Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Family Travel Roundup

Kids living it up on Todos Santos Eco Adventures' Baja
Fabulous Family Fun Adventure

Now that the kids are back in school it's time for families to start planning for those precious days off when everyone can be together for fun! This week's Kusini enews brings you inspiring ideas and fantastic offers for family travel to help you motivate your clients to get the next holiday on the books. 

Ultimate Safaris: Ultimate Safaris loves the Namib Desert for families. Benign critters of all sorts abound, there are no lions, beaches complete with incredible shipwrecks are within reach - discovery is everywhere! Sossusvlei Desert Lodge keeps families enchanted with desert activities and stargazing in their observatory with resident astronomer. Kids rates range from FOC (0-5 years) to 50% off (6-16 years) when sharing with an adult. For those sticking to the coast, the Strand Hotel offers kids age 0-6 sharing with parents FOC and a 50% off rate for kids 7-15 sharing with adults.  

Tropic's newest Galapagos ecolodge is also a giant
tortoise sanctuary!
Tropic Ecuador: A family vacation to the Galapagos is unforgettable, and what better time to go than the holidays? Travelers can take the season's pressure off by taking the kids (and grandparents) on an amazing adventure! It's extremely rare to find space during the holidays this late, however Tropic Ecuador has a few spots remaining on their recently announced December 17th, 22nd, 24th, and 31st land-based departures that visit 3 different islands. Travelers will enjoy water sports, land and water-based wildlife viewing, local culture immersion and more, and it's an amazing value at just $2,475pp rack for holiday departures. Contact Cristina ASAP to book as the space will sell out!

TOSEA: Todos Santos Eco Adventures has the perfect escape for families - their Baja Fabulous Family Fun Adventure Week. This special trip has something fun for everyone - surfing, horseback riding, cooking lessons, lots of different water sports, hiking, glamping and more! Every age from kiddos to grandparents will have an unforgettable experience. Todos Santos is pleased to offer 10% discount for families booking travel in April, May, June or July 2017. View the full itinerary here and contact Bryan for availability and to book.

A visit to nearby Sedibani Village is a fun activity for families
New Frontiers: Planning a family trip to Botswana can feel like an intimidating fiscal exercise, so New Frontiers is excited to share a fantastic special family offer. Children 16 and under stay for free at Delta Camp (Footsteps in Africa) when sharing a room with two parents through December 2017. The offer is valid for either 1 or 2 children depending on family chalet availability. The camp has a light footprint (bucket showers and flush loos) and is perfect for families seeking adventure. Activities take place in Moremi GR and include mokoro excursions (seasonal) and cultural visits.

Albatros Travel: While families love Tanzania's Northern Circuit, Albatros Travel has something new up their sleeve. Their Azura Selous and Park Hyatt Zanzibar special takes family travelers off the beaten track. Remote and exclusive Azura Selous is a true wilderness retreat, and a visit to Zanzibar will open kids' eyes to a new and colorful culture. Great rates are available for kids between 6 and 16 when sharing with parents, and an optional upgrade includes a private vehicle and villa room at Azura, plus a deluxe ocean view room in Zanzibar for just $285pp.

Everyone loves getting their hands dirty at the
peanut butter workshop offered by Maya Trails
Maya Trails: Guatemala is an amazing destination for families. Easily accessible from the US, it's a refreshing change of scenery and culture. Families on Maya Trails' Guatemala Family Getaway have the chance to try lots of new things together - from hiking and horseback riding to exploring Mayan ruins and zip lining high above Lake Atitlan's shores. Bonus - kids 12 and under are gratis when sharing with their parents at Antigua properties El Convento, Casa Santo Domingo and Meson de Maria - ask Adriana for details.

Classic Africa Safaris: Don't rule out a family safari to Uganda! Kids as young as 12 can trek to see chimps depending on location, and can trek gorillas at 15. If parents want to trek without the kids, there are fun options to keep them entertained, including school or community visits, or playing with local kids, all under the supervision of their Classic Africa Safaris guide. Uganda is a great family value, as most accommodations offer 50% off for children under 12 sharing with parents, and scheduled charter flights are 30% off for under 12's. Email Phil for specifics.

