We are delighted to have been nominated in the British Travel Awards 2018 in the “Best Safari, Wildlife & Nature Holiday Company” and “Best Holiday Company to Africa” categories.
These industry-leading awards are often called the Oscars of the travel industry, and the winners are decided by public vote and announced at a gala dinner in London later in the year.
Voting is really simple using the form here, and everybody who votes is entered into a prize draw to win one of a number of fantastic holidays and travel prizes. It’s not limited to UK residents, so our overseas clients can vote too.
Voting closes at midnight on the 30th September, and the prize draw winners will be notified by email address week commencing 15th October 2018.
The British Travel Awards winners will be announced awards winners will be announced at a gala dinner in London on Wednesday 28th November. Fingers crossed that we can repeat the success we have enjoyed with other awards over the past few years!
Many thanks for your support, and good luck in the prize draw!
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With the awards season well under way, we are thrilled to hear that we have just been awarded our third Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award based on independent reviews by our customers on Feefo.com.
Our heartfelt thanks to all the clients that have given us such lovely reviews on Feefo over the last year, and also to the outstanding safari lodges, hotels, guest houses and transport companies who deliver such exceptional experiences to our clients and are always there to work with us in the event that something goes awry.
You can see reviews of Travel Butlers on the Feefo website and also read more about their Trusted Service Awards.
Although we are very grateful for the award, we are a little disappointed to find out that there is not a ceremony where we can dance to the sound of our own trumpet. Having said that, at least that means we do not have to sit through hours of speeches…
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I remember when I went on my first safaris over 15 years ago (ouch!), I was fascinated by everything I saw. Well… nearly everything.
Of course, initially I was more interested in the more spectacular wildlife – lions, leopards, elephants and rhino in particular, and especially if they were hunting or had young with them. Over time I became more interested in the smaller things, and came to appreciate how the breeding cycle of the impala, or behavior of baboons could be just as fascinating as anything that the Big 5 might have to offer.
But I have always remained fairly ambivalent to the charms of Africa’s birds…until recently.
Now obviously vultures and eagles are exceptions to this rule, and it was a few years back that I first I found myself keen see, photograph and understand them a little. But the pretty little kingfishers, bee-eaters and other feathered wildlife have slowly come to win me over to such an extent that I recently found myself photographing carmine bee-eaters and lilac-breasted rollers just as enthusiastically and I have always photographed lions, leopards and elephants.
Below are a selection of my pictures from our last few trips to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia…as you can see the variety and colour of the bird life in southern Africa is spectacular, and I really have no idea why it took me so long to take an interest in these spectacular creatures.
Hover over the images to identify the species if that sort of thing interests you…
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We have long heard various people saying that Zambia is ideal for safari connoisseurs and people on their third or fourth safari, whilst South Africa and Kenya are often cited as being the best option for first timers. But is there any reason why Zambia would not work for someone on their first safari?
We decided to spend 9 nights travelling to some of Zambia’s best loved national parks and safari lodges to see how the experience there compares to that in South Africa’s Kruger Park area, which is a firm favourite with first timers and seasoned safari veterans alike. This is what we found:
- Both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi are really beautiful parks, with the Lower Zambezi being especially stunning due to the permanently flowing Zambezi river which is kept at fairly consistent levels as a result of the Kariba Dam. The Luangwa River is not damned and water levels do vary across the season, meaning the park can get quite dusty toward the end of the dry season and there are also a number of smaller rivers which dry-up altogether, however this natural variation in water levels means that animals move around the reserve in search of water and grazing throughout the dry safari season. We love the Kruger Park, however we would say that both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi are prettier and feel more remote.
- Some of the camps in South Luangwa are open all year round, however a large number are seasonal and only open in the dry season (April-November) as many roads in the park cannot be driven in the rainy season. In the Lower Zambezi, the safari season is limited to the drier months between April and November, when the roads are accessible. The lodges around Kruger are open all year as the area has better all-weather roads and does not have such a pronounced rainy season.
