This Is Going To Be A Little Spicy. We’re Heading To Zanzibar For #AfricaFactFriday

Pack your bags ladies and gentlemen, because we’re heading to Zanzibar.

Of course, even though it is Africa Fact Friday, we would never recommend you spend just a single day in this amazing destination – after all, what other island off the coast of Tanzania has been fought over and ruled by, among others, the Portuguese, the British, the Sultan of Oman and a few other random pirate leaders?

And has amazing beaches? And its very own species of monkey?

Only one.

A lot of that has to do with the amazing spices that are found on the island. Because, once upon a time, for example, when the Portuguese were in charge of this African paradise some six centuries ago, it wasn’t so much that whoever had the gold made the rules, it was whoever had the spices that was in charge. This is just one of the reasons that the island of Zanzibar has been a prized destination for over 2,000 years. From the Arab traders who first settled in Stone Town, to the Portuguese who indeed ruled much of the 15th and 16th centuries, not to mention the British or the Sultan of Oman who also conquered the island at one point. the history of Zanzibar is a remarkable one.

It all starts with the main town on the island: Stone Town Stone Town can best be described as ‘living history’ as you can wander the alleys and back streets of this amazing city. From the famous Stone Town wooden doors to the Palace of Wonder, the combination of Asian, Persian, Indian, European and, of course, African influences make Stone Town an architect’s dream. The name, Stone Town, comes from the use of the coral stone that was used to construct most of the famous buildings in the town.

Zanzibar is, of course, more than just Stone Town. And you can do more than just visit the national parks or go on a Spice Tour and learn how Zanzibar dominated the world trade in spices for centuries. There are dozens of possible ways to help you spend a week or two on Zanzibar, and at Travel On The Good, we’d be happy to help you figure out the best way to do visit (and since we are Travel On The Good, a far higher percentage of the cost of your vacation will stay on the island.)

But if you really want to experience what it’s like to live and work or, say, volunteer on Zanzibar, then let us introduce you to two great opportunities from our friends at African Impact.

Zanzibar is famous for its dolphins – not to mention the fact the Menai Bay Conservation Area is the largest in Zanzibar and one of the largest in all of the east coast of Africa. Dolphins are great communicators – which is not completely surprising because Zanzibar is part of Tanzania and in this single African country, they speak over 120 different languages.

They will squeak, whistle and even use body language to get their point across. Sometimes, they jump as high as 20 feet out of the water or slap their tails on the water to get their point across. You’ll experience all these things first hand when you volunteer with African Impact. You can stay from two weeks to eight weeks. We’re told at the end of eight weeks, while we can’t guarantee it, most people are fluent in dolphin.

African Impact also has a wonderful community volunteer project in Zanzibar. It doesn’t involve any flapping of your tail on the water, but it’s equally rewarding. There’s more information here.

So while entire books have been written about what to do in Zanzibar, we think it comes down to two things. Visit with Travel On The Good and we’ll make a donation of at least 10% of the total cost of your trip to Happy Africa Foundation – they do amazing work on the island.

Or you can volunteer on the island with African Impact.

Either way, you’ll have the chance to wander the alleys of Stone Town, see the amazing beaches of the eastern coast of the island and, of course, add as much spice to your trip as you wish.

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This Is Going To Be Big. Happy #AfricaFactFriday

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the hippo – a massive animal that loves water which is where their name comes from – the ancient Greeks named them “river horses.” You might already know that a large male hippo can weigh well over three tons – but that’s just the start of some interesting things we’ve uncovered about hippos for today’s very special Africa Fact Friday.

Think you can outrun a 6,000 pound animal with tiny legs? Think again. Hippos, over short distances, can easily outrun a human and have been clocked at 20 miles an hour. This, and the fact that it is surprising that a hippo can run so fast, make the hippo one of the deadliest animals in Africa. Far more people die each year in hippo attacks than they do in elephant or lion attacks.

Hippo facts start early with the amazing. A baby hippo is born underwater and must swim to get its first breath. The average baby hippo is over four feet in length and weighs approximately one hundred pounds. They get big fast because hippos eat – a lot. They’ll often eat over one hundred pounds of vegetation during the day as they float around, let’s call that their lunch. For dinner, overnight, they will climb out of the water when it’s dark and eat another hundred and fifty pounds of grass.

Hippos are native to approximately 30 countries in Africa and our friends at African Impact run a lot of volunteer projects that you might want to check out if you are interested in seeing these really amazing creatures. But again, if you run into a hippo, don’t try and run away from the same hippo – see above.

