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​Wild Dogs and Elephant Adventures in Botswana -- Monica Kowalski


 

 

Botswana is one of my favorite places on earth, but I haven’t been able to find enough time to plan an extended two week safari, my ideal, so I planned this shorter, week-long excursion for a quick dose of safari adventure. We went for 8 days; left on a Friday and back on a following Sunday. Not long enough, it’s never enough – but it was still a fantastic trip!

 

Touchdown, Johannesburg


We (my husband and I –we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary this year!) landed in Jo’burg and actually walked to our hotel, City Lodge, which is attached to Johannesburg International Airport. It’s the same distance as walking from the terminal to the gate – a quick 3-minute walk. It was great to be able to stretch our legs after the long flight.

While it’s mostly a business hotel, it was really nice for an overnight – it’s clean and comfortable with a friendly staff, and they served food and drinks until 10pm, so we were able to get a snack after we checked in. The buffet breakfast in the morning offered everything you could want: hot and cold cereal, various yogurts, pastries, fresh fruits, charcuterie, and a station for eggs-made-to-order.

When we left the hotel to walk back to the terminal, a staff member went out of her way to find us a luggage cart so that we didn’t have to carry our bags. Nice touch!

 

Wheels Up, Botswana, DumaTau Camp


Rested up and ready to go, we caught an Air Botswana flight and flew to Maun, where we got our “bush air” connection for the flight to Wilderness Safaris’ DumaTau where we spent three nights. On our flight we flew over massive herds of elephants that were in the Khwai River Valley near Banoka Camp. It was a spectacular welcome to Botswana.

 

I hadn’t been to DumaTau before, but I’d go back tomorrow if I could! It’s the perfect camp: a nice, friendly, relaxed vibe; great camp staff (with some familiar faces from previous trips – including camp manager Nick, who was at Vumbura Plains when we visited 9 years ago – he said he remembered us!); super food; and amazing guiding and sightings!

 

  

 

I loved the rooms – spacious, modern, funky, cool, and airy -- a great mix of style’s that add up to perfection. There’s also plenty of room to put away clothes, and there’s easy to use charging stations with converters and adapters.

We arrived in time for lunch, which was nice since the meals are ample buffets, which I prefer since it lets me sample lots of different options. The food was very, very good – and did I mention there was a lot of it? There’s even a full breakfast before the 5:30am game drive in the morning with pancakes and eggs to order; the works. And then again when you get back! (Dining is in small groups, usually with your safari vehicle group, which was chatty and really nice.)

 

Later we set out for the afternoon/evening game ride. Our guide was Tank. He’s been at the camp for about 4 years – and he was awesome! We couldn’t have asked for a better first experience at DumaTau.

As soon as we headed out we had a leopard leap across the road in front of our car – a great harbinger of sightings to come (especially since I’ve notoriously been unable to spot leopard on past safaris).

Then, an impala raced right alongside the vehicle, pursued by wild dog. It felt like it was going to jump into the car! We saw it from the beginning of the hunt, to the take down, the kill, and then the frenzy of the pack coming to feed. Incredible!

 


 

And we saw another wild dog kill the next day as well!

 

There was a full moon the whole time we were at DumaTau, which made night drives particularly good. The threat of rain while we were there kept it a little on the cool side and made for some really awesome lightning shows in the distance as well.

 

The full moon gave us a spotlight view of the hippo that came out of the water at night; we could hear him crunching as he grazed outside the tent. We could easily see the bus-sized back with the light of the full moon.

 


 

In our next few drives we saw everything: giraffe, elephant, warthog, birds. 

Plus, we saw two lionesses with 3-week old cubs - gorgeous! I was able to tick everything on my safari checklist.

 

  


 

  

Elephants Ahead, Abu Camp

 

It was hard to leave DumaTau after such a magical experience; but next up we had three nights to look forward to at Abu Camp, something that’s been on my bucket list for many years.

 

It was a short flight to Abu, even with a quick touch down in Mombo on the way.

It’s a gorgeous camp: tents are very spacious and well designed, and there’s mini-bar in the room that’s kept filled, a nice “Collection” camp perk, as is the free WiFi.

 

Of course the highlight of Abu is their elephant herd: we were able to take elephant back rides and also walk with the elephants through the bush. Both were really neat! I just wish there had been even more time with them. The newest member of the herd, Naledi, gets all the attention and stole the show. No wonder her name is Setswana for ‘star’!

 

  

 


 

I rode both Cathy, the matriarch, and Sharini, one of the young females – they ride differently, believe it or not. Sharini has more swagger and Cathy has a smoother ride. It was actually quite soothing, not at all what I expected.

Elephant rides last 45 minutes, and only 4 people at a time ride the ellies. You walk with them when you’re not riding, then rotate back the next time out. There are 6 tents on property, with 12 guests max – but since two of the tents were empty when we visited we lucked out and got to ride three separate times -- I could do that everyday for the rest of my life! After the ride or walk you go back to the elephant boma and can give the ellies treats. Then they lumber back out to the bush.

