Category: Africa

Picture of baby elephant - Kenya
AfricaInspiration

Helping Protect Kenya’s Elephants and Giraffes

The unspoiled savannahs of Kenya are renowned as an untamed wilderness. Left unchecked, nature would take its course and species would thrive and falter as they may. But many animals are vulnerable to human interference such as poaching, loss of habitat due to human encroachment, deforestation and drought. These all threaten populations—and nature’s balance—leaving newborns as orphans and herds at risk. That’s where two remarkable organizations come in to play, and you’ll visit them in a small group during our Kenya Safari Exploration.

Nurturing Orphans Back into the Wild

It is not uncommon for the passionate and caring staff of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) to encounter baby elephants alone in the bush. In many cases, they have wandered from their families, victims of poaching; the little calves have been spared because they have not yet developed ivory tusks. To aid these helpless creatures, the DSWT developed the Orphans’ Project, the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

The adorable little elephants are brought to the Trust’s farm-like clinic, fed a steady diet, and taught skills by the staff that they will never learn from their mothers and aunts, all while being eased out of the trauma of loss. It is a remarkable thing to witness as these miniature beasts bond with staff, following them wherever they go.

Since its founding, DSWT has successfully reared many dozens of elephants and reintegrated them into the wild. In fact, many wild-born calves are reared in the wild by elephants that were nurtured back to health at the clinic, a hopeful note that the work they do has fostered entire generations.

Elephants are not the only focus of DSWT. Black Rhinos, also prized for their tusks, are also raised at the clinic. The Trust’s efforts also include anti-poaching initiatives, protecting the natural environment, raising community awareness, animal welfare and veterinary services to wild animals. Founded in 1977, it is one of the pioneering wildlife conservation organizations in East Africa.

Saving a Threatened Giraffe

Nearby, the Giraffe Centre, part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, has similar goals to support the preservation of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. It is thought that just several hundred of these majestic creatures remain in the wild, and you just might spot some during your game drives at Lake Nakuru National Park, distinguishable by their creamier-coloured coat and the “white stockings” above their hooves. Curiously, the Rothschild’s is also the only species to have five ossicones on its head, the stubby antler-like horns. (Most other species only have two.)

Founded in 1979 as a breeding centre, the Giraffe Centre today also serves an educational role for Kenyan youth. Their vision is to create a harmonious relationship between man and nature by raising awareness in the next generation. This is no small task considering the vast natural resources and wildlife that Kenya hosts. But all of the centre’s programs are offered to schoolchildren free of charge, so we can hope that this brings greater access and with it much success.

The focal point of the centre is the giraffe feeding platform, a raised structure that lets you meet these gentle giants at their level. Inside, an auditorium offers talks to guests. And it is all charmingly decorated with artwork created by local schoolchildren – inspired by the giraffes, of course!

The small group size of our Kenya Safari Exploration lets us experience these remarkable places at their fullest. We hope you’ll visit them with us.

AfricaNews

Helping Protect Kenya’s Elephants & Giraffes

The unspoiled savannahs of Kenya are renowned as an untamed wilderness. Left unchecked, nature would take its course and species would thrive and falter as they may. But many animals are vulnerable to human interference such as poaching, loss of habitat due to human encroachment, deforestation and drought. These all threaten populations—and nature’s balance—leaving newborns as orphans and herds at risk. That’s where two remarkable organisations come in to play, and you’ll visit them during our small group Kenya Safari Exploration.

Nurturing Orphans Back into the Wild

It is not uncommon for the passionate and caring staff of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) to encounter baby elephants alone in the bush. In many cases, they have wandered from their families, victims of poaching; the little calves have been spared because they have not yet developed ivory tusks. To aid these creatures, the DSWT developed the Orphans’ Project, the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

The adorable little elephants are brought to the Trust’s farm-like clinic, fed a steady diet, and taught skills by the staff that they will never get to learn from their mothers and aunts, all while being eased out of the trauma of loss. It is a remarkable thing to witness as these miniature beasts bond with staff, following them wherever they go.

Since its founding, DSWT has successfully reared many dozens of elephants and reintegrated them into the wild. In fact, many wild-born calves are reared in the wild by elephants that were nurtured back to health at the clinic, a hopeful note that the work they do has fostered entire generations.

Elephants are not the only focus of DSWT. Black Rhinos, also prized for their tusks, are also raised at the clinic. The Trust’s efforts also include anti-poaching initiatives, protecting the natural environment, raising community awareness, animal welfare and veterinary services to wild animals. Founded in 1977, it is one of the pioneering wildlife conservation organisations in East Africa.

Saving a Threatened Giraffe

Nearby, the Giraffe Centre, part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, has similar goals to support the preservation of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. It is thought that just several hundred of these majestic creatures remain in the wild, and you just might spot some during your game drives at Lake Nakuru National Park, distinguishable by their creamier-colored coat and the “white stockings” above their hooves. Curiously, the Rothschild’s is also the only species to have five ossicones on its head, the stubby antler-like horns. (Most other species only have two.)

