing and chasing to each other

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).


Kimondo Camp a mobile tent The bed inside Kimondo Camp

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.

Two lion cubs on the tree A tree on a rocky hill Lioness at the top of rocky hill

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!


Sayari Camp with its Asian-esque flavor of wooden floors a beautiful leopard at the top of the rock Bird sightings on the plains


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.

Zebra and wildebeest crossing the river Group of wildebeest and one zebra crossing the river

wildebeest crossing the river Wildebeest going up from the river

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.


eucalypt forests at Volcanoes National Park Volcanoes National Park

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.

Gorilla Mountain View Lodge large bathrooms of Gorilla Mountain View Lodge a large room with 3 bed at Gorilla Mountain View Lodge


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.


Bathroom in Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Bedroom at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Mountain view from Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Sabinyo

a bathroom in Jack Hannah's Lounge area with fire place in Jack Hannah's Bedroom of Jack Hannah's
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.

Singers and drummers  Tourist, guides and trekkers

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.

Trekking at bamboo forest Green valley’s lush with vegetation
trekking at 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.

Gorilla close up picture Gorilla with baby It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. a masculine gorilla
It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. 

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.

It felt like a privilege to be with these primates who were on the verge of extinction at one point. Our guide was the renowned Francois, one of Diane Fossey’s original porters.

Gorilla family,Amohoro group.

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!

A gorilla mother and her baby



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.

Dancing elephant at Mana pools. Dancing elephant at Mana pools.

Dancing elephant at Mana pools. Dancing elephant at Mana pools.

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.

Herd of other elephants: Some juveniles, some females with young calves at Kalahari sand Eyes of the Elephant Safari to Zimbabwe by Szilvia Hegyi and Elena Theodosiou

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)!

Close ecncounter of Mudzi the elephant sat down in front of the ellies, very close to the elephant

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.

Elephant sighting with beautiful sunset at Zambezi river

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.

with the guide, Themba at Little Makalolo we sat at the log pile elephant hide! at Little Makalolo

reflections of the sky and elephants in the water of the waterhole! at  Little Makalolo

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.

female leopard busily plucking the feathers off a guinea fowl! female leopard busily plucking the feathers off a guinea fowl!

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!

 very handsome lion his lady love lioness

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!!!

a Red Big Rock Amalinda Lodge built among rocky outcrops

a couple rhinos

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 Camps in 6 Days

- Monday, May 05, 2014

Kerry Purcell & Cinthia Lherisson in South Africa – May 2014




This was Cinthia’s first trip to Africa and Kerry was heading ‘home’ after being away for 6 years so when we heard the news about our South Africa safari we were beyond excited to say the least. 

We flew out of Ft Lauderdale on Delta Air Lines to Johannesburg, via Atlanta. After a long flight, we were met by a smiling rep and transferred to the Southern Sun OR Tambo Hotel close to the airport. This is a lovely hotel with clean, comfortable rooms and all the amenities you could need. They offer complimentary Wi-Fi, so we were able to contact our families. Breakfast in the morning was fantastic!


    


- by: Kerry Purcell & Cinthia Lherisson 



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
Alison Nolting –  AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013


Lizzie Clemons
Lizzie Clemons,  AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013


Anne Hampton
Lizzie Clemons,  AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013

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


November 30 – Constantia Winelands Wedding

Constantia Winelands Wedding 


My brother, wife and lovely daughter – my niece
My brother, wife and lovely daughter – my niece


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

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


December 03, Meeting the Singita Operations
Meeting the Singita Operations


Meeting all at the Asilia Office and Operations
Meeting all at the Asilia Office and Operations


December 04, the Cape Grace 5 start Hospitality
the Cape Grace 5 start Hospitality


Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace
Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace 
Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace Dining at the Signal Restaurant  - Cape Grace


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


Ellerman House and their 6 start Wine Cellar!
Ellerman House and their 6 start Wine Cellar!


