This year I was surprised to find 7 new experiences in South Africa that truly are extraordinarily unique. Ranging from new takes on old experiences to those most definitely practicing Sustainable Tourism, each of my 7 brings an exciting inspiration on journeys through South Africa.
1) Gin School
Last year Janine, Café Gannet, and Mossel Bay stole my heart. This year they went for my Soul. How have I lived without going to Gin School?
Created by the wonderful Team Café Gannet, the Inverroche at Café Gannet Gin School "... offers visitors the opportunity to craft their own unique bottle of gin, sample gins from the leading artisanal producer in South Africa and learn more about local fynbos*."
*Fynbos is a small belt of natural shrubland or heathland vegetation located in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.
The awesome takeaway? "...each imaginative scholar leaves with their very own craft gin creation to take home." This is the place which completely encapsulates my Grandfather’s saying, “It’s Schooling to Travel” and what a great education!
2) Ocean Safari
Swim with the Seals! You read that right. Can you imagine SWIMMING WITH SEALS? This ethically based Wildlife Experience was introduced to me by Carla at OceanX (the name even rocks!).
With OceanX, you will experience the “…beauty of the ocean and its most playful mammals …[with the] seal snorkeling experience, you will not only learn about the Cape fur seals habits, but you will also get to experience their friendly nature first hand.”
While I didn’t get to experience my own Ocean Safari this time in Cape Town, it is now on my CPT Bucketlist. I can’t wait!
3) Sand Safari
Organized by Cape Town Tourism, I spent a wonderful day experiencing a “Sand Safari.” Located approximately 32 kilometers away from Cape Town, the Atlantis Dunes offer sandboarding, quad biking, extreme (and not so extreme) 4×4 rides, self-drive dune tours (with permits), and off-roading adventures.
Having grown up with the fragile, endangered Dunes of the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Caroline, my big question is how ethical or sustainable are these Dune Experiences? Turns out, extremely ethical and sustainable. Unlike the OBX, the Atlantis Dunes are a filtration system for huge aquifers beneath the sand. Thus, erosion for the Adventure Sports Tourism is not an issue. On top of that, I experienced firsthand how the Atlantis Dune Experience supports not only local Tour Companies, but the entire community as well.
If your idea of fun travel is Adventure – the Atlantis Dunes Experience is for you. I loved it!
4) More Baskets, Please!
While my dear husband has issued a polite warning that I am not allowed to purchase any more African Masks unless I have the specific place it will hang in our home, baskets can be used everywhere! And, thus I found myself back in Africa and deciding I simply needed more baskets for our new house in South Korea.
Enter, Design Afrika. Located in Cape Town, the sprawling store was established in 1995 by Binky Newman after she “…had just left the Okavango Delta, where she had run a wilderness camp for five years.”
Design Afrika is all that is absolutely good about “Fair Trade” and “Ethically Sourced.” Binky’s mission is to “…strive to nurture the creative and entrepreneurial initiative of rural communities by encouraging the production of high quality, on trend products.”
Anyone visiting Cape Town who has a passion for finding honestly Fair Trade and Ethically Sourced Baskets and Crafts must make Design Afrika a stop on their journey. Well done Binky!
5) A Day at the Safari Spa
And then I found myself with a day off after the World Travel Market Africa 2019. What to do? I immediately thought of consulting my most adorable dear friend Liezel. I met Liezel three years ago at WTMA when I had a meeting with Aquila Private Game Reserve Safari & Spa.
If you believe in Spiritual Connections, I truly have one with Liezel. So, when I started thumbing through my Rolodex of “things to do around Cape Town,” she of course came to mind. And to my rescue.
Liezel planned the perfect day for me at Tranquila Spa – the aptly named new Spa at Aquila. Being picked up from my hotel early in the morning (6:30 am!) for the two hour drive to Aquila was well worth it. While those traveling in the transport with me were shocked to learn I wasn’t going on Safari, I knew I was in for an special treat.
Tranquila Spa has been designed to offer the ultimate in Luxury Safari Lodging Spa Experience. The Spa has “…2 large heated indoor pools, steam room, sauna, nail bar, 10 treatment rooms, a couples or group treatment room and an outdoor pool.”
Spending a day at Tranquila Spa at Aquila Private Game Reserve, with the spectacular South African views along the route to and from, is perfect way to spend a “day off” or simply a day for relaxation and rewinding. Tranquila indeed!
6) African Urban Cuisine
An unexpected surprise treat came from the Cape Town Tourism Board, a delightful lunch at Moyo Restaurant. Moyo Restaurants are located throughout South Africa and I had the pleasure of dining at the Blouberg Moyo.
Moyo is a “…destination for a unique African dining experience. Inspired by the traditions and values of our ancestors, moyo is a celebration of, and commitment to, the beauty of Africa, and the industry of her people.” The food reaches into the Urban Centers of Africa for inspiration.
One of the most important aspects of Moyo is their commitment to StreetSmart South Africa. Since 2005, StreetSmart South Africa been operationg “…under the founding patronage of Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The funds raised go to selected and approved organisations that run programmes for the normalisation of street and vulnerable children’s lives. The restaurants, accommodation establishments and wine tasting centres in each town raise funds for their own community street children programmes.”
Often establishments like to promote “dining for a cause.” Moyo Restaurants practice what they preach in giving back through StreetSmart South Africa. Again, an example of supporting local communities through Tourism and Travel. The exact ideals Flyga Twiga was established on over 5 years ago.
7) Private Sommelier
Having been on numerous Wine Tours on 5 Different Continents, you’d think I would have had just about every type of Wine Tour possible. Then, along comes Wine Escapes. Arranged by my dear friend and South African Travel Partner, Michael English, I spent a lovely day in Stellenbosch with my own Private Sommelier.
