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.

 

Top 10 Wild Gifts for Christmas

There’re  just 10 days to go till Christmas Day. Are you stuck for gift ideas? Here’s our Top 10 Wild Christmas gifts for that ‘hard to buy for’ person in your life.

1.Spend time with the relations – Gorilla trekking permit, from US $600 (Uganda) to US $750 (Rwanda)

  • Find out more about gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda here.
  • See sample gorilla trekking safari holidays here.
  • Read Lily’s account of gorilla trekking here.

2.Mistletoe moment – fall in love with Africa and give a subscription to Travel Africa, the world’s only magazine dedicated to exploring Africa, from £15. Check out their subscription offers here.

3.Cloud Nine Experience – take to the skies at sunrise with a hot air balloon safari, complete with champagne breakfast from £325  (available in the Masai Mara, Serengeti and Tarangire)

  • Read about Robert’s experience in Tarangire here.
  • Find out more about hot air balloon safaris and other unforgettable safari experiences here.

4.Christmas Cracker – traditional cool, colourful cotton Kenyan Kikoys (try saving that after a few sherries) from £25. We love these ones from Blue Summer.

5.Flight of Angels – fly high over Victoria Falls, from £100 – £180 per person. A fabulous way to take in the full drama of this natural spectacle.

  • See a video of the Flight of Angels here.
  • There are many excursions from Victoria Falls – you can get some ideas here.
  • See sample safari itineraries in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

6.Trumpet Fanfare – adopt an elephant, from US $50 per year. Enjoy monthly emails updating you on your elephant with pictures and videos.

  • Find out more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fostering programme here.
  • Read about Kithaka and Arruba, the elephants fostered by the Real Africa Trust here.

7.Give a Great White Christmas – adventurous cage diving in South Africa from £120 per person. It  might not be the most obvious thing to give your loved one, but cage diving with  a Great White in South Africa’s glorious Cape is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Cage diving can be easily added to any tailormade safari in the Cape. Find out more about our safaris and holidays in South Africa here.
8.A Night with the Stars – sleep out under the great African night sky from US $625 per person per night. Romantic, wonderful, unforgettable – this is a real Christmas cracker. There are many lodges offering a star bed experience including Loisaba and Serian in Kenya, Little Kulala in Namibia, Tswalu in South Africa, Baines and Jao Camp in Botswana. We love Nkwichi on Lake Malawi and the Dove’s Nest at The Hide in Hwange. 

Read our blog about the best star beds in Africa here.

9.Jumbo Bells – Real Africa silver elephant pendant, from £140 each. These beautiful hand-finished eles, as worn by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, are made by jeweller, Penny Price and were specially commissioned by Real Africa for our 15th anniversary. 30% from each and every one (all the profit) is donated to conservation charity Save the Elephants.

To find out more or to order online please click here. Please note: due to overwhelming demand we are now looking at New Year deliveries!

10. Gold, Frankincence, Myrrh …and travel show tickets of course – let Brian Jackman, Monty Halls and other travel experts inspire you in the travel theatres and spend your day consulting the specialists about your future travels plans. Compliments of Real Africa.

Request your complimentary tickets to the new Telegraph Travel Show or Destinations Manchester or London here.

 

 

 

How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are there in Africa?

UNESCO (The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) runs a programme to protect and maintain places that are extremely important either for conservation of the environment or culturally important sites. These places are given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in order to protect them under international law and to be able to raise funds to help secure their protection for the future. There are currently 981 sites worldwide of which 759 are cultural and 193 are natural and 29 are both.

So how many are there in Africa? Well, there are an amazing 94 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and they range from all kinds of natural environment to incredible ancient cultural sites. Unsurprisingly really considering Africa is the birthplace of mankind and also home to some of the most diverse landscapes and wildlife on the planet.

In Southern Africa there are some incredible sites all worth visiting. In Zimbabwe you have Mana Pools National Park, the Great Zimbabwe Monument and of course shared with Zambia the world famous Mosi-oa-Tunya otherwise known as Victoria Falls. In South Africa you can visit various Humanid Fossil Sites or the stunning beautiful Drakensburg region. In Namibia there is the Namib Sand Sea with its enormous sand dunes and Twyfelfontein. In neighbouring Botswana its Tsodilo makes the list and in Malawi it’s the Lake Malawi National Park and the ancient rock art of Chongoni.

In Eastern Africa there are so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites you would have to return many times over to see them all. In Ethiopia there are the famous cultural sites of Lalibela, Aksum, the Omo Valley and Fasil Ghebbi in Gondar but did you know that the stunning Simien Mountains were also a world heritage site under UNESCO’s protection? Other cultural sites include Stone Town on Zanzibar, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Lamu’s Old Town in Kenya and the rock art sites of Kondoa in Tanzania.

Of course East Africa is famous for its stunning scenery and much of this has world heritage status including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Kilimanjaro National Park – and that’s just Tanzania. In Kenya the Great Lake region of the Rift Valley, Lake Turkana National Park and Mount Kenya National Park are all protected with this status. Over in neighbouring Uganda the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and the Rwenzori National Park are both world heritage sites as is the Virunga National Park in Rwanda. And last but not least one of our favourite destinations in Mozambique, the island of Mozambique itself has world heritage status.

In fact Africa has so many important sites that another umbrella group was set up to run the programme. The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) is the first regional funding initiative within the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Created in 2006 through a joint initiative by the Government of South Africa, the African Union and UNESCO, the African World Heritage Fund is an intergovernmental organization based in South Africa whose mission is to assist African countries in: increasing the number of African sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, conserving and managing natural and cultural heritage, rehabilitating sites on the list of World Heritage in Danger, training heritage experts and site managers, and ensuring the participation of local communities in decisions concerning their heritage and to ensure that they receive tangible benefits from World Heritage. On Friday 31 January 2014, UNESCO joined forces with the African Union Commission to raise awareness and funds for the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) during the African Union (AU) Heads of State luncheon at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Participants pledged a total of three million US dollars in support of the AWHF Endowment Fund.

It is good to know that these amazing beautiful and historic places are being actively protected and that future generations will be able to enjoy them and learn from them as we have. The only problem I have is trying to decide which one to visit next……….

Posted by Ruth

Inspired by Sport Relief? These sporty adventures are sure to get you out of your armchair.

Sport Relief anticipates that thousands of people across the UK will swim, cycle or run this weekend in order to raise money for worldwide projects including those in the UK and Africa.

Over the last few months we have witnessed incredible sporting feats from a number of high profile celebrity figures from Davina McCall’s extraordinary ‘Beyond Breaking Point’ (pictured),  to Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage’s ‘Battle of the Backsides’.  Every year the  challenges seem to get more extreme, making for great entertainment and ultimately exaggerating that feeling within us, “If they can do that, then I can do something for charity too.”

If this year’s Sport Relief has sown that seed in you then maybe one of the following African sporty adventures might just fit the bill? Maybe you have run or are about to run the London Marathon,  and fancy the Big Five Marathon next year? Or perhaps you have conquered Snowdon and are ready for another peak.

Or perhaps Sport Relief has simply awoken a curiosity in you about Africa and its communities. We are passionate about the community and conservation projects that we directly support via The Real Africa Trust  and are delighted that many of our clients choose to spend a morning or afternoon visiting one of the projects while on safari. It adds a completely different and thoroughly enriching dimension to your trip to Africa – the school visit in the Masai Mara, where we are funding the building of a new classroom, is especially popular with families.
If any of our projects are of interest to you, then do give us a call or check out our Real Africa Trust page on the website.

We hope you feel inspired by the following suggestions for experiencing Africa is a more sporty way!

Run Africa

South Africa has many competitive running events including one of the most highly rated, the Big Five Marathon which takes place in the dry and cool month of June. The 88km course winds through classic Big Five savannah country in the private Entabeni Game Reserve west of Kruger National Park.

Climb Africa

Tackle Africa’s highest peak, and the world’s highest walkable mountain following the scenic extended Machame Route to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. One day climbs also available at Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.

Bike Africa

Mountain bike amidst the animals in Kenya’s dramatic Hell’s Gate National Park, combining a thrilling ride with a gorge walk. Or get out of the 4×4 and see Lake Manyara’s shimmering scape in Tanzania from the saddle.

Hike Africa

Hike the forested slopes of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park or Uganda’s Impenetrable National Park in search of endangered mountain gorillas.

Paddle Africa

See Botswana’s game from a different perspective by taking to a canoe on the tranquil waters of the Selinda Spillway. Five day guided canoe safaris combine bush camping with exploration of truly remote and beautiful areas.

You can find out more about Real Africa’s challenges at our website.

You can find out more about Sport Relief here.

By Sara White

 

How many elephants are left in Africa?

“Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing. If we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act.”

If we want to save the elephant (and that’s where we are, we’re not helping or protecting, we’re trying to save) we need to know how many there are left. We need to study where the main populations are and whether they can reach each other or are isolated. We need to know whether they live within the safer environment of a National Park or reserve, or live in places where they are more vulnerable to poaching and encroachment on their environment. Current population estimates are between 400,000 and 650,000, but are based generally on guestimates. 35,000 were killed in 2012. 75% of all forest elephants have been killed in the last 10 years. This is our last chance.

Of course, after many years of conservation and study, we do have a fairly good grasp of some of these issues, especially in those countries where animals conservation has been a key issue.  Its estimated ( or at least hoped in a couple of cases) that elephants now live in 35 African countries. Originally they were recorded in 46. One problem is that in 20 of the 35, total elephant populations are down to less than 1,000 individuals, in some countries spread out over vast areas. Some for the countries just don’t have a viable population to survive. Its doubtful whether elephants can survive in Western Africa and the population of Congo has been all but wiped out during the civil war.

Its equally depressing if you look at the areas they live in. They now exist in approximately 15% of the area they used to cover. Population growth has led to the exploitation of land they used to feed on, either to create farms or to graze with domestic animals. Buildings, fences and roads have been put across traditional migration routes, in some places making them impassable. Forests have been cleared for their timber. Elephants are seen as a nuisance, pushing down trees, trampling fields and eating crops, yet they, like the indigenous human populations, they are simply trying to survive.

A vital step in trying to help the elephant is to do a comprehensive survey of the elephant population.  This will allow protection resources to be concentrated on areas with viable populations, and conservation to help areas where the elephant is on the brink. And help has come from Paul Allen, one of the Microsoft founders. He’s agreed to fund just such a survey to be undertaken during the dry season of 2014. Three small planes and 2 helicopters will fly a grid pattern over thirteen of the remaining countries with elephant populations, allowing a real insight into how the populations are fairing.

Indeed the Americans are currently leading the way in the fight to help the elephant. The Clinton Foundation is funding a partnership to Save the elephant, targeting “stop the killing, stop the trafficking, stop the demand.” On 14th November President Clinton announced that the stockpile of illegal ivory confiscated in the United States was to be destroyed. On live TV, broadcast to the nation, it will all be crushed. Its hoped that such a public display against the ivory trade will spur other nations into taking action.

A conference on Ivory poaching has just finished in Botswana. It was agreed to  bring in harsh new measures against the trade, including making poaching and ivory trafficking a more serious crime that qualified for Interational Crime prevention agency assistance. Among the African countries who signed, there was also China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. This is where the demand comes from and this is where thr problem must be tackled. Its a start but nothing more. Last week an ivory haul was seized in Xiamen in China. 6 tonnes. 3,188 tusks. The African elephant cannot take much more.

As Botswana President Ian Khama stated, “Our window of opportunity to tackle the growing illegal ivory trade is closing. If we do not stem the tide, future generations will condemn our unwillingness to act. Now is the time for Africa and Asia to join forces.” Add the US and Europe to that, and there may be a glimmer of hope.

Does he have a future?