As part of my recent trip to Botswana, I was very lucky to take a scenic flight with Helicopter Horizons over the Jao Reserve in the Okavango Delta. I’ve been to this reserve several times, and every time I get the best feeling from the area. I’ve come to expect a great time there, but as is true with nature, there are always new surprises for you no matter how many times you’ve seen a place. This helicopter excursion gave me a fresh perspective and appreciation for this spectacular ecosystem.
Taking off from the Jao airstrip, we flew over the delta in a Bell jet Ranger helicopter. Cruising very low over the delta, the pilot was able to remove the doors, giving us unobstructed views of the wildlife below. Beneath us monster crocs sunned themselves on the channel banks, a herd of buffalo spread out like spilled ink, and bull elephants strode along, still regal as ever from our lofty position. For thirty exhilarating minutes we zoomed across the delta, taking in a land as old as time from this thrillingly modern perspective. Truly amazing!
I cannot recommend this type of excursion enough. These scenic flights can be incorporated into any safari and will absolutely add to the experience. Another fun option is to have a helicopter transfer flight from camp to camp instead of a light aircraft. The costs involved are relative to the normal light aircraft transfer flight so there are no huge extra costs involved by adding it in.
My final tip: I’m no great photographer, but bring your cameras – the photo-ops are fantastic!
All photos of helicopters from Helicopter Horizons
Nairobi isn’t often on travelers’ radars for African destinations, but this lively city has a lot to offer as a bookend to your safari. Whether you’re coming off a long haul flight and need a place to recharge or just coming off a safari and need one last dose of Kenyan magic before heading home, Nairobi has an accommodation and activity option for everyone.
Having visited the city countless times, the Mango team has refined its list of favorite guesthouses and boutique hotels to a fabulous collection that range from romantic retreats to family friendly escapes. Top of our list is the Giraffe Manor, a world famous hotel where habituated giraffes live right in the gardens. Every morning they will stop by the windows of your bedroom and the dining room for a morning treat. You wake up to a giraffe tapping on your second story bedroom window, looking for their morning snack, and enjoy your gourmet breakfast with a giraffe looking over your shoulder. It’s a must-stay destination for Nairobi, kids and adults alike will be absolutely thrilled by it. We certainly were!
If you have a little longer in the city, we love a mix of culture and nature. Take a game drive through Nairobi National Park, where you can see all the wildlife set against the skyline of the city – the best of Africa’s past and present in one scene.
Stop by the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage or Rothschild Giraffe Center to see the unbelievably adorable baby elephants, rhinos and giraffes that are being hand-raised by dedicated experts. Kids will especially love both of these experiences. At the Rothschild Giraffe Center, you can handfeed the animals, which is a great opportunity if you didn’t stay at Giraffe Manor.
Next time you’re in Nairobi, think beyond a quick overnight and a shuttle to the airport. This vibrant city offers so much! Our team at Mango can help you plan out the perfect stopover, no matter what your travel style is.
Imagine you are a farmer living with your family in Namibia. From the age of six when you first started tending your family’s herd, every day of your life has been dedicated to caring for and protecting your cattle. Just like millions of other African families, these cattle are your best chance for a good life, acting as both an economic and social currency. Cattle are so integral to cultures across Africa. They are offered for bridal dowries, sacrificed for meals at special occasions, and seen as an intermediary between the human and spirit world. In short, they represent so much more than simply livestock or income to many African cultures, making them pretty invaluable. So when something threatens your cattle herd, it’s understandable that you would be willing to do everything in your power to protect them.
Farmers living in rural areas, especially ones adjacent to wildlife reserves, are at high risk of having cattle killed by wild animals. Prey animals in the wild – such as buffalo or impala – know to be alert for predators, but domesticated cows do not, nor do they know how to protect themselves. From a lion’s perspective, a cow looks like a pretty sweet deal – they provide the same nutrition as hunting a buffalo, but without any of the danger or effort. Given the choice between an aggressive buffalo or a docile cow, a lion will choose the cow every time – can you blame them? This is just one example of the human wildlife conflict that millions of subsistence farmers and animals face every day. Sadly, when predators kill a farmer’s cattle, they are prone to retaliate by shooting them, leaving out poisoned meat, or setting lethal snares – but can you blame them?
From both the farmers’ and the predators’ perspectives, both are acting in understandable ways. But predator populations across Africa are already facing enough pressures pushing them to the brink of extinction without retaliation coming into play. This where organizations such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) come into play. They provide tools and training to farming communities to help them combat human wildlife conflict in sustainable ways. Beyond this, they also do habitat restoration and rehabilitate orphaned cheetahs so that they can be released back into the wild.
Compared to other big cats, cheetahs are disproportionately impacted by human wildlife conflict. Cheetahs may seem like impressive hunters to us, but they’re actually at the bottom of the predator chain of power. Their lithe bodies, non-retractable claws, and relatively small jaws mean that they are less powerful than lions leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs. They can’t defend their kills from predators looking to steal their kills, nor can they pull it up into a tree like leopards do. As a result, they tend to hang around the edge of an ecosystem, keeping out of the way of other predators. Unfortuantely, this also puts them closer to humans and therefore the chance that they will kill cattle. Today over 90% of wild cheetahs live outside of protected areas, which is why so many cheetahs fall victim to human wildlife conflict.
Cheetahs once called the whole African continent and parts of Asia home, but that is no longer the case. Today they are extinct in 77% of their former range, including all of Asia except a tiny population in Iran. Over 100,000 cheetahs roamed the plains in 1900, but today less than 10,000 remain – that’s over a 90% extinction rate. To help alleviate human wildlife conflict, CCF is providing specially trained livestock guarding dogs to local farmers, and engaging in community education programs on techniques for non-lethal wildlife control. Since 1994, over 500 Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs have been placed with farmers in exchange for participating in an educational course. The program has been very well received by local communities – there’s now a two year waiting list for dogs. Throughout the lives of these dogs, on-site visits are conducted to check on their health and provide any care needed.
Such a fantastic program doesn’t come free, and the CCF relies on donations to keep their programs thriving. Mango Safaris is proud to support such a great organization and we encourage you to make a donation as well. Together we can make a difference in alleviating human wildlife conflict, creating better lives for both farmers and the beautiful predators of Africa.
Today is international cheetah day. A day when we celebrate these speed demons of the savannah. A day when we admire their svelte form and delicate spots. A day when we wonder what the future holds of these incredible creatures. At this point it’s a real toss up about what’s faster – a hunting cheetah or their devastating rate of extinction. With only 7,000 adults left in the wild (that’s less than 10% of their historical population), there is no time to delay in taking action against their extinction. The problems driving their rapid decline are numerous – human wildlife conflict in rural areas and shrinking habitats, for instance. But there’s one other threat – a hidden one that’s not often mentioned but has real potential to push cheetahs right out of existence. The exotic pet trade.
Several thousand cheetahs are held in captivity around the world, shown off as the trophies and whims of men without any respect for nature. When cubs are as young as four to six weeks old, they are stolen from their mothers in the wild and tossed into cages for sale on the black market. On their way to their final destinations, many go days without food or water and are left to wallow in their own feces. Only 15% of the cubs are estimated to survive the horrendous ordeal. Unfortunately, their nightmare is far from over. Fed an improper diet and denied the exercise they desperately need, most captive cheetahs die very quickly.
It is estimated that over the past 10 years, around 1,200 cheetahs have been illegally smuggled out of Africa. With their populations teetering on the edge of extinction, the exotic pet trade is damaging the chance of any of recovery that wild cheetahs may have. Cheetahs deserve to live freely on the savannahs of Africa, not tethered to chains or locked in cages without any chance of a normal life.
If you’d like to make a difference, please sign the petition to end the exotic pet trade. A link to the top cheetah conservation organization is included as well – check it out to learn more about getting involved.
Mango African Safaris was honored to attend the second annual Conservation Lab. The event was held 29 & 30 APR 2017 at Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This invitation-only event builds bridges between 100+ leaders from the key sectors of conservation, travel, technology, behavioral sciences, philanthropy and government. The Conservation Lab creates optimal conditions for creative thinking and collaborative innovation with the ultimate goal of creating a brighter, more sustainable future for Africa’s wild areas. Wow, quite an event to be a part of. Mango prides itself on staying at the forefront of ecotourism, helping ensure that these beautiful wild areas remain for generations to come. It's not enough to know about the latest camps opening up, Mango strives to actively work towards ecotourism reaching its full potential for supporting wildlife conservation.
The theme this year was to ‘Fight our Way Back’. The cast of attendees was led by famed archeologist, conservationist, and politician Dr. Richard Leakey. In his opening remarks to the group, he said that we are not too late, but that the task ahead will be very difficult. If we want to save the many shrinking wildlife areas and habitats for future generations, then we much act now. Collaboration between key sectors is essential if positive, long-term changes are going to happen. Events such as the Conservation Lab provide the much-needed chance to open lines of dialogue between some of the greatest minds in these areas.
My personal highlight was the final morning, when I found myself with a few minutes of one on one time with Dr. Leakey during breakfast. Having always wanted to meet him, and armed with loads of questions about his life, wildlife conservation and much more, I was pretty excited. Needless to say, I was a bit less excited when all we talked about was politics and the current administration here in the US. Oh well, better luck next time!
Africa is the best place in the world to try your hand at wildlife photography. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast or are just learning the ropes, Africa will provide you with stunning scenery, a gorgeous abundance of wildlife, and golden hours that would make a Nat Geo photographer cry tears of happiness.
Even if you have already bought a nice DSLR camera, there’s a good chance you haven’t bitten the bullet and invested in a telephoto lens. They’re quite the financial commitment, especially if you’re not regularly photographing wildlife. Sure, you could take some spectacular safari photographs with a telephoto lens, but maybe you just can’t justify that kind of investment for just a few uses.
This is where the magic of Borrowlenses.com comes into play. This brilliant website lets you rent telephoto lenses for a fraction of the price of buying one. It’s super easy – just browse their selection, choose a lens compatible with your camera, set the time frame you need it, and click done! The lens will arrive on the day you choose, and when you’re done, you simply ship it back in the pre-addressed, pre-paid box they provide. How simple is that?
As a bonus, you can also rent entire camera set ups – the perfect chance to test out that new camera you’ve been dreaming about before committing to a big purchase.
Lion cub photo by David Murray, check out more of his work here.
Rubondo Island is a large island on Lake Victoria in western Tanzania. It has been a national park for many years, but until recently has been left undisturbed. Now it is billed as a Lake Victoria fishing paradise, haven for chimpanzees, elephants, 300+ birds species, and even bizarrely as it sounds…a few giraffes. The fishing was non-existent, the chimps are not habituated, the elephants and giraffes not to been seen. The camp is nice enough but I’m giving this location a ‘stay tuned’ – great things could be coming together on Rubondo but it hasn’t quite hit its stride yet in our opinion.
Luxury travelers, culture lovers, foodies, those seeking a little pampering and those who love highly unique hotels
Private desert encampment, tour the almond and rose valleys, spa treatments, visit 12th century Berber villages, private sundowner experiences, go for a hike, stroll through the gardens and cooking classes on request
Dar Ahlam is a restored kasbah restored that promises an oasis of ethereal and minimalist romance with a luxurious whimsy that echoes through your mind long after you’re gone. This is a place to simply be, to take in centuries of Moroccan magic.
A Place for Dreams
Hidden away in an oasis of palm and almond groves where the Atlas Mountains meet the Sahara, Dar Ahlam is a place of dreams. This is a place where the days are long and luxurious, where time is measured in cups of fresh mint tea and pages turned in your book. After the thrilling hustle and bustle of Morocco’s vibrant cities, Dar Ahlam is a much-welcomed respite of calm and tranquility. It is long garden strolls, leisurely wine-soaked lunches and evenings pondering the desert stars.
From the moment you step foot onto the grounds, you are welcomed into a place where luxury is tinged by whimsy and delights await around every corner. The staff are attentive, but non-intrusive, giving you the time and space to discover the hidden secrets of Dar Ahlam at your own pace.
A Place to be Enchanted
A centuries old kasbah that has watched over generations of oasis life, Dar Ahlam has been lovingly restored to welcome travelers from around the world. They struck the perfect balance between adding just enough modern conveniences to create a luxurious experience without losing any of the relic charm. The design is minimal and beautifully clean, letting the sprawling, organic beauty of the gardens be the focus. Clean architectural lines are softened by swishing palm fronds and swathes of airy white linen. Accents of geometric Berber patterns are tattooed into rammed earth walls the color of honeyed terracotta.
Handwoven textiles and rugs plucked from the local souk bring a restrained decadence to the suites. Pressed tin lanterns cast a kaleidoscope of golden light, creating an almost unbearably romantic ambiance to any meal. Oversized, hand-carved wooden doors with pounded nails beckon you to seek what lies beyond.
This is a place where a new, secret space awaits you around every corner. Wander down halls lit only by candles, the flickering light casting shadows across the gently undulating surface of the earthen walls. Tuck yourself away into a cozy room painted the sumptuous colors of a Saharan sunset to read a good novel. Warm your toes by your suite’s private fireplace as nighttime brings the chill of desert air.
Morocco is a nation shaped by the cultural influences of countless foreign lands, and the Dar Ahlam gardens are no exception. Created by Louis Benech, the gifted designer of the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris and the Bosquet du Théâtre d'Eau at Versailles, they show how elegant simplicity can be. Feathery tufted grasses frame perfectly manicured lawns. Palms tower over orchards of olive and citrus trees. Pomegranates and flowers bring pops of color to a backdrop of soft greens. Tiny tortoises wander freely, peeking out from beneath the leaves. Perhaps the most delightful part of the gardens is the abundance of luscious fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and nuts that are grown to fuel the creativity of Dar Ahlam’s culinary team.
A Place for Delights
If you only travel to Dar Ahlam for the food and nothing else, no one could fault you. During your stay you will dine on dishes selected from 450 gourmet recipes created by the likes of Frédérick Grasser-Hermé, Philippe Conticini, Frédéric Eyrier, Cédric Nieuvarts and Thierry Alix, with desserts by the incomparable Pierre Hermé. Each dish has a story to tell. The ingredients tell the tale of Morocco’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. They are tantalizing, yet subtle. Simple, yet creative. Magnificent, memorable and utterly unexpected. The abundance of the garden fuels the menus, which are ever-changing to express the bounty of the seasons.
Whenever possible ingredients that can’t be produced at the kasbah are sourced from the local women’s co-operatives or farmers. Goat cheese, pomegranate vinegar, date caramel, tall herb grass honey and amlou, a luscious spread made from crushed almonds and argan oil, are all sourced from the surrounding valleys where they are harvested and produced by families who have been making them for generations. They have also developed a micro-credit system with local herders to rear high quality, environmentally responsible livestock.
At Dar Ahlam you’ll taste olives cured with orange peel and chilies, and pineapple carpaccio with crystallized coriander. You’ll sip on warming pumpkin and ginger soup or cool off with strawberries served with sweet and salty crystallized lemon, olive oil sorbet and vanilla. You’ll dine on a crusty avocado tart with arugula salad and ice cream made from melon flowers and yogurt.
Not only will you never have the same dish twice, you won’t even have the same dining experience twice. Everything is private and perfectly customized to you and your tastes. On a quiet balcony overlooking the grounds, sit on oversized cushions as your attendant presents delectable small dishes and starry skies peak through the canopy overhead. Be led through a candlelit hallway to a secret courtyard where a table for two illuminated by 100 candles awaits. Stroll through the garden to a secluded stand of olive trees where an elaborate lunch is set up for you, chilled wine and nibbles ready the moment you arrive. It’s all about these gorgeous, curated moments just for you.
Venture Beyond the Place
In case you want to do something more than indulge in delectable meals and read in the gardens, Dar Ahlam also offers a handful of other activities. Get a massage featuring the most beautiful Moroccan spa products or enjoy a personal sundowner on a bluff overlooking the mountains. Hike to a 12th century Berber village to learn about their traditional lifestyle or go for a picnic and bike ride through the fragrant almond and rose valleys.
By far their most special experience beyond the kasbah is their extraordinary private desert encampment called Camp Nomad. Spending a night in the Sahara in a classic Berber-style camp is a quintessential Moroccan experience that many travelers will do. However, no one does it better than Dar Ahlam. They have two different locations depending on the season, but both are utterly private and away from the crowds that most other experiences have.
White canvas tents, plush pillows, handwoven rugs, crisp linens and all of the same delectable food and impeccable service as the kasbah come together to create an experience that is simply put – magical. Think tagines slow cooked over the campfire coals and cocktails made from vodka steeped with lemons and star anise. As you watch a watercolor sky fade away to a canopy of stars brighter than you’ve ever seen, you’ll feel like the only people on Earth. It’s an homage to an age when the world felt twice as large and was still largely unexplored.
When your heart craves the romance of a bygone era and your soul the stillness of a desert sky, come to Dar Ahlam. You will find what you seek and so much more.
Traveling through Morocco can involve a lot of hours in the car as you move between the various destinations, so we love to use Dar Ahlam as a place to unwind and slow down at the end of a trip. We think everyone should splurge and spend at least three nights here, especially if you’re going to do one night in the desert at Camp Nomad. Everyone we send here comes away saying it’s one of the best and most special experiences they’ve ever had.
Check out our Magical Morocco itinerary, which pairs two nights at Dar Ahlam and one night at Camp Nomad with our other opulent favorites in Fez and Marrakech. From the fascinating traditions of Marrakech to vibrant modern cultural scene thriving in Fez, this itinerary has it all.
What’s your hometown?
What’s your favorite thing about working at Mango?
I love that Mango is a small business. We actually invest in what we care about (conservation and getting folks to Africa), and we’re a tight knit crew.
Why do you love to travel?
My background is in Anthropology, so I love learning about people different from myself and my experiences. Traveling is an opportunity to learn more about the world and expand my world view.
So often nowadays a destination doesn’t live up to your expectations. The landscapes are lacking that touch of professional photoshopping, hordes of tourists clog the must-see sites, and the much-touted cuisine is overpriced. When, like me, you’ve worked in the travel industry for a while and have seen thousands upon thousands of the best marketing photographs, the pressure is even greater on the destination to perform. Let me just say that Africa did not disappoint in the slightest – in fact, it far exceeded them in every way. You can look at a million pictures, but nothing will ever capture the magic of sipping on a G&T awash in the coral glow of the sunset, or falling asleep to the sound of hyena and lion calls, or seeing the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. Pure magic.
The beauty of Botswana is its purity of character. By never having been colonized, they managed to maintain a cultural identity that is wholly and authentically BaTswana. The nation’s existence is indelibly linked to their natural world – diamonds and ecotourism bolster them financially and their daily lives ebb and flow with the seasonal floods of the Okavango Delta. Botswana is coming up on 50 years of full independence (they were a British protectorate before) and the sense of pride is palpable among its people. While in the Savuti region, I had the honor of visiting the ‘President’s Campsite’, which is the exact site where in 1966, the first president, Seretse Khama, made the decision to protect Botswana’s vast wilderness. It’s inspiring to see how the good foresight of one man can so profoundly affect the future of an entire nation. President Khama laid the groundwork not only for a sustainably run, conservation-minded country, but also for the political stability afforded when corruption and exploitation are eliminated. We sipped on our morning coffee and listened to our guides Metal, a Savute native, and Walter speak about the importance of this campground. “The decisions made to conserve in the 1960s were made right here. The blueprint for Botswana’s ecotourism policy was written here. And I wanted to bring you here today so you can feel this place and understand why we have the tourism industry that we have today,” said Walter as he stood in the center of the clearing. Honor and respect for nature run deep in the BaTswana people.