Founded in 1979 as a breeding center, the Giraffe Centre today also serves an educational role for Kenyan youth. Their vision is to create a harmonious relationship between man and nature by raising awareness in the next generation. This is no small task considering the vast natural resources and wildlife that Kenya hosts. But all of the center’s programs are offered to schoolchildren free of charge, so we can hope that this brings greater access, and with it much success.

The focal point of the center is the giraffe feeding platform, a raised structure that lets you meet these gentle giants at their level. Inside, an auditorium offers talks to guests. And it is all charmingly decorated with artwork created by local school children – inspired by the giraffes, of course!

The small group size of our Kenya Safari Exploration lets us experience these remarkable places at their fullest. We hope you’ll visit them with us.

AfricaMediterraneanNews

10 Unmissable Egyptian Experiences

Tour like an Egyptian! Here are 10 extraordinary things you can only do in the land of the Pharoahs.

1.Exotic breakfast foods

Say goodbye to boring cereal and hello to foul medame, one of the most delicious breakfast foods on earth. Made from cooked broad beans, this traditional dish is usually served alongside boiled eggs, fresh pita bread, falafel, a side salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a feta-like cheese called mish. The beauty of this meal is that it’s low-GI and packed with nutrients so it will give you loads of energy for the day ahead.

2. Bellydancing

Egypt is home to Raqs Sharqi, otherwise known as traditional Arabic folk dancing. While many people are familiar with the glitzier performance style popular in restaurants in Cairo, there is also a strong culture of what’s called a baladi; a group dance that is central to Arabic celebrations such as weddings.

3. Swimming, snorkelling and diving

The warm waters of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are home to teeming marine life, making them among the top scuba diving sites in the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a diver – there’s plenty to see with a snorkel. The Red Sea is renowned for its high salt concentration (approximately 35 per cent saltier than most seas) which makes it extremely easy to float. Many people claim the mineral content in the water is good for rheumatism and arthritis – bonus!

4. Cruise the Nile

The Nile is the longest river in the world, with the northernmost section flowing through Egypt and into the Mediterranean. Cruise through the fertile delta of the Nile Valley and witness the birthplace of Egyptian civilisation. The rich alluvial soils and plentiful water in this area allowed people to grow crops and settle in one place, signalling a critical shift from a nomadic lifestyle to an agricultural society.

5. Temples

Egypt has a temple for everything. In true Indiana Jones fashion, you can tiptoe through some seriously ancient architecture. Make sure you head to the temple complex of Karnak, the Temple of Edfu – devoted to Horus, the falcon-headed god of war – and the Greco-Roman Temple of Kom Ombo.

6. Haggle at the markets

Head to a market and test out your haggling skills. In amongst souvenirs, the real gems are jalabeyas, traditional dress-like garments worn by both men and women. The women’s versions come in a range of colours with embroidery and beading. Stock up on comfy leather slippers, woven Bedouin blankets, boxes inlaid with geometric patterns and silver jewellery.

7. Visit the Pyramids of Giza

The last remaining wonder of the ancient world, the three pyramids at Giza were built by three Pharaohs approximately 4500 years ago. Scientists still can’t be sure how they built them (and alien conspiracists think that there was intergalactic intervention) but one thing you can be sure of is that they are big. The largest pyramid is147 metres high and is made from 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing between 2.5 and 15 tonnes.

8. Visit the Valley of the Kings, Luxor

Home to the tomb of Tutankhamun, this archaeological site contains 63 known tombs and chambers. While many of the treasures were looted in the 18th Century, the hieroglyphics depicting Egyptian funeral rites remain.

9. Check out the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

You’ve seen the temples and tombs; now get a good look at the items that were found in them. Enjoyed an air-conditioned stroll past some serious antiques including gold jewellery, eating bowls, mummies, toys and Tutankhamun’s treasures.

10. Visit White Desert National Park
If you prefer your monuments nature-made, White Desert National Park’s chalk columns and quartz and fossil-littered valleys are sure to inspire awe. Home to the famous Crystal Mountain – a monolith made from quartz – this desert is unlike any other with its ghostly chalk outcrops.

Want a tour that captures all of the above and more? Check out Gate 1 Travel’s new 12 Day Classic Egypt with 7 Day Nile Cruise here. Also you can save $100 per person on your booking when you quote promo code EGYPT2019 by the 31st of March, 2019.

AfricaAsia & PacificEuropeLatin AmericaMediterranean

9 of the Best New Tours for 2019

Are you working on your travel wish list for 2019? Dreaming of sleeping in a riad in Morocco or knocking back a schnapps in the Swiss alps? Learning Salsa in Colombia or surprising your friends by heading off to Uzbekistan?

So where to go and what to do?

Check out our new tours visiting hot destinations:

1. Italy and Croatia

Quote lines from Gladiator at The Colosseum in Rome, taste local wines in Tuscany, Florence, Venice and Pisa, and head off Croatia to bask in the azure beauty of the Adriatic sea.

Did you know that Marco Polo was born on the Croatian island of Korcula? Visit his birthplace, explore ‘King’s Landing’ aka Dubrovnik just in time for the last season of Game of Thrones, and take in the natural beauty of the famed blue cascades in Krka National Park.

More info about the 17 Day Italy & Croatia with 7 Day Adriatic Cruise here.

