The Green Season, One Of Africa’s Best Kept Secrets

The Green Season, One Of Africa’s Best Kept Secrets

The Green Season, One Of Africa’s Best Kept Secrets

   

Hippos-Africa

There’s no doubting that Africa’s wildlife is easier to spot in the drier winters. The thinning bush and the large number of animals congregating around the waterholes make this a choice time to travel. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t deny yourself a trip to the continent in the off peak months. 

While it might not always be seen as the best time to head off on a safari, the green season, which runs from November through April, still has its own plus points and these months are ideal for budding shutterbugs.

Better air and light conditions along with dramatic short-lived thunderstorms (an afternoon storm may reward you with a rainbow) make for impressive photography and the longer days mean you’ll be able to spend more time on the game drive.

 The summer rains also leave lush green grasses and flowering plants in their wake, the animal action bursting into life during calving season and migratory birds filling the skies with colour.

 wild-dog-packSouth Luangwa National Park, Zambia

 Zambia’s, South Luangwa National Park isn’t an obvious contender when it comes to choosing a top safari destination, but it’s often dubbed as one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world.  You won’t find all of the Big Five here, as sadly the rhino was poached to extinction some years ago, but its 9,050 square kilometres are home to 60 different animal species and over 400 bird species.

Going from no sightings to spectacular sightings, after ongoing conservation efforts the wild dog population has put  South Luangwa back on the map. These curious creatures are often spotted only a few meters away and green season is one of the best times to spot the packs in action. 

The concentration of wildlife around the Luangwa River, and its oxbow lagoons is among the most intense in Africa, and even more reason to visit, leopard sightings in the national park are outstanding. 

Where the walking safari originated, you’ll leave with a more intimate appreciation of the bush and proof of its bucket list status, baby impala, larger than life hippo pods and busy carmine bee-eater and stork colonies will fill your view finder.

 

Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya

buffalo-sunset-masai-mara

Photo Credit – Johnny Chen

Kenya’s world renowned Masai Mara Game reserve might be best known for the annual migration, however, when the rains head for the plains you won’t be disappointed.  

Make sure you bring enough memory cards as green season always holds some surprises, whether you happen to spy a cheetah chasing its prey, herds of wildebeest and zebra gathering beneath the tropical sun or a leopard climbing into a tree to dry off after an afternoon shower. 

This time of year tends to be less popular with visitors, so it’s also worth noting that you won’t be going bumper to bumper with other safari-goers hoping to capture the same wildlife on camera.

 

Okavango Delta, Botswana
okavango-delta-mokoro-poler

Green season is also known as the secret season, and the Okavango Delta certainly has its own in store over the summer. The game viewing becomes even more rewarding as the floodwaters withdraw, leaving more areas open for bush walking. 

Expect to see large numbers of sitatunga (a swamp-dwelling antelope), red lechwe, and a plethora of migratory birds including the Woodland Kingfisher. 

Mokoro safaris will still be available in the heart of the delta over this period, making this the ideal time to combine water and land based wildlife pursuits.

 

Kruger National Park, South Africa

kruger-nartional-park-south-africa-tourism

Photo Credit – South Africa Tourism

 Admittedly, dry season is one of the best times to view wildlife in the Kruger, but green season still packs some punch. 

Toward the end of November and into early December calving season will be well underway. Aside from spotting the newly born wildlife with their mothers, during this period the park also becomes a predator’s paradise and when the summer migrant birds arrive the skies will be awash with colour.

 The best time for a beach and bush combo, don’t forget to add in a few lazy summer days on Cape Town’s sun-kissed beaches, as highs of around 28 degrees celsius are the norm in January and February.

 

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

 zimbabwe-athena-cubs-3-lion-projectZimbabwe is another lesser known destination, but remember it’s going to be even more of a best kept secret when green season rolls around.  There will be plenty of big game viewing with substantial herds of zebra and wildebeest and a fair few predators on the prowl to boot.

