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Hot on the heels of winning a medal in the 2014 British Travel Awards, we are delighted to say that we have been nominated again, in the category ‘Best Safari, Wildlife & Nature Holidays Company’

Obviously we will only win if we receive enough votes so please do vote for us here

The category we are nominated in is under ‘Who are the best holiday companies for specific types of holiday?’. The safari option is number 14, at the bottom of this list

Our 2014 awards as below:

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Crowd Gifting Can Help Send people on a Trip of a Lifetime

Ok so I guess the first question is, what is classified as a trip of a lifetime? I bet it differs for everyone! For instance, my favourite type of holiday is a nice sandy beach with a couple of cocktails on a table next to me! Maybe the odd bit of sightseeing thrown in for good measure.  My parents, on the other hand, favourite type of trip is an adventure holiday where they discover and do new things. I know this for a fact because they took me on many when I was younger, including about 7 hiking and sightseeing holidays around Europe!  This is why I thought a safari holiday getaway would be perfect for them.

Crowd Gifting Can Help Send people on a Trip of a Lifetime

The Idea

My parents love to do all the touristy sightseeing things and what’s more touristy than going to a destination thousands of miles away and viewing some spectacular animals and picturesque views? In fact, I heard them talk about it a couple of times a few years ago and how it was on the things to do when they retire. For this reason I got it into my head that after I graduate from university (with a 2.1 I might add!) I would do everything I could to raise money to send them on a trip that they will never forget. So at first I had the idea, now I had to try to implement it. So after I passed my uni course and threw a pointy hat in the air, I figured now would be a great time to get them the holiday they deserve after putting up with me being grumpy and moody for the last 21 years! Unfortunately after all the uni debt, this was harder than I thought. No matter though, I had a plan!

The Build Up

First, I searched online for a great deal on safaris from around the world. In particular, I found African safaris were the most popular and after a doing a bit more research, Tanzania safaris were mega popular. I got a great holiday at a very good price but unfortunately, I was still quite a long way short of the amount needed to send my parents on their trip. This is where I came up with idea of a crowd gift.

Crowd Gifting Can Help Send people on a Trip of a Lifetime

A friend told me about a website called Plumfund a few months ago when they were trying to raise money for a huge wedding anniversary present for his uncle and Aunt. It’s basically like crowd funding except it’s a far more personal way of raising money for a loved one. It’s not strangers who give to the fund, its relatives, and friends and loved ones! I loved this idea! I immediately set one up and emailed all of my friends and family that I could think of. Loads of people signed up for it and after about a week’s worth of ringing round people, Facebook and twitter posts, the goal was reached and the holiday was ordered.

The Reaction

You should have seen the look on my parent’s face when I told them what I did and how I did it! They were so surprised! They loved the Tanzania safari as well, although I wasn’t concerned about that because I knew a safari trip would be perfect for them. The big 5 animals, the amazing views, the local people and the regional food all merged into one holiday, how could no body not love that?!

Cecil the lion

What sad news about Cecil, the magnificent, 14 year old, black-maned lion recently slaughtered on the border of Hwange National Park. What a wonderful beast he was. So many of us have loved or would have loved to encounter him on safari, and would have paid handsomely to do so. We would have paid to be there, watching him in his natural habitat, strolling through the stunning expanse of the National Park. And our money would have gone, in some part, towards his preservation and protection. Protection from illegal poachers, and from international hunters who pay ten times the price of a photographic safari to hunt and kill animals such as Cecil.

This story highlights the plight of a country still shattered by past politics, and of all African conservation. There is no way that Cecil, dearly beloved by guides and visitors to Hwange National Park, recently collared and tracked by wildlife experts, should have suffered such a pitiful end. But, for all those of you crying out against the dentist Dr Walter J Palmer, consider the real failing here. The failings of the conservation team who had collared Cecil, the failings of the National Park for lack of fencing, the failings of the hunting guides for allowing a (very wealthy!) American dentist shoot an ancient, collared lion.

We, better than anyone recognise the high price of African safaris is necessary to conserve and protect the wondrous glory of the natural world that we prize so highly. Safari costs continue to increase, and National Park fees rise in an attempt to allow us a vision of natural wildlife, in wide and unspoilt landscape. We put up with hunting concessions because we believe that the extraordinarily high price that the hunters pay must in part support wildlife conservation around it. The truth is that more needs to be done, to combat disturbing mistakes like this killing of beautiful old Cecil, and more extensively the horrendous poaching that is endemic and in many cases condoned by crooked government. How wonderful it would be if those who feel riled by the death of this old lion would be inclined to stand up and fight for the preservation of African landscapes, support wildlife conservation, pay the guides properly, boost awareness of the needs of the National Parks, rather than sending death threats and spitting venom on a (v wealthy) American dentist.

