Londolozi: My best Safari experience

Leopard at Londolozi. Photo by Pedro Sagüés

Londolozi: My best Safari experience

March 13, 2011  |  Africa  |  25 Comments
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I have already written about the places I liked the most for going on a Safari in Africa (Namibia, Tanzania and Botswana) and I posted a quick guide to choose the best Safari in Africa. I want to end my series of posts about Safaris in Africa with the one that I liked the most: Londolozi.

Londolozi is a Private Game Reserve situated in South Africa, in the heart of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, which is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a huge area that also includes the famous Kruger National Park. The main reasons why I consider Londolozi my best Safari experience in Africa are the following:

  • Variety of animals: In my previous experiences in Africa, it has never been so easy to spot such quantity and quality of game. In Londolozi, the “Big Five” are almost guaranteed: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino (consider in such way for the difficulty in hunting them and the degree of danger involved).
  • Leopards: Londolozi is probably the best place in Africa to spot wild Leopards. There is a great story behind the relationship between the Varty family (owners of Londolozi) and the leopards, to the point that they are considered part of the family.
  • Driving experience: The game drives are guided by a trained ranger, who works closely with a local tracker to find the animals you want to see. The electrical 4WD cars are adapted to enjoy the wildlife without disturbing them. Off road and night drives are permitted.
  • Ecotourism: Everything in Londolozi is oriented to protect and enjoy the wildlife. In fact, the root of the word Londolozi is the Zulu word for protect and means “protector of all living things”.
  • Accommodation and service: you can stay at any of the Londolozi’s five lodges, that vary from the family oriented to the more romantic ones. Founded in 1926, Londolozi has been managed by the same family for generations. The service is, like in many lodges in Africa, excellent.

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To know more about Londolozi, check out their blog, twitter and website
Also check out this amazing video that Londolozi has just released:

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Living with Elephants in the Okavango Delta

Living with Elephants. Okavango Delta. Photo by Pedro Sagüés

Living with Elephants in the Okavango Delta

February 27, 2011  |  Africa  |  4 Comments
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Botswana is one of Africa’s top safari destinations. In fact, its national parks and game reserves protect almost half of its territory: a fenceless wilderness that allow animals to roam freely.

Botswana host different fascinating places. The best known are:

  • Chobe National Park, probably the most affordable and crowded park, known for the hundreds of hippopotamuses and crocodiles that live together on the Chobe river and its animal migrations and moving safaris. I visited it in 1998 in my way to Victoria Falls. In my oppinion it was just OK allthough many people like it.
  • Kalahari Salt Pans, absolutely magical, stunning and unforgettable huge isolated area full of treasures that I was lucky to visit in 2009 and which I have written an article in this blog. A photographers dream!
  • Okavango Delta: a unique patchwork of environments: waterways, lagoons, forest and savannah grasslands that flows in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, the largest continuous stretch of sand in the world. A fascinating source of life in a country that is 80% arid.

Okavango Delta

In this article I want to focus in the Okavango Delta that, together with Moremi Game Reserve, placed in its heart, host wonderful game and safari camps. However, most of the Okavango’s small camps lie outside Moremi, in their own private wildlife reserves. In my latest visit to this delta I stayed at Stanley’s Camp, a tiny and intimate lodge that borders the southern section of Moremi and is located in seasonal delta so the area around the camp changes with the seasons from lush green to dry savannah. The flood waters arrive in June, though there is often navigable water all year round.

The area around camp is rich with excitement: on game walks, day and nighttime drives, and mokoro excursions gliding soundlessly through the waterways allowing you to get close to the wildlife. This is one of the best places in the world for seeing buffalo in large numbers. In fact, our car was attacked by one of them. It usually never happens, but the buffalo was still scared by a previous lion attack.

Living with elephants

Finally, close to the camp you can enjoy the unique and unforgettable “Living with Elephants” experience. A learning adventure were you accompany a semi-habituated trio of elephants on daily foraging treks. An excursion that transform your understanding of elephants to a deeper and more personal level.