The place to be if you’re an avid twitcher, you should definitely bring those binoculars as the number of bird species usually jumps from 400 to around 500! 

 

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BIO: Arno Delport is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Acacia Africa.  Uganda is one of his favourite African countries, he says “It has some of the most beautiful scenery and gorilla trekking is a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife viewing experience. He also has a soft spot for South Africa, his birthplace. Arno says, “With its amazing wealth of wildlife, beautiful beaches, friendly communities and hip city landscapes, South Africa has it all.”

This is a guest post by Arno Delport, Sales & Marketing Manager at Acacia Africa

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Mozambique: Go before the crowds

Mozambique: Go before the crowds

 

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Blessed by a pleasant tropical climate, warm ocean waters, exotic wildlife, scenic beaches, and great diving point breaks, Mozambique will soon make it to the list of top holiday destinations in Africa. Unlike other more touristy countries on the continent, this south-east African pearl is still unblemished by the negative side-effects of mass tourism: tourist crowds are few, beaches are clean and inviting, accommodation is decent and available for travelers of all budgets, and local culture has preserved much of its unique spirit despite globalization trends. If you want to visit Mozambique, the best time to go is now – and here are only a few reasons why you may want to explore this fascinating country before it turns into a large-scale tourist hub.

Holiday at the beach: Bazaruto and Quirimbas

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Though Mozambique inland has its charms, most holiday makers and honeymooners are drawn to the country’s coastline and neighboring archipelagos. Who would not be, after all? Stretching 1,500 miles along the Indian Ocean, local beaches are a true tropical paradise. Two most popular summer destinations include the archipelagos of Bazaruto and Quirimbas, both of them ideal for divers, snorkeling fans, and other water sports enthusiasts.

• Quirimbas Archipelago is mostly uninhabited, except for a few private islands with luxury resort facilities. Gathering over 30 small islands, the archipelago is popular among hard core divers across the globe: here, you can see impressive coral reef formations, over 350 species of reef fish, humpback whales, whale sharks, dugongs, and turtles.

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• Bazaruto Archipelago is another secret ocean gem of Mozambique. Unlike Quirimbas, though, Bazaruto comprises only six large islands soaked in warm and clean ocean waters. In addition to its vibrant marine diversity (in the mood for a quick race with dolphins?), Bazaruto is also home to Nile crocs, pink flamingos, suni antelopes, red duikers, samango monkeys, rare butterfly species, and over 150 bird species.

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Feel the positive vibes of Maputo

Mozambique’s main business and cultural hub, Maputo, takes pride in a unique mix of modern and quaint vibes. In the streets, you can see pieces of colonial architecture peacefully coexisting with 21st-century malls, flea markets, street vendors, and skyscrapers. Landmark historical and cultural sites every Maputo visitor should see include Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Fisheries Museum, Louis Tregardt Memorial Garden, National Art Museum, Museum of the Revolution, Central Train Station, Natural History Museum, Mesquita da Baixa, and Iglesia de San Antonio de la Polana.

As far as accommodation in Maputo is concerned, hostels and hotels are a go-to for tourists staying in the city for a few days. For longer stays, however, property rentals are a more affordable option.

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Gorongosa: Where wild creatures thrive

Though not blessed by multitude of wildlife resorts such as Kenya, Tanzania, or South Africa, Mozambique still has a few national parks up its sleeve. Apart from the protected wildlife areas in Bazaruto and Quirimbas, Gorongosa National Park has been popular among western tourists ever since the ‘60s: even John Wayne, Joan Crawford, and Gregory Peck checked it out! The park boasts impressive biodiversity, including populations of rhinos, elephants, buffalos, waterbucks, antelopes, zebras, hippos, lions, crocodiles, and over 500 exotic bird species.

