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balloonride.jpgJuly kicks off peak safari season in both East and southern Africa. Dry, colder weather has set in, and the animals begin to congregate in larger concentrations around diminishing water supplies. The foliage thins out and greens turn into a myriad of golds and browns. Predators find it easier to hide and stalk their prey, and many enjoy a bountiful feast as the great migration of over a million wildebeest and zebra, trudge through the western Serengeti and into the Masai Mara.In Botswana, the floods arrive in the Okavango Delta, so previously dry areas become accessible by boat and mokoro rides are back on the safari menu.

A similar migration (not so massive) takes place from all over the Northern hemisphere to safari camps and lodges in East and southern Africa. As soon as school is out, adventurous travelers, excited families, and newlyweds alike, begin to flock to where the really wild things are. So if you plan on visiting Africa in July, we recommend that you start working with one of us about a year in advance to get the optimal selection of lodges and camps still at your disposal.

Franschhoek_Valley.jpgCape Town and the winelands are a little quieter this time of year, and for many small business owners this is the time to renovate and update – so check with us to make sure your favorite wineries and restaurants are operating on a normal schedule. Ferries to Robben Island reduce their daily schedule to a few sailings per day, and the Cable Car to the top of Table Mountain also shuts down for its annual maintenance (usually around the end of July through the first week of August). But Cape Town is a year round destination, and the whales are out in force along the coast, so don’t let the chillier days (think mid-50 to mid-60 degrees) put you off planning a stay. With lots of festivals and events taking place, there’s always some buzz in town.

July 2015 festivals and events to keep in mind…

djemaa_20el_20fna_20squre1-150x150.jpg27 June – 21 July – Marrakech Popular Arts Festival attracts folk singers, dancers, fortune-tellers, acting troupes, snake charmers, fire-swallowers and more, from all over Morocco.

3 – 12 July  – Knysna Oyster Festival is one of South Africa’s most popular events for all around family fun and entertainment.  The festival is bookended with a half marathon, and a cycling tour, and of course oysters galore!

16 – 26 July – Durban International Film Festival is the largest film festival in Southern Africa and presents over 200 screenings celebrating the best in South African, African and international cinema.

17 July – Eid al-Fitr is the big celebration that marks the end of Ramadan for Muslims across the continent. Families come together to eat and exchange gifts. As a tourist you may well be invited to join in the fun. In predominantly islamic countries most banks, shops and government offices will close during the 3 day celebration.

mnembaarrive-150x150.jpg18 – 26 July – Zanzibar International Film Festival is East Africa’s largest film, music and arts festival bringing talents from all over the region (and the world) to unite and showcase their art at various venues throughout the island.

23- 26 July – Good Food and Wine show in Johannesburg where you can enjoy celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, food and wine tastings and kids’ workshops. The exhibition space allows you to discover, try out, and buy the latest cooking gadgets and gourmet ingredients in one place.

30 July – 1 August –  Cape Town Fashion Week a showcase for South African designers – both legends of the past and up-and-coming creatives – and a platform to unveil their 2015 spring/summer collections

 

Anouk Devil's Pool

4cornersThe Four Corners …

We’ve found over the years that we’ve become quite adept as geography teachers since Zambia, Zambezi and Zimbabwe do all sound similar, if you’re hearing them for the first time. So we thought it would be fun to explain a little about the “4 corners” in southern Africa. The “4 corners” is a popular term used to refer to the area where the great Zambezi and the Chobe rivers join Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana together. This is actually the only place in Africa where 4 countries meet.

We love this area because it is not only a beautiful introduction to Southern Africa, but by virtue of the three airports in close proximity (Livingstone Airport on the Zambian side, Kasane Airport in Botswana and Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe) it functions as a physical gateway to the whole region and allows for fairly seamless travel between major national parks in all four countries.

Let’s Take A Tour …

The Zambezi River first forms the divide between Angola and the Northern border of the Caprivi strip (the thin long “panhandle” of Namibia that reaches out 250 miles east of the country), then rushes over the the Victoria Falls and courses through the spectacular Batoka Gorge about 50 miles east of the “4 corners” and continues to mark the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, flowing through Lake Kariba, then Mozambique and ultimately out to the Indian Ocean.

Along the southern border of the same Caprivi strip, the Chobe River separates Namibia from Botswana before it’s confluence with the Zambezi. One of Botswana’s best known game parks, the Chobe Game Reserve, teeming with elephant, stretches along it’s the southern bank for roughly 90 miles. (Zoom in and out on the map below to follow us here).


