Where should I go on safari?

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s dark. At this time of year, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to holidays! If you’re having a destination dilemma, and are tempted by a safari, read on – you’ll find the top ten questions we get asked at travel shows every year (with answers.) It might just help you narrow the selection down! 

In the entertainment world the New Year is punctuated by a series of glittering awards ceremonies – in January you have the Golden Globes, followed by the BAFTAs and then of course it’s the Oscars at the end of February.

In travel, it is our busiest time of year with wall to wall travel shows, brochure requests and enquiries galore  – so we are just as busy but possibly not quite as glamorous!

Travel Shows offer a great opportunity to find out everything you need to know about your destinations of interest. You can pick up brochures on a whole range of places and experiences, ask the experts your burning questions, and enjoy presentations on world food and travel in the celebrity and destination theatres.

Here are some of the most common questions fired at us during the travel shows (with abbreviated answers – if you want the ‘full’ answer , do give us a ring on 01603 283 517).


Where should I safari in 2016? Here goes with the top ten questions. 

Q.Where’s the best place to catch up with the migration?
 A.Kenya’s Masai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti (depending on time of year).
Take a look at this classic tented safari holiday, put together with the Migration in mind.

Q.We’re on a budget – where do you recommend? 
 A.South Africa and Kenya currently offer the best value in Africa. 
This 19 day trip to South Africa, including a stay in a tented camp in the Greater Kruger is fantastic value.

Q.We’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Where do you recommend?
A.It has to be Botswana…ideally combined with Victoria Falls (but the answer will vary depending on who you speak to!)
To be honest, if you go once, and do it right, we know you’ll be smitten and desperate to return to Africa!
Q.We’ve travelled lots in Africa and are after something completely different? 
A.Namibia or Ethiopia will make a big impression.

Q.Where can I see rhino?
 A.Your best chances are in Kenya (Lake Nakuru or Laikipia); South Africa (KwaZulu Natal); Namibia (Etosha, Damaraland)

Q.Where can we have an adventure? 
A.Take your pick: Zimbabwe (walk in Mana Pools, canoe the Zambezi, track rhino on foot in Matusadona); Botswana (horse ride, canoe, camp) Uganda & Rwanda (trek to see gorillas and chimps); Tanzania (climb Kilimanjaro, dive the Indian Ocean); South Africa (cage dive with a Great White); Zambia (incredible walking safaris)

Q.What do you recommend for a classic safari and beach holiday?
 A.Tanzania is wonderful – combine a classic Northern Circuit with the Spice Islands of Zanzibar or Pemba. Or get off the beaten track, and head to the vast southern parks of Selous and Ruaha, followed by the mainland coast or rustic Mafia Island with its marine reserve.  Alternatively combine a safari in South Africa’s Kruger with the beaches of Mozambique, or safari in Zambia before chilling on the shores of  Lake Malawi. Got more time and a bigger budget? Try Botswana and Mauritius, or Kenya and the Seychelles.

Q.Where can we tick off the Big Five?
A.Kenya is your absolute best bet. We even have a sample holiday called The Big Five! Don’t forget the Big Seven – head to South Africa for that!

Q.We want to see leopard – where do you recommend?
 A.Our top picks would be Zambia (the South Luangwa offers night drives, ideal for catching up with these nocturnal beauties); South Africa (Greater Kruger – Sabi Sands area); Botswana (a private concession in the Okavango)
Q.What’s the best time to go?
A.Sub-saharan Africa covers a vast area so it depends where you are going and what you would like to see! As a very general rule the peak months for Botswana, Zimbabwe , Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa’s Greater Kruger  are May to October. For East Africa the peak months for safari and beach are December to February and  June to October while the weather in Ethiopia and South Africa’s Cape would be best November to March. The peak months for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda tend to be between June and September, the long dry season.

By Sara White.

