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The Travel Butlers Blog

The land that inspired the Lion King… Reasons to start planning a trip to Tanzania

PaulCampbell - October 3, 2016

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-portrait-cute-little-lion-cub-looking-you-photo-collection-month-old-male-very-creature-image32620936There are many reasons why a trip to Tanzania should be on your bucket list.  Here are six of the best.

The East African country of Tanzania is one of Africa’s top safari destinations, and it’s easy to see why. Home to wildlife-filled game parks including the famous Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater with those iconic vast open plains, Tanzania is the stuff nature documentaries are made of. In addition to amazing wilderness areas, Tanzania also boasts Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, which is a listing on many an adventure traveller’s bucket list. Off the coast is the beautiful tropical island of Zanzibar, which lures visitors with its white-sand beaches, clear warm water full of fish and exotic culture – offering a relaxing beach break as a perfect complement to game viewing and mountain climbing.

Thinking about planning a trip to Tanzania? Here are our top five reasons to go on safari in Tanzania to give you a big shot of East African inspiration.

A little place called Zanzibar

After your wildlife safari or Kilimanjaro trek, there’s a good chance you’ll need some beach time. Zanzibar Island is not only a beach gem surrounded by warm Indian Ocean waters. It’s also a fascinating cultural melting pot. European, Asian and African traders have used it as a travel hub for centuries. There are thousands of nice beaches in the world, but the quirks of Zanzibar add the right amount of spice to this one.

Zanzibar is an archipelago of historic Indian Ocean islands, awash with atmosphere, intrigue, and idyllic beach experiences. Zanzibar has a wide range of accommodation choices and plenty to see, do and discover. It is the perfect place to relax after an exhilarating safari or climbing Kilimanjaro. It is also a glorious paradise for honeymooners or a romantic holiday getaway. As the site of Sultans’ palaces and renowned for its spice plantations, the little island republic of Zanzibar is a must-see for any visitor to Tanzania.

While Tanzania is amazing for big game safaris, it is also a popular beach safari destination, with the archipelago of Zanzibar, which is less than 60 kilometres off the coast from the mainland in the warm Indian Ocean. Two large islands, Unguja (normally referred to as Zanzibar Island) and Pemba, as well as several smaller islands make up the archipelago. On budget-friendly Zanzibar, there are plenty of gorgeous palm-fringed beaches on which to kick back and relax, amazing snorkelling spots on coral reefs, and sailing trips on traditional dhows.

Ngorogoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater is another of the most pristine wildernesses on earth, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to being the world’s largest intact crater. On the crater floor, grassland blends into swamps, lakes, rivers, woodland and mountains – all a haven for wildlife, including the largest predator population in Africa. The Big Five even call this volcanic crater home, and it is one of the last wild refuges for the black rhino.

The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest unflooded and unbroken crater in the world, the site of a massive once-active volcano. Three hundred square kilometres in area, the crater is home to some of the densest population of wildlife found anywhere on the planet, particularly lions and predators. On every game drive you do in this wildlife haven, you’re guaranteed to encounter loads of species of animals, from lions and elephant to giraffe and hyena. Apart from the amazing wildlife, the crater is a breathtaking visual spectacle making it a photographer’s paradise. The best views are when you’re on the edge looking down into the lush emerald-green caldera, topped by a deep blue cloud-studded sky.

Kilimanjaro

If you think trekking to the summit of the world’s second highest mountain is out of the realm of possibility, think again.  Summiting Kilimanjaro is one of the few surprisingly do-able real adventures left in the world.

See the “Roof of Africa” when you climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s most famous and tallest peak at nearly 6000 metres above sea level. The dormant volcanic mountain draws climbers from all around the world to ascend its summit, an adventurous multi-day trek that takes in strenuous hiking as well as spectacular scenery. The great thing about climbing Kili, one of Africa’s best adventure activities, is that you don’t need specialised climbing gear or years of climbing experience – just a professional guide, warm hiking clothes and a good level of fitness!

The Serengeti

The Serengeti offers the quintessential African safari experience. Picture rolling savanna and grasslands teeming with game – especially during the migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra, one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles. The best time to see the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is in June and July, but if you don’t manage to visit the park during these months, don’t worry! The Serengeti is amazing year round, and you’ll still get a chance to see the Big Five.

