Africa

  • Exploring African Wildlife and Culture

    I can still remember my first time flying from the craziness of an African city out onto safari in those small propeller planes. With the hustle and bustle of the city behind you, you prepare for the unknown adventure ahead.

    Botswana

    On this particular trip, we were circling an airstrip near the Okavanga Delta area of Botswana. I was wondering why we were not landing when the pilot turned and let us know that the local guides were busy chasing a herd of elephants off the runway and we should be able to land once they pass. It finally hit me that this is the real thing – not a zoo, not a wildlife park – this is Africa. Once we finally landed, the safari experience began!

    Photo Credit: Botswana Tourism

    Photo Credit: Botswana Tourism

    Safari Experience

    The morning flew by with one wonder after another. Warthogs running off in the distance with their tails in the air, lions chewing on an evening prey or lying in the grass protecting their meal. The giraffes are munching along from tree top to tree top. One of the most beautiful sights was when a huge adult giraffe ambled toward a watering hole and slowly crouched down, knees buckling, and took a drink.

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    The next day we hadn’t seen any giraffes, which was odd since they are usually everywhere. The trackers that join you on safari are incredibly knowledgeable and they had the most fascinating answer: there was a small brush fire a few miles away and the giraffes can smell the burning. We all thought they would be rushing in the opposite direction, but no! Giraffes love the taste of the leaves that have been ‘caramelized’ at the edge.

    You will discover many amazing aspects of wildlife in Africa. While lounging on the Zambezi River, a huge bull elephant came to take a drink – so we thought. He walked up to the river and looked out across the landscape before slowly wading into the river. He swam across to the small islands dotting the river, but he did not stop there. Lunging up and down, trunk in the air, he swam from one country to the other! The elephant swam from Botswana to Zambia and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I had no idea an elephant could swim!

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    South Africa

    I like to suggest ending an Africa travel experience in Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is a relaxed city by the bay with great last-minute shopping and is perfect for taking time to remember all of the amazing safari adventures you’ve had on your trip. Perhaps you’ll have time for one more incredible learning experience by taking a tour of Robben Island just off the coast.

    Photo Credit: South Africa Tourism

    Photo Credit: South Africa Tourism

    Robben Island

    Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison and 18 of those years were here in an eight by seven-foot cell which you can tour and visit. Even taking the two-hour ferry ride from the mainland is a journey through a historical struggle for equality. It is very emotional as each of the tour guides were once prisoners here. They share their stories, show images of their meager ration cards and explain the daily routine. Though very painful memories to share, they also add the hopeful stories and memories they had of Mandela – the kind and gentle president. Our guide said he and many others – even guards – helped smuggle in his children over the years or helped send his messages to the outside world. You’ll come away, once again as Africa seems to always do, changed and a better, more compassionate person than you came.

    Photo Credit: Tourism South Africa

    Photo Credit: Tourism South Africa

    This is Africa

    I’m always telling my friends, “Just go!”

    Yes, it may sound complicated and intimidating at first, but shove those worries down and make it happen. It will truly change you – make you appreciate the simple aspects in life, appreciate the land and our planet, take care of others and give what you can. Once again, Africa changes you.

    I grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California which is fondly known as the raisin capital of the world, yes my dad harvested for Sun Maid. Finishing college I spent leisure time working at a ski resort and soon leading tours with Contiki Holidays where the travel bug really hit. Moving into sales of my favorite countries like Australia, New Zealand and Africa, Swain Destinations was a perfect fit and I’ve enjoyed being a part of this family owned company for 12 years. As I always say, ‘the journey is the reward’.

    October 2, 2018 • Africa, Cory Payton, Travels • Views: 257

  • Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    Founded in the early 2000s with the intention of providing orphaned and hurt rhinos with a secure environment, Care for Wild has grown into the largest rhino sanctuary in the world. We spoke with Dorota Ladosz from Care for Wild about how they promote conservation in the travel industry.

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    There seems to be a special bond between humans and African wildlife. What do you think contributes to this? What are some attributes of African wildlife continuing to fascinate and draw guests to your experience?

