Victoria Falls & Zambezi River Canoe Safari

Zambezi River Hippo

It was August, the middle of the African winter when I set foot on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River,  The grass was brown, the trees bare and the midday heat was bearable. It’s the perfect time for game viewing and camping – the rainy season only starts in October.

I began my journey at Matetsi Lodge, upstream from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and enjoyed this luxurious camp and the game drives in open Landrovers. My bungalow had it’s own little pool and a great view of the Zambezi. From there I couldn’t hear or see another person – just the song of the crickets and the occasional laughter of a hippo.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls on the Zambezi RiverThe Victoria Falls are something to behold. The African people call it ‘Mosi-i-Tunga’ : the Smoke that Thunders. All my senses were bombarded – the roar of the water plunging almost 1000 meters, the spray that soaked me in minutes, the view into that unbelievable chasm … I was in awe. The famous bridge that connects Zimbabwe with Zambia is a favorite spot for Bungi-jumping. I decided to keep my feet on terra firma!

Canoe Safari on the Zambezi River

The canoe safari started at Lake Kariba, so I made my way there and spent a night in a rondawel at the shores of the lake. At night the hippos would graze on the lawns – so I stayed indoors and read a book! Next day we were off in a truck on our great adventure – it began with crossing the Kafue River on a hand-drawn pont (ferry) en route to Kiambi, our base camp.

After a hearty breakfast we climbed into our canoes and headed for Kualefu (the ‘Far-away Place’) – 90 km’s downstream. It was a 3 day trip along the shores of the Lower Zambezi National Park A strong headwind during the first few hours made my shoulders and arms protest, but after wonderful lunch on the river bank under a shady tree and a quick massage I was encouraged me to carry on. Luckily the wind subsided and it was easy going from then on.

Gently floating down the river we saw lots of birds – just the thing for me! The Fish Eagle is the national bird of Zambia and according to our guide, Dickson it calls every hour from dawn to dusk. There is nothing quite like sitting in the front of a canoe on a huge expanse of water and watching the eagles swoop down to catch their dinner – just a few meters away from us…

canoesThere were lots and lots elephants frolicking in the water and the odd buck and buffalo came down to drink. We even saw a lioness having a nap and of course we made a wide berth around all those hippos. Once though a hippo surfaced quite close to our canoe. I don’t know who was more surprised, but when the hippo gave a mock-charge we suddenly learnt that canoes could do low-level flying too! The adrenaline rush propelled us into some really quick paddling.

We had real washrooms at most campsites, but on one occasion we where taken to a sand bank in the middle of the river for a swim and bath. Morat and Dickson held onto the boat and kept an eye out for crocs while the other guides, Iton and Peter prepared a scrumptious dinner over the fire.

Canoe Safari along the Zambezi River

The best thing about this trip was the feeling that we were the only people in this wonderful world of water and wildlife. Saying good-bye to such a beautiful country was not easy…

Click here for a selection of Zambezi Experiences

Contact Vancouver Travel Consultant
Christine Boecker for your African Safari!

Volunteering on an African Game Reserve

by Claire Vetori:   If you are looking for excitement, adventure and a lot of fun on your trip then read on.  I have been a volunteer at a game reserve for four weeks now and it has exceeded my expectations.  Being an ecologist, I was looking forward to getting up close and personal with South Africa’s wildlife and I have not been disappointed.

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The main focus of each day is the family of lions on the reserve so we normally go out and find the male (he has a collar) at the beginning of each day and record the behavior of all five lions before moving on. This is my favorite part of the day.  Even if you are not a morning person (I am not) I am eager to get up at whatever time necessary   Wednesdays are the earliest starts before dawn as that is game count day.  We are responsible for recording data on the game in two zones on the reserve which can mean counting every animal depending on the type of count.  The impala can be very tricky to count.  Binoculars are well worth investing in before you come.

