• 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: 375

  • Hobbiton: New Zealand’s Natural Soundstage

    J.R.R. Tolkien, the architect and author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, once wrote, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” Nearly 70 years later, visionary director and native Kiwi Peter Jackson gave life to Tolkein’s words on the silver screen. Using New Zealand as his backdrop, Jackson recreated the spectacular and mythical world of Middle-Earth. Featuring the stunning mountains, rolling hills, and rivers that make up New Zealand, Jackson succeeded. Middle-Earth exists and, as you will see below, Hobbiton is a testament to this notion.

    Hobbiton Discovered

    When preproduction commenced in 1998 on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, location scouts scoured the New Zealand countryside. It was in the middle of Waikato that the location of the Shire was discovered. Set amidst the lush rolling hills of a 1250 acre sheep farm, the land was tailormade for the Middle-Earth. Work on Hobbiton began in March 1999, with help from the New Zealand Army. The production team constructed 39 Hobbit Holes set over 12 stunning acres. After filming concluded, 17 Hobbit Holes remained and would serve as the foundation of Hobbiton as it is today.

    Hobbiton | Photo Credit: Hobbiton

    Hobbiton | Photo Credit: Hobbiton

    Hobbiton Today

    With 44 permanently constructed Hobbit Holes, Hobbiton is a fully functioning natural soundstage. Visitors see the same sets that graced the silver screen, spanning two decades and six movies. Take in the Party Tree, the site of Bilbo’s 111st birthday, and then enjoy a beverage at The Green Dragon Inn, the favorite haunt of Frodo and Sam. And then there are the Hobbit Holes. Built into the picturesque hills, the Hobbit Holes are as beautiful and intricately designed in person as they are in the films. Hobbiton offers several different touring options, each one showing off the Shire and the gorgeous scenery that makes it.

    Hobbiton | Photo Credit: Hobbiton

    Hobbiton | Photo Credit: Hobbiton

    More Middle-Earth

    New Zealand features more than Hobbiton. The team at WETA workshop in Wellington created the physical effects for The Lord of the Rings. At Mount Sunday, you can see the majestic setting that would become Edoras on the appropriately titled Edoras Tour. Visit Mount Ngauruhue in Tongariro National Park, the site that became Mount Doom. Venture through Fiordland National Park in Te Anau and see what would become Fangorn Forest. And, should you want to walk the Paths of the Death as Aragorn did in “Return of the King,” a trip to Putangirua Pinnacles Scenic Reserve in Wairarapa would be mandatory.

    Hobbiton | Photo Credit: Hobbiton

    Hobbiton | Photo Credit: Hobbiton

    New Zealand serves as the universe for all things Middle Earth. As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in the Fellowship of the Ring, “Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread through shadows to the edge of night, until the stars are all alight.” Go on your own journey through Middle Earth in New Zealand. See where your imagination becomes a reality.

    See our Travel Experts’ itineraries including Hobbiton, here.

     

     

    February 28, 2020 • Destinations, Max Wasserman, New Zealand, Travels • Views: 1026

  • 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: 1311

  • 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: 2789

  • Australian Bushfires – How You Can Help

    How To Help Combat The Worst Bushfires In Australia History

    Bushfires have been devastating Australia for months. Towns, rural communities and wildlife have been destroyed on a massive scale. We have reached out to partners, colleagues, family and friends in Australia for their guidance – asking what can we do about Australia bushfires. Below, we have put together a starting list of ways individuals outside of Australia can support Australia. We are all one people.

    Please copy and share any bits of this content that you feel strongly towards and push them out to help our brothers and sisters in Australia.

    Importantly, continue to push travel to this amazing country. Tourism to Australia will play a massive role in their long term recovery. There are many beautiful areas unimpacted that showcase Australia.

    Wildlife

    Bangalow Koalas – An organization that has been a champion in Koala conservation since 2016. Bangalow Koalas long-term goal it to create a Koala wildlife corridor, forming a linkage of habitat from Byron Bay/Bangalow heading westwards towards Tenterfield and south towards Grafton, allowing koalas to move safely across the local landscape. Read more on how to support Bangalow Koalas here.

    WIRES – NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue And Education Service Inc – WIRES has been rescuing and caring for native animals for over 30 years. They have over 2500 volunteers in 28 branches involved in the rescue and care of wildlife and have a dedicated Rescue Office that operates 365 days a year assisting the community to help native animals in distress. WIRES helps tens of thousands of animals every year, receiving up to 95,000 requests for rescue advice and assistance every 12 months.

    Animal Welfare League – Animal Welfare League NSW (AWL NSW) is a registered charity that has been operating for over 60 years. They provide expert care to surrendered, neglected and abandoned companion animals across New South Wales. Animal Welfare League’s Inspectors have been assisting in towns affected by bushfires on the mid-north coast of NSW.

    Front Line Services

    NSW Rural Fire Service In New South Wales – The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) is the lead combat agency for bush fires in NSW. For over 100 years we have been a significant part of the history and landscape of NSW. Working closely with other agencies we respond to a range of emergencies including structure fires, motor vehicle accidents and storms that occur within rural fire districts.

    Country Fire Authority In Victoria – CFA (Country Fire Authority) is a volunteer and community-based fire and emergency services organization. They help protect 3.3 million Victorians, and more than one million homes and properties across the state.

    CFS Foundation In South Australia – The CFS provides immediate financial assistance and care to CFS volunteer fire-fighters and their families to offset suffering and distress caused in the line of active duty.

