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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What's Hot for 2018? The travel destinations for next year

World traveller Len Rutledge offer his predictions

The travel and tourism industry is booming as more and more people take advantage of low airfares and increased opportunities to see new places. While there has been some resistance to increased visitor numbers in some European destinations, much of the world is still welcoming visitors with open arms.

The following destinations are sure to please if you visit in 2018.

The Philippines

Brilliant green rice fields, teeming cities, colourful jeepneys, stunning beaches, and smiling, happy-go-lucky people are all part of the Philippines scene. With more than 7000 tropical islands to choose from, you can find what you are looking for. Divers have long known about the country's underwater attractions while Northern Palawan is perfect for sea kayakers, and Boracay is a world-class kiteboarding and beach destination.

The Philippines was colonised for 400 years and vestiges of the Spanish era can be seen in exuberant town festivals and centuries-old stone churches while huge shopping malls, fast-food chains and widespread spoken English come from the influence of the Americans.

Manila, the capital, is a pulsating hub that blends the quaint with the modern, the mundane with the extraordinary. Cebu is a choice tourist destination with balmy weather, pristine beaches, crystalline waters, and luxurious resorts. Banaue is a place for nature adventures and cultural immersion and the rice terraces are quite extraordinary. Palawan has thick green forest, white-sand beaches, sparkling water and magnificently sculpted jade islands.

Philippines Airlines flies from Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney to Manila

South Africa

Go almost anywhere in South Africa and you can experience a combination of nature, wildlife, culture, adventure, heritage and style. During these tough economic times, it's good to find a bargain destination where you can even afford luxury and have spending money left over. There is natural beauty in mountains, forests, coasts and deserts and world-class facilities.

It is not possible to talk about South Africa without mentioning wildlife. Everyone wants to see the Big Five, but there are also whales, penguins, meerkats, wild dogs, birds and much more. If you are looking to experience wildlife viewing in luxury, Tintswalo Safari Lodge (, in the pristine private Manyeleti Game Reserve could be the answer. It shares an unfenced boundary with the renowned Kruger National Park and suites are decorated to reflect colonial times.

The same company has beach-side Tintswalo Atlantic, a 5 star, award-winning boutique lodge nestled at the base of Table Mountain National Park near Cape Town. This is one of the city's hidden gems. The views of a wild sea crashing below contrasting with a roaring fire and fabulous welcome drinks will set the tone for a memorable stay.

For a city location, the all-suites Michelangelo Towers ( in Sandton, Johannesburg appeals because it is directly connected to the Michelangelo Towers Mall and the Sandton Convention Centre, and is located directly opposite Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square in the in heart of South Africa's  Richest Square Mile.


Situated at France's southeastern corner near the Italian border, occupying an area of just 2.8 sq. km, Monaco might be the second smallest country in the world (after the Vatican), but what it lacks in size it sure makes up for in attitude and variety.

There is an ornate opera house, Michelin-starred restaurants and casinos, palaces, cathedrals, supercars, mega yachts, deluxe hotels and designer boutiques. There are also museums and galleries, festivals, nightclubs, and gardens with exotic plants and sea views.

The country is one of the most surprising and rewarding destinations in Europe. It is just 30 minutes by car, bus or taxi from Nice Airport through hairpin bends and along rocky cliffs. Monaco enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year and a temperate climate.

Los Angeles

Many readers will have been to Los Angeles, USA but most will not be aware of the wide range of museums, art galleries and concert halls that are spread throughout the city. In the downtown area, the futuristic Walt Disney Theatre is an architectural masterpiece and is right next door to the city's newest cultural and design showpiece, The Broad. L.A.Live is another vibrant entertainment complex offering restaurants and live music venues.

The Westside perhaps has even more attractions. There is the Getty Center located atop the Santa Monica Mountains then on Museum Row there is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pettersen Automotive Museum, the Craft and Folk Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. In Century City you will find the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Hollywood, known as the entertainment capital of the world, is an essential part of the L.A. experience. Film enthusiasts will love the renovated TCL Chinese Theatre and you can tour the Dolby Theatre, home of the Oscars. Not far away is Universal Studios Hollywood with its rides, shows and tours.

If you consider L.A. nothing more than a gateway to the USA, you had better re-think. It is one of the top picks for places to visit in 2018.

