Botswana in Focus

In Botswana, the safari focus has expanded beyond the Okavango Delta and northern reserves to include the seasonally stunning Central Kalahari. This is definitely the time of year to be venturing into this vast game reserve as the rainfall brings the grasses to life and the landscape fills with wildlife. The home of the Kalahari San has always received fewer visitors than the better known areas further north and this is the time to take advantage of that.  Opulent Africa have several  options for clients interested in the Central Kalahari with combinations of permanent lodges and luxury mobile camps in the most remote areas.  So for a diverse and exciting safari Botswana is an excellent choice.

Namibian Expanses

The news from Etosha all relates to the first seasonal rainfall. The great pan itself remains bone dry but there are pools of standing water along the roads and in the bush. The distinctive pale clay of the pan is starting to turn into the celebratory body paint that many species like to welcome the coming rains with. Black rhino turn white, the huge Etosha elephant bulls get zebra stripes, tar black Land Rover tyres get white walled and there are some excellent photo opportunities to be had. It will be a while before the pale pans are ringed with a sea of fresh grass but the change is approaching. As the rains continue over the coming months the most obvious wildlife movements in the park will be herds of elephant who head north and the permanent waterholes are less critical for the local wildlife. Today though, muddy puddles aside, it is very much business as usual for Mushara’s guides.

Petrus reports that on one drive with his clients last week he found, ‘a black rhino looking very white just before Fort Namutoni…before that we quickly stopped at Klein Namutoni where there was a huge male lion relaxing (they went on to see another 3 lion and another black rhino), 80 elephant at Chudop waterhole, lots of male kudu, springbok, a leopard tortoise, black backed jackals, zebra, giraffe and Kori Bustard.’ Petrus also mentioned that over two days he has been seeing a cheetah and her four cubs. They watched a failed springbok hunt and the following day spotted her again minus two cubs. We are hoping to hear shortly that they were just keeping a low profile that day.

Mushara offers the perfect base for exploring Etosha either as a self driver or with their guides who were all born in the area. From the family friendly value of Bush Camp to the luxurious fully inclusive Outpost Marc and Mariza have created a fabulous Etosha solution.

How to Organise the Perfect Family Safari

Going on a family safari can and should be an amazing experience. It will hopefully go down as one of the best family holidays that you have been on.   However, there are also a lot of things that could go wrong and mistakes that you should try and avoid so that your holiday does not end in a disaster or memory that you would rather forget.

The first thing is to make sure you book with an established tour operator and although it is tempting, going for the best ‘deal’ is not always the option.   Be very careful who you trust to plan your holiday for you as this is vital to success.   A good tour operator will know exactly where to place you, when to go and they will have been to the properties they are suggesting.

The enjoyment of your trip can often depend on the time of year.  If it is important to you to have hours and hours of sunshine your tour operator will ensure that this is a facet of the itinerary.  Seasons will have a strong influence on where you are travelling.    As many parents will agree, a happy medium is usually best, standing in rain all day, being boiling hot or freezing cold is no fun for the individual traveller, let alone those with children in tow.
Of course, your choice of camp is also important, going to a child friendly camp or lodge is very important, guides will specifically be experience in catering for children, knowing how to interact with them so that they get the best out of their safari.  Guides can help children learn about the world in a fun way.  Additionally child friendly camps and lodges often have separate catering for children and babying sitting services, there are also plenty of ‘non-safari’  activities for them also, such as arts and crafts, baking and nature trails around camp, and often there is a camp swimming pool.   Being realistic when selecting your camp is important although staying at a very remote small camp might sound adventurous, it is not for everyone and  children might become bored if there are not facilities specifically for them.  Obviously, everything depends on what your children and you as a family prefer, and a good tour operator will be advise you on a selection of properties.
Additionally with children it may be more acceptable for you as a family to choose a Malaria Free destination to save any concerns over taking anti-malarial tablets.   A safari in South Africa might be the best option for young children as there are many attractions in Cape Town and the Garden Route and also a few Malaria Free Game Reserves in which to enjoy a few days on safari.

Once the skeleton of the itinerary is set, the next questions usually arise regarding what activities to do when, especially when visiting South Africa with its many attractions.  Ultimately the best advice here, is to not rush into booking tours and trips, but rather than to reflect and research and to ask your operator for assistance.  Opulent Africa are able to suggest all sorts of tours and activities that can either be booked prior to departure or one arrival through your hotel or lodge.

Masai Mara – Fat Crocs and Lions.

The last  few weeks that have passed by in the Masai Mara have seen little rain and have been rather hot and dusty. The now stubbly grass is drying out fast as the large numbers of Wildebeest and Zebra have taken the goodness and now moved on.

Just under a month ago there were well over 500,000 wildebeest strewn over the Bila Shaka Musiara and Northern Masai conservation areas. With the Mara river in steady flow, this has been a superb time to visit the Mara. The river has seen a vast amount of traffic lately, with elephant joining in at some points as the throngs of wildebeest fight for space in the chaotic river crossings.  With thousands of Wildebeest crossing at one time, this has been a true safari spectacle.  With the fast moving crocodile having a field day at some narrower points of the river which have created a bottle neck for desperate wildebeest trying to climb out on the far banks.

