Friday, November 16, 2012

Travel to Zimbabwe

Travel to Zimbabwe, May 2012

After the Indaba conference in May 2012, I travelled to Zimbabwe with 3 collegues to see for myself what it was all about. Last year at Indaba, all the buzz was about Zim, so we got the idea brewing then. Zim did not disappoint. We found a local supplier in Harare, who came highly recommended to us.


We flew from Durban to Vic Falls, then straight on to Mana Pools. WOW, Wow, wow …… We stayed at the Wilderness Safaris camp at Ruchomechi and visited Kanga Camp and Stretch Ferreira at his Goliath Camp. What a character! What a Zim legend! During the night a leopard made a kill right outside my tent and stashed the impala in a tree! I heard nothing …. But in the morning, the evidence was right there.


After Mana Pools, we flew to Hwange where we stayed at Little Makololo and at Somalisa. We made sight inspections at Davison’s, Acacia House and The Hide. The highlights at Hwange were the elephants, especially at Somalisa, where they drink from the pool and are extremely relaxed around people.
In the hide at Little Mak you get very close to the action also. We spent hours there photographing the “ellies” as they came to the waterhole to drink, play, roll in the mud and spray themselves. The service at Little Mak is exceptional.
Then we flew to Bulawayo and drove to Camp Amalinda. This exclusive, privately owned safari lodge, is in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Matobo Hills. The kopjes, rock outcroppings here are amazing! Lots of Black Eagles circle above riding the air currents, probably looking for leopard kills.
We also visited the Farmhouse and the Big Cave. Matobo Hills is famous for the kopjes or whaleback rock outcroppings and also for their cave paintings. Don’t miss this area.
Black eagles nest in these rocks as do leopards. Matobo Hills has the largest leopard population in Zimbabwe, poosibly in all of Africa.
There is the opportunity to walk with Rhino's in the park as well, plus in a nearby concession guests can go mountain biking, horseback riding and rappelling - for those who want something more active. 
History of Zimbabwe comes alive here with lots of historical significance. You can also feed the baby animals at the orphange!

From Amalinda, we drove to Singita’s Pamushana, a 5 hours’ drive. I found the roads in Zim to be very good; the many road-blocks were annoying at times. Big modern trucks were everywhere in both directions, delivering goods to South Africa and Mozambique and back to Zim. The stores are well stocked with everything you could possibly need. The economy is booming! The USD is the national currency. There's also plenty of local flavor along the roads, making the drive very interesting.

Pamushana was a highlight; the service was impeccable and everyone was so friendly. I could’ve stayed here forever. Game drives are conducted in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, where the black rhino is king. Malilangwe is an area where you will also find over 100 cave painting rock sites that date back more than 2,000 years. There are a large variety of animals found here, thanks to varied ecosystems within the Reserve, including some rare ones like Lichtenstein's hartebeest. 

Not to be outdone, we drove from Pamushana to the Great Zimbabwe ruins. We stayed at Norma Jeans Resort. Regrettably, there’s no upscale property here, but it’s still worth a visit. I suggest staying overnight and climbing the ruins early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. The Great Zimbabwe ruins form three distinct architectural groups. They are known as the Hill Complex, the Valley Complex and the Great Enclosure. Building of the walls began in the 11th century and lasted for 300 years.

No mortar was used to build the walls that are as high as 36 feet, extending approximately 820 feet, making it the largest ancient structure south of the Sahara Desert. At the peak it’s believed that up to 18,000 people may have lived here. Great Zimbabwe is definitely worth a visit. You can also make it a long day tour from Amalinda Camp.