Split_Croatia

2. Costa Rica

Do you know the way to San Jose? Not to be confused with San Jose in Northern California that The Carpenters sang out, San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and is a perfectly preserved Spanish Colonial town.

From this starting point, head out to an artisan village to learn about local art and craft, visit a dormant conical volcano, knock back some Costa Rican coffee on a plantation tour and put your head in the clouds at Monteverde Clouds Forest.

More info about the 14 Day Kaleidoscope of Costa Rica here.

Costa Rica

3. Colombia

Apart from having some of the most beautiful people and pumping salsa clubs in the world, Colombia is also one of South America’s undiscovered treasures.

Eat an empanada while you wander around Cartagena’s Colonial District, marvel at pre-Columbian gold at the Gold Museum, and view Fernando Botero’s famous paintings and sculptures.

More info about the 8 Day Affordable Colombia here.

4. Morocco

Enjoy a home-cooked meal in Fez, make like Bogey and Bacall in Casablanca, and wander through Chefchaouen, Morocca’s famous Blue City.

Connect with your nomadic spirit when you traverse the desert along an old caravan route, and marvel at the acrobats, performers, and snake charmers in Marrakesh’s Djemaa el Fna Square.

More info about the 18 Day Absolute Morocco here.

Sahara, Morocco

5. Switzerland and the Rhine River Cruise

The vantage point from a river or canal gives you a totally different aspect on a country. Glide under 14th Century medieval bridges in Lucerne, pass castles and cobbled streets straight out of fairytales, and enjoy a tipple in a quaint wine tavern in Rüdesheim. See the tiny storybook Principality of Liechtenstein from the bow of your ship and hop off for a close-up look at Marc Chagall’s stained glass window in the Fraumunster Church in Zurich.

More info about the 17 Day Classic Switzerland with Rhine River Cruise here.

6. Southern Italy, Puglia and Campania

Get off the beaten track by heading for the heel of the boot. This is the lesser known part of Italy is the birthplace of pizza and the home of Pompeii. Enjoy long farmhouse lunches, stroll through UNESCO Heritage-listed cobblestone streets and visit medieval ruins. Round out your trip with a visit to the Amalfi coastline for a look at one of the world’s most loved views.

More info about the 11 Day Southern Italy, Puglia & Campania here.

7. Central Europe

There is nowhere hotter than Central Europe for small group touring. With a burgeoning cafe culture and bohemian art scene, the Czech Republic is the place to hang out. On the flipside, take in Slovakia’s perfectly preserved town centres, castles and convents for a glimpse back in time at 13th century life.

More info about the Heart of Central Europe Discovery small group tour here.

prague-night

8. Uzbekistan

Did you know that the oldest copy of the Koran in the world is held in Tashkent’s Muyi Muborak Madrasa? Visit this historic marvel before you head off down the Silk Road to explore the cultural treasures of this little known corner of the world. Learn how to make a traditional Pilav when you share dinner with a local family, relax in a yurt camp in the desert and take your credit card on an adventure at the ancient Siab Market.

More info about the Uzbekistan Discovery small group tour here.

9. Turkey

Wander through the back streets of Istanbul tasting regional specialities like stretchy icecream made from orchid roots, look up in awe at the dome of the Blue Mosque, and master the art of shopping in the Grand Bazaar. For a change of pace, spend a day cruising around Fethiye’s 12 Islands, explore an ancient underground city at Kaymakli and explore traditional Turkish Ottoman houses in Safranbolu on the coast of the Black Sea.

More info about Turkish Odyssey small group tour here.

And the best thing? People who book any of the above 2019 tours by 2nd December and quote the promo code CNNEW2019A to receive a $300 discount per person.

AfricaMediterranean

The Perks of Work: Alluring Morocco

It’s not just the Sahara that is turning Morocco into one of the hottest travel destinations of 2018. Old world medinas, stunning geometric architecture, oasis landscapes and lively souks are just some of the delights you’ll encounter when exploring energetic Morocco.

We caught up with Fern from the Gate 1 Travel team, who recently enjoyed the 15 Day Morrocan Allure small group tour and got the inside scoop on her trip!

Q: What were you looking forward to doing the most in Morocco?

A: The thing I was looking forward to the most about visiting Morocco was camping in the Sahara and it completely lived up to my expectations. The camel ride at sunset along the sand dunes was so peaceful, it felt like we were on another planet. It was really fun wearing the traditional Berber Tagelmust (also great for keeping the sand out) and joining in on the evening entertainment when we got back to camp.

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Q: What was the highlight of the trip?

A: It’s really hard to pick one highlight as this trip just kept surprising me. There was something everyday that made me think each day was better than the last. If I had to pick though I would say it would be exploring the city of Fez and staying in the riad there. The medina of Fez is a beautiful labyrinth of sights and smells that maintains an ancient charm. It makes you feel like you’ve travelled to another time! They have a saying in Morocco that ‘you should never judge a house by its door’ and I think this perfectly encapsulates the surprising nature of Fez. Even the plainest of doors can lead to the most beautiful interior. Discovering these hidden gems made Fez one of the most interesting locations to explore.

Q: What did you like about travelling in a smaller group?

