Thanks to Thierry Cellier of Heritage Safaris, we experienced a wonderful and incredible time in Tanzania making a private safari with Christine/Rick Wozney visiting some of the most famous parks. Our guide , Peter “Captain” Maleaki Mmbando of Sunny Safaris in Arusha guided the four of us during ten unique days!
When we arrived in Arusha first thing we saw dimly (since it was evening) in the distance was Mount Kilimanjaro. We spent 2 nights in the Arusha Hotel which is comfortably situated in the centre of Arusha. The old-style hotel was excellent and we went with Peter to the big , local market which was very crowded, but most interesting. We also paid a visit to the Tanzanite Museum which showed us the famous stones they mine only at the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Quite an education!
The next couple of days we spent in the Tarangire National Park which is a wonderful big park with giant baobab trees and a huge population of elephants. We were lucky enough to see two leopards sleeping in the trees and were able to get very close with our Toyota Land cruiser, which did not disturb them at all. Later on, right by the dirt-road we came upon a lioness standing guard over a freshly killed wildebeest (Gnu) with her four little cubs all partaking in this “meal”. She snarled at us so that we closed the windows, but soon we could open them again since they all concentrated on eating the intestines first, then the meat and bones. Even sitting in the land cruiser we could hear the crackling of the bones and the tearing of the meat.
We saw so many animals, but one particular moment remains in our memory, when after a short, but strong monsoon the countryside was very wet and our land cruiser was surrounded by a herd of elephants … when one female elephant was so delighted to finally have some wet soil again, that when she climbed the bank she rubbed her tummy back & forth before climbing out of the ditch … very funny indeed. We must mention here that the Tarangire Balloon Camp was superb and Joseph, a native who served us our meals, was most interested in our Swahili dictionary, so that we left the dictionary with Peter at the end of our trip to give it to Joseph which he promised he would do next time going through the area.
On the drive to the next park , the Serengeti National Park, we spent an afternoon in the Lake Manyara National Park where from a distance we saw huge flocks of flamingos; also the whole area was full of baboons which we enjoyed seeing fighting and playing with their little ones.
The Serengeti National Park is huge and covers an area about the size of Northern Ireland. This Park boasts the world’s greatest concentration of large mammals and is the least disturbed eco system on earth. Although we did not see the Great Migration, we did see the start of it by watching thousands of wildebeest and zebras marching single file across the grassland. Naturally we saw also thousand of impalas and other gazelles, as well as the high-stepping secretary bird. Over the next couple of days we spotted more herds of these animals, quite a few lions and also a cheetah sleeping under a tree. Then think of several herds of elephants, giraffes, wart hogs, hyenas, etc. etc. – We managed the rare feat of viewing all of the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo).
Another day we headed eastward to the Olduvai Gorge, a fifty kilometre-long ravine where Louis and Mary Leakey discovered in the 1930s the first hominid skull and established Africa as the site of the so-called human origin. We understand that this is the cradle of mankind – it is certainly most interesting. We visited their small but fascinating museum where Nina and Christine each bought a wood carving of a warthog from a good-looking Maasai tribesman! A professor from the university of Arusha explained to us that the Gorge should be really called “Oldupai Gorge” named after the sisal plant … the misspelling came later !
The Mbuzi Mawe Tented Camp was superb, however Rick complained that he did not sleep very well due to all the lions roaring in the distance; Nina and FF were quite amazed when we opened our tent early in the morning to see many Cape buffalos grazing right before our entrance … these dangerous animals spend the night near our camp in order to have protection from the lions !!
Finally, the last couple of days were spent in the Ngorongoro Highlands where we stayed at the famous Ngorongoro Serena Lodge which is built into the rim of the Crater and from where each room has a stunning view of the Crater. It was truly outstanding . Each room has a rock- enclosed balcony that overlooks the chasm. Wonderful. Every where the food and accommodation was excellent!
We visited an original Maasai village which was highly interesting and were greeted by the son of the Chief with the tribesmen singing and dancing a welcome. They braid their hair which is dyed with ochre, carrying spears in hand … the Maasai maintain their traditions and pastoral lifestyle of herding their cattle and goats . We really enjoyed visiting their little school .
All in all a wonderful visit.
Texte Nina & Francois Freyvogel ~ Photos Rick Wozney/Francois Freyvogel
We are inviting you to join Heritage Safaris as we host Zimbabwean professional guide and former game ranger of Hwange National Park, Mark “ Butch” Butcher, for a presentation on safari adventures to Zimbabwe.
Butch is the Managing Director of Imvelo Safari Lodges in Victoria Falls and Hwange, Zimbabwe’s premier national park. He has over 40 years of experience in the African bush and was featured in Canada’s Nuvo magazine, in an article written by Vancouver based travel writer Mark Sissons.
In this presentation, you’ll embark on a virtual safari, captivated by Butch’s stories, his pioneering work on ecotourism and African conservation. Along the way we’ll learn about viewing wildlife in Zimbabwe, both by vehicle and on foot, as well as the many beautiful boutique lodges and tented camps where you’ll be welcomed like friends and family.
Don’t miss this exciting and enlightening presentation!
Space is limited so pleaseRSVPto let us know you are coming. We will provide light refreshments including South African wine!
Begin your 12 day ‘Peru’ adventure in the ancient Sacred Valley exploring its beauty, rich Andean culture and collection of archaeological sites of this once glorious Inca Empire. This is a great way to acclimatize before climbing board the Vista Dome Train to Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. Set high in an Andean tropical mountain forest, this ‘World Heritage Site is an incredible site to behold.
Spend a night at Inkaterra’s lovely Machu Picchu Eco Lodge, nestled in the cloud forest below the Incan ruins.
The Vista Dome Train, with breathtaking scenery of the changing landscapes, will bring you to the fascinating city of Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire. Spend a couple days wandering through the charming and narrow cobblestone streets and visit Cusco’s Historical Inca and Spanish Colonial Monuments.
Take a quick flight to Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water and said to be the birthplace of the Incas. Visit the floating island “Uros” where the inhabitants still to this day practise their ancient traditions and build their totora reed dwellings on the surface of Lake Titicaca. Afterwards make your way to the unique Island of Taquile, where time appears to have stopped.
As I have often said before, if you want to see and experience vast herds of animals roaming the great African plains, then East Africa is the place to go. If you want to see the famous ‘Big Five’ – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard, then a private concession in the world-renowned Kruger National Park is your best bet. I was lucky enough to experience the latter on my last trip to Africa with a stay at two private camps in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, an immense private concession bordering the Kruger, and had the most incredible sightings of both the ‘Big Five’ and other wildlife.
The Sabi Sands Game Reserve is a vast 65,000-hectare fenceless reserve that shares a border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park and is home to the highest density of free-roaming big game in South Africa.
My trip began with a night’s stay at the Dulini River Lodge, followed by a night’s stay at the Savannah Lodge, both of which are exclusive five-star lodges that offer an unforgettable experience in the heart of the Africa wilderness. Aside from the fantastic accommodations, which included private plunge pools and viewing decks overlooking the bush, both lodges offered guided game drives, which was where I experienced Africa at her best.
While there were no huge herds of animals as found in East Africa, the Big Five were all around me and in the first two days of my trip I was lucky enough to spot no less than 20 lions, 25 rhinos, and five leopards. Sabi Sand is renowned for being one of the best places to spot these elusive cats. I also saw countless elephants, including mothers and their babies, and many buffalo, as well as other game such as cheetah, zebra, kudu, and nyala. There were plenty of hyena around, and I managed to catch a hunt and a kill in progress where a group of hungry hyenas took down big Buffalo – one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen! It cannot be argued that Sabi Sand is a magical place for safaris!
I then moved on to the Thornybush Game Reserve, which lies just north of Sabi Sands and is quite a different experience as it is a fenced game reserve, which doesn’t allow the animals to roam freely as Sabi Sands does. I stayed at the Waterside Lodge, a family-friendly lodge set on the set on the banks of a beautiful lake. While the Lodge offers comfortable rooms with private deck areas overlooking the river, I found the reserve to be too ‘bushy,’ which made it difficult to spot any wildlife and get good photographs.
