Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Well Fed Backsides

One of the many reasons I love my job so much is that it gives me the chance to convince people of the value of preserving not only the wildlife and wilderness of Africa, but of the world generally. We in Australia should not preach the conservation bible to developing nations. After all we have the world’s fastest rate of mammal extinction and are clearing native vegetation and therefore wildlife habitat at a prodigious rate too. How does the old saying go? “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t walk about in the nude.” Something like that anyway.

Nevertheless, those of us fortunate enough to live in the more affluent societies like Australia can make a difference. Visit these wild places. Demonstrate that the wilderness and the wildlife has a monetary value greater than the development it is being threatened with. It isn’t fair for us to sit in our comfortable homes with our well fed backsides firmly wedged into Italian leather lounges complaining how dreadful it is that the Amazon is being destroyed or that the population of wild tigers on the planet now number even less than the amount of working engines on a Qantas Airbus A380.

The average African, for example is not employed. He receives no regular income other than that which he generates through his own means, be it selling a few vegetable in the local market, husbanding cattle or goats or chopping down trees to sell as firewood. You cannot tell him not to do that because you need the land for wildlife. There has to be an incentive, some sort of compensation or he and his family will starve.
Many African game lodges provide work, schools and medical facilities to villages in their vicinity. In addition there are numerous projects that assist both the wildlife and local communities and it can be a life changing experience to participate in these. Take the example below for instance, and there are many others project like it where most of the funds generated go towards the preservation of endangered wildlife It is a sobering thought that were it not for the intervention of a humble insect the Serengeti would in all likelihood now be grazing land and devoid of wildlife. The humble tsetse fly ensured that settlers cattle could not survive there, they quickly died from African trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness. The disease no longer stalks the Serengeti but the great plains have been preserved and I think it is one of the wonders of the world.

For more information please call me – Peter Emery on 0449 689 447 or Ucango Travel & Cruise Centre on 1300 822 646. Or drop me an email at peter.emery@ucango.com.au



Desert & Delta Safaris 4 night Leroo La Tau Rhino Package
The Botswana Rhino Relocation and Reintroduction Project focuses on raising funds to ensure the wellbeing of the existing population as well as to bring in additional Black and White rhino to augment the current population. To support the Project, a proportion of proceeds from the following safari packages will go directly to rhino relocation and reintroduction initiatives at Leroo La Tau in Botswana.

5 days/4 nights from just $1,950*pp
Desert & Delta Safaris 4 night Leroo La Tau Rhino Package
Experience the natural wonders of Botswana's wildlife, reserves and beautiful lodges with the four night Rhino package starting from just $1950 per person.
Leroo La Tau Park offers adventurers and holiday-makers the ultimate safari experience, populated by up to 30,000 zebra and wildebeest; and closely accompanied by some of Africa’s most iconic predators. Guests will have the option of exploring the area, enjoying the wildlife on guided day and night game drives; and retiring after dinner to a splendid fireplace overlooking the river.
Includes: charter flights to and from Maun, two nights accommodation at Leroo La Tau, inter-camp charters and two nights accommodation at one of four impressive African lodges - Camp Moremi, Camp Okavango, Xugana Island Lodge or Savute Safari Lodge.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kudu Kebabs

Two of the many highlights of a trip to Africa are the food and the music and I can strongly recommend that you sample both before you head off on your African safari.
There’s a superb new African themed restaurant at No’s 4-8 Duporth Avenue, Maroochydore called Mulu Char. It’s owned by Tex and Kellie who share my passion for Africa. They also run Kharma Waters restaurant in Mooloolaba. The cuisine there has a Portuguese influence.

The d├ęcor is contemporary but with a very stylish African twist – much like the food.
There is a shop selling some great African artworks and artifacts and live African music on Friday and Saturday nights. It also has a great location right there on the waterfront. Brilliant for outdoor dining on a steamy, summer Sunshine Coast night.

Food and drink are a really important part of any holiday and it’s wonderful to try out the local food. You don’t go to Thailand, India, China or France and eat at McDonald's every night. Well, some people do I know, but they’re really missing out.

Pretty much every privately run game lodge in Africa is run on a full board basis – breakfast, lunch and dinner and often morning and afternoon tea as well. Many also include alcoholic drinks, though these tend to be the more expensive lodges. Given that there is usually nowhere else to eat, (You can’t exactly trot of down the road to another restaurant when you’re staying at a game lodge. Not unless you want to become dinner yourself.) the quality of the food served is quite remarkable. You can expect to gain about a kilo per day, or maybe that’s just me. Actually I must admit to being a light eater. As soon as its light I start eating. I’ve found I have developed a real taste for South African food which has an interesting blend of European, African, Indian and Malay influences.