The Setswana name ‘Savuti’ means unpredictable and mysterious – something that you cannot explain. When you’re out on safari there, you feel that power. It’s that beautiful sense of place that envelops all your senses and makes you forget the rest of the world exists. “I love this place – it’s my home,” Metal told us. There is no other way to explain the BaTswana people than humbly prideful. Despite being contrary, there is simply no other way to describe the immense pride and humble spirit shared by the BaTswana people. They have every reason to be incredibly proud of being from Botswana, yet they are so gracious and flattered whenever a visitor expresses admiration.
I was humbled by my time in Africa. Very rarely do you find a place so enthralling that you are constantly of a state of awe. It takes a very special place to render both first time and veteran travelers speechless. The nature of a wildlife-based trip is that you never know what to expect. Every game drive offers a new encounter, a new landscape, a new experience. Africa is never the same place twice. Perhaps that what makes the BaTswana people such a treasured part of the experience. They live their cultural heritage, embrace tradition in their daily lives, and yet strive forward with unfaltering dedication to their flourishing future. Botswana is a destination that no traveler should miss out on. I know that I am much the richer from my time there.
Check out our Higlights of Southern Africa to see how you can explore beautiful Botswana yourself.
Wildlife lovers, culture lovers, active travelers, honeymooners, families, multigenerational families & photographers
Game drives, highland walks, Maasai cultural experiences
Private sundowners with Maasai dancers, Maasai orpul experience and a private picnic brunch complete with chef on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater also available with supplementary cost
A New Perspective on a Famous Site
For many the Ngorongoro Crater is a popular but quick stop where you spend a day on safari exploring the crater floor and learning a bit about the geology before heading onward to the Serengeti. In reality, this area is home to a cultural history as fascinating as its natural one. Entamanu Ngorongoro offers experiences that beautifully blend these two elements to create an enriching and unique visit to the Ngorongoro Crater that steps beyond the expected.
Perched right on the rim in a pocket of forest, this thoughtfully designed camp overlooks the entire sweep of the crater. We love the location of Entamanu, which is found directly across from the majority of the other rim-based camps, well off the beaten track. Best of all, it is located the closest to the sole descent road, which provides access to the crater floor, saving you up to of an hour of extra driving before even beginning your game drive. This means that you can easily be the first into the crater in the morning, giving you precious exclusivity in a notoriously popular destination. Since most guests only spend one day on safari there, having the early morning with no crowds is invaluable, especially for photographers.
Even if you only spend a few nights at Entamanu Ngorongoro, they are sure to make an immense impact on you. The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth thanks to a serendipitous mash-up of geological and ecological factors. Formed about 2.5 million years ago when a massive volcano collapsed in on itself, it is now the world’s largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera. Rich volcanic soil, a warm climate and proximity to vast, fertile grasslands was the perfect recipe for biodiversity to flourish.
While on safari on the crater floor, you can hardly turn your head without seeing an animal in this remarkable self-contained habitat. Grazers abound and predators ranging from lions and hyenas to bat-eared foxes thrive with the abundant prey. There are even rhino, leopard and caracal for those lucky enough to spot one. Lake Magadi is home to seasonal flocks of flamingos and pelicans that turn the alkaline lake into a watercolor swirl of pinks and whites.
In the Footsteps of the Maasai
On the outer slopes of the crater, dozens of Maasai villages dot the land. To honor this, Entamanu has curated a wonderful collection of experiences that center around their culture and heritage. Go for a nature walk with a Maasai guide, learning about medicinal plants and looking for wildlife as you hike along the rim, the crater on one side and the Serengeti stretching to the horizon on the other. Our favorite way to do this fully-customizable experience is a 2-3 hour hike that ends with a spectacular brunch on a bluff overlooking Lake Empakai, the Oldupai Gorge and the Serengeti beyond.
With your guide you can visit a Maasai village to take in their daily life. Learn how they build their unique houses and boma, including stepping inside a home to see their sleeping and cooking quarters. You will meet their beloved livestock and enjoy a beautiful song and dance performance. Their rhythmic chanting will echo in your ears long after you leave the boma behind. We loved how authentic and relaxed this experience felt. Only the guests from Entamanu have the privilege of visiting this particular village, so it never felt put-on.
For an even deeper dive into Maasai culture, opt for a private sundowner with a traditional dance performance or the Maasai Orpul experience, a strengthening ceremony for men and boys where they gather in the bush for at least two weeks, away from the boma.
Africa Meets Alpine
Back in camp the experience is just as unique. Entamanu feels like a Tanzanian take on Scandinavian hygge (the art of coziness). Canvas walls blend with white-washed wood, fluffy white pillows and plush woven rugs. Plump armchairs encircle crackling fireplaces. Lampshades beaded by the Maasai, cowhide rugs echoing the Maasai herds, and tapestries depicting Tanzanian folklore infuse local flavor throughout the design. It doesn’t sound like it would work in a safari camp, but it absolutely does, and it does so effortlessly. It’s curated, but unfussy. Cozy, but chic.
With the cool misty mornings and chilly evenings (you’re at 7,500 feet of elevation on the rim!) the alpine inspired design beckons you in. Imagine sitting on your deck with a steaming mug of coffee and a warm fudgy brownie (stay tuned for the recipe), watching the golden light and wispy clouds play across the caldera…you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve found heaven.
Check out our Grasslands of Tanzania itinerary, which sandwiches a stay at Entamanu Ngorongoro with stops in Tarangire National Park and the famed Serengeti National Park.
Why this itinerary is great:
Visit the remarkably diverse ecosystems of Northern Tanzania
See the iconic Great Wildebeest Migration and all the predator action that does along with it
Walk with the Maasai in their sacred homeland
See massive herds of elephants roaming the river valleys of Tarangire National Park
Easily add on time in the Mahale Mountains to see wild chimpanzees or on Zanzibar for the idyllic beaches and sleepy island pace
If there’s one thing that will always hold true for me, it’s that I am not a morning person. Waking up is an arduous task for me, even on the best of days. When I told my friends that I would be getting up before dawn while on safari, they all laughed and told me there was no way that would happen. Surprisingly, the early mornings ended up being my favorite time of day. Days on safari have this pleasing rhythm. You wake up just as a deep blue glow is softening the horizon. After a few yoga stretches I would head down to the main lodge for a light breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and a cup of coffee (or maybe two or three – I’m only human). Just as the sky was fading to a pale blue, we would head out for our morning game drive, thermos. That soft light was what made those early mornings so worth it. It has a luminous quality that fills the whole mopane forest with a golden warmth. It softens the harsh edges of the arid landscape, making it feel enchanted, otherworldly.
The animals are just emerging from their slumbers, carefully picking their way through the tender new leaves and grass shoots. Fresh tracks from the night’s activities reveal the hidden dramas that unfold under the veil of darkness. Like reading a morning newspaper, the guides will study the crisp prints and unbroken trails, telling you the story of who has come and gone in the night. Even though they may be long gone, it’s always thrilling when they point out the telltale marks of a leopard. “She may still be nearby,” they’ll say. “We’ll just have to wait and see what magic the day holds for us.”
Great Plains Conservation is a leading safari operator in the prime wildlife areas of East and Southern Africa. Their camps are located in carefully selected private reserves offering visitors the utmost in exclusive safari style. (In Botswana these reserves are called concessions.) Nestled in the Selinda Concession of the Linyanti Wetlands and the northern reaches of the Okavango Delta, Great Plains runs three fantastic camps.
Year round these camps offer guests the gamut of wildlife experiences, from viewing plains game and big cats, to boating safaris down the channels of the delta, to guided walking safaris offering unexpected perspectives. In addition to the traditional big game like lion, buffalo, elephants, leopard, giraffe and zebra, these camps offer guests the interesting option of birding.
Many people may discount birding as worthy experiences on an adventure such as this. You may hear folks say things along the lines of, "why waste time looking at herons and starlings? Let's go find some lions." Or, "this is boring, I want to go see some baby elephants!"
So often it seems that birding takes on an all or nothing mindset. It’s true that without lions and elephants, a safari would be incomplete, but if you stay a few nights with Great Plains, then we highly recommend trying your hand at birding. Especially around the Selinda area, the bird and wildlife densities are simply astonishing. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll go home with wonderful memories (digital or grey matter) of some pretty spectacular and over the top sightings.
Without the keen eyes of the guides, it is easy to perceive the bush as overly simplistic, without all of the diverse complexity that makes it such a rich environment. The lions and baby elephants are not planted in your path. They are wild animals and numerous factors determine the frequency in which one might come across them, including, but not limited to, the quality of guiding, seasonal changes, climate change, the flood levels of the delta and so much more. The point is that while you will see these exciting and quintessential elements, there are myriad ways to broaden your experience.
One personal favorite is checking out the many avian creatures that also call the bush home. While recently visiting the GPC Botswana camps, I had a phenomenal time learning about the abundant native birds, the European migrants, the impressive birds of prey, the 'little brown jobs' and more. I am nowhere near being classified as a ‘twitcher’ (serious birder), but it was very fun tabulating our sightings and realizing that in my two days at Selinda Camp we saw over 100 separate bird species, 111 to be exact. The finale was a rare one at that, the Rietze's helmeted shrike. To my surprise before we departed we were awarded a little prize of membership into the 111 club.
Sure seeing lions hunting buffalo from less than 30 feet away was a site that I will never forget. And seeing wild dogs on a freshly killed impala really pumped up the adrenaline. But I enjoyed the quiet moments between, when I was scanning the bush in search of new birds just as much as those sudden bursts of frenzied bush life.
So don't sleep on the birds. You do not need to be a bonafide expert to really have some fun – plus the hat is pretty stylish too.
Photos from Brian Huggins & Great Plains Conservation
Even though this Earth Day is the 50th anniversary, we can't celebrate in our usual favorite ways. Trails and national parks are closed, beaches are off limits are campgrounds sit empty. Though we may not be out and about, enjoying the glories of nature firsthand, there's still plenty of ways to enjoy a slower paced Earth Day at home. Whether you're lucky enough to have a backyard or live in an urban apartment, here is our list of suggestions to celebrate Mother Earth from the safety of your own home. Don't worry, she'll be waiting for us once all of this over!
1. Plant a pollinator friendly garden with wildflowers native to your region.
2. Opt for local, in season produce.
3. Buy organic whenever possible. Not only does this support the reduction of pesticides and fossil-fuel based fertilizers, but it also produces healthier foods as organic crops are higher in phytonutrients thanks to relying on their natural defense systems against insects.
4. Enjoy some screen-free entertainment with books, board games, a backyard picnic or play time outside.
5. Start your own vegetable garden. No yard space? Try a herb garden in your kitchen or balcony.
6. Use this time to finally round out your collection of reusable items, including grocery totes, water bottles, travel mugs, cloth napkins, reusable ziploc bags, mesh produce bags, beeswax wrap and countless others.
8. Donate to your favorite local or international conservation organization. To support African wildlife, we love the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, Fallen Rangers Fund (mountain gorillas), Rhino Conservation Botswana and African Parks Network.
9. Start your own compost to help reuse organic kitchen scraps.
10. Switch traditional lightbulbs for new energy efficient ones.
11. Try out delicious new recipes for Meatless Mondays as a way to cut back on meat consumption.
13. Opt for a Rainforest Alliance certified coffee to ensure sustainable practices and fair wages went into your morning cup.
14. Opt for brands that use organic cotton and natural dyes in clothing to reduce the use of harsh chemicals both in producing and processing the cotton.
15. Refresh your beauty and hygiene routine with Earth friendly products.
16. Use this down time to unsubscribe yourself from junk mail to help reduce unnecessary paper waste.
17. Run a BioBlitz for your kids (or yourself!) A BioBlitz is when you try and find as many different species of plants and animals in 24 horus within a given space. This is often used by scientists looking to engage the public with conservation, while also collecting valuable information about a region's ecological welfare. Try hosting your own version with your kids in your backyard. You can even coordinate with neighbors by sharing photos and lists of what you found.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Mango?
Helping folks realize their travel dreams and working with the Mango team to create these amazing experiences.
Why do you love to travel?
I am open to all experiences. I love to learn about and interact with other cultures, see the natural facets of a destination, take it all in.
What’s your favorite destination in Africa and why?
Greystoke Camp for the very special chimpanzee trekking you can do there. I have never felt more up close with nature.
What’s your favorite destination outside of Africa and why?
SE Asia, all over. For the people, culture, cruise, weather, diving and much more.
What’s your dream trip for 2020?
What’s the best thing you ever ate while traveling?
Many small street food items in places like Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang, Mui Ne, Hat Yai, Geroge Town, etc.
What’s the most memorable wildlife sighting in Africa?
Hard to narrow to one. I’ll go for the time we saw a large lion pride hunt, capture and eat two buffalos while on the Selinda Reserve in Botswana.
What’s the most unique souvenir you’ve ever brought home from a trip?
I tend to look for small little things that catch my eye or have a meaning so I have things like a small sculpture, or carved bowl, even a cheesy small key chain or other little items that can spark memories of adventures passed.
What 5 things are always in your carry-on bag?
Phone, book, glasses, headphones, sleeping pills.
What’s the foreign currency you have the most of floating around at home?
Probably Vietnamese Dong. But in African currencies, for sure ZAR.
What’s your top travel tip?
Try to keep an open mind.
What’s your favorite animal?
What do you love to do outside of travel?
Friends, family, movies, reading, eating at fun spots.
What’s your go-to drink for sundowners?
Used to be a G&T or two, but these days I go for sparkling water.
What’s your favorite movie or book?
To many to choose from, so let’s just say The Alchemist for book and The Reservoir Dogs for movie.
What’s your favorite food?
My absolute favorites are very simple…eggs over medium on top of steamed rice with chili sauce and scallions.
What pets do you have?
The office cats love me for some reason, but sadly I have allergies so have zero pets at home.
What’s your perfect summer day?
A nice hike along the Willamette, breakfast with some friends, farmer’s market stop, back nine at Heron Lakes Blue, cook out under the stars.
What’s your guilty pleasure movie?
Cape Town, South Africa has been known as a food and wine destination for many years. La Colombe & The Test Kitchen are two of Cape Town’s top restaurants that are regularly rated as best in the world. While these two restaurants are fairly impossible to get a reservation, the fabulous news is that there are literally hundreds of other quality choices to pick from.
After a five weeks of “restaurant testing” all over the city I can confidently say that Cape Town is indeed a foodie destination. There is a vibrant restaurant scene for every person's price point - whether you want the more casual style or a seven course fine dining experience.
Below are just a few samplings of my favorite restaurants....
The daily changing blackboard menu always has something for everyone. Fresh and simple foods in a fun relaxed atmosphere is what this restaurant is about. The portions are generous but delicious enough it is worth ordering a starter to split. They have a lovely selection of wines, beers and mixed drinks. This was one of my favorite relaxed dining options. We tested out both the lunch and dinner menus and everything we tried was two thumbs up.
This is part of the award winning chef Liam Tomlin’s group of restaurants. The Indian meal is a set meal (but with variations for any dietary preferences or allergies) and is out of this world. Using a huge variety of Indian spices the eight dish meal brings to the table a glorious feast of flavors. Drink choices are abundant and the service was top notch with explaining the various dishes. Neither of us could stop eating even though the eight dishes were way more food than we would normally eat. This restaurant does not accept reservations and is on a first come first serve basis but is well worth it to include while you are in Cape Town.
KLOOF STREET HOUSE
This was a favorite of ours in the ambience category. The restaurant is set in an old Victorian house with lots of charm right on Kloof Street – so a great location for those folks staying in the City Bowl. When the weather is good see if you can get a table out in the fairy lit magical garden. The food is Mediterranean inspired with a South African twist. They have a large menu varying from small plates, sharing platters, main course and dessert.
Owned and operated by the same folks that run La Colombe, this restaurant is well worth the trek. It is located in Constantia which is roughly a 30 minute ride from the city center (depending on traffic). We tasted their set four plate menu, which was delightful! The service was some of the best we experienced in our dining out, and not only helped us through picking our choices from the menu, but also had incredible wine knowledge to make pairing recommendations. Each plate was well presented and extremely colorful and full of flavor. Overall an amazing experience from start to finish.
POT LUCK CLUB
This is a sister restaurant to Luke Dale Robert’s Test Kitchen. The downside is that it is difficult to get a reservation as they only open up reservations on the 1st of each month. It’s in a fun setting in the Woodstock region of Cape Town. The restaurant is on the 6th floor of a silo that sits in the Biscuit Mill complex. Before or after dining set aside some time to take a stroll through the numerous fun shops at in this complex. The menu is all tapas options. The staff will recommend three to five small plates per person and there are plenty of options to please everyone. The bring the dishes in order from lightest to heaviest flavors. We loved all of our choices with the exception of the dessert being a disappointment. The service was friendly and the location is fun.
HONEST CHOCOLATE SHOP
Last but not least - if you need a quick sugar fix while you are in Cape Town make sure you stop by Honest Chocolate shop located between Bree and Loop Street. Their signature dish is called the banana bread bunny chow. It is a banana bread muffin hollowed out in the middle to be filled with ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. YUM!
The Mango team delights in making you restaurant reservations while you are in Cape Town. We think the dining experience should definitely be a part of your overall experience while in this amazing city.
Images from the restaurants.
Anabezi Camp is a fun new luxury camp in a less crowded corner of Lower Zambezi National Park. The spacious tents were great! They danced the fine balance between having great amenities like open-air bathrooms, private plunge pool and elevated walkways connecting the camp without overdoing it. Those plunge pools were just the ticket as it is hot in Zambia in October. Real hot. Even the wildlife couldn't resist a dip in nature's plunge pools.
Anabezi derives its name from the large Ana Trees that attract wildlife, especially elephants, who love to feast on the yellow corn pods. We saw quite a few of these sweet lumbering giants as they pirouetted about and stretched for the dangling pods.
Thanks to the baboons who’s warning “bark” keyed our guide onto a stunning pair of leopards as they strolled through the tall grass. The nighttime game drives were spectacular—we saw lions, civet cats, genets and nightjar birds. We could see the Southern Cross shining amid the famous African starry sky, reminding me of one of my favorite songs.
We were excited to try all of the water activities including canoeing, tiger fishing and going on a boating safari. What a great afternoon paddling a canoe while watching crocodiles, elephants and Cape buffalo wallowing on the bank? Tiger fish are related to piranha, so it’s not the easiest task to wrestle one free from the water. Must have been our lucky day though because we (two city-dwelling ladies) managed to catch several and even take a few photos (keeping spiky teeth safely away from our faces!) before releasing them back into the Zambezi River.
Zambia has long been one of my favorite countries in Africa and I’m pleased to add the Lower Zambezi area to my list of national parks. The wide range of activities makes Lower Zambezi such an interesting stop for active travelers.
African travel is roughly broken up into three categories: the dry season, the green season, and the shoulder season. The differences are simple enough – during the dry season no rains have fallen for several months, creating an arid landscape where water is the most precious resource. By contrast the green season is when the annual rains bring a flush of green back to the landscape, creating an Eden of ample grazing and free flowing water that animals thrive in. The shoulder season is the brief time in between when the landscape is neither here nor there – the time when either the leaves are starting to wither, or the new shoots are just starting to push out of the soil.
