What is Ecotourism, and How is it Transforming African Safari Tours?

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Chances are good that if you have looked into booking an African safari vacation, you have encountered the word “ecotourism.” This term can be confusing since it is used in many different ways by different organizations.

At its heart, ecotourism refers to a method of travel that minimizes your negative impacts on the environment and local communities. Many also include education as a necessary component of ecotourism; they believe that visitors to a region should learn about the local ecosystem and the lives of the people that live within it. Whereas normal tourism may seek to change the appearance of a destination to make it more of a pleasure-focused experience, ecotourism intends to transform the perspective of travellers by introducing them to new ways of thinking, living and acting.

Abiding 100 percent to the principles of ecotourism is tough in our consumer-focused economy, especially given the impact of our growing populations around the world. Yet, many ecotourism safari tours split the difference by minimizing their impact on the environment, promoting conservation causes and enlightening travellers while still providing a comfortable experience.

Ecotourism Definition and The Importance of Education

The concept of ecotourism has been defined in many different ways by different organizations. These organizations themselves even shift the definition over time to reflect the goals and realities of ecotourism.

Perhaps the best definition comes from The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)

Ecotourism is now defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education” (TIES, 2015).  Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests.

TIES only recently solidified education’s role within their definition, but they have a good reason for it.

People who adhere to ecotourism principles believe that anyone who visits a destination should not just enjoy the exact same comforts they find back home, nor should they be presented with the same simplified “cartoon” version of the locale they might see on TV. Instead, the goal is to momentarily share the life of others there, including both the local people and animals.

By understanding more about how the Maasai people in Tanzania maintain their nomadic traditions, for instance, you can see how the lives they lead are a conscious choice that brings them satisfaction. You can also learn about their history of strict conservatism and dedication to the rights of living beings, including their refusal to eat game and birds.

Similarly, learning about the unique beauty and characteristics of the white rhino can help you understand why it is so important to prevent their extinction.

Conservation Ecotourism

Most public parks and private organizations in Africa now have a dedicated conservation component to their operations. Instead of trading off the sanctity of their ecosystems and preferred lifestyles for the sake of tourism income, they adapt their visitor programs to have a minimal impact and include significant educational components. Additionally, many of the proceeds from visitors are now donated to wildlife programs or used to directly fund operations like animal rescues.

For instance, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya uses funds generated by visitors to support innovations and advancements in wildlife protection. These funds help them do things like pioneer the use of aerial drones and image-recognition AIs, which track wildlife movements and detect poachers before they can make their move.

Learn Some of the Three Best Ecotourism Safari Tours to Try

Africa is rich with organizations and programs offering transformative ecotourism experiences. We will cover three of the most interesting examples in our next post for you to take a look at.

You can also find many other ecotourism-related experiences within our curated African safari tour packages. Start planning your trip today with our helpful suggestions, and contact us if you are interested in custom ecotourism safari tours to match your interests.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

The History of Kruger National Park

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Kruger National Park is South Africa’s first national park and one of the largest game reserves in the world. Every year, it hosts millions of visitors from all over the world anxious to go on an African Big Five safari tour and see the continent’s most celebrated, majestic wildlife. The efforts the South African government and local private reserve operators put in also make Kruger one of the most convenient, comfortable and easy-to-reach destinations for Big Five safari tours.

The current success and popularity of Kruger would never have happened without the hard efforts of past South African government officials and passionate conservationists. Learn more about the park’s history and how it came be one of the most popular wildlife preservations in the world by reading on.

Small Beginnings: The Sabi Game Reserve

The Sabi Game reserve was established in 1898 by the former South African Republic. Early park commissioners established a general area equivalent to just over 4,000 square miles. Soon after the game reserve lands were declared, the Second Boer War broke out. A resulting British victory caused all of the formerly Dutch-held Transvaal lands to be transferred to British rule.

The British appointed several wardens to the reserve, and the third one, James Stevenson-Hamilton, became successful at expanding the role of park management. He appointed his own game rangers, assigning them territories to protect within Sabi and surrounding areas. By 1903, a new reserve was established nearby, the Shingwedzi Game Reserve. In 1906, the first hunting ban was enacted between the Olifants and Letaba Rivers.

