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We have had two VIP families just return from Elewana Sand River Masai Mara and they found the safari camp to be magnificent and were so happy they had chosen to stay here! Situated along the banks of a river from which it has taken its name, Elewana Sand River Masai Mara is located within the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya on a secluded and picturesque site. The camp enjoys stunning views over the Sand River and out to the neighboring grassy hills and plains of Tanzania.

The camp sits on the migration route for the millions of wildebeest, zebra and Thompson’s gazelle that move between Serengeti and Maasai Mara every year. Guests enjoy the privilege of exclusive views of the plains and hills dotted with thousands of animals as well as being in the thick of the excitement of frenetic and famed river crossings, all from the comfort of camp. 

Comprising of 16 luxury tents, Elewana Sand River Masai Mara replicates the heyday of exclusive permanent tented camps of the late 1920’s.

Divided into two separate but adjoining campsites of 10 and 6 tents, each area possessing its own designated dining and public areas, Elewana Sand River Masai Mara provides an atmosphere of exclusivity and class.

The Masai Mara is renowned for its spectacular game viewing and wildlife interactions. Why not enjoy it with the most traditional of safari activities – a game drive! With a knowledgeable guide, a custom-designed car and a car fridge full of cold drinks, enjoy a morning, afternoon or full day out in the grassy plains, and riverine forest of the Masai Mara.

Our VIP clients shared that staying for a final morning drive on their last day at Sand River where they had an incredible morning drive complete with breakfast in the bush was quite luxurious for them. Look how close one of our other VIP clients was to the lion right outside the game drive vehicle!

If you would love to visit Elewana Sand River Masai Mara, we would love to speak with you about just that. Feel free to call us at 800.940.9344 or send an email to hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com. We would love to speak with you!

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June is a very popular month for weddings and we here at Hills of Africa LOVE honeymooners as we know how very special that time is after your wedding and how important it is to do something that you will look back on fondly for many years to come. I love when I am around people who travel the world and they turn to their spouse and say “Remember when we went to …” and they both smile from ear to ear!

An African safari provides a great opportunity to spend time with just the two of you or sharing a game drive with others who are always happy to celebrate your very special occasion. We can arrange special candlelit dinners for you on safari — nothing more magical than dining under the stars.

Imagine sleeping under millions of stars in your very own Treehouse! That is exactly what you get with the Lion Sands Reserve in South Africa. The Treehouses set you in the middle of big landscapes, globed by even bigger skies, their lights twinkling down to the horizon. Below, the stillness is punctuated by animals’ whistles, huffs, and growls… carried on the wind.

There are few such experiences left on earth that capture the romance of the untamed and untainted.

Arrive at sunset to a picnic, spend the dusk hours spotting wildlife out in the bush, and fall asleep counting shooting stars.

This is not simply a sleep out – this is an adventure with Africa, one-on-one.

What honeymoon would not be complete without a trip to the Wine Country so off to the Cape Winelands where you can experience wine tasting of the best reds of the Stellenbosch region and the best whites of the Franschhoek.

On your first wine tour to the Cape, we introduce you to the Cape’s oldest wine regions. The aim is to take a journey through this beautiful mountainous region and explore the history, wine, and architecture of the region.

A stop for lunch at Delaire Graff Winery is a must and you can explore the vineyards while you are there.

Stellenbosch is the second oldest town; it boasts oak tree lined streets and gorgeous white houses from both the Dutch and English periods. This region is renowned as the best red wine region in the country.

After exploring the Franschhoek wine region, return to your romantic lodge at La Cle des Montagnes and relax poolside.

You might also want to do a tutored olive oil tasting or a chocolate and wine pairing experience. Remember this is your honeymoon and it is our job to make it special!

Call us at at 800.940.9344 or send an email to hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com and we will put together a honeymoon itinerary you will think back of fondly and smile from ear to ear!

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Our newest team member, Dana Crone, has just returned from her trip to Africa and she wanted to share with you how Africa took a little piece of her heart.

Dana wrote “Upon arrival at John’s Camp in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, we were greeted by a gracious and smiling staff with warm cloths to freshen up.  This was something that little did I know at the time, I would become quite fond of.  Warm cloths if it was chilly outside and cool cloths if it was warmer outside. “

Dana at John’s Camp

I was instantly impressed with how simple yet precise and well-kept the camp was.  The main area was spacious with couches, chairs, side tables, books.  I instantly felt at peace and home. 

The camp is comprised of 12 beds, made up of 6 twin or double en-suite Meru style tents. The spacious tents were custom designed and made by the family.  They are equipped with everything you need. The flush toilet and bucket shower are in separate spaces from each other and from the main sleeping area so privacy is met if needed.  There is a sink with running water in the main area which was great for freshening up or preparing for nighttime. 

Mana Pools National Park is situated on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River where you will find John’s Camp nestled amongst canopies of Trichelia and Mahogany trees, it is a truly natural wilderness. Across the vast floodplain one can walk with the giants – our African Bull elephants, dine amidst herds of buffalo, gaze upon prides of lion, enjoy sundowners with hippos on the banks of the Zambezi River and bird watch over 400 species of birds.

Dana goes on to write “Most definitely a highlight of my stay was the overnight on the star deck. It was a beautiful 2 level structure complete with a flushing toilet. The bed was covered with soft netting and the most comfortable mattress and linens. The starry night sky and sounds will be something I will never forgotten. ”

Star Gazing Platform
Star gazing sleeping platform

The tables for dinner and breakfast were beautifully set with amazing decorations and detail.  The food was delicious and perfectly prepared.  We even had sushi as an appetizer.

Warm candlelight dinner table

A walking safari gave opportunity to see things from a different view and learn about the trees, plants, how animals and the landscape interact and even all the different animal poop!

Walking Safari (photo credit Robin Pope Safaris)

A memorable time was “behind the scenes” at camp.  We were able to walk through the kitchen, laundry and pantry. Everything was organized, clean and immaculate.  If only my house could be so impressive.  Very appreciative of the wood fire unit that provided us the opportunity to have hot water at the camp.  

There is no wi-fi at John’s Camp and I really hope they keep it that way.  Being completely unplugged and able to immerse into the surroundings was appreciated and welcomed!

The team at John’s Camp are more than just “co-workers”, they are family and it shines through in every detail.  Even our guides David and Obert complimented each other and the whole experience perfectly. 

This was the first camp on my African trip that I got teary eyes when it was time to say goodbye.  (There was one other property where this happened but I will save that for another blog!)

Dana with the John’s Camp family

In closing, Dana’s comments were “John’s Camp captured my heart.  I hope to visit with my family one day!”

If you are interested in staying at John’s Camp feel free to reach out to us at at 800.940.9344 or send an email to hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com.

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As of June 1, travelers to Tanzania will have to pack very carefully. The country announced it’s second phase of its plastic bag ban on May 16. Visitors are advised to avoid packing or carrying any plastic bags as they’ll have to leave these at a designated desk in the airport.

The first phase of the country’s anti-plastic initiative to “protect the youth and environment,” was an initial ban on the manufacturing of plastic bags and in-country distribution. Phase two extends to tourists. “The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban,” said a statement from vice president Samia Suluhu’s office. “However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from the plastic bags ban.”

Photo Credit: Andrew Kartende/Creative Commons

Many countries around the world have moved to ban the use of plastic bags in an effort to reduce litter and the long-term, negative impacts upon the environment. 

The ban includes plastic shopping bags, single-use plastic bags, with or without handles, zip top plastic bags and duty-free bag.

Countries in our travel sphere with laws banning plastic bags include Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Please note that some countries are stricter in enforcing this ban than others.

Reducing plastic bag use then has two effects: It minimizes the creation of waste, much of which drifts and ends up in the world’s oceans, harming marine life and it reduces the air pollution caused by burning single-use plastics.

Suggested alternatives to plastic bags would include packing cubes or dry sacks, similar to those used for camping or kayaking. There are many options available, and easy to find online.  If you need help in what to pack, feel free to reach out to our team at 800.940.9344 as we would be happy to help you.

An example of packing cubes
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It was such an honor to be invited by Sandy Lipkowitz to be a sponsor at her We Make Travel Easy Client Appreciation night in San Francisco last week. Sandy is an amazing travel agent that we have worked with for several years and she is a very successful travel advisor in San Francisco.

Sandy Lipkowitz and I

She put together her Client Appreciation night and we were one of three sponsors at this very successful event. One of the special touches that Sandy did was to put her clients’ travel photos in a running slide show on the screen, so when they came in they would shout “That is me!”

Guests viewing travel photos when they arrived at the reception

One of the other things that she did was at the bottom of everyone’s name tag you got to put “My next adventure will be to (fill in the blank).” Since these were all travel enthusiasts it was great learning about not only where they had been but where they still wanted to go!

During the course of the evening, guests were treated to both an open bar with a wonderful selection of wine and beer, as well as a fine selection of meats, cheeses and desserts.

Open bar and great food selections

Sandy along with Hills of Africa have put together a very special trip to Kenya in October 2020 and I was so honored to get to speak about the trip and my love of Africa. I had lots of people come up to me after my presentation to get more details and a number of people signed up for the trip!

Me talking about the Kenya trip

So if you are a travel agent, please know that we would also be honored to sponsor and present at your event. It is a great way to find clients for a trip that you want to take to Africa!

Standing Room Only for my presentation

Call us at 800.940.9344 as we would be happy to help you with the details of an event like this. Sandy Lipkowitz will tell you that it makes for very happy clients, travelers and partners!

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Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is a renowned conservation and community success story, offering a sophisticated safari experience for the conscientious traveler. The reserve comprises just 22 rooms split across four small luxurious lodges, providing understated luxury and one of the highest land to guest ratios in South Africa. The over 54,000 acres of pristine wilderness is home to the famous Big 5 as well as a diverse number of smaller and more unusual species.

A conservation success story

When our VIP clients returned from safari at Kwandwe, they shared that some of the best game viewing was a lioness with cubs, a cheetah with cubs, elephant sparring and a young male lion who completely failed at a warthog attack attempt.

Lion cubs

One of the things we look at when selecting properties for our special clients is conservation efforts. Kwandwe has a list of great victories in conservation:

  • Reclaiming 54 000 acres of farmland and placing it under wildlife conservation
  • The reintroduction of the endangered black rhinoceros
  • Returning cheetah to the Great Fish River Valley for the first time since 1889
  • The reestablishment of populations of disease-free Cape Buffalo, Cheetah, Lion, White Rhino and Black Rhino on many game reserves in South Africa from Kwandwe’s founding stock
  • Reclaiming areas of intense and often damaging agriculture
  • The reintroduction of small and mostly rare felid species eradicated from the area, such as the Serval, African wildcat and Small Spotted Cat
  • The reintroduction of more than 7000 wild animals, including elephant, both species of rhino, hippo, lion, leopard, brown hyena etc
  • Providing a breeding refuge for the Blue Crane
  • Eleven post graduate research studies conducted on wildlife and vegetation on Kwandwe
  • On average sub-tropical thicket stores 40 tons of carbon per ha. Kwandwe has in excess of 13,000 hectares of sub-tropical thicket, amounting to 520,000 tons of carbon being stored on the property
  • Providing a refuge for the sensitive sub-tropical thicket vegetation
Family of cheetahs

One of the best things about being on a game drive is the exceptional sundowner offerings — it’s not just gin & tonic off the back of your game drive vehicle. Look at this amazing selection from Kwandwe’s Lodge.

Sundowner Snacks

If you are interested in seeing this beautiful property, experience the amazing tour guides (Jonno and Ernie are the BEST at Kwandwe), see lots of game and stay at a luxurious location, let us help you book that trip.

We want you to come back and say what these clients said “best adventure and fun filled, the people, the animals, the food, the wine — all of it!”

Please feel free to reach out to the Hills of Africa team at hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com or call 1-800-940-9344 to book your Kwandwe trip today.

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Almost all travelers going to South Africa will either arrive in Johannesburg or make a connecting flight in Johannesburg. There has been a recent press release indicating a change in luggage that will be acceptable to check going into or out of Johannesburg Airport (JNB) in South Africa.

Round/irregularly shaped bags (not having a flat surface) or bags with long hanging straps will not be allowed as these are the largest sources of jams in the baggage handling system.  These jams cause shut downs, delays and inconvenience to passengers and airlines.

Please note that the blue bag in the ‘irregular’ photo is X’d out because of the long strap you can see in the picture.

Upon arrival at the airport, straps should be removed at check in and placed in a pocket or the main compartment of your duffle bag.   Then simply reattach when you retrieve the bag from baggage claim, and off you go!

There are many great duffle bags available through various retailers, which will adhere to the above checked baggage requirements at JNB, and will also  meet qualifications for luggage on charter flights (if applicable to your trip).  Hills of Africa is happy to send links for suggested luggage that would be suitable for your trip.

One of our favorite brands is Eagle Creek and is one that we would recommend. Remember, if it has a large hanging strap outside, be sure to take the large strap off before checking your bag.

NOTE:  The above information applies to checked luggage going through Johannesburg on commercial flights (Delta, South African Air, British Air, etc).  If you have CHARTER FLIGHTS scheduled during your trip, you still need to adhere to the luggage requirements of soft sided luggage meeting size & weight requirements as listed in your travel documents.  

If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to the Hills of Africa team at hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com or call 1-800-940-9344.

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The Serengeti National Park is 12,000 square miles in northern Tanzania and extends to southwestern Kenya. Its name, which is derived from the Maasai language means “endless plains.” Most famous for it’s wildebeest and zebra migrations, here is an explanation of which area to go to and when and what else you will see.

Southern Region – December through March

The wildebeest migrate around the Serengeti, and into the Masai Mara for the sole purpose of following the rainfall. For their calving from December – March they always begin their cycle in the Southern Serengeti and follow wherever the grass is greener. While we have a good idea of where the wildebeest should be at any given time of year, it really does depend on where the rain falls. The wildebeest are notoriously unreliable, as although they generally all head from south to north Serengeti and back around again, they often zig-zag along the way, making it sometimes impossible to predict where the big herds will be at any given time.

But from December to March the wildebeest are in the southern area of the Serengeti, more specifically in Ndutu which is in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and it is calving season. Along with the river crossings, this is a real highlight of the wildebeest’s journey and a fabulous time to see the herds congregate on the dramatic sweeping plains of the south. February is the only time of year when you are almost guaranteed to see the big herds all together as they always come south for calving season. 

Mega herds of herbivores gather on the plains to build up their strength as lush grass follows the short rains. When they move on, the area is still rich with wildlife, especially faunas depending on the protective micro climates of kopjes, where water collects in basin-like rocks and predators, including lions and jackals, keep vigil from above to see what prey will come to drink. Bizarre aardvark and pangolin feed from towering termite mounds. African hedgehogs, hares and voles dart around the rocks, whilst gaudy lizards scurry over them.

Northern Serengeti – July to October

From July to October each year is when the wildebeest are in the northern Serengeti plains, and you have a chance of seeing up to thousands crossing the great Mara River. As the sight of the wildebeest crossing the so dramatic, it is considered by many the most desirable time to see the migration.

An untouched wilderness region, the northern Serengeti’s Mara River area is relatively inaccessible and devoid of tourists. Comprising a vast pristine area of wooded rolling hills interspersed with open grassy patches and large granite outcrops, the Northern Serengeti boasts stunning landscapes and optimal wildlife viewing for seeing the wildebeest and zebras.

During the dry season, the Mara River famously transforms to a wild stampede with massive herds of wildebeest and zebra thundering across the river, while enormous Nile crocodiles lurk just below the murky surface.

Patience is key in the Northern Serengeti – the wildebeest like to have fun and play games with you. Often they will decide, OK it’s time to cross, and then they get spooked; something’s not quite right, so they change their minds. So enjoy the greatest miracle on earth, this is nature at it’s finest.

To see the best of the migration, there are mobile tented camps that we recommend to our clients such as Lemala Mara Tented Camp.

Sound like a place you want to go? Email us at hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com or call 1-800-940-9344.

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Our clients are always interested in “where do I go next” after they have visited Africa for the first time.   The must do’s on your first trip are of course a game safari along with 2 of my personal favorites — Cape Town and the Cape Winelands.  Our next recommendation would be to East Africa, specifically to see the migration of the wildebeest.

The timing of the migration depends upon the annual rainfall and if there are any fresh pastures which may occur earlier or later depending on the year.   As water sources dry up in the South, there are over 1.5 million wildebeest that inspire this photographer’s dream itinerary to see the migration of the wildebeest along with thousands of zebras, gazelles and elands.  Their predators — lions, cheetahs and leopards — are not too far behind tracking all the herds.

There is no fixed table of events. All depends on the coming of the rains, which can vary by several weeks, but in Serengeti National Park, light short rains usually fall in November and December, when the migrating wildebeest and zebra herds return to the southern Ndutu plains to crop fresh grass in the company of elands.  In February, every day for about three weeks, an estimated 8000 newborn foals stagger to their feet within minutes of being dropped and follow their mothers.  You are charmed by the spectacle of new life and certainly will be moved by this event.

The long rains in northern Tanzania occur between April and May when the grass plains blossom with short-lived flowering plants. Then the herds turn northward through the western Serengeti corridor and along the central outskirts. The Grumeti River crossing is a perilous trap in June and July, haunted by giant Nile crocodile.

To see this natural phenomenon, you can track and observe from 4×4 game-viewing vehicles, filming from the ground or in the air which allows you to zoom in on the action with your cast of wildebeest acting out their ancient ritual for you alone.

But this is just one of the many adventures that await you in East Africa — you can climb Mount Kilimajaro, travel the Mahale Mountains on a chimp trekking safari, or visit the 2 million year old wildlife dense Ngorongoro Crater.  You can even spend the night at a coffee plantation! 

If this sounds like what you are dreaming of for your next trip, please call us at 1-800-940-9344 or email us at hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com so we can begin turning your dream into reality.

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Zimbabwean food is all about flavor and local produce. In Victoria Falls you are in Ndebele world, so expect lots of beef, chicken, fish, vegetables and stews.

As Victoria Falls is one of the top visitor destinations, you will find excellent quality restaurants serving food from around the world to eating at a local Ndebele house. Make sure you try the peanut and spinach salad as well as the beef and vegetable stews.

We have compiled our top 10 restaurants recommendation for you for your next trip to Victoria Falls. We will explore a few of those here and there is no better place to start than with Jungle Junction at the majestic Victoria Falls Hotel.

This will be an unforgettable experience. Gaze over the gorge and the spray of the Falls with a fusion of flavors. There is nightly entertainment from various ethnic groups such as the Makishi Dancers shown below. Lavish buffets at the casual Jungle Junction are but one of your many choices for the evening.

Dean’s Cafe is spearheaded by master chef Dean Jones, who aims to combine his love for cooking with his musicality. The menu at Dean’s offers fresh ingredients and flavors and aims to surprise each guest with personal care and service. In addition to breakfast and lunch, Dean’s has great coffee, tea and daily baked sweet treats. One of the daily menus included this amazing surf and turf.

It is all about the view at the Makuwa-Kuwa Restaurant – open on three sides and overlooking the waterhole at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, the restaurant offers a unique opportunity to view elephant and other wildlife as you enjoy some of the finest dining in Victoria Falls. The A La Carte dinner menu includes popular dishes with a local twist.

The Nam Took Restaurant adds to the cosmopolitan cheerful mix of happy tourists and residents, who will be eager to recommend you to visit this local favorite. The restaurant, with a high thatched roof and log beams is dominated with brightly colored Chinese lanterns and local “Gwaai” pots, creating a fusion of the East and Africa. With an open viewing area and the sight of the spray from the Falls, there is a sense of space and light that you don’t want to miss.

A night at The Boma Restaurant includes performances by traditional singers, dancers and drummers, face painting and a four-course dinner featuring local cuisine. The feast begins with a shared starter platter, featuring specialties such as smoked crocodile tail, followed by soup from the campfire, before a braai (barbecue) buffet, which includes warthog steak, Zambezi bream, as well as an extensive salad bar, and finally a smorgasbord of delectable desserts. The grand finale is an interactive drumming show, giving you the chance to discover your inner African rhythm.

These are just a few of our favorites in Victoria Falls but we are happy to send you the complete list, just email us at hoainfo@hillsofafrica.com. Let us know what you think!

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