Toula’s Traveller Review

Toula Cassen has returned from a wonderful African trip and had a terrific time. We’ve shared her experience and beautiful pictures with you here:

Where did you travel to?

I visited the Mara region of Kenya with a couple of stop overs in Nairobi, Livingstone in Zambia, Chobe and the Delta in Botswana

What made you want to visit Africa?

I have wanted to go for a decade but life kept getting in the way. So in 2018 the time was finally right!!

Which was your favourite lodge and why?

They were all fabulous but Rekero was my favourite and most dear because it was my first and the sense of intimacy and the community that was created there was very special… I felt as if I was part of an exclusive club!

Which did you prefer – the Masai Mara or the Okavango and why?

I loved both equally but for different reasons. I think the Mara represented a vastness and a majestic quality that certainly got the adrenalin going whereas the Delta was more subtle and sublime. Here the animals were not on show – you had to take the time and perseverance to find them. The delta was more about detail. In a nutshell, one was the big picture and the other was the specific.

If you could describe Africa to someone who’s never been there what would you say?

It’s extraordinary! The wildlife and the terrain attack and trigger all the senses. You sometimes smell or hear before you see – Africa is like a reboot of your senses in that way. You are constantly reminded in a primal way that you are not the only one or the only way on this earth.

What was your most unforgettable moment?

Undoubtedly the crossing of the wildebeest over the Mara river. I will never forget the thunderous sound, the dust and the energy.

What did you love most about the safari experience?

Looking into the eyes of the wild; all the fascinating people I met; the plains; the heat; the sounds; the sunsets; and the colour gold.

What is your favourite animal to see in the wild and why?

The lions on the hunt was exhilarating; I also enjoyed seeing the birds in flight and the wildlife families doing their thing. Also the wildebeest in their numbers, and the solitary giraffe.

What was the best sighting of your trip?

The thunder and storm that is the wildebeest.

Where in Africa would you like to go next?

I definitely want to see the dunes of Namibia, the gorillas of Rwanda, and Mozambique.  

A big thank you to Toula for taking the time to share the above with us. We hope to have you back on African soil soon.

Terri’s Trip to the Delta

Terri Abadi, our intrepid Director recently returned from a wonderful adventure to the Okavango Delta! Let’s hear more about her time at Mombo here:

Q: What did you love most about your stay at Mombo?

A: Mombo is the pinnacle of what Wilderness Safaris has worked so hard to achieve. This famed property is considered to be the flagship of the collection and it certainly does not disappoint. We were lucky enough to stay at the recently renovated Mombo and experience what the most avid safari goers have all spoken about for years…. not only is it the most luxurious camp in Africa but hands down produces the most consistent big game viewing.

Many people believe that Mombo means ‘Place of Plenty’, but, whilst this name would certainly not be far from the truth, it in actual fact means ‘The Fire Underneath’ – the Shimombo. This name comes from the local Tswana word for the bush fires that burn deep within the earth here. These regular fires unlock many nutrients from the soil, rendering them readily available to the wealth of animals that flock here to make the most of these rich resources.

Q: What game did you see?

A: I saw everything – the majestic lion, a leopard and her cub, some wild dogs, black Rhino and all the other general game.

Q: What did you think of the hospitality at Mombo?

A: All the staff were beyond friendly and exceeded our expectations. Besides the opulence, the hospitality and attention to detail are key at this unbelievable property which makes for a memorable stay. The staff go out of their way to make sure that you are comfortable and that all your needs are met.

Q: If you could recommend Mombo for one reason – what would it be?

A: It would definitely be the consistent Big Five game viewing!

You could of course see all of this from the comfort and luxury of your sophisticated Mombo suite – an abode that will rival any place you have rest your head before with homely comforts and a sense of belonging.

Botswana, despite its incredible reputation as a premier wildlife destination, remains an untouched wilderness of unbelievable diversity. The camps that Iconic Africa recommends represent the epitome of discerning luxury eco-tourism and authentic conservation. Discover Botswana now!

A New Look for Mombo Camp

Mombo Camp, voted World’s number one several times, along with Little Mombo re-opened in January 2018 – a month earlier than anticipated! Wilderness Safari’s flagship camp situated in the famous Okavango Delta has been rebuilt to comprise of sustainable luxury while remaining rooted in cultural authenticity. The purpose of the new design was to maintain the original Mombo traditions and history that stretches back nearly 30 years. The new concept also celebrates and keeps in mind the purpose of conservation – with the camp’s greatest success being the reintroduction of black and white rhinos into Botswana’s wilderness areas.

Mombo Concessions has been recognised as “the Place of Plenty”, and for good reason! Located on Chief’s Island within the Moremi Game Reserve, Mombo Camp and Little Mombo attracts a large number of variety of wildlife – one of the best areas in Africa – making it a top travel destination. The area is home to large game, small animals and predators which can be viewed from Mombo’s terraces all year round.

Guests are accommodated in 8 large tented suites and 1 family room elevated above the ground, so that those panoramic views of the floodplain, wildlife and sunsets can be enjoyed from the balconies. And not forgetting the pool deck with your private plunge pool affording equally beautiful views.

