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.

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.

Okavango Delta – 10 Things You Didn’t Know

The Okavango Delta is one of Nature’s real masterpieces. Created as the Okavango River dissipates into the parched Kalahari Desert, adventurous travellers can explore the magic of this vast eco-system by mokoro, on foot or on a game drive during an Okavango Safari.

Botswana-Safari-Okavango-Safari-Banner-04

Before we start learning amazing facts about this vast inland river, let’s start off simple…

  1.   What is the Okavango Delta?

It is a swampy inland, a vast inland river in Northern Botswana.  Doesn’t sound appealing, right? Wait until you read what this incredible grassland has to offer.

  1.   A World Premier Wild Area

The Okavango Delta’s lush vegetation from seasonal flooding provides a safe haven to a variety of game. It is home to some of the world’s most endangered large mammals species.  The wildlife includes cheetahs, black and white rhinoceros, the African wild dog and lions.

  1.   There is a large variety of flora and fauna

The Delta’s hosts roughly 1061 plant varieties, 89 fish species, 64 various reptiles, 482 species of birds and 130 mammals.

  1.   The Delta has over 150 000 islands

The Okavango Delta has islands scattered throughout the plains.  The Chief Island is the largest, at 70km long and 14 km wide. It was once a prime hunting spot but is now the best place to spot wildlife.

  1.   The Delta is kept wild

Botswana government has implemented restrictions on the number of tourists that are allowed to enter the Okavango Delta.  This, in turn, has kept the vast plain truly wild and remote.

  1.   It is the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage Site

This decision came on 22 June 2014, because this delta is not only one of the largest inland deltas in the world.   But it is one of the new major systems that do not flow into the sea. 

  1.   The Delta is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa

In February of 2013, the Okavango Delta was officially added to the list.  After reading all these facts, it’s hard to argue with the decision.

  1.   Animals aren’t the only habitants

In and amongst all the wildlife and greenery, the Hambukushu, Dcerika, Wayeyi, Anikhwe and Bugakhwe live.  They range from hunter-gathers to fisherman and farmers.

  1.   Travelling by Mokoro

The best way to travel around the Okavango Delta is on a traditional Mokoro – a dug-out canoe.  Most of the lodges in the Delta cater for Mokoro rides, where you will get up close and personal with smaller creatures that you may have missed in a vehicle.

  1. The Delta grows!

When the floodwaters from the Angolan Highlands in the dry winter months, the delta increases up to threefold in size!  Between March and August, the Delta can reach up to 15,000km2.

Traveller Review – Becky Rasor

Iconic Africa Traveller, Becky Rasor recently returned from her first time visiting Africa! 

Her mum Danae Prousis took Becky, her sister Katherine and brother Greg on their first safari. This wonderful family quickly created lasting memories in the bush, met new people, and built relationships in such a short time at each location. They had an adventurous trip, visiting Arusha National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater, Southern Serengeti, the Masai Mara, Nairobi and Aberdare.  Becky has been kind enough to chat to us about her time in Africa – here’s what she had to say: 

Q: Was this your first time to Africa? 

A: Yes!

Q: What was your first impression? 

A: The most stunning landscapes and kindest people.

Q: What surprised you the most about it? 

A: I didn’t expect to develop close relationships in such a short time with the different people I met along our journey. They are so proud of their country and make you feel like family. It’s a level of service and care that is difficult to replicate elsewhere.

Q: What is your favourite memory/experience at Giraffe Manor? 

A: Feeding the giraffes! One of the most special experiences. I also loved that the dinners were group dinners with other guests at the manor.

Q: Where in Africa do you want to safari next and why? 

A: Rwanda to see the gorillas.

Q: What did you spend most of your time doing while on safari? On game drives, cultural experiences or relaxation and self-care? 

A: Most of our time was spent on game drives admiring the beautiful landscapes and animals.

Q: Describe your trip to Africa in just 5 words? 

A: The trip of a lifetime.

Q: When do you think you will next visit Africa? 

A: Hopefully in the next five years 

Q: If there’s anything you could tell people who have never visited Africa what would it be? 

A: Visiting Africa helped to bring me back to reality and put things into perspective. You have a moment where it’s just you and nature and nothing else matters. I think everyone deserves that opportunity to reconnect with themselves and the world.

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.