A Tower of Giraffes please!

A Tower of Giraffes please!

A Tower of Giraffes please!

Sinead Bailey

Last October, I visited South Africa with my family – my husband and 2 boys age 9 (James) and 12 (Charlie). We travelled from Cape Town, along the Garden Route and ended with a safari in the Eastern Cape.

We all had our own highlights, and I asked the kids for their favourite bits – there were many!! Here are their Top 3!

Charlie’s Highlights (age 12)

1 Fat Scooters – Scootours Cape Town
With our guide, we jumped on fat wheel scooters and descended down both Signal Hill and Table Mountain. So exhilarating and great fun. The views were stunning, and of course the kids’ highlight – watching Mummy give it a go! (I thought I was quite good actually!)

2 Watershed – Cape Town
There are A LOT of places to eat on the V&A Waterfront, but this was hands down Charlie’s favourite. Just a stone’s throw from our apartment, the Watershed is home to many different food stalls – from dirty burgers to more traditional South African fare. Great for a quick stop. The lady at the smoothie stall recognised Charlie by the time we left!

3 Night drive on safari
Our final stop on the trip was the Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, staying at Hlosi Game Lodge. Lots of great sightings here, but Charlie’s high point was seeing three lionesses hunting on an awesome night drive. The red spotlight that is used on these night drives so as not to disturb the animals added to the drama. It was our David Attenborough moment.

James’ Highlights (age 9)

1 The Winelands
As James is clearly underage, this one may come as a surprise! But there were a few favourite moments from our visit to Franschhoek and the surrounding area. We started in Boschendal, where we hired bikes and cycled through the vast vineyards – followed by slumping on a bean bag under the shade of the trees and enjoying an ice cream.

A day hopping on and off the Franschhoek Wine tram was very entertaining – the guides are so lively and it’s a fun way to see a variety of the vineyards. James loved the hot chocolate, cheese and chocolate tasting alternatives for kids.

2 Paddle Boarding and Horse Riding
As we travelled further along the Garden Route, we arrived at Hog Hollow Country Lodge. A lovely option for families, and the kids made plenty of new friends here. There’s a number of activities available. An afternoon spent paddle boarding on the Keubrooms River was a real adventure, even when falling off! A glass of bubbly for the adults (balanced on the board!) was a lovely touch.

James and Dad also visited the stables at Hog Hollow, and spent a few hours riding sedately through the meadows and nearby forest. James nicknamed his horse ‘Hungry’, with lots of stops for grass munching!

 

3 Unsurprisingly, James also has a safari moment in his top 3! Our final afternoon on safari, we headed out with our guide, named Lucky. It was James’ turn to sit in the front and help with the spotting. After asking Lucky a million and one questions (all patiently answered, well done Lucky!), Lucky asked him – “What would you like to see on your final safari drive James?”. The answer: “A Tower of Giraffes please!”

We continued our safari, and as we headed closer to sunset, we saw the first few giraffes appear over the tree line. The vehicle slowed down, and we soon realised that we were surrounded by giraffes, at least 20, totally unfased by us and not going anywhere. We parked up, and as Lucky set up the sundowner drinks, we all watched in awe. It was breath-taking and I was even rewarded with hugs from the kids for the best holiday ever. Truly special.

How to describe Namibia?

How to describe Namibia?

EDUCATIONAL TRIP

How to describe Namibia?

Sinead Bailey, Tribes Travel consultant

July 2017

What words can you use to describe a country so stunning that it leaves you speechless?
Here are a few of my favourites that I keep coming back to when recounting my recent visit to beautiful Namibia.

WILDERNESS

Namibia is a vast country, and to really experience this you need to be prepared for some long drives. I’ve never been anywhere before with such endless stretches of road. We drove for hours without seeing a single person. It was extraordinary.

A particularly memorable stretch is from Sossusvlei to Walvis Bay. First there is a brief stop at Solitaire, a unique spot where you will find the most delicious apple pie (an unexpected treat!). Then it is just you, the road and the ever-changing landscape all the way to the coast.

Namibia

Photos by Sinead Bailey.

The scenery changes constantly, from the red sands of Sossusvlei, on to lush green fields with an abundance of small yellow flowers. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn (of course stopping for the ubiquitous photo op!), and passed the Namib Gravel Plains, home to springbok and ostriches. Then the dramatic granite swirls of the Kuiseb Canyon – fascinating to see the trickling Kuiseb River which is such an essential water source. Finally back to sand again before reaching the windswept coast and flamingos of Walvis Bay.

“I can’t recommend a visit to Namibia highly enough – you will love it.”

FUN!
Namibia really is an adventure playground. There is an endless amount of activities to enjoy. Swakopmund is the ideal base for both mild and extreme adventure seekers… If sand-boarding or sky diving sounds too energetic, then offshore fishing or a dolphin cruise may suit you better. Of course, the ever present sand make a great back drop, and quad biking in the dunes certainly gave me that ‘Mad Max’ feeling!

