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.

 

Traveling as a single woman in Zimbabwe

by Cindy Krueger

Cindy Krueger Collage copy

I’ve wanted to travel to Africa for many, many years. And for many of those years I talked about it with Priscilla Macy. I travelled with her to Thailand, and on a great kayak and hiking trip in the Pacific NW Cascade mountains. I followed the Global Sojourns website, and watched in envy as friends made the ‘big trip’. I wanted to go for my 60th birthday, but wasn’t able to find anyone with time, money, and interest that lined up with my dates. And – another year went by. During that year, I lost a few friends unexpectedly, and realized that life doesn’t promise us that we’ll eventually get around to living our dreams.   I got in touch with Priscilla, and told her that I was ready to see Africa, and asked her to help me take the trip on my own.

Priscilla was the consummate professional; we worked on the safari planner, to help determine what I wanted to do. Africa is a very big place, and focusing on my priorities for my initial trip was an important part of making my trip so successful. We discussed budget and itineraries objectively, and I felt comfortable sharing my concerns about being a woman traveling alone. The planning process took about 6 months, during which we had several long exchanges, and a number of back and forth emails. Valentina in the ‘home office’ was also a great help.

I was pretty clear that seeing the animals in their habitat was my number one priority. I also wanted to see some of the local culture and to visit one or two of the projects that the Giving Circle supports.   Priscilla and her team put together a dream itinerary for me, which met every one of my travel desires, and a few that I didn’t even know I had.

I used airline miles to travel back and forth to S. Africa, and worked with Priscilla’s U,S, partner for the inter-Africa portions of the trip. Global Sojourns handled every tiny logistic for me in a way that had me feeling completely supported. I was met by a driver at the Johannesburg airport, who welcomed me to Africa and whisked me to my beautiful hotel only a few minutes from the airport. Once in my room – and very ready for a nap after 40 hours en-route, I got a call from Priscilla, just checking in to ensure that I had arrived safely. This level of care and attention to detail was the gold standard of every part of my trip.

I spent a day in Johannesburg, seeing the sites under the care and watchful eye of my driver, who on the following day returned me to J’burg int’l for my flight to Victoria Falls. At the airport I was met Fred, my delightful driver who took me to my first National Park; Hwange in Zimbabwe. I had told him, ‘this is my second day in Africa, I don’t know anything – tell me about everything that we see’. During the entire 3-hour trip Fred became my tour guide, sharing stories of his own life in Victoria Falls along with facts and anecdotes about that part of Zimbabwe.. As we neared the park entrance, we saw a few giraffes, and a group of zebra. My driver was as thrilled as I was, he even shared with me that his totem animal was a zebra! Once into the park, I met my guide, Michael and was transferred to Somalisa Camp, a private concession in the park. We stopped at a watering hole on the way to camp just as the sun was setting, and the animal parade began. The combination of the multitude of animals; elephants, zebra, water buffalo, antelope and the beautiful golden light truly took my breath away. I believe it was at that point that I just relaxed into being part of that beautiful landscape and all the creatures.   I spent a total of 9 days ‘in the bush’ with additional stops at Kanga Camp and Zambezi Lifestyles, both in Mano Pools national park. Each camp was unique, and each was a wonderful experience. I continued my love affair with the wild animals, but also appreciated the interesting people that I met: guides, staff and guests. I found that the African people I met were very open and caring, they were interested in me, and were willing to share stories about their lives and experiences. And – I enjoyed having a solo experience, where I could engage with people when I wanted, but could also have quiet time to write, take photos, and just reflect on the amazing experience that I was having. Being able to be completely selfish about what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it was a real treat, and an unexpected benefit of travelling solo.

After my time in the bush, I flew back to Victoria Falls – to see those iconic Falls and have the luxury of a night at the grand old Victoria Falls hotel. The next day I went to Zambia, and was shown around Livingstone by GS’ Giving Circle partner, Agnes. We saw a school, a chicken raising operation in development, and met a few more of the locals. Agnes even took me into her home, and showed me her studio, as she talked about her week and her life, I got a glimpse into life for an exceptional African woman. From Livingstone I flew to Capetown – where I spent 5 amazing days in that beautiful city. I had never experienced the luxury of having a guide for a city experience, and highly recommend it. The guides knew an amazing amount of history and culture, and shared their experiences of growing up in this cosmopolitan and challenging place. Each guide came from a different segment of society, an Afrikaans young man, a Xosa man, and a woman from a British background. Along with experiencing the beauty of the city, it’s fabulous food and wine, not to mention great shopping and people watching – I spent a day visiting the townships and seeing a few of the projects the GSGC works with here. From a community garden, to a senior center, to the wonderful boys and girls at the Jikaleeza dance school – everyone was welcoming, interesting, and shared their hope as well as the challenges they face.

My advice to someone considering a solo trip? By all means, do it. Travel with an open mind, an open heart, and be prepared to be wonderfully cared for and delighted by this amazing continent.

 

 

“I’ve decided I’m not even going to attempt to top this trip, because its not possible.” Anne McCall

The challenge: to create a “best of the best” month-long adventure in Ecuador & Peru for seasoned world travelers Anne and Jer McCall.

The solution: a Galapagos cruise, historic cities, unique properties, hiking in Machu Picchu, pink dolphins in the Amazon, and a gorgeous beach on the Pacific coast!

Immerse yourself in the McCall’s descriptive and informative travel log. Anne has quite a way with words!

