Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account from Africa – Part 2

I was picked up at 5:45 a.m to transfer to the airport for my flight to Malawi where I am staying overnight at Heuglins Guest House. Again I have a suite but not as sumptuous as the House of Waine.   Was met by my guide for the next 9 days, Michael.    I was told Michael is among their best guides but I imagine they tell all the guests that.  I told Michael I wanted to see it ALL – insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, and plants.  I shall put him thru his paces and see!  Have a living room/bedroom, a second bedroom with access to a patio with table and chairs and lounge chair, and bath.  This one has mosquito netting, which I didn’t need to use, but I did.  I love being enveloped in the netting–maybe it has something to do with reminding me of the old colonialism.  

There was a pool and I heard it calling my name.  While I was out by the pool, I saw 3 Redbilled Woodhoopoe hopping around one of the large trees and being very noisy. 

I am the only one here  and dinner was handmade rolls, butternut squash soup which was really divine, sliced pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes, onions, and carrots,  a slice of fried eggplant, and homemade apple sauce.  Dessert was apple crisp.  The chef personally served me.  I asked if I could take him home with me and he said “Yes.” 

I thought of you, Pat H., when I went back to the room–knowing your penchant for lizards!  On the wall was a medium sized gecko and in the bathroom a small one, and an even smaller one peeking out from the bathmat hanging on the tub.  You would have run screaming from the room, no doubt!

I was given a folder this afternoon by Wilderness Safaris with my itinerary while in Malawi made out of — are you ready for this???? — recycled elephant dung!  I have no idea if it smells–will let anyone who wants to, check it out when I get home.  I am sure it doesn’t tho. 

This morning you will be transferred by road (8 hours with picnic lunch and stop for ATM)  to Lujeri Lodge for a two night stay.  This is in the southern part of the country. 

There are lots of flame trees and flamboyant trees (Royal Poinciana or Delonix regia) here which I just love.  GW, would they grow in Rvsd at all?  Remember the novel,  Flame Trees of Thika.  I think of that every time I see the flame trees–don’t know their genus right off hand. 

Early in the drive we passed a mountain called Smiling Mountain.  About 1/3 of the way up the hill is a very large cave.  When you look at the mountain from a distance, it appears to be smiling at you. 

There are shamans in the villages and they advertise with flags, yellow, or blue or red with a cross on the flag.   Michael says few people frequent them anymore, except the believers and those who can’t afford to go to a doctor/hospital. 

Remember my mentioning needing wood; there were many, many markets along the drive and there were lots of bicycles with wood cut in 1 1/2 feet lengths and stacked behind the bicyclist and actually climbing over the head of the cyclist.  They have a rack attached to the bike that carries the wood behind the cyclist and over his head.   Also saw cyclists carrying up to 200 kg (yes kg, not pounds) of potatoes on his bike.  Lots of vegetables, fruits, charcoal, pottery, etc., as well. 

Also saw a car coming from Lake Malawi with about 6 or 8 fish tied to the passenger side mirror on the outside of the car.  I guess he didn’t want to smell up the inside of the car. 

The road parallels the Mozambique border for quite a while.  On the Mozambique side you can still see bombed out buildings which haven’t been replaced, even tho the war ended about 15 years ago.  According to Michael, even tho only a road separates the two countries and the Mozambique villages are very far from any other Moz. cities, they were attacked and Malawian citizens were never harmed.  I mentioned that surely a stray bullet or bomb must have hit Malawi.  He says not.  And when I asked about why the villages were attacked when they were so far from other Mozambique civilization, he replied, “They vote.”    The Mozambique peoples use the Malawi water and goods and trade as if there is no boundary. 

We drove through the Rift Valley for much of the day.  It extends from Lebanon to Mozambique, through Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique–not sure of others. 

Saw 2 pied crows along the way.  Malawi birds don’t seem to like to be on power or telephone lines as I didn’t see one on a line all day.  However, to be fair, there aren’t a lot of the lines. 