The Sandwich Harbour tour was a real highlight, heading off with our guide to beyond Walvis Bay in our 4WD. We drove along the windswept beach, and then up the steep sand dunes – hold on for the way down!! Top tip – always follow the tracks – we added to our adventure by rescuing some self-drivers who hadn’t followed this advice!

ANIMALS
The wildlife in Namibia is everywhere, not just in the national parks. Our first animal highlight was the giant crickets on the side of the road just outside of Windhoek, and it just continued from there!  The unforgettable oryx strolling through Sossusvlei as we were eating our breakfast in the dunes; the dust covered desert elephants of Damaraland; the endless number of seals at the Cape Cross Colony; the flamingos at Walvis Bay.

Etosha National Park is home to a vast variety of wildlife, and sitting at one of many of the waterholes for just a half hour we saw elephants, giraffes, hartebeest, zebra and numerous black faced impala.

Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation. This successful conservation project is a fascinating place to visit and stay. The knowledge of the guides is excellent and we got a real insight into the research and rehabilitation work they do here.

SANDY
It is impossible to describe Namibia without mentioning the sands of Sossusvlei. We’ve all seen the stunning pictures of the red sand mountains, but nothing prepared me for the reality of seeing these immense dunes rising into the air.

There were hot air balloons circling overhead, but I don’t think you can beat exploring these dunes on foot. It is possible to climb any of the dunes in Sossusvlei, but the most famous are Dune 45 and Big Daddy.

Our guide insisted, that to beat the heat of the sun, we should climb Big Daddy first. At a height of 325m, it dwarfs the other dunes and is quite a challenge. The trick is to step into the preceding footsteps to avoid sliding down the steep slopes – there is no doubt, it is hard work! So, did I make it to the top? Well, let’s just say I managed ‘Little Daddy’ and had great fun sliding back down.

Close by is the iconic Dead Vlei, and then of course leave time to also climb Dune 45 – much easier than Big Daddy! It is a photographer’s paradise, and sunrise and sunset are the best time for capturing the light, so be sure to stay nearby if this is your focus.

FRIENDLY
One of the most popular ways to see Namibia is to self-drive, and there is very good support and infrastructure for this. However, I genuinely think that another reason it is so popular is because of the people of Namibia.

Everywhere you go, you are met with a smile and a willingness to go above and beyond to help if needed. All the Namibians I met were great ambassadors for their home.

I can’t recommend a visit to Namibia highly enough – you will love it.

A Private Safari in Tanzania

A Private Safari in Tanzania

My itinerary told me I would be met at Kilimanjaro Airport by my driver/guide and his 4×4 safari vehicle who would remain with me for the duration of my trip. I have to admit, on stepping out of the airport I was feeling pretty tired and a bit disorientated – which country was I in again?! I walked out through the main doors to be met by my guide – Lesikar. He kindly took my bag, and I felt myself relax.

sinead-and-lesikar

 

We walked over to our vehicle, it was exciting to see the huge 4×4 – just for us! I felt there was adventure ahead! I sat in the front passenger seat, and we began to make our way to Tarangire National Park for a game drive. Immediately, I realised that Lesikar was a font of knowledge and happy to share his insight into Tanzania.

I had been on a group safari before, on a much larger vehicle. And while our guide was great, it’s hard to hear over 10 or so other people! This was totally different. As we drove through the small villages and towns in between game drives, I pestered Lesikar with question after question – and was only told once on the whole trip – ‘Hmm, I think you’ve beaten me this time’!

Having grown up close to the Ngorongoro Crater, my guide’s local knowledge was fantastic and the wildlife guiding was second to none – our first spot was a dung beetle rolling his ball of dung across the road! Over the next week, I also learnt a lot about modern Tanzania which was fascinating. We compared stories of our kids – it is amazing how interests can be so similar even living thousands of miles apart, we both laughed when we realised both him and my son support Arsenal!

dung-beetle

As you have your own vehicle, there is no pressure to move on from a sighting you are particularly interested in. For almost an hour in the Serengeti, we watched as 3 lionesses tried to build up the courage to climb down from a tree (typical cats!), and then Lesikar spotted several cubs in the grass waiting for her, fantastic.

lioness-in-tree

 

My kids had requested a picture of a cheetah (one of the most elusive animals to find), and Lesikar patiently drove round kopje and trees in the Serengeti searching for one, using every trick he knew…. Sadly, though we saw plenty of other animals – this time it was not to be, but we certainly tried our best!

When you are on a private safari, your time is your own. If you are hungry, you can stop for an early lunch. Thirsty? Your guide has a full cool box of water in the back. Finding the road a bit bumpy on safari? Jump in the front. If, one day, you are feeling a bit tired and want to head back to camp early, it’s up to you.

Everything was organised by the local office and Lesikar so smoothly, all I had to do was be on time to leave each day, and then sit back and enjoy – and ask lots of questions!

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to go on a private safari in Tanzania, it is a truly special experience, and I was sad to say goodbye on my last day.

