Exclusive, Authentic, Amazing: Marsha’s Safari in Kenya & Zanzibar

Posted March 31st, 2015 by Molly Demmer

Written by Travel Beyond consultant Marsha Carroll


The last time I was in East Africa was in 2003. I was very much looking forward to my return and particularly keen to learn about Kenya. My trip included visits to several of Kenya’s National Parks and Conservancies, which included Amboseli National Park, The Chyulu Hills, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy and the Maasai Mara. I also went to the Island of Zanzibar to get a taste of what island life is like!

After a 2-night stop-over in Amsterdam, I arrived in Nairobi excited to begin my adventure. My first stop was Amboseli National Park, known for its large herds of elephants and opportunities to catch a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro. The action started right away as we stopped to look at lions en route to camp, followed by a lovely cheetah sighting—all of this before lunch! The evening game drive was just as exciting, as we watched the families of elephants head back to the base of Kilimanjaro for the night and witnessed another lovely sighting of a pride of lions. I quickly realized what it means to be in a National Park: many, many vehicles at a sighting and no control over the number of vehicles (either self-driven or mini buses). I had been used to game viewing in Southern Africa where there is more opportunity for wildlife viewing in a more controlled environment (limited to 3 cars per sighting). Next, I was off to the Chyulu Hills.


The Chyulu Hills lie between Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks, in front of the highest mountain on the continent: Kilimanjaro. The first camp I visited in this area was Campi Ya Kanzi, owned and run by a local Maasai Community. This pristine wilderness area gave me the chance to get out of the vehicle and hike to the Cloud Forest for sweeping views of the area. No other camp or lodge around allowed the feeling of exclusivity: just me, wildlife and my Maasai guides. The peak of Kilimanjaro poked through the clouds about mid-morning before we headed out to the next camp in the Chyulu Hills: Ol Donyo Lodge.


Ol Donyo Lodge is located on the private 275,000-acre Mbirikani Group Ranch in southeastern Kenya, between Tsavo East and Amboseli National Parks and next to Chyulu Hills National Park. The group ranch is owned by 4,000 Maasai and is leased from them by Great Plains Conservation. Ol Donyo Lodge was a real treat, with early morning and late afternoon/early evening game drives in a 4×4 open vehicle, wildlife viewing in an open-air hide and sleep-outs on private “star beds.” The beautiful cottages are comfortable, and the lodge has done an impeccable job of merging outdoor and indoor living. I did not want to leave, but I was off to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy!


Simply known as Lewa, the conservancy is located at the foothills of Mount Kenya and is home to some of the continent’s most endangered species like the black rhino and the Grevy’s zebra, along with a plethora of other wildlife including the elephant, giraffe, buffalo, antelope, lion, cheetah and leopard. The Reticulated Giraffe (shown above) can be seen in Lewa and other areas north of the equator. The large markings outlined by bright white lines makes this animal a lovely site to photograph and quickly became new favorite of mine! I enjoyed Sirikoi Lodge’s comfortable luxury canvas tents that overlook a very active waterhole. In addition, Sirikoi’s food was the best on my entire trip. The private conservancy of Lewa contributed to wonderful game viewing, giving me no doubt in my mind that Lewa is a “must” to include on a Kenya safari itinerary.


Road Trip! Three hours from the Lewa Conservancy gate, I was driven to the northern frontier of Kenya and the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, an area of 850,000 acres of pristine wilderness in the Mathews Range and home to the Samburu people. Sarara Camp was another highlight of my journey. The setting of the camp offers hillside views and a natural infinity rock pool overlooking an active waterhole. A truly humbling cultural experience, Singing Wells, are a tradition in which families bring their cattle to drink every two or so days. Each family has a well they have dug to reach the ground water. The depth of the water in the well determines how many people are required to be in the well with buckets. One man with a bucket was at the edge of the rim, filling the trough for the cows to take a drink, while the two men in the wells were singing in Samburu to the cows, praising them. No photographs or videos were allowed. I have never experienced a truly raw authentic experience and was so honored to have had the chance.

The final stop on my epic journey was the Maasai Mara. I have been to over 13 different African countries and have been on safari countless times, but I still wasn’t prepared for the amount of wildlife and daily epic sightings. Each day outdid the one before it! The Maasai Mara truly lives up to its reputation.


After finishing my amazing safari in Kenya, I escaped to Zanzibar for some time at the beach! I fell in love with Mnemba Island off of the northeast coast of Zanzibar. This private island delivers a complete beach holiday with swimming in the warm calm waters of the Indian Ocean, snorkeling, sailing on a Dhow and kayaking all available from the boat house, just steps away from your banda. A true tropical paradise!

Marsha’s Tips on When to Visit Kenya

A note on travel during the off-peak season: December through February is a great time to visit. Escape the North American winter and head to sun-drenched Kenya! The camps are not fully booked during this time of year, equating to fewer vehicles in the more popular areas. Even though it is not the Wildebeest Migration time (which can happen anytime between July and September), this time of year showcases more baby animals. Kenya will surely deliver an amazing wildlife safari.


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Travel Beyond Celebrates 40 Years!

Posted February 26th, 2015 by Molly Demmer

Looking Back, Looking Forward

In January of 2015, Travel Beyond celebrated our 40th anniversary in business. As we reflect upon the last 40 years, we are especially grateful for you, our incredibly loyal clients, our dedicated team members and our industry partners. On behalf of the entire Travel Beyond family, thank you for traveling with us for 40 years.


