African Safari Consultants | Africa Travel Advice & Tips
Our African travel blog features a smorgasbord collection of articles ranging from updates from the bush, safari stories, travel tips and advice, conservation matters, industry gossip and insightful news and reviews about travel in Southern and East Africa. With contributions by travel experts with a passion for Africa, you will be inspired, informed and prepared for your next African adventure.
On a recent trip to Hwange National Park with Wilderness Safaris, we were privileged enough to meet Arnold Tshipa, a fascinating man with a big personality, great sense of humour and most importantly a palpable passion for the elephants of Zimbabwe.
Arnold Tshipa, resident ecologist and passionate elephant migration researcher in Hwange
Arnold joined us for dinner at Davison’s Camp and it was fascinating learning about how it was his father who instilled in Arnold a love for wildlife and inspired him to become an ecologist and how he obtained his degrees in Forest Resource and Wildlife Management. He is currently doing his Masters.
A breeding herd of migrating elephants
Arnold studies the movement of elephants between Zimbabwe and Botswana. He says that studying their movement and their habitat use helps us to better understand and predict their dynamics particularly in high-density populations such as Hwange. This adds information to the management plan for Hwange National Park.
Over the past few years Arnold has collared a number of elephants fitting them with GPS-tracking data. He is constantly in the field monitoring the behaviour of herds at waterholes, watching for dominance status. He uses census data to determine the elephant densities and demographics.
Elephants in front of Davison’s Camp in Hwange National Park
So far his findings have been that some elephants migrate and some don’t; that they travel further during dry season and that their dry and wet season movement range is linked to the water which is solar pumped to pans across Hwange.
Wilderness Safaris are dedicated supporters of the vital research that Arnold and other local conservationists are doing in these remote wildlife regions. Meeting and having questions and answers sessions with people on the ground in Africa like Arnold creates awareness and educates conservation conscious guests while they are on safari. After having just been on a game drive and seen plenty of elephants, and then sitting around the camp fire makes the wildlife issues that Arnold describes come to life and therefore far more impactful.
Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park is the ideal destination for elephant lovers as it is home to one of the highest densities left on the planet for this crucial keystone species.
Davison’s Camp which overlooks an extremely productive waterhole that attracts a variety of plains game and predators. it is a private concession within the Hwange National Park and activities include game drives and walks. On the early morning walk we tracked a small breeding herd of ellies and came across very fresh leopard spoor.
Beneath the ancient false mopane trees of Davison’s, nine bright and airy tents (including a family unit) span either side of the expansive main area complete with fire pit, raised viewing deck and separate pool area.
Wilderness Safaris are committed to the maintainance and pumping of 14 of Hwange’s boreholes in the concession to sustain its wildlife, especially in winter when water sources become scarce.
The camp fire at Davison’s. The perfect place to contemplate the universe and the future of Africa’s elephants
The camp fire at Davison’s. The perfect place to contemplate the universe and the future of Africa’s elephants
As a once-nomadic, globe-gallivanting Capetonian, being able to be a tourist in my own (and most favorite) city was something I’d been hankering after ever since I returned to live in South Africa! So when the opportunity to experience the Mother City as our clients do, I – of course – grabbed it with glee!
Driving into the city from the Winelands in the dust-veiled golden light, Table Mountain seeming to lounge back into the approaching lilac dusk whilst watching the homebound, highway commuters sparkle like a long, winding necklace. I, on the other hand, left home far behind me – and did my excited utmost to keep my foot off the gas as I drove deeper into the mountain’s welcoming shadow.
I relished that delicious lull between the rushed routine of the workday and the luxurious anticipation of what Cape Town nights are so uniquely loved for. Winding my way up out of the bustling CBD along Cape Town’s famous Kloof Nek road, I wondered where – amidst the trendy eateries and glittering bars – Kensington Place might possibly be hiding. The photos I’d seen online suggested the very opposite of ‘city central’… but as the road curled higher and higher (I felt like I could reach out and touch Table Mountain — kissed in peach-pink light by now) I finally turned left into a shady secret of a crescent and, spotting the shady arrival area, sheltered all about by regal indigenous trees and lush local foliage, I breathed in a great big gulp of ‘Oh! How gorgeous!’ — and breathed out the day’s busy bustle.
Something I remember missing – often desperately – whilst traveling abroad all those years ago was that pure-hearted, kind and humble hospitality that I have only ever found in Africa. And Kensington Place made me feel it all the way from the top of my head down to my toes: from the Zimbabwean night manager who personally created the most exquisite G&T I’ve ever been blessed to sip, to the older, wise ‘mamas’ who served me breakfast as though I were royalty. (I suggested there was a terrible typo in ‘Kensington Place’. Surely it should be ‘Palace’?)
A Feast for the Eyes
Before settling down out on the verandah to drink in the spectacular sunset, I decided to explore more of the dazzling diversity of art I glimpsed while being signed in. I wasn’t disappointed! From the more traditional (like that enchanting Cape Town sunset painting) to more contemporary, conceptual pieces which competed for my attention in between with the bold, bright African art.
My favorite pieces? The personal-as-political Conté portraits pulsing with vigorous vermilion, unsettling violets and impenetrable black by one of my most loved lecturers when I studied fine art — many blue moons ago…
Room with a View
How would I describe my room? ‘Room’ seems too bland. Too ordinary. Somewhere between urban-chic boudoir and sublime sanctuary, though with a view that couldn’t be more uniquely ‘Cape Town’! Standing outside in the warm blushing evening on my little balcony, I marveled at how close I was to my favorite mountain in the world, kissed with gold and framed by an intimate canopy of Cape Town’s signature umbrella pine trees. (Whether you’re flying in to Cape Town for the very first time, or if you’ve lived there all your life, something magical happens to your heart when you see it…)
Cape Town is also famous for its ‘fynbos’: an indigenous floral kingdom found nowhere else in the world — and which has now been infused into delicately fragranced gins! Combine it with Fitch & Leed‘s ‘Rose and Cucumber’ tonic and you’ll be hooked.