The people who don’t want to walk or cycle to the markets sell by the road.  One of the unique items we stopped to look at were bowls of fried termite flies.  They are dark reddish brown and about an inch long.  People fry them with tomatoes and onions.  I made Michael promise not to have those for me during the trip.  I was so grossed out, I forgot to take a photograph.  How often does that happen?!

All day long, after leaving the Heuglin’s House, I saw all of 9 other caucasians and 7 of those were in the former capital, Blantyre. 

There were Eucalyptus trees planted everywhere to be used for firewood since most of the endemic trees were all been cut long ago. 

We were headed to a tea plantation in the south near Melanje.  In the south there are large to immense tea plantations and a few coffee plantations.  The staff are paid monthly and are expected to pluck 40 kg of tea leaves per day–think of it, that is almost 100 lbs!  Granted, the leaves still are dried yet so have water in their leaves when picked, but 100 lbs per day??   The baskets are weighed and if the person picks more than the 40 kgs, they are paid extra for that amount.   There are sirens that go off at 5 a.m. to get the workers up, one at 6 a.m. to have them assemble, and again at 5 p.m. to tell them ‘quitting time.’  I can hear them from the lodge.   Reminds me of the muslim call to prayer by the imams. 

I am in the middle of an immense tea plantation called Lujuri Tea Estate.  I am at a 100+ year old colonial lodge that was used in the past to house guests of the plantation.  It is in a hilly area adjacent to the Mulanje Mountains and just gorgeous.  It has 4 rooms for guests, a huge kitchen, dining area, and living room,  The veranda runs around 3 sides of the house.  The two sides are bout 10-12 feet wide and the front is about 20 feet wide.  The front right hand corner is enclosed with windows which open for breeze but can be closed when it rains.  There are two sofas, 3 chairs, and a cocktail table plus about 8 or 9 metal chairs for people to sit in when wet from the pool in that area.  Very comfortable.  The rooms have 20 ft. high ceilings with imprinted tin ceilings.  There is a large, lovely garden on all 4 sides of the Lodge.  Rooms are quite large, but the size is going down as I go from lodge to lodge.  There is no internet and the lodge is in the middle of nowhere with nothing around it but tea.  It would be an ideal place to get away and write the great novel that is bursting to get out.  There is a pool on my side of the house and I headed for that quite quickly as it is really hot and humid here.  The rooms only have a fan.  Joan, I thought of you last night.  When I went to bed, my alarm clock said 87.7 degrees.  The fan ran all night and when I got up, it was 86 degrees.   Only night in years I have slept without a sheet or blanket.  The windows have to be closed to keep out mosquitoes and other insects which would be attracted to the lights.  Tonight I will open the windows after I turn out the lights to see if that helps.  

And, again, I am the only guest here!  There is a chef and an assistant chef/house cleaner.  We arrived about 3:45 p.m. and after the dip in the pool I was on the veranda looking at the view of tea plantation and mountains.  About 5 p.m. the asst. chef came and asked if I wanted to have tea.  I thought it would be a travesty to ask for iced tea since I knew that was not what he was offering.  I quickly said “yes, please.”  In a few minutes  I had a tray with a tea pot and cozy, milk, sugar, tea strainer, cup, and spoons.  There was also a thermos of hot water with tea bags if I preferred.  They are VERY proud of their tea here.  I had the teapot tea since tea bags just didn’t fit in with my vision of ‘tea on the terrace.’  It was a bit bitter for me but I drank 2 large cups anyway and watched the sun begin to dip behind the mountains and watch the greens of the area fade to grey.  (Doesn’t that sound a bit Moody Blues-ish??) 

Michael has had malaria 8-9 times; the chef has had it less than 10, and the asst. chef has had more than 10 times. 

Michael was amazed at my Kindle which I was reading before dinner, as was Naftali in Nairobi. 

Dinner was at 7:30, a most civilized hour and was on the veranda where it was cooler.  Had Lake Malawi fish fried just perfectly, roasted potatoes that were crisp on the outside and perfect on the inside, carrots, green beans and zuchini,  a slice of fried eggplant, and a salad of very small chunks of cucumber and tomatoes.  Yes, I ate the salad and so far no problems. 

