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  • A Rhino’s Adventures in Africa by Rita Shaw
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    A Rhino’s Adventures in Africa by Rita Shaw
    As part of my first trip to Africa, I organised a week with a small group through Kenya. About six weeks before I was due to leave, I was advised that the trip had been cancelled as I was the only person booked on them – I wouldn’t have objected to being the sole guest, but I guess commerce is commerce! Because of the change, instead of doing the full week in Kenya, I flew in a small plane to just the Masai Mara for a few days. This was a wonderful introduction to the bush and, as an extra bonus, I didn’t have to be driven for many hours on a major highway which was in reality a gravel road held together by potholes.

    For my first afternoon game drive in the Mara, it was pouring with rain. I was with a couple of young English guys, also on their novice drive and, for some reason, our guide stopped the vehicle close to a strange sort of stripy orange rock. I couldn’t figure out why he was interested in this rock until it suddenly stood up, leisurely stretched, and then shook itself all over, spraying water everywhere! This magnificent male lion was obviously feeling extremely miserable about the seemingly endless deluge of water falling from the sky. It’s really tough when you don’t have any means of protection from the weather! I must say that I became extremely excited with this sighting as I had managed to video the lion vigorously shaking the water from his mane and spraying it everywhere. The guys were so busy chatting to each other that they didn’t manage to capture the moment at all.

    The usual reason for people to go to the Mara is to see the annual wildebeest migration, however, by the time I arrived at the beginning of August, it was finished for 2008. Timing for the migration all depends on when the rains come – sometimes early, sometimes late, and sometimes there can be a double migration in one season. One day, I might decide to go back for a full-on migration experience … especially now that I know quite a few people who organise small group trips specifically designed to maximise the excitement of seeing the masses of wildebeest and zebra crossing the Mara River. I think, these days, that I am also more prepared for the enormity of this experience. Many visitors to Africa, as I did, visit the Mara on their first trip, without any real comprehension of the magnitude of the annual migration. Although I have watched thousands of hours of television footage of the migration, watching it in person, breathing in the dust and trying to absorb the thousands of wildebeest and zebra just doing what they do naturally, must be absolutely spectacular!

    Strangely, there were some African animals that, before that trip, I had never even thought about seeing. In the Mara, we saw a female ostrich walking near the road. Using the logic of, if there is a female walking, there is a male behind her somewhere, sitting on their eggs, my intrepid guide found him sitting on a clutch of 13 gigantic eggs. He was perfectly fine with us driving up close to him, but literally threw a hissy fit when a second vehicle came up behind us. It was amazing to watch him stand up, flap his very large wings, hiss at us, and prance around to try to scare us away – it didn’t work! My guide did panic a little though, as he thought the ostrich might try to peck me through the opening under the pop-top roof. This was a really cool sighting but, because he was so upset, we decided to leave him in peace to protect his unhatched babies.
  • “Hamba Kahle Tata” (1918 – 2013)
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    “Hamba Kahle Tata” (1918 – 2013)
    "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite" – Nelson Mandela.

    Woolies and Soweto Gospel Choir: Madiba Tribute: http://youtu.be/MHHjP7XrBq0
  • The First Zero Emissions Safari Vehicle
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    The First Zero Emissions Safari Vehicle
    Londolozi has introduced the first zero emissions, electric safari game drive vehicle. The vehicle moves guests silently through Londolozi’s 16,000-hectare traversing area in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, with a significantly lower carbon footprint than a conventional 4×4.

    Using rechargeable batteries, Londolozi has moved a step closer to more efficient use of propulsion energy. They will continue to work closely with the prototype developers to use increased battery efficiency and solar power to achieve a zero emissions status for this new technology.

