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Reasons to Safari in East Africa

August 28th, 2015, by Joanna Bielawski

Our Top 9 Reasons to Safari in East Africa

THE AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK: MOUNT KILIMANJARO
After an adventure-filled day on safari, “magical” can only begin to describe the experience of sipping sundowners overlooking your lodge’s waterhole with Tanzania’s snow-clad Mount Kilimanjaro as your backdrop.

RWANDA AND UGANDA: GORILLAS IN THE MIST
From your lush eco-lodge in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains and Parc National Des Volcans or Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, tread softly and observe in wonder the families of rare, habituated mountain gorillas.

LEWA WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY: SAVING RHINOS
Northern Kenya’s popular, family-friendly wildlife-viewing destination, Lewa is lauded for its groundbreaking rhino rehabilitation efforts. Experience an understanding of wildlife, and an authentic interaction with the local community.

MAHALE MOUNTAINS: ENDANGERED CHIMPANZEES
With its golden beaches framed by jungle-covered peaks along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania’s beautiful, isolated Mahale Mountains are home to some 1,000 of the last remaining chimpanzees in Africa.

MASAI MARA AND SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK: THE GREAT MIGRATION
The annual Great Migration of millions of wildebeest and other herbivores across East Africa’s Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is one of the greatest spectacles in the natural world — the perfect “Out of Africa” safari.

NGORONGORO CRATER: WORLD’S LARGEST
Acclaimed for being one of the greatest natural wonders of the planet, Tanzania’s great unbroken caldera is the world’s largest crater. Prepare to be awed as you observe
the calliope of wildlife.

SAMBURU NATIONAL RESERVE: THE SPECIAL FIVE
Kenya’s pastoral Samburu tribe welcomes you to the land of “the special five” — the Grevy’s zebra, the Somali blue-necked ostrich, the Beisa oryx, the reticulated giraffe and the dainty gerenuk.

SELOUS GAME RESERVE: VAST AND UNTOUCHED
For those desiring a wild and rugged safari in an untouched land, Tanzania’s Selous is the answer. Africa’s biggest game reserve is even larger than Switzerland.

TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK: BAOBABS AND ELEPHANTS
Majestic baobabs dwarf the herds of elephants that feed beneath them in Tanzania’s Tarangire. The park’s permanent river serves as a lifeline for the Maasai people
and a great diversity of wildlife.

African Travel, Inc.’s New President Announces the Era of Immersive Travel

August 21st, 2015, by Sherwin Banda

African Travel, Inc.’s New President Announces the Era of Immersive Travel

Sherwin Banda is grateful that recent high-profile events have increased awareness about the importance of responsible, sustainable tourism in Africa.

“The allure of Africa is multi-faceted, but so are the challenges facing the continent,” said the South Africa-born hotelier, who was appointed president of African Travel, Inc. earlier this month. “Fortunately, travelers are beginning to recognize and prioritize the importance of supporting long-lasting initiatives, ensuring Africa remains vibrant and diverse for generations to come. This is where safari outfitters like African Travel, Inc. can really make a difference, by offering unique and exciting programs encouraging travelers to actively participate in conservation.” 

Banda, who was born and raised in Cape Town, has spent more than 17 years in the international hospitality industry including various positions in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He is renowned for his personalized approach to customer care and passionate devotion to all things Africa, particularly in terms of reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. Banda’s proven dedication to optimizing resource efficiency fits perfectly with African Travel, Inc.’s mission to protect endangered wildlife, ecosystems, and communities.

“Africa continues to be a must-visit travel destination, but travelers now want to give back to the communities they visit and leave a legacy of their own,” said Banda. “African Travel, Inc. provides numerous ways for guests to invest in Africa’s future by donating their time, expertise, or physical labor to projects in East and Southern Africa. We are heralding the new age of culturally, immersive trips.” 

African Travel, Inc., which was recently ranked the #3 top Safari Outfitter in Travel + Leisure’s coveted 2015 World’s Best Awards, supports numerous philanthropic programs and collaborates with the TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit organization working to preserve the environment and communities affected by tourism. Other partners include The Amy Foundation, which contributes to community building programs in Cape Town, and WildAid, whose mission is to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and end the illegal wildlife trade. 

“I love that I work for a company where we get to make a difference in the world, but also make our guest’s dreams come true,” said Banda. “For a moment in time, an irrevocable and irreversible moment, we have touched people’s lives in a way that not many industries can claim to. When travelers depart on an African Travel, Inc. itinerary, they are giving back to Africa, but also bringing meaning into their own lives. 

This I know for sure: You can leave Africa, but Africa never leaves you.”

