Africa

  • Honeymoon on Safari

    When it came time to plan a honeymoon, the choice was easy. Africa. Most honeymooners crave a respite after the madness of their wedding day, opting for a relaxing beach vacation. While a few days on the beach did seem appealing, we instead chose a safari-infused excursion into the African bush. Here is why we will never regret our honeymoon on safari.

    Why Africa?

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    My husband and I were drawn for many reasons. First, we have the good fortune of having friends who immigrated from Africa and, with the way they speak of their former home, it’s impossible to not want to visit. Second, my husband and I wanted a cultural experience. We wanted to learn about this stunning land and the its wonderful people. We’ve always preferred to be on the move during our travels which is why safaris and game drives appealed to us more than beach days. Undoubtedly, the wildlife was the biggest denominator in deciding to take a honeymoon on safari. We pined to see the iconic African wildlife. We grew up seeing elephants, lions, and, giraffes only in zoos, so when the opportunity to see them in the wild presented itself we jumped at the chance.

    The Honeymoon Moments

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    What makes a honeymoon moment in Africa? Well for one, it is the lodges. We received incredibly warm welcomes wherever we stayed and the realtionships we developed with our hosts made leaving so very difficult. Bottles of champagne awaited us in our accommodations and we were treated like long lost friends. What’s more, at Singita we were surprised with a sundowner honeymoon meal. The manager of the property arranged for us to eat dinner alfresco while watching the sun set into the African plains. Having paid attention to our preferences during our stay, our favorite dishes and drinks were provided to us. Sharing a silent sunset with my husband made our honeymoon on safari unforgettable.

    A Safari and a Cruise

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    On our first safari, we set out to find six-week-old lion cubs that had just been born from two lionesses of the main pride. However, our plans changed when we came upon a wandering elephant. Our guide stopped our safari vehicle and the elephant slowly approached. The elephant, a young male, turned and locked eyes with every person in the safari vehicle. This was the moment that changed me. There was something so overwhelming about being so close to these gentle creatures that I, along with the rest of the guests, teared up. It felt as though the elephant stared into the soul of each of us and touched us. It was a feeling that I still think about now and one that will never leave me.

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    In Africa, everything and everyone feels connected. Animals and peoples are integrated in a way that is remarkable. People are a part of the natural world instead of being apart from it and that is what made my honeymoon on safari special. To look out over the plains and simply be present along with my husband, away from wifi, emails, and stress. Africa is a different world and we cannot wait to return.

     

    November 18, 2019 • Africa, Jacqui McDonald, Travels • Views: 39

  • African Proposal: My Trip to Eastern Africa

    In Africa you can disconnect from the world at large and enjoy what is right in front of you. It is this quality of simply “being” that drew me to the continent. It is also why, on my most recent trip to the continent, that I decided to propose to my partner. Here is how my African proposal went.

    A Sobering Start to the African Proposal

    Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    The trip began with gorilla trekking in Rwanda at the gorgeous Volcanoes National Park. We hiked through a volcanic forest and then came upon a family of gorillas. I froze. First, the majestic creatures gazed at us and then, finally, they approached us. One of little ones actually reached out and touched me. It was a sobering experience. These creatures, facing the threat of extinction, are not that much different than us. Moreover, gorilla trekking is an activity that directly benefits the conservation of both the species and the natural habitat. And, to be able to share this life-affirming experience with my partner made it all the more special.

    The Great Migration

    Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    You never feel more alive than when you are reminded that life is always in question. In Kenya, the Great Migration is a testament to this question and to see it answered live gave me goosebumps. Every year, millions of zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle migrate across Tanzania and Kenya in search of food and water. The river crossings are treacherous, the water teeming with crocodiles and the banks patrolled by lions, and to see a crossing is to be reminded of the great circle of life. In the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, we sat transfixed by the sight. Loud, violent, intense, and transfixing to see, the experience served as a reminder that life is thrilling but unpredicable. A rollercoaster ride that we have little control over, I took solace in hoping that by the end of this African proposal trip that I would never again have to face it alone.

    The African Proposal

    Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    We ventured out to the bush to a small community of family homes. The families greeted us warmly and showed us the fences they tended to which kept out wildlife. After a nice dance off with some of the family members, our guide and driver took us on a “private tour.” This was part of the proposal that the guide and driver had helped me plan. I trusted them and they came through, picking out a gorgeous overlook that provided a perfect backdrop for the proposal. Champagne was set out on a table. All that remained was for me to take a knee and ask the question that had brought us to Africa. I asked and she said yes.

    Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    My African proposal trip is one that I will never forget. While I was able to disconnect from the world at large, I was able to connect with my partner forever. For that, I will always be grateful to this continent where the next chapter of my life began.

    November 18, 2019 • Africa, Ian Swain II, Travels • Views: 276

  • The Splendor of Victoria Falls

    When is the best time to visit Victoria Falls? Is it better to view the falls on the Zambia or Zimbabwe side?

    Victoria Falls | Photo Credit: Tourism Zambia

    Victoria Falls | Photo Credit: Tourism Zambia

    Victoria Falls

    As a consultant, these are two questions I am always asked. The first one is an easy answer. The best time to view Victoria Falls is February to May. This is when you can witness the largest waterfall in the world at its fullest. My answer to the second question was the Zambia side as I was born in Livingstone, Zambia. However, that answer changed after my trip to Zimbabwe in May 2019. Let me tell you why.

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Herds of elephants greeted us along the banks, there was the familiar smell of the mighty Zambezi River in the air, and in the distance, we saw the spray of Victoria Falls.

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    Victoria Falls River Lodge

    Victoria Falls River Lodge is set on the banks of the Zambezi River within the Zambezi National Park (Zimbabwe).  After we arrived, staff greeted us and whisked us into the main area. A refreshing welcome drink waited for us, along with cool, lavender scented towels. After, a brief orientation of the property followed and then we were treated to an amazing lunch.

    We were fortunate to stay one night in the Luxury Tented Suites and one night in the Island Treehouse Suites. The thatched, Beautiful Luxury Tented suites have air conditioning and a private deck. Your personal plunge pool looks out to the Zambezi River. In the mornings, you can sit on the your private deck, sipping on tea and watching the sun rise. You can hear the river and the roaming wildlife as well. Also, included in your stay are all meals and local beverages.

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Lodge Activities

    We took advantage of the spa on our first afternoon. I have been to many spas in the USA, but the massage by these young ladies was by far the best that I have ever had. The gorgeous scenery and complete realxation probably had something to do with it. I highly recommend getting a spa treatment during your stay. And, the activities included during your stay at Victoria Falls River Lodge are fantastic. You cannot go wrong with either the Tour of Victoria Falls or Bird Watching. There are also two additional game activities – a choice of either a morning or afternoon game drive in the Zambezi National Park, and a sunrise or sunset river cruise.

    We spent our last night at the Island Treehouse suites and it was special. The lodge lies in a secluded area along the banks of the Zambezi River. There are four exclusive Treehouse Suites and two double story tree house suites with a private deck and plunge pool nestled among the treetops on a private island. The island has its own dining-area so guests have personalized service along with fine dining.  The lodge manager Peter and his staff work around the clock to ensure your stay is relaxing, enjoyable, and unforgettable. If you have an opportunity to sit down with Peter for a drink, you absolutely should. He has lots of interesting stories.

    Zambezi River Cruise | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Zambezi River Cruise | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Zambezi River Cruise

    As the saying goes, “there is no sunset like an African sunset.” Our sunset cruise on the Zambezi River was proof. We enjoyed the sights of other sunset boats, sipped on a gin and tonic at sundown, and got that chilling feeling you get after you see 10 Hippos frolicking in the river close to your boat.

    Conclusion

    Zimbabwe casts a spell on you. With its ample wildlife, stunning lodges, and gorgeous river sunsets, the country draws you in, making it impossible to not feel affected by what you’ve seen. From February to May, the epicenter of this magic is Victoria Falls. Having seen the falls from Zambia my whole life, I did not think it could look any more powerful and awe-inspiring. But then I saw it from Zimbabwe. At full roar, I knew that I was witnessing a natural wonder that was unmatched. Just like the rest of Zimbabwe.

    October 1, 2019 • Africa, Smruti Smith, Travels • Views: 694

  • The Ultimate Safari Guide

    Safari Gear | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Safari Gear | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Figuring out what to wear on safari may seem daunting. Many travelers assume that technical gear is required, but your favorite baseball cap, broken-in boots and comfy tees are perfectly sufficient. Absolutely browse your closet before splurging on a new wardrobe. Though if you decide that you need some updates, invest in everyday basics that you’ll wear again.

    Layers are key. Most game drives start before the sun is up, so you’ll want a jacket and pants for the brisk mornings. By midday, you’ll be comfortable lounging around camp in a t-shirt and shorts. As dusk approaches, the temperature begins to drop again.

    Start off with a tank top or t-shirt, add a second layer such as a lightweight sweater or linen long sleeve shirt and top it off with a jacket or vest. Long pants are the best option. A scarf is handy to protect you from the wind and dust. It also adds an extra layer of warmth for those chilly mornings and evenings. Luxury camps even offer blankets and hot water bottles to keep you cozy.