Around 1916, some within the commission in charge of operating the reserves began to request that the boundaries be shrunk to make way for industry, hunting and exploitation of resources. A report was conducted to study the effects, but when it was released in 1918, it firmly established that not only would the reserves remain intact, but that they would be developed for visitation and easier access to game wardens.

As the report wrote: “The provincial administration should be directed toward the creation of the area ultimately as a great national park where the natural and prehistoric conditions of our country can be preserved for all time.”

The Formation of Kruger National Park

Tourists first began to visit the Sabi reserve in 1923 as part of South African Railways’ renowned “Round in Nine” tours. At the time, park visits consisted of a short bush walk while escorted by armed rangers. These walks proved so popular that the efforts to expand them hastened the establishment of the reserve area as a true national park.

The park was officially proclaimed in 1926, and it was named after the former South African Republic president Paul Kruger, who governed from 1825 to 1904. The first game three tourist vehicles wound their way through Kruger in 1927. Visitors then had to establish their own camps in the bush since the park was devoid of any amenities.

Road construction began that same year, and by 1929 over 383 miles of road were created. In 1948, the park hit a new record of 58,739 visitors. However, the first sealed tarmac roads were not created until 1965. The park was seeing around 300,000 annual visitors by that time.

Visiting Kruger and Big Five Safari Tours Now

Today, Kruger remains one of the most popular natural destinations in the world. Over 1.6 million visitors came to the park in the 2014/2015 season, with 382,396 guests staying overnight.

Big five safari tours and game drives remain one of the most popular attractions in the park, with dozens of comfortable safari lodging options to accommodate a wide variety of budgets and preferences.

If you are interested in visiting Kruger on a safari tour of your own, we offer many different South African safari tour packages to choose from. You can select from a range of amazing and transformative experiences, or you can create your own custom safari tour package when you contact us today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

 

Safari in the City: Windhoek

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Namibia safari tours offer wild adventures in desert landscapes, the awe-inspiring Fish River Canyon and among the savannas of Etosha Park. But, the country of Namibia also offers plenty of cosmopolitan comforts in its capital city, Windhoek.

Windhoek is a historic city that shows off the region’s unique mixings of cultures and lifestyles. The city as it is now was formally established by the Imperial German Army in 1890, taking over from Dutch Afrikaans settlers after the original settlement had fallen into neglect. Now, Windhoek stands at over 330,000 strong and growing. Afrikaans, German, Oshiwambo, Khoekhoe, Kwangali, Herero and multiple Bantu languages are all languages that can be heard and seen in the city.

Cultural experiences Windhoek offers include gourmet dining at an authentic castle, world class museums, incredible shopping, gorgeous historical sites and more. Read on to discover the most incredible sights you can see during your trip to Namibia as part of an African safari holiday.

Christuskirche

“Christ Church” is a Lutheran Church established in 1910 by German colonialists. The church features Carrara marble imported from Italy, and its peaked steeple and clock were shipped directly from Germany. Emperor Wilhelm II gifted the church’s massive stained glass windows for its chapel.

Visiting the humble yet magnificent church offers both a trip to the past and a treat for those who appreciate gorgeous architecture. The church is also located near the Tintenpalast, Namibia’s seat of parliament, so visiting it allows you to also see the nearby Parliament Gardens and gorgeous government buildings.

Namibia Crafts Centre

Finding beautiful handmade crafts in traditional African markets can be a bit like panning for gold — the good stuff is there, you just have to know where to look. From that standpoint, Namibia Crafts Centre is a mine filled wall-to-wall with pure gold.

The outlet sells incredible finished handmade Namibian crafts, including woven baskets, pottery, leatherwork, needlepoint, paintings, embroidery, jewelry, hand-sewn garments and more. All displayed pieces reveal the origin of the piece and its respective artist. Prices are very reasonable, so you are almost guaranteed to find the perfect sentimental gift to take back home to someone you care about.

Delicious Food

Whether you love local African favorites like Kapana or want to sample new twists on gourmet dishes from Germany and Britain, Windhoek has lots in store for your gastro-enjoyment.

Leo’s at the Castle is a must-visit for anyone interested in atmospheric fine dining. The restaurant is located inside the Hotel Heinitzburg, which itself is housed in an authentic European castle constructed by architect Wilhelm Sander. The patio overlooks Namibia’s skyline, making for a breathtaking and unforgettable experience.

