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March 26, 2014

Beho Beho Bushmail – End of Season 2014

Filed under: Safaris,Tanzania Safari,The Selous — Tags: , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 12:42 pm

It is always a bittersweet time of year at close of season.

We say goodbye to the Beho Beho family, old friends and new, to the bush and all the animals, if only for a little while.

But we also look forward to the replenishing rainfall that will restore this paradise to an abundant Shangri-La, a place so verdurous and full of life it is hard to imagine that only a few months ago it looked like an arid desert.

The rains have gotten underway, and all the pans are overflowing, the tributaries and streams have all been washed clean and the big Beho Beho as well as Msini Rivers have started to flow. There is a downpour virtually every afternoon with the most beautiful clear light in the mornings that follow. All the myriad flowers have begun to bloom filling the air with aromas of jasmine from the Jasmine tree and Wild Jasmine, and then the smell of mashed potatoes, which comes from the flowers of the Potato Bush, accompanied by splashes of bright colour against the green.

Beho Beho Bushmail – End of Season 2014 Beho Beho Bushmail – End of Season 2014 IMG_5901

We have had some marvelous sightings this season. There has been loads of Elephant around our immediate area, often coming into the main area to splash around the waterhole and feed on the vegetation; excellent sightings of the Wild Dogs passing through camp and either playing or lazing about on our airstrip; and Lions aplenty – in fact, we’ve had so many Lion sightings in and around camp this year that we’ve dubbed it “The Season of the Lion”.

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The beautiful Carmine Bee-Eaters are still around, darting like red arrows in flocks of up to 30 around the vehicle, catching the grasshoppers and other bugs as they jump out of the way of the wheels.

And not to forget about the first record of the Selous and bringer of great laughter after hearing the foghorn-like call of the Buff Spotted Flufftail. Other interesting birds seen this season – for those twitchers out there – include the Ruvu Weaver which has caused a stir in the birding community as it is a species which was overlooked, and often just seen as a African Golden Weaver, so a great find. The Madagascar Heron was sighted again this season, and a Bartailed Godwit.

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Werner has decided to pursue his career back in South Africa as a walking guide, and we also say goodbye to Rika, who faces an exciting adventure with starting up her own business involving the myriad textiles and textures that Tanzania has to offer.

Next season we will welcome Phil Bennett and Tricia Piper to our team in the capacity of Assistant Managers – Phil also being a walking guide and Tricia focusing on the hospitality side.

Our employee of the season has unequivocally gone to Kessy Chuma.

Kessy has been with the company for 17 years, working his way up through the different departments and showing his strength in the maintenance area. He is like a machine and no task put in front of him is too big – you can rely on him to accomplish anything he sets his mind to.

We hope everyone has a blessed Easter period, time to spend with family and friends, and look forward to welcome all again to Beho Beho on the first of June.

Warm wishes from the Heart of the Selous,

Walter, Karin, Werner, Rika, Heribert, Salum, Godlisten & Saning’o

March 24, 2014

Africa safari holidays: first-timers’ guide to Kenya and Tanzania

Filed under: Press Articles — Tanzania Odyssey @ 5:44 pm

An expert guide to African safari holidays, including information on where and when to go, what to pack, safety advice and recommended tour operators and packages

If all you know of wild Africa is David Attenborough or Big Cat Diary you are in for the surprise of your life. No matter how many wildlife documentaries you may have watched, nothing prepares you for the real thing.

I still remember my own first visit, flying by light aircraft from Nairobi down to the Maasai Mara. Below me lay a sea of grass in which elephants stood and shook their ears as we zoomed overhead. With mounting excitement I picked out more animals: graceful giraffes, lines of wildebeest strung out like beads across the savannah. “Look down there,” yelled the pilot, jabbing his finger at a flat-roofed thorn tree. In its shade lay five tawny cats: my first lions.

A safari holiday should be on everyone’s wish list of life’s greatest adventures. In Swahili, the melodious everyday language of East Africa, the word itself translates as “going on a journey”. In the age of Hemingway and Karen Blixen this meant going upcountry, setting off with a tent and a rifle into the back of beyond where the wild things are. Now the day of the hunter is done. Guns are out. Cameras are in and ecotourism is the buzzword in the bush, offering a gentler but no less thrilling introduction to the last place on earth where wildlife exists in its old abundance.

