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Tips for Traveling with Small Children in Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Family

Hong Kong is a city of contrast and surprises. On one side, there is a bustling metropolis teaming with skyscrapers and shopping centers while, on the other hand, there is a natural habitat replete with mountains, sandy beaches, woodlands, and wetlands. The amount of things to do and see in Hong Kong is limitless, especially for young children with wild and vivid imaginations. Taking your kids here will expose them to a new plethora of experiences that cannot be achieved back home. However, taking your kids on a trip across the globe can be quite a challenge and a new experience altogether. Hence, this article aims to provide you helpful tidbits to help you and your children make the best of your Hong Kong family vacation.

Traveling to Hong Kong Checklist

If you are planning on going to Hong Kong (or anywhere else in the world), it comes without question that traveling with infants to small children can be quite tedious and tiring. Therefore, it is advisable for parents to take extra precautions when planning a trip. Even the simplest of items are a necessity in order to keep the young ones happy.

  • When it comes to traveling with children, it is always recommended to carry an extra small suitcase specifically for your kids. There will be things along the way kids would want you to buy. Keep items in this separate luggage so it doesn’t mix up with your belongings.
  • Before booking your flight, make it a point to inquire about the airlines’ seating arrangements to keep you, your kids and other passengers comfortable. If you are traveling with a small child, read up tips and tidbits on what you can do when your child experiences air pressure differentiation or abrupt emergencies. It’s best to notify the airlines during the booking ticket phase.
  • Suitcases are an essential component for travelers. It goes without saying that you need to identify your belongings quickly at the baggage claim section. A smart thing to do is to purchase a brightly colored suitcase or fix a colorful ribbon on all your bags, to make it easier for you and your kids to identify your luggage.
  • During the flight, allow your kids to watch TV or play games on the plane to keep them in good spirits. However, if you are traveling during the night, make sure the gaming accessories are turned off at appropriate times. If your child insists on playing the games, advise them to wear ear or headphones and to stay as quiet as possible.
  • Whenever you are traveling with a family, take the time to research for a family or kids friendly hotel, fully equipped with kid’s friendly activities and amenities like swimming pools or kid’s clubs.
  • Make it a point to carry non-messy, non-perishable food items or snacks for them. The snacks can be handed over to the children once you reach your destination.
  • Plan on where you want to go with your children. This will help eliminate fatigue and make your tour much more manageable.
  • If you are traveling with a toddler, carry an extra pair of clothes and nappy wipes. The clothes should be placed in an easy to access suitcase compartment.

Accommodation

A visit to Hong Kong is never complete without a visit to some of the island’s famous hotels and eateries to sample some of the finest cuisines from Asia and the rest of the world. One of the most stupendous hotel establishments in the port city is Novotel Nathan Road hotel. The facility’s 389 fully-furnished guest rooms are ideal for travelers staying in Hong Kong for business or holiday. The Novotel Hong Kong Nathan Road Hotel is located close to Kowloon’s CBD as well as the Jordan MTR. The hotel is catered to both business and family travelers from around the globe. The hotel has different rooms on offer, and the hotel can provide comfortable cots or beddings for younger children as well. Additionally, the hotel is part of the Planet 21 movement; a commitment across all Accor hotels to ensure the hotel follows eco-friendly practices to reduce, reuse and recycle material.

Additionally, the hotel is also committed to serving the best and healthy meal choices for its patrons, including children as well.

Things to do with Kids in Hong Kong

There are many fun things to do with children in Hong Kong. The best places to visit are Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, and the Outlying Islands. In Kowloon, there are many favorite activities for kids to do such as swimming, hiking, trying out new dishes, ferry rides and going to Hong Kong Disneyland. The best places for swimming are in Stanley and Repulse Bay, Tung Wan Beach, Cheung Sha Beach and Lo So Shing Beach, just to name a few. Some places even provide camping grounds for families such as Aberdeen Country Park, and Tai Tam Country Park are two areas to consider. These two parks have trails promise excellent views of the city and sea.

The Kowloon peninsula is home to other attractions including open air markets, Kowloon Park, and double-decker bus rides. For open-air markets, it gets a little crowded at night, therefore, as a recommendation, it’s best to go when the markets are just setting up. Places such as the Temple Street Night Market or Ladies’ Market can be quite intimidating for young children as there are a lot of sounds, smells, and tons of people. Although markets are a great place to grab some local snacks and knickknacks, the crowd maybe a little too intimidating for them, hence, it’s recommended to go early.

If the markets are too intense for your children, take them to Kowloon Park. Kowloon Park is one of the larger parks smack dab in Hong Kong and offers solace for those who seek it. The park offers a broad range of facilities, including a swimming pool and an aviary for starters. Most notably, the park is quiet and

Kowloon Park is a distinctly green space in the midst of hustle and bustle of Hong Kong business district. You can travel with kids to the crowded shopping centers and streets in Kowloon on a double-decker bus and enjoy the sights. The Outlying Islands of Hong Kong are readily available by ferry; the average distance between most of these islands and Hong Kong Island is about one hour. The popular Outlying Islands sites to visit with kids include Tai O Fishing Village, Lantau Island and Po Lin Monastery. Taking your kids to Tai O Fishing Village will be a treat since this location offers something extraordinary; a chance to get up close and personal with pink dolphins. You can book tours in the village to go see the elusive pink dolphins. However, do keep mind that these are wild animals, and you may or may not see them!

From Lantau Island, you can hitch a ride back to the mainland via the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. The cable car is one of Kowloon’s most defining transportation methods as you can get spectacular views from above. Other spectacular places to take your children are Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park, Avenue of Stars and Hong Kong’s ginormous shopping malls are some ideas to take your kids for a fun day out.