The dry season is traditionally considered the high season because the sparse vegetation makes the game easy to view. In my opinion, the green season is where the real magic lies. It’s when the bush comes to life, bursting with vitality. Every branch is covered with tender leaves, pans once more fill with tall grasses, and most exciting, all of the sweet little babies are being born. It is a time of plenty, with abundant food and water that can support all the new life springing up. There is nothing sweeter than seeing all those tiny paws and wobbly legs as the new generation find their feet for the first time. Big brown eyes peer out from fuzzy faces, starring at you with curiosity – unlike their parents they’ve never seen a safari vehicle. Beyond just the overwhelming cuteness, there is always the possibility of actually witnessing a birth. The cycles of nature truly come to life during this time of year.
Another huge bonus of the green season is cooler temperatures. Occasional thunderstorms help cool the air and clean it of dust. We’re not the only ones that like the cooler temperatures – wildlife will be more active during the day when it’s not scorching out – always a bonus.
The green season is also a photographer’s paradise. Nothing makes wildlife photos pop more than a vibrant green background. When you have a thousand shades of green framing an animal it really pops, creating contrast from the background and pulling focus straight onto the subject. Whether you’re taking a close-up or a landscape sense-of-place shot, a lush backdrop makes it infinitely better.
Whether you go for the photography, the babies, or the great deals the green season does not disappoint. It’s an incredible time of year to experience on safari. Gorgeous landscapes, abundant wildlife, and cooler temperatures – all huge pluses for the first-time and veteran safari-goers alike.
Wildlife lovers, photographers, younger travelers, families and value-oriented travelers
Game drives, walking safaris and visits to the Ngamo village
It’s no secret that safaris can be expensive, so at Mango Safaris we have spent 21 years seeking out our favorite properties that punch well above their weight in terms of experience, without a hefty price tag. These are the places that give you access to the best wildlife areas and have fantastic guiding – the two elements you really need for a great safari – without any unnecessary frills in camp. Located in the heart of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, Davison’s Camp is the perfect laid-back hideaway for those seeking the rejuvenating tonic of nature away from the noise of modern life.
A Classic Safari Bursting with Life
With open savannah, vast pans, acacia forests and scrub, Hwange is classic bushveld scenery at its best. Sunsets illuminate the sky every night in a melting gradient of coral, blush and dusty blue. During the chilly mornings mist pools in the subtle dips and valleys of the landscape, glowing orange in the early morning light.
The real heart and soul of Hwange is the waterholes though. In this incredible arid land, the park management have made the decision to pump them with water to supply reliable year-round water for the wildlife. The result has been a stable ecosystem where animals thrive, and ecotourism provides employment and other benefits to nearby communities.
These waterholes offer some of the best game viewing opportunities, especially during the drier winter months. Elephants gather in the hundreds, giraffes dip low in their sprawling stoop, zebras kipper to each other and impala tiptoe nervously between them all. You can spend a whole afternoon at the same waterhole just watching the theater of life unfold before you.
Alongside the impressively robust population of elephants and plains game, Hwange is a fabulous destination for predator action. With the open savannah and pans, cheetahs thrive. Lions are also doing very well, with numerous prides ruling the land, including the offspring of the famous Cecil.
Everything You Need and Nothing More
Right in front of Davison’s Camp is the Ngamo Plains, one of the liveliest habitats in Hwange. Wildlife congregates around camp, so the sightings are prolific and memorable. Lions often roam right through camp, and it’s not uncommon for them to make kills in the open pan directly in front of the camp. On top of the main lounge area is a shady deck overlooking the pan and the Davion’s waterhole where you watch the action unfold. With a drink from the bar below and a good book in hand, there’s no better way to spend an afternoon.
With such a beautiful setting and plentiful wildlife by camp, the camp has a simple but comfortable design, so the focus remains on the magic of Hwange. With all the creature comforts and nothing more, Davison’s is a very affordable option that we absolutely love. The national park itself is very close to the iconic Victoria Falls, so accessing the camp on light air transfers is also very budget friendly compared to other regions. For families or younger travelers who have an insatiable wanderlust but need to make their dollars stretch, Davison’s is an ideal safari stop.
The cozy tents have proper shower and flush toilets, electricity overnight and your own little deck for you to enjoy the panoramic views of the bush. The main lounge is an open-air space so even when you’re sitting on soft armchairs with a gin and tonic in hand, you still feel fully immersed into the bush. The staff have struck the perfect balance between welcoming and professional, but without any pretension.
Even though this camp is pared down and relaxed, it delivers big on the safari activities. Venture out into the wilderness with your guide on game drives or walking safaris. With open-air 4x4 vehicles, you can explore the many regions of the park both by day and in the evening. We especially love the time when the sun is setting because you can see the start of the nocturnal wildlife waking up and preparing for their nightly hunting.
Another unique activity that Davison’s offers guests is the chance to visit the nearby Ngamo village. Completely removed from the busy tourism circuits, the village visit has a very open and authentic format, so it never feels voyeuristic. Step into village life for an afternoon with a visit to the school and clinic supported by Davison’s Camp and others in the park. This is also home to a creative project proposed and run by local women whereby they collect empty wine bottles from the camps for free and turn them into beads they can sell to pay their children’s school tuition. A lovely insight to the power of ecotourism for transforming the lives of local communities – we strongly recommend this if you are interested in culture.
Check out our Hidden Gems of Africa itinerary, which starts off with three action-packed nights at Davison’s Camp before stopping at the magnificent Victoria Falls and finally venturing into the heart of the Okavango Delta for three more wildlife-dense nights at Gomoti Plains Camp, another of our Top 20 Favorite Camps.
Wildlife intensive itinerary combining an impressive number of days in the bush with diverse activities
What this itinerary gives up in luxury, it more than makes up for in authentic, high quality experiences that are excellent value
Properties located in prime wildlife areas that include all the comforts you need and nothing extra
Extend your trip with a visit to Cape Town for a splash of culture, fantastic restaurants and stunning coastal scenery
Traveling makes us happy – not only in the moment, but in the long term too. Cultivating your personal happiness is one of the most important parts of living a healthy life. A happy mind supports a healthy body – what’s not to love about that? Traveling is such a wonderful way to invest in your happiness, and there’s simply no destination better than Africa!
It gives you something to look forward to. Planning your safari gives you something to look forward to for months leading up to departure. From receiving your itinerary full of beautiful camp photos, to planning out the perfect safari wardrobe, and to endlessly daydreaming about lions and rhinos – the build-up is so fun!
You get to treat yourself. Nothing lets you unwind and enjoy some total indulgence like being on vacation. Luckily, safari camps have mastered the art of bringing luxury into the wilderness. Think bubble baths under the stars, massages on your secluded veranda, private dinners under an acacia tree, and sipping on champagne while watching elephants wander by.
You meet new people. There’s something about being away from home, in a new place that makes you more willing to open up. Along with the wonderful local communities, you will also get to meet other travelers from around the world. Expanding your mind by expanding your circle of friends.
Spending money on experiences, rather than things makes us happier. Studies show that you will be happier when you spend your hard earned money on new experiences, such as going on safari, rather than more things that clutter up your life.
You expand your mind. Studies on the psychology of travel show that travelers are happier when their trip promotes self-growth rather than just leisure. Whether you’re learning a new skill like wildlife photography, learning about a new culture, or learning about the incredible African animals, an enriching travel experience helps make you a happier person long after you’ve returned home.
You get the chance to disconnect from the digital world. With the prevalence of social media in our lives nowadays, the chance to reconnect with your friends, family, and the natural world can be elusive. No beeps, no buzzes, and no distractions – sounds pretty nice, right?
You have time for self-reflection. All that time away from the stresses of your daily life and the omnipresent social media means you will have time for self-reflection. Every once in a while it’s good for your peace of mind to think introspectively and take stock of what’s important to you in life.
It’s a chance for deeper connections. Whether you’re looking for a deeper connection with your friends, family, or nature itself, there is something about a safari that just encourages it. It allows tension to melt away, encourages laughter and story sharing, and forges bonds among old and new friends alike. Nothing brings you closer like stargazing around a campfire or sharing a sundowner overlooking the plains.
It turns you into a storyteller. Sharing the stories of your amazing time in Africa will make you feel happy, interesting, and confident. Going on safari is one wow moment after another – you’ll have no end of fascinating stories to share at your next dinner party.
It gives you a place to escape to when you need a mental vacation. Feeling stressed about deadlines or stuck in a miserable traffic jam? Take a few minutes to yourself and escape back to those wonderful memories of your time in Africa. Remember the time you saw a leopard in a tree, or when you watched baby elephants romping about. Taking short mental breaks makes you happier by helping break the cycle of everyday stress.
Distance from your daily life makes you appreciate it that much more. Is your job feeling a little too stressful? Did you dog chew on one too many shoes? A little time away will help you appreciate all the wonderful things you love about your life back home.
Happiness is infectious. Africa is home to some of the most wonderfully welcoming and friendly people. The minute you see those warm smiles greeting you at your safari camp you’ll feel happy. Happiness begets more happiness, and the best part is, you’ll bring all that good energy home with you.
Going on safari is an adventure-lovers dream. You’ll spend your days exploring the wilderness, seeking out wildlife and soaking up the wonderful bush wisdom of your guides. A camera is a given – you need to capture those incredible moments, but do you really need a pair of binoculars? In short - yes.
A good pair of binoculars will enhance your safari experience and expand the way you perceive the bush around you. There will be many times when the wildlife is close, but there will be others when they’re at a distance, and you’ll need a great pair of binoculars to get a better view. Or maybe you’ll just want to glimpse the intricate details of an animal – the delicate patterns of a leopard’s fur as it sleeps in a tree, the thick fan of eyelashes on an elephant, or an oxpecker pulling a tick off the back of a zebra. You don’t want to miss any of those unique moments.
So you’ve decided to go for it, but how do you choose the right pair? What magnification is best? What brand is most reliable? And then there’s always the question of balancing price with likelihood of use. Sure, you could shell out a hefty amount and get a top-of-the-line pair, but how often are you going to use them again? However, you also don’t want to scrimp and get a pair that end being useless.
Well, we’ve done the legwork and found some fantastic options for you.
Let’s start broad – which brands should you be looking at? There are always a few that pop up repeatedly for their reputation: Nikon, Vortex, Leica, Avalon, Swarovski, Bushnell, Minox, Steiner, and Zeiss. If you go with any of these, you’ll be assured of purchasing a quality product.
Now comes the (literal) fine print on the box. What do the magnification and lens size mean and which levels are best for safari? Let’s use an example of 8x32 binoculars. The 8x means you’ll magnify the image 8 times its normal size, using a 32mm sized lens.
An ideal magnification for safari is 8x to 10x. This will give you a good amount of magnification without destabilizing the image. Any less wouldn’t be worth the extra weight of bringing along binoculars, and any more means your slightest hand movements will create shaky images.
We recommend getting lenses that are 32mm to 42mm because they perform better in low light than smaller lenses. Since you’ll be out and about on game drives during the early morning and evening, you’ll want binoculars that do well in those conditions. Getting a pair with lenses larger than this makes the binoculars cumbersome to use and carry – not ideal for fast paced wildlife sightings.
Companies assume that you’ll be using their binoculars outdoors, but that doesn’t mean they’re all created equally. While you’re on safari, there will be plenty of dust and maybe even some rain and mud. It’s important to choose a pair listed as water and dust resistant.
As we’ve discussed, we’re big advocates for finding binoculars that are both effective and reasonable. The exception to this is birdwatchers. If you’re interested in birdwatching, it’s worth your while to invest in a serious pair of binoculars. Here are a few tips to for finding a worthy pair:
Wildlife lovers, conservationists, luxury travelers, foodies, families, multigenerational families and active travelers
Game drives, walking safaris, wildlife hides, visits to the Lewa Conservation Operations Room and tracker dogs, horseback riding, Sirikoi garden tour, local school and clinic visit, Ngare Ndare Forest hikes, helicopter excursions, quad bike safaris and spa treatments (some activities require supplementary charges)
At the core of Mango Safaris’ values is wildlife conservation. Beneath all the luxurious camps and sundowners with elephants lies our desire to protect the incredible wild spaces of Africa and the people and animals that call them home. On occasion, there are camps that bring a once-in-a-lifetime guest experience to one of these incredible wild spaces to create pure magic. Sirikoi delivers that in spades.
Alongside robust populations of the usual suspects, there are excellent populations of lion, cheetah, wild dog and elephant. It is one of the best places in Africa to see highly endangered black and white rhinos thanks to their diligent anti-poaching efforts. To add a little texture on a multi-stop trip, it is also home to the Northern Five – reticulated giraffe, Somali ostrich, oryx, gerenuk and Grevy’s zebras – which are quite rare and can only be seen north of the equator.
Home Amid the Wildlife
When you arrive at Sirikoi, the first thing you notice is the giraffes nibbling at the acacia trees and the elephants feeding at the spring-fed marsh stretching along the length of the grounds. Thanks to the permanent water this spring provides, the wildlife is never far from camp. Right from the pool or your private deck you can watch a daily parade of wildlife that stops by for a drink.
With the conservancy located at 5,500 feet in elevation, the early mornings and evenings can be quite chilly. There’s nothing better than coming in from a day of exploring and dipping into a hot bubble bath or curling up by one of the big crackling fireplaces with a good book. If it weren’t for the absolutely incredible meals featuring fresh, organic produce from the garden, you might have a hard time pulling yourself away from your fireplace.
For your own trip-of-a-lifetime, check out two of our favorite itineraries that include a stay Sirikoi:
Grand East Africa pairs the best classic wildlife destinations in the region – Lewa Conservancy, the Maasai Mara and Serengeti National Park - with a finale in Volcanoes National Park for mountain gorilla trekking.
Finest Kenya and Seychelles celebrates the best of Kenya’s wildlife destinations for a fantastic safari and ends with a splash of luxury with the white sand beaches and turquoise seas of the Seychelles.
What’s your hometown?
What’s your favorite thing about working at Mango?
Getting to travel and explore new destinations, of course! But also, the fun and energetic work environment
Why do you love to travel?
The world is far too extraordinary to stay in one place! There are so many cultures to experience, places to see, foods to try, trails to hike and cities to explore.
What’s your favorite destination in Africa and why?
I love Madagascar because it’s truly like nowhere else on Earth. It feels like a hidden world forgotten by time, where nature retreated to do her most creative experimentation in form and function. Over 90% of the plants and animals are found nowhere else. The landscapes and marine ecosystems are equally incredible too, so you’ll never run out of amazing things to see.
What’s your favorite destination outside of Africa and why?
Antarctica is one of the most special places I’ve ever been to. Words can’t do the landscapes justice and seeing thousands of penguins parading along at once is possibly one of the most charming wildlife experiences you can have. Seeing all of the whales and dolphins amid the icebergs is very memorable too. If you ever get a chance to go, I strongly recommend taking the icy plunge and going scuba diving. Hearing the humpbacks singing and the giant icebergs creaking and cracking is amazing!
What’s the best thing you ever ate while traveling?
Greek salad in Oia with homemade feta and olive oil, and peak season vegetables picked right from the garden, still warm from the sun
What’s your most memorable wildlife sighting in Africa?
We were sitting down for dinner under the stars in South Luangwa, Zambia when all of a sudden, we heard a resident female and young male lion mating behind the tent immediately next to the dining area. That was memorable enough, but then the dominant male caught wind of what was happening and came in to fight the younger male and chase him off. All of this was unfolding about 50 feet away from us while our guide had us crouching down behind the table!
What’s the most unique souvenir you’ve ever brought home from a trip?
Paintbrushes with parrot feathers instead of bristles from the Venezuelan rainforest
What’s the foreign currency you have the most of floating around at home?
Madagascan ariary and Venezuelan bolívares
What’s your top travel tip?
Always bring a full change of clothes and some extra underwear with you in your carry-on! You never know when delays or lost baggage will occur.
What do you love to do outside of travel?
I love cooking new recipes, perusing farmers markets, going for trail runs, going to Portland Timbers games and doing pub trivia or board game nights with my friends.
What’s your go-to drink for sundowners?
Either a good local beer or a gin and tonic with extra lime
What’s your favorite movie or book?
I love anything written by Barbara Kingsolver.
What’s your favorite food?
Chicken pho with all the fresh herbs and lime – delicious in every season!
What pets do you have?
I have a lot of high maintenance houseplants…do those count?
What’s your perfect summer day?
Early morning trail run in Forest Park followed by stocking up at the farmers market with all of the seasonal produce. Spend the afternoon at the river with friends, then all head home for a big evening of grilling and enjoying all those farmers market goodies. End the night with a backyard campfire, s’mores and drinks.
What’s your guilty pleasure movie?
I’m a sucker for the 80s rom coms. I love Sleepless in Seattle and Dirty Dancing.
Conservation isn’t a hard subject to sell – it conjures up images of majestic creatures, pristine wilderness, and people who have dedicated their careers to preserving it all. But this year the UN has chosen a very interesting theme: Listen to the Young Voices. With over a quarter of the world’s population aged between 18 to 24 years, there has never been a better time to cultivate a new generation of conservationists who are passionate about saving the world’s biodiversity.
At the 2016 UN Conference of the Parties the first ever resolution for ‘Youth Engagement’ was adopted to help boost new support for conservation. Young people have always been agents for change, and it is essential to harness their power and ingenuity. With countless species teetering toward the edge of extinction and innumerous more categorized as threatened, there is no time to delay action. Innovative approaches to wildlife conservation are vital for the future of Earth’s biodiversity. As a generation enmeshed with technology, there is nearly boundless potential for creative solutions to the challenges facing conservation.
More millennials are embracing eco-lifestyles, seeking out ways to improve the planet’s wellbeing through their actions and choices. Wildlife conservation starts at home, and there are several ways you and the youth in your life can get involved. Start simple with a movie night featuring world-class wildlife documentaries (Netflix has some great options); volunteer with a local wildlife conservation group (find one here); encourage them to study conservation science; or take them on an inspirational trip to see these beautiful creatures in person.
The youth are powerful, educated, enthusiastic, and ready to take on the challenges of the future. Wildlife is an invaluable part of the world, and we cannot overlook its importance to our and our planet’s wellbeing. So remember to listen to and encourage the young voices of conservation in your life. Only together can we make a difference for Earth’s biodiversity.
Photos from &Beyond, Art Wolfe & Wildlife ACT
On a recent trip through Botswana, Teresa and Kelsea from the Mango team spent time exploring the Mashatu Game Reserve. Nestled in the far eastern corner of Botswana, wedged between Zimbabwe and South Africa, Mashatu is a large game reserve that has remained relatively quiet in the safari world. Boasting a landscape quite different from most Botswanan destinations, Mashatu offers an interesting change of scenery, as well as some spectacular game viewing. The land is dominated by sweeping plains interrupted by rocky ridges and sandy riverbeds. You can watch the wind as it sweeps across the plains, creating rippling waves in the sun-bleached grass.
While driving around the expansive landscape, we were treated to many memorable sightings. Lionesses hunting during the night, a leopard stalking an impala, a huge venue of vultures feeding on a kudu carcass, and a pair of courting leopards. Pretty great stuff!
