3 TOP TRAVEL PICKS FOR 2019

We still have 4 months of travel left in 2019, and I wanted to share with you, my top picks for the remainder of the year.

Suspended in mid air

ANGAMA MARA LODGE, MAASAI MARA GAME RESERVE

From your first stay at Angama Mara, it will become your ‘home away from home’. Right from the enthusiastically warm welcome from all the staff when you arrive at Camp (this is a tradition at the Camp), to the wonderfully caring hospitality during your stay, the outstanding cuisine and lovely, spacious tents with unparalleled views of the Mara Triangle below, the Angama Mara experience is outstandingly unique and memorable. Angama takes its name from the Swahili word meaning suspended in mid-air….we take it to mean ‘between heaven and earth’.

In addition to enjoying game drives with your experienced guide in the Mara Triangle below, you can also enjoy guided walks across the plains and in the forest with a Maasai naturalist. A speciality of Angama is their shamba lunch – wander through their one acre kitchen garden, also known as a shamba, pick vegetables of your choice, and enjoy a shamba-to-table lunch, with the vegetables you picked presented as fresh salads and supplemented with loaves of bread, local cheeses and chilled rose wine….all this under the shade of towering moth trees, with panoramic views of the Mara Triangle below.

Visit the Garden of Remembrance and spend a few quiet moment in the chapel, built in the loving memory of the founder, Steve Fitzgerald.

For budding photographers, the Camp has a photography studio on hand, as well as a shop onsite selling some unusual items, including beadwork done by Maasai women on site.

If celebrating an anniversary, the Camp offers intimate picnics for two, on the crest of the kopje which features in the ‘Out of Africa’ movie poster.

OL DONYO LODGE, CHYULU HILLS

Located in the majestic Chyulu Hills, the lodge offers a truly exceptional escape from the mundanity of life. Fly into the airstrip located just minutes from the lodge, and within a short while, you might find yourself in one of the unique features of the lodge – an underground hide located in front of the waterhole. The waterhole is always frequented by game, mostly elephants and you could choose to see them from this vantage point or from the deck of your room, or even while lazing in your plunge pool located on your room deck.

The lodge offers some exciting activities ranging from horseriding on the plains, to exploring the lava tube caves in the hills, guided bush walks, bush meals and day & night game drives in the conservancy. The cuisine at the lodge is top notch (with different settings for each meal) and after a wonderful lunch, refresh yourself by taking a dip in the plunge pool.

You could also choose to spend a romantic night under the stars….!

Last but not least, every room comes equipped with a pair of binoculars and a professional camera body and lens kit for complimentary use. However, if your guide is Jackson Lemunge, be warned….he will not permit you to take photographs on auto mode.

BARAZA RESORT & SPA, ZANZIBAR

For most people, Zanzibar is an exotic destination evoking scents of incense, cloves and other spices. Staying at the Baraza Resort & Spa allows you to enjoy all this, in 5 star accommodations. Located on the south east coast of the island and within an hour’s drive from the airport, and consisting of one and two bedroom villas, the resort offers unparalleled standards of luxury on the island. The experience here is truly 5 star with services and facilities elevated to an extremely professional standard. All villas come complete with their own plunge pools, walk in dressing rooms and a large terrace.

The cuisine here is influenced by Arabic, Indian, Persian, Asian and Swahili flavours, with local spices also used. Using the hotel as a base, you can explore Stone Town and Forodhani Park, Prison Island, spice plantations and Jozani forest among other attractions. Alternatively enjoy the Frangipani Spa with it’s lap pool with underwater music and therapists from Thailand, Bali and India. Or indulge in the vast array of watersport offered at the hotel.

Cooking up a storm at Angama Mara

 

Persian Pilau, Puris & Indian Omelettes, Parathas, Chicken Curry, Kulfi, Nankhatais,

20160426_162105

Potato Curry, Kuku Paka….these were the order of the day at the luxurious Angama Mara Camp, at the beginning of the last week in April. The Camp’s sparkling, sterile kitchens were a hive of activity – chopping, baking, whisking, basting, frying and best of all, tasting.