    Londolozi is justly famous for its ground-breaking conservation work, and for establishing that the welfare of the land, the wildlife and the people are intertwined. Londolozi’s Dave Varty was among the first to question and measure the energy costs of a safari, and is proud to have the opportunity to help with the development of the silent, zero-emissions vehicle. The aim is to increase battery efficiency and harness solar power to achieve zero emissions and enable guests to experience the bush and its sounds.
  • Singita Grumeti Introduces African Tasting Menu
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    Singita Grumeti Introduces African Tasting Menu
    Singita Grumeti Reserves has introduced an interesting new culinary option that integrates international cuisine with the authentic traditional foods of East Africa. Chief among the epicurean influences is Swahili cuisine, featured on the new African Tasting Menu that is served at the 1920’s-styled Singita Sabora Tented Camp.

    Guests may savour tastings of local dishes that reflect a diverse range of flavours, including mtori,athick, traditional soup from the Kilimanjaro region made from onions, green bananas and a little meat. A choice of mezze style platters is served in the traditional Swahili fashion, comprising dishes such as dagaa mchuzi, a delicious serving of dried fish cooked in peanut tomato sauce; mchicha, a wild spinach grown locally – either blanched or sautéd with sunflower oil, tomato and onion; and kitandu cha nyama, a meat stew cooked with bitter local greens, which have a unique sour flavour with fragrant undertones of lemon.

    On the menu too are tasty staple foods that are ubiquitous to Africa such as ugali (known as pap to South Africans), but best described as a white ‘polenta’ made from finely ground dried corn caked into a stiff porridge; and popular pilau and wali (rice cooked in coconut milk served with meat and stew). Also featured is the ‘African red devil’ piri piri (Swahili for ‘pepper’) and nyama choma – a form of barbecued meat, traditionally the entree of choice in East Africa.

    Offering guests a tantalizing taste of local fare at its best, typical Swahili spices and local honey are also used extensively in the cuisine at each of Singita’s four lodges in the Grumeti Reserves. Manned by a team of expert chefs, each lodge boasts its own unique setting and quintessential charm, to combine the ultimate in savannah luxury with world-class service in a spectacular setting overlooking the plains along East Africa’s world-famous wildebeest migratory route. In addition to Singita Sabora Tented Camp, the Singita portfolio includes spectacular flagship Singita Sasakwa Lodge (a Relais & Châteaux property), unique and eco-friendly Singita Faru Faru Lodge, and the latest Singita product – Singita Explore, offering the ultimate mobile safari experience.

    Tilapia, a local fresh water fish is another popular item on Singita’s menus, as is chapatis, a type of roti, served with curries and coconut, and organic home grown vegetables sourced from surrounding villages as part of various community support projects run by the Singita Grumeti Fund. Rounding off the taste of indigenous culinary culture is a selection of local Tanzanian beers, among which Kilimanjaro, Tusker and Serengeti. Local Chai tea and Kilimanjaro filter coffee feature among non-alcoholic beverages, as does the famous East African vodka, lime and honey cocktail, called a dawa.
  • Horn of Africa drought
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    Horn of Africa drought
    With all the recent reports in the local and international press & TV media about the severe drought situation in the Horn of Africa, we are aware that this must be causing some concern to travellers intending to travel to East Africa, and throwing some doubt on whether or not this will affect their safari.

    We wish to clarify that the drought ravaging parts of the country is very much localised and there are several regions within East Africa that have received adequate rainfall and expect a normal harvest.

    We wish to re assure guests intending to embark on a safari during this time, that neither themselves nor their safari will be affected or compromised by the drought. The key areas where most tourism activity takes place have not been affected by the drought and there is fantastic game viewing in the Parks, Reserves and Conservancies. For instance there has been a phenomenal migration this year.

    There are a large number of East Africans who depend on tourism, directly and or indirectly, as a means of livelihood. This includes communities living around Parks and Reserves and those who operate community owned conservancies as an alternative to pastoralism and it is therefore important for us to continue as usual.

