Archive for November, 2011

Into Africa… with Kichaka Game Lodge

Kichaka Safari Lodges

They say ‘judge a man by the company he keeps,’ but we also think there should be an expression like, ‘Judge a property by the person at the helm.’

Why do we say that?

Because Kichaka Private Game Lodge’s David Mariba, who has just stepped into the role of Lodge Manager, has stepped into the role with fabulous zeal and something every vacation needs… an ever present smile. In short, we keep hearing that the guests love him. To that end, Chris Renecker, Head Ranger, also comes highly regarded ensuring guests are having phenomenal game experiences and incredible sightings. And then there’s their amazing GM, Keith Craig, who holds the operation together flawlessly. Most Kichaka guests have the pleasure of meeting Keith during their stay and depart truly feeling as though Kichaka has become their second home.

Chris Renecker, Head Ranger (left), Keith Craig, General Manager (middle), David Mariba, Lodge Manager (right)

So here’s a bit about Kichaka:

Set between two streams in a lush bushveld valley, Kichaka Lodge is an exclusive five star lodge located within a Big 5 game reserve, in the malaria free Eastern Cape. This luxury game lodge sleeps 20 people in 10 secluded stone and thatch suites. Each secluded, air-conditioned suite has a viewing deck where guests are treated to spectacular views, its own private plunge pool, a fully-stocked bar fridge and free wireless internet access. Wireless internet, a bar fridge, private plunge, and safari hut. Call me Baroness Karen von Blixen, this babe is ready to get Into Africa.

The Interior of Kichaka

From gourmet dining in private or at one of our outdoor or indoor dining areas… or just relaxing by the pool or on one of the terraces, expect only the very best in service and hospitality from Kichaka Lodge. Experienced rangers also maximize every opportunity to ensure exceptional viewing during your game drives on this established 20,000 acre game reserve in the Eastern Cape. Excellent sightings of lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo, as well as cheetah, hippo, giraffe, hyena, zebra, warthog and numerous species of antelope are enjoyed on game drives across the open plains of the reserve.

Kichaka has also added a new Wellness Suite, which is nearing completion shortly. Set on the outdoor deck overlooking the waterhole, it is an idyllic location for spa treatments with spectacularly panoramic, thrilling views.

Holiday space is still available so be the leader of the pack.

www.kichaka.co.za

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Here’s a Crazy Little Island For You

Zavicon Island, Ontario, Canada (house) and Little Zavicon Island (garden)

We had to post this photo because we thought these little islands were just too damn cute. Zavikon Island and Little Zavikon Island, refers to the pair of islands in the Thousand Islands archipelago on the St. Lawrence River between New York and Ontario, two kilometres southeast of Rockport, Ontario and about 200 meters north of the international boundary. It used to be owned by Woolrich Woolen Mills, Woolrich, Pa., and it’s said that each summer the office employees of Woolrich Woolen Mills were invited to take their vacations there.

The cluster of islands, which number 1,793 in all, range in size from over 40 square miles to smaller islands occupied by a single residence (like the one above), to even smaller uninhabited outcroppings of rocks that are home to migratory waterfowl. Uncle Sam’s Boat Tours explain that this house contains a bridge that is the shortest international bridge in the world. The legend (although some say it’s more of an old wives tale) is that, at one point, the man living in the house constructed a customs booth in the middle of the bridge and would go to the American side when he got angry with his wife, instructing the customs official to forbid his wife from crossing.

We’re not sure we believe that, but it’s pretty funny, nonetheless!

An Exotic Escape to Sri Lanka

Dambulla Cave Temple - Sri Lanka

Did you know that this year has officially been declared ‘Visit Sri Lanka Year’ by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa?

So we thought, what better time to vacation in Sri Lanka than the present? One tour operator we’ve become familiar with throughout the years, Banyan Tours & Travels, is also offering tailor made safe, bespoke itineraries throughout India and Sri Lanka.

Here’s a bit about Sri Lanka. Known as the pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has one of the longest documented histories in the world – over three thousand years. And, as one of the few remaining Buddhist societies in South Asia, Sri Lanka is the perfect destination for gaining an understanding of Buddhism’s way of life. For those interested in studying Buddhism, a visit to KandyTemple of the Tooth Kandy, and Dalada Maligawam are great options. This is where the founder of Buddhism’s relic is located and locals make puja (prayers and offerings) daily. Also known for its natural beauty, Sri Lanka is home to diverse landscapes, from verdant tropical forests to palm-lined beaches, and a stay at Tea Trails presents travel lovers with the chance to tour a tea estate and taste fresh local tea. How cool is that?