 

Fishing Holidays in Africa

Did you know that fishing not football is the most popular pastime in the UK? No I didn’t either although my brother in law is a keen angler. Fishing holidays are also growing in popularity and Africa is one of the best places to go. You get the chance to catch some really huge and exciting fish and relax in some beautiful scenery. You can also combine it with a safari and get the best of both worlds. Also the safari or beach option might please a non-fishing partner! With so much to choose from we have narrowed it down with some ideas below.

Botswana

One of the best places for a fishing holiday is Botswana and in particular the Okavango Delta. This huge inland river delta covers hundreds of miles and surprisingly doesn’t run into the sea but evaporates and disappears into the land. There are permanent lagoons and rivers but during the rains the area covered by water increases enormously. Fishing is available at most of the lodges on the Delta. We have several lovely luxury safari lodges and camps where all the game viewing is done by motorboat or mokoro (a dug-out canoe) and fishing is also widely available.  A day spent drifting through the reed beds passing big game and stunning birds whilst you fish is pretty unbeatable!

In the crystal clear waters of the Okavango River you can fish for tigerfish, tilapia, bream, nembwe and African pike. The tigerfish is an indigenous with an enormous appetite and they can grow up to 9 kilos in weight! The best time to fish for tiger fish is during the annual catfish or barbel runs. This is usually in our autumn from late August to the beginning of November. Bream fishing is usually best during our summer months, from April until August. We recommend staying at Camp Okavango  for excellent fishing. The lodges and camps can provide all the fishing equipment you need but you can take your own kit if you prefer.

Mozambique

Mozambique is a huge country stretching along the east coast of Africa from Tanzania to the north down to South Africa in the south. It offers a massive variety of habitats from the Zambezi River to the shores of Lake Malawi, from national parks filled with the Big Five to lush mangrove swamps and islands dotted off the stunning coastline.  However the main type of fishing done in Mozambique is  sea or sport fishing and the island archipelagos and coral reefs are outstanding here. Marine life includes whales, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and sharks. The Mozambique coastline, particularly the Bazaruto and the Quirimbas Archipelagos, offers some of the most spectacular sport fishing in the world.  This part of the Indian Ocean is a protected marine reserve meaning it is unspoiled and pretty undiscovered which makes it ideal for a luxury fishing holiday.  Combine this with some truly stunning hotel and beach resorts and some of the world’s finest beaches and Mozambique is a dream destination.

The deep Mozambique Channel has a very strong current and it provides a home to some of the world’s most exciting sport fish.  Species such as black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, shortbill spearfish, wahoo, dorado, various tuna species, king and queen mackerel, kingfish (jack’s), queenfish, barracuda and snappers are all  to be found here. Again there is plenty to do if you are travelling with a partner or friend who isn’t into fishing as there are plenty of fabulous beaches, scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, boat trips and luxury lodges to relax in such as Ibo Island Lodge . The boat operators provide all the gear you will need for sport fishing and we can pre-book it for you or you can do it when you are there through the hotel concierge.

Malawi

Lake Malawi is another fabulous fishing destination for the keen angler and it is also popular for those who want to go diving and see the endemic fish species that live in this enormous inland sea.  Again like all our destinations the scenery as well as the wildlife is fantastic and we have some fabulous lodges and beach resorts dotted along the shores of the Lake. The water here is crystal clear, unpolluted and wonderfully warm and there are many sandy beach, islands and rocky coves providing plenty of different habitats.

The majority of the 400+ species in Lake Malawi are small tropical aquarium fish, mbuna. However you can also find sungwa (perch), ngumbo (lake yellow-fish), mpasa (lake salmon), sanjika (smaller relative of lake salmon), ncheni (lake tiger), kampango (catfish) and vundu (catfish). Fishing is year round but probably the best time to go is between September and April.  One of the best places to stay on the lake is Pumulani Lodge.  although there are more rustic options available too.