One of the best parts was the elephant population though. The demeanor of a reserve's elephants is a good indicator of how the land is managed. If they are skittish or aggressive toward the safari vehicles, it may mean that they have been hunted in the past, or have been harrassed by safari vehicles. (Even worse, it may mean that there is illegal poaching going on.) But in Mashatu, the elephants were divinely relaxed. They meandered right up to the vehicles, sniffing nonchalantly around us before digging into the tasty shrubs sticking out from under the wheels. On one evening game drive, we encountered a large breeding herd that had a dozen or so little ones. We watched them romp about their mothers' feet as they paraded by our parked vehicle. It was truly wonderful!
Beyond the flashier sightings, we also had several encounters with rarely seen creatures. Such sightings are the cherry on top of a great safari. Leopards, lions and elephant are always wonderful, but getting the chance to see bat-eared foxes, genets, servals, and even a pair of porcupines is what makes a safari really special. Many of these nocturnal creatures can be challenging to spot, so it was a real treat to see them.
- Teresa in Mashatu -
All photos by Kelsea Lee
Anyone who has been on safari knows that the sundowner is not only a time honored tradition of bush life, but also an incredibly lovely way to end your day. After a wonderful day exploring the wilderness, you find a beautiful spot to silence the rumbling engine and let the golden light and gentle susurrations of the bush wash over you. It may be too hard to bring home a baby elephant, but you can certainly bring home the tradition of watching the sunset while sipping on a delicious cocktail.
For your first stateside sundowner, try this delightful recipe for a blueberry gin royale, courtesy of Singita Sasakwa Lodge. Sip, relax, and reminisce about life on safari:
Ingredients: (makes 4 cocktails)
Crafting the cocktail:
Serve immediately while daydreaming about these stunning views from Singita Sasakwa in Tanzania.
Recipe & photos courtesy of Singita Sasakwa Lodge
It wouldn’t be a far stretch to claim that Madagascar is one of the world’s most unique places. Everything about it screams extraordinary – the landscapes are awe-inspiring, the reefs are vibrant, and the wildlife is wonderfully bizarre. Madagascar may sit a mere 310 miles from Africa, but ecologically speaking it couldn’t be more different. Over 88 million years ago, Madagascar split from the Indian subcontinent. As India started its northward drift, Madagascar settled along the southeastern coast Africa, where it can still be found today.
Madagascar has the perfect characteristics for developing incredibly weird flora and fauna. It’s the fourth largest island on earth offering diverse terrain for habitats, and its isolation has allowed for a very special type of evolution to occur: island biogeography. Biogeography is the study of where species live and how they came to live there. In the case of islands, biogeography often results in a very odd assemblage of animals that have evolved in isolation from the rest of the world. Normally plants and animals travel between regions, searching for more suitable habitat. On islands there is nowhere to go – they are trapped and must evolve to suit the habitat that’s available to them. Also, islands have finite amounts of resources, and those who can best evolve weird traits to compete for them will thrive. Every tiny niche in the ecosystem will be exploited, with species evolving to specialize in the strangest set of circumstances. Over time, weirder and weirder animals have evolved from the original ones stranded on Madagascar millions of years ago.
Today Madagascar is covered by leaping lemurs, psychedelic chameleons, geckos that look like leaves, snakes with unicorn horns, mammals that look like a kangaroo mated with an otter, and insects that look straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. This island is bursting with a magic that has been perfected over eons – wonderful, weird, and perfect for adventurous travelers.
Madagascar...the name just rolls off your tongue in a series of delicious syllables. It evokes visions of lush greenery, jade hued seas, and swirls of colorful textiles. If the allure of a new destination wasn’t enough to set your wanderlust on high alert, we have a few other reasons why you should make Madagascar your must-see spot for 2017.
1. With 250,000 endemic species and unearthly landscapes, it’s no wonder this island is nicknamed the eight continent. A region this unique deserves a trip all its own, but thanks to daily flights into Johannesburg, you can also pair it with a traditional safari getaway or time in Cape Town.
2. It’s the only place in the world to see countless incredible animals – think sifaka lemurs, tomato frogs, leaf-tailed geckos, and chameleons so tiny they fit on your fingernail!
3. Thickets of spiny trees, jagged stone ‘forests’, sky high baobabs, sweeping grasslands, and high plateaus – Madagascar has no end to spectacular scenery. In a single day you can pass through a dozen different ecosystems, each vastly different from one another.
4. After a long day of exploring the rainforest, is there a better way to unwind than beachside? With white sand beaches, gently lapping waves, and pirogues (traditional wooden boats) bobbing along the shore, Madagascar is no slouch in the beach department.
5. As a former trade hub between Africa and Asia, Madagascar boasts a suite of cultural diversity that’s sure to impress. Whether you prefer vibrant song and dance, or perusing market stalls bursting with local goods, the Malagasy people will welcome you into their world with open arms. Known for artisanal silk, delicate embroidery, hand-woven baskets and hats, and detailed wooden carvings, Madagascar is a great cultural destination.
6. Trying new foods is one of the best parts of a new destination, and Madagascar doesn’t disappoint. Tantalize your taste buds with slow-cooked pork, spiced rice, lemon and mango chutney, fresh seafood, juicy homegrown fruits, Malagasy curries, savory fritters, and locally produced rum. With influences from France, China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula, Madagascar’s culinary delights are unexpected and truly delicious.
7. An untouched paradise of coral reefs fringe the island’s coastlines, making it a true hidden gem in the world of scuba diving. Alongside teems of colorful fish, divers can also find sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, whale sharks, grey reef sharks, and countless more. Madagascar's signature flair for biodiversity definitely extends into its ocean. Devoid of mass tourism and well-preserved, these reefs feel like a world all your own. A must-do for any avid diver!
8. Ecotourism is the way of the future, and Madagascar has done a beautiful job blending sustainability with top notch experiences. With trendy eco-resorts, luxe beachside cottages, and tranquil rainforest camps, there is something for everyone. The UN has named 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and we can't think of a destination that better embodies this than Madagascar.
Images from Bloomberg, Constance Tsarabanjina, Shannon Benson, Miavana, Will Burrard-Lucas, and Google.
Zambia is a destination that has largely remained off the radar in the safari industry. It's a land where the wildlife are abundant, the landscapes are ancient and evocative, and the people are warm and welcoming. At Busanga Plains you can witness the beautiful rhythms of life unfolding on the savannah before your very eyes. Float high above the sprawling grasslands, moving silently in a hot air balloon, somewhere between earth and sky, between atmospheric silence and the symphony of life below.
A lone elephant wandering the plains, a pride of lions hunting with power and grace, and a herd of puku a hundred strong - these are just a few of your daily sightings in Busanga. Experience this wonderous destination for yourself with a stay at Shumba Camp or Busanga Bush Camp.
Until you visit for yourself, immerse into the Busanga magic with this video:
With ecotourism on pause, wildlife and communities across Africa are missing one of their primary sources of employment, funding and development. Staff and their families are suddenly without income, schools and clinics have lost their support, and game rangers are operating without much-needed funding essential to protecting wildlife. These areas desperately need our assistance immediately to help alleviate the growing crisis.
Any amount makes a big difference and will be hugely appreciated. As a gesture of our gratitude, for any donation of $250 or above, we will give you a $250 credit toward a future trip to Africa. **
Ecotourism supports so much more than just the staff you see at the lodge. It gives farmers and artisans a market for their wares. It gives mechanics, handymen and seamstresses employment. It gives mothers clinics to treat their babies and schools to educate their children. It’s not uncommon for staff members to be supporting dozens of family members on their wages, so the lack of income creates a domino effect that is spreading far beyond our industry.
Africa’s iconic and extraordinary wildlife is at immense risk without ecotourism. Without the protection of game rangers and the efforts of conservation teams, we are at risk of losing countless animals to illegal poaching and habitat degradation. Years of hard-won progress is being wiped out in mere months.
100% of donations to the Mango Safaris Covid Relief Fund will go to supporting our longstanding partners across Africa:
We are currently featuring our Top 20 Camps and Lodges Across Africa. We have chosen these camps not only for their guest experience, but also for their commitment to the ideals of ecotourism – supporting local community development and protecting wildlife and natural areas. The donations will be allocated to their non-profit foundations to fund their well-established projects. Scroll down for more information on the different organizations.
ANY AMOUNT HELPS - whether you donate $10, $100 or $1000, it will make a profound impact on countless lives. The amount below is customizable, simply type in the amount you'd like to donate.
The Mango-Bisate Forest
In partnership with the Wilderness Trust, we are restoring agricultural land to native forest along the boundary of Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. The long-term goal is to donate the reforested land to the national park to expand that habitat available to gorillas and other wildlife.
The Wilderness Trust
An independent non-profit entity associated with the Wilderness Group, supporting projects and researchers that address the needs of existing wildlife populations, seek solutions to save endangered species and provide education and training for local people and their communities.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
A world-leading conservation organization that protects the wildlife and communities of the Lewa Conservancy. Elite anti-poaching units protect one of Africa’s most successful rhino strongholds, monitor wildlife populations and track far-reaching elephant migrations to inform better conservation plans across Kenya. Communities are supported through education and micro-credit initiatives.
Great Plains Foundation
A foundation committed to creating a bright future for some of the most endangered wildlife, fragile ecosystems, and remote communities in the world. They currently manage over one million acres of land with strategic, comprehensive and action-oriented conservation efforts. They also support the communities living among the wildlife that are integral to the success and long-term sustainability of their conservation efforts.
The Nomad Trust
A non-profit associated with Nomad Tanzania that supports a wide variety of projects for community development and wildlife conservation, ranging from supporting a home for girls escaping FGM to tracking lions in community lands to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
Rhino Conservation Botswana
A conservation group with the sole aim to prevent the extinction of black and white rhinos in Africa. To achieve this goal, they are working with the Botswana government and partners including Wilderness Safaris and Rhinos without Borders, to rescue rhinos in peril and bring them to the safe haven of the Okavango Delta. Once translocated, they work with their government partners to monitor the rhinos and keep them safe.
Singita Grumeti Fund
A non-profit organization protecting wildlife, operating an anti-poaching K9 unit and supporting communities in the western corridor of the Serengeti ecosystem. Adaptive, holistic conservation management has helped store a once badly degraded ecosystem into a thriving one that has expanded the habitat available for the Great Migration and countless other animals.
Natural Selection Foundation
Help support Natural Selection’s mission to make a difference in wildlife conservation and in the lives of people living sustainably alongside wildlife areas. Projects range from desert giraffe conservation and monitoring leopard population dynamics to community education programs and village library sponsorship.
Conservation South Luangwa
A non-profit working with community and conservation partners for the long-term survival of wildlife and habitats in South Luangwa under the custodianship of the Zambian people.
Conservation Lower Zambezi
They are an NGO that has been operating for over 25 years, working with the local park authorities to protect the wildlife and integrity of the Lower Zambezi valley.
African Bush Camp
A foundation committed to partnering with rural communities in vulnerable wildlife areas. By creating opportunities to empower these communities through education, community empowerment and conservation, they improve their quality of life and achieve long-term conservation successes in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia.
Kicheche Community Trust
Their current project, The Conservancy Guardian, concentrates solely on covering critical conservation costs: ranger salaries, welfare and medical needs, predator monitoring and patrol costs. All donations are being matched dollar for dollar by the Band Foundation, up to $500,000.
Funding salaries, training, equipment and medical care for the anti-poaching rangers protecting the endangered mountain gorillas of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They also provide financial support for the families of rangers that killed in the line of duty.
An organization designed to pick up where ecotourism revenue left off, ensuring that Samburu communities are supported and that wildlife continues to thrive in the 850,000-acre Namunyak Community Conservancy in northern Kenya. This includes the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, which rescues orphaned baby elephants and hand raises them to be released back into the wild.
Mala Mala Reserve
A black economic empowered ecotourism enterprise that operates in partnership with the local N’wandlamhari Community as a shareholder in the business. Beyond employment at the camps, they also run a micro-finance program for small businesses and community infrastructure development, provide a stipend to all households from the land lease fees, and allocate the tourism levy to education and job skill training programs.
** Trip credits cannot be applied to current bookings and must be used within 24 months. There is no limit on how many $250 trip credits can be earned, but only one $250 trip credit can be used per person on any given trip.
So you've booked your safari, pored over your itinerary and daydreamed about meeting elephants. Now it's time to start deciding on your packing strategy and narrowing down what you want to bring. We suggest following our packing list and few key guidelines for stress free packing.
Passport & visas (if separate from passport)
Health certificates if needed
Spending money & money belt
Proof of insurance
Photocopy of passport & traveler’s checks
International driver’s license – if renting a car
2 pairs of shorts or capris
2 pairs of lightweight pants or skirts/dresses for women
3 lightweight shirts
2 long-sleeved, lightweight shirts
1 lightweight sweater/fleece
1 warm/wind-proof jacket
Undergarments & socks – sports bra for women
1 pair all-weather sandals
1 pair lightweight walking shoes
1 pair evening shoes for lodges & cities
1 pair sunglasses (polarized is best)
1 sun hat
Warm hat & gloves (seasonally)
Prescription drugs w/ original labels
Glasses & contact lenses w/ solution
Sunscreen & sun protective lip balm
Insect repellant (containing DEET – 20% is optimal)
Luggage ID tags
Luggage locks (TSA approved)
Travel alarm clock
Travel umbrella (seasonally)
Camera/video equipment (charger & extra memory cards)
Plug adapters (we recommend a universal adapter)
Journal & pens
Book (see Reading List for suggestions)
Flashlight/headlamp & batteries
First Aid Kit
Prescription drugs w/ original labels
Motion sickness pills
Allergy pills (seasonal & food-related if needed)
The basics: bandages, antibiotic ointment, Imodium AD, antihistamines, antacids, pain relievers, waterproof tape, antiseptic, tweezers, small scissors, etc.
Deciding what you're going to bring is a fun way to amp up the excitment and anticipation leading up to your trip, especially with your kids, so let's get packing!
The Namiri Plains, in the southeastern section of the Serengeti, had previously been set aside for 20 years as a safe haven and research location for big cats and namely cheetahs. This new camp is now open, enabling visitors to see this remote and pristine part of the park for the first time.
Expect big cats, a lovely setting away from the crowds, and excellent tented camp feel. I loved it! Coming soon…walking safaris in the area.
In honor of Earth Day, we’re going to share ten of our favorite facts about the African bush. Bizarre creatures, dramatic landscapes, and nature on another scale. It’s a truly spectacular place!
For the last few decades, travelers to the remote Duba concession have been wowed by buffalo-hunting lions found only in that area. It’s exceedingly rare for lions to hunt such large, cantankerous animals, but the Duba area specializes in it. Duba safaris often center around game drives tracking these daring hunters and to watch their impressive travails. It’s an incredible experience, and many travelers return time and again to immerse into the pristine wilderness of Duba.
To contrast this, on the Selinda concession north of the Linyanti Wetlands, travelers are treated to a handful of activities that celebrate the diverse Selinda landscape. After a twenty-year drought, the Selinda Spillway has once more started flowing as the annual flood waters from the Angolan highlands seep into the delta. Beyond the usual game drives, guests can explore Selinda on guided bush walks, boat excursions, or on a multi-day canoe trails safari.
When combined, both areas offer a well-balanced and overall spectacular safari experience in this famed region of Botswana.
But it wasn’t always this way. Due to recent changes in the weather and flood patterns, these regions have switched places, with Duba getting wetter and Selinda getting drier. This has led the camps in the area to flip the script on their typical safari model and create a new one that better fits the transforming landscape.
As water levels rise at Duba, populations of semi-aquatic red lechwe antelope have exploded. Despite their reputation as buffalo hunters, the lions now forego these challenging beasts in favor of the much more docile lechwes. They’re still have a go at the big boys every once in a while, but unfortunately it’s much less common now. Even without this signature experience, Duba still delivers in a huge way. The camps now feature a much broader selection of activities, rather than focusing in on just one experience. You can paddle quietly down the channels carved out by hippos, spend a morning on foot with a knowledgeable guide, or meet the bushveld’s incredible nocturnal wildlife on a nighttime game drive. Guests come away with a much truer safari experience as a result.
With guides telling us that Selinda is drier than it’s ever been, it’s becoming the hotspot for predators hunting big prey. On my recent trip, I personally witnessed two sub-adult buffalos being taken from their large herd by a pride of determined lions. Happening just a few feet away from our vehicle, it was an experience I’ll never forget. I had always wanted to see this unusual phenomenon of buffalo hunting lions and was thrilled when I learned I’d be visiting Duba on this trip. Little did I know that Selinda would be home to this once in a lifetime sighting. Nature is funny that way – you think you know what’s going to happen, but you just never know what lays in store for you.
Despite flipping the script, these two areas still combine quite nicely year round. The natural world is wonderfully unpredictable, it’s a big reason why we’re so drawn to the wilderness, so it’s important to avoid bogging down in preconceived notions about areas we think we know. This is why Mango Safaris continually explores Africa, checking out new areas and visiting old favorites time and again to ensure we’re always in the know. With this wealth of knowledge and dedication, we help you create the trip of a lifetime that centers around the latest and greatest, rather than past reputations and experiences.
Photos from Brendon Cremer, National Geographic & Great Plains Conservation
Madagascar is an exciting place to visit and quite different from mainland Africa. In fact it is so different from other African countries that it is often called the 8th continent. The country has an incredible variety of geography from the high plateaus, to the miles of beaches and coastlines to the different types of forest. It is one of the most diverse landscapes I have seen in such a small geographic area. Every location has its own unique species and with each exploration it is full of surprises. What’s amazing is each of these destinations is just a few hours away.
Just about everything you will see on the island (lemurs, chameleons, birds, fauna) is endemic to the island – it is almost at 90%. And due to the absence of monkeys and predators (with the exception of the unique fossa) this island supports 103 lemur species. This is the only place in the world you can find them.
My recent trip brought me to some of Madagascar’s best highlights. I started off with some relaxation on the beaches (and swimming with the whale sharks) on Nosy Be. Then off for some exploring through the Andasibe Mantadia national park. Here the haunting sound of the indri call rang through the forest as they leap from tree to tree. One of my favorite lemurs to see in this region is the gorgeous white and orange fur of the diademed sifaka. Night walks were very productive with numerous species of chameleon’s, frogs, spiders and some more species of lemurs commonly spotted at night including the tiny little gray mouse lemur hiding in the trees and the dwarf lemurs coming down to drink water from the plants at night.
Next up was Mandrare, located in the southeast of the island, which was a true highlight. In the morning we would visit the spiny forest to watch the Verraux’s sifakas jump from cactus to cactus and in the afternoon just thirty minutes away by vehicle we visited the canopy forest to see the ring tailed lemurs jumping around on the ground. Night walks were also very productive here to see the white-footed sportive, grey mouse and grey brown mouse lemurs. The local community was a great cultural experience to learn more about the local way of life and their sacred forests.
Being from Portland, Oregon means I’ve been exposed to the craft beer scene for over 25 years (perhaps longer than it may have been legal). Sitting at the heart of our local culture, craft beer has become synonymous with Portland. Whenever I return from traveling, a frosty glass of local brew welcomes me home. However, over the last few years, Cape Town’s own craft beer scene has really been taking off. It’s been fun to explore the burgeoning scene, and I have willingly embraced my obligation to seek out the latest and greatest for my clients. I think they call this a job perk…
During my most recent trip to Cape Town I realized that, like most of the US and Portland especially, the craft beer scene is now mainstream there. What fun! One of my favorites was the aptly named Beerhouse on Long Street, right in the heart of the city. This spot is famed for its ‘99 bottles of beer on the wall’ and a great tap list of local suds. Expect a party!
As a local legend, the Cape Brewing Company (left) is a must-do for any craft beer lover. It’s one of the largest craft breweries in the region, and produces an excellent line up of Pilsner, Lager, Krystal Weiss and Amber Weiss, along with something seasonal. Another local spot to check out is Devil’s Peak Brewing Company (right). This is spot opened just a few years ago, but has already developed quite the reputation for their ales. The taproom has good energy, and tasty grill menu to boot.
For an off-the-beaten-path gem, you have to try the Woodstock Brewery. It’s located a bit father way from the tourism areas, in Woodstock…imagine that, but it’s more than worth it! Expect a locals’ vibe with a solid year-round tap list and good dining options. Look out for the special combos that pair an entree and a house brew.
While these are a few of the most well-known local breweries, there are countless more, most of which I haven’t even heard of yet. I’ve just started to scratch the surface of the craft brew scene in Cape Town, but I promise to see this venture through – all in the name of work, of course.
All photos by Kelsea Lee
I was thrilled when I was presented with the opportunity to attend the annual Kwita Izina - a weeklong conference and discussion on conservation which culminates in Rwanda’s Gorilla naming ceremony. On September 1st - 18 honored attendees ranging from researchers to the CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund were given the opportunity to give a name to 14 infant gorillas and 4 adult gorillas who have joined groups in Rwanda from other locations. The names given are to be an inspirational message or a special meaning and are often suggested by the trackers and Rwandan Park authorities. The ceremony however is so much more than just the naming. It is national holiday in Rwanda where tens of thousands of Rwandan’s come together to celebrate Rwanda’s rich biodiversity and conservation efforts that focus on the well-being of its people while preserving and hopefully increasing the home of the Mountain Gorillas in Volcanos National Park.
The speeches from various Rwandan leaders including the honorable President Mr. Paul Kagame were inspirational. The speakers focused on the need to increase the land area as the endangered Mountain Gorilla population grows. It is a very exciting time to be able to see the increase when for many years the decrease in population was occurring at a rapid rate.
In addition to the big highlight of attending the ceremony and meeting the President I was able to participate in a Gorilla trek and spend an hour observing the Titus group. The group was spread out with some eating, some napping and a bit of grooming occurring. The youngest of the group was one of the ones to be named the next day – Macibiri (see photo.) Observing gorillas is one of my favorite wildlife interactions – it is truly magical!
Another highlight was spending an evening at the brand new Bisate Lodge. Warm and welcoming are two words of many that come to mind in describing this incredible new lodge. The layout of the rooms are spacious with large windows to look out to see the beautiful views of Bisoke Volcano. The fireplace in the middle of the room between the bedroom and the bathroom kept me cozy warm all evening. The staff was absolutely lovely and a highlight of my stay.
I have seen quite a bit of change in Rwanda over my last few visits. Kigali has grown in leaps and bounds and is becoming a cosmopolitan city with great restaurants and shops. The road conditions have improved greatly and driving all around the country on smooth tarmac makes travel easy and enjoyable. However, the gorilla trekking has remained the same great quality over the years led by knowledgeable park rangers, 10 amazing groups to observe and a good trail network. I always look forward to visiting Rwanda.
Photos & text by Suzanne Spencer
What’s your hometown?
Navy brat, but I spent most of my formative years in Corona del Mar, California
What’s your favorite thing about working at Mango?
Why do you love to travel?
Because I get to experience new ways of looking at the world
Last week as safari guides across the Serengeti woke up, they were greeted by a sight that is so deeply integral to the Serengeti experience that it connects with every fiber of their beings. Overnight thousands of wildebeest and zebra had crossed into Tanzania in their endless pursuit for better grazing. The Serengeti is a landscape of extremes – plains sweeping off to the horizon, grasses ten feet tall, thunder clouds towering to the heavens. But most iconic of all, the millions of ungulates that move as a heaving, snorting mass, devouring every blade of grass in their way.
As they pour into the Serengeti, they face one of their biggest challenges of the year: crossing the Mara River. Swirling currents and eager predators stand between them and their next meal – the grass is always greener on the other side after all. The herds pile up along the banks, waiting for hunger to overtake anxious fear as a single, brave creature wades into the river. This is the only nudge the rest need, starting a veritable stampede down the banks and into the muddy waters.
While these huge herds are impressive to see, the real thrills come from the abundant predators that are drawn to this walking buffet. Lions and cheetahs swarm across the plains, while toothy crocodiles patrol the riverbanks. With so many animals packed into such a small area, you are bound to see several impressive displays of predator-prey interactions.
How Mango Creates the Perfect Migration Trip
The saying goes “as regular as rain”, which ironically holds great unpredictability when it comes to the migration. The wildebeest exist in a set cycle - mating, migrating, and giving birth all together. Each of these events are associated with specific geographic regions of the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem, but the timing is more flexible. Rainfall patterns are not always predictable, and as a result, neither is the annual migration. This presents quite the challenge for us in the safari industry. For instance, this year the wildebeest are moving into Tanzania a month earlier than we would expect based on historical patterns. Many of our clients want to see the migration, but how can we be sure they’ll see it when we’re booking trips up to a year and a half in advance? Mango has a sworn-by rule to bookend your trip with time dedicated to the migration so you catch them no matter where they are. You can never tell what is going to happen, but Mango has always got you covered!
What’s your hometown?
What’s your favorite thing about working at Mango?
My diverse group of coworkers and getting to learn something new everyday.
Why do you love to travel?
Traveling connects you to new cultures. I love meeting curious people, trying their food and immersing myself in their everyday life. The more remote the better for me.
My family’s next stop of our East African adventure took us to Tanzania, which shares a border with Kenya. Both the Serengeti (Tanzania) and the Masai Mara (Kenya) are famous safari destinations, but not many realize that they are in fact one contiguous ecosystem that has been split into two by a political boundary.
FOUR SEASONS SERENGETI
Our accommodation was the Serengeti Four Seasons and Mwiba Camp. While a departure from Mango’s usual preference for smaller, intimate camps, the Serengeti Four Seasons is ultra luxurious and perfect for large groups traveling together or those seeking a more traditional hotel experience. With several restaurants, a kids club, a traditional boma, large spa and billiards room, this brings the high end amenities of a city hotel to the middle of the Serengeti. Thanks to even, raised walkways, this is also a great place for those with mobility issues.
Our room was comfortable and well-appointed like a city hotel, but with a safari flair. My daughter loved the large main pool for the downtime between game drives. Not only is heated (it can get chillier there than you would think), but it also overlooks a lively waterhole. There’s nothing better than relaxing and playing with your kids against a backdrop of elephants, gazelles and giraffes.
Throughout our stay, the lovely Tanzanian staff took excellent care of us. As we traveled outside of the peak season, it was uncrowded and peaceful. When we went on game drives, we were impressed with the diversity and abundance of the wildlife we encountered. The guides were knowledgeable and very child friendly. A good guide makes all the differences when traveling with children. Many will have kids of their own, and love inspiring the next generation of conservationists.
Mwiba is a fantastic region comprising two private concessions bordering the southern end of Serengeti National Park, up in the Ngorongoro Highlands. We love this area because it is a prime example of converting a concession once used for consumptive trophy hunting tourism into sustainable, ethical photographic safari tourism.
A small and intimate camp with just 10 rooms, Mwiba Camp is phenomenal for families. All activities are privately guided and you're guaranteed your own guide and vehicle throughout your stay. Whent traveling with kids, this is an absolutely luxury! It means you can explore at your own pace, take breaks when you need and depart/return from activities as suits the needs of your family. Additionally, the seasonal camp is the only one located in the region, giving total privacy and exclusivity - something that we love at Mango!
Being on a private concession has some serious benefits in terms of offerings. We were able to drive off road, drive at night searching for elusive nocturnal wildlife, go for bush picnics in the best spots, go for a walking safari and participate in cultural walking excursions with the local tribes - all of which my daughter loved! The staff are fantastic with children and the butlers did a wonderful job playing with and entertaining the kiddos in camp. Between the pool, the games and the activities designed just for kids, Stella had an absolute blast.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Mango?
Talking to people about travel to Africa
Why do you love to travel?
Opens my mind and expands my way of thinking.
What’s your favorite destination in Africa and why?
DRC or Rwanda. I love observing the gorillas.
What’s your favorite destination outside of Africa and why?
Too many to list – I haven’t been somewhere that I didn’t love. Well, I am not too keen on humid jungle settings.
Sudan and Chad
What’s the best thing you ever ate while traveling?
Can’t think of one meal but 6 weeks in Cape Town was a dream come true with the incredible restaurants to choose from.
What’s the most memorable wildlife sighting in Africa?
I love watching baby elephants especially when they are just learning to use their trunk.
What’s the most unique souvenir you’ve ever brought home from a trip?
Not unique, but I try to bring home local fabric. I also have a serious mask collection that line my office walls.
What 5 things are always in your carry-on bag?
Book, water, headphones, pen and paper
What’s your top travel tip?
Go into your trip with an open mind as it is often the small experiences that have the biggest impact.
What’s your favorite animal?
If African wildlife 1) Gorillas 2) wild dogs 3) elephants otherwise I love dogs.
What do you love to do outside of travel?
Ski, run, hike, tennis, sewing, reading, spend time with husband, family, dog and pals.
What’s your go-to drink for sundowners?
What’s your favorite food?
Anything with Asian spices and noodles
What pets do you have?
One incredible dog – Luna Belle
What’s your guilty pleasure movie?
I love animated movies like Madagascar or Kung Fu Panda
My inspiration for visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo was the Netflicks movie “Virunga.” After finishing the documentary I filed the destination away into the back of my brain as somewhere I wanted to go when the infrastructure improved. Fast forward a few years and Virunga National park now has five different locations to stay at ranging from the spacious and luxurious Bukima Lodge to the relaxing tented camp on Lake Kivu – Tchegera Island camp.
As I starting planning my trip I mostly focused on seeing the gorillas but I quickly realized as I looked at the variety of activities available that Virunga National Park had quite a bit to do. What started as a three day trip quickly grew to 7 days as I added on days so that in addition to the gorilla trekking I could visit the park headquarters, the gorilla sanctuary, trek to view the habituated chimpanzees, and most importantly climb an active volcano and spend the night on the rim.
My husband and I spent two fabulous days trekking the gorillas. The park has on average 10 groups they will visit. Each morning the park rangers bring all trekkers in the headquarters while they discuss the groups, behaviors they have seen, the last known location of each group and then assign you to a group to view based on your physical capabilities. On our first day we trekked to the Rugendo group. We found them not far from the park boundary. The group was in a playful mood. We had several juveniles that were playing on low tree branches alternating between swinging back and forth towards us and pushing each other off the limbs. A young baby entertained us for our hour as it struggled walking amongst the forest floor tripping over the roots every few feet. On our second day we trekked to the Himba group and our hour was spend watching them nap and eat. At one point one of the silverbacks mocked charged another silverback in the group and the forest floor shook with their movement – it was so exciting to watch. It was a perfect two days and we were grateful for the variety of behaviors we witnessed.
One of the big highlights of our trip turned out to be our “down” day. We were up at 500am to trek the chimpanzees. After several hours of walking in the forest we finally found them hanging out in the trees above the park headquarters (1000 feet from where we started.) We spent the rest of the day exploring the park headquarters, visiting the sanctuary where they care for mountain gorilla orphans, meeting the children of surrounding villages, exploring some caves, visiting a coffee plantation and finishing up with a visit to the newly built Rangers widows sewing workshop to provide employment for the spouses of fallen rangers.
Our final two days were spent at the active volcano - Nyiragongo. The five hour climb straight up the side of Nyiragongo Volcano is well worth the reward! After catching my breath and inching my way cautiously to the rim I was rewarded with a view of the World’s largest lava lake lying some 350+ meters below me in the crater. The hot gases exploding and the mosaic pattern created within the lake are stunning to say the least. As night fell and the intensity of color increased I found myself in a hypnotic state watching the glowing cracks in the crusted service of the lake change patterns – it was very difficult to break away to get some sleep.
Photos & text by Suzanne Spencer
What’s your hometown?
Melancthon, which is in Ontario, Canada
What’s your favorite thing about working at Mango?
My amazingly talented team
Why do you love to travel?
Because I love to learn and explore cultures and food
Wildlife lovers, adventure lovers, active travelers, families and photographers
Day and night game drives, boating safaris, mokoro rides (traditional wooden canoes), walking safaris, catch-and-release fishing, hot air ballooning, scenic helicopter flights and guided photographic lessons
Botswana is our favorite country for safaris and Little Vumbura is our favorite place to stay there. Set on its own private island in the heart of the Okavango Delta, this charming camp is everything we love about a safari experience. Between only being accessible by boat and being mere minutes away from one of the most productive savannahs, it’s the perfect way to experience this must-see destination.
Into the Delta
The Okavango Delta is one of the most coveted safari destinations in all of Africa, and easily one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. In the middle of the vast sweep of the Kalahari, waters that have flown countless miles from the Angolan highlands abruptly break their banks and fan out across 5,800 square miles to form the Okavango Delta. This creates a haven for wildlife unlike anywhere else on Earth.
The delta is a vast tapestry of different habitats ranging from savannah grassland and reedy wetlands to ancient ebony forests and deep lagoons. A huge abundance and diversity of birds and animals are drawn to the watery paradise, creating the most incredible game viewing experience. You’ll see it all, from the usual suspects like elephants, giraffes and zebras to rare species like sitatunga. If birdwatching is your thing, there’s well over 400 species to scope out, from the littlest in Africa (the penduline tit) to the largest (the ostrich).
One of the biggest highlights of visiting the delta is the incredible abundance and diversity of predators that you can see. Alongside the safari classics (think lions and cheetahs), you can also spot rare ones, such as bat-eared foxes, African wild cats and endangered wild dogs. The area around Little Vumbura is rich with towering ebony trees, the favorite hang-out of the ever-elusive leopard, giving you prime opportunities to see one of them.
Little Vumbura is one of the best camps for photographers. Located on its own private island right in the middle of deep, year-round channels and lagoons, you can choose whether you want to photograph wildlife around the water or take a five minute boat ride over to one of the most productive savannahs in the entire delta. It is located on the northern side of the delta, so the floods arrive first and dry up the last, making it fabulous year-round. But it will be fantastic whether you go during the green season when the landscape is lush and the wildlife pops against the verdant backdrops, or during the dry season when the flood plains are full and utterly magnificent.
By Land, Water and Air
The activities on offer at Little Vumbura are some of the most diverse and thrilling in the entire delta. With one of the most productive savannahs in the entire delta just a short boat ride away, there wildlife viewing is prolific and incredibly memorable. Beyond the usual game drives in search of big game, you can also explore on foot for an up-close perspective on the delta’s smaller residents, as well as learning about the local use of plants for food and medicine.
There are of course several ways to enjoy the region’s signature waterways. Weave through the maze of channels and lagoons on a motorboat safari or slow down with a ride in a mokoro. These traditional dug-out canoes are how the local communities have moved through the delta for generations, so it’s very special to experience the ecosystem this way. Without the noise of any engines, you can drift peacefully past wildlife as they go about their business. Watch as elephants feed on marshy reeds, red lechwe bound gracefully across flood plains and kingfishers dart about like colorful arrows.
For a breathtaking view of the Okavango from above, Little Vumbura offers both scenic helicopter flips as well as hot air balloon rides. From above you can truly see the forces of water and animals on the earth, etching their trails, channels and lagoons in the vegetation. You can watch wildlife as they wander below…hippos wallowing and snorting, flocks of cranes taking off, maybe even lions lounging in a hidden glen. Though this is incredibly memorable for anyone, this is especially great for photographers. You’ll create images unlike anyone else!
Life in camp is just as charming as the safari itself. Little Vumbura elevates a laid-back ambiance and tranquil setting with superb service, wonderful food and thoughtfully planned splashes of luxury. The suites are simple and comfortable with plenty of space to spread out, great views and all the amenities and comforts you could ever need. Elevated walkways connect all the suites and main area, so you’re immersed into nature without any inconveniences. There’s nothing better than waking up to birdsong and falling asleep to the sounds of crickets and gently rustling reeds.
Don’t be surprised if there’s elephants wandering around though – a resident herd has taken a liking to feeding on the trees scattered throughout camp. It’s such a treat to just relax on your private deck sipping on a cocktail and watching them stuff themselves silly on figs and marula fruits.
Or imagine turning the corner in your mokoro to find a dreamy sundowner set-up: chairs perched in the shallows so you can cool your toes, the bar (complete with garnishes!) floating on its own tray and the pink light of sunset fading across the gently rippling water. There’s nothing else in the world quite like a stay at Little Vumbura!
It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of taking your kids on safari, and Little Vumbura is one of our all-time favorites. They have perfected the art of crafting a kid-friendly experience that will keep them engaged while creating lifelong memories. From special activities such as kid-oriented bush walks, basketweaving and campfire s'mores to family suites perfectly designed for togetherness when needed and privacy when desired, there is no better place for your family.
Little Vumbura is such a Mango Safaris favorite that we have included it in myriad of our best itineraries. Whether you want a Botswana-centric trip, one that celebrates Southern Africa or an extraordinary journey that ventures all the way from Botswana to the highlights of East Africa and finally Egypt, we have one for you! Or even better, let us do what we do best and customize a trip to perfectly suit your style.
For all things Botswana, check out Amazing Botswana. Here’s why we love it:
Covering three of the Okavango’s top wildlife habitats, you’ll see the best the region has to offer
Huge variety of activities that are perfect for those seeking an adventurous escape
A grand finale at Mombo Camp, one of the top camps in the entire continent
Taste and dine your way through the blooming restaurant scene and renowned wine lands of Cape Town
Marvel at the awe-inspiring power and beauty of Victoria Falls
Discover desert magic at its finest – think towering dunes, rare wildlife and dramatic scenery
For the ultimate African experience covering the continent’s most spectacular natural and cultural wonders, check out Cape to Cairo:
Explore the bottomless wine, food and cultural delights of Cape Town
Venture into the heart of iconic wild areas with stops in the Okavango Delta and Masai Mara
Take in the beauty of Victoria Falls in all its misty, thundering glory
Discover the ancient cultural wonders of Egypt’s mighty dynasties
At the heart of Mango Safaris’ values are wildlife conservation and the desire to protect Africa’s wildest destinations. We believe deeply in giving back to the beautiful areas we visit by supporting conservation projects ranging from rescuing orphaned baby animals to habitat restoration. Throughout our 20 years of business, we have partnered with numerous reputable conservation organizations. Most recently, we are proud to be a part of Wilderness Safaris' Gorilla Habitat Reforestation Project at Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
Wildlife lovers, birdwatchers, photographers, families, multigenerational families, experiential travelers
Game drives, walking safaris, mokoro rides & boat safaris
Prime access…without the price tag
Found in the famed Okavango Delta, Gomoti Plains Camp is a superb camp that packs in phenomenal value for travelers. The private concession where Gomoti Plains sits is situated right next to several highly desirable concessions home to a handful of luxurious camps that are more expensive. Staying at Gomoti gives you access to this prime location without paying the rates for flashier camps. Instead, all of your money goes toward the safari experience and none of the distractions.
Located in the southern reaches of the Okavango Delta, this area is where the watery maze of canals and lagoons gives way to the northern edge of the Kalahari Desert to create an ecotone (region where two habitats overlap) absolutely bursting with wildlife. Permanent water from the Gomoti River means the camp reliably delivers a well-rounded delta experience throughout the year.