Other useful articles:
The best places in Namibia
The best places in Tanzania
The best Safaris in Africa
Jack’s Camp in Botswana
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Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés.

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Selous and Ruaha. Tanzania's best kept secrets

Boat Safari at Selous Game Reserve. Photo by Eduardo Sagüés

Selous and Ruaha. Tanzania’s best kept secrets

January 18, 2011  |  Africa  |  No Comments
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Following my previous post about the best safaris in Africa, now I will talk about Tanzania. While most visitors head straight to the amazing, famous but also usually crowded “northern safari circuit” (Serengeti, Ngorongoro…), very few others head down to the beautiful and unspoiled southern National Parks: Selous and Ruaha.

Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve, Africa’s largest protected area uninhabited by man, offers the lucky few visitors an experience in absolutely wild and unspoiled bush. The park varies from rolling grassy plains to open woodlands and rocky outcrops cut by the Rufiji River – the lifeblood of the park, whose tributaries form a network of lakes, lagoons and channels that offer a superb method of game viewing especially during the dry season (from June to October). Selous hosts Tanzania’s greatest population of elephants.

We stayed at Selous Safari Camp (Camp’s website and other useful info), a luxurious camp tucked away beside the beautiful Lake Nzerakela (we were told that the Prince of Wales stayed there with his family). Some of the safaris are done by boat so you can get really close to the wildlife, spotting not only lions, elephants, giraffes but also hippos, crocodiles, … The camp organizes fly-campings for a night or two (luxury walking safaris where you sleep out in the open with only a mosquito net between you and the sky).
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Ruaha National Park

Due to its’ distance from any major city, very few tourists visit this park. Ruaha National Park has a varied and fascinating terrain with wild fig trees, rare baobab forests and gorges of glowing orange sandstone. Compared with Selous, here you won’t find big grassy plains nor lakes (so you won’t be able to do safaris by boat). The Great Ruaha River contain swirling rapids and deep pools crowded by dozens of crocodiles and hippos fighting each other. Ruaha is a good place to spot predators. In fact, apart from lions, jackals and hyenas, we saw a group of wild dogs hunting.

We stayed at Jongomero, probably the most comfortable way to experience Ruaha. The camp stands beside the ephemeral Jongomero River. At the time we visited the camp, the river was dry. If you have the time and you convince the camp’s manager, he can take you to visit sculptor Robert Glen and Sue Stolberger, top class artists that live together in tents in the middle of the bush and fly to Europe and America for the opening of their exhibitions in major museums. Take a look at the art work and Robert’s giant monuments.
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Ras Kutani. End of the trip at the beach

After visiting Selous and Ruaha, we head to the coast and we enjoyed a couple of days at the beach before returning to Spain. We wanted to avoid touristic Zanzibar, so we went to Ras Kutani. The lodge is situated only 35 kilometers South of Dar es Salaam but offers the perfect hideaway, far from the maddening crowd. The setting ensures that feeling of being on one’s own tropical island. There is not much to do but swimming in the sea and sunbath on the beach just for yourself.
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Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés, Iñigo Sagüés and Eduardo Sagüés

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Best places in Namibia

Sossusvlei. Namibia. Photo: Pedro Sagüés

Best places in Namibia

December 31, 2010  |  Africa  |  18 Comments
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I will get straight to the point: Namibia is the country in Africa I would recommend the most. I’ll explain why:

This article is part of my previous one: “Best Safaris in Africa“. Namibia is a young and stable country located in southern Africa that I had the change of visiting in 2003, after several trips to Africa. The thing that impressed me most was its variety of landscapes: savage seascapes, lonely deserts, rough mountains, impressive wildlife, colonial cities and an amazing ethnic mix of people. Perfect for honeymooners, adventurers, anthropologists, or photographers… In my opinion, the best places to visit in Namibia are:

Best places in Namibia

Etosha National Park: The safari experience

Although Etosha is not, in my opinion, in the top 5 best National Parks in Africa, it is an excellent choice for enjoying African wildlife. Known for its vast shallow pan, which was once a huge lake and now is usually dry, but fills with water briefly in the summer, when it attracts pelicans and flamingos in particular. In Etosha you can see almost everything: from black rhinos to lions, elephants, impalas and all sorts of birds and reptiles. Etosha has also dozens of waterholes. During the dry season they become an excellent spot to watch game. The best game-viewing time is during the coolest dry months of May to September, but bird watching is at its peak in the rainy season from November to March. As this is a National Park, no off-road or night driving is allowed. For more info, visit Game Reserve website
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Damaraland: The desert elephants experience

Located in the northwest, Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia: Amazing, arid, unforgiving and dramatic. In fact, attractions near this area are named “Burnt Mountain”, the “Petrified Forest”, the “Skeleton Coast”. I stayed in an absolutely stunning hotel called Mowani, located in the middle of a rocky desert. During the day I did the best game drive of my life: we tracked down a herd of desert elephants for nine hours (they had special characteristics to adapt themselves to such rough conditions) until we finally found them. Back in the hotel we celebrated our find in the relaxing natural rock pool and with a cocktail while we watched the sunset. This place is definitely one of the highlights of my life and a place for honeymooners. A short distance from the hotel you will find Twyfelfontein, a massive open-air art gallery carved into red rock by ancient Bushmen overlooking an expansive valley below.
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Kaokoland: The Himba experience

Really close to Damaraland you wild find Kaokoland. The most represented ethnic group are the Himbas: a tall and svelt people that rub their bodies with red ochre and butter fat to protect their skins against the climate. These friendly people are herdsmen, breeding mainly cattle and goats while leading a semi-nomadic life. For them, clothes, hair and jewelry hold a special meaning and form an important part of their tradition and culture. Due to the uncontrolled influx of tourists, the Himba’s lifestyle and culture have become increasingly endangered.
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Skeleton Coast by plane: The best sightseeing ever?

on our way from Kaokoland to Walvis Bay we flew over the Skeleton Coast. So-called because of the many shipwrecks that have littered the beaches over the years. Because of the enormity of the area and harshness of the landscape, the best way to experience it is by plane. Flying at sea-level you’ll cross ancient rock formations, wide open plains dotted with zebra and oryx and look down on ghostly shipwrecks buried in the sand dunes where the desert meets the sea. This place is a dream for photographers.
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Swakopmund and Walvis Bay: adventure in the desert

Swakopmund is Namibia’s playground, a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike looking to escape the heat of the interior and to have a little adventure. The real action happens in the desert surrounding: quad-biking through the sand sea, sand-boarding slide down the dunes, exciting 4WD drives, parachute jumps or live out your “Lawrence of Arabia” fantasies on a camel safari… At Walvis Bay you can join a dolphin and whales cruise.
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Sossusvlei: the tallest sand dunes in the world

Namibia’s most outstanding scenic attraction. These dunes, part of the Namib Desert, have developed over a period of many millions of years. Climbing up one of these dunes provides breathtaking views of the whole area. The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset when the dunes refract spectacular colors. It’s a photographer’s dream!
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Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés
Fot further info: Namibia, Namibia Tourism, Lonely Planet

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Best Safaris in Africa

Lion at Selous National Park. Photo: Pedro Sagüés

Best Safaris in Africa

December 12, 2010  |  Africa  |  6 Comments
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As you already may know, I love photography, animals and Africa. For the last 25 years I have had the chance to visit many National Parks and Private Game Reserves. My friends often ask me to help them choose the safari in Africa that better suits their needs. That is the reason why I have decided to write this article: to try to bring some light on your decision making process.

The decision of going to Africa is often inspired by the passion and spirit of movies like “Out of Africa” or the excitement and wilderness of the National Geographic documentaries. Experiencing this depends on the following aspects:

Which country do I visit?

