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Jules has been recognised within the UK travel industry as one of the top leading safari experts in the UK for decades now and being that Travel With Jules are independent agents we also have a great choice of specialist AITO tour operators and suppliers we can use to create special African Safaris for our clients.
To keep this knowledge up to date, we work closely with safari companies all over Africa, carrying out research and visiting when we can. Trade networking events and Africa showcases take place around the world through the year and the highlight in the UK is Experience Africa, which took place last week in London.
From this event, Jules gives us the below updates with insight into up and coming destinations, new lodges and refurbishments, changes in legislation, new flight routes and lots of exciting new holiday ideas to pass on to our clients! Here is a summary from some of the suppliers who she had meetings with.
Alex Walkers Serian properties will take you back to the days of the explorers with authentic, small camps in prime game viewing areas around the Masai Mara and Serengeti eco-systems in Tanzania. The original Serian camp is all about quiet … private vehicles and immersive experiences in exclusive locations… take the time to connect with your surroundings. Their Mara Treehouse is a fabulous way to ‘sleep out’ in the bush! They now have three female local guides, and host many specialist groups such as photographers, birders or yoga retreats. Ask us for a quote if you have a special interest group who you would like to take on a private safari in East Africa.
Maasai Trails is an unusual and very authentic hiking experience, set in the Loita Hills across the Mara and lead by Maasai guides, it’s all about connecting with nature, walking through forests, waterfalls with organic food and authentic culture. The walks can be tailored to your requests between 2-7 days.
Speke’s Camp is close to the Mara Game Reserve and a great (and affordable) place to end your Maasai Trails walk, it has just 8 rooms and exclusive vehicles for each booking is guaranteed.
If you need to include a night or two in Nairobi in your itinerary, Ololo is a wonderful boutique style lodge in Nairobi National Park just 45 minutes transfer from either JKIA or Wilson airports. There are 13 rooms and a family cottage and they have a large organic farm from which their home style food is produced.
Many of our Kenya itineraries include some time in the Rift Valley, exploring the lakes and farms of the region. Hippo Point is a great choice for some quiet time in the heart of Lake Naivasha, set between the freshwater and soda lakes … breakfast watching the hippos in the lake in front of the lodge and have lunch by the soda lake with flamingos for company!
The Manor House at Hippo Point has 6 rooms and The Tower makes a unique honeymoon house! It has 4 rooms but is always sold on exclusive use, so it can sleep 8 but for a couple you have the whole place to yourself!
Also in Nairobi is a family favourite Giraffe Manor – wake up to find a Giraffe poking its head into your window!
Safari Collection offer a ‘circuit rate’ discount if you want to enjoy their other properties, Sasaab in Samburu has a Moroccan feel to it and all of the 8 huge tented rooms have plunge pools. There is a 4 day wellness safari based here too – a stunning location to relax!
Sala’s Camp in the Masai Mara now has all plunge pool tents and a villa is being built there for families. This is a great location to witness the wildebeest migration as it’s close to the Tanzania border in an area with no other camps. Their safari vehicles have a built in stove so breakfast on the move is no bother! They are also luck to have regular Pangolin sightings nearby.
Angama Mara is the ‘real deal’ for fans of Out of Africa – stay in stunning rooms all with a 'Meryl Streep and Robert Redford' view over the Mara! This twin centres perfectly with Alfajiri Villas on the southern coast of Kenya – ask us about a combo special offer rate.
North of Nairobi and heading east from the lakes is one of my favourite areas of Kenya – Laikipia. Bordered by Mount Kenya to the south and Samburu to the north, this wonderful plateau and the surrounding hills are home to many wildlife conservancies and remote villages. Here you can get out on foot or on a camel safari to experience how the people of this area live.
Kitich Camp is in the Matthews Range and the focus here is forest walks. There are just six traditional tents and ‘Walking Wild’ includes 22 trails. Nearby Sarara with its stunning views (below) has an elephant rescue centre you can visit and also nearby are the ‘singing wells’ … ask us about this unique experience!
Sabuk Lodge is great for families and features cool, open faced stone cottages with stunning views. Here you can walk with camels fly camp, go fishing, ride mountain bikes and much more! Solio Lodge has just five suites with a backdrop of Mount Kenya and offers horse riding, biking and Aberdares safaris as well as being centre for a successful rhino breeding programme.
Siruai is a mobile camping option in Laikipia on Suyian Ranch with no wifi (!) just stunning views, horse riding, kayaking, visits to local villages and engaging with nature. This area was the original inspiration for Disney’s Lion King with the real ‘Pride Rock’ being at Borana.
