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  • Who let the dogs out?
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    Who let the dogs out?
    In 2005, AfriCat in Namibia received an urgent call from a government conservation officer, concerning seven wild dog puppies that he had dug out of a hole. The rest of the pack had been poisoned. Some of the pups had already died, but he was able to save a few of them and he needed AfriCat’s urgent help.

    Raising these puppies was the hardest project Dave Houghton, an ex-pat Brit and former cameraman turned conservationist, and his partner Carla have ever tackled. Their eyes were still closed and they had no immunity. Sadly 2 puppies died in the first 2 months with a third dying in 2009 from congenital problems.

    Kate Humble and Ben Fogle filmed the first few weeks of the pups lives for Animal Park – giving these wild dogs fame from the start! They have always been kept in a large private area preventing all direct contact with humans, paving the way for their release.

    These 4 stars, Raine, Ricki, Ruby and the only male, Rex, are now 5 years old.

    They were released on 11th September 2010 and this happy day was experienced by all of the guests at Okonjima. The wild dogs made the characteristic barking, yelping noise that is always associated with the painted dog – as they ran around discovering their new environment! By the afternoon they had already chased a family of warthogs – who wisely disappeared into an aardvark hole!

    The next morning Dave saw them take down their first kill. It is inspiring to see that their instinct is still intact after so many years in captivity and it is a credit to the AfriCat team that the pack continue to thrive once released.
  • Bamboo Bikes and the Zambulance
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    Bamboo Bikes and the Zambulance
    Guests at the Islands of Siankaba in Livingstone, Zambia will soon be able to participate in a new eco activity – bamboo bike rides through the local villages! These bikes are made out of regionally grown bamboo and produced by a local business to help develop artisans in the community. The bamboo is extremely tough (some even say a replacement for carbon fibre), and yet it is very light so makes a perfect frame. The wheels etc are all assembled from imported parts. The company making them was started by a couple of Americans and is being run in such a way as to develop local craftsmen and promote Zambian business. The Islands of Siankaba have placed an order for a number of these bikes and they will be delivered in a couple of weeks. They will then be able to give guests the chance of going on a walk or a cycle through the local villages.

    Another new development is the donation of a ‘Zambulance’ by the lodge to the local clinic to enable them to move patients back and forth from the clinic. At present some patients are ‘delivered’ to them in wheel barrows or precariously balanced on the back of a bicycle.
  • Additional activities in Tarangire National Park
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    Additional activities in Tarangire National Park
    Guests visiting Sanctuary Swala Camp in Tarangire, Tanzania, now have the rare privilege of enjoying exciting night game drives, walking safaris and balloon safaris in the National Park.

    Never before has permission been granted to experience the wonders of a safari at night within the park. As dusk falls, guests can relax in the comfort of their safari vehicle as they venture into the park (which appears completely transformed at night), and search for nocturnal animals rarely seen by visitors. At night, guests may encounter African wild cat and the elusive leopard, or feel the round eyes of a bushbaby peering down as the moon rises into the sky. With specialised lighting, the guide searches for lion and hyena and smaller creatures such as spotted genet, serval, bat eared foxes, owls and nightjars.

    Guests can also now put on their walking shoes and experience the beautiful Tarangire National Park from a different perspective on a walking safari. With a professional walking guide and armed ranger, guests explore the grassland around camp in one of the most secluded areas of the park. The qualified guide has a wealth of knowledge which he shares as he tracks game and explains how to understand animal behaviour. Tarangire is one of a few places in Tanzania’s northern Parks where walking is possible.

    There is no better way to truly experience the unique beauty of Tarangire than on a balloon safari. The balloon safaris offer an unusual opportunity to fly low over this amazing landscape which is dominated by majestic Baobab trees and has a mixture of acacia tortilis, riparian woodland, riverine and savannah grasslands. The pilot and guide sets an attractive flight path northwards following the Tarangire river, which attracts a large number of migrant animals to its banks year round.