Twice a week we spend time at the orphanage in Patterson so come prepared to give the children there plenty of hugs and organize fun activities.  Last week we set up an obstacle course for them.  Even something as simple as ‘ring a ring a roses’ brings out lots of laughter.  One of the best days here so far involved helping the vet, William, dart two eland bulls before they were transported to another area.  Things did not go quite according to plan with both animals escaping from the boma once darted and we had to take cover in the vehicle.  The eland is the biggest species of antelope and it was a privilege to be so close to these animals. You learn very quickly that a call from William always leads to an exciting day.  A lot of other activities also occur during the week such as game drives, maintenance work (alien vegetation removal, road maintenance etc) so bring some sturdy gloves and plenty of energy.  You will be shown what to do for the practical work so do not be worried if you have not done this sort of thing before.

A trip here would not be complete without some sort of camping experience.  You need to watch out for the local wildlife of course including the off-duty rangers who like to play practical jokes on us gullible volunteers!!!  You have been warned.

You have the weekends to yourself but it is easy to hire a car or organize to be picked up and dropped off at places by the local shuttle service.  A group of us spent last Saturday in Port Elizabeth which has some fantastic beaches.  Addo Elephant National Park is also well worth a visit and you can hire one of the game rangers to take you round in one of the safari vehicles.  The local pub is just over the road and it stays open until the last person leaves.  Food wise everyone helps out and you just need to remember to fill in the food order each week.  You will meet a wide range of people during your stay which makes things interesting, but do not let that put you off as you often learn a thing or two.  I am having a great time and I will definitely be coming back to Africa again and again.  If you choose to spend time at the game reserve, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Contact Christine Boecker to arrange your volunteering experience in Africa.

How to Choose the Best Travel Agent

best travel agent“Good travel agents have an edge over almost any other seller of travel. They know what you want, they speak your language, and they’re there for you when you run into trouble.”

– Christopher Elliott, National Geographic 

“Botswana! Yip, you’ve heard about it. Lonely Planet named it the place to visit in 2016. So what is it about the country that has safari enthusiasts starry eyed when they mention it?asks Liquid Giraffe in Travel & Lifestyle.

Images of wildlife and stunning vistas lure you in from your TV or iPad, extolling the virtues of visiting this intriguing continent. And so, brimming with excitement and anticipation, you decide to make that special trip to Africa.

best travel agentFor North Americans travelling across the globe, it is going to be a sizable investment. The flight to Africa, the safari itself, the insurance, the new clothes in neutral shades of stone and khaki – they all add up.

So you decide to work with a reputable travel agent to help you make this dream safari a reality. There are many agents out there, but who is the best travel agent for you? And what can you do to make sure that your investment is secure and that you are getting the best, impartial advice and the best value for your holiday dollar?

 

Some tips on choosing your best travel agent:

  1. Is your travel agent reputable?
    Find out how long your travel agent has been in the business. Often those who have been at it longer, have more experience and credibility.
  2. Do your research.
    Do some background checks. Look at your travel agent’s website and social media pages. Are these updated regularly? Do read the client reviews and testimonials.
  3. If at all possible, stay near home.
    There’s no substitute for the personal touch. The ability to meet — to look your agent in the eye, to shake her hand — is something online agencies can’t match.
    The only exception to this rule is if you’re looking for a specialist travel expert. But even then, a trusted voice on the phone is preferable to the often unintelligible customer service associate you’re connected to when dealing with an overseas supplier.
  4. Does your travel agent know her stuff?
    Check that your travel agent has been to the areas you want to visit and has knowledge of the country. The best travel agent is one with an insider’s view of the destination and those who keep up to date with changes and developments.
  5. Is your travel agent insured?
    As a traveller, you will need to be covered by adequate medical and travel insurance. But your travel agent will need to be covered for those ‘whoops’ moments too. Have they got adequate liability cover? Is your payment secure? In nearly all cases, you will be asked to pay a 30% deposit for your safari. This is often a non-refundable deposit. Your final payment will be required two months before you travel. Be confident your agent will not disappear into the ether before your departure date.
  6. Ask for your travel agent’s Ts and Cs
    It is advisable to get the terms and conditions from your agent regarding payment schedules. And make sure your agent tells you what is included and what’s not! You do not want to confirm an expensive vacation only to find out at the last minute your agent charges additional fees, or that road transfers are not included!
  7. Are you getting the best value?
    Cheapest is not best and travel agents are not responsible at the end of the day for lack of service. Remember – you will always get what you’ve paid for.
    The best travel agents will work only with reputable global partners, and will go to bat for you if an airline changes its schedules or a connection is missed. Make sure you are getting the service you want and expect.

