Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’

 

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, March 31, a straw poll of the mums in the Tribes office revealed (not surprisingly!) that the chance to relax would be a most welcome gift. This then set us off onto a conversation about some particularly relaxing holidays or holiday experiences, with spa treatments topping the list  – we’re talking serious ‘chillaxing’!

‘In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously.’

Images © Ananda in the Himalayas

In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously, and just reading about the Ananda Wellbeing Holidays had us feeling tensions diminish.  Ananda in the Himalayas is a splendid palace set in 100 acres of grounds high above the Ganges River Valley. It’s a true sanctuary where you feel miles – and years – away from the stresses of 21st century life. There’s a range of programmes to choose from, including Yogic detox, stress management, Ayurvedic rejuvenation and even an active programme for those who want to combine spa therapies with circuit training, white water rafting etc.  Expert therapists, doctors and chefs collaborate to provide an immersive experience – all in a beautiful setting.

Another wonderfully relaxing location in India is SwaSwara, which overlooks Om Beach. This sanctuary is focused on refreshing you mind, body and soul, with three programmes that range from five to 21 nights in length.

A river cruise is, by its very nature, usually pretty relaxing, but an Irrawaddy River cruise in Burma on board the elegant Sanctuary Ananda is another thing entirely in the relaxation stakes. Seeing the sun rise over the temples of Bagan is a glorious way to start a day, and, while the trip has a fabulous range of activities to make the most of your being in this fascinating part of the world – including ox cart and rickshaw rides, pagoda and temple visits and demonstrations by local artisans – life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away. Styled rather like a 1930s steamer, this luxurious craft has its own spa offering a range of theraputic and beauty treatments,  plus a plunge pool and a sundeck, which is a perfect spot for yoga.

‘Life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away.’

Image ©Sanctuary Ananda

‘Spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs..’

Images © Sol y Luna

A number of the hotels in Peru’s Sacred Valley have spas, making them the perfect place to relax after exploring the stunning landscape and remarkable Inca archaeological sites. The charming Sol y Luna, for example, sits in a wonderfully relaxing location in the Sacred Valley, set in 25 acres of flower and bird-filled gardens. The Yacu Wasi spa of this Relais & Chateaux property offers daily yoga sessions as well as spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs. Tribes’ travel experts would be only too pleased to help you plan an itinerary that includes not only Sol y Luna but also the Belmond Andean Explorer – this luxury sleeper train has its own spa car!

Nyara Springs in Costa Rica (pictured above and in the image at the top of this page) is in a fabulous setting in the Arenal Volcano National Park. The mere fact that each room has its own private plunge pool fed by natural mineral hot springs is sufficient to initiate the relaxation process. Add a beautiful spa perched above the rainforest, with open-air treatment pavilions and a stunning yoga pavilion, and you’re likely to find it very hard to leave!

Having a spa treatment while on safari is a great treat, and there are some excellent spas to be found amongst the safari lodges of South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, including The Elephant Camp (Zimbabwe) , Saruni Samburu (Kenya), Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve (South Africa), and Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania. This overlooks the plains of the Northern Serengeti. The Melengali Spa at Lemala Kuria Hills is a very relaxing place for a muscle-soothing massage – and the views from the bathrooms of the tented suites are fabulous too!

Or how about a classic Indian Ocean getaway? The White Sands Villa and Spa boutique hotel on the east coast of Zanzibar offers barefoot luxury and a beautifully-located spa in lush, colourful gardens a stone’s throw from the beach

Want to get even further away in search of peace and quiet? There’s no spa or massage service at Fanjove Private Island (pictured above) but, with just six guest bandas and requiring a flight in a small plane then a boat trip to get to it, this 1km x 300m piece of castaway seclusion in the Indian Ocean is hugely relaxing.

Or, if you want to get away from – pretty much – it all but still have a spa to hand, may we suggest Easter Island? A five hour flight from the Chilean mainland, Rapa Nui is an intriguing place to visit, and the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa is a fantastic place to stay on the island. Spa Manavi overlooks the Pacific Ocean – fabulous!