After a safari, many people head to the Indian Ocean for some relaxation. Medina Palms is a stunning luxury beach villa property in Watamu on the Kenyan coast. There are a selection of apartments (some with roof top tubs!), pools and beach villas, there is an exclusive private beach too – a welcome retreat from the busy public beaches of the area! Ideal for family holidays or special celebrations, in fact we have a large family who are Ambassador Club members staying here over Christmas, lucky things!
Towards the Tanzania border on the edge of Amboseli (famous for it’s large herds of elephants) is Tawi Lodge sitting in its own private conservancy. There are water holes in front of the lodge and great views across to Kilimanjaro.
In northern Tanzania, Kirurumu Under Canvas offers authentic traditional safaris with home comforts (below) and experienced local guides in Tarangire and the Serengeti, which fits well with their home lodge of Kirurumu on the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment at Lake Manyara. Their mobile safari tents are huge with full size metal beds, a side facing open verandas and solar power.
We think the nicest permanent tented camp on the rim of Ngorongoro Crater is Sanctuary Ngorongoro (formerly A&K). There are 10 tents and all mod cons in a quiet, safari environment just minutes from the edge of the crater.
ZANZIBAR – On this ever popular Indian Ocean island, it’s hard to find a piece of sand to yourself these days! However, one beautiful hotel I was introduced to is Zawadi, it’s just five minutes north of it’s sister property Breezes on the South East coast but what makes it unique is the channel which passes in front of the property, meaning there is water in front of the lodge and access for their dive boats even when the tide has gone out miles! This is a perfect honeymoon location and ideal if you are looking for somewhere quiet with nothing to do but relax and recharge – it has just 12 villas, all with private plunge pools (Below) and the rooms are on a small cliff, catching the sea breeze, with a slope down to a private cove. This property is all inclusive and offers a different dining experience every night.
This stunningly beautiful country known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Hills’ has made something of a comeback in recent years and was the subject of one of the seminars at Experience Africa. With Rwandair offering an 8 hour direct flight from London Gatwick at very affordable prices and other options linking via Kenya or South Africa, Rwanda is now more accessible than ever.
The contentious issue of the expensive gorilla permits was discussed, but the overall feeling from the people of Rwanda was that it’s worth it as the gorilla numbers have increased substantially through Gorilla Trekking tourism. There is more to Rwanda than Gorillas! Though if you do go to the Virunga Mountains ask us about staying at the new Bisate Lodge, with traditional thatch style luxury villa rooms (below).
Akagera National Park in Rwanda was in the news the same day I was at this event filming the addition to this park of five White Rhinos, bred in European zoos, to join the growing local population. Akagera now has a couple of very comfortable lodges and the ‘big 5’ as well as some amazing other species such as the rare and Dodo looking Shoebill Stork!
In the south of Rwanda, Nyungwe Forest now has a luxury lodge, run by One & Only (I stayed here nearly ten years ago when it first opened, before it changed hands!) here you can spot plentiful birdlife, walk on a forest canopy bridge and track chimpanzees and colobus monkeys.
UGANDA is still the ‘Pearl of Africa’ and offers a huge range of safaris including chimpanzee and gorilla trekking, amazing birdlife and some conservation initiatives too. In Kibale guests can take park in habituation experiences for chimpanzees and in Bwindi Gorillas.
There is a new safari camp in Murchison Falls and ‘one to watch’ could be Kidepo Valley which is in the far north (near the Sudan border) and after years off circuit is now safe and open with wonderful wildlife!
If you would like to relax after your Ugandan safari but don’t want to travel to the Indian Ocean, try Wildwaters Lodge on the Nile river, a very chilled out setting. Or the Ssesse Islands for a spot of local fishing with a relaxed vibe.
Mobile safaris are one of the most authentic and immersive safari experiences you can have. With no permanent footprint, the safari operators pack up and move camp to follow the movements of wildlife throughout the year and we can offer anything from a ‘put your own tent up’ budget trip or a 5 star luxury mobile safari emulating the days of the pioneering safari guides! Sundowners are the most important time on any safari (well, we think anyway!) and on mobiles or walking safaris it's definitely a highlight - we feature many fantastic sundowner spots, particularly in Botswana and Zambia, so get in touch with requests for the location of your favourite tipple as the sunsets!
Botswana offers some incredible mobile safaris and one of our favourites is Letaka Safaris (Jules did a short mobile safari to Moremi Game Reserve with Grant, one of their founders, many years ago!).