Although Lake Malawi is the main draw you can also do plenty of fantastic river fishing. The Bua River, running through the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, is excellent for salmon with the Luweya, Lufira and North Rukuru not far behind. In the Lower Shire River, below the Kapichira Falls on the southern boundary of the Majete Wildlife Reserve, tigerfish are abundant, joined further down by vundu and barbel as the river broadens. Heavier tackle and a boat are needed here. Dry season fishing between May and November is possible in the Lower Shire river and requires no licence. The streams and dams of Zomba Plateau, Mount Mulanje and Nyika Plateau are well stocked with rainbow trout. You are only allowed to do fly fishing in this area with flies tied on single hooks. The season runs from September to April. Please note you will have to take your own kit with you in most places although some lodges do provide good tackle. Please check with us first before travel.

Zimbabwe and Zambia

Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River are the main highlights for a fisherman. The Zambezi River is the fourth largest river in Africa and is home to one of the continent’s most sought-after fresh water game fish such as the tiger fish. The tigerfish is an aggressive predator and  one of the fastest freshwater game fish in Africa which makes it a challenging species to catch and a great challenge for fly fisherman. Trying to lure the fierce tiger fish can be a real batlle as it usually puts on a dramatic display of fight when captured. Both the Upper Zambezi – the section of river above the Victoria Falls – and the Lower Zambezi – the section below the Kariba Dam wall – offer excellent opportunities to fish for tigerfish.

There are a number of excellent fishing lodges on the banks of both the upper and lower sections of the Zambezi and also there is a  huge range of wonderful safari lodges that offer fishing as well as game drives looking for the Big Five. Many of these lodges provide a range of fishing activities, all the way from a novice angler to the professional fly fisherman.  As fishing can be combined with game activities  and wonderful safaris this is a great holiday if you have a partner or friend who does not wish to fish as there is plenty to do and the lodge are all great places for relax with swimming pools and sundecks. For the visiting angler most can provide a full range of equipment is provided but you can take your own tackle if you prefer (please check before you travel!). We can recommend staying at various different lodges such as Mana Pools Camp many of which offer fishing along with safari activities and canoeing.

Some itineraries which feature our favourite fishing destinations include:

Desert and Delta Safari in Botswana

Tailormade Mozambique

Malawi – Valley and Lake Holiday

Best of Zimbabwe

But please note that we tailor-make all our holidays to suit you so if you want a purely fishing holiday then please give us a call and we can create one specially for you!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Birdwatching in Africa

Most people visiting Africa think of safaris and the big game such as elephants, rhinos, lion and leopard. However the birdlife in Africa is absolutely stunning and there is a huge range of wonderful birdlife to be found in every country.  The green or rainy seasons are usually the best time for birdwatching and also tend to be the quietest and cheapest times to visit. Africa makes for a wonderful birding holiday and we can tailor-make some fantastic itineraries based around birdwatching in particular.

The continent is vast with a massive array of different habitats; from montane and rain forests, marshes and wetlands, deserts and salt pans, lush grasslands and soaring mountains and a very diverse coastline. You also have endemic birds specific to that country or those just passing through on their annual migrations. With so much to choose from we have narrowed it down with some ideas below.

South Africa

South Africa is home to the highest number of endemic bird species in the whole of mainland Africa due to its excellent climate and wide range of habitats. The Cape area is an excellent area for birdwatching with plenty of interesting and rare species attracted to the unique fynbos vegetation. In fact the Cape is an extremely important area as its unique habitat and vegetation is home to endemic bird species not found anywhere else. We offer stays at the De Hoop Nature Reserve and Grootbos Private Reserve which are both excellent birdwatching spots in the Cape. In fact most places along the Cape and the beautiful Garden Route offer great birdwatching opportunities to see species such as Salvin’s albatross, cormorants and large colonies of gannets. And we mustn’t forget the colony of African penguins at Boulder Bay.

In the Cape and all over South Africa you can see some fantastic birds of prey or raptors in places such as the Drakensberg Mountains, and in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. These include various vultures, eagles and falcons including the pygmy falcon and the African fish eagle.  And of course the world famous Kruger National Park is home to a vast array of wildlife including wonderful birdlife such as the intriguing Honeyguide Bird.

