Capitalizing on Africa’s Best Values: Peak Season Safari Specials

Posted July 16th, 2015 by Molly Demmer

Written by Travel Beyond owner Craig Beal

Credit Dana Allen

Photo credit Dana Allen, Wilderness Safaris

Africa’s tourism industry has suffered from safety and health misconceptions in the wake of several highly publicized incidents in the media. In all of Africa, last year’s Ebola coverage has caused a downturn in tourism, despite the fact that there were no cases of Ebola in Kenya or Southern Africa.

The net result of these tourism challenges is what we at Travel Beyond have come to expect when a luxury tourism product is in need of occupancy: virtually all safari lodges, hotels and safari circuits are on sale for 2015’s peak season (now through October) with many deals extending to 2016. Below, we outline a few great opportunities for travelers looking to capitalize on the incredible availability and pricing.

A Host of Kenya Offers

Despite the recent challenges facing Kenya, Travel Beyond is having a great year selling trips to Kenya and reaping the rewards from our massive investment in educating our staff on the destination in 2012-2015. In this time, our safari consultants have collectively spent more than four months in Kenya enjoying the exceptional wildlife and cultural experiences that the country has to offer and seeing virtually every four and five star safari lodge in the country.

The 2015 price for a high quality Kenya safari is lower than any time in the past five years and lower than any comparable alternative safari destination in their peak season. Because of these factors, Kenya is now the best value in the world for luxury experiential travel and especially for a safari. As one of only seven US based tour operators recommend by the Kenya Tourism Board for planning a safari, we hold all the specials and will pass them on to you!

Excluding the million+ wildebeest and zebra herds present during the great migrations in July-September, the year-round resident animal population (including big cats) in the Masaai Mara and adjacent private lands is only rivaled by Chief’s Island in Botswana (Mombo & Chief’s Camp) and the Sabi Sands (Singita, MalaMala, etc.). In addition to time in the Mara, our clients often visit Lewa Downs or Meru which are the best rhino habitats in East Africa. This is a common private safari “circuit” and one that is further incentivized by the plethora of specials and discounts for the current peak season. The zebra and wildebeest have already started crossing the Mara and Talek River so the period of the next three months is an excellent time to be there!

Most Kenya circuits will result in 9-10 nights spent at safari lodges and 18-20 morning and afternoon animal activities often including Land Rover/Land Cruiser game drives, horseback, camelback, or hiking safaris. If you are interested in the details on the best current values in Kenya, let us know!

Southern Africa: Wilderness Safaris

Wilderness Safaris, an esteemed partner of Travel Beyond in Southern Africa, is offering some great pricing for October 2015 in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. October showcases a transition from winter to summer, giving guests the last views of animal excitement around the few remaining water sources, the arrival of migratory birds and the least chance of rain compared to the other summer months.

In addition, Wilderness Safaris just renewed their 6-Country Special offers for the 2016-2017 travel period, granting an easy and cost-efficient way for safari guests to combine multiple countries into a comprehensive tour of Southern Africa. For more information, contact us.

Mombo Camp

In other Wilderness Safaris news, the renowned Mombo Camp is being rebuilt! Largely because of its position relative to the panhandle of the Okavango Delta, Mombo Camp offers the best general Big Five animal viewing in Botswana year round. Travel Beyond has sent thousands of guests to this camp over the past 25 years with the best results. On my first afternoon game drive in January 2015, I saw the Big Five and a pack of wild dog in a four hour timespan. The Mombo Concession always delivers!

Following the recent renewal of the camp’s 15-year lease on the land, the existing Mombo Camp will be torn down and completely rebuilt starting on November 1, 2015. The new Mombo Camp will open later next year and be the crown jewel of Botswana. During construction of the new camp, guests will stay in same concession (land), but far removed from the construction at the interim Mombo Trails Camp.
Mombo Trails Camp will open on November 1 with seven tents and the same guides, vehicles and staff as Mombo Camp, but at heavily reduced rates. The service (food, board and staff) and wildlife experience will be the same as always! The tents are classified as luxury canvas tents with an approximate interior space of 500 sq. ft., zippers for doors, two proper twin beds, and an indoor shower/toilet; nothing fancy but better than a luxury safari in 1985!