Prior to my tour, John, the Creator of Wine Escapes, called to ask my Wine and Food Preferences. In addition, upon my request, he was able to get a tasting with Lola, the Owner of my absolute favorite Boutique Winery in South Africa – Mitre’s Edge. Where, of course, I got my dose of “the kids,” aka “Lola’s Dogs”!
Each Wine Escape Tour is "...conducted by a Certified Tour Guide with certificates in wine from the Cape Wine Academy" Their vision is to"...offer specialized, exclusive wine tours where guests are introduced to some of the best Estates and wines, whilst providing them with excellent service and hospitality.”
So, the next time you are in the Western Cape, I highly recommend arranging a tour with your own Private Sommelier. Wine Touring simply at its best!
1) Landscape & Climate
Strikingly beautiful, Cape Town is a year-round City. From Table Mountain to the Cape Town Waterfront, every angle and every view cries out for an Instagram worthy photo. Add to this the Temperate Climate - by Seoul, South Korea & Mid-Atlantic, USA standards! – and it is clear why so many people call Cape Town not only their Dream Vacation spot, but home.
Spending the day experiencing Cape Town’s Landscape & Climate at the spectacular Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens offers an amazing array of Botanical Knowledge and Experiences. Kirstenbosch is run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute. If there is a member of the Family whose passion is Botanical in nature, this is the spot to dedicate at least a day’s exploration.
As with all of Cape Town, make sure your camera batteries are full and there is plenty of space for all the pictures you could dream of taking. Kirstenbosch is a great way to experience Cape Town’s Unique Landscape & Climate.
On everyone’s list when visiting Cape Town is of course Robben Island. Yet, there are many more Museums than those often expected by Tourists. Cape Town itself has gone out of its way to attract the largest collection of modern African art in the World, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.
Cape Town has such diverse Museums as the South African Jewish Museum, offering Heritage Experiences of the Jewish Diaspora, to the Heart of Cape Town Museum, which highlights the world’s first human heart transplant. There are also amazing gallery areas, all of which can be tailored into a bespoke Cape Town Experience.
A few important opening notes: Unlike most Museums in the World, the Zeitz closes on Tuesdays, rather than Mondays. And, the SA Jewish Museum is closed Saturdays and Jewish Holidays. Make sure to plan accordingly!
3) Food & Wine & Gin & Rum & ….
After the Sun, Beaches, & Laidback Lifestyle, many find Cape Town synonymous with good Food and Drink. While the first drink to come to mind may be Wine, Cape Town has a burgeoning and dynamic Micro Brewery industry.
Both Gin and Rum production, on a small, artisanal scale have boomed throughout the Western Cape. In fact, these Spirit Distilleries have become an integral part of Cape Town Tourism. Offering tastings, just as found in the World Famous Cape Wine Region, hard liquor producers have created a truly niche market, in their own right attracting Tourists from around the World.
Another note about opening hours: As these are often, small, family run, working Distilleries, many are only open limited hours for their delicious Tastings. For instance, on of my favorite micro Gin Distilleries, Hope on Hopkins, is open on Saturdays only, between 12pm and 5pm. But, they are well worth planning to visit and almost all offer non-alcoholic alternatives for the youngsters and teetotalers in your group.
While the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, and specifically my beloved Woolworth’s, is the center of Cape Town Shopping, there is so much more to explore. Last year I was looking for reusable copper straws and was able to source them at a specialty shop, Blink, on Regent Road, Sea Point in Cape Town.
And, while you often hear people warn “never purchase from a hotel gift shop” I have found the opposite to be true throughout Africa. In Cape Town, several of my favorite pieces of Patrick Mavros jewelry were sourced from Hotels which carry his collection. As well as my unique, one-of-a-kind hand embroidered wildlife placemats were found at the Westin Cape Town Gift Shop.
Of course, there is also always the opportunity to purchase that exceptional, ethically sourced South African Diamond. You can find more details about this type of experience in my Art, Wine & Safari, Cape Town & Kruger, South Africa Experience.
Cape Town offers the international, world traveler shopping options and choices not found anywhere else.
Who doesn’t love to fit in a bit of time at the Spa while vacationing? Like many other aspects of Cape Town, you can find World Class Spas throughout the City. One of the benefits of Cape Town being such a modern, sophisticated City is also the flexibility of services. On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I have arrived in Cape Town, prior to a Business Trip, and needed some immediate Spa Services. I have always found a Spa who could fit me in last minute, while still providing Top Notch Service.
Of course, one of my favorite Spas in Cape Town is Heavenly Spa by Westin. In addition to offering great Spa Treatments, you can also request a private massage in your room – a service I have found not many Hotel Spas offer. One of my favorites is Heavenly’s Signature Massage, which offers, “…the pure essence of marula oil to aid relaxation and celebrate Africa’s deep spirit.” Marual Oil = Heaven!
6) Medical Tourism
I have raved on numerous occasions about Medical Tourism to South Africa. Last year in Cape Town I was able, at an exceptional cost, receive State-of-the-Art Eye Care. You can find my blog post on this experience here.
And, as if to put the icing on the cake, just a few weeks ago I was back in the States talking with a friend of mine who needed to go for an Eye Exam. She was dreading the awful, painful “deluted eye” exam. She had never heard of the exam now being done by computer, as I had experienced in Cape Town. You better believe I suggested some Medical Tourism.
7) The People
No matter how enchanting the views, delicious the new opportunities for exploration, or enticing the off-the-beaten path may be, all places of travel on Earth are made by The People. If New York City is the melting pot of the World, Cape Town is the fusion, multicultural Capital of Africa.