In conclusion, there are a handful of things to do and see in Hong Kong and it comes to no surprise why many people choose to travel to Hong Kong for a memorable vacation! Going to Hong Kong will open new doors for you and your children to experience; a new culture, tradition, food as well as broaden their cultural horizons for many years to come.

Ways to Make a Difference with Community Work Abroad

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Volunteer Abroad

There are loads of options for volunteering overseas, but I reckon working with local communities has to be among the most rewarding. There are just so many ways to help, and you’ll know that what you’re doing will make a real difference to their future. To get a few ideas of the kinds of things you can do (and where), read on.

Work with children

Working with underprivileged children has a real appeal – after all, they’re often the worst affected by adversity, and the least able to protect themselves. While teaching might be the most obvious way to help, it’s not the only route to go down. For example, you can:

• Carry out community work in Jaipur. This may be a beautiful place, but it is blighted with chronic poverty. You can get stuck in at a local community centre and work on a project with a broad focus, aiming to improve everything from health levels to education. As well as playing games with the children, encouraging sports and assisting at mealtimes, you can pitch in with the general maintenance of the centre – something that makes the environment more pleasant for everyone.

Sports programmes

These can be a really interesting way of helping out local communities. Some projects are simply designed to give people a chance to do things they wouldn’t normally be able to, while others are about empowering people through sport:

• Surfing with disadvantaged children in South Africa. This falls into the former category, giving kids who can’t afford to surf the chance to do so. Don’t panic if you can’t actually surf yourself; you’ll be taught while you’re there, and then you can teach others.

• Sports development in Swaziland. This definitely comes under the bracket of empowering people through sport. Swaziland is badly affected by HIV/AIDS and many children here have their families shattered by it. As a result, they turn to crime. This kind of project helps steer them back on the right path and inspire them to achieve through all kinds of sports. You’ll help with things like training and organising mini competitions for young people to take part in.

Building work

Volunteering with local communities needn’t mean teaching in some form (though that’s certainly a popular choice). If you want to get your hands dirty and get really involved in the local community, building work’s an incredible choice – especially as you know the what you help construct is desperately needed.

• Build homes for Costa Rican families. Helping to build someone’s home is immensely rewarding, and if you head to Costa Rica, you can work closely with families to give them a new place to live. Lots of the housing here just isn’t good enough in terms of sanitation and weather proofing, so the work you do will seriously help to improve the quality of life of people who need it most. You can work on all kinds of things, such as digging trenches, mixing cement, preparing foundations.

• Renovate schools in Nepal. Homes aren’t the only option for building work. Travel to Nepal and you can assist with vital projects in schools, from helping to improve existing rooms to building new ones and gardening. You’ll be taught any skills you need to know, but bear in mind this is pretty tough physical labour – especially since there aren’t any handy machines like cement mixers to use!

These are just some of the ways you can help local communities while you’re travelling. Have you got any stories of your own time spent volunteering overseas?

10 Amazing Places to Visit in DR Congo

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Nyiragongo Volcanoes

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a country with great natural resources and wonders. Apart from gold, diamonds and oil, the Congo has over 15 other mineral resources. I should point out at this point that the uranium ore used to build the first atomic bombs were got from the Shinkolobwe Mines in the country. Minerals aside, Congo is a paradise for wildlife and nature lovers. From Africa’s big 5 animals to birds and reptiles, the country has it all. The Congo is home to wildlife species found nowhere else on earth including the elusive okapi, bongo, bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees), Congolese Peafowl, eastern lowland gorillas and mores. It is only in the Congo where tourists go on gorilla safari can track both wild mountain gorillas and Grauer’s gorillas (Eastern Lowland gorillas). Other beautiful attractions include active volcanoes, waterfalls.

There are also incredible cultural experiences with tribes like the Mbuti Pygmies. These pygmies still live like they used to over 10,000 years ago. Stay with the Mbuti pygmies for a week and you will go back home with amazing stories to tell your friends. Cultural experiences aside, there are also amazing physical features like the Nyiragongo Volcano. The experience of observing the boiling Magma on top of these mountain revivals any game drive you will do in the Masai Mara or the Serengeti National Park. But there is more. Congo is blessed with amazing waterfalls and endless rivers. Following the river Congo by boat for a month will give you an opportunity to appreciate the country’s natural beauty and tourism potential.

There is great hope for the country and things are improving. Increased globalization means the Congo cannot be left behind. Soon the rebels and militias will be no more and when that happens, people will begin realizing what they have been missing. There are many who predict that the Democratic Republic of Congo will become one of the most visited countries in Africa in the near future.

Virunga National Park

Virunga is the oldest national park in Africa and one of the many UNESCO World heritage sites in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park was established in 1925 and is located in the eastern part of the country. Virunga was at first named Albert National Park and by then included the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and parts of Mgahinga Gorilla Park in Uganda. Virunga is the most visited national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. What stands out about it apart from volcanoes and mountain gorillas is the remarkable biodiversity. Virunga is home to lions, leopards, chimpanzees, elephants, hippopotamus and rare creatures like the okapi. Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park is the most popular activity followed closely by hiking Mount Nyiragongo.