 


 

Andy was our guide for the regular safari part of our visit. He was professional, friendly, and very nice – he has been with Wilderness for many years, but isn’t a resident at Abu. We arrived about 10 days after a controlled burn, and there was already a soft-green carpet of grass that had grown over the scorched area. We saw loads of giraffes, loads of Kudu, buffalo, and there were some resident giraffe near our tent, as well.

  

 

The food is outstanding at Abu. Tables for two are set for every meal. There’s a continental breakfast before the morning drive, a full English breakfast after, then a la carte meals (appetizer, entrée, dessert) ordered off a menu for lunch and dinner.

Abu also excels at “surprise” meals and drinks in the bush. Sundowners are planned so everyone meets up and socializes. My absolute favorite was movie night. We watched a movie in the middle of the pan! Lit lanterns guided us to an area where a movie screen, couches, oriental rugs, and chairs had been arranged. In the middle of the wilderness in the middle of Botswana, there was a screen, and drinks, and even popcorn! The movie was about one of the elephant that was brought into the heard at Abu. It was really a memorable experience.

For bush dinner another night, there was a tapas evening. We were taken to a beautiful set up in the bush with rugs and ottomans and lanterns. The chef was cooking nearby, and while we were enjoying glasses of wine, a seemingly endless array of tapas, samosas, and kebabs were passed on trays. It was a lovely social evening, sitting, sipping, and nibbling around a large bonfire.

It was a truly special ending to a remarkable adventure.

 

We really enjoyed our time in Botswana, the most beautiful place on earth!



Close Up: South Africa Calling--There’s Never Been a Better Time to Visit


South Africa is calling – can you hear it? A perennial favorite at AAC for its Big 5 luxurious safaris, incredible culture, and the spectacular Cape, we’re especially excited to be able to say that South Africa is now a great value for US travelers as well.

 

If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to visit, take this into consideration: the US Dollar is the strongest it’s been in years, with an average of 12 SA Rand in exchange for every dollar. With this great rate, premium South African wines and 5-star cuisine are available even to those on a budget. Nonstop flights from New York City to South Africa mean you can hop on the plane, take a long nap, and wake up in one of the most remarkable countries on the planet.

 

Recently, three of our consultants visited South Africa, veering off the safari and Cape Town trails (although they love it there as well) to offer their insights on Johannesburg (Jozi) and the western “Gold Coast”. Here are their insights:

 

Nershada Stone, originally from South Africa, visited the beautiful resort town of Uhmlanga Rocks on the KwaZulu Natal coast of the Indian Ocean (about 24 miles, a 30 minute ride, from the King Shaka International Airport ). "The weather in February is warm and sunny, so it was a perfect time to explore the beautiful beaches, myriad restaurants, shopping and other attractions. A great paved walkway runs all along the beach, great for jogging, walking, etc. Luxury accommodations are on offer at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which boasts the Cabana Café, and the Oyster Box Hotel, home of the Terrace Restaurant: You can enjoy meals at both these restaurants taking in the beautiful ocean view. For shopping, there’s Gateway Mall, La Lucia Mall, and Umhlanga Village. Beyond the beach, we could also visit the Umhlanga Lighthouse, Umhlanga Lagoon Reserve, Umgeni River Bird Park." Durban (one The New York Times’ 52 Places to Visit in 2015) is about 10 miles from Umhlanga with more beachfront hotels along the “Golden Mile.” This is a great area to stroll or bike, take city tours, visit the Indian market, or explore the Ushaka Marine World.

 

 

Within a few hours' drive are Phinda and Thanda Private Game Reserves, which offer Africa's Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, black and white rhino, buffalo) in addition to hundreds of bird species.

 

Senior consultant Elena Theodosiou, who also is from South Africa, regularly spends time in the Johannesburg area. She visited the Sandton neighborhood on her most recent trip where she recommends the Michelangelo Hotel as a great option for AAC clients who have limited time, but still want to get out of the hotel to shop and eat. It connects straight into Sandton Square with its cafes, shops, and larger-than-life Nelson Mandela bronze statue. Says Elena: “The Square is open air and has lots of outdoor restaurants and bars – so a great place to have a drink or dinner. I love to people watch, and this is a great place to do that. Also on Friday nights they often have local performers in the square – so dinner and music!” Outside of Sandton, Elena continues: “My personal favorite place for breakfast (or lunch) is Tasha’s. It is now a chain and they have a few – but my favorite is the original – Tasha’s in Bedfordview – the food is phenomenal – and it’s a local crowd.” 

 

Nelson Mandela Square

 

AAC team member Monica Kowalski also stopped in Johannesburg this past month on her way to Botswana. She stayed at City Lodge, right at the airport, and says: “While it is more of a business hotel, it was really nice for an overnight – a very short walk from the terminal (under cover). Friendly staff, clean room and the buffet style breakfast in the morning offered everything you could want. When we left the hotel to walk back to the terminal, a staff member found us a luggage cart so that we didn’t have to carry our bags. Nice touch! Would not hesitate to stay there again, or put clients there.”

 


 

                           

 

The eating out scene in Johannesburg features some outstanding experiences like DW Eleven-13, Five Hundred, Cube Tasting Kitchen, Mythos and The Local Grill. We highly recommend to round out your Kruger-Sabi Sands safari with an overnight stay in Jozi city to enjoy the Big 5 Eat (South Africa rock lobster and calamari (squid), Mozambique peri peri prawns, a Karan steak, Karoo lamb, and Namibian oysters).

