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African Safari And Beach Holiday News.

The Travel Butlers Blog

UNIVISA Launched Today

TraceyCampbell - November 28, 2014

Today, Friday 28th November, sees the launch of the new tourist Kavango Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA) UNIVISA – but let’s just call it the UNIVISA for ease!

I must say, the team at Travel Butlers are very excited about this. The UNIVISA is a comon tourist visa, which during its pilot launch (lasting 6 months), will enable tourists planning to visit Zimbabwe and Zambia to purchase just one visa, which will cover travel to both countries.  PLUS it also covers day trips into Botswana too.

So now, visitors wanting to stay on one side of Victoria Falls, and pop over the border to see the Falls from the other side, do not have to worry about expensive double entry visas.  What a result!  And what a boom for Victoria Falls tourism prospects, too.

The UNIVISA is available at the following 8 ports of entry across both countries:

Zimbabwe: Harare International Airport; Victoria Falls International Airport; Victoria Falls Land Border (to enter Zambia) and Kazangula Land Border (to enter Botswana).

Zambia: Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (Lusaka); Harry Mwaanga International Airport (Livingstone); Victoria Falls Land Border (to enter Zimbabwe) and Kazangula Land Border (to enter Botswana).

The UNIVISA costs US$50 (subject to change), payable in cash only. It will be valid for 30 days as long as you remain in Zimbabwe and Zambia, so you can cross between Zimbabwe and Zambia as frequently as you like within the period. As mentioned, it also covers those who wish to visit Botswana for a day trip through the Kazangula Land Border.

Citizens from the following 40 countries listed below are eligible for the UNIVISA:

United Kingdom; United States of America; Canada; Australia; New Zealand; Belgium; France; Monaco; Italy; Portugal; Netherlands; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Norway; Poland; Germany; Austria; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Czech Republic; Denmark; Finland; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; Argentina; Brazil; Brunei; Burundi; Cook Islands; Israel; Japan; Puerto Rico; Russia; Rwanda; Slovakia Republic; Slovenia Republic; UAE and Uruguay.

When you arrive at the port of entry, you will be directed to a dedicated counter where the special visa will be issued.

If you are a passport holder from another country, however, please contact your local Zambia or Zimbabwe High Commission or Embassy for up-to-date visa requirements.The normal visa is issued at any Zambia/Zimbabwe Embassy, or can be issued on arrival at an entry point. Please note that visas will also be required in this case for additional entries into neighbouring countries for day trips.

Please note that the current visa processes for Zambia and Zimbabwe are still available for any passport holder, however  we believe that the new UNIVISA will definately be a more cost effective and efficient way forward for every tourist.

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Zambia/Zimbabwe and have sufficient blank pages for entry/exit stamps.

Also, please note that if you are planning to enter South Africa before or after you visit Zambia or Zimbabwe, you should be aware that while South African authorities state officially that only one blank passport page is required for entry, some officials insist on 2 blank pages. Please therefore make sure you have an additional 2 blank pages in your passport if you are travelling through South Africa.

PLEASE NOTE: Travel Butlers have made every effort to ensure that the information displayed here is correct and accurate, but the onus still remains with the traveller to verify the information with their local Zambia/Zimbabwe High Commission or Embassy.

Should this initial pilot with the Zambia/Zimbabwe UNIVISA be a success, the plan is to then roll it out to include Angola, Botswana and Namibia, making travel between these SADC countries much easier.  The plan ongoing is that more countries will join the UNIVISA initiative at a later stage.

MalaMala – Exclusively Yours

TraceyCampbell - November 26, 2014

MalaMala – synonymous with the bygone era of romantic safaris, Hollywood superstars and exclusive game viewing. Celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, in 1964 the MalaMala land was sold to Michael Rattray who since then has grown the brand to be one of the most famous in the world of safari goers, and who was truly the pioneer of the photographic safari experience that we know and love today.

‘Mala Mala – it’s all about the wildlife’ is their new strapline, and anyone who has been fortunate to go on safari here will, I am sure, 100% endorse this. The privately owned MalaMala Game Reserve forms part of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, and covers an immense 13,500 hectares of land.  The eastern boundary is the Kruger National Park – a stretch of 12 miles of uninterrupted, pristine bush with no physical fences, allowing the wildlife to freely cross the ‘invisible’ border between the National Park and the private game reserve. To the west, the Sand River flows unhindered through the land, offering the wildlife a plentiful supply of water at all times, expecially during the dry winter months of May to September.  Is it any wonder that the game viewing here is, one could say, absolutely fantastic all year round.

Because only the game vehicles from MalaMala’s three camps – Main Camp, Sable Camp and the exclusive Rattrays on MalaMala – are allowed to drive on the land, the game viewing experience for guests is really personal and intimate, and completely unhurried.  In 2013, the game viewing statistics were simply amazing – sightings of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) were recorded on all but 66 days!  Just to put this into slight more context:

  • Leopards were viewed on all but 20 days, and out of thse sightings, 2 or more leopards were viewed on all but 4 days.
  • Buffalo were seen on all but 8 days, and herds exceeding 100 were viewed on 154 days.
  • Lions were viewed on 308 days, and the most lions seen in a single day were 30 in 4 different sightings – in total, there are 9 resident prides that are regularly seen at MalaMala.
  • Elephant were seen on all but 10 days, and the average number of elephant sightings per week exceeded 20.

Due to the vulnerability of rhino and the current poaching problems, no statistics of rhino sightings are now released.