The Tides of change

As United States president Barack Obama visits Kenya, a month after the lifting of travel restrictions, one of our favourite stretches of African coastline is filled with new hope, finds Gill Charlton

Elton Munyore has been selling safari excursions to tourists on Bamburi beach, north of Mombasa, for 19 years. “The last year has been very difficult,” he says. “My family shamba [smallholding] gave us enough to eat, but nothing more. Fortunately I had some savings, but that’s all gone now.”

Along with every hotelier, boat captain and beach trader on Kenya’s coast, Munyore – known to everyone as Elton John, a nickname bestowed by British tourists years ago – breathed a huge sigh of relief when Britain last month lifted its ban on travel to Mombasa and the adjacent coast, from Watamu southward to the border with Tanzania.

“Before the advisory, six out of 10 of our guests were from Britain,” says Mohammed Hersi, CEO of Heritage Hotels, which runs Voyager, a popular all-inclusive resort on Nyali beach. “The entire community’s livelihood has been affected. It’s been a big wake-up call; now everyone knows what’s at stake. We need to make sure that what happened in Tunisia could never happen here.”
This weekend’s visit by Barack Obama to open the Global Entrepreneurship Summit is much talked-about on the beaches. For small-time salesmen such as Elton John, the arrival of the American president to promote young entrepreneurs can only be a good thing, a sign that there is international confidence in Kenya and its future in spite of the security issues.
• Why you should travel to Kenya now

The Old Town of Mombasa
The British have visited the Kenyan coast in large numbers since the Eighties, drawn by the dazzling white sandy beaches, the friendly hotel staff, and the chance to spend a thrilling night or two on safari in the national parks of Tsavo and Amboseli.
Sharing a border with Somalia has always been problematic, however. In the past couple of years, extremists linked to the militant group Al Shabaab have carried out a number of attacks in Lamu and Tana River counties on the border with Somalia. As a result, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office still warns against all but essential travel to these areas and to within 60km (37 miles) of the Kenya-Somalia border.
• Kenya’s coast reopens
In the wake of the sectarian violence, Britain and the United States have been providing military hardware and training as part of a raft of measures put in place by the Kenyan government to help secure the region. In coastal communities where the travel ban has been lifted, there is a renewed vigilance and a determination to preserve the open-minded tolerance for which the Swahili culture has long been known.
In his role as chairman of the Kenya Coast Tourism Association (KCTA), Mohammed Hersi has set up customer service and security training courses for beach traders all along the coast. “There’s no more ‘them’ and ‘us’,” says Hersi. “The curio sellers, masseurs and safari sellers are valuable extra eyes and ears on the beach and in the local community.” The KCTA has so far trained more than 500 of these beach operators (the term “beach boy” is no longer used) and it seems to be paying off in many ways.

As a single white female, I would normally have been mobbed walking alone on Bamburi beach. But after a gentle rebuttal to a man who tried to sell me a boat trip, and another who wanted to be my “friend”, I walked down the beach unmolested. Occasionally a curio seller called out, but there was a level of politeness on the beach that wasn’t there before. And the beach itself was a lot cleaner: the flotsam and jetsam dumped on Kenya’s beaches in summer by the Indian Ocean monsoon had been cleared up, even on stretches where there are no hotels.
Despite the big drop in revenues, the coast’s large resort hotels have been keeping up their maintenance programmes. The buildings are freshly whitewashed and the lawns and flower beds have been clipped and weeded to perfection. Necessary upgrading work has also continued, creating the more spacious bedrooms demanded by today’s holidaymakers.
• Is it safe to travel to Kenya?
Whitesands, a collection of handsome low-rise buildings set in 22 acres, has undergone a major renovation to increase the size of its rooms and install swish contemporary bathrooms. On Saturday mornings the hotel allows the beach traders to set out their wares on its lawns. “It’s a new initiative,” says Joy Morai, the hotel’s sales manager. “It’s our thank you to them for making sure the beach is safe and clean.”
Like all hotels along the coast, Whitesands has visible, but unarmed, G4S security staff at its entrances from the road and the beach. This is nothing new, but now there are plain-clothes officers, too. Even so, the beach operators are the front-line troops. “We know everyone on this beach,” said Elton John. “We’re alert for intruders and we know what to do. The police have told us that it’s better to report something suspicious and get it wrong rather than let it go.”