 

  

 

    

 

 

 

 



6 Fantastic Family Safari Destinations


When a family goes on an African safari, they do more than just take a vacation, they create memories that last a lifetime. It's a chance to unplug and try new experiences that take you far outside your everyday routine. At night around the camp fire, you have more to talk about from one afternoon than any "ordinary" day will ever provide.

 

The team at AAC have judged their 6 top family lodges to try out in 2015.  We know that Travel+Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler have recognized us as a best family safari outfitter and these are places we recommend not only to other families, but where we take our own as well. These unique properties will put you in the heart of wildlife in Africa, and they cater to families with everything from free stays for children to fantastic guides in bush.

 

Stay at one of these stellar safari lodges and we promise your kids (from ages 8 to 18) will thank you both now, and when they’re grown.


1. Camp Amalinda in Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe, is the family safari favorite of Alison Nolting, co-owner of AAC and mom of two very-tall boys. "The atmosphere is incredible! The lodge and rooms are built directly into the large granite outcroppings that comprise the area. Families can explore the caves with a guide on a scavenger hunt for actual bushman paintings -- an activity that's as uplifting as it is fun! -- in addition to wildlife viewing with private guides (even finding a rhino or two) who cater all trips to the individual family." says Alison. "It’s a part of AAC’s 14 Day Family Adventure to Zimbabwe -- an adventure of a lifetime."


 


AAC client Teri Thomas enthuses, “The accommodations were wonderful and we can’t say enough about the warmth of the staff. I felt like I was leaving family when we left and was so sad to go.”


2. Tswalu, in the malaria-free Kalahari in South Africa, is the top pick of senior consultants Szilvia Hegyi and Elena Theodosiou. Among the myriad activities for families are star-gazing under the Kalahari’s “diamond skies,” horseback riding with equestrian guides, and visiting “the families of meerkats (from the Discovery Chanel hit, "Meerkat Manor"), a rare sighting and always a big hit with children,” says Szilvia.


 


It's also a favorite of AAC Client Kristen Walsh: “My 9-yr-old niece loved all the activities that they provided for her and the backpack for kids upon arrival was a lovely touch. The food was delicious and the attentive extras they provide their guest was incredible. I loved the ability to plan our day as we liked and have everything catered to our needs. This was truly a 5 star lodge, and I hope to return one day. P.S. The black maned lion was so amazing and large, it was my favorite animal of the whole trip!"


3. Mashatu Game Reserve in the Tuli Block of Botswana is home to large herds of elephant, prides of lion, and fabulous cheetah.  Mashatu Main Camp, located in a private reserve in southern Botswana, is senior consultant Lynne Glasgow's favorite camp for families for it's vast open spaces, beautiful location, and great activities for families, not to mention the inviting swimming pool and family suites.  Lynne will typically combine with the sister camp MalaMala in Sabi Sands near Kruger.


 


Says AAC client Richard Laughlin: "Mashatu was incredible. The property was fantastic, the food top notch, the people were all so enthusiastic and friendly - and the wildlife so varied and abundant. We loved everything about Mashatu. From the very cool cable ride-in over the Limpopo river, to our great guides, to the beautiful and diverse terrain--we couldn’t have asked for more or been more pleased."


4. The highest concentration of cheetah in Tanzania can be found at Namiri Plains, consultant Frank Dix's pick for favorite family property. He enthuses about the guest tents that look out at the Serengeti horizon, including one specially built for families. And few family evenings can compete with sitting in the pristine outdoor area enjoying the sunset, then sitting around a campfire with an authentic experience of the bush, followed by an excellent meal under the stars. A night to remember for sure! A three night stay here is ideal and can be thread into a private safari for families very nicely.


 


5. The Khwai Concession is the eastern-most branch of the Okavango Delta, a mix of water and forested islands joined by thousands of waterways in Botswana, is where Kyle Witten, a senior AAC consultant, judges his favorite family camp, Khwai Shared Mobile Camp. "I love this camp," he explains, "because it's exclusive to your family with top guides offering day and night game drives and walking safaris that suite your individual interests. The luxury tented camp is set up prior to your arrival. Drinks, snacks and a well-stocked bar await you.


Having settled into your spacious, insect-proof tent, enjoy a hot shower. Relax around the campfire and listen to the sounds of the African night." Even better, this incredible camp is on the 11 Day Family Safari to Botswana.


Clients Ken and Debbie Pash state: "Enjoyed the mobile Khwai camp sites. Sharing the site worked out well and the two other folk were good fun and we enjoyed being with Brian Gibson as well as Andrew Harkness, who was a terrific guide… couple of highlights were seeing seven lions take down a kudo at Moremi, the largest male leopard the guides had seen in Moremi, painted dogs on the run at Moremi!"

 

 


6. Mark Nolting, AAC CEO (and dad to the two very tall boys), not only recommends Singita Pamushana in the Malilangwe Private Reserve in Zimbabwe, but brings his family there as well. It’s an oasis in the bush with “only one small lodge in a beautiful 136,000 acre reserve with fabulous wildlife. There are day and night game drives, escorted walks with professional guides, and a very high level of food, service, and accommodations, including multi-bedroom suites ideally suited for family groups.”