    “Often people see the wild freedom in wildlife and it evokes the feel-good feeling in them. People enjoy watching wildlife doing their natural thing and being care-free. People want to be able to enjoy the beauty and energy of the wild African bush, whether it is a bird of prey in a thorn tree or a baby rhino hopping about near its mom – people want that freedom. Being able to see all these beautiful wild things, first-hand, is an experience that is enjoyed time and time again.”

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    How does this kind of conservation travel create better travelers? Do you think there is a bigger impact when people can see these animals first-hand?

    “When a person experiences the raw, wild beauty of African wildlife, they learn to appreciate the world around them. For example, seeing a pride of lions drinking from a river during a drought may teach and encourage a traveler to conserve water and use it more wisely. By experiencing first-hand the basic necessities of the wild, it stirs an emotional feeling which is often more powerful than any digital advert or billboard. Conservation Travel touches a person on a deeper level.”

    What kind of research and with what kind of animals do you work with? Can you cite a specific example of successful wildlife conservation programming?

    “Care for Wild is the largest rhino sanctuary in the world. All rhinos that are orphaned through poaching in Kruger National Park in South Africa are taken to Care for Wild. They are cared for, rehabilitated and reintroduced back into the wild. Research on successful rehabilitation and future release back into the wild is being done daily. The orphans are weighed and monitored regularly with minimal human contact to ensure the successful release. Having access to the records on the orphans and information on rhinos, their rehabilitation and biology is growing tremendously. Even during the reintroduction phase, the rhino monitors and rangers record vital information on their behavior. All of this information helps save many more orphaned, injured or abandoned rhinos and thus helping save the species from extinction.”

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    How can travelers help in the quest to end poaching of African wildlife?

    “Care for Wild is also a wildlife sanctuary that rescues, rehabilitates and releases all kinds of wildlife. As a non-profit organization, Care for Wild depends on donations and sponsors to keep the animals fed, healthy, comfortable and safe from poachers. There are a variety of options available for anyone who wants to help the wildlife. One option is to volunteer and work hands-on with the injured, abandoned or orphaned animals. There are also various options to send donations such as PayPal, check donations, direct bank deposits and even purchasing animal groceries on the ‘Rhino Market’ online grocery store. You can also sponsor an orphaned rhino where you can enjoy the benefits of regular updates on the progress of the rhino. Travelers can also share their experiences and act as ambassadors – to spread awareness on the poaching crisis happening every day.”

    What is your favorite part of working with these animals?

    “Being able to see these wild animals up close and being able to connect with them makes a person humble. Caring for orphaned, injured abandoned animals gives a great feeling of accomplishment. It makes you feel good to do something to change a life for the better. You are giving another life a second chance and hope for the future that will be as wild and free as Africa itself. Often people think caring for animals will make a positive impact on the animals’ life, but that injured animal heals the people that work with them instead. There is a mutual benefit when working in conserving wildlife. By making a difference in one life, you can be making a difference in more lives than you think. We are all connected in nature and it all begins in Africa!”

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    Photo Credit: Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary

    September 11, 2018 • Africa, Interviews • Views: 3195

  • Insider Tips for South Africa

    My Favorite Lodges

    Selati Pool | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Selati Camp

    Selati Pool | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Selati Camp

    Safari Deck | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

    Safari Deck | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

    The Sabi Sabi Lodges are located on a private concession in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. This private reserve has been offering amazing safari encounters for 35 years. Clients also have a choice of four very different and luxurious accommodation options. They have a romantic, vintage feel at Selati Camp. The truly traditional feel of today at Bush Lodge. The more intimate Little Bush Lodge and Earth Lodge symbolize a new era of lodges for South Africa! A stay at any one of these lodges will offer superb, personalized service with a phenomenal close-up encounter.

    Suite Exterior | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp

    Suite Exterior | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp

    Fire Pit | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

    Fire Pit | Photo Credit: Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

    Tintswalo Safari Lodge is located in the Manyeleti Game Reserve. This little gem offers guests totally luxury in a magical setting. Each of the suites has a different African explorer theme bringing in a colonial feel with an extra touch of elegance. Guests are often treated to a view of elephants wandering into camp for a drink of water. You can even have an elephant visit during lunch or tea!