Sri Lankan Woman Picking Tea

Sri Lanka is also home to elephants, leopards, monkeys, rare birds, and many other exotic animals, so, for animal lovers looking for an ecotour that will let them get their hands dirty, the Millennium Elephant Foundation allows guests the chance to ride and bathe these gentle giants. Travelers won’t want to miss the Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Galle, or the markets located nearby, where a taste of hoppersdosas, and dodol will surely make Sri Lankan food a new favorite.

Cliff Diving near Galle Fort

Price: A ten-day, nine-night itinerary begins at a very reasonable $2,779/per person basis and includes accommodations, meals as per the program, and ground transportation in Sri Lanka. Add  an optional three-night stay at Tea Trails and scale the formidable Adam’s Peak, a wonderful sunrise excursion. Prices for the stay with the additional night begin at $3,125 per person and include accommodation and meals as per the program.

How to get there: Etihad and Emirates offer flights to Colombo with one stop in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai, from select major cities in North America (Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Toronto).

Consumer Inquiries: 1-866-401-3705

The Mobius iPhone Solar Powered Battery Case

The Mobius Rechargeable Solar Powered iPhone Case

This is too cool. A new product from the Etón Corporation (www.etoncorp.com) designed to keep you powered-up wherever you go. The Mobius (love the name) is, get this… a rechargeable battery case with a solar panel for the iPhone 4, available now on Amazon. Differentiating itself from solar-charging solutions on the market today, Mobius features a quick charge time and the ability to store charge until you need it. The high-efficiency monocrystal solar panel re-charges the 1800 mAh lithium ion battery pack on the back of the case. Only one hour of solar charging provides an additional 25 minutes of talk time. To fully charge the Mobius, you use the included Micro-USB cable which will sync with iTunes for maximum convenience. Mobius features a standby switch to turn off direct power transfer to the iPhone 4, allowing the case to charge and store energy in its own battery – only using the power when you need it.

We love ingenious eco-friendly solutions, don’t you?

25 Rewarding Things to Do in Uganda

Water Safari - Mweya Lodge Uganda

Just when you thought you’d done Africa, here is a list of 25 Things to Do in Uganda. Water safari or Mountains of the Moon, anyone?

1.      Listen to stories of the Royal Kingdom and local folklore told by members of the Ruboni community.

2.      Go mongoose trekking at Mweya Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park

3.      See the famous “Mountains of the Moon,” so-named because of the numerous craters in the landscape.

4.      Marvel at the tree-climbing lions of Edward Flats in Ishasha Plains, one of only two places in Africa to see them.

5.      Go on an Agro-Tour through community farmland and learn about farming methods, medicinal plants and bee-keeping (aside from honey, the bees keep elephants at bay)

6.      Track lions and do field research, monitoring their activities via a radio collar.

7.      Cruise through the beautiful Kazinga Channel, the body of water that connects salt water Lake Edward with fresh water Lake Albert.

8.      Meet the Batwa Pygmies on the Batwa Trail: hear their ancient legends and songs, join a mock hunting party, participate in their traditional dances.

Hello, Little Mountain Gorilla...

9.    Observe the majestic Mountain Gorillas and their tender interaction with their families.

10.  Traipse through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, one of the densest and most bio-diverse rainforests on earth.

11.  Take a water safari on the River Nile, the planet’s longest (and one of its most spectacular) rivers.

12.  Visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, a refuge created to re-introduce rhino to Uganda after their near extinction in 1982.

13.  Journey to Jinja on the shores of Lake Victoria, the closest city to the source of the White Nile, whose location was the subject of great mystery from antiquity until its discovery in 1856 by explorer John Hanning Speke.

14.  Fly fish at Chobe Safari Lodge, a key spot for anglers and riverscape aficionados.

Murchison Falls

15.  Take the three-hour launch trip to Murchison Falls, where the River Nile explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge 140 feet into a foaming pool below.

16.  Re-live history at Paraa Safari Lodge, located near the area where The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn was filmed, and where Ernest Hemingway and his wife crashed in their plane as their pilot flew close to Murchison Falls to get a bird’s eye view.

17.  Straddle the Equator (in Queen Elizabeth National Park) for photo ops and experiments (does water flow in opposite directions at Latitude 00?).

