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Wildlife Viewing

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Africa Week—Malaria-Free Safari in South Africa

A mere 3 to 4-hour drive north of Jo’Burg, you reach the game reserves on the outskirts of Kruger National Park. Here, you not only have the chance to spot the Big Five, but you can do so without the hassle of taking any anti-malaria medication since it’s in a Malaria-Free Zone. Lisa met with owners of two lodges in this region that she really liked. The first is Camp Ndlovu, located in the 35,000-hectacre Welgevonden Game Reserve. Part of the upscale Residence Collection, the ultra-sybaritic suites come with private plunge pools, outdoor showers, A/C, and WiFi. The second property is Madikwe, located in the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa at 75,000 hectares. Depending on whether you bring the entire family or just your loved one, you can stay at either the River House, Farm House, or Owner’s House. In addition to game drives, you’ll be going on bush walks, fishing, bird watching, and dancing with the locals. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/14/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Africa Week—Cruising Namibia

Namibia is best known for its stunning coastal and desert landscapes. Wildlife seems to be an afterthought, though it boasts a wonderful list of safari sites. On a 10-day itinerary, you can track black rhinos, giraffes, leopards, lions, cheetahs, and spotted hyena on walking and jeep safaris in the Palmwag Reserve; marvel at Etosha National Park’s massive lunar-like mineral plane while on the lookout for impala, springboks, elephants, and zebra; step into a sea of red, mountain-high sand dunes in Sossusvlei; lunch at Walvis Bay alongside a flock of flamingos; and see Namibia’s Atlantic coast, getting up close with Cape fur seals and dolphins. The best part about Namibia is the infrastructure and great network of roadways, not unlike South Africa. It’s one of the most affordable ways to be on safari. Working with Namibia Tours and Safaris, ActiveTravels will help design a route based on your budget and amount of time. This includes car rental, lodging, a scenic route, safari viewing with naturalists, and some meals. Cost is as low as $1962 per person for an 11-day Namibia Safari Highlights trip. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/12/19 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 28, 2019

South African Luxury on a Budget

Think a safari has to be exorbitant, especially when staying at 5-star accommodations? Not necessarily true. African Travel is featuring a 12-night itinerary to South Africa in September, with stays at some of the top properties in the country, including the wonderful Twelve Apostles just outside of Cape Town, Rhino Sands Safari Camp in Mayoni Private Game Reserve, and the Oyster Box in Durban. Cost starts at $5995 per person, including the international flight from New York. Book this trip before March 31, 2019 and you'll receive an extra night at the Oyster House for free. Please contact ActiveTravels for more information. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/28/19 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

On to Chiang Rai

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches 
After Bangkok, I flew to Chiang Rai, the northernmost large city in Thailand, to begin two days in and around "The Golden Triangle," where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong Rivers (formerly one of the most extensive opium-producing areas of the world). We stayed in Chiang Saen, a part of the Chiang Rai Province that literally sits on the Mekong and from which you can see Myanmar and Laos. A "three country" boat trip can be taken here which includes travel by tuk-tuk and longtail boat, stopping at local markets, temples, and ruins. 
 
In Chiang Rai, we visited three temples, Wat Rong Seua Ten (Blue Temple), Wat Rong Kun (White Temple), and Baan Dam (Black Temple). Although sometimes historic temple ruins were present, these are modern creations: the Blue Temple was finished in 2016, the White Temple opened in 1997 and was designed by artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, and the Black Temple is artist Thawan Duchanee's "artful portrayal of hell." Afterward, I loved eating at Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House, Bistro & Bar, a  "Slow Food" restaurant, featuring Hill Tribe organic eggs.
 
All of the above paled in comparison to the highlight of my time in Chiang Rai and Chiang Saen, The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. The GTAEF was set up to rescue elephants, mahouts (caretakers) and mahout families from illegal logging camps, the street, and abusive shows. Our hotel (to be detailed in a separate blog post) overlooked the elephant sanctuary, home to approximately 40 elephants. Here, the elephants, mahouts, and mahout families are housed, fed, and provided health care, and the mahouts' children educated. 
 