20160426_111436

My sister and I were at Angama Mara, to teach their chefs the proper way to cook Indian food, courtesy of our gracious host, Nicky Fitzgerald. So , do we own a restaurant in Nairobi, or entertain a lot, cooking for maybe 50 to 60 people at a go? Neither is true….we are actually tour operators who love food. So how did this invitation to teach Angama’s chefs come about? Fate played a very big hand here, and it really is true that you need to be in the right place at the right time for things to happen.

Late last month in March, my sister was on the flight back from Serian Camp in the Mara, and Nicky happened to be on the same flight . Nicky heard my sister saying she was a tour operator, and as my sister was talking about the different camps and lodges, Nicky was all ears. As they flew over Angama Mara, they began to talk about the Camp, introductions were made  and my sister found out that Nicky was the owner of the Camp. That  short  45 minute flight was literally the start of it all …..

Angama Mara 156

Enter Kate (Nicky’s daughter) and myself…we were both at Wilson airport to meet our people and after the introductions were done, Kate began to talk to her mum about a recipe book they were compiling, using dishes they had introduced at the Camp. My curiosity was piqued and on hearing about the project, I offered to help them with Indian dishes, if required.

Nicky took us up on our offer, and we flew down to Angama Mara for a fantastic stay of 2 nights in late April. I have never worked in a Camp kitchen before (always being on the other end, as a guest) and it was so much fun. Collins, the head chef, has a superbly talented team, and I soon had them chopping & peeling away – they always rushed to do my bidding.

WP_20160426_12_49_22_Pro

Nicky was there, recording every step of the process, and finally, everyone got to taste the finished product. The management staff would pop in every now & again – I think the smells coming from the kitchen were so tantalizing that they couldn’t resist coming in.

We were treated like one of the family, and we all sat down together for meals, and sampled the Indian dishes made that day. Even some lucky guests were treated to some of the delicacies and now Angama Mara has a genuine Indian breakfast  special on its menu.

Of course, Nicky & Collins made sure we took some time out to enjoy game drives and a game walk  –  the driver Moses, and guide Fred, who looked after us were great and we had a memorable time.

Angama Mara 014

Angama Mara is truly special in that they have anticipated any need you may have, and taken care of it, and I have never felt so pampered at any other place in the Mara. Behind all of this, is the magnanimous spirit of Nicky Fitzgerald who truly wants her guests to be comfortable  – even going as far as to get her chefs to learn Indian cooking for the benefit of her Indian guests.

I will miss the cooks at Angama Mara, right from Joseph who handled all my preparations in advance, to Corry who picked up the techniques of naan, parathas and puris so quickly, to Irene who fries the best onions, Katana who used to finish all the food, not forgetting John who made a fantastic Indian omelette for breakfast on the last day.

Collins, Shannon, Tyler and Nicky are like family now, and I for one, can’t wait to go back to Angama Mara, hopefully with new recipes in tow.

Angama Mara 010

10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AN AFRICAN SAFARI

  1. Accommodation

Kicheche-Valley-2012-92

Although you may be booked to stay in a luxury Camp or Lodge, the accommodation will not be like staying in a city hotel. This does not mean that you have to ‘rough it’, but do take note that most Camps do not have airconditioning. A lot of the Camps don’t have proper shower facilities but use ‘safari showers’ – a contraption where water is filled in a canvas bag which is then hoisted up and fitted with a shower nozzle. Also a lot of Camps do not have running water in the individual tents, or even 24 hours electricity. However, all this serves to bring you closer to nature and you will enjoy your safari even more.

  1. Driving there

paws vehicle

If taking a road safari, the ride is likely to be bumpy and not very comfortable, as you will be travelling in a 4WD safari vehicle, more suited to savanna grasslands than tarmac roads.

  1. Flying there

airkenya

Flying to the various game parks and reserves is an awesome experience, but do know that if travelling in East Africa, these small planes can make upto 3 stops before landing at your airstrip. This is to drop off and pick up passengers from other Camps & Lodges, and is true for the return journey as well. If you are nervous about flying in smaller aircraft, you need to check on this to take this into consideration.