What struck me most about this gorgeous hotel was its ability to make you feel both like absolute royalty, ensconced all about with luxury — and comfortably at home. Not surprisingly, when I chatted with the night manager later that evening, he said that’s exactly how they want their guests to feel: a home away from home. I say: Mission accomplished, KP! (That’s how our travel team affectionately refer to this special boutique hotel.)
Despite knowing the profusion of eateries and bars waiting for me just a stone’s throw away from KP, I felt so marvelously at home (and not yet ready to leave my beauty-filled escape) that I decided to ‘stay in’ for dinner! As a self-proclaimed Capetonian foodie, this was an unusual choice for me – but after I had sneaked a peek at the evening menu, I knew I could have the best of both worlds: a feast for the eyes – and for my hungry inner foodie! Dinner was an uncontrived but sumptuous burger with melt-in-your-mouth ‘chips’ (South Africa’s name for ‘potato fries’) and a crisp garden salad. Of course, I had pudding. How could I resist?
My new definition of heaven: being able to be still, alone and dine in such a peaceful, beautiful space – and with such amazing, attentive (but not ‘too attentive’) service, while I slowly devoured a Vanity Fair I’d been trying to read for months, luxuriating in the delicious solitude I think all moms secretly crave.
Honeymoon for One!
After I’d finished my feast and closed my magazine with an air of the sweetest satisfaction, I was told I had been given the ‘honeymoon treatment’. (I think I actually giggled out loud with delight!) Amused, the night manager showed me to my room, carrying my now forgotten laptop bag for me and quietly opening the door…
From the candlelit bath thoughtfully adorned with fresh rose petals of every color, to the perfectly-made bed decorated with two of my favorite things: a heart of rose petals. The wide open balcony doors beckoned me outside to see Cape Town showing off: all twinkling stars, the moonlit lace of tree silhouettes and the motherly mountain’s quiet presence. (Needless to say that instead of opening up my laptop, I snuggled up into bed with what remained of my Vanity Fair — and the gift of heavenly nougat didn’t make it into my handbag for my daughter!)
This summer, Botswana was hot and dry. The 2019 summer rains were not as plentiful as previous years, and unfortunately the rainfall in the Angolan highlands was below average too. As a result the annual flow of water into the Okavango Delta has been late. Word on the ground in Botswana is that the famous flood water that originates in the mountains in Angola and flows slowly and steadily into the Delta, is way below normal this year.
It is important to note that boating and mokoro excursions at some camps and lodges will not be possible this 2019 safari season.
Of course experiencing the Okavango from a mokoro is on most people’s bucket list, and some travellers are bound to be disappointed to find this activity has had to be suspended due to the lower water levels. We trust that travellers will understand that true nature is unpredictable and variations occur each and every month and year in the Okavango Delta.
Some camps have proactively moved their boat stations to an area that has easier access to the surrounding deep water channels, which will be used until the water levels increase.
For now, camps that are located on the edge of a lagoon or a deep channel are still able to offer boating activities.
What we can say is that as a result of the scarceness of water sources, the concentration of wildlife is exceptional. There have been amazing sighting of lion, hyena, leopard and cheetah, while wild dogs have been seen along with herds of over 1000 buffalo. Naturally all of the grazers are there sipping from the waters edge and eating the grasses in the channels. This year water will be scarce, but game will be plenty. It is a safari-goer’s paradise!
Water levels in the Okavango are extremely low this year. Mokoro safaris are only possible at certain camps and lodges
Gliding along the waterways of the Okavango Delta is one of the best ways to experience this pristine Garden of Eden. There is nothing nicer than sitting quietly (and as still as possible so as not to rock the mokoro!) as your poler gently guides you through the reeds and hippo channels of this wetland paradise.
I was invited on an agent educational trip to Botswana by Natural Selection and it included two nights at Mapula Lodgewhich is situated on a the edge of a flood plain along the upper reaches of the Selinda Spillway.
I was there in March which to my delight is the best time of the year for water lillies. There are day lillies and night lillies. The day lillies flower during the day and vice versa! It’s also a good time to spot the thumbnail size reed frogs. You get such a different perspective of Botswana from this watery angle and our poler-guide had lots of interesting things to say about how the delta was formed, how the hippos are vital for keeping the channels open, what fish species there are etc. A highlight was coming across a floating African Jacana nest with two delicately speckled eggs in it. We also surprised a baby crocodile who splashed off into the reeds a nano second after our guide pointed it out to us.
My frog’s eye view of Mapula Lodge and the other agents who were with me on this amazing Botswana trip care of Natural Selection
What I love about being in a mokoro is the tranquility. There is no engine, no bumps, no chatter… just the sound of the water dripping off the end of the pole, the call of a fish eagle, the clicking of frogs and the grunt of hippos in a pool in the distance.
This cute little reed frog is hardly bigger than my thumb! At first they are hard to see and then once you’ve seen one and know what to look for, they’re easy and a delight to spot. This little fellow didn’t hop away while I manoeuvred the reed into to position and clicked away with my iPhone
My mokoro poler was a wiry young man who’d grown up in the area, messing about in mokoros. And so his calm sense of balance and his gently told stories about his childhood and the Okavango Delta’s seasons and channels were the perfect accompaniment to the ride.