Imvelo's 'look up' blind is a great way for young kids to view
wildlife in a safe space
Imvelo Safari Lodges: Taking kids on safari is magic, and Imvelo Safari Lodges really knows how to accommodate families. Everyone loves riding on the Elephant Express train through Hwange (parents love its elevated game viewing platform and space to stretch out). The 'look up' blind is another secure viewing space for younger kids (and amazing for photographers). And for quiet times, kids receive a Junior Safari companion book with games and information on Hwange's wildlife. 12 and unders are 50% off when sharing with an adult, making a family safari an incredible value!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fall Travel Shows 2016‏

Learn more about Tropic Ecuador's new Magic Galapagos Tented Camp and
Tortoise  Reserve at TMLA in Brazil and ATWS in Alaska! Check out which
Kusini clients are at which travel shows this Fall in the roundup below.
As the days are getting shorter, the calendar is filling up with autumn travel shows. This week we share details on where to find Kusini and our partners in the coming months. We hope to see you on the road!

Pure - Marrakesh, Morocco



 As we go to press, Sonya is busy at Pure at the Palais des Congres in Marrakesh. She is representing Tropic Ecuador at the annual conference where the global travel community gathers for a week of ideas, inspiration and innovation. Contact her for a last minute appointment if you're attending.




TMLA - Iguassu Falls, Brazil


Today marks the kickoff for Travel Mart Latin America. It will be a busy four days for Jimmy Rogers of Maya Trails (booth #1617) and Jascivan Carvalho of Tropic Ecuador (booth #1815)! If you are attending, contact them directly to request a meeting.


ATWS - Anchorage, Alaska

This year's Adventure Travel World Summit takes place from September 19 - 22 in Anchorage, Alaska. Craig Smith from New Frontiers, Tristan Cowley from Ultimate Safaris and Jascivan Carvalho from Tropic Ecuador will be attending along with our very own Tad Bradley. Contact Tad for appointments.



WTM - London

World Travel Market London will be held from November 7 - 9, 2016. Kusini Collection participants include New Frontiers, Albatros Travel and Maya Trails.

  • Craig, Faith and Paula from New Frontiers will be at stand AF260, booth 13.
  • Jimmy Rogers from Maya Trails will be at the Guatemala stand, LA350.
  • Jennie Camm from Albatros will be attending. Please contact her in advance of the conference to arrange an appointment.


Adventure Next - San Luis Potosí, Mexico

ATTA's Adventure Next takes place from November 20th - December 2nd. Jimmy Rogers from Maya Trails and Sergio Jauregui from Todos Santos Eco Adventures will be attending. Contact them to arrange a meeting during the conference.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Greater Kruger trip report, Ecuador photography tour and wild dogs in Hwange‏

Sunset magic at the Nehimba Seeps near Imvelo Safari Lodges' 
Nehimba Lodge in Hwange NP. Photo: Mark Butcher
Paul Bertner is a professional wildlife photographer, explorer and biologist. His macro portraits of reptiles, amphibians and insects have found a global audience in the BBC, the Discovery channel, Scientific American and many other international news outlets. He will be joining Tropic Ecuador's Galapagos set departure to Floreana and Isabela islands October 23, and will also be available for various daily photo workshops taking place throughout the country. Check the blog for dates and more information, and email Andrea for availability.

The Maya Trails team at the worry doll workshop in
San Lorenzo el Cubo
Maya Trails is always looking for new ways to immerse travelers into local culture, thus their new San Lorenzo el Cubo Tour! Travelers will visit a family where they will see a carpentry workshop, as well as learn how to make their own traditional Guatemalan worry doll. Many women in the village earn income by selling the dolls. Guests then tour a school (which benefits from the visit) to learn how educational programs work to break the cycle of poverty. Learn more on the blog.