A: What I really liked about travelling in a smaller group was the ease of moving from one site to another. The time saved waiting for everyone to get on and off the bus could be spent exploring and allowed us to fit more into our itinerary. Another plus of travelling in a small group was being able to stay in boutique style accommodation that was unique to Morocco. On the tour we stayed in a riad, a kasbah, a ksar and a berber camp which gave us a unique insight into different styles of Moroccan housing.

Q: What was the Tour Manager like?

A: Khalid was amazing! He was considerate, knowledgeable and made sure everyone on the tour was enjoying themselves. One day I was feeling a little unwell and couldn’t eat lunch so he made sure I had some fruit to take away with me. He really looked after everyone and made us smile with his jokes and cries of ‘make it happen’ whenever we stopped at a restroom.

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Q: What was your favourite meal or what food did you have that you felt was very authentic?

A: My favourite meal of the trip was the chicken tagine we had during our home hosted dinner in Fez. I definitely have a soft spot for chicken and olives! It was great to experience a traditional Moroccan dinner and get to know the family that hosted us. Being able to meet locals and ask questions about their daily life is one of my favourite parts of travelling so it was great to be able to have this experience on the tour.

chicken tagine

Q: What tips do you have for first-time travellers to Morocco?

A: Be prepared for an assault on your senses! Morocco is colourful, loud and full of smells – some good (incense) and some bad (tanneries). Embrace the madness and you will fall in love with this country that is full of surprises. Also save some money for souk shopping, leather is incredibly cheap!

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If you’re thinking of joining a tour in Morocco you can browse our website for a whole range of options to suit your preferred travel style and budget.

If you book a spot on the 15 Day Moroccan Allure Tour by the 30th of October you can save $300 per person when you quote promo code FBMOR300A at the time of booking. Call 1300 653 618 if you have any questions and we look forward to welcoming you to Morocco soon!

AfricaRegions

South Africa: Epic Beauty, Warm Cultures

The Rainbow Nation‘ only begins to describe the diverse splendours of South Africa. Staggering vistas, magnificent wildlife, a thriving viniculture, grand echoes of the colonial era, fascinating history and a beautiful and inspiring mix of people who speak eleven languages.

South Africa is also one of the most popular Gate 1 destinations with Australian travellers. If you’re looking for a travel experience that fills your senses and checks off every box on your list of travel must-haves, South Africa could be for you too!

Johannesburg, City of Gold

Johannesburg was founded as a gold mining town. Today it stands as the capital city of South Africa’s wealthiest province of Gauteng, which translates as ‘Place of Gold‘. But the city’s mining history has long, dark chapters – the darkest of which was the establishment of Soweto (South-Western Townships) as a township apart from its parent city of Jo-burg. The intent of the ruling white minority was to segregate native African mine workers into a ghetto of ramshackle huts.

It’s not surprising that two of the nation’s most outspoken anti-apartheid advocates lived in Soweto: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their former homes – Mandela’s also serving as a museum that traces his life’s history – are a highlight of any visit to Soweto. But there’s another thing that stands out in this township: Today, it is a diverse and active multi-class community. The city’s – and country’s – past is memorialised at the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. Named for the 13-year old boy shot by police during a peaceful protest in 1976, it is a powerful museum that chronicles the country’s struggle to abolish apartheid and in particular the 1976 uprising and events surrounding the protests.

Sweeping, Spellbinding Beauty of the Northeast

It’s not only South Africa’s history that’s rich and stirring. Many vistas along the breathtaking Panorama Route evoke Eden itself. The 16-mile-long Blyde River Canyon, for instance, cuts through a lush landscape of towering monoliths skirted in green. By some accounts, it is one of the largest canyons on earth thanks to the dizzying heights of its red sandstone walls. The meeting of the Blyde River and the Treur River forms Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a series of dramatic waterfalls, plunge pools and cylindrical rock formations that have been sculpted over millennia. But perhaps the most dramatic vista, as its name implies, is God’s Window. This magnificent view, best seen on clear days, stretches forever, tracing the Drakensberg escarpment’s sheer cliffs that spill into the low veld.

While the Panorama Route reveals some of South Africa’s breathtaking landscapes, Kruger National Park is the country’s haven for an astounding array of wildlife. Kruger boasts some of the most spectacular game viewing on the planet and our Gate 1 guides always keep their eyes peeled for ‘The Big Five‘ – buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion and leopard.

Kruger, though it is South Africa’s most famous, is not the country’s only wildlife game reserve. In the northeastern reaches of the country, the Mabula Game Reserve immerses you in the quintessential Africa, with sightings of magnificent wildlife at close range. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, a hilly reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal near South Africa’s east coast, also hosts a vast diversity of flora and fauna, and with its conservation efforts it can lay claim to the largest population of white rhino in the world. In the same province and closer to the Indian Ocean’s shores, the nearby St. Lucia Estuary harbours Nile crocodiles, hippos, sea turtles and even sharks, as Gate 1 travellers see firsthand on a safari cruise.