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Make merry with the locals

Although its history is written in blood and tears, Mozambique is home to positive, friendly people who cherish a deep connection with their ethnic roots and their natural environment. The positive mindset of Mozambique locals is best reflected in numerous festivals that take place throughout the country on a monthly basis. If you are visiting Maputo in May, you may get a chance to take part in the three-day AZGO music festival. STRAB Festival is organized in Ponta Malongane in May, gathering over 20 R&B bands. Independence Day Festivities are staged in Maputo every June, while July is a month of music and arts, with FORR music festival in Ponta Malongane and TAMBO International Art Camp in Pemba featuring music, theatre and dance workshops and performances.

Are you ready to take a plunge into the lap of nature and freedom? In Mozambique, your wildest holiday dreams will come true, so make sure you explore this colorful country before throngs of tourists overtake its streets!

Blog by Oliver Hyde

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Top Places to Visit in West Africa

Top Places to Visit in West Africa

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West Africa is a huge territory with several dozen states and several hundred million inhabitants. It is the area with tragic history, bright future and friendly and hospitable residents. In this article I shared my experiences from this part of the world in the form of a short guide in which I will present sites that I enjoyed the most during my five months long stay in place where ocean, jungle and savannah meet.

Togo’s Cultural Diversity

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Togo is the gem of West Africa with its white sand beaches, voodoo shrines and untouched hinterland in the north. Tourists can visit Koutammakou, area populated by Batammariba people who live in villages, with tall mud houses, which are also known as the national symbol of this small and beautiful country. Capital city Lome is located on the coast and has some of the best night life in the whole West Africa, with bars and clubs around every corner. Tourists also enjoy Loma’s markets, regular and the voodoo one, which are great for meeting the locals who come here to meet, talk and shop. They enjoy spicy fufu (pounded white yams), a very popular fast food in West Africa, eaten with a variety of different sauces, from spicy ones with tomatoes and peppers, to the ones made with smoked fish, which is a real gourmet treat. Most popular souvenirs that tourists and travelers bring from Togo are voodoo masks and charms that enable travelers to bring part of Togo’s mysticism to their own home.

Mole Savannah, Most Visited National Park in Ghana

Ghana

Ghana

Mole National Park is located in the north part of Ghana and it is a place that resembles similar savannah parks from Eastern Africa. We arrived to Mole from Tamale, capital city of Northern Ghana. Place with friendly residents, traditional houses in the city center and a crocodile pond nearby, often visited by tourists. The only way to arrive to the park is in a 4×4 vehicle, which is also great for driving around the safari park and covering a much wider territory than tourists who decide to go around on foot (with an armed ranger of course). Some of the animals that can be seen in the park are: elephants, monkeys, warthogs, baboons, antelopes, etc. Inside the park grounds there is also Larabanga mosque, oldest and the best preserved mosque made by mud and stick in the whole Ghana.

Accra, West African Metropolis

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This is one of the most cosmopolitan places in West Africa, with high glass buildings, wide boulevards and dusty shanty towns painted in vivid colors. Both tourists and local residents are using Trotro buses to reach their desired destination, share some interesting conversations and hear life stories of people they see for the first and the last time in their life. Sad colonial history of this magnificent land and post-colonial pursuit for prosperity merge in Accra’s architecture. Some of the most notable places to visit in this city are: the National Museum, the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and the Independence Square. W.E.B. DuBois Memorial Centre is a place where this famous American author and civil rights activists decided to move to in his pursuit for equal rights for all, and where visitors can see his house, grave and personal library. One of the most interesting places to visit in Accra that completely describes the soul of this mosaic, composed out of life stories, people’s wishes and dreams is Kane Kwei’s Carpentry Workshop, where visitors can see some of the best works of Kane Kwei, famous coffin maker from the fifties, who carved his works into different shapes and was one of the most famous names on West Africa’s applied arts scene. Although Accra is a very hospitable and safe city, sometimes it is really hard to find the appropriate lodging. That’s why tourists are advised to arrange their stay in advance, through websites like MeQasa, where they can meet people who are renting rooms and flats.