Join Bryan and Sergio - owners of Todos Santos Eco Adventures - on an amazing journey aboard the MV Westward as they explore the coast of Baja Sur between La Paz and Loreto, April 13-21, 2017. Sergio will be leading the adventures, Bryan will be manning the margaritas, and Captain Bill Bailey will be at the helm of the beautiful MV Westward, built in 1924. Swim with whale sharks, kayak under rugged cliffs and into mangrove-lined lagoons, snorkel in impossibly clear water, and gather to enjoy gourmet meals prepared by Chef Tracie Triolo. Read more about all you'll see and do here.

Kwita Izina celebrates Rwanda's mountain gorillas
Last Friday marked the annual Kwita Izina ceremony in Rwanda. This is the 12th year of the event that brings the country's endangered mountain gorilla population into the conservation spotlight. The ceremony is held to bestow names on all mountain gorillas born in the past year and echoes the Rwandan tradition of naming babies soon after they are born. It is open to the public, and would make a special addition to a gorilla trekking adventure. Contact Phil at Classic Africa Safaris to inquire about next year's event.

We're looking forward to the opening of a new 'treetop walkway' in Tanzania's Lake Manyara NP. Albatros Travel says that the 500m walk starts on a short boardwalk leading to a gradual climb onto the aerial walkway. Guests navigate a series of hanging bridges with thick netting on the sides, and reach a height of 18m into the canopy. Each of the 9 hanging bridges end on a viewing deck that is stabilized around tree trunks, giving travelers a stunning birds-eye view of the park.

Tad, Sonya and Lynn in a rare moment of relaxation in
South Africa
Tad and Sonya, along with Lynn from New Frontiers, put on their road warrior boots last May to self-drive through South Africa's Sabi Sands, Thornybush and Timbavati game reserves. They did 14 site inspections in 5 days (whew!), but hey - somebody has to do the heavy lifting! There's a full trip report up on the Kusini blog including everything from camp evaluations and sightings to dining notes so that you can suss out what might be right for your clients or your next group trip. Contact Sonya with any questions.

We never tire of the wonderful wildlife stories coming from Imvelo Safari Lodges. We are over the moon to hear that Cusp, the alpha female of the Ngamo pack of African wild dog, was recently photographed with 12 healthy puppies. Guests at Bomani and Camelthorn Lodges in Hwange have been treated to daily sightings of the dogs roaming and hunting across the Bomani concession. Cusp is becoming a celebrity dog among wildlife enthusiasts. Learn more about Cusp's story and see photos of the pups here, and keep your eye on Kusini's Facebook and Instagram for daily photo updates direct from Tad's adventures in Zimbabwe!

Ultimate Safaris' Huab Under Canvas has a gorgeous palette
of sundowner color
Ultimate Safaris' new Huab Under Canvas experience is already proving to be a guest favorite, and extremely good luck on the game viewing front only adds to the love. Every guest thus far has seen the rare desert-adapted rhino, and other sightings have ranged from nocturnal sightings like camp-resident genet, African wildcat and porcupine, to abundant plains game sightings. Sundowner views are expansive and peaceful, while night skies have to be seen to be believed. A stop at Huab is a must for your more intrepid clients.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Worry doll workshop

Maya Trails is always looking for new ways to immerse travelers into local culture, thus their new San Lorenzo el Cubo Tour was born!

The Maya Trails team with their worry dolls from the
visit to San Lorenzo el Cubo
Travelers will transfer from Antigua to San Lorenzo el Cubo, discussing the dynamics of this small community en route. Upon arrival, they will walk to a family’s home whose children attend the school. When visiting the home, guests will see the father’s carpentry workshop and then sit down with his wife, Rosa, who will give lessons on how to make a traditional worry doll (Quitapena). Many women in this village earn income by selling the dolls. The tour finishes at the El Porvernir school, where guests learn how Niños de Guatemala educational programs work to break the cycle of poverty.

Niños de Guatemala is an NGO that focuses on making a better future for Guatemalan kids.

In January 2012, they opened the "El Porvenir" school in San Lorenzo el Cubo. Their schools provide quality education to children from poor families who have no chance of sending their children to public schools. Some children are the first in their families to attend school. In order to raise funds for the school, this NGO developed tours with the members of each community. So each Maya Trails tour visiting the school and the community helps support the school.