From the Great Zimbabwe, we drove to Harare, where we spent a couple of nights at a small B&B, the brand new wonderful Jacana Gardens. Harare is a modern bustling city that has everything. We went to the market, shopped ‘til we dropped and visited Wild is Life, a genuine wildlife orphanage and rehabilitation rescue center run privately by Roxy Danckwerts and her husband Craig. Here, I got to cuddle a pangolin. Do I need to say more?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Kristina's Escorted Safari to Kenya & Tanzania

You have asked me when I will escort another safari to East Africa. Now is the time, sorry for the short notice. I hope you can join me.
This safari is timed to coincide with the Great Migration both in Kenya and Tanzania.
I'm working directly with the owner of Lemala Camps in Tanzania to offer you the best possible value. Lemala seasonal camps are similar to mobile tented camps but of a higher quality.
Lemala Camps select their sites very carefully so that you will be close to the best wildlife viewing possible. There is ample tree cover and some water nearby to attract wildlife. All camps are in secluded areas.
Lemala mess tent    Lemala Ndutu camp
The mess tents are designed so that the sitting and dining areas are within the same tent and it feels like you are in your own home. Everyone eats and have sundowners together. However separate dining tables are offered at the Serengeti camps where the tents are very large. All tents are closed at night. Local beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, gin and soft drinks are included as is laundry.
Lemala tent bath
There are only 9 tents at each of the camps, accommodating only 18 guests. Lemala Camps are small, intimate and exclusive where personal service is of the outmost importance.
Two of the camps (one that moves between Manyara and Tarangire National Parks and one on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater) have classic tents (larger than Meru-style tents) which are very spacious and have attached/ensuite bathrooms including flush toilet and bucket shower, solar lighting, wooden decking on the inside, large double (2mtr x 2mtr) or single beds (1mtr x 2mtr), writing desk, outdoor table and chairs.

.Lemala tent
The second camp in the Serengeti stays in the Central Serengeti all year round except in April and May when it's closed for the rainy season.
 The second camp in the Serengeti stays in the Central Serengeti all year round except in April and May when it's closed for the rainy season.
Both these camps have brand new tents which are larger and wider than the classic tents so that the beds can face the entrance.
In these tents there are either 2 queen size beds or a king bed, solar lighting, attached/ensuite bathrooms with flush toilets, bucket shower, internal wooden decking, armchair, writing desks, outdoor lounger.
We will begin in Kenya from September 25 - 30, 2011
If you like to extend your safari in Kenya, I have booked the Nairobi Tented Camp, which is located inside Nairobi National Park for 2 nights and the Naboisho Tented Camp in the Masai Mara for 3 nights. This will be BEFORE we fly to Arusha, Tanzania to begin the above safari. 
Nairobi National Park is the only national park in Africa located within a city, only 7km from Nairobi city center. The major wildlife attractions are the black rhino, lion, leopard, hyena, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland and over 400 species of birds. Also within the park is the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, The Nairobi Safari Walk; the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Center is nearby.

Nairobi Tented Camp is located in the western side of the park, comfortably secluded in the Kisembe Valley, shaded by forests of olive and croton trees. There are 8 spacious tents all with their own bathrooms, flush toilet and bucket shower.

Afternoon tea and 3 meals a day are included as are all soft drinks, local wine and beer, 1 airport transfer and 1 game drive per day.

With sweeping plains on one side and Nairobi city on the other, Nairobi National Park is a wildlife haven unlike any other, with guaranteed sightings of rhino, a reason in itself to visit. Being the only camp inside Nairobi National Park means your driving safaris can start before and finish after other tourists entering the park giving you an opportunity to view the animals on your own for a unique experience.

Your day in Nairobi Tented Camp starts with a freshly brewed hot drink bought to your tent before setting off an early morning game drive. Be lucky enough to catch the first rays of early morning sun as they burn off the nightly dusting of dew and stirs the plains game gently to life. After a morning potentially filled with sightings of giraffe, buffalo, lion and leopard, one returns to camp for, freshly baked breads and a hearty cooked breakfast.