Of course, Cape Town’s bread and butter is the Hospitality Industry. Thus, there is, as would be expected, the highest quality of Customer Service. But, I have always been able to feel the genuine. The People of Cape Town are truly welcoming. There have been few places on Earth, to which I have traveled, that from the very beginning I was creating deep and lasting friendships.
So, even with all the other amazing reasons, The People of Cape Town are my top reason for loving Cape Town.
Sien jou binnekort!
World Travel Market Africa (WTMA) Offers The Best Fam Trips
And Always Sees That I Am Challenged.
The Atlantis dunes are one of Cape Town’s premier adventure hotspots. These ever-changing pure white sands offer the perfect opportunity for adventure seekers.
Visitors will have an opportunity to choose from
• Quad biking
• Sand boarding
• 4x4 rides
• Guided walks of the Witzands Aquifer Nature Reserve where one can get to enjoy this city’s natural area and biodiversity heritage
After the activities International Hosted Buyers can be treated to an African inspired lunch at the African themed Moyo restaurant at Eden on the Bay.
See you in Cape Town, WTMA!
Industry Changes to Child Policy
At the end of February this year, I received an interesting email from a Lodge in South Africa. In the email was information to Update Product Managers on the "...following information for Hamilton Parks Country Lodge, Hazyview, Mpumalanga." The email stated:
CHILD POLICY UPDATE
Hamilton Parks no longer accommodate children under the age of 12 as of 1st January 2019. Child Policies on all online booking sites have been updated.
The attached clarification document went on to say:
Hamilton Parks Country Lodge
Dearest Partner in Tourism with Hamilton Parks Lodge,
As from the 1st January 2019, we have taken the age limit and changed the age to 12 years of age, we have done extensive research and have decided to go this route, of course we will honour the bookings made and will endeavour to assist all agents and guests with the requests, all online platforms have been changed to reflect this.
We Have seen over the past 4 years the trend of children booked with parents, these are small amounts over the years, we are a lodge of many years and are not really a place for children, we have wonderful gardens they can run around in and a pool (supervised by parents at ALL times) and a pool table (Which is for older children)
Please let me know your thoughts, should you need some form of conversation regarding this issue please contact me, I would really like to chat with you.
Sincerely yours in Tourism
I was pleased to receive this email and immediately let Lyn know.
Why I was so pleased to see this change in policy
I want to be very clear, I do believe there is a time and place for young children on Safari and Traveling in Africa. Accompanied by conscientious, caring parents, younger children can offer a wonderful, fresh perspective to seeing animals in the wild. Unfortunately, in my experiences on Safari, these parents are the rarity.
On two occasions, in South Africa and in Kenya, I have experienced children disrupting Wildlife Experiences. I am not overstating the situation where in one of these instances the neglectful parents could have led to the deaths of their children. In my opinion, having seen this first hand, it is a situation no Safari Provider or Lodge Owner should ever be placed in.
Why These Changes in Policy?
I reached out to Lyn Mulder and asked her some questions about their decision to change the Child Policy. Below is our communication on the Change in Child Policy.
Amy: Thank you Lyn for answering my questions about your changes to Hamilton Parks Lodge’s Child Policy. I appreciate your taking the time to help educate us on what I am sure was a decision you did not make lightly.
Could you tell us about how you went about making the decision to change your Child Policy?
As I have shared with you, I have personally had two experiences, one of which could have been fatal to the children, where young, neglected children have been placed in situations which were inappropriate. Is there some advice you would give to parents considering taking young children on Safari?
This was not a decision taken lightly but we have already seen the benefits to a different group of visitors, to our lodge, we have maturer, travelers that seek the Bushveld tranquility
Amy , but to give 1 example, we have had 2 serious situations that could have gone terribly wrong if it was not for our staff members being there, twice we have had parents sitting around the pool and not taking notice of their children in the pool we have had to dive in twice to safe young children (aged 4 and 8 years old) we have also have had to safe a adult who could not swim J, this is purely a parent with no responsive attitude to children safety and etiquette (unacceptable to us as our swimming pool is not child proof and we always advise (and have sign boards) that under aged children are to be strictly looked after with parents in full attendance (not reading or playing on cell phones) the responsibility of a child is taken very seriously by Hamilton Parks and therefore we decided that it was not conducive to the lodge anymore, When it comes to safaris, we tell all parents with smaller children to do self drives’ in the park, as children fidget, shout and are generally full of energy and this distracts other guests (that also pay top dollar for the activity) and can potentially be dangerous with wild animals around open vehicles or even bush walks. Private game lodges mostly have the same policies in place (age limits etc) for the above same issues. But again this all depends on the children’s behavior and the parent’s accountability for their behavior :-) Breakages are also a small part of the child policy change :-)
Do you think this is a trend, toward setting age limits, that is going to take hold in the Tourism Industry in Africa?
1. Yes, I do think that there will be a trend, it will be a slow one, but I think parents will start looking more at resorts as a package tour when it comes to children as we know most European countries (which is SA [South African] most market) come to South Africa to visit with anything from 2 to 6 children (so cost effective is essential)
2. It is also a tough sell when you book children into rooms with parents, rates wise s all agents/parents expect children to wither be FREE of charge of to pay a very small sum
3. This was not a decision taken lightly but we have already seen the benefits to a different group of visitors, to our lodge, we have Maturer, travelers that seek the Bushveld tranquility without the
Flyga Twiga™ LLC Child Policy
Flyga Twiga™ LLC complies with all Industry Provider’s Policies as well as the Laws, Rules, and Regulations set in place by the African Nations and their Tourism and Wildlife Authorities in which our Clients will travel or transit. As such when we are working with Clients with Children under the age of 18, we require copies of Passports and Vaccination Documentation.