Mount Nyiragongo

The Nyiragongo Volcano is one of the key attractions in Virunga National Park and its plumes of smoke can be seen from as far as Rwanda during the night. Nyiragongo is an active volcano with the largest lava lake on earth. Ever since 1984, the mountain has erupted 34 times with the last occurring in 2011. Every year thousands ignore the bad press and security reports from their embassies for a chance to call themselves as one of the few who have observed a lava lake up-close. When combined with gorilla trekking in Virunga and visiting the Serengeti/Masai Maraa, you would have done something that you can talk about with pride to your folks back home. Climbing Mount Nyiragongo takes two days and you will be left in awe at the sight of the lava lake. Nyiragongo hiking tickets cost $300 per person including a night spent on cabins while at the summit.

Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage

After visiting the gorillas in the wild, tourists who book with Mikeno lodge have an opportunity to visit the Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage. This is the only Mountain gorilla orphanage in the world and about 7 individuals call it home. The center also rehabilitates Eastern Lowland gorilla orphans for a while before relocating them to the Eastern Lowland gorilla orphanage known as the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center. The center was named after a giant silverback known as Senkwekwe. Senkwekwe was killed by poachers as he attempted to protect his family and recover an infant captured by animal traffickers.

His death and the capture of other infant gorillas laid the foundation for the establishment of this center. The Center is set on a stretch of forest allowing the primates to experience the same conditions of their wild relatives. The Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage welcomes volunteers who are interested in learning more about mountain gorillas. If you are enthusiastic about gorilla conservation, you can sponsor one of the gorilla orphans or donate to the Sanctuary. Visiting the Center is free to tourists residing in the luxury Mikeno Lodge.

Maiko National Park

Maiko National Park covers an area of about 10,885 square kilometers. Most of it is forest and an important global carbon sink. Like most of the National parks in the country, it is located in a very remote area. In fact, it is Congo’s most inaccessible game park. The park consists of 3 sectors – Maniema, Province Orientale and North Kivu. Maiko National Park is one of the last strongholds of the Grauer’s gorilla – also known as the Eastern lowland gorillas. These are the largest subspecies of gorillas. Other animals endemic to the Congo but found in Maiko include the Congo Peafowl and Okapi. Maiko National Park is an important conservation site for aquatic genet, chimpanzees and African forest elephants. Visitors should also look forward to spotting leopards and the elusive bongo.

Kahuzi-Biega National Park

This national park is found in found in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo – near the border with Rwanda and close to Lake Kivu. Kahuzi-Biega National Park National Park is another of the many UNESCO World heritage sites in Congo. The gets its name from two extinct volcanoes known as Kahuzi and Biega. These two volcanos paint the landscape and are joined together by a small stretch of forest. Kahuzi-Biega National Park offers travelers that complete wilderness charm and feeling that only the Congo can provide these days. The park is an excellent travel destination for travelers who desire to do something different or discover Africa’s last remaining true wildernesses.

Other than pristine wilderness, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is one of the last strongholds for the largest gorilla species on earth – the Grauer’s gorilla.  About 400 individuals are found in the park with others found in Maiko National Park and some other reserves in the neighboring areas. In total, about 5,000 Eastern lowland gorillas remain on earth and they are all found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Interestingly, despite not having the largest population of the primates, Kahuzi Biega is the best place to see the Eastern Lowland gorilla. Eastern lowland gorilla trekking is the most popular activity but tourists can also register for chimpanzee tracking, visiting the chimpanzee sanctuary in Lwiro, birding, mountain hiking and nature walks to discover amazing waterfalls.

Salonga National Park

Salonga National park is located within the Congo River basin and covers an area of about 36, 00 square kilometers. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the dense forests and remarkable creatures that call it home. The tropical rain-forest which makes up much of the national park is so dense that new species are still being discovered. The park was declared a World Heritage site in danger since 1999 because of continuous civil wars in the eastern Congo. These civil wars have allowed poaching for bush meat to thrive.  Regardless of the civil wars and poaching, Salonga remains a major tourist attraction for the future because of its extensive forests and remarkable biodiversity. Among the wildlife found in the park include the rare Congo peafowl, forest elephants, bonobos, salonga monkeys, Tshuapa red Colobus monkeys, okapi and the African slender-snouted crocodile. The road networks within and outside the park is poorly developed. Because of that, the only way to access the park is via the river.

Garamba National Park

Garamba is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its collection of plant and animal life. The park was established in 1938, making it one of the oldest national parks in Africa. The park consists of endless savannah grasslands and woodlands which continue all the way to South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Garamba once home to over 20,000 African elephants but now only about 1,500 remain. Extensive poaching may soon wipe out the last known population of White Rhinos if conservationists lower their guard. Garamba is arguably the best par for standard game drives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Visitors can view all the big 5, giraffes, hippos, antelopes and birds.

Lake Kivu: Lake Kivu is one of the largest lakes in Africa. It is shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lake Kivu lies next to the great Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Under the lake is a large reservoir of methane gas which scientists believe is a disaster waiting to happen if the right conditions present it or if a volcanic eruption occurs among one of the Virunga volcanos. After a long safari in Congo or Rwanda, Lake Kivu is excellent for relaxation, swimming, island hopping, visiting local fishing communities, canoeing, kayaking, biking and other water spots. Fishing is also possible and the main catches are Nile Tilapia, Tanganyika sardines, Clarias, Haplochromis, Barbus and Limnothrissa miodon. There are no hippos, crocodiles or bilharzia to worry about while swimming in Lake Kivu.

Idjwi Island: Also known as Ijwi, the island is found in Congo’s section of Lake Kivu. The Island covers an area of about 340 square kilometers and is considered the 2nd largest inland island in the continent of Africa. Idjwi Island is home to about 200,000 people. Most of them survive on subsistence farming and small scale fishing. Idjwi Island became a kingdom in the 18th Century and had a connection to the ruling monarchy Rwanda at the time. Tourists who visit the Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks often visit the island for cultural tours, hiking and also to explore the beautiful Lake Kivu. Boat rides to the island from Bukavu (near Kahuzi-Biega National Park) takes about 2 hours. Once there, the only means of transport is by bike, motorcycle or walking.