- South Luangwa offers excellent walking safari options, with shorter game walks offered by the majority of camps, and some operators offering longer walks with the opportunity to walk between different camps, giving you the opportunity for a true safari adventure. Many camps in Kruger offer bush walks, however we would say that South Luangwa is definitely the better option for keen walkers.
- Both South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi offer a number of water based safari options that are not available in Kruger. In South Luangwa these are seasonal depending on the river levels after the rains, however in the Lower Zambezi water based activities are offered at all times when the lodges are open. Water based activities including boat safaris, canoeing, sunset cruises and lunches on the river add a whole new dimension to your safari, and are highly recommended if you get the opportunity.
- Whilst some parts of the Zambian parks are busier than others ( especially in the Mfuwe area of South Luangwa ), the busiest areas of both parks are noticeably less busy with tourists than the busiest areas of Kruger.
- Kruger remains probably the best option for people looking for a good chance to see all of the Big-5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo) in a relatively short space of time, and neither South Luangwa or Lower Zambezi have any rhino, so if seeing the whole of the Big-5 or seeing rhino are priorities then Kruger would be the best bet. We had some fantastic sightings of lion and leopard, and the elephant sightings at both parks were exceptional. In fact I think that Lower Zambezi probably had the largest number of consistently impressive elephant sightings of any park we have visited in the last few years.
- Both of the Zambian reserves and Kruger are excellent for birders, however South Luangwa deserves a special mention for the huge numbers of beautiful carmine bee eaters that migrate to the area to nest from late August/early September.
- South Luangwa has a greater variety of game than Lower Zambezi, including giraffe and a larger population of zebra, and South Luangwa also appears to offer more frequent Leopard sightings. Lower Zambezi is probably the prettier of the two, and definitely has the edge on water based activities and elephant sightings.
So, we would definitely be happy to recommend Zambia as a safari destination for first timers to Africa, and with one of the seven wonders of the world also in Zambia we believe a holiday that includes the following would be a real winner:
- South Africa: Cape Town (stunning coastline, table mountain, rich history, Cape Winelands, penguin colony, whale watching in season)
- Zambia: Livingstone (for Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the natural world)
- Zambia: South Luangwa (good variety of game that is regularly seen, excellent leopard sightings, fantastic walking safaris)
- Zambia: Lower Zambezi (one of the most beautiful parks we have visited, wonderful river activities, fabulous elephant sightings)
Surely that is a holiday that a first timer could enjoy just as much as the hardened safari enthusiast? If you need further convincing, below are a few pictures from our recent trip to South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi towards the end of the dry season in October 2017.
South Luangwa National Park
Lower Zambezi National Park
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Well it was a long time ago, but we never forget a face! We have written previously about how a holiday to South Africa inspired us to take a career break in 2003 which ultimately lead to us setting-up Travel Butlers…well imagine our surprise and delight when we bumped into our first safari guide when we stayed at Kafunta River Lodge as part of our recent trip to Zambia.
Andrew was our guide on our very first safari back in 2002 when he was working at Savanna Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand, and his knowledge and enthusiasm helped spark our own love of the safari experience. We had a great time at Savanna and were lucky to have some amazing sightings during our stay including leopard with three tiny cubs, a huge pride of lion hunting 300+ buffalo under a full moon and many others. Following those few days we ended-up leaving the security of corporate employment, training to be safari guides ourselves, and then setting up Travel Butlers in July 2003. So it was a truly life-changing experience for us, and is it any wonder that as we arrived at Kafunta to be met by the staff and management we were able to recognise Andrew immediately despite the intervening years?
This is not the first time our paths have crossed since 2002 – we bumped into each other at Dulini lodge in the Sabi Sands a few years ago – however it was fantastic to be able to catch-up again, and thank Andrew for his part in the Travel Butlers story.
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