    H.E. Mwai Kibaki the Kenyan President declared the drought a National disaster. Efforts have been stepped up to provide relief supplies to those affected by the drought, and reports are coming in now that aid is finally reaching the ravaged areas.
  • Kenya Visa Fees
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    Kenya Visa Fees
    The Kenya Immigration Office has advised that with effect from 1st July 2011, the Kenya Visa fees have increased to US$ 50.00 per passport holder – includes all adults and children.

    British passport holders can obtain additional information regarding the Kenya visa prices and requirements from the Kenyan High Commission website where they can also download a visa application form.

    http://www.kenyahighcommission.net/visa.html
  • Mark Todd Safari Special
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    Mark Todd Safari Special
    African Horseback Safaris have announced that double Olympic Gold medallist eventer Mark Todd, CBE, will take a brief break from preparations for London 2012 Olympics and will be escorting rides from Macatoo Camp between 2nd and 7th December.

    Named as Rider of the 20th Century by the International Equestrian Federation, Mark took gold at Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) Olympics, won the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials on three occasions and the Burghley three-day event five times.

    As a member of New Zealand’s Eventing team he won gold medals at the World Championships in 1990 and 1998, the European Championships in 1997, plus 20 or more other international events, and numerous other international individual and team titles.

    Eight years after retiring from evening following the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Mark announced his return to the sport he has dominated for most of his career.

    Limited space is available on this escorted safari at Macatoo Camp between 2nd and 7th December 2011 (5 nights) so book now to avoid disappointment.

    Price: £ 2,280.00 per person sharing, fully inclusive of all accommodation, activities, meals and return flights from Maun to Macatoo.
  • The baobabs of Tarangire
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    The baobabs of Tarangire
    Tarangire National Park in Tanzania is home to some of the oldest trees in the world; baobabs. Sometimes called the “upside-down tree” because of their unusual root-like branch formations, baobabs are extremely long-lived. They are thought by local tribes to contain mysterious powers because they can be hacked, burnt, have their bark removed and people can even move into the trunk and they keep growing. A great example is Sanctuary Swala Tented Camp whose tent number 5 is built around an old tree which, hundreds of years ago, had a love seat carved into it!

    In Tarangire at the turn of the 20th Century a group of 6 poachers lived in the trunk of a baobab for many months. They outfoxed the rangers chasing them and were only caught when they had an argument one day and a passing patrol happened to hear them!

    www.hartleys-safaris.co.uk/Tanzania-Tarangire-Sanctuary-Swala-Camp
  • Cape Town – Cablecar Closure
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    Cape Town – Cablecar Closure
    The Cape Town Cableway will be closed for annual maintenance from 18th to 31st July. Weather permitting, it is set for re-opening on 1st August.

    This does not mean ‘the mountain is closed’, you could alternatively enjoy a Table Mountain hike. Table Mountain National Park has exciting trails for all levels of walkers from the super-fit to the casual stroller. There are many routes to choose from, all offering spectacular views of Cape Town, rugged mountains and deep blue seas. Most of the popular hikes such as Platteklip Gorge (north face), Nursery Ravine and Skeleton Gorge (the latter two being accessible from Kirstenbosch) are fairly strenuous, while Silvermine, the Cape of Good Hope and the Constantiaberg offer easier options.
  • The shortest game drive ever?
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    The shortest game drive ever?
    At Chada Katavi, in the Katavi National Park, Tanzania, guests were recently woken in the night by loud roaring, and hippo snorting and hooting, followed by a very loud clatter. Hippo and lion were fighting right by the mess tent in camp! Tall shelves holding wine glasses and tumblers, a tea service and two tables were knocked over by a hippo fleeing through the dining tent wall.

    As dawn was breaking the camp staff emerged to investigate, firstly to hear the classic fast heavy panting of a well-fed lion by tent four, with the rest of the pride feeding on something by the mess tent. It was too dark to see, but the sounds of their growling at each other and crunching and gnawing were plain to hear.