    On Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    On Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    The Essentials

    Aim for minimalist, versatile pieces. Dark colors attract heat so it’s best to stick with neutrals. Plus, it makes it even easier to mix and match. Tan, cream, gray, pastel and green fabrics are best.

    Basics for Layering

    • Tank tops & t-shirts – lightweight, sweat-wicking fabrics are ideal
    • Long sleeve shirts – linen shirts, button downs, light sweaters, athletic quarter zip shirts, etc.
    • Jacket – you won’t want to take your eyes off the landscape, so you’ll want certain items to be within reach. A jacket with pockets for necessities such as lip balm, tissues and your cell phone is helpful
    • Vest – a vest that you can stow in your backpack is a great investment
    • Breathable pants – linen trousers, synthetic joggers, light sweatpants, convertible pants, etc. A little stretch in the fabric is always nice
    • Loose shorts – wear them while lounging at camp during the day
    Elephant Encounter | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Elephant Encounter | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Handy Accessories

    • Comfortable boots or sneakers – it’s nice to have your ankles covered if they’re susceptible to  bug bites, so boots or high-top sneakers are useful
    • Hat – bring a wide brim safari style hat or a fitted baseball cap. You’ll want a hat that’s tight enough that it won’t fly off your head during the game drives
    • Scarf – a pashmina scarf is perfect to wrap around your shoulders for added warmth and protection
    • Backpack – pack sunglasses, sunscreen, extra water, binoculars, camera gear, chargers, bug spray and wet wipes
    Swain Destinations Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Swain Destinations Safari | Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Ultimately, wear what you are most comfortable in!

    Luggage restrictions for smaller charter flights are typically around 33 pounds inclusive of hand luggage, but don’t be too concerned! The complimentary laundry service at most camps have a quick turnaround so you may rock the same outfits day after day.

    Visit the Swain Destinations Online Travel Store to find the items you may need for your upcoming adventure!

    April 4, 2019 • Africa, Kathryn Fischer, Travels • Views: 1569

  • From Camera Lens to Cover Page

    Each year, we take on an expansive search to find the perfect images for our annual Travel Catalogs. Our goal is to find imagery that captures each destination’s beauty and mystery, while inspiring wonder and excitement to travel!

    After searching through countless stunning images, we became captivated by these three beautiful photos from Johan Lolos’ portfolio. Johan Lolos, a native Belgian, is a self-taught photographer that travels the world capturing breathtaking moments in time.

    Just as important as the image, is the story behind it. Follow the journey below.

    Can you tell us the story behind each image?

    Africa Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Africa Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Africa: Namibia

    I took that photo about a year ago in Namibia. It is an interesting story. I was in Namibia for a personal project – I just wanted to go to Africa to experience a safari. I got in touch with a private reserve called Erindi and stayed for a week. Every day we would go on an early morning game drive to spot wildlife. The drives lasted all day. I took a few great images that I’m very proud of, but that specific image of the elephants, I took from the restaurant at the lodge.

    Basically, the lodge is inside the reserve and from the balcony of the restaurant you can see a part of the reserve with water ponds. The ponds draw in elephants, giraffes and other kinds of wildlife. One morning I was having breakfast with no intention of taking photos due to light that day. Then, I saw this family of elephants coming from far away. They were walking towards the water ponds, so I quickly grabbed my tele-zoom lens and started to take photos of them. I was very happy with the results. Spending a week in that reserve is one of my best memories and I would love to go back.

    South Pacific Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    South Pacific Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    South Pacific: Victoria, Australia

    This photo was taken five years ago in early 2014. At the time, I was living in Australia after graduating school in Belgium. I had bought a one-way ticket so I could spend a year there. I lived in Melbourne for a few months where I mostly worked, nothing exciting. Then January 2014, I went on my first big travel mission, not as a photographer. I wanted to do the Great Ocean Road, and my friends and I rented a car for a three-day road trip. We, of course, stopped at the Twelve Apostles where I took a few photos. It was the very first time my images went viral online when National Geographic reposted one of my photos.

    At the time, Instagram was just beginning to get popular and I figured it would be a great opportunity to make a living out of it. I saw that NatGeo, every Wednesday, would repost images from followers who used their hashtag – #NatGeoTravelPic. My goal was to be featured. Every photo I posted, I was using that hashtag and one day, they shared my photo of the Twelve Apostles. I completely freaked out and woke everyone up to show them. I went from a few hundred followers to a few thousand followers overnight. That’s how everything started for me.