Jan. 6th.  Birds began their songs about 4:35, just before sunrise.  Got up about 6 and opened the windows and turned the fan up really high to get the heat out before it turns really hot.  It is misty this morning but doesn’t obscure the mtns, hills, and tea. 

After shower, took computer out on the veranda to write the background and yesterday’s info.    Breakfast will be in a few minutes at 8 a.m. on the veranda.  I could really get used to this, I think.  But probably would be bored after a week.

Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account from Africa – Part 1

We are very grateful to one of our clients who has written a very detailed and enjoyable journal of her experiences whilst on safari for seven weeks travelling through Malawi, Northern Tanzania, Southern Tanzania, Western Tanzania and Mozambique.  Read Diane’s first week on safari as she departs from America for Africa and heads to Malawi.

Am still fascinated after all these years that as the earth is doodlin (my word for whirling, tilting and circling) around the sun, we have snow in one hemisphere and summer in the other (snow in NYC and Zurich and, of course, about 70 degrees and summer in Nairobi).

Was afraid that security at airports would be horrendous since the Xmas day Northwest flight where the person tried to blow up the plane. It was no more onerous than usual. Of course, I am leaving the US, not trying to enter. I did have my camera backpack swiped with the white cotton pad twice though. Haven’t had that in quite a while. One of them was especially diligent as she swiped all the compartments, took out the cameras and lenses and examined them intently.

Flew on frequent flier miles first class to Nairobi–20 actual hours in the air. The fennel dusted sea bass for dinner from NYC-Zurich was melt-in-your-mouth great! Best I may have ever had and it was on an airplane! The seat folds out 180 degrees and the stewardesses make up the bed for you with pad underneath, a duvet, two pillows and a pair of slippers. Besides the handout package with comb, shoe horn, eye mask, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste, hand cream, lip balm, folding hairbrush, and socks, they also give you PAJAMAS in first class–at least Swiss does. They are heavy black cotton and I figure they can be worn as an outfit. They are that nice. No one actually changed into them and I only saw one other person get them. I take anything, I guess.

Will be in Africa for 7 weeks – Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Kenya is just really a transit stop to catch my breath.

Delivered to House of Waine (gotta love that, don’t you!) and have the Malaika Suite, which means Angel Suite. And what rooms! I have the suite of the House and it is half of my house. I have 3 couches, 3 chairs, desk and chair, bedroom, bathroom the size of my bath and closet, and another room with safe and clothes closets with soft bathrobes and leather wrapped hangers. Guess I won’t hang my hand laundered clothes on those! Am on the second floor with a veranda that is about 40’ x 15 or 20’. It overlooks the heated swimming pool which I plan to use tomorrow. At least I will be here a day to enjoy really enjoy this. Don’t want to know what this is costing me. Luckily I will be here tomorrow, too, so I can enjoy it. And wireless is FREE!!! I will be taking photos shortly before I trash the place with my clothes, towels, etc.

Check out www.houseofwaine.com for an overview. And you can see part of my bedroom/living room if you click on Rooms, then Other Rooms, and then Malaika. My bedroom/living room actually has more furniture than shown in the photo. I have two brown leather couches and a brown soft fabric one. This is part of the old Karen Blixen estate apparently. She wrote Out of Africa with a pseudonym of Isak Dinesen, in case you don’t remember the name.

Four bottles of water and all the snacks and items in fridge are complimentary as well as three homemade cookies, which were awaiting me.

When I arrived there were tiny frogs making lots of noise. I think I will be hearing those all night. I love it. The house sits on 2 acres with lots of vegetation. And it is enclosed by an electrified 8 foot fence and two Masai guards at the gate.

The next morning I was sitting in the reception area downstairs and in walked Colin Firth. He and his wife and two kids had been staying here and were leaving. He starred in the Bridget Jones’ Diary movies and is currently starring in A Single Man. He’s actually the first celebrity I have seen in all my travels. I did see Joseph Lieberman at the Denver airport once as I was coming home from KC, but I don’t think that counts.