Words: Len Rutledge

Images: As supplied

Feature supplied by:


1.     Boracay - The Philippines
2.     Tintswalo – Atlantic Coast South Africa
3.     Monaco
4.     Downtown LA – Walt Disney Concert Hall. Matt Marriott


Sunday, November 12, 2017

An unforgettable safari experience at Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater

Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater and surrounding highlands together form one of Africa's most beautiful regions. Volcanic craters form stunning backdrops to some of the most fertile and richest grazing grounds in Africa. The most famous of these without question, is Ngorongoro, the world's largest intact volcanic caldera, and home to the highest density of big game in Africa.

Ngorongoro forms the centerpiece of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 180 km west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. Formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, the crater is 610m deep with a floor covering almost 260 square kilometres, and home to a huge diversity of animals.  

Boasting an extraordinary population of predators, it is also one of the best places in Tanzania to see 'The Big Five'. A healthy population of black rhino and some of the largest tusker elephants left in Africa today are prize sights, but the crater is also home to good populations of lion, leopard and hyena, along with healthy herds of wildebeest, buffalo and zebra. Other wildlife here includes serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant's and Thompson's gazelle, flamingo and bat-eared foxes, as well as approximately 400 species of bird.


Since the wildlife mainly stays in the crater all year round, there is really bad time to visit. However, given that the crater floor does get busy with vehicles, it can be more pleasant to visit during low season, when higher water levels in Lake Magadi (in the centre of the Crater) also result in higher concentrations of flamingos. But whenever you visit to Ngorongoro, you are guaranteed excellent safari action.

Image: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania by Steve Campbell

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

European Train Travel Hacks

Rail Europe <>  has released eight train travel
hacks that aim to help travellers with their European holiday plans and

Commercial Director Ingrid Kocijan says while many travellers are aware of
the benefits of rail travel in Europe, many may not be aware of the
different ways they can and should take advantage of rail passes to maximize
their time and money's worth.

Here are her top hacks:

1.      Consider Multiple Day Trips
                Passes such as the Eurail Select ones, which include one,
two, three and four countries as well as the Eurail Global Pass, allow
travellers unlimited travel each given "day" on the pass within the 24 hours
from midnight to midnight. Depending on the places of interest, travellers
can often visit two or three small towns in one day without having to rush

2.      Use the SaverPass
                Groups of up to five people travelling together and on the
same itinerary (i.e. making the same stops) qualify for the SaverPass, which
is a discounted Eurail Pass. Booking the passes together as a group
translates to significant savings.

3.      Apply Discounts and Bonuses
                When booking any rail pass, travellers should be aware that
numerous travel bonuses and discounts on buses, ferries, private railways,
hotels, sightseeing tours and WiFi come with the pass. These are updated
each year, so it is advisable to check the items on offer before making
accommodation and tour arrangements.

4.      Free travel for kids
                Up to two children from the ages of 4-11 years travel for
free with their parents travelling with any Eurail Pass. In Switzerland,
children under 16 years old travel for free when accompanied by a guardian
using the Swiss Travel Pass.

5.      Swiss Travel Pass
                The Swiss Travel Pass <>
grants the holder unlimited access to all Swiss public transportation
including buses, trains and boats; allows up to 50% discount off mountain
railways and cable ways; and free access to 500+ museums around the country.
This is unsurpassed value for money!

6.      Avoid Seat Reservations Where Possible
                Travellers embarking on routes serviced by both high-speed
and regional trains may like to consider the latter option to save on seat
reservation costs. (Note however that seat reservations are mandatory on all
high-speed services and inter-country connections).

7.      Travel During Off-peak and Shoulder Seasons
                Travelling during the quieter months (usually spring and
autumn) will also help with the savings in general. There is also the luxury
of space on the trains as crowds usually tend to swell significantly during
the peak seasons of summer and winter.

8.      Book in Advance
                Travellers who plan ahead can save up to 70% off their rail
bookings. Eurail passes can be booked up to 11 months in advance, and seat
reservations up to three months prior.

For more tips, deals, information and booking, head to

Thursday, October 12, 2017

British Airways' top 18 must-see destinations for 2018.

British Airways has revealed its annual travel predictions for the year ahead, selecting the top 18 must-see destinations for 2018. 
Operating a daily service from Sydney, British Airways connects customers to London Heathrow Terminal 5 where they can connect to a network of over 200 destinations worldwide.