    Activities are at additional cost – please contact one of our team for more detailed information.
  • Nkwichi Lodge Community Stoves
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    Nkwichi Lodge Community Stoves
    Nkwichi Lodge, located on the Mozambique shores of Lake Malawi, focuses much of its efforts on the local communities.

    One project is the fuel-efficient stoves that are hand-made on their community farm and then sold to the local villages. These stoves are made by hand from clay gathered in the area. They are produced by the community and sold to the community at a very affordable price, encouraging the support of the micro economy within the area. This has had a noticeable effect, the stoves use between 40% to 70% less firewood, depending on how carefully the wood is used pre and post cooking.

    These stoves help sustain the growing number of people while slowing the detrimental effect to the environment caused by chopping down trees for firewood. They have also been selling the stoves to Likoma Island Residents (Malawi) who for years have been going across to the mainland to chop down trees for firewood or buy firewood from the mainland residents. With the introduction of these stoves, these firewood collecting or buying trips have been reduced by between 20% and 50% depending on the time of year.
  • White Lions of the Timbavati
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    White Lions of the Timbavati
    In October 1975, two white lion cubs were born into a pride of lions in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park in South Africa. The lions were discovered by Chris McBride who, in 1977, went on to write ‘White Lions of The Timbavati’, a book about the famous lions. Since then few other white lions have been born in the Timbavati and immediate vicinity – the last disappeared in 1992, killed in a territorial take-over by other lions.

    At the beginning of December last year two white lion cubs were seen in the Timbavati – a most rare and precious event. The cubs were seen early one morning with a pride consisting of three adult females and four cubs approximately 8 or 9 months old. The pride was feeding on a fresh giraffe carcass on Kings Camp property. Only two of the cubs were white and as Kings Camp tracker Albert put it, the other two were just “plain” – meaning they were the normal tawny colour!! Kings Camp’s guides report that the newcomers look healthy and well fed, and their chances of survival increase daily as they get older.

    White lions are not albinos, as is sometimes thought, but owe their uniqueness to a recessive gene carried by the normal tawny parent lions. Their re-appearance is a very exciting event.

    Kings Camp captures all the charm of a bygone age. The camp faces an open plain and a waterhole that is frequently visited by wildlife. Nine spacious thatched suites, and two honeymoon suites with pools, have air-conditioning, luxurious bathroom, indoor and outdoor shower, mini-bar and private verandah.
  • Rare rhino species at Ol Pejeta Conservancy
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    Rare rhino species at Ol Pejeta Conservancy
    Four of the worlds last eight Northern White Rhinos have been flown from the Dvur Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Kenya’s Laikipia District.

    The transfer is aimed at providing this rare species of rhino with the most favourable breeding conditions, in an attempt to pull the species back from the verge of extinction. It is thought that the climatic, dietary and security conditions at Ol Pejeta will provide them with higher chances of starting a population, in what is seen as the very last lifeline for the species. The transfer marks the beginning of ‘Last Chance to Survive’, a project by the joint efforts of the Dvur Králové Zoo, Fauna and Flora International, Back to Africa, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service and Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

    The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 90,000 acre private wildlife conservancy situated on the equator, between the foot hills of the Aberdares and the magnificent snow-capped Mount Kenya. It is home to some southern white rhinos and with 83 black rhinos is East Africa’s largest Black Rhino Sanctuary. The most exclusive place to stay at Ol Pejeta Conservancy is Ol Pejeta Bush Camp, a small owner-run camp which offers guests the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of carrying out interactive conservation safaris – right in the heart of one of Africa’s most important wildlife conservancies.
  • Sweet treats at the Cape Grace
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    Sweet treats at the Cape Grace
    Chef Malika van Reenen of Signal Restaurant, has added an innovative twist to afternoon tea at the Cape Grace by introducing a Sugar Buffet – a first for Cape Town.