We arrived back from our mokoro excursion just as dusk was falling. The lanterns were lit, the camp glowed and delicious smells were coming from the kitchen. We were hungry for dinner around a communal dining table under the African sky
I was in Botswana in March 2019 which is the end of the green season. It was very hot and the grass was long, but it great for photography. At the time of writing, the annual flood waters from the Angolan highlands that flow down and fill the channels and waterways of the Okavango Delta had not quite arrived. And word on the ground is that the high water season will be late and possibly not as plentiful as usual. But that is nature! However, with less water, the game viewing is predicted to be excellent. Be aware that not every water-based camp in the Okavango will be able to offer mokoro excursions as an activity. Contact us to find out which are the best camps to book during a drier than usual season.
The answer to that isn’t ‘yes’ or ‘no’ — it’s always ‘when?’
My most recent to sojourn to Botswana with &Beyond was, as photography buffs would say, picture perfect! (You’ll have to read on to find out why!)
Andbeyond Chobe Under Canvas
This is the ultimate camp for die-hard safari purists who would rather forego little luxuries like air-conditioning than miss out on exhilarating wildlife sightings as this tented camp moves every 5 days – providing an incredibly authentic and dynamic experience of the bushveld and its wildlife.
These are my top ten reasons to choose Chobe Under Canvas:
Authentic simplicity: Just 5 tents, pitched directly on the ground. No air-con. (Yes – you read correctly. This pared-down approach is easier on the earth and makes the camp lighter on its feet for frequent relocations to where the animal action is! I was there in December which was a little too hot for me – but when you call me, I’ll advise you on when the best times of the year are to stay at this special camp.)
Exceptional eating: Pared-down to the safari essentials or not, Chobe Under Canvas proves my point: ‘There’s no excuse for sh*tty food.’ Deliciously wholesome, good food is served at every meal – be it a picnic, brunch, dinner or snacky sundowners.
Wildlife: The beauty of this area is that its wildlife varies with the seasons – and because I was there in December, it was as though every animal had a baby with it! Utterly amazing!
Rangers, guides and trackers: Phenomenal! (I’d like to give Innocent a particularly special mention for going above… and beyond!)
And… if you stay on at Chobe Under Canvas for more than two nights, you get to radically upskill your photography skills and engage with the wildlife at a whole new level of intense, awe-inspired observation with a water-borne photographic safari a la Pangolin Photo Safaris. This was a total game-changer for my Chobe stay!
Pangolin has designed unique adaptations for their photographic boats to ensure maximized photographic opportunities, with ultra-comfortable and versatile swivel chairs, superb stability and padding along the edges of the boat for resting and balancing against to capture that perfect shot — every time! Needless to say, the photographic equipment on board is state of the art.
Guts! He’s a complete sentence all in his own! Legendary amongst those in the safari-know, Guts passionately and expertly dispenses his vast wealth of wildlife knowledge — interwoven with an astounding understanding of photographic skills — as he moves effortlessly around the guests and their cameras, covering every aspect of the photographic process from lighting, camera angles, exposure, composition, color, focus and which lenses to use. Never in my life did I think I could take – quite literally – world-class wildlife photographs… until I had the ‘Guts’ to try!
Chobe Pangolin Lodge: Located in the quaint town of Kasane, this is where the second part of the photographic magic happens.
The lodge is situated so high up that its views of the Chobe River are exceptionally beautiful
Almost avant-garde, the lodge’s raw, modern lines and materials evoke a strong sense of ecologically ethical design dedicated to wildlife photography, painting a blank canvas for the safari photographer’s intense creativity inspired by their forays into the wild. Huge wildlife prints adorn the walls — making wildlife the focus at every turn.
Guests work alongside the Pangolin team in a state-of-the-art photographic studio to perfect and print their photographs
Pangolin is busy building a waterhole just a short stone’s throw away for on-site photographic opportunities. (Think ‘golden hour’ light, dramatic shadows, elephants, lions, a cool G&T and your camera with a zoom lens!)
AndBeyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp
After saying goodbye to ‘my guys’, Kuks and Jose, I flew from Kasane to Nxabega on a fixed-wing flight — a bucketlist-must: the Delta unfolding in front of your eyes, its elephant-embroidered waterways and endless shades of bold Botswana green has to be seen to be believed!
Liesl with the &Beyond Nxabega team she calls ‘my guys’!
Mesmerizing emerald twisting turns of the Delta unspooling before my eyes…
If ever there was a shining sustainability star, it’s Nxabega — who have become, literally, so expert in solar power that they now have power 24 hours a day!
Thankfully, Nxabega has air-con. (It also has Wi-Fi in the main area, USB ports and a communal swimming pool.)
I absolutely LOVED my outside bed and swing!
Besides the wonderful new decor, the recent refurbishment successfully made the most of the simply WOW views of the plains beyond with the expansive floor-to-ceiling windows
Changing the hot, dusty pace of the day I arrived – spent in cars and planes – I was whisked away that evening on a gentle, slowly meandering boat safari, replete with perfectly chilled sundowners and &Beyond’s signature scrumptious snacks. I love being on the water… It’s one of my favorite things to do in Botswana.
My personal favorite safari sundowner? The elegantly iconic G&T — especially tickled pink with the new rose and cucumber tonic by Fitch & Leeds!
The sunsets. They’re beyond words. That’s why I’ve included the photos.
AMAZING food, artfully plated and with the most beautiful service
Crossing over the Delta waterways by vehicle calls for some pretty nifty eco-engineering!
Our guide unpacking an absolutely sublime selection of sundowners and snacks!