  1. Mobile reception

mobile internet

Most places in the bush have poor cell phone reception, so more often than not, you will not be able to upload pictures and other digital data. In extreme cases, even calling out is difficult and you may need to stand in a certain spot to capture the elusive signal, just to make a phone call. Once you are out on a game drive, the reception seems to get better.

  1. Bugs, bugs and more bugs

dungbeetle

There will be bugs in your room, your bathroom and your vehicle, as well as the dining and reception areas of the Camp/Lodge. If going on a walk, you will be accosted by flies, mosquitoes and all sorts of flying insects. Well, this is Africa ….so get used to them.

  1. Food, glorious food

You will never go hungry on safari – there is an abundance of food, starting from the early morning cookie with your wake up tea/coffee, to the breakfast buffet, salad lunches, decadent afternoon teas, sundowner nibbles, and delicious dinner menus. Your day is filled with fresh, tasty and yummy cuisine.

  1. Early starts

Being on safari means waking up before dawn and leaving your tent as the sun starts to show in the sky. However, don’t worry….you won’t be sent out without sustenance as early morning tea/coffee is served in your tent before you leave for your early morning game drive, or balloon safari.

  1. Rest room stops

There are no toilets on game drives which could last upto 4 hours, and the only alternative is to use the bush. Don’t forget to carry spare tissues and practice your squats beforehand. If you are squeamish about going in the bush, try to restrict your fluid intake until you are back at the Camp/Lodge.

  1. Extremes of weather

aws-the-nest-early-morning-tea

You may be exposed to extreme weather conditions, ranging from chilly early mornings on morning game drives and balloon safaris where you will need a light jacket or sweater, or gloriously hot, sunny late mornings and early afternoons, where even a t-shirt is an intrusion. Temperatures will drop at sunset, so if heading out for a night game, don’t forget the blankets, Maasai or otherwise. The key to comfort here, is layering.

  1. Hydration

Drop Falling into Water

It is very easy to slip into a routine where drinking water does not play a role, especially in Camps & Lodges where soft drinks, beers, wines and spirits are included in the cost. But do remember to keep hydrated as this will prevent illnesses that come about due to dehydration.

 

Take these 10 things into consideration for your African safari, and get ready for an epic safari!

 

 

5 TIPS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR AFRICAN SAFARI

A safari in Africa is an incredible experience, and for the safari newbie it can be a little overwhelming. The right safari etiquette will allow you to take maximum advantage of the wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as ensure your fellow travelers enjoy the trip. As a tour operator, I have witnessed literally hundreds of people on safari, and I know the importance of the right safari etiquette. If you are travelling to Africa for the first time, there are 3 articles I have identified that will help you with the right etiquette.

The first article is from GoAfrica – What NOT to do on Safari in Africa, where the writer gives some tips on things to refrain from doing on safari, based on her personal experiences as an Africa Travel Expert.

safari

The second article is from Sabi Sands Reserve in Kruger National Park – 5 Things not to do on a Safari, and this highlights some relevant safety tips while on safari.

Basecamp Eagle View 187

The third article is from Landlopers – 5 Things you should know before going on Safari. This article touches on some misconceptions people may have about African Safaris.

reserve-august

Drawing on my experience as a tour operator, I would recommend these 5 tips for correct safari etiquette on safari.

  • Don’t expect to see the Big Five on your first game drive – wildlife are unpredictable and there are no guarantees that you will see it all.
  • Keep your distance from the wildlife – remember these are wild animals, and will charge if they feel threatened.
  • Be aware of the people around you – refrain from shouting or talking too loudly and using your cell phone on a game drive as loud noises can scare away the animals. Muting your camera is a good practice.
  • Leave no trace – ensure you don’t throw away plastic and other rubbish in the bush, as the animals might eat and choke on it.
  • Always listen to your guide – he is responsible for your safety, while also looking out for the wildlife and the environment.

