African Trails Trans Asia Overland- Istanbul to Beijing

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Hi and welcome to Af Trails! Meet Rosie (the world’s most awesome overland truck), and Suse the world’s most awesome driver (the pax made me write that)! All aboard, lock and load!

Week 1- Battles, Byzantium, bushcamps, baths, boat trips, birthdays…. and a few sneaky beers!

Leaving the majestic city of Istanbul in our wake we begin our 4 month Trans Asia overland heading south to the Gallipoli peninsula, the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of WW1 and the modern day pilgrimage for many Aussie and Kiwi travellers. Visiting ANZAC cove, the cemeteries of Lone Pine (AUS) and Chenuk Bair (NZ) to name but a few, this solemn day ended with a salute to the fallen at the Boomerang Bar, Eceabat.

Crossing the Dardanelles we visited the ancient city of Troy. Our local guide Mustapha turned what many describe as piles of rocks and rubble into a fascinating account of the Trojans and their famous Trojan horse. With the ladies dreaming of Brad Pitt we continued to our first bushcamp of the trip- an unmarked camp with no facilities… how’s the serenity?

Efes (Ephesus) is the second largest and one of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world. We spent the day exploring the ruins, the Artemis temple, St Johns basilica and the Ayasulak fortress. With the extensive history lessons of the past few days it was time for some hot pools, sun and sand.

After our first bushcamp of the trip the pax have really taken to making the most of every opportunity to bathe… Pamukkale where the turquoise water cascades over the naturally formed calcite hot pools presented an enticing bath in what appears to be arctic waters. 

En-route we collected fire wood in the high passes of Ba Dag (Daniel Craig, aka Bond jumped off here in Skyfall), we then dropped down 1500m to the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea. A boat trip to Butterfly bay and the various coves and islands in the area was a perfect way to celebrate a birthday… Happy Birthday Slats, (Nicola Slattery)! Week one ends with a free day to explore the surrounding peaks, take a walk to the ghost town of Kaya, paraglide off the mountain or simply enjoy the glassy waters of the lagoon where our campsite lays.

Thoughts of the week:

Scott, aka Jesus- “It feels great to be back on the road with Suse and meeting the group who will be riding alongside me on this trip to China. I am ridiculously keen to find out what the Silk Road has to offer. Bring it on!”

Neil- “I’m on this trip for a little adventure before dementia!”

Game of the week (or possibly the century)-Tractor… As the name suggests it involves the spotting of tractors, the colours, operation, waving drivers etc.  We will be posting rules and updated scores weekly. The adjudicator and game master is Steph.

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALMENT……

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A Trans Asia blog – part deux

Leaving behind our beach camp and the crystal clear waters of Oludeniz, we headed up over the mountains and to the 300m deep and 18km long Saklikent (or “hidden city” in Turkish) gorge. Being early spring the river running through was still quite cold, however a few of the passengers waded across and walked deeper into the gorge. The rest of us (the tropical ones… or sensible ones) stayed dry and enjoyed the beautiful views from the walkways and platforms.

View of Oludeniz and our beach camp

We travelled through the pine forests and again returned to the coast and our home for the next two nights- Bayrams Treehouses in Olympus. With the bangles playing on the radio we took a night drive then a short walk to the eternal flames called the Chimaera- a monster with the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a serpent who roamed the woods and sprouted fire from her mouth. These natural gas flames create the perfect setting to enjoy the stars and to toast marshmallows. A free day saw some choose to go kayaking and snorkelling and visit the nearby ruins and others to laze on the beach.

Crystal clear waters of Olympus

Heading inland we had one bushcamp en-route to the Cappadocia region. The Anatolya and Cappadocia region is where the first Christians hid to escape the Roman soldiers. Ihlara Valley is a 16km volcanic rock gorge and is believed to be the first settlement of the escaping Christians. We took a 2hr walk through the valley visiting some of the hundreds of rock churches, many with frescos still intact.  We continued on to the tourist centre of Cappadocia-Goreme. Kaya camping perched on the hill overlooking the red valley was the perfect base for the next 4 nights. With so much to do and see we had quite a busy schedule for the next few days.

A sunrise hot air balloon flight was how the group chose to start Turkeys’ national day. With 100 balloons taking to the skies the views were virtually indescribable. At times closely shaving the fairy chimneys and other times 500m in the air we spent the hour floating over the different valleys of the Goreme region. With a perfect morning, a perfect take off and a perfect landing something had to go amiss- Sarah Walker has now been christened with a new surname! Too funny!

Sarah and Nat enjoying the view

After breakfast we met with our local guide Seville and began our day tour of the area. With our museum pass in hand we visited the various attractions that make Cappadocia famous. We spent the day walking amongst and climbing inside the fairy chimneys and open air museums, visiting an underground city where thousands of people previously lived, tried our hand at making pottery, and enjoyed the stunning views from the various panoramic points in the area.

