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Africa Odyssey Blog

Welcome to the Africa Odyssey Blog

How to make the most of your safari!

How to make the most of your safari!There’s no denying that going on Safari isn’t cheap, in fact, they’re pretty expensive.  You’ll have read many reviews and articles stating that despite the cost it truly is worth it, and we agree, but how do you make sure you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck, the best experience possible?

The main reason we go on safari is to enjoy viewing incredible wildlife in its natural habitat.  Long after you’ve forgotten the meals you ate and the comfy beds you slept in, you’ll still be talking about the safari, the animals and your guide.

The quality of the guide is a vital ingredient for getting the very best experience.  While many lodges do have a fairly good standard of guiding finding exceptional guides who really bring you into the wild experience is rare.

Not only should a great guide draw you into the search, allow you to understand what to look for and spot the clues in what can sometimes seem like searching for a needle in thousands of hay stacks.

So what’s the difference between a Guide and a Private Guide?

Wherever you go on safari you will be allocated a Guide who works for the particular lodge you are staying in. In the more upmarket lodges you will be allocated the same Guide for the duration of the stay so that he can get to know you thereby ensuring that information is not repeated and that your game viewing is optimised according to your interests and previous sightings.

On an extended trip which incorporates more than one lodge or destination however, this seamless continuity can be lost as you spend time getting to know a new Guide and repeating information. This is where a Private Guide can really add value to your experience.

A Private Guide, or host guide as they’re sometimes known, is a guide that will accompany you, whether you’re a couple, family or group, for the duration of your holiday or safari experience. They facilitate your journey and add a continuous professional dimension to your trip.

This would include everything from meeting you at the airport and booking you into your hotel, to sitting with you around the campfire and pointing out the stars.

So what are the advantages of a private guide for you?

  • If you are visiting from overseas and are nervous about exploring new destinations, a Private Guide gives you complete reassurance. They’ll be with you every step of the way – an experienced host to guide you through your safari experience.
  • A Private Guide facilitates the safari experience and adds a feeling of continuity so that you avoid any unnecessary repetition between lodges, thereby optimising your game viewing and wilderness experience by working in conjunction with the lodge and Rangers.
  • Private Guides have diverse, specialist skills including photography, birding, astronomy, tracking and guided walking which they will share with you.
  • Private guides are often degree educated and able to relate to clients on a number of levels
  • You will always have a central person you can trust and go to with any problems or special needs.
  • Private Guides are superb with children – they will amuse and educate your kids from start to finish and will help ease the stress of keeping the children occupied on holiday.
  • Your Private Guide works in conjunction with the lodges to provide better service delivery.
  • You won’t have to wait until the game drive to ask your questions and your questions need not be restricted to nature. Our Private Guides have in-depth knowledge of all the African destinations, cultures and histories. They ensure you’ll gain an in-depth, spiritual understanding of the African wilderness.
  • You’ll always have a connection to Africa Odyssey to ensure your satisfaction and to monitor the quality of your experience. Even in areas where there is no telephonic contact, you’ll have a Africa Odyssey go-to guy.

VIDEO: 5 Rare Wildlife Sightings You Have to See to Believe

VIDEO: 5 Rare Wildlife Sightings You Have to See to Believe

If it’s not on YouTube it didn’t happen, right?

With so many safari enthusiasts heading into the bush with cell phones, go pros and video cameras, this isn’t too far from the truth! As a result, there is an exuberant amount of wildlife videos out there, from amateur to professional videographers alike, showing the world what happens in the unpredictable wilds of Africa.

From the downright terrifying to the adorably cute, here are 5 rare wildlife sightings you just have to see to believe:

1. Lions on honeymoon!

Lions get down to business for guests at Tintswalo Safari Lodge in the Greater Kruger National Park. Male lions sleep on average 20 hours a day and females sleep up to 18, so the chances of seeing lions mate is extremely rare, exhilarating and well, aggressive!

2. Elephant shows rhino who’s boss!

A young elephant bull in musth shows a male white rhino who’s the real boss of the animal kingdom. The elephant’s impressive balancing skills of a tree branch with his sword-like trunk is quite the cheeky ending to the testosterone-filled tussle.

3. There’s 5 cheetahs on our jeep!

Not one, but five cheetahs (one adult and four cubs) hop onto a game vehicle in the Maasai Mara National Reserve to get a better view of potential prey. The crowning moment? When one cheetah bent right into the jeep and kissed the tourist’s camera lens!

4. You’re it! Young gorillas play tag

A family of gorillas at Odzala National Park take a break at a root site somewhere deep in the Congo. As the adults feed on the roots of the trees, the younger gorillas run around in circles playing a cheeky game of tag in the forest!

5. Lions lick water off tent!

A couple camping in Botswana woke up to find three nonchalant lions licking water off the outside of their tent, refreshing themselves with pools of rainwater that had fallen overnight. “What a privilege,” says the campers, when recounting the rather alarming wake up call!

Like what you see? Let us help you plan a life-changing safari created just for you!

5 Mind-blowing Places to Sleep in Africa

5 Mind blowing Places to Sleep in Africa

Fancy sleeping somewhere gorgeously adventurous and unusual? Airbnb is not the only place to shop for the most unique, quirky and out-of-this-world holiday rentals and accommodation options. In recent years, Africa has set the standard for award-winning and innovative accommodation and this is reason enough to save up and go on safari this year.

Heck, afterwards you may just have the urge to seek out and embrace the masterminds who’ve thought beyond the four-bedroom wall to present us with these magnificent places to slumber.

Here’s our list of the top 5 places to sleep in Africa that will totally blow your mind:

1. Sleep with fish in an underwater hotel room in Zanzibar

In the north of the pristine island of Pemba in Tanzania lies The Manta Resort’s astonishingly impressive underwater room. The floating structure consists of three levels each offering guests a unique experience above and below the water. However, the most magical of them all is arguably the bedroom beneath the waves which affords 360 degree views of the underwater world. Sun worshippers can spend time on the upper landing deck by day and climb down the long ladder into the turquoise bubble by night. By turning on the spotlights, you can watch the shoals of reef fish carry about their nautical lives as you drift into a deep sleep.

5 Mind blowing Places to Sleep in Africa

© The Manta Resort

2. Sleep on your own eco-friendly private island in Zambia

On a faraway private isle in the middle of the Zambezi River is where you’ll find Sindabezi Island. In fact, it’s the only luxury bush camp from where the Victoria Falls can be comfortably explored. Compromised of just 5 open-sided chalets, guests get to proclaim Sindabezi as their own personal retreat while staying at one of the most environmentally friendly properties in Africa. We don’t know what’s better – their commitment to sustainable tourism or the intimate, barefoot in the bush, island feel.

Sindabezi Island, Zambia

© Sindabezi

3. Sleep on a rooftop in an airstream trailer in South Africa

Situated at the heart of the bustling Long Street in Cape Town, the Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel is a quirky and convenient place to explore South Africa’s Mother City. The boutique hotel features a top-class eatery, luxury rooms and family suites, and better yet, South Africa’s only rooftop Airstream Trailer Park. A new world awaits on the rooftop. Among the seven uniquely designed trailers where guests can choose to spend the night, there’s an open-air cinema with weekly movie screenings and a sky bar perfect for sundowners on a summer night.

Rooftop Hotel, Cape Town

© Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel

4. Sleep on an open-air deck in the bush in Kenya

The 56,000-acre Loisaba Conservancy in Northern Laikipai, Kenya is one of the most beautiful places in Africa to sleep under the stars. It lies just off the equator overlooking the Kiboko waterhole, making it the ideal destination for stargazing and wildlife viewing all year round. The Loisaba Starbeds are handcrafted four-poster beds which sit on wheels and are rolled out onto a raised wooden platform so guests to sleep under the African stars. It’s the biggest bedroom in the world, where the night sky is your ceiling and the hills in the distance are you walls. Talk about sweet dreams!

Loisaba Starbeds, Kenya

© Loisaba

5. Sleep in a luxury houseboat on the river in Botswana

Moving along the banks of the Chobe River, the Zambezi Queen is a unique floating boutique hotel in a class of her own. She is a 5-star, 42-metre long luxury houseboat offering unparalleled sophistication in one of the most remote locations on the planet. As a guest on the vessel, you can enjoy an adventurous river safari holiday, while still being surrounded by complete comfort and luxury. Wake up to the sight of an elephant drinking from the river or watch a fish eagle take flight – all from the comfort of your bed.

Zambezi Queen luxury houseboat

© Zambezi Queen Collection

 

The promised sands: could Madagascar be the new Maldives?

The promised sands: could Madagascar be the new Maldives?

A much-anticipated island resort hopes to pioneer a new type of indulgent but adventurous beach break Arriving on Manamphao, one of the islands of the Nosy Ankao group by Sophy Roberts From the glass bubble of the helicopter, Madagascar’s Emerald Sea looks like a giant oyster shell. Where the water is shallow, the pale sand has the cast of mother-of-pearl, but where the lagoon tips over an underwater lip, the electric blue darkens to a fathomless black. Kite-surfers like the winds here, but otherwise boats are rare, the matchstick outriggers with delicate sails oddly reminiscent of the egrets that pass on the wing.

We fly lower over the mangroves and I notice the back of a turtle in the water. On another beach, as long as any I’ve seen, five locals are dipping their toes into the surf. I start to find my context. This swath of Madagascar’s north-east coast hasn’t the green fecundity of the Seychelles, nor the resort developments of Mauritius, which stud the land with swimming pools. But it has enthralling variety, which comes to life in this 30-minute helicopter journey hugging the shoreline as we travel south from Antsiranana, where there’s an international airport.

I’m heading for the Nosy Ankao archipelago, which at its closest point lies 3.5km off the mainland, to get the measure of Miavana — one of the most eagerly anticipated hotel openings of 2017. “A fisherman goes as deep as he can into a remote area, and casts as far as he can because he believes there are fish out there in the honeypot,” says Miavana’s developer Thierry Dalais, 58, who is piloting the helicopter. “I’m not a very good fisherman, but that’s the point of this place. Madagascar is the honeypot at the edge of the world.” Dalais has settled on a compelling, if complicated, spot. Madagascar has beaches, mountains and tropical rainforests, few tourists and abundant and distinctive wildlife. The biodiversity and the fact that about 90 per cent of species are endemic are the result of millions of years of isolation since the island split from Africa and India — it is sometimes referred to as the “eighth continent”. But it also suffers from a poor road network, unreliable domestic flights, environmental degradation (most importantly as a result of logging and soil erosion), and an inconsistent political record, with the last presidential coup as recent as 2009.

We fly over a black channel, which from July to September attracts whales, then the white-sand beaches and wooded core of Nosy Ankao come into view. There is just one problem — the resort isn’t quite ready. I was due to be one of the first guests, just ahead of the Christmas opening, but the launch has been pushed back to the end of April so I can only scope out the potential while staying in one of 14 (unfinished) villas that share 5km of unbroken white beach. “This could be the Mustique of the Indian Ocean,” says Dalais, citing the island colony of villas a Scottish baron created in the 1960s in the Caribbean, where everyone from Princess Margaret to Mick Jagger bought up real estate. One can’t fault Miavana’s ambition. Dalais and two minority partners, including a Malagasy, lease the majority of land on three islands in this archipelago (excluding state-protected forest, bird-breeding grounds and a historic lighthouse), where for the past three years a team of 100 landscapers has successfully removed 10,000 casuarina trees, and planted 60,000 endemics. The islands include Manamphao — “the statement piece, the Tiffany jewel,” says Dalais of this relatively small, 60-hectare island with outcrops that could be in Brittany, the rock dusted with froth and spume, an interior bristling with tussock grass, and a spectacular, half-curl spit of beach as squashy as white marshmallows. From June to September it’s a significant breeding site for Indian Ocean terns. In this early phase, Manamphao is going to be used for picnics, sleep-outs, and hiking. The plan for Ratsy, another of the islands, is to turn it into the Mnemba of Madagascar, says Dalais, referring to a well-loved Zanzibar private island lodge with hammocks and foot-in-the-sand houses. For now, however, the focus is on rehabilitating 360ha of Nosy Ankao itself, where I’m staying. “The Maldives are little dots with very intense hotels,” says Dalais, “but it doesn’t have this kind of largesse,” he says, gesturing at Nosy Ankao’s long beach where later that evening, a turtle comes in to lay its eggs. “In a week, or two weeks here, I don’t get to do the same thing twice.

This is a place for the adventurer in me.” Mark Carnegie, an Australian entrepreneur who sits on the board of the foundation overseeing Miavana’s conservation efforts, describes the area’s attractions another way: “Madagascar is such a weird-ass place. I mean how many places on earth have a moth with a 20cm tongue?” Protecting unique species will be a key goal for the operation, which will help fund the policing of sustainable fishing policies across a 15,000ha protected marine area. But in a country in which, according to the most recent World Bank data, 78 per cent of the population live below the poverty line (on less than $1.90 per day), just as important will be to convince locals of the value of tourism, as a source of employment and in a wider national context, as an alternative to logging. Dalais knows how he must appear — the Miavana-branded helicopter and the hotel’s $2,500-per-person-per-night room rate. “We look like fat cats,” he admits. “[The Malagasy] need to see the benefit, from the beginning, in real terms.” In fact, Dalais first came here in 2009 with neither hospitality nor environmental protection in mind but as an investor in an algae farm. Once dried, the algae could be used in cosmetic and food products, but despite waters rich in nutrients, problems with parasites and repeated crop failures meant the project was wound up in 2015. Dalais turned his attention to tourism, employing many of the farm staff to help create Miavana. Tourism is a sector Dalais knows well. In the late 1990s, his family became one of the five original investors in North Island in The Seychelles, a €3,000-per-person-per-night private island which has been widely praised for its environmental achievements (including eradicating a non-endemic rat population and supporting endangered bird species). That was sold in 2010 and the following year the family bought Norman Carr Safaris, among Africa’s most well regarded walking safari companies. Time and Tide, the family company, now has two safari operations in Zambia and plenty to occupy them, but it’s not hard to see why they were tempted to branch out to Madagascar.

In a visit of a couple of days, I watch a school of Bumphead parrotfish dance close to the shore outside my villa, snorkel in a pretty coral garden, and go for walks along the beach of Manamphao, where shells sit like shipwrecked jewels in the tideline. At present there are none of Madagascar’s famous lemurs on the island (there are ambitions to introduce them), but I see them on the mainland. It is the helicopter safaris, though, that bring this landscape alive in all that crazy variety which gives Madagascar the edge on any of its competitors. “Adventure flying blows open this area,” says Dalais, who has bought two Robinson R66s to bypass the roads and so give Miavana’s guests a shortcut to the mountains and rainforests. As we swoop over one mainland forest, I marvel at the ancient, tallest, trees, that reach up out of the canopy. We fly on to visit the vast tsingy — strange upright rock formations — of Ankarana National Park, where we walk deep into hidden cave systems crowded with bats. As to the hotel itself, even at this incomplete stage, the one-, two- and three-bedroom villas designed by Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens seem a clear attempt to outdo their celebrated work on North Island. Rather than revisit its elegantly rustic look, the aesthetic is boldly modern, comprised of low-lying, flat-roofed Mies van der Rohe-style villas with glass frontage, utilising hand-cut stone and steel. Floors are a recycled waste wood composite; the air-conditioning is limited to a “breeze” that flutters over beds. I think the villas are positioned a little too close to each other when there’s such a vast amount of space but this will be less apparent when the new vegetation beds in. As for the main communal area, it’s on a grand scale, dominated by a 25-metre pool and a vaulted restaurant. Key staff are obvious pros: a South African chef, a Sri Lankan butler, a South African helicopter pilot who spends every free minute fishing. He does it on the fly, off the beach, catching giant trevally and barracuda (all catch and release, up to 25kg a piece). Flying over the mainland on a helicopter safari © Sophy Roberts “Madagascar is an immensely complicated part of the world,” says Carnegie, discussing the difficulties of Malagasy bureaucracy, and the transport logistics the developers have put in place to keep the construction moving. Half jokingly, Carnegie refers to Dalais as “King Julien” after the lemur king in the Hollywood animated movie, Madagascar, whose signature track is the catchy dance hit, “I like to move it (move it)”. Yes, Miavana is running later than hoped, but when it does open there won’t be anything quite like it. The legacy, however, needs to be more than a place to chill. Its deeper success will lie in how locals come to regard luxury tourism as the money starts coming in, how inclusive the project proves with the community, and how successful the developers’ rehabilitation of the land. They need to attract the next Mustique crowd to the islands but at the same time, to lure the lemurs there too.

 

Africa’s Greatest Adventures for the Thrill-seeker

Africa’s Greatest Adventures for the Thrill seeker

It’s a New Year, which means a new blank calendar to fill in with exciting travel plans. If you’re looking for your next great adventure, it’s time to head to Africa.

When most think of an African holiday, their minds immediately wander towards a safari. Although a safari is an adventure in itself and one we fully recommend, they are some experiences that appeal specifically to those thrill seeker kind of souls.

Here are a few of them that can be easily coupled with your safari itinerary:

1. Swim in Devil’s Pool, Zambia

If you dare flirt with the wild side, a swim in Devil’s Pool is a must. This natural rock pool situated adjacent to the famous Livingstone Island on the edge of the Victoria Falls, is dubbed ‘the most dangerous pool in Africa.’ That’s because brave swimmers get the opportunity to peer over the edge of the largest curtain of falling water during their visit. The swim is only possible during low water levels, which usually falls between mid-August to mid-January. Don’t let the name deter you from this bucket list moment – the guided tours are led by skilled professionals and have a 100% safety record.

Africa’s Greatest Adventures for the Thrill seeker
2. Climb Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Submitting Africa’s highest peak and the highest free-standing mountain in the world is no easy feat. The reward when you reach the snow-capped top at 5895 meters high just in time for an epic sunrise makes it all worthwhile though. There’s even more good news – you don’t have to be climbing guru or have technical expertise to scale one of the seven routes. If you are fit, healthy, and have a strong drive and determination, the odds are in your favour. Climbing the ‘Roof of Africa’ has a nice ring to it too.

Climb Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

3. Go Gorilla Trekking, Uganda and Rwanda

Considering gorillas are a species on the brink of extinction and treks are a highly-restricted activity, spending face time with them in their natural habitat in Uganda and Rwanda is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This challenging day hike through a humid, muddy rainforest is also one way to directly contribute to the preservation of the mountain gorillas themselves. Now that’s the ultimate win-win.

Gorilla Trekking, Uganda and Rwanda
4. Horseback riding in the Okavango, Botswana

The feeling of being in the saddle amongst the wild ones for hours at a time is an incredibly unique safari experience. When you visit the Okavango Delta in Botswana, whether you’re an experienced or amateur rider, this is one of those must-do activities. You can expect the best guides, up-close and intimate wildlife moments, matched with the ultimate adventure high as you canter through the bush with elephants, buffalo, zebra, and giraffe.

Horseback riding in the Okavango, Botswana
5. Rafting the Zambezi, Zambia

The Zambezi River below the Victoria Falls boasts one of the world’s most spectacular white-water sections in the world. Its power has carved the zigzagging Bakokta Gorge, which is home to several classified grade five rapids. You don’t have to be experienced per say, but with rapids by the names of ‘Commercial Suicide,’ ‘The Washing Machine,’ and ‘Gnashing Jaws of Death,’ you should be fit and prepared for a whirlwind! Oh, and did we fail to mention the crocodiles that inhabit the water?

Rafting the Zambezi, Zambia

The real question is, are you ready to take on 2017 with a big sense of adventure in Africa?