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Shipwrecks, Dunes and Desert Wildlife

Posted on August 28th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: Namibia, Uncategorized.

Namibia is a unique African experience, with its battered coastline, dramatic red sand dunes, moonscape deserts and wildlife that has adapted to the arid terrain. This rough planning guide explores Namibia’s major highlights. The distances are significant, so we usually arrange for transport by light aircraft between destinations.

We suggest you allow at least 8-10 days for this journey.

Sossusvlei

The Red Dunes of SossusvleiStarting in Windhoek, fly first to Namibia’s most spectacular attraction. The large, white salt and clay pan of Sossuvlei is best know for the dramatic red dunes that surround it. These are some of the highest dunes in the world, reaching almost 400 meters. A photographers dream, the rich reds and dark shadows of Sossusvlei in the early morning are guaranteed to deliver dramatic images.

The incredible landscape can be viewed on game drives or horseback, from a hot air balloon or a quad bike. It looks empty, but on closer inspection you will discover teaming life on the ground and in the air. Snakes, geckos, ostrich, springbok, aardwolf and raptors are just a few of the creatures that have adapted to survive in this desert landscape.

Little Kulala offers a luxury desert experience. Set amongst ancient camelthorn trees on the Auab River, it’s well positioned for exploring Sossusvlei.

Skeleton Coast

Shipwreck on the Skeleton CoastThe Bushmen called this region “The Land God Made in Anger”. The Portuguese sailors called it “The Gates of Hell”. Whether viewed from the land or the sea, this stretch of Atlantic Ocean coastline has a sense of foreboding danger. But the mist enshrouded beaches, rusted shipwrecks and bleached whalebones also have a melancholy beauty.

The vast rolling sand dunes and uninhabited desert plains are home to the greatest concentrations of desert adapted elephant and lion, as well as the endangered black rhino. The dunes meet a desolate coastline, and a scenic flight affords incredible views of the stark shoreline and lonely shipwrecks.

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is an exciting new camp that opened in August 2014. The Camp has magnificent views and glorious isolation, with only eight tented rooms, and offers great opportunities to explore the coastline and the infinite plains.

Etosha National Park

Rhinos on Ongava Private Game ReserveEtosha is one of Africa’s largest game parks, with its main feature being a saltpan so large it can be seen from space. Wildlife is abundant here. Elephants roam in the thicker vegetation, lions are camouflaged in the golden grasslands, giraffe rise majestically above the desert landscape and the endangered black rhino wanders the plains. Over 340 species of bird can be found here, and after the rains a cloud of flamingo fills the skies as water fills the saltpan.

We recommend staying in the Ongava Private Game Reserve that borders Etosha. The luxurious Little Ongava has 3 spacious private units, each with its own plunge pool and magnificent views over the plains. The Ongava Tented Camp is in a different section of the reserve, with eight comfortable tented rooms. Both are ideal places from which to explore Etosha and the many private hides and walks of Ongava.

From here you can return to Windhoek, or consider adding Serra Cafema on the northern border.

This is just a rough guide. Let us create a personalized itinerary that is perfect just for you.

Ostrich family near Hoanib Skeleton Coast


Somalisa: Authentic African Bush Tents

Posted on June 12th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: Zimbabwe (camps).

Somalisa CampA four to five hour drive or 40 minute charter flight from Victoria Falls, this authentic tented bush camp offers up old world African charm and elegance right in the heart of Hwange National Park.

Six elegantly furnished canvas tents sit along the edge of an ancient seasonal flood plain.  Each is decorated in a bygone, colonial style with ensuite flush toilets and alfresco bush showers.

The dining and lounge areas are nestled under a soaring canopy of acacia trees and offer breathtaking views of the savannah plains and the famous Kennedy Vlei line.

Incredible elephant viewing at Somalisa Camp

Incredible elephant viewing at Somalisa Camp

After the first summer rains in November/December the plains are ablaze with seasonal wildflowers, making this the most beautiful spot in the park. The dry season between May and October offers some of the best elephant viewing in Africa, with elephants seen right in the camp.