Asian elephants are listed on The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, which means they have had at least a 50% decrease in population in the last three generations. They face habitat loss, as well as poaching. The current best estimate for Thailand's remaining wild population is around 2000 to 4000.
 
Many tourists seek an "elephant experience" while in Thailand. Tourism remains the main income source available to keep the majority of Thailand's captive elephants fed, but it is important to work with businesses and the mahout community to promote welfare and sustainability. Especially after being in Thailand, I can say with certainty: ask ActiveTravels for assistance in choosing your elephant experience in Thailand. There are a lot of not-so-great ones offered. 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/05/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 18, 2018

Going on Safari in Kenya Will Get Easier Come October

Very excited that Kenya Airways will start daily non-stop service from New York's JFK Airport to Nairobi on October 28, 2018. A member of the SkyTeam Alliance, the only African carrier in the group, Kenya Airways will offer 30 Premier World lie-flat seats in each Dreamliner aircraft. The 7,360-mile journey is scheduled to take 14.5 hours from New York to Nairobi and 15 hours on the return flight. October is an ideal time to be in the Maasai Mara, when the summer crowds are long gone. Go on a circuit route with The Safari Collection and spend the first two nights at Nairobi's Giraffe Manor, which I visited when writing this story for The Boston Globe. Then head north for 3 nights to the cultural hub of Samburu and the luxury lodge, Sasaab, before spending the final 3 nights at Sala's Camp in the Mara. Contact ActiveTravels and we'll be happy to package together all lodging, guides, and flights with Kenya Airlines. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/18/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Malawi or Bust

Overshadowed by many of the other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, that sliver of land nestled between Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania called Malawi has seen a big surge in travelers this past year. They not only come for the wildlife-rich safari experience, far from the crowds of Maasai Mara, the Serengeti, and Kruger, but for the sublime post-safari beaches of Lake Malawi, the ninth largest lake in the world. Renowned African safari outfitters like Robin Pope are busy building new lodges such as Kuthengo Camp in Liwonde National Park. Likoma Island on Lake Malawi was just called one of the best beaches in the world by The Independent. "Stay at Kaya Mawa Resort, where each room was individually designed in partnership with a local workshop set up to empower single mothers, and the whole staff comes from neighboring villages," says the London newspaper. Lake of the Stars Festival is returning to the shores of Lake Malawi September 28-30, 2018 for its 15th anniversary. Book a room at the newly built Kabumba Hotel and listen to the sounds of Scotland's Frightened Rabbit and Malawi's Kim of Diamonds. If you need help with a Malawi route, guides, lodging, and flights, look no further than ActiveTravels
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/19/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 30, 2018

Abercrombie and Kent Philanthropy Opens Maternity Ward in Zambia

On our last day of our trip to Botswana and Zambia with Abercrombie & Kent in September 2016, we visited the community of Nakatindi, not far from where we stayed at Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma in Livingstone. When the government promised this village a medical clinic, fresh water, and a primary school and never came through on that promise, A&K's philanthropy arm came to the forefront. They built a clinic that serves 10,000 people annually. They were also instrumental in educating the community about Malaria and AIDS, the two killers that have left many children in this village as orphans. When the villagers had to walk through a national park to get their water from the Zambezi River, they were frequently attacked by wildlife. So A&K created a water pump to get fresh water piped to their village directly. They also opened a bike shop, shipped old bicycles directly from America to Zambia and Botswana, trained locals to become bike mechanics, and then bought those refurbished bikes back. They are now used by schoolchildren who need to bike 7 kilometers each day to get to school and by farmers who need to get their goods to market. 

 
New this week is the debut of a maternity ward, thanks to the generosity of A&K's guests and travel advisors. More than 400 local villagers as well as the Mayor of Livingstone, Eugene Mapuwo, attended the celebration. The festivities included opening a 40-foot shipping container filled with health care supplies and equipment valued at more than $400,000 that was donated by Project C.U.R.E, the world's largest supplier of donated medical supplies. The maternity ward includes specialized rooms for delivery, prenatal and postnatal care, ultrasounds, as well as private space for overnight staff and an office. Zambia's Ministry of Health will staff and operate the facility. 
 
