On safari tents and four poster beds do go together!

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If images of a remote location, small tent, and strange animal noises are all that come to mind when you think of a safari, think again. Safari accommodation which was always known to be in tented camps now includes a variety of types of accommodation for travelers. Whether traveling on a budget or want to experience luxury in the African bush, you are covered.

Enjoy a tented camp classic safari experience

If your dream is to experience the real African

The Sleep Out Platform at Dinaka Safari Lodge, Botswana

wilderness and stay as close as possible to the wild animals,  a tented camp is for you. With tents, you enjoy the surroundings, take in the natural rhythm of the animals while enjoying the fresh air. Your safari experience will give you a real connection to the outdoors behind the canvas while your security is guaranteed.

Karisia Walking Safaris Mobile Safari Tent in Kenya

Tented camps are not all the same. While a mobile tented safari camp is more expensive, it does get you near the real wildlife action. They are fitted with modern amenities such as a verandas, furnished bedrooms, and en suite bathroom. Guests get personalized service from staff to ensure they enjoy exceptional service. The fun part of staying in such tents is that the camp location can be easily moved. If you are looking for a Victorian-era type of Out of Africa adventure, be it basic or luxurious a mobile tent is a perfect option for you.

The migration of animals like wildebeests or exotic birds is one of the reasons to take a safari. If game viewing at the peak of migration sounds like an exciting idea, then a seasonal camp with a few more comforts is the perfect accommodation option for you. These semi-permanent tents are set up at a single location for a couple of months and have all the amenities so you don’t feel like you are roughing it.

Imagine living in a canvas tent tucked in between trees and lush vegetation overlooking flowing rivers. The raised tents are elegantly designed with campaign-style furniture made from copper, brass, and rich leather. Under the canopied ceilings are a king-size bed, sitting area, and an en suite bathroom with a copper bathtub perfect for a relaxing bath. A large private veranda gives you a chance to view the savannah surroundings or starry skies at night using high-end binoculars offered as a complimentary for guests. Meals are served in a tented dining area and their services are at par with permanent tented camps.

If you prefer staying at one place with more amenities but still in a tent, go for the tented lodge. The permanent structures have canvas walls but the interior resembles a hotel room. You can expect wooden floors, running water, porcelain fixtured bathrooms, and attentive staff to cater to your needs. But don’t worry, you still get to experience hear the animal noises in nearby bushes and stare at the starry sky before you drift off to sleep in your large wooden bed.

Governor’s Camp, a permanent tented camp, in the Masai Mara

For those that want more than canvas between them and the bush

Sleeping in the bush doesn’t have to be your first experience when going on safari, you can choose to stay in a lodge instead. Safari lodges are solid and large structures constructed using local materials so that they blend well with nature. Most are located in reserves, national parks, and remote areas giving you a chance to enjoy luxury on a safari. If you are looking for basic comforts you can book a lodge that meets your needs with most offering amenities such as bathrooms with hot water, flushing toilets, and running showers. The service and style may vary but with high-level professionalism.

Outdoor bush dinner at Lake Manyara in Tanzania

If you want safari lodge accommodation that goes a notch higher, consider those that offer luxury or ultra-luxury amenities. You can expect spacious rooms, incredible services, and magnificent views from your room. The extra amenities include gyms, spas, swimming pools, fire pits, gourmet meals, and entertainment. Some even offer personalized services like room service for those that prefer staying away from their world-class restaurants. Many guests are awed by the professionalism and level of comfort offered in the luxury safari lodges.

Get comfortable with the familiarity of  hotels

Most safari hotels, operated by hotel companies like Serena, Fairmont, Legacy and Legend are near or within reserves and game parks with an African bush decor. Many, but not all, are larger but less personal than smaller lodges and tented camps with amenities and service that provide familiar hotel-like comforts. For those that like familiarity in terms of accommodation, safari hotels are a good option.

Luxury hotels, life Fairmont, and  & Beyond  with five-star services are also available and ideal for first-time safari-goers. You can enjoy modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, comfortable beds, gourmet meals, spas and business centers while still going for game drives.  Hotel loyalty club members can also earn points from these hotels – an added bonus.

Sirikoi House, a villa on the Lewa Conservancy in Kenya

The comforts of home and more

For those seeking privacy and seclusion when on safari, you are in luck. You can book a villa with lots of space and ultra-luxurious amenities. Some common amenities at the stand-alone villas include butler service and private pools ideal for those seeking personalized services.  Often located on hotel or lodge properties, villas are generally located away from the main facilities to provide that remote and private feel.

A villa is perfect for families and groups.  What a way to celebrate a special occasion like a wedding, retirement or milestone birthday, a family reunion, or enjoy a safari with a group of friends.

In summary, safari accommodations are many with the choice pegged on the country, planned activities, and your budget. With my experience, I can help you make the choice of accommodation best suited for you and your family. Call me today for guidance on the best places you can stay while on safari!  I promise – an African safari will change how you look at the world!

Pat Ogle-CollinsOn safari tents and four poster beds do go together!
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Tomāto, tomäto. It makes a difference in South Africa’s Kruger area!

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The beauty and wonder of the Kruger National Park in South Africa are reflected in the visitor numbers that top one million every year. The country’s oldest and biggest national park is home to an abundance of wildlife that shares the vast area. Lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos are just some of the creatures you might see in this beautiful national park that borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Wildlife doesn’t care reserves or parks but you may.

If you are considering heading to Kruger National Park for a safari to see the lions, giraffes, and other amazing wildlife, you might wonder about game reserves, national parks and concessions.  What’s the difference?  It’s all about how you want to experience a safari.

National Park, Reserve or Concession?

