Monday, February 27, 2012

From the Galapagos Islands to Uluru

I'll kick off this blog post with one of the best wildlife destinations the planet has to offer - The Galapagos Islands.  I'm always happy to recommend Abercrombie & Kent for their quality and inclusions. I know that my clients are safe in their hands and that they will have the best possible experience.  Here's a excerpt from the AK website.

"Come face to face with giant tortoise, kayak with sea lion and stroll pristine beaches alongside blue-footed booby on this Discovery journey to the Galápagos. Experience this archipelago on a seven-night cruise on board MV 'Eclipse,' one of Condé Nast Traveler's best small ships. End your journey with a visit to Quito's Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that brims with colonial charm and Baroque architecture."

Small ship cruising always offers a more personal experience and on a wildlife adventure cruise, the smaller the ship the better. Please click on the (enormous) link below for more details.

The next stop is Africa. The Africa Safari Co has a fantastic tour for lovers of wildlife. It's a one off tour departing on June 6th 2012. It's a nineteen day tour and appropriately enough it's called "Game Parks of Africa." You will visit the best game parks and scenic locations in Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe. This is simply too good to miss. Click on the link below for further details.

Now here's one in India that my wife and I want to do very badly. India is such a beautiful country. Great architecture, lovely people, fascinating culture and wonderful food. And that's before you even see the wildlife.$100--per-pe/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=World+Deals+Trade+28+February+2012&utm_content=World+Deals+Trade+28+February+2012+CID_0b44fef95cc356caab02aad0fc6d13fe&utm_source=Email+marketing+software&utm_term=CLICK+HERE+FOR+MORE+DETAILS

Finally today, here's a great deal closer to home. Territory Discoveries currently has a special deal at Voyagers Desert Garden Hotel at Yulara Village. which is the service centre for Uluru (Ayers Rocks). Frankly, accommodation at Yulara is all rather expensive, but this is a 4.5 star hotel and is inclusive of breakfast. The cost is $366 per person for 3 nights. see the link below for further details.

Australia's "Red Centre" is a very special place. The colours will blow you away. From the deep blue sky to the red sand and rocks. Take a walk around the base of Uluru for some lovely scenery and wonderful Aboriginal cultural sites. Sip champagne at sunset while you watch this stunning monolith change colour. Tour the incredible Kata Djuta range (The Olgas) and explore it's mysterious valleys. You really should take a morning camel ride through the desert too. This gives you a view of Uluru at Sunrise, away from the crowds - such a lovely thing to do. Wrap up though. It gets very cold first thing in the morning. Another must-do is the "Sounds of Silence" dinner. You are transported from your hotel to an isolated desert location for a wonderful dinner under the stars. There is music and stargazing too with a resident astronomer. It really is a very special night out. The cost of flights to Yulara vary from day to day. Please contact me for fares on specific days.

For further information on any of the products or destinations featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask for me by name, or just drop me an email.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Adventure & Romance in East Africa

It’s early morning and chilly. We stood in the four wheel drive vehicle, our heads poking through the open roof, cameras poised. A brightly coloured hot air balloon rose from behind a low green hill and climbed silently into the deep blue sky above Kenya’s Maasai Mara, rapidly overtaking the rising sun. However, the bulk of our attention was focused on a large male lion sprawled in the grass not five metres from our vehicle. He was doing what male lions do best – loafing. Now and again he’d open an eye or raise his huge maned, head to peer at us.

Then suddenly he was on his feet, alert and gazing intently into the distance. There was another lion, a male, and he was heading in our direction. Our lion began issuing deep guttural, rhythmic grunts, to which the approaching animal replied in similar fashion. There was going to be a fight; perhaps to the death. Fights between male lions can be brutal. Our lion began to walk slowly and threateningly towards the intruder, his head held low, grunting at he went. The intruder was a big fellow too. This was going to be quite a battle. They were thirty metres apart when our lion stopped and crouched. The other animal just kept coming, but more slowly now.

The tension was palpable. In the vehicle we held our breath. Then the two predators launched themselves at each other, but instead of tearing chunks out of one another they started to play, rolling together on the grass in a rough and tumble game, harmlessly mouthing each other and licking the other’s fur. These weren’t deadly enemies, they were brothers in arms. Literally brothers our guide said.

And that’s the beauty of Africa. It’s full of surprises. Every single game drive is different. You never know what is around the next corner. Africa is the home of adventure and romance and East Africa is the epicentre.

Kenya is heartbreakingly beautiful from the huge grassy plains in the south, home to the great wildebeest migration to the dusty deserts of the north. There’s Amboseli, famed for its great herds of elephants and soaring vistas of Mount Kilimanjaro. There’s the Maasai Mara – probably the most famous of all game reserves. You’ll see the “Big Five”(Lions, leopards, rhinos, buffalo and elephants.) here along the banks of the winding Mara River.

Head north beyond the fertile Rift Valley region and you’ll come to Samburu National Reserve. This is one of my favourites. It is a small, but scenically spectacular reserve classed as a tropical desert. It’s teeming with wildlife, much of it unique. There are not many other places where you’ll find the majestic Grevy’s zebra, the beautiful vulturine guinea fowl and the bizarre gerenuk antelope.