Going on safari in the green season

Going on safari in the green season

I was travelling to Northern Tanzania at the start of May, known for being the green (or rainy!) season.  My first dilemma was what to pack! As I knew that the temperature would still be in the low to mid twenties, I decided to be brave and just packed a light waterproof jacket…Time would tell if this would be the right decision!

On my first day, I arrived in Kilimanjaro airport to be welcomed by warm sunshine – so far so good! I was heading straight to Tarangire National Park for an afternoon of game viewing.

tarangire-sign

It was when I entered the park and began my game drive that I realised the first benefit of travelling in the green season – we were the only vehicle there! Or so it seemed… When we saw a pair of sleeping lions by the side of the road, within the first half hour of entering the park, we had the luxury of watching them at our leisure. My guide told me that in the dry season, we would have had to move along due to other vehicles waiting for their turn!

tarangire view

Our 4×4 safari vehicle had an extendable roof that could be raised up so that you could stand up and watch game. There was also a canopy to protect you from the sun and any light rain. When we had the occasional heavy shower of rain, our driver would simply stop the vehicle and shut the roof, and we would then carry on. As soon as it dried up again, it was simply a matter of reopening the roof!

4x4

Over the next several days, I continued my safari experience through the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. Both areas rewarded us with an abundance of wildlife, and both were much quieter then you would experience in the dry season. I continued to learn more about travelling in the rainy season.

The cats and other predators enjoy the long grass as it means they can sneak up on their prey, but it can also make the prey harder to spot! Because of this, we had some great sightings of lions climbing trees, and lying on the large kopjes, to get a better view of where dinner may be!

Equally, the other animals tend to favour the areas where there is still short grass, as it gives them a better chance of spotting their hungry predators.  We saw a multitude of impala, gazelle, zebra, warthogs, ostrich, wildebeest and more… The shorter grass also offers better nutrients for the younger animals, meaning we saw large herds of elephants with their babies, also young zebras, buffalos, ostrich….

elephant

When remembering this trip, I have to mention the roads and the amazing 4×4 safari vehicle that we used. Never have I been anywhere where 4 wheel drive is so essential.

After the heavy rains that had been experienced prior to my arrival, a lot of the roads we used were in a pretty bad state of repair. Because of our experienced driver, and the great vehicle, we had plenty of adventures  –  including driving across a couple of rivers– but never once got stuck! In fact, we had to rescue another vehicle (without 4 wheel drive!) while in the Serengeti.

crossing river in 4x4

Finally – I never once wore my waterproof jacket! We were either in the vehicle or at camp during any bursts of heavy rain, and all the camps provided umbrellas (and in some cases wellies!) on the couple of occasions it was raining on the walk to dinner.

I hope to bring my kids on safari in Tanzania one day, and can honestly say that I will travel in May. It’s so much quieter, cheaper and you really still see a lot of animals – and the 4×4 experience along some of those muddy roads is a real adventure!

My first night on a ‘posh’ safari

My first night on a ‘posh’ safari

My last safari experience in Tanzania was 10 years ago, when I was that bit younger and a bit more gung ho! We stayed in dome tents in sleeping bags in public campsites, and loved the experience of hearing zebra munching grass outside as we slept (or at least tried to!).

This time I was doing it a bit differently, I was going ‘posh’ as I explained it to my friends! Although I had researched where I would be staying, I was eager to see just how different my first experience would be.

Kirurumu Tarangire Tent

My first stop was on arrival in Tanzania was Tarangire National Park. I would be staying at Kirurumu Tarangire Lodge, just a 20 minute drive from the main entrance to the park. After an afternoon game drive, we pulled up at the entrance to the lodge and I was met by friendly, smiling staff and maasai holding a much needed umbrella!

Kirurumu Tarangire Lodge room

I was escorted down the path by a maasai to my ‘tent’. Situated on a raised platform, with my own verandah overlooking a small section of the national park that backs on to the camp. I entered my large room through glass sliding tours to find 2 large four poster beds – just for me. At the back of the tent was the ensuite bathroom with proper flush toilet, a 2 sink vanity unit and a hot shower. After a quick power nap, I woke to find it was dark, and time to head to the main restaurant for dinner. I followed the instructions I had been given and sprayed my tent with the mosquito spray provided before I left.

After my last safari, when I struggled to find my way in the dark with a small torch, this was quite a different experience. As soon as the nearby Maasai guards heard the latch go on the door to my tent, they were waiting by the steps with lanterns to guide me along the torch lit path to the large welcoming restaurant. After a delicious dinner, they were waiting to walk me back to my tent. No more stumbling in the dark for me, the lights were switched on and the mosquito nets on the bed had been arranged.

My first night on ‘posh’ safari in Tanzania had been a revelation. I still felt that I was very much in the heart of the bush (and actually did hear zebra outside again while I slept!), but the added luxury and security made it a truly special experience. I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the trip would bring!

Zebra