Birding in Mana Pools

Are you planning your post-lockdown travel itinerary? If you’ve decided on the far north of Zimbabwe, Mana Pools is the perfect destination for travellers who appreciate and are seeking a great diversity of bird species. This already bucket-list worthy destination has over 380 recorded bird species, spread across more than three different habitats from woodlands to plateaus and savannah areas.

Mana Pools National Park includes the south bank and islands of the Zambezi River, which forms the border with Zambia. The park is known for its incredible wildlife… and the exquisite river and vast flood plains. It is on every safari-lovers bucket-list as it is remote, it’s teeming with animals, the scenery is exquisite, sunsets breath-taking… need we say more – it really is Africa at its best.

Some of the avifauna you can expect to lay eyes on are Waterbirds along the banks of the Zambezi River, the Southern carmine bee-eaters during April to November, the African skimmer, Pel’s fishing-owl and Lilian’s lovebird among others.

The best time to feast one’s eyes on the abundance of colours and sounds is during the dry season – April to November – when both resident and migratory birds are plentiful. Although birding in Mana Pools is good year-round, the dry season is when local species begin nesting.

Plan your trip to coincide with the best wildlife viewing which is from June to October to make the most out of your time in this beautiful region. At this time animals congregate around water sources and large numbers of elephants and buffalo can be seen more frequently.

The Zambezi River is known to have luxury safari accommodations nestled along its banks and relaxing boat safaris cruising its waters. The river attracts a variety of waders, including:

Spur-winged Plover,
Green Sandpiper,
Common Ringed Plover,
Grey Plover,
Caspian Plover,
Common Redshank
and Bar-tailed Godwit

Zambezi Crescent, Victoria Falls River Lodge, Zambezi River, near Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Plan a walk along the river or take a canoe/boat trip and try to spot the Afrian Skimmer – breeding along the sand banks from May – November. During Spring, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters excavate their nest holes in the river banks.

Other species to keep an eye out for are:

Mottled & Bohm’s Spinetail,
Horus Swift,
White-browed Coucal,
Western Banded Snake-Eagle,
Rufous-bellied Heron,
and Collared Pratincole.

Back at your camp, look out for the Purple-banded Sunbird or White-bellied Sunbird before heading out for your drive through the woodland.

Help Kicheche’s Conservancy Guardians Protect our Wildlife

“…Our conservancies need you now more than ever.”

Iconic Africa would like to invite you to help us support an incredible initiative that is doing great work for wildlife and communities in Africa. We really believe in what Kicheche is doing and encourage you to get involved if you are interested and able to.

The coronavirus pandemic has left nothing untouched. People, countries, economies, tourism and wildlife have felt the effects of this catastrophe.

Kenya’s Community Conservancies are a sustainable model of wildlife conservation. But since the global collapse of tourism, the funding of these conservancies has sharply declined and the ever-lurking menace of poaching, bushmeat hunting and encroachment is returning and growing rampantly.

Kenya’s Community Conservancies are a sustainable model of wildlife conservation and a benchmark for tourism. Many of you have appreciated the biodiversity and the variety of species supported by these protected lands first-hand, returning year after year to get your safari fix, from the hills and plains that have become your own backyard.

25% of their revenue funds the guardianship, protection and maintenance of 250,000 acres of the finest wildlife habitat in the world, but since the global collapse in tourism, that funding has sharply declined.

Without your support, the ever-lurking menace of poaching, bush-meat hunting and encroachment cannot be kept at bay. Currently, conservancies of Mara North, Olare Motorogi, Mara Naboisho and Ol Pejeta need you more than ever.

‘Nature never halts’ is a common phrase but if threatened, it just might.

The solution

Kicheche and their neighbouring communities are working tirelessly on a plan for the next year, to ensure that their conservancies remain secure and intact despite the dramatic drop in tourist arrivals.

