Tag Archives: Hills of Africa Travel

Immerse Yourself in Gorongosa’s Natural Wonders on an Intimate Walking Safari

Comprised of diverse eco-systems, and a unique cultural and historical heritage, Gorongosa National Park has positioned itself as Mozambique’s ultimate walking safari destination. Situated among the Lower Zambezi and delta systems, Gorongosa is saturated with exotic wildlife that thrives thanks to these powerful, neighboring water sources.

Famous for its rainforest, roaring waterfalls, mysterious caverns, rivers, grassy floodplains, woodlands, Albida forests, and sprawling pans, the Gorongosa is the premier destination for those looking to gain a broad insight into some of the world’s most fascinating eco-systems. Since Gorongosa’s natural world is defined by its complex eco-systems, having the best guides on your walking safari through the National Park is an absolute must.

One such safari provider, Explore Gorongosa, is an eco-tourism company that prides itself on its expert guides and their ability to combine all the social, historical, cultural, and ecological elements of the region into their guided tours.  Because of the area’s deeply rooted history and its affect on Mozambique’s natural world, no other destination in Africa provides a more well-rounded insight into a specific region quite like Gorongosa National Park. This historical heritage is arguably the strongest element that sets Gorongosa apart from other popular walking safari destinations.

Incorporating the history of the land and its affects on the region’s fragile bio-diversity, the exceptional walking safaris offered by Explore Gorongosa provide an all-encompassing and highly educational experience for all visitors. On these walking safaris, you’ll learn how the region’s history of ancient civilizations, Arabs, and gold, ivory, and slave traders, tribal conflicts, and restoration projects, has shaped Gorongosa into the exciting place it is today. In addition, you’ll be able to see the direct affects this history had on the wildlife population and how conservation efforts over the past several years have transformed the area into one of Africa’s most stunning destinations.

In addition to employing the most knowledgeable locals in the area as certified guides, Explore Gorongosa accommodates guests in semi-mobile, luxury tents. Housing up to eight guests, Explore Gorongosa’s accommodations offers an intimate atmosphere and safari experience for all its visitors. Since each walking safari incorporates the minute details of nature, as well as larger details, Explore Gorongosa only provides private safari tours to ensure you experience the entire detective aspect of a walking safari.  

Since there are no set safari itineraries, you can choose to enjoy whichever aspect of Gorongosa National Park you wish. Whether you’re looking to experience a theme-based walking safari—such as a birding safari, or an all-encompassing walking safari, Explore Gorongosa will cater to your every individual preference. 

Exclusive walking safari excursions:

If you’re interested in a more niche-oriented safari excursion that combines your favorite interests, some detective work, surprise, excitement, and inspiration, Explore Gorongosa provides a series of special interest safari excursions throughout the year. In the coming year, choose from individual expeditions such as birding, species re-introduction, photography, artistic, anthropological, Gorongosa Mountain, and lion studying.

All encompassing walking safaris:

As you journey through the varying terrain of the Gorongosa on an Explore Gorongosa walking safari, you’ll learn to listen for the distinct callings of Mozambique’s wildlife, search for animal markings, and track paths of residential lions and elephants with the invaluable expertise of Gorongosa’s certified local guides. These highly knowledgeable guides introduce you to the hidden elements of Gorongosa’s indigenous wildlife that ranges from larger game to intricate wildlife hidden beneath rocks and inside crevasses.

Fascinating birdlife including the green-headed oriole, African fish eagle, Egyptian geese, a wide variety of crane species, and much more can be seen during your comprehensive tour through the Mozambique bush. Many of the larger species of animal spotted are Nile crocodiles, lions, hippos, antelopes, and elephants.

In contrast to ecological tours, community tours allow you to discover inspirational elements of the local culture and take a deeper look into how culture has been shaped by Mozambique’s history. You’ll also be able to tour the newly built school and hospital in the Vinho community and observe the positive effects it has had on the locals.

As you observe Mozambique’s bio-diversity, you’ll learn about the direct correlation between the region’s empowering history and its wildlife population, as well as the numerous conservation efforts that helped save this region’s species.