The newly revamped Mombo camps will now deliver world-class services and unforgettable truly-African safari experiences while upholding their values of appropriate and sustainable luxury. Not only does Mombo Concessions share the environment with the wildlife, they honour the natural environment where these camps are located by implementing sustainable tourism through solar powered operations and continuing their objective of having a lesser human footprint.

Wilderness Safaris COO, Grant Woodrow has reassured our green travellers that each tented suite has been rebuilt in the exact same position as the old accommodations to maintain the same footprint. The tented suites have not expanded laterally into the plains but rather outwards towards the floodplain to ensure the preservation of surrounding trees and habitats.

While basking in sustainable luxury, the camps remain rooted in traditional African bush offerings ensuring that the personality of Mombo is not lost but enhanced.

Millennial Travel

2018 sees a continuation of last year’s trend – millennials setting their sights on African travel. Over the years, there has been a shift in the age demographic of travellers coming to Southern Africa – an incentivised travel destination. According to David Frost – CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, younger generations are becoming an increasingly large market for the tourism industry with 46% of international arrivals to South Africa in 2017 between the ages of 18 and 35.

Apart from the search for ‘authentic experiences’, adventure activities, good weather and local hospitality – millennials are taking a break from the latest technology, moving away from typical ‘tourist’ destinations and choosing instead to venture in to unknown territories; deeper in to the wilderness.

Marataba Trails Lodge Luxury Safari Africa Waterberg

That being said, more establishments are catering for and accommodating tech-savvy millennials. Wi-Fi remains a priority for lodges catering to this market. Millennial travellers are interested in following and being connected to the cities and lodges they will be visiting both during and after their trip. Another incentive for millennial travellers is how ‘Instagrammable’ the holiday is. Youth see the world through pixels and filters. Having every breath-taking experience littering the feeds of envious friends and family, Africa – filtered or not – makes for a picturesque experience.

Here are our top ten millennial travel incentives to Africa:

*There is a huge gap in the industry for youth safaris. For a long time, African safaris have been recognised as a luxury experience, out of reach to the young traveller. More young hearts and minds are seeking out a night under the expansive starlit sky while wildlife roam nearby – close enough for you to hear them.

*More than half of our “foodies” are millennials – becoming increasingly conscious of what they put into their bodies, and where it comes from. Mozambique is the place to be for an experience that will satisfy taste buds, with fresh “farm-to-fork” cuisine brought to you from local markets and roadside stalls. Tuck into Tiger prawns, fresh fish and steaming hot Portuguese rolls with stunning views.

*Experience is everything and young travellers want complete cultural immersion. South Africa has a wonderful mix of boutique hotels and apartment rentals in its inner-city districts. Here travellers can unpack everything from street art to street food. A little beyond the city, cuisine and culture remain equally important in the winelands. Wine-tasting tours have become increasingly popular among the millennial travellers as well as an interest in “Instagrammable” agro-tourism in the countryside.

*We do not realise the extent of community work and international volunteers in South Africa, with almost half of the youth travellers coming here partaking in some sort of community initiative or volunteer work.

*Education is also another incentive for youth trips with guests showing interest in astronomy, ecology and interactive dynamics. There will always be a dichotomy between luxury travel, conservation issues and cultural diversity.

*Older travellers have confirmed that they are more likely to choose accommodation that is eco-friendly. Millennial travellers have caught on to this trend of sustainable travel, where a conscious effort is made to avoid contributing to the decline of natural environments (Link to top five eco-lodges post).

Ivory Lodge Lions Sands Luxury Safari Kruger Park

*Youth are choosing to spend their money on experiences rather than material things. Africa, especially Southern Africa, offers experiences that are culturally rich and forcing them to step out of their comfort zones to embrace authentic destinations culturally-relevant sightseeing and diverse cuisines. It is found that millennials are constantly trying to integrate themselves into as many aspects of local life hoping to become a more culturally enriched human.

* Wanting to take everything in; cramming as many places and activities in to their experience as possible, Africa is a millennials travel-sanctuary – offering them opportunities to see a variety of different sights.

Iconic Africa Kalahari Desert Balloon Safari

*One of the biggest trends in millennial travel is the desire to visit off-the-beaten-track locations. They no longer want to sit back and relax on their vacation or visit typically popular attractions that have become overcrowded and ‘over-touristic’.

*For your next millennial adventure trip, head to Zimbabwe. The natural wonder of Victoria Falls will be sure to activate their adventure-seeking nature. The country offers active adventures and unique experiences, which is exactly what the millennial traveller is looking for.

Millennial travel creates memories and invites individuals to reach further in to their own life, changing mind-sets forever. Experience tastes, sights, smells and ambience of authentic African luxury with Iconic Africa. Find out more here. 

 

What is a Game Drive?

A game drive is the highlight of and one of the main activities on any African safari, especially for first-timers. Most travellers to Africa still get confused between a safari and a game drive.

You’re sitting in your outdoor bathtub at Singita Sabi Sands in the Kruger National Park, overlooking the luxury camp’s grassy plains. You’ll have one of the best views of elephants bathing in the Sand River. Sipping on a bottle of imported bubbles resting in an ice bucket, you think to yourself – “this is by far the best safari I have been on,” as you reach for that Egyptian cotton bath towel.

