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3 Inspiring Sustainability Initiatives in East Africa

February 5th, 2018, by Lucille Sive

3 Inspiring Sustainability Initiatives in East Africa

Visiting Africa is always a thrill: there’s the majestic wildlife safaris, exceptional accommodations, and, of course, the five-star service you receive from some of the friendliest people in the world. My most recent trip to Tanzania and Rwanda featured all of these aspects in abundance. From my luxury safari in Tanzania to my time trekking with the gorillas in Rwanda, I came home with unforgettable memories. Equally important to me is how Africa is embracing sustainability and social responsibility to build a better future. Here are three projects in East Africa that are taking sustainability and social responsibility seriously.

Planting trees in Rwanda

 

1) Shanga | Arusha, Tanzania

During our stay at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, I visited an incredible souvenir shop called Shanga. “Shanga” is the Swahili word for bead and refers to how this business began. In 2007, local resident Saskia Rechsteiner produced some necklaces for a Christmas fair. The necklaces were made from fabric and glass beads and they sold out within hours. Saskia then started receiving orders from safari companies, gift shops and travellers who wanted to import her beautiful creations back home. This sudden demand inspired her to grow her business, but not in the typical way. Saskia reached out to women and men in the community with disabilities to help her meet the demand. The result has been a growing business that now directly supports the employment of 70 women and men with disabilities who produce beautiful artisan gifts using recycled glass and sustainable materials.

 

Shanga gift shop in Arusha

 

When I visited, I had the opportunity to see the people of Shanga produce their wares in the workshop. The impressive array of sustainable products includes weaving, glass blowing, beading, papermaking and metal work. I was impressed by the skills of Shanga’s artisans, many with disabilities, who were creating such stunning pieces. At the entrance of Shanga, there’s a wall painted with a quote that encapsulates this shop’s philosophy: “Kindness is a language which blind people see and deaf people hear.” I encourage all African Travel guests who stay at Arusha Coffee Lodge to visit this shop: with the purchase of stunning artisan jewellery and crafts, you will directly support the local communities in Arusha.

 

A weaver at work Shanga

 

2) Nyaruswiga Safari Lodge | Serengeti, Tanzania

Situated in the heart of Serengeti National Park, One Nature’s Nyaruswiga Safari Lodge is a an ultra luxury tented camp, perfect for travelers who crave absolute comfort combined with unforgettable wildlife safaris. Nyaruswiga not only features first-class accommodations and a wonderful spa where you can relax and rejuvenate with a variety of wellness treatments, but a portion of your booking contributes to One Nature’s impressive conservation and sustainability projects. All One Nature camps, including Nyaruswiga, minimize their carbon footprint by using solar energy to power their camps’ operations. The purpose is to conserve the Serengeti’s resources so that travelers to the region can continue to enjoy its rich wildlife experience.

 

Solar panels at One Nature Nyaruswiga

 

One Nature also supports anti-poaching initiatives in the region: they have partnered with Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) to support the Serengeti de-snaring program. This initiative recruits locals, many who are ex-poachers, from villages in the Serengeti to use their skills and experience to locate and destroy snare traps throughout the Serengeti. The snares are a major problem for local wildlife and this program is making a real impact thanks to guests choosing to travel responsibly in Tanzania.

3) Bisate Lodge | Rwanda

Bisate Lodge, a new luxury lodge that opened in 2017, is committed to sustainable conservation and community development in Rwanda. The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the lodge is just how small of a footprint it makes. Bisate features just six luxury rooms, which they call forest villas. These villas are proudly made out of recycled materials, including glass and wood that you notice as soon as you enter your room. The look of the villas is also striking; they are pod shaped and the rooms sit on stilts high above the forest floor. These features only enhance the luxury feeling of Bisate: the rooms are spacious and feature large balconies that overlook the forest that surrounds the lodge.

 

The beautiful chandelier in the lounge area at Bisate, made of recycled glass

 

Bisate embraces a philosophy called “every guest a philanthropist”. During the construction of the lodge, Wilderness Safaris, the owners of Bisate Lodge, embarked on a project to plant more than 15,000 indigenous trees across the site on which Bisate is situated. Guests are encouraged to make their own small contribution to this ambitious project by planting a tree during their stay. Not only is this a fun activity, but I also learned more about the unique ecosystem and biodiversity of the area. The goal of the project is to restore rainforest habitats in the Volcanoes region as this will also help to expand the gorilla’s habitat. In total, Bisate wants to reforest 43 hectares of land with local vegetation including bamboo, hagenia and dombea trees.  As more vegetation returns to the region, more wildlife will follow. I highly encourage guests to take part in tree planting at Bisate; the feeling of contributing to this ambitious conservation project is a joy.

