Top 5 places in Africa to see endangered animals – A Luxury Travel Blog

Most animals in Africa are to some extent endangered, though the term usually refers to an animal that is in danger of extinction. The causes are mostly linked to mankind – poaching for food or the pet and “medicinal” trades, as well as loss of habitat due to climate change and competition for land.

High quality safaris positively contribute to helping endangered animals and the people who live nearby.  Many of the best safari lodges are located on private reserves where the owners actively partner with local people to conserve wildlife and where tourism income reaches those people. This greatly reduces poaching, protects land for wildlife and encourages people to see animals as beneficial rather than things that eat crops or provide dinner. Here are stories of five lodges doing just that.

Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa – Pangolins

It’s estimated that 1 million, primarily Asian pangolins were trafficked in the last ten years to meet demand for scales prized for their supposed medicinal properties, and meat which is seen as a delicacy.  These curious and delightful looking creatures are also found in Africa where the threat is increasing, partly due to climate change causing habitat decline.

Tswalu Kalahari is pioneering the restoration of natural habitats on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. It’s a fascinating place to see arid savannah creatures like eland, brown hyena, meerkat and African wildcat. Valery Phakoago is based there, conducting  PhD research into ground pangolins, so we can understand these shy creatures better. On a walk you may see a young pangolin curl into a protective ball as you approach before she relaxes and moves off to forage for ants and termites.

Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Uganda – Mountain gorillas

The world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in the misty volcanic hills where Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo meet. The main threats to these mighty creatures are accidental snaring, hunting and disease. Determined efforts by national parks staff and high value tourism mean that populations have risen from 620 in 1989 to just over 1,000 today, with numbers growing steadily in all three countries.

Making your way through the “King Kong” setting of mists, forests and volcanoes in search of gorillas is an experience of a lifetime, and the eventual encounter is awe-inspiring. The cost of doing so is high, but funds from gorilla permits help pay for armed rangers and conservationists who protect these great primates. From Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge in Uganda, you can enjoy a unique morning spent in the company of a semi-habituated gorilla family, assisting the conservationists in their efforts and experiencing one of the most raw and immersive encounters imaginable.

Namiri Plains, Tanzania – Cheetah

A cheetah can go from 0 to 60mph in three seconds, rivalling the fastest sports cars. Watching one of these lithe felines racing across the plains in pursuit of a gazelle is to see poetry in dazzling motion. But speed is not everything – in the Serengeti and Masai Mara combined there are only 300 cheetah compared to 3,000 lion. The smaller cat suffers from competition with its bigger cousin and is killed by farmers and hunters. Cheetah cubs are seen as the ultimate feline pet in some middle eastern countries.

In the remote plains of the eastern Serengeti, over an hour from any other camp, is Namiri Plains. Previously closed to the public for 20 years, the oceans of undulating grasslands surrounding camp have been the setting for a successful cheetah conservation project. Now, with exclusive access to the area and with the option to meet the research team, it is one of the best places in Africa to see cheetah, alongside the other cats and the entire range of Serengeti wildlife. Incidentally, the 10 stylish tented suites are unashamedly luxurious, each with a bathtub on the deck where you can drink in the pristine views while soaking in bubbles.

Old Mondoro, Zambia – Elephant

You’re staying at the intimate and charming Old Mondoro Camp. As you watch elephant roaming past you to swim and wallow in the Zambezi waters, you would be forgiven for thinking that these mighty creatures can hardly be endangered. Yet the 30,000 people who live in villages adjoining the Lower Zambezi National Park see elephants trampling and stealing crops, while ivory poachers from neighbouring Zimbabwe and Mozambique are a constant threat.

The exclusive little camps dotted along the Lower Zambezi are actively involved in ‘Conservation Lower Zambezi’, which operates anti-poaching patrols. They have also developed state-of-the-art ideas like helping village farmers grow “chilli fences” which deter elephants from entering farmland and produce a cash crop for sale. An elephant can knock over a tree and chew his way through a huge branch but they can’t stand chillies!

Lewa Wilderness, Kenya – Rhinoceros

Between 1960 and 2000, southern Africa’s rhinoceros population declined by a staggering 98% due to poaching for their horn. It’s still a serious problem as 80 rhinoceros are poached each month, especially in South Africa where the largest number of survivors remain.

One strategy for saving rhinoceros is to move them to safer locations, and in recent years some have been taken to Botswana where the vast private wildlife concessions and smaller populations of people provide safety. In Kenya, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy pioneers rhinoceros conservation in dynamic partnerships with local communities and are so successful that they are able to send rhinos to newer conservation projects. You might stay at Lewa Wilderness Lodge with the Craig family, founders of Lewa, where these wonderful creatures and a spectacular array of other wildlife are thriving.

Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.

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Discover the 5 best wines in Provence – A Luxury Travel Blog

Let me take you on a journey. It’s a COVID-19 era trip without flights, trains, suitcases or hotel rooms. And with travel banned, rather than a passport, you’ll need just a glass of wine and a little imagination to hop over borders.

The French speak of tipicité and terroir. By this they mean that a well-made, carefully crafted wine should speak (sing even) of the region in which it was made. If you are one of the many ruing a cancelled trip to Provence or planning a future one, then head to your nearest wine merchant (on-line if you are not allowed out) and ask for any of the following wines.

They number among the finest in Provence and include a bottle of red, dubbed the Petrus of Provence and of course the region’s most iconic rosé. Uncork the wine well in advance, select your best glass, find a comfortable chair, pour, lean back and relax. Take your time and inhale the sticky scents of the garrigue, wild thyme and rosemary, pines oozing amber sap, and the cooling minerality of the fierce mistral. Taste the beating sun in the spicy ripe summer fruits, with their overtones of tobacco and comforting oak. Close your eyes after every sip and picture yourself in Provence.

Domaine Tempier, Bandol, red

Bandol reds are among the most sought-after wines in Provence. The vines of the appellation are planted in a sun-drenched valley behind the busy Mediterranean port of Bandol. There are numerous producers but the reference for the region remains Domaine Tempier, which produces one of the finest reds in Provence.

Bandol red ages and improves for up to twenty years. Over time the tannins grow progressively rounder and wonderful smoky notes evolve. 2015 Bandols (the last exceptional vintage in Provence) are currently drinking beautifully. Domaine Tempier itself is an unprepossessing place. An old farmhouse sits at the end of a line of plane trees. There’s no pomp or ceremony just a simple tasting room in a converted annex. Visiting is a wonderfully low-key affair, and this allows the wine to do the talking. Lucky tasters may be offered the opportunity to sample a flight of Tempier reds going back twenty years or so.

Chateau Vignelaure, Aix en Provence, rouge

The Chateau claims it is the jewel in the crown of the Coteaux d’Aix en Provence. The renowned American wine critic Robert Parker once commented that the Chateau was “one of the showpiece properties of not only Provence, but also France”. All this fuss stems from the uniqueness of the wine. Back in the 1960s George Brunet grafted from Cabernet Sauvignon vines which were used to produce the classed Bordeaux Chateau Lagune.

Much to the scepticism of the wine establishment at the time, he planted outside Aix en Provence, with the stated aim of making a wine in the Bordeaux fashion. Locals laughed as they knocked back the pastis and gossiped about the folly of the owner. They all agreed that the heat of the south of France would be too much for the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, predicting an explosion of sugars and a highly alcoholic undrinkable wine. However, today, Chateau Vignelaure reds top Provencal wine lists. They age for 20 years just like fine Bordeaux and if you shut your eyes as you drink it is possible to believe you are on the banks of the Garonne. When travel re-opens make a point of visiting the cellars which extend over 5 subterranean levels. As well as the thousands of bottles of wine, there is an art gallery.

Domaine du Paternel, Cassis, white

Seek out a bottle of Domaine du Paternel, and let your imagination take you to the sunny Mediterranean. In Cassis, pastel coloured houses line the port side and cafes bustle as chefs prepare the local speciality – bouillabaisse fish soup. A crescent of hills holds the town in a sheltered embrace, and on the sun-burnished slopes above the port, vineyards produce Provence’s finest whites. The wine is so popular it frequently sells out by the end of the summer. Even sniffy Parisian restaurants will find room for Cassis white on their Carte du Vin. A bottle of Domaine du Paternel, the appellation’s signature vineyard, is the perfect accompaniment to any seafood. Buttery in colour it offers a wonderful minerality which rolls across the palate as you taste. The wine stands up to the saltiness of oysters, just as well as it accompanies the softer flavours of a grilled sole.

Domaine Ott, Chateau Romassan, Bandol, rosé

Before Whispering Angel came along Domaine Ott was the go-to rosé of Provence. Slightly deeper in colour than the young usurper, it has a fuller flavour and is a better accompaniment to meals. Pair it with a barbecue or some Thai food to discover the wonderful depth and fruity notes of this stand out Provencal rosé. It is made (predominately) with the Mourvedre grape, which so distinguishes the reds and rosés of Bandol. The wine arrives in a beautifully shaped bottle, tucked in at the waist like coca-cola bottles, and with curves in all right the places. Back in the naughty nineties Kate Moss was papped, topless, sashaying along the beach in Saint Tropez with the distinctive bottle poking from her bag. Sales of pale rosé took off and have not looked back since.

