Recent Writing Articles

Londolozi: The Best Destination for a Photographic Safari in South Africa

4V1C0584

Thirsty leopard drinking at Londolozi

If you are a planning photographic safari and want a luxury experience, Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa might be the destination for you.

I rented this Canon is 100-400 mm IS lens at Londolozi

The South African game reserve, located within the Sabi Sands game reserve, has been a top photo safari destination for many years. Several documentaries, mostly on big cats, have been filmed here. You might have seen them on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel.

Now Londolozi offers a photographic studio right on the property which offers everything from camera body and lens rentals (for Canon and Nikon cameras) to help editing and printing your safari photos in LightRoom.

4V1C0109-min

Wart hog at Londolozi

There is no denying that DSLR photo equipment is heavy. Before flying from Seattle to South Africa, I carefully edited my lens selections. My Canon EF 70-200 mm f/4 IS lens usually covers most of my telephoto needs. But safari is a different story. You ideally want to have a telephoto lens in the 400 mm range to get close to the action. Upon arrival to Tree Camp, I was told about Londolozi’s Photographic Studio.

4V1C0133

A female leopard with her kill at Londolozi

But not on safari, where a great telephoto lens in the 300-400 mm range can make all the difference. I rented a Canon 100-400mm f 4.5-5.6 IS lens for about US $30 a day during my stay at Londolozi. I got some of my best photos with this lens, and it was a lot less expensive than buying one for over $2000.

4V1C0164

I would not have been able to get this shot of this cheetah without my rental lens

My journey to and from South Africa was also a lot easier without carrying the 3 1/2 pound lens with me.

4V1C0332

Male lion with a great mane

I would not have gotten some of my best shots on this trip if it weren’t for my rental lens. I really needed the zoom lens in the 300-400 mm range!

4V1C0313

These lions mated multiple times during a morning game drive

In addition to photographic equipment rental, Londolozi’s safari vehicles are built for photographic safaris, with padded, movable camera rests that can be adjusted for you to stabilize your telephoto lens without a tripod (although the photographic studio has tripods available for rent as well).

Video from a game drive at Londolozi (shot on my iPhone 6s)

Private safari vehicles and photographic tutors are also available for photographers on safari at Londolozi. Many of the guides and trackers are excellent photographers.

4V1C0322-2

A pair of lions on their “honeymoon”

Amy Attenborough took the time to show me Londolozi’s photographic studio. She is available to help photographers edit their personal images. They also offer a service where they can edit images for photographers not familiar with Lightroom. She helped me select an image to be printed on canvas and rolled up so that I could easily transport it home.

4V1C0355-2

Pride: In the Name of Love (caption by Brian Podolsky)

Londolozi’s blog is worth checking out to see what sort of photos you can get on safari at the highly rated safari destination.

Skinny lion on the prowl (video shot on my iPhone 6s )

4V1C0427-2-min

Daily life at the watering hole on safari at Londolozi

4V1C0445-min

Graceful giraffes 

4V1C0497

Dung beetles are fascinating

4V1C0538-2

Hamerkop

While I don’t consider myself a bird watcher, so many of the birds at Londolozi were gorgeous and fascinating to watch (and photograph). This is another reason a quality zoom lens is recommended.

4V1C0541

Leopard on the prowl

Londolozi is also one of the best spots on the planet to see leopards. They are so beautiful and graceful. I fall in love with big cats every time I see one of these beauties.

4V1C0565-min

Leopard on the banks of a sandy river

4V1C0603

Leopard at a drinking hole. Such gorgeous eyes!

 

Photo Dec 10, 8 30 05 AM

Photographing a pride of lions feasting on a wildebeest on my iPhone 6s plus

While I shot quite a bit with my Canon, my iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s worked great for shooting videos on safari.

Pride of lions feasting on a freshly killed wildebeest

Watching a pride of 11 lions feast on a freshly killed wildebeest was the highlight of my safari at Londolozi. The way the lions interacted was absolutely fascinating. This is how lions “go grocery shopping.” If you are too squeamish to watch it, going on safari is probably not for you.