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Chobe is easily accessed from Kasane Airport (the nearest park gate is about 15 minutes away), which is also frequently the point of departure for guests flying on to the famous Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Linyanti or Selinda areas. About 15 minutes along a road due east of Kasane, one crosses the border from Botswana to Zimbabwe, to pass through the Matetsi Safari Area, for another 45-minute drive to Victoria Falls Town.

Known as the adventure capital of Africa (not least for a 350 feet bungee jump off the bridge that connects Zimbabwe with Zambia), it also offers the broadest view of the falls, about two thirds of the width of the Zambezi river, and the airport serves guests connecting to safari destinations like Hwange National Park, Kariba, or the beautiful Mana Pools area – again flanking the mighty Zambezi further east.

devilpool1

Another border crossing from Victoria Falls Town (Zimbabwe) into Livingstone (Zambia), affords access to the eastern cataract, as well as (seasonally) the precipitous Livingstone Island and the famous Devils Pool at the lip of the thundering abyss. Along the Zambezi River’s northern bank, several famous lodges (Islands of Siankaba, Sussi Lodge, Toka Leya, Tongabezi, River Club) serve as a base for exploration, or a stepping stone en route to Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park to the East (across the Zambezi from the Mana Pools) or South Luangwa National Park further north east (usually requiring a connection in Lusaka). Driving about 90 minutes westward from Livingstone back towards Namibia however, leads one to the Kazangulu border post where crossing from Zambia back into Botswana is possible only by boat or ferry, and yes – the exact spot in the water where the four countries meet.

We truly believe that visiting more than one African country really adds to your overall safari experience. The “four corners” makes this possible with minimal travel time. It brings to light the fact that Africa is made up of more than 50 distinct countries, each with their own unique culture, languages, history and landscapes.

Singita Pamushana

IMG-20150606-WA008Diane recently spent a weekend at Singita Pamushana Lodge, located in a private reserve in southeastern Zimbabwe. She described it as “one of the all around best safari experiences I have ever had”. Already planning a return trip, Diane shares her insights on the fantastic wildlife viewing and exceptional service offered at Pamushana.

Diane’s Experience …

There are so many superlatives to describe my recent visit to Pamushana, yet nothing outshines the spectacular scenery and sheer grandeur of this wilderness paradise. It is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.  The diversity of the landscape and the variety of eco-systems within the Malilangwe Reserve makes Pamushana an extraordinarily unique and compelling safari experience.   Can you imagine a more magnificent view to start your day? Room with a View  And if the room with a view wasn’t enough, my first game drive produced sightings that I had only previously seen in years of game drives in multiple reserves in several different countries.  How’s this for a checklist: nyala, giraffe, impala, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest , wildebeest, a herd of 350 buffalo, kudu, elephant, sable, black backed jackals, rock dassies, a herd of 20  eland, 8 white rhino, hippo and lion, of course.   Our guide Tengwe, upheld the legendary tradition of professional guides trained in Zimbabwe, with his exceptional knowledge and ability to share interesting insights.  We enjoyed day and night game drives, walking safaris (nothing compares to the exhilaration of watching big game on foot) and a sunset cruise on the river.   The service was friendly, flexible and flawless!   My recommendation: Treat yourself to a glorious week on safari at Pamushana.   This is a very special place that you will be grateful you have taken the time to fully appreciate.

More about Singita Pamushana …

Singita Pamushana rhinoNestled in a forest overlooking a spectacular dam in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Singita Pamushana Lodge offers secluded luxury amid breathtaking views and phenomenal game viewing.  The lodge is situated in an exceptional eco-system, with one of the greatest diversities of large mammals found in Africa. With both land- and water-based activities, Pamushana offers a myriad of ways in which to view game in the area, guided by the top professional guides in Zimbabwe. This combination of a stunning environment and exceptional guiding, with only six game vehicles on 140 000 acres, makes Singita PamushanaPamushana’s game experience second to none.