Other great places to dine at include:

  • The Stellenbosch Wine Bar and Bistro
  • The Social
  • Craft Cafe
  • Sardinia Blue Olive
  • O Portuga
  • Old Continental Cafe & Take Away

Lively Nightlife

Windhoek is alive with tourists and locals alike seeking good times well into the night. Joe’s Beer House has a wide selection of both Namibian and German beers, making it worth lingering at for hours if you are a beer lover. The Boiler Room @ The Warehouse Theatre spins live music and has dancing until the morning hours.

Museums and Attractions

There are far too many amazing attractions to mention when visiting Windhoek, but some of the most popular include:

  • National Botanic Garden of Namibia
  • National Museum of Namibia
  • Trans-Namib Railroad Museum
  • Owela Museum
  • Mary’s Catholic Cathedral
  • Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve

Book a Namibia Safari Tour Now to Experience Windhoek’s Wonder and Glamour

If you are interested in seeing Windhoek during your African safari tour, take a look at our sample Namibia safari tour packages, and then contact us to create your own custom Namibian safari experience today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

Secrets of Namibia: Explore the Skeleton Coast

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You can find the Skeleton Coast in the northern part of South Africa’s Namibia coast. It stretches alongside the Atlantic Ocean, south of Angola from the Kunene River. Over time, it has been referred to as “the gates of hell.” But the Skeleton Coast isn’t just a destination for horror fanatics. In fact, despite the storied history of crashed vessels and shipwrecks, the Skeleton Coast is popular today as an excellent place for surfing.

Curious about the history of the Skeleton Coast? Eager to hit the waves? Explore the Skeleton Coast of Namibia on your African safari journey and take home a story to remember!

About The Skeleton Coast

The Skeleton Coast gets its name from a myriad of sources. For one, when the whaling industry was at its peak, whale and seal bones littered the shore, leaving literal skeletons behind as the rest of the animals were harvested. Today, a different type of carcass can also be stumbled upon: rusting ships and boat debris from the numerous accidents and tragedies that have befallen sailors who took on the seas while unprepared, battling intense winds and shifting currents as well as a cold, dense fog.

One of these vessels, the MV Dunedin Star, ran aground in 1942. A complicated but successful mission saved all of its passengers and crew, and the historical rescue was documented in a novel by John Henry Marsh, published in 1944. The book’s title? Skeleton Coast. The name has stuck to maps and with locals ever since.

Exclusive Shores

The Skeleton Coast National Park contains the most inaccessible shores, seized by a combination of harsh weather conditions, loose sands and massive shipwrecks. To best navigate the coast, the park is divided into two sections, north and south. The southern section can be traversed by 4-wheel drive vehicles, and you can drive as far up as the Ugab River Gate before the terrain becomes too dangerous. The northern section can only be explored by plane.

Salt Pans, Clay Castles and Seal Colonies

But it’s not just a bleak history tour. In the northern half of the park, you can visit the Agate Mountain salt pans and the clay castles of the Hoarusib River for some breathtaking views or ideal photography opportunities. For an extra delight, you can also go to Cape Fria and see a huge seal colony, with almost 50,000 seals taking advantage of the fish and plankton that fill the waters.

Epic Surfing Spots

Then, in the southern region, grab a surfboard and join the many thrill seekers in the ocean. Swells consistently hit along the Skeleton Coast and, with enough training and tact, you can find some epic spots to surf. The water produces waves in fast and thick bursts, with strong tidal rips crashing in. Follow the line of surfers from May to September and keep an eye out for sharks — for surfer enthusiasts, the experience will be well worth it!

Namibia Safari Tours: See More of Africa

It sounds brutal, but despite its perilous reputation, the Skeleton Coast is a beautiful spot to discover — and certainly unique as a tourist destination. Some tours can be costly, particularly to the northern region of the park, where extra travel precautions must be taken. However, a trip to the Skeleton Coast will more than make up for it with the exclusivity of experiencing one of the best kept secrets of Namibia.

So what are you waiting for? Namibia safari tour packages are available right now and can be customized however you choose. Earn your bragging rights by braving the Skeleton Coast. Or, at the very least, make friends with some seals. Book your trip today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

Where to Visit Africa in August

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Africa’s predictable seasons make planning your African safari tour easy. Different parts of the continent have peak visiting times throughout the year for various attractions, helping you pick the most astonishing and memorable activities to take part in during your trip depending on the time you choose.