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


Visiting the Winelands–Delaire and Bablyonstoren
Visiting the Winelands–Delaire and Bablyonstoren


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

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


 Nelson Mandela memorial–a country in mourning
Nelson Mandela memorial–a country in mourning


December 08, the Saxon Hotel – 6 star hospitality
the Saxon Hotel – 6 star hospitality


December 08, Johannesburg Wilderness Safaris
Johannesburg Wilderness Safari

- by: Alison Nolting


AAC Voluntourism Trip to Zimbabwe in July 2013

- 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.

Botswana ’s Green Season, this is a big tree

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.

Arrived in Maun  Arrived in Maun
Arrived in Maun

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.

Vumbura Plains (North) Camp - rooms are compound, L-shaped couch A breakfast table - Vumbura Plains (North) Camp
A leopard brings a baby leopard Elephants are walking in the river plains

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 - an open area bedroom Little Tubu Camp - outside chairs
Meeting new friends a little green frog

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).

game viewing by boat and makoro rides game viewing by boat and makoro rides

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.

Delta at Chitabe Lediba Delta at Chitabe Lediba
a leopard resting air game drive

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!

Welcome to Mombo Camp Mombo camp
Wild Dogs resting Some lion watching while the one lion is jumping over the water

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.

Semi-circular couch in Kings Pool Kings Pool Boat
Some wild dogs sleeping hippos playing hide-n-seek in the river

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.

Kings Pool Outside Kings Pool Dining Outside
A small boat and big boat one lion versus group of wildebeest

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!

Feeding the Giraffe in Nairobi Feeding the Giraffe in Nairobi
Feeding the Giraffe in Nairobi

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!

Green hills and valleys, streams and waterfalls at Aberdares Maasai Outfit
Lion hiding in the bush
Crowned Crane Black rhinos

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.

African Bush in Ewaso Nyiro River
Riding a Camel African ostrich
gerenuk

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!

Leopard in Sala's Camp Lynne and Elena's Adventure to Kenya
Group of Cheetah Wildebeest on a beautiful sunset background

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!

Lynne and Elena's at Naboisho Camp

- by: Lynne Glasgow and Elena Theodosiou


AAC Staff Safari to Tanzania - October 2013

- Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Saskia De Gouveia, Monica Kowalski, Karen Liza, Jessica Fraser and Sarah Taylor with their fantastic guide, Hillary Mandia
The AAC team of Saskia De Gouveia, Monica Kowalski, Karen Liza, Jessica Fraser and Sarah Taylor with their fantastic guide, Hillary Mandia


ITINERARY 

Our Guide - Hillary Mandia

On arrival at Kilimanjaro we were greeted by a beaming Hillary. His appearance was immaculate, neatly pressed and proudly wearing his AAC cap and shirt. His greeting was warm and sincere. Hillary enquired about our flights and brought us up to date on the rest of the group and what to expect for the rest of the morning. We found him to be well prepared with regard to our itinerary. The safari vehicle was kept immaculate and the cooler filled with water.  He shared a wonderful humor, a positive attitude that kept our group going in the most tiring part of the day. He loves his country and has superb knowledge of the game, birds and parks. He is extremely articulate and confident and made us feel comfortable and safe at all times.


Hillary was well known to most camp managers and staff and always obliging in answering questions. He went out of his way to incorporate game viewing into our already busy schedule by knowing the best routes to take and the conditions of the roads.

Hillary exudes professionalism and is a suburb ambassador for AAC.

By choosing to go the private safari route, and with the right Tanzanian tour guide, your dream vacation to Tanzania can be a truly exceptional experience. A private guide can make your Tanzania safari amazing:


With a private guide you are stuck to a groups’ schedule. Also, when traveling with a large group, you are frequently forced to stay in the ‘mainstream’ safari areas. By traveling with a local guide on a private safari, you have access to more remote wilderness areas—places seldom visited by other tourists. You also have a more flexible schedule that allows for off the beaten path exploration and a guide who can take you to the amazing places that no one else knows about. 

When it comes to tour guides, there is no replacement for hands-on experience, lifelong knowledge, and their past work ‘in the field’ that private guides have to offer. Many have past experience as park rangers, biologists, and conservationists in Tanzania’s national parks. 