Processed with VSCOcam with k1 preset

Looking up at a leadwood tree (also known as combretum imberbe)

The image below shows some of the printing options available at Londolozi’s photographic studio.

studio

Londolozi’s photographic studio (photo credit: Londolozi)

I love that I got a canvas print of my one of my favorite images as a take home souvenir, all wrapped up in a cardboard tube for easy packing. Now I just have to pick out a frame and figure out where to hang it.

Photo Dec 11, 7 05 12 PM

A safari sunset at Londolozi Game Reserve

Londolozi Game Reserve

Phone number +27 13 735 5653
Email address news@londolozi.co.za

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scenes from a Game Drive at Londolozi, South Africa

Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset

Up close with African elephants at Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa

Last month I returned to Londolozi Game Reserve, where I went on my first safari in 2004. The three days I spent there reminded me of why Londolozi has such a fantastic reputation and constantly winds up on lists of the best safari lodges in the world.

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Solo rhino at Londolozi

This time my husband and I stayed at Tree Camp, the newest of the camps at Londolozi and found the room far more luxurious than we needed it to be. We appreciated all the mod cons like AC and dual vanity sinks and the hot tub, but the point of safari is to go on the game drives and see the animals. Tree Camp was amazing, but I don’t think it’s necessary to get the fanciest room at Londolozi.

Processed with VSCOcam with 6 preset

A casual encounter with an African elephant at Londolozi

We also paid for a private vehicle, so that we could go at our own pace and hang out with certain sightings as long as we wanted. If I had to pick one splurge, I’d pick the private vehicle over the largest room on safari. This gives you a more customized safari experience.

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Adorable elephant at Londolozi

Processed with VSCOcam with c7 preset

Elephants on an afternoon game drive

There have been some changes at Londolozi since I first visited, and they are great. I’ll dedicate a future post to Londolozi’s photographic studio, which rents Canon and Nikon compatible lenses. This makes Londolozi a top pick for travelers who want the best photographic safari experience.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset

Pride of lions feeding on a wildebeest

Game drives at Londolozi last about three hours in the morning and another three in the afternoon. If you’ve never been on safari, six hours of game drives seems like a long time to spend in a vehicle. But the time flies on a game drive when you get to see such amazing wildlife activity up close.

londolozileo

Thirsty leopard

The elephants and leopards were my favorite animals to view. And I got up close with quite a few of them.

Processed with VSCOcam with c3 preset

Londolozi is famous for the leopards

One of the highlights of any safari at Londolozi is the seeing the leopards. They are beautiful and amazing.

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Following a leaping leopard on a game drive

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Leopard on the move at Londolozi

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Leopard napping in a tree

Londolozi is located within South Africa’s Greater Kruger National park on the Sand River. This is also in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve.

Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Up close with an elephant on a game drive at Londolozi

Londolozi Game Reserve

Phone number +27 13 735 5653
Email address news@londolozi.co.za

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tips for Mountain Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park

Photo Dec 08, 9 38 28 AM

Mountain gorilla framed in Bamboo in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Last month I went to the central African country of Rwanda to go on a gorilla trekking safari. There are less than 1,000 mountain gorillas in the world, and the easiest ones to visit by foot are those living in Volcanoes National Park. Unlike other safaris, visiting the ten groups (or families) of mountain gorillas who live in Rwanda involves trekking by foot through the fields and rainforest to see the animals. The treks can range in length from 1-3 hours (each way) with a one hour stay with the group of gorillas you are assigned to that day.

4V1C9972

One of the gorillas I met during a trek

Gorilla trekking in Rwanda is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Permits are very expensive, at $750 per hiker per day for non-nationals. Most of the fellow trekkers we met got permits for two days. I went on three treks. Permits for peak season sell out months in advance. Mine were arranged though my hotel, the Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, which I can recommend highly.

Each morning the guides are assigned a family of the gorillas to visit, and the trekkers are divided up by language they speak and desired difficult of hike. Only eight hikers are allowed to visit each gorilla family. Your guide gives you an estimated length of how long to expect your trek to see the gorillas will be. The treks also range in difficulty (easy, medium and difficult). Rainy weather (and the resulting mud) can also affect the duration of your hike.