Dakar, West Africa’s Entrance Point

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“Teranga” is the name for hospitality in Senegal, and Dakar is the right place to experience it. Senegalese are very proud and respectful people, who like to spend time with tourists and show them every corner of their beautiful city. In Dakar you will see many smiles on people’s faces and have frequent talks with very persistent sellers. It is the place to buy traditional West African clothes, including haute-couture worn by West African Muslims. There are lots of busy and vibrant markets in the city including the fish evening market that also sells souvenirs, as well as Marche Sandaga, one of the biggest markets in town that sells everything from live chickens and fish to Barcelona and Man Utd jerseys. Since Senegal is one of the bird-watching capitals of the world, Dakar surroundings are also great for bird lovers. Iles De la Madeline, are the only nesting site of red-billed tropic bird in Africa and tourists can also find genuine Pink Lake (Lake Retba), whose pink color is caused by the presence of cyanobacteria in the water. Lake Retba is also the popular salt harvesting site, and its salt can be a great souvenir to take home. City itself is the mixture of colonial and Arabic architecture, and some of its main sites are: Dakar Cathedral, Dakar Grand Mosque, IFAN Museum of African Arts, etc. African Renaissance Monument is another great and respected site inside Dakar that symbolizes the end of slavery and the fight against oppressive European regimes in their attempt to destroy the cultural heritage of African people.

Author bio:

Oliver Hyde

Oliver is an experienced business consultant from the UK. His job allows him to travel, which also happens to be one of his greatest passions. You can find him on Twitter

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MEMORIES FROM MOROCCO: CHEFCHAOUEN TO FEZ

MEMORIES FROM MOROCCO: CHEFCHAOUEN TO FEZ

“I am Berber. My home is south Morocco – the Sahara. After school I became a camel trekking guide, then I worked in a hotel reception and as a waiter. Next I trained as a four-wheel driving guide on desert tours. Today I am a driver.” Ali, our personal host from Your Morocco Tour, was happy to see us when we finally walked through the sliding doors at Tangier Med’s extensive commercial port. It was the first time we’d opted for a private tour, yet loading our backpacks into Ali’s silver 4WD Prado, I’d never felt more at ease arriving to a foreign country – in Africa no less.

We’d left our sailing boat finally my darling safely moored in La Linea, Spain and boarded a two hour ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar – the narrow, jaw-like opening to the enclosed Mediterranean Sea. We’d been yearning to visit Morocco for years, so we intended to do it justice. With little notice, Your Morocco Tour efficiently tailored a diverse 10-day itinerary to fit our timeframe and interests. And in Ali’s hands, we were gifted the perfect host.

CHEFCHAOUEN: THE BLUE CITY

Nestled amongst the Rif Mountains in Morocco’s northeast, Chefchaouen has carved a unique identity thanks to the legacy of its past Jewish residents. During the 1930s, in honour of their religion and spiritual homeland Israel, the medina (old town) was painted a charming blue-wash: Judaism’s colour of the sky and heavens.

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With the onset of winter, it was damp and cool when we arrived. Though in return, tourists were thin on the ground. Wandering the working village amongst its peaceful non-assuming locals, we immediately felt immersed in the essence of Morocco.

As if having walked straight out of a Star Wars sequel, local men were cloaked in woollen, pointy-hooded djellabas and gathered in simple cafes sipping sugary mint tea. Muslim ladies, veiled in colourful silk hijabs, carried soft bags filled with produce or chatted quietly together in laneways.

We peered inside miniature workshops of painters and fabric weavers, watched warm loaves collected from communal bakeries and sidestepped loaded donkeys delivering supplies to tiny shopfronts. After hiking to the Spanish mosque for a “panoramic view” (a favourite reference of our guide Ali) the sun broke through the clouds and on returning to the mesmerising medina, it was awash with a dozen new shades of blue.

Chefchaouen, MoroccoChefchaouen, Morocco-6

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Our 10-day itinerary allowed for two nights and one full day to explore the enchanting mountain town. Hidden down a quiet blue lane, toward the top of the medina, was welcoming Dar Meziana – the first of several characterful accommodations pre-arranged by Your Morocco Tour. Intricately painted doors, mosaic tiles, ornamental lamps, tasselled cushions, well-worn rugs, silver teapots and a swath of other textures and colours decorated the small property.

