In Search Of Elephant

Before I arrived at Ngoma Safari Lodge, Brian, the fantastic Director of Operations for Africa Albida, told me about his last stay there, and how he had three lions for company on his terrace one night when he was in bed. Cue crouching by my window in the middle of the night just in case I caught a feline glimpse. No such luck for me, but then I was more excited about spotting another animal here in this corner of Botswana…ELEPHANT! And I was not disappointed!

The Camp

Perched up on the edge of a valley with amazing views of Chobe’s open plains teeming with wildlife, Ngoma has pride position. These shots are taken in the green season, when the ground is lush and the baby animals are out and about. In a few months, the picture below will be transformed by a huge lake that takes over this part of the Caprivi strip opposite the camp. Amazing to imagine!

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The 8 private suites here are a real treat – elegant, super spacious and beautifully designed they are open plan with one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever slept in, facing windows all along the room and that incredible view.

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Outside you have your own private terrace with dining area, cooling sit pool facing the plains, sun loungers and outdoor rain shower. You even get your laundry done for no extra charge – really useful on safari when you’re dusty and hot.

It’s tempting to while away your stay on your terrace!

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There is a central lodge that looks like it has come straight off the pages of House & Garden, with lots of gorgeous little details. The lodge is open to the outdoors facing the plains, with a split level terrace surrounding a baobab tree and small pool for relaxation with a view. Curl up with a book in the library area or sample the cook’s amazing home-made mango ice cream at the dinner table.

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Breakfast is so delicious at Ngoma

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This is a wild camp – guests aren’t allowed to leave their rooms after dark without being accompanied by one of the team due to the wild game that roam the area. This is mainly to avoid guests surprising an elephant that could be standing quietly behind the undergrowth! John and Babs manage the camp beautifully and are fantastically knowledgeable and friendly hosts who ensure a very personal service to their guests.

Chobe

Ngoma sits in northern Botswana’s Chobe National Park, home to one of Africa’s largest concentrations of game and in particular elephant. It’s elephant central. And even in the green season I was rewarded with amazing sightings of hippo, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, impala, baboon, mongoose and more.

Having driven over the border from Victoria Falls, a two hour drive, we set out on a relaxing river safari along the Zambezi where we spotted hippo bobbing about, the most beautiful bird life, crocodiles, and my first glimpses of the elephant of Chobe. Sometime soon Ngoma are going to offer canoeing too and well as walking safaris.

After a picnic lunch in the bush, it was time to swap boat for trusty Land rover and explore the lesser visited areas of the National Park – couldn’t resist sharing a few snaps here…

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For more information visit www.africaalbidatourism.com

 

Victoria Falls Is Back!

The plane from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls was full on our recent visit – a good sign that tourism numbers to the small town in Zimbabwe are growing. After recent positive signs of rising tourist numbers, Victoria Falls is set to receive a new international landing strip next year at its airport, heralding major growth in tourism from around the world. I visited recently to see for myself.

I was lucky enough to stay at Africa Albida’s Victoria Falls Safari Club, a new boutique property in the grounds of the famous Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Just a few minutes’ drive to the iconic waterfall, the Club has one of the best locations in Victoria Falls, set slightly away from town overlooking a wilderness landscape teeming with wildlife.

Victoria Falls Safari Club has its own chicly-decorated reception lounge and terrace with private game-viewing deck – I loved the cute design details like this fab leather chandelier:

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It feels luxurious and exclusive – there are only 16 Club rooms and 4 Suites, all with a modern, light and airy feel and gorgeous views from floor to ceiling windows that open onto a private terrace. Guests of the Club have their own dedicated Manager to ensure their stay is seamless, and can enjoy all the facilities of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge too, including the Buffalo Bar, a beautiful spot made for sunset viewing and G&T drinking, the MaKuwa-Kuwa restaurant, the library, mini Spa and swimming pools.