Gliding across the still waters as the sun blushes goodnight is one of my all-time favorite Botswana things
Instead of a fixed-wing plane, we transferred from Nxabega to Sandibe by helicopter, hovering low over the landscape – and piloted by a deliciously handsome young Irish pilot who was literally bubbling over with excitement to share the views he said he’s ‘so lucky to experience every day!’ An obviously expert-hand, he didn’t just answer my question about how helicopters can hover in one spot — he showed me! (And that’s when we got see witness an astounding cheetah kill. We were also incredibly lucky to see a rare rhino!)
With such an expert pilot, this heli-transfer was one of the most thrilling I’ve experienced!
Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
They say you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Instead of waxing lyrical about the jaw-dropping beauty of Sandibe’s sustainably-styled architecture, let me just say this: whichever lodge I visit next will have a very hard time outshining the welcome I received from Sandibe’s incredible staff team!
Utterly sublime food. (There’s even an open kitchen where you can make your own pizza!)
Plunge pools. Say no more.
Perhaps the most exquisite bar in all of Africa? With a master mixologist (more like a wizard!) concocting delicate collisions of botanical gins and sparkling tonics, the bar doesn’t stop there — with coffee I can only describe as insanely amazing. The same whiskey wizard by night is a gold medalist barista at day – and makes the gargantuan Italian coffee machine sing! (Example of said wizardry: an audaciously delicious alchemy of Inveroche, blushing rose tonic I now call my favorite and sexy spirals of not-at-all-shy orange zest.) Scroll down to spot the magic ingredient!
Sandibe’s new game drive vehicles exclusively seat only 4 passengers
When you’re at Sandibe, you’ll find out all about the jackalberry trees – and the elephants who scent the trees from afar and arrive to feast on these berries with obvious enjoyment!
Wildlife is super-abudandant — and you’ll see painted wolves (wild dogs), bat-eared foxes, lions and hyenas — like the echanting juvenile pup I photographed on one game drive! (I never miss out on game drives. Ever!)
Sandibe’s organic curved architecture beautifully embody &Beyond’s heart for conservation
Sandibe’s almost sacred architecture pays homage to the world’s most trafficked mammal – the pangolin.
An incurably curious hyena cub checking me out from right beside our game-viewing vehicle!
‘Tengile’ means ‘tranquil’ in the local Tsonga language
Secluded on an idyllic curve of the Sand River, with breathtaking views greeting the gaze throughout
Serenity, space and flow are the heroes of this inspired lodge design
The abundant game viewing area spans a vast 10 500 hectares (26 000 acres)
ACCOMODATION: 9 secluded, thatched and air-conditioned suites, elevated above the riverbed, are shaded by the whispering riverine forest
The superbly spacious master bedrooms have an en-suite bathroom which opens out into the forest, as well as an outdoor shower
Each suite also comprises a lounge, dining area and bar with a private deck encompassing its own lap pool, with an inviting ‘sunken’ outdoor lounge and dining area
The cleverly designed family suite (children 12 years and older) has living areas which transform into children-friendly slumber spaces
GUEST AREAS: Designed to create uninterrupted inside-outside flow, the composition of open, interactive and private spaces are filled with a sensory celebration of South African design and art.
Private vehicle with a dedicated ranger and tracker
A spa inspired by soul-restoring African beauty rituals
A well-appointed gym, as well as a plunge pool (Perfectly rejuvenating diversions between game drives!)
Laundry service (complimentary)
Twice daily game drives with your ranger and tracker team in an open 4×4 safari vehicle. (Stringent vehicle limits at game sightings ensure exclusivity.)
Sabi Sand Game Reserve is most well-known for its leopard sightings where males can be seen marking and patrolling their territory and females interacting with their cubs.
Common sightings:Lion, cheetah, hyena, zebra, hippo, giraffe, buffalo, wildebeest
Less common: White rhino, wild dog
Expertly guided interpretive bush walks and ‘Luxury Walking Adventures’
Tracking: Track animals on foot, accompanied by an armed specialist ranger and tracker team
Photographic safari: With expert guides who combine their special understanding of animal behaviour and intimate acquaintance of the landscape, learn about everything from shutter speed and filters to angles and lighting
Private safaris designed exclusively for you, around your specific interests, where you’d like to lunch (al fresco picnic under the shade of a tree, for example) and how long or short you want the adventure to be
Nearby: helicopter rides
State-of-the-art sustainability: Designed to exert the most minimal footprint through meticulous environmental auditing, thermal efficiency and advanced wastewater and sewer treatment systems.
Family-friendly (for children 12 years and older): From the specially designed family suite accomodation and babysitting service to the spa’s thoughtful ‘WildChild Beauties & Buddies’ lavender and jasmine bubble bath, energy-boosting foot-rub and tickle finished off with a fun African tribal face-paint!
Wellness Spa. Authentic Africa-inspired – from the ‘Quiet Mind Journey’ massage experience to the ‘Soul of the Earth Celebration’, botanical body balms and African aromatherapy oils are worked into the body by a masterful combination of human touch, rhythmic movement and traditional African calabash and bamboo tools
NEW: AFRICAN BUSH CAMPS – NYAMATUSI CAMP
Zimbabwe: Opening April 2019
LOCATION: Mana Pools National Park
Secreted away in one of the most untouched pockets of the African wild, resting on the ancient banks of the mighty Zambezi
Mana Pools National Park protects an abundantly diverse ecology with habitats including open plans, riverine forests and wetlands, including the four ‘pools’ that supposedly earned the park its name. ‘Mana’ is said to mean ‘four’ in Shona, but it actually means ‘family unit’ or ‘part of a village community’.