Private guides can introduce you personally to the food, history, people, language, and culture of Tanzania. A private guide who both lives and works in Tanzania is the best person to keep you safe during your vacation. Your guide will be familiar with the rules, regulations. 

Hillary Mandia

ARUSHA ~

Lake Duluti Lodge

After you go through a typical African village, you turn into a driveway that is an instant oasis of tranquility. The property is contemporary African chic, but feels very homey and cozy. Lovely, groomed grounds, built on a hillside, so perhaps have elderly folks situated closer to the main lodge. Pathways are concrete/stone.  Rooms are chalets with plenty of space, nicely appointed. Bathrooms are large with tub. Lovely pool area on a nice lawn up on the hill (steps) to catch the breeze. Nice outdoor shaded deck at the main lodge. Friendly staff. I would want to stay here and would highly recommend.
  

Lake Duluti Lodge

Tarangire Safari Lodge
The lodge is beautifully situated overlooking the river and a valley with herds of eles and buffalo. The main area has plenty of seating areas for guests to sit and relax and enjoy the views. Nice bar area with battery charging station. Dining room also large with unobstructed views. All the rooms/tents are built along the ridge, so all have nice views of Tarangire Park. Pathways are compacted sand. Tents are basic but nicely done with thatched roof and outdoor seating on a small patio. Bathrooms have one sink with good amount of counter space. Location in the park was great. Would recommend as an introductory property for a first-time safarier.  

Tarangire Safari Lodge

Tarangire Sopa Lodge
Lobby was welcoming in typical African décor. Curio shop on the left as you enter.  Staff was friendly. Continue in, and there is a lounge on the left, and bar with large seating area to the right, and outdoor patio seating, with view of a waterhole. There is also another lounge with computer/internet. Dining room is large. They had a nice show during dinner with singers and dancers moving around the dining room. Dinner was off the menu. Food was OK. Breakfast was buffet style and good. They have a BBQ once a week on the upstairs deck outside. Pathways are concrete/stone.  


Rooms were spacious, even with a triple, but a little bland in decor. Dressing area with desk and two chairs upon entry and an armoire. Bathroom has a roomy glass-enclosed shower only (no tub), with pedestal sink. Beds were comfortable with mosquito netting, but fan is outside of netting, so you can’t feel the fan. There’s a desk and chair in the bedroom and a bench to place luggage. Small outside back patio with two chairs, but no view except onto other rooms. Escorts were always lingering on the path to walk you to the main area (as there is no fence and wildlife is frequent)..  Nice pool area where they serve lunch at individual patios with tables and built in thatch roofs. They can handle disabled travelers as they have ramps everywhere. There are hyrax (dassies) everywhere!  Would recommend this property to a first-time safarier. Works for those with mobility issues as long as they are close to the main area. Although a large property, it does have nice intimate areas around the property for families.

Tarangire Sopa Lodge

Oliver’s
Managers are very friendly and welcoming. L-shaped main area is open with thatch roof. Comfortable seating areas on one side, and dining tables on the other side. Looks out to the fire pit on meticulously raked sand. View from the fire pit is ok, with a bit of overgrowth. Paths to the rooms are loose sand. Tents are on raised platforms with nice views and lounge chairs on a deck under thatch. They have a nice lookout platform down some stairs where they can serve private dinners. I found it to be very cozy, and liked this camp a lot. One of my favorites. Would recommend this property to those that want a bit of luxury and seclusion – honeymooners especially. 


Oliver’s

Little Oliver’s
Just a little further down the hill, and nearly identical to Oliver’s. Similar main area in décor and layout. Quite a distance to the tents. Very spacious tents, with desk and chair, a wardrobe closet that separates the bedroom from the bathroom.  Indoor and outdoor shower (no tub), and sink with a view. Managers are very friendly and welcoming – always smiling. Liked this camp equally to Oliver’s and would highly recommend.  