If you aim to visit Africa in August, for instance, it is the perfect time for both viewing wild game and experiencing some of the most incredible cities on the continent. To help you plan your trip, take a look at the following exciting places to see and activities you can do there.

Botswana

August means that the long, dry winter season in southern Africa is finally winding to a close. During the course of the winter, a lack of rain causes much of the vegetation to die and the temporary water holes to deplete.

This may not sound like the most scenic time to visit, but less vegetation means it will be easier to spot animals that are unable to hide in the tall summer grasses. A lack of water also means that many animals like elephants, lions, gazelle and antelope will all gather near the remaining rivers and permanent water holes, creating spectacular interactions and perfect photo ops.

To get the best viewing in Botswana during your August safari, make sure to visit Chobe National Park and the Moremi Game Reserve.

Namibia

Winter in Africa can bring some surprisingly chilly winds and frigid nights. In August, these temperatures finally begin to inch their way back up, creating the perfect in-between weather for a light jacket and mild days.

There may be no better time on the calendar to visit the deserts of Namibia. You can take sunrise pictures of the towering dunes to capture magnificent photos worthy of a National Geographic spread.

Cape Town, South Africa

Mild weather makes Cape Town a veritable paradise in August. The incredible wildflowers of Table Mountain first begin to bloom around this time, and many wineries are just beginning to roll out the red carpet for Spring’s slew of guests.

Whale watching is also incredible during this time of year. Many pods of southern right whales converge upon South Africa’s coast to calve during this time, offering one of the best opportunities of the year to see them breaching with their mates and newborn calves.

Zambia

Travelling to Zambia in August offers a fair mix of weather and small crowds as the area’s bush camps begin to prepare for their busy season. Mana Pools National Park is a great place to visit during this time as there are few mosquitos, the days are often clear and wildlife viewing is optimal thanks to the thinned vegetation.

You could also travel to South Luangwa National Park for a unique canoeing safari trip where you can get up close and personal with some of the continent’s most iconic animals.

Lake Malawi

The start of spring also happens to be amazing beach weather, giving you a wonderful excuse to explore the crystal clear blue waters of Lake Malawi on a sailboat or kayak.

Book Your August African Safari Tour Now to Save

Booking your African safari tour for August right now can give you the perfect opportunity to save on lodging and game viewing rates. As the peak tourism season approaches, many game lodges and camps still struggle with vacancies and sometimes offer incentives to fill their books.

Take a look at our sample African safari tour itineraries to get an idea of the amazing time you could be having on your luxurious African vacation in August.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

Options for Travelling Within Africa

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Once you reach Africa for your safari vacation, you have many options at your disposal for travelling around the continent. Some of them are cheap, some are comfortable, some are quick, some are convenient, and some are very safe. Few offer all five.

You must decide your own priorities when trying to arrange transportation within the country you arrive at. The following are some of the options you may have for travelling on your African safari tour along with their respective pros and cons.

Train

Riding by train is one of the few options that can check off most of the needed boxes. In most areas, it’s quick, incredibly cheap, often borderline luxurious, and definitely safe. The only issue is that it may not be convenient since train service is limited to the number of rails available.

Going between common destinations like Pretoria and Cape Town is a perfect fit for travelling across southern Africa by train. But when you need to travel north to areas with less-developed infrastructure, things can literally get a bit more rickety. Therefore, make sure to research the reputation of the rail service you intend to use to ensure you will get the level of service you expect.

Charter Bus

Charter bus services like Baz Bus are perfectly oriented towards tourists and backpackers. They offer direct service to common destinations, including trips between Johannesburg and major cities like Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Tickets offer convenient hop-on, hop-off service, including unlimited rides within a set time period.

The only issue is that longer trips can get fairly steep, above $150, and that few of these trips bring you to game reserves and parks. Nevertheless, a charter bus is a great alternative to flying or trains.

Minivan Taxis

If you want a true African experience and plenty of harrowing moments, then a minivan taxi is for you.

Be warned that drivers pack in far more people than the official number of seats, and they also tend to drive as fast as possible, even when it may not be the safest decision. They also tend to wait around until the van is packed full, so if you do want to enjoy a cheap but thrilling adventure, try to find a van already near-full to avoid waiting an hour or more to depart.

