Deborah and Jim Mills have just settled back in New Zealand after an unforgettable trip to Africa. They went on a whirlwind adventure from North Eastern Tanzania to the award-winning Londolozi. They certainly had a magical trip and plan to return in 2021. Deb and Jim have very kindly shared some of their experiences from their trip and a few tips for those visiting soon:
“Iconic Africa did it again! A trip to Africa that felt like something out of a National Geographic production. Absolutely awesome.” – Bev Mills
“We fell in love with the bush 12 years ago in the Sabi Sands on an excursion offered after a conference. Our first sighting was a giraffe ambling across the road, later came the elephants, leopards and lions. We only stayed four nights, but immediately began to plan our return. While sitting in the Federal Air terminal, I picked up a book, “I Speak of Africa” by Shan Varty and Molly Buchanon, and I was hooked. It was clear that Londolozi had to be part of our next trip, and it has continued to be the anchor to our travels on each of our visits. It was at Londolozi that we met John Holley, now of Iconic Africa, who introduced us to the fabulous bush, as well as South African hospitality. Subsequently, the Iconic Africa team has planned many more adventures for us, always choosing the perfect lodges and locations.
Our trip this year in late July, early August, to Tanzania and South Africa was spectacular. We stayed at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, the Mara River Camp and Faru Faru in Tanzania, and Tswalu and Londolozi in South Africa.
There were so many highlights. The trip to Arusha National Park provided the opportunity to photograph the colobus monkeys, and to see an albino baboon. Our guide, Antony Kivuko, positioned us perfectly so that we could spend an extended period photographing the monkeys, with no one else around.
It was our second visit to the Mara River Tented Camp, and it felt like coming home. The people there are special. Herman Charles, our butler/waiter, was a pure delight, teaching us phrases in Swahili and treating us like members of the family. Benson Mboya, our ranger, got us into the perfect position for each of the crossings. The crossings were an amazing experience. We could not believe the number of wildebeest in the Serengeti, and we saw at least half of the three million. We felt like we were in a National Geographic moment. Another highlight was seeing a herd of sixteen elephants crossing the Mara River. After watching the frenzied crossing of the wildebeest, the elephants were majestic and graceful, a sight that we will never forget. For anyone who wants to see the migration and a river crossing, The Mara River Camp is the perfect location.
Faru Faru provides a great opportunity to see the Serengeti Plains. We would definitely like to stay there longer next time. There were two special sightings at Faru Faru, the tree-climbing lions and the zebra migration at the water hole. It is also a great spot to view cheetahs.
Tswalu is very different, with the red sand desert and rocky mountains. It is a great place to see pangolin, aardvark, bat-eared foxes and meerkats. They let you get out of the range rover and follow the pangolin and aardvark on foot. For the meerkats, you arrive early in the morning, just as they are beginning to come out of the dens and acclimate to the cold. You are also able to get out of the vehicle to observe and photograph them. Winter is a great time to go because the nocturnal animals are out earlier and are easier to find. Tswalu also has a number of wild dogs, as well as cheetah, lions and rhino.
Our final stop was Londolozi, which never disappoints. There were leopards everywhere, as usual. The leaves were not out on many trees, making it excellent for photographing leopards. Seeing the three Birmingham male lions, along with the Ntsevu lionesses and cubs walk by the land rover was breathtaking. On our last day, we had the opportunity to view a cheetah, much to the delight of all. Londolozi is still is the best for consistent wildlife viewing that we have experienced, in terms of both variety and density. However, it is not only the wildlife that makes Londolozi special. The people, the culture and the environment all contribute to the magic of the place. Our guide, Alex Jordan, is an excellent photographer and he gave us new tips and also helped us edit photos in the studio. Our tracker, Lucky, was excellent, always able to read the tracks and the signs to find the elusive leopard. Pioneer is our favourite camp, and Trevor and Tais made us feel right at home.
Bev Van Schoor of Iconic Africa has repeatedly developed itineraries that have exceeded our dreams, as well as our expectations. We are so thankful for Bev’s patience and attention to detail that makes this experience absolutely worry-free. Thank you, Bev. We are looking forward to our next adventure.”
A big thank you to Deb and Jim – we look forward to having you back on African soil in 2021…