This South African scenic route could change your definition of a garden!

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Going on a safari is probably one of the popular ways to explore South Africa but it isn’t the only one. If you are interested in taking the “road less traveled” when in South Africa, consider including the Garden Route in your itinerary. The outdoor paradise has perfect weather year-round with monthly highs of 25 degrees in the hottest months and 18 degrees during the coldest ones. To be clear, this popular area isn’t a garden but rather a 200-kilometer coastline filled with versatile natural features.

A diversity of environments along the Garden Route including coastal areas and rainforests, wildlife, and landscapes means there’s something for everyone.

Driving the route takes three to fourteen days depending on the number of stops in your itinerary. The route is filled with detours so it is the best way to experience one of the most beautiful regions in the country at your own pace. Luckily, South Africa has one of the most developed road networks in the continent with the N2 highway on which the Garden Route runs being the perfect road for a self-drive trip through forests, by lagoons, along the coast and into towns – a trip that is not only known for its scenery but also its wildlife and culture.  You can start your self-drive road trip from Cape Town, stopping by various towns, parks, and attractions before winding up the journey in Port Elizabeth. The Garden Route which stretches from Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay is considered on of the endpoints of South Africa’s Garden Route.

to Storms River showcases the culture, hospitality, and beauty of South Africa and is a “must-see” for adventure lovers.

Start your journey at Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay, the gateway to the Garden Route,  lies less than 250 miles from the coastal city of Cape Town. Drivers can stop by the many cafes along the road for a snack as they make their way to St Blaize trail to stretch their legs.

Your trip to Mossel Bay is incomplete without visiting the famed Post Office Tree, shaped like a boot. Although it’s said to have been in existence since the 1500s, you can still use it to send letters to various destinations or even back home.  Mossel Bay gives you a scenic start to your trip with an idyllic coastline covering most of the route.

Experience natural beauty at Knysa

Lush forests and the glistening sea water surrounds Knysa, a popular town on the Garden Route. One of its main attractions is the Knysa Heads, two sea cliffs that guard the entrance to the lagoon. Exploring Knysa can be done while hiking or on a cruise with both options promising panoramic views of the area. If you decide to hike, you get to explore the scenic trails that lead to waterfalls and rivers. Hundreds of yellowwood trees that are 400 to 800 years old are easy to spot in the lush forest vegetation.

Knysna Bay, South Africa

Other trees in the surrounding forest are pink-flowered Cape chestnut and stinkwoods in which different bird species build their homes. If you decide to go for the cruise expect a bumpy ride to Knysa Heads.  Multi-hued and jagged rocks line the sea edges allowing you to get close to stunning scenery while watching sea animals swim nearby. The eastern cliff has a narrow gap that offers a beautiful viewpoint of the islets at the lagoon as the sun sets.

Enjoy the Tsitsikamma National Park by taking an excursion thru the Storm River Gorge.

Besides natural beauty, Knysa is also home to rehabilitated elephants at the first sanctuary of its kind in South Africa. The orphaned herd of elephants provide a unique experience for wildlife lovers exploring the Garden Route. Visitors are given a presentation on safety around the elephants before walking with the elephants and feeding them. Interaction with the elephants varies depends on how well they cooperate, but most times the experience is great for those that follow instructions.

Explore the beach at Plettenberg Bay

Plettenberg Bay is a hiker’s paradise that offers stunning ocean views to those that get to the top of the slope. Its breathtaking beaches are surrounded by sheer cliffs that are perfect for watching the sunset. Nearby is the Robberg Nature Reserve which stretches 2.5 miles showcasing prehistoric caves and rocks. The bay is a breeding area for several waterbird species, and seals that can be seen basking on the beach or bobbing up and down in the water. Surfers can also spot dolphins and whales in the water during the migration season, providing an amazing show.

Test your limits at Bloukrans Bridge

Imagine bungee jumping off the highest bridge in Africa as part of your trip. The 718 foot high bridge is architecturally stunning, with an arch going over the steep gorge below. Getting to the bungee bridge is on a zip line, a taste of what to expect when you finally jump off the bridge. Once secured, you are ready to take the world’s highest bungee jump that comes with an “out of this world” adrenaline rush. The adventure doesn’t end there, with visitors opting for a winch ride or using the skywalk to get back to land. If

Bloukrans Bridge provides a great jumping-off point for those interested in bungee jumping.

you are brave enough, you can enjoy spectacular views of Bloukrans River on the underside of the deck.

