Ah-Maaa-Zing! Primate Adventure in Uganda & Rwanda

Ah-Maaa-Zing!

We must have said, “Ah-Maaa-Zing!” 300 times. There was something around each bend to excite us, and the special moments we shared with gorillas and chimpanzees – moving through their activities with them – captured our souls.
 
I can’t remember being so excited in anticipation of a tour – I could hardly sleep the night before! When I joined two of our lovely clients on a Global Sojourns “primate-focused trip” in Uganda and Rwanda, I expected thrills. But I had no idea just how enthralled I would be by the countryside (especially in Uganda) and by our adventures.

These included:

  • Going in search of tree climbing lions (and finding them)
  • Exploring the shores of the Kazinga Channel in a private boat – taking in elephants, hippos, buffalo, antelope, wondrous birds, rustic fishing villages, and more
  • Absorbing breath-taking views and landscapes
  • Sharing the rhythm of life alongside gorillas and chimps.

We chose to participate in the habituation programs for both the gorillas and chimps.  This differs from the regular one hour treks that are most commonly done (both require permits).  
 
To say it was an experience of a lifetime, would be an understatement! The habituation programs allowed us to spend few hours in their midst- an experience simply beyond words.  
 
Gorillas were the highlight of our trip.  My first glimpse of the silverback moving through the dense mountain forest was electrifying, and something I will always carry with me. As you can see from our photos, we were accepted by the majestic beasts and at times they approached us within inches.

Following the chimpanzees was also deeply moving.  We lucked upon the Alpha chimp early in our trek, and followed him as he ventured through his morning in the forest, calling out to his mates, beating his chest, pounding tree trunks, feeding, contemplating, and grooming. It was pure joy when he allowed us to tag along.

These experiences were such a privilege. I was so taken by them, and by the warm and welcoming people of Uganda, that I am returning next year.  And you are invited to come along!  Join us or have us design a customized primate adventure for you.
 

My “on the go”… office!

Hopefully you can leave your work at home when you go on travel adventures but, for those who can’t, we recommend this practical and hardy, yet lightweight bag: Eagle Creek’s Straight Up Business Brief RFID.

With different sections for electronics, paperwork, and travel accessories, it keeps items organized and provides padding where it’s needed without bulk. It can be carried over the shoulder, as a backpack or strapped onto a wheeled bag.

I’ve dragged it to many countries on many an adventure, through all kinds of conditions and terrain. It’s done a great job protecting my electronics and it holds up great.  

 

10 Cool Things to Do in 28 Hours in Franschhoek in Winter

A taste of the many things on offer in the winelands!

1) Visit the art gallery and wine cellars at Glen Carlou

2) Visit local potter, Nico Liebenberg, at his workshop

3) Enjoy a fantastic lunch at Babel

4) Roam the gardens at Babylonstoren then climb “the mountain” for terrific views

5) Olive and wine tasting at La Bourgogne

6) Beer tasting at Tuk Tuk microbrewery

7) Shop for art in town and at Grand Provence

8) Hike one of our favorite trails at Mont Rochelle

9) Wine tasting at Rupert & Rothschild

and top it off with…

10) Cheese tasting at Dalewood Cheese Farm

Then back in Cape Town for sunset!

Great Luggage for Safaris

The perfect solution to those light aircraft luggage restrictions

Load Hauler Expandable

If your safari includes traveling between camps in light aircraft, you’ll need to use luggage that works within the airlines’ requirements.  The luggage compartments of these planes are limited in space and thus the need to have soft sided luggage. While some of the companies will let us get by with our beloved 22″ bags with 3 soft sides, most require that the bags be soft-sided all around and no wheels.  When wheels aren’t allowed, I’ve found Eagle Creek’s Load Hauler to be the perfect solution.  It offers the space of a duffel while providing the option of carrying it as backpack which lightens the load while traveling through airports.

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3 Favorite Active Adventures in Africa

If you’re looking for ways to be more active and adventurous in Africa, here are some great ideas for you!

 

Mountain Biking through Damaraland, Namibia

Damaraland in northwestern Namibia is home to the famous desert adapted elephant as well as some of the most spectacular landscapes known to man. Here you can cycle up ragged canyons, across rugged steppes and through petrified forests. The terrain is challenging and captivating, and for those in reasonably good condition, it is an exciting opportunity not to be missed!

Tracking chimpanzees in Mahale National Park, Tanzania

Mahale National Park in western Tanzania is a magical place, home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees. Careful hours of trekking with experienced guides leads to that incredible moment when you come upon the chimps…and suddenly they are everywhere! Sitting quietly on the forest floor, one catches a glimpse into their daily lives – their feeding, playing, squabbling foraging and grooming. Spending time with these magnificent primates is a true privilege!