Last week, we talked about how close chimpanzees are to humans so we are sure by now you are wondering – well what’s the hippo’s closest living relative? The answer is the whale.

If you were to run into a hippo and if you wanted to break the ice and have a chat, you could start by asking a hippo how they produce a natural sunscreen which is a very useful trait in Africa, and then when the conversation got going a bit, you could ask the question that we really want to know the answer to –

Mother hippos produce pink milk.

How the heck does that happen? Let us know what you find out.

Don’t forget – Travel On The Good can give you lots of great chances to see hippos – Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa – they all have a lot of hippos. We’re especially big on the hippos in Zambia just so you know.

98% Of The People Who Read This Are Chimpanzee. Happy #AfricaFactFriday

You grew up thinking that your cousins from Jersey were your closest living relatives , but actually you were wrong. For you, me, all humans in fact, chimpanzees are our closest living relatives – we share approximately 98% of our DNA with chimps making us 98% chimp and making chimps 98% human.

Which not only explains the behavior of some of your cousins from Jersey perhaps, but also is why, among many other human behaviors, chimpanzees laugh when they play and groom each other when relaxing. Grooming not only helps a chimp look better when learning sign language which they can do when in captivity, but also relax and calm down after a tense day.

What would chimps have to be tense about? Well, unfortunately like most animals in Africa, the only place in the world where chimps live, their natural habitat has been greatly reduced. Once, chimps roamed over 25 countries in Africa, more countries than 98% of people visit in their lifetimes we suppose, but now they are endangered in five of those countries, gone from five more and need our help in the remaining fifteen.

Africa is, by the way, the only place in the world you will find chimpanzees in the wild, meaning that first things first – you should visit Africa with Travel On The Good and see the chimpanzees. When you do so, not only will you experience what few people get to do, but you’ll also be supporting organizations in Africa that are working to save the chimpanzees, the lions, the elephants and every other species that needs our help.

So what if you are up for more than a visit? What if you want to settle down and really experience how your closest living relatives live? Well there’s an amazing program where you get to do that in Northern Zambia.

The Chimpanzee and Wildlife Orphanage Care Project which is located on the banks of the Kafue River – yes it’s as amazing as it sounds – is the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in the world and has over one hundred chimpanzees that you can interact with, play with and groom each other should you so choose.

In 2013, Goabroad.com named this remarkable new project a winner with its “Innovative New Project Volunteer” Award – so you know you will have an amazing experience – you can visit the project for as little as two weeks or as long as twelve weeks which just might be enough time for you to learn all there is to learn about these amazing creatures. One of your new friends might even teach you how to walk on your knuckles which, we are told, is not nearly as painful as it sounds.

Happy #AfricaFactFriday everyone! And here’s to visiting and helping the chimps.

 

Africa Geography 101

Hats off to the folks at The Safari Company for a great post on Ebola – which is surprisingly impacting tourist travel to Africa. Why surprisingly you say? Well, because where the Ebola breakout is happening, and it is a terrible disease that is having a major impact on that region, is far closer to say, Europe, than it is to the key tourist routes in Africa – primarily East Africa and Southern Africa.

London, Paris, Madrid and even, and this one actually did surprise us a bit as well, key cities in Brazil are all closer to the Ebola outbreak than say the Serengeti, Botswana or Cape Town.

Cape Town is just under 5,800 kilometers away from the outbreak while Madrid is a relatively cosy 3,600 kilometers. For all the Americans reading this, look at it this way. Cape Town is farther away from the Ebola outbreak than New York is from Los Angeles.

There are, of course, lots of flights in and out of the impacted areas but the issue with those flights won’t be internal Africa flights, it will be the hundreds of daily flights in and out of Africa from Western Europe and the United States.

There’s another part of Africa that is currently being impacted by the same relative lack of knowledge about distances – and that’s Kenya. The troubles in Kenya along the coast, which have quieted down substantially in the last two to three months, are hundreds and in some cases, thousands of miles away from many of the key safari destinations such as Naboisho. 

It’s a great time to head to Africa. Really. And it’s especially a great time to head to Africa with Travel On The Good – in case you want more information on why that’s true, read more here. 

We’ll Make This Quick – Cheetahs For #AfricaFactFriday

Ladies and gentlemen, don’t start your engines but instead fulfill your need for speed by considering this. A cheetah can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles an hour in 3 seconds. One. Two. Three and a cheetah is going full speed. When you visit Kenya, for example, we promise you that your safari vehicle even the best of them will be able accelerate from 0 to maybe 10 miles an hour in the same amount of time.

