Category Archives: Africa

African Safari

A Kenya Safari in Style

Story and Photos by Steve Juba

African SafariThere are many ways to experience the great animals of East Africa, but a luxury Kenya safari is a guaranteed trip of a lifetime. Luxury safaris utilize only the best lodges and game camps, the most experienced guides & drivers, excellent food, and a complete package from start to finish.

Imagine touching down in Nairobi about to embark on an adventure filled with giraffes, zebras, lions, wildebeest, and so much more! On a luxury safari there is no need to plan anything. As soon as you collect your luggage a driver and guide will pick you up and bring you to your first hotel in Nairobi. It’s best to plan at least one night here before heading off to the game parks to catch up on much needed R&R after long flights and layovers.

After a good nights sleep, you’re off in the early AM to a wonderful tree house lodge built on stilts in front of Mount Kenya. Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain in Africa (behind Kilimanjaro in Tanzania - safaris in Tanzania are also something to dream of). This lodge floats 2134 meters above sea level and is situated right in front of a huge watering hole. Each room has a wonderful view and balcony of this important life source for the surrounding animals. Kick back and watch the animals flock to and from the watering hole with camera in hand. It’s not uncommon to see elephants, baboons, gazelle & other antelopes come and go. In the evening enjoy dinner in a traditionally timbered dining room built on top of stilts giving the illusion of floating on top of the surrounding ancient rainforest. After dinner enjoy a massage or hang out on the rooftop viewing deck to witness the creatures of the night.

In the morning venture back down the mountain and across the equator. Enjoy the ride African Safarithrough the bush as the temperature rises heading to the north. Arrive at the luxury game lodge just outside the Shaba National Reserve. The luxury thatched bungalows are set amongst extensive gardens with a beautiful pool to cool off in. It’s set alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River, a haven for crocodiles! Don’t worry, an electric fence protects guests from the reptiles of the river without obstructing awesome views of these fierce predators and their habitat. This evening witness a performance of Samburu dance while feasting on a delicious, locally sourced meal. The next day is filled with safari! The game drives take place in the morning and afternoon when most animals are out roaming the plains. The Shaba National Reserve is teeming with elephants, reticulated giraffes, monkeys, zebra, lions, and the rare Beisa Oryx with huge horns!

African SafariThis adventure is only beginning because after a hearty breakfast you’re off to Lake Nakuru, the most famous lake among the Great Rift Valley and home to a massive population of over 1 million flamingoes! Arrive at the game lodge to a tasty lunch overlooking the flamingo filled waters. Your private bungalow features its own balcony and view of the lake. The lake and surrounding park is also home to Kenya’s first and largest rhino sanctuary (the park is home to the rare black and white rhino)! Head out on an afternoon safari in search of these great beasts along with monkeys and lions. At some point you’ll stop along the lakes edge to walk along the unique shoreline of Lake Nakuru. It’s known as a “soda lake” due to its high alkaline content supporting rare algae’s and specialized organisms. The fuchsia pink flamingos flock here in the millions to eat the specific types of algae that only grow in the warm, alkaline waters. During certain seasons there are so many flamingos you can’t even see the water but instead a constant wave of pink. This world famous spectacle is not to be missed and amazing pictures will be taken with ease!

This morning you’re off to the world renowned Masai Mara, home to the Great Migration. African SafariIf you’re lucky enough to take this trip during September & October you’ll witness the world famous migration of over 1 million wildebeest. All the predators of Africa come out for this annual March as you witness amazing hunts and the circle of life, Nat Geo style! After settling in at a luxury tented camp (and we mean luxury!), enjoy lunch before your first unforgettable game drive on the Mara. The camp is surrounded by tropical gardens and crystal clear streams. These are no ordinary tents; they feature king sized beds, ensuite baths, and electricity. Cool off at the swimming pool after your first game drive before dinner. The next day is spent entirely on safari in East Africa’s most concentrated stadium of wildlife. It’s here you’ll have the best chance at seeing the largest lion prides and elephant herds. The elusive leopard can also be spotted if you’re patient enough. Cheetahs, cape buffalo, wildebeest, gazelle, and so much more are around ever corner. This is truly a wildlife photographers dream. Tonight enjoy a final massage at the camps spa before bidding farewell to a luxury safari of a lifetime.