The next leg of my African journey took me to one of my favourite places on Earth – Namibia. Just a short two-hour flight from Johannesburg into the capital of Windhoek, it is easily accessible from South Africa and presents an entirely different perspective on the continent. After a comfortable night at the Galton Guest House, a charming guest house in one of Windhoek’s quiet suburbs, I headed to the NamibRand Nature Reserve, one of Southern Africa’s largest private nature reserves. This unique and often missed nature reserve encompasses a vast wilderness on the edge of the Namib Desert which is home to epic landscapes of massive apricot dunes and grassy plains peppered with mysterious fairy circles. The NamibRand Nature Reserve is also famous for the many small herds of oryx that can be regularly seen here.
Next was a visit to the famous Sossusvlei Desert where towering red sand dunes, dry, cracked earth, and ghostly trunks of dead trees form an ethereal, and stark beauty found nowhere else in the world. At the center of this mysterious world is the Namib-Naukluft National Park, which is made up of a vast ephemeral pan whose stark white floors of salt and clay and contrasting majestic, star-shaped red dunes – some of the highest in the world .
I also had the chance to revisit Dead Vlei (meaning “dead marsh”), a place I had been longing to see again, which is a unique white clay pan near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, which also gave me some fantastic photo opportunities.
Surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, the tallest of which reaches an incredible 400m, Dead Vlei’s clay pan was formed hundreds of years ago when the Tsauchab River flooded, creating temporary shallow pools which allowed camel thorn trees to grow. When the climate changed, and drought later hit the area, the trees died and left the remaining skeleton trunks that can be seen today. This 700-hundred-year-old trees are not petrified but do not decompose because the climate is so dry.
During my visit to the Sossusvlei, I stayed at the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, a contemporary lodge with comfortable accommodations located on the edge of the pan and surrounded the majestic mountains and towering sand dunes of the Namib Desert. The views from the lodge were nothing less than spectacular.
One of the best ways to experience the sheer expanse and beauty of the Sossusvlei is on a hot air balloon ride, and you should not leave this beautiful country without enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I didn’t miss my chance and took a flight over the towering red sand dunes and vast salt plains, a flight that was made even more special for me as I was flown by the very same pilot that took me on my first flight over Sossusvlei some 24 years ago!
The last leg of the trip was in Cape Town, like Vancouver the “mother city” is surrounded by ocean and mountains and there are many similarities between the 2 cities. The purpose of the visit was to see some friends and visit Wine Estates and Olive Farms, Morgenster Estate in Somerset West, Hamilton Russel Vineyards and Bouchard Finlayson Winery near Hermanus , these wineries produce excellent Bordeaux Style Red, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Renting a car and driving around the Cape Area is really easy and very affordable ( Keep in mind that they drive on the wrong side of the road). Stellenbosh and Franschhoek are good bases to explore the wine region.
The Heritage Safari Company’s first ‘Ladies Group Tour’ was an exciting 17 day adventure exploring some of Southern Africa’s highlights. We enjoyed spectacular wildlife safaris in Chobe National Park and along the Chobe & Zambezi Rivers as well as breathtaking views of the legendary Victoria Falls.
A few of the ladies visited an orphanage and made generous donations including several beautiful quilts (made by Lurlyn). Others experienced the ‘helicopter flight of angels’ and the ‘high adrenaline activities’ over the falls & gorge for more stunning views. A visit to South Africa’s Soweto Township allowed us to experience the fascinating history, local culture, food and entertainment and even our guide’s family home.
While in beautiful Cape Town we enjoyed a fun ‘Eats Walking Tour’ sampling a variety of delicious local foods and beverages and toured the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Visits to Table Mountain, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch Gardens, and the Cape Peninsula were wonderful as well as the superb high tea served at the lovely Mount Nelson Hotel.We tasted many fabulous South African wines and enjoyed the stunning scenery along the Garden Route.
Visits were made also to a Penguin Colony, an Elephant Sanctuary, an Ostrich Farm, Tenikwa Widlife Awareness Centre and the limestone Cango Caves. Our accommodations were superb and service and guiding outstanding throughout. Several of the ladies continued onto the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve spending a few more thrilling days on safari seeing the ‘Big Five’ and more.
Step 1: Choose the type of visa: “Ordinary” (single entry) and East Africa Tourist Visa are the most common.
Step 2: In the field marked Contact in Uganda (person, organization, hotel, travel agency…) enter your local operator or hotel contact.
Step 3: Upload clear copies of : Copy of the passport (Bio-data page) Copy of recent Passport size Photograph travel itinerary Vaccination Certificate (Yellow fever) Return Ticket
Step 4: Once the online application form is completed and submitted, the applicant will receive a bar-coded email notification of approval. This can take 3 or more days. Once received, this bar-coded email should be printed and brought to Uganda for presentation upon arrival.
Upon arrival at any border (entry point), the bar-coded email along with passport and original yellow fever certificate must be presented. The Immigration officer will scan the barcode, take fingerprints and a photograph and collect the $100 visa fee ($USD cash only, in excellent condition and dated 2006 or later). The visa will be printed and pasted into the passport.
NOTE: The online system and obtaining visas on arrival are working CONCURRENTLY. Visas will be available on arrival until July 31, 2016. After this date, all visas must be obtained online using the E-Visa system.
Spanning almost two-million hectares and home to more than 1000 different species of animals and birds, the Kruger National Park is the pride of South Africa. Famed for its vast size, rich conservation history, wildlife diversity, and ease of access, this incredible park is an unrivalled haven for some of Africa’s most magnificent fauna and flora. Watch the drama of life and death in Africa play out daily in the most beautiful of landscapes. Rugged bushveld, dense woodlands, and rolling grasslands merge into one another to create an idyllic and untamed wilderness for the wildlife that lives here. Accommodation in the Kruger National Park ranges from the rustic to the regal, with public campsites and lodges to private concessions and luxurious suites offering something to suit all tastes and budgets. Head into the wild on a guided game drive with some of the best guides Africa has to offer, or take your time on a self-drive through the park and soak up the surroundings.
Main Lodges vs. Private Camps
The difference between a stay at one of the regular Kruger Park rest camps and a private lodge is incomparable – and for good reason! The private camps offer an array of extras (many of which are included in the rate) that the main rest camps don’t, from luxurious unfenced accommodation and outstanding cuisine to privately guided game drives in open-top vehicles with expert rangers. Private reserves and camps, such as Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Manyeleti or Thornybush Game Lodge offer unfenced accommodations of luxuriously high standards with all the deluxe amenities expected in a first-class hotel from Jacuzzi baths to personal butlers. They also serve equally high-end cuisine, with all meals being included in the rate. Breakfasts are generally served late after the morning game drive and afternoon picnics are set up in the middle of the bush. Dinner usually features a selection of grilled or roasted game meat, giving visitors an opportunity to taste at least one species spotted earlier that day — kudu, springbok, impala, and warthog. Open-air boma dinners by the roaring fire are popular at these private reserves. But the biggest drawcard of these beautiful private camps is that of the game drives, which are conducted twice a day in open-topped and elevated Land Rovers to allow visitors to get as close as possible to the animals. Game drives are led by Shangaan trackers and armed rangers, who share their vast knowledge of the game and their habitats. Animals in these reserves, particularly Sabi Sands, are so used to being approached by vehicles that they almost ignore them entirely, ensuring good sightings on most game drives. After an unforgettable day of game viewing, relax with a sundowner and toast the setting African sun – the Kruger National Park is Africa at its best.
Literally meaning ‘the place where the sun rises’, Mpumalanga is one of the most geographically diverse and beautiful places in South Africa. Magnificent natural landscapes abound, with towering mountain peaks in the northeast flattening out onto a massive escarpment, which plunges hundreds of metres down to the low-lying area known as the Lowveld. Spectacularly carving its way through the Drakensberg Escarpment is the Blyde River Canyon, an 800-metre deep canyon that offers out-of-this-world views over the Klein Drakensberg escarpment. Massive spirals of dolomite rock rise out of the canyon walls, and strange cylindrical sculptures carved by swirling water create ethereal geological phenomenon seen nowhere else in the world. This breath-taking terrain is big game country and home to dozens of private wildlife reserves and sanctuaries teeming with wildlife and birds. Grey rhebuck and the rare oribi roam the grassy plains, kudu takes cover in the dense woodland. Streams that were once panned for gold have become the haunts of eager anglers and lazy trout. Steeped in the history of pioneers, hunters and fortune seekers, fascinating gold rush towns abound. Mpumalanga offers something for everyone.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Located in the North West Province along the Botswana border, Madikwe Game Reserve is one of South Africa’s largest malaria-free wildlife sanctuaries. Originally an old cattle ranch, Madikwe’s ‘Operation Phoenix’, was the biggest game translocation exercise in the world, and today, nearly 10 000 animals have been released into the reserve, including the Big Five, Hyena, the African Wild Dog, and many species of herbivore. Meaning ‘place of blood’, ‘the crocodile’ and ‘wealth’ in the indigenous languages of the area, Madikwe is synonymous with the wilderness and harmonises perfectly with the natural surroundings of its locale. Ochre-coloured sands and thorny acacia bushveld surround luxurious and family-friendly lodges scattered throughout the reserve, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg.
