On safari in the Congo

http://www.safaritart.com/on-safari-in-congo/Written by: Carrie Hampton alias the SAFARI TART!

Seasoned travellers will be interested in the Odzala Discovery Camps in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park of the remote north of the Republic of Congo’s river basin. It’s the world’s second largest tropical rainforest after the Amazonand one of the earth’s largest lungs, playing an essential role in global climate control. The region has been a National Park since 1935 – making it one of the oldest on the African continent.

Odzala has other faces than the rainforest with vast savannah in the south and wide, meandering rivers crossing the region. A distinctive feature of Odzala are marshy clearings in the middle of an ocean of trees called bais. Even the shiest inhabitants of Odzala like forest elephants and gorillas come here to drink and take in precious minerals and salts contained in the bai soils.

Birds, Mammals and Primates
Over 400 bird species and 100 different mammal species are found here, including western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and red-tailed monkeys along with forest buffalo, sitatunga (a rare sight anywhere on safari) and duikers antelopes not much larger than rabbits. Herds of shy forest elephant move along ancient pathways, avoiding the 70 villages, some with just a handful of inhabitants. The local people are primarily Bantu and forest dwellers (pygmies).

There are three camps; Ngaga, Mboko and Lango. 

Ngaga Camp in primary forest just outside the park boundary, overlooks a beautiful open glade and is within overlapping ranges of several groups of western lowland gorillas. Two of the gorilla groups are becoming habituated to being watched. It’s a focal point for world-class research and gives unforgettable primate encounters. Ngaga Camp’s unique design evokes the fun of childhood tree houses, with six canopy rooms with wraparound walkways.

Mboko Camp has 12 guest rooms extending along the banks of a tributary watering a lush meadow-like savannah. It’s the interface between tropical rainforest and grasslands, with hundreds of towering termite mounds creating an other-worldly panorama. Watch out for the forest buffalo, forest elephant and spotted hyena.

Lango Camp with it’s six bedrooms has one of the most arresting views of any camp in Africa! Raised high the camp spans the forest gallery and beyond to the marshy bai, which holds a magnetic attraction to huge flocks of green pigeons and grey parrots, as well as herds of forest buffalo by day and forest elephants by night. In the south-central part of Odzala with its variety of converging habitats and rivers, the highlight is travelling on the waters in by motorboat, traditional mokoro or kayak and exploring the streams and marshes on foot in safety – a truly immersive experience!

One thing’s for sure – you will be one of very few who have visited this remote area and if you get there before me, I’ll be very jealous.

 

Star Wars characters renamed

Every year we pick a creative way to highlight and celebrate the team. Since many of our geeks are Star Wars fans and with the release of the latest film, Jill cast our team.

Check out our motley crew’s profiles.

If you want to know what we really look like – visit our team page.

A work of love

The AWOL Team

Belinda Blakeman our call centre manager, takes leave every year to help run a local annual event called AWOL (A Work Of Love) ‪#‎aworkoflove2015‬ .

Approximately 200 teenagers attend a camp in Empangeni – coming together to build relationships as well as receive practical and spiritual input to equip them for life. They also share God’s love in the community by tackling various projects or outreaches that are organised and run by the local churches – A Work Of Love.

AWOL 2015 saw a further 2 377 hours contributed into our community, bringing the total to 19 118 hours from 2009! There were 135 campers making an impact in various hospitals, NGOs, schools, children’s homes, the streets, retirement villages and municipal departments. Behind the scenes, AWOL had 204 volunteers teaming together to make things happen. It is a privilege to see the many gifts of these volunteers coming together for a common cause.

This year as part of our give back, we sponsored a tents for the camp and partnered with Belinda’s involvement.

The organisers shared in their feedback, “We stand in awe that the economic recession has not prevented so many people from opening their hearts to supporting AWOL and believe that our community will reap the benefits of this for many years to come!”

For more information visit: www.aworkoflove.co.za

AWOL teens & camp mom & dads

 

Zambia bike safari

Written by Mike Coppinger

One of the privileges of my job is that I get to travel around Africa. Often when I’m soaring through clear skies I gaze down on vast wilderness expanses and imagine traversing those territories by foot.