‘Chillaxing’ at Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania…

In Praise of Forests

In Praise of Forests

In Praise of Forests

Visiting a forest is a life-enhancing thing to do. Who can forget that moment when Lucy steps out of the coat-filled wardrobe and into the snow-covered forest of Narnia? Happily you don’t have to travel to Narnia to experience the exotic or the unknown of the forest world. From the dense, luxuriant, hot and humid rainforests of the Amazon, the ebony groves of Zambia and the bamboo, oak and magnolia forest of India’s Singalila National Park to the misty cloud forests of Costa Rica, there is an incredible wealth and diversity of forest to explore. It’s an arboreal adventure just waiting to be taken, and we would love to take you there!

“Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land.” (United Nations)

This Thursday, March 21, is the UN International Day of Forests. A forest is a beautiful thing, of course, but it’s so much more than that. Forests cover one third of the world’s land mass and, according to the UN, “Some 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.” 

What most of us would think of as ‘classic’ rainforest can be found in the Amazon in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru and Costa Rica. On a trip such as our Costa Rica Wildlife holiday you’d experience everything from lowland wetland rainforest, highland rainforest and cloud forest to the dense rainforests of the Osa Peninsular.

Madidi National Park in Bolivia boasts an incredibly variety of flora and fauna, its rainforest home to over 340 species of tropical birds, and 4,000 species of plants as well as to jaguars, tapirs, capybaras, ocelots, spider monkeys, howler monkeys and caimans.

The rainforest of Peru’s untouched Tambopata National Reserve, with its macaw and parrot-crammed clay licks and its giant trees and fabulous birdlife is the perfect place for a photo tour, while in a lodge such as Mashpi in Ecuador you can get an incredible bird’s-eye view of the cloud forest, both from the luxurious lodge itself and from the dragonfly cable car and the skybike.

An Amazon river cruise on board a lovely riverboat such as the Tucano is a wonderful way to get into the heart of Brazil’s rainforest, spending a week exploring some 200 miles of the Negro River, heading out in small motor launches and exploring the forest on foot. Alternatively a floating lodge such as Uakari is the ultimate get-away-from-it-all-in-the-Amazon! Here you would see the endemic red-faced Uakari monkey and in the wet season, paddle through the flooded rainforest in canoes, seeing the plantlife and wildlife at very close quarters.

Madagascar has a remarkable variety and abundance of forests.  The dry deciduous Kirindy Forest is home to the fosa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore and predator, and is not far from the world-famous Avenue of Baobabs at Morondava.  The unique spiny forest of Ifaty has amazing baobab trees, one of which is believed to be 1,500 years old, and the indigenous forest in Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park is home to 12 species of lemur, including the critically endangered golden bamboo lemur, which was discovered there in the 1980s.

“In Costa Rica you can experience everything from lowland wetland and highland rainforest to cloud forest.”

The 25,000-year-old Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda is glorious, not least because it’s home to about half the world’s population of mountain gorillas. It is actually penetrable(!) and, in addition to the magical experience of seeing gorillas in their natural habitat, visitors can see an incredible wealth of birdlife and butterflies, while the national park in which the forest is located is home to 120 species of mammals, including 11 primate species.

The ebony groves of South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, are something very special. The park is one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in Africa, so game viewing is amazing, and the ebony trees are quite beautiful. Visit in the dry season and they are glorious, visit in what’s called ‘the Emerald Season’ – the rainy season – and you can experience the flooded ebony groves, the tree trunks emerging from several feet of water. It’s an almost primeval experience to make your way amongst them in a canoe.

While not strictly forming a forest, the baobabs in Ruaha in Tanzania are unforgettably impressive trees, as Tribes’ director Amanda Marks felt moved to pay tribute to last year. The acacia-covered savannah lands of Serengeti – again not forest, but gloriously tree-filled – are also stunning, and a trip that combines these with Ruaha is a great option.

The forests of Singalila National Park in India are home to the endangered red panda, as well as the black panther, Himalayan black bear and clouded leopard. And, for the ultimate forest getaway, there’s the Tree House Hideaway in an area of private jungle on the edge of Bandhavgarh National Park, which is home of a healthy population of tigers. The deluxe rooms are set in large trees, so you couldn’t get any closer to the heart of the forest!

Future forests

For each booking made with us we plant trees via our Travel Forest, which is part of the Tribes Foundation, the charity we back with admin and funds. We are proud to say that, as of 2018, we have planted over 50,000 saplings in Africa and Peru.

 

Avian pride – feathered national ambassadors

Avian pride – feathered national ambassadors

Feathered Ambassadors

Tribes’ travellers journey to destinations that are home to hundreds of bird species and, even if you don’t start your trip as a birder, you may find you’ve become one by the end!  The concept of a national bird is an interesting one. In some cases it’s an official title, either awarded after a national vote or by a government department. In others it’s unofficial, something assumed by tradition and or long association with that country. And in some cases what one might think is the national bird isn’t!

“The peacock features strongly in Indian folklore and mythology.”

The magnificent African Fish eagle (above left) is the national bird of no less than three countries – Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and is widespread across the lakes, rivers and coastal areas of Southern Africa. Its white chest and head, bright yellow beak, black wings and reddish-brown body are very distinctive, and it’s often seen perched high in a tall tree, scanning a vast range of terrain. The call of the African Fish eagle is known as ‘the voice of Africa’. Living up to its name, it largely feeds on fish, but has been known to eat water birds, even flamingos.

The national birds of India and Nepal are both part of the pheasant family, though you may be surprised to learn that the Indian peacock is a pheasant at heart. India’s national bird is, perhaps above all others,  most synonymous with the identity of its country, the extravagant pattern and colours of the plumage of the male peacock being replicated in Mughal architecture and in art and textiles, and the bird featuring strongly in Indian folklore and mythology. 

With its metallic purple, green and blue plumage, the male Himalayan Monal – also known as the Impeyan Pheasant – is another wonderfully colourful creature. The national bird of Nepal (pictured above) prefers to live at high altitude in the summer and is a prodigious digger.

Visitors to Costa Rica could be forgiven for believing that the Resplendent quetzal (pictured below) is the national bird. It is truly stunning, especially during the mating season when the males grow tail feathers that can be up to a meter long. However, in a country that’s not short of colourful feathered inhabitants, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that the modestly-plumed Yigüirro – the Clay-coloured thrush – actually carries that title. It was chosen by the Costa Ricans in 1977 because of its strong, sweet song.

 

The national bird of Kenya, the Lilac-breasted roller, is a hugely charismatic bird that draws the eye and the camera lens. This beautifully-coloured creature is widely found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where it’s mostly spotted in wooded areas or savanna. Unlike many bird species, the female is as gorgeously vibrant as the male. They’re not overly shy, so you are likely to have the chance of getting quite close to one, and they seem rather fond of adopting photogenic solitary poses on trees – often handily against a bright blue sky!

Many people think that the Lilac-breasted roller is also the national bird of Botswana but, in 2015, the world’s heaviest flying bird – the Kori bustard – was awarded that title. Kori bustards can weigh up to 19kg and, while they are strong fliers, it’s not something they do if they can avoid it, so are ground dwellers by preference. Males can reach up to 150cm in height and can have wingspans up to 275cm.

 

 

“The national bird of Peru is a very distinctive creature.”

The Andean Condor  is the feathered ambassador for Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador. This is a massive bird, with a wingspan of up to 320cm. It’s also very heavy – up to 15kg – so makes use of that huge wingspan and the air currents of mountainous or coastal regions to glide. Watching condors rising on the morning thermals is a ‘must-do’ part of any holiday to this part of the world.

With its vivid scarlet plumage and fan-shaped crest, the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, the national bird of Peru, is a very distinctive creature. It is found in the cloud forests of the Andes mountains, where the males gather on leks to perform elaborate mating dance displays to attract females.

While not an official ‘national bird’, the Blue-footed booby is without a doubt the bird most people associate with the Galapagos Islands. Their feet are a stunning shade of blue and the males put them to good use when it comes to attracting a mate, lifting and proudly displaying their feet in their rather cumbersome mating ritual. Although clumsy on land, in the air these large seabirds are powerful, and they are superb divers.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the national bird of Britain, in 2015 a nationwide ballot of more than 200,000 people saw the robin elected to the role, beating the barn owl and blackbird to the job. 

WHERE TO SEE THEM

Our consultants would be delighted to help you plan a trip to see some of these amazing birds. Here are just a few suggestions:

 

Northern Serengeti in the Low Season

Northern Serengeti in the Low Season

Northern Serengeti in the low season

 

 

AMANDA MARKS

Sitting alone, a large, battle-scarred male with a chunk missing out of his top lip was trying to disassociate himself from the seven females and youngsters relaxing in the sunshine on the edge of a dry riverbed.

Not that we were counting at the time, but that made it twelve lions we’d seen that morning. Twelve lions (plus two small cubs), five oribi, two bat-eared foxes, six giraffes, four dwarf mongooses (so cute!), four elephants, four rock hyrax, three red hartebeest, two greater eland, dozens of zebras, quite a few impalas, hundreds of wildebeest, and a partridge in a … No, maybe not.

The point here is that I was in northern Serengeti in late November. This time is classed as the low season for this region: November to May. Ask around and you’ll find that the general received wisdom is that it’s not worth coming to northern Serengeti in these months because you won’t see anything.

Well, I’d like to let you into a secret: that’s nonsense!

The reason many people think June/July to October are the only months to consider for this area of the Serengeti is that these are the months when the migration is either resident here or passing through on the way to the Masai Mara. It is in these months that you are likely to see thousands upon thousands of wildebeest and zebras plus attendant predators, and it’s also the time when you stand a chance of spotting the famed river crossings. There’s no doubt that this is indeed an incredible place to be when this natural phenomenon is around, however, to dismiss northern Serengeti for the rest of the year is to act rather ostrich-like. Look around – the resident wildlife here is excellent!

Thousands of hectares of wilderness are yours for the exploring.

It just happened that my colleague, Tracy, visited the area in first week of November, and I visited in the last week in November. We both had superb wildlife experiences, but what made it even better was that we shared these experiences with almost no-one else. Really! Thousands of hectares of wilderness are yours for the exploring, and when you spot wildlife you’re not vying with a dozen (or any, in my case) other vehicles.

And it’s such a beautiful place. The granite rock boulders sprinkled liberally over the landscape shine with what seems like an inner light as the early morning or late evening sun warms them as it has done for thousands of years. It’s ancient land, and particularly when it’s empty, it still feels like the soul of the earth is speaking to you here.

Big cats love it: leopards love the rock kopjes and cheetahs love the flat grasslands of the Lamai Wedge. Lions are happy anywhere really, but they prefer it if they don’t have to make too much effort for their dinner, and if they can find a nice quiet place to sleep. The proud, scarred old warrior we met had chosen his spot well. Northern Serengeti is a good place to be.

Where to stay…

There are some fantastic camps and lodges that operate in low season in the Northern Serengeti. For example, Sayari Camp  is a deluxe camp next to the Mara river, while Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge  offers gorgeous glass-fronted suites with private plunge pools. 

NOTES:
Low season in northern Serengeti is from November to May. Camp prices are cheaper and there are far fewer people visiting at this time.

Rainy season is late March/ April to May, so many camps are closed.

 

Wonderful wildlife encounters

Wonderful wildlife encounters

 

 

Wonderful wildlife encounters

With World Wildlife Day this Sunday, March 3, it only seemed natural to look at some of the magical encounters Tribes’ travellers have enjoyed with wildlife…

“From behind the vegetation something was rustling, and we sat quietly, in our little boat, staring at the riverbank, waiting. We were told there was a good chance we would see jaguars, but nothing can be guaranteed in the wild, of course. The foliage began to part and separate. Those stunning black and brown rosettes were there, moving, all muscle, her magnificent coat striking the way it stood out against the green. And then there she was. Just looking at us. Ms Silvia, out for a leisurely stroll. Simply passing by long enough to say hello.”