LAKE MANYARA AREA ~

Maramboi

The large, open main area is covered with thatch and catches the nice breezes. Plenty of seating under thatch and out in the sun with palm trees for partial shade. Wooden walkway leads to the lovely pool area with nice view of the plains. Lots of loungers and some dining tables under partial thatch. Lunch was buffet style and food was average but the dining room itself was a bit sparse. Behind the buffet line, the wooden walls could have used a coat of paint as the doors and walls were noticeably dirty. Nice little shop to buy wines and beverages. Very spacious interiors with mosquito netting with basic, minimalist design, but perfectly functional. Outlets in the tents for charging, safes in rooms. Desk and chair in the rooms as well as seating area. Bathrooms have shower stalls only and single sink. Small outside porch with 2 chairs and table in the sun. Standard rooms had two double beds, larger outside porch. Staff was friendly.  

Maramboi

Manyara Ranch
Manager was welcoming. Tents are spaced nicely apart and are built on a platform on the ground. To get into the tent, there are flat rocks as steps to get onto the front porch. Those unsure of their footing might hesitate, although the rocks are not loose. The tents are not huge, but perfectly functional, with wardrobe closet, a desk and chair, and a chest to hold extra blankets. Showers are tented on all four sides in the middle of the bathroom and separates the toilet from the sink. Chairs are lined up outside the main area for sundowners, but without a fire pit. Main tent area is a large dining room table and just a couple of cushy chairs. The view is out onto the plains. This camp is simple and masculine, but intimate.
  

Manyara Ranch

Escarpment Luxury Lodge
Grand entry pathway into the lodge with welcoming staff and manager. Feels like a designer boutique hotel. Décor is very stylish with African feel with masks, and skins and organic materials, topped with feminine “bling”. Blue and purple glass chandeliers are unexpected, but compliment the satin pillows and chenille throws. There is internet access and a TV for viewing pictures only (not to watch TV). The main lodge has a wrap-around balcony for guests to have sundowners. Lovely pool and bar situated on the west side of the lodge for a great view of the sunset. The entire lodge overlooks Lake Manyara. Dinner was outside on the lawn, with live entertainment. Dinner was BBQ, buffet style and food was very good.  

Rooms are chalets and are very large and very nicely appointed. Beds with mosquito netting, and seating areas. Plenty of room when set up as a triple. Bathrooms have double sinks, a bathtub and indoor and outdoor shower.   Toilet and shower are separate rooms with doors that close for privacy. Large balconies for each room. Breakfast is buffet style and is very good. The property overall is very elegant, and would definitely be recommended for anyone who loves style and for honeymooners. Recommend also for the upscale traveler.  

Escarpment Luxury Lodge

NGORONGORO REGION ~ 

Kitela Lodge

Nice surprise! Did not expect this lodge to be as great as it was – located in the Karatu area (2 hours from the crater). Twenty large units with 2 inter-leading rooms, 24-hour power, wifi in the public areas. The lodge grows its own veggies. Lovely swimming pool!  Awesome option if crater properties are unavailable and for the price point it is a great budget option.

Kitela Lodge

Gibbs Farm
The BEST property in the Karatu area!  Twenty units all decorated in a cottage theme – very homely and comfortable! No pool but amazing garden areas. We saw the Star House which is stunning - 2 double beds, en suite, fireplace, indoor and outdoor shower. The biggest attraction to this property is all the additional activities on offer – Maasai medicinal walk, garden walk, naturalist talks every night, bike riding, hiking to waterfall – they have an authentic gallery filled with local artists paintings – honeymooners get Amarula at turndown! 


Gibbs Farm

The Manor at Ngorongoro
Felt like I was visiting a lodge in Constantia, South Africa!  Beautifully appointed with magnificent gardens, horses on site and a billiard room. The older clientele will LOVE this place! Twenty rooms with a family house too which is double story – exquisite! Offer wine tasting, wifi in the common areas, coffee tasting, and mountain biking, spa and massage center.  

The Manor at Ngorongoro

Exploreans
Property is located 5 minutes to the crater gate and is 1 ½ hours from Tarangire – they even do day trips to Tarangire. Twenty cottages (triples are not a problem and they have 4 family units) – this Swiss owned lodge has all the bells and whistles!  Solar power, butler service, spar and massage centre, fireplace in each bathroom, mini bar is inclusive – lovely honeymoon option!