Botswana

To the north lies the enormous country of Botswana. Much of northern Botswana is a true wilderness with no signs of mankind for hundreds of miles and is home to huge amounts of wildlife including fabulous birds. In Botswana you have a complete contrast in habitat from the arid salt pans and the Kalahari Desert to the opposite extreme of the Okavango Delta and its vast tracts of wetlands, rivers, marshes and islands. Another great spot for birdwatching is the Chobe National Park which is a huge area of wilderness.  Most people head for the Okavango Delta and after the summer rains the birdlife really comes into its own in October and November when you will see lots of water loving species such as a variety of egrets, herons, cranes and storks. There are also plenty of smaller breeds including various babblers, finches and lark as well. If you are lucky you might even see the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl.

Namibia

Neighbouring Namibia is also home to some extreme opposites with arid deserts and the famous sand dunes of Sossussvlei to the wild and remote coastline which is home to large numbers of sea birds including cape cormorants, white pelicans and terns. The best time for bird watching in Namibia is actually during the rainy season, between November and April.  One of the best places to visit is the Etosha National Park which is home to vast salt pans that fill with rain during the winter and become home to large flocks of both pink flamingos and blue cranes.

The deserts of Namibia are also home to many species including plenty of birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and the only endemic bird species of Namibia, the dune lark. You can stay at our lodges and camps in Namibia which are all in excellent locations for birdwatching including the stunning Fish River Lodge overlooking one of the world’s biggest canyon and home to soaring raptors riding the thermals.

Zambia

The central location of Zambia means that it is home to a real mix of birds from all over Africa including birds from southern, eastern and central Africa.  It is also home to the unique shoebill which is highly sought after by birders. Again the rainy or green season over our winter months is the best time to go birdwatching and you can often see visiting species over-wintering here before heading north. Zambia is home to the best walking safaris and this means that keen birdwatchers can really make the most of getting up close to the local birdlife.

Malawi

Neighbouring Malawi is also home to some rare species mainly based around the shores of Lake Malawi and in its dense forests. This huge lake is more like an inland sea in terms of size and its shores are lined with all sorts of varied habitats including marshes, savannah and forests, which support a wide range of species.  The Shire River and the Liwonde National Park are excellent birdwatching places with some fantastic birds including Pel’s fishing owl.

Rwanda

Rwanda is not somewhere that people think of as a birdwatching destination as most people come here to see the endangered mountain gorillas. However, birdwatching in Rwanda is superb and it really is a must-see destination for birders. Despite its diminutive size Rwanda is home to over 600 species including the Albertine Rift endemic bird species. The best place to stay is the Nyungwe National Park which is set amongst the montane forest and home to 13 species of primates alone.

Kenya and Tanzania

Kenya and Tanzania are excellent destinations for a birdwatching holiday and Kenya is home to the second highest number of species in Africa. Kenya holds the world-record ‘bird watch’ – with 342 species seen in 24 hours! You can see everything from the famous flamingos of Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru to the vultures and maribou storks picking over the predators’ leftovers.  The famous national parks are not just home to the Big Five but also many birds including migrants such as swallows and various waders.  The Masai Mara is home to the rosy-throated longclaw and magpie shrike and the Samburu is home to the shining sunbird and pink breasted lark. In Tanzania the southern parks of Selous and Ruaha are excellent birding spots as they are vast and unspoilt and teeming with a variety of species. Over a thousand species have been recorded here including a good amount of endemic species such as Mrs Moreau’s warbler, Loveridge’s sunbird and the Usambara eagle-owl.

Mozambique

Mozambique is a huge country stretching along the east coast of Africa from Tanzania to the north down to South Africa in the south. It reaches inland to Lake Malawi and Zimbabwe and as such offers a huge range of landscapes and habitats.  For the most part it is lush and green with some great national parks such as Gorongosa  filled with big game and wonderful birdlife. The coastline, which stretches for more than 2,000 kms, provides a home for a vast array of birdlife from waders in the sandbanks and marshlands to the fishing species of the mangrove swamps and islands dotted off the coast and around the archipelagos. The Zambezi Delta is home to many rare and important species such as the mangrove kingfisher and the elusive but colourful African pitta.