Madikwe Safari Lodge
Johannesburg and Pretoria
Once regarded as simply as South Africa’s main business hub and seat of government respectively, with nothing else to offer, Johannesburg and Pretoria have grown in leaps and bounds and are flourishing centres that are well worth a visit in their own right. Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, Johannesburg, or Jo’burg, has smartened up its act with an inner city transformation akin to that of any big European city. The cultural district of Newtown boasts a plethora of trendy theatres, restaurants, museums, and jazz clubs while the lively streets of Melville capture the heart and soul of the city. The handsome, rather more conservative counterpart of Pretoria exudes colonial history with broad jacaranda-lined boulevards, gracious old homes, and sprawling leafy suburbs. Once the heart of the apartheid regime, a new sense of multi-culturalism is being infused into the city. The impressive Herbert Baker designed Union Buildings are an architectural delight while the massive Voortrekker Monument and modern Freedom Park offer a more holistic approach to history.
Spectacular scenery, beautiful beaches, world-class winelands, and a vibrantly rich culture and history, Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the jewels in South Africa’s crown. Defined by the iconic Table Mountain, whose majestic backdrop that was recently named one of the natural wonders of the modern world, and caressed on either side by two oceans, this energetic city never fails to deliver. Crafted by Mother Nature herself, life in Cape Town is all about the great outdoors and the city is packed with a variety of activities to enjoy. Head to one of the Blue Flag beaches of Clifton or Camps Bay for a day of sun, sand and sea; climb up Lion’s Head at dawn or take a ferry trip across the bay to the historic Robben Island. For something more relaxed, enjoy a picnic at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, sip wine on a historic farm in Constantia or have a swim with penguins on Boulders Beach en route to Cape Point. Home to an incredible selection of award-winning restaurants, trendy cafés and vibrant cocktail bars, as well as some of the world’s finest wine farms, the city is a haven for gourmands.
Stunning natural scenery, rugged mountainscapes, and fertile valleys filled with orchards and vineyards are the home of the Cape Winelands, one of the Cape’s most beautiful regions. Pink-hued mountains tower over patch-worked valleys of undulating vineyards that produce some of the finest wines in the world. Steeped in tradition with a rich history and culture, this beautiful area is a cosmopolitan hotspot for fine wining and dining. Begin your Winelands ramble in Paarl, renowned for its haunting scenic beauty and ancient viticulture and fruit-growing heritage before meandering through majestic mountain backdrops to the Francophile village of Franschhoek. Originally founded by the French Huguenots after their exodus to Africa, this little French corner is lovingly known today as the ‘Food and Wine Capital of the Cape’, producing superb wines and French-inspired cuisine. Visit the oak-lined streets of Stellenbosch, the heart of the wine industry and one of South Africa’s oldest and prettiest university towns, or venture further afield to the lesser known areas, such as Ceres, Elgin, McGregor, and Montagu, who are famed for their award-winning wines.
You cannot help but be seduced by the glorious natural beauty of the Cape’s famous Garden Route. Stretching from Cape Town past the towns of George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay along the coast towards Port Elizabeth, beautiful beaches, picturesque lagoons and lakes, rolling hills and majestic mountains make up the breath-taking scenery of this magnificent coastline. Ancient indigenous forests line the coast from Wilderness to Knysna where you can enjoy adventure trails and hiking, river canoeing, or sliding through the tree canopy. Visit a six-hundred-year-old yellowwood tree or spot one of the few remaining Knysna elephants. Beautiful beaches and secluded bays such as Hermanus and Stilbaai dot the rugged coastline, where southern right whales come in to calve and play, while a lush and fertile area of greenery runs up into the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, offering excellent hiking trails, bird watching and mountain hideaways. Inland, the town of Oudtshoorn rests in a semi-arid valley and is home to the world-renowned Cango Caves and the ostrich, which are farmed here by the thousands.
Boasting miles of golden shores lapped by the warm Indian Ocean, a subtropical climate with endless sunny days and warm evenings, and a productive multi-cultured society that played a vital role in shaping the modern Rainbow Nation, Kwa-Zulu Natal is one of South Africa’s most vibrant provinces. Also known as The Zulu Kingdom, this spectacular region is steeped in history and home to an array of attractions that are not to be missed on a visit to South Africa. From the World Heritage Sites of the coastal iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the mountainous ‘Barrier of Spears’, to the gateway city of Durban, whose pulsating and inviting fusion of East and West overlooks Africa’s busiest seaport and the expansive golden beaches interspersed with idyllic getaway coves of the South Coast – Kwa-Zulu begs to be explored.
With an unparalleled, airbrushed beauty that has inspired a million picture-postcards, the Drakensberg Mountain Range is home to some of South Africa’s most breath-taking landscapes. Forming the boundary between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, the jagged sweep of basalt summits and buttresses have long attracted visitors and adventurers from around the world to take in its spectacular vistas. Aptly named ‘uKhahlamba’, meaning ‘Barrier of Spears’ by the Zulu, morning mists swirl around the towering mountain peaks and through the tranquil yellow wood forests that teem with wildlife. In summer, dramatic mountain storms crash around the peaks, while in winter, the snow-capped heights are picture-postcard perfect in their serene beauty. Herds of eland and zebra wind their way across sandstone-flanked valleys, barking baboons can be heard in the distance and black eagles soar between the towering cliffs. Tumbling mountain streams and cascading waterfalls can be found in the World Heritage Site of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, where a myriad caves and overhangs protect an incredible cultural legacy of ancient rock art painted by Southern Africa’s earliest inhabitants, the San Bushmen.
Natal Midlands – Battlefields
Steeped in history, the rolling hills and valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal where battles that changed the course of history were fought some 120 years ago, echo these heroic and tragic deeds today. Two of the most famous battlefields, Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift set the stage for the Zulu defeat of the British army with nothing but spears and courage while Spioenkop Battlefield is famous for playing host to Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, and Louis Botha. Take in a wonderful ‘re-enactment’ of some of the famous battles that took place, where local people dress up in bright red, colonial British or traditional Zulu warrior attire and attempt to repeat history.
Elephant Coast – iSimangaliso Wetland Park
An area of outstanding beauty, the Elephant Coast is a natural paradise that is home to a myriad different ecosystems, where, in the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).” Towering forested dunes stretch along the protected coastline for miles, backed by long, white sandy beaches that play host to vast numbers of nesting turtles; wide rivers wash through broad flood plains and large coastal lagoons spill out into the ocean feeding thousands of marine creatures; and deep coastal lakes are packed with hippo, crocodiles, and a variety of fish. Swamp forests have massive raffia palms that are home to the rare, indigenous palm nut vulture, and a variety of beautiful birds. The Elephant Coast is famous for its game reserves such as Tembe Elephant Park, home to some of Africa’s largest tuskers, Ndumo and Mkuze, famous for their birdlife, and the private and highly sought-after reserve of Phinda.
Vibrant, energetic and culturally rich, Durban’s melting pot of culture, cuisine, and coastal subtropical climate make this one of South Africa’s most popular holiday cities. Miles of golden beaches, warm water, and some of the best waves in South Africa draw surfers, scuba divers, and anglers alike. A beautiful waterfront promenade makes for an enjoyable seaside stroll, the iconic Moses Mabhida stadium hosts fantastic soccer games and the uShaka Marine World Aquarium promises a day of fun for the whole family. Take in the prominent Zulu culture in the markets, art galleries, theatres, and on the streets where vendors sell a variety of African crafts and curios and visit sites where Mahatma Gandhi, John Dube and other heroes of the South African struggle once lived. Greatly enriched by the city’s Indian population, Durban is famous for its Indian cuisine, so be sure to experience the wonderful food, ceremonies and festivals held in and around the city. Nature lovers will delight to find many natural, green parks and gardens around the city, as well as nature reserves, such as Shongweni and Kenneth Stainbank within easy walking and driving distance.
How to get there ? KLM flies daily from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal to Johannesburg via Amsterdam. No visa required for Canadian and US citizen.
