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The Travel Butlers Blog

Ten reasons to start planning a trip to Namibia

PaulCampbell - February 28, 2016

Namibia is a country like no other place on earth. It has vast open spaces, dramatic landscapes and some of the most beautiful night skies you’re ever like to encounter. There are many reasons why a trip to Namibia should be on everybody’s list of things to do at least once in a lifetime, here are ten of them:

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-busy-dune-image20744641.      Magical desert dunes

The magical dunes of Sossusvlei glow a rich red in the early morning light.

If you’re feeling adventurous get up early, take lots of water and climb 170-metres to the top of the immense Dune 45. It’s a tough climb but immensely rewarding; watching a sunrise over the desert dunes is a moment that will stay with you forever.

 

Sossusvlei-and-the-Namib-Desert2.      Dramatic scenery

Close to the affectionately named “Big Daddy” dune (at 325-metres, the tallest in the Sossusvlei area) is a surreal, part post-apocalyptic, part Daliesque scene.  The bright white clay pan, dotted with tree skeletons scorched black by the sun sit in stark contrast to the rich azure skies.  Dead Vlei is a photographer’s paradise.  The dried acacia trees, estimated to be 600 years old, are perfectly preserved thanks to the persistent dry heat of the desert.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-rock-engravings-twyfelfontein-namibia-image247707993.      Traditional culture

Namibia provides plenty of opportunities to meet locals who still live a traditional lifestyle.

In northern Namibia a visit to a Himba settlement is a must, while the Living Museum of the Damara, situated close to the famous Twyfelfontein rock engravings site, provides an opportunity to experience traditional culture in a way that exists nowhere else in the world.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-fish-river-canyon-namibia-image167896034.      Spectacular views

Situated between the Namib and Kalahari deserts, Fish River Canyon might not be the easiest place to get to, but those who make the trip will be well rewarded.  As a result of its physical isolation the place feels magical and quiet – its likely you’ll have the place almost entirely to yourself as there are rarely more than two or three cars at any viewing point at any one time.

 

DrivingNamibia5.      Romance

If you’re looking to get away from it all and reconnect Namibia is the place of romance and once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

Getting behind the wheel and setting out on the open roads of Africa on a self-drive safari is an incredibly romantic notion for many people, and there is no better place to experience this than in Namibia.

 

NamibiaTracks&Trails-CopyrightFINAL6.      Sense of space and freedom

Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with only two people to every kilometre.

Lodges look out across vast plains and have wooden decks where you can sit in silence with no modern-day distractions, just uninterrupted views.

 

LittlePrince-Dreamstime-CopyrightFINAL7.      Excellent game viewing

Home to some excellent private reserves, the vast arid space of Etosha National Park serves as a backdrop for the plentiful wildlife that call it home.

Namibia also contains some of Africa’s largest private reserves and top conservation experiences.

 

Elephant herd8.      Desert-dwelling elephants

Namibia’s starkly beautiful Damaraland is home to one of the world’s few populations of desert-adapted elephants.

Smaller than regular elephant, these herds are constantly on the move and during the dry season they can be seen digging for water with their trunks.

 

Namibia - Gemsbok at sunset9. Breath-taking sunsets

Seeing an African sunset should be on everyone’s list of things to experience at least once in a lifetime and Namibian sunsets will literally take your breath away.

Watching the Namib Desert at dusk is like stepping into a picture; the technicolour skies glowing a variety pinks, reds, oranges and yellows in stark contrast to the orange and purple mountains.

 

LittleKulala-CopyrightFINAL10. Stargazing

The Namib Desert is free from light pollution making it ideal for stargazing.  Wrap up warm under the bright blaze of the Milky Way and count shooting stars.  Many of the lodges have telescopes and offer astronomy talks, pointing out the various constellations.  One even offers ‘sky beds’ for anyone wishing to sleep under the stars!

 

Where to stay:

Sand Dunes, Stargazing & Romance Little Kulala, an oasis in the middle of the Namib Desert is the perfect base for stargazing and quite possibly the most romantic place on earth.

Escape from Reality – taking the term ‘getting away from it all’ to a whole new level, Wolwedens Dune Camp offers visitors the opportunity to forget life’s stresses, kick-back, relax and explore vast stretches of awe-inspiring and undisturbed nature.

Fish River Canyon – a short drive from the main viewing point, Canyon Lodge is an oasis seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Etosha National Park – enjoy views of the bush and waterhole from the comfort of your own veranda at Ongava Tented Camp.

Himba Settlement – located in the extreme north-west of Namibia, Serra Cafema Camp  is probably the most remote camp in Southern Africa and one of the best locations from which to interact with Himba people.

Damaraland & Desert-dwelling ElephantsMowani Mountain Camp is a firm favourite for exploring Damaraland and spotting the rare black rhino and desert-dwelling elephant.

Conservation Experience –  situated halfway between Windhoek and Ethosha National Park, Okonjima is home of the AfriCat Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation and welfare of Namibia’s wild predators, especially cheetahs and leopards.  Stay at Okonjima Plains Camp.

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

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-elephant-tusk-thick-skin-strong-image33022852

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.

 

Mother&Child-Ele-TravelButlers-CopyrightFINAL 

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.

 

Elephant&Zebra-Dreamstime-CopyrightFINAL

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.

 

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-elephant-silhouette-image6380636

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!).

 

Mother&Child-Ele2-TravelButlers-CopyrightFINAL

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.

South Africa – it’s the cat’s whiskers!

PaulCampbell - January 22, 2016

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In the past decade, South Africa has become established as one of the most popular long-haul destinations for visitors from all over the world. And with exchange rates and special offers meaning the majority of safari lodges and hotels are around 20% cheaper than in 2015, there’s never been a better time to book a trip to this diverse and fascinating country.

Seven nights from £655pp

Book a seven night Cape Town and Kruger trip from only £655 per person, excluding international flights (available on request).

Find out more or get inspired by South Africa!

There are world-class attractions in every part of South Africa, from Table Mountain and the beautiful city of Cape Town, to the spectacular wildlife of the Kruger National Park and countless places in between. In fact, there’s so much to see and do that South Africa is sometimes referred to as ‘the World in One Country’. If the cities and wildlife don’t appeal to you, then the weather, beaches, vineyards, history, culture, mountains, deserts or forests surely will.

Despite all this variety, there’s no denying that the crowning glories are Cape Town and Kruger

text_uploads_avatars_VA_Waterfront(1) -  - Cape Town Tourism Toolkit 5Cape Town has one of the most beautiful settings of any city in the world. At the foot of Table Mountain, surrounded by beaches and a sparkling (if chilly) ocean, it’s home to beautiful parks, imposing buildings and plenty of bars and restaurants in which you can relax and watch the world go by. On top of this, the Cape Winelands, the Cape of Good Hope, the penguin colony at Boulders Beach and the whale-watching center of Hermanus are all within easy reach as day trips.

The weather can be scorching hot between November and April (making it an ideal winter sun destination), and even in the coolest months, average highs are around 18C. There’s also plenty to do on any days when the beach doesn’t appeal.

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The 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 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 three or four days will mean that you’re almost guaranteed to see the Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo), as well as seeing countless antelopes, giraffes,zebras 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 three-star tented camps where all meals and game drives are included, to the most spectacular and luxurious five-star lodges. Wherever you choose to stay, a visit to Kruger will leave you with memories and photos to cherish for a lifetime.

Travel Butlers specialize in safari vacations, and our friendly team has been helping visitors plan trips to South Africa since 2003. So why not contact us and let us help you put together your ideal holiday to this stunning country – whatever your budget and bucket list.

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.

 

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