Highly-anticipated sporting events, new routes and TV programmes all influence the top travel predictions. The latest season of Game of Thrones has put Croatia firmly on the map, and a number of far-flung destinations rank among the top picks, including Barbados and Muscat.

As one of the most desirable holiday destinations, the Seychelles is a must-see for 2018. Famed as some of the most idyllic islands on the planet, the Seychelles has something for everyone, whether you're a sun-seeker looking for serious relaxation, or a thrill-seeker wanting to scuba dive or trek through the jungle. From 24 March 2018, British Airways will be the only airline to offer direct flights from the UK.

Nicole Backo, British Airways' regional general manager, South West Pacific, said: "Savvy holiday-makers are always looking for top tips to explore the latest and coolest destinations. We've built up years of experience to offer deals to suit all travellers, from city breaks, to fly drives to multi-city tours."

Customers can use British Airways Holidays to tailor-make their itinerary; stopping off at cities around the globe, adding car hire where needed and booking accommodation from a huge choice of hotels.


Ringed by glittering azure waters, white-sand beaches fringed with palm trees and lush greenery, this genteel island makes for a truly special holiday. Those looking for action will find exhilarating water sports, whilst those looking for relaxation will love the sandy shores and gentle surf.  Soak up the history in Bridgetown, enjoy a spot of afternoon tea at a 17th-century plantation before heading to the legendary Fish Fry for dinner.  Wander the scene with a Barbadian rum whilst enjoying the energetic Calypso background music.


Budding explorers must take a visit to Scandinavia's coolest capital.  Innovation is the theme here in Denmark's capital city, which is home to a thriving design scene, new and old architecture, quirky bakeries and pop-up bars.  Perfect for a long weekend, visitors should take a stroll into Tivoli Gardens, stop by and see The Little Mermaid by the coast and relax by the harbour.


Croatia's rare blend of glamour and authenticity have made it one of Europe's hottest holiday destinations. Customers can fly British Airways to the fashionable setting of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik, to the coastal city of Pula and to the capital Zagreb.  Festival fans will be delighted to know that, with no Glastonbury happening in 2018, British Airways flies directly to Split. Situated at the heart of the Dalmatian coast, this city is bursting with energy and a charming Mediterranean vibe set against a backdrop of pine-fringed coastline and mountainous landscape, and is a convenient driving distance to Hideout festival, a leading European music festival.


A small and compact city, Inverness is the gateway to the Scottish Highlands, a diverse and spectacular region of wilderness renowned for its lochs, sweeping glens, imposing mountains and rugged coastline.  Ideal for adventurous holidaymakers, the highlands offer mountaineering and climbing during the summer, and skiing at Aviemore in the winter months.  For a more relaxing day trip, Speyside is located just south of Inverness and has the largest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland.  With British Airways offering direct daily flights to Inverness from London, customers can be in Scotland in no time.


The Portuguese city of Lisbon sits on several hills rising from the northern banks of the Tagus river.  A beautiful and historic city, a mini-break to Lisbon offers traditional colourful culture and beautiful beaches alongside a modern foodie scene and busy nightlife amid picturesque, pastel coloured surroundings.

6.    MALTA

Discover remarkable history, glistening hidden coves and timeless villages by visiting Malta, one of the smallest counties in the world and a melting pot of Mediterranean culture.  Made up of three tiny Islands on the southern edge of Europe, a must-visit is Valetta, Malta's capital and a 2018 European Capital of Culture.  This remarkable city is small and easy to explore on foot, bursting with ancient palaces and baroque churches.


A firm favourite amongst sun seekers, Mykonos is a must-visit due to its picture perfect beauty, fascinating history, spectacular beaches, cultured old town and whitewashed villages.  By day, holidaymakers enjoy snorkelling, diving and exploring the hidden coves and beachfront bars whilst waiting for night to fall, when some of Europe's best nightclubs come to life.


A brand new route to Music City will be music to travellers' ears, as from May 2018 British Airways will be travelling directly from Europe to the home of country music and good living.  Discover Nashville through its streets, stories, and the stars on its pavements.  Must-sees include the famous Bluebird CafĂ© and The Country Music Hall of Fame, whilst must-dos include a whiskey tour of Jack Daniel's distillery followed by a huge traditional Southern meal of delicious crispy fried chicken and shrimp.


It has never been easier to get to New Orleans; the birthplace of jazz, rock 'n' roll and R&B. Famous for its Mardi Gras, customers can make the most of the city by visiting during the historical celebrations to catch the popular parades and electric atmosphere.  Plan a visit to the architecturally fascinating French Quarter, followed by an evening out on the monumental Bourbon Street.


Wake up in the city that never sleeps by treating yourself to a long weekend in New York in 2018.  With an iconic skyline, energetic nightlife, bounty of museums and endless shops, a trip to the Big Apple is guaranteed to leave you dazzled, and you'll find it easy to see why it's been voted The Best City in the World in the Conde Nast Traveller Readers Awards 2017.


Those seeking out the modern face of Arabia while still wanting to sense its ancient roots will enjoy the magic of Muscat, Oman's charming capital city.  The balance between tradition and modernity is well established, with medieval forts, palaces and bazaars sitting beside modern malls and opulent resorts.  Visit the Mutrah Souq where Muscat comes to life with in clouds of incense, glittering gold jewellery and precious Omani artefacts.


Oakland's booming tourism this year, particularly among millennial travellers, has raised its profile and helped it hit the hotlist for 2018.  The city offers museums and historical sites, a vibrant arts scene, innovative restaurants and bars, and boutique shops. Catch the train for a short journey to San Francisco, a small city which is big on food, eclectic sights and history.


From party capital Moscow to culture capital St Petersburg, Russia is a brash, exciting and fascinating place to visit blessed with so many cultural and national treasures that it would take several trips to see them all.  Take advantage of British Airways flights to Moscow and St Petersburg, which are both proud host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.


Stretching 4,300km from the driest desert in the world to massive glacial fields, few countries can boast the rich contrast of Chile. Santiago provides the perfect base, a colourful and cultural feast for the senses.  By day the sights, vineyards, coastline and mountains are all within easy reach of this city, where by night the streets are thronging with partygoers.  British Airways now offers direct flights to Chile's leafy capital from London.


The futuristic capital of South Korea, where modern skyscrapers and pop culture meet Buddhist temples and street markets, is a must-visit for 2018.  Explore the fascinating culture of Seoul in one of the most authentic ways possible – through its local cuisine.  For those who prefer an activity holiday, hiking is a popular activity in Seoul, and there are world-class golf course and ski resorts within driving distance.  Snow sport lovers should plan to visit in February to tie in with the Winter Olympic Games being held in Pyeong Chang.


A paradise for honeymooners, families and sun worshippers, the Seychelles is famous for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and colourful coral reefs.  Made up of 115 diverse individual islands, there is something on offer for holidaymakers seeking ultimate relaxation or adventure, from snorkelling and scuba diving to wandering through exotic markets or relaxing on the blissful shores of the numerous white beaches.  From March, British Airways is the online airline to fly directly to the Seychelles from the UK.


2018 will mark the 100th Birthday of the Republic of Estonia, with celebrations aplenty across the country.  These will be led by the capital, Tallinn, a vibrant city whose historic centre has a UNESCO World Heritage status.  Fusing modern and medieval with its ancient cobbled streets, glass skyscrapers, baroque palaces and trendy cafes, Tallinn is a fairy-tale city which is perfect for a weekend break.


Treat yourself with a trip to Toronto, the biggest city in Canada and a metropolis with fantastic art, culture, sightseeing, restaurants and nightlife.  Time your visit during the star-studded Toronto Film Festival, which draws global crowds and is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world attracting over 480,000 people annually. With direct flights from London to Toronto year round, find your way to a vibrant city which is perfect during sunny summer days or snowy winter evenings.

To book and for further information please visit


Monday, October 9, 2017

Ten Reasons to Cruise in Asia this Summer

It's so close to Australia

The cruising hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong are so close to Australia, meaning it takes half the time to fly to either of these port cities than to Europe. Once you get there, sit back, relax, and leave the rest of your holiday in the hands of the experts, allowing you more time to enjoy the holiday experience, onboard and off!

You can visit places not accessible by car, train or bus

Cruising in Asia offers travellers the ability to visit hard-to-reach places that are inaccessible by car, bus or train. On cruise lines such as Azamara Club Cruises, the boutique size of ships such as Azamara Journey, means they can fit into smaller ports such as Borocay in the Philipines, Komodo Islands in Indonesia, or sailing up Thailand's Chao Phraya River to dock right next to the bright lights of Bangkok overnight. The line will also launch 30 brand new ports worldwide in 2018, allowing guests to see more of the world's hidden gems. The majority of these new ports will cater to smaller ships, such as Georgetown (Penang) in Malaysia and Hambantota in Sri Lanka – the gateway to the beautiful Bundala National Park, which teems with flocks of greater flamingos.

Forget overcrowded, overnight trains and buses!

Many travellers delight in experiencing local modes of travel, but cruising allows guests to swap Asia's famed crowded buses and trains for luxury. Forget airports, stations, transfers and check-ins! Whilst on board, guests on lines such as Azamara can indulge in health, beauty and restorative treatments at Sanctum Spa, hair styling and a mani-pedi at The Salon, a dip in one of the pools, or acupuncture. What's more, ships such as Azamara Journey cater to a maximum of 690 guests, which keeps the experience intimate and the service personal.

Watch the sunset in one country, wake up in another

What other form of travel allows you to watch the sunset over the network of rivers, streams and canals of Cochin, India, then wake up in the lush serendipity of Colombo, Sri Lanka? Asia isn't the sort of destination you can skim over or whiz through; with so many rich cultures and phenomenal sights to explore, an Asia cruise allows you time to immerse yourself within the destinations.

Go to places on the top of your bucket list, as well as those you've never considered

Countries such as Japan, Indonesia and Thailand are at the top of many Aussie bucket lists, but an Asia cruise allows you to combine these destinations with those you wouldn't have otherwise considered. Why not get a taste of Salalah, Oman, the perfume capital of Arabia, or the bright lights of Yeosu, South Korea, or the leafy streets and colonial architecture of Yangon, Myanmar?

Courtesy of Robert La Bua, Tourism Oman

It's a Balinese villa at sea… only better

Balinese-style villas are a top travel trend that fill today's social media feeds, but an Asia cruise offers guests the opportunity to experience this level of luxury on a grander scale AND immerse themselves in multiple exotic destinations at the same time. Suites onboard an Azamara voyage include ocean views, sea breezes, plush cotton robes and slippers, French bath products, fresh flowers, fine linens, private verandas, complimentary drinks, 24-hour room service, a stateroom attendant and assistant, and a butler who can assist with restaurant and spa reservations, private parties, dinners for two and more!

No stress, no language barriers, no organisation – leave to someone else!

One of the downsides about travelling – especially in a country that doesn't speak your language – is the stress of planning, travelling between destinations and organising activities. Fortunately on an Asia cruise with a line such as Azamara, guests needn't bother with this hassle as expert teams curate custom experiences for every travel style, whether it be experiencing local life behind the scenes (Cruise Global, Meet Local), food and wine (Cruise Global, Taste Local), exclusive, custom after-dinner experiences (Cruise Global, Nights Local), or cycling (Cruise Global, Bike Local). Guests also won't be bothered by large crowds, with each excursion catering to a maximum of 25 guests, to preserve the intimacy of the local experience.

The best of Asian cuisine, both onboard & on shore

The countries of the Asian continent have incredibly rich and diverse cultures, influenced by thousands of years of history, customs, rituals and languages – all of which have shaped a fantastic array of culinary experiences waiting to be discovered. A cruise in Asia allows guests to explore local cuisines both onboard and on shore, as ship chefs often visit local markets to inspire their creations, whilst on shore excursions might see cruisers sample the local speciality such as Okonomiyaki in Osaka, Japan, explore local markets and souks with the ship's chef in Dubai, or take a local cooking class in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Escape Christmas with the in-laws & enjoy a luxurious Christmas onboard, amongst the best of Asia

This year, why not ditch the hassle, chores and family chaos of the festive season, by escaping on a stress-free Asia Christmas cruise. An Azamara Asia cruise will put a twist on the traditional Aussie Christmas, making for an unforgettable holiday; everything will be taken care of onboard – from Christmas dinner and decorations to festive activities – and you get to explore spectacular, new exotic destinations every day!

Chinese New Year!

One of the most exciting times to cruise in Asia is during Chinese New Year. 2018 will see the Year of the Dog welcomed in from 16th February with celebrations continuing into early March. Visit the local New Year Markets during on shore excursions, which will usually be decorated with lanterns, and pick up New Year goods such as clothing, decorations, food and small arts, or enjoy the local New Year traditional cuisine.

Guests can discover the wonders of Borneo, Vietnam and Thailand on a 14 night round-trip cruise departing Singapore, 25 March 2018. Sailing on Azamara Journey, the cruise makes calls to Bintulu, Bandar Seri Begawan, Kota Kinabalu, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Ko Samui. Fares start from AU$3,499/NZ$3,719 per person, twin share for an Interior Stateroom.