Exploreans

Lemala at Ngorongoro
In the Ngorongoro Conservation area on the slopes of the crater tucked away is this precious intimate well run mobile camp. The staff are super friendly and eager to please – the drop in temperatures was the only negative but their bedding together with the bush babies in the bed made for a delightful stay!  Nine tents available. They offer Maasai bomas and walking – A+ property that captures the African feel! 

Lemala at Ngorongoro

SOUTHERN SERENGETI ~

Dunia Camp

This 3 ½ year old camp that Peter manages is charming and has the Asilia touches throughout! Eight tents that can do a triple room! The gorgeous tented lounge features comfy chairs and sofas and open to the view.  100 % solar, wifi is coming, flush loos with bucket showers – can re charge equipment in the mess tent – delicious food and hand wash laundry! Superb camp option in the Southern Serengeti! 

Dunia Camp

Pioneer Camp 
Ten units including one family tent! No disabled access but has a great pool. This one year old property has solar back up, wifi in the common areas and has beautiful views! Beautiful spacious rooms (however tall people do have to duck every time you enter the tents or main tent). 

Pioneer Camp


CENTRAL SERENGETI ~

Serengeti Serena Lodge
A great option for groups or budget travelers – very African feel with sixty six rooms. Great views of the Serengeti – they have a pool and do buffet style breakfast and dinner while lunch is a la carte. Had a lovely lunch here, for lodge food it was quite good!  

Serengeti Serena Lodge

We woke up in the luxurious Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge – 5 Star!  Our Savannah room was quite comfortable and luxurious. The view of the Serengeti from our balcony was breath taking. This is a very large lodge with 77 rooms, 2 Terrace suites with plunge pools, 5 villas, 1 being the presidential villa (which was extraordinary – over the top). For families they can accommodate 4 in most rooms. For honeymooners they can upgrade if available and offer sparkling wine and fruit basket in room. They charge for WiFi, Boma Dinners are $50.00. Breakfast buffet at 6:30am/Modified lunch/ Dinner buffet at 7:00pm. Food was very good. This is a good property for big groups, corporate incentive groups, people who are scared about staying in a tent. Sadly it offers no adventure or warmth. 
 
 Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge – 5 Star!

Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp – The manager, Ibrahim walked us around, he did a wonderful job. This is a very well-run camp and very organized. 16 Permanent Tents – facing the plains or kopjes (rock formations), Meals are plated, breakfast 6:30am, lunch 12:30pm, dinner 7:30pm. Bush dinner is extra fee. Manager showed us around to spotless kitchen. Free WIFI all over. Guests can keep their valuables in the safe in the Manager’s office. It was a very peaceful relaxing feel – very nice. Tent#2 great Kopi view, #11 & 12 best for physically challenged or elderly, #12A great plains view and very private. Property is all paved walkway – easy for physically challenged. I really liked it for clients that don’t have big budgets.

Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp

Serengeti Shared Camp – (mobile camp) The staff greeted us with the biggest smiles, cold moist towels and fresh squeezed juice! They were all wonderful! Such a great welcoming! Abu and Abel showed us around. Abu is the camp manager. Thirteen tents were immaculate, nicely decorated, had everything you could want!  They can accommodate triples in tents. Laundry is included. Meals at 6:00am, 1:00pm, and 7:00pm. All local drinks included. This was a wonderful camp. We toured the “kitchen” tent! Met the chef! Although the scenery was not that great, clients can feel so well taken care of. Excellent “bush” experience! I would love to stay. 

Serengeti Shared Camp

NORTHERN AFRICA ~

We slept at Migration Camp. permanent structure tents – very nice, with a decadent feel. Tents are kind of a far walk from main lodge and dining room. Lauren is the manager. This would be a difficult camp to stay at if elderly or physically challenged. WiFi in main lounge only. The sunset deck is beautiful for sundowners! Very nice pool. Extraordinary view! You have great opportunities to see the Migration. Guided walks are $75.00 pp. After dinner the staff came out with a cake for couple that were celebrating their anniversary on a private deck – they were singing “jambo, jambo” very festive and fun! The view of this place and the beautiful tents make this a very special place for me. 


