Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Customer Comment: Big Cat Volunteering Trip - Namibia - Recommendation

I have been returned a few weeks from my superb trip to Namibia with you to take part in one of your Volunteering trips. I've started a new job and been very busy but have at last found the time to drop you a note with my feedback ...
The trip surpassed my expectations ! It doesnt get much better than that does it !

PAWS (Roma & Clive) who run the project have done the most superb job - Clive was over in the UK when i was over there so i wasnt lucky enough to have met him but Roma and Rian the lead guide plus the other guys made everything a delight !

The thought that has gone into setting up the camp and the passion with which they lead the project was inspiring - whilst it was camping, in my mind it was so much better than i expected and so comfortable.

I learned so much in my 2 weeks there - the 'cause' is admirable and you can really see the difference they have made which makes you want to do even more - being able to feel i had contributed even a little made me very inspired and i enjoyed the rewards of the afternoon activities even more as a result - it felt great to have earned the right to be part of the cheetah's/leopards world as we followed them in the afternoon game drives and got so close to them with such wonderful sightings. Getting to know the names of the released cats and each of their stories made it even more personal and very much a privilege to share time with them. There were more than one 'once in a lifetime' moments - my very best was the sheer thrill of watching a cheetah chase and making a kill whilst we observed on foot - wow, how special and truly amazing is that!.

I travelled by myself and as a 40yr old was nervous that everyone would be younger but the mix was great - from 18 to 60's and with our shared interest in the cats, the wildlife and the project (both PAWS and AFRICAT). I would encourage everyone with an interest in this direction to give it a go and not hold back.

I've done safaris before - both overland camping and also in luxury tents - whilst i have loved each and everyone of those i must say, the joy of being in one place for 2 weeks was really relaxing and really gave me a sense of being part of the environment, 'in it' as opposed to 'moving through it' - together with the opportunity to learn about conservation, PAWS and AFRICAT, and doing something personally to make a very small difference to the future of the cats and the reserve was a privilege that made it a very different and hugely more rewarding trip. I have brought home so much more than just great photographs !

Anyway, I wanted to share my experience of the trip so that you can pass it on to others expressing an interest - I'm not sure how you operate but i would be very happy to speak to any potential clients for the trip if they want to hear from someone who's been there - I know it can be daunting when trying to decide which trips to do when they all look so fantastic in your brochure but i would like to share my experiences in some way to encourage more people to take the plunge, I am sure like me they'll come back llike me with a special place in their hearts for Paws and Africat.

I attach just a couple of my very very many photographs from a fantastic fortnight that i really didnt want to end !

Sarah K. Namibia. November 2010

For Big Cat Volunteering holiday in Namibia - click here

Customer Review: Tswalu, South Africa - Renewal of Land and Spirit

"The word ‘desert’ conjures up visions of endless sand and rolling dunes, as in the Sahara or Namib Deserts. Imagine our surprise when we arrived at the Kgalagadi or Kalahari Desert to find that, as far as the eye could see, desert sand was visible only as an ochre background to a foreground of blond savannah grass. Instead of the scrubby bushes we expected, our eyes were drawn across a great plain dotted with blossoms, yellow on the camel thorn acacia and white on the blackthorn, liberally interspersed with leafy green shrubs and small trees, some yet to bloom.
Tswalu before

Tswalu after

Welcome to the aptly named ‘thornveld’ and welcome to Tswalu, literally the ‘re-birth’ of this part of Africa.

We have often been disheartened in our travels round the world by witnessing man’s destruction of habitat and wildlife. In one nature reserve in India, poachers had preceded us and killed all the tigers. In a National Park in Borneo, two hundred metres from our lodge, we awoke to the buzz of chain saws ripping into the forest. In the Amazon, 25% of the rainforest has been mowed down. In Los Llanos, Venezuela, destruction of habit and wildlife is rife since the Chavez government ‘nationalised’ many ranches/nature reserves.

Doubly welcome then to Tswalu, a rehabilitation project that will restore some of your faith in human nature.

Over many years, cattle farming reduced this region of the Kalahari to a barren landscape, with patches of savannah, blackened shrubs and large areas of land scuffed down to the sand by bovine hooves. This is what team Tswalu, with careful husbandry, is gradually restoring to flourishing thornveld, re-populated with the animals that had previously inhabited it.

The restoration of the desert adapted animals has progressed so well that, after just twelve years, there are now small herds of ungulates, twenty two different species, happily breeding, as well as predators and a plethora of smaller mammals and birds. The investment is enormous. It provides for over 140 people, progressive fencing of 1,000 sq. kilometres and the import and export of suited species to and from other reserves.