My safari guide when I was in Kenya about 3 years ago came to visit me with his wife and child. He has had it quite tuff since the uprising here about 2 years ago and tourism has fallen off quite dramatically. It was nice to see them again.

Northern Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania is understandably regarded as the eight Natural Wonder of the World and quite rightly so. This unique World Heritage Site is the largest intact caldera in the world and with its walls standing proudly at over 2,000 feet it is estimated that its original height would have overshadowed Mount Kilimanjaro.

The floor of the crater covers an area in excess of 100 square miles and provides a sheltered haven for nearly 25,000 animals including all of the Big Five (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard). Aside from wildebeest and zebra which migrate away from the crater during the wet season, all of the resident wildlife are more than happy to stay put throughout the year. The only animal notably absent from the Ngorongoro Crater is the giraffe which apparently find the walls too steep to negotiate.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Ngorongoro Crater is the fact that man and beast have survived alongside one another here for centuries. The local Maasai often graze their cattle on the fertile crater floor with barely a flicker of the tail from the perilously high concentration of lion which inhabit the open plains.

The Ngorongoro Crater has dramatically increased in popularity over the last two decades and it can be quite a busy place with high numbers of safari vehicles during peak season. Our advice is – don’t be put off as this is a “must see” on any northern Tanzania itinerary and with a good choice of comfortable accommodation in the area, combines perfectly with Tarangire, Lake Manyara and the Serengeti.

Some of our clients’ favourites properties in the Ngorongoro Highlands:

Crater Lodge is undoubtedly the most opulent accommodation in the area and is perched right on the rim of the crater within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The design of the lodge was inspired by the traditional Maasai manyattas and each of the thirty luxurious suites has with spectacular views down into the crater.

Plantation Lodge is located amongst the coffee plantations in the lush green hills around Karatu just outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. With sixteen individually styled suites, good food and a warm welcome, this is one of the best small lodges in the area.

Gibbs Farm is a characterful working farm located on the slopes of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, mid-way between Lake Manyara and the crater. There are twenty cosy cottages all of which have recently been upgraded to even higher standards than before. One of the features of Gibbs Farm is its “Farm Life” program where guests are given an insight into the interesting history and culture of a working coffee farm.

 

Walking safari in the Eastern Serengeti

Walking safaris at Nduara Loliondo - a uniquely designed safari camp located in the Eastern Serengeti, Tanzania. Constructed as a combination of the Mongolian Gers and local Maasai bomas, the camp celebrates two different nomadic lifestyles in comfort and style.

The accommodation consists of six large yurts, decorated with a distinct African feel. Each of the light and spacious rooms has full en-suite with toilet and hot water  bucket showers. The design of the yurts ensure that guests are kept cool during the day with flaps that can be rolled down at night time to hold the warmth. The camp has a large dining and lounge area where guests can relax between activities on the soft furnishings.

As the camp is located outside of the National Park this allows much greater freedom in terms of the game viewing activities available and this is one of the main attractions of Nduara Loliondo. In addition to the more traditional game drives, guided walks and night drives add an exciting dimension to the safari.

Game viewing is exceptional during the dry season as the migration spills out of the Serengeti National Park into the Loliondo area with elephant, lion, leopard and antelope all seen regularly as well as a wide variety of bird life.

For more details and suggestions, please contact Opulent Africa.

Seductive Sussi & Chuma at Victoria Falls

Sussi  & Chuma is a luxury lodge located on a river bend on the great Zambezi River just 12 kilometres from Victoria Falls. The lodge is named after David Livingstone’s two faithful companions who returned his body to England following his death in Zambia. The property includes the main lodge which has twelve tree houses, interlinked by raised wooden walkways, and two private houses which may be booked exclusively for small groups or families.

Each of the luxury air-conditioned tree houses are raised off the ground up to the ebony trees’ canopy level with spectacular views across the Zambezi River and provide comfortable accommodation with en-suite shower, bath and private viewing deck.

The main area of the lodge has a bar, lounge and large deck where guests can enjoy open-air dining and there is also a refreshing swimming pool and spa offering a relaxing range of treatments and massages.