Traveling in Africa, and seeing the majestic animals in the wild, is transformational. Flyga Twiga™ is founded on the ideal of helping others share these life changing experiences – safely. We hope this discussion helps when planning your unique, bespoke Safari. And, you will have a
Happy Day! Safe Safari!
I am always amused when I hear someone claim their’s is the “best approach” to Wildlife Conservation. As a Wildlife Conservationist, I adhere to the wholistic approach – everyone, every group, every method, who is striving toward the same goal of saving Endangered Animals, plays a vital role in Wildlife Conservation.
And, there are profoundly different approaches, all of whom should be cheered and lauded for their parts in helping save the Endangered Wildlife of Africa. Here are 9 of my favorites, with some new approaches making the list as well. Please feel free to put your favorite in the comment section!
1- Boots on the Ground
With the increase in violent poaching in the past few decades, there has emerged groups of highly trained Counter or Anti-Poaching Units (APUs). Two such groups are Vetpaw and the Black Mamba APU. These highly trained “Boots on the Ground” APUs conduct Wildlife Conservation by going on the offensive against often highly armed, dangerous Criminal Poachers.
Vetpaw was founded by Ryan Tate with the idea of using his military experience. Mr. Tate’s group’s approach to Wildlife Conservation began after he “…interviewed his colleagues and saw the difficulties and frustrations of men and women who are highly skilled in combat-related areas, but unable to leverage those skills in a conventional civilian setting. They have a continuing dedication to serve others, and Ryan helps them channel it.”
The Black Mamba APU consists of 33 Women and 1 Man working in boundaries of the 52,000ha Balule Nature Reserve, which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. Their objectives include educating “…their communities to understand that the benefits are greater through rhino conservation rather than poaching, addressing the social and moral decay that is a product of the rhino poaching within their communities. They are concerned for their children’s sake as the false economy has brought loose morals and narcotics into their communities.”
Both groups offer back-up and assistance to the courageous Wildlife Rangers who put their lives on the line everyday to stop Poaching. Bravo to VetPaw and The Black Mambas!
2- Artificial Intelligence
One of the hottest, most exciting new developments in Wildlife Conservation is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Headquartered in Washington, DC, the nonprofit RESOLVE's Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program just announced its new TrailGuard AI.
Without getting too technical, the way this AI works is:
“TrailGuard AI is the first wildlife-oriented security camera system designed for the rigors of the bush that combines: easy concealment due to its small size (i.e. the length of one’s index finger), human detection algorithms performed on the Intel computer vision processing unit housed in the camera head, long battery life, and near-real time connectivity to alert rangers at park HQs to be able to make timely interventions.”
As my good friend Matt Thomas, who has long been interested in and studies AI says, ”AI is like any other major advancement in technology. We can use it for great evil or great good. It is our choice.” TrailGuard AI, and its ability to help Conserve African Wildlife, is most definitely for the greater good.
3- Activist Groups
Often giving the loudest “voice” to Conservation, Activists Groups play a central role in saving the Endangered African Wildlife. There are so many wonderful groups, I will highlight one whose work I have supported and who’s current Chief Operating Officer (CEO) is one of the Powerhouse Stars in African Wildlife Conservation.
WildlifeDirect (previously the Africa Conservation Fund) was founded in 2004 by the beloved conservationist, Dr. Richard Leakey, and former World Bank Representative to Kenya, Harold Wackman. With this great heritage, in 2008 Paula Kahumbu became CEO of WildlifeDirect. Under her Leadership, she has helped transform Conservation in Kenya. Through her work, WildlifeDirect playing an instrumental role in seeing the first ever, First Lady of an African Nation, adopt a Conservation Campaign. Through the “Hands Off Our Elephants” Ms Kahumbu’s WildlifeDirect has been a guiding force in changing the way Kenyans view Wildlife Conservation.
As the video above from the Nairobi 2015 “Global March for Elephants & Rhinos” shows, Activist Groups play a key role in having local communities become involved in Wildlife Conservation. I had the honor of attending and meeting Ms. Kahumbu in person and march with her during the rally. Again, each approach to Wildlife Conservation is like the Ecology itself, we all have a role to play.
This may be a bit controversial. And, by Zoos, I mean modern-day, state-of-the-art, compassionate, well designed Zoos. I am of the opinion that Zoos are one of the Cornerstones of Wildlife Conservation. Aside from the great work they do to help protect animals, it is here, at the Zoo, where many children first learn about Wildlife. For some children, seeing a Giraffe, or an Elephant at the Zoo will spark a lifelong love of Wildlife, which I believe can lead to a passion for Conservation.
Additionally, a lot of people don’t know about the amazing work modern day, state-of-the-art Zoos are doing – beyond the gates of the Zoos. In fact, the Wildlife Conservation Society, founded in 1895, is actually the international branch of the New York Zoological Society/Bronx Zoo. I proudly say, I worked for one of the oldest Conservation Zoos in the World!
No surprise this one is near and dear to my heart. I truly, deeply believe that traveling to Africa and seeing the animals in the wild, is life changing. I have seen time and time again the shifts in perspectives, the transformational experience that is going on Safari in Africa. Having been blessed with a set of skills and knowledge, born from living and working in Africa, it seems natural to bond my passion for International Development and Wildlife Conservation through being part of the Tourism Community.
But, it isn’t just me who sees the hand-in-hand relationship to Travel and Conservation. Each year The Explorers Club, of which I am a Member, Lowell Thomas Award is given. Nicknamed “The World’s Foremost Globetrotter,” Mr. Thomas instilled a passion for exploration, and conservation, at a time when the world was “opening up.” Mr. Thomas was a Member of The Explorers Club as well, and I hope to instill the same love of Travel and Conservation to others, just as he did for so many in his time.