But the reasons for going on safari have not changed. The need to reach out and touch the wild, to spend time in the sun and under the stars and come face to face with Africa’s storybook animals, not behind bars but moving free as the wind across the savannah – these are what make this a holiday like no other.

So where should you go for your first taste of safari life? Africa is so vast, its horizons so wide. Some of its big-game strongholds are the size of small countries. Among the finest are Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Zambia’s Luangwa Valley and South Africa’s Kruger National Park. But if you are planning a once-in-a-lifetime sojourn in the bush it has to be East Africa. Nowhere are animals so visible as on the high plains of the Maasai Mara and Serengeti, and the land itself is quite something. To look down into the immense bowl of the Ngorongoro Crater is to stand at the gates of heaven.

Ease of access makes East Africa a natural favourite for first-timers. It takes only eight hours to fly from London to Nairobi. If you catch an overnight flight from Heathrow you can transfer to a light aircraft next morning and be in the bush in time for brunch. Such things are possible in Nairobi because Kenya’s safari industry is backed up by an efficient tourist infrastructure with a dazzling choice of camps and lodges to suit all budgets. This is, after all, where modern safaris were invented back in the Twenties.

Ways to go

On a budget Travelling by road helps keep the cost down and is a good way of seeing more of Africa. Journeys between parks average around five hours and the usual mode of transport is the ubiquitous eight-seater VW Kombi minivan with raised roof hatches for better game viewing. You will have a local English-speaking driver-guide. Thomson Holidays offers an eight-day Kenya Classic Safari from £1,679 per person, visiting the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli and including return flight to Nairobi with Kenya Airways.

In style Going upmarket opens up all kinds of possibilities, including direct flights into the bush by light aircraft that cut out long road journeys, game drives with expert local guides in open four-wheel-drive vehicles purpose-built for better viewing, and the opportunity to stay at Africa’s most exclusive luxury camps and lodges. Safari Consultants can arrange a 10-day Kenyan holiday with three nights at Elsa’s Kopje Lodge in Meru National Park and four nights at Mara Toto Camp in the Maasai Mara including return flight from London and all local flights and transfers from £4,765 per person. Alternatively, Tanzania Odyssey (020 7471 8780; tanzaniaodyssey.com) can put together an eight-day Tanzanian safari, including two nights at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and four nights at Nomad’s Lamai Camp in the northern Serengeti, from £3,275 plus £850 for flights from London to Kilimanjaro with Kenya Airways.

Mobile camping This is the most authentic way to see Africa at close hand without sacrificing too many creature comforts, and it gives you greater flexibility in the bush. Wild About Africa recommends a 10-day Tanzanian camping safari (seven nights in the bush) to Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti. This is a group trip designed for a maximum of 14 people travelling in two four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers). Prices start at £3,174 per person based on two people sharing and include return flight from London.

Walking Here’s a real one-off adventure for anyone who is reasonably fit. You may not get such good wildlife photo opportunities as you would from a vehicle, but only on foot will you experience the full-on thrill of wild Africa.  Audley Travel does a five-night walking safari in northern Kenya’s spectacular Karisia Hills from £3,830 per person, including return flight to Nairobi and all transfers. The safari is supported by riding camels and accompanied by Samburu guides.

Beach-and-bush safaris An irresistible combination: a sojourn in Big Five country followed by a chance to relax beside the Indian Ocean. The Ultimate Travel Company has a 10-day holiday with four nights on safari at Little Governor’s Camp in the Maasai Mara and five nights on Zanzibar’s east coast, staying at the Baraza Resort and Spa, part of the Zanzibar Collection.  The cost is from £3,750 per person, including meals, game drives and transfers, return flight from London with Kenya Airways, bush flights and connections to Zanzibar.

Tailor-made Travelling with a professional guide can make a world of difference to your holiday. The elite few at the top of their game can charge up to £1,000 per day, but it doesn’t have to cost you the earth. Abercrombie & Kent can arrange a tailor-made Kenyan safari with experienced bush-wise guides such as Andrew Francombe at Ol Malo and Joseph Chege at Amboseli.  Seven days in Kenya with A&K, including two nights at Ol Malo in Laikipia, two nights at Tortilis Camp in Amboseli and two nights in the Maasai Mara, costs from £4,365 per person, including economy return flight and transfers.