 


Clients Rudolf and Erina Hanka had this to say: "With our guide Mark in Singita Pamushana we had walking safaris: we tracked three different times – elephants – lions – and rhinos. It was one of the highlights in the bush. When I look back we only had highlights. Thank you again for a wonderful time."


Review a listing of all our Family Fun Safaris http://www.africa-adventure.com/safari-africa-categories/family-fun-for-safari

 



Vundu Camp, Mana Pools, Newsletter


Despite the rains commencing very late last year, with the first decent rain falling on Christmas Day, Mother Nature seems to be more than making up for it and in the last six weeks we have had a lot of rain. As a result the grass has grown very well where the concentration of animals in the dry season have left droppings to fertilize the new growth.

 


 

 

 

Game has concentrated once again on the Mana flood plain and in particular the elephant. There are several hundred elephant feeding on the belly high grasslands, rarely reaching up to feed on a tree. Many have come in from the surrounding areas, I don't recognize them and their behavior is very different from our regular residents. There is an abundance of newly born calves, and many bulls. It is the breeding and calving season for elephant and this year they have congregated in Mana.

 

 

 

The Mucheni pride of lions are doing well, the two new big males in the area are breeding with the females, so there is a promise of cubs to come. The Nyamatusi pride has also been spotted and are a group of 17 in total.

 

We are not often in the park at this time of year, so it is great to be here, as it is looking exceptionally beautiful. The reason we have started early is because we have a BBC film crew in camp. They have chosen Mana as the place to film a Wild Dog documentary, which is exciting news as they researched possibilities for the documentary across the whole of Africa and have chosen to stay with us. Expectations are high but this is an incredible opportunity for both us at Vundu Camp but most importantly Mana Pools National Park and Zimbabwe wildlife as a whole. They will be with us for five months this year and then again in 2016. The documentary is one part of a five part series, which will include tigers in India, lions in the Mara, penguins in the Antarctic and chimps in the Congo, and is following on from the Planet Earth series.

 

Talking of the Wild Dog, we have seen the Vundu, Nyakasanga and Long Pool packs already this year. The grass is long along the flood plain with limited visibility for the dogs and access for them is hard as there are many running channels which the dogs do not like to cross, as the crocs come out of the Zambezi into these rain filled channels. The dogs are hunting in the mopane away from the river where there aren't roads, so finding them is tough going. Despite the thick bush and limited access with the amount of rain we have had, but we have managed to film some good stuff so far.

 

The Vundu pack is now 11 dogs in total, the smallest it’s been in 20 years that I know of. Last year the pack was at 22 individuals, 10 dogs dispersed and the remaining 12 dogs denned and had seven pups. The loss of the alpha male in July last year was a huge blow to the pack, and the remaining dogs were young 1-2 years old with one 5 year old, this would have left them vulnerable to lions and hyenas. Of the seven pups four have survived which is an average survival rate. This year Tait has accepted a new alpha male into the pack, Ox. He is asserting his dominance and leads the hunts for the pack. He is distinguishable by his size and an all black tail. (see sunset photo above)

 

Janet is the alpha female of the Long Pool pack. She lost her mate last year early in the breeding season and subsequently did not have pups, her pack seemed to have fallen apart. Janet is Taits daughter from her 2009 litter. Three of the pups from the Vundu pack went missing in November last year and were presumed dead. They are however, with their big sister Janet in the Long Pool pack. She appears to have adopted them from Tait, at 4 months of age, which is quite unusual. Most of the dogs that dispersed from the Vundu pack back in April have also joined Janet, there are now nine in her pack. They have moved into the area previously occupied by the Chikwenya pack.

 

The Nyakasanga pack is 26 strong. Black tip (Taits daughter) and Amos, the alphas, have raised 10 puppies from last years litter, having started with 15 pups. These guys are doing very well and the pack is very stable. Five males dispersed from the pack in July last year, again not sure where they have gone to yet.

 

We had a report of 40 dogs, which we have seen today. It is the Nyakasanga Pack with possibly what I called the Little Vundu Pack. The Little Vundu pack split from the Nyakasanga pack a few years ago, and they seem to be back and occasionally hunting together. 40 dogs in one group is quite a sight.

 

The BBC crew will be here now in February, May, August, October and November/December staying at Vundu Camp. As you would expect the crew is very experienced, Nick (producer) and Warrick (camera man) have a combined 40 years of wildlife documentary filming and they are looking to produce something exceptional.

 

It is a very exciting time.

 

Best regards,

 

Nick Murray



​Keep Your Eyes on the Elephants of Pools and Pans in Zimbabwe


At AAC we think all of our safaris deserve a prize; though our photographic 15 Day Eyes on Elephant Safari to Zimbabwe actually has its own trophy as the AWARD WINNING selection of National Geographic Traveler Magazine's "50 Tours of a Lifetime." More than just elephants (and wild dog, and hippo, and lions....other predators…and more…) it’s a chance to explore the reemerging country of Zimbabwe with exceptional guiding and private experiences.