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Tintswalo Safari Lodge

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Tintswalo Safari Lodge

    Safari Dining | Photo Credit: Tintswalo Safari Lodge

    Safari Dining | Photo Credit: Tintswalo Safari Lodge

    Some Quick African Tips

    • Safaris are a major part of any itinerary to South Africa, therefore, it is important that visitors understand they are watching wild animals. Rangers will always give you a briefing before heading out on your first game drive, so be sure to listen and adhere to their guidelines!
    • Never call out to the animals to attract their attention and remain seated at all times.
    • It is always a good idea to take a small backpack to keep your camera, sunscreen, bug spray and other essentials.
    • Always listen to your rangers!
    • No visit to Cape Town is complete without a trip on the Cable Car to the top of Table Mountain. Try to visit first thing in the morning and always check to see if the cable car is running as the weather could affect this. Since it can get windy at the top, be sure to bring some type of jacket. And don’t forget your camera – the photo opportunities are excellent!

    Howzit! I was born in Durban (South Africa), where I started my travel career in 1998. I worked for one of the largest Inbound Tour Operators in Southern Africa before moving to North America in 2006 to work for Swain Destinations. Apart from traveling, I love getting to know people from different walks of life and learning about history and cultures.

    May 23, 2018 • Africa, Anne Ferguson, Articles, Destinations, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 3799

  • A Look Into Our Africa Office

    We sat down with Deidre, the operations manager for our inbound Africa office, to ask a few questions about our Africa office. Deidre has worked in the travel industry for some time now and has gained invaluable knowledge and experience customizing itineraries for clients visiting Southern Africa. Deidre has traveled around South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe while experiencing amazing wildlife, culture and food. We’ve asked Deidre a few questions so you can get to know our Africa team better.

    What is your background?

    “I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, where I currently reside. I have been in the travel industry for 13 years. I’ve worked with Swain Destinations for 2.5 years.”

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: The Silo

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: The Silo

    What is your most memorable time meeting with clients?

    “My most memorable time meeting with a client was when I met her on arrival at Cape Town International Airport with roses. This trip was to celebrate her milestone birthday and it happened to be her birthday when she arrived in Cape Town. I wanted to do something special for her. The client was pleasantly surprised by the gesture and appreciated it greatly.”

    What is your favorite restaurant in Cape Town?

    “First, most clients would like to dine at The Test Kitchen, although my favorite would have to be Kloof Street House. Something I have done recently with my family was an informal “farm-to-picnic basket” lunch at Boschendal Wine Estate. We got to relax with picnic baskets, hammocks and beanbags with spectacular views of the mountain range.”

    Kloof Street House | Photo Credit: Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel

    Kloof Street House | Photo Credit: Cape Cadogan Boutique Hotel

    Mountain Picnic | Photo Credit: Savanna Private Game Reserve

    Mountain Picnic | Photo Credit: Savanna Private Game Reserve

    What are some insider tips when traveling to South Africa?

    “Explore Cape Town by Sidecars – this is a phenomenal way to see the beautiful city and breathtaking views as you meander on Chapmans Peak Drive towards Simontown. Enjoy some local fish and chips for lunch, then make your way back to the city. On the way back, be sure to stop at the Constantia Wine Estate and enjoy a wine tasting before returning to your hotel.”

    Constantia Wine Estate | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Constantia Wine Estate | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Vineyard | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Vineyard | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Constantia Grounds | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    Constantia Grounds | Photo Credit: Groot Constantia

    What is your favorite thing about working for Swain Destinations?

    “I thoroughly enjoy working for Swain Destinations, as they have a purpose – a mission – that everyone understands. With that, every employee can tell you the role that he or she plays in achieving that purpose. That purpose is to tailor once-in-a-lifetime trips for clients and make the journey as memorable as possible.”

    Segway Tour | Photo Credit: Swain Destinations

    Segway Tour | Photo Credit: Swain Destinations

     

    October 16, 2017 • Africa, Articles, Destinations, Interviews • Views: 2781

  • Kenya Changes You

    “Africa changes you…”

    You’ll hear it over and over. After my recent trip to Kenya, I’ll be the first to add the phrase to my discussions when I’m talking about any future bucket list. Put Africa on your list, pack up and go! I’m in the travel business and I even had my doubts. There’s vaccinations, the distance, my family asking if it was safe, etc. However, you step off the plane to elephants staring at you. Then the village folk in the most beautiful flowing outfits greet you. Finally, you experience your first sunset with a Baobab tree in the distance and all the worry washes away. The effort will seem insignificant compared to what awaits.