Life in camp
Strung along a picturesque stretch of the Gomoti River, beautiful views permeate every corner of the camp. Whether you are sipping around the morning campfire or reading a great book in your tent, you will be immersed into the setting with every moment. Founded by a former guide, the camp excels operationally so your stay will be effortless and relaxed. You’ll have all the creature comforts you need without any extra frills that add up – fresh, delicious meals, cold drinks, warm hospitality, and an emphasis on excellent guiding.
Forests of towering leadwood and ebony trees typical of the northern delta blend with the palm trees of Botswana’s desert landscapes. Grassy plains, open pans and offshoots from the Gomoti River provide diverse habitat that supports a huge variety of wildlife ranging from predators to plains game. Thanks to this tapestry of habitats, the Gomoti Plains private concession offers extraordinary game viewing year-round.
A family favorite
Gomoti Plains is one of our favorite options for not just families but also multigenerational families with children of any age. In the main camp there are 2 two-bedroom family units, meaning 2 nuclear families can stay here with the grandparents in an adjacent tent. They also offer Gomoti Private, a small exclusive use camp nearby that is perfect for a family of up to six. As an added bonus, unlike most camps, they do not charge for use of a private vehicle, which helps make a family safari more affordable without losing any of the convenience. It’s this commitment to bringing the magic of the Okavango Delta to families that makes us love Gomoti Plains so much.
Commitment to conservation
Another reason the camp has found its way into Mango’s heart is its commitment to wildlife conservation. Over the years, they have played host to research teams for both wild dogs and Botswana’s ambitious rhino relocation efforts. This directly benefits and enriches the guest experience by creating strong populations of both highly endangered species. If the researchers are in camp while you are there, they are often very willing and eager to share their work with guests. Having a frontline view of boots-on-the-ground conservation is just one more reason why we love Gomoti Plains so much – this is what ecotourism is all about!
Check out our Hidden Gems of Southern Africa itinerary, which pairs Gomoti Plains Camp with time on safari in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park and a stop at the iconic Victoria Falls.
Why this itinerary is great...
Please vote for us as we continue to share the beautiful wilds of Africa, ever expanding our expertise and seeking out the most spectacular destinations for our clients. 2017 will be our most exciting year yet, with many new destinations being added to our repetoire. Mango always strives to keep our finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest in Africa travel. With your continued support, we can keep crafting the best safaris in the world for you.
We wouldn't be where we are today without our fantastic customers. Thank you once again for helping make Mango Safaris such a success!
Every species has a role in its ecosystem, whether it decomposes rotting trees, hunts as the apex predator, or keeps soil porous while tunneling. But some species are special – the impacts they have on their environment far outweighs their population size. In other words, there may not be many of them, but the ecosystem and its myriad other inhabitants couldn’t function without them. Such animals are called ecosystem engineers. Just like our engineers, they alter the physical structures of the ecosystem, thus creating habitat niches for countless other creatures. Throughout Africa’s diverse ecosystems, elephants take on this important role. They spread seeds far and wide; knock down trees to form habitats for ground dwellers; dig into the earth to create water holes; fertilize the flora with their mineral-rich dung; and carve pathways through dense vegetation to open up the bush for other animals. Elephants are the beating heart of Africa’s vast, dynamic wilderness. In short – Africa NEEDS elephants. Unfortunately, elephant populations have been undergoing drastic declines over the past century.
Whenever conservationists would cry for attention on the dire state of Africa’s elephants, governments would shrug off the problem. ‘It’s impossible to get a real reading on the problem.’ ‘Nobody really knows how many elephants there are.’ ‘Elephants? They’re fine! Just ask the rural farmers.’ ‘Who cares? They’re just elephants.’ Without any solid evidence, there was no way to make people care. Two years ago, philanthropist and business magnate Paul G. Allen set out to change that.
To get a better idea of where Africa’s elephant population stood, researchers undertook a Pan-African survey. Never before had a census this expansive, this thorough, this challenging been attempted. Many said it was impossible, that it would fail – but perseverance and meticulous planning prevailed. Over two years of dedication and countless hours of manpower, this ambitious project took flight. The census consisted of aerial surveys that covered 345,000 square miles in 18 countries across Africa. Each crew followed strict research protocols to ensure the data collected was both high quality and consistent. Thanks to their efforts, the a much clearer image of Africa’s elephants emerged.
Many regions revealed heavy losses – the result of poaching, culling, and habitat loss. Fortunately, several areas showed stable populations and even improvements. Among the countries doing a good job protecting their elephants are Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda. The heaviest poaching was in Tanzania and Mozambique. Other countries, notably Zimbabwe and Zambia, showed wide internal variation between declining and thriving populations depending on the type of land management. Such variation indicates that while some areas are being well-conserved, others are still tragically at the whim of poachers.
Overall, a total of 352,271 elephants were counted during the survey. Sadly, 15 of the 18 countries showed a whopping 30% decline between 2007 and 2014 (that’s 144,000 beautiful elephants lost forever). Currently, the rate of decline is 8% per year mostly due to poaching, with the rate increasing each year. While 84% of the elephants were in protected areas, there were still many carcasses within the national parks, implying they’re struggling regardless of location.
Having cold, hard facts certainly makes the stark situation harder to deny. Hopefully now that the information is out there, governments will start conserving better. No longer can they feign ignorance and turn their backs. More stringent protection laws, increased funding for ranger programs, cracking down on the legal and illegal ivory trade, and better support for conservation researchers – these are just a few of the ways governments can help save Africa’s elephants. It’s not too late and thanks to the efforts of Paul Allen and his dedicated team, we now have an arsenal of information to fight for the future of these beautiful creatures. As ecosystem engineers, Africa’s landscapes will change forever if elephants go extinct. Protecting elephants means protecting Africa’s wonderful, wild heart.
When our clients travel to Cape Town, we take all the guesswork out of the experience so you can relax and enjoy your time in Africa’s mother city, rather than worrying about logistics. We organize your days so you can visit the open markets or local events that are on offer throughout the week. We carefully select restaurants from our list of favorites, matching them to your style and making the reservations for you.
There has been a lot of talk lately about a restaurant called Chefs Warehouse – Casey loved it on her last trip. Living in Portland, Oregon, I’m used to a great food culture and restaurant scene so I decided to test it out. I know all about restaurants who don’t have to take reservations and dismissive, hipster hostesses who couldn’t care less if you get a table that night or not. From this angle, Chefs Warehouse will not disappoint. Barring all of this, I strongly suggest that you surrender one night of control. If you consider yourself a foodie, then I am pretty sure you will thank me.
Here’s how it all works - the restaurant seats from 12-8pm on a first come first serve basis, and offers an incredible set tapas menu that changes daily. We showed up around 6:45pm, and put our names on the list. While waiting for our table, we perused the many shops and bars of Bree Street. We happened to be there on the first Thursday of the month, a day dedicated to exploring the city’s culture, and it seemed like the entire town was out and about. With a stroke of luck, we got the last table of the night at 7:55pm. This was cutting it too close so we suggest you go earlier.
Every night owner and head-chef Liam Tomlin crafts a new set tapas menu. Again, throw caution to the wind and let his culinary expertise take the reins. Just let it happen. Aside from the tapas, the menu offers local oysters and a few desserts to choose from. The dining experience is broken down into three courses, one dedicated to seafood, one showcasing vegetables, and one for meat to wrap it up.
First up was a round of tapas featuring fresh seafood. Five different types of seafood were used, each cooked in a unique way. Refreshing tuna tartare paired with prawn toasts, glazed salmon paired with cucumber and a fish roe dressing, and crispy squid with soba noodles and curry inspired spices.
Next we moved onto the mid-course of two vegetarian tapas. Chef Tomlin designed the menu to celebrate seasonal produce. We visited in May, which meant autumnal flavors – a risotto featuring butternut squash and a walnut sage crumb, and a celeriac and apple curry with crisp leeks.
The third and final round was a selection of meat tapas. Seared duck breast with caramelized onion rings, braised beef brisket salad drizzled with a horseradish cream, and the real hero – pork belly with miso charred cauliflower. It was perfectly rendered – each bite was sinfully luscious with an inside tender from the melted fat and a chewy, crispy outside. Rich and utterly delicious. It was so good that I forgot to take a picture - a sure sign of a delicious meal.
If you can’t make it for dinner, try lunch. Tapas are a delicious way to break up a day of sight-seeing and shopping.
Photos by Teresa Sullivan, Inside Guide, Eat Out, Gourmet Traveler & Cape Town City Guide
The Okavango Delta is a marvelous maze of channels, islands and lagoons that create a paradise for wildlife and birdlife. Reliable water and abundant grazing means plentiful herbivores. This in turn attracts myriad predators from leopards and cheetahs to lions and wild dogs. If you're a birding enthusiast, there are few places on Earth that compare. Over 400 species call the delta home, including Africa's largest (the ostrich) and smallest (the penduline tit) species. A haven for elephants and other endangered species, such as rhino, conservation has long been a priority in this region and it shows. The game viewing is fabulous and diverse, and the variety of camps are as well. With countless nights spent exploring the Okavango, we have done the legwork and checked out dozens of great camps. Below are our favorites and a little insight as to why we love them...
I love a room with some sort of view, not enclosed in the bushes. Kwara’s tented rooms all look out onto a lake (with water all year round) and home to many, many hippos. It is such fun trying to fall asleep listening to the munching hippos, so awake at night grazing and snorting and splashing. This camp has an exceptional wildlife viewing area and exciting boat cruises in the lily padded waterways of the Delta. Plus, trying your hand at fishing is fun – although all I’ve ever caught was grass…
Beyond the privacy, the luxury and the incredible density of wildlife, I love the elevated walkways that the buffalo like to sleep under. Sitting on your veranda seeing 7 different mammals on the floodplain in front of camp is magic. Leopards pose in trees. I can’t wait to take my family in March.
Little Vumbura is my favorite place in Botswana . It is small and intimate with just 6 rooms, boasting some amazing staff and service, located on a tiny island along a main delta chanel, and really offering guests a little bit of everything from top notch game drives, guided walks and boating and canoe safaris. This is, in my mind, the quintessential Okavango Delta camp.
GOMOTI PLAINS CAMP
This lovely camp is set in a high quality wildlife area in the southern region of the delta. It has a classic Okavango Delta landscape with a great variety of habitat including seasonally flooded plains, water channels, grasslands and forested islands. This variety simply means great wildlife diversity and viewing – lions, leopards, wild dog, buffalo, roan, sable, tons of giraffe and so much more! The staff is lovely and makes you feel right at home.
Tucked away in the wildlife dense Jao Concession, this camp feels like Robinson Crusoe meets African safari with a splash of luxury. I love that all of the guest rooms are tucked up into the canopy treehouse-style. Each one has a deck overlooking the flood plains so you can do a little armchair game viewing whenever you feel like it. Wake up with the birds all around you and stroll down to the main area on the elevated walkways for a little breakfast before heading out on safari - nothing better than that!
Today marks the start of International Termite Week. Why is there a whole week to honor these creepy crawlies, you ask? Because they are the glue that holds many African ecosystems together. They have the proud titles of being both ecosystem engineers and keystone species – but what do those mean?
An ecosystem engineer is a species who shapes their environment (like a beaver building a dam), and whose changes are disproportionately important relative to how many of them live in the habitat (one beaver’s dam impacts the entire downstream ecosystem). On the other hand, a keystone species is one that's essential to the wellbeing of the ecosystem. This means, every other species in the ecosystem is directly or indirectly dependent on the keystone species, such as a sea otter in a kelp forest.
Little Creatures, Big Impacts
Termites build mounds with sky high towers and extraordinarily complex subterranean tunnels and chambers. For small insects, their impacts are far-reaching and diverse, creating fetile islands of productivity. Their constant tunneling and excavating brings nutrients, air and water into the depths of the soil, which helps trees and other plants to grow better. Termites have their own ‘gardens’ where they grow fungus deep underground for food. This helps to distribute nutrients throughout the soil, acting as subterranean fertilizer.
Hungry herbivores are drawn to graze on the lush plant life found around termite mounds. As they feed, their manure acts as additional fertilizer, further boosting the productivity of the area. The abundant herbivores in turn attract predators, giving them excellent hunting grounds. Who would have thought that such tiny insects would help dictate the distribution of so many other animals?
Without termites, the harsh dry season would be even harder for many plants and animals to survive. Termite mounds are an architectural marvel. They’re constructed to pull air and moisture through the tunnels, from the top to the deepest chambers. Throughout the year, they maintain an incredibly consistent climate in the mound. This means they are able to survive the driest times, and continually provide their benefits to other plants and animals. Without termites, many African ecosystems wouldn’t be able to thrive year round.
Next time you’re on safari, take a moment to appreciate these fascinating structures and the diligent little workers that live within. Safaris wouldn’t exist without the incredible African wilderness, so we should give a big thank you the termites that make it all possible.
From our vantage point on the south bank of the river in the relative safety of our ancient but reliable Land Cruiser we could see the drama unfolding. On our last full day of safari, this would likely be our final chance to witness the spectacle of a zebra crossing, and with John and Sam, our intrepid guide and driver, we were once again witnessing a familiar scene that we had seen play out on our three prior attempts that day. A large zeal of plains zebras would amass on the north bank, seeking a safe passage across the river on their annual migration south to the Serengeti. The alpha male would move down to the edge of the water, but Nile crocodiles, anticipating the zebras, would have already moved into position, seeking prey, thwarting the zebras. In this location, only one croc was present, giving the zebras their best chance, but the alpha was wary of the situation and would not commit the dazzle to the crossing. Equatorial light was beginning to fade as we reluctantly resigned ourselves to being content with watching the fascinating predator prey interaction without actually seeing the zebra crossing; but then a journey of giraffes appeared and formed a tower in the river, perilously close to the lurking crocodile.
Throughout our two-week, five camp safari tour of Kenya, our guides and drivers had been consistently competent in all ways. If we showed interest, enthusiasm and curiosity for the flora and fauna that extended beyond quick sightings and photo ops of the fabled Big Five, our guides responded accordingly and made every effort to share with us their deep, intimate, and indigenous knowledge of natural history. Subsequently, we made every effort to distinguish between plains and Grevy’s zebras, black and white rhinos, spotted and striped jackals, and the full bewildering spectrum of antelopes, ranging from ponderous eland to elegant gerenuks and dainty dik-diks. On our walking safari, we had close encounters with both baboons and baboon spiders. We are keen birders, and our guides made extra efforts to locate and identify over 200 species, including the quirky Kori bustard, the spectacular lilac breasted rollers in flight, and the elusive riparian fin foot. In Ol Pejeta, we sallied forth for a night safari and were rewarded with two sightings of aardvarks.
Above and beyond our life-list bird and megafauna sightings, our most spectacular experiences came from seeing interspecies interactions. One early morning we passed an hour observing a female lion digesting her first feeding on a freshly killed zebra. A pair of jackals, in pursuit of their own morning meal, moved in. We watched raptly as the two jackals, working in tandem, would take turns moving around the lioness, slink in to her zone of proximity to distract and pull her away far enough away from the carcass so that the other jackal could dart in and snatch a few tasty morsels. In another encounter, we chanced on three cheetahs, a mother and her yearling cubs, resting in the shade. A solitary spotted hyena, perhaps attracted by the scent of a recent kill, happened by. The mother could have easily chased off the intruder but instead looked on in attentive disdain and allowed her offspring to handle the situation. We showed the capacity to sustain our focus on these interactions, and we were rewarded with lifetime encounters.
Now, on our penultimate game drive, we all watched incredulously as a tower of giraffes, apparently indifferent to the presence of the infamous enormous crocodile, assembled in the stream right at the crossing. Widely believed to be mute, giraffes do have an amazing capacity to communicate with each other, and apparently, with other species as well. Their presence and body language assured the alpha zebra that they would stand as crossing guards, and the zeal of zebras, with their tower of giraffes offering a measure of protection, thundered across the river to the safe sanctuary of the south bank. At one point, one giraffe moved further up the north bank to signal to the remaining half of the dazzle to cross. Jan peered through her long lens and followed her bliss. I secretly hope the croc would make a kill. John and Sam, with two lifetimes in the Masai Mara, had never witnessed giraffes intervening in the predator prey dance of zebra and crocodile. The final zebra splashed up the south bank joining the safety of the others as they reassembled and resumed their southern migration with their customary zeal. The tower of giraffes morphed into a journey of giraffes, and they moved onward into the fading African light. Sam fired up the Land Cruiser, and we headed back to camp for our final sundowner in Kenya.
Text & Photo by Jon Lee - Mango Safaris client
Need to escape from the stresses of daily life? There is no vacation more perfect than a safari and beach combo for whisking you away to another world. There your days will be filled by sunsets, great food, untouched wilderness and the thrill of new experiences. By pairing the beach with safari, you get the best of both worlds: incredible game viewing and the blissful relaxation of a beach holiday.
Kick off your African adventure by exploring the sweeping savannahs, ancient ebony forests, and lush hills that harbor some of the world’s best game viewing. Sip on sundowner cocktails and listen to traditional tales around a crackling campfire every night. Fall asleep with the calls of the wild filling your ears and the promise of a new day eagerly dancing around the edge of your sleepy mind. Safari is the ultimate getaway, with each day giving rise to unexpected adventures and incredible memories.
For a grand finale, we like to round out your safari with some white sand beaches and aquamarine water. The Indian Ocean offers some of the most breathtakingly beautiful beaches where you can revel in barefoot ease, snorkel on pristine reefs, and nap in the shade of swaying palms. Amid the tropical idyll you can reflect on your safari adventures and revitalize yourself before heading home.
At Mango Safaris we pride ourselves on being a conservation-based organization that gives back to the destinations we visit. Every trip we plan includes a contribution built into the trip cost for our chartiable efforts. We believe in supporting both the wildlife and the communities that make our destinations so special. Every year our team sits down together and discuss which organizations stand out to us, and which we feel are doing an outstanding job of conserving wildlife, developing communities or a combination of the two. Based on this we allocate our annual contributions. We aim to suppport a variety of groups across a wide geographic range, from the flood plains of the Okavango Delta in Botswana to the mist draped volcanic mountains of Rwanda. Some groups target specific animals, while others take an ecosystem level approach...some focus on education, and others on job skill training...but all are doing their part to improve the welfare and future of Africa, just like we aim to do.
By traveling with us, many of you have already made a contribution, but if you are inclined to donate more in the holiday spirit, we have included links below to their webpages where you may make an additional contribution.
Photo: Mara Sullivan (daughter of Mango co-founder Teresa Sullivan) feeding an orphaned baby rhino at Sarara Camp in Kenya
THE MANGO-BISATE GORILLA HABITAT REFORESTATION PROJECT
Annual contribution: $16,000
Where they operate: Rwanda
Why we love it: Several years ago, Wilderness Safaris, one of our biggest partners in Africa, approached us about a partnership for a large-scale environmental restoration project. Their vision was to buy back land adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda and convert back from agricultural land to native forest. The end goal was to donate all the land back to the national park, thereby expanding its boundaries and the habitat available for endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and countless other species. The massive undertaking is executed in several phases. First, land is bought back from farmers at market value. Second, the local laborers are brought in to clear invasive species and do other ecological restoration. While the land is being cleared, the agronomy team gathers clippings from native plants and propagates them in the Bisate Nursery. Once big enough, they are transplanted into the cleared land in phase three. The agronomy team continues to monitor not only the health of the plants, but also the progression of species returning to the restored habitat.
