Tanzania: A 24-7 Wildlife Experience

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Jennifer Johnson of Wisconsin has been on safaris before, but her trip to Tanzania with Ujuzi stands out as the best. “Every day something happened that you thought couldn’t be topped. And then the next day, something happened that topped it.”

Johnson went on her Ujuzi safari in November with a group from Henry Vilas Zoo, Madison, Wis. “This trip was about a 1,000 times better” than a previous safari she had gone on with a different provider, Johnson says. “We saw twice the animals. The wildlife was more abundant, and we were closer to it.”

She credits Ujuzi’s  planning and expert guides – Modi Magesa, Chris Magori, and Shadrack Didah – with making the trip such a success. “Our guides were fantastic, very easy to talk to, and very knowledgeable. They were very safe and very educated about all the animals,” she says. The guides’ familiarity with wildlife enabled them to anticipate good viewing opportunities. For example, Johnson’s guide led her group to watch a pride of lions successfully hunting a zebra, then bringing out their cubs to eat it.

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Wildebeest graze in Ngorongoro Crater. Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Johnson also got close-up views of a leopard, a rhino, many elephants and elephant calves, and migrating wildebeests. One park she especially enjoyed was Lake Manyara, a lush green forest and waterway where hippos, baboons, flamingos, and other birds were plentiful. “If anyone’s a birder, they’re going to want to go to Lake Manyara,” she says. “I don’t even know how many species of birds we saw there.”

Another highlight of the trip included a night drive where she saw serval cats, honey badgers, bat-eared foxes, and baby hyenas.

The safari experience continued at the lodges and camps where the zoo group stayed. Johnson especially enjoyed Tarangire River Camp, which is perched on the banks of an ephemeral riverbed in north-central Tanzania. “There were elephants in the riverbed digging for water, so you could go outside and look over the bank and watch them” at lunch or before the sun went down, she says. At night as Johnson fell asleep, she could hear elephants roaming about and lions roaring in the distance. “When you’re sleeping and you can hear the animals outside, it’s having an experience twenty-four–seven.”

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Her group also enjoyed a presentation by the African People & Wildlife Fund about “living walls” – fences created from living native trees and acacia thorns. Maasai people build these fences  around their livestock areas to protect them from predator attacks. Before the living walls were in place, carnivores attacked Maasai livestock in the Tarangire area about 50 times a year, and communities killed 6 or 7 lions a year to protect their livestock. Where living walls are being used, human killings of lions, cheetahs and hyenas have dropped to zero.

Johnson enjoyed the safari so much that she’s already planning to return to Tanzania in 2016. “I’ve never been on a trip before where I loved something so much that I wanted to go back to the same place again,” she says. Her next trip is also a joint venture of Ujuzi and Henry Vilas Zoo and will include a visit to Rwanda, where her group will track mountain gorillas.

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Featured Lodge: &Beyond Ngala Tented Camp, South Africa

&Beyond Ngala Tented Camp, Ngala Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park, South Africa

Situated in Ngala Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park, &Beyond Ngala Tented Camp never lets you forget that you are in the wild.

Yet there is nothing primitive about this chic and contemporary camp. Ngala is a true safari experience where guests go to bed to the sounds of lion calling, safely cosseted in modern tented suites and pampered with the warm-hearted service that embodies the soul of South Africa.

ngala-tented-camp1.jpg.950x0

Twenty thatched cottages with shaded verandas nestle among the trees, ensuring the perfect privacy of your retreat. The romance of canvas, with big night sounds and flickering lanterns lighting the camp grounds, mingles with the simple sophistication of polished wooden decks, textured fabrics and clean lines.