Says Christopher Elliott, National Geographic Traveler’s ombudsman:  “A competent travel adviser can be your greatest asset when you’re planning a trip. The key word here is “competent.” And let me also define what I mean by agent: I’m not necessarily talking about an offshore call center worker reading from a script or a hobbyist who paid a few hundred bucks for bogus agency credentials. I mean a bona fide, certified travel professional.”

 

Since 1996 I, and my team at TRΛVELBOECKER ΛDVENTURES create unique, customized experiential journeys around the globe – be it a solo jaunt, a romantic trip for two or a multi-generational family holiday.

best travel agentAs I am from Africa, I tend to specialize in African wildlife safaris, but am also very au fait with organizing exploratory trips to the Galápagos and Latin America, Polar ice-breaker expeditions, tailor-made journeys through Europe as well as small-ship cruises. Of course we are fully insured and licensed too. More about us…

Seeing that travel is not only my profession, but also my hobby I travel abroad at least twice a year. In between trips you will often find me attending a course or checking out expedition ships when they’re in port.  My credentials…

Just recently I returned from a conference on conservation and responsible, sustainable travel in Africa. Three days and over 50 fascinating meetings later I came away with a head full of new ideas and a heart full of rekindled passion for this incredibly vibrant continent.

Learn more about why you can rest assured, when choosing TRΛVELBOECKER ΛDVENTURES as the best travel agent for you…

Please don’t hesitate to contact me, should you have any questions about your next journey to foreign shores.  I speak your language and am your best bet, when it comes to planing your next off-the-beaten-track vacation!

Contact Travel Expert
Christine Boecker

to get started with your vacation plans

Namibia – more than just Dunes!

Namibia Bucket List

When people consider trekking to Africa or going on a safari, rarely does the Southern African country of Namibia make the list. In a country so vast, with so much to see (there are more than just dunes) here’s my Namibia bucket list which will ensure you see everything worth seeing.

1.Road Safari

Expect to find well maintained, open roads across the country… It is the best way see all the sights whilst appreciating just how sparsely populated and diverse the land is.

2. Cycle through Katutura

The township settlement of Katutura on the outskirts of Windhoek is a lively location. Book yourself on a bicycle tour through this area, it is a great way to not just see but feel apart of the vibrancy of it all.

3. Eat at Corner of 62nd in Windhoek

Hands down the best restaurant in the capital city. With only a handful of restaurants around they stand head and shoulders above the rest. Dear husband highly recommends the Lamb Shank

4. Day trip to N/a ‘an ku se Lodge

A 45 minute drive out of Windhoek takes you to N/a’an ku se, a sanctuary of amazing cuisine and tranquil surroundings. They also have multiple wildlife conservation projects, that offer you the opportunity to get up close with the wildlife on carnivore feeding tours, horse-riding through the bush, and Caracal or cheetah walks.

Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week, but their Sunday buffet lunch is truly special

Naankuse Road

5. Climb to the top of Heroes Acre

On the southern outskirts of Windhoek lies Heroes Acre, a war memorial, that showcases the history and struggle for Namibia’s independence and it also offers the best viewpoint of the entire capital city.

6. Watch an African sunset

Because nothing beats the golden hues of an African sunset.

7. Visit Spitskoppe

If you have the time it is a great place to go camping for a night or two, hike or watch the sunset but if not it is worth the short detour when you are heading between Usakos and Swakopmund (in the middle of nowhere). Walking among the giant granite peaks will make you feel like you are exploring another planet.

8. Quad bike through the dunes

When in Swakopmund go quad biking through the desert dunes… because it’s just pure fun.

Swakopmund

9. Go sandboarding

Not nearly as advanced as snowboarding, sandboarding in Swakopmund is as simple as lying on a thin wooden plank and slipping down the monstrous dunes. You may be shaking sand out your shoes and ears for weeks to come – but it’s so worth it!

10. Eat at Anchors @ the Jetty

Walvis Bay home to thousands of flamingos and Anchors, situated on the waterfront this restaurant serves the best seafood dishes and they are not shy with their portions – go hungry.