Up several flights of narrow stairs, the view from our large room was over Chefchaouen’s flat rooftops where elderly women tended to their aerating laundry or chicken pens. Awaking to the spellbinding Islamic call to prayer, we devoured our first of many Moroccan breakfasts: a multi-plate collection of spreads, sweet and savoury breads, eggs, olives, soft cheese, dates, strong coffee, mint tea and juice.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

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Chefchaouen, Morocco-5

MOUNTAINS, VALLEYS AND MUD-BRICK

Any extended tour of Morocco will include a lot of driving. Fortunately, I found the journey to be just as intriguing as each destination. We drove through working townships and observed locals go about everyday life, untainted by the influence of tourism or many Western conveniences.

We passed countless people commuting on donkeys and mules; farmers tending fields with horse and plow; women hauling water pails from communal wells; trucks piled precariously high with cargo and nomadic Berbers herding sheep across desolate rock tablelands. In villages, markets were bursting with activity; Muslim ladies strolled together cloaked in flowing black niqabs; men spilled onto mosque sidewalks, knelt in Friday prayer; dusty-kneed teenagers played soccer on rocky fields and smiling children walked each other to school.

Middle Atlas Mountains-5Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco-6

The landscape too was constantly changing. From the rolling Rif Mountains, to endless fertile-soil farming fields on approach to Fez and the snow-strewn Middle Atlas Mountains – where temperatures dipped to six degrees, before reaching mid-20s later that evening in Morocco’s Sahara Desert. The diversity was enthralling. Film-worthy backdrops unveiled around every bend (not surprisingly many have been shot there) including regal kasbahs and intriguing mud brick villages swathed with palmeries (oasis-like date palm plantations) cast against a red rock panorama.

Granted our smiling guide Ali knew interesting back roads, vantage points for the perfect “panoramic view” and narrow-street communities that could be visited by car, but not by tour bus, as well as enthusiastically answering endless questions on everything from geography to religion, politics and local insights.

Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco-5

FEZ: THE ANCIENT CAPITAL

Some may consider the only way to explore Fez is to follow your nose and concede to being hopelessly lost. But when time is limited we didn’t wish to miss the heartbeat of Fez’s beguiling and chaotically disorientating medina. With our Fassis guide Khalid – a local celebrity with friends and hand-over-heart handshakes around every corner – we walked for hours through a twisting labyrinth of narrow streets and seemingly dead-end lanes.

Originally the capital of Morocco before it was moved to Rabat in 1912, Fez el-Bali – Fez’s 1,200-year-old UNESCO protected medina – contains over 9,000 lanes, alleys and thoroughfares and is the world’s best-preserved medieval city. Living inside the impenetrable ochre walls, 150,000 Fassis are serviced by a myriad of markets and tradespeople who continue to function as they have for centuries.

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Fez, Morocco-13

Fez, Morocco-15Fez, Morocco-16Sunlight filtered through bamboo and cedar awnings; below, Fez’s bustling bazaars were fascinating and overwhelming – a pure sensory assault. There were souks (markets) dedicated to blacksmiths toiling in charcoal-blackened workshops over red-hot steel and anvil. Nearby in Place Seffarine, a rhythmic orchestra emanated from coppersmiths hand-pummelling copper cooking pots. “They are deaf by the time they turn 18,” Khalid explained. Down the next lane cobblestones were slick with water and dye, as men re-purposed old denim and clothing, then hung to dry.

Atmospheric produce souks sold dates, almonds, olives, lychees, pomegranates, chillies, spices, cured camel meat and snail soup. We wandered souks selling colourful silk bobbins, hand-tailored djalabahs and silverware in every imaginable variety; one store simply piled high with a jumble of silver teapots. Entering a corner of the medina occupied with butcheries, halal-killed goat heads were gathered in stacks and, underfoot, cats scampered and gutters ran with blood.