The lodge provides a variety of activities which include: game drives in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park where you might see elephant, buffalo, giraffe and zebra; guided tours of Victoria Falls; cultural visits to the local Simonga Village and romantic sunset cruises on the river.

Malaria-free family safari

Riverdene Lodge is a high quality safari property located in South Africa’s Shamwari Game Reserve. This particular reserve is a huge conservation and responsible tourism success story and has wona colelction of  international awards. Shamwari is a Big Five reserve with elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard all present as well as cheetah, hippo, giraffe and smaller plains game.

Riverdene Lodge is a colonial styled property with just nine inter-leading rooms making this the perfect destination for a family safari. All of the air-conditioned rooms have full en-suite bathroom, televisions and private  balcony looking out over the savannah.

There are two comfortable lounges and a rim flow swimming pool where guests can relax and enjoy the scenery in between game viewing activities. Meals are taken either in the indoor dining room or on the thatched deck which overlooks the Bushmans River.

Game viewing is excellent all year round and drives on the reserve in 4×4 vehicles bring you close to the incredible diversity of wildlife under the skilful guidance of your ranger. Game walks are also included and the Born Free Foundation Centre is a must, where guests can learn about the rescued big cats and visit the animal sanctuary.



Take the family to South Africa for a safari.

For the ultimate adventure take the kids to Africa for a family safari holiday that will inspire and encourage inquisitive minds, entertain even the most hyper of children, and put a smile on the face of all of the family as there is something for everyone.

South Africa for a family safari is the perfect choice of destination. Ignore the quick intake of breath when telling friends and family that you and your troop are heading off on safari, as no matter what their age Africa has a destination suitable for all. South Africa is especially suitable for families as it has everything from wildlife sanctuaries to game parks, vast caverns along the coast flanking sandy beaches and of course it is mostly a malaria free zone.

Boredom is simply not an option in South Africa. If you start out in Cape Town there are simply too many things to do. Whether you opt for a visit to the penguin colonies in the morning followed by lunch at a fabulous beachside restaurant and then a trip up Table mountain before dinner, there are still wildlife sanctuaries, museums, aquariums, local markets and boat trips all vying for your attention the next day.

The Blue Train out of Cape Town

The Blue Train’s maiden trip was in 1946 and it soon became known as being the epitome of luxury rail travel. The Blue Train is comparable to some of the world’s finest five star hotels as it offers luxurious accommodation with private en-suite bathroom facilities with views from the window that are second to none and everchanging.   

Perhaps the ultimate touch of luxury is the unintrusive personal butler service in addition to that the Blue Train also prides itself on the fine cuisine on board and a broad selection of South African wines. As the train chugs through some of South Africa’s most spectacular scenery you could be forgiven for forgetting that you are on board a train. This yesteryear engineering has had a touch of refining by way of a sophisticated suspension system to ensure a smooth trip and additional safety. The Blue Train mainly runs between Glorious Cape Town and Pretoria in both directions, with also the occasional alternative routes of Durban, Pilanesberg and Kruger etc.

A spectacular and affordable 10-night South African safari…

Experience the best of South Africa’s bush and seashore on this amazing 10-night/11-day itinerary – from the remote and scenic northern region of the Kruger National Park at Pafuri Camp (a baobab dotted landscape with spectacular wildlife and cultural sites seen on game drives and walks) to the endless white beaches of iSimangaliso Wetland Park at Rocktail Beach Camp (South Africa’s best beach experience with quiet sandy beaches, prolific marine life, diving, snorkelling and community visits) – with a night spent in the bustling cityscapes of Johannesburg in between.

Scheduled departure every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Monday departures:

  • 4 nights Pafuri Camp
  • 1 night TIntswalo at Waterfall or The Grace in Rosebank
  • 5 nights Rocktail Beach Camp

 

Wednesday & Friday departures:

  • 5 nights Pafuri Camp
  • 1 night Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace in Rosebank
  • 4 nights Rocktail Beach Camp

 

The price of the featured itinerary is from £1,820 per person sharing. Opulent Africa standard booking terms and conditions apply. Accommodation subject to availability at time of booking.