We will stay here for 2 nights from Sept 25-27, 2011
Rekero Naboisho Camp, bordering the Masai Mara from Sept 27-30, 2011
Mara Naboisho ConservancyNaboisho Camp is situated in the Naboisho Conservancy (a 50,000 acre area) that lies to the far east of the Mara/Serengeti Eco system. This new exclusive eight tented camp opened on June 1, 2011 in the unrivalled wilderness, hosts a huge variety of wildlife - cats, elephants, giraffes, plains games including the rare sighted wild dogs. Naboisho Camp offers a wide range of activities, such as: Game Drives, Walking Safaris, Night Drives, Off-Roading, Cultural Tourism and Fly Camping. 
Mara Naboisho Conservancy, a newly formed conservation area bordering the Masai Mara National Reserve on the north, is the realisation of a vision where local Maasai communities are able to receive the benefit of sustainable tourism. Literally meaning 'coming together', Mara Naboisho offers a conservation solution where Maasai land is being used to promote sustainable livelihoods while also serving as a wildlife protection area. 
The emphasis is the 'Rekero experience' is on the nature outside, on the quality of the guiding and the quality of service and food. Essential elements of our properties are that they should be small scale, intimate and personal. No Rekero property feels the same: we cherish uniqueness and individuality. Where we can, we take our guests out of the vehicle, to experience Africa on foot, as immersed, as you will ever get. Rekero aspires to be a truly leading company in the industry when it comes to responsible tourism and it's impact on conservation and community development. The Koiyaki guiding school was the vision of the founding director of Rekero and continues to be the flagship project for the company. 
We will stay here for 3 nights from Sept 27-30, 2011
Northern Serengeti from Oct 1-5, 2011
From Kenya, we fly to Tanzania and after a night in Arusha, we will fly to Kogatende airstrip in Northern Serengeti. Lemala Mara is about 3 minutes drive from the Mara River. It is a stunning site with views of the Mara River. There are 2 major migration crossing points close to the camp.
Lemala Mara crossing
The Mara River in northern Serengeti is unlike the Mara River in Masai Mara - there are far fewer visitors here so the experience is immensely better. The crossings are as spectacular as those in the Masai Mara. Here you mayexperience major wildebeest crossings that last the whole day. An unusual sighting witnessed last October was of a motherly hippo rescuing wildebeest and zebra calves across the river. There are large lion prides, lots of leopards, elephant herds etc., etc. The wildlife here is prolific during the migration season but at other times there is plenty of resident game. The landscapes here are beautiful and characterized by kopjes, boulders and hills and valleys dotted with fig and sausage trees. There are superb views towards the Isuria escarpment and the Mara ecosystem from several vantage points.
ellies in northern Serengeti

Lemala Mara's naturalists/guides have exceptional local knowledge, enabling them to take guests to where the action is, in open 4x4 vehicles, away from the crowds. Lemala's vehicles are specifically designed for long game drives and come equipped with comfortable seats, charging units and a large refrigerator. The camp organizes great picnic breakfasts and lunches for those who want to go on full day game drives.
We will stay here for 4 nights from October 1-5, 2011.
Central Serengeti from Oct 5-8, 2011
leopard in tree
Leopard with a full stomach in a tree
with the tail hanging down
From the north, we will fly to Seronera in the Central Serengeti. This would otherwise be an all day drive and October can be hot and dry.
The camp, Lemala Ewanjan is in a secluded location around Makoma Hills and faces the Serenget Plains, where we will see both sunrises and sunsets.
There is a seasonal waterhole near the camp and as a result there's plenty of resident wildlife including lions, leopard & cheetah .... Guests staying here have witnessed lion, cheetah and leopard kills around the camp area.
There are some tracks for game viewing from the camp which take us where other vehicles do not venture so we can get away from the busy Seronera valley but at the same time we are close enough to do the balloon safari.
Being central, we can easily access areas like Moru Kopjes, Musabi Plains, Ikoma and the Lobo areas on full day or half day game drives.
Lemala Ewanjan Seronera Valley is perhaps the finest new seasonal camp in the Serengeti, located in a truly spectacular location. There are open 4x4 land cruisers stationed at the camp.