    At 6:30, they could finally see what was going on – one side of the tent was pulled down, and five lionesses were feeding on a smallish hippo, right against the tent. Knowing how nervous lions are at seeing people on foot, and by contrast how relaxed they are in the presence of open Landrovers, the guides collected the guests from their tents in their vehicles. Then, in what is probably the shortest game drive in the history of Chada Katavi, they drove the Landrovers 100 metres to the mess tent and sat disbelieving as they all took in the scene.

    When the chef was asked what she was planning to do for lunch she replied “Maybe room service…?”
  • Serengeti Highway
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    Serengeti Highway
    A project to build a road through Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park could put pay to one of the planet’s greatest natural spectacles – the annual great wildebeest migration.

    The 480-kilometre road will link Musoma on the banks of Lake Victoria to Arusha, and according to the Tanzanian government bring essential economic development to the region. Conservationists warn the road will disfigure the park and kill the migration.

    The project has attracted enormous criticism from environmental groups which fear the effects on the ecosystem will be devastating. The road will bisect the path of the great migration, when each year millions of animals migrate between the Tanzanian Serengeti and Kenyan Masai Mara in search of fresh water sources.

    Environmentalists are also concerned about the consequences of increased road kill for threatened species such as cheetah, for which even a marginal increase in mortality rates could lead to disastrous population decline, as well as increased poaching, and the spread of disease and invasive plants.

    The world travel industry and supporters of sustainable tourism everywhere are rallying to the Serengeti’s defense.

    The website below will give you information on the irreversible destruction this highway will have, with links to studies showing why.

    www.savetheserengeti.org/issues/stop-the-serengeti-highway
  • New Volunteer Website
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    New Volunteer Website
    The Mwabvi Wildlife and Community Trust, responsible for the development of the Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve, in South Malawi’s Lower Shire Valley, now have their very own website especially for people who are interested in spending some time volunteering at Mwabvi.

    Project Director Barry Kerr, lives with his family at Chipembere Camp, which is just a few hundred metres outside the reserve gates. He has a whole list of projects for which he needs the help of enthusiastic volunteers. So whether your interests are in overseeing a road building team, researching flora or fauna in their natural habitat, or assisting the local school or the orphan care program, Barry and Adele will be very pleased to welcome you for a long or a short stay.

    All the details are on the new website at www.volunteerafrica.org.za
  • Children in the Wilderness
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    Children in the Wilderness
    Children in the Wilderness is a program run by Wilderness Safaris that bridges the divide that exists between communities and wildlife, and focuses on the next generation. The programme aims to develop environmental leaders who are inspired to care for their natural heritage so that they become the custodians of these areas in the future.

    Rural children who live alongside the Parks and Reserves are hosted for periods of up to 6 days at Wilderness Safaris Camps. A well-structured curriculum is offered in a safe wilderness environment where nature becomes the teacher and the healer. Using environmental education, therapeutic recreation and old-fashioned fun, Children in the Wilderness opens up the minds of children, increases their self-esteem, builds and strengthens their capacities to cope with life’s challenges and educates them with the life skills necessary to actualise their greatest potential. Many of the children are motivated to continue with their schooling and to strive for a better life.

    In 2005 Danford Manda, a local child from the Chintheche region of Malawi, attended a Children in the Wilderness Camp. He was inspired by the Wilderness guides and the knowledge he gained from them during the camp, and his dream was that one day he’d become a Wilderness guide too.

    While attending the weekly follow-up meetings he learned more and more about conservation. In 2009 after some research in his home community he identified an ever increasing demand for wood and realised that deforestation was a major challenge in his area. He wrote a proposal to Children in the Wilderness with the intention of receiving funding and support with regards to starting a tree nursery and woodlot project for his community.