Okapi Wildlife Reserve: The Okapi Wildlife Reserve is one of the many beautiful attractions and UNESCO World Heritage sites in Congo which have been hidden way from much of the world. The reserve covers about 14,000 square kilometers and one fifth of it consists of dense forest. Okapi Wildlife Reserve rewards those who are fortunate enough to visit with amazing scenery, a chance to observe the elusive okapi, other wildlife species, waterfalls and a cultural encounter that is second to none in Africa. To find the elusive okapi, one needs at least 3 days in the Ituri forest. The search is interesting because it is led by Mbuti pygmies. They are the ones who know the secrets of the forest and can locate the okapi using instinct or small leads. While tracking the okapi, the pygmies will introduce you to their lifestyle of hunting and gathering in the forest.

Budget Travel: Climbing Kilimanjaro the Financially Savvy Way

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Kilimanjaro Hiking

Climbing Kilimanjaro might be a dream of yours, but it’s wise to make sure the costs don’t turn into a nightmare. When you’re new to Tanzania, as for any place, you won’t necessarily know what’s an overpriced rip-off and what’s too cheap to be safe.

So, we’ve put together an idea of what to think about when you’re planning your trip. The cheapest deal might not be the best, but you don’t need to go for the uber-expensive option either. There are over 200 licensed tour operators offering Kilimanjaro treks. If you walk through Moshi town, almost every second person will say that they can take you up the mountain. The truth is, the number of reliable operators is limited.

Don’t choose your tour operator by price alone. What you should be looking for is quality service for a reasonable rate.

The costs: what a tour up Kilimanjaro normally includes

Every trip up Kilimanjaro will include the basic expenses of park fees, camping fees, rescue fees, staff wages, transportation and logistical costs and taxes. So what does this look like in real life? Let’s take a look at a tour – a six day climb via the Machame Route, which is a popular route.

The national park fee for Kilimanjaro is US$670 per person for a 6 day/5 night climb. Depending on your group size, each climber will be accompanied by four porters, one chef and one guide. Local wages for these crew members are about US$280. Additionally, food costs for yourself and the crew add up to about US$250. Also there may be transport costs of around US$100. Along with these major expenses there are quite a few other factors like rescue fees, equipment maintenance and taxes.

Kilimanjaro Mountain

Overpriced or luxury? How to decide 

Luxury Kilimanjaro operators lure you in with promises of extraordinary climb success rates, greater safety standards and extras, but will charge prices that are not justifiable. No matter what luxury Kilimanjaro operator is promising, US$4000-5000– or even sometimes up to US$6000 for a standard itinerary- is just too much. Kilimanjaro is a tough climb and there’s no huge extra level of comfort that can be built in – unless they’re promising a piggyback up the mountain!

The extras might sound good, but they’re not practical. You’ll crave a hot shower after your trek but that doesn’t mean that the portable shower at -20°C offered by your operator will be much fun; or having bottled Kilimanjaro water (the most common bottled water in Tanzania) on your entire trek instead drinking from the clean, purified mountain water from small streams.

If you book through a tour operator outside Tanzania, the focus won’t be on your Kilimanjaro climb. They’ll offer it as part of an extensive list of tour offers, with three consequences:

  • Kilimanjaro is not their core business and they have to rely on others to ensure your trip is safe.
  • Your booking will be routed through many organisations before it reaches the guides at the base of Kilimanjaro. There is a lot of opportunity for things to go wrong.
  • If something happens on your climb, your contact people are far away and might not won’t even speak the language so might not be of much help on the ground.
Low cost or low standards? How to decide

We’re all looking for the best deal. We’re all on a budget. So how cheap can your trek be without being a scam?

Kilimanjaro Mountains

At this side of the price range, every dollar saved comes at a price. On Kilimanjaro, safety should be your priority. How much is the dollar saved worth, when you’re on a high altitude trek and something goes wrong? Here are some issues worth thinking about:

  • Guides: There are countless guides who claim to be able to take you safely to the top of Kilimanjaro. The good mountain guides don’t work for questionable companies. They don’t wait for a call for a Kilimanjaro trek next month. They are on the mountain all year round and they climb with the company that is best for them and gives them most benefits. Top guides have experience on the mountain, speak good English and have first aid training.
  • Organizational experience: People who tell their story of climbing Kilimanjaro generally mention phrases like “greatest trek”, “hardest thing I have ever done”, “bucket list” , “once in a lifetime” in their storytelling. It’s an intense experience. And because it’s intense, you need to make sure that everything is organised properly. All it takes is an incomplete packing list, or incomplete gate registration or camp fee for your trip to be cancelled. So it makes sense to book a tour with a company that has experience and who knows what they’re doing.
  • Equipment: The saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing”. The wrong gear or broken gear can ruin your trip. However, the lower the budget, the higher the chance that the company can’t afford to fix the holes in your tent. Also make sure that your company checks all your Kilimanjaro mountain gear and don’t take chances with “normally, you don’t need”. There is no “normally” in an extreme situation!
  • KIATO registration: If a company is registered with the Kilimanjaro Association of Tour Operators, it’s an important indication that the company looks after their guides and porters. KIATO ensures that all members pay fair wages and that all staff are properly clothed for the extreme temperatures. They’ll provide transport, medical assistance, shelter and the park fees for them. Additionally a registered company provides meals for the entire crew and makes sure that porters aren’t overloaded.