Migration Camp

The next morning we had to get up very early at 3:30am for our balloon ride! It was very exciting! we had an unbelievable experience on the balloon! I would highly, highly recommend our clients not to miss the opportunity to do this! It is so peaceful in the balloon, so quite, the scenery is so magnificent. – Unforgettable experience!  After the amazing balloon ride we were treated to a fantastic champagne full breakfast, with freshly prepared omelets, meats, pastries and fruit. In the middle of the Serengeti such a luxurious breakfast! Our pilot was so knowledgeable and entertaining – over all an excellent experience! 

Olakira Camp is located very close to the Mara River, in Northern Serengeti; this is an excellent choice to stay at to see the migration (July-Nov). This camp can accommodate 23 guests and it has 27 staff members! There are 9 tents; families of four can be accommodated. Bucket showers and colorful robes in tents. Breakfast and lunch are buffet; dinner is served a la cart. The dining room and main lounge tent are decorated very nicely. The Manager – Martin was very profession and kind. Location, location, location!.

Olakira Camp

Sayari Camp is a lovely camp in the Northern Serengeti, not too far from Olakira. Kathryn and Ross – a great Zimbabwean couple, manage this camp. Sayari is decorated with modern furnishings, very clean and chic. The pool is a rock infinity pool – very inviting. The tents are beautiful. They have 15 tents, 33 guests. The tents can accommodate families of 3. Honeymooners are treated with champagne on arrival and private dining if so desired. Wildlife is abundant here -  hippos, elephants, lions, hyenas. Guest that day had seen a river crossing!  WIfi in designated area only in lounge. They want to keep a “bush” feeling, social area for socializing, not being on electronics. (very nice). 24/7 electricity.  Small spa, offer massages in Tent, mani/pedi services.  Blow dryers available lend out. Curio Shop. We had a delicious lunch here – freshly prepared and so tasty!  

Sayari Camp

Lemai Serengeti -  very chic! Very modern, all decorated with light colors – kinda “quirky” This camp features individual bungalows with shaded screened-in porches offering epic views and a great breeze.  It would be very difficult to stay here if at all physically challenged as the rooms are built into the rocks and cliffs. Great view from main lounge and dining area! – loved it! They were serving afternoon tea and cake, looked delicious. The bar area looked fun.

Lemai Serengeti

We slept at Ubunto Camp, this is a mobile camp. A very, very nice camp. David is the manager; he has a great sense of humor. The tents were very clean and comfortable. (we had a triple) The dinner we had here was amazing – delicious and freshly prepared. We ate at a communal table, met the other guest all very interesting and entertaining.  We had sundowners at the fire pit (known as “Bush T.V.”) The stars were extraordinary! The service was excellent! I would highly recommend staying here!  What an amazing way to end our safari in Tanzania! Ubunto Camp and the staff took my breath away! 

Ubunto Camp

FOOD ON SAFARI

This was my first safari! I always wanted to go and one of my questions was about the food….of course because I love to eat!!

A person like me that has never been in Africa worry about the food and sometimes you think the food can be a problem over there.

Now I have the honor to say that the FOOD WAS EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!

After been traveling for almost 24-hours…we got to Lake Duluti Lodge like around 10.00 p.m. and there was the chef waiting for us to make a delicious dinner!

Lake Duluti Lodge delicious dinner Lake Duluti Lodge delicious dinner Lake Duluti Lodge delicious dinner

Lake Duluti Lodge delicious dinner Lake Duluti Lodge delicious dinner

I need to admit the I was kind of scared to try new dishes…so I told my traveler partner (Saskia) I hope that I like the food in here…and she said “Let’s bet something – if there is any…ANY food that you don’t like on this whole trip then I will take you out to lunch when we got back to the states BUT if you love all the food in this entire trip…YOU need to take me out to lunch.”  Now I’m still waiting for the day to take her out to lunch!!! 

