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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

CAPE TOWN’S TOP SEAFOOD RESTAURANT….

On a recent flying visit to Cape Town I was given an insider tip on where to find the best seafood on the planet. So I made my way out of town some 20 minutes,  passing the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (no time to stop on this trip!) and continuing on to Hout Bay.

This is a wonderfully scenic stop along the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive which winds its way up from sea level in Hout Bay, clinging to the spectacular coastal cliffs along to Noordhoek. Anyway, getting back to the mission I was on, to find the best seafood….

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Just as you enter Hout Bay, you will find the Chapman’s Peak Hotel at one end of the bay with views back across towards the town. The hotel has 24 rooms including 2 wonderful penthouse suites, but that is not why I am here either…

Ushered onto an outside table enjoying views of the bay and craggy peaks rising up from the Atlantic Ocean, I feverishly studied the menu; almost entirely pointlessly I might add as I knew before I left Cape Town what I was going to order. Expectations were understandably high but when the giant pan of fresh Calamari and Queen Tiger Prawns landed on the table I knew this was the right place!

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I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some good seafood during my travels around the world but this is without a doubt the best I have ever tasted and I cannot recommend the Chapman’s Peak Hotel highly enough on a “must do” whilst you visit Cape Town. I would recommend making a reservation at the weekend as I was very fortunate to get the last table. I was also very fortunate to get back to the airport in time for my flight to Windhoek, Namibia for what would include an unforgettable trip to the Skeleton Coast but that is another story….

FANTASTIC “BUSH AND BEACH” WINTER SPECIAL

Thanda Private Game Reserve offers 7,800 hectares of Big 5 game viewing within easy reach of either Durban or Richards Bay. Accommodation is at the five star main lodge or the intimate tented camp, which has just undergone a recent refurbishment (see a sneak preview picture below!). The non-electrified tented camp offers a really authentic bush experience, so no fences and therefore no children under 16 years. For those wanting the ultimate romantic getaway or a luxury break away with the kids, the villas at the main lodge provide 220 square metres of self-contained privacy with infinity pool, sala and a boma.

Situated a mere two hours drive from Thanda is the Fairmont Zimbali Resort and its sister property Fairmont Zimbali Lodge. Both properties offer luxury accommodation in subtropical surrounds with access to one of the most beautiful stretches of South African coastline. With a variety of dining options, a full service spa, fitness centre and five swimming pools, the resort is a family-friendly destination in itself. The lodge is smaller, set within a coastal reserve which is home to a variety of bird species, indigenous plants and small animals such as bushbuck and vervet monkeys. Shopping, cultural tours and marine activities are within easy reach of both properties.

Opulent Africa can offer direct flights with Emirates into King Shaka International, making this a hassle-free and really great value holiday.

BUSH AND BEACH

9 days for only £990 per person sharing

Your package includes:

• 4 nights at Thanda Tented Camp with all meals and game drives included
• 4 nights at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge with breakfast daily
• 9 days Group B car hire

Thanda Tented Camp

LUXURY BUSH AND BEACH

9 days for only £1,525 per person sharing

Your package includes:

• 4 nights at Thanda Main camp with all meals and game drives included
• 4 nights at Fairmont Zimbali Resort with breakfast included
• 9 days Group B car hire

Zimbali Resort

*Packages are valid from 9 January – 30 April 2011

(Blocked out dates: 9 – 15 February & 22 – 27 April)

Excludes flights · Price is based on 2 people sharing · Children’s prices available on request.

We are off to Mozambique! – the ultimate dream of Azure warm waters and the romance of a bygone era of coastal trading beckons us.

First of all we are heading to Gorongosa National Park – known in the 1960’s as the place where “Noah left his Ark” because of the vast herds of game.  Unfortunately however the park was ravaged by the civil war in Mozambique. While the dramatic landscape remained largely untouched, the animal life was all but obliterated.  Then in 2008 The Carr Foundation, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and regenerate the ecosystem of Gorongosa National Park and to develop an ecotourism industry to benefit local communities for the next 20 years.  Today this forms the backnone of a drive to restore the Park to its former wildife glory. Animal relocations from the Kruger National Park, including elephant and lion, have been successful and plains game numbers have increased incrementally. It isn’t the Masai Mara yet, but it is a remarkable wilderness area, with 54 different biomes, and ever changing landscapes. The plains recall images of Busanga Plains in Zambia, the Sand Forests northern KwaZulu Natal, while the Gorongosa Mountains and Lake Urema are evocative images in this 400 000 hectare park. Explore Gorongosa is the first, and currently only, concession in this wilderness, offering comfortable tented accommodation with bucket showers and eco-loos, and unparalleled day and night access to activities in the Park. Expect plentiful birdlife, plains game, lion sightings and a sense of being in a remote and exotic part of Africa.  After a few days here we would suggest you head to a simple yet stunning lodge on the beach.