Public Bus

Public bus routes in South Africa and other countries are much safer and more comfortable than you would expect. They also happen to be quite lively, so expect to make plenty of new friends and hear some interesting conversations.

Bus stops within certain neighborhoods of big cities may be less than comforting, though, so be wary of where you get on and off. Also, research the bus service in the particular country you visit to make sure it is safe and can provide the needed level of service.

Renting a Car

Driving in certain areas, like along the Garden Route, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But you do not usually want to drive around cities like Johannesburg on your own since traffic laws can be more fast and loose than you may be accustomed to.

Prices for renting cars can also vary according to your duration or the amount of miles you intend to travel, so weigh the freedom of driving yourself against the cost and the stress of navigating certain areas on your own.

Plane

Flying within Africa can be quite cheap, but make sure you end up close to your destination. For instance, you may be able to find flights from Cape Town to Gaborone for cheaper than the price of renting a car, but you will still be many miles from Chobe National Park or the Moremi Game Reserve. Weigh the total cost of your trip when flying, and you could end out still finding a deal.

Using an African Safari Tour Package

Of course, the most simple way to ensure all of your travel needs are met within a reasonable budget is to book your trip through a safari travel service like Roho Ya Chui. We plan the optimal transportation option for you to make your trip memorable and safe while still getting you where you want to go at a reasonable time and price.

Take a look at our various safari tour packages to see how convenient it is to allow a service like ours to make all the hard decisions for you, and then book your trip soon!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui

 

5 of Africa’s Best Music Festivals

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Africa has a vibrant music scene full of modern innovation and energy but fuelled by thousands of various cultures and traditions. All of these forces can come together for a few incredible days each year in the form of the best music festivals in Africa.

Although many people go on an African safari trip to see animals and historic African sites that have been around for centuries, they should realize that Africa also has plenty of modern attractions. The continent’s most amazing music festivals illustrate this potential to a tee and reveal why an African safari vacation can involve both peaceful game drives and raucous parties stretching over multiple days.

To help you plan your trip, read on to learn about the five best music festivals in Africa worth attending.

1. The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA)

Every May, Zimbabwe’s capital Harare hosts one of the most eclectic and spectacular collections of talent on the planet. Musical acts encompass genres ranging from folk and traditional African music to rock, hip hop, R&B and more.

In addition to amazing, well-known musical acts from all over the world, HIFA also exhibits performances for dance, theater, poetry and fine art. You can immerse yourself in culture and tradition while feeling the pulse of Zimbabwe’s ever-evolving arts scene. All these qualities make HIFA a one-stop whirlwind of entertainment that some describe as “the Glastonbury of African festivals.”

2. Bushfire Festival

Swaziland hosts the bushfire festival every summer in the capital city of Mbabane. This three-day festival encompasses both international and local acts, and all proceeds provide funds to local communities and charities. Best of all, you never have to leave Bushfire since camping is allowed on-site!

3. Cape Town International Jazz Festival

South Africa’s Cape Town brings together some of the best-known names in jazz, soul music and R&B every spring. International acts like Erykah Badu join locals like Micasa on two huge stages to form the fourth-largest jazz festival in the world. Vendors selling local art and food are also common, adding to the staggering variety of experiences that is a highlight on the Cape Town Calendar.

4. Lake of Stars

Lake Malawi is known for its beautiful, vibrant cichlid fish, but it is also increasingly known as the home of Malawi’s spectacular “Lake of Stars” festival. This festival brings in acts from all over the world, who perform on the shores of the transcendentally beautiful lake and engage in thrilling stunts. From groups playing their set in the treetops to Malawi’s Minister of Tourism skydiving for a grand entrance to the opening ceremony, there is never a shortage of unforgettable experiences at the Lake of Stars.

5. Sauti Za Busara

Held every February in the Stone Town neighborhood of Zanzibar, Tanzania, the Sauti Za Busara festival is a celebration of Tanzanian history and culture. Performances take place in historic venues that range from vintage amphitheatres to ancient forts and colonial-era buildings. The three-day festival also celebrates other aspects of the African entertainment industry, providing opportunities for budding filmmakers and fashion designers to network.

Catch Africa’s Best Music Festivals on Your African Safari Trip

You can plan your trip around these sensational music festivals while also seeing Africa’s most breathtaking animals and landscapes when you book a custom African safari tour package through Roho Ya Chui today!

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui