African Safaris Consultants Blog » big 5 safari Fri, 30 May 2014 09:38:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tanzania Tour Diary Fri, 11 Nov 2011 15:28:56 +0000 Our Safari Honcho, Jeff Ward, recently spent a week exploring the beautiful country of Tanzania. The below are excerpts of his trip as he recounts his amazing experiences…

Day 1:


I arrive at the Mount Meru Hotel in Arusha after a long spell of travelling. It’s the perfect spot for a one night pre or post safari stay, and it has a wonderful day room scenario for the late KLM flights out of JRO.

The Hotel has that old world charm that reminds me of the Mount Nelson in Cape Town… the perfect place to take Gran to tea.

The next day, I headed out to Tarangire National Park. The drive was extremely long but there was lots of good game on the way, including a python in a tree!

Day 2

The rooms at Tarangire Tree Tops Lodge are all built around a big old Baobab and Marula trees. A real tree house feel with great views.


Tarangire Tree Tops

Tarangire Tree Tops


There’s a watering hole right at the front of the lodge where we saw baboons playing (and fighting) while we had lunch.

Swala Sanctuary Camp

This under-canvas camp is right in the middle of the Tarangire National Park, so you can’t beat the location. With 12 tents, this is one of my all-time favorites.  The camp was completely renovated in 2009 and it shows. The place looks terrific. The large tents are permanently fixed on platforms and have full amenities. There is an outdoor shower for each room, with most overlooking the VERY active water hole. Guests at breakfast witnessed a mama lion snacking on a baby warthog this morning. The new managers are in the process of introducing walking safaris, which will be cool.

Swala Sanctuary Lodge

Swala Sanctuary Lodge

Day 4:

Manyara Serena Lodge

We did not have an appointment here, but Adam, my Akorn Driver/Guide thought it might be worthwhile to see.

We got a quick tour of the Manyara Serena which is right at the top of the escarpment. It has 67 rooms and was built in the 1990s. It was spacious, open, and clean, and had beautiful gardens for the grounds.

The lodge has amazing views out over Manyara and also has a refreshing pool that also overlooks the fertile valley below.


Manyara Serena Lodge

Manyara Serena Lodge


After breakfast at Manyara Ranch, we headed north-west past Lake Manyara National Park and up the Great Rift Valley escarpment  headed to the Karatu Highlands, where it was lush, green, and very pretty.


Karatu Highlands

Karatu Highlands


Gibbs Farm

I loved this place. They were expecting us and made us feel so welcome. We were immediately offered lunch from the buffet, which offered food that was almost completely grown on the farm (yes, the best meal I’d had so far). The front-office manager dined with us and was available to answer all of my questions. The environment was calm, serene and very relaxing.

Gibbs Farm Bedroom

Gibbs Farm Bedroom



The lodge sits adjacent to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park and has amazing views that overlook the highlands. There are 21 rooms — 3 older ones (2 of which are in the old home), and 18 new ones. All rooms are basically suites with sleeping, lounging and outside terrace areas. They are very, very well done and remind me a lot of LQF in Franschhoek. There are numerous “Rhythm of the Farm” activities offered and guests can basically stay busy all day (starting with bread baking at 6:30 am). Free activities include farm and garden tours, but there are also many other lower-priced activities in the park (hiking, mountain biking, etc.).

Best time of year to visit is June/July/August (especially for birding) and November/December when everything is green and the gardens are blooming.

At the end of the inspection, they gave me a 10-minute massage with a Masai traditional healer. It was amazing. I’m sold.


Masai Traditional Healer

Masai Traditional Healer


Manor Lodge

I loved this place, too, as it totally hit the JW-POSH button. It’s beautiful, it’s luxurious. The lodge is only 3 years old and it’s impeccable. Every guest will have each meal in a different location (of course, weather permitting). The have 4 horses (retired Kenyan polo ponies), a massage room, and a manicurist/pedicurist on staff.

The grounds are the loveliest I’ve seen in Tanzania. And the staff were all incredibly friendly.

Manor at Ngorongoro Crater

Manor at Ngorongoro Crater



Ngorogoro Crater Lodge

Wow! This place is definitely over the top and understandably the most expensive lodge around. The B&B product is very, very tight and the customer experience is one of the best I’d had this trip.