Letaka Safaris offer set departures making this an affordable option and the two main itineraries are Northern Highlights, visiting Moremi, Kwai and Savuti and the Blooming Desert Safari which is early in the years and showcases the flowers and wildlife of the Kalahari. Their safaris take a maximum of seven people, guaranteeing everyone has a ‘window seat’ (if there were any windows!) and many departures don’t have a single tent supplement for solo travellers. All of their safaris can be tailor made, so let us know if you have a small group or family who would like a private mobile safari. Botswana is also a favourite destination for birders and we work with a bird tour specialist who operate safaris with Letaka.
For really ‘top end’ mobile safaris in Botswana I spoke to Rob Barber, founder of Golden Africa. Here you will find authentic safari camps ‘out of africa’ style with huge beds, plumbed showers and all services ‘on tap’ but leaving no footprints … These safaris need a minimum of four people to run and we can create bespoke itineraries for you and are also great for families (exclusive use). One of the unique locations Rob includes is XaiXai and Habu a remote spot to the west of the Okavango region where you can interact with bushmen in a community area and visit ancient rock formations and cave paintings and walk with San Bushmen.
Ker & Downey have been part of the Botswana scene for decades and their safari camps offer a range of experiences in very different areas of the Okavango and Kalahari. New this year is Dinaka in a private conservancy on the edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. There is a photographic hide by a waterhole and just eight thatched rooms (1 family room) with sleep out decks. Here you can do night drives. There are White Rhino in the area and a maximum of four to a vehicle ensures an exclusive experience. The Kalahari is a great place to see Cheetah and walk with the bushmen.
Kanana Camp has been refurbished and is a classic style safari camp with both ‘wet and dry’ activities and runs on 100% solar power. There is a heronry nearby which gets very noisy (and smelly!) in the breeding season. Okuti Camp has been upgraded but retains its traditional style of domed rooms in bushman décor. Shinde has amazing leopard sightings (below) and a treehouse main area made of wood and canvas. For small groups, Shinde Enclave has just 3 tents and it’s own guide and vehicle. Footsteps across the Delta is a walking safari camp with a minimum age of 16 but the Young Explorers activities can be based here where families have exclusive use of the three tents.
Chobe Water Villas is a boutique style 5* all inclusive property on the Namibian side of the water facing Northern Botswana (Chobe National Park). There are 16 villas all with viewing decks, fine dining with a Michelin starred chef and organic produce and two activities a day are included in the rates. Access is via Kasane then boat where there is a ‘border post tent’ on the other side!
The reason most people travel to Namibia is for the stunning desert scenery. Add to this the remote Himba culture and conservancies to the far north, conservation projects featuring Cheetah and Pangolin and unique waterhole safaris in Etosha National Park and you have enough to keep you busy for many weeks! We reported last year about the opening of Shipwreck Lodge in Namibia (below) and it's been so popular it is now booked up a year in advance - so contact us now for into 2021!
On the Skeleton Coast there is Hoanib which we recommend for at least three nights as it’s real immersive experience. Damaraland Camp is 50% community owned and here you can see desert elephants and meet the local people. If you love adventure and the wilderness then Doro Nauwas is for you – sleep in a star bed and visit ancient rock engravings. If you want to track rhino with the local conservationist then Desert Rhino Camp with show you the ‘behind the scenes’ work of Save The Rhino Foundation.
In the far north Serra Cafema is a cultural experience found nowhere else. The local people will show you how to find water in the desert and there are many activities to enjoy. Conservancy Safaris also offer a unique experience in the north, staying with local Himba families (below) and conservation mobile camping safaris.
One of the highlights of Namibia is Sossusvlei and the giant sand dunes – but most lodges and campsites are a long way out of the national park. Kulala (and Little Kulala) are located right on the edge of the park and has its own entrance gate, meaning guests can get into the dunes ahead of others for a sunrise or sunset experience.
Explorations is a mobile safari operation in north west Namibia where you can experience ‘wild camping’. This is always tailor made and exclusive to fit with the rest of your itinerary and we recommend three nights. You have a guide and back up but sleep in the wilderness in remote locations. Disconnect from the rat race and connect with the natural world ...
African Bush Camps have been operating in Zimbabwe for many years and remain one of the premier safari operators in the region. There are different ‘levels’ of camps, from authentic bush camps, through walking trails camps to luxury. Many of their camps are adults only but have a family option nearby.
