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...]

Combining Adventure and LOTS of Unique Experiences on a GS Giving Circle Trip

GS Giving Circle Coordinator, Paige Hasson, recently traveled to So’n Africa with her friends, Yvonne and Vicki, on a  Global Sojourns Giving Circle trip. The trip combined working side by side with our partner projects, a safari at The Hide in Zimbabwe, and time to unwind in Cape Town.

“What I experienced in Africa was not life as a tourist but life as a fully engaged participant.” Paige Hasson

“Africa was a total unknown to me prior to my recent journey. I found it beautiful and awe inspiring (over 3000 photos taken), of course, but what impressed me most was the spirit of the people. In the three countries I visited (Zambia,Zimbabwe and South Africa) the people were upbeat, positive and most of all hopeful and looking to the future. If you enjoy travel, do not let the long journey to Southern Africa keep you from going. It is indeed the journey of a lifetime, 
one that will leave you much richer in spirit for the experience”.  Vicki Coles

Some of the special things they experienced:

  • seeing Victoria Falls from Zambia and Zimbabwe
  • visiting the studio of a local renowned artist and activist
  • attending a “Girl Power!” workshop in Victoria Falls funded by the GSGC
  • experiencing a braai (b-que) in the home of a GSGC partner in Victoria Falls
  • visiting a local primary school
  • teaching games and reading to children at a pre-school
  • listening to Hugh Masekela at an outdoor concert at the beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens
  • a wine and cheese picnic at a winery while watching the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean
  • seeing lions feast on their prey in Hwange National Park
  • attending a special sports day for disadvantaged youth
  • cooking “shima” with the chef at the B&B in Livingstone
  • shopping at the Biscuit Mill in Cape Town

Experiences such as these offer our clients an insight, perspective and respect for local people and culture that other visitors may not be lucky enough to have.

For more on their adventures, check out the GS Giving Circle Blog and FaceBook.


A Gift to Herself and a Gift to Others…Candra’s B-Day Celebration in Africa

Candra, her husband Matt, and close friend Tawni, recently traveled to Southern Africa to celebrate Candra’s “special birthday”, combining land and water safari in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia, with visits to our GS Giving Circle projects in Zambia and South Africa. Along the way, Candra had a lifelong dream come true- using her leadership skills to help empower young girls

We recently had the chance to speak with Candra about what made their trip so unique and special.  Her perspective hits squarely upon what Global Sojourns tries to do- really hear what it is that the client wants out of the experience. As Candra put it, “Priscilla listened to my soul as opposed to my words. The trip was a reflection of my heart.”

Creating an exciting and unique trip for a couple who have “done it all” was our challenge.  Global Sojourns doesn’t sell the cookie cutter trips and set departure itineraries that you can find on any Google search.  Rather, with each client, we invest time into getting to the heart of what a client is looking for, what makes them tick and focusing on the experience rather than the destination.  This is what produces trips filled with magical and life-changing moments. Candra and Matt’s recent trip was no exception.  “Global Sojourns listened to every touch point.  The guides, the lodges, the properties were so in tune to with what we were looking for.  In Mana Pools, I was able to be near the water which I love and could watch the elephants swim. The camps were elegant enough to appeal to my love of design.  The guides we were paired with were well matched with Matt’s deep knowledge of nature.  If we had the knowledge and did it ourselves, we would have chosen exactly the same places.”

Attitude is also key to a trip being exceptional.  As Matt expressed, they didn’t go in with set expectations nor a “check off list”.  They let nature unfold and special moments emerge.  We find that clients with this kind of attitude tend to have the most magical and memorable experiences.

A yoga enthusiast, Candra spontaneously began a morning “boot camp” with the guides, and created a yoga pose competition amongst the employees of Davisons and Ruckamechi safari camps – which they loved.  “Priscilla’s encouragement allowed me to have my personality come alive!” She also led calisthenics workouts on the houseboat on the Chobe River.  Everyone loved what she contributed during her stay.  We have now learned that there is no reason one can’t exercise while on safari!