The camp will be sold on 40% discount vs. the current Mombo rates. Better rates are available if combining with other Wilderness Safari camps. If you measure safari value by animals seen per dollar spent this will be one of the best values in Africa. When the new ultra luxury Mombo Camp opens on July 1, Mombo Trails will shrink to five tents and then disappear forever on Dec 31, 2016.

Please call us soon if you are interested, as the new camp is filling up fast! In addition, for guests who want their own vehicle and guide will need to book quickly, as Mombo Trails only offers one private vehicle.

As always, as America’s oldest and largest tailor-made independent safari company, we can plan your entire trip door-to-door. We look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Africa, Botswana, East Africa, South Africa, Southern Africa, Travel Planning, Travel Values, Zambia, Zimbabwe | Comments Off on Capitalizing on Africa’s Best Values: Peak Season Safari Specials


The Incredible Golden Triangle: Lainie’s Trip to India

Posted July 13th, 2015 by Molly Demmer

Written by Travel Beyond’s Lainie Overbeck

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This was my first trip to India and hopefully not my last! It was an intense three weeks in this vast and overwhelming country, of which I just scratched the surface. There is a reason it is called incredible India—incredible is the perfect word to describe it!

I was lucky enough to be invited to a very dear friend’s wedding in Agra in April and able to parlay that with a familiarization trip for Travel Beyond as well. I spent a week before the wedding traveling and exploring Delhi, Jaipur and Agra (commonly referred to as the “Golden Triangle”) with 5 of my best gal pals before the wedding festivities began. It was such a joy to spend this time with them. I truly feel like I was a client on a Travel Beyond trip as well, since our week was planned with the help of Travel Beyond consultant Kayla Torgerson and our partner in India, Amit Sankhala of Encounters Asia. My expectations were high knowing that our trip was arranged with the expertise of our knowledgeable staff and partner, but I am also proud to say it was seamless.

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We started our trip in Old Delhi and visited the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, followed by rickshaw rides through one of the busiest markets in India, Chandi Chowk, ending at the Red Fort, once the most opulent fort and palace of the Mughal Empire. Following our tour of the fort, we went to Raj Ghat, the memorial site where Gandhi was cremated.

In New Delhi, we went to the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib (most prominent Sikh house of worship) where we took a tour of both the inside of the worship area and the kitchen, where we saw the massive amounts of food being prepared for anyone that wanted to enjoy a meal. It was fascinating!

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The next day we were off for our second city tour of Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. Called the “pink city” due to the sandstone buildings, Jaipur is known for shopping and is famous for fabric, gems and handicrafts. We were able to experience a trip to a carpet and textile store to see how prints for clothing and rugs are made and got to shop for saris for our friends’ wedding. It was amazing to see; I now have a new respect for the rug sitting on my living room floor!

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The next morning we went to Amber Fort and took an elephant ride up to the top of the fort, taking in the beautiful views of Jaipur. Following this we went to the City Palace, Royal Observatory and Hawa Mahal. In the evening we enjoyed a cooking lesson with a local family, where we were served a traditional Indian dinner of dahl, naan, rice, vegetables and chicken with honey balls for dessert. This was a really neat way to experience the Indian culture firsthand.

The following day was our last and final stop on our Golden Triangle adventure: the city of Agra. On the way to the Agra Fort we visited Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city built in the mid-16th century, and Bulund Darwaza, the largest gateway in the world.

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The next morning we had a sunrise visit to perhaps the most iconic structure in India, the remarkably impressive symbol of love, the Taj Mahal. Breathtaking is the best way to describe this architectural world wonder. We arrived when the gates were opening in the early morning. The air was still cool and the light from the sun rising and beaming on the white marble made it sparkle. In our case, we really did save the best for last. It was the perfect way to end our whirlwind sightseeing of the Golden Triangle before enjoying two days of Indian wedded bliss with friends. We were even lucky enough to see the Taj Mahal once again as it was the backdrop to our friends’ wedding ceremony!

