Leslie Nevison is passionate and knowledgable about Africa. Her Company Mama Tembo Tours is not into five-star luxury which is key to any of these itineraries. Below she writes about her 2014 offerings.
What is important is the authenticity of the adventures, a rarity anywhere in travel today.
I receive a lot of requests for two day visits to Zambia’s Victoria Falls. There is so much more to Zambia! Elizabeth Becker observes in “Overbooked: the Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism” that Zambia is “still wide open.”
Explore this “wide open” Africa in MTTZ’s comfortable new Land Cruiser, which sits up to six people excluding the driver/guide. It comes with a small fridge; interior inverter and four plugs for camera charging; two pop-up hatches for game viewing; and double fuel tanks.
MTTZ has created two road programs which cover Northern Zambia (The Great North Road Safari) and Kafue National Park. Either can be lengthened or shortened to fit your requirements. (The Kafue NP safari can include Victoria Falls too.) The tradition in Zambia has always been fly in and out safaris to its first class parks, South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi, and Kafue. We can arrange these for you too, but consider experiencing this hospitable country by road. My clients who have been on safari before ask me, “Where are all the people?” They mean people other than those working at the camps and lodges. Go by road. This allows you time and freedom for “authentic connections.” (Thank you, Lyndsay, for the apt description.)
Northern Tanzania is on everyone’s radar as a safari destination because of its world renowned Serengeti National Park. It is an especially good pick for a first-ever or family safari. But its fame also results in some cookie-cutter itineraries, which aren’t good for you or the wildlife. There are ways to experience a less touristy Tanzania, even in the north. You have to know where to go. You must also consider Tanzania’s alternate safari circuits and destinations such as the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park. Tanzania is where my love affair with African began. This has never changed.
New in 2014: MTTZ’s most adventurous road safari yet is a Western Tanzania and Northern Zambia combination road safari. Wildlife destinations include Tanzania’s least visited Katavi National Park and Zambia’s remote North Luangwa National Park. You can start in Tanzania and end in Zambia or begin in Zambia and finish up in Tanzania. The program also includes a few days in a peaceful, comfortable spot on Lake Tanganyika on the Tanzanian side and an overnight on the historical vessel the MV Liemba which still serves the small ports on the eastern side of the lake, providing lots of local color with the loading and unloading of cargo.
Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo offers travelers the opportunity to observe the world’s only habituated groups Western lowland gorillas as well as Africa’s highest densities of forest elephants. It is a unique wildlife experience and adventure travel at its best. Begin your Congo gorilla safari in Kinshasa where you can visit the world’s only bonobo sanctuary. CWA offers a fully guided, set departure this year, departing Brazzaville Sept 19 and returning Sept 28. It’s open to 8 people; it will go with six confirmed. If you like your authentic adventures, you might want to come to Nouabale this year. There are big development plans for the park, which will be a mixed blessing as “progress” often is.
New in 2014: Uganda & Congo Gorilla Safari, two countries which share some of the greatest treasures of the African continent, indigenous culture AND gorillas. This unique safari combines the mountain gorillas of Uganda and the Western lowland gorillas of the Republic of Congo WITH the Batwa of Uganda and the Ba’Aka of the Congo Basin.
National Geographic Society films of forest elephants and hippos on the picturesque beaches of Loango National Park exposed Gabon to the world in the early 1990s. These iconic images continue to attract the majority of travelers to this tiny, West African country. Like its neighbor to the east, the Republic of Congo, Gabon is considered to have a healthy Western lowland gorilla population, although habituation programs have not met with the same success. The gorilla experience here is definitely for the purist: it is not easy to see them in their dense, swampy forests. On the other hand, where there is no guarantee of sightings is as real as gorilla trekking gets. This is exactly what scientists have to do for years in order to habituate a silverback and his harem so we can pay to see them from a distance of ten feet.
MTTZ has created several Gabon itineraries which it considers the best of what Gabon offers at the present time. Think about combining a Gabon safari with a visit to Sao Tome and Principe, an island paradise off the coast and among the world’s smallest countries.
Uganda is similar to Tanzania, it has something for everyone. There are mist- covered mountains and acacia-dotted savannah. There are lush tea plantations and impenetrable jungle. There are warm, friendly people. There is the Nile River. There is East African wildlife. However, where Uganda upstages Tanzania is that it has mountain gorillas as well as chimpanzees. You will find me in Uganda for most of February this year.
New in 2014: The fly-in, remote destination of Kidepo National Park in Northern Uganda near its border with Sudan. This is an iconic safari destination: vast savannah, rugged mountains, big skies, enormous views, indigenous people, and wildlife: elephant, lion, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, cheetah, antelope, and warthog. The Apoka Safari Lodge is rustic, constructed to blend naturally with terrain. It was listed in the Conde Nast Traveler Hot List of 2010 and was nominated in the category of Best East African Safari Property in 2012. Kidepo National Park has been nominated 3rd best African national park by CNN Traveler.
I spent New Year’s Eve in Pendjari National Park in Northern Benin. On my return to Cotonou, I stopped at Abomey, where the old palaces of the Dahomey Kingdom are now a museum and World Heritage Site. A few weeks later, I attended Benin’s most famous festival to observe the national religion of voodoo. You can find videos of these recent travels in Benin on the Mama Tembo Tours YouTube channel.
I leave you with this thought from Paul Coelho:
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It’s lethal.”