The passionate and knowledgeable guides offer game drives, guided walks, bird watching and evening night drives.  Expect to see elephant, kudu, sable, the rare and endangered roan antelope, buffalo, white rhino, lion, leopard, and hyena amongst other wildlife species.

Somalisa lets you explore Africa the way you have imagined: up close to nature with the romance of a true safari bush camp.

On the Prowl Near SomalisaPhotographs and video by Safari Mike


Little Makalolo: An Intimate Hwange Experience

Posted on June 12th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: Zimbabwe (camps).

Tent interior; Little MakaloloThis is probably the most comfortable safari camp inside the massive Hwange National Park, and offers some of the park’s best game viewing areas.

Little Makalolo is one of only a few private camps in Hwange, and guests enjoys exclusive use of an enormous concession area right in the heart of Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve.

The camp itself is intimate, with a sense of remoteness.  There are six traditional canvas tents, each with an ensuite and indoor and outdoor showers.  The shared dining area, living area and plunge pool all overlook the watering hole at the front of the camp, which is a magnet for wildlife.

Great lion sightings at Little Makalolo, Hwange National ParkThis area of the park has impressive herds of buffalo and elephant and a high concentration of the rare and beautiful sable and roan antelope.  It is also one of the best places to view the predators with lions, leopards, cheetah and wild dog on the prowl.

The excellent guides offer game drives in 4 x 4 vehicles and guided safari walks.  Or you can get up close and personal from behind the log pile hide overlooking the watering hole.

Little Makalolo is environmentally and socially responsible. Funds from tourism flow directly to the local communities closest to the park through dividends and salaries.  And a portion of each guests fare is allocated to Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust which allocates funds to approved conservation projects.

Awesome leopard near Little Makalolo

 

Photos compliments of Wilderness Safaris


Combine North and South Serengeti – Mike’s Little Secret

Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: Tanzania, Uncategorized.

NOTE: This safari idea only works between December and March.

The Serengeti is synonymous with the wildebeest migration.  Most travellers try to be in the right part of the massive Serengeti plains at the right time of year to catch the migration.  Which usually means that people tick the Serengeti off their list having seen only one end of these mighty plains.

We’ve got a better idea.

Go South

In the months between December and March the wildebeest have amassed on the vast, seemingly endless grasslands of the southern plains.  The trick is to witness the grandeur of the migration without also having to witness the massive influx of tourists.  For this we recommend Alex Walkers Serian Serengeti South Camp.

Alex Walker is an exceptional guide who not only knows how to track wildlife, but also knows plenty of secret corners of the Serengeti.  The camp is positioned away from the main cluster so you are afforded an opportunity to see one of nature’s great wonders the way it was designed to be seen – one your own.

This is a semi-mobile, tented camp that stays up only while the wildebeest are running, so it’s more rustic than some luxury lodges but it’s still very comfortable.

South Serengeti Game Drive

 

Then Head North

The northern end of the Serengeti is completely different to the southern plains.  Lush, rolling grasslands collide with tree lined watercourses and rocky outcrops, known as kopje.  The feeling is wilder, more dramatic.

And here’s our secret.  The wildebeest may have migrated south, but the zebras, gazelles, buffalo, giraffe, elephants, lions and leopards are still here, along with a very few privileged people who are in the know.

We recommend Lamai Serengeti, an up-market permanent lodge tucked amongst the rocks of Kogakuria Kopje with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.  Explore the intricacies of the area with game drives or take a walking safari.

And congratulate yourself on having discovered a little African secret
Lamai Serengeti

Planning note: The Serengeti combines well with Lake Manyara where we would recommend either the luxury of Chem Chem Lodge or a more adventurous stay at Little Chem Chem Bushcamp.


Discover Zimbabwe’s History, Grandeur and Wildlife

Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is becoming a hot safari destination again.  Its praise is deserved because “Zim” is home to some of Africa’s best guides, most amazing landscapes and some surprising history.  This rough planning guide explores the breadth of Zimbabwe’s historical and native wonders.