Half way between Kenya’s capital Nairobi and Samburu lays Mount Kenya. At 5199 metres (17,057 feet), its great sloping bulk topped with spires of rock and permanent snow dominate central Kenya. It can be seen for many miles. High on its slopes and across the valley, tucked in amongst the green folds of the Aberdare Mountains are some wonderful lodges with more unique wildlife and crisp, cool mountain air – quite a relief after the heat of the plains.

Across the border to the south of Kenya lies Tanzania. The vast Serengeti Plain is an extension of Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and it’s here that the great herds of wildebeest spend most of the year. Basically they follow the rain, spending September and October grazing on the lush grass of the Maasai Mara and for the rest of the year they follow a clockwise path around the Serengeti. Flying low over the Serengeti is something everyone should experience before leaving this planet. From a height of five hundred feet there are wildebeest everywhere you look, flowing towards the distant towering rain clouds in long black rivulets, their hooves stirring the fine dust which blows away like smoke on the wind.

Two to three million animals take part in this migration and to witness it stirs the emotions. I found myself with tears streaming down my face the first time I saw it. It’s a primeval, visceral experience that takes your breath away. Don’t miss it. Nearby is Ngorongoro Crater. It’s a veritable Eden of wildlife and is beautiful beyond belief. In the same area there’s also Olduvai Gorge. Known as “The Cradle of Mankind” the area has been the subject of much archaeological and anthropological research over the years. Some of the earliest human remains ever found were discovered here. It’s fascinating.

Most visitors to Tanzania only see the north of the country. It’s easily accessible by road or air from Nairobi. Please don’t make that mistake. You must see the south too. It’s not hard. A short flight from Nairobi or Arusha will get you to Dar es Salaam. From here you can hop over to the beaches and the history of Zanzibar, but best of all is the string of national parks that stretch westward from Dar. Mikumi, Selous, Ruaha and Katavi.

All are wild and woolly and far less frequented than those in the north of country. Mikumi is surrounded by tall mountains, Selous is based around a river system and has many water based game viewing opportunities. Ruaha has both mountains and rivers and is perhaps my favourite game reserve in all Africa. Katavi is the most remote of all the parks. It is a vast floodplain and the home to the last really big herds of buffalo in Africa.

Don’t assume remoteness means discomfort though. There are some wonderful camps and lodges, providing the best cuisine and five star accommodation. In fact, that is something you can rely on all over East Africa – comfortable accommodation, great food and something for every budget. But, however much you choose to spend; you’ll always get romance and adventure.

For further information on any of the products or destinations featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask for me by name, or just drop me an email.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Giant Grunting Sausages

How would you describe a hippopotamus to someone who had never seen one? The word hippopotamus is derived from an ancient Greek phrase meaning river horse, but that is no help at all. Hippos look nothing like horses, though as a general rule any racehorse I back tends to perform like a hippo. I think the best I can do is to describe them as a giant, grunting pork sausage on legs. It must be said though, that these pork sausages can be very dangerous. They are responsible for more human deaths than any other African animal except the mosquito. This is because they live in the same waterways that villages tend to spring up next to. The males can be very territorial and will attack canoes and boats that stray into their territory. At night the hippos leave the water to graze and people getting between them and the water can be trampled as the animals feel vulnerable on land and will rush back to the water for safety..

A wonderful place to safely observe this fascinating creatures is Foxes River Lodge in Southern Tanzania's Ruaha National Park. The lodge rooms are strong out along a stretch of the Ruaha River and the room at the end is right opposite the hippo pool, where a sizable pod of hippos like to spend their day, wallowing, grunting and generally enjoying themselves. You can safely sit on your veranda and observe them while you have a little downtime between game drives. That particular room is about two hundred metres from the main lodge building where meals are served. If you arrive back from your game drive after dark you are escorted to your room by one of the Masai security guards who will then come to collect you when you are ready to go for dinner and will take you back to your room once you've eaten.

If you're wondering what the Masai are doing in Southern Tanzania, it's because they loyally followed the lodge manager from another lodge in the Serengeti. You're perfectly safe with these guys escorting you and just occasionally you get to see a hippo out of the water grazing on the grass within the lodge grounds.
Here's a link to Foxes River Lodge as well as their other great lodges. All of which I can thoroughly recommend. Sorry, but you'll need to cut and paste it to your address bar to read.

Never let it be said that I don't offer variety. Take a look at the link below for details of an amazing tour through China and Tibet run by Travman Tours. I think it represents superb value for money and takes your through some the planet's most thrilling cultural and scenic sites.  Here's a quote from the Travman Tours website. 

"The fantastic journey takes you to explore mysterious Tibet & beyond, a land with remarkable monasteries and palaces. The Holy Express travels across the vast Tibetan grasslands and stunning snow mountain ranges."

Here's that link I promised you. Once again, you'll need to cut and paste it to your address bar.

