Africa

  • 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.

    Though I was born and raised in Philadelphia, a city that values tradition, my path of life has been not so standard. I’ve lived on the East and West coasts of the United States, and have ventured over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, studying food and wine in Italy, and working in the travel industry in Australia. Travelling across the globe has allowed me to recognize my true passion: helping others experience this beautiful, yet varied world that we live in. I have a wandering soul that continually urges me to visit new countries, meet new people, and learn new things; I love to adventure to faraway destinations, discovering unfamiliar cultures, and tasting their local cuisine.

    December 11, 2018 • Africa, Destinations, Kathryn Fischer, Property Highlights, Travels • Views: 60

  • The Ngorongoro Crater

    Tanzania is a beautiful country covered with sprawling hills, open savannas teeming with wildlife and the magnificent Mt. Kilimanjaro. I recently spent ten days in Tanzania, and the biggest highlight of my trip was Ngorongoro Crater. I last traveled to Tanzania back in May, and after spending four amazing nights exploring the Serengeti, I made my way to the highlands. On the foothills of the highlands, we stopped for lunch just outside of the Olduvai Gorge National Park, overlooking the enormous herds of the great migration. Just after lunch we stopped at one of the many Maasai Villages to learn a bit about their culture. While these villages are a bit commercialized, you still see firsthand how the Maasai people live.

    Photo Credit: Kevin Murray

    Photo Credit: Kevin Murray

    The Crater

    After the Maasai village visit, we made our way up the steep hills of the Ngorongoro Crater. I kept my head on a swivel, as the views on the way up were remarkable. During the three-hour trek we passed a few dozen villages before we reached the rim of the crater. At the summit our gracious guide pulled over so that we could admire the beauty of the interior bowl. It was breathtaking. On our way back to the lodge we were lucky enough to get a rare glimpse of a male leopard right on the main path and trailed the majestic animal for fifteen minutes. Upon arrival at the lodge, I dropped my bags at the front desk and once more took in the astonishing views of the beautiful crater floor.

    Photo Credit: Tanzania Tourism

    Photo Credit: Tanzania Tourism

    Photo Credit: Kevin Murray

    Photo Credit: Kevin Murray

    The Big Five

    The next day was dedicated to game viewing in the crater. Among the incredible landscapes of the bowl, it did not take long to spot the Big Five animals. From the open plains of the crater, to the densely vegetated landscape, to the marsh area, which I learned is where the elephants like to go for their final resting place, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of my day. What amazed me is how big the crater floor is in size. Viewed from the rim the day previously, I thought to myself there is no way you can spend a whole day below – but was I wrong. This area, I believe, should be in every Tanzania itinerary, and I cannot wait until my next visit.

    Photo Credit: Kevin Murray

    Photo Credit: Kevin Murray

    I joined the Swain Destinations team in October 2014. Born and raised in Philadelphia, I have always had a deep passion for travel in various parts of the world. Africa has always been my dream destination. From the open plains in the Serengeti and Maasai Mara to the beautiful sights of Cape Town, South Africa’s Mother City. I am excited to help people experience the thrill of their first Safari. There is a magic in Africa that touches everyone who visits and leaves you with a feeling of wanting to go back!

    December 3, 2018 • Africa, Travels • Views: 1390

  • Rwanda – “The Land of 1000 Hills”

    Rwanda is a very clean country and quite impressive with all the progress it has made from the genocide days in the 90s. Every last Saturday of the month, the people come together to clean the cities and do community service.

    Photo Credit: Donna Blumeris

    Photo Credit: Donna Blumeris

    Genocide Museum

    The Genocide Museum is truly a must-see for anyone visiting Rwanda. What this country went through and how it is today is inspirational. The experience is very emotional and tough to get through at times, however, the commemoration is well-documented and worthwhile. It really does show hope for humanity after such a heinous past.

    Some parts were very sad and emotional and quite difficult (loads of tissues are needed!) I would recommend including this experience at the beginning of the trip.

    Nyungwe

    Nyungwe is a gorgeous area that is a must for those that have a little extra time to give in Rwanda. The drive is beautiful and picturesque – you truly get to see why it is called the “Land of 1000 Hills.”

    The highlight of the area is the Chimp Trek which is amazing. However, this does require a certain fitness level as Chimpanzees tend to swing from tree to tree and do not sit still for you to watch them or interact with them. Steep hillside climbs in dense bush is the requirement of the day. You are accompanied by a guide and three trackers. Trackers meet you in the forest, help you get close to the Chimpanzees and stay with them afterwards.

    Photo Credit: Donna Blumeris

    Photo Credit: Donna Blumeris

    Porters are readily available to assist with the trial through the dense bushes and shrubbery. We highly recommend hiring porters to assist the trackers. This process is giving ex-poachers work, therefore giving more security to conservation efforts.

    After the trek, if you still have energy, I recommend a Canopy Walk. The view was stunning, and the walk is not strenuous. It is good exercise though the canopy itself can be a little nerve-wrecking at first as the bridge swings while walking along it.

    Photo Credit: Donna Blumeris

    Photo Credit: Donna Blumeris

    Gorilla Trek

    Though strenuous, the Gorilla Trek is much easier than the Chimp Trek.

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    In the morning, guests meet with the head trackers and get separated into groups to visit with the various gorilla families. There are only eight people allowed with each family. Tourists can visit a total of ten families. After allocation, you meet your tracker for a quick briefing, then you get back into your vehicles to visit your next family. Once you climb up to them, you spend about an hour with them and are able to get very close.

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    Photo Credit: Ian Swain II

    You are accompanied by a safari guide and three trackers (similar to the Chimp Trek). It is recommended to also hire porters to assist the trackers.

    Originally from Harare, Zimbabwe, I began my career in tourism in the hotel industry. My passion for travel drove me to London, working at a deluxe hotel for two years, where I got the chance to explore Europe. In 2000 I ventured abroad once more, this time to exotic Dubai for two and a half years, as part of the management team for the opening of the magnificent Emirates Towers Hotel. I finally settled in the USA, at Swain Destinations as an Africa specialist. Being part of Swain Destinations has enabled me to continue my exploration of Africa and stay in touch with all the fantastic tourist development in the region.

    November 2, 2018 • Africa, Articles, Travels • Views: 716

  • 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: 525

  • 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: 3367

  • 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: 3886