On this grand safari vacation, the camp will have planned many spectacular game drives for you. Far from the luxurious comforts of the camp you will set off on an adventure that entails viewing Africa’s prestigious wildlife ‘up close and personal’ from the comfort of an open 4×4 which can accommodate you and your family. This is a sure way to give you that classic safari feeling. A game drive is one of the most popular ways to see the rolling landscapes, big game, indigenous flora and infinite horizons.

Whether you find yourself in South Africa’s Kruger Park, Botswana’s Okavango Delta or Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater, you will witness the natural beauty of Africa up close! On your game drive you may be afforded opportunities to see local wildlife such as the lion, rhino, elephant and so much more! Especially in the Serengeti that is renowned for endless open savannahs.

A game drive can vary in length and distance, depending on individual preferences and the animals you hope to encounter. Most camps and lodges conduct two game drives a day. Most rangers and guides recommend early morning, late afternoon or evening drives, since these are the coolest times of the day when the wildlife are most active. During the drive, knowledgeable guides will introduce you to the wildlife, trees and plants. Don’t forget that you are on vacation, and it’s okay to want to sleep in. Not every game drive is the same – during the evening drive you may see nocturnal animals that are not noticeable during the day!

Here is a quick list of essentials to bring with on your game drive:

SUN PROTECTION

When you’re out in the bush, always protect yourself from the sun – even if it’s not visibly hot. Pack in a pair of sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat, sunscreen and stay hydrated!

CLOTHING

Part of the pleasure of going on safari is that you won’t get stopped by the fashion police. As you’re putting together your movie-made safari outfit there a few practical elements to keep in mind. First, avoid bright colours that make you stand out. You should dress according to the climate and time of year. Dress in layers on early morning and evening game drives. During the summer months, pack some light rain gear and if you’re traveling during the winter months, be sure to dress warm to keep the cold at bay.

SHOES

Whether you stay in the vehicle, or get out to examine smaller animals, insects and plants, a reliable pair of walking shoes or hiking boots will allow you to get the most out of your experience. If your footwear is comfortable, you’ll be able to get up close while feeling safe and secure.

SMALL MEDICAL KIT

It’s invigorating being so intimate with Africa’s fauna and flora, but you will be in a remote location in order to achieve that. We recommend you pack a light medical kit that includes essentials such as aspirin, plasters, anti-histamine medication/cream and insect repellent —this way you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way.

CAMERA EQUIPMENT

You’ll be taking a lot of photos when you’re out on safari, but the key is to pack light. A quality DSLR camera with an optical lens is recommended if you want the best photos possible. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries and memory cards

BINOCULARS

On drives, you’ll be able to see most big game. You might even get up close to many animals. But other wildlife such as birds are frequently viewed from a distance. For those moments, you’ll need a great pair of binoculars – often on loan by your lodge or camp.

 

African Travel Myths Demystified

“The only thing dark about Africa is our ignorance of it.” – George Kimble

Many people have preconceived ideas about Africa – often based on opinions or myths. Some of these myths have been circulating for so long that they now are in fact considered as truth or fact. Misconceptions are awful things, managing to dissuade many from visiting Africa – which is very sad! Here are our top five African safari myths debunked to convince you to finally book that unforgettable African trip.

Angama Mara East Africa Kenya Safari Tour

Africa is not safe:

Safety can be an issue in some African cities as it can be anywhere in the world now, but when it comes to national parks and game reserves, they are some of the safest places in the world.

Africa is all bush:

Africa is a vast continent with diverse landscapes, environments and climates in a single area. Countries have savannahs, rainforests, mountains, beaches and deserts to accommodate different travel wishes – making it easy to find whatever it is that your heart desires!

You always need a guide:

While it would be recommended that first-time traveller’s view game with a guide – once you’ve been on enough safaris you can go on self-drive safaris. Many travellers have seen the super-seven (the Big Five, cheetahs and wild dogs) on their self-drives.

To truly experience Africa, you have to “rough it”:

There is always the option of “roughing it” in the wilderness – sleeping bag and all. But there is the more popular preference and opportunity, to experience all Africa has to offer in comfort and opulence. South Africa boasts some of the most luxurious game lodges offering unrestricted access to some of Africa’s prestigious wildlife. Most game lodges offer gourmet meals and private bungalows – kitted out with all your modern amenities – that overlook the vast plains and Africa’s vibrant wildlife. Not to mention it offers some of the world’s most affordable luxury travel!

 

It will be too hot:

Yes, Africa’s climate is warm, but not all the time. Some countries have a cold, wet winter and others have a rainy summer. Throughout the year, most game reserves can actually get quite chilly in the morning and at night, and you will need to layer to stay warm. This’s a nice balance between the heat of the day and the cool of the night.

Animals are likely to attack you:

Animals attacking is probably the last thing you need to worry about on your safari! The wildlife, in general, prefer to avoid the company of humans, so they won’t be hunting you down any time soon…

Ivory Lodge Lions Sands Sabi Sands Lions

Only expensive cameras can take good wildlife photographs:

If you own a long lens it is of course advantageous, however it is not a necessity. Many people have photographed animals within meters of the safari vehicle with a 300mm lens. What works well – if you already have one – is the Nikon D7000 with 18 megapixels. The resolution is decent and you could crop the far-away shots.

Zarafa Camp Leopard Iconic Africa

 

Our suggestion is that when you embark on your trip to Africa, you leave behind all myths and legends. Once you hit the tarmac, your adventure begins and you will never look back!