You can find out more information on some of Africa’s finest birds on our website under our safari animal section.

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Marine Safaris in Tanzania and Mozambique

We are famous for our safaris but did you know that you can also enjoy a marine safari off the coast of East Africa? We have several wonderful places where you can explore the incredible range of marine wildlife whilst swimming in the crystal-clear, bath-warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Fundu Lagoon, Pemba, Tanzania

This small and intimate award winning eco-resort is set on the tiny and unspoilt island of Pemba off the coast of the larger island of Zanzibar. This resort has won many awards for its barefoot luxury accommodation and this year it won the Best Marine Safari Experience in Africa for 2015. The resort and its partner diving operation , Dive 71, focus hard on preserving the unique marine ecology in the area whilst offering a 5 star PADI diving experience. You can do everything from snorkelling up to specialist week long diving qualifications.

The area’s main attraction are the warm, clear waters with visibility between 20-40 metres and temperatures around 25-28 degrees. There are miles of pristine coral reefs which hosts a vast array of fish and other sea creatures. The shallow reefs combine with huge drop offs which make for exciting diving and also a spectacular range of sea creatures. This area has currents so all diving is drift diving.

The area has a wide range of marine life from hawksbill and green turtles to manta and eagle rays, from dolphins and barracuda to tiny reef fish. At certain times of the year you may see whales passing on their migration routes. This area  is one of the best diving locations in the world.

Click on the link to find out more about Fundu Lagoon.

Ibo Island Lodge, Quirimbas, Mozambique

Another award winning lodge that we are proud to offer is Ibo Island Lodge which won the Best Marine Safari Property at the Safari Awards this year. This stunning lodge on a tropical island off the coast of Mozambique is also an excellent place to see the incredible marine wildlife in this area.

You can go snorkelling if you are inexperienced but just want to catch a brief glimpse of the underwater life. You can head deeper to the coral reefs and dramatic drops for the more serious and experienced divers.  The PADI dive centre at Ibo offers a wide range of diving experiences and qualifications.

This area offers incredibly beautiful underwater landscapes with clear waters and excellent visibility and warm temperatures. There are gentle currents here so no worries of drift diving. The best diving around Ibo Lodge is at a place called the Light House. It’s a long coral reef that stretches across a square kilometre. This shallow reef contains large gardens of coral tables, soft corals, bucket corals, green tree corals and a drop off of 21m were you can see a good range of tropical fish.

Another site close to Ibo is Matemo where you can swim with dolphins and turtles and the many brightly coloured reef fish. Another exciting place to dive is the wreck of a 100 year old steamer just off a nearby sandbank. As this is shallow it is perfect for snorkelling and the water is so clear that visibility down to the wreck is excellent.

The Quirimbas Archipelago is a magical mix of rare and beautiful fish, pristine reefs, crystal clear waters and fantastic marine mammals. Whether you are an experience diver or a novice snorkeller you can see all kinds of marine life including dolphins and turtles, not to mention the hump backed whales which you can often see between July and September.

Ibo Island Lodge also offers the rare experience of swimming with wild dolphins in their natural environment. The dolphin experience lasts 2-3 hrs and includes an introduction to dolphins and their behaviour, a briefing on boat safety, marine life and responsible interactions with the dolphins. The dive centre uses the regulated Swim Code of Conduct, created to ensure a sustainable eco-friendly approach. They wait for the dolphins to approach and never try to swim after them.  Dive Quirimbas  is an Ethical Marine Mammal Campaigner in Mozambique who supports the dolphin care code of conduct.