    The enticing tea, prettily presented at three o’clock every afternoon continues through to six o’clock in the evening and includes classic treats such as cherry-red toffee apples, decadent pistachio-laced chocolate fudge, fruity florentines, buttery little cup cakes, delicate meringues and pink and white marshmallow squares. The Sugar Buffet served in the hotel’s library with incredible views of the yacht marina and Signal Hill.

    Nestled in Cape Town’s Waterfront, the gracious sanctuary of Cape Grace embraces tradition, sophistication and contemporary comfort. The luxurious spaciousness of the guestrooms and suites, the diversity of amenities and the unsurpassed standards in service, have all ensured Cape Grace is a favourite for many returning guests.

    Malika van Reenen is currently Executive Chef of the superb Signal Restaurant at the Cape Grace, where the creative menu reflects the diversity of Cape cuisine; French Huguenots, British, Dutch and Asian an eclectic and fascinating mix of past favourites, drawing on today’s blend of cultures and their unique tastes worldwide.
  • Serengeti Cheetah Research Project
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    Serengeti Cheetah Research Project
    Cheetah research in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania started in the 1970’s when virtually nothing was known about cheetahs in the wild, and information on their conservation status was limited. The aim of the Serengeti Cheetah Project was to monitor the demographics of the cheetah in one of the last few remaining natural ecosystems where cheetahs exist. Valuable information has been obtained from this project about this unique and specialised member of the cat family.

    The field research of finding the cheetah is undertaken by one person covering a research area of 2,200 km2! The public Cheetah Watch Campaign was started in 2000 with the aim of trying to get the public interest in the project increased, as well as trying to collate the information on sightings made by tourists. To date the project has received approximately 1,200 sightings from the public.

    Sanctuary Kusini Camp is well situated for cheetah observation, sitting directly in the path of the seasonal cheetah movement from central to southern Serengeti. As such, the camp has partnered with the Cheetah Research Project to help keep track of the animals in the areas surrounding the camp. Their guides have intimate knowledge of the area and have now received in-depth training as to the identification, habits and movements of cheetah. For guests staying at Sanctuary Kusini, the camp offers informative talks and cheetah research outings where the specific aim is to go out on a drive, find cheetah and identify them by means of field ID kits.

    Guests are encouraged to leave copies of photos of any cheetah sightings they have had. These are then passed onto the researcher for identification and feedback is provided directly to the guest on the cheetah they saw. They hope to offer guests a more detailed and in depth look into the world of this amazing cat.

    If you would like to visit Tanzania and incorporate Sanctuary Kusini in your next safari, please contact us for more details.
  • Client report – Zambia August 2009
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    Client report – Zambia August 2009
    In 2007, we asked Sue Bingley to organise a safari to Botswana for us. This was after talking to friends who had been there the previous year with Hartley’s. We had such a good time that we decided we wanted to do another safari in 2009, this time, in company with our friends. Sue recommended Zambia as it would provide us with a different safari experience.

    Accordingly, on 27 August this year, we found ourselves standing on an airstrip in the Kafue National Park waiting for a transfer to Lufupa Tented Camp. The brief to Sue was to provide us with three camps, for four nights each, in as a wide an environment as possible. Kafue NP is north west of Lusaka and covers a vast area. Our introduction to Lufupa was dramatic as a lion pride had made a warthog kill about 200 metres from the airstrip. With our bags in the back of the landcruiser, we went straight there to follow the action and watched the pride and their cubs having their lunch. We only stayed at Lufupa for one night, but the staff and service were great and it was an excellent start to our holiday. Next day we moved further north to Busanga Camp and began to realise why safaris in Zambia are so logistically challenging.