African SafariAbout the Author: Steve Juba is an experienced world traveler who plans unique, off the path trips for his PhotoFly Travel Club .The group goes on adventures like the one above every month. Steve resides in San Francisco where he leads local hikes in the Bay Area in between escorting international excursions for his travel club. His love for travel, photography, culture, and people make for a great travel companion and leader.  You can follow Steve and the club on Twitter: http://twitter.com/solotravelclubs and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photoflytravel

Top 5 South African Cities

Planning a city break in South Africa and not sure where to head to? Never fear, help is at hand! I was in much the same boat as you when organising my first urban adventure in South Africa, but after buckets of research I struck upon the ultimate list of top five cities to visit. To help save you time on sorting out your travel plans, I’ve written out my suggestions of the top 5 South African Cities below – I hope you find them useful!

Cape Town

Before I dive into my top five, I’d like to point out that all of the below are great candidates for luxury breaks in South Africa, thanks to their combinations of attractions and simply stunning hotels. So, this list is perfect for anyone hoping for a high-end holiday.

1) Johannesburg

Let’s begin with one of SA’s most vibrant and well-known cities – Johannesburg. For me, this is one of the ultimate city break destinations in the country, largely because it offers that classic mix of diversity, important cultural attractions and an amazing nightlife. Things not to miss in Johannesburg include the Apartheid Museum, Museum Africa and the Mandela Museum, as well as slick bars like Rock. It’s also worth checking out the fascinating local markets; Rosebank Flea Market is one of my favourites, since it’s where you can pick up some impressive African art.

2) Cape Town

Next up is Cape Town, which I think is probably just as famous as Johannesburg – if not more so. Cape Town has a special place in my heart because it’s got a great selection of attractions that really cannot fail to appeal to you – particularly Table Mountain, which forms the backdrop of the city.

It’s well worth ascending its summit (at 1,085 m) on the Table Mountain Cableway to see the amazing views. I also recommend going penguin spotting on Boulders Beach and exploring the cobbled streets of Bo-Kaap.

3) Durban

Half sophisticated city and half luxury beach resort, Durban is the place to go if you’re keen to enjoy utter indulgence on your holiday. This destination sits on the edge of a coastline lapped by the warm waves of the Indian Ocean, so it’s not hard to understand why this is such an amazing place for sunseekers.

When you’re not stretched out on the sand feeling decadent, you can slip into something slinky or sharp and head over to Wilson’s Wharf, which in the summer months puts on theatrical performances and concerts. It’s also worth remembering that Durban is home to some impressive colonial architecture; visit Durban City Hall to see this at its best.

4) Hermanus

The ultimate place to go whale watching not just in SA but in the whole world, Hermanus is an absolute must for wildlife lovers. Now, technically this is a town rather than a city, but it’s such an exciting and important spot that I’m hoping you’ll let me off!

If you do want to spot whales, come here between June and December, when they flock to Walker Bay. The beauty of whale watching here is that you don’t even need to step on to a boat for great views (though you can if you want) since these majestic creatures are visible from the shore.

5) Sun City

The final metropolis to make my top five is Sun City – and I should probably admit right now that this is another place that is technically not a city! This sprawling destination is in fact a very large resort, but for travellers like you and me it feels very much like a city – hence why I’ve included it.

This is a good place to choose if you’re travelling with your family, since it’s home to attractions like the Valley of the Waves water park. It’s by no means a resort only suitable for families, though, with luxurious touches like two 18-hole golf courses and stunning hotels making it perfect for couples too. As a quick tip, because Sun City is next to the Pilansberg Game Reserve, it’s easy to combine a city break with a classic South African safari here.

 

Modern Marrakech and Spring in Morocco

Jardin MajorelleWhen most people go to Marrakech, they like to go to the touristic circus of Jmma al Fna to see the snake charmers, the monkeys, the fortune tellers, the henna artists, acrobats, and madness that is the most Moroccan place on the planet while at the same time being the biggest caricature of what Morocco and Morocco are.  If you come to Morocco and you don’t go to Jmma al Fna to eat in the food trucks, watch the transvestite dancers, get hustled by the touts, and laugh at the crazy antics there – you are missing out on an extraordinary experience….

Morocco ApartmentThe thing is…in my humble opinion – once is enough. I’ve done it four times now. So, when I took a little micro-break to escape to Marrakech before we emigrate to the USA next week – I was looking for something different. For that reason, I was quite happy to rent an apartment from Only-Apartments which was a good clip from Jmma al Fna – and, in fact, not in the old medina. I realize that not staying in the old medina violates some sort of Moroccan tourist convention and not sleeping in an ancient riad is a travesty against foreign riad owners – but, and bear with me here…I live in Morocco and I am so incredibly tired of sleeping in shared living space, traipsing through narrow alleyways to find obsequious hosts who don’t understand I’m looking for space and solitude, and  sharing breakfast with strangers who have nothing in common with me besides also being strangers staying in a fancy riad with a friendly family taking too much care of us.