National parks, like Kruger National Park, are managed and owned by the government. Individuals or companies own private game reserves. A concession is a lodge, camp or reserve owned by the government and operated by a company.   All have to follow the same rules and regulations set out by the government and local authorities. (Similarly, in East Africa you will find conservancies, equivalent to a private reserves in South Africa, along with national parks.)  The national park, reserves, and concessions form a vital co-existing group that attracts a wide range of travelers worldwide.

Guided safari walks available in private reserves allow you to view wildlife missed when on game drives.

Visiting Kruger National Park is a wildlife experience that is considered one of the best in the world. No wonder millions of people have made the trip boosting the local economy and helping to conserve and preserve the environment and inhabitants of the park. From the park entrance fees that protect the park’s cultural and natural well-being to the jobs it provides, the park is an important asset to South Africa.

To understand Kruger National Park’s major contribution to South Africa, we need to understand the history. It was established in 1898 by conservationist Paul Kruger who wanted wildlife to have a thriving environment to live without being hunted. His legacy can be seen with over 750 species of animals, 1982 species of plants and hundreds of cultural sites within the park.

Difference in Safari Experiences

Now let’s look at how the differences between game reserves, national parks and concessions, can impact your safari experience.

Visitor Numbers

Private game reserves limit the number of travelers allowed to visit at any given time. This prevents stress on the ecosystem and gives people a more realistic safari experience.   National parks don’t have the same restrictions on visitors, so they can be crowded

Bush dinners that can be arranged in private reserves create special memories for romantics or those that just love the outdoors.

with vehicles and people trying to see the wildlife. Also, it’s important to know off-road game viewing isn’t allowed in national parks, so often, you can see more impressive wildlife in reserves where it is permitted.

Visiting Hours

National parks have set opening and closing times and guides need to make sure they have exited the park before the gates close. Private reserves are always open to guests staying within the reserve so tourists have more scheduling flexibility.  Without time limits reserves can offer more options for safari experiences such as walking safaris, longer observation times and exciting night safari drives.

Night drives allow you to see nocturnal animals and those active after their rest during the hottest parts of the day.

Style and Amenities

Relaxing in comfortable accommodation after a long day of safari adventuring in the heat is the perfect end to your day. Accommodation in most of the national parks is nice enough, but there is nothing like the food, amenities and service offered at lodges and camps in private reserves.  Dining by lantern in the bush or sleeping under the stars add special memories in addition to those created by the wildlife during game drives.

Isn’t it Time for a Safari?

I am here to help you decide what safari travel option is best for you and your family and friends. We customize trips with many of our clients reporting back their trip far exceeded their expectations making it truly a trip without equal.

I design South Africa safaris for travelers who enjoy rich and diverse travel experiences with recommendations and suggestions that I hope make this trip of a lifetime the first safari of many. Let’s talk soon so I can answer all your questions about a South African safari and get you dreaming about a trip like no other.

Pat Ogle-CollinsTomāto, tomäto. It makes a difference in South Africa’s Kruger area!
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Boots not required for this Best of New Zealand!

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Known for its diverse landscape, New Zealand’s spectacular scenery makes it the perfect place for exploration of all types of surroundings, from mountains to rivers and even glaciers and natural hot pools by all types of travelers. Spend a day in Tongariro National Park to experience all of these! Established in 1887, Tongariro National Park was the fourth national park

Mt. Raupehu

to be created globally and the first in New Zealand! UNESCO also recognizes the park with dual World Heritage status for both its cultural and natural features.

What makes this national park so unique is its unparalleled scenery. Made up of three volcanoes that dominate the region, Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro, and Mt Ngauruhoe, as well as beech forest, waterfalls, and rivers.  Stepping foot into this park, you’re rewarded with some of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes.

A New Zealand Best – the Alpine Crossing!

Located in the center of the North Island, Tongariro National Park is home to one of the best hikes in New Zealand, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.  This hike is around 20km and takes between 7-8 hours to complete depending on how fast you choose to walk. This spectacular hike (that isn’t a loop, so arrange organized transport) takes you over the volcano through different terrains, such as springs, lava flows, volcanic rocks, and the famous emerald lakes.

Hiking track, Tongariro National Park

The best time of year to tackle this famous hike is during spring or autumn when the temperatures aren’t too cold or hot. You’ll need to have a relatively high level of fitness to complete this hike and proper hiking boots.

Although this is the most famous activity in Tongariro National Park, it should not discourage anyone from visiting, as there is still a range of activities on offer.

Magnificent scenery awaits in the desert!

When you picture New Zealand, the desert isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, if you plan to drive from Auckland to Tongariro National Park, that’s what you’ll get.

After you leave sub-tropical Auckland, pass the geothermal areas around Rotorua and crystalline Lake Taupo. All you’ll see is a deserted sandy road with nothing in sight until you reach the three volcanoes that make up the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring of Fire,’ Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu, and Mt Ngauruhoe.

Love Lord of the Rings? See Mt Doom up close!

If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings series, visiting Mt Ngauruhoe or “Mt Doom” must be on your Tongariro National Park activities list. Standing between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu, this 2,29m (7,516 ft) mountain is the second tallest in the park and was a big part of the film franchise, drawing in thousands of tourists

Mt. Ngaurahue, also referred to as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings films

every year. However, if you’re not a big Lord of the Rings fan, it’s still an impressive sight to see!

Stunning landscapes and beautiful waterfalls!

As well as spectacular mountain ranges, New Zealand is also home to some pretty impressive waterfalls. Located in Tongariro National Park, Taranaki Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, and you have to see it to believe it.

The falls are found halfway through the 6km loop and tumble 20-meters into a boulder-ringed pool. There are two viewing points, one from the top and one from the base of the falls. While you’re there, you’ll have stunning views of all three mountains that make up Tongariro National Park.

Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park

The walk to the falls is one of the easiest and most impressive in the national park as it takes you through beech forest, shrubland, past the Wairere Stream, Cascade Falls, and manuka forest.

Tea overlooking snow-covered mountains!

If you are more of a slow traveler who enjoys the little things, such as high tea

with a sensational view, then be sure to check out the Chateau Tongariro.  From their High Tea menu, you can choose from a range of sandwiches, scones, and treats, as well as your choice of coffee or fresh tea, served to you at a table overlooking the impressive Mt Ngauruhoe. Located within Whakapapa Village, indulging in this high tea needs to be on your list, especially in winter when snow covers Mt Ngauruhoe!

Bike along the Old Coach Road!

Not only are there amazing hikes throughout Tongariro National Park, but there is also a range of biking trails that you can explore.  One of the best ones to add to your itinerary is Old Coach Road. Located at the southern end of Tongariro National Park near Ohakune, this 15km one-way (2hr 20 mins) trail takes you through a mix of terrains, such as forest, railway relics, and rural countryside. Or, if you don’t have a bike, you can also walk this trail, which takes around 41/2 hrs.

Whatever way you choose to tackle this trail, you will be blown away by the sheer beauty of the landscapes you’ll see along the way.  Without a doubt, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike is the park’s most notable visitor draw.  But non-hikers have plenty to see and experience without hiking boots and walking stick.  From bike trails to high tea at Chateau Tongariro, no matter that type of activity you’re into, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this little corner of New Zealand.

Active Mount Raupehu with Chateau Tongariro

So, whether you prefer hiking boots or sneaks, a terrific day awaits you at Tongariro. All you have to do is give me a call!

Pat Ogle-CollinsBoots not required for this Best of New Zealand!
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There’s more than one way to see big game!

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Imagine! A moment when majestic creatures walk towards your jeep only to veer away when their young appear from the bush – breathtaking!

Yet, there are more ways to experience the wilds of Africa than the rear seat of a land rover or overlander. By foot, from the air, or the water, it’s time to explore the wilderness through its various scents, sharp color palettes, and ear-pricking sounds in ways probably never considered.

Traveling by vehicle on safari is the post popular way to see game.

Your Own Two Feet Take You Off Road

Strolling through the bush at the crack of dawn can be a moving experience as all your senses awaken to the environment surrounding you. You can listen to the soft sounds of wildlife that would have been inaudible over the hum of a vehicle’s engine.  You smell the vegetation as you trod over the grass.  Movements catch your eye – from the insect that lights on a branch to the birds overhead, to the giraffe munching on a tree ahead.

Walking in the bush allows you to see small animals and insects as well as big game.

Excited but fearful? Don’t worry, they are completely safe because trained guides accompany you. This type of safari provides a more immersive and intensive experience. You are now in the environment of the animals rather than a vehicle.  Definitely exciting when you come upon a lion or a family of elephants.  While animals are always unpredictable, your guide’s first concern is always evident -the wildlife’s safety, and you, his client.  Listen to their instructions and enjoy the moment!

Walking allows you to appreciate all kinds of species, both plant and animal. In many areas, vehicles must stay on the designated roads, so plants, insects, and small animals only a few feet from you might as well be invisible.  Walking provides close encounters with them while minimizing the impact on their environment.

Walking safaris vary in length from an afternoon activity provided by your lodge to multi-day walks operated by specialized safari operators.  Whatever the length, bush walks like these create special memories.

When the Wildlife Comes to You

Now, picture this. You’re floating down on a peaceful river, gazing at a herd of hippos lazing in the water as you pass about 15 yards away.

Walking safaris can be as short as an afternoon to multiday trips.

Spotting animals is way easier and safer on boat safaris as animals are not typically concerned by nearby boats; wildlife become accustomed to the watercraft, so they don’t get disturbed at the first sight of tourists. It’s an aesthetically pleasing experience— watching exotic frogs as they sit on a wavering reed, listening to the calming birdsong of winged creatures as they wait for the return of their mate, observing the nearby animals splashing around as they have a little fun.  Photographs capture the action from the close to the same perspective as the wildlife being observed.

All wildlife need water so game congregates near rivers and waterholes making them easy to find.

On most bike safaris, you ride between parks and reserves, but you never know when you will see game.

Whether from a canoe or a multi-passenger pontoon type boats, enjoy the quiet as you explore the mighty and the minute on the rivers, marshes and deltas of Africa!

Wheels Go Round and Round in the Bush, too

Visualize pedaling through the bush, adrenaline pumping through your veins as you spot an elephant. Like walking, the cycling safari causes little noise, and  offers you the opportunity to observe plenty of wildlife. On a cycling tour visiting parks, you typically switch your bike for a safari vehicle when it’s time to view the  ‘big five’ animals: lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards, and elephants.  On other tours, you may find that you cycle in the morning and use vehicles in the afternoon.

Not the level of the Tour de France?  No worries. The average age of safari cyclists ranges in the 40s and several companies offer e-bikes. One commonality exists on all bike safaris – you burn a fair amount of the calories consumed during those delicious meals served at your lodge or camp!

With a small group of participants, camaraderie develops between participants and the trained guides. Much like the guides on walking safaris, the first priority of cycling safari guides is their guests’ safety so grab a helmet and enjoy the view!

It’s not just zebra, wildebeest and giraffe that gallop across the savannah

Those that love horseback riding – there’s a safari for you too!  You’ll ride where vehicles can’t reach, galloping through the African plains as the giraffe galloping beside you tries to get ahead.

Horseback safaris can also range from a morning outing to a multiple-day trip. You follow the trails made by the wildlife itself, making spotting the animals easier. You can wander and wind through the bush with the hooves of horses providing no more

For those that love horseback riding, could there be any better way to see wildlife?

damage than the wildlife you seek so that you can get closer more easily.   You and your horse become one in the eyes of the animals and, therefore, avoiding encounters with horse & rider is key to survival in their mind.