Contact Adriana for additional details, or to make this excursion part of your clients' Guatemala holiday.

La Paz to Loreto Cruise on the MV Westward - A Special Program with Sergio Jáuregui

The MV Westward
A very exclusive opportunity awaits with Todos Santos Eco Adventures next April. This is a special invitation to join us on the MV Westward as we cruise from La Paz to Loreto, April 13-21, 2017.
Sergio will be leading the adventures, Bryan will be manning the margaritas, and Captain Bill Bailey will be at the helm of the Westward, built in 1924 and still powered by her original Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine. The Westward has only 4 cabins so it will be an intimate and wonderful small group trip.

Bryan and Sergio – the owners of Todos Santos Eco Adventures - are leading this amazing journey aboard the MV Westward as they explore the coast of Baja Sur between La Paz and Loreto.

The Ship:

The Westward was designed by the renowned northwest naval architect L.E. “Ted” Geary and built at the J.A. Martinolich Shipyard in Dockton, Washington. The Westward was modeled after a salmon cannery tender and constructed around a 1923 Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine. She was launched in 1924 as the flagship of the Alaska Coast Hunting and Cruising Co. and pioneered hunting, fishing, and adventure travel in the remote regions of Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

During WW II, Westward served as a patrol boat off the California coast before returning to the Pacific Northwest where she operated another twenty years, as both private yacht and charter vessel, for two different owners. Now owned by Captain Bill Bailey, the Westward is listed with the US National Register of Historic Places. Our itinerary for the trip is listed below. It is dependent on the weather and the tides and may change at the captain’s discretion.

The Experience: 

We'll start the trip in La Paz, swimming with the largest fish in the world, the whale shark. We'll then board the Westward and spend the rest of the days cruising through the scattered islands between La Paz and Loreto. Along the way we will kayak under rugged cliffs and into quiet mangrove-lined lagoons, snorkel in impossibly clear water while cataloging myriad fish that seem to fly beneath us, and gather to enjoy truly gourmet meals prepared by Chef Tracie Triolo. 

The Itinerary: 

April 13: One of our crew will meet you at the door as you exit the customs and immigration check at the Los Cabos Airport. You will be escorted to our van, which will transport you to La Paz. Our van will be leaving the airport at 14:00 (2:00 PM) for the drive to La Paz, so please plan your arrival time accordingly. Upon your arrival at our boutique hotel in La Paz, you will have time for a stroll along the bay-side malecon before we gather for dinner at a restaurant near the hotel.

April 14: Following breakfast around the hotel’s pool, you will be outfitted with snorkeling equipment for your swim with whale sharks. A van will provide transport to the panga landing where you will board your small, open launch, that will take you into the whale shark viewing area. There are strict regulations in place to protect these magnificent animals, including time limits within the viewing area. Once your time is up, you will be returned to the hotel, where you can shower and pack before meeting our crew for the walk to the marina, where the Westward will be moored.

Getting underway after a short safety and shipboard systems orientation, we will set
a course to our first night’s anchorage. Lunch will be served underway.

April 15-20: We will spend these six days cruising through the scattered islands between La Paz and Loreto. Along the way we will kayak along rugged cliffs and into quiet mangrove-lined lagoons, snorkel in impossibly clear water while cataloging myriad fish that seem to fly beneath us, and gather to enjoy truly gourmet meals. Weather and sea conditions play a huge part in how we select our routes and anchorages, but with thousands of miles of experience in and among these islands, we will show our guests the very best of what is available during the duration of our time together.

In these waters we have seen blue, humpback, sperm and fin whales, orcas, common and bottle nose dolphins, pilot whales, and acres of leaping manta and mobula rays. We have had striped marlin swim right next to our boat, and taken so
many sunrise and sunset pictures that we have struggled to choose our favorites.

April 21: Raising our anchor after breakfast and perhaps a final kayak paddle, we will make the short transit from our night’s anchorage to Puerto Escondido, located on the peninsula shore. Our van will meet us at 10:30 for the twenty minute drive to Loreto’s International Airport. Our crew will accompany you to the airport for final goodbyes and to provide help if it is needed.