Goreme

The next two free days were spent walking through the valleys, visiting other museums and churches, wine tasting at the local vineyards, a cultural evening in cave that is now a Turkish restaurant to name but a few. We all took the opportunity to get up early, take a short stroll from our campsite and watch the balloons taking off- a sight almost as incredible as the ballooning itself.

Continuing north through the mountains we enjoyed some amazing views on the way to our bushcamp for the evening. Nestled amongst the mountains and on the banks of a river it was the perfect spot to stop for the night.

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After a lazy breakfast we headed off for our final destination in Turkey, Trabzon and the Black Sea.  Camping in the hills just outside Trabzon we visited the Sumela Monastery, a Greek orthodox monastery from 386AD.  Dedicated to the Virgin Mary the monastery is precariously perched on the side of Mela Mountain in the Pontic mountain range. From our camp it was easy to hitch a ride with the friendly locals and head into the big city of Trabzon. Many took the opportunity to relax in a hamam, a traditional Turkish bathhouse while others spent their time walking the streets or in the museums.

Next stop……………. GEORGIA!

Thanks to Scott Sheridan for these photos

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Food safaris: A new South African tourism craze

If you are a foodie, one of the best things about visiting a new country will be getting to try their signature dishes. Clearly this is something that the tourism companies in South Africa have caught on to; with the introduction of the country’s newest tourism craze: food safaris.

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There is a lot to be learnt from going on a food safari in South Africa. Not only will you get to taste delicious South African cuisine, but also learn about the local culture.

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What is a food safari?

You may be wondering what exactly a food safari is. Basically instead of hopping in a four by four and heading into the African bush to spot animals, you will be getting to sample some of South Africa’s finest and most traditional cuisine.

Whilst many holiday goers end up eating the same old food they eat back at home in restaurants aimed at tourists, South African food safaris are all about living like locals and getting the real deal.

Although food safaris vary depending on where you go on one and which tourism company you book it through, you will find that the majority involve walking tours of local food markets, as well as private hosted dinners and cooking demonstrations, many of which take place in local homes.

Food safaris in Cape Town

Food safaris have really taken off in Cape Town, a city that is brimming with different cuisines. As well as locals getting involved in the food tours, many celebrity chefs also take part including Africa’s own Bruce Robertson who offers a seafood dining experience at his home in Cape Town.

One of the most popular areas to find great food safaris is Bo-Kaap. This area of South Africa is home to fusion food and a must-visit for food lovers. There the locals fuse their own dishes with those of other countries including France, England, Germany, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Go on a food safari in Bo-Kaap and you will get to have a go at making your own roti’s, samosas and other traditional recipes that have been passed down from one generation to the next. You will also get to learn about the food, history, religion and culture associated with the local area.

Some tourism companies offer guided walks of the harbour in Hout Bay, where tourists can visit local fish shops, learn about local fishing trends and gain an insight into the area’s marine conservation.

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Many food safaris taking place in Hout Bay are centred on seafood and the local fishing industry.

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Benefits of going on a food safari

If you are looking to get a true insight into how South Africans live, eat and cook, there is no better way to do it than by going on a food safari. It will provide the perfect opportunity for you to discover the culinary traditions of Cape Town and other places in the country.

The new food safari trend in South Africa has not only provided tourists with the chance to learn whilst they travel, but also helped to bring down the cultural and language barriers between locals and tourists.

Conclusion

Whilst we highly recommend going on animal safaris in Africa, if you are looking to learn more about the local cuisine and culture, we can’t think of anything better than going on a food safari. Not only will you get to taste some of the country’s most delicious dishes, but you will also get to learn more about the locals and their way of life. It will prove to be a real eye-opening experience!

Image credits: AdamRozanas and jacashgone

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South Africa’s tough new travel rules postponed

Last week it was announced that South Africa has delayed the implementation of tough new travel rules for children. The requirement for families to provide birth certificates for travellers under the age of eighteen, with additional supporting evidence if both parents are not travelling has now been postponed from 1st October 2014 to 1st June 2015.

Here we will explain what the new travel rules are for South Africa and why they are being enforced.

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As of June 2015, those travelling to South Africa with children under the age of 18 must provide their birth certificates, along with their passports.

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What are the new travel rules for South Africa?

If you are planning a trip to South Africa next summer with children under the age of eighteen, they will need to be equipped with more than just their passports. The new law, which is being implemented to tackle child abduction and trafficking, requires any child arriving in South Africa to have a full birth certificate with them.

If both parents are not travelling with the child, the parent that is travelling with them must provide a legally endorsed affidavit from the other parent, giving him or her permission to enter the Republic of South Africa with the child they are travelling with.

Single parents travelling with children

If one parent has passed away, the travelling parent will have to produce a court order grating full responsibilities or the death certificate of their partner in order for the child to be able to enter the country.

Family friends / other relatives travelling with children

If a child is travelling with a family friend or other relative, the adult must present a legal affidavit signed by the parents, plus copies of the biological parents’ passports and contact details.

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Travellers who fail to provide a birth certificate for children under the age of 18 will not be able to board planes to South Africa.

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Stringent airport checks

As of June next year, South Africa will be the only country in the world requiring under eighteens to produce a birth certificate at the time of travel. Those travelling from the UK to South Africa will face a stringent check-in process at UK airports, as airlines are routinely fined for landing people found to be prohibited. This means that if you cannot produce the birth certificate and other documents (if applicable) you will not be able to board the plane and will not receive compensation for your lost travel costs.

Obtaining a birth certificate

If for one reason or another you do not have your child’s birth certificate, you will need to obtain one before travelling to South Africa. In England and Wales, you can order one online from the General Register Office. This costs £9.25 and will usually take around three weeks for the birth certificate to arrive. Alternatively you can pay for the fast-track service, priced at £23.40 and the birth certificate will arrive in two to three working days.

Before ordering a birth certificate online, it is important to make sure that you are ordering it from the correct website. Like when ordering a new driving licence, there are other websites you can obtain them from, but they usually add on an expensive and unnecessary admin fee.

The alternative option is to visit the registry office where you registered the birth of your child. They may be able to have a certificate printed off for you.

Conclusion

Just to re-affirm this new South African law will not be implemented until June 2015, however if you plan to travel to the country next year, it is advised that you ensure you have the necessary documentation ready to avoid leaving it too late.

Image credits: Boobelle & oatsy40

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Tips for getting the best photographs on your African safari

Hoping to take spectacular photographs of the wildlife on your African safari? Follow our tips below to ensure you are well prepared and are not left disappointed.

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With the right equipment and a little patience you will be able to capture fantastic photographs on your African safari.

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Take extra memory cards and batteries

This may sound obvious, but you will be surprised at how many people forget to bring spare memory cards and batteries. You don’t want to miss out on a fabulous shot of one of the big five because you have already filled up your only memory card or your battery has gone! Always pop spares in your pockets before heading out on safari so you are well prepared.

Choose a vehicle with good seating

Obviously you will not be able to get out of your vehicle to photograph the animals for safety reasons, so you will need to make sure the vehicle you choose has good seating. Most guided safari tours use 4x4s with windows that can be opened fully and pop up roofs, giving you the chance to stick your camera out and get the perfect shot. Tiered seating in the vehicle will also help you to get a good view of the animals, without the people around you getting in the way.

Get up in time for sunrise

Whilst waking up early may not sound like something you want to do on holiday, it will be worth it for the fabulous photographs you snap. Early in the morning, before sunrise is the best time to spot animals like lions, leopards, and rhinos at the watering holes and rivers.

Don’t forget your zoom lens

When out on safari, you will find that some of the wildlife sightings are fairly close, whereas others are further away. This is where a zoom lens will come in handy. Using a zoom lens will ensure that you do not miss any of the important details.

Whilst we are on the topic of camera equipment, we also recommend that you use an image stabiliser, as it is unlikely that you are going to be able to use a tripod in a packed safari vehicle! Some cameras have in-built image stabilisers, but you can also buy lenses with them built in too.

Don’t ignore the little creatures

Whilst you may be hoping to get the perfect shot of a cheetah or lion, it’s important not to forget about the smaller creatures and birds living in the African bush. Pay attention to these little creatures and you will get some fabulous shots of them in their natural habitat.

Another tip is to study their behaviour, if they suddenly appear on high alert or flee the area, it is likely that a much bigger animal is approaching, helping you to prepare to take the perfect picture!

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Why not attempt to photograph the animals at night from your lodge?

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Take photos at night

If you want to come back with lots of different photographs from your African safari, we highly recommend doing a night shoot. The photographs you take in the dark will provide a great contrast to the African safari photos you have taken in the daytime. Make sure you are prepared by taking a tripod, flash extenders and a shutter remote.

Conclusion

So there we have our top tips for taking great photographs on an African safari. We hope you enjoy your trip (trust us it will be the experience of a lifetime) and get the chance to photograph all of your favourite animals. What we will say is that it is important to witness the beauty of the African wildlife with your own eyes too. There are some things that a camera lens simply can’t capture!

