The Ngala Tented Camp Experience

While in South Africa earlier in March, I wrote a brief post about the wonderful accommodations at &Beyond’s Ngala Tented Camp, a luxury camp on the western edge of Kruger National Park and right on the Timbavati River.

But we were so busy tracking animals and eating amazing food that I didn’t get a chance to post a summary of our overall experience there.

Ngala Preserve’s 37,000 acres are lush with animals big and small. On our first afternoon, fresh from chasing African wild dogs through Sabi Sands, we took a three-hour game drive and saw four of the Big Five game:

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Cape buffalo
African elephant
African elephant
Leopard
Leopard
Lions
Lions

The next day, we saw more of these and the fifth:

Rhino
Rhino

Ngala is extremely rich with carnivores. We saw lions and leopards every day we were there, as well as jackals, a pack of hyenas — technically a “cackle,” as our guides informed us — and wild dogs at rest and on the hunt. You can watch all these animals and more on Ujuzi’s YouTube channel:

Our group had three guides and three trackers. The guide and tracker I went on my game drives with were Barney and Earnest. They were both Shangaan South Africans fluent in Tsonga and English. Here’s Barney explaining to us the importance of termites and termite mounds to the local ecology.

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Our schedule at Ngala was a little different from that at Kirkman’s Kamp. We woke up to room-service coffee and a light biscuit at 5 a.m., then headed out on the trail at 5:30 a.m. just as the sun was peeking over the horizon and the wildlife were beginning to wake up. This is a great time to spot wildlife, since predators are quite active in the early morning hours.

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Victoria Falls: One of the Seven Wonders of the World

Victoria Falls
Our group left Ngala Reserve yesterday, taking a short flight from Kruger National Park to Victoria Falls. We’re staying on the Zimbabwe side of the falls at the classic Victoria Falls Hotel, founded in 1904 as one of the first modern hotels in southern Africa.

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A Relaxing Day in the Cape Winelands

When we awoke this morning, a thick fog had descended on Cape Town. Fortunately, most of the fog burned off by the time we were ready to embark on our day of tastings in the Cape Winelands, leaving only a misty haze in the distance.

Our first stop was the Spice Route Winery in Paarl, which means “pearl” in Afrikaans and is named after a granite mountain that gives off a pearlescent shine after the rains.

Spice Route Winery
Spice Route Winery

We tasted six excellent local wines and enjoyed a lovely view. In addition to wine tastings, the Spice Route Winery offers a great introduction to an array of South African and African fine foods, from cured meats to chocolates to craft beer.

View from Spice Route Winery in Paarl.
View from Spice Route Winery in Paarl.

We took the Wine Route from Paarl to Franschhoek, an area settled by Huguenots in the seventeenth century, stopping outside Drakenstein Correctional Centre (formerly Victor Verster Prison), where Nelson Mandela spent the last 14 months of his political imprisonment for resisting apharteid.

Statue of Nelson Mandela outside Drakenstein Correctional Centre (formerly Victor Verster Prison), where he spent the last 14 months of his political imprisonment for resisting apharteid
Statue of Nelson Mandela outside Drakenstein Correctional Centre (formerly Victor Verster Prison), where he spent the last 14 months of his political imprisonment for resisting apharteid

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Taking Kids on Safari

Surveying the savanna. Photo taken by Susan Thurston on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Surveying the savanna. Photo taken by Susan Thurston on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

In 2016 and 2017, Kenya is waiving visa fees for children. What a great time to introduce your kids or grandkids to the joys of exploration! The country offers a range of fun safari activities for kids of all ages, a few of which include:

  • Feeding endangered Rothschild giraffes by hand at the Giraffe Centre in Karen
  • Petting baby elephants at the Daphne Sheldrick Animal Orphanage and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
  • Visiting  chimpanzees at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Ol Pejeta Conservancy.  This sanctuary offers a safe haven for abused and orphaned chimpanzees from West  and Central Africa. (Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya.) After being nursed back to health, chimpanzees spend their days exploring, climbing, socializing, and learning to be chimpanzees all over again. This is an amazing project supported by the Jane Goodall Institute.