Monday departures

Day 1

Road transfer from OR Tambo International Airport to Lanseria Airport. Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Lanseria Airport to Pafuri Camp.

Accommodation: 4 x nights @ Pafuri Camp (FB).

Days 2 – 4

Daily scheduled activities at Pafuri Camp (FB).

Day 5

Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Pafuri Camp to Lanseria Airport. Road transfer to either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank. Accommodation: 1 x night @ either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in

Rosebank (BB).

Day 6

Road transfer from either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank to OR Tambo International Airport.

Road transfer from Richard’s Bay Airport to Rocktail Beach Camp. Accommodation: 5 x nights @ Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Days 7 -10

Daily scheduled activities at Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Day 11

Depart Rocktail Beach Camp under your own arrangements.

Wednesday & Friday departures:

Day 1

Road transfer from OR Tambo International Airport to Lanseria Airport. Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Lanseria Airport to Pafuri Camp.

Accommodation: 5 x nights @ Pafuri Camp (FB).

Days 2 – 5

Daily scheduled activities at Pafuri Camp (FB).

Day 6

Scheduled light aircraft transfer from Pafuri Camp to Lanseria Airport. Road transfer to either Tintswalo at Waterfall OR The Grace Hotel in

Rosebank. Accommodation: 1 x night @ either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank (BB).

Day 7

Road transfer from either Tintswalo at Waterfall or The Grace Hotel in Rosebank to OR Tambo International Airport.

Road transfer from Richards Bay Airport to Rocktail Beach Camp. Accommodation: 4 x nights @ Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Days 8 -10

Daily scheduled activities at Rocktail Beach Camp (DBB).

Day 11

Depart Rocktail Beach Camp under your own arrangements.
 

General Inclusions:

• Road transfer from OR Tambo International Airport to Lanseria Airport.

• Return scheduled light aircraft transfer: Lanseria Airport – Pafuri Camp – Lanseria Airport.

• All accommodation on a shared basis.

• All meals at Pafuri Camp, Breakfast at Tintswalo at Waterfall OR at The Grace in Rosebank; Dinner & Breakfast at Rocktail Beach Camp.

• Scheduled twice daily lodge activities at Pafuri Camp as well as Rocktail Beach Camp.

• Road transfers from Lanseria to Tintswalo at Waterfall OR The Grace in Rosebank.

• Road transfers from Tintswalo at Waterfall OR The Grace in Rosebank to OR Tambo International Airport.

• Road transfer from Richard’s Bay Airport to Rocktail Beach Camp (one way).

• Relevant park fees.

• Accommodation taxes, the applicable Tourism Levies and all relevant Value Added Tax (VAT).

General Exclusions:

• Any other meals not specified.

• All drinks, laundry and porterage.

• Any tours/excursions which are not standard daily lodge activities.

• Scheduled flights, airport taxes and related tickets between Johannesburg – Richards Bay – Johannesburg.

• Onward road or air transfer from Rocktail Beach Camp.

• Cancellation, baggage and medical insurance.

• Staff gratuities.

• Any new Government taxes, levies, fuel or industry increases which are beyond our control.

• Visa fees where relevant.

• Any items of personal nature.

• Luggage is restricted to 20 kg per person (maximum in a soft bag/s including camera equipment and hand

luggage). If these limits above are exceeded, the excess luggage can be held (or forwarded to the point of exit) for your flight out at the end of the safari. Kindly note that the additional cost incurred will be for your account.

Wild dogs chase Impala in Chobe

A pack of wild dogs have been spotted on the Chobe River flood plains.  This caused great excitement for some clients staying at Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero as they were enjoying a sundowner cruise and watching a herd of elephants swimming across the river when the peace was broken and a pack of wild dogs kicked a dust cloud in the air as they keenly pursued an impala running towards the safety of river. The impala almost threw itself in the river and instinctively swam towards one of the islands.  Unfortunately after all of that effort a crocodile grabbed the impala and drowned it barely twenty meters away from the guests on their boat. The wild dogs didn’t even notice as they had now rounded up another Impala which they were now chasing around in every decreasing circles.