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Who Knew Merlot Cared So Much About Labels?

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Photo from Avondale website

The wine country of South Africa is full of old-world Dutch estates, family-owned vineyards, and charming countryside, but there is one vineyard, in particular, that is appraised for not only its eco-friendly practices, but also for its delectable wines.

Each year, Avondale picks their best wine from the barrel and awards it the Les Perleus label. This label of excellence was given to their Merlot 2006 this year because of its “deep velvety texture,” hints of fruit flavors, and long, subtle tannin finish.

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Photo from Avondale website

Below you will find more information about the Les Perleus Merlot 2006:

• Some of the grapes were fermented in open tanks and the other part in closed tanks.

• Part of the fermentation process occurred in French oak barrels to draw out deep flavors of wood.

• The wine is ready to drink now. However, if you would like to wait until the wine has aged the recommended time is 15 years.

Avondale, an exceptional vineyard that began in Paarl, South Africa, features some of the most exquisite wines in the world and since its opening has expanded satellite vineyards to fifteen countries across the globe. But Avondale is famous for more than its splendid wines—they are Bio-LOGIC certified for their entire farm. In a nutshell, Bio-LOGIC certification requires that a farm does not use pesticides (even if they’re organic) or herbicides in their grape growing process. Avondale has taken great pride in this certification and strives to do their part in sustaining the environment.

Learn more about this exceptional vineyard here:

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3 Tips for Surviving In the African Savannah—Alone

BearInspired by Bear Grylls, adventurist and host of Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, I’m going to share with you some tips on surviving in Africa’s wilderness, without becoming dinner. Rest assured, all certified safari excursions are completely safe and you won’t ever need to use these tactics—but just for curiosity’s sake, don’t you want to know how you would go about avoiding the dangers of Africa’s savannah on your own?

Here’s a scenario for you: You’re driving by yourself and your vehicle breaks down. You have no food, no protection from fierce predators and the scorching sun, no water, and no direction on where to go. What do you do?

Here are 3 ways to survive in the African savannah in the most vulnerable state—as prey:

1. Find water: Many times, it won’t rain for weeks or months in the savannah, which is why finding water is such a difficult task. There are several ways to find water sources throughout the savannah. One way to find water is to search for animal tracks and follow their footsteps to see if they lead to water. If you come across a fast moving river, you’re in luck. Streams and rivers that sit without a current can harbor parasites and bacteria, which is why it’s important to find a fast moving river. You should boil the water though, no matter what, to prevent bacteria and organisms from entering your body.

If you don’t find a river, it’s time to dig. Many times, water will be beneath the surface of a dried up river bed. Before committing to digging a hole that could take up to 10 minutes to dig, it’s important to find the lowest part of the river bed (water will collect here). If you do happen to strike water, use a piece of clothing to act as a sponge and trickle the water into your mouth.

fruit2. Find Food: Finding food can be just as difficult as finding water, but if you do find water, chances are there will be food in the area as well. Throughout the vicinity you may find some berries and fruit, but before eating them, it’s crucial that you check to see if they’re poisonous. Here are a few tips to test a fruit or berry:

• The smell of the fruit plays a large role in detecting whether it is poisonous or not. First, cut the fruit open. If it smells like peaches or almonds, it’s poisonous.

• If the fruit passes the scent test, it’s time to place the fleshy part of the fruit on your skin. Rub this part of the fruit up and down your forearm and wait a minute to see if it produces a rash on your skin. If so, it’s poisonous.

• If the fruit passes the above tests, it’s time to bring the fruit to your lips. If you feel a burning sensation on your lips, the fruit is not safe to eat. If not, move the fruit to your tongue, but don’t swallow. If the fruit doesn’t agitate your tongue, take a bite of the fruit and wait several hours to see if you become sick. If not, the fruit is edible.

3. Protect yourself against predators: When walking through the African bush, it’s crucial to keep your attention on every element around you. Being observant will help you to avoid unwanted “surprises.” Depending on which animal you see in the bush, you want to know different tactics and movements to avoid becoming their dinner.