Victoria Falls
Start your trip at Victoria Falls: the Smoke that Thunders.

You will marvel at the immensity of the Falls themselves: from the ground, the air or the mighty Zambezi River.

This is also the playground of Zimbabwe.  Thrill seekers will love the bungee jumping, hydro-speeding and a host of other adventures.  How long you stay will depend entirely on the length of your bucket list.

Victoria Falls

Hwange National Park

The largest game park in Zimbabwe, Hwange stretches south of Victoria Falls to Bulawayo and west to the Kalahari Desert.  It is home to a stunning array of wildlife and famous for its massive herds of buffalo and elephant.

We suggest you try out a couple of the intimate tented camps scattered through the park.

Somalisa and Little Makalolo are both exclusive tented camps, situated in the middle eastern section of the park.  Somalisa offers breathtaking views of savannah grasslands, while Little Makalolo overlooks a vibrant waterhole.  Both offer guided walks, game drives and birdwatching.

Camp Hwange is further west set on a rise in a private concession, overlooking the Shumba Pans.

Lion spotted near Little Makalolo

Matobo National Park

The oldest national park in Zimbabwe, Matobo is as much about history as it is about wildlife.

Discover a rich heritage of ancient rock paintings amongst the granite kopjes of this ancient landscape.  Created over 2,000 years ago by the San (bushmen) there are beautiful friezes of giraffes, elephants and kudus.

These hills were also the scene of the famous indaba between white settlers and Ndebele leaders in 1896.

We recommend either Big Cave Camp or Camp Amalinda which both offer comfortable accommodation and sweeping views of the Matopos Hills.

Rock Art at Matobo

Great Zimbabwe

Prepare to be surprised!  Great Zimbabwe is a ruined, walled city in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe.  Once the royal palace for the Zimbabwean monarch, much of the grandeur of the place remains despite the crumbling walls.

While visiting Great Zimbabwe you can stay at Norma Jeans Lakeview Resort, quaint B&B style accommodation that makes a homey change from safari camps..

Great Zimbabwe Ruins

More Wildlife?

If you’re up for a little more wildlife than consider heading to Gonarezhou National Park on the Mozambique border.  Stay at the luxurious Chilo Gorge, with its spectacular views and first class guiding, or Singita Pamushana.

This is just a rough guide.  Let us create a personalized itinerary that is perfect just for you.


Indulge in Singita’s ‘Six Star’ Safari’s

Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: South Africa, Safaris: Zimbabwe.

Singita has created a wholly new type of luxurious, high-end African experience, offering what I consider to be “six star” lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
On a recent trip to South Africa I visited three Singita lodges: Ebony in the Sabi Sands area, Lebombo and Sweni in Kruger National Park. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before!

  • Each lodge is different, but all are discerningly designed and decorated to blend seamlessly into their environment and provide genuine comfort.  This is as close to a six star hotel as you will ever get in the African bush.

Sweni Lodge

 

  • With a light touch, the staff caters for your every whim from the moment you arrive.  It’s almost as though you get what you want before you realise you want it.

Castleton

 

  • Unlike most safari lodges, there is no regimentation or routine: you set your own agenda.  Get up when you want.  Dine when and where you want.  Set your own times and methods of exploration.

Ebony Lodge Safari

 

  • A foodie’s heaven, each lodge offers fine dining and excellent wines.  All wines are African (except for the French Champagne).  A highlight of my stay at Ebony Lodge was a surprise 5-course wine & food matching dinner set up on the airstrip.  The glow of bonfires and lanterns was the only light to compete with the wonder of the African sky.  The food was mind-blowing.
  • The guides are exceptional.  And if you are visiting more than one of their South African lodges you can choose to retain one guide for your entire stay.

