Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Life's a Beach

Fancy relaxing on a beach after your African safari? Here's a few ideas for you. Air Mauritius fly from Australia to Johannesburg, so you can stop in Mauritius in both directions, both pre and post safari. Mauritius has many great resorts to offer.

A great combination would be to utilise Air Mauritius' offer of a free night's accommodation in Mauritius on the way to Africa because their flights do not connect. Then travel on to Johannesburg, spend some time in Cape Town, then visit Madikwe private game reserve before shooting up to Victoria Falls for a few nights. Then back to Johannesburg to pick up your flight to Mauritius for a few days R&R on a beach before heading home.

Alternatively you could fly straight through to South Africa with Qantas or South African Airlines, have a sensational safari in South Africa, Botswana or Namibia (Don't forget to squeeze in Victoria Falls.) and then take a side trip to Mozambique where you will find some absolutely stunning beach resorts.

You may prefer East Africa of course, in which case you could combine a trip to the spectacular northern game viewing areas like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire with a couple of nights in Zanzibar's historic Stone Town before moving across to the eastern side of the islands for a beach break at one of the many resorts there. Baraza Resort Camp; Spa for example.

For something a little different you may like to visit the game reserves and National parks in Southern Tanzania. There are generally less visited and are wilder and woollier. There's a string of them like stepping stones reaching westward from Dar Es Salaam. Mikumi, Selous, Ruaha and Katavi. Foxes Safaris have great camps in each and you can relax at the end with a few nights at Lazy Lagoon, their beach resort on their own island in the Zanzibar Channel.

Last but not least Kenya. How about a 10 night safari visiting Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara and Amboseli topped off with a few nights relaxation at somewhere like the sensational Manda Bay Resort in the Lamu Archipelago of Northern Kenya.

It doesn't matter in which part of Africa you plan to have your safari experience, there's a great beach resort waiting for you at the end, with great food, icy cocktails and white sandy beaches. The perfect way to end your trip.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I'm Excited!

I'm a little excited today. In fact the last time a Pom was this excited was at about 5.15pm on 30 July 1966.
Google the date and you'll know what I'm talking about. The reason for my current agitated state? Well there are two actually. Firstly I'm heading off to Tanzania in October to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, leading a small group on a 9 day professionally guided adventure.

This group is filling fast. It promises to be an amazing, life changing experience for all of us, so get on board now. All the details are on the above link. Safety is paramount and we even provide porters. There is no technical climbing involved, but let's be honest, it is a tough climb so a certain standard of fitness is required.
Having said that, the climb is suitable for a wide range of people. The youngest ever climber was 7 year old Keats Boyd from Los Angeles and the oldest was 82 year old George Solt from Buckinghamshire, England.

The second reason for current state of euphoria is that I have managed to secure a private departure exclusive to Ucango Travel on Wilderness Dawning's 11 day/10 night Okavango Wildlife Safari departing on 16 May 2012. This tour (8 passengers maximum) will be lead by ornithologist and author Jan Lewis. It is a non-participatory camping trip through the wildlife hotspots of Botswana. This mean, no cooking, no putting up of tents, in fact no discomfort whatsoever. Your tents are large, two man, walk-in tents with camp beds and all linen. No sleeping bags required. You even get a nice fluffy doona. You will spend two nights on a houseboat in Namibia on the Okavango River before visiting the Okavango Delta itself, Moremi Game Reserve, Savute and Chobe National Park.  I can promise you the most amazing wildlife experience you've ever had. Apart from Jan's knowledge you will also have a professional driver/guide and camp attendants to cook and erect the tents for you. All you have to do is enjoy the trip. Just click on the link below for all the details.


So there we have it. Two incredible adventures to choose from. I only hope that I don't have to wait another 45 years for experience this level of excitement.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dung is Fascinating

More and more companies are offering walking safaris, and it really is an amazing experience.  You'll get to see nature close up. You walk in small groups, usually no more than six. You have a guide and often a guard, both of whom are armed in case of emergency. Don't let that alarm you though, reputable companies have highly professional guides trained to avoid dangerous situations. Guides who get their guests into a situation where they are forced to fire even a warning shot will get into all kinds of trouble with the authorities.