Located in the Indian Ocean, 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania and comprising two large islands fringed by many more, the Zanzibar Archipelago vies with the Serengeti as Tanzania’s most precious natural asset, able to mesmerise even the most jaded traveller into meditative contemplation.
Undoubtedly, one of the jewels in East Africa’s crown, Zanzibar (Unguja) can only be described as a slice of tropical heaven. Turquoise blue waters gently lap palm-fringed beaches, which stretch for miles; traditional white-sailed wooden dhows sail on warm sea breezes; bustling spice markets fill the air with a heady mix of Middle Eastern and African scents that leave you breathless.
History Also known as the ‘Spice Island’, Zanzibar’s rich history and alluring mix of cultures add to the flavour of the island from the ancient Persian caliphs that dot the island, to the heavily laden scents of India that float in the air above the vibrant markets. Uniquely East African flavours assault the senses, from the network of alleyways that wind past Arabic-style houses with brass-studded wooden doors and the tall, traditionally garbed Maasai striding across the beaches to the colourful back-street markets of Zanzibar City’s old quarter filled with Swahili and Indian traders in long salwar kameezes and embroidered skullcaps. Add to this uniquely East African flavours of Swahili and Arabic and you have an exotic melting pot of distinct and undeniably ‘Zanzibarian’ charm that can only be found in this magical East African archipelago.
Beaches Home to some of the world’s most magnificent beaches, gin-clear waters teem with myriad marine life, colourful, pristine reefs offer excellent snorkelling and diving, and a network of small, nearly deserted islands promise secluded retreats to hide away from the world.
AccommodationCapturing the vibrant essence of the ‘Spice Island’ in an exotic blend of laid-back beach life and ancient culture, Zanzibar offers a range of beautiful places to stay from intimate seaside escapes to elegant spa resorts that reflect the island’s beauty and character. Renowned as one of the world’s most romantic honeymoon destinations with pristine, white sandy beaches, azure blue waters and breath-taking sunsets, there is no lack of luxury beachfront cottages and exclusive boutique hotels, tucked away in secluded coves, for couples wanting an intimate escape. The island also offers a range of family-friendly hotels with safe swimming beaches and a variety of activities for an all-inclusive family holiday, while luxurious spa resorts with private beaches and spectacular views are ideal for an idyllic, island paradise getaway. If you prefer to be surrounded by culture, Zanzibar’s historical capital of Stone Town has several great hotels in and around the city. For something a little more remote, head out to one of the island’s neighbouring atolls where islands such as Pemba Island, Mafia Island, and the private Mnemba Island are home to luxurious lodges that promise an intimate and exclusive island escape. Dive or snorkel teeming coral reefs, swim with dolphins, or just laze on the beach and soak up the stunning surroundings.
Known as ‘The Green Island’ in Arabic, Pemba Island lies 31 miles (50km) to the north of Unguja, the largest island of the Zanzibar archipelago and together with Mafia Island forms the ‘Spice Islands’ of Zanzibar. Separated from the mainland of Tanzania by the Pemba Channel, Pemba Island is an untouched slice of paradise. Boasting footprint-free white sandy beaches and healthy coral reefs, lush mangroves and tranquil lagoons, hilly, fertile terrain lined with fruit and spice trees, Pemba is an idyllic and secluded island escape.
Pemba Island Accommodation
The Manta Reef Resort Tucked away on the remote north-western tip of Pemba Island overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Pemba Channel, The Manta Reef Resort takes barefoot luxury to new heights. Romantic and relaxing, Manta Resort boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and waters in Zanzibar with world-class snorkelling and diving.
Ancient Moorish design meets European chic in the stylish all-suite accommodation with all the luxurious comforts needed for a perfect stay. From opulent suites overlooking lush tropical gardens and luxurious penthouses to magnificent suites located on the beach with incredible ocean views, and a unique underwater room, a choice selection of accommodation is available for every taste.
Lunch over a poolside picnic as you soak up the sun in style, spend the day being pampered with luxurious beauty treatments at the resort’s exclusive spa and watch the sun set over the horizon with colourful cocktails at the elegant beach lounge, followed by alfresco-style cuisine of fresh seafood and other local delights. Stroll along miles of untouched sand or explore the myriad of sea life in the azure blue Indian Ocean waters. Take a romantic dhow cruise on warm sea breezes or lounge by the pool with your favourite book and simply soak up the island’s beauty.
Nestled on the exquisitely secluded Pemba Island and only accessible by boat, Fundu Lagoon is the ultimate paradise island escape. Eighteen spacious Makuti thatched tents and suites offer discerning guests luxurious comfort, with airy, elegantly furnished rooms, cool seductive spaces that look out over pristine white sandy beaches and weathered timber terraces flowing out onto decks with unobstructed ocean views. Contemporary, beach house chic décor creates a relaxed and luxuriously laid-back island living feel. Unique pieces of décor such as hand-carved bar stools and beautiful freeform bathtubs create an atmosphere of understated luxury, while creamy, natural tones with touches of blues echo the miles of pristine white sands and azure blue sea. Savour superb Afro-Asian cuisine and sumptuous seafood at the excellent restaurant or luxuriate with sensual spa and aqua therapy treatments at the luxurious Fusion Spa. Explore the myriad of marine life on the beautiful coral reefs or end the day with a magnificent sunset dhow cruise along the tropical shores of this coastal paradise.
Mafia Island is the southernmost island of the three Spice Islands and a secluded untouched paradise far from the touristy crowds of Zanzibar’s larger islands. The largest of a score of islands, atolls and tidal sandbars that make up the Mafia Archipelago, Mafia Island is approximately 31 miles (50 km) long by 9 miles (15 km) across, and is surrounded by a barrier reef teeming with marine life. With a small fishing community of laid, back friendly locals, warm sea and air temperatures year-round and pristine beaches and coral reefs within the protected Mafia Island Marine Park, Mafia Island is the perfect post-safari or honeymoon destination.
Mafia Island Accommodation
Powder-soft sands, azure waters and cloudless blue skies are just some of the reasons that make Pole Pole the perfect island getaway. Tucked away on Mafia Island, the exclusive ‘Crusoe-esque’ style eco-resort is located on a secluded beach overlooking the infinite hues of Chole Bay in the heart of the Mafia Island Marine Park and offers an unpretentious, unforgettable stay. Perfect for relaxing after a safari or spending time with loved ones, Pole Pole boasts seven beautifully appointed bungalow suites, surrounded by lush tropical gardens and spectacular ocean views. Designed in a laid-back Balinese style to echo true island living, spacious living spaces flow effortlessly into one another with elegant timber furnishings and chic contemporary décor. Wood is the main element throughout the villa, with weathered timber decks, louvre doors and stylish timber tables and chairs. Dine on a fusion of Swahili and Italian cuisine which features freshly caught local seafood, enjoy pampering massages and spa treatments in the wellness center overlooking the beach or spend hours snorkelling or diving in the exquisite waters around the island. Pole Pole is all about relaxation and once you are there, you will be hard-pressed to leave.
Mafia Island Lodge African and Arabic influences blend in a tropical haven in the award-winning Mafia Island Lodge. Resting on a sandy beach in Chole Bay in the Mafia Island Marine Park, the charming island-style Lodge offers a romantic location and a range of fun, water-based activities. Epitomising comfortable Crusoe-chic, rustic thatched suites furnished with stylish contemporary décor are nestled amongst a shady canopy of trees on pristine white sands. Spacious living areas seamlessly integrate with the surrounding environment through open-sided rooms, while weathered timber boardwalks connect to intimately-appointed, luxurious en-suite bedrooms. Natural features of wood, thatch and reed combine with bold, vibrant colours inspired by the natural fauna and flora to enhance a relaxed, island-style ambience. Days can be spent soaking up the sun on the magnificent beaches and dipping in the Indian Ocean, diving, fishing or exploring the incredible coral reefs.
Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Island can be reached by air on daily flights from Arusha, Serengeti, Selous and Dar es Salaam.
In March this year I was invited on a trip to Namibia by the Namibian Tourism Board, which I was very excited about as I hadn’t been back to the country in a while and it was a great chance to reconnect with a land that I love.
My trip itinerary covered Northern Namibia and the coast, beginning in Windhoek and ending in the beautiful German town of Swakopmund. In between, we visited Etosha National Park, one of Southern Africa’s best loved wildlife sanctuaries, and the spectacular region of Damaraland, home to the Himba people.