&Beyond Ngala Tented Camp, Ngala Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park, South Africa

Nature is never far at &Beyond Ngala, with breakfast and lunch served in the shade of an enormous weeping boere bean tree. A walled courtyard provides a sheltered space to indulge in sumptuous cuisine, while the boma creates a dramatic setting for fire-lit dinners. An afternoon by the poolside rewards you with a refreshing dip as well as blissful relaxation time. Secret nooks and crannies with cushy sofas are ideal for quiet hours of contemplation in the leafy shade.

za-kru-wld-11.jpg.950x0

Ngala Private Game Reserve supports a great diversity of animals, and one species of animal seen daily is the lion, or “ngala” in the local Shangaan language. There are several lion prides that patrol this reserve and many of the lions are known by name to the rangers. The reserve is also particularly known for packs of endangered African wild dogs.

&Beyond Ngala Tented Camp, Ngala Private Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park, South Africa

Featured Lodge: Mihingo Lodge, Uganda

Mihingo Lodge is a peaceful and luxurious retreat adjacent to Lake Mburo National Park in Uganda. Situated on privately owned land, it features 10 permanent tents on raised wooden platforms and covered by a thatched roof. Each spacious and comfortable tent includes an en-suite bathrooms with hot and cold running water, showers, and flush toilet. Each room is nested into a private spot and has a great view.

There is so much to do at Mihingo, from walking safaris and horse rides to game drives and boat trips on Lake Mburo. Guests can go on a cultural walk, ride a bike to a fishing village or visit the local primary school.

Guests at Uganda's Mahingo Lodge go mountain biking among the zebras. Photo by Ralph Schenk of Mahingo Lodge.

The main dining area is a large thatched structure built from rocks, the wood of dead olive trees found on the land, and native grasses. Below the dining area, an infinity swimming pool stretches out from the rocks and seems to disappear into the vast landscape beyond.

Infinity swimming pool at Mahingo Lodge, Uganda. Photo by Ralph Schenk of Mahingo Lodge, Uganda.

Next to the dining area is a lovely round sitting room where people can sit and relax, have a drink and watch the animals at the water hole.

Upstairs is another room with breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Kacheera and the park. This is the perfect place to chill out with a book, have a nap or play a game of backgammon or chess.

Photo by Ralph Schenk of Mahingo Lodge, Uganda.

And don’t forget the bushbaby platform – a wonderful place for cocktails and of course the best place to see Mahingo’s family of resident bushbabies up close.

Bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus). Photo by Ralph Schenk of Mahingo Lodge, Uganda.
Bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus). Photo by Ralph Schenk of Mahingo Lodge, Uganda.

In appreciation of its fragile surroundings, Mihingo Lodge is an environmentally friendly accommodation. All electricity, hot water and water pumps are powered by solar panels and there is a natural water catchment system to take advantage of the rains.

Make a point to visit Mihingo Lodge and Lake Mburo National Park on your next visit to Uganda!  Both are a great stop before or after trekking to see the mountain gorillas.

Shamwari Conservation Experience: A More In-Depth Safari

shamwariSouth Africa’s Shamwari Game Reserve is a one-of-a-kind safari destination. Located in the Eastern Cape, Shamwari has spent the past several decades restoring overused agricultural land to its wild past. Today more than 5,000 head of game range freely, including members of the Big 5. Shamwari’s 100 square miles of wilderness covers 5 different biological ecosystems and is malaria-free.

Shamwari offers wonderful game viewing and luxury lodges for the regular safari-goer. But for those who would like a more in-depth adventure, the Shamwari Conservation Experience may be the answer. The Conservation Experience is a volunteer program in which adults of all ages spend 2 or more weeks working on the reserve in areas such as:

  • monitoring elephants, rhinos, and predators
  • restoring the landscape from previous agricultural use
  • controlling invasive plant species
  • helping with management of the breeding center
  • volunteering at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary for rescued lions and leopards
  • research projects
  • animal rehabilitation
  • community projects in local towns and villages, such as painting classrooms or maintaining community  vegetable gardens

The Shamwari Conservation Experience is a once in a lifetime chance to get behind the scenes and involved with conservation efforts in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. You don’t need a specific educational background to participate, although a special program is available for veterinary students. Contact Ujuzi to learn about incorporating Shamwari into your next safari.