St Lucia Esturary

St Lucia Estuary ~ photo thanks to @nmbob1

Cultural Riches of the East

South Africa is the kind of country that keeps on giving. Even away from the safari circuit, it has wonders in store. In Port Elizabeth, perched on the Indian Ocean at one of the nation’s most southeasterly tips, take in the ambiance of ‘The Friendly City‘. The legacy of Britain lives large here: in the City Hall, in the old stone Fort Frederick and in the cricket grounds in St. George’s Park. Of course, South Africa’s culture lives larger: The city’s ‘Route 67‘ is a series of 67 public artworks, one for each year Nelson Mandela committed himself to winning his nation’s freedom.

Port Elizabeth is also renowned as the start of the Garden Route, a 300 km scenic drive that traces the coast all the way to Cape Town. One of the route’s highlights, Tsitsikamma National Park, traverses a stunning gorge. The seaside town of Knysna is a gateway to the scenic beauty of the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Accessible only by ferry, it is a stunning landscape of green and blue waters washing up on coffee-coloured sands and soaring emerald hills. Few experiences rival a walk through this paradise. More splendid vistas and memorable detours lead to Oudtshoorn. Known as the ‘Ostrich Capital of the World‘, it hosts the world’s largest population of the flightless bird, and there are ample opportunities to learn more about the town’s feathered friend.

Big Discoveries, Tiny Country

It’s easy to overlook Africa’s tiniest independent country, eSwatini, just 190 kms north to south and approximately 130 kms east to west. Formerly known as Swaziland, until King Mswati III made the change in April this year to avoid what he described as ongoing confusion with Switzerland, this modest country makes for a fascinating visit. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about eSwatini, ‘Land of the Swazis‘, is that it has such a wide variety of landscapes, from rainforests to mountains and savannas to canyons. But its culture is equally remarkable, with a centuries-old tradition of crafts that is honoured in today’s candle workshops and glassblowing studios.

Cape Town’s Cultural and Natural Treasures

Cape Town and its surrounding region may well showcase South Africa’s diverse culture and rugged beauty best. To be sure, the city itself with its splendid baroque City Hall, impressive Cathedral of St. George, and the cheery multi-hued houses of Bo-Kaap, is a delight to explore. Its star-shaped Castle of Good Hope is the world’s best-preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort, originally built in 1666. But Cape Town’s natural surroundings take the breath away. The most ubiquitous natural wonder is Table Mountain, hovering over the city like a god. From its summit, views of the sterling city stretch to Table Bay, home to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent much of his time in prison. Another gem rests at the foot of Table Mountain, equal parts natural and manmade: the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. More than 7,000 indigenous species thrive here representing many different regions, from savanna to shrub-land fynbos.

The Cape Peninsula, which extends south into the Atlantic from Cape Town, offers dramatic seascapes and rugged coasts. Steep mountains spill into secluded coves and onto crescent, rock-lined beaches. The environment that’s evolved here – where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, surf crashes into head-rock and wind whips at vegetation – has created a unique ecosystem worth preserving. The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve does just that. Its 17,300 acres provide an undisturbed home for a rich diversity of flora and for more than 250 bird species. As for marine life, Boulders Beach is a cushy habitat for the African penguin, thanks to the calm waters of the sheltered cove.

Calmer waters don’t only host penguins here. They also support fishing villages like the town of Hout Bay. This charming enclave was originally founded by the Dutch for its timber rather than its fish. Another small town known as Simon’s Town enjoys a quiet spot on False Bay, earning it a place as the home of the South African Navy.

Chobe National Park Sunset ~ photo thanks to @davelaura

Add More of Africa for a Sweeping Adventure!

Southern Africa is overflowing with natural and cultural wonders. And when you travel this far, you’ll want to make the most of your airfare and reach beyond South Africa. To that end, we invite you to add Botswana and Zimbabwe to your adventure. They’re a short flight away from Johannesburg, but offer a magnificent beauty you won’t find anywhere else. In Botswana, marvel at the secluded splendour and astonishing wildlife of Chobe National Park, home to the densest concentration of elephants in Africa. At the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe witness one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles, Victoria Falls. Here, thundering cataracts that send untold millions of gallons of water into a precipitous gorge.

Or venture with us to Namibia, home to some of the most starkly beautiful landscapes on the planet, not to mention abundant marine life. A catamaran cruise takes you out into the lagoon and the wetlands to mingle with flamingos, dolphins, and more while a 4×4 safari brings you into the towering dunes that face the coast. And in the Namib Desert, you’ll witness surreal landscapes, spectacular sunsets and incredible wildlife that has adapted to the harsh environment. A highlight here are the enormous dunes that look tall as mountains. The German-flavoured city of Windhoek puts you back in touch with civilisation.

Experience South Africa with Gate 1 Travel!

Join Gate 1 Travel in South Africa and experience firsthand its unrivalled natural beauty, warm and welcoming culture, and fantastic wildlife. And here’s another reason to travel here with Gate 1: the value of our tours to South Africa cannot be matched by other companies.

There is no better time to experience the Rainbow Nation for yourself. We hope you’ll join us!

Okavango Botswana
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Botswana’s Finest: Chobe & Okavango

All is still. The morning light casts a soft glow on the savannah as elephant after elephant crosses the path of your safari vehicle, the little ones trotting alongside their mothers. You hear the heavy shuffle of their feet on dusty earth, a burst of air from a nostril. There must be a dozen or more. One turns to look your way and you gasp, too moved to reach for your camera. No, you resist needing to get a snapshot and live in the moment. This – the safari of your dreams – will be forever etched in your mind.

Africa plays in your memory long after you return. An endless expanse of plains, marsh and forest. A staggeringly starlit night sky. Exotic creatures vying for their very survival as they have for millennia. It is a privilege to witness Africa’s wondrous menagerie in its natural setting. And to do in a small group with Gate 1 Travel’s Discovery Tours is even more magical as we gain access to experiences that others miss.

Our Zambia, Botswana & South Africa Adventure visits two of southern Africa’s richest parklands, Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta, each a magnificent haven of unspoiled beauty and astonishing wildlife.

Chobe National Park: An Elephant’s Haven
For sheer concentration of wildlife, it’s hard to beat Chobe National Park, nestled amidst the northern savannahs of Botswana. Chobe is the country’s first national park, its third largest at 4,200 square miles and its most diverse. Among its lush floodplain and dense woodlands of teak and mahogany, giraffe, water buffalo, puku antelope and sable roam. Along the Chobe River, spoonbills, ibis, stork and other waterfowl patrol the waters for quick meals. In the early morning hours in the bush, you might even spot a pride of lions fresh from their nocturnal hunt.

But the big cats are not as plentiful here as the large and lumbering Kalahari elephant, the largest known pachyderm in the world. Only 30 years ago, the elephant population was in danger here, numbering a dismal few thousand. Preservation efforts, including anti-poaching patrols, were put in place and today the park supports some 60,000. Many environmentalists believe that the lineage of elephants here stretches back countless generations, making it the largest continuously surviving elephant population on the planet.

One of the most thrilling ways to explore Chobe National Park is by boat. In the heat of the afternoon, wildlife often gathers at their watering holes. Antelope, water buffalo and baboons congregate to drink or hunt, watched over by bateleur eagles, lappet-faced vultures and other raptors. Hippos peek above the water’s surface or graze along the river’s banks. But the highlight of any boat trip is the parade of elephants emerging from the bush to drink and bathe in the refreshing Chobe. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness just such an assembly firsthand.

Okavango Delta: A Watery Oasis
One of the most adventuresome ways to see Africa is by bush plane. From several thousand feet in the air, the continent’s wild expanse of savannahs, grasslands, marshes and forests stretches to a limitless horizon. Far below, you might spot tiny dots roaming the landscape, tendrils of brown dust trailing behind: perhaps zebras wandering to their next water hole. It’s an astounding glimpse of a timeless world.

Thanks to the size of our Discovery Tours small group, bush planes fly us to the Okavango Delta, deep in the wild heart of Botswana. The Okavango is by some accounts the largest inland delta in the world, fed by a remarkable natural cycle of feast and famine.

When the Okavango is flooded, you would never know that this huge region borders the sands of the arid Kalahari Desert. It helps to bear in mind that the delta receives a vast amount of its water from faraway rains. Each year, heavy rainfalls soak the Angola highlands and their waters pour into the Okavango River. The river flows into Botswana with a volume so enormous that its terminal marshlands push southward, surging into the dry and barren delta region. It is a flash flood of biblical proportion: the delta is so large – as big as Switzerland – that it takes the water up to four months to fill it. Months later, the water is gone, lost to evaporation, plant life, or absorption into the earth.

The annual flood creates a massive network of rivulets, channels, temporary islands and lakes. It also attracts countless wildlife – from lions to cheetahs, from giraffe to hyenas, from crocodiles to hippos. An estimated 200,000 large mammals and 400 species of birds congregate here, then depart to greener pastures as the water dissipates and the grasses grow sparse once again. It’s been said of the Okavango that you’re having a great safari day if you see 10% of the wildlife that sees you!

Such a unique ecosystem requires a unique safari vehicle. In addition to the trucks and Jeeps specially equipped to cross shallow streams, our small group explores by handmade dugout canoes, or mokoros. These low-riding boats seat two, and your private punter in the back pushes you through a labyrinth of waterways, following his keen senses so you’ll get an intimate view of the delta’s wildlife and plant life – perhaps tiny frogs clinging to reeds or small islands of lily pads.

We invite you to fulfill your safari dreams in two of southern Africa’s most splendid reserves. Click here for details about our Zambia, Botswana & South Africa Adventure and other exciting Discovery small group tours!

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An African Safari: What to Know Before Your Discovery Tour

Many first-time safari-goers have lots of questions as their trip draws near. The Trip Preparation page for our Zimbabwe, Botswana & South Africa Adventure has great information on what to expect during the safari portion of your trip in Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta. In the meantime, we want to share with you what a typical safari looks like, bearing in mind that the structure of your days will vary by lodge. We also share some safari-specific tips that will make your adventure comfortable:

A Typical Safari Day

The Thrill of the Search

With years of experience, Discovery Tours driver-guides have learned where animals tend to congregate. This is the best insider knowledge you can have that will give you the strongest chance of seeing incredible creatures in the wild, but like all things wild, it would be foolish to guarantee consistent sightings. One thing is certain though: the thrill of any African safari is in the search. And the parks you’ll visit are graced with breathtaking wildlife, from elephant to giraffe.