Chimp trekking

Game Viewing by Microlight

Microlight flights offer a breathtaking, uninhibited and unique way to view wildlife from above and is an extremely adventurous way to discover the beauty of Africa’s game reserves (with a pilot of course!). Microlighting actually started in the 1970’s but these days the equipment is a lot more advanced and the sport has a global following! With the right wind conditions, imagine a bird’s eye view of a sunrise with troops of elephants gathering below. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Microlight

 

Keep checking the blog, more great adventure ideas coming!

 

What to Wear on Safari

We recommend packing light, wearing khaki & neutral tones  
Packing
  • Khaki and neutral tones allow us to blend in with the landscape. They’re easy to mix and match (so we pack less) and if we get dusty it doesn’t show
  • Khaki/beige shorts and shirts are also deal as they are least likely to attract the animal’s attention … and least likely to need washing.
  • We suggest comfortable clothes that are cool, but that can be layered to keep us warm in the evening or for early morning wildlife viewing. Light weight shirts and fleece pullovers are ideal. Zip off pants that turn into shorts take up less space.
  • Pack light for your trip; laundry is complimentary at most safari lodges and camps.
  • Do not bring camouflage clothing as it is not considered a fashion statement in Africa… camo might draw unwanted attention at airports or border crossings.
  • Packing with layers in mind is important. To layer while also packing light, use clothing items made with lightweight, quick-dry, versatile fabrics. They are worth the investment!
  • If you’re spending time in a large city, you might pack one “smart casual” outfit.
  • In respecting the local cultures, it is recommended that women wear a skirt or shorts that cover their knees when visiting local people in the rural area.

 

Check out our super handy Safari Packing Checklist!

Cederberg

Cederberg Hiking – the Real Deal

By Dominic Chadbon

High peaks, sun-baked ravines and wind-swept plateaus – the Cederberg mountains deliver some of the most dramatic hiking in South Africa. But its trump card is its accessibility. This kind of big-mountain hiking isn’t something you fly across remote glaciers for; the Cederberg sits an easy three-hour drive from Cape Town. Leave the city before lunch and you’ll be sitting down for supper surrounded by silent mountains.

23113176333_6df9cde938_m copyGlobal Sojourns founder Priscilla Macy wanted to put it to the test. Together with friends Jean Tucker and Stef Veldhuis, they engaged professional guide Dominic Chadbon – aka The Fynbos Guy – to show them the way.

First, there was high ground to get to. Leaving the vehicle at Algeria, the oddly-named but ever-friendly Cape Nature camp site, the group stepped out of the shade and into the sun. It was an instant reminder of the golden rule of Cederberg hiking: Prepare for Everything.

It was so hot you could see the warmth steaming off the rocks. The temperature was 35°C/95°F and the heat-addled cicadas added a shrill edge. We were ready for it but there were also feather-down clothing and thick sleeping bags in our packs. We were also carrying rain jackets and waterproof pants. It was December – early summer – but in the Cederberg you need the Full Monty.

Our first night was spent under oak trees next to Middelburg hut. There are several of these rough-and-ready mountain huts scattered throughout the Cederberg. Lined with dry straw they make an ideal refuge in bad weather and their location near water means a hike is best planned around them. We used a combination of lightweight tents, huts and plain-old sleeping under the stars – the weather usually has the last say. [Read more…]

Babylonstoren

A magical experience near Cape Town for foodies and garden lovers

We’ve found Foodie Heaven!  Babylonstoren, a Cape Dutch werf or farm yard, dating back to 1777, offers a magical experience to those who appreciate a meal fresh from the land. And this 200-hectare wineyard and working farm, set in the Drakenstein Valley only 45 minutes from Cape Town, offers a fabulous menu of other activities!

Global Sojourns can arrange a garden tour with spirited guides who understand each plot inside and out. Afterward, you’ll savor lunch from their restaurant’s ever-changing menu – featuring what’s fresh that day.  (At Babel I learned what “foodie” means!)

For those with more time, we recommend you consider experiencing Babylonstoren overnight.  The accommodations are impeccably tasteful and comfortable. The whole compound comes alive after day visitors leave. And, you can wake with the chickens to be ready for a full day of unique experiences:

• Collect eggs in the morning for breakfast
• Climb a nearby hill for an expansive view of the werf and surrounding mountains
• Canoe on the pond or lounge at the pool
• Spy on birds from boardwalks that meander through the wetlands and uncultivated terrain
• Enjoy some R & R and a massage at the spa, or visit the “beach” (surprise!)
• Pick carrots and greens to feed the mules
• Wander through peaceful gardens, orchard, vineyards and farmyards after visiting hours – you may pick and sample as you go
• Take a cellar tour to observe how they produce their delectable wines
• In late afternoon, accompany the chef to harvest fruits and vegetables for your dinner
• Enjoy a proper wine tasting or kick back and savor your favorite variety informally on your patio (my favorite is the Chenin Blanc).