The Great Migration

The great wildebeest migration has also recently been proclaimed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. This annual event is when visitors can bear witness to some six million hooves pounding across the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeests’ trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers some of the most scintillating game viewing in Africa.

Much of the annual migration cycle takes place in Tanzania, from the frenzied crossing of the Mara River in the north of the Serengeti in August and September, to a two-month bout of birthing in February and March on the Ndutu Plains, before the 1,000km pilgrimage begins again.

The people

tanzania 2012 1277There are a few different tribes who make their lives in the bush, but the most well-known is the colorfully dressed Maasai. While in country, one should 100% take a day to visit a Maasai village, browse its hand crafted wares, meet its hunters, and see its children.

The ancient nomadic stewards of much of the Rift Valley region are the iconic Maasai. They are among the most well known local tribes due to living in traditional Maasai villages near the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. They are most recognised by their distinctive customs and dress; their stunning bright robes, beaded jewellery and remarkable height have fascinated visitors for decades.

And there is so much more!

In addition to these stunning, world famous attractions, Tanzania has countless other fantastic destinations and experiences that may be less well known, but  are no less wonderful.  From the chimps of the Mahale Mountains in the west of the country, to the vast Ruaha and Selous national parks and secluded getaways on Pemba Island there are countless options for getting off the beaten track…

Does Tanzania sound like your kind of place?  If so, why not chat to our friendly and knowledgeable team about planning your ultimate Tanzania adventure?

Perfect Places to Pop the Question

PaulCampbell - February 14, 2016

The thing about getting hitched these days is that the bar has been set pretty damn high and, let’s face it, getting down on one knee during dinner at your local restaurant just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Now we may be a teeny bit biased here (okay, very biased) but when it comes to what makes an amazing backdrop for a jaw-dropping proposal we think Africa has it all – incredible natural beauty, an air of magic and sunsets to die for.

So we’ve compiled a list of some of THE coolest places to propose that will virtually guarantee an answer in the affirmative and significantly increase your brownie points credit in the process.  Now all that’s left for you to do is to decide when and where to do it…

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-busy-dune-image2074464Stargazing in the Namib Desert One of the best places in the world for stargazing.  Relax in the comfort of your private ‘skybed’ and surprise your partner under a sky filled with a million stars.

Seal the Deal: head to Sossusvlei and climb to the top of the immense Dune 45.  It’s a toughie, but goodie and seeing the sun rise over the blood-orange desert dunes is a moment that will stay with you both forever.  Stay at Little Kulala, quite possibly the most romantic place on earth!

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-wreck-image12546920Where two oceans meet A proposal at the Southern-most tip of Africa will earn you a few good bragging rights and pave the way for an annual pilgrimage in future years to come.  Cape Agulhas is a beautiful stretch of coastline, easily accessible from Cape Town.

Seal the Deal: stop off for an overnight stay in Swellendam and enjoy a spot of wine tasting before heading back to the city.  Stay at De Kloof Luxury Estate or Jan Harmsgat Country House.  Wine tasting can be done at the Robertson wine route.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-hot-air-balloon-over-masai-mara-image6071658Hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara Your intended will be literally blown away by this one!  Experience the Mara with its spectacular wildlife from a totally different aspect and witness a sunrise like no other. Silently breath-taking is the best way to describe this experience.

Seal the Deal: come back to earth with a bump and enjoy a fantastic champagne breakfast to toast the happy event!  Stay at Mara Ngenche Safari Camp for a true ‘Out of Africa’ safari experience (they also make a pretty mean G&T).

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-victoria-falls-bridge-image13139680On a tandem bungee-jump at Victoria Falls If your chosen one is a thrill seeker why not mix this bucket list essential with the most important day of your life?  The spine-tingling thrill of a 120mph, four second free-fall will be nothing compared to hearing yours truly utters the words “I do”!

Seal the deal: keep the adrenaline pumping with a spot of white-water rafting down the Zambezi River.  Stay at Stanley Safari Lodge and kick back, sundowners in hand, to watch an amazing African sunset while you soak it all in.