Image credits: hrmann_2000 and The Wandering American

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World Health Organisation Report Recommends no Blanket Ban on Travel/Trade to Ebola Affected Countries

On 22nd September the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a statement from the he second meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, see: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2014/ebola-2nd-ihr-meeting/en/

We’ve written this article to update people who are concerned about Ebola and it’s causing them to delay / postpone a possible trip to Africa.

Countries currently affected by Ebola

Since December 2013, five countries have been impacted by Ebola these are Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. These are all in West Africa, no other regions/countries than these have been impacted as and up to 22nd September, 2014.

In particular WHO stated that two of the countries (Nigeria and Senegal) should be praised for their effectiveness in halting the outbreak of the virus.

Ebola relative to Malaria in Africa

The World Health Organisation has previously reported that whilst of concern the Ebola outbreak needs to be borne in context. Malaria for example killed 460,000 under 5’s in 2012, whereas Ebola has killed 2,793 to date. Whilst there is a need to show precautions, African Trails would definitely say that precautions are needed more for Malaria than Ebola for visitors to Africa outside of the five affected countries.

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A map of countries affected by Ebola as at 17/09/2014

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World Health Organisation Advisor’s Ebola Recommendation

A panel of 20 international WHO advisors have recommended against a blanket ban on trade and travel following an assessment of the situation in the region. The current restrictions imposed in the area have added crippling economic implications on top of the health problems in the countries. These vary by country but include:

Cancellation of flights

Trade bans and cancelled contracts

Cancelled sports events

As reported previously by WHO and other organisations travel elsewhere in Africa is totally safe as they are unaffected by the Ebola outbreak.

World Health Organisation Statement

The World Health Organisation published the following statement:

“Flight cancellations and other travel restrictions continue to isolate affected countries resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread; the Committee strongly reiterated that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade, except for the restrictions outlined in the previous recommendations regarding the travel of EVD cases and contacts.”

Screening Measures

The World Health Organisation has previously declared the Ebola outbreak as an international state of emergency. Therefore it’s only reasonable that extra security measures have been put in place to safeguard travellers in Africa from possible infection.

WHO is recommending that all passengers arriving from the five countries proceed through rigorous screening measures before being admitted to other countries.

Screening measures put in place make an outbreak outside of these countries extremely unlikely and visitors should travel to Africa in confidence.

Africa Awaits!

So what’s stopping your visit to Africa? Certainly Ebola shouldn’t, call us today on 01524 419909 to discuss your travel options.

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African adventures awaits in unfamiliar locations such as Brenu Beach, Bening

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Whether you’re looking to book one of our many tours, visit Egypt, see the Mountain Gorillas or just have some questions we’d be delighted to hear from you. Africa awaits!

Image Credits: Wikipedia

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Should I be Worried About Travelling to Africa with the Ebola Virus Outbreak

For visitors travelling from other parts of the world, Africa often appears to be tropical and mysterious, a reputation which simply adds to its attraction.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the culture that’s exotic, but the diseases too. The good news is that in the vast majority of cases, it’s easy to avoid falling ill by taking just a few sensible precautions. 

But the Ebola virus is very different; a deadly disease with no cure that’s spread from person to person. A recent outbreak of the killer virus in Africa has led to many people questioning whether they should stay away.

We take a look at how dangerous Ebola is and whether you should be worried if you are planning on travelling to Africa. 

What is Ebola?

A virus which first appeared in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1972, it is fatal to humans in around 90% of cases.

Spread from wild animals to humans via the blood, secretions, organs or bodily fluids – often by handling dead bodies of infected animals – the virus can then be spread from person to person. It can’t be caught by simply breathing the same air; the Ebola virus requires direct contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, transmitted either through broken skin or via mucous membranes. 

The symptoms are sudden and severe, with fever, extreme weakness, muscular pains, sore throat and headache. This is quickly followed by a rash, diarrhoea, vomiting, impaired liver and kidney function and sometimes internal bleeding. 

There is no effective vaccination and no specific cure. Treatment consists of intensive care support, with oral rehydration. There are no drugs which can help at present. 

Sounds terrible, should I be scared?

In a word, no.

Although Ebola is undoubtedly a highly unpleasant virus with the potential to cause severe illness and even death, the chances of catching it are more or less non-existent, particularly if you follow advice.

The latest outbreak may have hit the headlines, but when considered in relation to other diseases in Africa, it pales into insignificance.

So far in 2014, more than 800 people have died from Ebola, an unquestionable tragedy for the individuals and their families. But during the same period, more than 600,000 will have died from tuberculosis and a further 300,000 from malaria. 

Ebola manages to capture attention because the symptoms can be dramatic and horrifying, such as bleeding from the eyelids. But in reality, the virus is not that easy to transmit, and easily avoidable if you take the right precautions. 