Almost all of the countries in the southern half of Africa offer the chance of enjoying wonderful safari experiences. This aspect is important in terms of:

  • Vaccinations against diseases such as Malaria or Yellow Fever. Vaccines can cause side effects. Therefore, some people decide not to get vaccinated and take precautions against mosquito bites. For further info, visit Center for Control of Diseases and Prevention.
  • Landscapes: Africa offers different amazing landscapes, from the savannah grasslands of Kenya, to the gorilla forests of Central Africa, the untamed woodlands of Zambia, the waterways of the Okavango Delta and the dunes of the Namib Desert.

Public National Parks or Private Reserves?

  • Usually, the wider and larger variety of animals, the more popular and crowded a Public National Park will be. In places like Serengeti (Tanzania) you can enjoy three different prides of lions in one day… but together with ten more cars full of tourists. The popularity of a park usually brings more limitations to the game drive (you may not be allowed to go off road, drive at night, have breakfast in the savannah…).
  • Private reserves are more expensive, exclusive and offer you a higher game drive experience. You usually drive with a professional ranger and a local tracker, so the chances of spotting animals increase. Private reserves have a limited number of cars allowed at the same time, so you rarely see other tourists.

For further information, visit http://www.game-reserve.com/, a website with useful information about the different parks and reserves in Africa

What kind of Safari?

There are multiple ways of experiencing wildlife. All of them are very safe (otherwise, very few people would go on a safari). These are some of the most common:

  • Game drive: You usually do two game drives a day. A 5h30m drive in the morning (from 6am to 11:30am) and a 3h30min in the afternoon (from 3pm to 6:30pm). This is the most common and easy way to spot animals. You can move fast and get close. The car makes a huge difference. The worst scenario is driving in a regular van with windows and roof. The best would be 4WD with no roof or windows and completely adapted for enjoying the game drive.
  • Night game drive: Predators get more active at dawn so the night game drives can get more exciting. Animals are not that difficult to spot because the light of the rangers’ torch reflects into their eyes. Few parks offer these drives, especially those in Zambia and South Africa. Night game drives are more uncomfortable (it gets cold and you get more mosquitoes) but are more exciting (the sense of hearing sharpens, allowing you to enjoy the sound of the African night).
  • Walking safari: This is definitely an exciting experience. Although animals are very difficult to spot (they usually avoid humans), you are accompanied by an armed ranger just for safety reasons. Walking safaris are the perfect way to discover the wildlife: learn about animal tracks and sounds, spot birds, learn the secrets of the bush…
  • Canoe excursions: It gives you access to places unreachable by other modes of transport: quiet backwaters, floodplains and shallow sandy channels. The silence of the mokoro (canoe) allows you to get close to wildlife. The Okavango Delta (Botswana) is the place to go although you can enjoy great canoe excursions in Zambia, south Tanzania, … .

What kind of acommodation?

You can choose among various options:

  • Hotel: you will find them in the most popular National Parks. It is similar to placing a Sheraton in the middle of Africa. Not too romantic but very comfortable.
  • Camps: for people who demand exclusivity and privacy. It is an all included service so prices are per person, starting at 125$ and reaching 1.500$ per night. You usually sleep in a luxurious tent on raised teak platforms, in the middle of the bush. Although it is safe, at night you are not allowed to walk alone. They usually have a dining area overlooking the savannah, a swimming pool, a cocktail bar, a wildlife reference library and a campfire, where guests and rangers share stories about Africa. Even if it’s not as comfortable as a hotel, this would be your choice if you have enough of a budget and are looking for a luxurious and exclusive African experience.
  • Overland: the perfect option for people with a low budget willing to experience an adventure in Africa. It is a way of travelling through Africa via road, with a group of like-minded travelers. Overland vehicles are custom built and designed to deal with travel conditions in Africa. Most overlanding is based on camping adventures. For more info, visit Overlanding Africa or Kananga (if you’re in Spain).

Which time of the year should I go?

It depends on which part of Africa you go, but basically, you can differentiate two seasons.