With the opening of the new Skukuza airstrip, it has never been easier to get to MalaMala.  Direct daily flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg with SA Airlink land at Skukuza, and it is a mere 45 minute (to an  hour) game drive from here to the camp. Alternatively, FedAir also fly directly from Johannesburg to the MalaMala Airstrip, which is only a 5 minute drive to your camp.

Families are welcome at MalaMala Main Camp, and their Junior Ranger programme continues to be a great success with the little ones.  While the parents relax, the rangers will take the children off with their special MalaMala backpack to identify animal spoor, learn about the plants and how to clean your teeth if you are ever lost in the bush, go bird watching, have a go at communicating over the radio as if they were a real ranger, and a myriad of other activities designed to educate as well as entertain.  At the end of their stay, children leave with their very own Ranger Certificate – something unique for the obligatory ‘what did you do in your holidays’ show-and-tell sessions when they return to school!

Whether you are travelling as a family, a couple or in a group (in which case, don’t forget that Sable Camp can be taken on an exclusive basis for groups of between 10-18 guests), we are sure that you will have a fantastic safari experience at MalaMala.

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Seeing the Wild Dogs of Africa

TraceyCampbell - November 19, 2014

The African wild dog, or the Painted Dog as it is also called, is now unfortunately one of Africa’s endangered species. Changing habitats and disease have caused the population to drop rapidly, and it is estimated that there are now only between 3,000 and 5,000 left in the wild.

Unlike their domestic doggy cousins, the African wild dog only has 4 toes per foot (your pet at home has 5 toes on their forefeet).  They need a very large territory to roam over, and home territories can cover up to 1,500 square kilometres.  They are very sociable creatures, living in packs of up to 30.  Before a hunt, the pack will gather together to nose rub and lick each other, whilst wagging their tails and making high-pitched noises.

Seeing these beautiful creatures while on safari is a  priviledged sighting, and sometimes it can be a pretty gruesome one too, if you are unlucky (or lucky, depending on your mindset) to catch them on a kill.  Ferocious hunters, they work as a pack and will literally chase their prey to death, as the wild dog can reach speeds of up to 40-50 mph, although they can only sustain this speed for short distances.  The pack will simply pull down it’s exhausted prey, and before the poor animal has hit the ground, the pack are already starting to tear it apart.  A pack have been known to eat an entire gazelle within 15 minutes.

There are a few places where seeing wild dog can be part of your safari experience.  The Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya has an impressive 2 pack population, currently totalling 32 individuals. The Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania is home to approximately one-third of the world’s wild dogs.    The Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa has a thriving and active population, with 3 different hunting packs calling the reserve their home.  And the Kwando region of Botswana has the reputation of being the place to visit to encounter wild dog.

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Raising Money for Malawi – Update From Conor Dickson

Conor Dickson - November 6, 2014

On Saturday 25th October my I set off to cycle to Eastbourne as part of my fundraising for Malawi next year. I chose this destination as the mileage, via cycle paths, was almost the same distance as the width of Lake Malawi. It was certainly a challenge! The start of the journey was great; my dad and I set off on the Forest Way to Groombridge full of spirits and relieved the weather was on our side.

Cycle-1That part was accomplished with ease and we were still feeling fresh, which was just as well when we had only covered a fraction of the journey. The next part of the journey took us on to more bridleways than smooth cycle paths and certainly made for a more difficult, hilly and tiring ride. It was with relief that we arrived at Heathfield and after stopping for some well needed refreshments we headed off on the lovely, smooth, quiet, Cuckoo Trail. It was a much easier ride for the next 14 miles and soon we were approaching Hampden Park in Eastbourne. Leaving the cuckoo trail behind, we cycled the last couple of miles to the seafront where we were met by Mum and the promise of fish and chips.

Cycle-2Thank you to the many staff at school who have sponsored me, as well as the staff and Partners at Place Campbell & Co Accountants, Karen and Alison at Acorn Recruitment and Paul and Tracey at Travel Butlers, African Safari holiday specialists. To date this ride has raised over £350 which is amazing.

 

Ebola Outbreak: Should I Cancel My Trip To Africa?

PaulCampbell - October 31, 2014

Following the very moving Ebola appeal that was aired on all major TV channels in the UK last night, we have been contacted by a number of clients asking the same questions: should I cancel my trip to Africa? It is easy to understand the worry and distress that the Ebola coverage is causing in the UK, however Africa is huge and the whole of Southern and East Africa is literally thousands of miles away from the outbreak and all the countries that we book for our clients are considered safe from the disease.

To put this into context, the outbreak in West Africa is over 3500 miles away from Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, and over 3,000 miles from Botswana and Namibia – London is about 3000 miles from the affected area, so many of these places are further from the centre of the outbreak than the UK.

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Whilst the situation in West Africa is very serious, the disease is not airborne and does not spread quickly or easily – a fact that can be confirmed when we consider that the outbreak remains contained in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.  Of course, it is true that it did extend briefly into Nigeria, however the country responded quickly to the challenge of containing the disease and safely treating those suffering from it, and  Nigeria was declared free from Ebola on the 20th of October.

In fact in terms of the geographic spread of the disease, the situation has not changed much since early August.  Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those currently fighting the the outbreak in West Africa, however Southern and East Africa are a very long way from the outbreak and are completely unaffected at present.

So is it still safe to travel to Africa or should you consider cancelling your trip? We would suggest that if you are travelling to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, or any of the other countries in Southern or East Africa, you can consider these as safe from Ebola as anywhere else in the world might be.

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