Nyamatusi is in an exclusive area of Mana Pools (famous for it’s elephants balancing on back legs!) which sits on the Zambezi floodplains across the water from southern Zambia. There are just six spacious suites.
Kanga Camp is inland from the river and has a unique photographic hide, it’s open April to November. Bumi Hills is set on Lake Kariba and has ‘Baobab Villa’ with 2 bedrooms and a private jeep perfect for families
Zambezi Expeditions camps focus on river activities and bush camping with ‘star beds’ under a mossie net. In Hwange National Park, Somalisa is great for families.
African Bush Camps also have some traditional safari camps in Botswana. Khwai Camp is in a community concession and offers a range of experiences such as walks, night drives and mokoros. In Linyanti to the north, we can offer a free helicopter ride over the Okavango for stays of three nights.
Rare Earth – a stunning range of ethical properties across South Africa, many of which have a story to tell – such as The Old Rectory in Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route, an ex-missionary house from the 18th century with just 14 suites. Contact us for exclusive special offers for this property!
In the same portfolio is the Thanda family of properties. At Thanda Safari Lodge we can offer you free child places up to the age of 16 and id you have a large family or group of friends then Villa iZulu is perfect, sleeping up to 10 (more if small children!) with a private chef, vehicles and guides. South Africa is ideal for family safaris.
Thanda twin centres well with 26 Sunset in Cape Town which is an exclusive use villa style property (below) offering all inclusive stays (unusual for Cape Town!).
Also available for exclusive use is Sarili safari lodge in Shamwari (Eastern Cape) with just five suites.
Coffeebeans Routes is a fair trade organisation which has been telling cultural stories in South Africa for many years. They offer visits to the homes of artistic communities around Cape Town and Johannesburg. They are also authors of the book (and film) The Colour of Wine which highlights the many unknown ethnic producers of wine in South Africa and wine estates they run.
Last Word boutique hotels in South Africa are family owned and all have stunning décor, amazing food and a friendly welcome! Mags recently experienced this when she stayed at the Last Word Constantia, in the foothills of Table Mountain surrounded by the oldest wine estates in South Africa. The Constantia property has just 9 rooms (including a two bedroom family suite). Last Word Long Beach has 6 rooms and is right ON the beach! An amazing view to wake up to … the rates here include a complimentary three course seafood dinner, enjoy it while you watch the sunset over the Atlantic!
For the foodies and wine enthusiasts Last Word Franschhoek is on the edge of town so you can walk everywhere and the ‘wine tram’ is nearby to tour around the regions vineyards without driving!
We can offer our clients ‘stay 3 pay 2’ offers for Last Word properties which can be ‘mix and match’ throughout the three hotels with multiple free nights for all the properties (eg stay 9 pay 6) valid 1 March to 20 December. These properties are on B&B but include ALL drinks.
From last years Experience Africa event, I reported that the remote Atlantic island of St Helena had opened up to visitors with new flights from Johannesburg. Good news this year is that there are new flights direct from Cape Town once a week, making this an ideal opportunity to twin St Helena with the Western Cape.
The main appeal of St Helena is that it is a DIGITAL DETOX! Due to it’s remote location you will actually find that people actually talk to each other and connect with their culture … There are many walking trails, historical connections to the UK and incredible marine life.
The diving and boat trips around St Helena offer some of the best experiences in the world – their USP is swimming with Whale Sharks which migrate through December to March. The optimum time to see them is end of January / early February (which works well with a great time to visit South Africa). For Humpback Whales its best to go from June onwards.
I had a meeting with the UK rep for Atmosphere Hotels in Maldives and Blue Safari Seychelles – the perfect extension to wash the dust away after an African safari!
See our dedicated page for this ultimate marine conservation holiday with Blue Safari Seychelles. Blue Safaris is a unique conservation marine safari experience, based in the untouched outer islands of the Seychelles - destinations at the forefront of conservation based travel.
Situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean in one of the last untouched frontiers, this is a pioneering new style of distinctive lodging and experiential travel, all actively conserving this pristine region. There are just four remote and unspoiled atolls, each with just one lodge on it.
As well as talking to hundreds of Africa specialist operators at the event, we connected with some ethical product suppliers who we will work with promoting recycled plastics & flip flops in Africa, reusable filtered water bottles and 'How Many Elephants' a global visual petition which fights elephant poaching. More details to follow ...!
So if you would like to know more about any of these new developments in Africa or want to plan a safari - please get in touch, we would love to help!
Travel With Jules is a national award-winning Independent Travel Agency offering travel concierge services based in Suffolk, UK.
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