11. Paddle with the seals

Go kayaking among the seals at Pelican Point and if you are lucky, the dolphins may come out to play.

12. See where the ocean and desert collide

Sandwich Harbour is a short drive out of Walvis Bay and it is surreal. You stand between the wild ocean and serene desert.

13. Walk among the Quiver Trees

Pit stop outside of Keetmanshop to visit Quiver Tree forest, because it’s a forest like no other. And whilst there drive a few metres down the sand road to Giants Playground which is a fascinating place that looks like someone played rock Tetris.

14. Trudge through Ghost Town

A mere 62 years ago this German diamond mining town was abandoned and now slowly the desert is reclaiming it. The eerie town consists of uninhibited houses and once lavish institutions like a ballroom, casino, theatre, hospital, even an ice factory, that now lie knee-deep in sand.

Kolmanskop

15. Seek out the wild horses 

Down south in Aus, roams the desert horses, completely free, without fences, these feral horses have adapted to the harsh conditions of the environment.

16. Stargaze

Whether you purposefully go to stargaze or just happen to look up one night whilst sitting around the camp fire you will be treated to a twinkling night sky like you have never seen before.

17. See the second largest canyon in the world

After North Americas’ Grand Canyon, Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon and it lies in the far south of Namibia.

18. Twyfelfontein

One of Namibia’s UNESCO World Heritage site’s is an art gallery for rock carvings where at least 2,500 San Bushmen engravings are carved, making it one of the biggest collection in Africa.

19. Go in search of the Big 5

A visit to the countries largest national park, Etosha is where you can see the Big 4 (lion, leopard, elephant and rhino) and you will have to go up north to the Capri Strip in search of buffalo.

Elephants_erindi

20. See the magical Epupa Falls

In the Northern Kunene Region lies the Epupa Falls. What makes them so unforgettable is the contrast of the misty white falls against the arid desert landscape.

Epupa FallsImage source: Paul van Schalkwyk // Epupa Camp

21. Go on a water safari

The Caprivi Strip, an oasis in the northeast tip, is a stark contrast to the rest of the country and the best place to see the wide variety of water-loving game (hippos, crocodiles, sable, waterbuck and buffalo) that is largely absent from the rest of Namibia.

22. Go on a Hot Air Balloon safari

Imagine watching the sun rise over the Sossusvlei Dunes – all from your Hot Air Balloon, and landing in the middle of nowhere and enjoying a champagne breakfast.

23. See the wild Skeleton Coast

The hauntingly beautiful but infamously treacherous coastline of Northern Namibia is a graveyard for unwary ships whilst the land is one of the world’s most inhospitable and waterless areas, a place where white gravel plains and colorless dunes meet the cold, misty waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Skeleton Coast Namibia Image source: The Modern Nomad

24. Eat apple pie 

When on route to Sossusvlei, make a stop for some apple pie at Moose McGregors Bakery. Situated in the middle of nowhere is the town of Solitaire, that comprises of a gas station, a post office and this world-famous bakery.

25. Walk through the oldest desert in the world

And finally, what trip to Namibia would be complete without walking through the iconic Sossusvlei Dunes.

Mexico’s Sea of Cortez & Copper Canyon

pelicansExploring the Sea of Cortez and the Copper Canyon in Mexico left and indelible impression on me. During my stay I did some snorkeling in a marine preserve near La Paz on the Baja California. The water is crystal clear and warm and the only company we had were some very inquisitive pelicans. They have the longest noses (beaks)

Gray Whales migrate to these waters from the Arctic Circle during the winter months to give birth to their calves in the lagoons of the southern Baja. Whale watching expeditions are available during the winter months and these fully inclusive kayaking/camping trips would surely be an unforgettable experience.

copper2Then we boarded the “Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad” in the coastal town of Los Mochis and embarked on one of the most dramatic railway journeys I’ve ever experienced.

copper_peopleDuring the 7 hour trip the train winds its way over 37 trestle bridges and through more than 80 tunnels, climbing 7500 feet into the Copper Canyon. This rugged ‘Land of the Sierra Madre’ rivals the grandeur of the Grand Canyon and is a great destination for those who love the unusual.

Contact Vancouver Travel Consultant
Christine Boecker for your next vacation!