Archive for the ‘Botswana’ Category

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


After 7 Years: Callie’s Much-Anticipated First Safari

Posted January 28th, 2015 by Mel Reger



Written by Travel Beyond Travel Manager Callie Robinson

callie

October 8, 2014 was the day I’d been waiting on for seven years – the day I would finally visit South Africa! After working at Travel Beyond as a seasonal employee throughout my high school and college years, I became a full-time Travel Manager in January 2014 and was honored with my first educational trip to South Africa and Botswana for two and a half weeks.

Cape Town

I arrived late at night in Cape Town and woke up to the most serene vineyard and mountain-view outside my room in Franschhoek at La Residence; I was feeling like a queen. The next three days were spent exploring the Winelands and Cape Town. From the delicious food and wine to the picturesque landscapes, I was falling in love with this buzzing city more and more each day. Everywhere you looked there were people from destinations all over the world and multiple generations; I knew this was a perfect city because it has something to offer for everyone!

Kruger National Park

I then flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg to meet up with Rose Loggi, one of Travel Beyond’s Africa consultants. Rose has been to Africa dozens of times, and this was her fourth time to South Africa. I was honored to travel with her and learn so much from a highly experienced traveler and safari consultant. After an overnight in Johannesburg, we boarded a light aircraft flight to get us to Kruger National Park where we would embark on safari. Roughly an hour and a half later, we arrived to a champagne welcome at the airstrip from our guide and tracker from our first safari lodge, Tintswalo Safari Lodge! After settling in, I could hardly wait another second to see the wildlife in their natural habitat for the first time. Our first afternoon game drive was a great success as we saw four of the Big Five, had a delightful sundowner location overlooking a watering hole at sunset, and our guide showed us how to smoke elephant dung and explained that witch doctors in South Africa recommend to do this for sinus relief. Quite the first safari experience!

callie

Kapama Game Reserve

The next stops on the trip included eight overnight visits to a different camp each day in the Kapama Game Reserve, Timbavati Reserve, Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sands. I was a little hesitant to be staying at a tented camp on my first trip. I have done a decent amount of camping growing up, but the thought that leopards and hyena could be walking around my tent at night and bugs I had never seen before could be crawling around worried me a little. After my stay at Tanda Tula, my worries were completely erased because of the wonderful staff, beautiful camp layout and location, and my game drive experience (and hardly any bugs in October!). Plus, I was so tired from being on the move each day and learning so many new things, I had zero trouble falling asleep at night. Our first afternoon game drive at the lodge was a dream; we saw the Big Five in one game drive! This does not happen too often and it was a thrilling experience! This is also where I fell even more in love with elephants. I could just sit and watch them for hours; they are so mesmerizing to me.

Mashatu Game Reserve

After our safari in South Africa, we took a flight from Johannesburg to Polokwane and then transferred over the border to Botswana. The sun was beaming its rays on us for the 45-minute drive to Mashatu Main Camp from the border. I was so happy to feel the heat of Botswana after some chilly mornings and evenings in South Africa! On our way into camp, our guide told us that the President of Botswana had just arrived at the camp as well to hear the results of the election that were being decided that night (he won his second term, by the way). How cool! After a wonderful two-day stay at Mashatu with beautiful weather and great sightings, we were able to end our last evening safari with one of the most enchanting sunsets I had ever seen. And, of course, we had some gin & tonic to celebrate!

I cannot wait until I return to these beautiful countries and explore even more of Africa! The Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls, and various parts of Kenya are what I hope are my next African destinations. There’s so much more to share but so hard to say the right words – it’s a must-see for yourself! I would highly recommend an African safari is placed at the top of your travel bucket list!

callie

A few things I learned on this trip being a first time safari-goer

-          You really need to pack for all sorts of weather. Being that is was October I figured it would be 70’s all day every day. Morning and evenings drop to 50’s and when you’re riding in a moving, open vehicle it’s quite chilly (even for a Minnesotan).

-          If you see a multi-purpose, unique gift at the curio shop that won’t break in your suitcase, snatch it right away! Each lodge offers different interesting items.

-          Don’t be afraid to ask what you believe may be silly questions on safari! Because it was my first time, I had so many thoughts going through my head. The guides love questions and they often prompt more thoughts you didn’t think to ask!

-          Keep a journal and try to write in it as often as possible. Being back for almost 3 months now, I still try to remember fun facts to share with family and friends but the information isn’t as fresh.

 

Posted in Africa, Botswana, Consultant Blogs, South Africa | Comments Off


Big Five in One Drive: Rose’s Trip Report

Posted November 24th, 2014 by Mel Reger



By Travel Beyond consultant Rose Loggi

Rose13

I recently returned from an amazing 3-week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. I couldn’t wait to get back and share all about my adventure!

There were many magical moments on my trip, and I wish that I could share them all with you; for now let’s start with just a few highlights.

