Off to Tanzania on Safari

Courtesy of Ellen Wilson

Zebras stroll on the shore of a flamingo-dotted lake. Photo taken by Ellen Wilson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

In just two days, I’m heading to Tanzania to explore new lodges, return to magnificent parks, and visit new destinations to share with you. In the 10 days that I’ll be there, I’ll be visiting some of Tanzania’s most spectacular wildlife areas, including Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater and the world-famous Serengeti National Park. I’ll also make a stop in historical Zanzibar, a beautiful island off the Tanzanian coast that is famous for its centuries-old spice trade, rich multicultural history and gorgeous Indian Ocean beaches.

But this is a work trip, so I won’t be spending much time lolling around on those beaches! Much of my daily schedule will be taken up by visiting accommodations – lodges, tented camps, hotels and cottages – to find the best places suited to clients’ varied travel needs. I like to get to know each of these places personally so I can ensure that, when you plan a trip with Ujuzi, I’ll recommend the right fit for you.

The trip will also give me insight into some of the best natural and cultural areas to visit in Tanzania. I’ll be passing that information along through regular blog updates while I’m traveling. If you’re not already subscribed to the Ujuzi blog, sign up under “Subscribe to Our Blog” at the bottom of the column on the right and you’ll get an email whenever I update. I’ll also be posting new photos to my Flickr and Facebook accounts so you can see the sites right along with me!

I hope you’ll follow my trip to learn more about all Tanzania has to offer! Until then!

Seeing the Serengeti from a New Point of View

Viewing the wildebeest migration from the basket of a hot air balloon was the capstone of Becky Raab’s Ujuzi safari to Tanzania. On the last morning of her 10-day trip, she arose at about 3 a.m., had a light snack, and set off with her friends and family to watch the inflation of the balloon. By dawn, she and her companions were in the basket, ready to rise above the Serengeti along with the sun.

“Being above all the animals and seeing the herds of wildebeest was truly an incredible experience,” she says. Soaring above the treetops, the balloon gave her a completely different perspective on the Serengeti than her land-based travels of the previous days had.

After flying high for a while, her group spotted a pool of hippos. The pilot lowered the balloon until it was hovering above the water, giving Becky and her companions the closest view of these great creatures that they’d had on their trip. Then they ascended for more panoramic views of the plains. “We got some really cool photos,” Becky says. (You can view some of the group’s pictures in the slideshow below.)

At the end of the hour-long excursion, the balloon landed softly on the earth and the group celebrated with a champagne toast, followed by a traditional English breakfast at a linen-covered table near the landing site. “It was really nice to have breakfast in the Serengeti in this big open space,” Becky recalls.

Joyce Bulgrin, one of the friends who went with Becky on the safari, called the balloon excursion “the perfect ending to a fantastic trip.”

Becky agrees. “It was the busiest day we had on the trip, but also the most remarkable.”

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African countries fight rhino poaching

Rhino, Lake Nakuru, Kenya

A white rhino grazes on the shore of Lake Nakuru, Kenya. Photo by Ryan Harvey.

Ujuzi will expand its tour offerings in the second half of 2014 to include South Africa, a country rich in unique wildlife and home to almost half of the continent’s rhinos. Unfortunately, the abundance of wildlife has attracted the attention of international crime syndicates, who profit from selling rare animal parts on the black market. I recently ran across this sobering article about an increase in rhino poaching in the country.

Poachers kill rhinos for their horns, which are worth more than their weight in gold in Southeast Asia. Rhino horn is a traditional medicine in that part of the world, where it’s thought to cure a variety of ailments despite modern science showing its ineffectiveness. Rhino horns have also been used to make cups, dagger handles and other ornamental items, but this use is less common now.

If poaching continues increasing at current rates, South Africa’s Environmental Affairs ministry estimates that the country’s wild rhino population could disappear by 2025. Other countries are also affected by poaching. In Kenya, the rhino population has dropped from tens of thousands to about 1,200.

However, many African countries are making a concerted effort to clamp down on poaching with improved training for wildlife rangers and by using drones and other new technologies to monitor national parks. On the demand side, Vietnamese government officials and wildlife organizations have committed to tougher enforcement of anti-poaching laws and educating consumers about the uselessness of rhino horns as medicine. China has recently increased penalties on those who import or sell poached rhino horns.

U.S. plans to destroy seized ivory to fight poaching

Courtesy of Kathy Terlizzi

Elephants are at risk of poachers who kill them for their ivory and sell it on the black market. Photo taken by Kathy Terlizzi on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to destroy six tons of poached and illegally imported ivory that it has seized over the years. The goal is to raise awareness of the illegal trade and to promote elephant and rhinoceros protection. Read more here.

Featured Lodge: Mountain Gorilla View Lodge

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On the slopes of Mount Sabinyo, Mountain Gorilla View Lodge is a wonderful base from which to start your gorilla tracking. The lodge is only 15 minutes from the main entrance to Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, famous for its families of rare mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Guests can also visit local villages for cultural excursions.

With spectacular views of the Virungas Mountain Range, the 32 stone-and-thatch chalets are well-spaced to offer privacy. Each cottage is simply and comfortably furnished and includes a private bath, balcony, and a sitting area with a fireplace to take the chill out of the high-altitude nights. An on-site restaurant serves meals, and the bar is a great place to meet and chat with other guests. Electricity comes from a generator that operates during meals and through 11 p.m.

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