The photo below shows why I need to take Saskia out to lunch ☺

Lake Duluti Lodge delicious dinner

She recommended the soups ☺ and I tried them all!!! Every time we were having lunch or dinner and it was soup on the menu I was not scared at all to try it because I was 100% sure that was going to be delicious!

BREAKFAST

Every morning when I wake up I was looking for breakfast!! Having breakfast on safari was amazing! It was really nice to wake up and go to have breakfast and find all the different foods on the table (sausages, bacon, eggs, fresh fruits, cereal…etc) And the most important thing…find those happy faces of the waitress waiting for you to serve you breakfast. When I was at home my breakfast was only a cup of coffee but when I was on safari my breakfast was a little bit of everything ☺ definitely enjoy each breakfast!!

Lake Duluti Lodge delicious breakfast Lake Duluti Lodge delicious breakfast

Lake Duluti Lodge delicious breakfast Lake Duluti Lodge delicious breakfast

Lake Duluti Lodge delicious breakfast Lake Duluti Lodge delicious breakfast

BUSH  BREAKFAST

This was the most incredible breakfast experience!!! To have the privilege to have breakfast in the middle of nowhere was amazing!!!

I could never imagine that you can have breakfast in the bush…Now I closed my eyes and remember looking at that beautiful table set with the champagne and the coffee and the delicious food!! Also you can enjoy the nice sound of the river and see the hippo and the crocodile was a great experience ☺ 

This was my favorite breakfast on the whole safari and I think everyone who goes to Tanzania will love to live this experience.

Bush Breakfast Bush Breakfast

Bush Breakfast Bush Breakfast

Bush Breakfast Bush Breakfast

LUNCHES AND PICNIC LUNCH

Enjoy lunches and all the different camps and lodges was a tremendous high plus on this entire experience!!! Every day it was a yummy lunch…

For me this was a great way to learn about different kind of foods. The presentation of each plate was always well done. The taste of each meal was delicious and one of the best highlights was the waitresses because they always have a smile on their faces!! Very nice people!!

Lunches and picnic lunch Lunches and picnic lunch Lunches and picnic lunch

Lunches and picnic lunch Lunches and picnic lunch

Lunches and picnic lunch Lunches and picnic lunch

The only part of the lunches on the entire trip was one of our picnic lunch boxes…was our first picnic lunch which was not that great…the hard boiled eggs were a bit weird and the chicken was not very tasty.

DINNERS

After been out for a whole day it was always nice to have some happy hour time and of course a magnificent dinner.

magnificent dinner

I think we all enjoyed our dinners at the different places on this trip! 

After having excellent breakfasts and lunches every day you will think “ok, what is for dinner?” and I can only said the dinner was better and better every day.

Dinner at the various camps and lodges are different because of the environment. Both are excellent but to have dinner in the tented camps was the most amazing experience I ever had on my life!!!

I also can say that I was very impressed of the portions of each meal…each was just PERFECT!!!

All the vegetables were FRESH!!! And perfectly cooked.

magnificent dinner magnificent dinner

magnificent dinner
magnificent dinnermagnificent dinner

Having dinner under the stars definitely gives you a taste of an African meal!!!

magnificent dinner magnificent dinner
magnificent dinner magnificent dinner
magnificent dinner magnificent dinner magnificent dinner


fire place outdoor fire place outdoor
magnificent dinnermagnificent dinner magnificent dinner

- by: Saskia De Gouveia, Monica Kowalski, Karen Liza, Jessica Fraser and Sarah Taylo




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.

Drive from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth National Park meandered through villages and green hills at uganda

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!

The beautiful plains of the Queen Elizabeth National Park

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.

Bwindi National Park

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 Gorilla Forest Camp

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 we enjoyed a cultural show.

Gorilla Mountain View Lodge with Sabyinyo Volcano in the background and 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.

Gorilla Safari to Uganda and Rwanda for Allana BothaGolden monkey

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.  

Kigali which is a clean, developing citKigali which is a clean, developing cit

An amazing journey and adventure!

- by: Allana Botha


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