If you see a lion, keep your distance, remain calm, don’t turn your back, and don’t run. Move your arms, head, and feet around, and clap your hands together to avoid them coming closer. Slowly back away from the lions while continuing to face them.

BuffaloAlthough lions can be extremely intimidating to see in the wild, especially if you’re by yourself and lost, there are a variety of other animals to be careful of including buffalos and black rhinos. Both species need their space, which is why it’s important to always keep your eyes open and stay clear of these animals. Rhinos have a fantastic sense of smell and hearing, which makes up for their lack of good eyesight. Because of their keen sense of smell and hearing, it’s important to be extremely quiet and know the direction of the wind to prevent your scent from lingering in their direction.

Do you have any other tips for surviving in the African savannah? If so, we’d love to hear them in our comments section.

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What To Do and See In South Africa: A – Z Part I

Antique Shopping: With history dating back to the 1600s, South Africa is filled with delightful antiques and artifacts from the home, and from times of apartheid, imprisonment, and war. Whether you’re looking to purchase an antique chair or an ancient relic, South Africa’s antique shops are full of spectacular cultural and historical heritage.

Sugardbd_C-Mvert1-Jy05-wwBirding Safari: Bird lovers find South Africa to be one of the greatest countries in all of Africa to observe an abundance of unique birdlife. Currently, South Africa has over 850 different species of bird, and many of those species are endemic to the area. The best time to enjoy South Africa’s birdlife is during the spring and summer time (September – March). From ostriches to bateleur eagles, and African penguins to Cape parrots, you’ll observe some of the most exotic birds in the entire world on a South African birding safari.

Cape Town: Home to some of Africa’s best restaurants, shopping, and tours, Cape Town, South Africa is a must-visit destination for travelers. Some of the many attractions throughout Cape Town include, Table Mountain, Port Elizabeth, museums, art exhibits, and Cavendish Square—to name a few.

Dive with the Sharks: In Gansbaai, an island off the coast of South Africa, there are a variety of shark dive safari providers and excursions to choose from—some including cages, photography opportunities, manta rays, hammerheads, tiger sharks, Great Whites, and more. If you’re not feeling as adventurous as those going into the water, a shark viewing safari from the comfort of a boat is also highly rewarding and adventurous.  

Elephant and Horseback Riding: Take a ride on the back an elephant and experience stunning views of Africa and wild game from 13 feet above ground, or enjoy a horseback safari through indescribably landscapes. A horseback riding safari and elephant safari are two of the greatest ways to get up-close to nature and run with herds. 

Franschhoek: Informally dubbed the “Food & Wine” capital of South Africa, Franschhoek’s historic French Huguenot Village is one of the most exceptional places in all of Africa to enjoy stunning countryside landscapes, experience exciting cultural affairs, dabble in wine tasting, explore charming bistros and boutiques, and observe classic Cape-Dutch architecture. 

the-garden-routeGarden Route: With a chain of sprawling mountains, valleys of wildflowers, lakes, forests, and majestic beaches, Garden Route is the perfect destination for honeymooners and families alike. Whether you enjoy fishing, sun-bathing, water sports, birding, hiking, scenic tours, or cultural tours, Garden Route has it all. 

Hot Air Balloon Ride: Take a relaxing trip past jagged mountains and above plump treetops on a hot air balloon safari. Get a new perspective on South Africa’s diverse terrain as you glide through the air on this tranquil safari and enjoy fantastic photography opportunities.

Inkaba Body Balance: Experience this revolutionary and completely rejuvenating Inkaba massage therapy at the Serenite spa at L’Ermitage Franschhoek Chateau & Villas. This hands-on therapy is used to connect the body’s energy and create balance within. During this treatment, the entire body is stimulated—from the toes to the face.

Jardine: The contemporary and hip ambiance of the Jardine restaurant in Cape Town is one of the many reasons why the restaurant has landed a spot on South Africa’s prestigious Eat Out award list. Jardine boasts a delightful selection of fine African and Contemporary cuisine, such as tender duck confit, Chalmar beef fillet, and tantalizing desserts.