They have also started a project to build a dam so that the local community will have easier access to water and not have to carry water so far.

 

Planting trees at Bisate Lodge

 

Cape Town is Open for Business

January 30th, 2018, by Lucille Sive

Cape Town is Open for Business

The pool and ocean view at the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa

 

UPDATE: Cape Town's Day Zero has been avoided for 2018! Due to sustained and heavy rains over the last two months, Cape Town’s dams have collectively increased by over 20 percentage points. With several months left in the winter rainfall calendar, it is now clear that Cape Town will continue to have enough water for its residents and visitors. Cape Town’s residents have also set a new global standard for water consumption. The City has reduced its usage of water by nearly 60 per cent in just three years. This is a phenomenal achievement, unmatched by any other major city in the world. For more information, please read a joint statement here

I have just returned from a fabulous two-week trip to Cape Town and I have to say that if you can you should come and enjoy this exceptionally beautiful city. I stayed at The Table Bay Hotel and the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa during my trip. As you have probably seen, everyone is talking about the water shortage in Cape Town and both these hotels are clearly giving their guests peace of mind that every drop of water is being used responsibly. My experience was very positive and I felt very comfortable at both properties.

As with all hotels in the Cape Town city region, they are following excellent water saving practices. Hotels have removed bath plugs to encourage guests to take showers, but bathtub plugs are available on request. Shower heads have been fitted with restrictors. Linens are not being changed daily unless you request it (like everywhere else in the world). Bottled water is readily available instead of pitchers of water in restaurants. They are also using biodegradable paper napkins and placemats in restaurants. As a result of these steps along with many other initiatives that have been put in place to cut water consumption, Cape Town is already showing 50% less water usage.  

Cape Town is open for business and thrives on tourism to keep a healthy economy and to maintain 320,000 jobs. Historically Cape Town is a water-scarce part of the world (much like Southern California and Western Australia) and is vulnerable to the effects of climate change and is susceptible to periodic droughts. Responsible consumption of water is the new normal. I urge you to feel at ease travelling to Cape Town. Please note that water saving measures apply only to the City of Cape Town. Outlying regions of the Cape such as the Winelands and Hermanus, a premier whale-watching area, have not been affected and nor have the game parks.

I have addressed some of the many questions that I have had here:

If tourists visit Cape Town will there be water?

There is adequate water for tourists’ essential daily needs such as washing, using the toilet and other daily hygiene. Tourists will be able to take a shower. At present, the use of baths is discouraged.

Will tourists have access to drinking water?

Yes. Bottled water is supplied in most hotel rooms and freely available for purchase at a reasonable cost in all grocery and convenience stores.

What does ‘Day Zero’ mean?

‘Day Zero’ is when the City of Cape Town would cut the regular flow of water. ‘Day Zero’ is a projected date that is entirely dependent on current rates of water consumption: if all participants adhere to the required water savings target, ‘Day Zero’ can be avoided. Day Zero has been repeatedly pushed back and is now expected to hit on July 15th. Tourists are still able to enjoy the diverse and world-class experiences that Cape Town has to offer.

Will restaurants and bars still be in operation?

In the event of ‘Day Zero’ - yes. Many parts of the hospitality industry have proactively implemented water savings and water augmentation solutions to ensure ongoing availability of water in their establishments. Restaurants and bars are not currently negatively affected, but must still comply with water restrictions.

Which tourism activities could be impacted?

Tourists will still be able to access and enjoy all primary tourism attractions such as Table Mountain, Cape Point and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

How widespread is the drought in South Africa?

The drought and resulting water restrictions are particularly to the City of Cape Town.

Will tourists be able to use a swimming pool?

Some swimming pools at hotels have been converted to salt (ocean) water. The majority of tourism establishments have put in place measures to ensure their water usage is reduced, and many have developed plans for alternative supplies.

Will emergency services still function in the event of ‘Day Zero’?

Yes. All critical emergency services (hospitals, clinics, police services) will continue to function as normal.

In conclusion, this vibrant city offers gourmet cuisine, museums, nightlife, shopping and more. With its iconic Table Mountain that is a scenic wonder, awe-inspiring drives, quaint Winelands towns, botanical gardens, nature reserves and world class restaurants, this is one of the most prized cities in the world. A visit to Cape Town should not be missed.