    Plane | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Plane | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Stepping Off the Plane

    My plane landed along a dirt runway in the middle of Kenya bordering the Samburu region and national park. My first safari experience was spent at Sasaab Lodge. This accommodation was amazing. There was nothing but open air, a small plunge pool to cool off after a day of exploring, and an ice chest with plenty of beverages. These beautiful villas had no electricity so it was just you and nature – with a view of the river where elephants would drop by at sunset for their evening drink just as you were pouring yours. It was a toast to Kenya.

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Sasaab Camp

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Sasaab Camp

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Elephants | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Discovering Kenya

    When you think Africa, you imagine sweeping vistas with a lion perched on a rock overlooking his lands or maybe you picture elephants and giraffes in the distance. We had all of these experiences and it gave me chills as I turned each corner in the safari vehicle. Although the wildlife is stunning, what really affects you are the unexpected, special moments that happen while traveling through this beautiful country. It feels as though you’ve been given a gift, an experience to cherish. You develop a newfound appreciation for the simplicity that life can have and the wonder of nature.

    Giraffes | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Giraffes | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    One of my favorite moments was visiting a local village near the lodge. A close friend suggested I take one of the retro-Polaroid cameras. The ones where you press the shutter and a little whirring sound happens before spitting out a photo beginning to develop. After giving it a few shakes, you have your picture! Imagine humbly sharing the technology with locals in a third world village. It was amazing.

    Photo of Locals | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Photo of Locals | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    I wanted to share this with the beautiful, happy people of this small village. After gathering them around for a group picture, I handed them the actual photo so they could keep it. Tears welled up in their eyes as they saw themselves in full color for the first time. Another photo was taken of a mother holding her small child and the reaction was so beautiful. This is where I knew the saying was true, “Africa changes you.”

    Locals Witnessing a Photo | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Locals Witnessing a Photo | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Mother and Son | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Mother and Son | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Visit to a Local School

    We visited a local school next. It was a bit out of the way because they don’t like too many travelers passing through, but we didn’t mind the journey. We visited a local third grade class and their principal had them ask us questions. It’s not every day strangers come to visit.

    Third Grade Class | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Third Grade Class | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Their questions ranged from our favorite soccer players and different foods to what children like to do in our country. Then, one little girl raised her hand and quietly asked, “Can we sing for you?” Sure enough, the entire class started belting out the African version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in unison! It was a humbling experience and one I still fondly carry with me.

    Final Words

    This was just a taste of my time in Africa. We then ventured to the Maasai Mara region where you’ll find indigenous tribes and plenty of animals. But that story is for another time. The people and places are magical. The wildlife is magnificent and everywhere! From the majestic elephants pushing through huge bushes to the cats that are either laying around or on the prowl for their next dinner.  So, I must repeat, “Africa truly does change you.”

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Leopard | Photo Credit: Cory Payton

    Sunset | Photo Credit: Kenya Tourism Board

    Sunset | Photo Credit: Kenya Tourism Board

    I grew up on a farm in the Central Valley of California which is fondly known as the raisin capital of the world, yes my dad harvested for Sun Maid. Finishing college I spent leisure time working at a ski resort and soon leading tours with Contiki Holidays where the travel bug really hit. Moving into sales of my favorite countries like Australia, New Zealand and Africa, Swain Destinations was a perfect fit and I’ve enjoyed being a part of this family owned company for 12 years. As I always say, ‘the journey is the reward’.

    September 18, 2017 • Africa, Cory Payton, Travels • Views: 3226

  • Experience Southern Africa

    Here at Swain Destinations we have expert consultants who not only sell our destinations, but have visited and, in some cases, hail from those exact regions. One of these expert consultants is Smruti Smith. Smruti was born in Livingstone, Zambia and has been in the travel industry for over 18 years. She is one of Swain Destinations’ Africa specialists who is passionate about travel, meeting new people and learning about different countries and cultures. We’ve asked Smruti a few questions below to not only give knowledge on Africa itself, but also an insight into Smruti’s experience.