Gail Trotter – Brazil

“Falling asleep to the noise of the frog chorus in the rainforest at Tortuguero… watching the antics of the white-faced capuchin monkeys… all the wildlife throughout the whole trip and especially when you’re not expecting it like seeing an anteater walk directly across your path after dinner in the grounds at Parador resort, or turning a corner in the Monteverde cloud forest to see a huge orange kneed tarantula just sitting on the bank next to you…”

Ian Tatman – Costa Rica

Waking up on the first morning to see, just outside our window, a vibrant humming bird taking a drink from a red-hot poker plant.”

Beth Winkley – Peru

“The moment we first saw the gorilla group with the huge silverback very much in evidence was breathtaking and very emotional. It made the hard trekking worth every footstep! Seeing the second group the following day was equally as emotional and recognising the two groups were very different made the second trip as exciting as the first.”

Carole Herries – Uganda

“Seeing the last two northern white rhino was emotional and incredibly moving… not being able to get to our tent late one afternoon at Porini Lion Camp due to a hippo being outside… as soon as we arrived at Tsavo, we saw Lualeni with her two-week old calf as well as the rest of her herd having fun at a water filled ditch rolling in the mud. Unforgettable!! Being able to chat to the keepers and be with them while they work and watch the elephants at the water holes / mud wallows. Just AMAZING and so special.”

Susan Bailey – Kenya

“The moment a male lion came into camp one night as the diners were having coffee by the campfire before retiring to bed. He knew we were there as we were a group of eight people and not talking quietly. A sudden noise attracted the attention of our guide and a torch shone into the dark revealed our ‘guest’, who was just a mere ten feet from the nearest person. The lion did not even brake his pace as he gave us a sideways glance before disappearing once more into the darkness. It was an experience which all those present are unlikely ever to forget. “

Jeff Webster – Zambia

“An eye-to-eye experience with an Indri and baby – after a long climb we emerged opposite an Indri sitting in the top of a tree. After about five minutes a little black bundle of fur uncurled itself from its mother’s abdomen…”

Janice Fiske – Madagascar

“Satpura was THE highlight! We had a really beautiful encounter with a female Sloth Bear and her two cubs who let us watch for a very good amount of time with only two other people there at the time! Then as darkness descended we enjoyed seeing jungle cats, nightjars and civet… the air was full of smoke from kitchen fires and stubble burning, the night sky full of stars and the sounds of the night.”

Sarah Showers – India

“Watching a shoebill trying to fish, having been stood stock still for over 30 minutes… trying to work out how five very rotund lions could stay balanced on very thin tree branches… seeing an adolescent gorilla nearly get catapulted across the forest floor.”

Kevin Robinson – Uganda

“We were thrilled to watch a life and death battle between a Cocoi Heron and a snake… the snake ultimately was eaten by the heron, but what a battle!”

Mr. Jeff Torquemada/ Ms. Wendy Sparks – Brazil

“I loved the multicoloured sifakas especially, and at times could not believe they were real… the noises of the Indri calling out in an eerie manner above us in the forest… canoeing round the lemur islands and being greeted by little groups of lemurs after a treat of bananas; they were brave enough to jump on us and the boats, putting their little paws/ hands in ours to get the food.”

Mrs J Bridger – Madagascar

“In the Gombe National Park we watched a 49-year-old chimp named Gremlin select a wild mango, climb down the tree, select a rock and crack the mango open – all in full view and as close as we were allowed to be. From the balcony at Katuma Bush Lodge we watched an elephant repeatedly place his trunk up against a palm nut tree, shake the trunk, and then gobble up the nuts which fell to the ground.”

Liz & Dave Milway – Tanzania

 

“I loved the multicoloured sifakas especially, and at times could not believe they were real… the noises of the Indri calling out in an eerie manner above us in the forest… canoeing round the lemur islands and being greeted by little groups of lemurs after a treat of bananas; they were brave enough to jump on us and the boats, putting their little paws/ hands in ours to get the food.”

Mrs J Bridger – Madagascar

“Giant otters – endlessly entertaining.”

Alister Bould – Brazil

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.