In July 2015 I had an opportunity to turn those dreams into reality. Better than that, I was able to share the experience with my family. Our primary objective was to explore a remote part of north-eastern Zambia by bicycle, following a route that approximated the reverse of David Livingstone’s final journey.

Safari video by Robert Coppinger

The odometer of my old Isuzu double cab showed that it had recently clicked over the 300 thousand kilometre mark, and I trusted it was up to the challenge of getting us there from South Africa. Packing in 5 people, their baggage, camping and cycling equipment, plus 3 bicycles created a spectacle that put all local transport to shame. The piles of ‘katundu’ on the roof and the bike racks protruding way behind the vehicle attracted plenty of attention from policemen along the way.

That was our section of the party. My elder brother and his wife, Dick and Dickie – yes, that’s correct – looked more respectable in their Nissan Qashqai, with another 2 bikes hanging on their rack.

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Dick, Jo, Julie-Ann, Carmen, Dickie, Rob and Mike en route in Lusaka

Five days driving from Durban brought us to Zambia’s Kasanka National Park. We arrived at the campsite in the dark, but dawn welcomed us with the spectacle of rare Sitatunga antelope grazing along the banks of the Kasanka river. We then spent the day planning our cycling route, gathering information about local conditions and preparing our bikes and equipment.

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Team briefing at Kasanka

It was a short drive to the Livingstone Memorial, situated at the place where Livingstone died under a Mpundu tree. Dick and Dickie, together with our adult children, Julie-Ann and Robert and a friend, Carmen, saddled up for stage one of the cycling safari. Dick had recruited 2 local guides to lead them on the 45 kilometre ride to Shoebill camp, situated in the Bangweulu swamps. My wife, Jo, and I faced a different challenge in the form of getting the vehicles to the same destination via a very roundabout route. Our circuitous 250 kilometre passage took us largely along unknown and unsigned bush tracks. Night had long fallen by the time we picked out the lights of Chikuni game scout camp flickering on the horizon. Guided by the lights, we bumped across a floodplain until we were halted by a channel that seemed to form a moat around the camp. One of the scouts came to our rescue and led us to a group of cold and hungry cyclists at the nearby Shoebill campsite. Our arrival with food and camping kit worked wonders for our popularity!

Two nights at the rustic Shoebill campsite were punctuated regularly with the sound of thousands of Black Lechwe stampeding through shallow water, after being spooked by prowling hyenas. During the day, other than marvelling at the vast herds of antelope, we searched for the extraordinary bird after which the camp is named. We met with mixed results, as most of the birds had retreated further into the swamps with the onset of the dry season. We did catch a glimpse of one individual that we flushed from a reedbed and followed that up with a close encounter with a semi-tame specimen that was being rehabilitated at Chikuni.

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Black Lechwe form the backdrop as we traverse the Bangweulu floodplain

I made it into the team for the next cycling leg, which was an unsupported safari from Shoebill to Shiwa Ngandu, a very isolated British manor house built by Stuart Gore Brown early in the last century. It is an interesting story how the house came to be there and a book has been written about it. Jo and Carmen drew the driving straws on this occasion. Dick, Dickie, Julie-Ann, Rob and I waved them goodbye and then wobbled off on our bikes, loaded with camping kit and supplies for the next 3 days.

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Single track through the miombo

For the first two days our guides, first Raphael and later Mutale, led us on smooth, single track trails that cut across wide grassy plains, skirted forest patches and wound through beautiful miombo woodland. When we passed through villages we were accorded celebrity status and our river crossings invariably attracted an excited audience. We revelled in the unique situations and experience, which met and exceeded everything we had hoped for.

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The ladies got some help during one river crossing at least

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Crossing the Lumbatwa river

When we made camp on the second night we realised that we had covered 100km but had a further 120km to cover on the final day. Hitting the trail at daybreak, we found the going tough from the outset. Having hitherto been absolutely flat, Zambia now seemed to be at a perpetual incline, the sun burned down and for the most part we were travelling on jeep tracks, rather than the more appealing single track.