  • Dry season: From April to October are the cooler winter months which have lovely warm days but cold nights. Traditionally, the best season for game viewing as the vegetation becomes sparse and water is restricted to rivers and artificial waterholes. In my opinion, the best time to visit Africa is from June to November.
  • Wet season: it starts in November and ends in March. The dry bushland comes to life after the rains, as well as the insects, with an abundance of wild flowers. The game becomes harder to see as numerous waterholes fill up and the foliage becomes thicker.

My recommendations

I hope you found this article useful. During the next weeks I will be posting my recommendations of the best parks, reserves and camps in Africa. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any question. I will be very glad to help you.
-Update- Check out my article about the best places in Namibia
-Update- Check out my article about the best places in Tanzania
-Update- Check out my article about the best places in Botswana
Click on images to enlarge[nggallery id=”32″]
Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés
Most of my trips to Africa are organized by “Patricia Gallo – Tailor Made Tours

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Best places to visit in Sydney

Sydney Zoo. Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tjt195/105783812/

Best places to visit in Sydney

December 7, 2010  |  Australia  |  23 Comments
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This is my third and last article about Sydney. Previously I wrote about the best bars in Sydney and the best restaurants in Sydney.

Sydney impressed me when I first saw it. Somehow, I had the feeling I was in many cities at the same time. Barcelona, San Francisco, Los Angeles, … It is the perfect city: amazing beaches, great sightseeings, good weather, healthy and cosmopolitan lifestyle, intense nightlife, … what else can you ask for!! I have been to many great places but, again, my good friends Lucía, Gonzalo and Sue helped me to complete this list of the best things to do when you visit Sydney:

  • Sydney Opera House: A top class opera house that offer multiple options such as “The Playhouse“, a cheaper ($30 a show) and more intimate option to enjoy great music.
  • Spit Bridge to Manly walk: long walk but worth it, with many secluded beaches along the way.
  • Bondi to Coogee Walk: walk along the cliffs with a view to the Pacific. You can spot the migrating whales in October/November.
  • Farmers’ Markets at the Carriageworks: Amazing selection of fresh food, cheeses, etc. A traditional weekly undercover farmers’ market in the renovated market space at Eveleigh Railyards.
  • Balmain: great neighborhood to walk around. 10 min from the city. Old docks still there, loads of cafes and restaurants and pubs. A “real” experience of a Sydney neighborhood.
  • For booklovers: the best second-hand bookshops are in Glebe, along Glebe Point Road.
  • The Rocks: the oldest part of Sydney, just in the City center, near Circular Quay. Many boutique shops, bars and restaurants, design hotels and art and photography galleries. Every weekend there are artisanal markets, gastronomy fairs, street concerts…
  • Swimming pool at Victoria’s Park: it is possible to enjoy a bath a sunbathing just in the city center. In Victoria’s park, there is a big public outdoor pool with fitness centre, to which you can have access for only $2.
  • Surry Hills: in the south-east of Sydney. A bohemian suburb in which you can find small coffee shops and organic restaurants, new designers retail shops, and curious book shops or furniture stores.
  • Picnic at Botanical Gardens: an habitual plan among Aussie people. A huge park surrounding Circular Quay and the Opera House, where you can enjoy a picnic with the typical “sushi rolls”, imported from the many Asian inhabitants living in Sydney.
  • Captain Cook Harbour Cruise: see some of the harbour’s most spectacular sights
  • Taronga Zoo: perfect plan for kids. One of the major tourist attractions in Sydney. Great place to see Australian wildlife and enjoy great views of the city.
  • Visit to Watsons Bay: taking the ferry from Circular quay, you will arrive to Watsons bay where you can find the most beautiful bays and coves from which you will admire awesome views of the Opera House and Sydney. One of the best beaches is the nudist Lady beach.

Your opinion about this list of the best places in Sydney

Is there a place that should definitely be listed in this post? Have you got any suggestion to improve this blog? If so, please place a comment

Update:
Nathan posted an interesting comment were he suggests visiting “The Rocks“. Thank you Nathan!

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