Besides Land Cruiser safaris, guest can also enjoy mountain biking and bush walks accompanied by an experienced guide. Each intimate suite offers every conceivable convenience, such as an en-suite bathrooms with indoor & outdoor showers, air conditioning & ceiling fans, fireplaces, private decks, lounge areas, mini bars, private pools, in room safe, and internet connectivity. The communal area of Pamushana Lodge consists of an indoor dining room, a teak deck dining area, a bar, a library, an open-air lounge, a wine cellar, two heated pools, and a Jacuzzi all overlooking Malilangwe dam and the nearby sandstone hills. Meals are served either in the outdoor dining room, on the teak deck outside, or in the bush. The lodge also offers a Spa and Yoga room.

Interested in booking Singita Pamushana? Contact us today …

aphippo-300x201.jpgJune kicks off the new safari season as the long rains taper out and many tented camps re-open for business throughout East Africa. The beginning of the month offers perfect game viewing without the crowds and lovely clear skies. The bush is still green, and baby animals are turning into toddlers and healthy teens.

The chill in the night air is palpable in southern Africa, June marks the start of winter. So bring a jacket because Africa is not nearly as hot as it is rumored to be! South Africa’s Kruger area regularly sees frost on the veld and you’ll be warming your hands with relish around a hot cup of coffee on your morning drive. The animals feel it too, as wild dogs look for warm dens to have their pups which makes it easier to spot them once they settle in their new home. Clear night skies make sitting around a boma fire extra cozy, couple this with a shot or two of Amarula and you’ll be in safari heaven.

Walking Safari ZambiaJune marks the opening of seasonal camps in the South Luangwa Valley and the Lower Zambezi. These fantastic wildlife areas are best explored on foot. A walking safari in Zambia is certainly one of the most unique safaris you can enjoy, and a favorite here at African Portfolio.

The great migration in East Africa will be easing its way north to central and western Serengeti. But they’re not the only animals on the move in June. Parrot fish go wild in the Zambezi as after the heavy rains millions of fish from the floodplains get pulled downstream by the main river current. Once they hit some smaller rapids, they’re easy catch for fisherman waiting with their hand woven fish baskets.

whale-and-boat.jpgGiant balls of sardines also liven up the coast off Kwa Zulu-Natal as the great sardine run adds another “once in a lifetime” adventure in Africa to add to your list. And sticking with the fishy theme — southern-right whales reach South Africa’s coastline in June. You can spend several days along the coast if you’re a whale enthusiast, or just take an easy day trip from Cape Town to watch these giants of the ocean, breech and frolic in Walker Bay.

June 2015 Festivals and Events to Keep in Mind

June 4-7Whacky Wine Weekend in Robertson Valley (Cape Town region) Grape stomping, winemaker guided tastings, cellar tours, play parks, homemade farm cuisine, fun runs and bike challenges are all on the bill for what promises to be a wild and very wacky weekend along scenic Route 62.

June 17 – The start of Ramadan, the annual month of fasting for all Muslims. If you are traveling to the East African coast in particular please be respectful of local traditions.

June 27 – July 21 – Marrakech Popular Arts Festival attracts folk singers, dancers, fortune-tellers, acting troupes, snake charmers, fire-swallowers and more, from all over Morocco.

 

 

 

djemaa_20el_20fna_20squre1-150x150.jpgMay is a lovely spring month in North Africa, a perfect time to visit the Sahara Desert before the summer sun heats it up too much during the day. It’s also a wonderful time to explore the medinas of Morocco‘s royal cities like Marrakech and Fez. The  weather is perfect and tourist numbers are nice and low. Likewise Egypt‘s ancient tombs and monuments are still pleasant to visit before the summer heat makes it uncomfortable to stroll around during the day.

In East Africa it’s a very wet month traditionally, so keep an eye out on safari camps that will often close this time of year, and a rather wet beach experience if you are headed for the coast. Many mobile camps in Kenya and Tanzania are still on hiatus awaiting the start of the season in mid-May. The great migration begins to spread out across the Serengeti, slowly heading north towards central and western Serengeti.

sperkacheetah-150x150.jpgThe dry season begins in Southern Africa as the rains have ended and the nights are cooler.  Jackets start to appear for night drives and early morning starts. Green colors begin to fade and the bush loses a little of its brilliance. Predators thrive as their colors blends in with the surroundings. Migratory birds begin to head north to their breeding areas. Buffalo group into large herds around Botswana‘s Okavango Delta region as the flood waters from Angola start to reach the top of the Delta and begin their slow deliberate progress deep into the heart of the Delta. Rates are still lower this month, so it’s a great time to take advantage of awesome wildlife viewing at a great price.divingmoz-150x150.jpg

Water temperatures are perfect and warm in the Seychelles in May and visibility is excellent for those of you looking for some spectacular snorkeling and diving, as well as white beaches and plenty of sunshine. The East African coast and islands of Zanzibar are still a little wet this time of year, but further south towards Mozambique and Mauritius, the conditions are very good, with dry and warm weather.