Shamwari Conservation Experience for Gap Year Students
Volunteers survey Shamwari’s plant life.
Shamwari Conservation Experience for Gap Year Students
Volunteers clear away brush and invasive plants on Shamwari Reserve.
Shamwari Conservation Experience for Gap Year Students
Mending a fence.

Watch this video to see Shamwari Conservation Experience volunteers humanely tag, sedate, and relocate a male antelope as part of the reserve’s wildlife restoration program:

Interested in visiting Shamwari? Please contact Ujuzi.

Featured Lodge: Coral Lodge 15.41 in Mozambique

coral Lodge 4Coral Lodge 15.41 – named for its coordinates of 15 degrees south latitude and 41 degrees east longitude – is a 5-star resort combining one of Mozambique’s most stunning beach locations with the country’s rich culture and trade history. Situated within an unspoiled nature reserve on a spectacular peninsula, Coral Lodge 15.41 is a unique blend of contemporary design combined with the utmost respect for its unique setting.  Ten gorgeous villas tastefully combine luxury with authentic Mozambican style and simplicity.

The chef uses fresh fish and the best local ingredients to create a unique daily menu infused with the original flavors of Mozambique, as well as influences from Portugal and other international cuisine.

Because of its unique location, Coral Lodge 15.41 has a huge variety of activities on offer. You can simply enjoy the resort, the beach and water sports on offer, or you can satisfy your curiosity about Mozambique’s rich history and the culture of the Makua people. Coral Lodge 15.41 is only 10 minutes away from Ilha de Moçambique (Mozambique Island), an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Coral Lodge 5
Kayaking is a great way to explore the natural areas at Coral Lodge 15.41.

Read moreFeatured Lodge: Coral Lodge 15.41 in Mozambique

Travel + Leisure Names Africa’s Best Lodges

Several lodges that Ujuzi works with in Kenya and Tanzania have been named among the world’s best hotels and resorts in Travel + Leisure magazine’s 19th annual reader poll. According to Travel + Leisure, these lodges represent some “of the greatest travel experiences to be had around the globe.”

Winners include:

 Ujuzi congratulates these fine establishments for all they have accomplished. Ujuzi travelers have praised them again and again for excellent accommodations and service, and we are glad that they are getting the global recognition they deserve.

Featured Lodge: Okonjima Bush Camp

namibia5Situated at the base of the Omboroko Mountains in Namibia, Okonjima Bush Camp is home to the AfriCat Foundation, which runs the largest cheetah and leopard rescue and release program in the world. In the last 17 years, more than 1,000 of these predators have been rescued, and more than 85 percent of those have been released back into the wild. Okonjima also has three domesticated lions – Matata, Tambo and Tessie – who were born in captivity and rescued by AfriCat. They have become long-term residents and can often be heard in the mornings before guests leave the lodge.

Activities at Okonjima Bush Camp include leopard tracking by vehicle, a visit to the cheetah welfare project, and a visit to the night hide where nocturnal animals such as porcupines, caracals, honey badgers and leopards may be seen.

okonjima2 okonjima1

Living accommodations consist of nine luxurious rondavels. The thatched chalets are linked by walkways to a main area where meals are taken and activities begin. Each rondavel is completely private and the green canvas ‘walls’ can be rolled up to give you a 180-degree view, allowing you to watch life in the bush while relaxing in total comfort and safety.

Energetic early risers will enjoy the guided walking trails, which offer excellent opportunities for bird watching—over 300 bird species have been identified here. Two spacious animal-viewing hides are located within easy walking distance of the lodge, and another is situated at a recently established vulture feeding area just a short drive away.

Namibia2

Contact Ujuzi to learn more about safaris in Namibia!

