Why I Keep Coming Back to Africa

An interview with Erin West
 
Q.  How many times have you been to Africa?
A.  Eight times. Three times this past year alone!

 

Q.  You have traveled all over the world. Why does Africa keep you coming back?
A.  My first reaction to Africa was a feeling that I had come home. So for me, it’s like I keep going back home. I love the beauty and warmth of its people, and their spirit amidst terribly difficult circumstances. Of course the wildlife is spectacular, and the incredible sunrises and sunsets are unlike any other I’ve seen in the world. Africa is so diverse, there’s always something new to experience.

 

Q.  Africa is a big investment. Why not just go to the Caribbean or Central America?
A.  What I experience in Africa far outweighs the cost. Plus GS really works on making the trip as cost-effective as possible within my budget. Africa is a once in a lifetime (and sometimes life-changing) experience that nobody should miss.

 

Q.  Are you concerned about health issues when traveling?
A.  No not at all. There are precautions that one takes … you take your malaria meds, you’re careful what you eat and bring your antibiotics and bug spray with you and that’s it. The Ebola cases are so far away it doesn’t concern me at all.

 

Q.  Which countries in Africa have you been to? Favorites? Why?
A.  I’ve been to Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the  Congo (DRC), Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, and Madagascar. I started coming to Africa 25 years ago. I saved my money and went on an overland trip and I just LOVED it. Later on through mutual friends, I met Priscilla and got to go on a trip in place of my mother. The rest is history.  Madagascar is for sure a favorite because of the lemurs, the different landscapes, the beautiful coastline. The flora and fauna are unbelievable, unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. I love Tanzania for the chimps, DRC for the gorillas, Namibia for the amazing sand dunes as well as the Skeleton Coast, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. In Botswana, the Ichobezi cruise along the Chobe River is wonderful. Jacks Camp in Botswana and the experience of the Kalahari was one of my most favorite in the world … especially the night sky and all terrain vehicle trips. Cape Town is one of my favorite cities. In Zambia the land safaris combined with the river trips. Just being on the river. I could go on and on!
Erin West & Immaculate (2) copy

 

Q.  Do you feel it makes the trip more meaningful to combine safari with visits to our GSGC supported projects?
A.  Yes, because you experience the real human aspect of Africa. Everyone goes to Africa to go on safari. Sometimes you get to go into a village and it feels planned, like you’re intruding. With the giving circle you visit the projects supported by the GSGC, you meet the people and the communities benefiting from the support. Its more personal and intimate. you hear their stories. As somebody who donates to the Giving Circle, I get to see directly how my money is being used to benefit the people down there.

 

Namibia – Breathtaking Desert Beauty

In Namibia, the opportunities for adventure are endless. Here you can:

  • Climb the highest sand dunes in the world
  • Descend to the floor of the deepest canyon in Africa
  • Immerse yourself in the past at one of the Africa’s richest rock art sites
  • Watch wildlife shimmer against one of the most spectacular pans on earth
  • Get up close to cheetahs
  • Track rhino on foot
  • Search for the elusive desert elephant
  • Explore the oldest, driest desert in the world, and…
  • Take time to listen to the silence and to your soul

 
The landscape is Namibia’s defining natural asset but Namibia is also home to vibrant cities where people are excited about the future, while remaining deeply connected to their rich, cultural past. A stable, democratic government and infrastructure allows guests to move confidently off the beaten path and explore those endless horizons that define a country and her people.

Conservation is a cornerstone of the Namibian experience with over 40% of its surface area under conservation management.  It has the largest free-roaming population of black rhinos and cheetahs in the world and is the only country with an expanding population of free-roaming lions.

Explore Namibia with an itinerary designed specifically for you. Or… join us in May 2013 as we explore Namibia by mountain bike, foot, sea kayak and 4×4 vehicles with specialist guides and full back-up support. This is Namibia, where you are sure to find adventure, and you may just find yourself.

One of our Top 5 Favorite Hikes in the World – Robberg Peninsula


On a warm, clear blue day we were surrounded by the majestic, dark blue-green ocean; as well as massive, snow-white waves loudly crashing into geysers against the ancient, yet determinedly steadfast coastal rocks of Robberg Peninsula as we walked on rocky and sandy paths through the indigenous, wind-hardened, brown/green flora under our feet. Priscilla and I have been blessed to have traversed the world but we both found our 4-hour hike to be one of our “top 5″ in the world. The rich diversity of coastal flora, complete absence of tourists, just the right amount of exertion and amazing aquatic display of playful seals, birthing whales, traveling dolphins and hunting sharks made for an unforgettable experience in South Africa’s Western Cape Province.

We then spoiled ourselves with a stay at the wonderful Periwinkle Lodge in Plettenberg. Great decor, very comfy and best of all, it has a gorgeous view of the bay and of Robberg Peninsula! Dinner out at the Lookout Deck for more great views and dolphin sightings while we feasted on “tuna loin” and fresh shrimp.