Super comfy bed in my open-plan Suite:

bedRoom with a view:

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Take a dip in the pool with a cold beer and watch the wildlife at the waterhole:

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There is a complimentary shuttle service from the Club to the Falls themselves, running until 10pm so you can catch the spectacle of the world’s largest waterfall pretty much at any time of day or evening. Easy to access with lots of viewing points along its course it’s a fantastic sight to behold. Bring a raincoat and waterproof cover for cameras and phones as you get soaked with the spray from some of the best view-points! Exhilarating and beautiful, by all accounts it beats Niagara hands down.

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Life revolves around the magnificent Zambezi in Victoria Falls, and another must-do during a trip here is to get out on the water. Lots of companies operate boat rides – Victoria Falls Safari Club arranged tickets for the Zambezi Queen, a lovely three tiered boat. The top deck is swish – stylishly kitted out and with endless cocktails and canapés, it’s an amazing place to chill out, admire the sunset and spot hippos bobbing about below.

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If I’d had more time in Victoria Falls I would have gone White Water Rafting – it’s one of the best places on earth to do this adrenaline sport amongst others. Africa’s answer to Queenstown in New Zealand, there’s loads going on for the adventurous. Bungee jumping from the bridge opposite the Falls, zip lining, gorge swinging…so our tip is to stay a bit longer to really make the most of your Victoria Falls experience. But I had other plans, and was heading to Botswana in the morning…

 Check out www.africaalbidatourism.com for more information

A chance encounter with West Lowland Gorilla, in Odazala-Kokoua National Park, with Wilderness Collection

Ever come face to face with a Western Lowland Gorilla… No? Neither have we!

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Well, here are two exciting new videos of chance encounters with Western Lowland Gorilla from the lucky people who have at Wilderness Collection’s Odazala-Kokoua Camp.

Watch as a group of privileged tourists, exploring deep within the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, encounter a large group of Western Lowland Gorillas, a very rare sighting -certainly not one that we can say we have ever come across!

As the group drive between the Wilderness Collection’s Ngaga Camp and Lango Camp, the endangered species are stopped in their tracks sensing the unusual activity of human form and the strange sight of a car. See for yourself how the mother gorilla moves across the dirt path to safety with her infant, with the rest of her family following. It’s clear that these charismatic creatures find human life a curious and intriguing proposition as neither gorilla knows how to react to human form.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApnT4FxMK3g&feature=youtu.be

The second video shows a different group of the endangered Jupiter Group, Western Lowland Gorilla, in a similar area near Wilderness Collection’s Ngaga Camp. The captivating species can be seen being led by the male gorilla – quite the alpha male! His loyal family of infants follow in his footsteps; but not before taking a long hard stare at the human movement! Listen out for the gorillas’ grunting – it’s a sign of their curiosity of human form, but also acts as warning signals to fellow gorillas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY1Ys9i4gVU&feature=youtu.be

For the modern thrill-seeking traveller, Wilderness Collection’s Odzala-Kokoua camp presents a once in a life time opportunity. The thrill of observing one of our closest relatives in the wild while exploring a thriving rainforest ecosystem is a privilege to say the least.  Even on camera there is clearly an aura of adventure and discovery, so we can only imagine what it would be like to experience this first hand.

Odzala-Kokoua National Park, in the heart of the sparsely populated Congo Basin, is part of the world’s second largest expanse of tropical rainforests. It is no surprise that the rainforest attracts Africa’s densest population of Western Lowland Gorillas and significant populations of forest elephant – it really is a fine example of an untouched natural habitat. It is in fact renowned as the richest forest block in central Africa for primates, with eleven diurnal species recorded.

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As if the rare gorilla sightings aren’t enough, the unique experience also offers rides along lush river systems, game drives in the savannah, and time spent at the productive forest clearings. Wow!

To find out more about the endangered Jupiter Group, Western Lowland Gorillas, visit www.odzala-kokoua.com

For more information about Wilderness Collection visit

www.wilderness-collection.com