It is hoped Obama’s visit will give an air of security to the country Photo: Getty
This was a mantra I heard from people up and down the coast. In Watamu, 70 miles north-east of Mombasa, they have tested the reporting system three times so far. “It worked really well,” said Damian Davies, manager of the Turtle Bay Beach Club, a popular budget choice with British families. “The police response was swift and efficient and, of course, they were all false alarms.”
Kenya’s most beautiful beach – in my view, one of the world’s best – is Diani, a long strand of soft white sand running south of Mombasa. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advisory never included this area, as visitors could fly from Nairobi to Ukunda, the local airstrip, but it has suffered badly all the same.
• A beginner’s guide to safari in Africa
This area was once a popular retreat for Britons living in Kenya, and many of their beach houses have been turned into smart boutique hotels. The Sands at Nomad, run by Richard Glaser, is something of an institution, serving up delicious fish and seafood fresh from the boats in its open-air beach dining room. He is optimistic about prospects for filling his 18 rooms over the winter season. “I’ve already signed contracts with Somak and Thomas Cook,” he said. “Thomson has come knocking too. It’s such a relief.”
Down on the beach, I was beckoned over by the curio sellers. They’d had their customer service training, but had it worked? “Please welcome. What is your name?” asked an older man wearing a big smile. “I will carve it on this wooden key-ring. It is a free gift and you can collect it tomorrow.”
It was a clever ruse, meaning I had to pay a second visit. The sellers speak good English; lengthy bargaining is required for the simplest purchase. It’s the custom, they told me. A discount of 50 per cent is usual.

I enjoyed talking to the beach operators, and finding out about their lives, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. For greater privacy, though, head south to where the metalled road runs out and the rural Africa of old reappears. The village of Msambweni is a delight. Traditional coral-stone houses line its grid of mud streets, which are also home to mango stalls and a great many hairdressers. Beyond the village lies Saruni Ocean, a new boutique hotel built in an attractive cuboid Swahili style. It is run by Luca De Marchis, a Roman chef, and his wife, Guilia, a marine biologist.
Over a lunch of carpaccio octopus and crab linguine, they told me that they had made a conscious decision to hire all the staff from the village. “It has taken a lot of training but we were determined to do it,” said De Marchis. “We need the villagers to see the benefits of helping us keep the beach clean and safe.”
Walking the beach here was an unfettered pleasure. An old lady watched a group of teenagers play football on the sand. In the shallows, younger boys were gutting eels and searching rock pools for more. At the reef’s edge, their fathers loaded nets into square-rigged dhows for the night’s fishing ahead. Occasionally I exchanged greetings: “Jambo”. “Habari”. “Nzuri sana asante”. I didn’t realise that beaches this unspoilt still existed in Kenya.
Back in Diani, I collected my key-ring. As I turned to leave, a man quietly asked if I would buy one of his bead necklaces. “Choose any one and just pay me KSh100,” he said. They’re worth more than 70p, but he was clearly desperate to make a sale.
“Why the bargain?” I asked.
“I just need to sell something. To feel good. To believe that things are going to get better again.”

Where to stay
All package prices quoted below are per person for one week including flights from Britain, unless otherwise stated. Most hotels have extensive spas, watersports facilities plus diving and snorkelling on protected reefs.