    Okavango Delta, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Okavango Delta, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    What has been your favorite destination to visit?

    “Southern Africa captured my fascination and I must say that it is my favorite destination to visit. To narrow it down, because Southern African has many countries, I enjoyed South Africa, Botswana and Zambia the most.

    South Africa is truly a magical and diverse destination that is perfect for the visitor looking to explore wildlife safaris and get to know the local culture. Just north of South Africa is Botswana, an area that is one of the richest wildlife regions in all of Africa. Finally, Zambia is the land of the legendary African walking safari, the wild Zambezi River, breathtaking lakes and wetlands, a profusion of birds, abundant wildlife, and raw, pulsating wilderness, all in one friendly country.

    Southern Africa is my favorite destination because the people are just incredible. They are full of smiles and great hospitality. You feel welcomed from the minute you land. The culture, food, wine, sightseeing, and the amazing wildlife are what make these destinations unique.”

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: South African Tourism

    Cape Town, South Africa | Photo Credit: South African Tourism

    Botswana | Photo Credit: Nile and Yangtze Sanctuary Retreats

    Botswana | Photo Credit: Nile and Yangtze Sanctuary Retreats

    Victoria Falls, Zambia | Photo Credit: Livingstone Adventures

    Victoria Falls, Zambia | Photo Credit: Livingstone Adventures

    Where did you stay?

    “I have stayed at many hotels in Cape Town, South Africa – Cape Grace, Twelve Apostles, One&Only and Table Bay. I highly recommend staying in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area as a first timer in Cape Town, as you easily have access to shops and restaurants. In Botswana, I stayed at all the Wilderness Premier camps. Then in Zambia, I stayed at the Toka Leya and the Royal Livingstone. All of my accommodations exceeded my expectations!”

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Exterior | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Twelve Apostles | Photo Credit: Leading Hotels of the World

    Twelve Apostles | Photo Credit: Leading Hotels of the World

    Lounge | Photo Credit: Toka Leya Camp

    Lounge | Photo Credit: Toka Leya Camp

    The Royal Livingstone | Photo Credit: Sun International

    The Royal Livingstone | Photo Credit: Sun International

    How was the food?

    “The food in Southern Africa is very fresh and nothing is processed. I love their seafood dishes! Any visitor must try Cape Malay food in Cape Town, along with typical South African Braai (which is known as BBQ in the United States). If you are a wine and spirit lover, I highly recommend Pinotage and Inverroche Gin. The cuisine found in Southern Africa did not disappoint!”

    Chocolate Lava Cake | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Chocolate Lava Cake | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Grilled Fillet of Beef | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Grilled Fillet of Beef | Photo Credit: Cape Grace

    Royal Livingstone High Tea | Photo Credit: Sun International

    Royal Livingstone High Tea | Photo Credit: Sun International

    Favorite Experience?

    “Being on safari has been the best experience by far. Staying in camps where you have no access to wi-fi is definitely an adjustment! I never thought I could survive without the internet or being in constant contact with my friends and family, but I highly recommend anyone who visits to disconnect. You want to embrace it all, and really become one with nature. It’s a truly reviving feeling. Although it’s hard, one can really appreciate the wildlife, people in the lodges, and your life slowing down for a moment in time.”

    Vumbura Plains, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Vumbura Plains, Botswana | Photo Credit: Smruti Smith

    Finally, what advice would you give?

    “If you are traveling to Africa for the first time, I recommend visiting Southern Africa. Making this your first stop gives you a little taste of everything Africa has to offer. To get the best experience, I would do 10 to 12 days, making stops to Cape Town, Safari and Victoria Falls. It’s hard to choose just a few places to visit, but these destinations are a must!”

    I was born in Livingstone, Zambia and have lived in the USA for over 30 years. I have been in the airline/travel industry for 18 years. I previously worked in the Airline industry, and for another Africa specialist company. I have always been passionate about travel, meeting new people and learning about different countries and cultures. When I am not working, I enjoy travelling with my husband, spending time with family/friends, and working out.

    August 28, 2017 • Africa, Interviews, Smruti Smith, Travels • Views: 3749