Follow these 5 simple tips to get the best out of your African safari.

Shaheen Therani is an experienced East African Tour Operator who runs a successful tour company, Wild Destinations. She is currently taking the Social Media Specialization Course from Coursera and North Western University. You can follow her on @WildDestination, https://www.facebook.com/wilddestinationsafrica/ and https://ke.linkedin.com/in/shaheen-therani-32a6b520 .

 

ARE YOU GETTING THE RIGHT ‘BANG FOR YOUR BUCK?’

Booking a safari has never been easier – simply search online for your preferred accommodation and transportation and book it…sounds simple doesn’t it? Maybe so…..but are you going to come back with the best safari experiences, or even get the best deals when you book a safari yourself? Booking with a tour operator is the ideal way to go, given that most operators have a high level of expertise in planning safaris, and years of experience in the field, but many resist this option, due to these popular myths….

It is cheaper to make the bookings yourself…..

Although there is a plethora of hotel booking sites online with excellent deals, you may not end up paying more if you book the safari with a tour operator. This is because all operators have special, preferential rates with the camps and lodges and when they package these rates together with their transport options, you may very well be paying the tour operator less for your safari than if you book online.

Online

You can choose the camps/lodges yourself based on your requirements…..

Most people prefer to have control of the places they book, so that these places fit in with their requirements. However most of the information on the camps and lodges may not necessarily give you the whole picture – i.e the camp may be very cosy and comfortable, and exclusive but it could be located in an area that is quite inaccessible except with a 4WD vehicle – a fact you may realize on your way there in a hired saloon car! Also the camp could be located far away from the main game viewing areas, which could cut off 2 hours of game viewing time. The operator has inside knowledge of the property, having probably stayed there and experienced these things first hand. They can advise you on the best fit for your requirements.

Everything about safaris is available online……………….

While it is true that information about most safari properties and extra activities is available online, there are some activities that cannot found on the internet and it is only the tour operator who is privy to this information. This could make a vast difference to your safari experience especially if you are coming on safari to celebrate a special occasion, like a landmark birthday, an anniversary, a proposal etc. Your tour operator can suggest activities that will lift your safari out of the ordinary, leaving you with fantastic memories.

You don’t need back up or support…………………………..

Safaris in East Africa are very specialized affairs – the caliber and expertise of your driver/guide will make or break your safari. Hiring a vehicle from a car rental company may work in other countries, but the driver you get from these companies will not be a safari driver and will not be able to guide you through the parks and reserves. Hiring a self drive vehicle will be even worse as you will not have the knowledge of driving on East African roads and in the Parks. Should there be a mishap on the roads, dealing with the police is a harrowing affair, and there is a lot of red tape and bureaucracy involved. When you book with a safari operator, they take care of all your transport arrangements…you just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Z5KV7RU4UD

So next time you want to book a safari, try booking through a local ground operator in the country you want to visit …..you may be pleasantly surprised!

DON’T MISS THESE 9 ESSENTIAL TIPS WHEN PACKING FOR YOUR SAFARI

1.The best colors for safari wear are neutral colors like beige, khaki, tan, fawn etc. Not only do they keep you cool, but they help you blend in with the environment, and also look the part which adds to the fun. Steer clear of the color blue as this is the preferred color for tsetse flies, and also of the color black as you will feel too hot. Bright whites reflect light and can startle the animals. Experiment with splashes of red and purple, emulating the Maasai and Samburu tribesmen who live amongst the wildlife. safari clothes 1

2.Cotton and linen work best in the bush as they look good even when crumpled and sweaty. They also age well and can be easily washed.

3.Dress in layers – more layers for that early morning game drive, or balloon safari when there is a bite in the air, and fewer layers later on in the day, when the sun is high. Ensure you are fully covered, especially your ankles, during the sunset hours as this is when mosquitoes tend to bite.

4. Think about what you’ll actually need as many of us tend to pack needless items that we never wear. Pack as sensibly as you can, looking for fabrics that are light and breathable, as there is a high possibility that you will be in the same clothes the whole day.