 

 

 

We personally know the guides --- Nic Polenakis, Dave Carsons and Nick Murray --- considered some of the best in Africa --- who lead the trips. And for 2015, the safari has gotten even more exciting with the additions of Camp Amalinda at Matobo Hill and Hwange's luxurious Linkwasha Camp, which is opening in May 2015, meaning AAC guests will be some of the first to stay at this unique property.

 

Here’s a brief and exciting look at just one day on the Eyes on Elephant safari with Senior Consultant Elena Theodosiou: “Nick Murray (my and Szilvia Hegyi's guide) is an “elephant whisperer;” I’ve never been able to get as close to elephants and I did when he guided us. At Mana Pools we WALKED out to a massive bull elephant, Mduzi, and then just sat and watched him. We were closer than we ever imagined being to a wild bull elephant, but it was so peaceful it was surreal! We spent more than 2 hours sitting with the ellies. We actually got mock charged by a mommy and managed to take a short video. It was amazing-- just one ‘Hey’ from Nick was all it took and she backed off and walked away like nothing had happened.

 

 

 

When it was over I thought: I could die happy. I truly feel that these types of experiences make you feel at one with the world, and the universe.” 

  

Eyes on Elephant is an exclusive Photographic group with a maximum of 6 persons per departure;  We have combined day and night game drives with the active game viewing ventures of walking, morning canoeing, and tree-house sleep-outs (optional). Departures: Jun 07, Jul 12, Aug 02, Aug 15, Aug 28, Sep 20.   See full itinerary http://www.africa-adventure.com/safaris-items/15-day-eyes-on-elephant-safari-to-zimbabwe



​Rhino Conservation in Botswana


Booking an AAC safari is more than just game viewing; every booking helps us to make a difference in the communities where we work. In addition to funding scholarships and supporting guides at a grassroots level, we also give back by working with conservation projects. 

 

One project close to our hearts is Rhino Conservation Botswana led by the naturalist Map Ives. In fact, we care so much about the reintroduction of black rhino to Botswana, we have been supporting there initiative since the early 1990's when the first rhino was introduced back into the Okavango Delta to through to 2015, when the grand opening of AAC’s new office this past year featured a presentation by Map Ives and representatives of Wilderness Safaris. 

 

AAC made their donation to the project and AAC President Alison Nolting followed up in a conversation with Map Ives about how donations turn into action to help the endangered rhino population.

 

Here's a look at her personal correspondence* to give you an inside look at how the organization works:

 

From Map:

I was thrilled this morning to arrive in the office to find that you had sent through a donation to the Rhino Conservation Botswana fund. Knowing how much you support the work that Wilderness Safaris is doing with the rhinos out here, I want to thank you so very much for your kindness and generosity. We have so much more to do, and every bit counts, you can be assured that your donation will go a long way towards securing the definite future for these iconic species here in Botswana. I certainly look forward to being able to show you and Mark another  black rhino or two when you next visit Botswana, they are back after an absence of nearly 40 years!!!!

--Map Ives


 

From Alison Nolting:

How does your www.rhinoconservationbotswana.com work raising monies?

 

Map:

Rhino Conservation Botswana is a Trust, which I formed with six other trustees here in Botswana. RCB, as we fondly call it, is completely separate from the Wilderness Trust from whom we still receive much assistance and which acts as a channel for funds from the Resources First Foundation. The goals of RCB are mainly to address the weakest aspect of the rhino trans-locations to Botswana ie. Post release monitoring. Once the rhinos are released into the wild, they need a very high level of monitoring for security as well as biological performance, which over the huge area of northern Botswana requires the fitting of expensive tracking devices to the rhinos themselves, and then the following up of those devices by men in vehicles and in helicopters if need be.

The tracking devices need replacing about every two years, which necessitates an exercise with veterinarians and capture teams, again very expensive. I have to keep raising money to keep all this equipment and manpower in the field, which comes to several million Pula a year, so you can see why I am so grateful for your support.

 

  

AN:

Is RCB independent to, or part of, what &Beyond and Great Plains are doing as well? Where do monitor these relocated rhinos? I had assumed it was just Mombo where I had personally seen the rhino in 2009 with Poster and Tsile.

 

Map:

The Great Plains and &Beyond rhinos will all become the ‘property’ of the Botswana people once they are released into the wild and therefore will be part of the national wild herd that RCB will be monitoring. Les Carlisle from & Beyond who is managing the trans-location on behalf of the partnership, is aware that they cannot just release rhinos into Botswana, and so they are proposing that RCB take over the monitoring. In that respect we (RCB) will be part of the project.

 

AN:

Who are your other 6 trustees on the RCB?

 

Map:

(The board is) Caiphus Mbonisi, Kai Collins, Sam Kavindama, Segametsi Monnamorwa, Mary Hastag and myself.

 

AN:

Thanks Map! Love that you have Mary and Segametsi on the Board. Empowering the women of Botswana – yeahl!