After an easy day of travelling to Windhoek, followed by a lovely meal in the evening at the famous Joe’s Beer House in the heart of the city, where you can enjoy everything from gemsbok carpaccio to a juicy kudu steak, we began our trip by heading into Etosha National Park.
Spanning 22 750km², Etosha National Park is world-renowned for its fantastic game viewing, with particularly good chances of seeing the endangered black rhinoceros. Meaning ‘place of dry water’, Etosha encloses a vast, flat calcrete depression (or pan) of around 5 000km² which floods in the summer months and attracts thousands of flamingos to feed. During the dry winter months, the pan provides a vast, parched, silver-white backdrop of shimmering mirages that create spectacularly beautiful landscapes.
Our first stop was at Lake Otjikoto, Namibia’s largest permanent natural lake which is part an underground river system and was formed when the roof of what was a large dolomite cave fell in. Somewhat small in diameter, the lake is said to be deeper than 140m in places!
We then spent the next two days exploring the park, going on game drives in search of animals and visiting waterholes to watch the action. I was very pleasantly surprised to see such a high concentration of game in the park. I am used to travelling on the vast plains of East Africa in Kenya and Tanzania where there are huge concentrations of game, but did not expect to see as many animals and such a variety of species as I did in Etosha, which was fantastic! We saw a variety of antelope such as springbok, impala, and gemsbok, as well as zebra, giraffe and elephant. There were plenty of lion around and the odd, elusive leopard, as well as many species of birds. The waterhole at Okaukuejo is an excellent spot as it is always packed with game coming to drink.
After a last game drive the following morning, we left Etosha on the fourth day of the trip and headed into the Desert Mountains of the Kaokoveld, one of the last true wildernesses of Southern Africa and home of the Himba people. En route to our lodge, we visited a local Himba village and were lucky enough to meet the local inhabitants, who are one of the few semi-nomadic tribes left in the world that live as they did centuries ago.
I have always been fascinated by the Himba people, with their beautiful reddish coloured skin and intricate dreadlocked hair and their nomadic lifestyle, not unlike that of the Maasai people in Kenya. The unusual colour of their skin comes from a paste they make from butter fat, ochre, and herbs which they put on their skin to protect them from the sun. They also believe the colour has a symbolic meaning as it unites the red colour of earth and blood which is the symbol of life.
We stayed at the Grootberg Lodge in Damaraland, which can only be described as stunning. Each chalet is perched high on the edge of the escarpment and looks out over the landscape with endless breath-taking views. A swim in the pool has you feeling like you are floating above the earth.
One of the highlights of my stay here was an early morning game drive to search for the rare and critically endangered desert-adapted black rhino, which are extremely hard to track and find as they are largest truly free-ranging population of black rhino in the world. With two trackers, we spent hours searching for them, following tracks and movements in the bush, and in the end, were lucky enough to come across a female rhino and her baby calf – an extremely rare and very lucky find!
The next day we left the lodge and headed towards the beautiful Brandberg Mountains region, which is famous for being an ancient Bushman spiritual site and home to a variety of unusual rock engravings and petroglyphs representing the region’s wildlife. We stopped at the Twyfelfontein Valley, which is a World Heritage Site and has been inhabited for over 3,000 years to see one of the largest displays of rock art in Africa, which were nothing less than awe-inspiring. Just as beautiful were the sunsets, which cast an ethereal orange glow over the landscapes as if the earth was on fire.
From the Brandberg Mountains we headed towards Swakopmund, the exquisite seaside town on Namibia’s Atlantic coast where you might be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into one of Germany’s quaint holiday towns along the North Sea and Baltic coasts. Tree-lined streets are lined with beautiful Germanic architecture while Bavarian church spires and palm trees peek through the swirling coastal fog. Before reaching Swakopmund, we made a stop at the Cape Cross and it’s famous seal colony where we were treated to close-up views of thousands of Cape fur seals.
We then headed into the magnificent golden sand dunes surrounding the town in search of the smaller creatures of the wild, such as the desert adapted snake, chameleons, and scorpions, which we found in abundance and were lucky enough to get some great photographs.
We enjoyed an excellent dinner in Swakopmund that the evening to mark the end of a fantastic trip and one which will leave only lasting memories for me.
Our trip was from August 31rst to September 13, 2014, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Kenya we visited the Nairobi National Park, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust/Animal Orphanage, the Giraffe Centre, the Karen Blixen Museum, Sweetwaters, the Chimpanzee Conservation Project, Lake Nakuru National Park, and the Masai Mara. The timing of the trip was planned to take in the annual migration of zebras and wildebeest so we were indeed in the middle of the great migration and, in addition, were able to witness a crossing of the Mara River complete with a crocodile attack. It was incredible to be in the middle of thousands of migrating animals. In Tanzania we visited the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Oldupai Gorge, and a Maasai village. The picture I’ve attached was taken in Tanzania after a tour of the Maasai village. It was interesting to be able to enter their dwellings and fun to dance with the women. I knew early on into the trip that I was going to be awestruck by the numbers of animals so I made a list. I want to share the list because it is so incredible. Below is a list of all the wild animals ( mammals, reptiles and birds) I noted but, because I wasn’t as regimented in the task as I could have been, it’s not in any particular order. I certainly didn’t get nearly all the birds because there were so many of them and I didn’t ask about all of them. Everything is in plural except where I’ve noted only one was seen.
African hares – Cape buffalo (plural) – African wild cat – Suni antelope (really small) – Warthogs – Olive baboons – Elephants (in the wild and at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)- Rothschild giraffes (at the Giraffe Centre) – white-eyed slaty flycatcher – Black rhinos – Masai giraffes – Yellow-billed oxpeckers – Red billed oxpeckers – Zebras – Ostriches – Elands – Hartebeests – Impalas – Vultures – Bushbucks – Wildebeests/gnus – Black storks – Chimpanzees (at the Olpajeta Conservancy) – Defassa waterbucks – Jackals – Hunting dogs – Thomson’s gazelles – Grant’s gazelles – Fish eagles – Kingfishers – Marabout storks – Grey-crowned cranes – Cheetahs – Crested bustards – Kori bustards – Sacred ibises – Hadada ibises – Helmeted guinea fowl (plural) – Black-faced vervet monkeys – Plovers – African spoonbills – Greater flamingos – Lesser flamingos – Ducks (I didn’t note what kinds) – Egyptian geese – White rhinos – Pied crows – Ruppell’s long-tailed starlings Superb starlings – Ground hornbills – Marsh mongoose – Hippos – Topis – Lions – Black bellied bustards – Nubian or lappet-faced vultures – Ruppell’s vultures – Hyenas – Nile crocodiles – Dwarf mongoose – Banded mongoose – Secretary birds – Agama lizards – Hammerkop birds – Bateleur eagle – Tree hyraxes – Francolin birds – Black-headed herons – Kingfishers ( pied and pigmy) – Long crested eagles – Rufus tailed weavers – Lilac breasted rollers – White rumpshelmet shrikes – Yellow billed storks – Bulbuls – Serrated hinged terrapins – African grey hornbills – Dik diks – Meyer’s parrots – Red-billed hornbills – Magpie shrikes – White bellied bustards – White and brown coucals – Leopards – Blacksmith plovers – Rock hyraxes – Augur buzzards – Larks (smallest bird in the Ngorongoro Crater) – Golden jackals – Anteater chats – Grey herons – Black kites – Black headed herons – Blue monkeys – Common waterbucks – Silver backed jackals – Cattle egrets – Black winged stilts – Spar winged geese – African jacanas (called the Jesus bird because it seems to walk on water) – Collared pranticoles – White backed vultures – Saddle billed storks.
And, last but not least, we saw one ground squirrel dashing across the road on our drive back from Tanzania to the Nairobi airport. We also heard frogs at the Nairobi Tented Camp, inside Nairobi National Park, but didn’t see them.We got to see what is often called ‘the big five’ – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalo – and this is what people who go to Africa usually hope to see. It was sad to learn that the description comes from trophy hunting and to learn of the decimation caused by trophy hunting and the lure of ivory. We learned that it’s not common to see leopards, however, we saw several. And we learned that seeing hunting dogs is a sighting even rarer than leopards. We saw lions mating and learned that it’s over rather quickly. We learned that the different rhinos were named by colour, even though they’re both grey, because there was a language misunderstanding way back when. It turns out that early Dutch visitors noted that the mouths of one type of rhino were ‘weid’ which means wide and English speaking people heard ‘white’. Then they differentiated the other type of rhino with a hooked mouth by calling it black. The white rhinos have a wide mouth and eat mostly grass.