ACCOMODATION: An intimate camp of 6 large luxury tented suites whose boundless views over the Zambezi and escarpment beyond invite feelings of absolute remoteness
The air-conditioned suites have their own lounge, and the en suite facilities comprise a spacious bath, as well as an indoor shower and outdoor shower
Each suite has a secluded deck/balcony with its own private plunge pool
Laundry service (complimentary)
Game drives led by African Bush Camps‘ internationally acclaimed guides
Wildlife: Elephant, kudu, sable antelope, zebra, wildebeest, gemsbok, the rare and endangered roan antelope, buffalo, lion, leopard and hyena
Guided walking safaris
Canoeing safaris: Paddling silently across the still, deep waters of the Lower Zambezi allows for a completely different wildlife experience where you’ll encounter hippos, crocodiles, elephants and an astounding abundance of birdlife.
NEW: NYAMATUSI MAHOGANY
Zimbabwe: Opening April 2019
This magnificent camp is African Bush Camp‘s luxury safari answer for families – an ‘explorer’s paradise’ – created for togethernes, adventure and serene relaxation.
ACCOMODATION: All the spacious suites have magnificent views of the Zambezi! Each suite also has an en suite facility, bath, indoor and outdoor showers, private deck and own plunge pool.
2 tented suites
2 family suites
GUEST AREAS: With both downstairs and upstairs guest areas, the lounges and dining areas are superbly appointed, airy and graced with gorgeous vistas out across the river and beyond.
Communal dining and lounges
Transfers from airstrip (included in rates)
Private vehicle available
EXPERIENCES: Geared for the most incredible Family Safari, activities include:
Renowned and protected as one of the African Rift Valley’s remaining ‘pioneer parks’
With a philosophy that embraces families into the wild, little explorers are made to feel especially welcome with a ‘Cub Club’ starter kit and an array of adventures designed to delight, excite and fascinate!
“A day in the life of a family on safari at Nyamatusi Mahogany is fluid, exciting, varied and full of special moments that will live on in family history forever.” ~ African Bush Camps
RENOVATION: CHEETAH PLAINSSouth Africa: Opened December 2018
As our team of travel consultants bustled into Monday morning with their trademark hustle, and my PC flickered to life, I wondered how my client, Jim and his wife, had settled back into ‘civilization’ after the Botswana safari we designed for them, incorporating a very special request: a return to Kwando Lagoon…
As I mentioned in an earlier email, we had another wonderful trip. As is my tradition, I am doing a little write-up of our experiences at each camp so you can use it to advise future clients.
Sable Alley is a beautiful camp with a great staff team. Phillip the, General Manager, along with Debby and Ollie were terrific. One amazing example of this is when I was looking for a small screwdriver to repair one of my camera lenses. Sable Alley didn’t have one, but they quickly sent a message to Gomoti Plains to see if they could help me out when we arrived there. That was stunning to me.
Our ranger (also the MD) was great too. We had the tent furthest from the dining area which gave us perfect privacy. I got to share an outdoor shower with a small herd of elephants. There’s really nothing in the world quite like that! The camp has some resident hippos that hang out in the area of camp all the time like real ‘locals’. The food was, of course, excellent.
Our game viewing was quite varied. The photo opportunities were abundant (as the photos below show!)
We were pleasantly surprised to see two young male cheetahs. Then later, a young male leopard and his mother. My wife and I both agree that our highlight was being surrounded by a breeding herd of elephants, especially enjoying the playful antics of the little ones! (See what we saw here.)
Skybeds: Why count sheep when you can count stars?
This experience was indescribably awesome. Our drive out to the Skybeds from Sable Alley turned into a game drive of sorts — because we stopped at Hyena Pan‘s elephant hide. This was truly amazing. As we arrived, there were about 30 elephants surrounding the hide and the waterhole, filled with fresh, cool water pumped up from a well. We eased our way in and quickly made our way down into the hide. From there, we can only describe it as a heart-stopping experience.
The hide is only about 15 meters from the spot where water is pumped up. The elephants are constantly jockeying for position to get their trunks on the fountain. It was hard to choose what to watch or take pictures of. I shot video, took photos and, well… we were all just utterly mesmerized. It was scary and exciting when one of the elephants stuck his trunk in the side window to get a closer sniff of us!
As the sun started setting, the solar-powered water pump turned off and the elephants began to move away from the waterhole. We very reluctantly left the hide and headed a short distance further on to Skybeds Camp.
Skybeds was an incredible experience. We were there with a great couple from New Zealand, and we all enjoyed watching more elephants at the nearby waterhole while we enjoyed our sundowner cocktails. The skybed set-up is really cool – and to sleep under the stars is a very unique and stunning experience. As New Yorkers we never quite see the sky back home in the spectacular way we did throughout this trip. To lie in bed and take in the view is, well, heavenly.
“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions.” ~ Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), ‘Out of Africa’
We were welcomed to Camp by the General Managers, Andrew and his wife Rhona. They were incredible throughout our whole stay. They have a marvelous kind of enthusiasm for what they do – and are incredibly helpful in so many ways. Andrew even did some research to find out what an error message on my camera meant! Simply, above and beyond.
The staff were wonderful and the food was delicious. A special off-site dinner was really very well done, and we thoroughly enjoyed the cultural performance by the staff.
Our guide, Mitre, ensured our game viewing experience was superb. We saw the entire Big Five in just one day! It was so incredibly cool to see rhinos in Botswana – and the experience of hiking in the bush to see them with the rhino patrol was awesome.
We saw three beautiful male lions who are trying to push into the area. Then, on our last morning, we were awed by the sighting of two leopard cubs and their mom, closely followed by a cheetah mom with five 3 week old cubs! A highlight game drive if ever there was one.
Kwando, Kwando, Kwando!
As you well know, Lise, Kwando Lagoon Camp is the only camp that we have ever gone to for a second time. It was another wonderful experience. The food and facilities were great and we had some absolutely amazing game drive experiences.
