The ‘Profoundly Striking’ Makgadikgadi Pans

Posted October 27th, 2014 by Molly Demmer

Kota Tabuchi

Written by Kota Tabuchi, Travel Beyond’s Managing Director of Africa.

This August, I led a group of 40 travelers on safari in Africa, almost all whom had never been to Africa before. As they enjoyed their time in the Okavango Delta, I slipped away from the group to revisit an old favorite: the place that made me fall in love with Africa back in October 2001.

The Makgadikgadi Pans is an ancient lake bed roughly 45 minutes by light aircraft southeast of Maun, Botswana. During the dry season, the lake bed is a dry salt pan, roughly the size of Switzerland. Back in 2001, I was a college student in Lugano, Switzerland at Franklin University and ended up on the Botswana “Academic Travel” program (a 2 week faculty led journey that takes students across the world). When we visited the Makgadikgadi, we contacted a guide from Jack’s Camp; a man by the name of Super. He took us on quad bikes to the middle of the pans for a sleep out under the African stars. In 2001, I was a fairly irresponsible college student and placed academics on the backburner. However, on a warm October night in the middle of the pans, I had a pivotal life moment – something about this place was profoundly striking. In short, this single night was the catalyst to my stewardship towards conservation and drove me to pursue a career in my current field.

Fast forward to August 2014, when I revisited Jack’s Camp and to my surprise, Super met me in the dining hall and introduced himself. I recalled the story that I just mentioned – he remembered my group and got very emotional about how his connection with me and the place in which he guides led me to where I am today. We quad biked into the pans for a sundowner, and Super took me on a game drive. We inspected their sister properties (San Camp and Camp Kalahari), visited the habituated meerkats of the Kalahari and walked with the San Bushmen. Like 14 years ago, I found immense beauty and spirituality in this enormous emptiness. No wind, no noise, no light pollution, and stars packed from horizon to horizon. I relived that special day 14 years ago – it was magical.

The Makgadikgadi remains a very unfrequented area of Botswana – perhaps because it isn’t as wildlife dense as the Okavango or perhaps because people haven’t heard about it. But I can assure you that it is a stunning destination and one with considering if you ever choose to (re)visit to Botswana. San Camp was my favorite of the Uncharted Africa’s portfolio in the Makgadikgadi – a simple and tastefully decorated tented camp on the fringes of the pans overlooking the vast nothingness. I yearn to return with my family to San Camp someday to share the emotional journey that this place delivers.

Interested in learning more about Botwsana or the Makgadikgadi Pans? Contact us.

Posted in Africa, Botswana, Consultant Blogs | 1 Comment »

Craig Beal Named to 2014 Travel+Leisure A-List

Posted October 27th, 2014 by Mel Reger


For the fourth straight year, Travel Beyond owner Craig Beal was named to the prestigious Travel+Leisure magazine Agent A-List for his expert knowledge of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The annual A-List is comprised of destination all-stars in the travel industry who have the knowledge and connections to make a dream trip a reality.

Craig Beal’s Travel+Leisure A-List Profile:

“Beal’s South African–born mother founded Travel Beyond, taking him on his first safari at age four. He’s been traveling to Botswana and Zimbabwe for more than 30 years, and when he isn’t in Africa—staying at new lodges and meeting top guides—he’s talking about it at conferences as a cofounder of Safari Professionals of America or in online forums such as TripAdvisor and FlyerTalk.

Discovery: The seven-year-old Lion Camp, located in a remote corner of Zambia’s Luangwa National Park, known for its walking safaris and views. Thatch-and-canvas chalets overlook an oxbow lagoon and open plain, ideal for wildlife spotting.

Read the full Travel + Leisure article >>

Posted in Africa, Botswana, Consultant Blogs, Southern Africa, Travel Planning, Zambia, Zimbabwe | 1 Comment »

It’s All About the Food!

Posted October 27th, 2014 by Mel Reger


Courtesy Denvery Hendricks & Cape Grace Hotel

While famous museums, stunning vistas and exotic animal sightings are all important ingredients in a successful trip, often the cuisine is what really showcases a destination’s unique flavor. With plenty of delicious meals under our belts, our Travel Beyond team was eager to share some of our favorite culinary experiences around the world.

