Sarah Williams, Gane and Marshall travel consultant & wildlife expert, travelled to Antarctica in December 2018 on a 3-week expedition voyage. Here she recounts part of that journey, in which she sailed from the southern tip of Argentina to the Falkland Islands.
It was a bright summer’s morning as I flew over the stunning snow-capped mountains towards Ushuaia, at the extreme south of Argentina. This southernmost town is the jumping off point for Antarctic cruises, as well as a lively hub in its own right, and staying for a few days prior to my Antarctic voyage I found time to explore, fitting in a cruise along the Beagle Channel, a visit to Tierra del Fuego Park, a ride on the Southern Fuegian Railway (the so-called “Train at the End of the World”), as well as lots of great food, including local specialty king crab!
Gane and Marshall Africa and wildlife specialist Sarah Williams recently returned from a one-week stay in the Republic of Congo. Read on for her account of her Congo safari, which she spent exploring the forests and waterways of Odzala-Kokoua National Park on foot and by kayak.
Snip, snip, snip…. This was the subtle sound made by the trackers in the early morning as we searched for a family of Western lowland gorillas. Unlike East Africa, where they use a low rumble to alert gorillas to their presence, these trackers use the unlikely sound of secateurs to announce themselves as they cut a path through the thick vegetation.
I was in the Ndzehi Forest area of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which surrounds Ngaga Camp in the Republic of Congo. This is where a research couple have been responsible for habituating two gorilla family groups – Neptuno and Jupiter – and where they are currently working on habituating a third family. The entire Ndhezi Forest area is well populated with gorillas, as there are many other unhabituated families in the region, though these latter groups tend to be nervous and are not often seen.
Our gorilla trek began early when our small group of four followed the tracker into the forest and to the gorillas’ last known location, their overnight nest. A path was then cut through the marantaceae – a large leafed plant and a favourite of the gorillas – until we were in a position to observe the gorilla family at a safe distance. We had a wonderful sighting of a whole family in a tree, for well over an hour, as they completely ignored us while enjoying the delicious ripe fruits!
Taking a break from the gorilla tracking, during the late afternoons we would accompany our guide for walks in the forest, where we saw troops of putty nosed and moustachioed monkeys, as well as several interesting birds, insects and flora.
After a few days in the jungle we moved on to Mboko Lodge which is situated a couple of hours drive away but in a completely different environment. The lodge stands in a huge expanse of savannah, punctuated by massive red termite mounds. The spacious accommodation overlooks an attractive river.
The activities from this lodge are predominately water based, with boat trips along the river, kayaking and walking through the bais and streams. Although you will get wet, the streams are clear and warm so I found these activities to be a highlight of my stay and not an uncomfortable experience.
On a long adventure walk we passed through several ecosystems, from thick forest where we saw forest hogs, forest elephant and colobus monkey, emerging into an area of savannah where we had to crouch low in the tall grass, while buffalo slowly walked passed us!
We then waded through a beautiful deep stream, the trees and flora surrounding us creating curtains of greenery; it was one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen and not what I expected of the Congo!
I have to make a special mention of the accommodation, which was of a much higher standard than I imagined. The lodges are unusual but in keeping with their surrounding and very comfortable, the cuisine is outstanding… be prepared for delicious meals served by delightful chefs and staff!
Travel to the Congo won’t appeal to everyone but if you have a sense of adventure and are looking for somewhere which is genuinely off the beaten track – often said but rarely achieved! – then you should certainly consider a Congo Safari… it just may surprise you, as it did me!
Botswana is unique among African safari destinations in that much of its wilderness has been divided into private concessions. While such concessions are common elsewhere in Africa, only in Botswana do they constitute such a large proportion of the country’s protected land (almost 50%). Unlike in Kenya or Tanzania, for instance, where the major public parks are huge and the private reserves comparatively small, in Botswana you can confine yourself almost entirely to private concessions and still experience the best wilderness areas that the country has to offer. This has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to have a good idea of the differences between Botswana’s private and public reserves when planning your safari, particularly if you intend to visit the Okavango Delta.
We wanted to share this short clip from Great Plains Conservation, which provides a wonderful insight into their Rhinos Without Borders project and the efforts being made to protect this severely endangered species from poaching.
The clips details a recent effort to airlift ten rhino from South Africa to the safety of the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
In the past month we’ve been lucky enough to receive two wonderful photo journals from clients who recently travelled with us to Tanzania. We thought we would share them with you.
Wild camping in the Serengeti
Josephine travelled to North Tanzania with her family and friends on one of our very special light mobile safaris. She was kind enough to share with us this wonderful account of her trip, full of her stunning photographs (that’s her cheetah at the top of the page!)
Solo adventure in remote Ruaha and the Selous
Janet explored the opposite end of Tanzania, visiting the southern parks of Selous and Ruaha while her husband climbed Kilimanjaro. Her account really highlights what makes Tanzania’s comparatively little-visited southern parks so special!
Many thanks to Janet and Josephine for their wonderful accounts and photos!
I am delighted to introduce the following blog by a recent client who travelled with us to the glorious Arctic. Gary’s writing really brings this icy adventure to life – we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did……. Continue reading Arctic Holiday – Guest blog→
For many wildlife enthusiasts a Polar Bear tour to see these great white bears of the Arctic in their natural surroundings is right at the top of their wish list. The polar bear is a stunningly beautiful and regal creature that just demands respect! It is the largest land predator in the world and an extremely powerful hunter. Its flat, oar-like feet make it a remarkable swimmer, while its acute sense of smell allows it to locate seats even under the ice. Watching a polar bear hunt its prey is an unrivalled wildlife spectacle.
May and June are simply magical months to go brown bear watching in Finland. The onset of summer marks the beginning of an unrivalled wildlife spectacle, the bear-viewing season. Finland’s 1,000-strong population of brown bear emerge from their winter hibernation and begin to roam the woods and mountains to the east of the country. Here, in the remote taiga on the border with Russia, you can watch these most elusive of creatures in the wild, as they play, forage, and mate in their natural habitat largely undisturbed by man. Few countries in Europe offer wildlife experiences to rival that of bear watching in Finland. Continue reading Bear Watching in Finland→
Those in receipt of our newsletter will know that we’ve just cut the cost of our brown bear and polar bear tours to Finland and Canada this year by as much as £600 per person. You can now travel to Finland for a weekend bear-viewing tour for £595pp before flights, or track Polar Bears in Arctic Canada for only £2695pp. These great offers on our bear-viewing tours are only available for a select period. Continue reading Great offers on Brown Bear and Polar Bear tours→
Africa Safari, World Wildlife & Adventure Holidays