Rise and Shine in the African Bush

Wildlife is most active in the early morning hours, so we’re sure to get out and explore as soon as we can. On some mornings, we even squeeze in a game drive before breakfast, then return to our camp or lodge for a satisfying meal.

Break for Lunch & Siesta

During full-day game drives, your driver-guides prepare a picnic that you’ll enjoy out in the bush. There’s something truly special about savouring a hearty meal while scanning the plains for elephants or giraffes in the distance. If we’re only out for the morning, we return to the resort or lodge for lunch. Often, we spend a few hours here to avoid the hottest part of the day – it makes for a great opportunity to catch up on your diary, sort your photos or just relax in a spectacular setting.

Close the Day with a Sundowner

It’s a long-held safari tradition: sharing a drink in the bush with fellow adventurers at the close of a thrilling day. Our driver-guides know the most magical spots to break out the eski and mix some drinks or uncork a bottle. After lingering over a drink or two, we return to the camp or lodge and perhaps visit with fellow travellers around a roaring fire.

Sunset game drive in Chobe National Park, Botswana – photo thanks to @davelaura

Helpful Safari Tips

1. There’s no need to buy a new wardrobe. Unless bright and vivid colours are the only hues that hang in your closet, you probably have what you need for safari. Wear earthen tones during game drives; and if colour is a must for you, best to keep it muted.

2. Don’t fear the mosquito. The malaria mosquito is nocturnal. Even then, they don’t like moving air, so keep the ceiling fan blowing in your room. And remember that most bug-repellant clothing doesn’t breathe, so use spray instead.

3. Repel the tsetse fly with your wardrobe. Navy blue and black attract the tsetse fly. Consider this when packing clothes, hats, shoes, socks, everything. Or, just see Tip #1.

4. Be a welcome guest, not a loud and smelly one. Remember that we are guests in the animals’ home. During safari, avoid making loud noises, eating, or other behaviour that will distract the animals. And because animals’ senses of smell are so strong, leave your perfume and cologne at home.

5. Protect your skin. The sun can be strong in Africa year-round, and you’ll spend a good amount of time out on the open plains. Pack plenty of sunscreen and apply it liberally and often. One bad sunburn can ruin your whole trip.

6. Take a break, and bring your humility. Alas, the savannahs and forests of Africa do not have porta-loos. When we stop for bathroom breaks, men retreat behind one shrub and women behind another. Be prepared.

7. Don’t over-vaccinate. Typically, malaria and yellow fever shots are all you’ll need. See your doctor or travel clinic 4-6 weeks before your scheduled departure.

8. Bring cash for visas. Zimbabwe requires a visa for entry into the country. The cost is $30 U.S. cash. You may purchase it at the Victoria Falls Airport upon your arrival.

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5 Best Places to Escape This Winter

June, July and August are happening, and that means months of enduring the winter chills. Or does it? Things are heating up at that time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, which make it an ideal time to follow the sun, but it’s also when the number of visitors flocking to tourist sites increases as much as the temperature. Crowds, heat and lines are all synonymous with summer vacations, so we decided to compile a list of destinations that will get you to places with less crowds during the peak months, while still shaking off the winter blues.

It is time to get off the beaten path, try somewhere new and enjoy an adventure. Join us on our hot list to see where you should be visiting this winter!

Canada
5. Alberta, Canada
This province in Western Canada has a lot to offer; a warm, summer temperature, about 23 degrees celsius average, that won’t leave you sweating and an array of National Parks, landmarks and beautiful views of nature that you cannot see anywhere else. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and it is a perfect city to explore. Museums, the famous Farmer’s Market in Old Strathcona and many hip and delicious restaurants to sample all await you in Edmonton. Some cannot-miss adventures in Alberta include Jasper National Park, known for its abundant wildlife, Athabasca Falls, Lake Louise, a glacier-fed lake and one of the most photographed spots in all of Canada, Banff National Park and Cave & Basin National Historic Site, great for exploring the naturally-occurring, warm mineral springs that can be found inside the cave, and outside in an emerald colored basin. Get in touch with mother nature during her favourite season in Alberta, Canada.


4. Brazil & Argentina
If you are not specifically looking to escape winter, then South America is perfect for you. They share our same winter season in Brazil and Argentina and while the average temperature of July in Buenos Aires is a brisk 15 degrees celsius, it’s the ideal time to avoid the crowds! The temperatures might not wow you, but the sites will get you on the next flight to South America. Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, a beautiful collection of waterfalls that has viewing sides in both Argentina and Brazil. Rio de Janeiro, the home of the famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue and a picturesque beach, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Corcovado Mountain, which gives you a 360 view of the city of Rio, and so much more await you in this area of the earth. It’s time to brush up on your Spanish, put on your tango shoes and see the beauty that is South America: Brazil & Argentina.


