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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The soul of South Africa lies in Soweto!

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Do you want to experience breathtaking wild safaris in the heart of an African national park? Are you looking forward to sunbathing on some of the most exotic beaches in Africa? Is interacting with locals and indulging in their culture and cuisine something that excites you? If the above questions describe your ultimate getaway, pack your bags and make your way to South Africa!

Directional signage on Vilakazi Street in Soweto

For a trip that gives you a total view of South Africa, you need to visit the townships in the vast country. Soweto is the ideal township to include in your itinerary. I know you are thinking why visit an area that holds not-so-good memories for locals and might be unsafe for foreigners. Isn’t this slum tourism? Far from it, many Soweto residents are open to visitors learning about their painful past, understanding their culture, and interacting with them within the township.

The Birthplace of the Anti-Apartheid Movemennt

Located in Johannesburg, Soweto is at the heart of apartheid history in South Africa. In the 1930s, Africans were forced to move from their original homes to the edge of urban areas to separate them from white people that took over their land. The places they moved into developed into townships that were overpopulated and largely impoverished.

Nelson Mandela House

Most attempts to end apartheid were birthed in Soweto, with many political campaigns launched from the township. It was also the battleground between police and school-going children in 1976, resulting in the death of many black children. Many of the famous sights in Soweto are significant in South African history and a testament to their resilience and eventual victory.

Traveling through Soweto is the best way to immerse yourself in the past and present of South Africa. You don’t have to worry about saying and doing the right

thing but focus on learning as much as possible. The people are friendly and openly talk about their experiences during apartheid and post-apartheid. Living with less materially does not dampen their zeal for life, as is evident in their daily activities. Before traveling to the township, read ahead on its history to have everything in context and do your best to respect the residents’ life choices, even if they differ from yours.

The Soweto Experience

So, now you are ready to tour Soweto, but how do you get around? You can choose to ride on a regular tour bus, but for a more immersive excursion, consider cycling, walking, or riding a tuk-tuk. Taking a bike tour is one of the best ways to get an up-close look at famous sights. The locals are also amiable, making your tour a great way to interact with residents in their own space.

Soweto has many “must-see” sights, with many located in Vilakazi Street. The use of sign language to spell out “Vilakazi” using a sculpture of eight large grey hands as you enter the street is eye-catching and welcoming for visitors. You can spend more time than you planned on the street looking at various displays of public street art and memorials celebrating icons of the apartheid struggle. Relax on the benches placed alongside the road allow you to take in the beauty and buzz of the area. The seating is decorated with attention-grabbing mosaics that add authenticity to the precinct.

Hector Pieterson Memorial

The residence of Nelson Mandela on the same street still looks like he still lives there. It was renamed Mandela Family Museum and provides a look into the life and times of the former head of state. Another famous individual that lived in Vilakazi Street is Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu. A visit to the archbishop’s home is an excellent eye-opener on how the religious community got involved in the fight against apartheid.

In the same area is the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which highlights the involvement of children during the anti-apartheid era. It is a commemorative space built in an urban design to display the past and bring out the heritage of Vilakazi Street. A few blocks away is the site where Hector Pieterson, a student taking part in the riots, was shot and killed.

Orlando Towers, an iconic Soweto landmark

End your trip at the Orlando Towers, a power station constructed after World War II to serve Johannesburg. It served the largest city in South Africa for over fifty years before being decommissioned. The distinctive landmark gets a regular facelift from graphic designers to showcase their skills to locals and tourists. It is also a bungee jumping spot for tourists looking to enjoy an adrenaline rush!

Staying connected

Touring Soweto is the first step towards

discovering another side of South Africa that may not be glamorous but eye-opening. Besides buying local merchandise and dining in restaurants to empower the locals that depend on tourist visits, you can still make a significant impact in several ways, even when back at home. Thankfully, the trip doesn’t have to be the end of your connection with the township.

Speak about your experience with friends and family that may have preconceived notions about Soweto and South Africa. Sadly, the false narratives about the nation have been peddled for decades, and an accurate account of your experience in Soweto is powerful in changing mindsets. Township tourism doesn’t have to be unethical or exploitive when done right.

Speak about your experience with friends and family that may have preconceived notions about Soweto and South Africa. Sadly, the false narratives about the nation have been peddled for decades, and an accurate account of your experience in Soweto is powerful in changing mindsets. Township tourism doesn’t have to be unethical or exploitive when done right.