 

*conversation condensed and edited for space 


To see rhino both in Botswana (Mombo) and South Africa for yourself, travel with us on an 18 Day Best of Southern Africa Safari to South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe



Elephants of The Desert and Delta: Etosha to the Okavango Delta


White Elephants of Etosha, Namibia

Nothing quite captures the imagination like the larger-than-life elephants of Southern Africa. Whether you saw the rare twin babies born in South Africa in December or picked up the bestselling Jodi Picoult book, Leaving Time, about elephants in the Tuli Block in Botswana, the media has been filled with images of the magnificent pachyderms.

 

If visions of elephants are filling your safari dreams, there’s no better way of having them come to life than visiting the herds that move across the deserts of Namibia and the deltas of Botswana. 

 

AAC Client Elaine Kuo went on an 18-Day Flying Safari that visited the elephants at Etosha, Namibia, and the Okavango Delta in Botswana. She enthuses: “We had a fantastic time on our African Safari. The kids really loved seeing all the animals! The staff at each camp was excellent in their service and we were so grateful to have Brooks as our guide. He was great - kept us and the kids entertained as well as teaching us so much about the wildlife and animal behaviors.”

 

At AAC, we love to start our elephant adventure Etosha National Park, is Namibia's premier game viewing destination and one of Africa's largest game parks (it’s the same size as Switzerland!). Large herds of plains game, including elephants, concentrate around the waterholes in the dry season and provide exciting game viewing. Next to Etosha, Ongava is a private, nearly 75,000 acre game reserve that offers night drives and nature walks on the reserve (activities that are not allowed within the national park). For unparalleled elephant views, stay at exclusive Ongava Tented Camp, “one of Namibia’s best kept secrets” which overlooks a waterhole at which a plethora of wildlife congregates to drink.


   

After the arid plains of Namibia, Botswana’s lush Okavango Delta is a perfect next elephant viewing spot. The delta extends over 6,000-square-miles and is a rich tapestry of open savannah, palm-fringed islands, flowing rivers, crystal-clear lagoons and floodplains sprinkled with water lilies, towering baobab, and jackalberry trees. Elephant viewing is exceptional—it’s here that you’ll encounter large herds as they make there way down to the waters to drink.

 

For a completely unique view of the mighty elephant, visit Vumbura Plains a stunning lodge with unparalleled view over the floodplains and a lounge area built under the canopy of large trees (a favorite of elephants to visit). When the Okavango's annual flood is at its highest (normally May to late September), boat trips at Vumbura may give you up-close looks at elephant along the river bank – a sight you won’t soon forget.

 

As you can tell, we're wild about elephants at AAC and we're proud to support Elephants Without Borders. This non-profit organization's motto is “Conservation with Boundaries” and they're committed to tracking elephants across international borders and helping to protect them from poachers and environmental hazards and habitat destruction. You can see their work, literally, by watching the 24/7 web cam on their web site that shows elephants LIVE in the middle of Africa. Warning: Once you start watching, it’s hard to get back to work – you’ll be dreaming of elephant safaris for the rest of the day!

 

 

View our 18-Day Best of Southern Africa trip - http://www.africa-adventure.com/safaris-items/18-day-best-of-namibia-and-botswana-wing-safari



9 Incredibly Romantic African Hideaways


Looking for the ultimate love nest in Africa?

 

Our resident experts at AAC tracked the most romantic properties in the African bush (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it), and created this lovers list of the 9 dreamiest destinations in Africa.

 

Elephant Star Beds – Abu Camp, Botswana

The stars form the canopy over your bed and the rumbling snores of elephants are your lullaby when you overnight on this unique platform overlooking the boma where elephant slumber. Don’t worry about creature comforts out amongst the creatures, there’s a plush double bed and even an open shower with the same incredible views, says AAC senior consultant Kyle Witten. Don’t worry, the elephants won’t spy on you.

 

                    

 

Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe

Suites with private plunge pools, hidden outdoor showers, double-sided fireplaces---no wonder ACC President Mark Nolting recommends this exclusive property on the Malilangwe Dam as his pick for most romantic spot in Africa. This exclusive and remote hideaway also has some of the most pristine scenery in Africa, virtually untouched by humankind. After a private game drive or walk, relax with tastings from the wine cellar stocked with incredible South African vintages or spa services  (including open air couples massages -- a unique, and memorable, way to enjoy the view).

 

                  


Lion Sands Kingston Tree House, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Think tree houses are just for kids? AAC’s Kollin Buchholz and Cinthia Liza say this tree top aerie at Lion Sands' will easily change your mind. There are few more romantic ways to sleep out under the great African skies than in an elegant canopy bed up in the tree branches, a gourmet picnic full of delicacies tucked way for you to nibble as you the evening skies unfurl---Just the stars, you, and your loved one.

 

                           

 

Linkwasha Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

The newest lodge in Zimbabwe is also one of the most luxurious hideaways in the bush, with just seven plush tents with expansive views over the Pans. Linkwasha's location in Hwange National Park makes it a magnet for incredible game viewing, with one of the densest concentrations of wildlife in Africa; and the sleepout they offer is just one of the reasons it's a favorite of AAC's Alison Nolting and Szilvia Hegyi. The rooms, with their bleached wood, tree-top high ceilings, billowing curtains, and expansive glass walls feel like you're in the pages of an Architectural Digest dream---It's a contemporary cocoon for two in the great Zimbabwe wilderness.