 

SabiSand-Dreamstime-CopyrightFINALOn safari out in the African bush Those lucky enough to have experienced it will tell you that an African safari has a kind of inexplicable magic.  A sense of space and wildness coupled with mesmerizing sights, sounds and smells is guaranteed to awaken the senses.

Seal the Deal: arrange a night game drive before heading back to your private lodge.  Stay at the exclusive Londolozi Varty Camp or spend a night under the stars in your own luxury treehouse at Lion Sands Narina Lodge.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-table-mountain-summer-image1678888At the summit of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, with a chilled bottle of South African wine and a couple of glasses.  Expect enthusiastic applause (and a few damp eyes) from the inquisitive tourists who flock there every day.

Seal the deal: book a romantic dinner at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, overlooking the ocean.  Stay at The Bay in Camps Bay or head back to the city and stay at The Table Bay Hotel (be sure to request a mountain-view room).

 

Breezes-CopyrightFINALOn a tropical island paradise For a truly barefoot proposal stay on the picture-postcard island of Zanzibar and propose at the ocean’s edge.  The icing on the cake will be returning to relive your memories on an African beach and safari honeymoon adventure!

Seal the deal: arrange a magical sunset cruise on board a traditional dhow. Stay at The Palms, an exclusive and intimate getaway which is the epitome of romance.

Why elephants are more like us than we may think (and where to see them in the wild)

PaulCampbell - January 31, 2016

Elephants are one of the coolest species on the planet and for good reason. Did you know that one of the largest and most famous African elephants was called Jumbo, his name thought to be derived from the Swahili word for ‘boss’ or ‘chief’. He is the reason we use the word ‘jumbo’ as a way of describing enormous things.

Now, when it comes to looks it is fair to say that elephants don’t have it all (compared to some other Africa wildlife): grey, wrinkly skin, sticky-out ears and big baggy knees (a bit like some of us, really).  But looks aside, the fact is we have a lot more in common with these intelligent giants than you may think so let us tell you why this is and where you can get acquainted with them.

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1. Brain Boxes.
Elephants are one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. Their brain weighs around 5 kg which is much more than the brain of any other land-based animal. Elephants have a more developed hippocampus than any other animal (the part of the brain responsible for emotion and spatial awareness).  They can even recognise their reflection in a mirror.

 

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2. In touch with their emotions.
Elephants commonly display emotions including grief, humour, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness and playfulness. Elephants demonstrate concern for members of their families and take care of weak or injured members of the herd. They grieve for their dead. When herds come across an unknown lone elephant that has died they will show it similar respect.

 

 

 

 

Elephant herd

3. Social butterflies.
An elephant herd is considered one of the most closely knit societies of any animal species and a female will only leave it if she dies or is captured by humans. Elephants show affection, frequently touching and caressing each other and entwining their trunks. They can communicate within their herd or between herds many kilometres away by stamping their feet and making sounds which are too low for human ears to perceive.

 

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4. They make incredibly cute babies.
Baby eles are incredibly cute beings.  A little known fact is that some babies take to sucking their trunk for comfort in much  the same way that humans suck their thumbs! Elephant females can have babies until they are about 50 years old. They tend to have a new baby every 2 to 4 years.

 

 

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5. Women wear the trousers.
Elephant herds are matriarchal, led by the oldest female in the group. She decides where and when they move and rest. Males leave the herd as they become adolescent, around the age of 12, and live in temporary “bachelor herds” (like our bachelor pads) until they are mature enough to live alone (much like our own men!).

 

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6. They have sensitive skin.
Elephants are susceptible to sunburn. To protect their little ones from the sun, adult elephants will douse them in sand and stand over them as they sleep.

7. No natural predators.
While it may be true that, like us, elephants have no natural predators, the sad fact is that it is us humans that present the biggest threat to their long-term survival, with increased poaching putting them in real danger of becoming extinct.  This highlights the critical importance of conservation and the amazing work being done by people to protect this incredible species.

Are you an ele-lover?  Here is our pick of the top five places to see African elephants in the wild. If a close encounter is what you long for let our friendly team help you to plan your perfect safari adventure to make your dream a reality.