FullSizeRender (3)-2Processed with VSCOcam with 4 preset

Left: Soulful eyes on a member of the Right: Mountain gorilla framed in bamboo

All three days the estimates were longer than the actual treks turned out to be. This is because each gorilla family is also followed by a group of trackers who work during the night to find where the gorilla groups are on a given day. I also got the feeling it’s standard operating procedure to set the expectation for the trek so they can meet or exceed it to avoid trekkers complaining or feeling that they were mislead.

DSCF7351-min

Francois Birgirmana, the senior tourist guide

Other trekkers wanted to know how each day’s experience differed from the previous trek. While the treks were all different, the overall experience was about the same. One trek was shorter and steeper, another day we had the most famous guide, the famous Francois Bigirimana, who was very entertaining. The last day had the best light for photography. While different, each trek was memorable and justified the steep price of entry.

Photo Dec 08, 10 07 10 AMPhoto Dec 07, 9 45 00 AM

Left: Gorilla munching on bamboo Right: Sunlight and a mountain gorilla among bamboo

It’s safe to photograph the gorillas and make eye contact when they are eating. If the gorillas are moving, you don’t make eye contact. The guide(s) gives you the gorilla interaction protocol before you spend your hour with the animals, and clear your view when possible.

If you are going gorilla trekking in Rwanda, be sure to bring money to tip both your guide and tracker(s). It’s a great privilege to be able to see these amazing animals so close in their natural habitat, and the experience is better because of the guides and trackers. Tipping guidelines are US $20 or EUR 15 per couple for your guide and US $15 (or EUR 10) per couple for your tracker. The guides and trackers work hard to ensure you have a memorable experience and some of them are former poachers.

IMG_2405

The Hirwa gorilla group on the move

Comfortable hiking boots are the most important piece of gear you need to bring. Gardening gloves (which help protect agains thorns) and rain pants help protect against weather as well as safari ants, mud and thorns. I’ve never needed gaitors more. Mine were provided by my hotel. If you’re bringing your own, check I’d recommend Outdoor Research makes the best ones.

Video of the Hirwa gorilla family in Volcanoes National Park which I shot on my iPhone 6s.

While preparing for my trip I came across this very useful post by the Travel Sisters which explains the whole process and has some great packing tips.

DSCF7092

Gorilla populations are increasing, with the current population estimated to be in the 900s.

I was lucky enough to visit the Hirwa group of gorillas on my third trek. This gorilla family has one of the rare sets of living twin gorillas among it’s members. This group was the most playful of the groups I visited.

Photo Dec 08, 9 28 58 AMPhoto Dec 08, 9 56 48 AM

The baby gorillas are named in a ceremony each year. The local school children pick out their names.

The Hirwa group of gorillas were extremely playful

Photo Dec 08, 9 41 59 AM-min

Gorilla mama with a wide-eyed baby

My gorilla safari was booked through … & Beyond Safaris. Claire Eastwood of SmartFlyer is a luxury travel agent who is an expert in the area.

IMG_2451

The largest silverback gorilla in the world was not interested in posing for my lens

Photo Dec 08, 10 30 32 AM

Gorilla trekking takes you through the rural farmland of Rwanda before entering Volcanoes National Park

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gasura Village Tour in Musanze District, Rwanda

DSCF7189

The village children were out of school and very friendly

Last month I went to Rwanda for the first time. The trip was planned around mountain gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park. The gorilla treks took place in the mornings, leaving the days free after returning to the hotel, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, between 11:30 and 2 pm.

DSCF7192-min

I love how women in Rwanda boldly mix prints

The lodge’s managers, Kenya natives Thor Karstad & Alisa Bowen, thought we might enjoy going on a village tour with Theodore Nzabonimpa, a local guide from the Volcanoes Opportunity Association. It sounded very interesting so we asked them to set the two hour walking tour for the next afternoon.

DSCF7175-min

Two of the local village women I met during my walking tour

Gasura village is a short walk from the Sabyinyo Silverback lodge, where Theodore met us. I liked that the hotel has a connection with the local community. The Volcanoes Opportunity Association is a charity organization that was created to support local people through community tourism activities, like these village tours.

Theodore lead us along the roads and through fields to nearby Gasura village. He told us a bit about Rwanda en route. One of the first things you notice about Rwanda is how clean it is. Theodore explained that the country has monthly clean up day, Umuganda, where 80% of the population takes part of community service.