Or, guests can explore the delights of Indonesia on a 7 night Borobudur and Bali cruise, sailing on Azamara Journey. Departing Singapore 14 January, 2018, the cruise visits Samarang, Surabaya, Celukan Bawang and finishes up in Bali. Fares start from AU$1,999/NZ$2,139 per person, twin share, for an interior stateroom.

To make a booking or for further information visit, phone 1800 754 500 or contact your local travel agent.

*Terms and conditions apply, see for full details.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Go for a walking safari in Africa

Before the modern 4WD safari became so popular – and, in fact, before arrival of cars in general – the only way to experience the African bush was on foot. The most famous African explorers of the 19th Century, the likes of Burton, David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, and even Ernest Hemmingway in the early 20th Century, would all have discovered Africa on a walking safari of sorts. Expeditions were typically fraught with drama and danger in equal measure, a far cry from today's safari experience.

In the 1940s, however, the concept of the modern walking safari was pioneered by Norman Carr in Zambia's Luangwa Valley, who wanted to give people an opportunity to experience wildlife in close proximity. Today, the walking safari is considered one of the most authentic and exhilarating ways to explore Africa's national parks and reserves.

Devon Meyers has been guiding across Africa for 12 years, and is a passionate advocate of the walking safari. Here he tells us why is should be a must-try experience for every safari guest.

Why do it?

"Walking in the wild is the oldest form of safari and the aim is to enjoy nature in a natural, non-threatening way. More to the point, climbing out of a vehicle and stepping down to the same level as lions, elephants and zebra delivers an incredibly intimate insight into the intricacies of the African veldt, not to mention an opportunity to encounter some of country's most exciting wildlife from a unique – and often thrilling, perspective."

How does a walking safari differ to a traditional game drive?

"Walking safaris and game drives represent two very different types of experience, and I always advise our guests to try out both. Certainly a game drive generally allows guests to get a little more up-close-and-personal with wildlife – albeit from within the confines of a vehicle, and photographic opportunities are sometimes better from a vehicle. On the other hand, while we don't get as close to bigger wildlife on a walking safari, it's a great chance to see other lesser known species including birds and insects – and the experience is definitely a more visceral one."

What does a typical day look like on a walking safari?

"Walking safaris generally take place in the morning from 7am – 10am, or in the late afternoon from 3pm – 6pm, with a maximum of six guests per group. The distance of the walk will depend on two key factors – the fitness level of the guests, and what we find along the way. Generally, we try and tailor walks to ensure they are at a comfortable pace and distance for specific participants.

"Sanctuary Swala is the most remote camp in the Tarangire, which means that the areas our walks cover are not only teaming with wildlife, but are also pretty much devoid of vehicles, which delivers a very natural and authentic experience for our guests.

"Every walking safari is different and we're always on the lookout for whatever nature offers us on the day. Sometimes we'll encounter a great sighting within the first hour and spend quite a bit of time following and viewing what we have found. On other days, we might uncover elephant tracks and follow them to find the herd. This sometimes means we cover slightly longer distances, but it's incredibly rewarding for guests when they track down wildlife themselves."

Are Walking Safaris Safe?

"Like any interaction with wild animals, walking safaris have their risks. Before we set off, all our guests are given a comprehensive safety briefing, which covers everything they need to know, from how we'll be communicating along the way, to emergency procedures. For example, we'll often use hand signals or clicking of the fingers or tongue to communicate, as these are more natural sounds and therefore more likely to go unnoticed by the animals.

"During a walking safari, guests are accompanied by me and a TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks) Ranger. My role is to lead from the front and guide guests, while the TANAPA Ranger follows the group, and has the very important job of keeping an eye out for wildlife from the rear.

"It's also a requirement by law, and an industry standard, to carry a rifle while guiding walking safaris in any 'big game' areas. This is obviously for the protection of guests, but is there as an absolute last resort. In my career as a safari guide, having spent literally thousands of hours guiding guests on foot, I have never yet had to fire my rifle on a walking safari – and that's a record that I endeavour to keep!'

Favourite animal to track in the bush?

"I really enjoy the tracking and stalking all types of game, but if I had to choose, it would probably be buffalo. In any herd, there are hundreds of eyes, ears and noses, looking, listening and smelling for what may be around them. This makes them a very tricky group of animals to stalk and view without being noticed, and I really enjoy rising to the challenge."