Like the other safaris, you are accompanied by experienced guides and other staff there to serve and ensure your safety. When on horseback, you will typically spend 4-7 hrs each day exploring the bush. For those that love riding, there may be nothing better!

You Can Even Safari by Air

The mist hovers as you ascend. Tangerine rays of light touch your face as you drift higher on a breeze in absolute silence. The pilot fires the burner of your hot air balloon, and nearby zebra, giraffe, and rhino make nary a move.

An early morning balloon safari allow you to see game from a different perspective when the animals tend to be most active.

Oh, what an enjoyable way to cover distances similar to a vehicle.  While you can’t control the direction, your aerial 360° view provides visibility far further than any ground-based mode used on safari.

Like game drives, you rise before dawn, and the views of the landscape and the wildlife can’t be compared. Plus, after you return to earth, you often enjoy champagne and breakfast in the bush. Amazing!

Kickstart Your Adventure on a Quad Bike Safari

Safer havens where predatory animals don’t roam allow you to explore from the seat of a quad bike. That doesn’t make it any less exciting. Be it dry riversides, empty lakebeds, deserts, or the plains among Africa’s mountain ranges, they all offer wildlife and fantastic scenery! Imagine waiting for giraffes as they cross the path or following a flock of ostriches as they run.

Great for families, quad bikes combine the thrill of exploring your on your own bike with the enchanting beauty of untouched landscapes.

Seeking unique family memories? Nothing can beat watching a giraffe as it gives birth to its young before you head to your elevated camp on your quad bike to sleep out under the stars!

As each safari destination is unique, so too is how you can experience your safari.   I’m an expert in helping you achieve the safari of your dreams. Call me and let me help your safari dream come true!

Safari by quad bike provides a memorable experience for the entire family that will be remembered for years.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThere’s more than one way to see big game!
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Small ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!

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The Kimberley region in Australia is world-famous for offering some of the most spectacular cruising experiences. Expedition cruises into this remote Western Australian coast are in no way ordinary. Apart from its isolation and an overwhelming sense of tranquility hard to find anywhere else, this region is packed with over 1 billion years of history, splendid natural sceneries, and wonders such as dinosaur footprints over 200 million years old.

Mitchell Falls

Situated on the west side of Kimberley, Broome, an outback beach town is the gateway into this vast coastal area containing a variety of natural marvels that are simply mind-bending. From steep ochre-colored cliffs, unique rock formations, the Mitchell waterfalls splashing down 4 steps to crystal clear lakes, etc., all cruises to Kimberley offer tours and excursions full of intimate views.

Boating at the bottom of King George Falls

Up-Close Encounters with the World’s Greatest Natural Wonders

On any single day, there are multiple cruises with each covering an almost similar itinerary departing from Broome, Darwin, or sometimes Kununurra. Expedition cruising offers extraordinary experiences focusing on the environment and nature-friendly excursions. This form of travel is preferred by most clientele who are interested in where they are going and how they get there as well.

Small ships take guests to remote locations brimming with wildlife and natural wonders that impart intimate experiences. Cruises along the Kimberley coast go where few other ships can. Apart from being able to flexibly respond to things like the weather, the voyages on Kimberley cruises get you to serene beaches and shallow bays.

All cruises get as close as possible to fascinating features on the coast. Smaller crafts usually launched from the mother ship can reach sites deep into the coast, enabling the passengers to observe interesting wildlife and to witness some of the greatest natural wonders in the Kimberley, such as the Horizontal Waterfall.

There is no better way to discover the awe-inspiring gorges, reefs, and coastlines than by ship. The close encounters enhance the sense of adventure for every traveler in

With tides of over 10 meters, the Montgomery Reef emerges with deep crevices, waterfalls and a plethora of marine wildlife left behind.

a uniquely personal way that translates every single moment into an authentic travel experience.

Travelers Rather Than Tourists

While cruising the Kimberly, another key aspect of the voyage is the emphasis on learning. To most expedition cruisers, the opportunity to learn is more important than relaxing by the pool with a drink.

The Gwion Gwion rock art, formerly referred to as the Bradshaw paintings, provide sophisticated depictions of life over 12,000 years ago.

Experts give lectures and briefings about each destination developing passengers’ sense of each place before arrival. Along the way, passengers can then step ashore for exploratory excursions while listening to those with specialized knowledge and expert opinion adding a new dimension to the voyage.

The focus is on travel, not tourism, so cruisers are keenly interested in the native people and their way of life.  And to help the locals preserve the pristine conditions, the Kimberley expedition cruises are

operated in environmentally friendly ways that limit the impact of each visit into a sensitive area so that the destination remains protected.

Helicopters are available on some cruises offering an alternative view of the Kimberly while also providing transportation to Kimberley’s inaccessible and hard-to-reach places. Guests can be whisked over cliff edges, waterfalls, or across remote islands. Helicopters provide easy access to wildlife viewing while ferrying guests to narrow waterways, terrestrial sites, and fishing spots away from the ship.

Ready for a remote adventure to the other side of the world? Call me to assist you in finding the right expedition cruise for you!

Pat Ogle-CollinsSmall ships lead to magnificent wonders on the Kimberly Coast!
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Seek a Moroccan souk for your own Indiana Jones adventure!

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Would you ever put chaos and beauty in the same sentence when it comes to markets? It’s doubtful many people would. However, those two words describe the souks of Morocco perfectly.

A souk is a traditional open-air market in Morocco, with the primary/famous ones being in Marrakech and Fes. However, if you go to other large cities, the

Djemma del Fna Square in Marrakesh, the gateway to the souk of the city

neighborhood souks often have similar goods to those in Marrakech and Fes at better prices and fewer tourists, but the cost is the ambiance of the historical aspect and size of these famous souks.