Events and Festivals to keep in mind …

1st May – International Labour Day (or May Day) on the 1st of May is widely celebrated throughout Africa and is a public holiday in most countries. You may see marches and parades commemorating workers.

29 April – 4 May – Harare’s International Festival of Arts, attracts performers from all over the globe. There’s dance, music, plays, spoken word and more. Given the economic climate in Zimbabwe its not easy to pull off a successful festival, but they do it every year. The 2009 festival was a resounding success.

bites_lunch_platter-150x150.jpg27 April – 3 May – Pink Loerie Mardi Gras – One of South Africa’s premier gay events is this 4 day festival held in Knysna a town in the beautiful Garden Route. Music, art exhibits, cabaret shows, good food and a grand parade mark the exuberant festivities.

21 – 24 May — Good Food and Wine Show in Cape Town – The Good Food and Wine Show comes to Cape Town once a year. Celebrity chefs will be working their magic at the state-of-the-art kitchens in Cape Town’s International Convention Center. You can taste, watch and learn from the gourmet experts at hand.

May (annual) – Rose Festival — In the Dades Valley in Morocco a small oasis town Kelaa-des-Mgouna is home to Morocco’s largest rose water distillery plant. The entire town is fragrant and the spectacular harvest in May is celebrated with song and dance.

29 – 31 May – Bush Fire Festival, Swaziland – Bushfire is Swaziland’s acclaimed international music and arts festival held each year at House on Fire, an inspired and magical venue combining sculpture, mosaic and theatre built in the heart of the Ezulwini valley.

 

edwinWe don’t often talk about the charities we support because we don’t feel it’s necessary to saddle you with our philosophies and dreams for a better Africa. Our goal at African Portfolio is to create an unmatched, personalized travel experience for every client, on every trip. If our safari has been a life-changing event for you, we know how you feel. If your trip with us has moved you to help others change their lives for the better, we can’t be more proud. If we have helped create memories that stay with you for a lifetime because your trip was so much fun, that’s great. No other baggage required.

But as we work to make your safari dreams come to life, we are very cognizant of the impact our business has on the everyday lives of ordinary people who work on the ground, The tourism industry is a major provider of jobs and services throughout Africa, often in areas that would otherwise struggle to find employment opportunities. It has been our privilege to work in this industry and to be motivated by constantly striving to improve our relationships with our friends and colleagues all over Africa. We are very serious in choosing who we work with to make sure they share our support of local communities, the environment and wildlife protection. Diane (owner of African Portfolio) has also gone one step further, and has been supporting community efforts in education in Harare, a city she calls home for 6 months of every year.

We thought it would be interesting to share the story of Kasipiti with you, so you can feel good about being a large part of its success!

Kasipiti

Kasipiti letterKasipiti is the name of the organization Diane founded in 2011. Kasipiti roughly translated means “renewal” or “spring growth” in Shona (one of Zimbabwe’s main languages). African Portfolio has always made it a practice to donate to our colleagues’ non-profit efforts in Africa, through organizations such as Children in the Wilderness, the Africa Foundation, Sekolo Projects and Empowers Africa.  In addition we have made a significant contribution in our own neighborhood through donations to the Audubon Society, Greenwich Land Trust, Autism Speaks, Greenwich Point Conservancy and Kids in Crisis.  But over time, it became more apparent to Diane as she watched the Zimbabwe economy falter and the education system fail ordinary Zimbabweans, that there was an immediate and direct need right on her doorstep. Diane knew she could make a big impact by directly sponsoring and supporting children in her  local community of Borrowdale.

Not long ago, Zimbabwe was the envy of the continent with one of the highest literacy rates in Africa and over 90% of young children enrolled in schools. With the economic collapse in 2008, many schools shut down as teachers were not paid, and schools that were functioning became increasingly more expensive. Diane knew that targeted sponsorship of children whom she could follow up with personally, would be an extremely efficient and effective way to really make a difference. Helping families meet the ever increasing costs of tuition, school fees and books, Kasipiti now sponsors the education of dozens of young children and teens.