 

Top Sightseeing Experiences in South Africa

March 9th, 2015, by Sherwin Banda

Top Sightseeing Experiences in South Africa

1. City and Regional Tours
“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. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
“The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is an important experience for Cape Town visitors. Definitely plan on doing it in the morning, as the wind picks up and often the afternoon trip is canceled. Also, try to get there earlier rather than later if you can because the queue gets long very quickly. We arrived about 9:30 a.m. and by the time we got to the Gondola, the line had tripled from the arriving buses.”

3. Robben Island
“Robben Island, located just 11 kilometers off the coast of Cape Town, has a long and harsh history as a place of banishment for those deemed to be a threat to the ruling society. Those imprisoned here over the centuries have included Khoikhoi leaders, exiled Muslims from the east, African chiefs opposing Dutch and British imperialism, as well as petty criminals, lepers and the criminally ill. At one point during World War II, it even served as a military base. If you are fascinated by the real history of South Africa – and not just its gorgeous, serene landscapes – this tops the list as a ‘must-see’ experience.”

4. Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum with Antoinette Pieterson Sithole
“The Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum opened in Soweto in 2002, not far from the spot that 12-year-old Hector was shot in June 1975 during the Soweto uprising. Today, the museum is a symbol of resistance to apartheid government’s brutality. I even had the opportunity to meet and speak with Antoinette Pieterson, Hector’s sister, just steps from the famous photograph of her running alongside her brother in the arms of Sam Mzima. Antoinette gave us a stunning recount of the Soweto school children march, the tragic day that changed the course of South African history, and I believe every traveler should take advantage of being able to hear her firsthand account.”

5. School Visits
“I had the honor of visiting a local elementary school in the township of Langa, just outside Cape Town. The children were adorable, so happy to have visitors, and they entertained us with native songs and dances before we joined them on the playground. I was fighting back tears when we left as the children gave us big hugs good-bye and blew kisses as we drove off. This heartwarming opportunity to see Africa in its authenticity allowed me to truly connect with the destination and I plan on visiting again when I return.”

6. Kruger National Park and Private Game Reserve
“The first time I saw a leopard in the wild was during a game drive in South Africa, and the beautiful cat literally took my breath away. This was during my very first visit to a private reserve, one that lay along Kruger National Park’s western border. We were very lucky. These cats are one not only spectacularly gorgeous, but very difficult to find. Staying at a private game reserve as opposed to sojourning in Kruger National Park certainly has its benefits – and one of them is the ability to find reclusive game.

The other benefits are pretty important too. Within Kruger National Park (South Africa’s version of our Yellowstone), only closed vehicles are permitted to drive on the limited access roads. This is for safety, so when a car is surrounded by a pride of lions, ‘Windows up and doors locked!’ With nearly one million visitors a year, it’s easy to imagine how crowded the park road become. The facilities in Kruger are basic and not well-suited for international visitors.

Loding in a private game reserve, however, permits licensed park rangers to drive off the main roads during day and night game drives in an open (no roof) Range Rover. Walking safaris are allowed and the lodges and camps are superb! By staying in a private game reserve, you have a great opportunity to experience the African bush in an up-close-and-personal way. And like I said before — leopards!:

7. Bo-Kaap
“Visiting the colorful Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town definitely belongs on your bucket list, thanks to the richness of blended cultures. On my trip, we walked along the festive streets and ventured into a gorgeous little spice shop. We left, with some new aromatic additions, and went to the home of a local Bo-Kaap woman who instructed us on the art of making samosas – with a great deal of sass and charm, I might add. After cooking up a storm, we enjoyed the fruits of our labor. While every traveler might not be so lucky to go home to feast with a local, the charming area is definitely worth experiencing – and I highly recommend buying some spices.”

8. Whale Watching
“Few things in life are as magnificent as spotting a majestic whale and realizing it’s even bigger than you imagined it would be. Every year, from June through November, Southern Right whales migrate from the Antarctic waters into the Indian Ocean – and unlike many other declining African populations, these whales are quite plentiful. They also have a propensity to inhabit shallow waters, close to the shore, so travelers can easily sight these gentle giants from shore. I always highly recommend my clients partake in land-based whale watching during their stay, because it’s much more convenient and much less expensive than sea-based excursions. And let’s be honest – this is an unforgettable experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life.”

9. Wine Tram Tour
“I think the Franshhoek Wine Tram tour might have been my favorite experience on the whole trip, and it definitely belongs on any South Africa Top 10 list. This truly fun experience included tram, train and tractor rides with various stops along the way. Our favorite was at the top of the hill on the Red Line at Dieu Donne – we enjoyed fantastic views over the valley, sampled artisanal cheeses that went perfectly with the fabulous wine, and ventured on a nice little stroll down the hill to the next stop. Blue skies, green grass, yellow cheese and (for me) red wine – various hues of the rainbow paired with multi-million dollar views. Most stops offer restaurants, so you can make reservations as you go and plan your evening that way. I tell my guests, I was there! I did that! And I can personally recommend it’s something you’re sure to love as well.”

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