The black rhinos have a hooked mouth and eat other things in addition to grass. And we also learned that the correct spelling of Oldupai Gorge is with a ‘p’ and not a ‘v’. It was misspelled for years. The gorge was named because of the sisal in the area and word for sisal in Swahili is oldupai. We went down and to the spot where Zinjanthropus was found.
We had different drivers for Kenya and Tanzania but both were wonderful and I learned a few words of Swahili. It turns out I would have known a few more words had I seen the movie “The Lion King”. I was the only person on the tour who hadn’t seen that movie and also the only person who hadn’t read or seen “Out of Africa”.
The flora was amazing as well. The fruit and vegetables prepared for us were mouthwatering, and so fresh. The coffee and tea was out of this world. We learned that the typical acacia tree one sees silhouetted in pictures of Africa has actually been pruned by giraffes. There are no giraffes in the Ngorongoro Crater, because they can’t do the climb with their long legs, so the same trees there look different. We learned that there is a symbiotic relationship between the cocktail ants and the whistling acacia tree. It was demonstrated by one of our drivers, Augustine, and he was bitten doing the demo for us. Although both my husband and I were prepared to be eaten alive by mosquitoes and had our malaria shots, that didn’t happen and the mosquitoes there really weren’t bad except for when we drove through some very moist land.
I have always been an animal person and love watching animals on TV. Before going to Africa my husband picked up some literature about the countries we were going to visit and the animals we might see. I also did some reading and noted that school supplies might be appreciated. I approached Thierry asking if it would be possible to get some school supplies to a local school. I didn’t want to take any time away from the rest of the group in order to do this and Thierry made this happen for me. He did the research and he was so helpful. Thierry let me know that some clothes would be appreciated and that it would be beneficial to stimulate the local economy by buying some supplies there. As a result, both of us brought some supplies and clothes to leave behind; then, after the safari, he took care of purchasing additional supplies there with monies and then delivering everything to St Lazarus School which is in the Kibera Slum. He shared with me the drawings given to him by kids at that school.
The sight of the Kibera Slum in Nairobi, even from a distance, was disturbing. It was huge. We are so lucky to live here on the North Shore. I’ve come back feeling very privileged for having had this experience and for having learned a bit about the people and animals of Africa. The country is beautiful and the plight of animals and many of the people is heartbreaking.
As you can tell, the trip with Thierry was educational and jam packed with different experiences and emotions. It left one heck of an impression and, one year later, much of it is still vivid in my memory. I’d recommend that everyone, if they have the opportunity, visit Africa. I’m hoping to go back and possibly do a Kilimanjaro climb.
The process to obtain a visa to Kenya has changed on July 2, 2015 with an electronic/web-based system.
Visitors will still be able to obtain visas upon airport arrival until August 31, 2015, however all arrivals from September 1, 2015 must apply and pay for visas online to enter Kenya, without visa travellers will be denied boarding for their flight to Kenya.
The following steps are required to obtain a visa:
1. Visit the electronic visa page at www.ecitizen.go.ke. 2. Select Register as a Visitor (as part of this process, you will receive a confirmation email that you need to click on to verify and confirm your registration) 3. t this point, you will be asked to supply a digital passport photo for upload (Maximum size 500 px by 500 px) 4. Once logged in, select Department of Immigration Services 5. Select Submit Application 6. Select Kenyan Visa 7. Select the type of visa visitor – single entry – and read the instructions carefully 8. Complete the application form – please note that incomplete applications will be rejected and you will lose your processing fees – You will need a scan of the main page of your passport with your name, date of birth and other information -You will need the name, address and phone number of your first night’s accommodation in Kenya. -You will need to re-upload your passport photo -Pay using your Visa card, MasterCard or other debit card 9. Await your approval which will be sent to you by email. This could take up to 7 days so give yourself plenty of time. 10. Once you have received the email advising that your visa is approved, log back into your ecitizen account and download your visa. 11. Print a copy of your visa to present to the immigration officer at your point of entry into Kenya
Upload the following in advance;
Scanned copy of the Bio-data page of your passport
Passport photo ; see below requirements (maximum dimensions 500px by 500px)
Copy of onward Ticket to apply for a Transit Visa only
Scanned copy of booking confirmation invoice showing arrival and departure dates (Tour Itinerary).
You will also require in advance;
The name and address of a hotel/lodge you will be staying at while in Kenya.
Credit or Debit Card for payment.
Passport Photo requirements, during Registration
The photograph must be in colour.
It should have a white background.
It should have a close up of your head and top of your shoulders so that your face takes up 70-80% of the photograph.
It should be in sharp focus and clean.
It should be of high quality with no ink marks and creases.
The photograph must show you looking directly at the camera.
It should be 5.5cm * 5.5cm (207px * 207px).
It should show your skin tone naturally.
It should have appropriate brightness and contrast.
The photograph should be a recent one not more than 6 months old.
It is to be taken without headgear.
Photograph can be taken with headgear, after consideration on case to case basis if the applicant wears headgear on religious grounds. The main characteristics of the face must be apparent from the photograph. Chin, nose, eyes and eyebrows must not be covered, the forehead should be uncovered to the extent that the shape of the face is apparent.
It should be without hat/cap.
It should be with the applicant’s hair tucked behind his/her ears.
Climb Kilimanjaro as a solo female trekker ? Below is the experience of Dianne R. from Northern BC, Dianne is 62 years old and did a fair bit of training for this climb, doing a lot of walking with a pack both here in Canada and in the foothills of Kilimanjaro during the month prior to the climb. (she arrived in Tanzania to do volunteer teaching in mid January). During the week she hiked a fair bit after school in Moshi, and on the weekends out to the rural areas at the foot of the mountain for 4 or 5 hours hike. Dianne made the ascent via the Machame Route.
Tanzania – February 22, 2015
Greetings from Tanzania. I have now had a day’s rest since the Kilimanjaro trip, so thought I would update everyone on the adventure. I am dealing with a major sunburn to my face and mouth – my own fault. I had sunscreen in my pocket and neglected to put it on when summiting Kilimanjaro – and of course, at that altitude, and the glare of the sun on the snow, well – I am now dealing with the consequences. I didn’t develop altitude sickness, for which I am extremely grateful. I had a slight headache one evening, but other than that I felt great.
The trip was amazing, incredible, exhausting, and the most physically demanding activity I have ever engaged in. That I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak – 5895 m) is largely due to my determination (a small amount), and the amazing patience and urging of my guide, Salvastory. Without his belief that I could do this, I would never have made the top.
I had an incredible crew: the guide, Salvastory – who patiently allowed me to move pole-pole (slowly, slowly in Kiswahili), and believed that I could make the top – he kept telling me – “you make a good story for Canada – children, grand daughter, grand son”; a cook, Baltazar, who made meals that rivaled any first class restaurant using fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and eggs. I usually had 3 course meals beginning with an incredible soup, a main course, and a dessert of fresh fruit, even to the last day. I had a waiter, Urasa, who would bring me a bowl of hot water and soap to wash up each day, then spread a table cloth on the floor of my tent and bring me dishes (real ones), utensils (real ones), napkins, all the makings for tea, all nicely laid out. The food was brought in insulated metal containers – I was spoiled like a princess. Urasa also had a camp chair for me that I used when the weather allowed.
I cannot say enough about the porters – Alfredy, Faresi, Augusti, and Ewady. These are the toughest guys I have ever seen and I have such respect for their efforts. For Kilimanjaro treks all gear, tents, my big pack, (I carried a day pack with my water, cameras, rain gear, and sometimes lunch), food, propane tank, water, etc, etc, is packed in by the porters (and cook and waiter), and everything is packed out. Meticulous records are kept of what goes in and the garbage is weighed coming out to ensure the mountain stays clean. The guide carried his own big pack of about 30 kilos. The porters move so quickly, even with their big packs, and when coming down the mountain they are almost running. They always had camp set up when the guide and I arrived.
I took 8 days to complete the trek – once on the ground the guide and I made some adjustments to the original trek plan because of the weather, and the fact that I moved quite slowly:
Day 1:I was picked up at the Hostel in Moshi and we drove to the Machame gate. We hiked for about 5 1/2 hours through the verdant rain forest in the rain. It was very tough climbing and I thought to myself – what am I doing here? I’m never going to make this! But no way was I going to quit, so I marshalled on. I got soaking wet, but I had a good tent and sleeping bag and I slept really well that night at Machame Camp (3000 m) in the rainforest.