Most memorable sighting on a walking safari?

"I have been fortunate enough to witness plenty of interesting and memorable sights during walking safaris, including mating black rhinos and lion kills. But watching a group of seven old buffalo bulls chase a pride of lions and force them to take refuge at the top of a tree was one of the most astounding. The lions had to wait until the buffalo had lost interest in them before they were able to come down and make for cover."

When is the best time to do a walking safari?

"Walking safaris from mid July until the end of March. Outside of this period the grass is extremely tall, making walking uncomfortable and less safe due to low visibility."

Devon's walking safari essentials.

"First up, binoculars, binoculars and binoculars! These are important for spotting wildlife and getting a closer look. A decent set of binoculars will significantly enhance any safari experience, whether on foot or in a vehicle.

"Comfortable, closed shoes and neutral coloured clothing (such as dark greens, grey and khaki) are also important for comfort – and to make sure guests bend into the environment.

"Hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Water. And of course, a small camera!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda: a Guide

Uganda is best known for its concentration of primates, including its most celebrated residents – half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population.

Gorilla trekking is high on the wish list for many travellers, and Uganda is one of few countries where it is still possible to observe gorillas in the wild. But the recent move by Rwandan authorities earlier this year to implement a significant price hike for compulsory gorilla trekking permits from US$750 to US $1,500 per person for all visitors has added significantly to Uganda’s appeal, with Ugandan permits considerably more affordable at just US$600 per person.

One of the best places to see gorillas in Uganda is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the country’s southwest. Bwindi is home to just over half the world’s last surviving mountain gorillas, as well as the spectacular Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp. Comprising just eight tents, it is one of the most remote and atmospheric camps in Africa. Frequently visited by gorilla families due to its unique location, it is the perfect base for a once in a lifetime encounter with mountain gorillas.

We asked Michael McCall, what guests staying at a Forest Camp can expect when embarking on a gorilla trekking trip.

Early Rises!

“Expect a wake up call at around 6.30am, followed by hearty breakfast, after which you will be escorted to the starting point for the gorilla trek, conveniently located just a five minute walk from Sanctuary gorilla Forest Camp.”

“This is where you will be introduced to your guides for the day and receive a safety briefing ahead of the trek. You’ll be one of just eight trekkers, and you’ll be accompanied by a Uganda Wildlife Ranger plus two armed rangers (to fend off any rogue forest elephants). There’s also a porter for each guest, who will be carrying everything you need during the trek, including water and a packed lunch.

Time to trek.

“Every trek is different, and can last between four and 10 hours, depending on the location of the gorillas. The terrain is varied and may involve climbing up and down some quite mountainous trails. Along the way, your guide will be looking (and listening!) out for clues from the surrounding forest, including scouring the foliage for droppings, left over food and knuckle fingerprints. The aim is to find out where the gorillas have spent the night, as they tend to only travel up to 1km per day and are likely to still be nearby the nest.

“Once you’ve located your chosen gorilla family, you’ll have around an hour to observe them in their natural habitat. And of course, the rangers are extremely knowledgeable and will be on hand to answer all your questions and explain gorillas’ behaviour.

“While there are certainly restrictions on how close you can get to the gorillas (10M) they can be as curious as you are, so be prepared to say hello!

Welcome home.

“Once your magical hour has come to an end, it’s time to head back to camp where your drink of choice and a much-welcomed refreshing towel will be waiting to welcome you home.

“The laundry team are also on standby to clean boots and clothes for your next adventure. And for those with stiff muscles, a visit to the masseuse in the mini spa for a well-deserved post trek massage is a must.

“After dinner it’s time to kick back, relax and share your stories around the campfire!”

Trek Essentials.

For anyone planning a gorilla trek, here is Michael’s list of essential items you should definitely not leave home – or camp, without!

· A good quality waterproof camera.

· A poncho or rain jacket as it can rain heavily, even in the dry season.

· A walking stick, which will be provided by the Camp.

· Gloves which come in useful for grabbing bushes, or sliding downhill on the seat of your pants as you never know where your trek might take you!.

· Bug repellent. DEET strength.

· A good-quality, solid – and comfy hiking boots.

· Cool, comfortable clothing in muted colours. Michael recommends long sleeves, trousers, long socks and gaiters to keep bugs out and prevent scratches.
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