CONSERVANCY GUARDIANS

They have initiated the Conservancy Guardians appeal, concentrating solely on covering critical conservancy costs: rangers salaries, welfare and medical, predator monitoring and patrol costs.

CREDIT THE CONSERVANCY

This scheme assists in underwriting conservancy land leases for a year, so the priceless conservancy birthright remains intact. By paying a conservation contribution of $750 (or more) now, you will receive a credit of the SAME value on your next Kicheche safari.

Kicheche has been at the vanguard of these Conservancies since inception and in this moment of need is backing them wholeheartedly.

Almost a thousand acres are now protected for a year. One camp cannot protect it all but every acre is priceless.

A message from Andrew Obaga, Kicheche Laikipia manager.

How you can help:

Protect an acre now

Contribute to the conservancies now

South African Safari Specials for Locals

South Africans, are you ready for the ultimate safari special?

Let us show you another beautiful day in Africa with these irresistible Winter 2020 bush deals! We have undoubtedly faced a challenging start to the year – as individuals and as a country, but we are hopeful that there will be a time to return to Africa’s wilderness soon… While we give you time to plan and pack, we give nature and wildlife time to heal and rest until we can relish our beautiful country again, spend time with the Big 5 and support and visit amazing destinations that perhaps aren’t normally so accessible to locals.

We are committed to working closely with our partners to support and stimulate local travel as and when restrictions allow. So we have put together these amazing once-off offers that will allow local travellers to make the most of the incredible natural beauty and diversity we have on our doorstep.

Get to know your country better and indulge in much-needed 5-star service with these amazing city to bush escapes created just for you!

 

  1. The More family are offering up to 70% off at the exquisite Lion Sands lodges. Book now & travel after lockdown. *At Narina Lodge, each suite has an expansive wooden deck centred on a private plunge pool. A cooling soak in the heat of the midday, a gin and tonic at your side, a buffalo bull chewing in the deep shade below, a flock of green pigeons squabbling over figs in the boughs above, will immerse you in the wilderness until you feel like a part of it – which of course you are. *Tinga lodge is a cathedral tribute to the Kruger. The double volume, cathedral-like main area opens out onto an expansive deck overlooking the Sabie River. When you return famished from morning game drive, you can devour a delectable breakfast array on the deck while the elephants wander past in the lazy heat. In the evening, put your feet up next to the lounge fire with an excellent glass of South African wine as you contemplate the wonders you experienced on drive.

  2. The Royal Portfolio is committed to supporting local travel with 50% off at La Residence & Birkenhead House after lockdown.*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. Tuscan inspired, the horse-shoe shaped manor wraps around an exquisitely manicured courtyard, decadent pool and endless panoramic wineland backdrop. *Birkenhead House is perched on a cliff overlooking magnificent Walker Bay in the little seaside town of Hermanus – gateway to the garden route. The bay is fringed with pristine white sand beaches and secluded coves while in the water surfers carve the waves and, for several months of the year, hundreds of southern right whales call the waters of the bay home.

  3. Marataba Safari Lodge is offering a once-in-a-lifetime 70% off! Why not escape with your family & indulge in much-need 5-star service after lockdown? Marataba-Safari-Lodge-Dining-Area*Marataba Safari Lodge is the ideal location for a romantic wedding or a honeymoon, or even just for an intimate escape with your loved one. The Lodge is very convenient as it’s located in a malaria-free zone and is only four hours away from Johannesburg—perfect for a quick escape to the bush!

  4.  The Outpost in Kruger National Park is offering locals a massive 60% discount for the upcoming months. *The Outpost’s awarded architecture accommodates 24 guests in 12 stand-alone luxury spaces cantilevered over the Luvuvhu river valley – connected to the central lodge area by a raised walkway. Enjoy 180˚ views of the African wilderness and fall asleep to the open-air sounds of the African night.