Kilimanjaro is an investment, however much you pay. But if you book with a trusted, reliable and KIATO-registered company that looks after their staff as well as they look after you, you’re sure to have a memorable and safe adventure.

Making Dreams Come True in Kenya

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Amboseli Safari

My dream of living in Africa and the creation of Our Eyes on Africa started with my first trip to the continent in the late nineties, back in our student years when basic backpacking was the way to do it. This was when I fell totally in love with Africa, her vast landscapes and wilderness areas, the simple but extremely warm people I met and, of course, the wildlife.

Since then I’ve kept coming back to Africa, year after year until one day, whilst traveling to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, I sat next to a Maasai boy. He asked me where I was going and I simply told him that I was heading to the Mara and I showed him the little dot I’d drawn on the map in my Lonely Planet guide. We spoke for a while  about my trip and, as the conversation went on, the little boy came to realise that I was somewhat unprepared, having no accommodation booked, nor car arranged for my journey. The only thing I had was my little tent and a dream to see the great wildebeest migration and meet some Maasai people.

I guess he must have either liked me or he felt very sorry for how under-prepared I was, because he invited me to his Maasai home in the Mara. I was delighted!  To stay with a Maasai family was an experience few people are fortunate enough to have. So after a full day’s travel on a dusty road that was full of potholes, we reached the village.

Tanzania Safari

The little Maasai village was situated just at the bottom of the majestic Siria escarpments, well known for being a spot where one can experience the best views of the Mara and Serengeti. The place was buzzing with cattle and playful kids, whilst the colourful Maasai people hurried to the warmth and comfort of their homes as the evening drew in.

The family gave us a warm welcome with big white smiles.

After a week of herding cattle amongst wildlife, exchanging endless camp fire stories in the evenings, going to sleep listening to hyenas and lions talking, I knew that this was the place I wanted to be; it felt like my home.

Just before I had to leave, the boy’s father turned to me and said:” I see you love this place. Why don’t you come back and build a camp… you are complaining that there isn’t one and I have plenty of land you can use…”

And so I did. Five months later I booked a one way ticket and returned back to this same village with a clear path ahead of me. Together with my good friend who is now my loving husband we set out to make our dreams come true, living in Africa and sharing the experience with others.

We were in our late twenties at the time, we were brave and made the bold move to quit our jobs, sell all of our belongings in Slovenia, where we are both originally from and head to Africa to start our safari business.

I was fortunate to have met such wonderful people on my previous trip, as we were again warmly welcomed at the village. We were even giving a traditional Masai naming ceremony a few days after our arrival.

True to his words, our Masai father showed us the extent of his vast lands and generously asked us to choose a location for our house, anywhere! The father was one of the wisest and kindest men we had ever met. He would talk to his entire family every evening, teaching them valuable lessons about life through allegorical good night stories. He was indeed a very respected chief in the Masai community with five wives and many children and we felt lucky to know him.

We stayed in the village of his first wife, where he spent most of his nights and we could not be more fortunate to be with this family, they took care of us and guided us in our new world, teaching us all about Masai culture and how to coexistence with the wildlife. We would eat, walk, river shower like Masai for more than half a year. Got married like Masai too.

About Eyes on Africa

Eyes on Africa is a family run business with more than 16 years of experience and with the personal touch. We cover Kenya and Tanzania with private, responsible and affordable safari holidays. Respected as a professional safari operator in East Africa. We are big enough to rely on, but small enough to care. Living and working every day in Africa means that our finger is directly on the pulse of the continent. This ensures you receive the best Africa has to offer.

5 Simple Ways To Take The Stress Out Of Summer Vacation Planning

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With summer just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start thinking about booking your summer vacation.

While many of us look forward to getting away for a week or two, what we don’t enjoy is the stress that comes with it. Planning a holiday, especially a holiday for a larger group of people, can be incredibly stressful.

Planning any trip can be stressful. There are worries about where to go, who to invite and how much to spend, but the key is, to remember that holidays are meant to be relaxing and fun.

Here’s our guide to five simple ways you can take the stress out of summer vacation planning.

1. Get an idea of what you want

One of the main factors that cause stress when planning a holiday is not knowing what type of trip you want. With so many different vacation packages to choose from, it’s no wonder we end up feeling stressed out.

Get a clear idea in your head of what you want. Think about where you want to go, who you want to go with and how long you want to go for – knowing in advance will take a lot of the stress out of the planning.

2. Be organised

Once you know what you want from your trip, get organised by doing lots of research. Find out what is on offer in the area, where the best deals are and how much the trip will cost you.

Go online and use TripAdvisor to read up on different destinations – this should give you an idea of the most suitable places for you to visit. If you are unsure about what a certain holiday package offers, take the time to find out.

3. Make travel simple

One of the most stressful parts of heading off on holiday is the travel arrangements. Spending hours waiting around in an airport is not an ideal start to a holiday for anyone, especially with all the stress this may cause.

If you want to make your travel to your holiday destination as simple as possible, consider using jet charters instead of public planes. This cuts out the stress of waiting around in the airport for your plane and gets you to your destination much more quickly.

4. Be prepared

Once you have booked your trip, take the time to check that all passports are usable and still in date. Store them in a safe place, and make a note of where they are. It is also important to gather all other travel documents together and store them with your passports.

Don’t leave this until the last minute, if there is a problem with any of the passports of other documents this will cause a lot of unnecessary stress.

5. Let the small stuff go

It’s only natural that you want your holiday to be perfect, but if you spend your time worrying about the small things you are going to end up feeling very stressed.