In saying that, visiting a Moroccan souk isn’t about spending money per se; it’s a cultural pillar that needs to be experienced. Souks are where most Moroccan locals do their shopping, so seeing them living their daily lives and seeing all of the exquisite goods they craft on display is a real shift from the western life to which most are accustomed.

Intricate patterns of color draw buyers of Moroccan rugs from around the world.

Shoppers, you won’t need to spend time convincing your traveling companion to visit a souk.. Simply show them some photos of the beautiful products, explain that it’s a cultural experience not to be missed, and you’ll be on your way there!  Most will find something that catches their eye in these bustling meccas.

Once you enter the medina, a walled area in the oldest part of the city, you will walk down narrow streets and alleys.  Here you will find very old buildings, palaces, and mosques. You can almost feel the history!

As you finally reach the souk, your senses will be equally overwhelmed and excited as everywhere you look, you’ll see hundreds of stalls, dogs walking past, customers trying to get a bargain, people passing by on motorbikes, and locals chatting with friends.  The streets wind and cross creating a labyrinth.

So, now you know what makes the souks so chaotic, what also makes them beautiful you may ask? The vibrant colors of the traditional Moroccan lanterns, the tantalizing smells of the spices, the creativity and handiwork of artisans at work, and the voices of the Moroccan shopkeepers trying to lure customers to consider their wares.

Donkeys transporting hides from a tannery in the souk in Fez.

Whether you are there to shop or experience the cultural atmosphere, it won’t be long before a shopkeeper eagerly invites you to look at their products. Each seller specializes in one thing,whether that be leather bags, spices, oils, metalwork, or jewelry. The list is endless.

No matter if this is your first time visiting a souk or your fifth, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and get lost in the maze of stalls. So, hire a licensed guide when you visit one of the larger souks in Morocco, especially in Marrakech or Fes.

With a guide, you will not only hear about the history and popular attractions surrounding the souk, but they will also help you find any specific products you might be seeking by guiding you to the area where these goods can be found. If you’re planning on purchasing a product, a guide will assist or guide you in bargaining, the only way to obtain a price from a shopkeeper. You don’t need to be intimidated, it’s the way the locals do it, but a guide may help you feel a bit more at ease.

Moroccan lamps are just one of the wares that provide magnificent displays of color in the souks of Morocco.

Even if you’re there just to marvel at the beautiful creations that the locals make, it’s worth hiring a guide.  They often will know of unique artisans, historical spots or interesting people.

However, if you choose to wander through the souk without a guide, be aware of the guides who approach you. These “guides” tend to be associated with a specific shop

in the souk and will ultimately lead you there and pressure you into buying their products. If you see or think you see someone like this approaching you, just tell them “No thank you” and walk away.

The description of the souk as a labyrinth or maze is no understatement. The medina in Fes contains over 8000 alleys!  Tall buildings and covered alleys block GPS signals in many areas.  Getting lost easily happens.  When visiting on your own, visitors should frequently orient themselves and note landmarks.  When with a guide should you find yourself separated, stand still.  Guides usually grew up in the area and know the souks well so can backtrack and find you.  Moving only makes finding lost visitors more difficult.

Thousands of streets and alleys make up the old part of the city where the souk is located in Fes.

Whether a shopaholic or not, a visit to a souk will provide a lasting sensual memory. It’s a cultural experience worth the time and perhaps some nervousness with this very different way of life. After all, you may feel different kinds of excitement, confusion, and anxiety, but you may also and feel closer to the culture of Morocco because you’re right in the heart of it.

Ready to explore an authentic Morocco, call me to talk about a trip!

Pat Ogle-CollinsSeek a Moroccan souk for your own Indiana Jones adventure!
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Rwanda’s gorillas still need tourist Tarzans to save them!

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No, you don’t really have to act like Tarzan, thumping your chest and swinging through trees to save the gorillas of Rwanda.  You just need a sense of adventure, a respect for wildlife, some time (and money) to visit their home in Rwanda.

Volcano National Park ranks as a top destination for encounters with these creatures so closely related to humans. Seeing gorillas in the thick forest living together as families and caring for each other – this “family life” attracts tourists from all over the world.

Silverback gorilla in Volcanos National Park in northwest Rwanda.

Young gorillas playing together tumbling rollie-pollie down the mountain slopes; who isn’t fascinated by such antics?

Significant changes allowed their numbers to increase over the last several decades, but efforts can’t stop now. Steadfast, courageous, and loyal lovers of wildlife, like Tarzan, will continue to make a difference in their survival.

Trials of the gorilla population

Back in the 1980s, mountain gorilla populations stood at an all-time low of less than 300 and were classified as critically endangered. The relationship between humans and gorillas faced many ups and downs in the ensuing years with the gorillas losing ground, literally and figuratively.

Gorilla conservation efforts fuel tourism which in turn provide markets for the crops of Rwanda’s farmers.

Increasing human populations required more land to feed their families but this meant taking habitat from the gorillas and reducing their food supply. With the loss of habitat, encounters between humans and wildlife escalated. More and more gorillas died during these encounters and the stress and declining availability of food impacted their rate of reproduction.

Civil war and unrest also contributed to the loss of the apes as refugees fled to less populated areas, including national parks. To survive, these

victims of conflict scavenged firewood uncontrollably, further reducing gorilla habitat.

During periods of both conflict and peace, black markets for gorilla heads, hands, and feet encouraged poaching. Infants captured to be sold to zoos resulted in the loss of the young but also older apes as they fought to protect their young.