Top Travel Trends for 2018

From remote luxury accommodations to achievement-based travel, 2018 is set to be a year of long vacations, slowing down and learning to appreciate the world around us. Here’s what the experts have to say about the trends for the year ahead:

Booking trends:

79% of travel research is being done on mobile phones and an increase in online bookings has begun trending with 49% of these direct online bookings being made on mobile devices.

Duliini Lodge River Bridge

Solo Travel:

Ever since Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ was published, solo travel – especially among female travellers – has gained popularity. 2018 welcome’s our solo visitors to our safe safari destinations, where the world is at your fingertips. Our private guides and luxury transfers ensure your safety at all times.

 

Remote Luxury:

Luxury travel is increasingly being associated with remoteness and disconnectivity. This year, people are projected to dedicate more time towards travel – willing to travel farther and into destinations often difficult to get to in order to feel like they have a small piece of the world (nearly) entirely to themselves!

‘Off the beaten track’ is one of this year’s travel themes allowing visitors to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience nature at its fullest. An example is Tswalu Kalahari – a hidden gem set literally in the middle of nowhere!

Zimbabwe and Zambia – The two hot safari destinations for 2018:

South Africa is typically considered a favourite go-to for African safaris with Zimbabwe and Zambia as add-on destinations. On the contrary, 2017 saw an increase in demand for trips to Zimbabwe and Zambia as primary destinations. This is a trend most experts believe to continue in to 2018. These two countries have luxury accommodations and crowd-free safaris – perfect for those looking towards that remote luxury vacation. Investments in both countries from infrastructure and airports to national parks has contributed to this new destination-trend. Not to mention the fact that Zambia was recently voted “safest destination in the world by skyscanner.”

Glamping:

For those travellers who really want to be one with nature – but really can’t, there are endless possibilities for you to be outdoorsy without sacrificing comforts and luxuries. 2018 sees an increase in bookings at luxury tented properties for the less nature-inclined to slow down, unwind and enjoy nature without actually having to “be in nature”.

Singita Sabi Sands Luxury Lodge Kruger Park

Achievement-based travel:

2017 was the year for experiential national and international travel; connecting the traveller closely with their country or destination. This year, we will see this taken a step further with travellers pushing themselves to achieve a lifelong goals or using travel to “find themselves.”

The goal of the year is to achieve something – whether it is climbing a certain mountain or hiking a difficult trek – built into a traveller’s trip. This trend is a reflection in the travel industry of visitors wanting more from their trips than just a standard sightseeing tour.

Extended trips

The last six months has seen an increase in travellers booking trips for longer than two weeks – clients often pushing for around-the-country trips. According to Jacada Travel, 50% of the trips already booked are for longer than two weeks.

Travellers not tourists:

Increasingly encouraged over the years and recently trending – visitors to foreign countries prefer immersing themselves in experiences that cannot be found in guidebooks and brochures. Meeting locals and wondering through neighbourhoods has been the best way to experience cultures, from wine tasting to learning a new crafts or languages.

 

For all of us getting on a bus, plane or train to somewhere new… 2018 is going to be an exciting year!

The Big Five – Fun Facts

‘The Big Five of Africa’ is one of the most relentlessly searched for and often mentioned phrases.

The term “big five” began as a way of referring to the five animals most difficult to hunt on foot. The lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo were the five large African mammal species that were known to hunters as dangerous and successfully hunting them was considered an accomplishment.

However, today the expression takes a much gentler approach – referring to seeing the majestic wildlife species on safari in Africa. These friendly giants are frequently sought-after for sightings, encounters and photo opportunities.

Given the formidable five’s status and significance, here are some interesting facts about the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo that we thought you might find interesting:

Lion:

The lion is Africa’s top predator and the second largest big cat in the world. Roaming the savannah grasslands and open plains of Africa, these social felines are the only cats that live in groups (prides) and need a lot of contact with each other. The lions will greet each other by rubbing their heads against one another, exchanging scents that convey information about their intentions, moods and recent activities.

Females share a particularly strong bond as they remain in the same pride for life and raise their cubs together. They do all the hunting, and the males get the first helping – even when there are cubs in the pride. The hunting is done mostly at night as lions can see in the dark. They are not completely nocturnal so their most active time is just before sunrise or just after sunset. However, they are opportunistic feeders and will hunt at any time.

A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles (8km) away, enabling them to communicate with each other over large distances. They spend most of their time sleeping and can sleep up to 20 hours a day!

iconic-africa-kruger-national-park-leopard luxury african safaris

Leopard:

The leopard is nocturnal, solitary and secretive, staying hidden during the day. They are the least seen of the Big Five. These antisocial cats avoid interacting with each other beyond mating and raising young cubs.

Leopards are excellent at climbing trees and will often safeguard their kill in a tree to prevent lions and hyenas from stealing it. They are also strong swimmers and occasionally eat fish and crabs. Leopards can drag prey weighing up to three times their own body weight up into trees over 20 feet (6 meters) tall.

Leopards don’t roar, they bark and snarl. When they are happy they even purr. But this is not only what makes them unique – they are the most adaptable felines! Inhabiting some of the most diverse environments of all the big cats, such as both deserts and forests – their ability to survive across a range of habitats has enabled leopard populations to survive in far flung parts of the world.