Galapagos

“We arrived in Ecuador on Thursday night. We got up the next morning and caught a 2 hour flight to the Galapagos island of St Cristobal. I was very surprised when we first arrived. This island has 20,000 people. It’s one of several that are inhabited. I guess I should have expected it, since I was flying into an airport. Anyway we got to the dock and there were sea lions everywhere. They were lying on the benches, you just sort of stepped over them. The town was about 6 blocks long, with the typical gift stores and eating places. Then we went by dingy to our Galapagos cruise boat, the Yacht La Pinta. It can accommodate 46 guests. We lucked out because its only about half full, so we can have more flexibility. It’s a great mix of people. 4 Americans, 2 Germans, one Spanish woman, several Australian families, and one English family. OK, so now here’s the part you aren’t going to believe. We get up at 7am…yes I said am….every morning.

Our first day we went on a hike…yes I said hike…and I did the whole thing!!! I’m quite proud of myself. We were still on still on St Cristobal, but on the other uninhabited side. Now this is what I thought the Galapagos would look like. It was volcanic and ash rock. We hiked about half way to the top of the island and got some beautiful pictures. We saw a red footed booby with a bright blue beak, sitting on her nest. Those can only be found here… When we got to the bottom and hit the beach, I could not get my clothes off quick enough to hit the water. It was wonderful. The sea lions were just laying on the sand with us. Then I took my snorkel and started looking around, and I almost ran into a turtle. A big turtle. He completely surprised me. I started grunting through my snorkel for Jer to look. I kept getting closer and closer to him, and he was letting me. Jer started physically pulling me back because they can bite. But it was remarkable experience. All the island and sea life is so comfortable around humans, they don’t see us as predators like everywhere else. [Read more...]

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.

Madagascar- I can’t wait to return!

Through the years, I’ve visited some pretty remote places. However, until now Madagascar had not been one of them, although it sat high at the top of my “would love to see” list. Two weeks ago I finally took my first trip to this unique island country in the Indian Ocean – visiting the capital and northern part of the island.  With just a 3 hour flight from Johannesburg, I was in another world.  Stops included:

  • Antananaarivo (capital, located in central Madagascar)
  • Diego Suarez
  • Amber Mountain National Park
  • Ankarana Reserve
  • Nosy Be and nearby islands

 

At first I had mixed feelings.  Much of what I saw (both lush and mountainous rainforests, white sandy beaches and warm sea, traditional culture, rare plant and animal species) could be seen in other countries (e.g. Indonesia, Costa Rica, Mozambique, Malawi). But then I realized… how utterly unique it is to see such a mix in one country- and that’s just with a visit to the north!

And of course, there are the lemurs. And the fact that Madagascar is home to 80% of endemic fauna and flora.

What I especially loved was experiencing a variety of terrain and seeing local culture largely untouched by commercialism and mass tourism. Such a rare encounter these days.

I loved that Madagascar is still very wild and untrodden, and VERY off the beaten path.  However, that means that the infrastructure, especially for tourism, is limited and in some places, nonexistent.  A few of the most visited places (Antananarivo and Nosy Be) do have some 4* accommodation options but most of the less trodden and, in my opinion, more interesting destinations offer very basic accommodations (but always great food on offer!).  Also, distances between the national parks & reserves are often significant with pot-holed roads and limited internal flights. But that just adds excitement to the overall experience!

So… for those who love nature, who seek out locales that are still quite untamed, who don’t mind simple accommodations and are up for adventure, my guess is that you will love Madagascar! For myself, I can’t wait to go back and explore other parts of this unique country- Isalo Massif, Morondava, Ranomafana…!

We’ve got a GS small group trip to Madagascar in the works so be sure to get in touch with us if you are interested!  For those preferring an adventure on your own, we’re happy to set that up for you as well.  Just email us and we’ll get started on your Madagascar adventure!

 

 

 

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!

Great Guides – Key To An Outstanding Trip!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our clients reaffirm to us time and time again that the guide is key. Here at Global Sojourns we are experts at matching up our clients with great guides. The right guide can turn a good trip into the experience of a lifetime.

  • When your time is limited, a private specialist guide can orientate you to the area, provide you with background information on the history and culture, and introduce you to special places.
  • The training, experience, level of expertise, and personality of a guide can have a tremendous impact on the visitor’s experience.
  • We match up specialist guides with our clients’ particular interests such as cooking, wine, photography, etc.
  • Speak up! Express your interests before your trip as the better operators keep a list of favorite guides and their specializations and will try to make arrangements ahead of time.

 

What you can do:

  • Book your trip with a tour operator who also believes in the importance of good guides
  • Treat your guides well and with respect, and tip them fairly for their services
  • When you first meet your guide, let them know your expectations, likes and dislikes. For example, if you have arranged a full day Winelands tour in Cape Town and are an ardent fan of chardonnay, let your guide know ahead of time and he/she can arrange your day accordingly.

 

Having a great guide is worth the investment!

Special Place: Lesotho

waterfall

Getting WAY off the beaten path in luxurious style at the Maliba Mountain Lodge

Located in the Tsehlanyane National Park in the mountainous, landlocked country of Lesotho (entirely surrounded by South Africa),you’ll find Maliba Mountain Lodge. This luxury lodge overlooks a pristine sub-alpine wilderness valley, deep in the heart of Lesotho’s impressive mountains.

Why we like it:

  • You’re no where near any tourist trodden path
  • Views, views, views!
  • Ahhh… the luxury and privacy: 6 large comfy chalets each with a fireplace, sunken bath with mountain views, heated floors, bed blankets with unbelievably soft linen and private porches
  • Great hiking and horseback riding, right outside your chalet door
  • Just one hour from a ski resort!

lodge