Hope Begins with the Gorilla Lady

With a loan to fund her trip, Dian Fossey traveled to Africa for the first time in 1963. During her travels, she met Louis Leakey, the famed anthropologist – a meeting that would change the course of her life.

Several years after returning home to the US, she met Leakey again, showing him articles she published after her trip.  Impressed with her work, he offered her the opportunity to lead a long-term field study of gorillas. Dian had her chance to return to Africa – no second loan needed!

Over the years, while studying the apes, Dian started to spread awareness of the plight of these creatures. Her ability to relate to the gorillas and their acceptance of her helped her change attitudes of local governments that went on to establish departments charged with managing parks and protecting wildlife, including the gorillas. Fossey’s book and subsequent movie, Gorillas in the Mist, also brought much-needed international focus on Rwanda and its “star” attraction!

Gorilla trekking tourism revenue contributes to the growth of the gorilla population on the increase since 2010.

Educating the local community provides a start, but educated locals without money to sustain themselves only goes so far. Once one program cracks, others supporting programs generally fall.

Maligned Tourst Elsewhere, Tarzans in Rwanda

Lush scenery and wildlife draw tourists that can produce significant revenue for local communities. However, balancing tourism, gorilla conservation efforts, and the needs of the local people is tricky.

Examples exist all over the world where the negative impacts of tourism outweigh the benefits.  Too much of a good thing poses a valid concern.  Somehow, tourist revenue had to be shared with the local community to provide for their needs to prevent them from taking forest areas for crops.

Funds from gorilla permits return to the local communities in the form of schools, roads, health clinics and more.

Fossey and other scientists found with time gorillas could become comfortable in the presence of humans. If they could do so with scientists, why not tourists?  Yet, exploitation of the gorillas remained a key concern.

How do you balance the number of tourists, support for the community, and protection of the gorilla population?  Regulated tours that hike the mountains to observe the gorillas! Limiting the number of tourists protects the gorillas and also increases the value of the limited access, so the Rwandan

government established permits with a cost that would support the conservation efforts.  The revenue funds conservation programs and infrastructure improvements that benefit gorillas, locals, and tourists.

Farmers can get their products to lodges and hotels to feed guests. Lodges hire community members to welcome and assist travelers. Guide, trackers, and porters aid tourists on their quest to see the gorillas. Gorillas are valued, loved, and protected then by everyone in the community.

Result – mountain gorilla numbers now exceed 1000! Tourist Tarzans helped save the gorillas that are now “endangered” from their “critically endangered” status before.

Don’t stop now!

Small changes can rock delicately balanced conservation programs.  Strained by the devastating impact of the pandemic on tourism, lodges and parks laid off staff, farmers receive less income from lodges, and infrastructure projects have slowed.

A lack of tourists means a significant drop in revenue.  Subsequently, the gorillas are at risk again What can you, the Tarzan, do?

The lush landscape of Rwanda.

Consider a gorilla trekking trip. Your permit directly benefits the gorillas and the local communities.

Visit other parts Rwanda and neighboring countries. Gorillas don’t know borders and the efforts of the neighboring countries of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other areas of Rwanda contribute to the survival of the species.

The landscape of Volcanos National Park helps explain the title of Dian Fossey’s book, “Gorillas in the Mist.”

Buy local handicrafts, enjoy local restaurants, tip porters, guides, and trackers.  Locals feel the link between tourism and their quality of life directly.

Help control the spread of diseases particularly COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and supporting worldwide vaccination efforts.  Gorillas share 98% of their DNA with humans, so the threat of the spread of disease between apes and humans is significant.

Spread the word of conservation and responsible tourism.  We as humans share this planet with the wildlife.  Survival of one is not possible without the survival of the other.

Tarzan didn’t save the day by himself. Tourists alone, won’t save the mountain gorillas either. Responsible tourism combined with the efforts of the Rwandan government and local communities together provide the keys to saving these gentle giants of the mountains of Eastern Africa!

Want to do your part?  Call me to talk about a trip today!

 

Pat Ogle-CollinsRwanda’s gorillas still need tourist Tarzans to save them!
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Step by Step – The Ultimate Form of Slow Travel!

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When planning a long-awaited vacation, how you want to travel is just as important as where you want to travel. If you are somebody who enjoys culture, outdoor life and a slower form of travel, then taking a walking might be right up your alley. Choose your desired level of activity and have a unique experience, discovering new cities and regions.

Nowadays, you can find walking vacations suited for anyone’s needs and every level of fitness. Many tours combine traditional sightseeing and walking. That means you can enjoy a morning walking thru beautiful scenery and then continue with some less physical adventures, for example, a cooking class, wine tasting or a visit to a craftsman.

Explore the Italian Alps, the Dolomites, and their towering rock monoliths.

The possibilities are endless – book a Spanish culinary tour that takes you through charming villages, or – if you prefer a bigger challenge – spend a week in the mountains. Taking a walking tour may not be what you imagine – it is the perfect combination of comfort and activity. When it comes to accommodation, no sleep bag required-we’re talking lovely inns with fluffy duvets, fresh warm bread or croissants, and lots of hot water!

Contrary to trekking tours, you won’t experience high altitudes or rough conditions. When backpacking, specialized equipment is typically needed, and training is a must.  Not the case with walking tours.  Usually, you only carry what is needed for the day while your baggage is transported to your next hotel. There’s no hassle and no tired backs. If you are somebody who likes to treat yourself after a long day, some tours even offer meals at Michelin-starred restaurants and hotels with spas!  But walking tours offer more than deluxe-style travel.

Literally, you can stop and smell the flowers along the way on a walking tour.

Zipping by not allowed!

When traveling to a destination for the first time, it can be overwhelming with all there is to see and do. Walking tours allow you to focus on a smaller region and travel at a slower pace and even on your own pace. Of course, driving on your own or with a tour means you may see more in terms of area, but walking allows you to see a destination more closely and more deeply.