Rhino:

The rhino is the most endangered species of the Big Five. The illegal trade of rhino poaching is being driven by an Asian demand for horns, made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers. Very few rhinos now survive outside national parks and reserves.

A rhino’s horn is not attached to its skull. If it breaks off it will grow back again.

The white and black rhino have no teeth and hence rely on their lips for eating.

Rhinos have poor vision and will sometimes attack trees and rocks by accident. However, their hearing and sense of smell are excellent, thus often making up for their poor eyesight.

Elephant:

Many trees in West African forests – at least one third – rely on evolved seeds to pass through an elephant’s digestive tract for dissemination and germination.

African elephants communicate across large distances at a low frequency that cannot be heard by humans.

Under Africa’s scorching sun, elephants get sunburnt too! They throw sand on their backs and heads to prevent sunburn and keep insects off their skin. And even though their skins are incredibly tough, they can feel those tiny insect walking on their skin!

When baby elephants are born, they are almost blind and some individuals suck their trunks for comfort, similar to the way young humans suck their thumbs.

Elephants love to swim and are able to swim for long distances. They use their trunks as makeshift snorkels. The trunk is also used for grabbing, bathing, smelling, drinking and can pick up something as small as a grain of rice.

Buffalo Walking Safaris Iconic Africa

Buffalo:

A buffalo’s primary predator is the lion. It will try to rescue another member who has been caught or hurt and has often been observed killing a lion after it has killed a member of the group. Unlike the water buffalo – whom has an uncanny resemblance to the African buffalo – the latter is dangerous and has never been domesticated.

Dangerous, and rightly so! Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other animal. They still kill over 200 people every year earning them the reputation and nickname of ‘Black Death’ and ‘Widow Maker’.

Our safari-goers from across the world are eager to spot the famous rhino, leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant combination. Contact us now to learn more about our safaris to Africa’s finest Big Five viewing reserves!

Getting to Know Botswana

“All people share the same ancestry.”-Botswana Proverb

As the Okavango River overflows into the sands of the Kalahari Desert to create the largest inland delta in the world, Botswana provides the perfect setting to take in the abundant wildlife from the confines of game reserves and camps. You’re almost certain of a hippo, leopard, lion or elephant sighting during June to August as the flooding reaches its peak.

Known for its Bushmen, the Kalahari savannah, the Okavango Delta, luxurious safari camps and diamonds, Botswana boasts incredible landscapes, accommodation and activities.

But the majestic landscapes, divine macroclimate changes and wildlife encounters are not the only things that make Botswana great!

Botswana-Safari-Selinda-CampBotswana has been named Lonely Planet’s top country to visit in 2016! It has been such for years before and for many to come. Tourists are captivated by the shade of the baobab trees, the return of the water in the Savuti Channel and the use of a sausage tree by leopards to spot their kill. Still, what continues to make Botswana so special is first the people – welcoming, peaceful and love to show off their hospitality. Their slogan after all is ‘Botswana: our pride, your destination’.

Botswana is one of the least densely populated countries in the world. With a population of just over 2 million and over 40% of land dedicated to parks and wildlife, guests are located in a sanctuary of peace, quiet and relaxation.

Botswana also has a particular focus on conservation. Twenty percent of the country consists of reserves and national parks. Botswana is also climatically diverse: with sand dunes and arid savannah desert in the west, huge salt pans in the centre and the largest inland delta in the north-west. Click here for some of our favourite Botswanan destinations.

Selinda Camp Selinda Spillway Botswana Safari

Botswana receives almost 300 days of sunshine a year – meeting most people’s travel needs. The first rains arrive in Botswana at the beginning of summer, producing a carpet of short green grass, beautiful flowers and playful animal behaviour. Apart from a few weeks either side of Christmas and New Year, it is not peak season — and hence not crowded. You can visit Botswana at any time of the year as every season has its appeal. After the rains, the calving begins. In the height of the dry winter season, herds of elephant migrate across the dusty landscape.

Botswana is home to a third of all the elephants in Africa, so guests are encouraged to spend as much time as possible with these majestic creatures and be aware of some of their behaviours that may emerge:

  • Elephants use a range of calls that all have a very specific meaning. If you spend time listening to them you will be able to differentiate the subtle changes.
  • Watch the teenage females prepare for motherhood at an early age by looking after the calves
  • If there is a disturbance or a sense of danger, watch the elephants gather around the youngest to offer protection.

Immerse yourself in local culture and heritage

Botswana holds many secrets, one of which is the Aha Hills. Located on the Namibia-Botswana border, this remarkably kept secret is rarely visited. The Aha Hills are frequented by Bushmen and are formed of dolomite, a remnant of the ancient sea – an African time gone by. Here lies two solution caves that are tens of metres deep; hardly anything is known about them.

While we are on top of a hill, let’s glance over to the Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Site. Declared in 2001 because of its spiritualism and significance, the hills which translate to ‘Male, Female and Child’ rise dramatically from the Kalahari and have been inhabited for almost 100 000 years. These hills continue to captivate and mystify tourists who take one of the walking trails at sunrise or sunset, accompanied by a San guide.