 

                     

 

Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa 

If a city is your top choice for romance, this boutique hotel in Cape Town is for you. Sunsets are spectacular over the Mother City where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. And the ideal spot to enjoy them is exclusive Ellerman House hotel, where glass-walled suites tucked into the rocky cliffs offer a private sundowner spectacle every evening, with the glittering city just below. Kerry Purcell has more ideas of sundowner spots in Cape Town!

 

     

 

La Petit Ferme, Winelands, South Africa

Just five private cottages are set into this scenic vineyard, each with a secluded patio and plunge pool and cozy fireplace inside. Leave your wine hideaway long enough for a memorable meal at the onsite restaurant made for romantic tet-a-tets. Gourmet meals include lamb aubergine and house created bubbly that AAC consultant Sarah Taylor says she still dreams about.

 

   

 

Sayari Camp, Serengeti, Tanzania

Ideally located in the Serengeti where the great migration practically passes by the front door of your stunning safari tent, just one of 15 in one of the only permanent camps in the area. Expect soaking tubs for two with views over wildlife filled plains with the exceptional details that made this a recent National Geographic Unique Property of the World and one of AAC’s top Honeymoon destinations- a pick by both President, Mark Nolting, and safari consultant Frank Dix.

 

                   

 

San Camp, Makgadikgadi Pans, Kalahari, Botswana

Picture this – you're sitting in the vast sand pans under the Southern Sky. Darkness falls like someone’s flipped a light switch. The stars surround you and feel like they’re at the end of your nose. The only thing you can hear is the sound of our own blood rushing through your veins. It’s an out of body experience says AAC senior consultant Lynne Glasgow. But wait – as the stars spin around you, dinner appears out of the darkness, with white linens, candles, and more. When you’re done with your meal, you blink and actual brass beds appear on the pan – creating one of the most magical experiences in Africa.

 

               


North Island, Seychelles

We can’t name all the famous couples who’ve honeymooned here (cough cough--- Prince William and Kate; George Clooney and Amal – cough cough), but let’s just say that this lush island might just be the most romantic, private, and sexy spot in the world with miles of pristine sand, unique sea life, and service that makes every couple feel like visiting royalty. Each of the 11 very secluded villas have interrupted vistas over the azure Indian Ocean and the silky sand. Meals can be served in your private dining room or a table for two can be set anywhere on the island--each one a decadent, and decidedly romantic, surprise.  Alison Nolting, senior consultant, honeymooned in the Seychelles (does that make her famous too)!

 

      



The Secret to the Perfect Safari? Provide the Most Amazing Guides in Africa


At AAC we pride ourselves on having personal relationships with safari guides in the top game reserves across Africa---it's one of the things that makes us unique in the safari industry. 

We travel to Africa and meet with guides when they’re first starting out in the industry, and then keep in close contact over the years, including offering opportunities to begin specialist guiding trips, educational scholarships not only to the guides we work with, but also to their children. We develop relationships that span the boundaries of continents and time, and we know when they guide a safari that they will provide our clients a trip of a lifetime.


Here's a snapshot of a few client trip reports on our  Running Wild Botswana Safari with one of our favorite guides, Brooks: 

 

“Having Brooks guide us through Linyanti and the Savute channel was a special treat. His deep knowledge of the wildlife generally, and the specific lion prides and leopards that we were seeing in the area, was so impressive and helped us appreciate the amazing wildlife interactions that we were viewing. The walking safari with Brooks was a real highlight of the trip - we learned so much being on the ground close to the tracks and trees and other fauna that we had been observing for days from the jeep. We also very much enjoyed Brooks' presentation on the political history of Botswana and also on the unique ecosystem of the Okavango Delta.”

-- Josh Berman and Providence Spina (AAC Clients)


"We had another great trip. Saw lots of animals again with the big 5 in one day! Mombo was great and so was Chitabe. Brooks was excellent; thanks for securing him!" 

-- Rod Kuo and family (AAC Clients)

 

"The guides were wonderful, and added greatly to the experience. This was especially true of our guide at Chitabe – Brooks – who was absolutely exceptional. I understand that he may have been assigned to us specifically because we were clients of yours...that alone made it worthwhile to have been dealing with you!!" 

-- Doug and Deborah Owram/Peter and Heather Eddison (AAC Clients)



Brooks Kamanakao, replies:

“I always feel honored to get a guiding request from AAC and will always do my best to give your guests a fantastic time. Looking forward to the 2015 season!”


AAC response:

To travel with Brooks, or another one of our personally selected guides, please contact us.




Botswana Safari Spotlight: Wilderness Safaris


Wondering about a Botswana safari? Where to go, what to see, what to do? Consider us your personal TripAdvisor – we’ve got all the details on what’s wild and wonderful right now in the Botswana bush. To give you an in-depth, insiders report, AAC’s South Africa-based consultant Yvonne Christian spent an immersive stay at Wilderness Safaris’ camps and we have the details just for you. Get ready to get inspired!


