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Journal

The Little Green Snake

May 29th, 2015 by

When I was a kid I used to spend summers at YMCA camp in central Pennsylvania.  We would hike and camp in the mountains along the Appalachian Trail.  Quite often we would see or come upon a snake or two.  Usually a harmless black snake.  But, sometimes we would run across an Eastern Timber Rattle or Copperhead snake.  Both can be quite lethal. During those years, I came to fear these critters and today don’t like to be around snakes.  That being said, over the past 7 years, I’ve been to Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and more recently, South Africa.  I have never seen a snake except recently on a return trip to South Africa.   Our group was preparing to go on a game drive and gathering on the deck of our main lodge.  Suddenly, my associate, Kim, jumped up from her chair and ran over to our game ranger.  “There’s a snake over there near my back pack” she said.   The ranger casually strolled over to inspect what Kim saw.  I cautiously followed and watched as the guide picked up a little green snake.  “Oh, it’s only an African Spotted Green Snake” he said.  “They’re harmless.”  Quickly, I snapped a photo of the first snake I’ve ever seen in Africa. 

Little-Green-Snake_600web

Top 10 Memorable Encounters in South Africa

April 14th, 2015 by

1. Manda Ulvile

“The village of Manda Ulvile is an authentic village of 250 and half of its population is made up of kids 10 and under. A 10 minute boat ride from Lupital Island on Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika, fishing is their main livelihood but the villagers also grow crops such as corn and cassava. A few kids followed us at the beginning of the tour but by the middle of the visit, we had about 30 kids in tow. This was one of the highlights of my Tanzania safari.”

 

2. Maretsu, Maasai waiter at the Mwanga Moto Camp

“Maretsu, our Maasai waiter at the Mwanga Moto Camp in the Southern Serengeti, was very hospitable and quite an innovative young man as evidenced by the sandals that he made out of a truck tire. East Africa is renowned for its diverse culture and friendly heritage; as we discovered, you will arrive as a visitor and leave as a friend. The unique culture of some of the ethnic groups, notably the Maasai, is a great experience to be enjoyed.”

tire sandsls of Maasai waiter

 

3. Scary story from Shamwari (Eastern Cape, South Africa)

“We had just arrived at the Shamwari Game Reserve Eagles Crag lodge, 45 minutes from the Port Elizabeth airport. After greeting the staff and savoring a hot chocolate, we were escorted along a curved boardwalk that led to each of the nine exclusive suites – all surrounded by gorgeous mountain cliffs and tucked away behind lush vegetation. We had to pinch ourselves to make sure it was real! 

Around the time we passed the suite where John Travolta had just stayed with his family, we wondered aloud if we would be able to find our way back from the matrix of paths. After settling into our suite, which is fashioned in glass and stone with views of the surrounding rock faces, we prepared to change for our first evening game drive and dinner.

Then it came: blood curdling screams. We were told the lodge area was completely surrounded by electrified fences, but the sounds were so close.  Had one of the animals gotten through the fence? There was no way we were venturing out, even if it meant missing the evenings’ events. It was May, so it was already starting to get dark in the Southern Hemisphere. We closed the sliding windows and door and pulled the curtains and turned out the lights as the screams continued, getting louder. Were they coming closer? Eventually, we relented and called security. 

The friendly staff told us no worries, “hakuna mata,” that sound was simply the local baboons mating; probably those we saw outside the area on the drive in! We breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for that news as well as grateful to not be born a baboon!”  Click here to listen to a baboon sound (sound #3)

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Henry’s Happenings – Safari to Kenya

March 31st, 2015 by

Into Africa: Part 1

Henry Dennis

In November, I traveled to Africa at the invitation of Jim Holden, President, and Kim Severini, Vice President of African Travel, Inc. I was part of a select group of AAA travel agents who traveled on an educational trip to Kenya with a stopover in Dubai. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share a piece of my journey with you. I hope you will enjoy being along for the ride!

PREPARATION FOR AFRICA

Once I received my official confirmation, I began preparing for the trip. Going to Africa is very different than taking a cruise, going to the Caribbean or even to Europe. Not only do you have a much longer flight, but you also have to think about visas for entrance to the various countries, vaccinations, and the most difficult of all: packing!

GETTNG THERE AND BACK

I flew from Charlotte to Chicago. From Chicago, I flew Emirates Airlines to Dubai where I had an overnight stay. The flight from Chicago to Dubai was 15 hours and an overnight flight. After a short overnight stay in Dubai, we flew Emirates from Dubai to Nairobi. This was another 5 hour flight.