1975: Our Foundation

Founded in 1975 as TravelWays (after which our magazine is named), our first trips were group tours within Africa led by our founders, South African-born Audrey and Minnesota-born David Beal. In fact, we were the first U.S. company to plan leisure travel within southern Africa still in business today! In the early days, travel planning was a very different business. We composed itineraries on typewriters and developed trip photos from film. Airline tickets were issued and printed in-house at our many offices in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. South Africa was under Apartheid. Travelers dressed in business attire for flights, and smoking on airplanes was the norm.


2005: A New Generation

In 2005, after a ten-year career as a submarine officer in the United States Navy, Audrey and David’s youngest son Craig Beal took over the helm of the company, now called Travel Beyond. Craig and his wife Kay, Travel Beyond’s co-owner and controller, have spent the past ten years building the business into a leader in the luxury travel industry. This era included hiring our first employees outside of Minnesota while growing our business in the midst of an economic recession. Travel Beyond has become a nationally recognized, award-winning travel agency and tour operator by keeping focused on providing excellent travel planning service and building upon our expertise in an evolving marketplace.


2015: Travel Beyond Today

Today, Travel Beyond’s 27-person team is located in our Wayzata, Minnesota headquarters and homebased offices in California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, Missouri and South Africa. Our team has traveled extensively within (or even lived in!) southern and East Africa, South and Central America, India, the Caribbean, Australia, the Society Islands, France and Italy, to name a few. In addition, our consultants are experts in many different types of travel, from the world’s leading luxury cruise lines, river cruises and expedition cruises to iconic trains, private jets and yachts. Our consultants pride themselves on staying abreast of the latest trends, properties and destinations within the travel industry, continually building knowledge.


Beyond 2015: Where We’re Going

Whether we meet clients over a cup of coffee in our Wayzata office or via international Skype calls, the pride and passion of Travel Beyond will continue to be rooted in planning unique and memorable trips for our clients for years to come. As we look to the future of our company and industry, we will continue to focus on providing excellent customer service and maintaining our position in the market as “most knowledgeable” within our core areas of expertise, outlined on the map above. Additionally, we will continue to expand our knowledge of new and emerging destinations and unique travel experiences across the globe. In 2015 and beyond, our consultants will spend thousands of hours traveling to ensure our knowledge is current and first-hand. We are eager to share this knowledge through trip reports, photos and videos on our website (TravelBeyond.com), here on our blog, in our monthly e-newsletter, in TripAdvisor forums and and in future issues of TravelWays Magazine. Most importantly, we look forward to exceeding each client’s expectations in 2015 and years to come.

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Wild Zambia

Posted February 26th, 2015 by Molly Demmer

Elephant in Zambia

Wild and untamed, Zambia’s diverse landscapes, abundant wildlife and diverse ecosystems offer a safari experience that feels distinctly personal.

Zambia’s national parks span a variety of ecosystems and landscapes, giving guests a unique opportunity for a comprehensive and diverse circuit within the same country. At each of Zambia’s three largest national parks, a different characteristic of a uniquely Zambian safari shines forth.

As one of the most game-rich parks in southern Africa, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park boasts some of the highest populations of hippo, fish and crocodile due to the undisturbed Luangwa River and rich, fertile flood plains of the Luangwa Valley. South Luangwa is best known as the original location of another Zambia highlight: walking safaris.

“Walking is king here,” notes Travel Beyond consultant Marguerite Smit, who traveled extensively in Zambia in 2014. “In Zambia, you can track lion on foot every day, canoe among hippos and crocodiles (if you are brave enough!) and discover the unforgettable birds of Southern Africa in abundance as they cover the skies.”

In addition to walking safaris and exploring the parks from a traditional Land Rover vehicle, travelers to Zambia are given another option in Lower Zambezi National Park. The park is one of only a few spots in southern Africa where visitors can enjoy their safari along the banks of a major river, the Zambezi.

Massive herds of elephants and other animals congregate along the famed Zambezi. Camps and lodges in Lower Zambezi National Park overlook the water as well, giving guests stunning views while dining or relaxing during their daily siesta.

Zambia Sunset

In Kafue National Park, the largest park in Zambia and second largest park on the continent of Africa, guests are treated to a variety of landscapes from wide rivers, open plains and savanna grasslands to woodlands, rocky outcrops and floodplains. Large herds of prey gather along the water sources, drawing predators for classic “circle of life” wildlife clashes. The floodplains are also known for excellent birdlife, perfect for checking off wildlife from any traveler’s “must see” viewing list.

Any visit to Zambia would be incomplete without a stop in Livingstone to witness the majesty of Victoria Falls, the point where the wide Zambezi River tumbles more than 350 feet to create the largest sheet of falling water in the world.

Regardless of what circuit a traveler to Zambia takes, Kota Tabuchi, Travel Beyond’s managing director for Africa, likes to make sure his clients know another distinction of Zambia.

“As one of the very few ‘wild’ places remaining in southern Africa, the focus in Zambia tends to be more on the experience than the accommodations,” explains Kota. “Accommodations vary greatly from super luxury to basic camping, but the charm of Zambia is really in the intimate camps offering superb guiding and hosting.”

Unlike other countries in Southern Africa, Zambia is extremely seasonal, so it’s important to work with an expert before booking your safari. Many safari camps close between mid-November and April. Marguerite and Kota recommend traveling between June and November for the best game viewing opportunities.

Zambia Property Spotlights

Lion Camp

Lion Camp

“The stylish, uniquely decorated lodge in South Luangwa is vibrant in color and experience. During the day, the land in front of the lodge is frequented by grazing mammals, and while guests are safely sleeping inside at night, it becomes a hunting ground for lions. ”

-Marguerite Smit


Anabezi Luxury Tented Camp

“The best way to describe this camp is ‘luxury hotel in the bush’—a 5-star feeling with genuine African hospitality. As the last stop in the Lower Zambezi, this camp has a very private feel.”

-Marguerite Smit

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