Click on the link to find out more about Ibo Island Lodge

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Unusual Places to Sleep – Star Beds

In Africa you can find some really unusual places to sleep including treehouses, rustic cabins, cruise boats, luxury trains and most excitingly of all – star beds. The star bed is a relatively new phenomenon but it is proving incredibly popular and I can see why. It combines the excitement and atmosphere of camping with the luxury and comfort of a safari lodge.

Star beds are the name given to beds out in the open, giving you the opportunity to sleep with nothing between you and the African night sky. Due to low light pollution in Africa the stars are incredibly bright and clear and you can see far more than here in the UK.  The African night sky is one of the most under-rated marvels of this amazing continent and one of the most incredible aspects of the unique nature of the African bush. This is truly a magical, once in a life time experience and definitely one for a memorable honeymoon!

Real Africa has several places where you can enjoy a night or two under the African sky in a star bed:

Tswalu Game Reserve, South Africa

Tswalu Kalahari is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, covering an area of over 100,000 hectares in the vast Kalahari wilderness. Tswalu takes conservation as its absolute priority which means numbers are kept low with a maximum of thirty guests at a time.

The Malori Sleepout is the name of the star bed at Tswalu.  Imagine sleeping in a luxury king-size bed on a raised deck in the middle of a game reserve, surrounded by the calls of nocturnal animals, with nothing between you and the brilliant stars of the Kalahari night sky. You sleep on a raised platform with a thatched overhang for protection should it rain.  You can choose to sleep under the thatch or further along the deck where it is completely open to the night sky. The bed itself is luxurious with lovely linens and there is a private outdoor bathroom close by. The Malori deck was built to maximise the stunning surroundings and the bed has panoramic views of the vast plains of the Green Kalahari and its famous sunsets. You will be provided with sundowners and also a supper so that you can enjoy this space on your own. This is also available for families as the lodge can provide extra camp beds for the children.

Nkwichi Lodge, Lake Malawi, Mozambique

Nkwichi, is a halcyon paradise hidden on the pristine Mozambican shores of Lake Malawi. This is the place to come if you want to sleep out under the African stars but on a beach rather than in the bush.  This is a truly tranquil and remote spot. With 8 secluded beaches set on 4 kms of Rift Valley coastline, Nkwichi is the perfect setting to discover a lost world on the shores of one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. The best way to enjoy the unrivalled beauty of Lake Malawi is Nkwichi’s ‘Lake of Stars’ Bed’. Set on a deserted, virgin beach  or on a private rock island close to the shore with Fish Eagles soaring overhead, this is the perfect way to soak up the glory of an African night-sky. Again you will be looked after with all the comforts of the luxury lodge at hand but with the peace and tranquillity of your own private outdoor location.

Loisaba Wilderness Lodge, Kenya

The two sets of Star Beds are unique to Loisaba. The first and original set are located among a kopje of rocks in one of the eastern valleys overlooking the “Kiboko” waterhole. The second and newer set is located about 8 kilometres further south on the banks of the Ewaso N’giro River. These are perched on stilts above the river below and are reached by footbridge from the opposite bank. Each Star Bed dramatically designed, handcrafted wooden raised platform, and partially covered with a thatched roof. The homemade “Mukokoteni” (uniquely designed bed on wheels), can either be wheeled onto the open deck area for a night under the stars, or left under the shelter of the roof. All the beds have complete “four-poster” insect netting. The Star Beds are normally reached by one of many options; on foot, horse, camel or vehicle and with two sets now in place create a unique opportunity to travel between them both and the lodge as part of a Star Bed Expedition.

Guests are guided and hosted by a team of traditional Samburu and Laikipiak Maasai warriors. Food is prepared in traditional camp kitchen on an open fire.  Both the Kiboko and Koija Star Beds comprise of 2 double sleeping platforms and one twin platform. Each double platform is designed for 1 or 2 people. The family platform accommodates 4 people (sharing bathroom facilities). Each platform is en-suite and has a large camp-style shower. The platforms are sited to ensure complete privacy.

If you are looking for a truly unique experience and you fancy camping under the stars but in total comfort then give us a call and we can book one for you!

Posted by Ruth Bolton