Our guide was Spencer and our tracker was JD. On our first morning drive, they tracked down two female lions and we followed them along for a quite a while – time seeming to stand still. It was a stunning experience.
One of the lionesses flushed some warthogs from their den and then captured one. While the lionesses were attempting to execute the kill, the warthog was making quite a racket. Spencer commented that this would surely bring in the hyenas. As if on cue, four hyenas joined the fray. In the ensuing skirmish, that noisy but astuste warthog made a run for it – but was shortly tracked down by a couple of the hyenas. The lions fled first to the top of a termite mound and eventually to a tree, while the hyenas made short work of the warthog. It was an incredible experience to witness, although not for the faint of heart. (Watch the video here!)
The next day we were lucky to see brown hyenas that are normally only seen in the Kalahari – so it was a bit of an historic sighting. That evening we enjoyed a relaxing boat ride on the river.
As you can see, we really had a superb and unforgettable trip. We shared our days with some very interesting and really nice people from all over the world. The arrangements were perfect, as always, and we sung your praises to everyone.
Thanks again for doing such a terrific job of setting this trip up for us. We hope to be able to do it again very soon.
Jim & Elizabeth
Jim’s photography is out of this world. He managed to capture the scintillating sense of adventure and awe that draw our clients back to Africa again and again. Check out his phenomenal photography here!
If you’ve always dreamed of an African safari but didn’t know where to start, I’d love to help you begin. Let’s talk!
When I was called upon to have a little toddle off to Santorini for a bit of a look-see, I couldn’t help but subconsciously get my Shirley Valentine on. Granted, I’d like to think I’m not quite old enough to pull off a bored Liverpudlian housewife stuck in a matrimonial rut, espeically seeing as I’m rather happily married – but just the name (sigh) ‘Santorini’ conjures up tableaus of sun-soaked journeys of self discovery and generally larking about drinking wine by the seashore.
However, my mission was not in the Santorini of the Aegean, but rather its wonderful namesake on the sparkling coast of Southern Mozambique. (Being from South Africa, it would be more Charlize Theron than Shirley Valentine to be honest, but I can assure you, no less gosh darn fabulous – even if my time there couldn’t possibly make for the plot of a West End play made into a movie!)
Be that as it may, the first thing that impressed me with this Santorini was just how quick and easy it was to reach, which is in itself rather a luxury. Being located on the mainland, expensive flights or tedious boat transfers are thankfully avoided and you arrive just twenty minutes after landing in Vilanculos airport, the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago.
Although not far away, the Santorini Estate is remarkably secluded above the cliffs of Kingfisher Bay, a huge and sweeping beachfront with unbelievably beautiful views of the archipelago islands, with the mainland lying peacefully in the distance. One can walk for hours – or thirty minutes in my case (gently does it!) — without seeing another soul on the endless white powder-soft beaches. For those of us used to the densely-peopled urban jungle, this surreal solitude may sound unnerving, but I can assure you that there’s something marvelously relaxing about an undisturbed stroll in such tropical tranquility. Added to that, the beaches have very wide tidal variance which reveals the most amazingly marbled chromatic panorama, coaxing you even deeper in love with this place.
As the name would suggest, Santorini Mozambique is a exquisite African echo of Greece; all whitewashed buildings, cobalt roofs and turquoise seas – but with an unspoilt innocence that is unadulterated Africa at its purest. It offers two perfect plunge pools for the guests and plenty of nooks to hide away and read soppy novels and glossy mags. There is a rooftop bar and lounge area for more sociable imbibing and a TV lounge for that particualr breed of sports enthusiast who likes to keep up with tennis tantrums and football fights from afar.
They also have what I like to call an ‘interactive kitchen’, allowing peckish guests to wander in for a nibble on some biscuits and dried fruits. (Not that it is at all likely one might feel peckish, given the delicious feasts on offer at agreeably regular intervals.)
At one stage I padded off to the on-site spa for a foot massage with their permanent therapist, Nela. So relaxing were her expert attentions as I gazed over the endless views that I simply had to haul myself off for a very well-earned nap.
Should I have been feeling more energetic, and it is not entirely unheard of, I could have taken a boat ride out to a nearby reef for a day of snorkelling and an idyllic island picnic – or indeed a guided tour of the rural town of Vilanculos. Although it has an airport and one might therefore think it a metropolis, this is a charmingly rural town of quaint rondaval houses and a vibrant market in which one can buy wax-print, cotton capulanas or even have authentic garments crafted especially for you by the skillful seamstresses and their Singer sewing machines — right there and then!
But alas, I wasn’t feeling energetic at all, and such was the hypnotic indulgence of Santorini that I found it impossibly hard leave the villa. Instead, I Shirley Valentined my days away, half expecting to see the real deal snapping her fingers for another martini.
I’d love to answer your questions about this exceptionally beautiful destination, so please feel free to connect with me by email (email@example.com) or phone.
As a parent whose job is to intimately know Africa like the back of my hand, I travel throughout the continent, exploring each of our destinations by experiencing the wildlife, communities, reserves and lodges with a keen and experienced eye for the details that matter – like a passionately ruthless commitment to conservation, community enrichment, quality of accommodation, guiding expertise and accessibility – so our clients can know they’ll be embarking on the adventure of a lifetime!
Whilst I do spend time away from my family, I’m also blessed with being able to include them in experiencing what I believe to be the most magical of continents – like when I took my son to Kenya for a horizon-expanding ‘rite of passage’ journey for his tenth birthday, surrounded by the roars of lions, majestic herds of zebra and awe-igniting Maasai warriors!