Alternatively, Africa Travel Company is offering three nights at Elsa’s Kopje in Meru National Park and four nights in the Maasai Mara at Cottars 1920 Safari Camp with the services of a professional guide throughout. The cost is from £6,095 per person based on travelling in June and includes BA flights from London, local flights to Meru and the Mara, all transfers and one night at the Palacina Hotel in Nairobi.

Africa safari holidays: first timers guide to Kenya and Tanzania

The Maasai Mara and the Serengeti make for the ultimate safari experience

Where to go

Kenya’s most popular safari destination is the Maasai Mara National Reserve.  This is where the BBC’s Big Cat Diary was filmed, and there is nowhere better for close encounters with lions, cheetahs and leopards.  Travel between July and October to see the wildebeest migration, the greatest wildlife show on earth.  Very different are the dry country parks of northern Kenya.  Samburu is renowned for elephants, Meru was the home of Elsa, the Born Free lioness, and Lake Nakuru National Park is a showcase for flamingos and rhinos.  Tsavo is so big it is split into two parks, Tsavo East and Tsavo West, and combines well with a trip to Kenya’s glorious Indian Ocean coast.  Also well worth considering are Laikipia, Amboseli and the Chyulu Hills.

Tanzania welcomes visitors with wonderful views of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain (19,000ft).  Kilimanjaro airport or nearby Arusha town are the main departure points serving the northern safari circuit by road and air.  Allow a full day to explore Lake Manyara National Park and at least another for the Ngorongoro Crater before setting foot in the Serengeti.  This park is huge (think of an area the size of Wales), so you need to plan carefully if you want to see the migration (see below).  Afterwards, where better to relax than Zanzibar with its coral-sand beaches and barefoot beach lodges?

When to go

The most popular time is in the dry season from June to October.  But be aware that our midsummer is the African winter and you will need warm clothes for dawn game drives. April and May are best avoided: this is the climax of East Africa’s rainy season, when bush roads become impassable and camps close down.

To be sure of seeing the annual wildebeest migration, head for Kenya’s Maasai Mara reserve between July and October when the herds spend the dry season crossing and recrossing the Mara River in their search for fresh grazing.  As a spectacle it is matched only when upwards of a million wildebeest and 250,000 zebras gather on the rain-soaked plains of the southern Serengeti to give birth in February.

Health

For online advice, consult Fit For Travel (fitfortravel.nhs.uk) or NATHNAC (nathnac.org), which is used by GPs to assess health risks abroad. Make sure your immunisations are up to date, specifically for hepatitis A, typhoid, diphtheria and tetanus.  Malaria is widespread, so antimalarial tablets are essential, and immunisation against yellow fever is recommended. An insect repellent containing DEET will help keep mosquitoes at bay.  Drink only bottled water, which is available at all camps and lodges.

For peace of mind you may wish to consider signing up to membership of AMREF (amref.org), the flying-doctor service that provides evacuation in medical emergencies. A month’s subscription costs $16 (about £10) and is valid from the day you arrive in east Africa.

Visas

A single-entry tourist visa for Kenya costs around £30 . It is valid for three months from the day of entry and can be obtained when going through customs at Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi.  A 90-day single-entry tourist visa for Tanzania costs £40 and can be obtained when going through customs at Kilimanjaro airport or Dar es Salaam.

Alternatively, you can use a visa agent.  Trailfinders’ Visa and Passport Service (0845 050 5905; visas.trailfinders.com) charges £65 for a Kenyan visa and the same for a Tanzanian one (£45 if you have booked your trip with them), and the process takes about five working days.

Money matters

American dollars are the universal currency wherever you go, although notes printed before 1996 are sometimes not accepted and $100 bills can be difficult to change; better to take plenty of small ones. Nowadays most camps and lodges accept credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard, but expect a surcharge of up to five per cent.

How to dress

Always put comfort and practicality ahead of style. Never wear white, and avoid bright colours.  Instead, be a chameleon and blend into the landscape with animal-friendly greens and khakis.  Never dress in camouflage clothing (associated with the military) or anything black or blue (both colours are known to attract tsetse flies).

Go for lightweight cottons, long trousers and shirts with long sleeves to protect against thorns and insect bites. Eschew fancy stetsons with faux leopard-skin hatbands in favour of a simple baseball cap that keeps the sun out of your eyes and does not blow away in a strong wind.

