Africa

  • Top Southern Africa Activities

    Southern Africa is known mostly for its beautiful landscapes, friendly people, wild animals, and of course “The Smoke That Thunders” Victoria Falls. Some may already be aware; however Southern Africa is also home to a wide variety of adventure activities. Check out what tops my own list below.

    Victoria Falls: Southern Africa Activity Capital

    Gorge Swing | Photo Credit: Gorge Swing

    Gorge Swing | Photo Credit: Gorge Swing

    Starting in Victoria Falls, the extreme sport capital of Africa, you will be able to find a multitude of options located just minutes from Victoria Falls. Incredible white water rafting is only minutes from the area. Featuring grade five rapids, it is some of the best rafting in the world. Even more intense is the Gorge Swing. Located about 400 feet above the Batoka Gorge, the adrenaline rush from this 230-foot free fall is one of the most daring of all the African adventure activities.

    A Swim With The Sharks

    Sharks | Photo Credit: Lagoonarium

    Sharks | Photo Credit: Lagoonarium

    Heading down south, Cape Town is no slouch with the Southern Africa activities offered in this area. Their options may not be as dare devilish or high flying; however, Shark Cage Diving is high on many bucket lists. Located off the coast of Cape Town in either False Bay or Gansbaai, which is a two-hour drive along the coast, those brave enough can jump into the Atlantic Ocean with these beautiful creatures. June and July are the best months to see the Great Whites while they are hunting Cape Fur seal pups, however a variety of these predators can be seen year-round.

    Family Friendly Adventure

    Sandboarding | Photo Credit: Sandboarding

    Sandboarding | Photo Credit: Sandboarding

    For a more family friendly Southern Africa adventure activities, look no further than right outside of Cape Town. I highly recommend sandboarding on the Atlantic Dunes. This beautiful drive is approximately 50 minutes north west of the city. As a half day experience, it is great for active families traveling with children. This soft white sand can reach up to 165 feet in height which can help get the adrenaline flowing while cruising down the dune. This majestic white sand dunes also offer activities such as ATV’s, 4×4 riding and quad bikes.

    If you are looking for an adrenaline rush with a stunning backdrop, look no further than Southern Africa. The activities, much like the people, landscapes, and wildlife, are unforgettable.

    March 11, 2020 • Africa, Articles, Kevin Murray, Travels, Uncategorized • Views: 331

  • Gorilla Trekking: My Rwandan Adventure

    I can confirm that after a combined 400 or so safari experiences across the African continent, our gorilla trekking adventure was second to none. For Ian and I, the trek was as emotional of an encounter as we have ever experienced in travel.

    Gorilla Trekking Lodges

    Our gorilla trekking adventure took place in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. A country teeming with biodiversity, Rwanda is absolutely gorgeous and tourism plays a vital role in keeping it so. We stayed for three nights at the newly-built, conservation-focused Singita Kwitonda Lodge. Locally-sourced bricks and volcanic rock comprise the lodge’s walls and a mechanical ventilation system replaces carbon-heavy air conditioning. Yet, these are but a few of the elements that make Kwitonda special. Stunning views of volcanoes greeted us through ceiling high windows and an outdoor fireplace made for a cozy spot. We spent our last two nights at the brand new One&Only Gorillas Nest. That accommodation, featuring an indoor fireplace and bathtub on the deck, was superb as well.

    Singita Kwitonda Lodge | Photo Credit: Linda Swain

    Singita Kwitonda Lodge | Photo Credit: Linda Swain

    The Gorilla Trek

    I will say there is nothing quite like being touched by a mountain gorilla. Of course, mine was a baby gorilla who wanted to show me how he had mastered vine twirling. Whereas Ian received a much firmer pat from Agasha, the King Silverback of this jungle. It served as a reminder that that it was he, and not Ian, who was the alpha in this family. Regardless, we were not afraid during our interactions due to our knowledgeable guides. They ensured that we kept a safe, regulated distance from the gorillas. Fortunately, mountain gorillas are gentle, playful and familial creatures. I felt, overwhelmingly, that they were our kindred spirits. Overall, gorilla trekking was fun, adventurous and something we will never forget.

    Mountain Gorilla | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Mountain Gorilla | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Keeping Them Safe

    Over the past few years, the mountain gorilla population has grown by the hundreds while poaching has dropped to zero in Rwanda. Tourism fuels these efforts by helping support the habitats of gorillas and the communities around them. This is imperative because mountain gorillas cannot survive out of this altitude and habitat. Fortunately, the communities keep them involved in conserving the population, even participating in naming the gorilla babies. Their involvement is key to the stability of the gorilla’s existence. Rwanda has got it right when it comes to gorillas, tourism and the environment. Gorilla trekking not only provides you with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it also helps this incredible species survive.

    There is never a better time to venture to Rwanda and experience the beautiful people, some of the world’s best new lodges and of course, the amazing mountain gorillas. We absolutely love them all!

    Linda and Ian Swain | Photo Credit: Linda and Ian Swain

    Linda and Ian Swain | Photo Credit: Linda and Ian Swain

    February 3, 2020 • Africa, Linda Swain • Views: 1270

  • My First Great Migration in Africa

    The Great Migration in Africa will give you goosebumps. Millions of animals moving clockwise, following the rain and the promise of food and water. The Great Migration is an ancient practice and to see it is to see the circle of life unfold right before your very eyes. In Kenya, that is precisely what I saw.

    The Great Migration Begins

    The Great Migration in Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    The Great Migration in Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    I raised my camera when I saw them all begin to move toward the river. We had stood for hours in the back of open roofed truck observing the great herd, watching them wade through the oceans of Kenyan tallgrass. It was in those hours of anticipation of the Great Migration—and instinctual practice of these animals that was as old as time itself–that I developed a bond with the herd. And then the migration began. It happened all around us.

    Into the River

    The Great Migration in Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    The Great Migration in Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    The herd streamed past the vehicle and I felt wonder as I watched the primal practice play out before my very eyes. The wildebeest and zebra leapt into the river and water lapped across the banks in torrents. I trained my camera and snapped as many photos as I could. But my eye was drawn to something moving along the water’s edge on the other side of the river. Crocodiles were gathering, massive but quiet. Excitement faded to concern but they stayed still. This too was part of the Great Migration experience.

    The Circle of Life

    The Great Migration in Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    The Great Migration in Kenya | Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    It was not until the tail end of the herd entered the river that the crocodiles slid into the murky water. The zebra and wildebeest at the rear—the weakest of the herd—struggled across the river. There was an eruption of muddy water and crocodile clamped its jaw shut on one of the herd and disappeared back below the water line with the animal struggling in its teeth. This was that great circle of life playing before me, one that was raw and without reservation. One that was undeniably brutal and beautiful at the same time. An experience entirely unique to Africa.

    The Great Migration is life at its most visceral and raw. This struggle for survival breeds violence and beauty that you can not only see but can feel. My first Great Migration was a humbling and life-affirming experience that allowed me to see something I will never forget. I look forward to my second migation soon.

    January 15, 2020 • Africa, Articles, Destinations, Ian Swain II, Travels • Views: 2755

  • 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 a Honeymoon on Safari in Africa?

    Honeymoon on Safari in South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Honeymoon on Safari in 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

    Honeymoon on Safari in South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Honeymoon on Safari in 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

    Honeymoon on Safari in South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Honeymoon on Safari in 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.

    Honeymoon on Safari in South Africa | Photo Credit: Jacqui McDonald

    Honeymoon on Safari in 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 for another safari.

     

    November 18, 2019 • Africa, Jacqui McDonald, Travels • Views: 1804

  • 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: 1501

  • 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: 1100