We will stay here for 3 nights October 5-8, 2011
Lions on a rock
Lions on a rock in Moru Kopjes
Ngorongoro Crater from Oct 8-10, 2011
In the Great Rift Valley, that great schism in the earth's crust, lies the wonderful Ngorongoro Crater, one of the wonders of the natural world. It is an extinct volcano that collapsed in on itself around 25 million years ago thus forming a vast superbowl where the largest permanent concentration of African game is on display. Wildly beautiful as it is, it is not surprising that the ongoro Crater has been called:
Garden of Eden.
Lemala Ngorongoro Crater
Lemala Ngorongoro is on the rim of the crater at the top of the descent route, just after the gate. The camp faces an ancient Acacia forest rather than the crater itself. The view of the forest and hills beyond is magical. It is an open game area so animals such as elephant, buffalo & lion do move through the camp regularly; the camp is guarded by the Masai from the local community who are used to encountering the wildlife. There is plenty of birdlife in the tranquil forest setting and occassionally you can hear the sounds of the cattle bells, like the church bells ringing.
Staying here have the following advantages:
a) Lemala guests do not have to queue at the gate in the morning to go inside the crater as they will have checked in the day they arrive.
b) Lemala guests can depart for the crater tour as early as 6.30am with a packed breakfast (can also take a packed lunch or return for late lunch at camp) and be on the crater floor in 15 minutes. Guests can enjoy nearly 2 hours of traffic free viewing.
c) Lemala guests arriving at the camp around lunch time can head straight for the crater floor with a packed lunch (ordered in advance) and return as late as 6.30pm as the drive from the crater floor to the camp is only 15mins. The evening light in the crater is superb and after 4.00pm most of the vehicles have left.
d) A Masai village is located behind the camp. Lemala has a very good relationship with the chief and the son and for a small fee we can invite the chief's son to give lectures at the camp and we can visit the village.
We will stay here for 2 night October 8-10, 2011
Ngorongoro Crater road block
Ngorongoro Crater road block
Manyara Ranch Conservancy Oct 10-12, 2011

Manyara Ranch Conservancy is situated within the wildlife corridor between Tarangire and Manyara National Parks in Tanzania. It offers a superb wilderness area with an excellent cultural mix for the active visitor to Tanzania.

The Conservancy provides guided game walks, day and night drives, 4x4 safari extensions to nearby parks, visits to partner villages and activities including horse riding with big game, bush breakfast and dinners and participative research activities to promote ongoing conservation projects in collaboration with the African Wildlife Foundation. All of this and its location within the heart of the northern safari circuit, make Manyara Ranch Conservancy the ideal destination for a longer stay.

Manyara Ranch Tented Camp has 6 luxury tents and offers several exciting activities that guests can partake while visiting Manyara Ranch Conservancy such as guided game walks, day and night drives, 4x4 safari extensions to nearby National parks, visits to partner villages, horse riding with big game, bush breakfast and dinners and participative research activities to promote ongoing conservation projects in collaboration with the African Wildlife Foundation.
We will stay here for 2 nights Oct 10-12, 2011 IMG_9759 IMG_2091
This is how Africa was meant to be.
Kristina Trowbridge
WinWin Vacations
Seattle, WA
206-297-7179 or toll free 877-297-7179
Great Migration

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back from Tanzania and Zanzibar

I'm just back from East Africa with this happy greeting from the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, which is not on Tanzania, but in Kenya. Having your breakfast with the giraffes can take several hours.

I flew into Nairobi and spent one night here on my own before I joined my group in Arusha, Tanzania. The Giraffe Manor has changed ownership since I was last here with a group of clients a few years ago. It has been uplifted with many new features and additions that I was anxious to see and learn about. There's even more to come and I found out what's in store.

After spending one night at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, a wonderful gem of a hotel, set in a coffee plantation, we flew to Lake Manyara in the morning. Here we were met by Malley, our guide from &Beyond for the next several days. Our home for 2 nights was the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, located at the bottom end of the park. Nobody else comes down here, so you have the entire area to yourself. Elephants don't hesitate to check you out on your deck! What a thrill!!!