Stand at the mouth of Storms River 

Although Storms River is the last stop of the Garden Route, its dramatic coastline makes it worth the stop. Located in the Tsitsikamma National Park, watching the point at which the Storms River and the Indian Ocean meet with the ocean pounding the headlands is a therapeutic experience. If you are interested in an up-close look at the coastline, consider hiking up the gorge following well-marked trails in the indigenous forest. The trails which lead to secluded waterfalls and the famous Suspension Bridge hanging over canyons are worth checking out for thrill-seekers. Expect to see an abundance of flora, fauna, vervet monkeys, and diverse exotic birds. The tree-shrouded strip is also a great place to relax while visiting several shops, restaurants, and refueling at a local microbrewery.

A suspension bridge crosses the
Storm River in South Africa’s Tsitsikamma
National Park on the Garden Route.

Not a fan of a self-drive trip? Relax because driving in South Africa is fairly easy. All you need to do is rent a vehicle, and soon you’ll be discovering the Garden Route stopping and exploring on your schedule. If you choose to extend your safari to include this stunning coastline, you are assured of a memorable experience. Call me today, and let’s start planning your trip to South Africa’s Garden Route.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThis South African scenic route could change your definition of a garden!
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This natural zoo boasts no bars, but some amazing walls!

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Picture hundreds of animals going in and out of a gigantic crater, similar to the proverbial Noah’s ark. Lush vegetation, which hosts thousands of animal and bird species, is found in and around the crater. Ngorongoro Crater offers this and more to visitors considering making their first trip to Africa. It is also a natural wonder that earned it a spot on the famous World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1979.

The game species, diverse terrains, and significance in human prehistory make it a “must visit” attraction

25,000 large mammals reside in the Ngorongoro Crater including elephants,  lions, black rhino, wildebeest, and cheetah and more.

for thousands of visitors ready for an exhilarating expedition. If the thought of spending time at one of the few intact calderas in the world excites you, then Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania is your next destination.

The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled caldera in the world is 2,000 ft deep and covers 100 sq miles.

Ngorongoro crater is a beautiful sight to behold and is often the first stop when you visit the highland area. The 2000ft deep crater, which would have been one of the highest peaks in Africa, formed after a volcano erupted. The geological landform is over two million years old, covers over 100 square miles, and is surrounded by a conservation area of 3,200 square miles.

As you descend into  one of the largest intact calderas in the world, you will witness a changing

landscape every few turns. Visitors get to experience ashy marshlands, patchy forests, grassy plains, and savannah filled with different vegetation. For thousands of years, the nature of geography at Ngorongoro has evolved, resulting in a distinct ecosystem. The caldera terrain includes Lake Magadi, a shallow but large lake; Lerai Forest, a thick forest filled with fever trees; Gorigor Swamp, a wetland popular with hippos and open grasslands teeming with thousands of game species.

No trip to Africa is complete without taking a safari, but the one in Ngorongoro is one of a kind. Game drives give you an up-close look of the enormous crater plus the flora and fauna of the area. Safety is guaranteed for visitors as they move around the crater in a safari vehicle while enjoying the serene environment and diverse animal species.

A stopover at Lake Magadi, which is at the center of the crater, is a perfect way to see some of the

Rains change the colors of the Ngorongoro Crater and bring the wildebeest thru parts of the conservation area surrounding the crater.

popular animal species. The vast population of animals that call the lake home includes crocodiles, hippopotamus, and pink flamingoes that add color to the lake. Other bird species can also be spotted at the lake making it a perfect spot for bird lovers.

Lerai Forest, a wooded area filled with yellow or green fever trees, brings you into another world. The straight trees are breathtaking when in bloom, with bright yellow flowers covering the entire forest canopy. Hundreds of baboons and elephants can also be spotted in Lerai making it a paradise worth exploring.

The Lerai Forest in the Ngorongoro Crater provides a shade to elephants and a hiding place for leopards.

Besides the famous “Big Five” you will see thousands of wild animals in Ngorongoro. The area is home to over 25,000 wild species giving you a chance to interact with wildlife you may have only seen online. Wildlife spotting is popular with tourists as they get a chance to see large mammals such as wildebeests, hippos, zebras, hyenas, wild dogs, gazelles, buffalos, and black rhinos. The large population of mammals also attracts predators such as lions, hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards. It is common to come across them feasting on a mammal as part of your safari.

Wildebeest migrations in Ngorongoro are an exciting time and a highlight for visitors from all over the world. If you travel during the right time of year, you can watch them move in their thousands. From afar, the wildebeests resemble a snaking line as they plod along a course that is invisible to the human eye. One unique fact about the famous crater is that you will not come across giraffes, impalas, or topis that find the cliffs too steep to maneuver. Also, insufficient grazing areas in the crater make it unable to feed antelopes that move in large herds.