6- Animal Sanctuaries
There are so many wonderful Animals Sanctuaries, all over the world, doing amazingly awesome work in Wildlife Conservation. One of the best known is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT). Founded in 1977, DSWT has become “…today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.”
While DSWT is committed to re-introducing orphaned elephants to the wild, my all-time favorite Animal Sanctuary, The Elephant Sanctuary, South Africa, takes in Elephants who cannot be re-introduced into the wild. Through positive reinforcement domestication, these Elephants live out their lives being Ambassadors for their highly Endangered Species.
By interacting, ethically, with these magnificent Ambassadors, visitors to the Elephant Sanctuary can learn more about the true nature of the Endangered Elephants. It was during my first visit to the Elephant Sanctuary South Africa, over 10 years ago, where a deep love for and desire to save African Wildlife began to encircle my heart.
Animal Sanctuaries, and especially those working with the highly Endangered Elephants, have an extremely important role to play in Wildlife Conservation.
7- Animal Kingdom Parks
Much like Zoos, Animal Kingdom Parks have to be qualified. The Animal Kingdom Parks, of which I am speaking, offer safe “Safaris” and Wildlife Experiences. And, as with Zoos, I see these as highly beneficial for sparking an early interest in Wildlife Conservation in young children.
The best example I have of this is the experiences my friend Heidi Thomas (wife of aforementioned Matt Thomas!). Heidi & Matt have regularly taken their three children to experience Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Heidi has shared with me the true joys here children have gotten from their “Safaris.” I am not surprised honoring Walt Disney’s legacy with an Animal Kingdom Park. A little known fact, at the time of his death in 1966, Walt Disney had one of the largest African Mask Collections in the entire United States.
And, if Walt Disney’s and other Animal Kingdom Parks inspires future Wildlife Conservationists – I am all for them!
Often after a first Safari and seeing the African Wildlife in the wild, people often look for ways to share their soul changing experiences. Many also look for avenues to support and become part of Wildlife Conservation. One way of doing this is by writing a book.
For example, inspired by her first Safari, my Friend and Author, Mary Jane O'Loughlin, was inspired to write the book “Ruby and Baby an Unlikely Friendship.” It is through this book that she shares her love of African Wildlife while having a portion of the proceeds support, Amboseli Trust for Elephants.
Sharing her love for African Wildlife and supporting the Amboseli Elephants at the same time, Mary Jane greatly contributes to Wildlife Conservation!
9- Social Media Influencers
My favorite new way to approach Wildlife Conservation is Social Media Influencers using their Platforms. A unique, and extremely effective form of communication, these Influencers can reach a vast audience.
The perfect example of this is Social Media Influencer, Kait Hanson, of Communikait. Kait is a Lifestyle and Travel Blogger, Writer and Photographer. In addition to her exceptional Website & Blog, Communikait, Kait’s influence includes nearly 9,000 followers on Instagram. Her Communikait Facebook Page has over 3,000 Likes, and she has over 4,500 followers on Twitter. She rounds out her Social Media Powerhouse with 709.4k monthly viewers on Pinterest. That is a lot of Influence.
During her first Safari in Africa, Kait used her Social Media Platforms to showcase her Safari and the highly Endangered African Wildlife. Each of her posts had hundreds of Likes and Comments. For instance, her posts about seeing one of the last remaining Rhinos in the Wild, went out to her tens of thousands of followers. And, equally as important, to followers who may never been exposed to the realities of Endangered Animals and how close we are losing whole Species.
As a high-profile Social Media Influencer, Finch Hattons Luxury Tented Camp, asked Kait during her Safari to take over their Instagram Account. Located in Tsavo West National Park, Kenya, Finch Hattons astutely has realized the power of Infuencers in Social Media. And, they picked up numerous followers thanks to Kait’s Infuencer Status.
By using her powerful Social Media Influence, Kait is able to reach and educate a vast amount of people on the importance of saving Endangered African Wildlife. As one of the newest approaches to Wildlife Conservation – Kait’s contributions as a Social Media Influencer are the absolutely perfect Win-Win. A thousand cheers to Kait for all she does for Wildlife Conservation as a Social Media Influencer – Brava!
Thank you to everyone for
their role in Wildlife Conservation!
Happy Day! Safe Safari!
Back in 2009, I found myself on a bus in Tanzania, headed to Swahili Language School in Iringa. The bus flew around hairpin curves, going well above the speed limit, with no brake bars on the side. I promised myself that if I got back to Dar es Salaam (in one piece!), I would never, ever take a long distance bus again.
Well…fast forward to the end of 2018, nearly a decade since that promise to myself, and where do I find myself? On a long distance bus in Chile!
While planning our unusual getaway to Chile, we had our hearts set on going to San Pedro de Atacama. In fact, I booked lodging reservations before even firming-up how we’d get there from Santiago. Unfortunately, I quickly realized a “Road Trip” was simply out of the question. 26+ years of marriage has given us the blessing of knowing each other’s travel limits. Mine include avoiding 8 hours a day of driving in a country to which we had never been.
While we could have flown, our instincts were proven right when we got to the Calama Airport to pick up our truck for the short drive from Calama to San Pedro. While my husband had flown from JFK to Santiago on Aerolíneas Argentinas, I had flown Emirates from Seoul via Dubai. This included the 20 Hour transit via São Paulo, Brazil. A regional puddle jumper was not how I envisioned spending our vacation.
What to do?
While preparing for the trip to Chile, I had begun listening to Podcasts about the country. One good one was Passport Joy. In their podcast they mentioned how the wished they had taken a bus. Their description of the bus and the excellent infrastructure in Chile made me question my complete ban on long distance buses. And I am so glad I did. We found Turbus!