Rather than seeing works of Van Gogh in a museum, walk sites he visited, and the places he painted in Arles and St. Remy in Provence.  Furthermore, some places can be accessed only on foot. Just explore all of the incredible alleys of Fes in Morrocco and gorgeous enjoy panoramic vistas of the Alpine valleys that otherwise might be missed!

Eat that extra dessert!

Walking tours are perfect for travelers who seek adventure but don’t relish the thought of sore muscles.

And better yet, it’s great for those that like to enjoy local food. That walking, it’s burning calories your consumed during wonderful meals!  The level of activity and distances vary. Even those who aren’t athletically oriented can find a tour suited for their abilities. There is truly nothing more wonderful than being outdoors for long periods of time, enjoying nature, and walking through the sunshine (or rain – its own joyful type of experience).

Let others do the work!

Planning might be fun for some, but good luck trying to find a restaurant on a trail in the Bavarian forest or someone to transport your luggage from one village to the next.  All done for you on a walking tour.  These tours also offer some unique sights and experiences that you might not even know exist. Simply follow your guide (or the information provided by the company if you are going on a self-guided tour) and let your worries drift away.

There’s no campfire grub on a walking tour.  Enjoy wonderful local cuisine featuring local farm-fresh ingredients.

The route and distance are mapped out and time to explore on your own is frequently scheduled.  Distances during the day may be as few as a couple of miles to as many as 10.  You may find a short walk during the morning in one town followed by a transfer to another town for a short walk before dinner.

Walking tour companies also know that everyone is different. Self-guided tours allow you to walk the entire tour on your own. However, those who prefer to meet new people can choose a small group tour led by a local guide who knows the area and the culture well. Days spent walking with others allow you to get to know other participants and friendships to grow – lovely for those traveling solo. After all – what can be better than meeting people who share similar interests to you?

When choosing a tour, it is crucial to pay close attention to what is included and the level of difficulty, since the terms – hiking, walking, trekking – may vary by company. You will find walking tours all around the globe – from Europe to Southeast Asia and beyond.

Enjoy the destination and those with you on a walking tour.

There’s a song that may just be talking about walking tours –

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy.

Life’s too short and vacations go too fast.  Slow down and enjoy a walking tour.  I’m ready to help when you’re ready to explore.  Call me!

Pat Ogle-CollinsStep by Step – The Ultimate Form of Slow Travel!
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Embrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!

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Referred to as the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand defines long.  Stretching over 1298 miles from north to south (about the distance from New York City to Miami and only 194 miles wide at its widest point), no wonder the locals like to call a trip around the country the great Kiwi road trip.   There’s a reason.  The only way to get to most destinations around the country requires a car.  Some might call this a particularly exciting adventure because, yes, the Kiwis as the locals are called, drive on the left side of the road.

Driving thru the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

You could do a tour that visits the major sights of the country, but when you self-drive, you have freedom to go where you want, when and for how long. You can stop at the many quaint New Zealand towns to go shopping, see tourist attractions, enjoy traditional food and buy souvenirs as you please. Stopping to buy local products like fruits, vegetables, wine, cheese, and honey will be a highlight of your trip. You will meet local farmers and gather delicious flavors to enjoy during the leisurely days of your trip that follow.

You drive on the left in New Zealand.

The scenery is spectacular in the land of the long white cloud with rolling hills, vast mountain ranges, wide-open fields, and stunning lakes. You can also expect to see breathtaking fjords, pristine beaches, unique geothermal activity, and lots of sheep. Any time you want to stop for a photo, you can.

Driving on the left side – it’s not as scary as it sounds. After a few days of driving carefully on the left side, your mind will adapt and you will relax and be just fine. Start your road trip with short legs so you can gradually build up your confidence.

Phone apps can help you navigate your way around. For directions, you can use Google maps as you would at home. Weather apps are great, so you can see if bad weather is looming and plan your travel days accordingly to avoid driving in inclement weather.

Road conditions in New Zealand are good. Highways are similar to our state roads, not interstate highways; those are found only around Auckland and Christchurch. Roads are signposted well and there are many passing lanes or areas to pull over to allow traffic to pass. There are gravel and narrow roads in some rural areas.  On coastal roads, you can expect winds that require additional caution.  That is why it’s important to map out a travel plan in advance, so you are only driving in areas where and when you will feel comfortable.

On your great Kiwi road trip, you can explore areas like Cape Kidnappers that aren’t included on tours.

Reflective signs and road markings guide the way during evenings and at night. The maximum speed in any area is 100 km/hour (about 62 mph) and you need to slow down on approach to towns and school areas which is always signposted. Perhaps one of the trickiest things for NZ visitors (apart from driving on the left) is the roundabouts that many towns have on the outskirts and town centers.

Often you and maybe one other car will be on or entering a roundabout in New Zealand.

Before you rent your vehicle to travel to New Zealand, you’ll normally be shown a road safety video or given a road rule guide. You can also find them online to study before your arrival. Insurance is included and compulsory, as is showing the driver’s license issued in your country or international driving permit.

During your journey thru rural areas, you might come across some nature crossing the roads. It could be a farmer moving a herd of cows or a wild rabbit on the move. You might also see law enforcement along the way.

Police patrol the roads and there are numerous hidden speed cameras.   if caught speeding, your ticket will await when you return your vehicle or could arrive by mail many months after you return home.

The towns in NZ are quite close together. Even though many are small communities, you don’t need to go too far before finding a place to seek directions, fuel up or take a break to stretch your legs. It’s not difficult to find a public bathroom and restaurants and cafes have bathrooms for use by customers.