They have created a haven here for the endangered rhino, both black and white, which, despite their bulk, are only found with persistent searching because the area is so vast. And what a place this is to go cheetah tracking: for three mornings the spotted cats led us a merry dance in and around the sand dunes. We did not find them this time but maybe next time, for surely this is place worthy of another visit in a few years to see how the re-birth is progressing.

The Kalahari is home to over 70 species of mammals and 240 species of birds. We had first ever sightings of black rhino (below), black maned lion, blue wildebeest, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, roan and sable antelope, red hartebeest, springbuck and the mischievously entertaining meerkats. At night, we had our first tantalising glimpses of aardvark, aardwolf, cape fox and spring hare.

We re- encountered white rhino, giraffe, Burchell’s zebra, eland, kudu, ostrich, oryx, steenbok, duiker, bat eared fox, rock monitor lizard, slender and yellow mongoose, ground squirrel, kori bustard and some non-indigenous antelope (nyala, impala, waterbuck) introduced by the founder, Stephan Bolar, but gradually being re-settled by the Oppenheimer family, who took over ten years ago when the founder died only two years into the project.

Save up your money and invest in a visit to Tswalu to refresh your spirit and your soul. Fly in on an executive turbo prop. See animals on your way to and from the airstrip. Set out your viewing ambitions with your private guide, Adrian, and tracker, William, two of the best in Africa, and discuss your likes and dislikes with the executive chef. Enjoy being pampered beyond belief in your own gorgeous Motse (thatched, private lodge) capacious enough to live in permanently. One evening you may be served diner on the deck of your Motse, another by the pool, another amongst the sand dunes, another in the Boma, where the dinners are ringed by fires, and take a leisurely brunch in the eagle’s nest, entertained by frolicking animals and overlooking thornveld which stretches to the horizon.

The author of this article, Alan Wood, a frequent traveller with Wildlife Worldwide, has made 25 journeys in search of wildlife in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Tswalu is the 21st reserve visited across 9 countries in Africa."

For Wildlife Safari Holidays in South Africa - Click here

Customer Comment: Zambia Safari - October 2010 - Mike & Pauline R.

"We were with you from 16th -25th October and would just like to say what an absolutely fabulous time we had with you while we were there. From the moment we arrived at Lusaka until we flew out again you really looked after us and made sure everything went so smoothly.

We started off at Kapani then Mchenja, Luwi and finally Nsolo and all four places were just terrific. All the ground and camp staff were so friendly and welcoming, the food and accommodation was just excellent but i would particularly like to express my thanks to all the guides. Their knowledge and understanding of the landscape and the ecosystems in which the wildlife operates was outstanding and their willingness to share that knowledge with us and the enthusiasm with which they did it really helped make the holiday.

Thanks to Willy for finding me the Pel's Fishing Owl, Innocent for working out where the crocodiles nest was and then finding the eggs, Brian for his great humour and enthusiasm and Lawrence for his fantastic bird impressions! Also thanks to Shaddy for his knowledge on the final day and to Andrew for his great conversation, the relating of his life and communuity and also for his great passion for conservation, truly inspiring.

If there was one comment i would make, which is by no means a critisism, is perhaps say a little bit more about the conservation work going on and try to get the bigger picture over to visitors about the importance of the whole ecosystem and that is so much more to see than just the big animals. (I say that just because a few people (not with Norman Carr Safaris!) were complaining about not seeing leopards after 3 days and they were missing out on so much else!)

We would like to support your work in some small way and i know we can contribute to the school. I did wonder if there was any contribution we make to the guide training programme; i say this as i had a wonderful chat with Kasami (i hope i got his name right) at Mchenja and i if there was any way, if that is needed, we could make some small contribution to his ambition to become a guide, pleae let us know. If not we will certainly make some donation to the school or community.

Thanks once again for help making our holiday of a lifetime just that."
Mike & Pauline R. Zambia. October 2010.

Wildlife Safaris in Zambia and Luangwa Valley - Click here

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Staff Report: Simon Barnes of the Times in Zambia

Simon Barnes recently joined Wildlife founder Chris Breen leading the Zambian Luxury Escape group safari. He has kindly given us permission to publish his article which appeared in the Times this weekend:

"I have a secret vice. I re-read books. Some I read again and again and again, always content with them, always rejoicing in the familiarity, always finding something new. In particular, I read Ulysses.

I have another vice, but after in indulging in it for more than a week, I think it might be the same vice in different form. I go back to places. Well, one place. Here I rejoice in the familiarity, always finding something new. I revisit the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.

I was co-leading a trip with Wildlife Worldwide. We drove out from the lovely Kakuli bush-camp to a place deeply familiar, where this mad untameable river seems to make an impossible 360-degree loop. The cliffs stand high over a river horribly diminished as the dry season flows towards its dramatic climax.