Vegan Food in Cape Town, South Africa – Marguerite Smit

“It’s all about the food! I’m one of those people that spoils dinner reservations for everyone else; I don’t eat anything that had a mother or a face… and I’m proud of it! Therefore traveling certainly presents its challenges when it comes to suitable vegan options, or should I say lack there off?! It’s not often that my hair gets blown back with vegan meal choices, which is why I can’t stop raving about the Vegan Tasting Menu offered at Signal restaurant, Cape Grace in Cape Town.

It started with a tantalizing salad made up of raw, pickled & roasted vegetables, toasted pine nuts & rosemary agave vinaigrette. This taste sensation was followed by a sesame roasted shiitake mushrooms, rooibos (a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in SA’s fynbos, the leaves are used to make a herbal tea) & orange glazed butternut, sesame seed butter & bokchoy medley. My taste buds did a happy dance here… but broke into song when I tasted the sweet potato lasagna with espresso balsamic reduction! My pallet was cleansed by a winter melon & lime sorbet only to have the taste buds go wild when presented with the lemon-scented spiced quinoa pilau, roasted macadamia nuts, green apple & ginger paired with a Radford dale Shiraz 2005.

The grand finale is however what really blew my hair back… A salted caramel tartlet with caramelized banana & pecan nut brittle. By far the best Vegan meal I have had and above all, healthy eating that makes your taste buds jump for joy! All that and wine pairing with each selection for under $60! Never regret overeating.”

- Marguerite Smit, Travel Consultant

Sukuma Wiki in Kenya – Kota Tabuchi

“This isn’t the “best” meal I’ve had abroad, but it is certainly my favorite while on safari in Kenya! Sukuma Wiki (stewed collard greens) and Ugali (maze meal) are both staples of the region and are commonly eaten by locals as an affordable and healthy meal. For me, being on safari is synonymous with overeating/overindulging in amazing cuisine. Not that I complain, but I find that my body craves something simple from time to time. Camps are more than happy to cook up this simple meal and is often being cooked anyways by the house staff. I find that sharing this type of meal with staff is a good way to share and learn about one’s culture and to take a break from the “eating safari”. Plus, it’s super fun to eat! Just form the ugali into a little ball in your hand, dip in a bit of salt, and pick up the sukuma wiki with your fingers along with the ugali and voila, the perfect bite.”

- Kota Tabuchi, Managing Director for Africa

Cacio e Pepe Pici in Italy – Katie Blackstone

“My favorite travel food is from Siena, Italy. It’s called Cacio e Pepe Pici. Essentially, thicker pasta is used with fresh Pecorino Cheese and pepper ground over it. Italians make it so fresh –it’s such a simple dish, but incredible. I lived there a few years ago and definitely ate a little too much of it! I’ve tried making it at home since I’ve been back… its good when I make it, but definitely not the same!”

- Katie Blackstone, Travel Consultant


Courtesy of Meg Tschudi

Lunch in Tel Aviv, Israel – Meg Tschudi

“My favorite meal while traveling was in Tel Aviv, Israel at Hatzar Goldman. It is in a great location right off the boardwalk next to the sea. We sat in the outdoor dining area and had a beautiful view of the ocean. The restaurant is within walking distance from great hotels and along the way to Old Jaffa. They had an amazing lunch special that had more than enough food to share for a reasonable price. We ordered meatballs with grilled vegetables in a cream sauce and variety of sides that we got to choose from. My favorite was the basket of assorted fresh baked bread. I’m a sucker for fresh bread. Tel Aviv is full of wonderful places to eat along the ocean as well as in the markets.”

- Meg Tschudi, Travel Manager

Oranjezicht Farmer’s Market in Cape Town, South Africa – Pam Buttner

“One that has become a fast favorite of mine is the Oranjezicht Farmer’s Market, located in Cape Town, South Africa. The property was established in 2012/2013 thanks to the efforts of several local civil society organizations. This particular farmers market is located in a beautiful setting at the base of Table Mountain and is open to the public every Saturday from 9-2. Check them out on Fcaebook, loads of yummy food – vegan options too, and the most beautiful garden!”

