Around the campfire with Howard

Learning to Fly

Flying is part of life in the safari business in Africa, and between living in the Masai Mara and dashing to the kids’ sports matches at their school in the Rift Valley, it made good sense to become a pilot myself. Flying safaris are also a wonderful way to see this spectacular continent and they will be a big part of the next 5 – 10 years of our explorations and adventures out here.

Since passing my exams and completing my Private Pilot’s Licence, I’ve done some early flights in a Cessna 172 which have taken me to home in the Mara, as well as the Rift Valley, both near Magadi as well as up near the kids’ school – how we do school runs in Africa!

July in the Masai Mara

My first safari in Kenya this month was rewarded with some truly impressive big cat sightings! Several of our resident Mara leopards were on good form, and the entire “camp” pride of lions settled down on our driveway during the second night under canvas. Our final drive to the airstrip was even exciting as we watched a beautiful female cheetah stalk and bring down a young gazelle – what a way to cap a wonderful few days! This was particularly special as the safari was with an old school friend from my early years in Sydney; such a treat to show off the amazing wildlife to him and his family!

 

Safaris in Southern Africa

This June and July we’ve had some really fun safaris through Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. These are all wonderful countries with experiences that complement what so many of you have experienced here in East Africa. We enjoyed time floating above the desert dunes of Namibia’s Sossusvlei and watching desert lions, cheetahs, and elephants who’ve adapted to one of the harshest environments on the continent.

The dunes around Sossusvlei

Zimbabwe is a country that is home to not only the world famous Victoria Falls but also the equally impressive, and much more remote, Gonarezhou National Park. Greater than 1 million acres, this is one of the true wilderness locations left on the African continent. We went on a walking safari with Shackleton & Selous Fellow Ant Kaschula, and stayed in his private camp along the Runde River, where we had four days of superb bush walking and some of the finest elephant viewing available. One evening while sipping our drinks by the campfire, a very relaxed bull foraged within 15m; his insouciance captivating us, and providing a surreal vision in the full moon’s glow. Gonarezhou is very much a destination for those wanting to feel the rich beauty of Africa up close.

Islas Galápagos

In May, Steph and I followed the equator around to Ecuador for a voyage through the wildlife mecca that is the Galapagos Islands. Charles Darwin visited the archipelago in 1835 and brought the world’s attention to one of the most fascinating destinations on our planet; one that remains so to this day. The Galapagos is well protected and thoughtfully managed; with a great boat and guide, and the right itinerary, you can spend 10-14 fun-filled days enjoying the splendid diversity of life that inspired Darwin himself.

Personal highlights included the marine iguanas and the abundance of turtles we swam with during our many snorkeling sessions. The sheer proximity of so many large reptiles, not to mention the fish and birds all around, makes these islands truly unique, and provides a constant reminder of why these volcanic isles have become so popular to visit.

Our entire expedition was meticulously put together with our Shackleton & Selous Fellow Macarena Iturralde, based down in Quito, Ecuador & was also guided by our S&S Fellow Jonathan Green.

Photos courtesy of Jonathan Green.

The elephants of Amboseli

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Late last year, I returned to our exclusive Kiturua Conservancy near Amboseli National Park. Boasting the greatest density of elephants in all of Africa, a close encounter with these graceful beasts is expected here. And we were not disappointed! Within minutes of our first evening game drive, we came across three large bulls right outside of the camp.

We followed their slow saunter until they reached an acacia tree covering, where they stopped to eat.  With seemingly no effort, one bull pulled down a massive branch, startling all of us to point that I actually jumped out of my seat. Unbothered by loud thud of the branch or our presence, these gentle giants went about their dinner as we watched from the Land Cruiser, just a few feet away.

From this vantage point, we were able to really see each elephant as an individual – it was easy to note the scars and markings of each bull. Noticing these features proved to be useful, as the next day we were able to quickly identify and say “jambo” to the same elephants during our search for more game. 

It’s a real treat to spot the same animal more than once during a safari, and it’s even more special to watch in such close proximity. It adds an almost indescribably layer of intimacy to a safari. I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for these same elephants when I return to Amboseli later this month.

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Watching one of the three bulls

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Coming across two more elephant families

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A visit to India

One of the privileges of being part of a global travel community, is the opportunity to visit some truly outstanding destinations around the world.

In November, several Fellows of our Shackleton & Selous Society chose India to convene for our annual meet up. The chance to explore the rich history of Delhi, the colorful temples and forts of Jaipur and the wildlife of Ranthambore, left us with a positive and powerful impression of this country’s diversity. Mandip & Anita Singh were delightful hosts, providing insights and connections that personalized the experience for all of us.

Perhaps my lasting impression of India is the spectacular color which greets you at every turn; the Amber fort, the ivory palaces, the people and their countless combinations and shades of dress. A really pleasing assault on the visual senses!

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Mandip Singh takes us through India

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Jaipur’s finest hotel

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Ranthambore’s biggest cat

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Asian elephant in Jaipur

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