We are thrilled to be a part of this incredible project. In addition to our annual contribution of $4,000 from past years, we also fundraised $12,000 during our 20th anniversary celebrations. We auctioned off a luxury 13-night safari through East Africa, with 100% of ticket sales going directly to the Mango-Bisate Gorilla Habitat Reforestation project.
Visit mangoafricansafaris.com/blog/bisate-mango-forest to make a donation yourself or learn even more about the project.
RHINO CONSERVATION BOTSWANA
Annual contribution: $6,000
Where they operate: Botswana
Why we love it: RCB is working to give wild rhinos a fighting chance in an era when poaching is rapidly driving them to extinction across Africa. With rhinos disappearing at an alarming rate, conservation organizations such as Rhino Conservation Botswana are working diligently to develop innovative and effective techniques to protect wild populations. RCB struck on the unusual idea of translocating black and white rhinos from areas of high poaching to areas with much lower risk that will provide a safe haven for populations to grow and thrive naturally. Numerous have already been moved from South Africa to Botswana and are currently being monitored, but the work is never done and there are many more rhinos in need of translocating. Each rhino costs around $70,000 to rescue and relocate. Once locally extinct from Botswana, they are now being repatriated into the complex tapestry of waterways and islands that define the Okavango Delta. Despite the ongoing monitoring and anti-poaching efforts, poachers are also continually evolving and shifting their tactics, so supporting organizations such as RCB has never been more important. If we want rhinos to continue to live in the wild for generations to come, it is essential that we support their work. For this reason, Mango Safaris has chosen to continue to include them in our annual conservation donations.
Visit rhinoconservationbotswana.com to make a donation yourself. Let us know if you contribute – we would love to give you a shout out in our next newsletter!
CHILDREN IN THE WILDERNESS
Annual contribution: $5,000
Where they operate: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Malawi
Why we love it: When it comes to conservation, we are all in this together. Educating and inspiring the next generation is essential for the future of our wild spaces and the remarkable biodiversity that calls it home – ourselves included. Children in the Wilderness operates in some of the planet’s most sensitive and ecologically fragile areas, such as the Okavango Delta (Botswana) and Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda). With many of these ecosystems threatened by the impacts of climate change, ensuring their long-term preservation has never been more important. Many of them act as the last refuges for critically endangered species, such as the mountain gorilla and white rhinos. The program runs numerous programs across seven countries that include conservation education for elementary school students, scholarships for promising students studying Africa wildlife and ecology in university, and training for schoolteachers on incorporating more science into their lessons. Many of their participants have gone on to work in conservation and ecotourism operations across all seven of the countries in which they operate in positions ranging from anti-poaching to conservation educators.
Visit childreninthewilderness.com to make a donation yourself. Let us know if you contribute – we would love to give you a shout out in our next newsletter!
CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND
Annual contribution: $2500, plus donating and organizing safari packages for their fundraising auctions
Where they operate: Namibia
Why we love it: Cheetahs are an iconic of the vast African savannahs, but they are sprinting toward extinction at an alarming rate due to habitat loss, the illegal pet trade and human-wildlife conflict. With only 10% of their historical population remaining in the wild, organizations such as the Cheetah Conservation Fund are essential to preserve their future. CCF deploys a multi-pronged approach to saving them, ranging from rescuing and rehabilitating injured wild cheetahs to raising and giving out livestock protecting dogs to villagers in areas where cheetahs have been killed in retaliation for taking goats or sheep. They also operate several education programs to engage the future generations and teach them about the importance of wildlife. By working with the animals hands-on, targeting the sources of their decimation and proactively reducing the risk of future losses, they hope to not just preserve those that remain but boost their numbers.
Visit cheetah.org to make a donation yourself. Let us know if you contribute – we would love to give you a shout out in our next newsletter!
THE FALLEN RANGERS FUND
Annual contribution: $6,000
Where they operate: Republic of Congo
Why we love it: The Fallen Rangers Fund is part of the Virunga Alliance that works to protect endangered mountain gorillas in a region where populations remain critically low due to habitat loss and illegal poaching. With about one third of the world’s remaining population, protection is critical. Poachers are highly motivated, so these long-lived, slow-reproducing animals need rangers that are continually evolving their dedicated efforts to protect them. Their work and willingness to risk their lives for these magnificent animals has paid off. With numbers once as low as 274 individuals in 1971, the population has managed to grow to around 1000 gorillas – a remarkable feat when considering that in the past, the population had halved in just 12 years. This wonderful news doesn’t come without a price though – since the national park was founded in 1925, over 175 rangers have lost their lives protecting the wildlife.
Starting in 2007, park authorities have made the effort to track every widow dating back to 1991 when conflict escalated within the country. For six months after a ranger’s death the park continues to pay their full wages to their widow as their family adjusts to their way of life. The families also receive free medical services provided through the park’s facilities. The Fallen Rangers Fund gives 100% of donations directly to the widows. The fund also provides critical support, employment and job skill training to the widows to help them find an alternative way to support their families.
Visit virunga.org to make a donation yourself. Let us know if you contribute – we would love to give you a shout out in our next newsletter! Photo by Adam Kiefer for Virunga
RETETI ELEPHANT SANCTUARY
Annual contribution: $2,000
Where they operate: Kenya
Why we love it: The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Northern Kenya’s Namunyak Conservancy is entirely owned and operated by the Samburu communities who have called the region home for thousands of years. Elephants are struggling across the continent, falling victim to illegal poaching, habitat loss and other human wildlife conflict. Reteti is a particularly wonderful example of how humans and wildlife can come together for the mutual benefit of both. Orphaned elephants are cared for and raised in the sanctuary, helping secure their future in the region for generations to come. This in turn helps the region remain a wonderful destination for ecotourism that brings in revenue, jobs and benefits such as schools and medical clinics for the communities. With only three luxurious camps in the entire 850,000-acre community-owned conservancy, the experience is wonderfully exclusive and allows welfare of the conservation and community to be priority. At Mango Safaris we believe this model of high-end, low-volume ecotourism is the future of Africa and the best hope for protecting the integrity of the continent’s wild spaces.
Visit retetielephants.org to make a donation yourself. Let us know if you contribute – we would love to give you a shout out in our next newsletter!
THE KARISIA SCHOOL MEAL PROJECT
Annual contribution: $3,000
Where they operate: Kenya
In partnership with two past clients, Jan and Jon Lee, we have been supporting a school in Northern Kenya by providing the students with a daily meal. Early childhood nutrition is essential. Improved nutrition allows kids to pay attention in school better, helps them grow up healthy and strong, and boosts their immune system.
The Lees visited the school in 2016 when they traveled to Kenya, and felt inspired to create this project. We are always open to collaborating on such efforts with our clients, and strongly encourage anyone who feels inclined to contribute however they can.
There is something seeded deep down inside of us to collect things. Once, we gathered our food – collecting berries, roots, and wild herbs to feast on during times of plenty and ration during times of little. Collecting goods our society deem valuable allows us to differentiate ourselves, and achieve a higher social status in the same way that a collection of fine art or expensive jewelry does today.
An African safari once elicited images of the gentleman hunter, out asserting his dominance over nature with brass trimmed rifles and tailored khaki. Unfortunately, some still go to Africa for hunting, but most people have adopted a more sustainable approach to safari, shooting photographs rather than bullets. But there are those who take it one step further. The ones who are already standing by the vehicles before the rest of the guests have even staggered down for their pre-dawn cup of coffee. (Who needs caffeine when you have obsession?) They are the ones whose pulsating neck vein you can see as we stop for yet another giraffe when there are leopards to be found (this may be a quote from an actual photographer friend). What drives the obsession to get the Perfect Shot (capital P, capital S)? The light must be golden and pleasingly slanted, the composition must be worthy of National Geographic, and of course, the wildlife must be majestically posed and engaged in some interesting activity. Crispness and masterful use of your camera are just a given. Bonus points for getting multiple species in one shot. When all these things come together, there is a moment of pure and unbridled elation when you see that tiny, perfect image on your camera’s screen for the first time. I imagine it is much like the feeling a colonial hunter got when he had taken down a kingly lion or a robustly tusked elephant.
For us, the endless pursuit for the perfect photograph is really no different than Captain Ahab going after his whale. The difference lies on the animal side. How they experience humans and learn to either coexist with or fear them. If hunters could satiate that innate need to collect the best of nature’s illusive power, then perhaps we wouldn’t need this debate. For the sake of Africa’s pristine wilderness, for the sake of its beautiful wildlife, and for the sake of the mutual respect that bonds all living things together on this planet, we must learn to take photographs, not trophies. We can still collect adventures and memories without needing to destroy what precious little wildlife is left.
I am not a morning person. At all. I have no idea how the safari industry became my calling - it all happens way too early. Your guide comes to your tent with a very friendly 5:30am wake up call. Ugh! That early on vacation? Why did I sit around the campfire having one more drink until 11:30pm last night? Why did I indulge in another chapter of my book? All of these things float through my sleepy mind from a warm bed that is clearly not ready for me to leave either. Alas, I rally as curiosity of what the morning might hold gets the better of me. Will it be a pride of lions feeding on the spoils of last night’s hunt? Or perhaps a rare glimpse of a porcupine as it scuttles back to its den?
After a mug (or two) of coffee and a bite to eat, we head out. It is May, and winter’s purchase is quietly taking hold in the Okavango Delta. The grass is tall and their dewy seed tassels shimmer in the early morning light. A mesmerizing layer of mist sprawls across the grasslands, creating a scene that resonates with something deep inside you.
I have been on safari a thousand and one times. But every morning is different, promising something new, something special. You never know what it will be, but it is always something. On this particular morning we were identifying some little birds when out of the mist appeared a family of lions. There is something about the way a lion walks that is unlike any other animal. There is a regal assuredness to it. A quiet strength that lets you know they think they’re king of the savannah as well. We watched enraptured as their powerful paws silently parted the grass, each breath condensing in the sunlight of a cold morning.
It is on mornings like these when you feel the power of Mother Nature and her subtle guiding grace. What a beautiful world we are lucky enough to live in. Sometimes it is important to just sit and observe, taking in all the things, big and small, that go on around you. As always with safari, it was completely worth getting up for.
Experience your own piece of Botswana magic.
Photos by Mango co-founder Teresa Sullivan.
Water is the foundation of life on Earth. None of this planet’s spectacular ecosystems would exist without water – in fact, the amount of water present is a defining feature of any ecosystem. No place better embodies the complex role of water in an ecosystem than the Okavango Delta. It would seem logical that the dry season would be the time without abundant water and that the wet season would be time of plenty. In most places in the world, this simple logic holds true – but not in the Okavango Delta. After the seasonal rains recede from the Botswana skies, an influx of water seeps slowly but ever so persistently into the delta’s panhandle, spreading out into a wide fan covering nearly 6,000 square miles. This water fell as rain in the Angolan highlands, and has been traveling south down the Okavango River for roughly a month. When it reaches the delta, the riverbanks give way to the utter flatness of the sandy Kalahari, spilling into channels, filling lagoons, and once more creating islands amid the floodplains. Despite the watery paradise, this is considered the dry season, since no rains are falling locally. It’s a strange but fascinating conundrum that showcases how wonderfully unusual the natural world can be.
It’s no secret that the Mango team absolutely loves the Okavango Delta, frequently sending clients there and going on annual visits ourselves to suss out the latest camps. When you visit, this beautiful region captures your heart. Check out our favorite Okavango destinations, and call us to start planning your own adventure today!
Photos from Wilderness Safaris
Welcome to the first of our mini-series that follows the intrepid travels of the Mango Safaris Team. Follow our blog to get the latest stories from deep in the African bush, high in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, or by the seaside of the Indian Ocean. We’ll update you on our favorite travel anecdotes as well as the latest properties we’re exploring in our quest to share the ultimate been-there-done-that knowledge with our clientele.
The Travelynn’ Life follows Lynn Drake—first stop Sandibe in the Okavango Delta of Botswana.
After landing at the airstrip and a quick 40 minute drive through beautiful scenery, we arrived at the brand spanking new Sandibe just after they had opened their doors to guests. We were greeted by the staff singing a welcome song and escorted to a room in the main lodge for our introduction.
Having been on more than 20 safaris, I was startled when we were led to a suite resembling a slumbering pangolin. I had never seen anything like it before! The interior of the suite was beautifully decorated, including a unique cone-shaped shower with a skylight where the baboons liked to peek down. There was a refreshing outdoor shower and private plunge pool, which were a nice relief from the afternoon heat. The large outdoor deck had seating for about 20 people. Our suite faced out to lush wetlands. On two nights I was awoken from a dead sleep to the sounds of a creature splashing just outside our suite. It almost sounded like he was enjoying a dip in our pool.
The main lodge is open and spacious with many different areas to relax, eat and drink. They’ve done a phenomenal job of bringing natural materials and earth tones into the stylish modern décor, seamlessly blending the camp into its beautiful setting.
The food was some of the best I have ever had at a lodge in Africa! All of the breads, muffins, and pastries were baked in a state of the art pizza oven, which was set in a gorgeous copper test kitchen right off the main dining area. There are four different chefs who have been professionally trained and they come out to personally tell you what the dinner menu is. Your butler, who is assigned to you for your whole stay, serves you a delicious breakfast after your morning safari drive, lunch at midday, and then dinner at 8pm.
There is a gym with a brand new selection of modern exercise equipment, and a spa featuring Africology products. In addition, the gift shop at Sandibe is fantastic and full of a great array of small items that can easily be tucked in your duffel bag. Perfect souvenirs for everyone from little ones to grandparents.
Our ranger, Tsavo, was born and raised in the Okavango Delta and was so knowledgeable about all the animals we saw. It really enriched the experience at an already great wildlife-viewing area. During our twice daily game drives we saw cheetah, lion, leopard, nocturnal cats, herds of elephant, giraffe, zebra, wallowing hippos, many species of antelope, and myriad colorful birds zipping about. On top of all that, those famous African sunsets lived up to their dazzling reputation, lighting the sky up with vibrant swathes of pink, purple and orange.
I felt so fortunate to be there within a month of the grand reopening. I think it is going to be "the one" for new and upcoming lodges in Botswana. Excellent management, beautiful suites, fantastic game drives, and a spectacular setting—what more could you ask for?
For centuries the Maasai have practiced a traditional rite of passage to manhood, hunting and killing lions. But now there are too many people and too few lions. The Maasai Elders of the Amboseli/Chyulu/Tsavo area knew things needed to change and became determined to eliminate lion hunting from the Maasai Culture. As a result of their initiative the first Maasai Olympics was held in 2012 and has become part of the larger conservation strategy and initiative to help to shift the attitudes of the Maasai toward a commitment to wildlife and habitat conservation. Every two years Maasai men and women gather in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro for the Maasai Olympics; a unique combination of conservation and sport, the event features bouts of athletic endurance, skill, and strategy all with a clear goal in mind…the conservation of lions.
Mango African Safaris, in partnership with Great Plains Conservation & SafariPros, is proud to offer our clients an exclusive opportunity to experience and support this unique event firsthand.
Spend 3 or 4 nights at ol Donyo Lodge between December 13th and 17th, 2018 with a full day spent experiencing the Maasai Olympics on December 15th.
3 or 4 Night Packages Available From $2,930.00 Per Person
•Accommodation at Great Plains Ol Donyo Lodge
•Scheduled Game Activities
•Exclusive Maasai Olympics Activities on December 15th
•Meals & Drinks (Excluding Champagne)
•Roundtrip Light Aircraft Transfers From Nairobi
•Tax deductible $500.00 per person donation to the
Space is extremely limited, for more information call
888-406-2646 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Two months ago I took a trip with my best friend. It was not planned. As some things go this was best. We went half way around the world and opened our eyes to a world we had only read about. I was not ready for what I saw.
The Zoo came alive. No walls no cages no keepers. No doors on the trucks. No doors on the trucks… Somehow I was always facing the wild, boys on the right.
I had termites in my hair and in my mouth. The sound of the wildlife will resound in my ears forever. My excited fear of the lion walking beneath me will shake me awake forever. Forever. I will be lulled to sleep by the memory of the wind blowing off the Kalahari as I float in the pool. The shining outline of The Southern Cross is burned into my fading sleeping memory, my excited fear of sleeping under the giant sky still keeps me awake.
Zebra, elephant, giraffe, aardvark, baboon…too many to name.
I learned many things. Unemployment is as high as 85% in many countries. AIDS Is killing whole generations and giving rise to unimaginable atrocities. Africans are loving and happy people. Bugs do taste good.
I watched a world never imagined flow by in a quick three weeks. Our trip expertly planned by friends who took the guesswork out of our hands and allowed us to experience a new word free of worry. Placing us in a floating world of watery Papyrus, a mirage of dry lake hope and sea of floating hippos.
I had not wanted to go, I did not want to be hot and dusty...I did not know. Now that I am back I wish I was back…hot and dusty. I am in love with what I did not understand. As I go to sleep I am lulled by the soft Song of the Okavango whispering to me from across the miles.
Guest post by Dave Kahoilua, newly branded safari enthusiast and husband to Kristie from the Mango Team.
All photos by Dave & Kristie.
Isolation and Bottlenecks
Before humans built cities and roads crisscrossing the natural world, wildlife had the freedom to roam. Their movements were guided by their needs – where was the best food, the most water, the safest birthing grounds? Another important benefit of freedom to move is keeping diversity in the genetic pool. (The genetic pool is all the individuals of mating age.) By allowing individuals from different family lines to mix and breed, it keeps the population diverse and healthy. Without this mixing, closely related individuals will mate, allowing rare, harmful traits to surface. The longer this goes on the more harmful traits will appear, diminishing the health of the population. This phenomenon is called a genetic bottleneck – an apt name since it is the result of a shrinking breeding population. One of the biggest causes of a genetic bottleneck is geographic isolation from habitat loss, resulting in no inter-breeding.
Africa’s Managed Lands
In Africa, land is managed in several ways based on who’s in charge and what’s allowed – there are national parks, private concessions, and game reserves to name a few. What all of these land types have in common is that they are mere fragments of a once great and continuous landscape. This fragmentation means that wildlife cannot move freely between habitats for foraging, hunting, and breeding purposes. Habitat loss is happening at alarming rates due to agricultural expansion and human settlement. No matter how well managed a land fragment is, the resident wildlife can suffer if there is not enough genetic mixing in the population. Wildlife doesn’t understand borders, and countless animals have fallen victim to car strikes, poisoning, or being shot when they wander through developed areas. Nature is resilient and wildlife can normally withstand the pressures of habitat fragmentation, but human conflict can act as the final nail in the coffin of a population walking the line between okay and endangered.
Regrowing Africa’s Edens
With numerous pressures on Africa’s wildlife, reconnecting fragmented habitats could offer a much needed boost to their welfare. It would restore their ability to roam freely, moving between regions in their perpetual search for a better habitat. Beyond that it would give wildlife the space to move away from any threats, such as bush fires, droughts, and pressures from civilization.
But how do you reconnect fragmented habitats? With wildlife corridors! A wildlife corridor is a swath of protected land that reconnects two formerly connected areas. The key is that the land is in a wild state, providing safe passage for wildlife to move freely. With time the overall health of the newly reunited ecosystem will improve and restabilize. Another huge benefit is that wildlife can move away from any human-wildlife conflicts that may occur on the fringe of their habitat.