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Meet Habibu Muhereza, one of Ujuzi’s Ugandan guides

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Habibu Muhereza was born in the Bushenyi district of Uganda, which borders Queen Elizabeth National Park. After working as a teacher, he started his conservation career as a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) ranger and interpretive tourist guide. This work gave him the opportunity to get to know all  the parks in Uganda. Impressed with his excellent work and dedication, the UWA appointed him as its head guide for Queen Elizabeth National Park, where he managed wildlife and educated his local community about living alongside the many important species in the park.

Habibu has completed the Uganda Safari Guide Association tourist and guiding course, as well as guiding and birding courses in Queen Elizabeth, Kibale Forest and Bwindi Forest National Parks. He consistently gets rave reviews from travelers, such as this one from a safari-goer in 2011:

“Habibu Muhereza was the best guide Iʹve ever had on any safari, ever — and this was my fifth trip to the African continent! There arenʹt enough superlatives — he was exceptional!!!!”

Explore humanity’s roots in South Africa

Maropeng Visitor Centre. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Maropeng Visitor Centre. Image (c) Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site

In the world of archaeology, one of the most exciting spots on the planet is the Cradle of Humankind. Less than an hour’s drive outside Johannesburg, South Africa, this 180-square-mile complex of limestone caves that is one of the most prolific sources of human fossils in the world. Archaeologists have found the remains of numerous hominins, early humans who are close relatives of modern humans, with some fossils dating back as far as 3.5 million years.

Read moreExplore humanity’s roots in South Africa

Meet Edward Kabagyo, one of Ujuzi’s Ugandan Guides

EDWARD KABAGYO copySince his childhood, Edward Kabagyo has had an avid interest in the animals of Uganda. For the last 15 years, Edward has been involved in wildlife and conservation within Uganda. Edward started his conservation career by caring for orphaned or injured animals, specializing in mammals and reptiles.

Working in direct contact with a huge variety of animal species, he has gathered wealth of knowledge on animal behavior. He is able to tell safari goers about the social structure of animal groups, reproductive behavior, hunting strategies, and myriad other interesting animal facts.

A member of the Munyoro tribe, Edward was born in the Hoima District in Western Uganda. He is married with three children.

“But above all was our superb guide and driver, Edward K., who enriched our experiences beyond beyond the abilities of a mortal. For example, on our first full day in [Murchison Falls National Park], we came across a group of other vehicles who had just seen a lion, and who were all parked together waiting for the lion to reappear. Edward, instead of staying with them, moved elsewhere, and within moments the lion emerged from the reeds and came right up to our vehicle, as through the two of them (Edward and the lion) had pre-arranged it. Every day, Edward accomplished similar feats. His knowledge of the beasts and the birds, the fauna and topography, is truly phenomenal, as is his ability to spot targets of interest from unimaginable distances.”
— Gary Barringer, 2013

Read moreMeet Edward Kabagyo, one of Ujuzi’s Ugandan Guides

12 Great Sources for Learning More about South Africa

&Beyond Ngala Tented Camp, Ngala Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park, South Africa
An elephant grazes at Ngala Private Game Reserve in South Africa. Photo courtesy of &Beyond Ngala Tented Camp.

Ujuzi has several trips planned for South Africa. If you’re looking to learn more about the country, its people and wildlife, here are some good places to start.

Read more12 Great Sources for Learning More about South Africa

Meet South African safari guide Graham Johansson

Graham JohanssonUjuzi is excited to be working with longtime safari guide Graham Johansson in South Africa. Graham is an avid wildlife photographer and loves to help others capture the best visual records of their safari experience. He’ll be guiding the Cape Town segment of Ujuzi’s South Africa safari in March 2015.

Read moreMeet South African safari guide Graham Johansson

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