 

 

Wilderness Safaris – A Select Camp Guide, Winter 2015 


Note: Many of these camps are featured in our two programs --

12 Day Best of Wilderness Wing Safari (Premier) and

12 Day Botswana Wilderness Wing Safari (Classic Camps)

 


Chitabe Lediba – rating: 10


What we love: A stylish and comfortable camp with beautiful rooms – this is also a solid choice when traveling with kids, with a well-designed family unit that features interconnecting passageways.

Highlights of the game drives and walks include giraffes so relaxed they walk right along with the safari jeep, not to mention multiple leopard sightings.

Overall impression: It’s hard not to enjoy this very relaxing and welcoming camp.

 

DumaTau – rating: 9


What we love: If you’re an elephant enthusiast, you won’t want to miss DumaTau where you’ll see elephants swimming across the water channels and lining the water's edge as you head out on boat excursions, one of the highlights of the property. (The setting is similar to Chobe, but without the hordes of other people!)

You can also take a sunset cruise on a barge or arrange a private brunch cruise. For an intimate night with the elephants, overnight stays are possible in the hide.

Overall impression: A well-run camp with a large number of attentive staff, plus fantastic elephant encounters.

 

King's Pool – rating: 10


What we love: Twitchers take note: Carmine bee-eaters are a fantastic sighting here! This is an incredibly well run camp, with a quiet efficiency that reflects the top class management team. There’s excellent game viewing here as well on both walking and driving safaris. Take a sunset cruise on the Queen Sylvia barge (insider tip, if you ask, they’ll set up an overnight on the barge as well).

Overall impression: You’ll feel incredibly welcome at this newly renovated bush lodge with truly professional service.


Mombo – rating: 9


What we love: Attention to detail is what makes Mombo a star in the bush; for example, meeting guests on their drive into camp with a sunset cocktail or arranging wonderful breakfasts in the bush. Guides are also exceptional here, with tracking skills that revealed on our stay not only three separate prides of lion, but also a black rhino (who has a young calf), and Legadema, a literal superstar of the bush featured in National Georgraphic documentaries, and her cub.

Staff is another highlight at this luxe camp, whether it’s an informative rhino talk by the camp manager or the camp host sharing insight into her culture.

Note: We took away a point for the noisy baboons and a loud nest around our tent, but your experience will probably be more serene.

Overall impression: Wonderful staff and amazing wildlife sightings make this a special spot in the bush.

 

Seba – rating: 10


What we love: A great option when traveling with children, with really nice family units, and, even more important, staff that loves kids, and who kids love back (we’ve heard of children crying when it was time to leave this little paradise). Game viewing is by drives or mokoros, and Abu Camp and its fabulous elephant interaction are nearby (they can be enjoyed when booked as separate stay at Abu Camp).

Overall impression: Passionate guides and impressive service from a staff that goes above and beyond makes this a great fit for kids or kids at heart (so everyone who enjoys the bush!)

 

Tubu Tree Camp – rating: 9


What we love: Choose from driving, walking, boating, and mokoro excursions for excellent giraffe and large zebra herd sightings. Rangers are so skilled at traversing the area they can even get you close enough to view a Lilac Breasted Roller having a dust bath just feet from the vehicle.

If you’re looking to spend even more time enjoying the outdoors, Tubu offers fishing, as well as overnights on a platform under the stars.

NOTE: Hold on to your hats; rides are extra bumpy here due to raised viewing seats and roads that need a bit of upkeep.

Overall impression: Tubu is a well-run camp with a homey atmosphere and multiple options for game viewing.


Vumbura Plains North – rating: 10

 

What we love: Wildlife, wildlife, wildlife --- this lodge has some of the most amazing animal sightings we’ve ever encountered, including, on our visit, lions and their cubs, wild dogs, and a herd of some 2,000+ buffalo.

However, no creature comfort is lost when you’re seeing, well, the creatures: One morning on our way back to camp we were met out in the bush and served passion fruit sorbet! And on our last night, we were given an elegant farewell private dinner.

Overall impression: Amazing animal sightings, plus top-notch service, makes this a winning stay.


Xigera – rating: 7

 

What we loved: The camp is in a beautiful area with one of the best water programs, featuring boating and mokoro trips, in addition to driving safaris. The bird life is terrific, including sightings of Pel’s Fishing Owls, and there are plenty of animals in the area.

However, we’d love to see the food improved a bit and an upgrade in service.

Overall impression: Lovely setting, great water options, but needs some TLC in the food and service departments.


But wait, there’s more:


Jao Camp – Although we didn't get a chance to overnight here this trip, we were impressed by Jao’s luxurious spa and fantastic food when we stopped in; a few of the reasons it’s one of our perennial favorites.

 

SNEAK PEAK: GOMOTI TENTED CAMP


Coming soon, Wilderness’ new Gomoti Tented Camp – here’s our quick “sneak peak” just for AAC readers.

 

Yvonne says: “The flight in over the Gomoti River is spectacular, with large herds of buffalo and elephant, and from all accounts the game viewing is excellent, they've even had a pack of wild dog drinking from the water hole in front of the camp on a number of occasions!

This is a vintage-style camp, with tents on the ground and basic facilities; the rooms are solar powered and the kitchen is on a generator.

When game viewing goes into full swing here, there will be both driving and walking safaris, plus mokoro boating options a short distance from the camp."


 




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