Benguerra Island Lodge captures the essence of Mozambique beautifully. With squeaky white sand, a protected bay and a catamaran that sails into the sunset with freshly caught fish barbecuing on an open fire, it ticks all the boxes of an island getaway. Yet it is aspects like a weathered dhow that serves as beach bar, a beach bonfire at pre dinner drinks and staff in flowing white Arab robes that make it more than this and give it an evocative edge. Ironically, the cyclone which destroyed the lodge nearly two years ago now has had a hugely positive influence in the rebuilt and re-designed casas, vast suites directly on the beach with private pools, giant copper baths and an intriguing blend of African and Arabian influences.

For a slightly more eco-rustic beach stay we would suggest Guludo Island Lodge is an innovative lodge built out of a desire to provide a sustainable lodge within the tourism sector to help the NEMA foundation (an organisation which fights child poverty in Africa). The foundation currently supports 12 villages in all aspects of life, and as an interesting twist to a stay here, guests can choose to become involved in one of the projects – or indeed just enjoy the beauty that this part of Mozambique has to offer. In keeping with the organic element, every aspect of the lodge has been designed with ingenuity at its best, from the showers – a creative version of the bucket shower, to the eco- toilet system, to the locally crafted furniture and interiors in the rooms. This Robinson Crusoe element adds to the romance of a wide sweep of beach, and unobstructed views of the ocean from each room, capturing the Mozambique spirit perfectly.

Mozambique is a breath taking unforgettable beach destination just waiting to be explored.

Our Intrepid Traveller; a client’s account of Africa – Part 6

On the road to Kayak Africa camp we saw Open Billed Stork, 3 Hammerkop on Fever Tree branch (Fever tree is light  green and the bark is cooked with water for a tea for fevers), sausage trees, huge Baobab trees (and these had leaves since I am here in rainy season; usually they are just bare branches), gorgeous flamboyant trees, Spur-winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Lilac Breasted Roller, Brown throated weaver, Pied Kingfisher, Euphorbia ingens (Common tree Euphorbia or Candelabra Euphorb).

All over Malawi, there are raised ridges in the roads when coming to and leaving large villages to wake you up  or to let you know to slow down, etc.  Michael calls these “sleeping police.”

We entered Lake Lalawi National Park.  The lake is 580 km long and 140 km wide and is overfished.  Even with overfishing, there are over 1000 ciclids in the lake.  The park is covered with Brachystegia (Sasa tree) on the hillsides and has huge granite rocky boulders and outcrops.  Had lunch at Cape Maclear at the Gecko Lodge Restaurant.  Had fish and chips with a Lake Malawi fish.  From there I was transferred to a boat which looked like it might not make it from where it was tied up, much less for a 50 min. boat ride to Mumbo Island.  Once there, you see Mumbo which isn’t very large, and then Jumbo which is a very small, island connected to Mumbo by a 150’ wooden bridge.  This is where the 5 cottages are located and all have views of the Lake and Mumbo Island.  There are loads of birds and Mr. and Mrs. Bulbul have their territory just above my tent.  The largest non-bird thing on the island is the water monitor (Varanus niloticus).   Sorry, PH, it is a BIG lizard!!  There is a rainbow skink which is just gorgeous.  It has a light blue tail and when the sun hits its body it turns iridescent.   The only mammals are a fruit bat and otters (which I didn’t see).

The tents have two single beds and two tables inside, two chairs and a hammock outside on the deck, and the bathroom is about 10 steps away.  It is open air.  The toilet is a long-drop and when you are finished, you just throw in a handful of wood shavings.  The whole set up is “green” as there is no electricity or generator.  The kitchen works with propane gas.  After dark you have lanterns or flashlights and you go to bed early!  The showers are literally 2- 2 1/2 gall. tin buckets with a welded pipe with a shower head and faucet to turn the water on and off.  When you want a shower, you have to let the staff know ahead of time.    The tents are built on massive granite boulders.

Oh, and did I tell you I am the only person here????

Ok, so it is HOT.  I climbed into my bathing suit, grabbed mask and snorkel,  and figured the lake would be cold.  Not so,  I snorkeled all the way around Jumbo Island to see the ciclids.  Only one was of note to me–a bright blue with black vertical stripes.  The others were a bit mottle colored.  Sorry, DR!

Animals:  Hammerkop, Rainbow Skink, another lizard.

Dinner was coconut milk chicken, rice, salad, fruit, and fresh homemade rolls.

That night I thought it was pouring rain and kept putting off going out of the tent to the bathroom.  About 4 a.m., just had to bite the bullet.  Turns out it was the wind and waves sounding like rain.

Next morning we took a boat around Mumbo Island.  They have 8 pr. of African Fish Eagles on the island, White breasted Cormorant, Cape Cormorant, Black Kite, Sand Piper, 4 Pied Kingfishers on a branch, Water Dikkop, Grey Heron, juvenile African Fish Eagle, African Paradise Flycatcher.

Afternoon tried kayaking.  Then another boat ride around the island and for sunset.  more Pied KF’s, more African FE’s, Masked Weaver Red-winged Starling and a nice sunset.  Dinner of mashed potatoes, carrots, salad, herbed chicken, and homemade rolls and fruit, and joining us were geckos.