Marrakech ApartmentSo, I was very happy to stay in Anas Majorel Apartment just a stone’s throw from the magnificent (but definitely overpriced) Majorel Gardens. The apartment was done up in modern Moroccan which can sometimes feel like a boudoir from a oriental love epic, but was perfect for my needs. Two modern grocery stores within walking distance, a complete kitchen so I could indulge in my guilty pleasure of frozen pizza and fresh orange juice, and a cafe downstairs with wi-fi that just reached the balcony so I could answer important emails but not get distracted by dirty movies.  The view from the balcony was urban, but the blackout blinds allowed me to shut out the glorious pink buildings of Marrakech’s ville nouvelle when I was ready to sleep or watch American films on the big plasma screen televisions.  An actual drip coffee maker completed my sense of comfort and American ease as I drank gallons of coffee and watched a seeming marathon of Owen Wilson movies on MBC-Action.

Jardin MajorelleOf course, I didn’t spend all of my days cocooned in the apartment.   I met with friends, took long walks, and drank coffee in the many cafe’s of modern Marrakech as well. The weather was astounding and beautiful. Early April weather in Morocco is almost impossible to beat. Wildflowers and endless expanses of green fields blanketed the nine hours on the train from Fez to Marrakech and for once, my first class ticket put me in a compartment with no companions so I was able to read, listen to music, draw, paint, and eat sandwiches without feeling like I should offer some to the other inhabitants or curb my gluttonous appetite for Sour Cream and Chive pringles. Yeah, I ate the whole 3 inches of them!

I did finally visit the Majorel Gardens and since I’m from Hawaii – the cactus and bamboo didn’t blow my mind – though, it was certainly someplace I was happy to be – until the two busloads of chubby tourists arrived – they all seemed to have eaten the twelve inch stacks of pringles…

Trucks in MoroccoGiven the number of visitors, I would never recommend that anyone pay the 50 dirham entrance fee to the Majorel…EXCEPT… that inside is the best museum I’ve visited in Morocco. The Berber Museum is an additional 25 dirham and while it is a small museum it is exceptionally well curated, fascinating, beautiful, and will give you a finer appreciation for everything else you will see in Morocco. I’ve been here for five years, I’ve read ravenously about the place, I’ve written books about it…and on my two hour visit to the Berber Museum, I learned a huge amount. The Berber Museum is worth the entire 75 dirham price tag (because you can’t go to the Berber Museum without going into the gardens – tricky).

Installed in the workshop designed by Paul Sinoir in 1931 to Jacques Majorelle, the personal collection of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent is presented to the public.

 Since my arrival at Marrakech in 1966, I have never ceased to be fascinated by the Berber culture and art. Over the years I have collected, admired the art that spans several countries at once. Rightly, the Berbers have always been proud of their culture that have continued to claim despite the vicissitudes they faced. In Marrakech Berber country, in the Jardin Majorelle created by an artist who painted many scenes , men and women Berber, it is naturally the idea of this museum is imposed.    Pierre Bergé

Jardin de BalaI admit, I did pay one more visit to the old medina and Jmma al Fna. My friend Mike Richardson of Cafe Clock in Fez is building a new Cafe Clock in Marrakech. When it is complete, it will certainly create a new compelling reason to visit the old medina. We grabbed some Indian food at Les Jardins de Bala which turned out to be pretty delicious. I’ve had bad luck with non-Moroccan cuisine in Morocco, but in this case – the naan, chicken tiki masala, and saag were delicous. As for the restaurant and setting itself…just wow. Gorgeous.

Finally, for those who want to see modern Morocco and the creativity that lives and breathes – I might recommend a gallery that is not designed for tourists, not made for the public, and not listed in any guide book. The truck depot not far from Bab Doukala is a place to see and feel the real Morocco. The truckers were surprised to see me wandering among their rigs, taking photos, and looking at their art. Many of them were confused and began conversations with ‘No pictures” or “Go”. I was very grateful to be able to explain to them that I love their trucks and their art. My Arabic was sufficient to bring understanding and soon I was being led around, offered tea, and introduced to other truckers and shown more trucks.

I admit that in the hustle of touristic medinas, the glitz of posh hotels with submissive staffs, and the con of trying to buy any sort of handicraft or artifact – I have sometimes lost sight of what makes Morocco and Moroccans beautiful.  I am grateful for those awesome truckers for reminding me that the beauty of Morocco is of and comes from her people.

The Moroccan Spring is beautiful and almost made me wish I were staying.