Wear sensible footwear with thorn-proof soles: desert boots, trainers or lightweight walking boots. Don’t forget your swimwear (many camps and lodges have pools). And remember, Africa can be cold. The Maasai Mara may be within 100 miles of the Equator but is more than 5,000ft above sea level. On dawn game drives you’ll be glad of a jacket and sweater, even gloves. Most camps and lodges have a shop where you can buy a cotton kikoi, an African sarong that can double as a scarf, sling or turban.

What else to pack Binoculars are a must. So is a camera. I always take P20 last-all-day sun cream, sunglasses and a head torch. Use a soft bag and travel light. Local flights in light aircraft often have a 15kg weight limit. Most camps and lodges offer same-day laundry (although washing ladies’ underwear is taboo).

Flights

British Airways (0844 493 0787; britishairways.com) and Kenya Airways (0871 989 1198; kenya-airways.com) both fly non-stop from Heathrow to Nairobi in about eight hours. Flying overnight avoids the expense of a hotel stopover in Nairobi. Instead you transfer across town from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Wilson Airport for a short internal flight by light aircraft and are in camp by late morning. To reach Tanzania’s northern safari circuit involves an hour’s onward flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro with Kenya Airways or Precision Air (0844 482 2313; precisionair.co.uk) to link up with light-aircraft flights into the game parks.

Safety in the bush

Follow these 10 rules and you’ll be safer in the bush than in any major city.

1.         Always listen to your guide. 2.         Zip up your tent and never take food into it. 3.         When out on a game drive remember that animals are used to vehicles; but don’t be      noisy or make sudden movements. 4.         Stay inside the vehicle (ask your driver or guide if you need to make a “bush stop”). 5.         Don’t sit on the roof. It’s not cool – it’s stupid. 6.         Watch out for thorns and overhanging branches when driving. 7.         If you’re on foot, don’t run. Only prey animals run! 8.         Don’t mess with baboons. 9.         Obey the safety rules in your camp or lodge. 10.       Don’t walk around at night and make sure you are escorted back to your tent or   room after dinner.

Creepy-crawlies

East Africa has lots of scorpions and snakes, including puff adders, cobras and mambas. Fortunately they are so keen to avoid you that you seldom see them. Just be aware and take simple precautions such as not walking at night without a torch. Mosquito nets are provided when needed, and you should find a spray can in your tent for zapping bugs.

A room with a view

The camps and lodges where you stay are set in the heart of the action, and all have been chosen for their idyllic locations. If you are new to Africa, you may feel happier staying in a lodge, although you’ll be every bit as safe zipped up in a tent. Lodges are permanent structures, bush hotels if you like, complete with swimming pools and ingeniously fashioned out of local stone and timber under a thatched roof.

But sleeping under canvas is the way to go if you want to enjoy the full-on safari experience. When it comes to tented camps, size matters. Large tented camps are more like canvas lodges. The smaller and more intimate the camp, the better the experience – and the more expensive it is likely to be. Your canvas room with a view could cost more than a suite in a five-star hotel.

Not that you’ll be exactly roughing it. Everything is provided, from en suite bathrooms to Persian rugs, even hot-water bottles for chilly nights. But the ultimate luxury comes from living closer to nature without compromising your safety.

Reading Get in the mood with Karen Blixen’s classic Out of Africa, and I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallmann. Other East African true‑life epics include My Pride and Joy by George Adamson, the Born Free lion man of Kenya, and Among the Elephants by Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton.

Guidebooks The Safari Companion by Richard D Estes (Chelsea Green Publishing, $30/£18) is an invaluable guide to watching African mammals. If you are short of space, take the beautifully illustrated Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon (Christopher Helm, £16.99). For general guides, choose Bradt Travel’s Kenya and the companion volume on Northern Tanzania, both written by Philip Bragg.

Websites The most comprehensive online resource available is Safaribookings.co.uk/experts. To find out about wildlife conservation go to tusk.org, the website of the Tusk Trust. Living with Lions (lionconservation.org) will update you on attempts to protect Kenya’s top cats, and Save the Elephants (savetheelephants.org) is for everyone who wants to put an end to ivory poaching.