  5. Book a safari now with 50% off at Phinda Forest & Mountain Lodge. *Set deep in the heart of a rare and beautiful dry sand forest, the andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge fuses spectacular design with the ultimate in conservation principles. 16 handcrafted, minimalist, glass-encased suites are built on stilts among the trees and boast luxurious en-suite bathrooms and viewing decks where guests can take in the sight of graceful nyala and duiker in the shade of the forest. *Poised majestically on the crest of a mountain, Phinda Mountain Lodge commands dramatic vistas over the surrounding landscape. Balanced between soaring views of the scenery below and the endless blue of the African sky above, each suite opens onto a breathtaking panorama.

  6. Escape to your own private wilderness at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve with 60% off! *The lodges at Kwandwe are intimate, relaxed and trendy with décor inspired by the vibrant colours and textures of the nearby villages.

Enquire HERE now.

Fun facts about the Indian Ocean 

When you hear the word “safari” you immediately think of the Masai Mara, the Serengeti, or the Kruger National Park. However, the official dictionary definition of the word “safari” is “an expedition to observe animals in their natural habitat.” So why not explore the offshore wonders of the Indian Ocean from White Pearl, Mozambique, where a somewhat different, but equally magical, adventure awaits?

Benguerra Island – Mozambique

Explore the offshore wonders of the Indian Ocean, swim with dolphins and whales in the big blue and discover the colourful marine life beneath the waves. Here are 10 fun facts about the Indian Ocean and what makes it special:

iconic-africa-swim-with-dolphins-mozambique

This small, secluded and beautiful ocean is known as the “Zone of Peace”. 

The Indian Ocean is named after India, taken from the word “Ratnaka” meaning “the mine of gems” in Ancient Sanskrit Literature.

Speaking of gems, Indian Ocean sands are renowned for their mineral-rich sands – this ocean has hidden some of the world’s rarest minerals, such as the moissanite found in sand bodies, ilmenite and chromite. Being on the ocean might make you the rare gem itself!

Not only is the Indian Ocean a breeding ground for beautiful and well-defined beaches, dunes and estuaries but it also offers a beautiful chance for sight-seeing with its majestic Humpback Whales.

The Indian Ocean is categorized as a closed ocean, this is because it is land-locked to its north by the continent of Asia.

Want to know of the depth of the ocean? Well, the highest level is the sea level itself, with a maximum depth of 8047 metres!

The “Zone of Peace” easily lives up to its name. This ocean is the warmest of all three oceans, this means golden tans and more fun in the sun!

The Indian Ocean holds the world’s most important ports that all belong to different continents, the most infamous in South Africa being Richards Bay and Durban.

This ocean also holds vital sea lanes that contribute largely to Asia’s economies.

The Indian Ocean is the largest body of water in the world, despite the fact that it is the smallest ocean.

 

Tips to consider when planning to climb Kilimanjaro

If witnessing the Great Migration, exploring breathtaking landscapes and sceneries or standing on the edge of a dormant volcano in Tanzania doesn’t conjure enough adrenaline to course your veins; if a heart-pumping activity is what you’re looking for and you’re ready to test your limits; why not add a Kilimanjaro trek to your Tanzanian safari…

Seeing the Great Migration, or any big game on safari is already a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but climbing Mount Kilimanjaro will make your trip that much more unforgettable. This escapade requires you to be fit, mentally and physically and will push your boundaries like never before. But it will all be worth it as you reach the summit and look down on Africa. This add-on can be demanding, strenuous and challenging and requires weeks of physical training. 

Here are 4 tips to help you start preparing to reach the level of fitness required to enjoy your Kili climb:

Physical Endurance: Depending on which route you take, you can be hiking for up to 15km a day. Prepare yourself for physical endurance so that you can train your body to maintain energy reserves for when you’re feeling tired. 

Try running/jogging, brisk walking, cycling and swimming or start by just taking the stairs at work. 

Cardio Exercise: This form of activity requires the body to use oxygen supplies to adequately meet energy demands. Build up your cardiovascular system with running, rowing, cycling, aerobics, jumping rope and walking to train your body to process oxygen in an efficient way while determining your target heart rate. 

