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Mark Nolting Sending a Snapshot from East Africa - December

Tanzania Guide of the Year

Dec 01 - Mark Nolting was on hand in Arusha yesterday to announce George Mollel (far right) as the 2014 Tanzania Guide of the Year! Past winners Mkenda and Hillary were there to congratulate him. Recent clients who havepraised his skills include the Roeslers, Hermans, the Eig family group, the Vegas and the Skinners. Well done George on the continuing tradition of excelling at the highest level as a wildlife naturalist guide.



More East Africa Snapshots from Mark

Nov 28 - Mark is still in the Serengeti. Today they drove from Four Seasons, leaving behind the elephants at the waterhole, and took a driving exploration to Lobo and Bologonja to northern Serengeti along the Mara River. Saw a huge male lion, a cheetah killing a young gazelle and pride of 12 lions, and big pods of hippo in the river. They finished up at Sayari with a fine dessert at dinner!




Mark Nolting's East Africa Snapshots…continued

Nov 26 - Mark is sending us more snapshots from the Serengeti with warm wishes for a happy Thanksgiving holiday! The photos tell the story of his explorations as he travels throughout the Serengeti, enjoying many wonderful lodges and the company of top guides along the way.






Mark Nolting Sending a Snapshot from East Africa - November

Nov 24 – Mark has reported in from both the luxurious Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and sophisticated Mwiba Serengeti Lodge. He's being guided by Emmanuel Mkenda, a top specialist guide and past winner of the Guide of the Year. During this week he will be visiting more luxury camps and lodges including Pioneer, Kusini, Dunia, Four Seasons, and ending at the stunning Namiri Plains.




Mark and Alison Nolting in South Africa

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

Mark Nolting in Tanzania

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.

Dining at Ruaha - now the largest national park in Tanzania.

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 Jongomero Camp
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 View Dining at Ruaha River Lodge
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
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.
Elephant at Beho Beho  The Rufiji River, the largest river in East Africa Beho Beho

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.

Baraza is a "6-star". located on a fabulous beach  Baraza is a "6-star"

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.

Matemwe Beach House
Matemwe Beach House view

- by: Mark Nolting

Mark Nolting in East Africa - Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda

On arrival in Africa, I had the pleasure of spending the night at the House of Waine, located in the suburb or Karen outside Nairobi. Set in beautiful gardens with a large heated swimming pool, this small luxury hotel is now my favorite place for guests to overnight before beginning their safaris in Kenya or flying to Tanzania.

  • After taking an hour scheduled flight by Mt. Kilimanjaro to the airport bearing the same name, I was transferred to Ndarakwai Camp, a small, personable permanent tented camp located on a 10,000 acre private reserve set on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The owner Peter Jones, the camp guide and I took an afternoon walk through the bush and encountered many herds of eland, along with other plains game. As the sun was going down, we walked to a Maasai Village located just outside of the reserve. The villagers were very welcoming - especially as our guide was Maasai and knew them all very well. Later we took a night drive. As night drives, walks and quality Maasai visits are not possible in the national parks, Ndarakwai should be considered as an add -on to a traditional safari. We feature this sustainable tourism and eco -conservation property in our Signature program Serengeti Unexplored Group Safari.

Mark Nolting in East Africa Mark Nolting in East Africa Mark Nolting in East Africa

I spent time in Arusha meeting up with all the guides who take our clients out on safari and where the guides of the year were announced - Omar Seif and Mohamed Rassul . I also visited Teneguru School for a formal present ation of a $5,000. 00 donation in partnership with Rotary - Fort Lauderdale

Mark Nolting in East Africa, meeting up with all the guides. Mark Nolting in East Africa, meeting up with all the guides.

I flew by a private charter flight to Shompole, located near Lake Natron and the Tanzanian border. The flight took me over Lake Magaadi with views of flamingo below.

Shompole is a small, luxury lodge set on a high ridge over looking a privat
e reserve. The units are architecturally spectacular, each with private plunge pools and surrounded by pools of water - the evaporation from which helps cool the air in this arid l and. (See our 15 Day Legends of Kenya Safari)

Shompole is a small, luxury lodge in Kenya Lake Magaadi in Kenya with views of flamingo Shompole is a small, luxury lodge in Kenya

This is one of the best reserves to see lesser kudu, and we were fortunate enough to see a number of herds, along with buffalo and other plains game. The night drive was very productive, with sightings of African wild cat, bat -eared fox, black-backed jackal, civet, large-spotted genet, and banded mongoose. We walked through a beautiful forest, and visited a small Maasai village where we were warmly received. This and Ndarakwai are two of the best places for Maasai visits I have experienced in East Africa !!!

Small Maasai village

Ol Donyo Wuas, located between Amboseli and West Tsavo national parks, was my next stop. The camp has been totally rebuilt to a five-star status. Each unit has a private plunge pool and rooftop observation deck where some guests spend the night to view the millions of stars that seem so close you could almost touch them. During my stay the waterhole in front of camp was dominated by elephant bearing some of the largest tusks I have seen in years.