The Big Five and other animals

It was the old-time trophy hunters who called Africa’s most dangerous game the Big Five: elephant, Cape buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard. Today, with other charismatic species such as cheetah and the endangered wild dog, they sit at the top of most must-see lists. The big cats can be elusive and half the fun is searching for them. Antelopes, zebras and giraffes are more abundant and just as beautiful. Don’t forget the birds, at least 1,000 species, or the “Small Five” (buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, ant lion, rhino beetle and leopard tortoise).

A typical day on safari

“Knock-knock,” says the man outside your tent with a tea tray in his hands. What kind of holiday is this, you might ask, being woken at 6am? But sunrise in Africa is not to be missed. Where else can you sit in bed and hear lions roar at the dawn?

In Africa, the first and last hours of the day are the best, and the early start is so you can be out in the bush while the big cats are still active. Later, when the day warms up, they will go flat in the shade, and so can you on returning to camp for brunch after your first game drive of the day.

There’ll be plenty of time for a swim or siesta before afternoon tea and cakes (no one goes hungry on safari), after which you drive out again, camera at the ready, in search of the Big Five. In the national parks you’ll be home by sunset, but on private reserves you can stay out for sundowners and drive home in the dark with a spotlight looking for nocturnal animals. Finally, to round off the day, a hot shower, drinks by the campfire and dinner under the stars. By 10pm you’ll be ready for bed – and a good night’s sleep before your next dawn wake-up call.

Article by Brian Jackman, published in Telegraph Travel on 21 March 2014

March 20, 2014

Mdonya Old River Camp – February 2014 Newsletter

Filed under: Ruaha National Park,Safaris,The Southern Highlands — Tags: , , , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 12:39 pm

Environment

February saw the continuance of the rains unabated with the even additional hailstorm – mid afternoon with hailstones the size of small marbles!

The foliage within the camp is now interspersed with a variety of colours provided by the small but vibrantly red witchweed (Striga asiatica) contrasted by more purple colour of the centemopsis family.

Mdonya Old River Camp   February 2014 Newsletter

In the areas of the camp where the ground is prone to dampness, you see will see Round white sedge (Kyllinga alba) in large clumps. The different varieties of Centmopsis clash with the bright pinks of the Pink Ink Flower (Cycnium cameronianum).

One can almost hear the grass growing on a daily basis within the camp perimeter as the Masai struggle to keep up with maintaining the grass cutting.

Sightings

Mdonya Old River Camp   February 2014 Newsletter

The biggest excitement for us this month was to learn that the injured female cheetah who had been in close vicinity to the camp, had been seen at Mwagusi and she had 3 young cubs with her – mother and cubs looking fit and healthy so she is obviously able to hunt quite happily and her wound is slowly getting smaller. A beautiful and elusive serval was sighted this month too!

We are no longer able to use some of our river crossings as the water has become just too deep and the flow too strong. We continue to hear the thundering of Mdonya Falls after a particularly heavy rainfall. On one recent expedition with staff members we had to approach the Falls by walking upstream against a very strong current. When we arrived there, the force of the water over the large rocks made it impossible to actually get to the base of the Falls but just a week later, it was a much easier approach and rewarded by a quick swim in the Falls. Check on Facebook for this adventure’s pictures.

Leopards

The month of February brought with it an increase of the smaller creatures e.g. mongoose, genet and even a wild cat.

This month we have had very few of our regular pachyderm visitors – there is too much good food further afield for them at the moment but we expect they will return at the start of the next Season. Slowly at first but then, as the grass becomes drier and drier, their numbers will increase again.

Fundi took up residence in a tree close to the staff quarters with the remains of an impala and very obligingly climbed up and down the tree for our guests to photograph him. We suspect it was also Fundi who successfully hunted another Impala between tents 3 & 4 but once again the hyenas moved in so we were not sure who eventually had the spoils.

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March 19, 2014

Four Seasons Safari Lodge, Serengeti

Filed under: Safaris,Serengeti National Park — Tags: , — Tanzania Odyssey @ 2:38 pm

Lizzie Pook visits the new Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti – and is woken by the sounds of baboons and lions just outside her room in the middle of the night!

Article published in Stylist Magazine on 19 March 2014.

Four Seasons Safari Lodge, Serengeti Four Seasons Safari Lodge, Serengeti

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