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Day three takes its toll

When nightfall found us well short of our destination, not only our energy was exhausted, but also our water and virtually all of our food. With full moon having passed two nights previously, the twilight faded into blackness. Faced with the prospect of a thirsty and hungry night in the tent, we decided to rather press on.  With one head torch between us that was capable of revealing the track ahead, we clustered like a group of insects around the beam and worked our way cautiously through the darkness. After a couple of hours of painstaking progress, the torchlight picked out a sign that read ‘Kapishya Hot Springs’ – the words we had been searching for!

A joyful reunion with our support team was celebrated with a long drink of water, followed by another drink of water, some ‘potjiekos’ and then a most welcome night’s rest. Exhaustion and dehydration, and in my case some infected sores, took their toll the next day. Nonetheless, after a day’s recuperation, which included a visit to nearby Shiwa Ngandu, we had to press on to our next rendezvous. This was with our other brother, John, at the top of the Muchinga escarpment, for the final cycling stage, following the track down the escarpment and across the valley floor to the Luangwa river. The Luangwa’s status as one of Africa’s outstanding wildlife areas added a different spice to our safari. Within hours of setting off, the cycling party encountered a pack of wild dogs, as we traversed the corridor between the North and South Luangwa National Parks.

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Into the Luangwa!

After three days of pedalling, we crossed the river and settled in at Kalovia campsite. There we enjoyed three nights in one place – what a treat! Fresh supplies from John’s nearby Tafika lodge, spectacular game viewing and simple relaxation – we were now getting close to what most people would call a holiday!

The final act of the safari was the 4 day drive home, via Mozambique. By the time we pulled into our garage, the Isuzu had clocked up another 7,700km. Our 3 weeks of travel across 5 countries had included a hefty dose of border officials and police checks, plus many logistical challenges. That was a small price to pay for the extraordinary experiences and priceless family memories that we forged.

Next time I gaze from on high upon a sea of African woodland, my longing to be ‘down there and in it’ will be just as great, but will be accompanied by a gratitude for having had such a special opportunity to live the African experience.

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Jen Packs-for-a-Purpose

Many lodges and camps are linked to the great initiative, Pack for a Purpose, which helps travellers to give practically to the surrounding communities, when they go on safari.

When we have opportunities to travel to areas that are in need, we jump at the chance to fill our bags with useful things for those communities.

Mkasanga school

Jen, a member of our marketing team, recently travelled home to the South Luangwa in Zambia. We helped her shop for supplies so that she didn’t go empty handed. She ‘Packed for a Purpose’ and delivered the well travelled package to Mkasanga School. Due to its remote location, the school is the sole provider of education for the surrounding villagers. Mkasanga is supported by Remote Africa Safaris‘ Tafika Fund and we were thrilled to contribute to one of our client’s positive initiatives. The supplies included balls, skipping ropes, stickers and calculators. It was our pleasure to ‘Pack for a Purpose’ and make a difference for young learners in remote areas. – See more

Drumming our hearts out

Twice a year our team gets the opportunity to gather for departmental reviews and a team building activity. Having two offices and a couple of staffers working remotely, it’s an invaluable time to spend together.

This May after a couple of newbies had recently joined, we held our AGM and rounded this time off with a drumming session run by the Drum Shack.

It was a fun rhythmic afternoon spotting the hidden talent within our numbers. We learnt different beats and even composed a ResRequest compilation with lots of laughter and sore hands.

 

 

New web app tracks the great wildebeest migration in real-time

Want to know where the wildebeest herds are? People planning to travel to Kenya and Tanzania for the Great Migration can now track one of nature’s most spectacular events even before they get there – via a web application called HerdTracker.

Created by Discover Africa, a leading tailor-made safari operator based in Cape Town, HerdTracker plots the exact position of the wildebeest herds on a real-time Google map, using weekly updates sent in by pilots flying over Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, safari guides, Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) rangers and lodges in the area.

HerdTracker was designed and built by Discover Africa’s own web development team using open-source software in just two months, using the idea of their East Africa expert, Carel Verhoef, a qualified safari guide who has lived in the Serengeti for ten years.