Price and Reservation Policies:
  • US$5,250/person
  • Please note that pricing is based on double-occupancy. There is a 50% supplement for single-occupancy and a 50% discount for the third person in a cabin.
  • Deposit due to confirm reservation: 15% (50% refundable if cancellation is more than 150 days prior to trip; non-refundable if cancellation is less than 150 days prior to trip)
  • Balance due 90 days prior to departure (non-refundable if cancellation is less than 90 days prior to trip)
  • Cancellations may be called in, but need to be confirmed in writing.
  • We strongly recommend that you obtain travel insurance.

Cabins and Amenities:
  • All cabins on the MV Westward have a double and a single bunk, settee, sink, toilet and shower.
Note: A valid passport is required for this trip.

Space is extremely limited so contact Bryan with interest today! 

Working Hard or Hardly Working - A Report From the Bush


Sonya, Tad & Lynn - on location at Singita Sabi Sands
“You are sooo lucky!” If you are in the travel industry, you too hear this from friends and family every time you depart for a trip. And they are right! Despite the long days and nights, layovers and delays, dinners for one, and the fact that you are actually working …. we’re all pretty darn fortunate. This past May, Tad and Sonya from Kusini Collection, joined by Lynn Philps from New Frontiers, had to pinch ourselves over and over as we came to this realization, once again. Our itinerary was an ambitious one, self driving along the sandy and poorly marked tracks running through Sabi Sands, Thornybush, and Timbavati game reserves with 14 site inspections in five days. Somehow, we pulled it off and had our expectations blown out of the water time and again. Here are some of our highlights:

A Warmest Welcome: 
Thornybush River Lodge, Thornybush Private Game Reserve

From the moment of our arrival, we were welcomed and enveloped into the River Lodge family. We so enjoyed our stay. The camp manager Liza was a wealth of knowledge as our hostess, very attentive to all of our needs. Our guides Roux and Nic had an uncanny ability of getting us through the thick bush and in the right place at the right time - doing a great job of managing the actual guests in the vehicle with us agents. A pride of seven lions, three leopards and a black rhino in two condensed game drives - WOW! The icing on the cake was when a very curious young leopard came round to the back of the vehicle where Lynn and Sonya were. We sure didn't need a bazooka lens to admire every detail of her. Lynn and Sonya also had a visit from a family of adorable bush babies – welcoming us to our room.

Our butler, Surprise, was fantastic, warm, funny, and attentive, and mixed up the perfect secret (and boozy) recipe to soothe Sonya’s cold. The four suites have all been remodeled and provided complete comfort and very pretty to the eye with fine linens and furniture with clean lines for a non-cluttered look. Two of the suites may be used privately or as a family/small group unit as they connect with their own private living and kitchen space. Let us not forget to mention the wonderful food - the dining experience was lovely and tasty, al fresco overlooking the infinity pool and waterhole beyond (where we saw a leopard drink at dinner!) It was wonderful to experience the beauty and vibe of the lodge in person. If only we could have stayed longer!




A Big Surprise: 
Makanyi Private Game Lodge, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Situated in the southern Timbavati, Makanyi was less than a year old when we visited – none of us being familiar with it. We received the warmest welcome from arrival to departure – even noticing and fixing a flat tire on our vehicle. The lodge is absolutely beautiful and so worthy of their recent awards (including the 2016 Conde Nast Traveler Hot List and the winner of the Safari Awards 2016 Best New Safari Property!). They've thought of everything! It was only such a pity we didn't have more time to explore and enjoy the many activities offered there! The seven massive suites are a dream with every detail considered (extra large bed, a relaxing sitting area with its own fireplace, a beautiful bathroom with a spacious shower and separate bathtub, a private deck with loungers and an outdoor shower. Premium Africology amenities, complimentary Wi-Fi, telephone, hair dryer, mini bar, and a Nespresso coffee machine and tea making facilities are found in every room) – this is a place you must spend multiple nights and perfect for a honeymooning couple. Our guides, Alfred and Solly are a super team and topped off our game drives with 13 lions on a buffalo kill on our last morning – superb! They are real stars and we were privileged to spend two drives in the bush with them.