HOA_Kruger1Kruger National Park: As the first wildlife reserve in southern Africa, Kruger National Park has made a name for itself as the premier place to observe the Big 5 on a South African family safari or honeymoon safari. Kruger and its adjacent private reserves are home to some of the most luxurious and exclusive lodges and camps in all of Africa, including Singita, Londolozi, and Mala Mala. 

Local Village Tours: Take a tour through one of South Africa’s many quaint and charming villages and discover interesting facts and stories about local cultures and history. During these tours, you’ll have the amazing opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about their lifestyle and cultural heritage.

Mpumalanga: Breaking free from traditional African safari tours, Mpumalanga, South Africa is a haven for people who love the outdoors. Whether you enjoy hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, historic site seeing, or water sports, Mpumalanga can accommodate your every desire.

 

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Animal Spotlight: The Ostrich

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Photo provided by Dave and Naomi Estment

Can an ostrich fly if it weighs 350 lbs and is 9 ft. tall? The answer is no—not unless it has jet engines strapped to its wings. But, the ostrich does have one airplane capability working for it—the ostrich can use its wings to direct its course when running and help the animal to keep balance.

What ostriches can’t do in the air they make up for in their great running speed. Running in sudden bursts at speeds slightly more than 40 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour), the ostrich can move across large distances without tiring. The ostrich cannot maintain this speed for long periods of time though, so, on average, it runs 30 mph (50 kph) and has the ability take 10 – 15 ft. (3 – 5 meter) strides. 

What else makes the ostrich one of the most unique birds in the world?

• Built for running, the ostrich’s legs are long and each foot has two toes. These toes enable the creature to run faster.  

• Ostriches can be life-threatening if they feel they are being attacked. If the force of their powerful kick doesn’t kill a large animal, its 4 inch (10 centimeter) claw on each foot will probably do the trick. 

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Photo provided by Dave and Naomi Estment

• On average, the ostrich can live up to 30 – 40 years of age and is only found in select areas of central Africa and southern Africa.

• Not only is the ostrich the biggest and heaviest bird, it also has the largest eye out of any other land animal. Ostriches also have excellent vision, which makes it easier for them to see predators in the distance. 

• On average, herds of ostriches reach up to 10 members and consist of an alpha male and a dominant hen, as well as several other hens. During breeding season, the alpha male will mate with the dominant female and sometimes with other hens in the group. All other hens in the group must place their eggs in the dominant hen’s nest. The dominant hen’s eggs get the most attention and are in the center of the nest.  

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Photo provided by Dave and Naomi Estment

• Ostriches’ main diet consists of plants, roots, and seeds, but also includes insects, lizards, and other small creatures found throughout their territory. Because ostriches eat so much vegetation, their main source of hydration comes from plants and not from large sources of water. When an ostrich eats, it collects food in the back of its throat until there is a substantial chunk of food, at which time they will swallow.

The beautiful photographs in this post are provided by Dave Estment a well-known South African photographer and are copyrighted by Dave Estment.  To see more of Dave’s gorgeous work, please visit http://www.naomiestment.wordpress.com.  Thank you very much Dave & Naomi for sharing your work with us and everyone wanting to Live the Magic of Africa.

Take a Trip Back In Time on Robben Island

Aerial view of Robben IslandAs an official nature reserve and World Heritage Site, Robben Island is one of the most unique places to enjoy a family safari vacation or a South African honeymoon. Rich with cultural and historical elements as well as an abundance of wildlife and diverse eco-systems, Robben Island is a must visit destination.

Before you even arrive on Robben Island, you’ll be able to see some truly exceptional marine mammals indigenous to the area during the boat ride from Cape Town to Robben Island. Frequently spotted animals include Cape fur seals, southern right whales, and several dolphin species.

Robben Island

Upon your arrival to this stunning getaway, you’ll discover exactly why Robben Island is famous for its fantastic wildlife and unique vegetation. Some resident species you’ll see include a variety of antelope species, ostriches, reptiles, tortoises’, and more. The birdlife is also exquisite on this island and one of those most celebrated birds to observe is the African penguin. As a breeding ground for these adorable, little sea birds, Robben Island offers you the opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with the penguins and observe their natural behavior in the wild. You will also have the chance to see a variety of other seabirds and over 132 species of bird. Some of the most popularly witnessed birds include the guinea fowl, black crowned night heron, and the crowned cormorant.