    Families and Victims Support

    Foodbank – Foodbank is Australia’s largest food relief organisation, operating on a scale that makes it crucial to the work of the front line charities that are feeding vulnerable Australians. Foodbank provides 77 million meals a year (210,000 meals a day) to more than 2,600 charities around the country, accounting for 79% of all food received by charities from food rescue organisations.

    St Vincent de Paul Society – Vinnies is on the ground helping people as they deal with the immediate aftermath of fires, and we will continue to be there as they rebuild their lives in the long term.

    Environment

    South Australia Disaster Relief – The Marshall Liberal Government has established a new emergency relief fund to help people directly affected by the devastating Cudlee Creek bushfire – pledging $1 million to kick-start the donation drive.

    Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund – The Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) is a registered charity that was established in 1978 to provide immediate short-term funds to Gippslanders affected by natural disaster events. It is completely funded by donations from businesses, community groups and individuals. Run by volunteers, all donations are returned to the community.

    January 7, 2020 • Articles, Australia • Views: 715

  • Winter Blues? No Worries! Here Are Our Top Five Island Getaways

    The great comedian and actor Carl Reiner once said, “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” With old man Winter just now settling in, many will come to echo the sentiments of Mr. Reiner. Shorter days, colder temperatures, and those pesky snow storms will have us clamoring for the return of Spring. Fortunately, you need not wait for the flowers to bloom to beat those winter blues. Here is a list of our top five island getaways for those who would rather wear trunks and shades to hats and gloves.

    Lizard Island: Winter Blues Prohibited

    Lizard Island Resort | Photo Credit: Lizard Island Resort

    Lizard Island Resort | Photo Credit: Lizard Island Resort

    Who needs snow drifts when you have 24 private beaches to choose from? The answer? No one. What’s more, the good folks at Lizard Island Resort provide complimentary boat transfers to each of those beaches so that you can visit as many as you want. Secluded and exclusive, the resort is Australia’s northernmost island-beach getaway that will have you staying right on the Great Barrier Reef. This means snorkeling, paddle boarding, and diving, as well as exposure to some incredible marine wildlife. Lizard Island Resort simply delivers.

     

    Fiji: Paradise As You Pictured It

    Kokomo Island Resort | Photo Credit: Kokomo Island Resort

    Kokomo Island Resort | Photo Credit: Kokomo Island Resort

    Is there a more fabled island destination than this chain of South Pacific islands? Islands covered with forests, the sun setting into the Pacific, and cocktails adorned with umbrellas. This is represented no better than at Kokomo Island Resort, a private island upon which there are no winter blues to be found. The Beachfront Villas are just that: beautiful villas equipped with private pools and set amid palm trees on the beach. Additionally, many of our travelers opt for a relaxing stopover in Fiji on the backend of an adventure-laden trip in New Zealand. There is no better place to unwind and reflect than Fiji. You will not be disappointed.

    Bali: Winter Blues Banished

    Ayana Resort | Photo Credit: Ayana Resort

    Ayana Resort | Photo Credit: Ayana Resort

    In Bali, the mountains are not covered with snow but instead with volcanic forests and rice paddies. This Indonesian island is perfect for sweating out those winter blues, whether it be on the beach or as a result of some delightfully spicy cuisine. Should you want to stay in the tropical forest, look no further than The Samaya Ubud. Set in the jungle, the accommodations are stunning and the nature trekking is unforgettable. Or opt for the beach and stay at Ayana Resort. Immerse yourself in culture whether it be through their rice planting program or a traditional Balinese cooking class. Exotic and warm, you may never want to leave.

     

    Koh Samui: A Cure for the Cold

    Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui

    Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui | Photo Credit: Four Seasons Resort, Koh Samui

    Seeing a monkey scale a tree and snap up a ripe coconut will melt those pesky winter blues. In Koh Samui, it’s difficult to feel anything but wonder amid the palm-fringed beaches and coconut plantations. It is that idyllic paradise that you daydream about as you scrape ice from your windshield and, once there, reality exceeds the dream. A stay at the Four Seasons Resort, with its gorgeous tropical views and private plunge pools confirms this notion. Or lodge at the Six Senses and feast your eyes on panoramas of the Gulf of Thailand and its turquoise waters in a setting inspired by a traditional Thai fishing village. Regardless, the only frozen water you will encounter will be the ice in your cocktails.

     

    Lord Howe: The Hot, Hidden Gem

    Capella Lodge | Photo Credit: Capella Lodge

    Capella Lodge | Photo Credit: Capella Lodge

    Lose those winter blues on a hike through this green gem of an island. Iconic and World Heritage-listed, Lord Howe Island is less than a two hour flight from Sydney and is a gateway to a tropical haven. The land is lush with greenery and coral reefs line the sea floor that surrounds the island. And, in the center of it all sits Capella Lodge, the island’s premium boutique accommodation. Offering breathtaking views of both the ocean and the mountains, Capella Lodge offers a quintessential island experience. Feed fish at Ned’s beach, learn to surf at Blinky’s Beach, or go on the ridge walk to Kim’s Lookout. The options are many and the days are memorable.

    These five island getaways represent some of the best we have to offer. Sun, sand, and jungle, but most importantly, all lacking dark evenings and winter chill. So stop dreaming about an island getaway while you spread salt on your sidewalk or layer on your third jacket. Instead, escape the dreary winter with one of our Team’s favorite exotic getaways to an island paradise. You will not regret it.

    December 13, 2019 • Asia, Max Wasserman, South Pacific Islands, Uncategorized • Views: 1874