Experience the Ultimate in Adventure Travel
by Cindy Krueger
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 Southern Africa, and worked with Priscilla’s US 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. She even surprised me that evening at my hotel to celebrate my birthday with my official first African sundowner!
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 by 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 Mana 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 is an artist and 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 Cape Town – 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.
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
Some of the special things they experienced:
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.
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!
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 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?
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:
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.
Don Houser and his family visited southern Africa in June 2009, taking in the sights of Victoria Falls, the Chobe National Park area, Ichobezi Houseboat, and Johannesburg.
Terri Houser recounts: “…we were headed toward the banks of the Chobe and as we approached in our jeep, so did a herd of elephants. We were driving down the trail when a mother elephant took a stance against our vehicle and wouldn’t let us pass. Our driver remained calm, and began to rev the engine. She still wouldn’t let us pass. This went on for a few minutes, until she finally backed down. Our guide said that he expected her to back down a bit sooner. Phew! We were able to go safely on our way.”
For an overview of Terri’s first experience in Africa with her family, continue reading…
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