Research on social causes in the township that may need support and plug into one that tugs at your heartstrings. It is advisable to connect with reputable non-profit organizations that offer educational and job opportunities to Soweto locals. Unemployment is a significant problem in South Africa, and they often appreciate any help towards such causes.

Plan to visit Soweto as a volunteer in the many organizations set up to assist township residents. Volunteering is always encouraged as it helps improve the lives of the locals and their children. If unable to return in person, you can send in your donations and support your favorite charity.

Festival goers in South Africa’s Soweto

Soweto neighborhood

Ultimately, the journey through Soweto is a rewarding experience for a day trip or an extended period. The catch is to strike a balance between awareness of the issues locals face and respectfully choosing to focus on their strengths instead of weaknesses.

If you are keen to start your journey to Soweto on the right footing, you need someone with experience to guide you. I am well versed in matters Soweto and will help you discover a new side of South Africa. Call me!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe soul of South Africa lies in Soweto!
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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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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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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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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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A South African Nature Reserve with No Big Five Game?

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Unlike most typical Safari lodges in Africa mainly focused around big game watching, Grootbos Private National Reserve in South Africa offers other wildlife equally as captivating – exotic plants, and marine wildlife. This privately owned property is a paradise for nature lovers. The National Geographic proclaims it as one of the “most enchanting nature reserves worldwide.” Located where the Atlantic meets the Indian ocean, it is a marvelous place in which several ecosystems co-exist in perfect harmony.

Grootbos villa

Being home to over 800 plant species some of which exist in no other place on the planet, it is the richest floral heaven outside the tropics. The splendor of its varied natural vistas is simply breathtaking. The reserve is undoubtedly a different universe where the focus is absolutely on plant life and green living. Working with nature toward self-reliance is the norm.

A Panorama of Enchanting Scenery, Brilliant Sunrises, and Orange Sunsets

A misty haze covers the horizon every morning to create enchanting sunrises that give way to bright days of uninterrupted views to the Cape of Good Hope.  Evenings are clothed in the most glorious sunsets in hues of orange, pink, gold, and brilliant-red visible from the open decks of private villas, each with one wall entirely made of a glass window.

Outdoor dining area or boma at Grootbos Nature Reserve

The innate beauty of these dwellings oozes out of their local stone and traditional thatch constructions. These, however, do not detract from the feeling of living luxuriously in a modern space. A combination of crackling evening log fires, dim lights, and rain softly strumming on the thatched roofs make up a natural melody, creating moments of pure ecstasy guaranteed to fire up your spirits.

In the evening, dine outside in the boma with caressing evening breezes filled with spicy, energizing floral scents invade your senses to give you a euphoric experience of total tranquility, perhaps only broken by tinkling crockery. The full-service, self-sustaining kitchen prepares cuisine that is a fantastic visual spectacle of culinary sophistication.

Ocean Trips and Guided Nature Safaris through Lush Greenery

Boat rides through glassy waters with an unimpeded view of what lies at the ocean bottom take you on water safaris to Dyer Island, just a short distance from the coast. There is an amazing plethora of dolphins, sharks, and thousands of seals around Geyser Rock – a great spot for white sharks and their unique seal hunting behavior.

Expert naturalists provide guided plant safaris into the forest of Milkwood trees aged more than 1000 years. Land trips take you across expanses of a stunning landscape of lush greenery interspersed with flowers blossoming in a rioting profusion of colors. After a drive across this vast terrain of beautiful, wide valleys and craggy mountains seeming to gracefully roll and tumble into the bluest waters of Walker Bay, you return to the lodge.

Southern Right Whale swimming under whale watching boat

4×4 flower safari thru the Cape floral kingdom

Bath overlooking Grootbos down to the coast

A Reserve Focused on the Guest and the Community

Providing employment, the reserves’s Grootbos Foundation trains members of the community on research-backed environmental science and hospitality management.  The Foundation, including its Siyakhula and Green Futures programs, seeks to empower local communities and individuals through ecotourism, enterprise development, and education.