Photo Dec 06, 5 55 18 AM

One of the village’s elder women

We walked about 15 minutes from the lodge to village streets where Theodore started being followed by the local village children, who were not in school due to the December holidays. Theodore is a real Pied Piper and knew all the kids. The smiles of the village children were infectious.

Photo Dec 06, 6 06 00 AM Photo Dec 06, 6 06 04 AM

Left: Crafty women making baskets Right: baskets made by the village women

Some of the tour highlights included stopping at the homes of village women who make these incredible baskets by hand. These baskets came in a variety of colors and patterns, and take the women 1-2 weeks to make. We wanted to purchase a few and the women who made them charged us US $5 to $10 per basket.

2015-12-06 16.00.31

The kitchen of a village house in Gasura, Rwanda

We made stops along the walk to families that Theodore works with through the Volcanoes Opportunity Association, who welcomed us into their homes and showed us what real village life is. It was eye opening experience.

2015-12-06 15.39.432015-12-06 15.59.49

The Volcanoes Opportunities Association provides a mattress to each family it works with

We got to peek inside the houses of local villagers. The simple structures were usually divided into a bedroom and living area, with a separate kitchen. The homes were sparsely furnished, and hangers in the bedroom served as a makeshift closet. There was usually a second set of clothes, but not much more than that.

 

Photo Dec 06, 6 42 24 AM

One of well dressed village children

The village children were as curious about us as we were about them. They were absolutely fascinated when I would show them photos I shot with my iPhone, especially the moving live photos on my iPhone 6s.

Photo Dec 06, 5 50 10 AMPhoto Dec 06, 5 50 53 AM

Local women peeling potatoes in Gasura Village, Rwanda

My husband and I quickly realized none of these kids has ever seen a printed photo. We decided to take as many photographs as possible so we could have them printed and send them back to Theodore so he could to give them to the children.

2015-12-06 15.37.41

This little lady was all kinds of fierce

The children very much enjoyed having their photos taken, and my camera became a way to connect and interact with them that transcended language barriers. We all had fun interacting, and I got to understand the everyday lives of the villagers I met.

2015-12-06 16.36.11

Theodore gave a few items of clothing to local village children

Theodore knows what he is doing. He distributed a few items of clothing to the local children and I was struck by how polite the kids were. They seemed excited for each other, even if they were not the recipient of the item. This is a stark contrast to some of the more hands out, baksheesh-driven places I’ve visited.

Photo Dec 06, 6 26 58 AM

This girl carried the baskets we purchased on her head very gracefully

DSCF7209

Theodore balancing baskets and talking with the local villagers

2015-12-06 16.02.27

Waves are universal

2015-12-06 15.43.45

Kids playing ball on one of the village roads

Photo Dec 06, 5 56 41 AM

Portrait of a Rwandan boy

2015-12-06 16.25.46

Some kids were wearing their school uniforms, despite being on holiday

DSCF7221

Two gorgeous smiles on girls in Gasura village

Photo Dec 06, 5 51 36 AM

The local children were out of school for the holidays

2015-12-06 15.53.09

Kids were often giving piggy back rides to children not much smaller than they were

Photo Dec 06, 5 55 51 AM

My husband, Jeff, showing the kids live photos on his iPhone

2015-12-06 15.44.11Photo Dec 06, 5 44 12 AM

Left: Photographing the village women Right: the picture I shot

2015-12-06 16.23.28

Theodore took this photo of us with the group of village children

2015-12-06 16.17.54

The villagers enjoyed seeing the images I just shot

I loved geeking out over new technology with the local villagers.

DSCF7183

Theodore with a group of children in Gasura village

Going on a gorilla trekking safari was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So was meeting the local villagers in Rwanda and getting a feel for their lives. I think it made my trip more meaningful. I’d highly recommend taking a tour with Theodore if you’re planning a trip to Rwanda. It’s an unforgettable experience and a great example of how a small, focused charity really can help people.

Guide name: Theodore Nzabonimpa
Contact phone : +250 788 495 604
Name of the tour :Village walk
Village : Gasura village

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Stay on Mnemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania

DSCF6863

 Mnemba Island feels like the screensaver 

Every once and a while I find myself in a place that feels photoshopped. The water is too blue, the clouds so puffy they feel fake. It’s like being transported inside the screen saver on your computer. Mmemba Island, a private island resort off the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania is one of those places.