“I love my job!” exclaimed the delightful man who carried out my bags at a visit’s end, reflecting the wonderful vibe at Babylonstoren.

One of our recent clients shared, “With so many things to experience in and around Cape Town it’s rare I do anything twice, but Babylonstoren is the exception. You’re met by turkeys in the parking lot, drawn in by the smells of fresh bread baking, and then get to eat the most amazing food you just saw growing in the gardens.” KH

If you’ve never known what it is to be a “foodie”, this is the place to discover with that means!


Kaingo Camp – One of Our Favorite Places

Kaingo Camp 

South Luangwa, Zambia

We are fans of Kaingo Camp for many reasons. What sets Kaingo apart from other camps is their commitment to providing clients with an outstanding game viewing experience. That is their focus and they do it really well. With so few safari camps owner run these days, and so many camps imitating each other in style, appearance and offerings, Kaingo is like a breath of fresh air. It operates with a style completely it’s own…one that is super relaxed, friendly, informative, inviting and invigorating all at once. Owners Derek and Jules are always about, making the atmosphere very informal and welcoming. They have hand-picked guides who are engaging and knowledgeable with 3 game outings daily! They will even organize for you to sleep-out at their elephant hide (pictured above).

In between game drives and guided walks, you can take advantage of the various hides which have been set up in prolific locations and are especially appealing to novice or advanced photographers. Add to this excellent cuisine, comfy accommodations and the perfect location and you have a safari camp which really stands apart from the rest in one of Zambia’s most pristine national parks.

Our favorite things about Kaingo:

  • One of the few owner run camps remaining in South Luangwa which is such a treat
  • Owners Derek and Jules are very hands-on and have created a team passionate about the bush and making it special for all visitors
  • Relaxed, informal, friendly atmosphere while providing all the comforts one could want
  • Set in an outstanding, game rich area
  • Great guides who are tuned into needs of photographers
  • And… they are serious about their game viewing: offering 3 outings a day (rather than two which is customary of most camps) and have various hides that one can visit to observe behavior and take photos

 

Here’s what a recent client had to say about her stay at Kaingo:

“I loved Kaingo! It has the perfect balance of wildlife, comfortable accommodations, fantastic guides, delicious (and plentiful!) food, and the most gracious hosts you’ll find – in the bush or out.” KH

Check out this video and click on the slideshow below.

What is the best time of the year to go on safari in Southern Africa? (hint: when you are available to go!)

IMG_5911 copyWe love going on safari. We love sending clients on safari. Many people mistakenly think there is a good time or a bad time of year to visit the bush. Not so! Each season – each month – offers surprises and unique opportunities depending on your priorities and interests.
 
For example, the dry season (July-Aug-Sep-Oct) offers:

  • IMG_1192 copygreater quantity of wildlife
  • drier climate
  • thinner & more open bush (animals easier to spot)
  • incredible sunsets
  • cooler temperatures in July & August
  • fewer water sources = higher concentrations of animals
  • more intense wildlife viewing
  •  
    Downside: high demand, premium prices, wind (August), high temps (Oct/Nov), parks & airports are busier, wildlife can be stressed searching for water
     
    In comparison, the green season (Dec-Jan-Feb-Mar) offers:

  • Chongwe River Houselush, green vegetation
  • great birding
  • quieter camps = more exclusivity
  • special deals
  • great photographic opportunities
  • fewer people
  • lots of animals having babies
  • warmer temps
  • longer days
  •  
    Downside: afternoon rains, can be buggy/more mosquitoes, muddy roads and trails
     
    The shoulder months are exciting as well! It all depends on good guides, your priorities, and having realistic expectations about what you will see and experience. Expect less, be surprised by more. What is important to you? Quantity of wildlife? Quality of experience? Photographic opportunities? For example, several of our clients who have visited Africa on multiple occasions prefer to go on safari in May. Often you can get shoulder season rates, the rains have ended, the animals are getting easier to find and the parks still aren’t crowded. Through our Safari Planner, we help you to prioritize and focus on what you want to get out of the safari experience. For us, the most important thing is to increase your understanding and match your expectations with reality. This is where Global Sojourns really excels.