Lebombo Lodge

 

  • I was surprised to discover incredible on-site markets, ensuring that even shopaholics are catered for at Singita.  You can buy the luxurious linens, shampoos and other items found in your suite and spend hours browsing through an incredible gallery of African art and craft.
  • As a lover of Africa, I was particularly pleased to discover that Singita is deeply involved in wildlife conservation and community development projects.  In Sabi Sand, Singita supports a pre-school development program.  At Kruger National Park they offer the Singita School of Cooking.  In Zimbabwe, where the need is greater, Singita are currently helping to feed 19,000 children affected by drought.

Pamushana Feeding Program

 

I highly recommend Singita lodges to all of our clients who seek true luxury.  If you look for the finest quality and most personal care then please talk to me about including Singita in your itinerary.


Michele, David, Emma & Coco: A Family Safari

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Blog.

A Family SafariIs Africa the right place for a family holiday?  Listening to the adventures of Michele, David, Emma (11) and Coco (10), you’d have to say the answer is yes.  The Toronto-based family recently returned from a two-week African journey.  Michele called me almost as soon as they arrived home, filled with excitement and stories.  She agreed to share some of the family’s tales and a few of their over 2,000 photos – so sit back and picture your family on safari on earth’s wildest continent! Continue reading …


Go Off the Beaten Track in Wildest Tanzania

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: Tanzania.

8 Day Fly-in Safari in Katavi and Ruaha National Park

This 7-night safari idea takes you well off Tanzania’s beaten track, to explore the western and central parts of the country.  You can be assured that you won’t be waiting in any queues as you explore the wide-open floodplains of Katavi National Park and the dramatic landscapes and massive baobabs of Ruaha National Park.

Katavi Buffalo HerdDay 1 to 5:  The Floodplains of Katavi

From Arusha Airport you travel west on a charter flight to Katavi.  Even today few people visit this part of the world, and you will sense its untouched beauty even as fly across the open spaces.  As you soar across the vast plains of yellow grasses you will have trouble spotting the 6-tent, eco-friendly Chada Katavi camp that will be your home for the next 4 nights.

The camp is stylish but has the simple feel you would expect in a remote bush camp.  Your comfortable tent is wide open to the glorious landscape, with the comforts of an ensuite bathroom and safari-style bucket shower.

You may need to share the camp with elephants, who are frequent visitors.  And looking out of your tent each morning, don’t be surprised by the vast herds of buffalo who frequently graze right in front of the camp.

The game is everywhere so you don’t have to leave the comfort of your tent to see all kinds.  But you will want to venture beyond the camp on the shared walks and game drives, including a night game drive.

Ruaha National ParkDay 5 to 8:  The Elephants and Baobabs of Ruaha

You fly from Katavi to Ruaha Msembe, entering Tanzania’s second largest national park.  Ruaha National Park, right in the heart of Tanzania, covers 13,000 square kilometers of rocky escarpments, hills dotted with baobabs, open savannah and the great Ruaha River.

You will transfer to the 12-bed tented Kigelia Ruaha on the edge of Ifuguru Sand River.  The camp is light, making minimal impact upon its surroundings.  But it’s still stylish and comfortable with large beds, ensuite bathrooms and a wonderful shared “pavilion” tent for dining and relaxing.

This area offers a unique variety of animal, bird and plant life, being a transition zone where southern and eastern species overlap.  Famous for it’s 10,000-strong elephant population, it is also home to the Greater and Lesser Kudu, Sable and Roan antelope, giraffe, zebras and, of course, the predators that follow: lions, leopards, cheetah and jackal.  With over 570 bird-species, the area is a bird-watchers paradise.

Day 8: 

You fly back from Ruaha Msembe to Arusha Airport leaving the remote corners of Tanzania behind.

As with all our safari ideas, this has been designed to spark your imagination.  All aspects of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit you.  We want you to discover your own Africa!


Adventures in Zambia’s Remotest Corners

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Safaris: Zambia.