    The project is now in its first phase. A one-hectare piece of land has been donated by the local chief for the woodlot. A number of trees have already been planted along the boundary of the land and the community children will be working together with Wilderness Safari tree experts in growing seedlings for the 2011 December tree planting season. They expect that 2,500 trees will be planted on the land, bringing all the benefits of a mixed ecosystem with them.

    Danford is now working at Mvuu Camp, in Malawi as a trainee guide.

    (Images courtesy of Wilderness Safaris)
  • Strange hairy antelope spotted in the Masai Mara
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    Strange hairy antelope spotted in the Masai Mara
    The strangest thing happened in the famous Masai Mara a few weeks ago – a hairy goat-like creature was caught on camera by veteran Italian photographer Paolo Torchio, while roaming the plains.

    Having lived and worked in Kenya for two decades Paolo is hugely familiar with the game resident in the reserve, so he was astonished to see a terrier’s face poking out of the tall grass. “I was wondering what this dog was doing out in the wild” Torchio said. When the ‘Terrier’ emerged from the grass it was clearly not a dog. The animal had all the markings of a Thomson’s gazelle but was covered with a strange, thick coat of hair, in stark contrast to the sleek Thomson’s gazelles in its company.

    When Torchio found the strange Terrier-like antelope, it seemed at ease with the other ‘ordinary’ antelopes. “Its funny look was not affecting the relations with the other gazelles”, Torchio said.

    Torchio crept alongside the shaggy creature for 15 minutes, snapping pictures, but eventually the animal took off. The Italian photographer spent the next five days trying to find the gazelle, but to no avail. Experts are not quite sure what to make of the fluffy little gazelle, especially since Torchio’s photographs are the only known example of such a beast existing.
  • Sculpture in Chyulu Hills Kenya seen from space
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    Sculpture in Chyulu Hills Kenya seen from space
    Andrew Rogers is one of Australia’s most distinguished and internationally recognized contemporary artists. He has received many international commissions and has created ‘Rhythms of Life’, the largest contemporary land art undertaking in the world, forming a chain of 46 massive stone sculptures, or Geoglyphs, around the globe. The project has involved over 6,700 people in 13 countries across six continents.

    Andrew chose the Chyulu Hills in Kenya for his first sculpture in Africa. He set up base at Campi Ya Kanzi, a small luxury camp in the Chyulu Hills which was built in partnership with the Maasai community.

    They employed 1,300 Maasai tribes people who moved 2,000 tonnes of stone to build three sculptures which are visible from space.

    The first two sculptures, a shield and a lion’s paw, were chosen by the Maasai community to make a statement about conservation and about protecting their traditional lifestyle. For the Maasai it was fantastic to leave a permanent footprint for generations to come. The third sculpture is the Andrew Rogers signature sculpture ‘Rhythms of Life’, it is the theme for all his geoglyphs and represents the line of life.
  • Black rhino in the North Luangwa
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    Black rhino in the North Luangwa
    John Coppinger of Remote Africa Safaris, has reported a sighting of truly wild Black Rhino in Zambia’s remote North Luangwa, spotted by a guide and guests from Mwaleshi Camp. They first thought they were looking at elephants in the distance but soon realized it was in fact a female black rhino with a calf.

    These rare Black Rhino were last seen in the wild in Zambia in the very early 1980′s before they were poached to extinction. The North Luangwa Conservation Project, which is funded by Frankfurt Zoological Society, commenced a reintroduction programme and in 2003 the first animals arrived by air from South Africa. The translocation schedule culminated in the arrival of the final five animals last May. In the interim there have been two natural deaths and three births, resulting in a total population of 27 animals, believed to be a sufficient number to propagate naturally. Most of the rhinos exist in the 300 km2 sanctuary but some now appear to have moved out of the boma into the great wilderness. They are still closely monitored by the NLCP team and ZAWA (Zambian Wildlife Authority) scouts.

    The North Luangwa is one of the last great wilderness destinations, an achingly wild place with hardly any visitors yet dramatic wildlife.
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