The World Health Organisation suggest wearing gloves and protective clothing when touching or handling wild animals or their dead bodies and that all raw meat derived from wild animals is cooked thoroughly prior to consumption. Avoid communities where there is a known Ebola outbreak, and don’t have any contact with the bodily fluids of individuals infected with the virus.

Even if you visit Africa on a safari, you won’t be touching or handling the wild animals or going near infected Ebola villages so there really is no risk. All of the above measures are sensible, and easily followed.

The Ebola virus may sound terrifying, and rightly so, but compared to other infectious diseases it’s very easily contained.

Need more convincing?

If you are still feeling unsure about how dangerous the Ebola virus really is, consider it in relation to a killer disease which is already on our shores.

With another surge expected to arise once again in the coming months, hospitals across the UK will be deluged with cases, making millions of people very ill and killing thousands more. By this time next year, worldwide the disease will have wiped out between 250,000 and 500,000 individuals, with many thousands of these deaths occurring in the UK.

There’s no cure for this disease, and no specific treatment. The vaccine only offers limited protection and doesn’t guarantee you won’t be infected with a different strain. It’s highly infectious and is an airborne virus, which means you can catch it simply from being in the same room as an infected person.

The facts don’t make pleasant reading yet this disease is amongst us now and you could be at risk. The name of it? Influenza.

The simple flu virus is far more dangerous than many people appreciate and causes many similar symptoms to Ebola. Far more easy to transmit from person to person, and affecting a far greater number of individuals, flu will kill more people in the UK this year than Ebola will in the whole of Africa. 

Conclusion

Understanding Ebola and how to avoid it is a sensible precaution but it’s essential to keep matters in proportion. Ebola may have hit the headlines, like the SARS virus in 2003, but in reality the risk of catching it are negligible. Easily containable, and far more difficult to catch than everyday viruses such as flu, there’s absolutely no reason why Ebola should cause any concern for individuals planning on travelling to Africa, either now or in the future. 

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How to choose your African safari holiday

If you have never enjoyed the thrills of seeing Africa by safari, it’s easy to assume that all safaris are one and the same.

However, there’s a huge range of safaris on offer, with variations not just in destinations, but the type of accommodation and activities you will experience too.

Africa is a fascinating country and no matter what your age or level of fitness, there’s a safari which you can enjoy. Here’s a guide to some of the different things you might find. 

Types of accommodation

A safari offers the opportunity to get back to basics, and escape the trappings of fancy hotels, sleeping out under the starry skies. But this kind of holiday accommodation isn’t for everyone so there are also safaris which offer more conventional sleeping arrangements too. 

For the wild at heart and adventurous, safaris which rely on mobile tented camps can be found all over Africa. This allows the group to set its own itinerary, moving on as and when needed. This is used for short safaris but is also perfect for longer treks as it provides more flexibility as well as being a once in a lifetime experience. 

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Accommodation is an important aspect to consider.

Camps which are semi-permanent offer a good halfway choice between tents and hotels, having slightly more facilities and providing a greater degree of comfort. Usually much larger and set up in areas which are less remote, there’s typically proper toilet facilities as well as hot and cold water.

If you don’t fancy compromising your night-time comfort, there are game lodges and strategically placed hotels dotted all over the region. This allows you to have the best of both worlds, seeing the landscape and wild animals during the day, but relaxing in a soft bed when the sun sets.

Activities

Most people associate a safari with big game viewing but there’s much more you could enjoy, either instead or as well as the traditional activities.

For big game viewing, some of the countries that offer the best opportunities are Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

Although you can never guarantee what animals you will see, these countries offer the most prolific opportunities to see the Big Five: lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo. There’s plenty more you could see too such as zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, cheetah, hippo and maybe even a gorilla.

If you want a different experience, you could opt for a walking safari, or a foot trek. These types of tours are not for the faint hearted, even though you will be in the company of a professional guide. The terrain can vary and for full game-tracking can be demanding and rugged underfoot. A reasonable degree of fitness is therefore required. 

Away from the wildlife, there are plenty of cultural safaris too. Although they may also involve seeing the animals, you will also have the chance to visit local villages, getting to know the locals and seeing their way of life first hand. 

And if you are craving a bit of time relaxing on the beach, Africa offers some of the most stunning stretches of coastline where you can take the time to recharge your batteries between game drives. 

A safari for everyone

In the past safaris have been associated with adventurers seeking a high-octane adrenaline experience. 

Whilst this type of safari can certainly be offered, there’s much more besides. 

Safaris are suitable for the whole family and even the needs of young children can be catered too whilst still enjoying all the sights. Your safari provider will be able to discuss with you what tours are suitable for children, or how to create a tailor-made experience for you and your family. 

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Safaris are being catered to a wide variety of people.