IMG_2854

White sand beaches and blue water on Mnemba Island

Mnemba Island is a favorite spot for honeymooners in East Africa. Located off the the north eastern tip of Zanzibar, Mnemba Island has 10 semi-open thatched bandas, or bungalows, along the beach. The maximum capacity of the resort is 20 guests. The island is only about 1.5 kilometers in circumference, so it’s really a getaway. The resort was about half full during my stay but I only saw the other guests at meal times. For all intents and purposes, it feels like a private island.

DSCF6850

The daily routine on Mnemba Island

Mnemba is geographically inconvenient. It’s a 90 minute drive plus a 10 minute boat transfer from Stone Town, Zanzibar. The resort has a private dive school and dive centre with all the gear you need for snorkeling and stand up paddle boarding.

DSCF6922

Sunset is magical on Mnemba Island

The diving is a big draw at Mnemba and the resort’s private dive school. They’ll set up an afternoon dive for you and your guests. Mornings can be spent snorkling the Mnemba Atoll, which you can reach right from the beach, before having breakfast. Or you can spend the day reading in your outdoor living room and losing track of time.

DSCF6901

Sundowners on the beach at Mnemba Island

The staff at Mnemba Island is great. It’s an & Beyond property and up to the brand standards. The staff knows how long you are staying on the island and goes out of their way to maximize your opportunities to have memorable experiences.

IMG_1725

Early morning calm on Mnemba Island

December weather on Mnemba was hot and humid. We snorkeled before breakfast, when the sun and temperatures were most pleasant. The water is lovely and warm. But the island is still rustic wilderness. Crabs and creepy crawlies are part of life here. They don’t bother you, but they also don’t respect your personal space.

DSCF6878

 A list of wildlife sightings on Mnemba Island 

The staff makes sure all your creature comforts are taken care of, and the laundry service was quick and much appreciated. There is wifi on the island. It’s not quick, but it’s definitely there and helps keep you connected to the rest of the world (should you wish to be).

IMG_1717 IMG_1720

Left: morning coffee at Mnemba right: homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast

The chef makes sure any food allergies or special requests are handled. The menu focuses mostly on the great seafood available in the area. There is a full service bar in the lounge where guests can gather for cocktails or tea during the day. If you’d prefer privacy, your butler will happily set you up for sundowners on the beach.

IMG_1721

Tropical fresh fruit on Mnemba Island

The design aesthetic of Mnemba Island is safari chic like the rest of the … & Beyond properties. The rooms, called Bandas, feature indoor/outdoor living rooms and bathrooms. You’re never really entirely indoors. But that did not matter even when we had light rain.

IMG_2849

I loved this “living picture window” at Mnemba Island.

Ceiling fans and mosquito nets kept the bugs out and the temperature pleasant. December temperatures were well into the 90s. The resort is closed in April, when the seasonal rains are longer.

DSCF6886-min

The indoor/outdoor bathroom at Mnemba Island

While Mnemba mostly caters to couples, one of the bandas is a family unit that can accommodate children. There was a intergenerational family group on the island during our stay on the island.

IMG_1680DSCF6885

Left: welcome coconuts in the Banda Right: Four poster bed with mosquito netting 

Mnemba was  great place for me to relax for a few days and get over jet lag before heading off on safari. Safari days are long and scheduled, so a few days on Mnemba allowed for some much needed relaxation.

DSCF6932

Comfy reading chair in a beach banda at Mnemba Island

The entire island is the resort, and it’s small (about ) and won the silver medal in the 2015 Responsible Tourism Awards.

DSCF6926-min

Beach banda at Mnemba glows softly after dark

Mnemba is best as an add-on destination before or after going on safari in east Africa. It will be most appreciated by dive and snorkel enthusiasts. It’s a lovely place to spend a few days in the screen saver.

IMG_2860

& Beyond Mnemba Island

+27 11 809 4300.
contactus@andBeyond.com

Rates start at $1155 USD per person

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Facebook YouTubeTwitterSubscribe via RSSSubscribe via RSSSubscribe via RSSSubscribe via RSSSubscribe via RSSSubscribe via RSSSubscribe via RSS