Kruger National Park, South Africa is home to around 15,000 elephants and sightings are plentiful. Stay at Elephant Plains Game Lodge.

Chobe National Park, Botswana is home to the highest concentration of elephants in Africa. Stay at Savute Elephant Lodge.

Amboseli National Park , Kenya is famous for its elephant population and one of the best places to get up close to free-roaming elephants. Stay at Tortilis Camp.

Selous Game Reserve , Tanzania is a prime site for daily elephant encounters as they amble through camps on their way to watering holes. Stay at the Selous Riverside Safari Camp.

Damaraland , Namibia is home to the rare desert-dwelling elephants. Stay at Damaraland Camp.

Revealed: Our Top 5 Destinations For 2016

PaulCampbell - December 31, 2015

As winter storms batter the UK and the excesses of the Christmas celebrations give way to hopes and plans for the New Year, we thought we would share a little inspiration with anyone thinking of planning their 2016 holiday over the next few weeks. These are our top 5 destinations in Africa and the Indian Ocean for the coming year:

The Greater Kruger Park

DPP_0112_1600The Greater Kruger Park is our top pick as the place to go in 2016 for a fantastic safari experience and unbeatable value for money. This vast area of 20million hectares in the north-east of South Africa is one of the oldest and largest wildlife reserves on the continent, and a safari here will get you incredibly close to some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet.

A stay of 3 or 4 days will mean that you are almost guaranteed to see the Big 5, as well as seeing countless antelope, giraffe, zebra and maybe some less frequently spotted birds and animals.  There are lodges and camps to suit every taste and budget, from self-driving in the park, to private 3* tented camps where all meals and game drives are included, to the most spectacular and luxurious 5* lodges offered by the likes of Londolozi, Singita, and Lion Sands.

Kruger is always one of our favourite places to visit, but the icing on the cake at the moment is that current exchange rates mean that the majority of safari lodges are between 12% and 20% cheaper than in 2015!  For example, a 3 night stay at the 3* Shindzela Tented Safari Camp in June 2016 would cost £219 per person if you book now vs £279 for a stay in June 2015 booked last January.

Namibia

Sossusvlei-and-the-Namib-DesertA holiday in Namibia is like visiting another planet: there are spectacular desert landscapes, wide open spaces, amazing plants and wildlife, an other-worldly atmosphere unlike anywhere else.

From the towering red dunes of Sossusvlei and the spectacular rock formations of Damaraland, to the huge herds of Zebra, Springbok, Wildebeest that cross the vast salt pan of Etosha, Namibia is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to get away from it all and see nature at it’s best.

The Seychelles

Silhouette-IslandThe Seychelles are made up of beautiful and remote group of tropical islands hidden far away in the Indian Ocean. The larger islands of  Mahé, Praslin, Silhouette Island and La Digue are rock formations covered with lush tropical forests and fringed with white-sand beaches, whilst the smaller coral islands are tiny specs of paradise dotted in the vast ocean and perfect for anyone with a Robinson Crusoe fantasy to get out of their system.

We would definitely recommend visiting a couple of Islands during your stay if you can:  if you are only in the islands for a week you might want to base yourself in one place and make day trips using the excellent ferry services, however for longer stays we would suggest a little island hopping and staying on more than one island to really experience the best of what Seychelles has to offer.

As well as relaxing on the stunning beaches and enjoying the full range of water sports (diving, snorkeling, sailing, jet skis etc are all available in various places), there is plenty to do inland, especially on the larger islands. There are numerous golf courses, nature reserves with giant tortoises, cultural experiences, and Praslin is home to one of only two UNESCO protected forest where you can see the giant coco de mer palm.  Foodies will love the local cuisine, which is a mouth-watering fusion of Indian, African and European flavours.

There is plenty enough to do in the islands to make them a perfect holiday destination in their own right, however Seychelles can also be easily combined with a safari in East Africa or Southern Africa for the ultimate safari and beach experience!

 

The Masai Mara

Masai-Mara

A visit to the world-famous Masai Mara is something that will be on many travellers’ bucket list, and with it’s wide open spaces, huge herds of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles, and plenty of predators it is easy to see why it attracts many thousands of visitors each year.