See totems

For the people of Botswana, totems are a symbol of kinship and identify different tribes and clans. There are often taboos associated with particular animals and are sometimes derived by tribal choice to mark a special event. Such is the case with the Ngwato tribe of His Excellency The President of the Republic of Botswana, Lieutenant General Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

His totem is the phuti (or duiker). It was chosen in the mid-19th Century when the then Chief, Khama III, sheltering in a bush from marauding invaders might have been killed had a duiker not run from the bush, convincing the enemy that there was no one there and saving his life. Following tradition, the phuti is beautifully depicted on his grave.

Before travelling back home, travel back in time in the remote village of Xai Xai – one of the last remaining realms of the San Bushmen. These friendly hunter-gatherers have a fascinating ‘click’ language and a way of life that has all but disappeared from the rest of the world. Experience their ‘trance dance’ under the star-studded sky or a partake in a morning bush walk.

Botswana Safaris Okavango Safaris Okavango Delta

Eat like the locals

If you’re visiting Botswana, be sure to eat like a local in Maun. This is the only way to truly experience local culture. Drink palm wine, munch on dried mopane worms (more protein-rich than beef) and journey into the back roads of the town to find street stalls selling seswaa and papa. The local delicacy is a potent concoction made from fermented marula fruit. If you’d like something more placid, try leputshe (wild pumpkin), customarily eaten atop a porridge of sorghum, called bogobe.

Botswana Safaris Okavango Safaris Okavango DeltaMake it Pula (rain)

Traveling in Africa is not a cheap endeavour, but this rings especially true for traveling to Botswana. Botswana operates on a high-cost low impact model meaning they keep prices high for tourism so that they can preserve the beauty of their country. One of the most expensive and sought after things to do in the country is to see the Okavango Delta. Fuel, camping, and groceries are found to be extremely affordable and it is even possible to see the Delta on a budget, but come knowing that to experience Botswana to the fullest you may have to make it Pula (rain).

 

Responsible Travel 101

Ecotourism, Green travel and Sustainable travel are all terms frequently used by tour operators when planning trips to Africa. Last year, the UN declared it the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development — an entire year dedicated to reminding us that tourism just isn’t about seeing the sites.

But what exactly does responsible travel entail? Responsible travel allows local communities to earn a fair income from tourism; it supports conservation, local community initiatives; and limits the environmental impact of the vacation itself.

Ecotourism started the green travel trend where the focus was on protecting and preserving the physical environment, fauna and flora. Tourists ensured that their visit did not disrupt or damage the local surroundings. Of late, the focus has shifted to responsible travel that brings the wellbeing of people in to focus.

Bateleur Camp Masaai Mara Kenya Safari Tour

Travellers going on safari have widened their gaze beyond the majestic lion hunt. They are visiting local schools, expending the skills of local warriors as guides and taking local cooking classes to truly enjoy the culture and appreciating the people as much as the physical environment. And while responsible travel aims to promote community involvement in tourists’ experiences – it is not limited to this. Ecotourism and responsible travel are not mutually exclusive and often occur simultaneously – protecting the environment whilst promoting local communities. It is not about high-profile gestures, rather a long-term support.

Many ask if luxury vacations can still be ‘’Responsible”, and the short answer is yes! Here is a quick guide on how to be a responsible traveller in Africa:

When planning your trip, focus on low-impact routes of travel around the country, aiming for direct flights. The single largest impact of most leisure trips is the international flights to the destination and back home. So consider alternatives to reduce your carbon emissions or offset the environmental consequences of the extra flights.

Plan to stay at eco-friendly lodges and camps. Support accommodations that do good work in terms of reducing their environmental impact, promoting conservation and contributing to social betterment.

Attempt to use environmentally friendly bathroom products and use them sparingly to minimise pollution of the local water supply. Many lodges provide their own complimentary environmentally friendly products.

The most exciting part of any luxury safari vacation is seeing the wildlife and taking part in fun activities! The most responsible travel choice is to select reserves or lodges that specialise in non-motorised activities like walking, horseback, canoe and cycling safaris. These “green” options are less fuel intensive and energy consuming, as well as being less physically intrusive or damaging to the natural habitats that you visit.

Botswana-Safari-Okavango-Safari-Banner-Mokoro

Support local community based projects and small-scale businesses and try to ensure that they secure a fair share of the benefits.

Employ the services of local guides who can pass on local information and provide an insight into the destination in a culturally sensitive manner.

With regard to your own social behaviour, it is important to be aware of the local community’s culture and traditions and to respect local etiquette:

Ask before you take photographs of local people and please respect their privacy.

Try to learn simple words or phrases from the local language to reflect your interest – greetings are vital.

iconic-luxury-africa-safaris-jacana-botswana-safaris

Purchase local goods rather than imported products. Be adventurous and dine in local restaurants and cafés. This helps to support the local economy. Visit and support local conservation and community projects where possible. This provides valuable funding for projects and enables the local community to improve their standard of living. Seek out local, small-scale souvenir shops and purchase from these rather than city/hotel tourist shops.

Protect the environment! Keep all litter in your possession until you find a suitable disposal facility. Do not carelessly discard cigarette stubs as much of southern Africa is very arid and grasslands can catch light quickly with devastating effects.

Do not purchase products that may endanger the survival of an animal by encouraging the destruction of a species for souvenirs such as ivory, skins or other wildlife products.