Where are the best places to see cheetahs now? There are four regions of Africa where your chances are pretty good. We say pretty good because any time you’re tracking an animal that can run as fast as a cheetah in a vehicle that only dreams of moving that fast, like is true with all wildlife, there are no guarantees.

However, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Eastern Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) all have fairly healthy populations. In Kenya, the range of the cheetah population has shrunk considerably over the years, but they still occupy 23% of their original territory. When one considers that cheetahs have been around for an estimated 4 million years, that’s actually not too bad.

Another quick note.

When cheetahs run, they use their tails like a skipper uses the rudder on a boat – making turning possible and quick. Cheetahs actually don’t run after their prey for great distances but slowly sneak up on them and will attack, typically, when they are less than twenty yards away.

You do the math. A slow antelope versus a cheetah that can go from 0 to 60 in three seconds over a space of twenty yards. Well, at least it will be all over quickly one hopes.

Two more fun cheetah facts – and we welcome you to share yours via Twitter and #africafactfriday. The Naboisho Conservancy in Kenya has a very healthy population of cheetahs and we recommend you consider visiting there – if you do, a portion of your trip’s costs will go directly to the conservancy and to their efforts to preserve the population there. We’re certain they’ll be quick to thank you.

Last one – cheetahs can run twice as fast as an elite thoroughbred horse. Now, we’ve never seen a cheetah chase down a horse at the Kentucky Derby but it’s interesting to think that if there were cheetahs in Kentucky, the cheetah could.

This isn’t a cheetah fact but it’s a very interesting opportunity for anyone who loves cheetahs and might be interested in a volunteer project working with these amazing animals. Our friends at African Impact have a great program in South Africa with lots of different options and some great pricing as well – here are more details.

Roar. Or What’s Your Favorite Lion Fact For #africafactfriday?

We love lions. We love watching lions hunt and we love watching lions sleep which is a good thing because the average lion sleeps 20 hours a day and then does a little walking around and maybe some hunting before they go back to sleep for another 20 hours. Like they say, it’s good to be the King.

In honor of #africafactfriday, we brought out a few of our favorite facts about lion (like the fact that they sleep twenty hours a day) and we thought we’d share them with you.

One reason that everyone loves lions more now than they used to is the Broadway musical, “The Lion King” which made Simba a household name. Simba, by the way, means lion in Swahili and that’s the primary language in Kenya which is where we highly recommend you go see lions.

Now there are a lot of lions in Kenya, but the single greatest concentration of lions in Kenya that we are aware of is the 100 member pride that lives in the Naboisho Conservancy in the Mara region. This huge pride is dominated by a very large male and we highly recommend that you visit Naboisho and see for yourself.

Now, one of the reasons that we know so much about that pride is due to the amazing work of the not-surprisingly-named Mara Naboisho Lion Project. While 54 million people have seen “The Lion King” as it has toured the world, a much smaller number of people have been fortunate enough to visit, volunteer and help out on this amazing project in Kenya. If you are looking for a place to volunteer and see lions, a lot of lions, we highly recommend contacting them.

If you are just interested in visiting Naboisho and staying at, for example, Encounter Mara, a five star camp which was named Kenya’s Best Tented Camp, we have a special way for you to do it that the lions would shake their tails in appreciation (lions by the way are the only member of the cat family with a tasseled tail.) When you stay at Encounter Mara, Travel On The Good will make a large (i.e at least 10%) donation of the cost of your trip the the Mara Naboisho Lion Project. 

You win. The lions win. Everyone wins. And then you can see a group of lions like the one in the photo above, they’ll be most impressed that you know that their back teeth are called carnassals and actually work like scissors when eating raw meat. You won’t want to saw chewing in front of the pride because everyone knows that lions don’t chew their meat actually, they swallow whole chunks of it. Which could also explain the sleeping.

If you book with us, please let us know that you want to support the Mara Naboisho Lion Project.  Email Avery for more information, avery@travelonthegood.com

Should You Safari With Kids? A Thousand Times Yes.

I first took my kids to Africa when my son was eleven and my daughter was seven. We visited Cape Town and then had the experience of a lifetime going up to Flatdogs Camp in South Luangwa region of Zambia (still to this day one of my favorite camps in Africa.)