 

Featured Lodge: Oliver’s Camp

Olives-Camp-guest-accommodation-Tracey-Van-Wijk-HROliver’s Camp is a 10-tent luxury camp set in the grasslands of Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, just a quick drive from the park’s Boundary Gate. It offers a secluded, intimate experience of the wilds, letting travelers experience the untarnished beauty of this part of the world.

The camp has a relaxed feel, and visitors can get to know one another and the camp managers over family-style meals or during sundowners around the camp’s main stone fireplace, which offers superb views of the surrounding plains. Oliver’s staff are some of the friendliest people you will meet anywhere and always welcome you with a smile and open-hearted hospitality. In addition to daytime game drives, Oliver’s Camp offers walking safaris and night game drives, where some of the best guides in the business lead you through a corner of Africa that offers everything from herds of buffalo to forests of baobabs.

Tents are well-spaced, offering plenty of privacy, and decor is traditional English safari with a modern flair—lots of canvas and gorgeous natural woods. The tents have excellent views of the savanna. There are few things better than enjoying morning refreshments while watching the wind (and perhaps a few antelopes) tousle the tall grasses. Private outdoor showers attached to the tents are a fun way to enjoy nature, and each room has its own safe.

Come on a Camel Safari with Me

Sandi Sotis rides a camel across the Ewaso Ng'iro River in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya. Photo taken on an Ujuzi safari.
Sandi Sotis rides a camel across the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya. Photo taken by  Kathry Overman on an Ujuzi safari.

High atop a camel’s back is a unique vantage point from which to view Africa’s most beautiful places. Sandi Sotis and Kathy Overman recently got this perspective on an Ujuzi  safari in Kenya. While staying at Samburu Intrepids, a permanent tented camp nestled in the gorgeous grasslands and riverine forests of Samburu National Reserve, they went on a camel ride led by residents of the neighboring village.

With Samburu warriors guiding their camels, they crossed the shallow Ewaso Ng’iro River (also spelled “Uaso Nyiro”) and made a short visit to the village. “The $20 ticket was certainly worth the 20 to 25 minute ride over the river to the village and back,” says Sandi. “It was one if the highlights of the vacation.”

The proceeds from the camel ride support community projects like building and maintaining the village children’s school.

Featured Lodge: Phinda Forest Lodge

Phinda Forest Lodge is located in a private game reserve on the incomparable Maputaland Coast.
Phinda Forest Lodge is located in a private game reserve on the incomparable Maputaland Coast.

Set deep in the heart of a rare and beautiful dry sand forest near the Maputaland Coast in South Africa, &Beyond Phinda Forest Lodge is a perfect home base for both land and sea safaris. Spend the morning tracking a black rhino on foot, swim with whale sharks in the afternoon, and watch loggerhead and leatherback turtles laying eggs on the beach in the evening.

Recently hatched turtles scramble out to sea.
Recently hatched turtles scramble out to sea.

Afterward, retire in a suite that fuses spectacular architectural design with the ultimate in conservation principles. Inventively designed in a style affectionately known as Zulu Zen, the 16 suites of Phinda Forest Lodge are built on stilts and appear to float between the forest floor and the towering torchwood trees.

Each handcrafted, glass-encased suite boasts a minimalist flair that incorporates high-gloss wooden floors, richly tactile fabrics and brightly accented Zulu artifacts. The suites feature luxurious en suite bathrooms with slate hand basins and viewing decks where guests can drink in the sight of graceful nyala and duiker antelopes in the dappled shade of the forest.

The suites at Phila Forest Lodge are built on stilts and appear to float between the forest floor and the towering torchwood trees.
The suites at Phila Forest Lodge are built on stilts and appear to float between the forest floor and canopy.

The lodge’s sparkling rim-flow swimming pool and expansive decks look out onto panoramic views of an open meadow where animals frequently graze. A traditional African boma is enclosed with a wooden fence and offers lantern-lit open-air dining beneath a canvas of stars.