Domaine Milan, Saint Remy de Provence, Le Jardin, rouge

One for the purists because Domaine Milan is a natural wine producer. Not only are chemicals not used in the fields (this earns you the title organic wine in France) but also there are no chemicals used in the fermentation of the wine. It is old fashioned wine making and a horse tills the soil between the rows of vines. Dubbed the Petrus of Provence, Le Jardin, shares the same soil (blue clay) and Merlot grape as, Petrus, its more well-known Bordeaux cousin. The wine always sells out and owner Henri Milan makes it a rule to increase the price every year with the aim of matching Petrus. A nice marketing quirk is that your personal price is locked in for life when you purchase your first bottle.

Jamie Ivey is the Founder of Provence Small Group Tours. Provence Small Group Tours is a boutique travel agency offering luxury small group tours of Provence.

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5 virtual reality tours of South America… for keeping your wanderlust dreams alive – A Luxury Travel Blog

Though travel may not be an option in these times of coronavirus, the situation doesn’t prevent us from knowing the world from isolation in our homes. Even if you’re bored of lockdown strolls in the local park, you can still explore several South American destinations with just a click.

On several virtual mini-tours, you can get to know these sites’ landscapes, wildlife, and other amazing attractions. And while these can’t be visited physically today, they will, nonetheless, be waiting for you in the months ahead.

1. Galapagos Islands

For more than 125 years, National Geographic researchers, explorers, writers, and photographers have brought the world to its members and readers. Through coverage of their expeditions, they share their passion and their insider’s perspective.

On their virtual 360° tour of the Galapagos Islands (the archipelago situated off the coast of Ecuador), NatGeo takes you to this isolated haven of biodiversity that’s home to a dazzling array of birds, reptiles, fish, flora, and mammals that you won’t find anywhere else – as Charles Darwin himself well noted.

Go snorkeling with sea lions, soak up the sun alongside basking marine iguanas, and marvel at the natural beauty of an extraordinary Galapagos Islands cruise!

2. The Amazon

Explore the earth’s largest tract of tropical rainforest – the Amazon. A visit here is possible thanks to Conservation International, a nonprofit group that created this immersive, fully narrated, 360° virtual reality video.

Traveling to the Amazon, you’ll end the tour with a deeper understanding of why the rainforest is so crucial to humankind’s survival.

3. Patagonia (Chile/Argentina)

The wind-worn plains of Argentina’s Patagonia region are as wild and rugged as can be, so exploring them on foot, on horseback (or now virtually) is a total joy. You’ll be greeted with views of cloud-wreathed mountains, the grassy steppe unfolding for mile upon mile and indigenous forests that stand in clusters as if they were bracing the cold together.

In an immersive video tour created by the Guardian, viewers can explore the varied landscape of the protected Parque Patagonia, passing turquoise rapids, a rainbow and a pack of guanacos roaming the plains.

4. Machu Picchu (Peru)

Hang out with the VagaBrothers as they take you on a 360° whirlwind adventure to the legendary “Lost City of the Inca.”

No trip to Peru would be complete without witnessing this one and only destination – Peru’s long-term tourist attraction that regularly ranks as the world’s best travel experience. A truly incredible ancient wonder, Machu Picchu is without comparison or equal, and has provided life-long fascination and endless intrigue for generations.

Led by a pair of informative and entertaining adventurers, this virtual tour of the “Lost City” provides you with not only a real step back in time and glimpse into a long-forgotten world.

5. Iguazu Falls (Brazil/Argentina)

A highlight of any trip to Brazil — and indeed South America more widely — the Iguazu Falls are a mighty marvel to behold. This is Mother Nature at her most powerful, as dozens of tributaries from the main Iguazu River converge in unforgettably spectacular fashion at the ominously named “Devil’s Throat,” a genuine once-in-a-lifetime experience to witness.

On a virtual tour of this natural wonder, Go Ahead Tours takes you to both the Brazilian and Argentine sides of the Iguazu River, where no less than 275 separate drops make up the falls, a 1.8-mile-wide crescent of cascading water gushing over forested cliff edges, some standing up to 90 yards high. This adds up to a good 2-minute introduction to a truly great natural experience.

>While COVID-19 continues to take its toll, hopefully these tours will at least moderate the cabin fever we’ll all be experiencing over this period. In the meantime, stay safe and keep dreaming..!!

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.

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