A King and His Queens: 
Kings Camp, Waterbuck Private Camp, Timbavati Private Game Reserve

On the banks of the dry Nhlaralumi River in the game rich Timbavati lies Kings Camp and its exclusive use private villa, Waterbuck. We had a brief visit and site inspection at Kings with its eight suites and two honeymoon suites, full spa, manicured lawn and gardens and enjoyed breakfast at the main lodge alongside many happy guests chatting excitedly about their morning sightings. However, Tad, Lynn, and Sonya were in for the royal treatment with our stay at nearby Waterbuck.
This private villa/house with four suites is dripping with colonial luxury with all modern conveniences and detail considered. Manicured grounds boast a swimming pool and chaise lounges for ultimate mid-day relaxation. Private game vehicle, ranger, tracker, personal butler and chef, this is a place for those looking for an extravagant safari. The highlight of our stay were the very professional and down to earth team of Vickie our guide (don't let her long blond hair and makeup fool you, she's a serious bush baby!) and Albert our tracker with serious skills and personality to boot!
They were so in tune with us and our interests – immediately picking up on the fact that we were exhausted at this point in our road race and we were content to have a quiet game drive. So they slowed the pace and pointed out many of the little things that have such a large impact on the environment around us like a civet latrine, the "Imodium" bush and how to identify the sex of a zebra ("guys wear G strings and ladies granny panties for wider hips)! Our meander through the bush culminated with a stop amongst an elephant herd - vehicle turned off and night settling in – at last so relaxed it was almost like yoga on a 4X4.

Exceeding Expectations: 
Singita Sabi Sands, Ebony Lodge, Sabi Sands Game Reserve

If you are booking a Singita property, your expectations will undoubtedly be high, and rightly so. Ours certainly were from the moment of arrival, exceeded time and again. With a delightful welcome and orientation tour from Chantelle the manager, we then met Josh our ranger and Peter our tracker and settled right in. The lodge boasts that it takes safari design and style to a new level and we agree without hesitation. They’ve struck the perfect balance of high-end luxury with actually allowing you to feel like you are still in the bush! They’ve removed walls and replaced them with glass panels and doors allowing guests to let in as much of the outdoors as possible.
With 12 suites perched above the Sand River (each has its own plunge pool), the lodge is large enough to afford space to accommodate larger groups , but small enough to feel exclusive with plenty of private spots to enjoy. From each "they-thought-of-everything" amenity to the fine bed linens, and variety of building and decorating materials – old brass, wood, iron, canvas, clay, stone, and woven baskets – the entire property melds together exceptionally well and enveloped us in its beauty and comfort. Although you can easily spend days game viewing from any number of decks along the Sand River running through the property, you’d be amiss not to jump on board the most comfortable state-of-the-art game viewing vehicles and explore.
Our ranger/tracker team of Josh and Peter were fantastic and the highlight of our experience was their keen ability and good nature. Leopards, rhino, buffalo, elephant, hippos, and so on, couldn’t top the sighting of a den of hyena with an adorable and curious 3 week old black pup! – a special sighting indeed – and still puzzled as to how they spotted it in the dimming light of day! This was on top of another first for the three of us…. witnessing a lone ostrich performing a mating dance while following our tracker, Peter, who was out on foot tracking cheetah – a hearty laugh was had by all. The meals were also top-notch with special mention to the surprise bush breakfast and champagne for sundowners!