11 Days Fly-in Safari on the Lower Zambezi and Luangwa River

ZambiaFlightMapHere’s a safari idea for those who want to discover the adventurous heart of Africa.  Spend 10 nights exploring some of Zambia’s most exciting landscapes.  Fly in to the remote corners of the country and explore by foot, canoe and bicycle.

Day 1 to 3:  Luxury & Adventure on the Lower Zambezi

Fly from the capital Lusaka to Jeki airport near the Lower Zambezi National Park.  From the airport you will be transferred to Chiawa Camp, a family owned, award-winning safari camp.  Over the next 2 nights you will bask in the luxury of your beautifully appointed “tent”, personalized service and views of the Zambezi River.

You can watch the plentiful game just sitting on your private sundeck, but you will also have the option to explore further afield with twice daily game drives, walking trips, canoeing, boating and angling opportunities – all led by some of Africa’s best guides.

Microlighting in TafikaDay 3 to 6: Go Bush!

Remaining on the Lower Zambezi, you will transfer to the very intimate bush camp of Old Mondoro.  With only 8 beds this has to be one of the most private ways to experience the African bush.  Overlooking a maze of hippo-inhabited islands on the mighty Zambezi and frequently visited by elephants, this bush camp has a real sense of adventure.

Day 6 to 8:  Remote ExplorationsChikoko Camp

Fly in a 3-seater charter plane from Jeki to Lukuzi in South Luangwa National

Park – now you are entering the truly remote corners of this amazing country.  You will be transferred to the intimate Tafika Camp, with its six comfortable ensuite chalets.

Here you can combine exceptional game viewing with exciting daily activities.  Take a microlight flight over the ever-changing Luangwa River, discover the abundant wildlife on a mountain bike safari or visit the local village of Mkasanga.

Walking Safari ZambiaDay 8 to 11: The Walk of a Lifetime

We transfer from Tafika to the incredible Chikoko Trails Camps: two exquisite camps in a walking paradise.  You will stay at the Chikoko Tree Camp, before setting out to walk to the Crocodile River Camp, following the well-worn elephant and hippo trails through the Luangwa Valley.  All luggage and supplies is portered into the camps so you can focus on walking and watching the wildlife.

Day 11:

We fly by small charter plane from Lukuzi to Mfuwe, before catching a scheduled flight from Mfuwe back to Lukasa.  Your trip has come to an end, but the memories will be seared in your memory for eternity.

 

As with all our safari ideas, this has been designed to spark your imagination.  All aspects of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit you.  We want you to discover your own Africa!


Finding The Apes

Posted on January 21st, 2014 by Stephanie Hunt in Resources.

Perhaps the most fascinating, irresistible and charming creatures in Africa are the Apes.  Hidden in the dense jungle and rainforest areas, Africa’s gorillas and chimpanzees require time and effort to visit.  But the rare opportunity to share time with our distant cousins will be one of the highlights of your safari.

Mountain Gorilla

Gorilla gorilla beringei  Mountain gorilla

Quick Facts

  • The largest living primate, an adult male gorilla can be 1.8 meters tall and weigh 180kg.
  • Gorillas live in family groups, called troops, with up to 30 members.
  • Highly sociable, gorillas form strong attachments to members of their troop.
  • One mature male, known as the Silverback, normally acts as leader and chief protector.
  • Gorillas inhabit dense forest and rainforest, wandering over a 15-25km home range.
  • Feeding and resting through the day, gorillas build nests from bent branches or grasses each evening.
  • Gorillas are shy and retiring and will seek no trouble unless harassed.  But they will fiercely defend their family group when threatened.
  • Twenty-five distinct vocalizations are recognised and used for group communication in the dense vegetation.
  • There are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the world.

Where to See the Gorillas

  • Approximately 480 gorillas inhabit the Virunga Ranges.  This extinct volcanic region runs along the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • The remaining gorillas inhabit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda.