The next day, we visited Lemala Camp during a game drive. Lake Manyara is known for tree-climbing lions, but I never saw any do that here. What I saw was lots of flamingos, elephants, buffalo, hippo, zebra, jackals, klipspringer, dik-dik, water buck, mongoose, leopard tortoise, baboons & monkeys, warthog, red-headed agama lizard, many different kinds of birds, including ground hornbill, little bee-eaters, long-tailed fiscal shrike, red bishop, issabelline shrike, silvery-cheeked hornbill, white-browed coucal (aka rainbird), African Harrier Hawk and Augur Buzzard.

Travel Agents on a working safari!
From Lake Manyara we drove to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for lunch on the way to Serengeti Under Canvas, an &Beyond seasonal tented camp in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is part of the Serengeti Eco-system, which includes the Masai Mara in Kenya. On the way we visited Shifting Sands in the Oldupai Gorge.

This crescent shape dune travels 17 meters a year around this area and has done so for 3 million years, at least. The sand is magnetic and always comes back to itself even when the wind blows it away from the dune. I found this to be a bit eerie!

We reached Ndutu by dinner. We spent 3 nights exploring this area, which I had not been to before. I was amazed at how big it was. This is where the Great Migration comes to graze and birth their young from December to March. There were wildebeest and zebra everywhere. I've never seen so many animals and with them the lions and cheetahs.

From Ndutu, we flew back to Arusha, where we met Jackson from Asilia. He was our guide for the next week. Asilia is rebuilding their Olivers Camp from the bottom up, so we stayed at Swala, a Sanctuary lodge owned by A&K. Swala is located far away from any other camp, so you have the entire area to yourself down there. Swala has also recently been rebuilt and it is gorgeous.

Tarangire is know for its big baobab trees and elephants, but this is where I got my best pictures so far of a lilac-breasted roller with its wings out as it just landed on a bush in front of me. Here you see all seven colors in its wings. What a beautiful bird! No wonder, it is everyone's favorite bird in Africa.

The next day, we visited Olivers Camp as they were re-building it to get an idea of the location and what it will offer when ready to accept guests in June.

From Tarangire we drove to Mto wa Mbo Village for a local lunch.

After lunch, we paid a visit to my old friend Charles Bies, the Makonde wood-carver. He carves, so you feel his passion in his pieces and they live forever in his work. This little ellie reached out his long trunk to me, so I had to have it. The beautiful ebony bowl also went home with me this time.

We spent the next morning in the Crater, before proceeding back to Ndutu, where we spent 2 nights at Asilia's Olakira tented camp.

No off-road driving is allowed in the Ngorongoro Crater, but what can you do when there are lions in the road?

From Ndutu we entered the Serengeti NP at Naabi Hill Gate. These cute little Love birds were sitting on eggs in their nest in the tree and he was feeding her or is it just a kiss?

Coming down the hill I witnessed something I will never forget. WOW!!! The entire southern plains of the Serengeti were covered with wildebeest, like a black carpet. It went on as far as the eye could see, for many miles in all directions. I thought that I had seen the Great Migration at Ndutu, but this was amazing! There must have been millions of animals here all spread out forever. This scene cannot be photographed, it has to be seen in person. There's no way I can describe it or you can comprehend it unless you were there. Here is my meager try at showing you just a glimpse of what I saw.

From Seronera we flew to Kogatende in the Northern Serengeti as driving will take an entire day. Here The Mara River flows through the Serengeti before it enters Kenya and The Masai Mara.

Here I am sitting on the marker locating the border between Tanzania and Kenya. Fortunately, I had a valid visa for both countries!

The time to be up here is in early summer to late fall when the wildebeest pass through on their way to and back from grazing in the Masai Mara. Many animals stay here all summer. Some spectacular river crossing can be seen here then without the crowds often encountered in Kenya at the Mara crossing points. But hurry up, the area has been discovered and many new seasonal camps and permanent lodges are being built up here. We stayed at Asilia's Sayari. Bushtops is an hour away. The seasonal camps will be open by June 1st and stay until October 31st to catch the migration coming and going into The Masai Mara.

Exotic Zanzibar

Our first stop on Zanzibar was at Matemwe Bungalows & Retreat, located north of Stonetown. Then we stayed at Breezes, Baraza and The Palms, located south of Stonetown. To end the trip we stayed 3 nights at the fabulous Serena Inn in Stonetown located right on the water.