Comfort and Style: 
Lion Sands River Lodge, Sabi Sands Game Reserve

With four lodges between the Kruger and on the Lion Sands Game Reserve within the Sabi Sands, the love of the land that has been passed down for generations among the More family is evident. We stayed at Lion Sands River Lodge, the largest of the four, with twenty beautiful thatched rooms in the Lion Sands Game Reserve. This lodge is ideal for small groups and families as the layout offers a feeling of exclusivity yet the property is large enough to host them. The suites are beautiful with large bathrooms, small lounge and private decks and perfect for guests not ready for or looking to combine with a tented or "wild" safari experience.
With so many activities to choose from including game drives, bush walks, hippo tour, wildlife lectures, village visit, children’s activities, swimming pool, astronomy, and meals in the bush…there is truly something for everyone. The lodge also boasts one of the finest “safari boutiques” with an incredible assortment of hand-selected goods. Our time here was short but we did get to enjoy an incredible eggs benedict al fresco, whipped up by the talented chef before departure.
Once again, our highlight of the experience came down to our guide and tracker team, Andrew and Andrias - our bushwhacking for leopard, perfect placement for the passing large elephant herd being chased by a massive bull in musk, and time spent with the male rhino were major highpoints of our trip! These guys were upbeat, friendly, and knowledgeable in the bush.


Site Inspections (sadly no overnights at these properties)

Tanda Tula, Timbavati Private Game Reserve

We had all wanted to visit the camp and see it for ourselves for some time now and it didn't disappoint. We all just loved this lovely, traditional tented camp! Lunch prepared by Ryan was delicious, conversation with our host (and camp manager Dale (part of a management couple w family!), was interesting and fun, and the fact that they summoned a lovely old and large tusker (must have had 9ft tusks!) to join us at the waterhole in front of us topped it all off. Best dining view of our Greater Kruger tour! We were so lucky to share a lunch there.
The 12 tented rooms (with zips and proudly so!) were great with massive private decks and lots of comforts, though they are in the midst of updating them with new linens and bathroom layouts. The whole experience offers the ultimate in safari authenticity. Next on our list is a return to try out their exclusive field camp experience. As they say, “Unquestionably, Tanda Tula Field Camp is the most authentic "glamorous camping" experience in South Africa.” Who could say no to that!  We can’t wait! The Tanda Tula experience is perfect for anyone looking for a traditional and authentic tented camp in big cat country – we highly recommend it and only regret we didn’t have time to spend the night.

Dulini River Lodge (formerly &Beyond Exeter River Lodge), Sabi Sands Game Reserve 

We were fortunate enough to arrive for a site inspection to Dulini River Lodge (formerly &Beyond Exeter River Lodge) just in time for lunch. And what a feast it was! The lodge now forms part of the Dulini Collection and has one of the best locations in the Western Sector. We explored the common areas of this lovely little lodge with eight rooms – ideal for couples though families are accepted too it is important to note that rooms are not suitable for triple configuration. The layers of color palettes and layout of common areas are fantastic, encouraging a variety of private nooks for relaxation and mingling with other guests. Though our visit was brief, we can’t say enough about the great and hospitable staff and the incredible food (amazing presentation too) that was prepared for us.

Simbavati Safari Lodges, Timbavati Private Game Reserve

 Fresh scones and coffee, and great conversation awaited us as we arrived to Simbavati River Lodge. We all immediately agreed it was a fantastic property for families with children – complete with a playground, ice cream stops in the bush, and even the couches were made up of big bean bag style pillows – no need to helicopter over your kids here. The small-ish rooms were of varied  design and layout though consistent with a palette of greys. They could use some soft color accents to brighten it up a bit. Our biggest surprise of the trip was a visit to the sister property, Simbavati Hilltop Lodge. Perhaps one of the most pleasing lodges to the eye due to its simple, Zen style of light wood structures and walkways and open-air nature, perched upon a hill with views off to the Drakensberg beyond. It felt faintly Namibian, Wolwedans-esque.
While families are welcomed below at River Lodge, the Hilltop is for the romantic couple looking to get away. The eight premium tents are connected by wooden walkways and staircases (note: there are a lot of stairs so not recommended for the mobility challenged) with one infinity pool with a stunning view, shared by all. This property would also be wonderful to take over for an intimate wedding – bougainvillea climbs along the breezeways making for an elegant and colorful backdrop. We left whishing we had had much more time, at the very least for a drink to soak in the feeling of peace and that view!
This may as well have been the three of us at the end of this bush adventure! Phew!



Cusp: A wild dog conservation success story in Hwange National Park

A special wildlife report from Mark Butcher, Imvelo Safari Lodges' Managing Director.