 About Visiting the Gorillas

  • Getting to see the gorillas is not easy and there are no guarantees.
  • At least a moderate level of fitness is required as you will have to trek through thick vegetation and up steep slopes in search of the gorillas.  The trek can last for several hours.
  • Local guides keep track of the animals, but they move daily and are not easy to track.  Visitors have been disappointed.
  • Your time with the gorillas is limited to 1 hour and facemasks may be required to prevent transmission of disease.
  • You may not use a flash, so choose your lens accordingly.
  • You will require an official permit to see the gorillas.

 

Western Lowland Gorilla

western lowland gorilla

Quick Facts

  • The smallest subspecies of gorilla, the average male still stands 1.6m tall and weighs 168 kg.
  • Compared to mountain gorillas there is a greater gender size difference, with females being half the size of males.
  • Endangered but far more common and widespread than the mountain gorillas.
  • Females don’t start reproducing until around 9 years old, and they generally have one offspring every 5 years.
  • When males reach maturity they go through a “bachelor stage” that can last several years.  Whereas females are never found alone.
  • This breed has the smallest family groups of all gorillas, averaging 4-8 members.
  • Highly sociable, gorillas form strong attachments to family members.
  • One mature male, known as the Silverback, normally acts as leader and chief protector.
  • The western lowland gorilla inhabits dense rainforest throughout central Africa.
  • Western gorillas frequently stand upright, but walk in a hunched, quadruped fashion.
  • Feeding and resting through the day, gorillas build nests from bent branches or grasses each evening.
  • All gorillas are shy and retiring and will seek no trouble unless harassed.  But they will fiercely defend their family group when threatened.

Where to See the Gorillas

  • The forests of the Congo (Brazzaville) harbour the largest population of western lowland gorillas.
  • Odzalla-Kokoua National Park has the densest population and new lodges are beginning to open, making this area more accessible.

About Visiting the Gorillas

  • Getting to see the gorillas is not easy and there are no guarantees.
  • At least a moderate level of fitness is required as you will have to trek on foot through thick vegetation, often for several hours.
  • Local guides keep track of the animals, but they move daily and are not easy to track.  Visitors have been disappointed.
  • Your time with the gorillas is limited to 1 hour and facemasks may be required to prevent transmission of disease.
  • You may not use a flash, so choose your lens accordingly.

 

Chimpanzee

chimpanzee

Quick Facts

  • Chimpanzees are humans’ closest relatives, sharing 98% of our genes.
  • Highly sociable, chimps move in flexible groups of 15-80, called troops.
  • Agile climbers, chimps build nests high up in the trees to rest during the day and sleep at night.
  • During the day chimps move largely on the ground, either bipedally or knuckle-walking.
  • Bigger than you might think, the adult male weighs up to 70kg and reaches heights of 1.7 meters.
  • Largely vegetarian, chimps do supplement their diets with meat.  Males hunt in groups for small antelope, monkeys and baboons.
  • Extremely noisy creatures, chimps communicate through screams, pant hoots, squeaks and barks.

Where to See the Chimpanzees

  • Chimps are present throughout a number of African countries, but the best place to see them is in Tanzania or Uganda.
  • The Mahale Mountains National Park, in western Tanzania, has an estimated 1,000 chimps in residence.
  • Gombe Stream National Park, also in western Tanzania, is where Jane Goodall studied chimps and remains home to several groups of habituated chimps.
  • Kibale National Park in Uganda is home to 1,500 chimps.
  • Chimps can also be seen at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Kyamburu Gorge in Uganda.

About Visiting the Chimpanzees

  • You will have to trek to find the chimpanzees and the length of the walk can vary from a wander to the back of the camp to a 10-hour trek.
  • Local guides stay in touch with the chimps day to day movements.  As long as you’re up to walking, it’s unusual for people not to see the chimps in a 3-day stay.
  • When you find the chimps you are often able to get in close proximity as they are habituated.
  • Your time with the chimps is limited to 1 hour and facemasks may be required to prevent transmission of disease.
  • You may not use a flash, so choose your lens accordingly.
  • Tracking chimps is easier in the wet season when they don’t roam so far, but the dry season (July – October) is better for photos as the foliage is less dense.