Between 2003 and 2011 Verhoef led over 300 migration safaris, and developed a deep understanding of – and appreciation for the annual wildebeest migration. While living in Tanzania, Carel also climbed Kilimanjaro nine times. His 10th assent is scheduled for August 2014.

Co-founder of Discover Africa, Andre Van Kets says that the development of the app was not overly complex.

“We’ve used open source tools and Google Maps, which has an open API, although we used our own icons, not the standard set. We’ve combined that with the human element so we’re not just posting the GPS coordinates, but the comments of our guides too,” says Van Kets. He says that the main aim of HerdTracker is to help people choose the best accommodation to stay at and when to go to ensure that they don’t miss the Great Migration.

“A safari experience is a trip of a lifetime, which can be a complex process to plan for, especially for first timers.

“We’ve developed HerdTracker to help make the journey easier for our customers.

“It’s an incredible tool that allows you to not only track the great migration in real time, but predict where the herd will be at the time of your travel,” adds Van Kets.

How HerdTracker Works

HerdTracker is your usual Google Map, modified with little pins stamped with a wildebeest.  Each pin is clickable and displays a message by the person who has sent the update (Our sources listed above).

A recent update, sent in by Captain Joel J Fernandes, a pilot for Coastal Aviation in Tanzania and flies over the Serengeti daily reads: “Morning Carel, I’ve been back for 2 days now and you won’t believe the coincidence but I was planning to mail you right now. So, they are everywhere. The trailing end are at Kogatende airstrip and the leaders just went past Seronera. They are tonnes at Lobo and Fort Ikoma. I can’t believe it but these are what I saw personally in the 2 days of flying!!!‎ So good to be back. Pics attached. Have a good one’”

Another update, sourced by Lemala Camps, a company who owns a unique collection of Lodges, Permanent Tented Camps & Mobile Camps in Tanzania says: “Hi Carel, there was a small crossing, in that the beasts started to cross, but then the vulture activity on the far bank scared the remainder and the crossing stopped. The wildebeest then gathered for a few hours and around 16:30 they crossed. It was large and was about 45 min. We worked magic and your clients, Alex and partner, were there to see it so lovely timing. I don’t have pics of the big crossing because Tabby had to leave before they crossed. I can also inform you that right now there is another gathering of them at Makutano. Regards, Veronica.”

Van Kets says that they designed the app for browsing on your phone first, rather than for desktop computers.

“We designed it to be mobile first, because if you first build a desktop version and try to shrink it to mobile, it’s really difficult. It’s better to build it for a small screen and then scale it up,” says Van Kets.

Plans for the future? Discover Africa is considering building and designing an Android app that would send updates to its users without having to visit the website.

HerdTracker’s migration updates are available to see on http://www.discoverafrica.com/herdtracker.

They are also available on Twitter via the @HerdTracker handle.

For more information contact Andre Van Kets at andre@discoverafricagroup.com, or Carel Verhoef at carel@discoverafrica.com. Or call +27 21 422 3498

 

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The Mamma Gogo initiative

We are running alongside a creative outreach called the MammaGogo Initiative.

Adventure through art – The aim is to:

  • Explore the creative potential of communities across South Africa and potentially Africa through a the medium of a creative outreach program.
  • Document the diverse heritage of her people and the expression of her culture by means of a photo journal
  • Engage communities (including those on social media) to the collective story of this creative adventure

The Mamma Gogo Initiative is a documented journey of a very special Landrover, exploring culture and heritage, creative outreach programs and implementation of educational initiatives.

Mamma Gogo is the name of the series III Landrover that will enable me to reach these communities. She is the mascot and is currently in need of of essential repairs.
Perhaps there are future possibilities that the journey passes through areas linked to ResRequest and if so we will talk about implementing an outreach in one of these local communities.

The donation we gave will go towards the essential repairs of the Landrover. Donald Barnett is currently in discussions with the Kara Heritage Institute and working on a multi-media package for them around this purpose.

“The purpose of ART in any form is to return us back to ourselves”

Project Luangwa

South Luangwa in Zambia is a magical destination for a safari holiday and its beauty and wildlife leave a lasting impression long after you’ve returned home. But it can be harsh and unforgiving too, especially for the local people. Most are subsistence farmers who live side by side with Luangwa’s wildlife but whilst wild animals the attract visitors they also raid crops; an entire year’s supply of maize can disappear overnight with the visit of a few elephants.

Project Luangwa is a charitable organisation which aims to help the local community in South Luangwa benefit from visitors and improve their economic prospects.  We believe that the future of the area lies in the hands of the younger members of the community and that these kids should have access to a good education.  But all too often we find a sad scenario – too few classrooms coupled with an inadequate number of teachers means that it is not unusual to see up to 100 kids in a class and many will be sitting on the floor due to a lack of desks and chairs.  Teachers struggle with few resources and often there is just one textbook for the whole class. But these are the lucky ones; primary schooling is free but at secondary level it is not and many parents cannot afford school fees, uniform or even exercise books.

Girls have an even harder time. Early marriages are not unusual, families often favour a boy when it comes to education, abuse is all too common, a girl’s workload is higher than her brother’s, and once she reaches puberty, she may attend school for just 3 weeks out of every four.

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Project Luangwa looks for long term sustainable solutions that give a hand-up rather than a hand-out. We raise funds to build more classrooms, buy text books, build and put books into libraries. We run girls’ clubs to encourage more girls to go to school, to support each other and find solutions to their difficulties. One example of this is helping them make reusable, washable sanitary pads.

Due to HIV/Aids and other diseases many children have lost parents – at one small community school 210 of the 318 pupils are double orphans.  We arrange pupil sponsorship on a one to one basis enabling many kids to receive an education which they would not get without support.

The charity was formed in 2009 and is supported by five of the safari operators in the Luangwa Valley as part of their commitment to helping the local communities. At these lodges a small percentage of guest’s payment is passed on to us. This covers much of our administration costs and so we are very proud to say that 100% of donations directly support the community, education and children.

There’s a huge amount of information on our website with pages for sponsorship, volunteers, what to bring, suitable books to bring and even bras.

Website: www.projectluangwa.org
Call at the office: Chinzombo (ZAWA offices), Mfuwe
Post: PO Box 27, Mfuwe
Email: Directors – karen@projectluangwa.org, / dave@projectluangwa.org
Telephone: 00260 (0) 216 246 265 / 00260 (0) 974250152 /3

Pack for a Purpose initiative

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Providing positive presence on the internet

Written by Rebecca Rothney

Pack for a Purpose (PfaP) is a great way to achieve additional exposure, at no cost, for the community projects supported by your lodge on the Internet.

Our NGO is based in Raleigh, NC, in the United States. Our mission is to positively impact communities around the world by assisting travellers who want to bring meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit. We assist “PfaP travellers” by providing online lists of requested items for over 300 community projects, making it simple for travellers to make a big impact on every trip.

Travellers simply follow these five easy steps:  

1. Select destination.

2. Find a lodging and a project it supports.

3. Choose the supplies you wish to bring from the specific items requested.

4. Drop off the supplies at the lodging.

5. They will be delivered for you; it’s that easy!

Since Pack for a Purpose’s inception in December 2009, the global travel community has brought more than 9,400 kilos of supplies to schools, clinics and orphanages worldwide that are in need of assistance. By simply adding medical, school supplies, sport equipment and other requested supplies in their luggage, these travellers have made a big impact.

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Among the many lodging locations that participate with Pack for a Purpose many of lodgings are current ResRequest clients. These lodgings support community projects in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zanzibar, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique.You can take a look at all of Pack for a Purpose’s current destinations.
Submitting your lodging to Pack for a Purpose is simple and can be done directly at this link on our website. Once we receive your information and you have complied with the three easy steps on the form, we will have your lodging published on our website within 7 business days. Once published, we will spread the word about your lodge through our social media outlets: TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.
Pack for a Purpose has received a large amount of international media coverage. This all translates into additional exposure for the lodgings and tour companies listed on our website. To view the coverage, click here. We have received the 2012 Travel+Leisure Global Vision Award Editors’ Pick for Digital Iniative and are finalists for the 2013 Guardian’s Observer Ethical Awards in the Travel Category.