In less than 24 hours, you can board a bus in Santiago and be in Calama, the closest large town to San Pedro. If you book Premium – you are given a Layflat Seat, a comfortable pillow and blanket, and time to relax and enjoy the trip to the Atacama.
Light snacks were provided on the bus, with an occasional “local” hopping on and off to sell Empanadas. But, most importantly, it gave us time to acclimatize, in our attempts to avoid Altitude Sickness. While I had thankfully never experienced Altitude Sickness, in 2004 during a vacation in Sante Fe, New Mexico, my husband had. We knew to be extremely cautious.
And, sure enough, sitting on the bus, gradually ascending to the Atacama, religiously drinking water we had brought with us, we thankfully were not stricken with Altitude Sickness. We credit that in part to taking the bus.
Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat. Chile has long distance bus travel down. This was an extremely relaxing way to traverse the extraordinarily long country that is Chile. My husband and I had a chance to chat, enjoy being with each other, and try something we had not done together in our 26+ years of marriage – take a long distance bus ride together.
So, I did something I swore I would never do again and loved it. Thank you Turbus and Chile for such a great experience!
World Travel Market Africa 2019
It is an honor for Flyga Twiga™ LLC to be invited for the 3rd consecutive year as a Fully Hosted Buyer to World Travel Market Africa (WTMA). Once again hosted by the City of Cape Town, South Africa, WTMA 2019 will bring together nearly 5,000 travel industry professionals, focusing on Africa and Middle East North Africa (MENA) Travel.
The World Travel Market will take place from Wednesday, April 10th through Friday, April 12th at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. WTMA offers Flyga Twiga™ an opportunity to meet in-person with In-Country Partners, Safari Lodges & Reserves, as well as the chance to take Familiarization (Fam) Trips to new and existing properties and ventures.
Thank you WTMA & Looking Forward To Seeing Old and Meeting New Africa Friends & Travel Colleagues in April!
Seeking the warmth of the Arabian Gulf, leaving behind the Siberian High sweeping through Korea, in 2016, my husband and I sought out one of our favorite places, Abu Dhabi. During this trip, our tour guide pointed out the construction of the Abu Dhabi Louvre.
I have traveled numerous times to Qatar and seen its spectacular Museum of Islamic Arts, as well as their unrivaled Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.
I was curious about the new entry in what I call “The Gulf States Arts Race.”
The Unexpected & The Architect
Open just under a year when I visited the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I was surprised at how I fell in love with the Museum. In the just less than two years since I was last in Abu Dhabi, the project had slipped from my sphere. From time to time I would see an article on its progress, but I was busy with other projects. I simply hadn’t made visiting the newly opened Museum a priority.
The Architect, Jean Nouvel’s vision sees "Bridging Land and Sea." He succeeded. I believe he created the perfect background of calmness with which to view "the cultural achievements of mankind from prehistoric times to the present day."
And, while I certainly wouldn’t call myself a Jean Nouvel “Groupie” I do have a bit of history with his work. I have had the pleasure of seeing his:
Museum Two, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
Doha Tower Skyscraper, Doha, Qatar
100 Eleventh Avenue, Manhattan, NY, USA
Golden Angel (Zlatý Anděl), Prague, Czech Republic
And in my opinion, prior to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, one of his most iconic & my favorite of his work - Gasometer A, Vienna, Austria.
Even the Museum's Café was designed by the Louvre’s famous architect, Jean Nouvel. His vision for the Café was to create a space where, "visitors can hope for waves of the sea to touch the sky," while enjoying your dining experience.
Every detail in the Café has a nod to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, such as the paper placemats with the iconic roof design. The Café’s desire is to tell “international stories that highlight the similarities between us, in harmony with the spirit of the museum."
A New Light
Nouvel’s play on light in the Louvre Abu Dhabi I feel falls under one of those extraordinarily rare places where even the most vivid of descriptors cannot reveal the experience. Each corner of the Museum offers a new play on light, a new way of viewing the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi, and the piercing Sun of the Desert.
This extends into the play of light in how he offers light for exhibits. During this visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I was particularly moved by an Oriental Rug Display. Light plays on our souls in different ways.
And, while among the great works of art from van Gogh to Picasso to da Vinci and the multitude of early Islamic works and writings, this piece spoke to me of my childhood. The plays of light I grew up with in my family home in Virginia. Light from the sky, enlightening our home.
A Universal Museum in the Arab World
اللوفر أبو ظبي
The Art World and the development of Museums are nearly always plagued by controversy. As someone who incorporates Art into my Travels, I have been blessed with the confidences of those in the Art World who have shared their experiences and opinions with me about several new museums which have recently opened.
I view Museums as much like Theaters. Do I really care if the Director and the Leading Actress had a raging dispute before the play? No. I care about the performance.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi spoke to my soul. I found it to truly be a Universal Museum in the Arab World whose light offers new perspectives on as they had hoped in a "spirit of respect, curiosity, learning, and self-reflection."
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
Next year will mark the 20th Anniversary of the founding of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. Under the late patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the hospital has become one of the largest avian hospitals in the world.
The history of Falconry in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) follows the rich path of the Bedouins. The first reference to Falconry in the Middle East appears in the ruins of Nineveh under the Assyrians in an engraving dated to 750 BC, modern day Iraq.
There are two types of Falcons used in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for hunting, the "Saqr" Falcon (Falco Cherruq), the Peregrine (Falco Peregrinus). In both cases the female is preferred.
Today in the Gulf States, Falcons can go at auction anywhere from $5,000 to over $25,000. It can not be overstated the love the Emiratis have for their falcons, viewing them as members of the family.
Touring the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
One of the most exciting and unusual tours offered in Abu Dhabi is that of the Falcon Hospital. Groups tours run throughout the day.
