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  • 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
  • Dog Tracking Units to Fight Poaching
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    Dog Tracking Units to Fight Poaching
    Prized for their magnificent ivory tusks, elephant populations across much of Africa and Asia have dropped by 62% over the last decade due to the insatiable lust for Ivory products in the Asian market. Despite the international ban on ivory trading, the price of ivory in China has tripled, making the illegal trade of ivory extremely profitable.

    In an attempt to combat the rise in poaching, Big Life in Tanzania and Kenya have come up with an innovative and highly effective approach to add to their arsenal in the battle against poachers, A Tracking Dog Unit. Using trained tacking dogs and their uncanny sniffing ability, Big Life have had much success in tracking poachers since the introduction of the unit in 2011. After adopting four Alsatians, Max, Jazz, Rocky and Jerry from kennels in the Netherlands the dogs were transported to Canine Specialist Services International (CSSI) In Tanzania. Under the guide of Will Powell they underwent an intense eight months training, learning to pick up and follow the scent of humans from footprints or materials left behind at the scene. But the training did not stop there, it’s an ongoing process, both at the kennels and in the field. It includes tasks designed to keep the dogs focused on a particular scent and to differentiate one track from another.

    Dogs can track a trail from a kill site up to a day past the event, often leading their handlers straight to the poacher’s door. “Our dogs have tracked elephant poachers for up to eight hours at a time or more, through extreme conditions – heat, rain, wetlands, and mountains – and still turned up results” says Damien Bell, director of Big Life Tracker Dog Unit. The dogs and their incredible tracking abilities have created a reputation for themselves in the community. In fact, dog teams have become so popular that Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), the wildlife division, the police and even the military have requested their assistance. Their reputation has also spread amongst poachers with the Masaai being particularly terrified of tracker dogs, regarding their tacking abilities as supernatural.

    In Southern Africa, K-9 unit in the Kruger National Park has also employed dog tracking units using two breeds of dogs, Belgian Malinois and Weimarana in their fight against poaching. Malinois are used exclusively for tracking human suspects, to detect firearms and bullet casings and to restrain suspects when it requires force. Weimarana’s, on the other hand are used mostly for tracking animals, detecting animal remains and snares and to locate wounded animals.

    Poachers are becoming more and more skilful at evading capture. Stopping them is the ultimate objective, but it often comes down to the chase. With the aid of Big Life and K-9 dog tracking units the tracking and arrest of poachers is becoming less difficult. It’s not often man’s best friend can come to the aid of the world’s largest land based mammal but this unlikely relationship may be just what is needed to fight the war against poaching.
  • Sea Turtle Hatchlings
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    Sea Turtle Hatchlings
    Seven species of marine turtles exist in the world’s oceans, therefore turtles are important indicators of ocean health. There are five species found off the Kwa-Zulu Natal Coast, namely, the loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill, green and Olive Ridley turtles. Of these five species that occur in South African waters, only the loggerhead and leatherback females nest along the shores. However, in February 2014, a green turtle was found nesting on the beaches of KZN’s Isimangaliso Wetland Park – about 700 km from Europa Island in the Southern Mozambique Channel where they normally nest.

    Both loggerhead and leatherback turtles nest during the summer months at night (October – March). Steep beach makes it easy for loggerheads to swim through the surf over low lying rock ledges. The females emerge from the surf and rest in the wash zone on the beach. Here they assess the beach for any danger by lifting their heads and scanning the beach. Satisfied that there is no danger they then proceed up the beach to well above the high water mark.

    Having found a suitable site, the female commences by excavating a body pit, this enables her to lie with the top of her carapace level with the beach. She then digs an egg cavity with her hind flippers. The egg pit is a flask shaped hole about 50-80 centimetres deep. A normal clutch constitutes 100-120 soft white shelled eggs which are deposited into this hole. When all of the eggs have been laid the female fills the hole with sand and begins to knead and press the surface until the sand is tightly packed. Once she is finished she disguises the nest site by throwing sand with her fore-flippers over the nesting area. Leatherbacks can return up to seven times in one season to lay eggs.

    After incubating for 60 to 70 days, the baby turtles break out of their eggs and immediately head for the relative safety of the sea.