Coming home, our flight left Nairobi at about 12:30A and arrived in Dubai five hours later at 5:30A. We left Dubai at 9:45A and got back to Chicago fifteen hours later around 2:45P. I cleared US Customs/Immigration very quickly in Chicago using my newly acquired Global Entry membership.

VISAS

The visa part was actually very simple. Dubai (United Arab Emirates) did not require a visa. Kenya requires a visa but you have a choice to submit your passport/visa form to the Kenyan Embassy and get it in advance or you can get it at the airport on arrival. I chose to get mine on arrival. Kenyan immigration officials have a visa desk at the Nairobi airport. It is the first stop you make when you arrive. You must have a valid US passport with at least 6 months validity after your travel date and pay the visa fee which is currently $50.00, payable in cash. If you have traveled to any countries that have yellow fever present, you must also have a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

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Top 10 Sightseeing Experiences in South Africa

March 9th, 2015 by

African Travel, Inc.’s Top 10 Sightseeing Experiences in South Africa
Safari Specialists name their top picks

1. City and Regional ToursChapman's Peak Drive with Hout Bay in the background
“I would definitely recommend taking a private half-day tour of Johannesburg if you have a layover in Johannesburg or are staying in the city. I enjoyed seeing the sites of downtown Johannesburg, including Constitution Hill, but the highlight of the tour for me was definitely the Apartheid Museum. This moving and provocative experience educated me about the plight of the South Africa people through this tumultuous time in South Africa’s history. I highly recommend anyone the tour to everyone.”

“I really enjoyed our Peninsula Tour that took us to the Cape of Good Hope and included a trip to Boulders Beach. It was thrilling to see the Jackass Penguins up close! Hearing our guide, Mark, comment about the history and culture of the area was enlightening and truly added to my appreciation of the area.”

2. White Shark Projects
“White Shark Projects (SWSP) has been on my bucket list since I was a child. In this thrilling experience, cage-diving with the world’s most feared marine predator is coupled with sincere educational efforts from experienced marine biologists. We received numerous briefings from the staff, and by the time we reached the dive site I had a basic understanding of shark behavior as well as migration and eating habits. The cage was about 8’ tall, 3’ deep and 12’ wide and fit a total of six divers. I learned that South Africa has an Aquatic Big Five – whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins) , and witnessed seven sharks ranging from 12’-16’. I would recommend the morning run, as opposed to the noon trip, as the seas are likely to be calmer at that point. WSP provides wetsuits, booties and a mask – all you need to bring is a bathing suit and your courage!”

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Top 10 Culinary Experiences in South Africa

February 4th, 2015 by

African Travel, Inc. asked their own safari specialists for their favorite top culinary experiences in South Africa and a below is a list of the top 10.

1. Sabi Sabi Earth LodgeEarth Lodge Cuisine

Dining in the wine cellar at South Africa’s Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge is truly an unforgettable experience. The cool subterranean wine cellar is romantically lit with soft lights and candles, creating an indulgent atmosphere long before the sumptuous meals are even served. Mouth-watering dishes are paired with a collection of more than 6,000 bottles of rare wines; dining at this venue is a must!

2. StellenboschBites & Sites Classic Cape Cuisine Walk

Established in 1679, Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa and is arguably one of the loveliest. Taking the “Bites & Sites Classic Cape Cuisine Walk” is a fascinating (and tasty!) introduction to this vibrant university town. Enjoy a tea and rusk tasting, sample a variety of white and red wines from various award-winning estates, savor a trilogy of fragrant Cape dishes, and experience the legendary local sweet treats like koeksister, milktart and malva pudding – all while touring the town’s romantic oak-lined streets and outdoor art exhibitions.

3. Flagship

The Flagship is a celebrated restaurant that was recently taken over by Chef Duncan Doherty. The legacy of late Chef Bruce Robertson lives on in this innovative restaurant, which pairs a signature five-course chef’s table seafood lunch with wine for a superb “piece of culinary theatre.” The establishment is a firm believer in the Slow Food movement, which supports sustainable food by catching only the fish in the morning that they plan on serving for lunch, and their wine pairings are like a piece of heaven on Earth.

4. The Twelve Apostles Hotel

Twelve Apostles Hotel_ delectable platterThe Twelve Apostles Hotel is rightfully recognized as one of South Africa’s top places for wining and dining – and for good reason. The modern French menu is tastefully mixed with South African influences, and the menu is updated regularly. In 2013, the hotel made its debut into the coveted American Express Fine Dining Awards list and more than 95% of the items on the menu are sourced from the Western Cape, following the Hotel’s Responsible and Sustainable Environmental Policies. Don’t miss the amazing Champagne and Oyster breakfast, or their innovative Eggs Benedict. The Twelve Apostles also knows just how to do dessert – check out the delectable platter!

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