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.
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 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.
It’s awe-inspiring to watch wildebeest cross the Mara River as part of their annual Great Migration through Kenya and Tanzania. Brothers and wildlife photographers Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas recently captured some of the magic in a video that uses time-lapse photography to condense hours of a river crossing into just two minutes. The video captures the glory and the danger of the crossing. Watch and marvel!
(Sensitive viewers should note that there is brief footage of a wildebeest falling prey to two crocodiles in the river. This footage starts near the end of the video at 1:53 minutes.)
This year, I’ve expanded my safari offerings to several new countries, including South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of the amazing features that make them unique, from malaria-free safaris in South Africa to coral reef explorations in Mozambique.
Today, I want to tell you about Namibia.
Namibia is a vast country on the southwest coast of Africa, covering an area larger than Texas but with just 2 million residents – one of the lowest population densities in the world. It is also an ageless land with a heritage of stone-age rock art and a petrified forest where fossilized tree trunks have lain for more than 280 million years. A vast inland sand sea is home to some of the earth’s tallest dunes and dramatic canyons. Namibia’s wildlife is plentiful and diverse, with many animals unique to the area.
Take, for example, the desert-adapted elephant. These creatures are an ecotype unique to Namibia, behaviorally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. They walk farther for water and food then any other elephant in Africa – the distances between waterholes and feeding grounds can be as great as 42 miles. The typical home range of a family herd is larger then 770 square miles, or eight times as big as ranges in central Africa, where rainfall is much higher. Because of the desert’s daytime heat, they keep schedules that are opposite to those of their cousins in other parts of the continent: They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. They are less picky eaters, as well, browsing on 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namibia.
Namibia is also 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. Its sanctuary is part of Okonjima Bush Camp, and guests at the camp can track leopards, view cheetahs up-close, and take nighttime drives to view nocturnal animals such as caracals (another wild cat), honey badgers and porcupines.
Namibia’s low population and unique ecosystems make it an unforgettable safari destination. The dramatic scenery and spacious natural areas are almost free of human sounds, creating a feeling of antiquity, solitude and wilderness.
Contact me if you’d like to learn more about exploring Namibia!
Bwindi Imepentetrable Forest in Uganda is famous for its mountain gorillas. But another unique feature of the area is that it has one of the highest human population densities of any rural area in Africa.
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a leading Ugandan scientist, wondered if this large number of humans – combined with the popularity of gorilla tourism – was exposing mountain gorillas to human diseases. (Gorillas and humans are close genetic cousins, so many illnesses that affect one species also affect another.) She found that parasitic infections were higher among mountain gorillas who lived close to humans than in ones that lived farther away.
To help address this issue, Kalema-Zikusoka founded Conservation Through Public Health. The group works to improve healthcare and sanitation in the communities surrounding Bwindi. By reducing infectious diseases in the human community, the group also reduces diseases that could spread to mountain gorillas and further harm this endangered species. It’s a win-win for every one!
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