It was a trip that changed their lives, and mine. I watched as their eyes opened in wonder at seeing their first elephant. I saw them appreciate nature in a way that they never had at home. They got wonderfully used to waking up before dawn, going to bed under the stars and understanding when the electricity went out or if their first choice wasn’t available at dinner.

We brought school supplies for a local school and wandered through the towns near the national camp. There wasn’t a piece of technology in sight and it was an incredible trip.

When we returned, it got even better.

Both of my children kept asking about Africa, about the camp and about the guide who had taken us around. They soon started asking about when we were going back and my son wrote down a list of the animals that he still wanted to see – with a cheetah at the top. We were fortunate enough to be able to return to Zambia last summer and on that trip, a cheetah ran right by us on our last drive.

Once upon a time, safari camps didn’t really cater so much to kids and some still exclude them. More and more, however, camps are not only welcoming children but also there are increased activities for them. I can’t imagine a better family vacation. I am still partial to Flatdogs I confess, but there are camps where you, and your family, will have an amazing experience in virtually every locale at this point.

So grab the kids, and paper and pencils, and head to Africa. I promise you that you will never regret it. I am happy to directly answer any questions about traveling there with kids, just email me at james@travelonthegood.com

 

Happy Africa Foundation. Happy #africafactfriday

This week, we were happy to announce our partnership with an amazing group, The Happy Africa Foundation. HAF does really critical important work all across Africa and, in their honor, we’re highlighting some of the amazing things that they do (we’re more than impressed and are sure you will be as well.) We’re also tossing in a few more facts about the countries and places where Happy Africa operates. So let the fun facts, and the fun retweets begin!

Here are a few fun things about Happy Africa Foundation and where they operate that we’ll be tweeting out today.

In Livingstone, Zambia, Happy Africa Foundation is working to renovate and improve the Zambezi Sawmills School. In Zambia, there are a lot of schools that need a lot of help so good thing Happy Africa Foundation is stepping up. (By the way, you can donate directly to Happy Africa Foundation here if you so desire.)

If you visit that part of Zambia though, bring your umbrella because the rainforest at the base of Victoria Falls is the only place on earth that receives rain 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Further north and east, in Zanzibar, Happy Africa Foundation is helping with Nursery and Nutrition programs for children.

And, right there in Tanzania, Happy Africa Foundation is working with the Jambiani Educational English Center to facilitate English lessons and community services.

Tanzania is also home to the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro. Almost every kind of ecological system is found on the mountain: cultivated land, rain forest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and an arctic summit.

In the Western Cape, South Africa, Happy Africa Foundation works Sporting Chance Street Cricket. This program brings everyone together to learn this remarkable game.

Based in South Africa, and with a lot of interesting people working there, maybe Happy Africa Foundation helps give SA the third highest biodiversity in the world?Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 9.46.29 AM

The Happy Africa Foundation planted 14 food gardens in KwaZulu-Natal in one year.

Speaking of plantings, Table Mountain in Cape Town has over 1,500 species of plants. That’s more than the entire United Kingdom.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 9.44.57 AM

Now reading about all these places is one thing but if you are interested in going to Victoria Falls and seeing the Moonbows that happen during full moons, or if you want to visit the amazing back alleys of Stone Town in Zanzibar, travel with Travel On The Good and a portion of your trip will benefit Happy Africa Foundation.

Happy Africa Fact Friday everyone. Check out our current deals and please, email Avery at avery@travelonthegood.com with questions.

 

 

Happy To Be With The Happy Africa Foundation

It’s no surprise that we’re happy to be working with the Happy Africa Foundation. They  are an inspiring non-profit working to create long-term, positive change in the lives of individuals, families and communities in Africa. The Foundation, established in 2008 in Cape Town, works with communities in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. It is funded mainly by donations received from volunteers working on African Impact projects.

south-africa

If you haven’t already heard of African Impact, it’s yet another incredible group doing community and environmental work in Africa. As the main volunteer travel organization in Africa, African Impact offers volunteer experiences which have long lasting positive effects on the local communities in which they work. Some of our favorite trips include volunteering at the Chimpanzee and Wildlife Orphan Care Project in Zambia and the Childhood Childcare and Early Development Project in Kenya.

We could go on about African Impact’s amazing volunteering and interning opportunities, but let’s get back to the Foundation. The small devoted team creates meaningful and lasting impact by working directly with the individuals and families who live in the communities in which they work. The group focuses on health and nutrition, education and enrichment, and empowering families. If appropriate, they partner with other local organizations such as Planeterra,Timberland Italy, and Zamfund. To incite even more excitement  about the Happy Africa Foundation, we’ve highlighted five of their current projects.