On the plains that stretch out beyond the chaos there are the Topi which are in good number this year. Many Topi have now given birth to their young and the youngsters are now wobbling on their legs as they take the first few steps of life. In small little pockets you might also see Cokes Hartebeest with their young taking shelter from the sun alongside them.   The Warthog have too birthed their young as many piglets can been seen trotting along with their tails in the air.   All of these young vulnerable offspring don’t go unnoticed unfortunately as the resident lion are taking note and reacting with vigour at every opportunity.

Visit Kenya and join John Rendall on safari at Elsa’s Kopje!

It’s been 41 years since John Rendall and Anthony Burke ventured into the plains of Kenya in the hopes of seeing their beloved friend Christian the Lion. The Lion was released in Kenya after living with the two men as a cub in London’s city centre. The footage of that day still circulates famously world-wide displaying the Lion galloping over and greeting the men, appearing to hug them like old friends.

Together John and Anthony proved that a long lasting and memorable friendship with a beautiful wild creature is possible and we are still fascinated with that relationship today.

In February 2013 Mr John Rendall will be visiting two camps in Kenya that we regularly send clients to; Elsa’s Kopje which remains an elegant and welcoming lodge in a spectacular setting and Joy’s Camp, thriving in the scorched lands of Samburu. Both camps would offer you memories of a life time, being uniquely designed to incorporate every inch of luxury from inviting infinity pools over-looking the plains at Elsa’s to Joys Camp which is surrounded by idyllic landscape and decorated to give the true authentic African experience. You will have the chance to meet John Rendall in person, being immersed in stories of his fascinating relationship with Christian the Lion whilst enjoying a luxury safari in the same location Christian was released four decades ago.

Join John in camp and get the inside story on his relationship with Christian the Lion.

 

 

 

Wild Dogs love Olivers Camp!

For those avid safari goers who have yet to tick off seeing Wild Dog we would recommend spending a few days in the Tarangire National Park as a pack of fifteen Wild Dog seems to have taken up residence close to the wonderful Oliver’s Camp.  As guests set out on a walking safari near the camp two Wild Dog were observed at fairly close range staking out Impala.  Only when the Dogs saw the guests did they decide that humans are a lot more interesting and they decided to join the walk, trotting along quite happily just five metres away!  It must almost have seemed like one was out taking the dog for a quick morning.

Africa Safari Sighting

The Luangwa Valley’s Yellow Storks are hatching..

Often birdlife is overlooked when booking a safari, it is only when you are actually out there on safari that you realise exactly how diversified and amazing the bird population is in Africa.  In particular the birds of the Luangwa Valley are mesmerizing.  Their colours, size, quantity and habits never fail to impress even the most unlikley of ornithologists.

This season especially the number of quelea have been remarkable!  The sight of thousands of these tiny finch like birds suddenely flapping around in a previously uninhabited tree is an amazing spectacle.

However a strong contender for a bird fanciers attention is sure to be the huge concentrations of Yellow-billed Storks to be found in the Nsefu Area of the South Luangw.  Each year they decend on the Nsefu region to lay their eggs, hatch them, and teach their wobbly legged offspring to fly.   It is an incredible sight and one definately to include in any trip to the South Luangwa.

As thousands of the stork babies squawk and flap in an attempt to fly there are of course those that dont make it and they tumble through the branches into the clutches of the large Marabou Storks and crocodil that sit waiting patiently below.  After a month or so of nature and luck deciding which baby storks ’make the cut’ the trees are empty and simply white stained with the birds droppings.

 

Oh to be in Zambia…

My first visit to this wonderful country was back in 1998 when I travelled together with my parents and some of our friends in our own 4×4 convoy. Back then the roads were terrible, infrastructure basically non-existent and the choice of accommodation very limited. Since then, a lot has changed. It amazes me that in relatively short time, Zambia has become one of the best safari destinations for those who wish to combine an unforgettable safari experience together with a true feeling of a classic safari.

Today there are more and more international flights flying into Lusaka than ever before, with good links to Europe and the USA. Lusaka is now a buzzing city with great restaurants, shops and very good nightlife. Certainly a lot more welcoming and friendly than 10 years ago! The safari camps and lodges also have improved a lot, now offering a wide range of accommodation, from the absolute basic to the very luxurious.

It might come as a surprise for many that Zambia is a major contributor to the safari experiences we take for granted today – the walking Safari. Walking Safaris started in Zambia back in the 1950s and have been the foundation of today’s safari industry. Whenever I join a walking safari, I am reminded of how much one misses whilst being on a vehicle. Being on the ground and learning about the bush really is an amazing experience and widens your horizons as to the fact that Africa has more to offer than the “Big Five”. Even during my two years of living in Zambia, I never got bored of exploring the bush on foot with one of the many brilliant guides. There are so many small things that usually get overlooked when trying to spot a Lion or an Elephant, (and let me tell you, seeing one of them on foot is something far more memorable than a photograph taken from a vehicle. )

I have now been to Zambia nearly every year since my first visit in 1998. I love its variety, from the hot and game rich Luangwa Valley, the open Grass plains of the Kafue to the majestic Victoria Falls. During my many visits I was also lucky enough to experience some of Zambia’s less known attractions. The most memorable would have to be the Fruit Bat migration in the remote Kasanka National Park. Imagine, 8 Million fruit bats migrating from all over central Africa to a small woodland in Zambia. It is a spectacle that boggles the mind. The migration is further enhanced by the fact that the bats leave for their evening meal at a very specific time, around 6pm. So, 8 million Fruit Bats departing at once, darkening the skies above you whilst you sit back with a nice drink or try and get as many photographs as possible! The migration happens every year in November and is one of the many specialist attractions Zambia has to offer.