Having said that, don't expect to get as close to the animals as you would in a vehicle, to which they have become somewhat habituated. Nevertheless, your guide will get you as close as is safely possible given cover and wind conditions.
Our guide at Rhino Walking Safaris at Kruger National Park in South Africa took us to within twenty metres of a white rhino by skillfully using the wind direction and by keeping us behind a fallen tree which had the animal charged, it would not be able to jump over. Rhino's not surprisingly are not great jumpers. It was incredible to be so close on foot to such a huge animal - a real adrenaline rush.

Being on foot within a hundred metres of a herd of elephants is quite a buzz too. Even at a distance you can feel the power and size of these wonderful creatures, and you'll hear the rumbles and squeaks of their communications. Lions are good fun too, though they'll see you more often than you'll see them on foot. They're not going to attack a group of people, but will stay warily in the distance watching you intently as you pass by.

You will see some wonderful insect and bird life. You'll learn the importance of termites and dung beetles to the environment. You may find a hornbill nest - a hole in a tree, sealed by mud except for a narrow slit by the male bird. The female lays her eggs in the hole and the male feeds her and the chicks through the slit. The female then goes through a complete moult and loses the ability to fly. Once she has regrown her plumage she breaks out of the nest opening which is then resealed by the chicks. Both adults then feed the chicks through the slit until they are old enough to break out and fly themselves.

Your guide will also show you the various animal tracks and teach you how to identify which animals have passed by looking at their dung. Giraffe droppings are very small for the size of the animal and the droppings of male and female are different. You'll be looking at poo in an entirely different light by the end of the walk.

So don't be afraid, be a little adventurous, do a walking safari and see the real Africa. Here are a few examples of some companies that offer professionally guided walking safaris.

Rhino Walking Safaris - Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Norman Carr Safaris - South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
Robin Pope Safaris - South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.
Wilderness Journeys - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

There are many others. Call me for details, Peter Emery 1300 822 646.   

Monday, April 4, 2011

Brothers in Arms

It was a cold, drizzly morning in the lowveld of Sabi Sands abutting Kruger National Park. Just the sort of morning when you can drive for hours and not see a single animal. In weather such as this they seek shelter in the midst of the thorny scrub. Then as the landrover breasted a low ridge and emerged into a clearing we were confronted by two dead bodies, their killers still standing over them. The corpses were buffaloes - a calf and its mother. Their slayers - two young male lions - brothers in arms, their tawny manes glittering with beads of rain, their rancid breath condensing into clouds in the cold air. We had only just missed the kill, the brothers had yet to start feeding. I could imagine the scene a few minutes earlier. The lions ambushing the  buffaloes, narrowly avoiding the mother's horn and taking down the calf first - a relatively easy kill.

The mother would have been much harder to bring down. She'd have refused to leave her calf even when it was dead and she'd have kept the lions at bay for a while. She would have tired though, and one of the lions would have jumped onto her back, risking a jaw shattering kick that would have condemned the big cat to a lingering death by starvation. Meanwhile, the other brother would have clamped his jaws around the Buffalo's windpipe. Perhaps the first lion would have severed the beast's spinal cord, causing her to collapse. Death would have followed swiftly then.

Now as we drew to a halt at the edge of the clearing the brothers snarled at us, taken by surprise at our sudden appearance, a shockingly loud guttural rasp in the drizzle dampened silence. They settled then, realising we weren't a threat, but unnerving us all by staring straight through us with their cold amber eyes. Eyes that oozed arrogance and confidence. Eyes that said "I can kill you anytime I like."  Then they started to feed, tearing a hole at the mother's rear end, ripping open her tough hide as though it were cotton. But all the time they watched us. Even while their muzzles were buried deep in the gore their eyes were fixed on ours, daring us to try to steal their meal. Now and again they raised their heads to show us their bloody faces - another threat?

Finally we left the brothers to eat their breakfast in peace and returned to the lodge for ours with mixed feeling about missing the kill. They are exciting events, but not for the faint hearted. The kills you see on nature programmes on television are usually very clinical affairs and often the editor will cut away once the pray animal has been caught. There's no squealing or screaming and very little blood to be seen. It must be remembered though that lions kill to survive and are not deliberately cruel - unlike humans. Indeed lions will kill as quickly as possible, usually by suffocating the animal with a bite to the windpipe. The last thing they want is a potential meal that kicks and waves sharp horns about, so they try to make it quick, less chance of being injured themselves that way. 

Hyenas and African wild dogs? Well that's another story.