    In 1963, the Natal Parks Board (now Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife) began monitoring these fascinating creatures’ nesting habits. It had the explicit aim of protecting sea turtles while ashore and at the same time collecting data on morphometrics, site preferences and population status. Even though interactions by the local communities with turtles were relatively few, “bad habits” crept in and turtle numbers dwindled. The first conservation measures were introduced in 1916 but with little effect, such that in the first year of monitoring only six leatherback nests were counted in the index area. Now after five decades of dedicated conservation and nest protection, turtle numbers have increased to about 60 leatherback nests and between 2500 and 3000 loggerhead nests per season in the area north of Bhanga Nek.
  • Misool Eco Resort
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    Misool Eco Resort
    Misool Eco Resort is a remote dive resort and conservation centre located in the Southern region of Raja Ampat, West Papua. This magnificent resort is surrounded by an archipelago of uninhabited islands and located in the heart of one of the richest, bio-diverse dive regions in the world. For those divers who prefer a land based vacation as opposed to livaboard, Misool Eco Resort’s location makes it ideal for diving while at the same time providing guests with blissfully secluded accommodation, making it the ultimate tropical getaway destination for dive enthusiasts and holiday makers alike.

    The rustic water cottages are positioned on stilts above the lapping waters, overlooking the shallow turquoise lagoon. Stairs leading from the balcony allow guests to enjoy the temperate waters right from their doorstep, while hammocks set the scene for maximum relaxation. With the House Reef just a few splashes away guests can enjoy the dazzling variety of marine life without having to leave the resort or travel far. However, for guests who would like a change of scenery, boats from the resort leave daily allowing guests to travel and experience the wealth of diverse dive sites that Raja Ampat has to offer.
  • Gorilla Naming Ceremony
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    Gorilla Naming Ceremony
    The theme for Kwita Izina 2015 is conserving now and for the future …………

    In Rwanda every gorilla birth is a reason for celebration of the successful conservation efforts.

    Naming a newly born baby has been part of Rwandan culture and tradition for centuries. Given the remarkable efforts made by the Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Development Board, and in collaboration with various conservation partners and local communities, to actively protect the Mountain Gorillas and their habitat, the old naming century’s tradition was modelled on these species to get the national brand known as “Kwita Izina”.

    Names attributed to the gorillas play a significant role in the on-going programme of monitoring each individual gorilla in their families and habitat. Kwita Izina, a uniquely Rwandan event, was introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness of conservation efforts for the endangered mountain gorilla.

    For three decades prior to the first official gorilla naming ceremony, the naming of baby gorillas was carried out by the rangers and researchers that closely monitor these unique animals on a daily basis, with little public awareness.

    Kwita Izina has been attended by thousands of international, regional and local participants over recent years. The Government of Rwanda and conservation partners have donated substantial resources to gorilla conservation and continue to do so. Each year new born gorilla babies are celebrated in an exciting event at the foothills of the Virunga Mountains. The gorilla naming ceremony is the climax of the Kwita Izina week. It will be celebrated in Kinigi where names will be given to 24 baby gorillas. This is an exciting, once in a lifetime event that attracts close to twenty thousand people.

    Tourism that focuses on natural environments is a large and growing part of the industry in Rwanda. While it can contribute in a positive manner to socio-economic development and environmental protection, uncontrolled tourism growth can also cause environmental degradation, destruction of fragile ecosystems, and social and cultural conflict, undermining the basis of tourism. Therefore, considering that natural forests constitute 8.7% of the national territory, conservation continues to play a crucial role in the country’s development.

    Although the Naming Ceremony has passed for this year its is definitely something to consider adding to your bucket list for 2016!
  • Humpback Whales of Mozambique
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    Humpback Whales of Mozambique
    The waters off the 2,500km coastline of Mozambique are bursting with an array of diverse creatures, the most spectacular being the humpback whale. Between January and June, humpback whales feed in the cold, nutrient rich waters of the Antarctic before migrating to the warmer waters near the equator to breed and give birth, between the months of July and December. This 12,000km journey is one of the longest migrations of any animal. On their migratory route they pass between the east coast of Africa and Madagascar, making Mozambique a prime whale-watching location.