Instead of worrying about every little thing, let the small things go. If the hotel suite you requested isn’t available or the restaurant you planned to eat at is fully booked, don’t stress about it.

Live in the moment and just have fun. Trust us, you will enjoy yourself a lot more.

Going on Safari in Kenya with Kids

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Kenya Family Safari

It’s difficult to take a gourmet lunch menu seriously with hippos blowing bubbles and breaking wind in the background. Of course, our nine-year-old twins, Joe and Ellie, relished every snort, grunt and whoopee-cushion rasp as we sat on the terrace of our luxury lodge overlooking the Mara River.
Even our waiter got the giggles during a particularly impressive bout of flatulence. “Big fart,” he acknowledged sagely, sending the children into paroxysms of mirth.

It was just what they needed after the initial culture shock of arriving in the Masai Mara. No sooner had we clambered from the air-conditioned cocoon of our twin-propeller Dash aircraft and driven the short distance to Ngerende Island Lodge, than nine spear-wielding Masai had converged on them – a scarlet-clad welcoming parade of warriors. Bead necklaces were placed over the children’s heads and, with a brief, bewildered glance at their parents, they were initiated into the shuffle-skip-leap dance of a traditional Masai greeting.

Discovering small wonders

No matter how obsessed children are with ticking off the cast of The Lion King, the success of a family safari is largely down to good guides. At Ngerende, a suave young Masai called Daniel, with immaculate robes, a sheathed dagger and a smartphone, led us on walks around the lodge, pointing out small wonders to Joe and Ellie.

We crouched next to a termite mound, watching transfixed as safari ants pillaged the nest; we learnt how to lure palm-sized baboon spiders from their burrows by scratching a stick on the ground to imitate the sound of passing prey; and we discovered that leaves from the elephant ear tree could be used as toilet paper if you were ever caught short in the bush.

Like all good family safari guides, Daniel paid special attention to animal droppings, presenting each offering to us with a magician’s flourish. Old hyena faeces exploded between his fingers like overcooked meringues. He handed out gazelle droppings as if they were chocolate-coated raisins, while a sun-hardened ball of elephant dung became the perfect excuse for an impromptu game of bush football.

Joe and Ellie were captivated. In just a couple of days, the gentle Masai warrior elevated their safari way beyond a simple animal quest.

Not that we weren’t keen to see the Masai Mara’s famous big game. Far from it.

On the migration trail

School summer holidays coincide with the period when the Great Migration arrives in Kenya’s iconic game reserve and the tawny savannah becomes scuffed by the hooves of legions of zebra and wildebeest. On our first game drive, we quickly spotted a pride of lions, bellies bulging, flattening the grass around a partly gnawed wildebeest. Every hyena we saw seemed to be lolloping along with some zebra part in its jaws, while vultures squatted heavily in acacia trees, evidently too gorged to bother flying.

We staked out a river crossing on the Mara River — scene of many a TV wildlife documentary — where gullible gnus run the gauntlet of giant Nile crocodiles to reach fresh pasture on the opposite bank. It was a grisly scene. Dozens of bloated wildebeest carcasses, their legs protruding like cocktail sticks from fat party sausages, were strewn across the shallows, casualties of earlier crossings.
Marabou storks paced hunchbacked among them, while hundreds of vultures crowded the riverbanks like leering fans at a gladiatorial show. No subtle editing, no soothing Attenborough voice-over – this was raw African wildlife. guts and all.

Such vivid scenes of death might have distressed younger children, but Joe and Ellie didn’t seem too fazed, even egging on a skittish herd of zebra that, not surprisingly, seemed reluctant to approach the water’s edge for a drink.

There were also plenty of cute-and-cuddlies to be found in the grasslands of the Mara, from fuzzy-furred cheetah cubs nuzzling their mothers to piglet warthogs trotting single file, tails held erect like flags of truce.

Elephants on parade

It was Tsavo’s elephants, however, that stole the show. Leaving the Masai Mara, we flew back to Nairobi to join an overland safari to the coast, via the vast wilderness of Tsavo National Park. The raised deck outside our family tent in Tsavo East’s Satao Camp looked straight on to a waterhole, where a constant procession of pachyderms held us spellbound. The elephants came and went from all directions, following well-trodden game trails that radiated from the precious water source like spokes on a wheel. Sometimes it would be a stately matriarch leading her family at a brisk pace, calves jogging along to keep up with the adults. Or a huge lone bull, streaked with red-ochre dust, would take centre-stage, dipping and recoiling his trunk as he slaked his thirst.

Even after we zipped up the tent each evening, elephants vied for our attention, their rumbling stomachs, whooshing trunks and softly thudding footsteps infiltrating our snug canvas home.
Twice during our stay, however, this gentle pachyderm hubbub was shattered. The first was when Ellie took exception to a mouse sharing our tent. Her brief outburst was nothing, though, compared to the following night when the waterhole suddenly erupted into a tirade of squealing and trumpeting, mingled with the unmistakable roar of lions.

“Did you hear that?” The twin’s voices wavered in the strained silence that followed. Slowly, the nightly chorus of chirping crickets and shuffling elephants was restored and we drifted back to sleep. We learnt the following morning that the big cats had sprung an ambush on a herd of waterbuck less than 50m behind our tent, spooking every elephant (and nine-year-old child) within earshot of their triumphant bawling.

Brush with bigger game

Needless to say, we restrained Joe and Ellie from practising their newfound tracking skills around camp, and instead embarked on a final game drive before continuing on to the coast.
Based at the family-friendly Leopard Beach Resort, teetering over the icing sugar sands of Diani Beach, the twins switched their freshly honed skills as nature detectives to ghost crab catching and watching weaverbirds plait their nests in the resort’s tropical gardens.