    Busanga Bush Camp is situated on a small island on the Busanga flood plain. For six months of the year the flood plain makes the camp inaccessible so the camp is struck and stored until the floods subside. Because of its position, there is no airstrip so the final leg of the transfer has to be by helicopter. The camp manager, JD, and his wife Laura explained some of the problems of a bush camp. A month before the season opens, all the supplies have to be trucked in and the camp has to be reconstructed. After six months storage, there is inevitably some termite damage and deterioration in the stored equipment and a refurbishment and repair operation is required. The snag is that the flood plain is still too wet for trucks, so everything is brought to the nearest dry area and then taken by canoe to the island. This includes all the food, cement, timber, construction materials, tents, etc. As a camp manager at Busanga you need to be young, fit and able to turn your hand to almost any task. This is on top of the skills required to act as guide and driver! Fortunately JD and Laura have those qualities in spades.

    Busanga was chosen as it is in one of the few parks where cheetah can be seen, but although they had been seen a few weeks previously, we were unlucky. Our friends, who had not seen leopard before, were more successful. The Busanga flood plain offers wide open panoramas with unbelievable landscapes and skies. We saw a huge variety of game and birds and enjoyed a wonderful stay. Our highlight was probably a night drive, when we saw a lioness with her three new cubs, two servals, a genet and a leopard on a night prowl.

    After a great stay, we transferred to Kaingo Camp in the South Luanga NP. This was chosen as a good leopard viewing area, the totally different terrain from Kafue NP and the wonderful photographic opportunities. This camp is a family run camp and Derek Shenton was our host. Kaingo offers everything you could need (except cheetah!) with almost daily sightings of leopard, lion, elephant, giraffe and antelope of every shape and size. The resident lion pride specialises in taking down buffalo and we witnessed two kills. As we had come to expect, the guiding and driving was of the highest quality. A bonus at Kaingo is the walking safaris and the specially constructed viewing hides. The sight of hundreds of Carmine Bee Eaters nesting on the river bank of the Luangwa River will stay with us for ever.

    Our final camp was Chiawa in the Lower Zambezi NP. This is another family camp run by Grant Cumings. The attraction here is the wide range of river activities on the Zambezi and the opportunity to see game from a different perspective. We witnessed elephants crossing from Zimbabwe to Zambia across the Zambezi, listened to elephants, hippos and lions as we drank our sundowners and came back to the camp on two occasions to find that the local trio of bull elephants were ensconced in the middle of the camp making a leisurely lunch of the tamarind tree. The canoe trips and river boat excursions were wonderful and very relaxing after the previous ten days of game drives. Our novice fishing party even managed to catch three tiger fish on the Zambezi. Even though we were concentrating on the river, we still saw the resident pride of lions and a leopard.

    Impressions? From our limited experience of only one other safari in Botswana, Zambia seems to offer, smaller, family run camps with more opportunities for a wider variety of activities. For example, at Busanga, there is only room for six guests – the third tent was unoccupied so the four of us had the camp to ourselves. The proportion of Brits to other nationalities (particularly Americans) seems lower in Zambia compared to Botswana.

    The camps might at first glance seem more basic, but there is everything you need with laundry services, en suite facilities and a very high standard of catering, management and guiding. The variety in environment of the camps is enormous and can probably cater for almost anybody’s requirements.

    The previous history of poaching and hunting has made the game in Zambia a bit skittish, particularly in Kafue NP where the elephant population is very depleted and can be aggressive if approached. Rhino seem to have been completely poached out, so visitors wanting to see the “Big Five” will be disappointed. Nevertheless, Zambia provides a wonderful safari experience and I would thoroughly recommend it.
  • Where Veldskoene Dare to Tread
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    Where Veldskoene Dare to Tread
    Having recently been warmly welcomed into the office at Hartley’s safaris, my memories of bushveld adventures have been seeping to the surface of my mind, reminding me of what a privilege we have, as Safari operators, to enable our fellow humans to experience the magic of Africa, it’s culture, traditions, its people and of course it’s vast array of animal species, guaranteed to delight even the most sceptical traveller.

    Several years back, the ground was trembling from the thundering fall of our uniform issued veldskoene (thin leather shoes made from vegetable-tanned leather or rawhide used specifically to walk in the bush) as my roommate and I, all of 20 years old, bolted from a mildly annoyed male lion that we had bribed out of his shady position under a bush (for research purposes of course) by hanging a large soggy piece of biltong off the rear view mirror of our landrover. A rather twisted Hijack if you will.