If you plan on driving yourself, then stick to known roads, tracks and trails. This helps minimise damage to vegetation and distress to wildlife. Similarly, when approaching animals in your vehicle or on foot, keep a respectful distance. Do not attempt to feed or touch any wildlife.

In some areas of southern Africa, water shortage is a serious problem. In Namibia in particular, the severity of this increases during the winter period. Recently, Cape Town has entered Level 6b water restrictions. And although Day Zero been pushed back to the 4th June 2018, we continue to urge residents and travellers to please conserve water where possible. However, it is important to keep oneself hydrated at all times.

 

Key facts about Cape Town’s drought for travellers:

  • There is enough water for your daily essentials, bottled water is plentiful and available for purchase.
  • Level 6b restrictions means no more than 50 litres per day, it applies to you whether you live at a hotel or a guest house.
  • Showers should be kept to a maximum of 90 seconds – no more than twice a week
  • Help us by saving as much as you can.

There has always been a difference between a “tourist” and a “traveller”. A traveller learns about his/her destination and immerses themselves in the place and culture. Be a traveller: learn about where you are going and brace yourself for the difference between the place and your home. Don’t just see, learn.

Our Top Eco-Friendly Lodges

“The future will either be green or not at all” – Bob Brown.

‘Going green’ has recently become a buzz phrase within the travel industry. More and more African luxury destinations are making efforts to preserve and protect both natural environments and communities within them. Owners are trying to reduce carbon footprints and human impact on the earth in order to safeguard its future. Eco-friendly accommodation does not necessarily mean that you have to compromise on luxury travel. Eco-lodges are becoming increasingly fashionable with their ability to integrate their role in conservation and luxury comfort.

Here are our top four eco-accommodations utilising and promoting green practices for those eco-conscious guests who seek a luxury African experience. Whether you are looking at Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa or Kenya we’ve got you covered.

BISATE LODGE, RWANDA

Situated near Volcanoes National Park in the Republic of Rwanda offering unique gorilla sightings.

Bisate Lodge Rwanda Gorilla Trekking

Resting in nature’s amphitheatre, the Bisate lodge reopened in June 2017. Formerly renowned for their gorilla conservation experience and dramatic landscape views, the lodge is now celebrated for its progress in pioneering a largescale reforestation program. 5000 indigenous trees have already been planted to date, contributing to conservation and community empowerment. Bisate’s organic yet modern architecture reflects Rwandan building traditions a seen at the Royal Palace of the traditional Monarch.

Bisate Lodge Rwanda Gorilla Trekking Rooms

ZARAFA CAMP, BOTSWANA

An exquisite tented camp located on the on the private Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana, an area linking the Okavango Delta and the Chobe/Savute corridors.

Botswana-Safari-Selinda-Camp

Zarafa recognises the importance of sustainable tourism in South Africa and is 100% eco-wise. It is located in some of Africa’s most beautiful surroundings nature has to offer and they don’t plan on spoiling it! Opening in 2008, and considered a newer property, regulations discourage permanent structures. As a result, the camp is awash in beautiful and luxurious canvas and timber homes so that should the entire site seize to remain, the land would return to its natural state within months. Not forgetting the Zarafa ‘oil field’ – a solar farm that supplies the camp with all its power.

Zarafa Camp Banner Deck

OL DONYO, KENYA

On the private Mbirikani Group Ranch in south-eastern Kenya, between Tsavo East and Amboseli National Parks, the rippling Chyulu Hills give way to Ol Donyo.

Its location is unparalleled, with full views of savannah and Mount Kilimanjaro, crossing paths with traditional wildlife migration routes. People and animals crossing paths with this migration route has led to the death of many feral lions, leaving them at risk. The lodge is currently negotiating with cattle breeding villagers to develop a wilderness zone which will be ‘people-free’. Ol Donyo also manages community projects that ensure the sustainability and success of compensation for cattle loss, mobile health clinics, schools and employment.

TSWALU KALAHARI CAMP

The Lodge is located close to the border of Botswana and lies within an easy driving distance of South Africa’s Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.


Tswalu has won a number of international awards. Their primary focus is conservation and socio-economic development in the region. The architectural designs minimise water and energy usage while extensive use of solar energy and everyday waste recycling substantially reduce the impact on the environment.

Tswalu is committed to restoring and preserving the natural environment and ecological processes that are unique to the Kalahari ecosystems, thereby providing a sanctuary for endangered species such as the African wild dog that is red listed. Some of Tswalu’s projects include the assurance of the density of the black rhino that is be sustained by vegetation in Tswalu and the development of a Tswalu spider database.

We hope our fine travellers of the earth will return home knowing that their holiday contributed to … and preserving the world’s natural environment.

Top 10 Luxury Destinations for 2018

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” — Author Unknown.

Everyone deserves to feel spoilt, pampered and relaxed. Especially in the aftermath of the festive season, there’s even more of a need to escape from the madness. South Africa is not short of luxury destinations to escape to, put your feet up and bask under Africa’s sun. Iconic Africa ticks all the boxes for those who are accustomed to only the best and prefer the finer things in life. Do pristine wilderness, private pavilions, silver service and contemporary interiors excite you? Indulge in our finest selection of luxurious locations and let us enable you to travel in guilt-free style and be in complete harmony with nature. Wherever you choose to go, we have only the very best in true African   hospitality for you and your family.