Hiking: A Mount Kili climb is basically one very long hike. Try doing long hikes – preferably 5-hour-long ones back-to-back and wear in your new hiking boots to avoid blisters and swollen feet on your trip. 

Improve Mental Capacity: We can push our physical boundaries, but it is often the mental stamina that holds us back. Prepare yourself mentally up to 8 weeks before your trip to Tanzania as it is often your mental strength that will get you to the end of your journey. Being prepared mentally is what keeps you going and will get you to the summit. Try long-distance running twice or thrice a week two months before your departure. 

When to go

Travelling to Tanzania is good year-round. Whenever you go, you will be guaranteed to see amazing wildlife and witness surreal landscapes. However, if you’re adding a Kili climb to your itinerary, taking the season and weather into consideration can greatly benefit you. For example, peak-season can get crowded on the mountain, whereas off-peak may be more wet and cold, but fewer people on the trails. The summer season from December to March has temperatures ranging from a high of 28°C and an average low of 15°C. There is little rain and you can catch the migration in the southern Serengeti. April to June is the wet season and has heavy rain. During this time, the parks are fairly empty and wildlife numbers are at their highest. 

When hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro you have different climb options and four routes to choose from. Your service provider can take you on a group, private or charity climb starting from the Machame, Lemosho, Northern Circuit or Rongai route.  All routes vary in the number of days you spend on the mountain and where you start and finish your climb.  

Top 10 essentials for trekking Kilimanjaro

A strong (broken-in) pair of supportive, waterproof hiking boots. 

Trekking poles. 

Gaiters (can be hired too).  

A backpack of daily essentials. 

A duffle to carry 15kg (there are porters that can be hired to carry this bag). 

A down sleeping bag. 

Breathable, waterproof clothing and a down jacket. 

Garment essentials – fleece top, hat, gloves, scarf, breathable/thermal trousers, long top, fleece socks.  

Sunglasses (all seasons). 

Thermal underwear 

 

Practice walking/hiking with a packed backpack before you leave to make sure you are comfortable and can handle the load. 

Make sure you pack these essentials in your backpack in an easy-to-reach compartment:

Support bandages 

Sunscreen 

Moisturizing lotion

Lip balm 

Insect repellent 

Tissues

Wet wipes

Energy bars 

Water thermos and a 1L water bottle with a sucking tube 

A camera, torch and headlamp 

Don’t forget your money, passport, visa and other documentation.

Top Game Parks in Africa 

Are you returning to Africa on safari or visiting us for the first time? Choosing which country to safari in can be an intimidating task, and deciding on a national park can be an even bigger conundrum. Africa is the world’s second-largest continent and is famous for its luxury safaris. Surrounded by adjacent islands, Africa offers a plethora of tour options and premier national parks, ideal for game viewing, adventure activities and hosts a number of luxury accommodations. 

These national parks are the epitome of how you have always imaged Africa, each offering something different, yet equally worthy of your stay. Many have private game reserves within the park ready to give you the experience of a lifetime and satisfy your travel cravings as you marvel at the unimaginable vistas. We have compiled a bite-size list of our favourite national parks in Africa to make your work less and choice easier. 

 

Botswana

Okavango Delta – Take a canoe trip down the channel with your loved one and try spotting elephants along the banks. Lodges in the Okavango Delta offer wonderful activities such as water safaris, game drives, boat rides and fishing. 

Botswana Safaris Okavango Safaris Okavango Delta

Chobe National Park Experience one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa. See giant elephant herds and the rest of the big five as they roam along the banks of the Chobe River on your Botswana Safari. Famous for its jaw-dropping predator sightings Chobe is not to be missed!