    From the shore, it is often possible to see the humpback whales swimming gracefully in the distance, making a boat journey to see them up close, irresistible. When out on the water you will witness the power of these ‘sea giants’ as they burst out of the water (breaching), throwing two-thirds of their body into the air before creating a huge splash as they land on their backs. Although the whales display their incredible power, you will also see their unexpected elegance when they ‘spyhop’ and ‘sail’. ‘Spyhopping’ is when the whale raises its head and part of its body out of the water in a controlled manner to curiously inspect its surroundings. Whales are said to be ‘sailing’ when they hold their flukes in the air for an extended period of time, resembling a ships sails. The subtlety of these great mammals is a wonder of nature and is bound to leave you feeling in awe.

    As you submerge into the underwater world of these giants, you may find yourself mesmerised by the ethereal song of the humpback whale. Lasting up to 30 minutes and travelling vast distances, this song is both powerful and precious and is still an enigma to scientists. Whilst you are suspended in the deep blue waters, a looming shadow may appear and then out of the depths, a humpback whale will reveal itself as it gracefully glides past. This is when their colossal size is put into perspective as you feel insignificant in the presence of these tranquil giants. One may think that a large animal, such as the humpback whale, would be somewhat cumbersome; however, their agility is astonishing as they glide through the water with such precision and ease.

    Whether you are watching from a boat or in the water, humpback whales are one of the most fascinating animals. Amazing sightings of these creatures can be seen in Mozambique during the humpback whale season; between July and December.
  • Rhino Orphanage by Rita Shaw
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    Rhino Orphanage by Rita Shaw
    While it is always a breeze and a pleasure booking my African travel through Hartley’s Safaris, my current trip (August 2015) included an afternoon, which was especially incredible and special to me!I was extremely privileged to be able to visit a rhino orphanage, which is not open to the public for fairly obvious reasons in this time of rabid poaching in South Africa.

    A little background information – the largest earth-based animals are herbivores, i.e. elephants and rhinos. Yet it is the elephants and rhinos that are being targeted by poachers for their tusks and horns. Huge numbers of pangolins, lions and other animals are also being killed by poachers.

    This epidemic is growing exponentially, due to the enormous demand emanating from some Asian countries. I am not going to rant and rave about this dire situation here, except to say that I am definitely not looking forward to the day when it is announced that all species of rhinos are extinct!

    I fully endorse all reasonable measures that are being made to stop the poaching. Whether it is money, time, ideas, editing/proofreading, moral support or anything else I can contribute, I will continue to help however I can! The only thing that is important in life IS life! Nothing else matters!!

    On arrival at the orphanage, I was greeted by Gaby, one of the managers, and spent the next couple of hours with her and some of the other employees/volunteers. One of the girls even lives about five minutes from my home in Sydney, Australia.

    Gaby first took me to meet the three youngest orphaned white rhinos. The two boys and one girl share an enclosure during the day, where they are fed or can sleep, basically doing whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it. They also share night quarters, where they can cuddle up to each other for comfort as they sleep, safely away from any poachers. Dedicated night staff keep an eye on them as they sleep.

    I also got to meet two slightly older white rhinos and a black rhino, who share another enclosure – they are free to venture out through the open gate to take a walk in a large open area where they can also meet up with rhinos from other enclosures within the orphanage. They tend to walk back into their own enclosure when they want some food or a pat/scratch from the staff (or me on that day).

    The older rhinos have been weaned but the three babies, about 6 – 8 months old, are still dependent on milk. I watched the girls making up the formula, which includes cooked/liquified brown rice, colostrum and some other “goodies”, mixed with milk. A white board indicates amounts of each item and the bottles are appropriately labeled with the rhinos’ names so there can be no confusion.

    Two of the youngsters are bottle-fed 3-4 times a day, but the newest member of the trio prefers to drink his milk from a tray as he is a bit skittish around people – possibly a reminder of the trauma he acquired from watching the death of his mother at the hands of poachers.

    I was allowed to feed the female baby – this was quite a balancing act, as she sucks really hard on the teat and you have to roll back the edge of the teat to allow air in, while trying not to roll it off the end of the bottle.

    The orphanage is supported by donations from corporations and individuals as well as money from the game farms, which actually own the rhinos. Once old enough and independent, the rhinos are usually returned to those game farms or to nearby game reserves where they can live a normal rhino life.

    A million thanks to Gaby from the orphanage and to Natalie and Jann from Hartley’s for enabling me to have this precious time with my favorite “rhino people”! And I am sure that Hartley’s would be happy to forward any donations to the orphanage on your behalf …
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