3. Kenya & Tanzania
Welcome to another area that has its winter at the same time as Australia; Kenya & Tanzania. The average temperatures in July in Kenya & Tanzania are in the mid-20s and this is the coldest that they get all year! Luckily the ideal travelling temperature is not the only reason to visit, it is also the start of the dry season which makes for the best viewing for wildlife while on safari. June and July are also the best months for seeing the wildebeest migration through the Serengeti. Some of the great sites and adventures that await you on your journey include Karen Blixen Museum, the farmhouse of the prominent author of “Out of Africa”, Giraffe Centre, Elephant Orphanage, Samburu National Park, a park home to unique wildlife and a haven for birds, Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve, a park renowned for its spectacular game viewing, Ngorongoro Conservation area and many more adventures! There’s no better time to take your safari then in the winter and in Kenya & Tanzania.


2. Turkey
Turkey is where you can really escape winter and it is the perfect place to avoid the crowds that you may find in the popular destinations around the world. The average temperature in Istanbul in July is in the 20s-30s so it is on par with most European countries during this time but it has just as many great sites and things to see as European cities! The great thing about Turkey and why you should visit, is its location, between Asia, Africa and Europe, and the fact that it is not a huge travel mecca… yet. Turkey also has a background that dates back to ancient times so there is a lot of history, architecture and culture to explore. While in Turkey make sure to visit Istanbul, the city that straddles two continents and home to an amazing spice market, Anzac Cemetery, Canakkale, Troy, a 4,000 year old city and real-life setting for The Iliad, Pergamum, Asklepion, Izmir, Pamukkale, Antalya, Cappadocia, home to rock-cut temples and tons of hot air balloons, Ankara and all of their history! Get away from the crowds and see an authentic country embedded with ancient sites and cities.


1. Iceland
Sounds whacky recommending a country with “ice” in its name to escape winter, but not only is Iceland now a hugely popular travel destination, but July has the warmest temperature that this northern country gets. The average temperature in July is around 10 degrees celsius in Reykjavik. Okay, not exactly balmy, but all you have to do is put on an extra jumper when you’re outside and it’s so much more exciting than shivering at home! Going to Iceland in its summer really gives you a completely different outlook than visiting in the winter. It is a time of year that daylight is at its longest and can last about 20 hours a day from mid-May to Mid-August. This means you have extra daylight and warm temperatures allowing you to explore everything Iceland has to offer; from an inventive restaurant scene in Reykjavik, to the geographical wonders of Gullfoss Waterfall. Other things to see in Iceland include Blue Lagoon, a unique natural pool of mineral rich geothermal water located in the middle of a lava field, South Shore, Skaftafell National Park, see Europe’s largest ice cap and the peaks of Skaftafell, Thingvellir National Park, Snaefellsjökull Glacier, a splendid strato-volcano at the very end of the peninsula, Stykkisholmur and so much nature and beauty! It’s time to get out your finest fleece, wool socks and, of course, some sunglasses for the daylight! Take a trip to this striking country for a cool summer vacation you will not forget.

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Breathless in Bwindi: Meeting the Last of the Great Apes

Deep in the dense jungles that skirt Uganda’s western Rift Valley, you follow the footsteps of your primate-specialist guides. All is quiet in this lush primeval world, the last remaining habitat of the mountain gorilla.

There are only about 350 mountain gorillas left in this vast expanse of misty protected land. But you have faith that your long hike will pay off, because you are in the hands of experts who intimately know the behaviour and routines of these gentle beasts. You have been reminded, too, that the families you are seeking have become more used to human presence. Far from intruding on their territory, you are merely paying them a visit. So you persist, silently and meditatively losing yourself to the rhythm of your boots falling on the forest floor.

Then, a rustle in the bush, a soft crackling. Your guide raises his hand for you to stop and be still. Through the thicket of ferns and vines and past a cluster of trees, you see her dark form. You catch glimpses of thick black hair rising and falling as she reaches into the foliage for a snack. She pays you no mind as she sits on her haunches. There must be others around, you think to yourself, just as you hear more rustling farther up the slope. But your eyes dart back as she tugs at a branch, revealing the leather-like patina of her face: deep, sunken eyes, protruding snout, rounded jaw around pencil-thin lips. As she plucks at the leaves, she looks straight into your eyes.

It has been said that when you look at a mountain gorilla, you are in essence looking at yourself. No matter how you feel about the idea that humans are descendants of the great apes, there is no denying the mirror that they hold up to us. That is largely why the threat to their very existence (poaching has decreased their total numbers to just 700) is so alarming. And why Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, works vigilantly to protect those that remain.

Make no mistake: though the realm of the mountain gorillas may not be impenetrable, it does present the visitor with some challenging terrain. You might walk for just an hour before spotting a family, or you might trek for several hours. It all puts a fine point on what a privilege it is to be in their presence…and on their turf.

But what a trek it is! This is thick African jungle, a tropical rainforest unlike any other. As you walk, you may encounter any of the 120 mammal species from bushbuck to forest elephants, as well as 23 endemic species of birds or vervet and colobus monkeys cavorting in canopy overhead. Even chimpanzees have been spotted here, though you are more likely to see them in Kibale National Park, which your itinerary also visits.

Join Gate 1 Travel’s new 10 Day Uganda Wildlife Exploration, a Discovery Tours small group adventure, for your chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime close encounter with the magnificent mountain gorillas of Bwindi. Extend your incredible African experience to take in the famed Samburu and Masai Mara National Reserves on 19 Day Kenya & Uganda Wildlife Exploration.