    Asia Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Asia Cover | Photo Credit: Johan Lolos

    Asia and India: Myanmar

    This photo was taken in Myanmar in April 2018. The woman in the photo is my partner, Delphine. We had gone on a three-week trip and it was my first big photography trip in Asia. I had spent a week in Bali before, but nothing beyond that. I had never been in Southeast Asia before. It was a private project mostly about having fun and discovering new cultures. When we visited Bagan, my goal was to shoot one of the famous temples.

    I began looking around to try and find a more remote temple with less tourists. So many people come to watch the sunrise or sunset over the temples. My mission was to find, through Google Maps, one remote temple so Delphine and I could enjoy the sunrise. In the distance, we could see the famous balloons soaring over the temples. It was an amazing view.

    Finding a remote temple was not easy because there are so many temples in Bagan – upwards of 5,000! The biggest ones were famous so there were hundreds of tourists there every day. I wanted to not only find a remote temple, but also find a temple with a nice view. Not all of them offer the best views. However, every year, Myanmar is more restrictive with entry to the temples. In 2017, the Myanmar government shut down all access to temples. It is almost completely forbidden to climb the temples for safety and conservation reasons. Currently the Bagan temples are not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so the new rules are to increase the chances that Bagan will be included on that list. I was lucky enough to find a temple that was not fenced off which is how I was able to take the photo.

    Follow Johan Lolos on Instagram

    February 8, 2019 • Africa, Asia, Australia, Interviews • Views: 1069

  • Gentle Giants of the Bushveld

    Africa is a place of enchantment. The power and pure energy of this ancient land and its inhabitants is palpable. As I cruise along an unpaved road, I scan the horizon for civilization and instead spot countless impalas, warthogs and giraffes. A refreshing breeze whips through my hair as the late afternoon sun warms me.

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    A Meeting with the Elephants

    With an abrupt stop, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, my field guide, Jason, instructs me to hop out of the vehicle. Camp Jabulani‘s Elephant manager, Tigere, greets me with a genuine smile. He asks if I am nervous about meeting the world’s largest land animal. I respond quickly, “of course not”; there’s no possible way for me to be anxious due to Tigere’s calm demeanor. With ten years of experience under his belt, I trust that he will keep me safe in this unfamiliar environment.

    We wait patiently in the middle of the open savannah near a fallen Acacia tree. Four tons of sheer mass silently approaches us. His name is Jabulani. I gently walk towards this humongous creature and place my hand on his trunk. Coarse bristles and hardened mud cover his wrinkly skin. He has scraggly eyelashes and human-like eyes. There’s an instant sense of mutual appreciation and respect.

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    I dump pellets of grain into Jabulani’s trunk and his hot breath fogs my sunglasses. His trunk twists and turns in every direction. The elephant’s strength, compassion and intelligence intrigues me. I am in awe of every moment. After Jabulani finishes two canvas sacks of food, his caretaker escorts him back into the bushveld. My soul is bursting with gratitude for this deeply personal interaction.

    “Where would we be without this herd of elephants? Two days will stand out in my mind as long as I live. The day that Jabulani arrived as a tiny baby – terrified and on the brink of death. And the day that the rest of the herd arrived and welcomed Jabulani as one of their own.” – Founder of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC), Lente Roode.

    The Roode family, owners of HECS and Camp Jabulani, adopted these helpless elephants and now offer them a sustainable home. The love for these elephants is at the core of HECS and Camp Jabulani and is the purpose for their existence.

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Life at the Camp

    Camp Jabulani’s work with these orphaned animals is intertwined in the design of the camp. Elephant emblems adorn the pillows, coasters and walls. Seven villas overlook the dry riverbed. Each villa is fitted with canopy beds, mahogany furniture, cozy fireplaces and exquisite craft pieces such as colorfully beaded African dolls. These accents are handcrafted by local artisans and mixed with heirloom pieces. It immediately makes you feel at home.

    Due to the intimate size of the camp, you get to know staff members and fellow travelers right away. Oil lanterns and a bonfire provide for a traditional South Africa braai (barbecue). Locals pop by to sing soulful songs and dance under the starry sky.

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    Photo Credit: Kathryn Fischer

    As intrepid travelers, the Roode family offers the unique adventures that we crave. The passion of those who work in this special part of the world is profound and inspires all who have had the privilege to experience it. Guests of Camp Jabulani are actively contributing to the well-being of these magnificent animals. This creates personal fulfillment and enriches memories to last a lifetime.

    December 11, 2018 • Africa, Destinations, Kathryn Fischer, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 1648