    Apparently an animal’s eyes have the power to speak great words. We missed that conversation entirely.

    The vet’s panicked shouts for us to stand still fell on deaf ears as somehow we were miraculously transported to the top of the granite koppie (small, normally rocky hill), both of us still intact – physically anyway. The mental blank we experienced between the bottom of the hill and the top of the koppie remains a mystery which to this day cannot be decoded –even by hypnosis.

    Surely, this had to be the epitome of danger in the African bush. Not so. Student rangers lived in constant hope of receiving the small monetary tips from hosting the daily game drives that would enable us to survive until the end of the month-albeit on pap and beer. An unlucky colleague broached the idea that if he could mimic Crocodile Dundee and perhaps enhance his own show-andtell by picking up a variety of snakes, he would almost certainly give himself a much needed pay rise.

    Entertainment pays. Unfortunately it also costs and in this case, cost him 2 fingers.

    It is always nerve wracking leading a walk in the bush with 8 or so bush lovers of varying degrees of mobility and even greater variances in their capacity to listen to their guide.

    The first 30 mins of said Walk in the Bush comprises of strict instructions by the guide and his back up guide. This has since been escalated to one hour of strict instruction briefing in an attempt to try and reduce the great divide of those who listen and those who do not.

    This hour is spent talking about WHAT.TO.DO should we find ourselves in any sort of compromising “situation”.

    The most important of these instructions being “do what the guide says”.

    To date, this is the instruction that is still forgotten the most.

    Having been warmed up from the outside inwards by the African sun climbing higher into the sky, all the equipment starts to come out and people relax. Cameras appear out of backpacks, sticks of biltong are handed out, water bottles are swung around by their straps, binoculars, bush tools and even the odd comb out of the sock are pulled out.

    To take out all this heavy duty gear takes about 5 minutes. To try and stuff it back into your backpack while an elephant is charging at 50km an hour is quite another story. Every guide’s nightmare.

    Recently, a rather clever woman, newly married and on her honeymoon, found herself in exactly this predicament when her tour group was charged suddenly by a bad tempered black rhino. She ditched her bag and hastily clambered up a nearby tree. Until her devoted husband arrived at the bottom of the same tree a few seconds later and pulled her out by one leg, proceeding to scramble right over her head and onto her perch of safety.

    She survived. It is uncertain whether the marriage did.

    Wanting to make the most of their twilight years, an elderly couple joined a group of friends for a trip to the African bush –in true African style –at a remote bush camp in Northern Kruger -where people are few and working toilets are even fewer. As evening approached, and the comrades began preparations for dinner, the 70- something gentleman invited his wife of many years to join him in enjoying a genuine bush shower –normally a plastic container of some sort hanging from a tree branch and surrounded by a flimsy cover consisting of anything from branches to stolen bedsheets.

    With the crackling of the roaring campfire and the non- stop babble of the excited guests, no-one saw the great wall of dust gradually approaching in the distance. Now fully lathered up in soap bubbles, our unsuspecting friend happened to catch a glimpse over the shower curtain of the oncoming spectacle of a thundering buffalo herd and snatching his dear wife’s hand, they literally flew out of their home- made shower, soap in hand, right past their group of 10 bewildered and amused spectators –who now, having seen the stampede, tried to scramble up from their chairs spilling wine and falling over each other in their rush to escape.

    To this day, I believe the dear couple have not lived this incident down.

    They are happily married!

    To many, the pristine beauty of the African wilderness cannot be surpassed. We believe that our exciting Safari experiences enrich the lives of many and spoil them with memories to last a lifetime.

    We hope that you will continue to enjoy experiences of your own, which will be passed down to future generations in stories and memories –a precious gift indeed.

    Greetings,

    Claire
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