Kasipiti CertThere’s no cookie-cutter approach to effective community development. While the focus of Kisipiti is to help Zimbabwe’s young generation flourish academically, being responsive to families health needs, and the occasional grocery bill is also part and parcel of being a good member of the community. Kisipiti has grown organically from the start, and that’s what has made it effective. Every individual has different needs. One of the first girls to benefit from sponsorship is Hazel who suffers from muscular dystrophy and she continues to thrive at St Giles, a school for special needs children.  In 2015 Kasipiti was proud to see 3 of our sponsored teenagers graduate from secondary school and with our help will now undertake the next step in their lives, learning employable skills, at trade school.

We hope all of you as clients and friends of African Portfolio will continue to support our efforts and take joy in knowing that your trip has helped us help others. If anyone would be interested in learning more, or wish to visit with the children we sponsor, just let us know!

 

 

As is often the case, I chose to take my trip to Tanzania in November. At the very end of the dry season, foliage is sparse, visibility is as good as it gets, and roads are dry and easy to navigate. Better still, perhaps because the short rains may arrive at any moment, there are generally not many other travelers to compete with. If and when these rains do come, it is in the shape of afternoon thunderstorms that have very little impact on daily activity, other than to brighten up the skies and clear out the air leaving the smell of fresh earth hanging above the ground. (By the way, did you know that there is a word “Petrichor” for this wonderful smell, and a reason for this particular scent?) I also love to watch how quickly the earth responds to moisture, and a green sheen appears across the land. I am a hopeless but relentless photographer, so I need all the help I can get. The mostly tan, brown and grey animals invariably display better against shades of green, than other shades of tan, brown and grey dirt!

Arusha

To begin with, I undoubtedly recommend a two-night stay in Arusha if at all possible. Not only for collapsing and recovering after long flights and avoiding a jet-lagged start to a safari, but also to take in a glimpse of daily life in 21st century Tanzania, as well as the vast art collection in the gallery at the Arusha Cultural Heritage Center. Personally, I needed time to visit the offices of our colleagues in Arusha and took a tour of their premises, (The workshop where the huge fleet of safari vehicles is kept in ship shape, was most impressive). The discovery of the day though, was the African Tulip Hotel: so much more personable and intimate than other options in the same price range, and many of my clients have been reaping the benefits of that visit ever since.

Tarangire National Park

My safari took me westward from Arusha to the Serengeti, beginning with the beautiful new stretch of paved road, and a scenic drive along the Selali swamp through the Tarangire National Park. True to form, it was teeming with elephants, antelopes, birds, and one “calendar- worthy” shot after another. My first major highlight however, was seeing an exciting new development just beyond the park. The corridor along which animals used to move freely from the Tarangire River to the shores of Lake Manyara has long been dismantled by human settlement and activity, but two brave souls are working on creating a passage for them once again. Fabia Bausch and Nicolas Negre aim to restore this ancient migratory route by reclaiming the land (even if it means paying annually for hunting permits that they never plan on using), and by operating what they term “slow safarisfrom their beautiful Chem Chem Lodge and Little Chem Chem Camp. The focus is not so much on big game here, but the refreshing variety of walks, spa treatments, sundowners on the shores of the lake and most of all the superb hosting, while throughout both properties, Nicolas’ photographs and creative touches combine beautifully with Fabia’s style and practical approach. 

Ngorongoro Crater

In spite of the sometimes arduous journey from the rim of the Crater to the floor, no safari in northern Tanzania feels complete without a drive through the Ngorongoro crater. Barely 100 square miles, (roughly the size of Nantucket) it doesn’t require multiple days to explore, but it still feels a little like stepping through the looking glass into a snow globe with zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, lions, warthogs, buffalo, the odd rhino, a few hippo and even flamingoes on the Magadi lake. Understandably, the crater becomes quite a bottle neck in high seasons, but because of the confined space, and rather easily spotted wildlife, many travelers are lulled into sleeping in and setting off after breakfast only. To avoid becoming trapped in a convoy of minivans inching down the inner wall of the caldera, or the crush of land cruisers around the scenic Ngoitokitok Spring by lunchtime, we chose to set off at daybreak anyway, and almost like making first tracks on ski slopes, enjoyed uninterrupted views and undisturbed game viewing before returning to our lodge for a proper lunch, a nap and an invigorating hike through the forested slopes of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – a strategy that paid off well, and which I would recommend to anyone.  