Bird lovers also have a reason to take a trip to the crater, which is home to over five hundred bird species. The birds which live in bogs, savannahs, and forests are easy to spot using binoculars in their natural habitat. Some species to look out for include secretary birds, ostriches, eagles, weaver birds, kestrels, and sunbirds, among others.

Did you know you originated from Africa? All humans emerged from the continent, specifically Olduvai Gorge located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area,

Lake Magadi located in Ngorongoro Crater draws wildlife to its shores.

about two hours away from the Ngorongoro crater. The area hosts two archaeological sites within Olduvai Gorge that are important to the evolution theory. Visitors get to explore the area in which the discovery of the first Proconsul skull by famous paleontologists, Louis and Mary Leakey was unearthed. The skull is said to be an ancestor of the Homo Habilis and was unearthed in 1959. Evidence of the lifestyle of the human ancestor, which included scavenging and the use of stone tools, is available at the site.

Monument commemorating the discovery of two species of early man at Olduvai Gorge

Ngorongoro’s Olduvai Gorge is also home to another discovery, the Laetoli footprints, which are over 3.7 million years old. The human tracks discovered in the 1970s, preserved in volcanic ash, are evidence of humans walking on two feet. According to anthropologists, these two discoveries by the Leakey’s remain one of the most important breakthroughs studying the origins of humans. If evolution interests you, then Olduvai Gorge is a “must-see” on your itinerary.

Besides visiting the two archaeological sites, you can also tour the museum and listen to presentations by resident guides. The museum has several sections that provide information about the site and its history, plus details of the fossils. Replicas of the Laetoli Footprints and information of mammals that inhabited the gorge for millions of years are on display. For the latest research taking place at the gorge, you can chat with an archaeological expert stationed at the museum.

Your first trip to Africa can be unique, memorable, and hassle-free. I am your best bet when visiting Ngorongoro Crater and its environs. Call me and let’s plan your trip today!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThis natural zoo boasts no bars, but some amazing walls!
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See Victoria Falls but make sure you do Victoria Falls too!

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You first hear the roar and then see the majestic waters falling from 108 m high to the Zambezi River below. Victoria Falls, located at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is one of the most incredible natural sights you’ll ever see. Its position as the largest waterfall is here to stay, and when you travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll see why.

Aerial view of Victoria Falls and the mist that can be seen for miles.

Besides being a natural wonder with mists that can be seen from many miles away, the cascading waterfall has plenty of activities for travelers to do. The best way to enjoy your visit to Victoria Falls is to embrace the various experiences available at the site.

Even at the falls, start with a safari

A trip to Africa without going on safari would feel incomplete. Luckily, the banks of the Zambezi River are home to several animal and bird species worth checking out. A cruise on the river will have you spotting crocodiles, elephants sunbathing, antelopes, giraffes, and rhinos lapping the cool waters. The cruises explore the river channels, savannah-lined shores, and islands for about two hours. Whether you prefer a morning or late evening cruise, your experience will be spectacular.

Enjoy viewing crocodiles, hippos and more on a cruise on the Zambezi above Victoria Falls.

If your love for wildlife is insatiable, plan a day trip to surrounding wildlife parks or reserves. Close by is the Zambezi National Park which is home to various antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, elephants, and giraffes. Further ahead is the largest park in Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park, home to the biggest population of elephants. The elephant-rich park has half the population of elephants in Zimbabwe, which is about forty-four thousand.

Add some extra drama

Adventure activities at Victoria Falls are many and are suited to different tastes. The Victoria Falls bridge slide is the best way to see the majestic waters while gliding across the Zambezi River. The 300-meter zipline begins at Batoka Gorge and goes over the rapids to the Zimbabwean side. If you don’t feel brave enough to go on the zip line alone, you can be accompanied by one of the guides allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views.

Bungee jumping at Victoria Falls is for daring souls and the perfect activity for adrenaline junkies. The jump takes place from the Victoria Fall Bridge and leads to a plunge of over one hundred meters below towards the Zambezi River. For many, the incredible views when getting ready for the jump and on the way down makes it a “must do” activity. If it’s your first time, you can request a tandem jump as you build up confidence for a solo jump.

Enjoy the thrill of bungee jumping from the Zambezi Bridge near Victoria Falls.

Boasting some of the best white water rafting sections, the Zambezi River is perfect for a rafting adventure. Gliding on the water gives travelers a chance to see a different viewpoint of the river and surrounding gorges. The adrenaline rush on the challenging stretches and relaxation on the calm stretches is a combination worth experiencing. Even so, the best time for white water rafting is between August and December when the river is at its lowest.