Day 2:A lot of vertical climbing on this day (about 6 hours). It rained all day and I was better prepared with all of my rain gear. Because we started out in the morning, I seemed better able to cope with the walking and climbing. We climbed out of the rainforest into the moorland (scrub forest) to Shira Camp at 3800 m. I rested in the afternoon – had about an hour’s nap, ate supper, then went to sleep early. The weather cleared upon rising.
Day 3:We walked to Barranco Camp by way of Lava Tower (4600 m). The weather on the way to the Lava Tower was cool, but I started to really feel the effects of the higher altitude and less oxygen. I would often have to stop and catch my breath – and this pattern would continue for the rest of any ascent. On the way down from the Lava Tower to Barranco Camp (3950 m), we encountered a terrific snow storm with snow thunder and lightening. We hustled along quite quickly – it was a bit scary. That night we camped in about 3 inches of snow – not so pleasant, but again the tent worked well and kept me dry. We were now up in alpine desert.
Day 4: I was supposed to stay an extra day at Barranco Camp, but the weather wasn’t the best, so we moved on and tackled the Barranco wall. This is a steep incline, when I looked up at it, I couldn’t believe we were going to go up and over this wall of rock. Well, it was doable, but in places it was like free climbing a rock wall. A couple of times I had to throw my pack up, find toe holds and pieces of rock to cling to and pull myself up. A couple of times the guide had to grab my hand and haul me up to the next ledge. Now I am someone who is not fond of heights. (I close my eyes when climbing up the ladder at home to clean my chimney). But I told myself: “suck it up buttercup, you don’t have a choice – you can’t go back down” – so I just kept my vision forward and didn’t look down. What gets me is the porters also have to go up this same route with their big loads, often having to throw them up, then clamber up to the next ledge. Of course, not all of the trail was that steep, eventually the wall was ascended and the trail became more gradual to Karanga Camp (3963 m). We were now truly in the alpine desert country. The weather began improving, as well. Salvastory says the weather on Kili is like a chameleon – it changes very quickly. I went to the bathroom in full sun, when I returned to my tent the fog had rolled in and I could hardly find the tent.
Day 5: Today we walked to base camp at Barafu (4700 m). The walk was one of the gentler days, but because of the altitude I had to stop and catch my breath often. We arrived in the sun and it seemed that the weather was improving. Here is where most climbers stay and then make the final ascent to the summit. General practice is to begin at midnight to see sunrise at the crater on top. Because I was such a slow walker, the guide and I decided to do a daylight ascent. Also I would get more sleep. The camp is very rocky with tents tucked here and there and everywhere. There are many climbers and many, many support crew. Only the guides and climbers make the final ascent. A note about bathrooms – every campsite has toilets available for the tourists and porters. They are pit toilets, but are well maintained. As well each campsite has a park building where each tourist and guide must sign in. It helps to keep track of who is on the mountain.
Day 6: Ascent Day – we left camp at 6:30 am and moved very slowly. Because we were doing a daylight ascent we had the trail to ourselves. I moved very slowly wondering many times if I would make this. The air is very thin at this altitude. Again I would walk a few meters, then catch my breath. Often I would not look at how far I would have to go to get to the top, but rather how far to go to the next bend. Eventually, after 7 1/2 hours I made the top!!!! I was exhausted, the guide was so excited and gave me a big hug. The views are spectacular from the top of the mountain. We saw an amazing sunrise over Mawenzi, a nearby peak, many glaciers, the crater from the old volcano (Kili is a dormant volcano), a lot of spectacular sights. It was worth it all! The descent took about 5 hours and I was very tired getting back to base camp. We stayed another night at Barafu Camp (4700 m).
Day 7: We got an early start and actually started going downhill! We walked for about 4 1/2 hours to Mweka Camp (3100 m), passing back down into the moorland and the edge of the rainforest. The weather was lovely and I had to start shedding some of the warmer clothing. Lots of rest and an early night.
Day 8: In the morning we packed up and I thanked the crew and gave them their tips. They sang the mountain song (I have it on video) for me and we said our goodbyes. Some of the porters would be well ahead of me and would depart for home at the park gate. A 3 hour walk later the guide and I were at the park gate, we signed the final paperwork, I was issued my certificate, and a vehicle was waiting to transport us back to Moshi.
I had an amazing experience. I did something out of the ordinary and I certainly challenged myself to my physical extreme. Would I do this again? Probably not, it was one of the toughest physical challenges I have ever had. Am I glad that I did this? Absolutely!! It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. And I saw some incredible scenery, met some amazing people in my crew, and I made it to the top of Kilimanjaro!!!
Exploring New Destiantion: Peruvian Andes Trek in Mountain Lodges & Property Inspections
By Jen Lubey
Peru and the soaring peaks of the Andes never cease to amaze and allure me back.
I recently returned to Peru to better familiarize myself with more charming and unique properties and exciting experiences to offer our clients at Heritage Safaris.
Magical and unforgettable is visiting ‘Machu Picchu’ the legendary ‘Lost City of the Incas’. Magical too though is the journey you choose to take there.
In the past I traveled to Machu Picchu in various ways; Peru Rail’s scenic and fun ‘Vista Dome Train’ as well trekked the famous ‘Inca Trail’ and the lesser known but equally as beautiful ‘Lares Trek’.
This time I travelled, in luxury, hiking 6 days along the ‘Salkantay Trail’ enjoying the comfort and service of enchanting top quality mountain lodges (some with even outdoor Jacuzzis and masseuses) located in pristine areas and finally reaching Machu Picchu. The ‘Salkantay Lodge’, which takes its name from Mt. Salkantay (6,270 m) the 2nd most sacred peak in Inca mythology, was pretty incredible.
Led by a superb guide we traversed across magnificent mountain passes, mystical snow-capped peaks and explored more than 15 different ecosystems while experiencing the rich culture and very friendly indigenous people. Our small group experienced an incredibly powerful ‘Pachamama’ sacred ceremony led by a Shaman on top a mystical mountain peak, and as well rode horses, a zip line and even a cable car amidst stunning scenery. The icing on the cake was the final day on trek at Llactapata Pass and Ruins, where we come upon a distant but spectacular view of Machu Picchu Sanctuary from the southeast, a view few travelers ever get a chance to admire.
Upon arrival to the town of Machu Picchu we checked into the gorgeous ‘Inkaterra Pueblo Hotel’, an Andean cloud forest paradise overlooking the rushing Vilcanota River.
Without a doubt the ultimate experience is to marvel at ‘Machu Picchu’, a spectacular and magical ‘Spiritual Splendor in the Clouds’. You will be in awe.
I look forward to assist you plan your special journey of a lifetime to beautiful Peru and the breathtaking ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Machu Picchu.
Arusha is the gateway for safaris and Kilimanjaro. On arrival in this tiny airport there is a rather large sign announcing “Welcoming to Arusha the Geneva of Africa”. Flying in on a rickety one prop Cessna we skimmed the cumulus clouds and had a view of the scantily clad snow peak of Kilimanjaro. Flight from Arusha to the middle of Serengeti was fifty minutes flying over the beautiful Ngorongoro crater into the Serengeti. We landed on desolated short dirt airstrip, skidding to a stop with the tail doing a wag. Our driver and guide, Dearson, was waiting for us. Articulate and knowledgeable with colgate white smile, we started off on our first game drive on way to our tented camp.
The savannah is just what I expected with long grass of about two foot with scattered Baobab trees, acacia bushes and numerous little hills, ”Kopjes”, which were bubbles of molten rock now crystalline granite forming statuesque shapes. Lions frequently use these for their breeding dens. The plains soil were formed from the ash of the nearby volcanoes. Within thirty minutes Dearson’s eagle eyes spotted a leopard high up a tree. He dangled there on a branch languidly flicking his tail. As we drove on, and not within ten minutes we came upon a lioness sitting low in a tree. Apparently the Serengeti lions climb into trees during the wet season to avoid bugs and stop their claws and pads rotting in the mud. Fortunately for us the rain had been heavy a few days before but now gorgeous sunny weather with soft dry heat and gentle breeze. We arrived at our unenclosed “luxury” tented camp not having great expectations, but it was perfect. Staff very attentive and every time you say something it is followed by a word sounding like “Caribou” meaning “your welcome”. We bravely left our tent open, except for the mosquito net, and had the most spectacular red streaked sunrise with giraffe wandering nearby, followed by tea in bed – Very colonial.