The Serengeti

2013-11-28 04.37.36The drive to Serengeti can be brutally bumpy, and what many consider a “highlight” along the way, the Olduvai Gorge, is probably mostly of interest to fervent archeologists and paleontologists. That said, I think the drive along the gorge itself to the fabled Shifting Sands is a worthwhile diversion. We’ve written about these before, but for the most part, our guests prefer to fly to whichever part of the Serengeti they visit next. Over the course of the week we explored all of the major areas inside the 5,700 mi² Serengeti National Park (yes – slightly larger than the state of Connecticut). From the grass plains of the Ndutu area in the south, to the Moru Kopjes, through central plains, and from the western corridor and the Grumeti reserves in the west, to the Loliondo Game Controlled Area in the northeast, circling back to my favourite part – the Lamai triangle.  

2013-11-26 05.09.37-2We all know that Serengeti means “endless plains” so I love perching on top of a Kopje for a breathtaking wide angle view of the infinite grasslands below. This is only a part of what made Lamai Camp another high point of this trip.  The view from every glassless window, from the lip of the infinity pool and the many boulders around the camp was soothing, invigorating and mesmerizing, all at the same time. The general lay-out, the “shabby-chic-done-right” interior design, a few funky details and the brilliant hosting in a relaxed atmosphere all aligned to put this camp right back on my list of places to return to.  

To my great surprise, we encountered a very late-season crossing of wildebeest at the Mara River, but this part of the Serengeti delivered the most spellbinding experience: a couple of hours spent watching four young cubs cavorting under the watchful eye of a patient lioness, who would tolerate their roughhousing, snarl when they crossed the line and roll over to feed them at regular intervals.

My Guide

As always, my guide was the most memorable element of my experience, and the most valuable player in the game.   Not only did he keep us informed and alert, he took a keen interest in my side of the business, put up with my endless questions and often joined me to look around new properties. He generously shared his views and experiences of lodges and camps, mulled over possible itineraries along the way and deliberated with me on the pros and cons of various logistical options. In all he left me with new appreciations and insights, many fond memories and most of all a new phrase in my limited Swahili repertoire. To counter my favourite expression,”moja kwa moja”, (“one by one, non-stop and straight ahead”) he insisted that I learn to “ngoja kidogo” – to wait a little bit now and then.  I’m glad he did… and I’ll thank him next time. 

 

Family of wild giraffesAfter weeks of drought our colleagues in Kenya are rejoicing with some lovely rainfall and the bush is turning nice and green. In Tanzania the migrating herds of zebra and wildebeest are moving north in the Serengeti, the youngsters are all steady on their legs and enjoying an abundance of fresh grass with the first of the long rains.

Botswana cools down this month, making for some lovely ethereal mornings with mists over the Okavango Delta. Impalas actually become quite exciting to watch, as it’s rutting season for the males, so lots of snorting and clashing of horns day and night. Fruit trees are in bloom throughout the continent, making for some very happy baboons, vervet monkeys, birds, elephants and other fruit loving species. It’s even breeding season for the crocodiles, as they too make the most of this time of plenty.

The dry season begins to set in throughout southern Africa and you can benefit from some excellent “shoulder season” pricing with lovely warm, dry weather. In many cases you can save more than 30% off your safari price without sacrificing the quality of your game viewing. The wildlife is at its most photogenic this time of year, with plenty to eat and many little ones by their side! More tips on how to make your safari more affordable

deserto saharaIn Morocco, temperatures are climbing up the scale, and the climate turns drier — the perfect time of year to head to the Sahara Desert. If you enjoy suffering, you may want to check into one of the most grueling extreme marathons on earth, the “Sand Marathon” . Or better yet,  just support those who are participating and then enjoy touring the lovely medinas in Marrakech and Fez instead! Spring is also in the air in Egypt, the perfect time to explore the ancient tombs before the real summer heat makes them a touch stifling.

April is the best month to visit The Seychelles, the ocean is warm,  and the trade-winds are quiet making snorkeling and diving conditions absolutely perfect. So if you’re looking for a beach holiday, aim a little further out from Africa’s mainland in April, as the coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania are likely to be a little wet this time of year.