-Peter Macy

A Magical Place for the Soul- Makgadikgadi Pans

What makes this one of our all time favorite places?

  • the endless vistas and unspoilt wilderness
  • the interesting and varied outings with expert guides who make nature and history come alive
  • the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets
  • the privilege of being with the Bushman in a truly authentic manner
  • Uncharted Africa’s camps that keep to the tradition of being un-electrified while having all the comforts (and great style!)
  • it’s a perfect place to “unplug” and take in the energy and wonders of nature

 

You’ll find this special place located in the

heart of the Kalahari Desert

in Botswana

 

A New Day for Zimbabwe?

This month (3/12), Conde Nast features one of our all time favorite safari destinations. We are thrilled they are featuring Zimbabwe’s re-emergence in the tourism market.

Conde Nast’s team travelled to Zimbabwe to see for themselves if the ‘re-born hype’ surrounding Zimbabwe as a tourist destination is well founded. In an interesting yet honest reflection of Zimbabwe, Joshua Hammer titles his article ‘A New Day for Zimbabwe?’ and writes, “For many years travelers have avoided Zimbabwe, aware that the country was ruled by a brutal regime. But Robert Mugabe’s time is growing short, safari lodges are filling up, and the spectacular wildlife is flourishing again.”

Having visited the country several times during both its hay-day and the turbulent political and economic situation, Hammer states , “This time, everywhere I go on my ten-day tour, I’m struck by the beauty, the abundance of wildlife, and the optimism that’s taking hold.”

Check out this informative article (and don’t miss the slideshow on page 2): zimbabwe-safari-lodges-hotels-resorts-restaurants-wildlife-national-parks

 

Photo: Beks Ndlovu, Founder of African Bush Camps, floating in “the hide” at Somalisa Camp in Hwange.

Matthews Mountain Range- A Kenyan Gem

The moment I arrived at Kitich Camp, I knew this was a gem.  The camp is in a stunning location overlooking the gorge of the Ngeng River, has just 6 tents- comfy, traditional and low impact, and is the only camp in the Matthews Mountain Range in Kenya.

But it was the walk in the lush forest to look for elephant with the Samburu warriors that ensured  Kitich would become one of my all-time favorite places. For those who love getting well off the beaten track, we highly recommend putting this on your list of must-see places!

  • Pristine mountain wilderness
  • Lush indigenous forest with cycads and wild orchids
  • A truly unique forest wildlife experience
  • Walk along forest footpaths guided by Samburu warriors and Ndorobo guides to see elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, warthogs…
  • Learn traditional ways of tracking wildlife
  • Remote yet accessible
  • Only 6 guest tents
  • High eco and cultural preservation standards

 

De Hoop- A Nature Lover’s Paradise!

Near the southern most trip of tip of Africa you’ll find a place with all the ingredients we love:

  • Gorgeous scenery
  • Wide open spaces
  • Virtually untrodden
  • Wildlife
  • Comfy accommodations

 

On top of all this, during the migratory season, you can witness hundreds of Southern Right Whales sailing, breaching, spouting and more!

One to be added to nature lovers’ “wanna visit!” list!

Escape to the Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

Why do we love this area?  Take a look!

Now where to find it on a map…

Ellyn & Sue's Excellent Adventure- Southern Africa

Ellyn and I have been on the Rio Negro and the Amazon during the flood season. We’ve been to various islands and villages in the Philippines, traveled the Nile in Egypt, white-water rafted through Cataract Canyon in the American Southwest and have ridden mules to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

That said, you can understand the weight of the declaration that our trip to Africa was the best vacation ever! Much of it had to do with the flawless and detailed planning that Priscilla Macy of Global Sojourns provided.

We usually read & research extensively about the places we visit. This includes history, geography, geology, socio-political and guide books as well as historical novels and movies, articles, websites, kids books, coloring books – we do mean everything.

But nothing compares to the thrill of real life. And as educated as we became, there were still a multitude of surprises.

There was the pack of wild dogs who traveled into the Khwai game area of Moremi. They were trying to take over an established hyena den. The nightly fights, the stalking, the hovering and endless waiting this process involved were fascinating. The guides were even more excited than we were.

As the only guests in the Khwai Tented Camp, we had our guide Pilot to ourselves. He spent the days teaching us how to identify and follow tracks. We were rewarded by being the only folks to find 2 female and one male lion in the dense bush (if we hadn’t experienced his driving, we never would have believed that one could drive a truck through the bush we were in!!). With no one else in the truck to decide on a different agenda, we were able to hang out with the lions for quite a while.

There was the night drive that turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience when a leopard used our truck to facilitate her kill. As soon as we put out the lights she shot out from her hiding place under (yes

under) our truck and in a split second we heard “Crunch!” The lights were turned back on immediately and we went closer to sit quietly watching her suffocate the impala, her teeth at its throat. It kicked a few times, then the leopard calmly dragged the impala into the bushes.

There were the small things, too. Who knew the thorns of the acacia and the ironwood trees we’d seen so many pictures of were a million times more strong and spiny and painful. Like handling barbed wire more than plants. Or that elephants drag their trunks in the sand for fun leaving whimsical zigzag patterns along with their footprints. Or how the sound of a hippo with its deep, low, throaty laughing all night just makes you giggle in your tent (even though this is the meanest, deadliest guy they warn you about). It’s the hippos and elephants that necessitate the guides to protectively walk you back and forth from your tent at night.

Believe it or not, elephants are really quiet and really fast (when they’re not shaking the heck out of an acacia tree to get the fruit or knocking over and trampling a full grown tree out of boredom and lack of enough living space). I can’t tell you how many times one was much much closer to us than expected.

Then there was the ostrich that ran along side our plane as we landed on the airstrip in Moremi. It was unexpected when our driver stopped the truck to watch a puff adder, one of the world’s most deadly snakes slowly work his way across the road. Every drive was a “game drive”

even if we were just headed into town for a planned event and every driver seems to be a guide. Every opportunity is a chance to see animals – like the healthy sized frog that lived in the mouth of a decorative mask hanging in our bathroom

We enjoyed game drives from a motor boat. You can get pretty darn close to bathing, playing elephants and drinking buffalo herds. You can also get right on top of crocodiles and birds that nest in the banks (bee

catchers) but thankfully *not* so close to the pods of hippos. The game drive on horseback allowed us to walk amongst zebras because we were not identified as people, just different looking horses.

Monkeys and baboons are plentiful. At Thorntree Lodge the vervet monkeys will take any and everything not nailed down (consider yourself warned).

We watched them as they watched us through our patio window, not 2 feet from each other, separated by glass. At Khwai, the cook couldn’t take afternoon naps because she had to protect all the kitchen and dining items from the baboons – who, by the way, do not run from a woman trying to chase them away, only men.

We did some Drift Fishing on the Zambezi River from that motorboat, too.

We were told we were fishing for Tigerfish, whatever that was. Being avid fisherladies from NYC we successfully caught trees, grass, the motor. Our casting in front of and behind the boat, sometimes went all of 6 or 7 inches (BTW, we were supposed to be casting on the side). We had our guide laughing along with us as he came about to pick up a blown away hat. When we got back to the boat someone showed us a picture of a Tigerfish. I would have been utterly speechless if one of us pulled one of those monsters out of the water (we had a few hard bites and in retrospect I’m not at all unhappy we didn’t catch anything!)

Know this when visiting Victoria Falls: if your guide begins to take off his shoes, roll up his pants and put on *two* raincoats, take it as a hint, put your camera in a plastic bag and enjoy being drenched thoroughly by the giant waterfall. The mist feels more like a garden hose at full throttle.

There can be many border crossings and immigration visits and such.

Don’t worry, your guides walk with you every step of the way. Often we felt like children in the care of very competent parents handing us off to the next set of aunts & uncles.

We rode elephants. This was an experience worth doing. How many people can say they’ve spent an hour walking through the bush on the back of the elephant? It was a game drive, but there aren’t very many animals that get in the path of an elephant so we only saw impala – but we sure didn’t care, for goodness sakes….we were riding an elephant!

We also did the walk with lions. Also worth it just to spend some time with young cubs, who actually are not so small and are quite strong!

The handlers are very alert because the lions are not tame – they worry most about the lions playing with you (claws out, teeth ready to bite….in fun). There are some questions about these two activities, but we felt like the efforts were real (to return lions to the wild to help their decimated population) and to raise orphaned elephants).

Oh, and by the way, in the city of Johannesburg, they call traffic lights “robots.” Come on, doesn’t that make you smile?

Burke Family Trip to Namibia

burkes

Itinerarymap

  • 1 night- Windhoek, Namibia
  • 3 nights- Wolwedans Dune Lodge, Namib Rand Reserve, Namibia
  • 3 nights- Kwara Camp- Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • 3 nights- Lebala Camp- Linyanti, Botswana

Reflections from Debra Burke:

As a group we were senior parents, not-far-from- mid-life “kids” and their spouses, and an adult grandchild (seven of us in total). We left different corners of the US to fly up to Wolwedans Dunes Camp in the Namib Rand Nature Reserve in Namibia, where we spent three nights; then flew on to two Kwando Safari camps in Botswana (Kwara Camp in the Okavango Delta next to Moremi Game Reserve, and Lebala Camp adjacent to the headwaters of the Linyanti marshes that form the boundary between Botswana and Namibia).We spent three nights in each of the Kwando Safari camps.

GBscenic

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