Lions love a dramatic spot. They like sit on the top of these cliffs with their paws flopping over the edge. A lion doesn’t need to look for a safe place. A lion is a safe place. A lion needs merely to indulge his sense of drama.

It was on this spot, 21 years ago, that I saw lions for the first time. It was here I first witnessed that glorious hot cosy intimacy of lions at peace: sometimes striking commanding poses like the lions of Trafalgar Square, at other times rolling sloppily onto their backs like daft old pussy-cats.

I watched as one young male – his mane just beginning to get serious – slouched from one group the next and then lay down as if he were a puppet and all his strings had been cut. And I thought: this lion is almost certainly related to those first lions of 21 years back.
The social life of lions is full of contradictions. Unlike hyenas or wild dogs, they seem to make it up as they go along, improvising, falling out, snarling, making up. A pride is a central group of related females that takes on a succession of males.

The pride male – sometimes there’s more than one -- kicks out young males out when they get too sniffy round the back ends of females. Then they must go and seek their fortunes; when they are good enough and confident enough, they can try for a pride of their own.

There has always been a pride around here, and its female axis is likely to be stable. It would be highly improbable if these lions weren’t, as it were, related to me. How many generations? Three or four, I’d guess. Good afternoon, ladies: I knew your great-great-grandmother. We go way back.

Other connexions, too. Isaac Banda works at out next camp, Mchenja. I knew his father, also Isaac. He was a scout and he led me to those first lion, with his air of easy comfort in the bush, leaning on his gun and smiling at the lions with a kind of paternal pride.
But as I found new things in Ulysses, while Bloom walked along the Liffey and I sat by the Luangwa, so I found new things in the Luangwa. I saw a butterfly of outrageous beauty, a cream-striped swordtail. At Kakuli I found a pan-hinged terrapin, a flap-necked chameleon and an olive grass-snake, all new to me. One new bird, a grey-rumped swallow.

Going back to the same place is no way to build a great life-list of birds – but I’d sooner revisit the colony of carmine bee-eaters, and live with the sounds of their aerial squeaking, looking up as the sun catches their extravagant colours. As a lay in my grass hut at night, I could put a name to every sound I heard: wood owl and scops owl and barred owlet, Mozambique nightjar, painted reed frog, Peterson’s epauletted fruit bat, the whoop of hyena, the distant barking as a leopard disturbed a baboon colony, and the great crump of lion, using the Luangwa river as an amplifier.

This trip was not the first time I have experienced the thump in the gut that comes when you meet lions on foot. But like pain, like a dream, it isn't something you can ever quite remember, until you experience it again. It’s not precisely fear; I’ve been out there enough to know what’s safe and what’s not. It’s more vulnerability. That sense of being not so much a student of James Joyce as an item of protein. You can see lions from a vehicle: you only experience them on foot.

Another point. Ulysses is simply the best book, and the Luangwa Valley is simply the best place for wildlife. Why go elsewhere? Why read a lesser book? The peaceful bits of this trip were every bit as good as the headline moments, but I’d better give you a taste of the drama. Pitch darkness, lit by a single spotlight, in a vehicle surrounded by 200 buffalo, the lowing, crashing noise of their panic as they encountered the lions we had been watching, and then the detonation as the two pride males came out of nowhere to knock down a calf, after which, with the calf only half-dead, they proceeded to have a stand-up dominance dispute, roaring, slashing and raising dust as the poor calf staggered to its feet and tried to make a run for it –

These two rivers never disappoint. The Liffey and the Luangwa flow through my life. I will return, I hope, to both before long."
Simon Barnes. November 2010.

For images from a participant on this trip click here.
To check out future departures on Zambian Luxury Escape click here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Customer Comment in images: Dramatic images from a stampede and lion kill in Zambia

Customers on the recent 'Zambian Luxury Escape' Safari lead by Wildlife Worldwide founder Chris Breen and Times journalist Simon Barnes were awed by these dramatic scenes of a stampede and lion kill taken by particpant John W.

For future Zambia Luxury Escape details click here or browse our other Zambia Safaris here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Customer Comments: Festival of Wildlife 2010 - Pantanal Brazil

"I had a wonderful experience in the company of yourself, your colleagues and delegates attending the festival. I should like to comment on the excellence of the English speaking, Brazilian guides who accompanied all of us in the Pantanal, and the three guides who were my life support system in Rio; not only were they very knowledgeable in their chosen specialities, but most informative about such matters as the history, cultures, politics and other aspects of Brazil.

The sightings of jaguar exceeded my expectations and I am glad to report that I managed to get some good video clips of this beautiful animal, despite the fact that it is always difficult to hold a camcorder steady when on water, but not quite as bad as being astride an elephant in search of a tiger!"

JR Guest. Festival of Wildlife 2010.

To find out more about Festivals of Wildlife - click here