 2015 April Festivals and Events to Keep in Mind …

  • 3 – 13 AprilMarathon Des Sables, a gruelling 6 day extreme marathon through Morocco’s Sahara Desert which believe it or not sells out years in advance. Over 600 competitors slog it out over 150 miles of desert, many of whom run to raise money for charity. This year runners include a team from Kenya raising money for “Save The Rhino Foundation” and wildlife rangers who risk their lives saving wildlife..
  • 13 AprilSham el Nessim (“Sniffing the Breeze”), a Spring festival celebrated throughout Egypt. Egyptians celebrate Sham el Nessim by taking their families on picnics, and enjoying public parks and other green spaces. Salted fish, colored boiled eggs and green onions are the traditional foods eaten on this day. It is commonly believed that Egyptians have been celebrating this holiday for over 4000 years.
  • 18 – 25 AprilSufi Cultural Festival held annually in Fez. The Sufi Festival brings together religious leaders in Sufism and artists from around the world. Visitors come to enjoy ritual performances complemented by morning poetry readings, films and oriental art
  • Concept - Earth Day22 AprilEarth Day, Yvette’s favorite day of the year! A day filled with events worldwide that are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. What will you do?
  • 27 April – 3 May — AfrikaBurn – South Africa’s Burning Man Festival held in the Karoo. Join your fellow creative participants who gather once a year in the Tankwa Karoo to build a temporary city of art, theme camps, costume, music and performance!
  • 28 April – 3 MayHarare International Festival of the Arts, attracts performers from all over the globe. There’s dance, music, plays, spoken word and more. Given the economic climate in Zimbabwe its not easy to pull off a successful festival, but they do it every year.
  • 29 April – 3, May — Pink Loerie Mardi Gras in Knysna, one of South Africa’s premier gay events is this 4 day festival held in Knysna a coastal town along the beautiful Garden Route. Music, art exhibits, cabaret shows, good food and a grand parade mark the exuberant festivities.

There’s a mind-boggling array of things to do in Victoria Falls, so we at African Portfolio have curated a perfect “first day” itinerary to take some of the stress out of deciding what to do! That leaves you a second or third day to jump, swim, fly, zip, hike, raft, kayak, and swing over the Falls at your leisure!

Evening of Arrival at Victoria Falls – Sunset Cruise.Ra-ikane-boat

Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Ra-Ikane, our favorite little luxury boat on the Zambezi. Named after one of David Livingstone’s guides when he first set eyes on the Victoria Falls, the Ra-Ikane is a lovingly restored wooden vessel filled with historic memorabilia and furnished with period pieces. With room for just 14 guests, everyone enjoys a “window seat”,  as well as fine cuisine and refreshments. As you gently chug past the bigger party boats, you’ll truly appreciate this is the right choice to enjoy the magnificent views of the sun setting over the river, with hippos grunting contentedly along the way. You can reach little inlets and get closer to elephants and other animals on the river banks than any other vessel out on the river. Transfers will be arranged to and from your hotel, expect to be away for 3 hours in total.

Morning Tour of the Falls – Guided or On Your Own

Victoria FallsVictoria Falls is the largest and perhaps the most beautiful Falls in the world. Here the Zambezi River is over a mile wide and plunges into a vertical abyss across its entire width. The force of the falling water sends spray clouds high into the air, giving rise to the African name of the Falls, “Mosi oa Tunya,” meaning the smoke that thunders. It is said that when David Livingstone discovered the Falls, they inspired him to have written in his diary that “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in flight.” A rainforest along the first gorge provides a magnificent natural observation gallery and this is where you will enjoy a “tour of the Falls”. You can easily spend two hours at the various observation posts along a meandering path. On this Zimbabwe side you will be marveling at the Falls from the top and face-on. Enjoy the incredible sight of the Falls from across the gorge, offering panoramic views of the entire “curtain of falling water”.  The entrance fee is $30 per person, and it’s advised to bring a raincoat or rent one during your visit. Permanent rainbows adorn the Falls, and if you’re lucky enough to visit during full moon, it’s worth returning at night to try and spot a lunar rainbow.

Lunch (or High-Tea) – Victoria Falls Hotel

20140902_063444_3_1Victoria Falls Hotel has earned international acclaim for its Edwardian elegance and charm. The hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Zimbabwe, established around the turn of the last century and has recently been refurbished. Stanley’s Terrace serves a very good a la Carte lunch, and their crocodile caesar salad is perfectly washed down with crisp South African chardonnay. The grounds are just gorgeous, the lawn is immaculate and you can see the spray of the Falls. Check out some of the communal rooms on the ground floor, it’s a veritable museum of colonial extravagance, a little slice of history.