First-time driving on the left can be nerve-wracking initially.  But driving in New Zealand is quite easy because there just isn’t much traffic on the roads, except during peak times in the major cities. Even then, it’s quiet compared to many other metropolitan cities in the world. In some rural areas, you may drive for 10-20 min or more before you see another car.

You’ll be a confident driver after a day or two on the road. It is easy to find your way around and locals are very friendly and helpful should you need assistance.

Spend time in New Zealand.  Enjoy all the gorgeous scenery of both the North and the South Island.  Get to know the Kiwis.  It all becomes so easy and relaxing by car after a day or two. Drop us a line if you would like more information on travel in New Zealand and/or questions about driving the quiet Kiwi roads.  Oh, and if I can do it, you can.

With a car, you can see Lake Wakatipu on the South Island from so many gorgeous vantage points.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEmbrace adventure! Drive thru New Zealand!
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A day on safari unfolds typically; it’s what you see that continually changes!

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Safari life is exciting, and every day brings the possibility of seeing African creatures up close in their natural inhabitant. The thrill of seeing animals in the wild is the main reason that draws travelers to the beautiful countries in Africa. But you might be wondering what a typical day on safari looks like. 

 

Your experienced guides know how to read the movements of the bush and will plan safaris, so you have the best opportunities to see magnificent creatures in the wild. You can expect early morning wake-up calls, set meal times, and strict rules regarding safety. 

Ol Doinyo Lengai, the only active volcano in East Africa

Every day is different, and the season, weather, and other factors like migration and mating come into play when your guides are planning your days. 

 

Following is a general timeline widely used by lodges and camps designed to maximize your time to enjoy the environment and see all the wildlife that lives there, from the bugs to the birds to the buffalo. 

5 am – 6 am

Rise and shine! This vacation isn’t for travelers who love to sleep in and do brunch more often than breakfast. Many of the animals are active early in the morning and late afternoon when the temperatures are cooler. Splash some water on your face and grab a coffee and a roll or piece of fruit because the lions won’t wait for anyone.  Note:  Game drive times vary through the year and location with sunrise and sunset.

Ballooning over Masai Mara at sunrise

6 am – 9 am

It may be early, but as they say “the early bird gets the worm.”  By air or by land, early morning is when you will find wildlife active.  Trackers and guides will be looking for signs of wildlife.  Some are obvious.  Others are very subtle and easily missed by the untrained.  While wild most animals are accustomed to seeing vehicles and know they pose no danger in normal circumstances, guides provide specific instructions to ensure the safety of their guests.

9 am – 10 am

You earned breakfast and it’s usually a feast of fruit, cereal, toast, and maybe bacon and eggs – with more coffee, of course. Depending on your location, you might be enjoying a bush breakfast or be dining at the lodge with birds singing in the background.

Heading to another lodge or camp?  After breakfast, your bags will be loaded and off you go.

10 am – 12:30 pm

This is your free time to relax, reflect and enjoy the atmosphere of the camp or lodge. Your guide will tell you it’s against the rules to wander around the bush, so find a good book, do some writing, or settle in the shade for some bird watching. If your camp has a waterhole, you might want to lay low in a hide and wait for a visitor of the wild kind. 

Overlooking a plain in Zimbabwe.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Lunch is served. Meager morsels are not what you will find for lunch.  It’s a full meal with a main dish, fresh salads, fruit, and desserts. As everyone gathers around to eat together, you are sure to make new friends with others from around the world as you share stories and hopes for the adventure ahead.

Afternoon walk near safari camp

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

It is time to have an afternoon nap during this hottest time of the day. The locals take a siesta and this includes all living creatures – travelers, trusty guides, and the wildlife. Or you might like to take a dip in the pool or just relax. Some camps and lodges may offer walks in or just outside the camp.  Visits to local villages, schools, or markets may also be available.  Staff will let you know about the options available each day.

Typically new guests arrive in time for the late afternoon game drive to maximize your game viewing while there.

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm

Afternoon tea or a mid-afternoon snack and beverage helps get you through the long day with scorching temperatures as you prepare for round two of viewing local game and wildlife.

4 pm – 7:30 pm

Get the binoculars ready again. Your guide will have a plan mapped out to look for a herd of animals or flock of birds, and usually, your group will settle in a picturesque spot to be as the sun slowly sets over a “sundowners,” frequently a gin and tonic or another beverage (alcoholic nor non-alcoholic) of your choosing.  As the sun goes down on another glorious day, there is often significant animal movement and a great chance to see some game in action. It will get dark quickly and you may use floodlights to see wildlife as you make your way back to your camp or your lodge.

Trackers know where to find the best views of wildlife for guests.

7:30 pm – 10:30 pm

You arrive back at your accommodation and have time to get ready for dinner. Chat with fellow guests and compare elephant photos around the campfire before the candlelit dinner is served in the dining area. This is the main meal of the day and a leisurely affair.  The food is the level of fine dining with options that take into account dietary requirements.

Table set for dinner at a lodge in Botswana

10:30 pm to bedtime

Nightcaps around the campfire and colorful conversations under the starry African sky end the day perfectly. Tomorrow is another new adventure that could bring sightings of lions, hippos, hyenas, and wild dogs. Get some rest because the knock on your door will be coming very early!

Is the call of the wild temping you with a trip to Botswana, Kenya, or Uganda yet? There are so many wonderful locations to choose from. We will help you decide on the best safari.   It should be noted the main difference between safaris in East and Southern Africa is how near to the animals you can get.   For example, in Kruger, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, off-road game viewing is permitted, but in most parks, off-road driving is not permitted barring some private conservancies and reserves.

 

For more information on an African safari to remember, send us an email today and I will contact you to offer up ideas and suggestions around the wildlife that you want to see!

Pat Ogle-CollinsA day on safari unfolds typically; it’s what you see that continually changes!
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