Wildlife corridors seem like such a simple idea in theory but the execution is riddled with challenges. Where does the land come from? Who will manage and protect it? Is it a worthwhile investment for the long-term? In all three of these dilemmas, the local community is key to finding a solution. Not only is the tract of land often patched together from land leased from the local community, but they are also involved in the long-term stewardship of it. They work with those already managing the soon-to-be connected regions, creating a cohesive management scheme that benefits both the wildlife and the local communities through sustainable tourism and conservation jobs. Allowing the land to return to a natural state is a slow process that takes continued community support. Ecosystems are complex and need time to reestablish, especially if it is going to act as a safe haven for wildlife. It may be a few years or a few decades depending on the ecosystem in question. Rainforest could take twenty years before it's suitable for chimpanzees, but savannah grasslands may only take a few years before it can support migrating grazers. Throughout this rewilding process, careful and dedicated stewardship is essential.
Amboseli, Chyulu Hills & Tsavo West
In the beautiful hills of southern Kenya, the African Wildlife Foundation is reestablishing a wildlife corridor from the Amboseli region to the Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Park. AWF is working with the local communities to set up a series of conservancies on leased lands. It is slowly rewilding and in the process reopening historic migration routes for elephant, giraffe, lion, zebra, cheetah, and countless others. Already considered a great success, this corridor should guide future conservation projects.
There may be many challenges in establishing wildlife corridors, but they are a key part of Africa’s future. Pristine wilderness is a precious resource, and nowhere else has wilderness quite like Africa. The wildlife is unsurpassed, the landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful, and the sunsets are unrivaled. Wildlife corridors offer hope for protecting Africa’s wild heart by cultivating healthy ecosystems and supporting its beautiful biodiversity.
As family and friends gather together for the holidays, feelings of gratitude and happiness abound. During this time of giving, you can easily channel a little of that love into your gifts by getting ones that give back to African wildlife. We’ve collected some of our top conservation-based gifts in a range of prices so you can support your favorite safari critters no matter what your tastes are.
J. Crew Elephant Tees – Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
Available in women’s and men’s styles, these tee-shirts support the adorable baby elephant and rhino orphans at the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Click on the images below to check them out:
Endangered Species Chocolate
Who doesn’t love a bar of delectable chocolate this time of year. Whether stuffing a stocking or tucking a bar into a hostess gift, you can’t go wrong with treats that support wildlife conservation. Available in classic flavors like Peppermint Crunch, or unique ones like Cinnamon, Cayenne & Cherries, you can purchase them online or at your local grocery store. Click on the images below to purchase:
Carved Wood Napkin Rings – World Wildlife Fund
Carved in the shape of iconic African wildlife, these napkin rings are the perfect way to bring a little safari charm to your next dinner party. Click on the image below to donate:
Framed Rhinoceros Art – World Wildlife Fund
Didn’t get any Nat Geo worthy shots last time you were on safari? No worries – with this beautiful rhinoceros print you can adorn your walls in gorgeous artwork. Click on the image below to donate:
Fostering a Baby Elephant - Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
If you're looking to make a donation in someone's name rather than buying a gift, it doesn't get any better than fostering a baby elephant. You can even read through the profiles of their little residents to choose which sweetheart you want to sponsor. Nothing warms your heart like knowing you're supporting the adorable orphans at the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Click on the adorable photos below to browse the profiles:
BE-Jewelled – Wild Aid
If you really want to go all out, the BE-Jewelled collection by Alexander Jewell is a stunning way to show your love of conservation. Created to support Wild Aid, the line features pieces honoring African wildlife. With pieces for both men and women, this is a very special way to give back. Click on the pieces below to shop:
On a recent trip to Hwange National Park, Teresa and I were lucky enough to check out the new Somalisa Camp and all I can say is WOW. Every detail from the welcome on arrival to the thoughtfully and beautifully appointed tents was perfect. The camp was totally rebuilt recently and the new design is absolutely stunning. Think Out of Africa meets wanderlust chic with a Zimbabwean heart and soul. A palette of burnt sepia, soft cream, and burgundy creates a warm ambiance that is rounded out with polished copper accents. Soft folds of fabric create canopied ceilings and a stylish mix of colonial artifacts and handcrafted African art adorn the shelves and walls. The rooms fan out around a grove of ancient acacia trees, each one offering total privacy and panoramic views of the beautiful Hwange landscape.
As soon as you step foot onto the property you join the Somalisa family. The staff greets you with arms wide open, welcoming you to their home and insisting you treat it like your home as well. The management and service were on point throughout our entire stay. They were attentive and caring, attending to our every whim and always offering a handcrafted cocktail or delicious nibble while we relaxed in the lounge.
We certainly aren’t the only ones that adore Somalisa – the local elephants love it just as much! They wander through the camp feeding on ripe acacia fruits in May and June, and frequenting the water hole in front of the terraced lounge. When they rebuilt the camp, they created a second pool on a higher deck for people to use, keeping the lower pool exclusively for the thirsty elephants that had claimed it as their own. If you want to enjoy some fantastic elephant viewing right from the bar, you can’t get much better than Somalisa.
Long before the first hint of blue appeared on the horizon, our guide came knocking at the door.
“Good morning! Hellooo, good morning!”
“Errmmmm. Good morning…”
Early doesn’t even begin to cover mornings on safari, nor does chilly begin to cover Hwange nights. When you get that combination, not even the promise of a leopard could convince me to get out of bed. But somehow the wonderful staff at Somalisa have perfected the art of coaxing guests out of their warm beds. Each tent has been designed for luxurious coziness, with touches that have been carefully crafted for blissful comfort. Wood burning fireplaces and hot water bottles (affectionately called bush babies) keep you cozy all night, but my favorite surprise came during that early morning wake-up call. A carafe of steaming coffee, fresh cream, and pre-warmed mugs await you in a butler hatch cleverly built into the tent so that you don’t even have open your door to the cold. Now if you’re anything like me, you could get the best night of sleep ever and still want nothing more a giant cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Somalisa majorly delivers on this point.
But the incredible Somalisa mornings don’t end there. As I wandered down to the main area coffee in hand, I was greeted by the delicious scent of breakfast cooking over the campfire. The staff had already laid out an impressive spread – slow cooked oatmeal, fresh fruit, eggs and bacon cooked to order over the fire, even local honey. As we ate the mist slowly rolled into the valley, creating one of the most stunning sunrises I have ever seen. After being thoroughly sated with delicious eggs and a carafe or two of coffee, we took off on a game drive in search of Hwange’s legendary wildlife. If you ask us, life at Somalisa Camp is pretty fabulous.
Photos from Somalisa Camp & Kelsea Lee
Written by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence
Whether you’re looking for a great book to take on safari, or one to transport you back to your days in Africa, we cannot recommend The Elephant Whisperer more. The book recounts the adventures and challenges Lawrence Anthony faced when he took in a herd of rogue elephants. Unwanted by other reserves because of their troublemaking ways, the herd was at risk of being put down unless he welcomed them in. Despite knowing the immense challenges that lay ahead, Anthony knew that he could not turn away the troubled beasts, managing to save their lives just in the nick of time. This book does a beautiful job transporting you right into the bush of Tanda Tula Game Reserve, following along on the trials and tribulations that herd’s arrival brought. In the end, love, soulfulness and compassion won over the elephants, creating a beautiful bond between Antony and the elephants. It is a true testament to the love that creatures can share, even if they’re not the same species. Beautifully written, this read is sure to immerse you in the touching world of elephant family life.
This is the perfect book to relax with between game drives, or to curl up with and daydream about your next safari. Beyond your traditional paperback, it’s also available through Kindle and Audible.
The lions of Hwange National Park have had a brutal couple of years. First they lost Bush, a strong but ill-tempered male to hunters. Then a female lioness was accidentally killed when a train hit her as it passed through the park. Then Cecil was illegally baited out of the national park’s safety before he too was hunted and killed. Strong prides have long-ruled Hwange’s lands, but now the prides of the eastern side are in shambles.
The region is ideal to support thriving populations of lion. Groves of ancient acacia trees and open pans filled with rich grasses provide the perfect habitat for abundant grazers. With the well-maintained waterholes providing life-sustaining water year round, both predator and prey have flourished.
On my recent trip to Hwange, we were lucky enough to see Xanda, Cecil’s son. Since reaching adulthood, he has joined forces with three fragmented female lions to form the Backpans Pride. All three lionesses are now proud mamas to a collection of tiny, fluffy cubs. As we watched them scramble, paw, and romp about I was awe struck with the utter cuteness of nature. It was so sweet to watch Xanda babysitting his young cubs, patiently letting them crawl all over him and ‘hunt’ his tail while the ladies were out hunting the real prey.
Eight baby lions.
They started as ten, but our guides report that they are strong and doing well. Winter is coming, so the snakes will hibernate, making the grasslands safer for little paws. Xanda is proving to be a good, protective father. If these cubs can make if through the next few months, they will be strong enough to travel and hunt with the pride. Right now, the guides are cautiously optimistic. Hopefully they will mature to be the next generation of lions for Hwange National Park. In the coming years we can watch as Hwange’s prides strengthen, laying claim to new territories, and having plenty more sweet little cubs.
Beks Ndovlu, owner of nearby Somalisa Camp, attempted to purchase all of this year’s lion hunting permits for Hwange National Park but the Zimbabwe government decided to restrict this activity for now. In the future this could be a good way to further protect the lions while keeping the revenue brought in by selling hunting permits.
Images from Wilderness Safaris, David Macdonald & Sam Mushandu
When I take a trip to Africa to go on safari, I am always so excited to get there. So much so, that as soon as I land, I just want to leave the airport and immediately head to the nearest park or reserve to start the adventure. But invariably I arrive late at night, too late to do anything but stave off my eagerness with a late dinner and a few hours of fitful sleep. In Arusha, Tanzania there is really no better spot to wait out the night with a delicious meal and comfy bed than Legendary Lodge.
1. It’s hard to choose just one, but what’s your favorite African travel memory?
This is a hard one as I have too many travel memories that are my favorite. I love having the time to sit still and observe wildlife behaviors. A few years back I was in the Lamai region of the Serengeti and we came across an elephant herd with a young calf. The calf had yet to figure out how to use its trunk but it was determined and was watching its elders and mimicking their actions. It had found a stick and was trying to hold it. Once it got a firm grip on the stick it would wave it in the air so proudly. Every few minutes it would drop the stick and start again with the long process of picking it back up. It had no skills yet with its trunk but yet it just kept trying over and over again. It was a beautiful moment in time to watch.
2. What are the must-have travel essentials in your safari bag?
Water bottle, binoculars, notepad and pen (I love jotting down the new things I learn while on the road), sunscreen, a good sun hat and a good book (in case of any delays)
3. What are your top travel tips for first-time safari-goers?
1)While it is great to take photographs to record what you see – make sure you take time to lower your camera and record it with your own eyes. 2) Pack light – it makes life easier 3) travel with an open mind and an open heart.
4. What is your favorite thing about traveling?
I could honestly make a list of my top 100 favorite things about traveling. Travel to me is about exploring new places, meeting new people and all of the new experiences that occur.
5. You’ve already visited over 80 countries, but what are the top three countries left on your bucketlist and why?
My answer to this changes constantly as I am greatly influenced by seeing what travels my friends and colleagues are up to. Right now Oman, Democratic Republic of Congo and Norway are appealing. I have not visited the middle east in all of my travels. I would love to spend some time in the ancient port of Muscat, visit the dunes, hike in the Hajar Mountians and hang out along the coast in the fishing villages. Democratic Republic of Congo – I was lucky enough to visit the Congo a few years back and loved exploring Odzala-Kokoua National Park with its incredible diversity. Seeing the lowland Gorillas was a huge highlight but the main impact on me was when we took a moment to sit on the forest floor and absorb the sensation that I was sitting in the lungs of our planet –the biodiversity so incredible. Norway sounds like an incredible place to explore by water, by foot and by car.
6. What’s the next trip you have planned?
I will be returning to Botswana in late November. Yeah!
7. Aside from traveling, what are your hobbies?
I love being outdoors whether it spending time in the mountains either skiing or hiking with my dog or just playing around in my gardens. I teach Pilates a few hours a week. I love to read.
8. What’s your go-to sundowner drink?
A nice cold local beer
Welcome to the Mango Team, Suzanne!
One of my favorite parts of traveling in Morocco is the food. What a wonderful way to experience the culture of a place, the life of the people one tasty meal after the next.
Moroccan meals can start with luscious lentil soups. Hot bread. A myriad of salads where each vegetable is seasoned and treated differently. Next comes the tagines; meats cooked in the over drowned in rich sauces and flavor combinations – chicken with preserved lemons and green olives and lamb with prunes were two favorites. Piles of fluffy couscous. Pigeon Pie. Desert. Pride and gracious hospitality meant that it was common to be physically uncomfortable by the end of every meal. We were just too full.
But over a famous cup of sweetened peppermint tea came the cookies. We were forced to overcome our discomfort and indulge further.
Pastries are filled with dates, poppy seeds, almonds, butter and powdered sugar. Each shapes according to tradition and melting in your mouth. I found myself thinking about the Hornes Du Gazelle long after our trip was over and had to take things into my own hands.
A thin pastry rolled around a gorgeous filling made of ground almonds, powdered sugar and a hint of orange blossom water shaped to emulate the horns of a gazelle. The baked pastry is crispy beneath a dusting of powdered sugar, the filling floral, rich and sweet all at the same time.
I found several utube videos in French demonstrating the technique. After a few tries, I perfected the technique and added them to the list of annual Christmas cookies and they were a hit. If you remember these from your travels to Morocco, you should also try them at home or maybe it is time to visit this dynamic land of many flavors and colors for a real bite.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING:
· 2 ½ cups (10 ounces) blanched almonds
· ¾ cup confectioners' sugar
· 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
· 2 tablespoons clarified butter, melted
· 1 egg white
· ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
FOR THE PASTRY:
· 2 cups all-purpose flour
· 3 tablespoons clarified butter, melted
· 1 egg yolk
· 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
· Pinch of salt
FOR THE COATING:
· Butter for greasing baking sheets
· ¼ cup orange blossom water
· 1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, more for dusting
1. For the filling: In a food processor, pulse together almonds and confectioners' sugar until powdery. Add remaining filling ingredients and continue to pulse until mixture forms a stiff paste. Mold paste into a ball, wrap well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to two days).
2. For the pastry: Using an electric mixer, mix flour, melted butter, egg yolk, orange blossom water and 2 tablespoons cold water until combined. With mixer running, add 2 to 4 tablespoons more water, as needed, until dough just comes together. Continue to beat until dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Cover bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets.
4. Divide dough in half and cover one half with damp cloth. Transfer other half to a lightly floured surface and roll it to 1/8-inch thick. Cut dough into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter.
5. Using your hands, roll two teaspoons of filling into a ball and place in center of round. Repeat, filling all dough circles. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush border of each with water. Fold bottom of dough over filling, forming a half-circle, and press edges to seal. With tip of a sharp knife, make three small diagonal slits on top of each pastry. Bend pastries into a crescent shape and transfer them to baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Roll out remaining dough, and repeat. Transfer pastries to oven and bake until pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.
6. Dust pastries with additional confectioners' sugar, and serve.
Luxury travelers, conservationists, wildlife lovers, active travelers, photographers and those who love highly unique hotels
Gorilla trekking, golden monkey trekking, nature walks, massage treatments, guided photographic experience, cultural experiences and tree planting for conservation
Trekking to see wild mountain gorillas is one of the most special experiences in Africa and there is no better way to do it than with the team at Bisate. From their effortless operation of the gorilla trekking to the impeccably curated and unmistakably Rwandan in-camp experience, this is the height of what ecotourism is meant to be.
Mist Draped Magic
In the heart of a magnificent continent lies an emerald oasis where a thousand rolling hills give way to the sharp peaks of volcanoes carpeted in lush rainforests. Rwanda’s Volcano National Park is a landscape steeped in intrigue. Home to one of the last populations of wild mountain gorillas, this is an incredibly special place to explore. It’s no wonder that it has inspired countless people, including the famed conservationist Dian Fossey.
This is nature’s most exuberant expression of chlorophyll – towering trees laden with vines, moss draped on branches dripping from the moist air, oversized ferns and dense groves of bamboo. All this abundance supports not only gorillas, but also rare golden monkeys, diverse birdlife and even elephants, buffalo, bushbucks and giant forest hogs.
Encounter of a Lifetime
Bisate has perfected the gorilla trekking experience for their clients. Traversing the slippery slopes of a tropical rainforest in pursuit of the gorillas can be a wet and messy affair, but they have managed to create an effortless experience. Not only are you located a very quick drive from the national park’s entrance, but the guiding team is top notch.
No two treks are alike because the gorilla family you visit, the time of day, the location and their behaviors all impact what your time with them will be like. Sometimes they are close to a trail head, so the trek is quick. Other times they’re deep in the hills and it takes a little more time and effort to reach them. No matter whether you’re there in rain or shine, your time with them will be life changing.
There is no other wildlife experience that compares to an encounter with great apes. Sharing over 98% of our DNA, they are utterly human-like in a way that is utterly fascinating. There are plenty of other intelligent, social animals out there, but there is nothing quite like looking at a wild gorilla and seeing the recognition in their eyes. They see you, they know you, they understand you. No other animal gives you that sense of sharing a moment in time as two souls.
Every encounter is unique. You may see mothers fawning over their babies or teenagers roughhousing. One of the toddlers may mock thump their chest – you can practically hear the majestic silverback chuckling at this while the young females groom him. No matter what combination of antics and tender moments you get to see, it will be unbelievable. This is the type of experience that inspires you to do better for the planet and its fellow inhabitants. It should be on everyone’s bucketlist – not just wildlife lovers.
Beyond the gorillas, it is well worth it to trek to see the golden monkeys on your last day. They live in much larger colonies of up to 70 and are just as animated and entertaining to watch as the gorillas. The experience is more relaxed, and you will have more autonomy to move around the area where the monkeys are playing. Their sweet, fluffy faces are the perfect way to wrap up your Rwandan primate adventure.
The Spirit of Rwanda
From the moment you first lay eyes on Bisate, its mysterious aura draws you in. You’ve been ascending into the volcanic highlands on a bumpy road, driving past flourishing farms and tea plantations, when suddenly it appears. Perched high on a ridge of a caldera, the chic peanut shaped suites pop out from the mottled forest backdrop.
When you finally arrive into camp, you truly get a sense of Rwanda. They have taken the beautiful complexity of a nation and a land and expressed it as a lodge. From the building materials they used and the colors they chose to the design elements and the pieces they selected, this lodge is Rwanda. It is an expression of the nation’s vibrancy and resiliency, their rich cultural heritage, their ability to find beauty in the unity of disparate elements.
The team at Wilderness Safaris did a marvelous job of creating an impeccably curated Rwandan design that gives the most authentic and intricate sense of place. Every fabric, every door, every knob, every wall surface, every colour, every print, every scent – is all thought out to emulate a very special sense of place. The suites mimic nests tucked in the rainforest. The color palette is a cacophony of greens, just like the rainforest, paired with black accents to echo the rich volcanic soil of the region.
Everything is handcrafted and specially designed for Bisate. Nothing was simply chosen from a catalog – every single piece was created to celebrate this remarkable place on Earth. When you get your cappuccino in the morning, it’s not only made with locally grown coffee, but also has a gorilla stenciled onto the foam in cocoa powder. That’s the type of attention to detai