After the wedding, I met up with my colleague Jeanie Fundora for further exploration of India. Read Jeanie’s trip report!

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Posted in Consultant Blogs, India | Comments Off on The Incredible Golden Triangle: Lainie’s Trip to India


Active Adventures in Patagonia: Kayla’s Trip Report

Posted July 13th, 2015 by Molly Demmer

Written by Travel Beyond consultant Kayla Torgerson

I enjoy being active on vacation. There is something to be said about doing the extra work to hike up a mountain for an incredible view, reaching the top of the Eiffel Tower by foot instead of by elevator or walking in the bush in Africa to approach animals without the protection of a vehicle. The idea of putting in a little extra effort and getting my blood pumping a bit harder than usual for an amazing view or a thrilling animal sighting makes the experience more exciting for me.

On my recent trip to Chile with my colleague Ken Marshall, one of the things I was most looking forward to was the hiking, horseback riding, kayaking and an itinerary full of activities that left me happily exhausted at the end of the day.

On our 18-day trip to Chile, detailed in Ken’s blog post, we spent time in Santiago, the Atacama Desert, Millahue for a vineyard visit (just 2 hours outside of Santiago), Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego. The entire trip was incredible and left me with a suitcase full of memories, but a highlight for me was without a doubt our time spent in Torres Del Paine National Park on the Chilean side of Patagonia.

Torres del Paine National Park is a 4.5-hour flight and a 5-hour road transfer from Santiago, but the long journey is worth it! Ken and I spent 4 nights at Explora Lodge, which is just inside the park and one of my favorite hotels in the world. The views are otherworldly. I was completely in awe!

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At the lodge each evening before dinner we joined our guides in the lounge to discuss the following day’s activities. On our first full day at the lodge, we were ambitious: we decided to do a full day trek to Grey Glacier – one leg of the famous W trekking circuit in Torres del Paine. We were geared up with lots of layers, packed lunches and lots of anticipation. The hike was amazing; the views were like nothing I’d ever seen! It was not an easy hike by any means, but the effort was worth the stunning views and the coffee with Baileys that our guide carried for us to enjoy during lunch! After lunch on a pebble beach on Grey Lake we boarded a boat to view the Grey Glacier up close. The brilliant blue color and the bright sun made for a wonderful end to a long and tiring day. We called it an early night after that, excited for another busy day the next day!

Kayla-Wanaco1 On our second full day we decided to take it a little bit easier. We opted for two half-day activities: horseback riding in the morning and a gentle hike/walk in the afternoon. Our horseback ride was in an area called Buena Vista, meaning “Good View.” Unfortunately it was very foggy that morning so fog and clouds obscured the views, but the eeriness of trotting through the mountains on horseback in the fog made for an adventure. That afternoon the sun poked through the clouds, and we enjoyed a beautiful walk through the hills. We hoped to spot one of the few pumas left in the area, but unfortunately only came across the remains from their most recent meal: wanaco.

On our last full day in the park, I decided to challenge myself with a 10-hour trek in which we climbed around 4,000 feet in altitude and hiked a distance of 13 miles. It was the hike to the base of the towers (the base of the Torres del Paine Mountains that gave the park its name). This is another leg of the famous W trekking circuit. I didn’t have time to do the third hike to the French Valley, but I’ll definitely make time for it on my next trip to Torres del Paine!

We broke the hike into 4 sections: hiking up the dry riverbed, down the windy corridor, up through the forest and the last section was climbing on snow and ice to reach the top! The views speak for themselves (see below). After spending about an hour at the top of the mountain to have a quick lunch, we followed all 4 sections of the trail back to the meeting point where our driver picked us up and kindly delivered our favorite Patagonian beer.

The trek was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever experienced. It was physically demanding, but in my opinion, it was even more mentally challenging. Nonetheless, the views when we reached the top were worth the effort!

I cannot wait to return to Chile! I never would have expected it to be one of my favorite destinations, but it blew me away. I completely fell in love with the beautiful scenery, the lovely people, and all the activities available.

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Posted in Chile, Consultant Blogs, Latin America | 1 Comment »