From here we made several tours and lots of shopping! We visited the Jozani Forest, Prison Island and took the Spice Tour. Did you know that cloves is the principle spice for export from Zanzibar? I didn't until now.

The Jozani Forest is Zanzibar's only National Park. It's most famous for its Red Colobus Monkeys. They also have very long tails!

This was my first visit to Zanzibar, so I needed to see a lot and learn a lot. I can now highly recommend a visit here for you too.

I will end with a nice shot of a Dhow, the name of the boats used in Zanzibar and the Swahili Coast of East Africa.

Next, I'm off to Southern Africa from May 4-25, 2011.
I'll be visiting Zambia after the Indaba Conference in Durban.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Kristina is travelling in Tanzania again

It's time, I've been home too long!!!! I've got to update myself on what's new in Tanzania since last October!!

Here's my schedule for this trip.

12 Depart SEA

13 Su Arrive Nairobi, stay at The Giraffe Manor
14 Mo Fly to Kilimanjaro, stay at Arusha Coffee Lodge
15 Tu Drive to Lake Manyara National Park, stay at Lake Manyara Tree House
16 We Visit several other lodges, stay at Lake Manyara Tree
17 Th Fly to the Serengeti, stay Under Canvas in a mobile camp
18 Fr Serengeti Under Canvas
19 Sa Serengeti Under Canvas
20 Su Fly to Tarangire National Park, stay at Swala Camp
21 Mo Visit several other lodges, stay at Swala Camp
22 Tu Drive to Karatu, stay at Plantation Lodge
23 We Drive to the Southern Serengeti, stay at Olakira Tented Seasonal Camp
24 Th Visit other lodges, stay at Olakira
25 Fr Drive to Central Serengeti, stay at Dunia Tented Seasonal Camp
26 Sa Visit other lodges, stay at Dunia Camp
27 Su Fly to Northern Serengeti, stay at Sayari Tented Seasonal Camp
28 Mo Visit other lodges, stay at Sayari Camp
29 Tu Fly to Zanzibar, stay at Matemwe Lodge
30 We sightseing, stay at Matemwe Lodge
31 Th Move to Breezes

1 Fr Stay at Breezes
2 Sa Stay at Baraza
3 Su Stay in Stonetown at the Serena Inn
4 Mo Making excursions, stay at Serena Inn
5 Tu More excursions, stay at Serena Inn
6 We Depart ZNZ
7 Th Arrive SEA at 9:30pm

See you soon,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wonky Tusk did walk through the lobby at Mfuwe Lodge!

Wonky Tusk did walk through the lobby at Mfuwe Lodge!

We were so fortunate to see Wonky Tusk and little Wellington. She comes any time, night or day, so can be difficult to catch. We missed her 3 times before we caught her one morning at 6 am! The wild mangoes kept her there for 18 minutes. Then she marched her family through the lobby and disappeared into the bush.

We also caught another family under the mango tree one afternoon, just as Jonathan Scott started his talk about the Big Cat Diary, filmed for the BBC in the Masai Mara, Kenya.

It was an intense week of photography lessons, by Jonathan Scott, and history talks, given by Phil Berry, the legend of the South Luangwa. We also learned about the Wild Dog Predator Project and the South Luangwa Conservation Society from Matt and Rachel, who run these programs. We even made a visit to the Chiwawatala School, which Mfuwe Lodge and Bushcamps support. We also visited Tribal Textiles.

But we never missed a game drive; we were out an hour before the regular guests and stayed out longer at night too. Tom and I shared this experience with people from the UK, Austria, New Zealand and Ireland. It was a great week. I hope they will offer it again next year.

One of my favorite photograph is this one of a Carmine Bee-eater with a bug in it's beak. They nest on the dry banks of the Luangwa River during the dry season. They dig deep tunnels into the sandbanks where they lay eggs and raise their young, who must fly out before the river floods during the wet season.

See more pictures here