5. Keep it simple. Think about it…the less you have to worry about what you are wearing, the more energy you will have to be where you are, and appreciate the stunning landscapes and wildlife around you.

6. Look for clothes and accessories that are easy to put together – think about dressing in a dim light at 5.30am when you will be dressing for your early morning game drive. Leggings and long sleeved t-shirts are great staples to have.

Safari clothes

7. Footwear should be sturdy walking shoes, which will also be comfortable on game drives and especially if you take a walking safari. Tip – although running shoes are fine, if you opt for the short hiking boots, you will get a bit of extra coverage to keep those ankle-biting mosquitoes away.

8. Create modules for your travel needs e.g you can pack all your ‘tech’ items like your IPad, smartphone,camera, chargers etc in one bag and your toiletries in another and then your self-care and first aid in another…when you pack like this you are less likely to forget something important.

9. Finally remember to keep lightly covered up when the sun is high so you don’t expose your skin to the sun. A wide brimmed hat is an asset when the sun is strong. Also carry a scarf, which is useful for wiping off the dust from your camera lens while in the vehicle.

safari clothes 2

5 Compelling Reasons to go on safari

20140416-091844-21.jpg.1024x0

Kenya is the quintessential destination for a safari, with the iconic images of Amboseli National Park under the shadows of Kilimanjaro, massive elephant herds and cute lion cubs coming to mind when you think of safari. But what exactly is a safari and why should this be on your bucket list?

#1  Bonding with Friends & Family

giraffe manor2

Who can forget magical moments flying above the earth in a hot air balloon, or the time your heart almost stopped, wondering whether the elephant is going to charge. Sitting by a roaring fire, sipping drinks and swopping wildlife stories….running away from sugar obsessed monkeys, and the early morning game drive, eyes watering from the cold wind but trying to be the first one to spot that elusive animal…yes, you will always remember these moments and the people who were with you at the time, be they partners, friends, children, parents or siblings. This will be one of the best times to bond or to strengthen existing bonds. You will also meet people from all over the world, and create new lasting friendships.

#2  Learning to appreciate Nature and God’s creations

cropped-dscn0698.jpg

God has created a wondrous planet for us, and there is no better way to appreciate it then to go on a safari. Watch animals interact with their own and other species and enjoy the vast horizons and open skies. Learn fascinating facts about wild animals and their peculiarities, and meet tribespeople who have lived off the land for centuries and whose way of life is now in danger of extinction. Immerse yourself in the wilderness of Africa, gaze in awe at the rare and powerful animals and fall asleep to the sounds of nature.

#3  Help in conservation efforts

Tourism is essential to conservation as it creates the much needed income to fund conservation efforts. Local communities today, are learning to work with tourism partners to improve their quality of life, preserve their culture and co-exist in harmony with wildlife. The presence of tourists also serve as a deterrent to poachers, who are decimating wildlife at an alarming rate today, and need to be stopped before some wildlife species are declared extinct.

Wild Destinations uses environmentally responsible camps and lodges that contribute towards the well being of the wildlife as well as the local communities.

Help in the conservation of elephants by fostering an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

DSCN0209

#4  Connect with your wilder side

Wake up your senses by getting close to wild animals on a walking safari/horsDSC_7683 - Version 2 (1)eback safari, or experience the thrill of the hunt watching lionesses stalk their prey. In need of an adrenaline rush? Go for a night game drive where you may encounter any of the Big Five like elephant or lion, or take a hot air balloon safari to try and spot game from the air. High octane activities like bungee jumping, sky diving, mountain biking, white water rafting and climbing the highest mountain in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro, can also be incorporated into your safari.

#5  Learn to appreciate a different way of life

Loisaba Lodge, Laikipia

Life on the African Plains is rooted in the land, where the people rely on Nature for their sustenance and livelihood. Feel the rhythm of a different pace of life, where the natives are unaffected by fashion trends or consumerism, and survival is uppermost in their thoughts. Connect with nature and allow your mind to expand to a new consciousness.