Apart from his “real job”, Matt is an avid photographer. Unbeknownst to him, Global Sojourns had arranged for Lynn, a professional photographer from Botswana, to surprise him onboard the Ichobezi House Boat. Lynn is not only a photographer but also a trained guide, so her knowledge of the animals, how to track and photograph them, not only enhanced Matt’s learning experience but created a friendship connection that will be long-standing. Later in the trip, Matt, in turn, had the opportunity to share his photography skills (and a new camera!) with a young boy in Zambia who is very interested in being a photographer someday.

“Having personal introductions throughout the trip such as spending an afternoon with an artist in his studio, listening to local school teachers talk about the challenges that girls face and sharing meals with specialist guides and hearing their stories are things that don’t happen on a normal trip.”

The pinnacle of the trip for Candra was being able to fulfill a lifelong dream.  Candra is a Leadership Coach and Trainer and had a dream of sharing her gifts of leadership where they might make a difference in the lives of girls in Africa.  We were happy to help make this dream come true.  Teaming up with the GS Giving Circle, our partners in Livingstone, Zambia and Cape Town welcomed the idea of leadership workshops. Candra prepared for these with our partner organizations via e-mail before the trip.  Candra led workshops with girls, staff and guidance counselors for Jikeleza and Ray of Hope. “When someone takes the time to see your gifts and helps serve them up, it makes all the difference.  This is the confluence…bringing your gift to a place that needs them. “ Candra touched many with  her special spark and leadership skills.  From their time with her, the staff at Jikeleza was re-energized and gained many new ideas as to how they can help empower the girls in the townships around Cape Town.  Thank you Candra!

In summing up what is means to take a Global Sojourns trip, in Candra’s words, “The itinerary that you designed could not have been more suited for us, from the choice of camps, time of year, activities, and especially to have you and Peter join us on the Ichobezi…..and if the safari camps, charter planes and special guests weren’t enough, then there was the behind the scenes view of the townships. The relationships and projects that Global Sojourns has cultivated provide immediate insight into what is the perfect sojourn guide and it is clear that this is your life’s passion and heart’s work.”

It was a tremendous pleasure to work with Candra and we look forward to her return visit!

See amazing photos from their trip.

Hear about their safari and visits to the GS Giving Circle projects.

Stuck in the loo!

While in the loo at Chiawa Camp on the Zambezi River in Zambia, an elephant decided to feed on the tree just a few feet away. He ate and ate and ate. He fiiiinally had his fill and moved on and I finally got to be free of the loo- Priscilla

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?

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

Mad Dash & Teva Shoes Coupon

THANK GOODNESS FOR ?CARRY ON ONLY? AND MY TEVAS

airportHustleStepping off my very delayed flight from Quebec City to Montreal, the Air Canada rep said I would miss my connecting flight- the last flight out for the evening. The flight was departing in 20 minutes from another concourse and I was told that it takes a minimum of 35 minutes just to get to that concourse as one has to go through security again and then US Immigration and Customs (I know? its backwards! You go through US Immigration and Customs as you depart Montreal- I swear!). The gate was at least ? mile and a handful of escalators away and was departing in 20 minutes so they said I should go to the customer service desk and see how they could get me home the next day. The customer service rep looked at the computer, read that I hadn?t checked any bags, saw that there was a slight delay with the flight and said, ?run!? and literally typed into the computer: ?on her way? running!?

I sprinted off and after lots of panting and miraculously, no lines at security or Customs, I made it ot the gate in 20 minutes and was greeted by the agent who read the computer screen and said, ?oh? you?re the one whose been sprinting to get here.”

Thanks to my Teva shoes and Eagle Creek 22? roller bag, I got to sleep in my own bed at home that night!

Visit Teva.com For The Latest Styles
Right now TEVA.com is offering Global Sojourners an exclusive 15% any shoe purchase off their website! Catch your next flight in comfort…just enter the coupon code: GlobalSojourns at the checkout. Offer good through 12/31/2010.
Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crashingwaves/ / CC BY 2.0

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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