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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 Staff Favorite Accommodations in East and Southern Africa

May 29th, 2015 by

Are you planning an African safari? This month our Safari Specialists share recommendations on their favorite accommodations in East and Southern Africa.

1. The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa
Our stay at The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa was a very memorable experience. They staff had thought of absolutely everything and the attention to detail is incredible. For guests wanting the ultimate five-star experience, this is the place to go. The hotel is located on the waterfront with the best view of the sunset of any of Cape Town’s five-star hotels. The hotel offers a car service to the Victoria and Alfred seaside and even provides a Helicopter transfer to the V&A Waterfront.

ACCOMMODATION FEATURED IN: Scenic Cape Town & Kruger Safari  |  Magnificent South Africa Safari  |  South Africa Eco Paradise Safari

 

2. Victoria Falls Safari Lodge
A great place to stay for a family visiting Victoria Falls is Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Each room has a balcony, bath, and the deluxe rooms can have a rollaway bed for children. The lodge has a game room to keep families entertained in the evenings and baby-sitting services are available so you can go out on your own, if you want. The near-by Boma restaurant has cultural shows with traditional dancers and drums, which is great for kids. The Buffalo Bar has a deck for viewing game while enjoying a sundowner. This is the perfect place to relax with your kids and view the game while you visit the Falls.

 

 ACCOMMODATION FEATURED IN: Zimbabwe Beyond the Rainbow

 

3. Kings Pool Camp
Botswana has a variety of accommodations and lodges, and one of my favorites is located on the Linyanti River and Kings Pool lagoon. The camp is called Kings Pool Camp and it offers both water and land safaris – plus, it is undoubtedly one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in Southern Africa. Managed by Wilderness Safaris, Kings Poole Camp is a 5-star property or “premiere” property. Game is plentiful due to the proximity to the Linyanti River, including elephant, hippo, lion, leopard and Cape buffalo. Somewhere around midnight during my third night I heard the mating call of a male lion; it was so close it woke me up. Chilling and exhilarating! The camp even has a resident elephant named George. George wanders freely throughout Kings Poole Camp, and when the sun goes down and everyone is asleep, George can be heard munching on trees outside their tents all night.

The staff is very friendly, the accommodations are elegant, and you can even have your clothes washed for free during your stay! An elevated boardwalk runs throughout the camp, connecting nine rooms of canvas and thatch, and wildlife can be seen along the wooden trail including antelope, Thompson’s Gazelle, and even elephants.

The King’s Poole sundowner (cocktail party) on the banks of the Linyanti River was enchanting. Everyone was taking photos of the setting sun while sipping drinks when a hippo suddenly emerged from the brush about 30 yards away and wallowed into the muddy waters of the Linyanti. How incredible is that!

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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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