The food, service and management of this camp are superb. Day and night game drives, quality escorted walks, and some of the best horseback riding available on the continent are offered. This is certainly one of Africa's best camps!

Ol Donyo Wuas received recognition as a finalist in the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards for the wildlife and tourism partnership with the local Maasai land community. The property is featured in our 10 Day Kenya Exclusive program.

Ol Donyo Wuas Ol Donyo Wuas

Campi Ya Kanzi, situated with a magnificent view of Mt, Kilimanjaro offer s an 'Out of Africa' experience at the beginning or end of your safari. Your hosts are Luca Belpietro and Antonella Bonomi and their brood of children. This is a very homely style of accommodations with hands on attention. His partnership with the local community has also been a successful conservation story in securing the future of the local wildlife. The property is featured in our 10 Day Kenya Exclusive program.

Mark Nolting in East Africa Mark Nolting in East Africa

Next - off to Rwanda! Kigali must be the cleanest city in Africa. There was no litter to be seen at all. Plastic bags are not allowed. Even along the roadsides I saw no litter whatsoever. We visited the Genocide Museum, which was very moving. I ran out of time to visit the local market and the

The 2.5 hour drive to Ruhengeri (Volcanoes National Park) was very scenic and beautiful. During the day there are always people walking along the road, riding or pushing bicycles often la den with banana or sorgum beer. We toured the market at Kinigi. There are many bicycle taxis and motorcycle taxis taking clients short distances in and near town.

Mark Nolting in East Africa

On arrival at Park Headquarters trekkers fill out a form including their ages. The driver/guides will have a short briefing with the chief warden when they request special groups or short/medium/long hikes. Trekkers are then separated according to the gorilla groups they will be visiting and given a briefing by their guides that lasts about 15 minutes. Trekkers then return to their vehicles and are driven to the departure points by their guides.

Our guides have a very good relationship with national parks, and because of that, they have a better chance than any other tour company of getting guests assigned to gorilla groups that are the level of difficulty that the clients request. Most travelers in good condition can trek to the close groups, as the guides take many rest breaks enroute. There is no rush to find the gorillas as you will have 1 hour with them regardless. Seven gorilla groups are visited by tourists and seven groups are visited by researchers. The Parks Department always sell 56 permits; if one of the tourist groups goes to the Congo or Uganda, then one of the research groups will be substituted.

Once at the departure point, trekkers are given a walking stick and assigned a porter if you wish to choose to have one, for a $10 tip.

Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda. Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

You hike to the stone wall marking the border of the park, which is designed to keep the buffalo and elephant in the park and to mark a clear border of the park for the people not to cross. After a gorilla etiquette briefing, you begin trekking. When you are getting close to the gorillas you leave your hiking sticks and backpacks and bring only cameras.

My first trek was to the Kwitonda Grou
p. It was a beautiful hike through cultivated fields. The guide stopped frequently to talk about the crops and other plants along the way. This gave the slower trekkers time to catch their breath and rest.

We were fortunate to encounter the group in fairly open areas with scattered sunlight. The group is made up of 17 individuals including one silverback. At one point I laid down on the forest floor and a baby approached several times within one meter. The guide said it was curious about my camera, and he kept chasing the baby gorillas away. The whole experience was exhilarating and was over in a flash.

Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

 Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
Mark Nolting, gorilla trekking in Rwanda.

The following morning we hiked to the Sabinyo Group, composed of nine individuals including the largest silverback in the park - Guhondo. He is getting quite old and was not too active , but the rest of the group was active indeed. This trek was longer than the first one, mostly through bamboo forests that we sometimes so dense we had to crawl through sections. Francois, our guide, worked with Diane Fossey. He was very entertaining as he would demonstrate what the gorillas eat by eating it himself. I tried the bamboo, which they say can make the gorillas a bit drunk, and it was quite sweet.

I stayed at the Sabinyo Silverback lodge- a five-star property with two guest suites, five cottages and one family complex and is definitely the best lodge in the region. During my time not trekking I made site inspections of Gorilla Nest Lodge, Gorilla Mounta in View Lodge, Volcanoes Virunga Lodge and a fifth new lodge that is coming on line (name still to be advised).

There is a cultural village near Kinigi that is worth a visit to get a good idea of the history and cultures of the area. Another attraction of Volcanoes National Park and Gisyeni area is that they have no mosquito es, and I encountered no flies anywhere.

We drove for 1.5 hours to Gisenyi, set on the shores of Lake Kivu. I overnighted at the Kivu Serena Hotel, which is set right on the lake with a private sandy beach, large swimming pool and attractive co
mmon areas. This was an enjoyable ending to my stay in Africa. Our 4-Day extension to Rwanda with two gorilla treks is featured in many of our combo trips.

A highlight was spending time with Francois - the highest ranking conservationist at Parc d u Volcanoes!
A highlight was spending time with Francois - the highest ranking conservationist at Parc d u Volcanoes!

- by: Mark Nolting