View not only Victoria Falls but the Batoka Gorge on a scenic helicopter tour.

An aerial view of Victoria Falls allows you to see all you know about the majestic waterfall in one swoop. Taking a helicopter ride with a designated guide gives you a chance to appreciate the massive size of the UNESCO site and scenic views. The guide will point out key sites such as the Batoka Gorge and Zambezi National Park during the shorter 12 minutes or more

extended 25-minute trip. Some guides also give a history of each site as a way of enriching the airborne journey.

Time for a history lesson

The Victoria Falls scenery would be incomplete without the iconic Victoria Fall Bridge. Known initially as Zambezi Bridge, it is one of the oldest connections between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visitors get to learn its history since its construction in 1905 to date through an informative presentation. The bridge tour includes a walk underneath the giant steel structure or getting harnessed up to view the falls fully. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a double rainbow formed by the water spray.

Livingstone is a historical town that opens up to Victoria Falls and other attractions from the Zambian side. Retaining much of its colonial architecture, the town provides a glimpse of what life looked like during the time of David Livingstone, its founder. Strolling down the town’s streets is a great way to interact with locals while exploring famous sites like the Livingstone Museum to learn more about their past. Other

Architecture from bygone times help give Livingstone, Zambia a special atmosphere.

activities to engage in while in the town are visiting pavement cafes and colorful markets that offer several cultural merchandise, perfect for gift items for loved ones back home.

End on a nostalgic note

Sailing on a classic 70ft riverboat dubbed “The African Queen” is a great way to wind down your day. With the start of tourism in the area in 1905, your cruise can create a connection to those that enjoyed their time on the Zambezi River years ago as the trip-deck boat allows you to enjoy the golden hour while sipping cocktails and taking in the gorgeous sunset.

The colonial British influence can still be felt during afternoon tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel.

Check out or check into The Victoria Falls Hotel, built by the British in 1904, and set up to accommodate Cecil Rhode’s workers. Enjoy high tea on the veranda overlooking Victoria Falls and the famous 156 meters long Victoria Hills Bridge. Enjoy the five-star experience that includes exceptional facilities, luxurious accommodation, and impeccable service if you decide to stay.

For an unforgettable experience at the grandeur hotel, you will have to book in advance.

Is Victoria Falls your next destination? 

These are just a few of the many activities and experiences found in and around Victoria Falls.  My job is to learn about you and recommend activities for you in Africa and at Victoria Falls that will result in an amazing trip that will not only be fun but memorable. Call me today and leave all the work to me as you dream about your upcoming trip to Victoria Falls.

Pat Ogle-CollinsSee Victoria Falls but make sure you do Victoria Falls too!
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Know your vocabulary when it comes to the Kruger area!

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The beauty and wonder of the greater Kruger area in South Africa are reflected in the visitor numbers that top one million every year. The country’s oldest and biggest national park, Kruger 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.

If you are considering heading to Kruger National Park for a safari to see the lions, giraffes, and other

The Paul Kruger Gate at Kruger National Park commemorates the founder one of Africa’s largest game parks.

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 Parks, Reserves and Concessions

National parks, like Kruger National Park, are managed and owned by the government. Individuals or companies own private game reserves that surround the park. A concession is a lodge or camp run and managed by a company inside the park. 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 reserve 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

Directional signage in Kruger National Park provides wildlife a perch to make sure they are seen.

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 booting 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.

Your Travel Experience

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

Traveler 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

Self drive safaris in Kruger National Park creates traffic jams around wildlife.

same restrictions on visitors, so they can be crowded with vehicles and people trying to see the wildlife. Also, it’s important to know off-road game viewing isn’t allowed in Kruger National Park, so often, you can see more impressive wildlife in reserves where it is permitted.

Travel Times

Kruger National Park has 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 so tourists have more scheduling flexibility and enjoy exciting night game drives. Without time limits reserves can offer more options for safari experiences such as walking safaris and longer observation times.

Accommodation from basic to ultra-luxury can be found in the greater Kruger area.

Travel Style

Relaxing in luxurious accommodation after a long day of safari adventuring in the heat is the perfect end to your day. Accommodation in Kruger National Parks is nice enough, but to live the high life with a room straight out of a chic travel magazine, you are best to book a stay at a private reserve. There is nothing like unwinding at a high-end lodge by exchanging safari stories over a cool drink before retiring to your luxury room for a good night’s sleep.

Making the Decision

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

I design safari travel packages for travelers who enjoy rich and diverse travel experiences while enjoying comfort and sometimes extra pampering. 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-CollinsKnow your vocabulary when it comes to the Kruger area!
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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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