At Bomani Safari Lodge with my family just before New Year, we went out on an evening game drive on the concession to patrol for predators. Half an hour before sunset, we found our Bomani pack of nine wild dogs; the soft light was beautiful, they were relaxed in open country and we all got some wonderful photos.

Later that evening, after dinner back at camp, reviewing my photos, my blood went cold when I saw one of the females had a broken-off copper wire snare tight around her neck. I sent a report to Peter and Washington at Painted Dog Conservation, for help in darting and removing the snare. By January 4th they had put together their team and came south to our end of the park. Only on the 7th did they finally locate the pack and get a tranquilizing dart into the female called Cusp, remove the snare, clean the wound and administer long-acting antibiotics.

On January 12th she was spotted again by our guides, sporting a clean red ‘collar’ and appearing to be in good health. And then on the 20th whilst on a walk with guests, Sibs and Dirk got some great photos of Cusp that showed the terrible wound apparently healing, and her in good health. Given the close-knit social structure of the pack, the loss of an Alpha or senior female wild dog can spell disaster, and it seemed a
catastrophe had been averted.

Then on February 15th Cheryl saw a wild dog with a severe abscess on the neck at Stoffie’s pan, and we suspected the worst, that Cusp’s injury had become infected. Unfortunately, photos of the dog were poor and a positive ID difficult. Vet Rob assured us it was unlikely to be a result of the snare wound as the long-acting antibiotics are usually very effective. Peter and his team returned to the area on February 24th and spent three days looking for the dogs.

Despite numerous sightings of the dogs after this, no positive ID was obtained; privately, I feared the worst.

Then on May 13th, whilst assisting with our feeding programme for schoolchildren at Ngamo Primary, I got a radio call from Gary, doing repairs on the engine for Stoffie's pan, that he had spotted a pack of nine wild dogs resting up in the shade. We drove over, located them and spent a wonderful couple of hours with the dogs.

Because it was a pack of nine, I kept searching for Cusp, but without certainty, and so just kept snapping photos. It was the middle of the day and the dogs were in and out of the shade of some i<i>Gaku. </i>I felt that we had evidence to confirm the fate of Cusp.

Back at the office the following week, I began poring through dozens photos and, happy days! One of the dogs looked just like Cusp with her wound absolutely healed. I immediately sent the pics to Peter at Wild Dog Conservation. A flurry of emails ensued; he said he’d need to review carefully before being positive in his ID, but did comment that one of the females was very pregnant. Enlarging the photos again, my heart surged when I realised firstly the female definitely was Cusp, and then that it was her that was heavily pregnant.

Her recovery from her terrible injury was indeed complete. After all the trauma she has
endured, we hope the next few months for her during denning will be easy ones!

****

Cusp, the alpha female of the Ngamo pack of African wild dog, was photographed with 12 healthy puppies in mid-August, to the joy of guides and guests at Bomani and Camelthorn Lodges on the south eastern border of Hwange National Park. Cusp is becoming a celebrity dog among wildlife enthusiasts. The alpha female bears heavy responsibility for the well-being of the pack, and especially the raising of youngsters.

After spotting a pregnant Cusp in May, the pack denned on the edge of the Bomani concession and were seen regularly by guests during the next few weeks. Wild dog are highly social animals and really entertaining to watch, whether hunting cooperatively or just playing together.

Imagine the delight of guides and guests with these current photos, taken on the pack’s first major outing with the puppies, revealing 12 puppies to the world. Packs with pups are vulnerable and will move dens at the first hint of trouble – such as leopard, lion or hyena prowling around. Then, as the pups mature, they move with increasing frequency until they no longer need the security of an underground dormitory.

We observed one dog with a limp, who is being cared for by the others – and guests couldn’t believe their eyes when a yearling dog managed to corner a kudu by himself – and then did not know what to do with it. The kudu was lucky to escape after a standoff – this time! The scar from the snare is clearly visible on Cusp’s neck in 3 of the photos but she is certainly well and in her element with all her babies. We love nothing more than watching in amazement as these rare and special animals bring up their pups – and we will be sure to share the stories with you as they unfold!