South of Mombasa
● The Sands at Nomad
Thirty-seven rooms, including two-bedroom suites and beach cottages, on the loveliest stretch of Diani. Superb restaurant and sociable bar popular with expats. From £770 b & b; child sharing £539 (thesandskenya.com).
● Leopard Beach Resort
Set in 37 acres on a small bluff above two small coves north of Diani. Bright spacious rooms and new villas (the Residences) with a choice of places to eat. Adults-only pool and beach as well as family entertainment and pool areas. From £835 half-board; child sharing £699
A room at the Saruni Ocean Resort
● Kinondo Kwetu
A family home turned boutique retreat run by the Andersson family from Sweden. The 15 rooms are arranged in villas filled with antique pieces beside a private beach. Horse-riding and tennis on site with tuition. From £2,819 all inclusive; child sharing £1,899 (kinondo-kwetu.com).
● Saruni Ocean
A stylish contemporary hideaway with 10 suites, a large infinity pool and fine dining under the stars. Charming Italian hosts speak English. From £2,055 full-board; child sharing £1,179 (saruni.com).
North of Mombasa
● Whitesands Beach Resort
Stylish sea view rooms and suites renovated over the past three years. Well run by a very friendly, efficient team. From £845 half-board; child sharing £765 (sarovahotels.com).
● Voyager Beach Resort
The best family-oriented resort on the coast and a big favourite with Brits: spotless rooms, professional kids club, beautiful gardens, themed buffets and entertainment. From £900 all inclusive; child sharing £599 (heritage-eastafrica.com).
● Serena Beach Resort
Set in beautiful grounds by a quiet 1.2-mile beach bounded by cliffs. Intimate despite its 164 rooms: many recently enlarged with new bathrooms to create more space. Its Elemis spa is the best on the coast. From £1,025 half-board; child sharing £699 (serenahotels.com).
● Travellers Beach Hotel
A great three-star option with a particularly welcoming atmosphere. Good air-conditioned gym. From £690 half-board; child sharing £599 (travellersbeach.com).

● Medina Palms
While Watamu’s leading hotel, Hemingways, remains closed the neighbouring Medina Palms is the luxury alternative: one-bedroom apartment sleeping two from £210 per night half-board (medinapalms.com).
● Turtle Bay Beach Club
The oldest all-inclusive on the coast, it has loyal repeat customers and good food, though rooms are looking a little tired. From £975 all-inclusive; child sharing £599 (turtlebaykenya.com).
● Shwari House
Fully staffed beachfront villa with six en suite bedrooms and infinity pool. Rents for £700 per night

Prince Harry heads to Africa

Prince Harry ended his 10 year Army career today and next week will be packing his bags and following in his brother’s footsteps by heading out to Africa for a 3 month stint on the ‘front line’ on wildlife conservation travelling across Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Botswana where the emphasis will be focused on Rhino and Elephant protection.

His brother William is a patron of the charity Tusk and shares Harry’s passion for the conservation of the continent, and this year has escalated the poaching crisis on the agenda of the presidents in the US and China. He has also had numerous trips to Africa including his proposal and honeymoon in Kenya and North island in the Seychelles respectively.

The Prince will be working alongside all aspects of conservation from being part of the rapid response units, heading out in search of the poachers, to working together with the Vet and support staff who help to save animals that have been victims of poaching attacks and now also looking at how new technology can be used to aid the park rangers catching the culprits with drone technology.

This will be no holiday for Harry, sleeping out in the wild and living in basic accommodation but his hands on experience and great audience will hopefully help the current conservation troubles that Africa are in and together both Harry and William can make a difference to the growing poaching crisis.

Tanzania voted best safari country in Africa

Tanzania voted best safari country in Africa
A new poll crowns the East African country the king of safaris

Tanzania is the best place for a safari, according to a new poll.
First problem when considering a safari — where to go.

Zimbabwe has the majestic Victoria Falls, South Africa great boutique reserves.

Kenya offers chances to see big cats and Botswana is a leader in eco-friendly tours.

But you’d be best off selecting Tanzania, according to a recent poll on safaribookings.com.

The Netherlands-based website polled 1,000 safari tourists and 756 experts, including guidebook authors from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint, over two years.

The result: Tanzania is a clear favorite for novice and veteran safari-goers alike.

“Tanzania is home to Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater,” wrote Tim Bewer, a Lonely Planet guides author and one of the experts polled. “This alone makes a solid case for declaring it Africa’s best safari country.”

Adventure calls

Tanzania has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including safari favorites the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti National Park, home to millions of wildebeest that form one of the world’s most spectacular sights as they migrate the area year-round.

The country is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Tanzania’s only drawback, according to Safari Bookings, is that there are “too many highlights to fit in one safari.”

The news comes as welcome affirmation of the country as a tourist destination, after a recent bombing at a rally that killed two in Arusha. That event sparked anxiety among visitors.

Ratings out of 5 of Africa’s top safari countries

As voted by tourists and safari experts

Tanzania – 4.84
Botswana – 4.75
Kenya – 4.66
Zambia – 4.58
South Africa – 4.55
Namibia – 4.54
Uganda – 4.16
Zimbabwe – 4.14