If you want to pack in as much as possible but don’t have as much time as you would like, a safari which replaces time on the road with flights between lodges is an alternative. Using light aircraft to transport you between destinations you will see Africa from the air, and will leave with your camera crammed full of pictures! 

Conclusion

An African safari comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and by planning your perfect itinerary you

Image credits: Gunn Shots and Squeaky Marmot

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Revealing a new Africa for the future

The head of prestigious hotel chain, Marriott International, has announced plans to expand further across Africa in a bid to meet the growing demands of the middle class locals.

Arne Sorenson, CEO of the group, spoke to USA today to describe why the hotel group believes that there’s a change afoot within Africa, and why the continent offers some of the best opportunities for development.

A stable base

Marriott International is already the largest hotel chain in Africa, having established a stable base in nine different countries, with more than 130 hotels.

The group’s presence in the continent was given a huge boost when it acquired Protea Hotel Group in April of this year, adding 116 hotels to its chain. 

Marriott International believe that there is a growing need to build on this foundation, and has announced it will be investing $200 million into development plans across Africa, moving into an additional 7 countries. 

Male Lion at Sunrise, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, East Africa

Africa is currently being looked at and how it can be built for the future.

These plans which were announced at the US Africa Business Forum means Marriott will have a presence in 16 countries, after opening a further 36 hotels and recruiting 10,000 new members of staff. The hotel chain hopes to have the work completed by 2020.

The changing face of Africa

In the past, Africa has been viewed very much as a holiday destination which provides a different experience for visitors from the west.

However, Arne Sorenson says that Africa is a region which has a growing need for accommodation from the middle class local population and that the US has the wrong perception of what the continent now offers.

The CEO went on to describe the opportunities which currently exist within Africa and the need to develop a strong brand in order to provide necessary services not to travellers, but the local population saying,

“Well the growth is exciting in Africa. You’ve got two things happening. One is (gross domestic product) is growing quickly in many countries in Africa. That growth means opportunities for us. The second thing about Africa is it’s got a hugely growing middle class. There are about a billion people. They are young. And that growth in the future means that those folks will be traveling within Africa but also traveling outside Africa. We want to make sure they know our brands.”

These facts are changing outsider’s perception of Africa as a continent based mainly on tribal areas, with poor economic stability or growth.

The head of Marriott went on to admit that there was a long way to go before Africa becomes one of the global economic power houses, but suggested that growth will continue at 5% or more for the continent as a whole in the coming years, a substantial and impressive achievement if borne out. 

A continent of diversity

With more than 50 countries in Africa, it’s impossible to generalise about the culture or what Arne Sorenson says is “their story”. However, it’s certainly true that overall there’s a growing move towards greater stability, even in the north which was adversely affected by the Arab Spring.

Local travel is expected to continue to grow in demand, which is one of the reasons why Marriott is so keen to establish a strong presence across the whole area. 

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Job growth in Africa is an aim.

But with job growth and greater economic stability, there’s a good chance there will be more travel further afield by Africans, and recognising the Marriott brand at home can only benefit the hotel chain in destination elsewhere in the world.

Image credits: Diana_robinson and DigitalRob70

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A guide to gorilla trekking, the ultimate safari experience

Being on safari in Africa means you will have the opportunity to see a wealth of wild animals including lion, elephant, leopard and hippo.

But one of the most elusive animals, and one of the most endangered on the planet, requires a bit more effort to see it in its natural habitat. 

The mountain gorillas of Uganda cannot be seen in captivity anywhere else in the world, and the opportunity to see them amongst the stunning Ugandan landscape is truly a once in a lifetime experience. 

Here’s a guide to gorilla trekking, the ultimate safari experience.

The gorillas

Located in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the mountain gorillas live in family groups, a number of which have been habituated. This means they are prepared for human visitors, a process which can take a very long time to establish.

Being habituated doesn’t mean that aren’t natural or are trained, the behaviour you will see is entirely as nature intended. The process of habituating gorillas means visiting them every day until they become accustomed to seeing small groups of people watching them. Only once the process has been established and the gorillas are deemed as safe will a family group be opened up for tourists. 

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Gorillas are an amazing animal to see up close.

In order to see mountain gorillas in the wild, you will need to obtain a permit.

The permits will specify which family group you will visit and your guides will track down these animals; you aren’t just looking for any sighting of a gorilla. Before you arrive at the park for the day, the guides will have already been out to establish the movements of the gorillas so you won’t have to trek so far to find them. 

Am I guaranteed a sighting?

The gorillas are wild animals and there are no guarantees that you will see them during your trek, even if you hold a permit.

However, the guides are very experienced in working with the gorillas and will provide you with the best possible chance of seeing them. In the vast majority of cases, visitors will see the gorillas; it’s quite rare to be unlucky.