- Pam Buttner, Travel Consultant


Courtesy of Kayla Torgerson

A Homemade Meal in Jaipur, India – Kayla Torgerson

“Of all the great meals I had while traveling, my favorite took place at a local home in Jaipur while I was living in India.

The meal was SPICY! Really, really, painfully, ear-piercingly spicy, but the experience was incredible! Alam lived in a shanty village outside of Jaipur literally right next to the desert. His was the last house before a wide expanse of sand dunes and mountains. When we entered the gate in front of his home we were greeted by baby goats, naked children, and oodles of neighbors peeping over the fence at us. I felt like a celebrity being ushered inside, away from the crowd.

I’ve eaten over a fire dozens of times, but never over a fire that had been started using cow poop as kindling. Alam had virtually nothing, but he was one of the happiest and most gracious people I have ever met. Although the food was almost inedible because of the spices, the experience is one that will stay with me forever.”

- Kayla Torgerson, Travel Consultant

Malva Pudding in South Africa – Jeanie Fundora

“My favorite South African foods are the fragrant and often-times spicy Cape Malay cuisine and the delectable dessert. It makes my mouth water just thinking about these foods! Another great dish to consider for desert is the Malva pudding. It has a flan resemblance and absolutely irresistible. Once I tried Malva pudding I was completely hooked and have never been able to turn it down anytime it is put in front of me! Malva pudding will often make appearance at high tea. Be on the lookout!

Cape Town in particular is a huge foodie destination and it is always very humorous when clients who were worried about what they would eat on their trip to South Africa come back telling me they gained a few pounds!”

- Jeanie Fundora, Travel Consultant

A Surinamese Meal in Morocco – Julia Gibas-Jones

“I was in Amsterdam for a getaway with a couple friends from my study abroad program in Morocco. We were all craving Mexican food and I knew from a previous trip that there was a good Tex-Mex place owned by American ex-pats. We were in the neighborhood, wandering around following the canals and asking for help but nobody was able to point us in the right direction. We were too hungry to bother finding the Tex-Mex spot and somehow we ended up in a Surinamese restaurant instead. We sat down and realized that the menu was all in Dutch. Thankfully, an English speaking Dutchman overheard us and offered to help us order. He was a regular, so we asked him to just order several of his favorite dishes for the table to share.

We were delighted to discover that although our order was a mystery, the food from Suriname was some of the best food that we had ever tasted. It was a beautiful fusion of flavors, drawing from colonial influences and bridging indigenous Amerindian, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and African cuisines. The flavors of the curry and the richness of the spices reflected a hybrid of different cultures and histories. Suriname has been on my bucket list ever since!”

- Julia Gibas-Jones, Travel Manager


Courtesy of Molly Demmer

Provence’s Perfect Food Day – Molly Demmer

“My perfect food day occurred while touring villages in Provence, France. The morning began with mouthwatering chocolate croissants in Gordes as we watched the morning fog rise from the patterned valley below. Next, we wandered through a market and sipped espresso in Rousillon while marveling the town’s famous ochre cliffs. Lunch was a delicious baguette from Rousillon and a near-perfect chocolate pastry in Coustellet. A bottle of wine accompanied us as we watched the sun set in Gordes before our dinner reservation at our hotel restaurant overlooking the Luberon Valley.

Dinner was otherworldly: a light artichoke starter followed by shredded crab and quinoa on a crispy parmesan pastry, topped by a fresh herbs salad. My entrée was succulent roasted veal, flavorful gnocchi in truffle sauce and a medley of green vegetables. The dessert was translated as “a dessert for chocolate addict,” and I don’t think I can describe it any better myself. We had the restaurant to ourselves for most of the meal and were doted on by the wait staff, who made sure our glasses of local white wine were always full. Coupled with the stunning valley-side view and engaging conversation, this meal (and entire day) of culinary indulgence made for an unforgettable experience.”

Molly Demmer, Marketing and Operations Manager

Posted in Consultant Blogs, Europe, India, Kenya, South Africa | Comments Off