Guests enjoy products grown and raised on the Growing the Future Farm organic farm which are sold to the Grootbos lodges.  The Green Futures program provides education and training in horticulture and hospitality with participants working on the reserve behind the scenes and directly with guests.  Upon completion, participants are placed locally with other employers or assisted in establishing their own small enterprise.

When coming to South Africa, the big game safari is a must, but missing out on a stay at Grootbos means you will miss an experience combining the sea, the unique flora, and the local people that will stay with you for years!  All it takes is a call to start you on your journey.

Pat Ogle-CollinsA South African Nature Reserve with No Big Five Game?
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Vast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!

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Have you checked off destinations like Italy, France, perhaps a safari, and others from your list and itching for a bit more adventure?  Namibia located in southern Africa remains largely unexplored by most travelers and by man.  So before the rest of the tourism world discovers this gem, add it to your shortlist.

Expect to be wowed by large desert dunes, stunning national parks, friendly locals dressed in tribal clothing (English is the official language), and wildlife scenes that look like they came straight from the pages of National Geographic.

Aerial view of the Namib Desert

Namib translates to a vast place and the Namib Desert fits that description to a T.  Sand dunes stretch for miles with the tallest dune, referred to as Dune 7, holding the world record at 1,256 feet, just 6 feet taller than the Empire State Building! In addition to vastness and size, light and color creates an ever changing picture just waiting to be taken.  Near Sossusvlei, the white ground of the salt pan, along with the changing colors of the sand from orange to red and the dark contrast of the dead camelthorn trees create a surreal landscape just begging to be photographed.

Giraffe in Namibia

Wildlife like cheetah, leopard, elephants, and zebra exist here through their unique adaption to the desert that stretches across a good portion of the country.  Also, over 700 species of birds, from colorful European bee-eaters to giant ostriches, wait for bird lovers.  While there is considerable wildlife and most see some particularly further north, wildlife should take second place to the scenery when planning a trip.

The coastline of Namibia extends over 1,000 miles.  Along the northern portion of the country lies the Skeleton Coast because of the whale and bones once found here. Now, shipwreck remains are the skeletons of the area numbering in the thousands due to the rough seas from the currents and strong winds.

One wreck, the Eduard Bohlen wreck, stranded in 1909, now lies several hundred yards inland as a result of shifting sands.  With this area being so remote, the scenic flights from Swakopgmund provide the best means for seeing the beauty of the most untouched and uninhabited area.  For a more intimate close-up view, several camps allow you to experience the area and the incredible night sky.  For more dark skies, visit the Namib Rand Dark Sky Reserve near Sossusvlei.

Shipwreck of Zeila on Skelton Coast, Namibia

From the Skeleton Coast head northwest to Etosha National Park home to lions, rhinos, antelope, hyenas, lizards, zebras, and birds. One of the best ways to see them is at a waterhole as they come to drink. Okaukuejo Camp is a luxury accommodation with a flood-lit waterhole so you can view the animals after dark, including the rare black rhino.   Etosha also boasts the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs in the world.

Wildlife around waterhole in Etosha National Park

Damaraland, also located in the northern area of the country between Sossusvlei and Etosha, a semi-desert region yields yet another very different landscape with hundreds of years of erosion forming mountains of granite and boulders the size of trees. Here you will find Twyfelfontein, home to more rock engravings than anywhere else in the world.  From 1,000-10,000 years old, the area became a national monument in 1952 and a World Heritage site in 2007.

When traveling around Namibia to exotic locations like the Namib Desert, Damaraland and Etosha National Park, you will find the whole country is environmentally aware. Most places are eco-friendly and sustainability a key objective of many businesses. Protecting the local culture, wildlife and natural environment is very important to the people of Namibia, and you will be encouraged to recycle and reuse items during your adventure. Over 40% of the country is under conservation management, and it was the first African country to introduce environmental protection into its constitution.

Ready to get off the beaten path and feel like an explorer?  Namibian tourism increased from 1 million to 1.6 million visitors over the last decade, compared to neighboring South Africa’s 16.7 million in 2019.  Today you can still feel like an explorer.  Who knows for how long.  Let’s make sure you get there before everyone else finds out about this land of striking landscapes.  Call me to talk more about this amazing very different destination!

Namibian night sky

Pat Ogle-CollinsVast, remote & desolate create amazing scenery in Namibia!
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Eastern or Southern Africa Safari: Does it matter?

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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?
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