Robben Island

In addition to its highly-acclaimed wildlife, Robben Island is also famous for its World Heritage Site title. History buffs and intuitive travelers alike find Robben Island to be one of the most intriguing places to take a step back in time—a time when great national leaders, icons, African citizens, and criminals were punished and imprisoned. This Island was also used as a place of hospitalization and quarantine for people with leprosy.

Did you know?

• Since the 1600s the island’s primary purpose has been to imprison political figures and criminals.

• Well-known political prisoners included Nelson Mandela (South Africa’s first president), other African leaders, Muslim leaders, and anti-apartheids.

• In addition to its use as a prison, Robben Island was once used as a hospital for lepers and mentally ill people.

• In 1997, Robben Island was dubbed as a World Heritage Site and is now one of the world’s greatest and historically-rich museums.

Below is a timeline taken directly from the Robben Island Museum website:
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Have you been to Robben Island?  What were your lasting memories?

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Animal Spotlight: The South African Fur Seal

It doesn’t get much more adorable than the South African fur seal. With big brown eyes, thick whiskers, and a furry little face, the South African fur seal is one of the most precious animals to observe on the coast of South Africa.

South African Fur Seal, photograph courtesy of BBC

South African Fur Seal, photograph courtesy of BBC

Found on the coast of Namibia, Africa and parts of South Africa, the current, estimated population size of the South African fur seal is approximately 1.5 to 2 million individuals—nearly 1,000,000 more than its sister species, the Australian fur seal. Observing this creature in its natural habitat is a treat for anyone, as this species is only found in one region of the world, southern Africa.

African Fur Seals photographs courtesy of Nel Shedden (www.neilshedden.com)

African Fur Seals photographs courtesy of Nel Shedden (www.neilshedden.com)

Interesting South African Fur Seal Facts:

• There are two subspecies of this particular seal, the South African fur seal and the Australian fur seal. These two species are almost identical in appearance with the only different being a slight variation in skull characteristics (and obviously their geographical locations).

• The South African fur seal can live up to 25 years of age and can grow up to 2.3 m (7.5 ft.) in length and weigh anywhere from 35 – 110 kg (77 – 242 lbs).

African Fur Seals photographs courtesy of Nel Shedden (www.neilshedden.com)

African Fur Seals photographs courtesy of Nel Shedden (www.neilshedden.com)

• The South African fur seal’s primary diet consists of sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and some types of crustaceans and cephalopods, which they catch nearly 180 km (112 miles) away from shore. These animals have also been known to snack on other furry friends including penguins and Cape gannets (a sea bird).

• As expert divers, the South African fur seal can dive up to an astonishing 400 m (1,300 ft.) beneath the surface! Compared to expert PADI divers who can usually only dive up to 60 m (200 ft.) these animals are truly magnificent.

African Fur Seals photographs courtesy of Nel Shedden (www.neilshedden.com)

African Fur Seals photographs courtesy of Nel Shedden (www.neilshedden.com)

• The primary predators that feast on the South African fur seal in the water are sharks and killer whales, and on land the main predators are the black-backed jackal and the brown hyena.

• Females are pregnant for about one full year and give birth the following year in late November to early December.

• When pups are born they have a curly black coat, which is molted in about 5 weeks. Their new coat is gray, which is molted once more, almost a year later, into a silver coat.

• Nearly two months after giving birth, the female seal can be out to sea for up to two weeks in search of food for her pup. When the female returns from sea she lets out a call that attracts all the pups in the territory, but only gives attention to her own.

African Fur Seal

• During mid October, males come ashore to fight for their breeding grounds. Once breeding grounds are established by the males, the females will come ashore and also fight for their breeding grounds among other females. The female seals always claim their territory within a male’s and will then mate with that male. Males have been known to have up to 50 females in their territory. That’s a lot of female mates for one male!

Do you enjoy the African Fur Seal?  Please share your favorite photographs and experiences with us.

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