  1. HEALTH AND NUTRITION: Red Hill Health and Nutrition Program in the Western Cape – Red Hill supports the schools’ feeding programs by supplementing the funds needed to purchase nutritious foods such as fruit, vegetables and rice for the children as well as teaching healthy living practices at the school.
  2. HEALTH AND NUTRITION: Linda Clinic Expansion in Livingstone – The project aims to transform Linda Clinic into a three-ward district hospital that will be able to provide the surrounding communities with better support and access to more extensive health care. This will involve the building of three wards – female, male and children’s – as an extension to the current out-patient clinic.
  3. EDUCATION AND ENRICHMENT: Jambiani Educational Community Center in Zanzibar – This project is aimed at raising the funds needed to purchase a piece of land within Jambiani village and to build a new community learning centre. Once the land is purchased, African Impact volunteers will work alongside local volunteers to clear the land of vegetation and coral rocks, dig the foundations and then help concrete the foundations.
  4. EDUCATION AND ENRICHMENT: Mukeo Farming for Special Needs Children in Limuru – Mukeu plans to start a farming project in order to ensure that the centre can continue to feed the boarders and become self-sufficient in the long term. The raising of livestock and greenhouse farming have been identified as sustainable projects that will provide not only food, but also income, to the school.
  5. EMPOWERING FAMILIES: Mama Grace Garden and Chicken Project in South Africa – The Happy Africa Foundation is working with the local Department of Social Welfare and the Siyazisiza Trust to support the initiative by raising funds to provide a grant for the renovation of the existing buildings and equipment. There are also plans to develop a vegetable garden and to provide poultry management training and bookkeeping skills.

Read about many more amazing projects on Happy Africa Foundation’s website.

You can contribute to Happy Africa Foundation’s work in Zambia, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania, by taking an unforgettable trip to one of these unforgettable places.  When you book with Travel On The Good, we donate a portion of the cost to the Foundation and their projects. When you Travel On The Good, we’re all going somewhere – you, The Happy Africa Foundation, and the many communities they benefit.

Check out our current trip offerings, the Tuli Wilderness Camp in Botswana and the Encounter Mara Camp in Kenya.

What Do Elephants Talk About At The Watering Hole?

elephant encounter maraElephants are remarkable creatures.

They’re highly intelligent, communicative, and have a sense of smell that is even better than a bloodhound’s.

Elephants have feelings, too. There have been numerous observations of empathetic and caring behavior exemplified by elephants, such as using their trunks to touch and give support to other elephants or to help their friends feel better by trumpeting sympathetic noises.

An elephant can also detect the vocalizations of their companions seismically, with their feet. When an elephant makes a noise, an exact replica of this signal is sent separately through the ground. With their sensitive feet, elephants can detect earth tremors, thunderstorms and the hoof beats of distant animals. They know which human voices represents threats and can warn each other.

Speaking of human threats, people are a huge threat to elephants in the wildlife. Due to poaching for the trade of ivory, the population of elephants is dropping rapidly. Individuals from local communities have turned to poaching due to increasing poverty and high rates of return from the ivory trade.

Can safari tourism be more valuable to local communities than poaching? Many think so. Tourism is the second largest income generator after coffee exports in Kenya. If you want to do your part to save elephants, we suggest visiting the Mara.

Book with Travel On The Good and stay at the Encounter Mara. Proceeds from your trip will benefit the Naboisho Conservancy, which supports the local community and is working tirelessly on anti-poaching efforts.

If a trip to Kenya to visit the Mara is not on your immediate to do list (although we think it is the to do list), you can still support this cause through amazing organizations such as ElephantVoices. ElephantVoices uses knowledge acquired over decades to act as a voice for elephants:

Through research, education, conservation and advocacy we promote the protection and kinder treatment of elephants whereever they may be. As acknowledged experts on the natural behavior of elephants we offer insight to protect them and the authority to speak on their behalf.

Check out elephantvoices.org to support and read more about these complex and wonderful animals.

If you are interested in visiting the Mara and doing your part to help save elephants and save on a great deal, then be sure to check out our new offer. Right now, by booking with Travel On The Good, a couple can stay at Encounter Mara for 4 nights for only $3685. For 5 nights the price is $4310. Your trip will directly benefit the Naboisho Conservancy in the Mara and their anti-poaching efforts.

If you have any questions, please contact our own elephant fanatic, Avery at avery@travelonthegood.com.