Colobus monkeys occasionally visited the palms around the large swimming pool, while a pre-breakfast check of the water garden usually turned up a monitor lizard or two. There were even encounters with ‘bigger game’. A boat trip to nearby Wasini Island promised excellent snorkelling on the offshore coral reef, but none of us was prepared for a swim-past by a dozen bottlenose dolphins.
Joe saw them first and I thought his eyes might pop out of his mask in sheer wonder. Then bubbles of excitement began reverberating from the mouthpieces of our snorkels until we sounded like a pod of happy hippos languishing in the Mara River.

Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills

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Rwanda Terraced Hills

Rwanda is known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills” – an endless expanse of lush vegetation and mountainous terrain, a diverse natural beauty that lies within the great lakes region of central Africa. Mountains dominate the central and west of the country and the east of the country consists of savannah and swamps.

Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Despite being land locked and one of the smallest countries in Africa, it has incredible biodiversity. The nature lover will be impressed by the variety and the rarity of what can be observed when visiting Rwanda – her richness of flora and fauna goes beyond the lure of the protected mountain gorillas and the Albertine endemic birds.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu

The shores of Lake Kivu boast the best inland beaches and offer tourists the opportunity to explore the many small islands around here. In the southwest lies Nyungwe National Park which is home to the region’s largest and oldest patches of Montane forest, in which you can find habituated chimpanzees, the Angolo colobus and the black and white colobus monkeys.

Meet the Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains

Rwanda Mountain Gorillas

To the north, lies the Volcanoes National Park Rwanda with its two active volcanoes Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo. The twin lakes of Burera and Ruhondo and the nearby Rugezi swamps are good birding locations.

Kigali, the Capital of Rwanda

Kigali, the Capital of RWanda

Kigali is the capital and conference hub of east Africa.

Akagera National Park

Akagera Wildlife

The Akagera National Park must not be overlooked with its big game, including African elephants, zebras, giraffes and a variety of antelope and of course, its recently reintroduced population of lion.

Let us host your visit to this hidden gem. Our staff and family of experienced guides at Range Land Safaris will truly enrich your travel experience across the “Land of a Thousand Hills”.

A journey Through Northern Botswana

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Botswana Safari

Written By: Warwick Henry

The drive from Ghanzi to Maun was quicker than Don and Sarah expected, which suited them fine: northern Botswana awaited!

Once they’d arrived in Maun – known as the gateway to the Okavango Delta – they stocked up on fuel and supplies,  grabbed a quick lunch and moved on again.

They headed out of Maun on the Shorobe road, which meanders through the district’s far-flung hamlets and cattle posts, spread out among looming mopane forests, interspersed with occasional patches of open ground dotted with livestock.

School children waved, shouted and danced as the vehicle passed, leaving Don and Sarah with the impression that they were being welcomed as they drew closer to their destination just outside Khwai.

Botswna Hunting Dogs

Beyond Shorobe, they moved more slowly on the bumpy and uneven road, giving them time to survey their surroundings more carefully. Just beyond Mababe Village, they were rewarded with a fleeting sighting of a herd of beautiful roan antelope, among the region’s least common and most timid species.

As they pulled into their campsite for the night, located just inside Moremi Game Reserve‘s north gate on the banks of the Khwai River, they were overwhelmed not only by the magnificent setting but by the sheer abundance of wildlife spread out on the grassy banks of the river in front of them.

Nestled in the shade of a lush stretch of riparian forest, their camp was quiet and cool, and offered spectacular views of the river and the herds of red lechwe, waterbuck, and elephant grazing, drinking and wallowing along the banks.

Goodnight Botswana

As Don set up camp, Sarah sat back and surveyed the scene with an ice-cold glass of her favourite tipple and a pair of binoculars close at hand. On their game drive later that evening they were once again overwhelmed by the beauty and wildlife of the area – they’d have to come back one day!

After a good night’s rest they set off early once more for the drive to Savute, the gem of the Chobe National Park. Their route took them back down the calcrete road towards Mababe, where they’d turn off not far from the village.

They made their way along the northern edge of the Mababe Depression, astounded once more by the throngs of elephant and incredibly large buffalo herds feeding on the sprawling grasslands. Soon they came to the edge of the Savute Marsh – one of Botswana’s natural wonders. They lingered here for some time, taking a late breakfast among milling herds of wildebeest and foraging warthog, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famed marsh pride of lions.

The day began to warm up and the couple decided to make their way to Camp Savute for a cold drink, a well-earned rest in the shade and to plan their afternoon’s excursion to take in Savute’s many attractions. They’d heard there was some rock-art nearby and wanted to spend some time at one of the pans and then round out their drive with another visit to the marsh to try their luck again with the big cats.

They were not disappointed – the rock paintings were incredible – well worth the short walk – and the marsh pride put in an appearance too, on a hunt no less. The warthog may have got away, but the Samsons were left well satisfied and feeling very lucky indeed.

The following day – their last in Botswana, they made their way through the park towards Kasane, a town perched on the banks of the Chobe River. They’d decided to treat themselves to a night at the luxurious Chobe Safari Lodge, where they lounged by the pool and finished the day at Sedudu Bar, the finest sundowner spot in town. Their air-conditioned room lured them to bed early – tomorrow they’d have a very large river to cross and a whole new country to explore…

Stay tuned for our next segment by Outbound in Africa, where we continue to follow Don and Sarah’s journey.