Guided by an Emirati, the Falcon Hospital Tour is comprehensive. With traditional Bedouin hospitality, Tourists are taken throughout the facility and shown the multifaceted programs, research, and patient care being offered at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital.
With no expense spared by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Falcon Hospital offers:
Numerous clinical examination rooms
State of the Ophthalmology Unit
Entirely separate Falcon Pox Unit
2 Operation Theatres
Digital Radiography Unit
Intensive Care Unit, capable of handling multiple emergencies – in private rooms – at once.
And, in addition to the 200 air conditioned, private rooms, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital also offers “free-flight aviaries of different sizes and free-flight moulting rooms,” during which time the falcons are given "special food menus and vitamin supplements." The hospital now sees over 11,000 Falcons a year.
Types of Surgeries and Treatments
One of the most fascinating part of the tour of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital comes when they give an extensive breakdown of the types of surgeries offered. From feather replacements to talon and beak repairs, the surgery is in almost constant use.
Falcons can receive their annual check-ups at the Hospital, as well as full Veterinary Services. While on tour, guests are shown a sedated Falcon and discussions of the various surgeries and treatments.
Throughout the tour, at the appropriate times, tourists are invited to touch the Falcons and even have an opportunity to hold one. For many visiting the UAE this is a once in a lifetime interaction with Falcons. The deep love the Emiratis have for their Falcons permeates every aspect of the fascinating tour.
The great Falconer, His Highness Sheikh Zayed, created the concept of the “Falcon Passport.” The passport is approved by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). Issued through the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, Falcon Passports are more than a way to transport birds from one country to another.
Rather, Sheikh Zayed created the concept as part of his greater mission of Wildlife Conservation. The Falcon Passport was initiated to stop trapping in countries neighboring the UAE. His Highness Sheikh Zayed set up numerous Wildlife Conservation initiatives, both above ground and under water in the Arabian Gulf.
And, many people are surprised when they first hear about the UAE as a Wildlife Conservation and EcoTourism destination. Thanks in part to programs such as the Falcon Passport, the UAE has become a Wildlife Conservationists “must see” with the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital at the very top of the list!
Sheraton Hotels & Resorts
Thanks in part to the 1998 purchase by the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Sheratons, particularly those located outside the USA, have retained their grandeur. Add to this the 2016 purchase of Starwood by Marriott and you have all the power that comes from being the largest hotel chain in the world.
In the Heart of Abu Dhabi
One of the perks of staying in a Sheraton in the heart of the Abu Dhabi is the perfect mixture of work & play. Located on Corniche Road, the Abu Dhabi Sheraton offers, in addition to Adult and Children’s Pools, a private Lagoon. This provided me with some much needed beach & suntanning time, when I wasn’t working in the spacious office area in my room.
The Club Floor
One of the things I love most about many of the Marriott owned properties, and Sheratons in particular, is they have exceptional Club Floors. Each property, in my experience, interprets the design differently. The Abu Dhabi Sheraton had a relaxed, comfortable feel, as well as a separate Smoking Area.
I always make sure to book the Club Level. In addition to what I consider a full Breakfast, they also offer evening Cocktails & Canopies. I’m often asked if it is illegal to drink in the United Arab Emirates. It is not. Rather, it is illegal to be drunk in public. At the Sheraton Abu Dhabi I enjoyed delicious, well made G&Ts, as well as a nice variety of Australian Wines.
Nods to Traditional Islamic Architecture & Design
From intricate mosaics to dramatic arches, the Abu Dhabi Sheraton blends modern hotel design with nods to traditional Islamic Architecture & Design. Combined with the muted, Earth tones of the Emirati Desert, the marble details & features throughout the Sheraton provide the mood of how the UAE honors its heritage while embracing modernity.
Abu Dhabi Sheraton Hotel & Resort -
A Beautiful Respite in the Middle of the UAE Capital
Hmmm...That Print Looks Small!
While finalizing my trip to South Africa as an International Hosted Buyer for the World Travel Market Africa 2018, I needed to call my Credit Card Companies to verify they had my travel places & dates.
While examining the back of the card with my Grandfather's huge magnifying glass to retrieve the number, it dawned on me - I might need reading glasses!
Where To Go?
In December 2017, while in South Africa for our 25th Anniversary, I had picked up a copy of Longevity Magazine. This magazine is quite good, promoting a healthy living and lifestyle. In the back of the magazine was a Health Directory.
Searching the directory, I found NH Optometrist in the Western Cape Listing. Located in the Plattekloof area of Cape Town, I went to their website. I liked what I saw. Very professional. They accepted cash payment. And, with a few clicks of an email, I had an appointment.
My appointment was beyond what I had expected. The staff were extremely professional. And, NH Optometrist had the latest State of the Art Medical Equipment. My last eye exam was when I had returned to the United States from South Sudan in 2013.
Little did I expect the most up-to-date equipment from my appointment in Cape Town. Dr Anni Brown understood some concerns specific to my genetics and background (double whammy of cataracts on my maternal side & many years working in SubSaharan African Sun!).
I had braised myself for the arduous pupil dilation. I expected the old fashioned, spend half the day nearly-blind, fumbling around from pupil dilation. Not in Cape Town - Dr Brown had the latest, greatest computer technology to check my eyes.
No drops. No dark sunglasses, needed for even indoor use after dilation. The most modern medical technology took some pictures of my eyes & that was it! This was one of the best eye exams I had ever experienced.
In the end, I did need reading glasses. Yet, I wasn't "over prescribed" as I have learned to watch out for. I would absolutely practice Medical Tourism in Cape Town and elsewhere again.
