Near, On or In – Location is Key on the Great Barrier Reef!

No comments

Submerged in a bright blue sea of water is a world unlike any other. Spots of greens, reds, purples, yellows, pinks, and oranges shine vibrantly against the simple blue of the ocean. A school of fish whoosh by, glug glugging, glugging as they go. A sea turtle floats about, basking in his surroundings as he chomps on some sea algae. This is the Great Barrier Reef.

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders; a bucket list destination for many travelers. With so much to do and see on the Great Barrier Reef, making the selection of accommodation for your reef stay important to your overall Australian trip planning.   Options abound, but key to any planning is where: on the reef itself, on the mainland, or on an island.

On the Reef

Staying on the Reef with Reefsuites provides a truly unique experience.  Anchored at sea, the pontoon Reefsuites pontoon rooms sit below the waterline with underwater views.  Factors to consider:

  • Cost- Staying on the reef is luxurious but costly. This isn’t just a hotel– it’s an experience. With any truly unique experience, your stay will rank as perhaps the most expensive of your stay.

Reefsuites, Hardy Reef, off Queensland, Australia

  • Activities- There are a variety of activities available with Reefsuites. Snorkeling, scuba diving, dinner under the stars, and helicopter rides make the time in the blue waters go fast.
  • Time- Your time while on the reef will be completely focused on this natural wonder. There are no excursions elsewhere, so most stay only a night with a few staying two nights – less than you may have originally planned.  Also factor in travel time to the hotel and back to the mainland.

Cairns, Queensland, Australia

On the Mainland

When people visit Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, stays on the mainland and particularly in Cairns.  This is certainly an option for people wanting to make a day trip of the Great Barrier Reef so they can engage in mainland activities, great nightlife, and many accommodation options.  Consider the following:

  • Cost- Staying on the mainland is going to be your least expensive option. This exact cost, however, depending on the resort and room type selected.  However, this may allow additional funds to be allowed for activities.
  • Activities: Being on the mainland means you’ll have many activities to choose from. You could go sailing, golfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, lounge at the spa, and so much more. Plus, you’ll have a variety of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops at your disposal.
  • Time: Generally allow 70 minutes up to two hours to reach your destination on the reef. This time can vary based on where you are traveling from and which part of the reef you are visiting. Should you want to spend considerable time exploring the reef, consider the travel time when selecting the location for your accommodations.

On an Island

An island stay can offer the best of both reef and mainland accommodation locations. Of the hundreds of islands on the Great Barrier Reef, a number of resorts call an island their home offering special benefits:  they are surrounded by water, and each sports its own unique atmosphere and amenities.  Aspects of an island stay include:

Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia

  • Cost: Island stays can be affordable.  Islands that actually on the reef will cost more, but to save some money, those further away may be a good option.
  • Activities: Island resorts still offer guests a wide variety of activities.  Guests can go scuba diving, snorkeling, take a boat trip, lounge at the beach, and attend island resort events. There’s so much to do!
  • Time: Travelers should factor in the time it will take to get to the island, as well as how long it will take to get to the Great Barrier Reef from the island. The journey to the Great Barrier Reef takes 30 minutes to an hour and a half depending on the island.

The bountiful marine life, the tranquil blue waters, and the feel of the saltwater on your skin are never too far away regardless of your decision.  Where the Great Barrier Reef lies on your list of priorities for your trip Downunder will help drive the decision.  Let me help you design your trip Downunder so it fits you perfectly.  I’m only an email away!

Pat Ogle-CollinsNear, On or In – Location is Key on the Great Barrier Reef!
read more

Eastern or Southern Africa Safari: Does it matter?

No comments

Roadblocks have a different meaning on safari.

An African safari?  It’s a big decision for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Wildlife is everywhere, so does it matter where you go? Activities or sights other than game viewing might be a bigger factor in your decision, but when focusing on the safari experience, being in the know will help you make the right decision for you.

When talking about regions for big game safaris, East Africa includes the countries of  Kenya, Tanzania, while Southern Africa covers South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.  Grab your binoculars as we look at these two areas.

Lodge-centered safaris dominate Southern Africa safaris while safaris in Eastern Africa are centered around the safari company, ground operator or the camp.

In Southern Africa, the lodge provides all the services around your safari from the time you arrive at the airport/airstrip until the time you leave. The staff, including drivers, guides, and trackers, are all employed by the lodge where you stay. Should your trip include 2 or more lodges, your drivers, guides, and trackers change when you arrive at a new lodge.

For moderately priced safaris in East Africa, you’re transported by vehicles between parks that are far apart with lodges for accommodations.  Your driver, guide, and tracker, who may be the same person, stay with you during your entire trip.  The whole experience is arranged through a safari company or ground operator.  These drivers/guides read their clients well and a relationship often develops.

For those with less time and/or those that desire more intimate camps, fly-in safaris in East Africa allow travelers to maximize their time game viewing using smaller camps that provide a higher level of service.  These safaris more resemble the Southern Africa camp-centered safari, where the camp provides the driver/guide/tracker at each location.

Your ride in Southern Africa is more open, but you can still get great pictures from the vehicles in Eastern Africa.

All aboard your open-sided land cruiser that lets you have a clear view of the animals in Southern Africa. You will depart the lodge and loop around a route covering a 20-mile radius from your base. You will be on the reserve roads or inside the park or reserve.

Vehicles with pop-up tops shield travelers from the sun and allow for great pictures too.

In the East, you travel in vehicles with pop tops for road-based safaris. Since you are going further distances, open-sided vehicles aren’t suitable. Don’t worry because you can still get great photos thru your pop-up top. With the option to close the top, air conditioning and small refrigerators make your long-distance drives easier.   Open-sided vehicles are used for fly-in safari camps providing greater unobstructed visibility.

Wildebeast crossing the Mara River during the annual migration.

Pros and cons of fencing: Will the experience feel like a zoo?

You will likely hear about the fence debate while traveling around Africa. Some say it helps protect the wildlife and people, while others believe it’s unnatural.

In Southern Africa, you can expect areas to be fences, but you might travel for days without seeing a fence because the areas are massive – we are talking about reserves and parks the area of a small state in

America! These reserves make their own rules so you can experience night drives and your driver can follow wildlife off-road.

In Eastern Africa, there aren’t any fences giving animals more freedom to roam, making mobile camps ideal.  As the animals migrate, a mobile safari camp can follow the wildlife and set up temporary or semi-permanent tented camps.  These camps are great for observing the Great Migration, saving significant travel time reaching wildlife at its current location.

The numbers game – People and Animals

In the South, the wildlife parks and reserves limit how many safari vehicles can be near a group of animals at one time (usually up to three). In the East, there are no limits on the number of vehicles, but time limits at popular sites or around groups of animals may be observed to reduce crowding at peak times and the stress on the animals.

Limits on the number of vehicles during peak periods around popular spots limit the stress on wildlife.

Don’t worry.  The Big Five ((elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo) live in both Eastern and Southern Africa. Larger concentrations of wildlife in East Africa allow dramatic sightings of potentially hundreds or thousands of animals as you look out over wide-open spaces like during the Great Migration.

As always pros and cons exist for the Eastern or Southern parts of Africa. Much comes down to personal preference for your adventure.  However, once having done a safari, many travelers return to Africa to experience another area and/or type of experience.  Both regions offer unique aspects and fascinating opportunities. You never know what will happen or what you will see on safari and that makes it all the more exciting!

Let’s talk more about an Eastern or Southern Africa safari and which is best for you and your travel companions. We have stories to share and more info regarding factors like seasons, the time required, specific wildlife, and more so drop us a line soon.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEastern or Southern Africa Safari: Does it matter?
read more