Zimbabwe

I began my journey in Zimbabwe, which offers great game viewing as well as the picturesque Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. I especially enjoyed the beauty of the Falls during this time of year, when the water levels are lower (but still quite impressive) because this allows for better photo opportunities since there is a lot less spray.

One highlight of my Zimbabwe safari (well, in fact, of my entire trip) was to sit back and enjoy a “slow safari” one day at Little Makalolo in Hwange National Park. Observing animal behavior for hours while sitting at the log pile water hole, watching hundreds of elephant come to drink and wallow – and with a Gin & Tonic in hand – now what can be better than this I ask? Incredible! This was a tough act to follow for sure, and Ruckomechi Camp in Mana Pools National Park delivered more WOW moments: a bush walk with specialist walking guide and story-teller extraordinaire Mafaku, who shared tales of his adventures in the bush (complete with termite eating and dung-spitting displays), plus an amazing sunset on our Zambezi cruise. A perfect end to my Zimbabwe adventure!

South Africa

After my time in Zimbabwe I headed off to South Africa which began with a champagne welcome upon landing at the airstrip at Tintswalo in the Manyeleti Game Reserve! I really loved Tintswalo, with just seven beautifully decorated suites, excellent food and service, and incredible game viewing, where we saw four of the Big Five safari animals on our very first game drive. After enjoying a sighting of a stunning leopard, at what we thought was the “end” of our first drive, we took a little detour to come to the aid of another group whose vehicle was stuck…and our good deed was rewarded with an amazing sighting of a pride of 8 lions on the move – simply awesome! Ah, this is Africa, and you never know what you might see around the next bend.

food

Courtesy Rose Loggi

Next on tap was the Kapama Private Game Reserve, where my stay at Camp Jabulani included a special elephant-back safari on a rescued elephant named Sebakwe; some of you might recognize him, since he is featured on the Amarula Cream liqueur label. Another nice lodge choice here is the chic and modern Kapama Karula; both lodges offer game drives and bush walks in this reserve renowned for its diverse wildlife, home to over 40 different mammal species.

Timbavati Private Reserve was my next stop, where I embraced the totally different ambience of a tented camp at the lovely Tanda Tula. This is an excellent option for those who wish to experience the wonders of safari while “under canvas”, but with all of the modern amenities (including a hairdryer, ladies). I loved the classic East-Africa style tents, each with Victorian bathtub and outdoor shower, and the communal vibe at dinner was fantastic, dining with your fellow safari goers and sharing stories of your day’s excitement. The bush breakfast the next morning was another rare treat; dining al fresco along the banks of the sand river. What more can I say about the extremely productive and exciting game viewing here other than to share that we saw the entire Big Five on One Game Drive – now this doesn’t happen every day on safari, let me tell you! You can also view game right from the camp, when elephant and other animals come to drink at the dam.

food

Courtesy Rose Loggi

My final stop in this area was the northern portion of the renowned Sabi Sand Game Reserve, adjacent to the Kruger National Park. I had high expectations for this reserve, and it did not disappoint. Once again, we saw four of the Big Five on our very first game drive (and #5 the next morning), but much more than simply ticking off the boxes of the animal sightings, a safari is really all about observing and appreciating animal behavior. We started with a sighting of a lone male lion doing, well, what most lion do for most of the day – sleep! We then watched a rhino mom with her baby as she chased away a male rhino that she obviously did not want around. Next up was leopards mating – quite an extraordinary sighting. More sleepy lions, a pride of 10 which is usually 13, hmmm, now where could the others have gone? Well, our question was answered when we came upon a huge male lion not typically seen here, who was feeding on a kill at water’s edge; the 3 lionesses had made this kill in the night and then he came along and stole their meal. Life is hard out here in the African bush! There are tons of great lodging choices in the Sabi Sands, and hats off to Louis at Elephant Plains for finding and sharing these magical sightings with us.

Botswana

But wait, we are not finished yet! I topped off my adventure with a visit to Mashatu Game Reserve, located in the secluded and beautiful Northern Tuli block of Botswana, bordering South Africa and Zimbabwe. This picturesque area with panoramic views has many diverse habitats, with exciting game drives across the riverbeds, forests, hills and plains; a true off-the-beaten-path wilderness experience. In addition to game drives, Mashatu offers additional activities as well: observing animals from a photographic hide, exploring on foot on bush walks, experiencing a safari by mountain bike, or galloping through the plains on horseback. It is difficult to say what I enjoyed most at Mashatu; maybe it was the magic moment spent viewing some astonishing animal behavior, with lion chasing hyena, jackal and other lion from a kill, or maybe it was the more serene and surreal sunset on the final evening while I said goodbye to Africa for now…until my next visit.

“All I wanted to do was get back to Africa. We had not left it, yet, but when I would wake in the night I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.” – Ernest Hemingway

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