And now I can go back to enjoying reading the inflight magazines, fine print and all, on my longhaul flight to Africa. Medical tourism is awesome!
One of my Most Amazing Golf Experiences, Playing Golf with Zebras Great Rift Valley Lodge & Golf Resort, Kenya
Safaris with Golf & Wine Tours
We are working on some new Safaris in South Africa, which include Wine & Golf Tours. In addition to seeing the amazing wildlife, there are also world class golf courses and more boutique and luxury wineries than you could see in a lifetime.
Korea World Travel Fair
The 33rd Korea World Travel Fair, which takes place 14-17 June 2018 at COEX in Seoul. I will be attending again this year as Media. I look forward to researching and writing new travel trends in the industry. The travel show is sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; Korea Tourism Organization; and Visit Korea Committee.
New Safari Kit
I’m picking-up today a new Safari Suit I’m having made. Seoul Suits has a long, strong reputation in the Expat Community for top quality tailoring. I’ll do an update on how it turned out!
Naju City Historical Tour
On Saturday, June 16th I will be touring Naju City in role as a Member of the Foreign Advisory Committee of the Korea Heritage Society. This is a day-long trip and we will have to up early Saturday morning to hop on KTX and head to historic Naju City.
Happy Day! Safe Safari!
In the Piedmont of the Simonsberg Mountain, between Paarl and Stellenbosch, is one of South Africa's most outstanding Boutique Wineries, Mitre's Edge Wine Estate. The Winery is family-owned and managed. They are a sustainable winery, "wholeheartedly committed to green and ethical winemaking." And, are members of the WIETA (Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trading Association).
South Africa Food & Wine
The May 2018 edition of South Africa Food & Wine Magazine highlighted as one of its top picks the Mitre's Edge Viognier 2017. The "Raise Your Glass" column, by Milu Lambert, praised the Mitre's Edge Wine as one of 5 outstanding South African Viogniers. This is a rare South African wine, as she points out in the article, as "...no SA brand is producing more than 500 cases of Viognier a year."
Jeff and I had the immense pleasure of meeting Lola & Bernard Nicholls of Mitre's Edge Vineyards in December 2017 on our 25th Anniversary Trip in South Africa. The tasting remains one of our all-time favorites. And, to make the day perfect, we were generously asked to dinner in The Nicholls' home on the estate. The Nicholls exemplify why we love South Africa & we are honored to have been blessed with their acquaintance,
Mountain Gorilla Numbers Surpass 1,000!
The authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Rwanda, and Republic of Uganda release new census results. has just issued a Mountain Gorilla Census and the count is now over 1,000. Click here to read the Press Release.
This is truly awesome news and proves onece again how tourism promotes wildlife conservation. Click here or the Alpha Male (above) from the Nyakagezi Group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda to see a suggested Gorilla Trekking Itinerary.
The below short video is of two Mountain Gorilla Brothers playing. They are part of the Nyakagezi Group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda. This was shot when I was hosted by the Uganda Tourism Board during the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo in 2017.
Happy Day! Safe Safari!
My preferred airlines, for flying longhaul flights to Africa, are absolutely one of the ME3. Attending the World Travel Market Africa in April, Qatar had an amazing deal for Roundtrip Seoul to Cape Town. One leg was even a Q Suite flight, which will be in a future review.
My flight had an 8 hour Layover. This was not long enough for Qatar Airways to provide me a room in Doha. But, it was longer than I preferred to stay in the Business Class Lounge. While the new lounge is spectacular, I wanted a bit more privacy & relaxation. So, I booked a room in the transit hotel in Hamad International Airport مطار حمد الدولي DOH - the Oryx Airport Hotel.
The 1st Room - Then the Suite!
My first room was spacious and nice. But, unfortunately (or lucky for me!) the Wi-fi wasn't working. So, they upgraded me to a Suite. They did so quickly and without complaints. As there were several people at the front desk asking for rooms, I had no doubt my room would be turned around & sold as soon as possible.
The Suite bathroom was spacious and offered a huge shower to refresh before my next 10 + Hour Flight to Seoul.
Comfortable Sitting & Desk Areas
The Sitting & Desk Area was extremely comfortable. I was genuinely surprised how quiet the hotel was. Aside from an occasional "Loud Talker" in the hotel hall, I heard very little noise.
As I was trying not to sleep, I had time to periodically chat with my Husband, order Room Service, & calmly repack my Carry-on.
One of the features I liked about the Oryx Airport Hotel was each television, of which there were two in the Suite, had a channel devoted to the Departure Times & Up-to-the-minute Departure Gates.
Traveling alone, I found this feature extremely comforting. With long layovers, when traveling as a solo female traveler, my worse case scenario is always falling asleep and missing the last leg of my flight. And, while the Qatari are an immensely welcoming hosts - I was ready to be home!
The amenities were what you would expect from one of the ME3 - luxurious Rituals Cosmetics. An extraordinary amount of towels and plush bathroobes.
But, handsdown, my favorite amenity was the Porsche Design Sleeping Eye Mask. How perfect! The card aptly had a note & map of where to find the Porsche Design Store in Duty Free.
The perfect touch for a relaxing 8 Hours in the Oryx Airport Hotel.
Can't wait for my next Stay!
Ostrich Capital of the World – Garden Route – “and, of course wine, there was always wine.”
***In addition to several privately owned Game Lodges & Guests Houses, I will be checking out several Protea Properties. As many of you may know, about five years ago, Marriott agreed to purchase the Cape Town-based Protea Hospitality Holdings. It is now time to see how the merger went!
Protea Hotel by Marriott Cape Town Mowbray
Mooiplaas Guest House Oudtshoorn
Garden Route Game Lodge Garden Route
Protea Hotel by Marriott Stellenbosch