Of course, the biggest draw (in just about every sense of the phrase)  is the Great Migration which passes through the Mara between August and October of each year as the huge herds cross from the Serengeti in search of fresh grass. There just aren’t words to describe the feeling of seeing this firsthand, and if you should be lucky enough to see a river crossing then we are sure that the memories will stay with you forever .

Of course, the migration is only part of the attraction of this magnificent park: many experienced visitors to Kenya choose to visit the Mara when the migration is not passing through as there is still plenty of resident game, prices and the lodges tend to be lower, and their are fewer other visitors to the park.

 

KwaZulu-Natal

The-DrakensbergCape Town and Kruger will always remain the main attractions for international visitors to South Africa, however we have always had a tremendous affection for KwaZulu-Natal.  This beautiful province is home to the imposing Drakensberg Mountains, some wonderful safari lodges, the historic battlefields of Zululand and miles-upon-miles of sandy beaches.

Given it’s wealth of attractions, we have always felt that this is a vastly underrated and relatively little visited region, but hopefully this is all set to change as Emirates and Turkish Airlines have been among the airlines to start offering flights straight to Durban without the need to go through Johannesburg. This makes the journey far easier, especially for anyone thinking of hiring a car to drive around the province (which we can highly recommend), and this along with the overall affordability of South Africa due to the weak Rand makes KwaZulu-Nata an excellent choice for your holiday in 2016.

 

Top 5 Places to See Lions In the Wild

TraceyCampbell - August 10, 2015

We have seen a lot of news articles recently about lions, well, one lion in particular, but today is not for mourning Cecil, but it is for remembering him and celebrating the existence of lions all over the world – present and past. Today is World Lion Day – the first global campaign to recognise the importance of the lion worldwide.

The future of lions is slowly moving towards extinction across Africa and India. Humans have lived alongside the King of the Jungle for thousands of years and today, there have never been a more pressing need to embrace the conservation of these magnificent creatures, to help them continue to remain in our lives for the foreseeable future. Lion conservation, raising awareness and education is paramount to their continued existence.

As a visitor to Africa, going on safari and being able to see lions in the wild is a magical experience. To watch them interact with each other in their pride, to understand and learn about their behaviour from your qualified ranger or field guide, to hear their gutteral roaring at night and to see them hunt together is an experience that most people will never forget. If seeing lion in the wild has always been on your bucket list, there are a number of places that you can visit to realise this dream. Here are our Top 5 destinations.

Masai Mara – Kenya
Home to the Big Cat Diary, the grassy plains of the Masai Mara, baked golden by the African sun have always been a firm favourite for lion lovers. The ready supply of antelope, zebra, and wildebeest means a constant supply of food for the resident prides – especially during the months of July through to September/October, when the Great Migration arrives from the drier Serengeti Plains into the Mara in search of the green grass here.

IMG_3004 Morning Game Drive from Porini Lion

Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve – South Africa
Sabi Sands is the most famous of the private reserves adjoining the Kruger National Park. Covering over 65,000 hectares of wild bushland, it offers possibly some of the best lion viewing opportunities to be found on the continent, and provide an unforgettable experience. The land is privately owned, so the game viewing vehicles are not restricted to the road network and it is therefore possible for the experienced guides to follow the prides through the bush and to get extremely close to the animals as they go about their daily way of life.

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Botswana
Botswana is now one of only 7 countries left with a lion population over 1,000 making it imperative to conserve the species in this country. In particular, you have the famous lions living in Savute who are known to specialise in preying on elephants, and a pride in Linyanti who hunt hippo. Visitors to the Okavango Delta may seen lions crossing the waterways from island to island in order to hunt.

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Ruaha National Park – Tanzania
The Ruaha National Park is renowned for its undisturbed wildlife and stunning, rugged scenery, as well as it’s flourishing lion population. It is estimated that Ruhaha is home to the 2nd largest lion population in Africa – so about 10% of all lions left in the world.

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South Luangwa National Park – Zambia
The Luangwa Valley has a healthy population of lion, and prides of up to 30 lions are common here. The birthplace too of the ‘walking safari’ you also can have the opportunity to approach prides on foot – of course, from a VERY safe distance!

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