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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Wildlife spotting: Africa's Big Five

Tips for the best places to see them.

African safaris are usually top of most people's bucket list when it comes to wildlife viewing. Its multitude of national parks, reserves and conservation areas number amongst some of the most beautiful places on the planet and are home to an astonishing variety of wild animals, ensuring that a wildlife safari will undoubtedly be a major highlight of your trip.

And with so many exciting wildlife experiences to be had at in different destinations and indeed, different times of the year, any visit to Africa is guaranteed to be full of close encounters of the animal kind. But for many travellers, coming face to face with Africa's 'Big Five' – lion, leopard, elephant, black rhinoceros, and African buffalo, remains the pinnacle wildlife experience.

Originally a term coined by big-game hunters to describe the five most difficult African species to track and hunt on foot, today a 'hunt' for the Big Five is typically with camera and binoculars only.

But where are the best places to see them? Well, while animal viewing possibilities abound, the reality is there's no guarantee you'll see each one while on safari. Knowing animals' habits – as well as where to stay and what to do while on safari – will greatly increase your chance of success. Expert suggestions for where visitors to Africa are most likely to tick off their Big Five wish list.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

First on the list is the inspirational Serengeti, a classic Tanzania safari destination and one of only a handful with populations of all five species.

Lying in a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands in northern Tanzania and the Masai Mara Reserve in neighboring Kenya, Serengeti National Park is considered one of the best places for safari for one very specific reason – the Great Migration. This annual event sees hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra pass through the park in search of food – and with the herds of grazers, come the predators. One of the best times to visit the park is in May when the grass becomes dry and exhausted and the wildebeest and zebra start to mass in huge armies offering a spectacular wildlife show.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Next up, is the Ngorongoro Crater, another classic Tanzania safari destination. The breath-taking Ngorongoro Crater is a geographical wonder in its own right, with the caldera's high, steep walls looming steeply over the valley below. And it's these steep walls that also lead to the incredible abundance of wildlife in the crater, as they trap a rich assortment of large and small safari animals within.

With two rainy seasons – the long rains fall in April and May (into early June) and the short rains fall in October and November, the best times to visit are December, January, February or late June through to early October.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

With a well-deserved reputation as one of the best all-round safari destinations, the Okavango Delta forms part of the Kalahari Basin, situated at the southern periphery of the Great Rift Valley, and covers a massive 22,000 square kilometres. Although the periphery is semi-arid, the Okavango Delta itself is a patchwork of cool clear streams, lagoons, floodplains and forested islands.

Covering almost a third of the entire Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve comprises a diverse habitat where the desert and delta meet, comprising forests, lagoons, floodplains, pans and woodlands. Because of its unique terrain, the area contains the full spectrum of game and birdlife including all of the Big Five, as well as cheetahs, hippos and crocodiles and plenty of bird life, and offering up superb game viewing.

Moremi is best visited during the dry season, from July to October, when seasonal pans dry up and vast numbers of wildlife flock to where the floodwaters infiltrate the Delta, providing one of the world's most spectacular sights. June to August is peak season for most safari areas within the Okavango. But September and October when temperatures really start to climb, leads to even higher concentrations of game around the few available water sources.

Masai Mara, Kenya

The final destination on Sanctuary Retreats' list is Kenya's most popular game park, the Masai Mara. The Kenyan extension of the Tanzania's famed Serengeti, the Mara is one of Africa's most famous safari destinations and also plays host to the famous Great Migration. Considered the birthplace of safari, Kenya offers up amazing game viewing experiences, not to mention plenty of opportunities to experience Africa's Big Five.

The migration is usually present in the Mara between July and October each year. During this time, dramatic river crossings are the order of the day, with crocodiles lying in wait for wildebeest and zebra.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

New foodie trails for Autumn in regional Victoria

Vineyards come to life in Victoria
As the leaves of the trees begin to take on Autumnal hues, regional Victoria’s culinary hotspots offer up exciting new flavours of the season. Award-winning food writer Dani Valent has created a series of food trails around Victoria, especially for gourmands.

These self-guided road trips take in the hidden foodie gems of Australia’s most exciting culinary region.

Beechworth Bounty

Lunch at Provenance, a visit to the Beechworth Honey Shop and afternoon delights at the Moments and Memories Tea Rooms before stops at two breweries and Pennyweight Winery.

Bellarine by Mouth

Enjoy mussels caught that morning, delicious goats cheese and hand-picked berries all before a crisp cider at Flying Brick and a glass of wine from the cellar doors of Scotchmans Hill and Jack Rabbit.

Bendigo Feast

Journey through the streets and laneways of this historic city before tasting the delectable treats of Masons of Bendigo, Mr Beebe’s Eating House & Bar, El Gordo and The Woodhouse, among others.

Daylesford Wander

Wombat Hill House, a café among the trees at the Botanic Gardens, launches a walking trail that captures fine food, wine and whiskey, with visitors encouraged to consider the Farmer’s Market on the first Saturday of the month.

Geelong Jaunt

From the waterfront to the heart of the city centre, the day begins with coffee and seafood by the pier before visits to hip bars and cafés as you approach the famed Little Creatures Brewery in the south of Geelong.

Gippsland Dairy Trail

Cheese, cheese, a glass of wine, and more cheese. This is a trail for lovers of all things brie, camembert and blue, as they meander through the region famous for its creamy and aged delights.

Goldfields Gulp

Wood-fired pizza by the fire at Mount Buninyong is followed by brewery and winery experiences that will tantalise the tastebuds. Gin comes to life at Kilderkin Distillery and consider an overnight journey by breaking up this adventure with accommodation at Captains Creek.

Great Ocean Road Bite

From Torquay to Apollo Bay, this coastal extravaganza takes wanderers to Blackman’s Brewery, Bellbrae Estate, Captain Moonlite, a la grecque, IPSOS, Wye General Store, Chris’ Beacon Point and the Great Ocean Road Brewhouse.

King Valley Drive, Bike and Taste

Journey by bike and by car as the very best Italian hospitality comes to life at Chrismont, Pizzini Wines and Dal Zotto Vines, the latter a pioneer of Italian varietals in Victoria. Smoky ribs await at Gamze Smokehouse before a cheeseboard at Milawa.

Kyneton Crawl

Get ready for gluttony. This trail is only one kilometre long, but it packs a punch as you dine-out on something sweet, French bistro fares, wood-fired pizza and locally produced charcuterie.

Mornington Peninsula Meander

Jackalope, Pt. Leo Estate, Gourmet Paddock, Foxeys Hangout and St Andrews Beach Brewery, it’s the very best of both sides of the peninsula as travellers make your way from coast-to-coast

Yarra Valley Small Wineries

Experience the boutique wonders of the Yarra Vallery as you traverse through Payne's Rise Wine, Brumfield Winery, Five Oaks Vineyard, Elmswood Estate, Morgan Vineyards, Killara Estate, Badger's Brook Winery, Soumah of Yarra Valley and Boat O'Craigo

Not done yet?

Consider a food trail in Melbourne’s city centre, with one-day experiences in Richmond and St Kilda complemented by opportunities for those that love after dark adventures.
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