Next day we had the good fortune to see the migration of wildebeest and zebra. Kilometers of hundreds and thousands mooching along keeping near a river. Factoid: I asked our guide why the zebras hung out with the wildebeests ? The answer: apparently the zebra are the leaders having better eye sight in the long savannah grass as well as carrying the corporate memory of where to go, the wildebeests are too stupid to know!! However the wildebeests have a sense of smell that detects rain up to hundred Kms away and they set the daily direction. Animal symbiosis or am I gullible!
We were late getting back as wanted to see the sunset, driving in the dark all the wildebeests were on the road, scattering off as our lights shone on them, they went on for at least two kms, memorable event. Further down the road was a lost and lonely wildebeest foal, unlikely to survive the night.
That evening, by the huge open blazing fire we were joined by four others, two Austrian girls and an elderly couple, we were drinking appropriately named “Safari” beer.
On to Ngorongoro. We drove through the border of Serengeti National Park into the Ngorongoro conservation area. The difference being that the Maasai (yes that is the correct spelling) can graze their livestock and live in the Ngorongoro region but not in the Serengeti. One of my desires was to see the Olduvai gorge. The gorge is about twenty Kms long and they describe the four layers of excavation from which they discovered Homo Habilis, Erectus and Sapiens, as described by Mary & Louis Leakey. The little museum was a ramshackle building with mainly photographs of the various digs. Our guide in the museum said Olduvai is a corrupt spelling of the local cactus like plant “Oldupai” from which the Maasai use its fiber.
Driving up to the rim of the crater passing Maasai boys running after their livestock. Dressed in their traditional red check robes, some of the boys were taking a break and incongruously chatting on their smart phones. A documentary we watched predicts that their lifestyle will only last one more generation then the remnants of their culture being a tourist attraction. Some of the surrounding hills were bright yellow from a daisy like flower. Very pretty but unfortunately not indigenous and they are replacing the natural grasses and not edible for livestock or wildlife. Conspiracy theory is they were brought in from Kenya as sabotage. Our arrival on the rim delivered the spectacular view of the crater. We were 2300 meters (7500ft) up on the rim, which is a twenty km perimeter of the crater, which is said to be the largest in the world. Down below was a lake fed by a fresh spring but undrinkable as it mixes with the volcanic ash. It is surrounded by open grazing meadows then fresh water holes and marsh areas on edges of the crater. The lodge was comfortable with great views. They put on a Maasai dance that evening. We felt uncomfortable watching as this proud people obviously were not enthralled by the environment and need to perform for likes of us tourists. The trip into the crater was down a treacherous road but was worthwhile getting up before dawn. The game is in such abundance that every hundred meters you saw more. It felt like a contrived game farm or open zoo there was so much. However, it is a natural phenomenon with about twenty percent of game migrating in and out, especially the elephants. As there are no trees in the center you had excellent long distance views using binoculars. On the central lake the south end shimmered pink due to all the flamingos. Interspersed among the numerous varieties of antelope were elephants, rhinoceros, water buffalo and various predators, including lion sleeping beside the road. Only game we did not see there are giraffe as the crater is too steep and they can break their legs. The periphery water holes had numerous bird life and frolicking hippos. Truly a Garden of Eden except no apple trees! However there was a downside, even though it was low season there were endless land cruisers doing the circuit, adding to the zoo feeling.
So Serengeti or Ngorongoro? Worthwhile to combine, as we did see the big five. Ngorongoro awesome but the feeling and vista of Serengeti is mesmerizing. Dependent on which list you believe, the Serengeti migration is named as one of the seven natural wonders of the world (along with Table Mountain). Serengeti has a true wild African ambience and soul. Tents over lodge: As I believe Winston once said “Once the sand of Africa on your shoes you will never shake it off”
In single file, eight tourists and two porters followed our guide through the dense Ugandan jungle. The going was tough and I relied on my porter to push and pull me up the steepest slopes. Thistles bit into my sweaty skin. The guide’s machete hacked away at the lush green vegetation.
The crackle of a walkie-talkie brought us to a halt. After a quick conversation with the trackers who were ahead of us, scouting out the direction in which the mountain gorillas had been moving since yesterday, our guide said, “We’re almost there. Take out your cameras and leave everything else here. Remember, seven meters, that’s as close as you may get to them.”
My heart was pounding, partly from exertion, but mostly from excitement. Were the gorillas really just ahead of us? Was my long-time dream of observing them in the wild actually coming true?
After a few more minutes of slogging through the jungle we entered a natural clearing, and there he was, just a few meters away ~ the magnificent silverback mountain gorilla. I heard someone gasp – maybe it was me. He was ambling along, followed by a couple smaller females and juveniles, as well as a mother with a small baby clinging to her chest and another with her baby riding piggyback. A branch snapped. We looked around to see that we were surrounded by gorillas. Could this really be happening? The gorillas took very little notice of us as they went about the business of munching leaves. We stayed bunched together, cameras clicking, silently marvelling at how similar their expressions and behaviours were to us, humans, who share 98% of the same genetic make-up. For a moment I locked eyes with one of the females, and we observed each other. The lines that divide our species felt tenuous.
For exactly sixty minutes we watched the gorillas going about their daily routines. The young ones played tag, like four-year-old boys. Mothers monitored the antics of their young while grooming each other. All of them chomped on leaves. Although he’d partially turned his back to us, we knew that the huge silverback was acutely aware of us and was keeping a watchful eye on his extended family. One mother growled and put out her arm, barring us from getting any closer to her baby.
After exactly one hour the guide told us our time was up, we had to retreat and leave the gorillas in peace.The trek back to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Camp was a quiet one as we each processed what we’d just witnessed. The dozen or so gorillas we saw were among the 720 remaining Mountain Gorillas left on the planet. They were one of four families in this park who have been habituated and are observed daily by tourists. In Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo there are other groups of habituated gorilla groups, with ecotourism and other conservation-focused enterprises working together to protect the remaining populations.
Knowing how fragile their existence is, how just one virus passed over from humans could wipe out their entire species, I will forever savour the hour I was allowed to spend in their company.
7 reasons why the Ebola risk for travelers is effectively zero
Ebola is a scary disease and should be taken very seriously. But outside of the outbreak area, the real risk for travelers is, effectively, zero. The reasons below explain why.
Ebola isn’t airborne and doesn’t spread like the flu or tuberculosis The virus only spreads if people come in direct contact with the bodily fluids —such as blood, sweat or saliva— of an infected person. Additionally, Ebola doesn’t spread until an infected person gets sick and shows symptoms, such as extreme vomiting, severe headaches or high fevers.
The safari countries are far away from the outbreak area Eastern and southern Africa, where most safaris are conducted, are at least 3,000 miles / 4,800 km away from the outbreak area; Europe and South America are closer.
There were more direct flights from West Africa to Europe than to most safari countries This is true of the period before flights to West Africa were banned by virtually all airlines, including those flying to the safari countries. West Africa and the safari countries are so far apart that most travel is conducted by air. Only a small portion of people in Africa can afford such travel.
All safari countries have enacted strict precautionary measures Commercial flights to Ebola outbreak countries have been cancelled. Most safari countries have banned entry for travelers arriving from affected West African countries. Others have mandated multi-week health surveillance. Emergency isolation centers have been set aside and health screening is in place at most airports and major border posts. More info about the precautionary measures per safari country.
No country has issued an Ebola related travel warning against any of the safari countries Government travel advisories are responsible for warning their citizens against travel related risks. They are very professional and restrained when it comes to taking precautions for travelers. If there was an increased or significant Ebola risk in any of the safari countries, they would have included it in their travel advice.
It is possible to book a safari with free Ebola related cancellation Any financial worries can be eliminated by booking a tour with fee Ebola related cancellation. See the above list of companies for more info.
As there is no Ebola in any of the major safari countries, there currently is no risk The outbreak began in December 2013, which is 11 months ago. It hasn’t spread into East or southern Africa since, and it is extremely unlikely it will. Isolated cases, as we’ve seen in neighboring countries, Europe and the US, can always occur. But so far, these haven’t resulted in new outbreaks. All countries have successfully contained the virus, including third world countries such as Nigeria and Senegal, which have been officially declared Ebola free.
On the 28th of November 2014 Zimbabwe and Zambia will launch a new tourist visa “uni-visa” in Victoria Falls, which will enable visitors to travel freely between the two countries. Visitors will only have to pay a single visa which will cost US$ 50 to visit both Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Canadian and US citizen can purchase this visa on arrival in the country.