Kenya 

Masai Mara National Reserve – Wherever you go in the Mara, the one certain thing is that you’ll see an astonishing amount of game, often in one place at one time. This exquisite ecosystem boasts one of the highest densities of animals in the world with 95 mammal species and 570 bird species recorded. You may think you’ve seen it all, but I can guarantee you that a visit to the Masai Mara is the safari of a lifetime. From the mating habits of lions to the displaying characteristics of the crowned cranes, to the quirky behaviour of the male wildebeest, to the idiosyncrasies of the local Maasai people. 

Choose between 1 of 5 of our spectacular accommodations

Rwanda 

Volcanoes National Park – Although the lush green forests of Rwanda offer a challenge for adventurous guests, a gorilla trek is certainly a magical experience and one that is not to be missed. Encounters with these majestic animals in Volcanoes National Park is exceptionally and powerfully moving.

Stay at Bisate Lodge

South Africa

Madikwe Game ReserveMadikwe is widely recognised as one of the premier luxury safari destinations in Southern Africa. Madikwe Private Game Reserve has become world-famous for its Lion, African Wild Dog and Big 5 viewing.

The Kruger National Park – The Kruger National Park is the largest reserve in South Africa. Visit Sabi Sands, Timbavati Private Game Reserve or Kruger National Park Private Concessions for a guaranteed incredible safari and luxury accommodation. 

Tanzania 

Serengeti National Park – Here you can find the Big 5 on your classic safari, elusive big cats and witness the Great Migration all while staying at one of these beautiful accommodations. 

Ngorongoro Crater – The Ngorongoro Crater is an iconic natural wonder of the world. Once an enormous volcano, it is now the world’s largest intact caldera volcano formed over 2 million years ago. This phenomenally game-rich crater is an ecosystem within itself and is a fertile paradise for plains game and predators alike. 

Zambia 

Liuwa Plain – the Liuwa Plain offers unrivalled access to incredible wildlife, bird-sightings and wildflower blooms that you will see on any day and night game drives, walking safaris, or bird watching. However, the real magic of Liuwa Plain is the 30 000 – 40 000 wildebeest seen in the area from June when they start their migration from the area around camp to the north of the National Park. 

Stay at King Lewanika  

Lower Zambezi – This spectacular region draws travellers in with its world-famous composite of abundant wildlife, natural beauty and bucket-list-worthy activities such as fishing, canoeing safaris and sleep-outs.

Stay at Chongwe 

Chongwe Zambia - Tempt your taste buds with Zambia_s fine cuisine

South Luangwa National Park – South Luangwa is Zambia’s premier national park and wildlife destination. It is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, covering 9,050 km2. The park is unfenced and bordered by a steep escarpment to the west and by the Luangwa River to the east.

Stay at Mchenja Bush Camp.
Mchenja Zambia South Luangwa - The style and comfort of the suites make you feel like an early explorer on an authentic safari

If you’ve already decided where you want to safari on your next trip to Africa, enquire about an itinerary with one of our team members here.

Experience of the Month – Safari with a Purpose 

This month’s top and not-to-be-missed experience is a Safari with a Purpose. Embark on a journey with meaning… with one of four hand-crafted adventures. Submerge yourself in something bigger. Wander off the beaten track, interact with indigenous tribes, help conserve Africa’s wildlife and give back to wonderful projects so that the world can, in turn, give back to you. Iconic Africa, in partnership with Wilderness Safaris, would like to offer the discerning traveller the opportunity to find their travel purpose in Rwanda, Seychelles, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa by taking part in a world of philanthropy, conservation, wildlife, culture and adventure. 

Whether it’s working with endangered mountain gorillas, collaring wild dogs or elephants or conserving sea turtles – we’ve got just the thing for you here:

Great Apes and Rainforests: Experience behind-the-scenes conservation work in Rwanda; meet the Endangered mountain gorilla and help habituate chimpanzees for future ecotourism.

Travel With Purpose Gorillas

Paradise with Purpose: Explore one of the most beautiful islands on earth while actively participating in a survey and ringing of the Seychelles white-eye population and translocating some of the North Island population to other islands to further protect the species.