Zambia is a world away from the destination we're visiting next, Stowe, Vermont, with our son, Jake, who's on college break. I'll be back next Thursday. Happy Easter and Happy Passover! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/30/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Worthy Stop at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, California

Guest Post by Amy Perry Basseches

My daughter Sophie and I have done many road trips together, and she is quite used to stopping in unusual places along the way (often with the assistance of ActiveTravels resources). On a sunny Friday in Southern California, we shared another such adventure. Visiting her for Parents’ Weekend at the Claremont Colleges, but this year wanting to spend time away from the crowds, we set out for Acton, California, with the explicit goal of visiting Farm Sanctuary.
 
Sophie has been an ardent vegetarian since the age of 7, and spent many hours in her youth as a member of the Sunnyrock 4H Sheep Club in Sharon, Massachusetts. She’s just always loved animals, and a wide range of them too. So, when I heard about Farm Sanctuary from an ActiveTravels member last fall, I knew I had to visit with her.
 
Farm Sanctuary is a national non-profit whose goal is to end farm animal abuse. They have 3 locations where they rescue, rehabilitate, and provide long-term care to farm animals who have previously been in factory farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses. Of course, the staff at Farm Sanctuary also educates the public and advocates for policy reform. The 26-acre Acton Shelter is located on a hacienda ranch northeast of Los Angeles, in the Sierra Pelona Mountains. The town has a rural western theme, which can be seen in its homes, commercial buildings, and historical buildings, some of which date back to the late 1800s.
 
A little early for our 1 pm tour, we had lunch at Wences Bistro, a small restaurant in town serving “Italian, Chinese, American, & Mexican” cuisine. Then we met our group for the tour. Let’s just say that Sophie had to cover her eyes for the short video which depicted various terrible conditions at factory farms. But then we met Jumper the 700-pound pig, various cows, goats, sheep, chickens, roosters, and horses…and we were smitten.
 
A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but there is no doubt that factory farming is problematic on a number of levels (even if you aren’t too concerned about animal care, they are usually polluters of the surrounding environment). We appreciated the work that Farm Sanctuary does and the chance to learn more. If you ever find yourself on a road trip from point A to point B, please ask ActiveTravels if there is anything interesting to do on your route. We’d be glad to help!
 
(Photo by Sophie Basseches) 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/27/18 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Botswana A&K Guide, Kebby Arabang, Debuts Ilanga Tours

Lisa and I were fortunate to travel with Kebby Arabang on a magical 10-day trip with Abercrombie & Kent to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia in September 2016. Kebby’s knowledge of the outdoor world was encyclopedic. He knew every mammal, every bird, every tree, even the planets in the sky above. But it was his genuine passion of the subject, seamless communication skills, infectious smile and sense of humor that made him one of the best guides I’ve ever met. I loved mimicking his Botswana accent, especially when he emphasized the letter r when naming the next exquisite bird like the lilac-breasted roller or southern carmine bee-eater. He took it in stride and laughed along with me, even when the joke lasted far too long. 

Kebby emailed me last week and told me that when he’s not leading A&K tours in 2018, he’ll be guiding Botswana trips through his new company, Ilanga Tours. Based on your budget, he’ll take groups through the Okavango Delta and up to Chobe National Park to visit the largest herd of elephants in Africa and cruise the Chobe River on the Namibian border. If you have time, he’ll add on the spellbinding Victoria Falls. If interested in traveling with Kebby, either with A&K or Ilanga Tours, please contact ActiveTravels and we’ll look into availability. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/30/18 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Travel to the Serengeti with Chef Jody Adams

You don't typically go to Tanzania for the food. Unless you're traveling with the James Beard-award winning chef Jody Adams, best know for her long stint at Rialto in Cambridge, Mass. Thomson Safaris, experts on safari travel to Tanzania for more than two decades, will travel with Chef Adams from October 4-16, 2018. You'll see lions, giraffes, elephant and zebras in the wild, interact with Tanzanians in both traditional and modern contexts, all while savoring Tanzanian cuisine in luxury camps in the Serengeti. The culinary finale will be a hands-on cooking class in the lavish accommodations of Gibbs Farm, a working coffee plantation and pioneer in organic farming. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/25/18 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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