Try some of the local beers too. Some of them are really good. Castle or Windhoek Lager in South Africa or Namibia, Tusker in Kenya, Mosi Oa Tunya in Zambia and Serengeti in Tanzania. South Africa has some of the best wines in the world. Even Kenya produces wine, though not in the same class. Once in a hotel in Nairobi my wife and I sampled several bottles of a wine called “Papaya” over a few nights. It was drinkable - just, but every bottle had a different taste.

So go on. Be adventurous. Try the warthog chops or the buffalo steak. Have a bash at the kudu kebabs or the eland curry, and certainly tuck into the ostrich – it’s really good for you. If you are vegetarian or diabetic or have a gluten intolerance let the lodge know, they will cater for you no problem at all. My wife is allergic to mushrooms and if the meal contains these dreaded fungi they will always produce something special for her without them.

So loosen your belts and save the diet for when you get home.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is It A Mongoose?

Firstly I’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone who attended the Maasai tour information night at Ucango Travel’s office in Maroochydore last Thursday night.
Thank you too for allowing me to indulge my penchant for banging on about African wildlife. I certainly enjoyed myself and I hope everyone else did too. If anyone did doze off during my talk, thank you for not snoring.

Sianga, our Maasai guide came home with me and spent the night with us to save him driving all the way back to Brisbane’s south. We had a cup of tea and then before he went to bed I showed him our guinea pig - Billy. His eyes lit up with utter wonderment. “Oh my God!” He said. “Is its a mongoose?” I explained that Billy in fact came from South America and that in any confrontation with a Mozambique spitting cobra Billy was likely to be the runner-up. As you may or may not know, real mongooses (Not mongeese.) are rather partial to the occasional snake.

However, I digress. Sianga’s talk on his journey to Australia, the Maasai culture and his charity The Future Warriors Project was fascinating. He really is quite a remarkable young chap and the tour he will be leading to Tanzania next March really will be quite special. In case you’ve missed all the advertising, here are the basic details again.

It starts on the 7th of March 2011 with a night at the Arusha Hotel, Arusha. Then the next day leaves for Sianga’s village – Kiserian. The group will spend 2 nights there learning about Maasai culture and their way of life before moving on to the various game reserves and National Parks for which Tanzania is so famous – The Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Lake Natron, Olduvai Gorge to name but a few.

It is a 13 night luxury camping tour with en-suite tents and camp attendants (That’s camp attendants - not camp attendants - as in John Inman.) to cook and erect tents. The maximum group size is twelve. Transport is in two four-wheel drive game viewing vehicles driven by professional driver/guides. Sianga will alternate between vehicles as “cultural advisor.” On most days you will have two game drives per day. The investment required is $4289 per person twin share. (Land only.)

For further information please call Ucango Travel and Cruise Centre on 07 5451 8600 or email peter.emery@ucango.com.au. Alternatively you can find the details on our website www.ucango.com.au Look for the link “Tanzania Escorted With A Massai Warrior”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Balm For The Soul

What is it that makes people fall in love with Africa? I still can’t put my finger on it and I’ve been travelling there regularly for thirty-five years. When I lived in England I thought maybe it is the wide open spaces and the towering sky. But then I moved to Australia and found that Aussies fall in love with the place too and you don’t get wider spaces and bigger skies than you do in Australia.

Maybe it’s just that our “developed world” lifestyle is so busy and stressful. An African safari is like some sort of calming drug. The gentle routine of travelling the wilderness in an open vehicle with the wind in your hair and the African sun on your face acts as a sort of balm for the soul. Then there is the huge adrenaline rush that comes with a close encounter with an elephant or a big cat, getting so close to a beautiful wild animal gives you the kind of high that is addictive. There is also the heightened anticipation of not knowing what you’re going to encounter behind the next bush, in the next gully or up the next tree.

On the other hand it could be the people. You’ll never meet happier, friendlier people or people with such generosity of spirit. An African smile truly brightens your day. I really don’t know what it is. What I do know is that each time I leave Africa something squeezes my heart as the plane leaves the tarmac and the dusty landscape slides away beneath the wings.

With some holiday destinations, you spend a couple of weeks there, you have a lovely time. You enjoy the culture, the food, maybe the beach, but you’re always glad to go home. A visit to Africa is never long enough.

One lodge I stayed in recently left a poem on my pillow one night next to a chocolate and a wildflower.

When you’ve acquired a taste for dust,
The scent of our first rain,
You’re hooked for life on Africa
And you’ll not be right again
Till you can watch the setting moon
And hear the jackals bark
And know that they’re around you
Waiting in the dark.

When you long to see the elephants,
Or hear the coucal’s song,
When the moonrise sets your blood on fire
You’ve been away too long.
It’s time to cut the traces loose
And let your heart go free
Beyond that far horizon,
Where your spirit yearns to be.


Don't forget. Tonight - Thursday 4th November at 6.30pm, Maasai Warrior Sianga Kuyan will be speaking at Ucango Travel, Plaza Parade Shopping Centre, Maroochydore. He'll be promoting his charity - The Future Warriors Project and relating the problems faced by traditional Maasai people today. For more information phone Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646.