It can take a number of hours to trek to the gorilla’s location, depending which family you are visiting. Some groups have a tendency to live nearer the edges of the rain forest whilst others are usually to be found in the depths.

How fit do I need to be?

Hiking to see the gorillas does involve some exercise so individuals who have severe mobility restrictions may not be able to meet the demands. However, having said that, a 94 year old lady was carried by teams of willing volunteers to see the gorillas so anything is possible!

The demands of the terrain will depend on where you see the gorillas and which family group you will be visiting. Those that are located in the heart of the rainforest will take much longer to reach and inevitably, you will need to be fitter to cope with the journey to get there. 

Talk to your safari organiser in advance and they will be able to accommodate your needs accordingly. 

If you have a cold, flu, virus or other infectious disease you won’t be permitted to trek to the see the gorillas as the impact on the animals could be deadly. 

What clothes should I bring?

The rainforest where the gorillas live is a warm and humid place but wearing shorts and T-shirts would be a huge mistake.

Although you will want to keep cool, you’ll also want to be protected from bites and scratches from insects and vegetation. For this reason, long trousers and sleeves are essential along with a lightweight waterproof coat in the case of afternoon showers. It’s called the rainforest for a very good reason!

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Gorillas are a top feature of safaris.

Gardening gloves aren’t an essential but protect your hands as well as being thick enough to allow you to grasp onto vines and other shrubs without the risk of getting hurt. 

And when it comes to your feet, don’t risk sandals. A pair of proper walking boots or shoes will stop you sliding around the muddy tracks and will ensure that you don’t have to work harder than necessary to remain upright!

Conclusion

The landscape in and around Uganda is simply magical and once you enter the rainforest, it’s like being transported to another kingdom. Taking the right clothes and understanding what lies ahead of you will ensure that you know what to expect and will allow you to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.

Image credits: Nailbender and Wichid

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Adventure Holidays in Africa Will Bring a Lifetime of Memories

If you yearn for an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday hassles, and the chance to sample a totally different way of life, an African adventure holiday could be just what you need.

The chance to sample the real Africa up close and personal, sleeping and rising with the sun, is an experience you are guaranteed you will never forget.

You can expect to make new friends from all over the world and see a different place every day, as well as enjoying some of the most magnificent wildlife, such as lions, elephants and even gorillas. Here are a few more reasons why an adventure holiday in Africa truly will create a lifetime of memories. 

Hands on

On a safari trip out in the bush, each day involves setting up camp and cooking food for the group. Although you might have occasional nights in a more luxurious location, much of the time is spent out in the wilderness, under the African stars.

Although you will have a driver who is experienced, knowledgeable and a great source of information, all guests have to take an active role in providing for the group.

This means taking turns in cooking dinner or breakfast, as well as helping out with group tasks such as preparing water for washing.

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A refreshing morning shower – African style!

Image Source: http://www.africantrails.co.uk/transblog/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/week90.jpg 

The chances are that you will have never haggled in an African market for fresh vegetables, or bought freshly caught fish to cook over a camp fire. An adventure holiday in Africa will provide you with all of these experiences, allowing you to get a good feel for what it’s like to live in this wonderfully diverse continent. 

A natural way of life

In the modern world, most people’s lives are dominated by their alarm clocks rather than a natural rhythm.

On an African adventure holiday, your body clock is the most important, with camp waking up as the sun rises around 6am every morning and starting to wind down for the day when the sun sets at 6pm.

You might not be used to getting up that early, or going to bed before midnight, but once you adjust to the new routine, you will find it’s a far more natural way of living and entirely in tune with your surroundings. 

After you return home and wrench yourself from the comfort of your duvet, you will yearn for the days when you could sleep and wake with the sun rather than stumbling from your sleep in the darkness of winter mornings.

The people

You will have the chance to talk to locals during your African adventure, and not just the superficial chat that you might get over a shop counter. 

Although you might be eating meals from the truck’s supplies on most nights, lunches are often taken at small cafes and eateries found on route. These are tucked away in the middle of the African bush and are places typically frequented by locals, rather than visitors from overseas.

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Talking to the locals is a fascinating experience

Image Source: http://www.africantrails.co.uk/images/galleries/4/cache/thumb_DAN_7570_adaptiveResize_624_288.JPG 

Living in the real Africa away from tourist traps will give you the chance to get to know these people you meet on your travels. Many adventurers have been left with captivating memories of talking to a real Masai Warrior out on the road, a once in a lifetime experience that you simply couldn’t get anywhere else. 

The wildlife

Of course, one of the reasons why many people come to Africa is to experience the stunning scenery and to see the wildlife up close and personal.