 

12 African Safari Experiences to Stir Your Wanderlust

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Wildebeests Africa Safari

What’s your idea of a dream holiday? African holidays are amazing because you can have it all. No matter what you’re looking for when you take a holiday, it’s here in abundance in Africa – from the big-game photographic safaris to the untouched beaches and everything in between.

So before you plan your next trip to your favorite, comfortable, reliable destination, feast your eyes on all that awaits you on an African safari and beach holiday.

1. Witness the great wildebeest migration

Every year between July and October, about two million animals make the trip from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya — the ‘World Cup of Wildlife’ is an apt description. Considered one of the Seven New Wonders of the World, the great wildebeest migration is an unforgettable, overwhelming experience.

The Wildebeest Migration of the Serengeti from Roger and Pat de la Harpe on Vimeo.

2. Hunting the “Big Five”— with your camera, of course

Bagging the Big Five was considered a rite of passage for hunters, because they represented the largest, most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. But on our safaris, which don’t involve any hunting and killing, you can still experience all the excitement and the awe of seeing them up close and personal while capturing them through the lens of your camera.

The “Big Five” is a hunting term left over from the game-hunting heydeys of the 19th and 20th centuries, but it’s still in use on big game photographic safaris. The Big Five consists of the lion, the elephant, the buffalo, the rhino, and the leopard.

3. Go mountain gorilla trekking at Volcanoes National Park

There are only about 800 mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, organised into roughly ten habituated family units, and seeing them in their native habitat is an experience of a lifetime.

It’s not for the faint of heart, however (you’ll be tracking the gorillas at an altitude of 8,000 to 10,000 feet), but it’s definitely worth the effort to see them up close

4. Enjoy a scenic “sundowner” on the Serengeti in the glow of a flaming sunset

Afternoon cocktails is a civilised custom, but there’s nothing like a chilled white wine or a brisk gin and tonic on the savannah, with the iconic acacia trees silhouetted against a glowing orange sun. It’s something that happens nearly every day on a Gamewatchers safari. You’ll never see your afternoon tipple the same way again.

Sunset in the Serengeti, Tanzania from JF Schmitz Photography on Vimeo.

5. Go snorkelling in the Seychelles

If you really feel like a romantic and luxurious surrounding, how about a private island resort on the edge of a coral reef? There are two UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Seychelles, and they are still relatively untouched by humans. If you’re looking for an unrivalled view of the world from under the water there’s no place better than the crystal clear Indian Ocean.

6. Visit Meru National Park, where Elsa of Born Free fame was raised

You can always cheer yourself up by viewing all the diverse species of wildlife such as the herds of zebras, stately giraffe and lurking crocodiles that also live in the park. If you saw the movie – and really, who didn’t? – you’ll feel that tug on your heart when you visit Meru National Park, seen in the image below from Elsa’s Kopje, and the site of Elsa’s grave and that of her human mother near Adamson Falls on the Tana River.

7. Tour “the smoke that thunders” at Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River – the fourth largest river in the world – and defines the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls is the only waterfall in the world with a length of more than a kilometre and a height of more than hundred meters. It is also considered to be one of the largest waterfalls in the world.

Victoria Falls Moonbow Time Lapse from Brett Kotelko on Vimeo.

8. Take a romantic getaway in the Swahili town of Lamu

Lamu is a place like no other, a peaceful tropical island where life is lived at its own relaxed rhythm, but a place whose history is as mysterious and fascinating as the winding streets of its medieval stone town.

The island itself is a beautiful place of rolling dunes and endless beaches, where tiny villages nestle among coconut and mango plantations and lateen-sailed dhows ply the waters. But Lamu’s real attraction is its old town – wear your walking shoes when you visit, because cars and taxis are banned for the general public. Donkeys are still used to carry goods along the town’s narrow, winding roads. The town retains its Arab, Persian, and Indian roots; it’s stunningly beautiful and very romantic.

9. Feed the giraffes at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi

Discover Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, and get your fill of these oddly graceful creatures – all while supporting education initiatives for Kenya’s school children. Here guests have the opportunity to view giraffes as well as feed them, wildlife doesn’t get closer than that!
There’s even a butterfly sanctuary and a nature trail where you can see Kenyan wildlife up close!

10. Swim in the sea with the dolphins in Mauritius, or take a submarine safari

Mauritius isn’t the first place that comes to mind for holidays in Africa, but you should definitely give it a look. Bottlenose and spinner dolphins have a happy home off the west coast of Mauritius where the water is warm and the fish are plentiful. You can swim with these free dolphins in their natural habitat, or even take an “underwater safari” on a specially designed sea-scooter for two for a face-to-face view of marine life in the Indian Ocean.

11. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest freestanding mountain

Mt. Kilimanjaro towers over the plains of Tanzania, its peaks perpetually covered in snow—you can see it from a distance of 150 kilometres away. Sure, you’ll have to forego some of your usual daily luxuries to make this incredible climb, but it’s worth it for the satisfaction of saying you did it. And the views are absolutely breathtaking.

12. Foster a baby elephant at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

What if I told you that you could adopt your very own baby elephant?

The orphanage is a lifetime project dedicated to promoting elephant conservation and anti-poaching efforts. As the name suggests, they also rescue the baby elephants orphaned by the ivory trade. You can visit the babies at certain times during the day, and even take a bit of Nairobi home with you by becoming an elephant foster parent.

Ready to start your adventure?

As you can see, an African holiday is so much more than camping and cookouts and animals on safari – although let’s be honest, those are reason enough to go. If any of these experiences has kindled your wanderlust, why not contact us today to start planning your African safari and beach holiday? Or if you’re still at the early stages of deciding where to go and what to do, just sign up to our free short email course here.

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