For further information on any of the products featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask for me by name, or just drop me an email.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Snow Monkeys & Grizzly Bears

Many people think of Japan as being crammed with people, a wilderness void. That is far from being the truth. Japan is so mountainous that the vast majority of the nation remains undeveloped. The terrain has seen to that. It's a country of heartbreaking beauty with a fascinating culture and I just can't recommend a visit highly enough. Don't go believing the old stories of how expensive the place is either. It isn't, not these days anyway. Eat in the local restaurants and you'll find it's a lot cheaper than Australia. Of course if you want to eat steak and drink Aussie wine in your hotel it will be expensive. Heaven knows, it's dear here too. Here's a great example of what you can do. Just click on the (somewhat over sized) ink below.

Be sure to add on a visit to the beautiful snow monkeys too. Here's a  (even longer) link for that.$96--per-person/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=World+Deals+Trade+7+February+2012&utm_content=World+Deals+Trade+7+February+2012+CID_95c73c75358c9f1611d30e2dd12d3aa0&utm_source=Email+marketing+software&utm_term=CLICK+HERE+FOR+MORE+DETAILS

One of the planet's ultimate wildlife viewing locations is Canada's Knight Inlet.

Spectacular wildlife viewing amongst stunning scenery.

Knight Inlet Lodge has achieved a reputation for being one of the best places to view grizzly (brown) bears in the wild. This comfortable but rustic floating lodge nestles in the only protected cove on the 100 mile long inlet, and the only neighbours are bears, mountain goats, otters, seals and eagles! Each day is filled with a range of activities, and tours are accompanied by trained naturalists. Grizzlies can be viewed from specially built tree platforms overlooking the salmon spawning channels, or by boat. There are marine tours to the magnificent Johnstone Strait to see orcas, minke whales, sea lions, seals, dolphins and porpoises. For more information, please download the following PDF brochure excerpt :

Our final destination today is Madikwe Private Game Reserve in South Africa. Madikwe is interesting in that it is situated at the transition from low veldt country to desert and so contains species that are comfortable in either, or both. Federal Air fly there from Johannesburg, or you can drive there from the city in about four or five hours. There are plenty of excellent lodges there, but the two I particularly recommend are Madikwe Hills Lodge and Impodimo Lodge. Both are very comfortable and are surrounded by spectacular scenery and wildlife. At Impodimo there's even a herd of elephants that come to drink from the swimming pool and they don't care if you're in it. I must say that I prefer the game viewing in Madikwe to that in the Kruger area.

Here are links to the two mentioned lodges.

Photo above. A very rarely sighted pangolin at Madikwe Private Game Reserve. Just for a giggle, ask your game ranger to find one for you.

For further information on any of the products featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask for me by name, or just drop me an email.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Toucan Play at that Game

First up today I'd like to introduce you to Borneo Eco Tours. Click on this link to see their website Borneo really has something for everyone - beaches, jungle, mountains, wildlife, caves, culture, history, markets and great food. A little while ago I sampled a Borneo Eco Tours wildlife expedition. Their organisation was superb, everything ran so smoothly. There were great little side trips to markets, a wonderful trip to the foot of Mount Kinabalu, a boat ride from Sandakan to one of the nearby islands to see turtles laying their eggs and a trip to the Sepilok Orang Utan sanctuary which was actually much better than I expected. The highlight for me though was a boat trip up the Kinabatangan River to Sukau River Lodge. Here we saw wild orang utans, gibbons, monkeys and crocodiles as well as the most beautiful birds.
The lodge itself was a treat. Very comfortable rooms and nice food served on a large deck overlooking the river. Twice a day we were taken out on a motor boat to spot wildlife. We came across evidence of the elusive forest elephants but sadly were unable to find them. They are there though, so perhaps you'll have more luck than we did. The tour finished with another lovely boat trip back to Sandakan where we were given a city tour which included the very moving World War Two death march memorial set on the site of the old prisoner of war camp.

Here in Australia we are very fortunate to have some amazing wilderness and wildlife right on our doorstep. My very favourite bit of Australia is situated in the far north of the huge state of Western Australia. The Kimberley region. Scenic Tours offer top of the range accommodation and more inclusions than you can poke a stick at. Take a look at this tour for example. It starts in beautiful Broome and ends in Cosmopoltan Darwin. You'll see some stunning scenery in between and in some comfort too. There are of course many other options for touring this wonderful region. For more options just give me a call or drop me an email. Just remember though, the best time to visit the Kimberley is May-September when it's warm to hot and dry, October to April can be very hot and wet. Most tours don't operate during this period.

Our final destination for today is South America. Peru to be exact, and Toucan Travel have a fantastic tour which encompasses a variety of modes of travel and accommodation, allowing you to get a real feel for the diversity of this colourful nation. Get to to grips with the mountains, the jungle, the deserts and the culture. What a wonderful experience, and better still, Toucan Travel are offering 15% off at the moment.
Click on this link for details.

For further information on any of the products featured or to make a booking, please call me - Peter Emery on 0449 689 447. Alternatively call Ucango Travel on 1300 822 646 and be sure to ask for me by name, or just drop me an email.