Travel With Purpose Turtles

Kenya Natural Wonders: Experience the Great Rift Valley, a dormant volcano, a vital water tower and learn more about the rare and elusive Critically Endangered mountain bongo.

Travel With Purpose Rift Valley Children

Hwange Elephant Collaring: In west Zimbabwe, amongst its grasslands and mopane woods are large herds of elephant. Help collar elephants, count wildlife, discover anti-poaching patrol, and meet neighbouring communities.

Travel With Purpose Elephants

Enquire about adding one of these experiences to your itinerary with one of our team members. You can have a magnificent time with plenty of adventure and also leave a positive impact on the place you’re visiting at the same time.

 

  

Iconic Africa partners with African Conservation Expeditions 

Iconic Africa is proud to partner with African Conservation Expeditions, a first of its kind initiative that combines real conservation work with high-end luxury safaris. 

This unique conservation company was established by well-known conservationist, Cole du Plessis, and Wallabies rugby legend, Dane Haylett-Petty. The motivation that drives this initiative is the raising of funds for the critical, ongoing conservation work needed to save some of Africa’s most endangered species.

The expeditions are hosted by conservation specialists who introduce guests to the areas where intervention is necessary to sustain Africa’s most wild and threatened species. 

The current focal points include the Kalahari region, North-West, Limpopo and the Greater Kruger National Park. The extent and diversity of these areas ensure that each expedition is both unique and thrilling.    

50% of the proceeds from these expeditions are directed to the Endangered Wildlife Trust – an NGO that has dedicated over 45 years to saving Africa’s wildlife and habitats.

African Conservation Expeditions focuses on threatened species that include: African Wild Dog, Lion, Black Rhino, White Rhino, Cheetah, Elephants and Pangolins. Most threats are human-induced and involve poaching, disease, persecution and roadkill.

Step into an action movie as you help monitor and observe; fit tracking collars onto key individuals; administer vaccines; collect genetic samples, and removing snares where necessary. 

Once the conservation objectives are achieved, guests have plenty of time to relax, reflect on their experiences, and enjoy the facilities of some of the most exclusive and most luxurious lodges South Africa has to offer. The luxury of the rooms, the exquisite food, the beautiful views and the inviting swimming pools create the ideal atmosphere for some well-deserved relaxation. 

Contact the Iconic team to find out more on how you can help make a difference to wildlife on your next luxury safari in Africa here

10 Quick Tips on Wildlife Photo Editing

We had a chat to James Tyrrell, friend of Iconic Africa, ranger at Londolozi and budding wildlife photographer who took us through 10 quick tips on editing wildlife pictures.

Let’s not over complicate things… the objective here is simple! You want to recreate exactly what was in front of you at the time you pressed the shutter button so here are some helpful tips on how to do this:

  1. Lightroom is great for photo editing and is generally quicker and simpler than Photoshop
  2. When post-processing wildlife photographs the key is to keep as natural a look to the picture as possible.
  3. The best photos always tell a good story (this is ultimately what you want your photos to do!)
  4. Increasing vibrance and saturation a touch are generally a must when editing RAW images, but one has to be careful not to overdo it.
  5. With elephant or rhino, the detail in their skin is a wonderful thing to try and emphasize in a photo, so it’s often good to up the sharpness and clarity a little.
  6. Try to get your subject (animal) to pop a little more, which you can do by sharpening or lightening the subject slightly.
  7. When taking a full-body image of an animal try not to cut off the feet, tail, the horns or any other part of the body!
  8. In photos of big cats, whiskers are generally where you want to check if the image is sharp enough or not.
  9. With action photos, let the action speak for itself as any over-editing will detract from what’s happening.
  10. With evening pictures you want to keep colours as natural as possible while still emphasizing the warm glow of the sunset.

We hope these tips help even just a little! For a very basic introduction to Lightroom have a look at this easy-to-follow tutorial done by Londolozi.