Narrow streets of the medina were often dark, dank and wafted with odours, yet so incredibly raw and real. Simply put, Fez was mind-blowing and one of the most intriguing places I’ve ever visited. Nothing was manufactured for tourism and we felt transported to another era and a fascinating world that time forgot.

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Earlier in the day Khalid and Ali drove us to the ceramic district – another of Fez’s renowned handicrafts. In sheds lining the streets, men sat cross-legged on concrete floors, painting or chipping tiles for mosaics. In the visitor display compound, ceramics were hand-moulded, fired, painted or chipped up and crafted into mosaic tables, mirrors and water fountains. Morocco is an interior decorator’s dream and we left wishing we’d a room or courtyard at home waiting to be revamped.

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Nothing assaults your nostrils like the pungent odour of animal excrement. Ammonium-filled vats occupy a quarter of Fez’s 11th century Chaouwara Tannery complex where cow, sheep, goat and camel hides were soaked to remove flesh and hair. Braving the leather-shop viewing platforms without handfuls of mint leaves offered to mask the stench; the sprawling scene below was again like being transported to another time. Born into the backbreaking trade, hardened men were often barefooted and barelegged, labouring waist-deep in dye as they plodded and hand-churned the leathers for suppleness. Its filthy, grungy work and the smell wafts for blocks. Though Fez leather is world-renowned and the tannery’s location inside the medina walls is a captivating cultural treasure; functioning unchanged since medieval times.

For two weeks hides are soaked in vats filled with colourful natural dyes: cedar wood for brown, poppy flower for red, indigo for blue, henna for orange, wild mint for green, mascara for black and “very expensive” is saffron for yellow leather. Next skins are dried on the surrounding rooftops and hillsides, before again being washed and soaked, then distributed to local leatherworks and distant factories for manufacture and export.

We accessed the tannery viewing platforms via strategically positioned leather markets selling jackets, belts, handbags, shoes and babouche slippers.

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Traditional Moroccan riads (houses or palaces) are constructed around a sundrenched communal courtyard, pool or garden. Balconies, doors and shuttered-windows faced inwards where Muslim women could unveil and seek privacy.

Fez’s first tourist riad opened in the mid 1980s and in recent years increasingly more homes are being converted to these striking guesthouses. Along a chipped stucco laneway, a tiny sign and heavy brass studded door indicated our arrival to grand Riad Layali, our comfortable and peaceful two-night escape amid the maddening medina.

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WATCH: exploring Chefchaeoun and Fez’s atmospheric medinas (select 720p HD via the cog wheel and wait to buffer).

Adventures in Morocco: Fez to Chefchaouen

Beguiling Morocco is a vast land of contrasts: dramatic landscapes, captivating history, deeply-rooted faith, disorientating ancient medinas, chaotic markets, intriguing kasbahs and mud-brick villages; awash with a kaleidoscope of colours, music, mix-matched fabrics and textures, smells and spices.

Our tour continued to include enchanting destinations such as a desert luxury camp at Erg Chebbi and Morocco’s Sahara, Todra and Dades Gorges, Ait BenHaadou, the High Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh and sea-side Essaouira. In two weeks we barely brushed the surface though, guided through the eyes and insights of our Berber host, Ali, we departed Africa moved and culturally enriched.

En route to the Sahara, Morocco

ABOUT: Brooke Darling is an Official Outbound Ambassador. While she’s been travelling on and off for the past 14 years, in 2013 she departed on the most challenging journey to date: sailing the high seas aboard the family sailboat finally my darling. Two summers were occupied exploring every nook and cranny of the European Mediterranean coastline, followed by three weeks sailing across the Atlantic Ocean to the blissful Caribbean; which is where you’ll currently find her. Brooke has captured a wealth of photographs from this Aussie family’s sailing adventures which you can see on her blog: www.finallymydarling.com, or follow via Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and Twitter.

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