 

Luxury Safari Experiences in Tanzania

January 11th, 2018, by Lucille Sive

Luxury Safari Experiences in Tanzania

During my recent trip to Tanzania, I was fortunate to stay in some of the most luxurious lodges Africa has to offer. The great migration is synonymous with traveling to East Africa and many people think the only time to see animals is from July-August. My visit in November definitely proved otherwise. The Serengeti was teeming with animals and their adorable babies.

 

Cheetahs relaxing in the grass

 

Here are a few of the accommodations I stayed in during my visit with images of the stunning wildlife we encountered.

Tarangire Treetops

Located in Tarangire National Park, staying at Tarangire Treetops is an experience like no other. Known for their large number of elephants, baobab trees (my favorite tree!) and tree climbing lions, I was amazed at the number of animals we saw. Tarangire Treetops is situated near its own water hole, so we saw a wealth of animals coming to have a drink without even having to leave the lodge. The food, people and accommodations were all outstanding.

 

My “tree” house accommodation at Tarangire Treetops

 

Tarangire Treetops comprises of 20 “up in the air” lodges each complete with a large, private balcony, a double shower ensuite bathroom and one of the largest bedrooms that can’t be found in any camp or lodge in East Africa.

 

A mother and her baby in Tarangire National Park

 

An icon of the African savannah and also my favorite tree – the baobab

 

Looking to stay at Tarangire Treetops? Check out our SkySafari Tanzania Classic safari vacation. 

Singita Faru Faru Lodge

Located in Grumeti in Northern Tanzania, Singita Faru Faru is one of the most luxurious and one of my favorite lodges I have stayed in. Contemporary, comfortable and playful, the lodge is located right on the edge of the Grumeti river, which presented exceptional game viewing opportunities from the comfort of the lodge during our stay. A playful monkey even made himself at home on one of our lounge chairs on the deck of our suite.  On game drives, we saw herds of bearded wildebeest, a pride of lions and their cubs, zebra, monkeys, elephants and so much more.

 

A playful monkey making himself at home on our deck

 

Lion cubs waiting for their mother to return

 

A lion in a tree, a sight that is only found in East Africa

 

When talking about the great migration, many people think about vast numbers of wildebeest traversing the Serengeti in search of greener pastures in the Maasai Mara and crossing the river Is teeming with crocodiles, but the wildebeest migrate year-round and November was one of the best game-viewing experiences I have ever had even though it is considered low season.

 

 
Herds and herds of wildebeest traversing the Serengeti

 

One funny story about the migration our guide Edward told us was that he once saw a lone Zebra close to the river.  A herd of wildebeest were quickly approaching and their intention was to cross the water. The zebra saw the wildebeest approaching and started running in the opposite direction of the river (presumably to get out of the way of the herd) and in an act where swarm intelligence failed, the wildebeest started following the zebra in the direction they just came from!

 

One of the leopards we saw relaxing in a tree

 

The moral of the story is, you never know what you’re going to see or experience and a stay at Singita Faru Faru means that you can expect the unexpected.  

One Nature Nyaruswiga Serengeti

I also had the pleasure of staying at the newly opened Nyaruswiga Safari Camp situated in the heart of Central Serengeti and it was absolutely spectacular! From the service to the lodge to the safari experience was a dream. Nyaruswiga is an ultra-luxurious camp featuring 13 tented units with open savannah views of endless plains and the magnificent Nyaruswiga Hills. The accommodations at Nyaruswiga are exquisite! Each room features Wi-Fi, furnished patios, premium bedding (Egyptian cotton sheets) and even a pillow menu to ensure that you get the best rest in preparation for daily game drives.

 

Our luxurious room at Nyaruswiga

 

Game drives at Nyaruswiga were not only filled with plenty of game viewing, but the safari vehicles need a special mention because they are out of this world! Holding a maximum of four passengers, the vehicles are equipped with luxurious interiors, ergonomically designed seats, a mini fridge and handwashing station. If your phone runs low on battery while taking incredible photos, you can use the USB charging station and then share the photos with your family and friends back home because the vehicles also have Wi-Fi!

 

Our wonderful guide Peter at Nyaruswiga

 

An incredible balloon ride over the Serengeti

 

One of the most memorable experiences from this trip was the hot air balloon safari. Gently floating across the Serengeti and flying low enough so that we could get a bird’s eye view of the animals was a spectacular experience. After we stopped for a champagne toast and then enjoyed a full breakfast in the middle of the bush! It was the best way to end this truly luxurious experience.

 

A full breakfast in the middle of the bush!

 

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