Four of our top ten luxury destinations for 2018 featured on Travel and Leisure’s ‘Top 100 Luxury Hotels in the World’ in 2017. Our collection of accommodation has a traditional African character preserving pieces of our land with qualities of sophistication, charm and natural beauty. Iconic Africa ensures that guests have a comfortable and relaxing stay in private and exclusive settings which inspire wanderlust and acts as a salve for the soul.

  1. Tswalu – Kalahari

Tswalu is 240 000 acres of pristine Kalahari wilderness. Owned by the Oppenheimer family, this is the largest private game reserve in southern Africa and bares testament to the family’s commitment to authentic conservation and opulent luxury. Out in the wild, the game viewing is breathtaking be it from the back of a 4 X 4 safari vehicle, the saddle of an impeccably behaved horse or on foot. Tswalu is the ultimate luxury safari destination in the heart of the magical Kalahari.

Tswalu Game Reserve. Southern Kalahari. Northern Cape. South Africa.
  1. Londolozi – Sabi Sands

In Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards 2014, Londolozi was named the best hotel in the world! A global honour of colossal proportions. Londolozi effortlessly exceeds all expectations on a luxury, hospitality, wilderness and experiential front – however when anyone who knows Londolozi well, is tasked with describing this African wonder they are immediately confronted by the difficulty of portraying the intangible. It is this indiscernible x factor which sets Londolozi aside from the rest!

Londolozi Tree Camp Deck Iconic Africa Safaris

  1. Angama Mara – Masai Mara

Perched on the edge of Africa’s Great Rift Valley is a lodge that comes as close to heaven on earth, as possible. Angama Mara, Swahili for “suspended in mid-air” boasts the best views in the Masai Mara. A place that constantly takes your breath away, where happiness reigns and peace is all encompassing, where you literally stand on the edge of the world. Owner managed and run by the reputable Fitzgerald family, Angama Mara is the ultimate African safari destination.

Angama Kenya Iconic Africa Luxury Safaris

  1. Royal Chundu – Victoria Falls

Royal Chundu, the first Relaix Chateaux property in Zambia, is nestled on the Zambian bank of the immense Zambezi River. Here, upstream of the Victoria Falls, the river is a wide and tranquil elixir that supports a myriad of bird, fish, mammal and plant life. Elephants graze the banks and islands while tiger fish dart through the water after prey. Royal Chundu represents a commitment to unbridled luxury in the wild of Africa and the constant support of local communities.

  1. Zarafa – Okavango Delta

Zarafa, from the Arabic word for beloved, is a jewel set in the treasure trove of the Zibadianja lagoon – itself a paradise in the Selinda Game Reserve. Conceived by world-renowned wildlife filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert in the shadows of a giant ebony tree, Zarafa is earth-friendly, exclusive Relais & Chateaux luxury in one of the last great wilderness areas on earth. There are just four sumptuous and spacious suites set on the banks of the awesome lagoon where the exuberance of the African wild will speak to your soul.

  1. Singita Sasakwa – Serengeti

Perched atop the rocky Sasakwa Hill looking out over the Serengeti’s Western corridor and endless golden plains is the elegant Sasakwa House. Resembling a deluxe ranch house in the midst of the African bushveld this is one Africa’s most exquisite destinations and another Singita – ‘place of miracles’. Exquisite views extend in every direction as the ever-changing landscape teems with Africa’s most majestic wildlife and the clouds waft over the plains.

  1. Lion Sands – Sabi Sands

By protecting and harnessing the roots of both the More and Chalkley families, Lion Sands has certainly found its wings within the luxury safari industry. In 2014 Lion Sands was awarded third place in Condé Nast Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Resort in Africa, and in 2010 the extraordinarily luxurious Ivory Lodge was named third best hotel in the world by Tatler.

Lions Sands Ivory Lodge Lounge Interior 2 Iconic Africa Luxury Safaris

  1. La Residence – Winelands

Perched amongst the vineyards, on the slopes of the beautiful Franschhoek Mountains is the pinnacle of luxury and unrivalled piece of heaven – La Residence. Voted Conde Nast’s No 1 Hotel in the World in 2013 amongst a myriad of other awards, La Residence is a must for any bucket list. The sprawling green lawns speckled with majestic springbok, the private dam complete with island, rowboat and soft flowing willow trees, instil an awe-inspiring sense of peace.

  1. White Pearl – Mozambique

Set on two kilometres of magnificent, pristine Mozambican coastline, White Pearl is an intimate resort for the discerning traveller. Couples or families will revel in the luxury, hospitality, delightful cuisine and natural wonder of this beach paradise. Whether you want to adventure on or under the cobalt Indian Ocean, lounge on the beach, sip cocktails in the pool or simply soak up the soothing peace of the sea, White Pearl, Ponta Mamoli offers the ultimate luxury beach holiday.

  1. Ellerman House – Cape Town

Nestled into the side of Signal Hill and boasting some of Cape Town’s most spectacular views lies a magnificent Cape Edwardian mansion that will welcome you with both arms and capture your heart forever. Ellerman House not only offers the ultimate in Cape luxury but it is an endless heaven to wine lovers and art fanatics alike.

Please do let us know if you have any questions on the above properties or if there are any more you’d like to hear more about.