To list all of the possible destinations in Zambia would exceed the length of this blog, but I hope that you will read this and will want to know more. I will keep you posted! I certainly cannot wait to be back again.

Namibia; quite simply… spectacular!

Namibia is a vast country of spectacular scenic beauty and takes its name from the ancient Namib Desert which runs the length of the country’s 975 mile coastline and is believed to be the oldest desert on the planet.

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From the air, Namibia appears to be nothing more than a barren desert of wind-carved sand dunes, rocky hills and dry valleys but it is a country that holds much more on closer inspection. In the south, The Great Fish River Canyon, second only in size to the Grand Canyon, snakes some 100 miles down towards the South African border. It is possible to charter a light aircraft and take a breath-taking flight over the canyon or for the more adventurous, join the five day hiking trail which covers around the half the canyon.

Further north are the seemingly mile high red sand dunes of the Namib Desert which stretch for hundreds of miles along the coastline. This is a popular destination for visitors and the opportunity to scale one of the tallest sand dunes in the world to catch sight of an African sunrise is an unforgettable experience.

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Continuing north bound, the harsh desert environment comes alive with fascinating wildlife which has adapted to the extreme conditions. Daytime temperatures can rise to 45° during the summer months and water is almost non-existent but still the region supports elephant, rhino, antelope, giraffe and the almost mythical orxy. Birdlife is remarkable and vegetation clings to life amongst the unforgiving sand and rock.

Often described as “one of the planet’s most inhospitable places”, the stark environment of the Skeleton Coast seems hardly inviting but it should be a must on any visit to Namibia. Once again there is a surprising amount of fauna and flora found in this hidden corner of Africa. Supported by fresh water springs and incoming fog banks rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean, gazelle, elephant and smaller animals thrive. Miles of uninhabited coastline are peppered with whale bones and thousands upon thousands of Cape Fur seals lazing on the beaches, something which has to be seen to be believed!

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For those needing a more traditional safari “fix” the Etosha National Park in the north supports perhaps the largest numbers of large animals with elephant, rhino, lion and cheetah usually seen. Etosha is often best visited from one of the bordering private reserves where guests can relax in comfort, overlooking a waterhole and watch the wildlife amble down to drink. Day and night game drives and rhino tracking on foot give wildlife activities a very different flavour.

No… we haven’t forgotten.

In the extreme north of the country on the border with Angola is perhaps one of Namibia’s true hidden gems. A striking emerald ribbon flanks the sparkling Kunene River as it meanders through the mountains bringing life to a plethora of wildlife. Where else would it be possible to see monstrous Nile crocodiles in the middle of a desert?! One of our clients’ most unexpected pleasures is Serra Cafema Camp which is set overlooking the Kunene River. Seasonal boating, walking, quad biking and scenic drives make the most of this stunning location and the opportunity to interact with the nomadic Himba people is not to be missed.

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If you would like to know more about Namibia or are interested in visiting this beautiful country, please contact us, otherwise contact someone else… but you MUST go!

What makes Singita Boulders Lodge so special?

There are a number of exceptional lodges in South Africa’s exclusive Sabi Sand Private Reserve but for us some of the very best safari experiences have been at Singita Boulders Lodge. We were there earlier this year and once again, the quality was impeccable.

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Singita Boulders Lodge is located in a vast 18,000 hectare private reserve on the western edge of the Kruger National Park and shared by only its two sister lodges, Ebony and Castleton. With easy access by a one hour charter flight from Johannesburg’s International Airport, Singita Boulders offers an understated opulence that is very hard to beat.

The main areas of the lodge have been beautifully designed overlooking the Sand River whilst each of the twelve luxurious suites offer guests the highest levels of comfort and seclusion. The all-suite lodges offers accommodation on a fully inclusive basis, whereby guests can enjoy world class cuisine and an unrivalled wine cellar boasting thousands of bottles of premium wines.

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Game viewing on the reserve is conducted by professional guides and trackers in open 4×4 safari vehicles and guided walking safaris may be arranged on request. The Sabi Sand Private Reserve is renowned for delivering consistently good game viewing and during a three night stay, guests will be taken onto the reserve in search of the Big Five (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard) which are usually seen in abundance.

For a complete safari experience, Singita Boulders combines perfectly with either of its sister properties in the north, Lebombo or Sweni, which are located on a private reserve within the Kruger National Park. Singita Boulders and Ebony are ideal for a family safari vacation and we are currently running a number of promotions with Singita so please contact us for details.