Afternoon – At leisure to stroll around Victoria Falls Town, or enjoy an afternoon activity

Victoria Falls Town is a fairly typical small African town, with a post office, some supermarkets and a fair number of hawkers offering up (the old) billion dollar Zimbabwe notes, and carvings of elephants. There’s a curio market as well, where haggling is the order of the day. For those who enjoy a little African culture and don’t mind being social, it’s really a fun place to explore. But if you prefer to try something different, you can easily fit in an elephant-back safari, a 15 minute helicopter ride over the Falls, a fascinating bridge tour, or even a bungi jump (but not too soon after lunch!)… Read more

Evening – Dinner at the Boma

bomaThe Boma Restaurant is a classic tourist venue set in the lovely grounds of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Dinner at the Boma is a legendary affair, with what looks like literally hundreds of local dishes served in buffet style, including impala terrine and sadza. A witchdoctor is available to tell your fortune by throwing his bones; dancers entertain with Shona and Ndebele acts; and then … there’s the vat of Mopane worms which are a hoot to try. Yes it’s touristy, but it’s very well done and a lot of fun.

 

Victoria FallsMarch can be a rainy month in southern Africa, and it’s been a somewhat torrential year for rain so far, causing flooding problems in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Mozambique. If you are heading to the Victoria Falls be prepared to get extremely wet, they will be earning their name “Mosi-oa-Tunya ” (smoke that thunders) this year. March is a good time of year to check out the lunar rainbow, a truly spectacular event at the Victoria Falls, requiring a clear sky, high water levels and a full moon. The Park stays open late to celebrate, click here for the full moon dates.

The end of March marks the start of the long rainy season in East Africa and many mobile camps begin to shut up shop in Tanzania and Kenya. Staff get to take a break and renovations begin in earnest for the next season. If you want to enjoy a tented experience, make sure to book before the end of the month. Lodges and larger permanent camps do stay open, so if you are planning an Easter break, we’ll still be able to offer you a wonderful experience!

scenic panorama one of the beautiful beaches in SeychellesHave the winter blues set in? March is the perfect month to visit The Seychelles, the trade-winds are quiet so the seas are calm, and the dry season starts to set in. It’s also a great time to enjoy the beaches of Mozambique especially if you are a diver, as the whale-sharks begin their annual visit to the region.

March is the last month for the twitchers among us venturing to Southern Africa, as the birds will begin their migration back north by April. There are still hundreds of resident species to enjoy, but if birding is your passion, book your trip by the end of March for Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Interested in checking out the myth that elephants can get drunk from eating too many fruits from the Marula tree, which then ferment in their large stomachs? March is your month to find out if there’s any truth to this rumor. If you don’t manage to catch half the animals in the bush enjoying this sweet fruit, then you can always savor a taste of Amarula liqueur yourself, all self-respecting camps will have a bottle on hand in the bar!

Burchells zebraIf you plan on visiting Botswana this time of year, make sure to include the Makgadikgadi National Park (especially camps close to the Boteti River) in your plans. If you’re lucky you’ll witness thousands of zebra and wildebeest congregating in huge numbers around the few pans that still contain water from the summer rains.

2015 March Events and Festivals to Keep in Mind …

Various Dates in March – Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (Cape Town)  – Free summer concert series. Ask us about arranging a gourmet picnic dinner while you enjoy listening to some world-class music, to end another fabulous day in Cape Town. 

28 February – 2 March – Cape Town Art Fair, a fantastic 3-day event showcasing South Africa’s most exciting artists in venues throughout the city.

28 February – 7 March – The Panafrican Film and TV Festival of Ouagadougou FESPACO, one of Africa’s most important film festivals takes place bi-annually in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

4-6 MarchFull Moon, time to check out the lunar rainbows at the Victoria Falls.

Colors of Holi6 March – Holi, a Hindu festival of color celebrated in great style in Mauritius. Basically you have license to spray any passer-by with colorful dyes from head to toe. It’s a wonderful way to welcome the spring.

27 – 28 March – Cape Town Jazz Festival is Southern Africa’s biggest jazz festival and is held annually in Cape Town, South Africa. Jazz legends from all over the world will perform for just two days at the convention center. More than 30,000 people attend, so advance ticket purchase is absolutely necessary.