Although nothing can ever be guaranteed – the wildlife are wild after all! – Most safaris manage to see the animals that everyone is hoping for. 

Words simply can’t describe the elation at seeing elegant giraffe graze in their natural habitat, muscle-bound lions surveying their territory and burly elephants gathering in their family groups.

There’s something very different about seeing wildlife where it belongs to be, rather than in a zoo, with the freedom to run across the savannah and feel the hot African sun on their back. 

There are lots of landscapes to experience too; as well as the desolate arid beauty of the plains, there’s also the lush rainforests where you might be lucky enough to spot the silverback gorillas, to white sandy beaches and tranquil lake resorts. 

Wildlife flourishes in all of these places so wherever you go, keep a camera close by because you never know what you might unexpectedly see pop up!

Conclusion 

An African adventure has to be experienced to be truly understood; there’s nothing that can be compared to sleeping out under the huge starlit sky after an exciting day surrounded by hippos, baboon, leopards and lion. You will want to make sure you bring plenty of memory cards for your camera as you won’t be able to take enough photos during your trip. But no matter how many pictures you snap, you will always have the irreplaceable memories of your time spent on an adventure in Africa, a simply unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever.

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Essential Health Care Tips for your African Adventure Holiday

If you’re bored with spending your holidays lazing by the pool or basking on the beach, an African safari can offer a real taste of adventure leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalised.

But being a more exotic location means that you need to prepare in advance to make sure you meet the health requirements, as well as taking care of yourself after you arrive.

Here are a few essential health care tips which will ensure that you enjoy your African adventure holiday.

Vaccines

If you check the regulations you might find that you don’t need to have any vaccinations in order to be able to travel.

However, there is a big difference between what is legally required and what is recommended, and in order to avoid falling ill, it’s a very good idea to have some vaccinations before you travel.

You should obtain advice about what’s best for the area to which you are travelling, but as a general rule getting vaccinated against yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, polio (booster) and typhoid is a must. You might also want to consider getting protection against rabies.

Malaria

There is no vaccination against malaria so if you are travelling to a high risk area, you will need to take a course of preventative medication before you arrive. 

There are lots of different medications available so speak to either your GP or the pharmacist to find out which type you will need. 

The NHS website, Fit for Travel, has a lot of excellent information about whether anti-malarial treatment will be required.  

Even if you do take anti-malarial treatment, it will not absolutely guarantee you immunity; it reduces your chance by around 90%. You should therefore still take steps after you arrive to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos, such as sleeping under an insecticide-treated net and covering up with loose clothing.

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Avoid the mosquito and its bite at all costs

Necessary supplies

You won’t want to pack too much for an African adventure holiday but if you are going to be staying in remote areas, with no access to shops such as chemists, then you need to take some essentials with you.

A basic first aid kit is a good idea; plasters, gauze roll, adhesive tape, anti-histamines, diarrhoea treatment, oral rehydration treatments and painkillers can all be helpful to have on you.

If you don’t have to use the rehydration treatments, give them to a local before you leave. Dehydration often kills young children in Africa and a simple rehydration treatment could save a life.

After you arrive

Even if you are fully prepared, you will still need to take precautions after you arrive.

Never under-estimate the heat of the African sun; even if you already have a healthy tan, slap on the sunscreen from the minute you are due to step outside. At dawn, the air may seem cool and the weather overcast and cloudy but within a few hours; it will be scorching hot and sunny. Don’t risk getting caught out.

Being out in the bush means that you will come into contact with plenty of flies; they are part of the natural environment and can’t be avoided. These insects could well include biting horseflies. Therefore take plenty of insect repellent and smother yourself in it morning and night to avoid feeling like a human pin-cushion.

Swimming in fresh water

Whilst on safari it can be very tempting to enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal clear fresh waters that you will find on your travels.

Although you might be told that the waters on safe, it’s not recommended that you swim in any fresh water in Africa, or even wade in. This is because of the presence of the parasite which causes bilharzia (schistosomiasis).

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An infestation of Bilharzia

Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/27/Schistosomiasis_itch.jpeg 

This nasty parasite burrows into the skin of swimmers and if it isn’t treated properly can cause long term and permanent damage. Different treatments are effective during different parts of the parasite’s life cycle, so even though you may see medication for sale whilst in Africa, it won’t usually work.

Nearly all of the fresh waters in Africa are contaminated by this parasite so the risk is extremely high. Don’t swim, paddle or wash with water collected from a lake unless it has been treated.

Conclusion

Going on an African adventure holiday should be a fun experience and if you follow a few basic rules, there’s no reason why you won’t have a thrilling time. The above steps are just a few sensible precautions which will help ensure you stay safe whilst enjoying yourself along the way.

Image Credits: NIAID and Wikipedia

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