18.  Take in Katwe Salt Lake and learn how salt has been mined there using traditional methods since the 16th century.

19.  Enjoy a picnic lunch at Baboon Cliffs Lookout.

20.  See the phenomenal “Cormorant House” – a large tree in the forest made white by roosting birds.

Animals in the distance - Chobe Safari Lodge

21.  Drive a road less traveled – the sixteen miles between Kataboro Gate and the Queen’s Pavillion that takes visitors past 72 gigantic basins scattered across the Equator that are evidence of the Albertine Rift’s volatile volcanic past.

22.  Bring your bird-watching binoculars – no fewer than 600 species may be found in Uganda.

23.    Experience an underground forest at the Kyambura Gorge, best known for its resident chimpanzees.  With limited space in the gorge, the chimps are usually easy to spot, leaving visitors time to watch our closest relatives eat, play, fight and socialize.

24.    Get up close to African wildlife through experiential tourism: count hippo, learn habituation calls, monitor weather, observe creatures’ behavior, all to be recorded for essential research.

25.    And when you go, “Pack for a Purpose,” a non-profit organization that suggests tourists use available space in their luggage to bring school and medical supplies to needy communities abroad. Pack five pounds of needed items – 400 pencils; five deflated soccer balls (and an inflation device); a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and 500 band-aids – and you will bring wide smiles to some of the world’s neediest children.

Zozi for a Little Inspiration

In the mood for some hang gliding?

zozi is in the business of inspiring people to live life to the fullest. Maybe you’re a novice outdoorsman (or woman) and looking to learn new mountaineering skills, or #59 on your bucket list: “hang-gliding to a beach picnic” hasn’t been crossed off yet. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to make that fantastic Thai curry dish, but just need that little nudge to get started. They believe that there’s beauty in opening yourself to new frontiers – no matter what it is – and they’re there to help you take that first step.

Or how about a hot air balloon sky dive?

We like it!
Some of their experiences include:
So what are you waiting for? Get zozified.

Switzerland’s Great Glacier Express

Switzerland's Glacier Express

When we were young, vibrant, and brimming with adventure (okay, okay… it wasn’t that long ago), we rafted the Class IV and Class V rapids of Switzerland. We will never forget it. Yes, we were that tough. Some might say, we still are. Taking the train from Paris to Interlaken still goes down in history as one of our favorite memories. So, since we’re always keen to locate good eco-friendly train travels, we thought we’d talk Switzerland’s Glacier Express!

Apparently, there is no better time to visit Switzerland than in the spring when rolling pastures are a vibrant green, flowers are in bloom and the snow-capped Alps cut a jagged path across clear blue skies. In anticipation of Spring’s 2012 schedule, Chicago-based specialty travel company, Vacations By Rail, offers four escorted rail tours through Switzerland, each incorporating breathtaking rail journeys to its renowned cities aboard some of the country’s most revered trains.

Oberhofen Castle - Lake Thun (Talk about scenic! OMG)

The 14-day Springtime in the Alps tour features five scenic rail excursions—the Bernina ExpressGlacier ExpressVoralpen Express,GoldenPass Panoramic Express and Europe’s highest open-air cog railway, the Gornergrat Bahn, to the Gornergrat observation deck surrounded by high mountain peaks and stunning views of the imposing Matterhorn—and cruises on Lake Constance, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. This comprehensive tour through the Alps includes visits to Zurich, Appenzell to view its lovely architecture and grand Baroque church, St. Gallen for a walking tour that includes the unique Abbey Library, Mainau Gardens, Chur, the palm trees of Tirano, located on the Italian side of the Bernina Pass, Locarno on the shores of Lago Maggiore, Interlaken, the car-free town of Zermatt and the Matterhorn, the Swiss Riviera town of Montreaux, Chillon Castle, Switzerland’s capital city of Bern and the lakeside town of Lucerne with its famous covered walking bridge.

Lucerne's Famous Chapel Bridge (This is just TOO much!)

But take note: this popular rail vacation departs only once a year. In 2012, that departure date is April 18th.

Shorter Swiss rail tours of 9 to 10 days in length include Alpine Lakes and Scenic Trains, which includes four scenic rail journeys and two lake cruises with departures from May through October; Scenic Switzerland traveling roundtrip from Zurich and offering four outstanding rail journeys and departures from April through September; and, Contrasts of Switzerland featuring two scenic rail excursions with departures in April, June, July and September.

Swiss rail vacations start at $2,375 land-only, per person based on double occupancy. Full itineraries for all of Vacations By Rail’s Swiss rail tours can be found at www.vacationsbyrail.com. Or, to throw caution to the wind and just book your Swiss rail vacation, contact a travel specialist at 877-929-7245.

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