When my daughter’s tenth birthday beckoned, I knew that an island eco-escape to Zanzibar would be just her thing. Ruby’s heart for wildlife conservation was another journey-designing clue I used in creating a trip that focused on Mnemba Island’s profound turtle conservation efforts!
Literally straight after we arrived in Stonetown, we boated off to Prison Island where she was introduced to the island’s ancient giants – a sanctuary of turtles ‘bigger than my imagination’, she said, gently going from one turtle to another, making sure each one was fed their fill before we moved on to wading out into the warm turquoise sea up to our knees, an enterprising local teaching us about the vibrant sea-life around us – carefully helping Ruby handle lilac urchins, sparkling starfish, sea worms — and, to my horror, a sea spider. Talk about taking ‘hands-on experience’ to a whole new level!
From there, we sailed in a traditional dhow to what must be the most bliss-infused tropical island off Africa: Mnemba Island – run to perfection on every level by &Beyond’s stewards, (names), who ensured our stay with them was even more incredible than we imagined it could be. (Needless to say, the tranquility was so sublime that we ditched selfies in lieu of the below!)
Why We Choose Green Safaris
At African Safaris, conservation travel is a key focus for us – and we were utterly WOW-ed by &Beyond’s turtle conservation project which is one of only two protected nesting sites in Zanzibar for the endangered green sea turtle.
Endangered Green Sea Turtles: What You Need to Know
These precious old-soul creatures are only 2” (5cm) in length at birth – but can grow up to 5’ (1.5m) in length, weighing in at over 700lb (300kg).
The &Beyond Mnemba team has diligently been recording data since 1998, noting that over 60 000 green turtles have been born on the island in the last 20 years.
An average of 38 nests are laid on the island, with more than 100 hatchlings born per nest. One record-breaking nest bid a hopeful adieu to an astounding 149 hatchlings!
Because turtles are prone to laying their eggs below the high-tide mark and risk losing their entire brood to the incoming tide, the vigilant &Beyond Mnemba team carefully relocate these particular nests to higher, safer ground.
Within 50 to 60 days of being laid, the tender little hatchlings fight their way out from the sandy nest with amazing determination but, if left unassisted, 25 to 30% of the hatchlings fatally become prey to the beach’s predators – like hungry crabs, lizards and scavenging birds – before they even reach the safety of the waves beyond!
Only 1% of those hatchlings that do make it safely to sea will attain adulthood.
Humans: Help or Hindrance?
… turtles are still in danger due to human activity. In some countries, turtles and their eggs are hunted for food. Pollution indirectly harms turtles at both population and individual scales, as well as light pollution. Many turtles die after being caught in fishing nets. Also, real estate development often causes habitat loss by eliminating nesting beaches. (Wikipedia)
Thankfully, humans can also help to reverse this endangerment – like the &Beyond Mnemba team. As the hatchlings feistily paddle and push their way out from the protection of the nest, staff and guests rush over, in hushed awe, to provide secure passage for the hatchlings between nest and sea, ensuring each turtle arrives safely beyond the waves. This helps improve the potential for reaching adulthood.
Unlike plotting out a human’s travel plans to coincide with flights, clocks and meal times, this truly magical natural phenomenon obeys no such rules and cannot be planned as a form of ‘seaside entertainment’. Instead, it is almost as if one is chosen to witness this sacred event, as guardians. This is exactly how Ruby and I experienced the brave journey of ‘our’ little tribe of turtles… Ruby’s intense awe could never be matched by any human gift or experience. (Birthday mission accomplished!)
Whilst the endangered green turtle continues to straddle the brink of extinction, it is imperative that eco-tourism initiatives like &Beyond Mnemba and their involved guests persist in their compassionate conservation vigilance.
If you’ve always dreamed of traveling in way which supports the earth, I’d love to help you design a life-changing, earthkind journey. Connect with either me or one of our eco-travel experts by telephone (+1 646-568-5390) or to design a bespoke trip – or head over to explore our:
We were recently invited by Desert & Delta to join a small group of Africa travel agents on a ‘Fam Trip’ to Botswana. Here are our impressions.
Chobe Game Lodge, Chobe National Park
Chobe Game Lodge was our first camp. We were surprised and delighted to be met by a female guide driving an open 4×4 safari vehicle. How refreshing! The camp is an easy half an hour transfer from Kasane Airport. Plus we saw animals on the way – this is the beauty of landing at a small airport in the middle of Botswana. You are warmly greeted by the people AND the animals on arrival! We had lunch with the management team where the activity options were explained. It was a great questions and answers session as we learnt more about the USPs (Unique Selling Points) of the lodge and the region and how best to describe to our clients and include in their itineraries.
Chobe Game Lodge has an impressive team of female guides, and they drive electric safari vehicles!
We love the fact that this lodge offers land-based as well as water-based safaris. Seeing the wildlife from an open 4×4 as well as by boat gives you two totally different perspectives. We were also able to see Chobe Savanna Lodge on the opposite bank of the Chobe River (the Namibian side) during our boat cruise. Chobe Savanna Lodge is a good option of families on a budget.We love the fact that this lodge offers land-based as well as water-based safaris. Seeing the wildlife from an open 4×4 as well as by boat gives you two totally different perspectives. We were also able to see Chobe Savanna Lodge on the opposite bank of the Chobe River (the Namibian side) during our boat cruise. Chobe Savanna Lodge is a good option of families on a budget.
All of the forty four rooms are air-conditioned, with en-suite bathrooms and a terrace facing the Chobe River. There are four suites, each with its own private terrace and infinity plunge pool. The emphasis is very much on sustainability – from electric 4×4 vehicles and boats to the lodge’s clever waste management solutions.
After enjoying the excellent game viewing that this region of the Chobe offer, we were treated to a delicious dinner on one of the many decks overlooking the Chobe River and the warm, welcoming staff proceeded to effortlessly create a ‘part of the family’ feeling even though we were on a site inspection trip and only there for one night
Savuti Safari Lodge, Chobe National Park
After a short, very scenic flight with Safari Air we landed at the Savuti airstrip where we were cheerfully met by the most wonderful guide, Baba. Again the transfer in an open 4×4 was actually a exciting game drive. This region is so rich in animal and bird life! We were met by the team that runs the lodge with a refreshing, deliciously scented towel and a welcome drink. One of the USPs of Savute Safari Lodge is the waterhole directly in front of the lodge’s viewing deck. It attracts a variety of wildlife everyday, especially in the dry season, and guests often see their best sighting while relaxing on the deck with a pair of binoculars and a gin & tonic! Our guide Baba is an avid birder and knew the name, call and page number of every bird we saw! A highlight was seeing a Leopard and her cub with a kill. As was the hyena den full of cute, playful pups. Savute Safari Lodge can accommodate twenty four guests in eleven thatched chalets and one family room which consists of two double rooms.
A USP at Savute Safari Lodge is the waterhole directly in front of the lodge
Hyena pups cavorting at the entrance to their den near Salute Safari Lodge. Photo by Stuart Parker, Desert&Delta
Camp Xananaka, Moremi Game Reserve
The Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of the Okavango Delta is well known for it’s superb game viewing. The abundance of wildlife was evident and it is here that we definitely saw the biggest variety of animals and birds in a short period of time. Both game drives were super exciting. That evening, while we were following a pack of wild dog on a hunt we inadvertently got in the way of a bull elephant in must. And on the morning game drive we came across a leopard and a lion having a stand off over a kill. And as for the close encounters close encounters with hippos! And we saw so many birds! A USP at Camp Xananaka (pronounced Ka-ka-na-ka) is that both land and water based activities are do-able all year round.
Camp Xananaka is stunning and we loved the fact that each of the twelve Meru-style luxury safari tents is inspired by a different animal. It is one of the oldest camps in the reserve and therefore has one of the best locations. We loved sitting around fire pit set into an elevated deck and overlooking the lagoon. Sharing safari stories, listening to the sounds of the night and looking up at the southern hemisphere stars – ah we love our job!
The game viewing was so exciting with pack of Wild Dog to the left and a big bull elephant to the right! Photo by Stuart Parker, Desert&Delta
The next morning it was back to work! We were given a tour of the newly renovated Camp Moremi. It is luxurious and the rooms are set quite far apart from each other to enhance the feeling of being alone in the African bush. Raised boardwalks link the rooms to the common areas under an ebony tree and where the bar is set at the base of a termite mound. At present the vegetation immediately surrounding the lodge is recovering from the renovation, thereafter Camp Moremi is going to be a beautiful lodge that we’ll certainly continue to put into our itineraries.
Camp Okavango, Okavango Delta
This stunning camp is situated on the Nxaragha island and it feels like you are in the heart of Botswana due to its remoteness. The feeling you get walking along the elevated wooden walkways through the trees to your room is really unique. There are eleven suites and one family suite, accommodating twenty four guests. The rooms are spacious with large glass sliding doors so that you can see into the surrounding bush from all aspects of the suite. The emphasis is on water-based safari activities and guided walks – an amazing way to get up close to nature. The highlight for us at Camp Okavango was definitely going on the ‘mokoro’ excursion – a gently gliding ride in a traditional dug out canoe along the waterways of the Delta. A bucket list item for all travellers to the Okavango Delta which quite frankly could also be called The Garden of Eden!
Gliding along the waterways of the Okavango Delta. Phot by Start Parker, Desert&Delta
Walking along the elevated wooden walkways through the trees to your room is really unique at Camp Okavango
Pinching ourselves for forgetting that this was a work trip, we got back to work and did a site inspection of Xugana Island Lodge. This lovely lodge accommodated only sixteen guests. Being on a private concession, night drives are offered. Our favourite rooms were the ones that overlooked the wetland – just perfect for honeymooners.
Leroo La Tau, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park
Another light aircraft and open 4×4 transfer had us arriving at Leroo La Tau in the late afternoon where we were once again warmly welcomed by more of the amazing Desert & Delta team. This lodge is laid out along the western bank of the Boteti River which is a major water source for the region for both wildlife and humans. Aunique aspect of this camp is seeing how human settlements can live side by side in am important wildlife biome as the Makgadikgadi Pans has the second largest Zebra migration in Africa. A visit to the Khumanga Village was hugely informative and encouraging.
The Makgadikgadi Pans has the second largest Zebra migration in Africa. Photo by Start Parker, Desert&Delta
In terms of wildlife, guests can go on game drives or visit a hide that is built onto the banks of the river, and possibly see lion, wildebeest and of course zebra! It was an awesome sight watching huge herds of zebra coming down to drink. Later that evening we gathered around a big boma fire to listen to local folk stories under a star-filled sky.
Leroo La Tau
Leroo La Tau has twelve luxurious thatched and glass-fronted suites with en-suite bathrooms, each unit raised on a wooden platform. The sunrise from our room was spectacular…
We had the opportunity visit Khumaga Village and see how these amazing souls make do with very little, it make you have a sense of gratitude for the life we have everyday.
We are grateful to Desert & Delta, one of our preferred partners, for the opportunity to get to know Botswana better so that we can continue to offer advice to our guests. As always we arrived home with our love for Africa warming our hearts and wanting to share our experiences with others.
Agents on safari! Thank you to Desert & Delta for the opportunity to see your beautiful camps and lodges first-hand. And to Stuart Parker for the stunning photos.