Each room has sweeping views of the crater, and is huge with separate living, terrace, sleeping, and mombo-sized bath areas. Any one of these rooms would be perfect for honeymooners. The Tree Camp rooms are somewhat smaller and have somewhat obstructed views of the crater, due to the foliage.

The lodge is great for honeymooners and families alike.


Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge


Day 5:

Serena Crater Lodge

Best suited for tour groups or those seeking less-expensive accommodation on the Crater, and cannot afford the Ngorogoro Crater Lodge.


Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

Ngorongoro Serena Lodge


Lake Masek Tented Lodge

Actually not in the Serengeti National Park, but instead in the Ngorogoro conservation area. This is a lovely 20-tent property owned also by Tanzanian entrepreneur Willy Chamulo. Tents are nicely appointed with tubs and outdoor showers. Built in 2009, the camp is 100% solar powered – nice one Willy!

Best lodge in the area…


Lake Masek Tented Lodge

Lake Masek Tented Lodge


Sanctuary Kusini Tented Camp

After a long day of driving, I was so happy to get to this lodge. There’s a large rock formation adjacent to the camp, which is fun to climb and has a stunning 360-view of the Serengeti.


Sanctuary Kusini

Sanctuary Kusini


Day 6:


After leaving Kasini, we continued through the Serengeti to Dunia Camp.

Dunia is a permanent tented camp lodge. The camp is 100% solar powered and has bucket showers available 24/7. There is also power available in the tents. It’s well appointed and the staff greeted me warmly. The camp feels like a luxury, mobile tented camp, but rustically elegant and a bit nicer than the standard mobile option.


Dunia Camp

Dunia Camp


Bilila Kempinski / Four Seasons

Built in 2009 this large, luxury lodge hotel is owned by a wealthy Arab investor so its super luxurious, world-class and very pretty. It has 2 dining venues, wine cellar, large spa, pool area, and sweeping views of the plains.

Perfect for guests who want a large, luxury lodge experience. Not for those who want an intimate camp.


Bilila Kempinski Lodge

Bilila Kempinski Lodge


Kirawira Tented Camp

This camp, built in 1998 is part of the Serena hotel group (which I learned is part of the Aga Khan’s empire). It’s a SLH (Small Luxury Hotel) property and the common areas have a clubby, intimate feel to them. There are 25 tents, all of which are on vaulted platforms offering amazing views of the Serengeti..

The one thing I didn’t like was the decor of the tent rooms. It looked like it had not been updated since opening, and the bedding was definitely not up to international luxury standards (i.e. duvet covers instead of cotton/poly bedspreads).

The management was welcoming and accommodating and the camp is in a great location with excellent common areas and views. I couldn’t find anything wrong with this place other than the outdated room decor.


Kirawira Tented Camp

Kirawira Tented Camp


&Beyond Grumeti Tented Camp

For my 6th night on the road, we stayed in Grumeti camp, which is located on a tributary of the Grumeti river, inside the Serengeti national park. The most interesting aspect of the lodge’s location is the large number of hippo in the river right in front of main lodge. There are 3 families and the hippos are very rambunctious (i.e. active and loud). Across the tributary, on the other side, there’s also a lot of other game viewing (giraffes, monkeys, impala, etc).

The staff here was VERY high-touch, with on-going name usage with all guests. The &Beyond lodges all stand out above the rest in their customer service and friendly, confident levels of service (as opposed to Sanctuary’s very timid, unconfident lodge wait staff). There’s a butler assigned to every guest, who is there for every whim (and meal).

I found the food above-average, and some of the best I had on the trip.


Singita-Grumeti Camp

Singita-Grumeti Camp


Day 7:

After leaving Grumeti Camp, we were able to do a site inspection at one of the Singita Grumeti camps:

Singita Sabora Lodge

The first of the 3 Singita lodges in the Grumeti concession, adjacent to the Serengeti national park, this luxury tented camp is run like the other Singita proprieties — all-inclusive with game package. Basically, all the East Africa tour operators drop the clients at the lodge and step away.

There are 9 luxurious tents, built on platforms, that are suite-sized. 6 of the tents are arranged in pairs (but still can be sold as singles), sharing a library tent between them.

The lodge is pure Singita in every aspect. It’s luxurious, serene, and tasteful on all fronts. There is a pool, spa, tennis courts, wifi throughout, and air conditioning in the tents.

Sabora sits out in the middle of the plains and is beautifully located. There’s nothing around besides the resident family of zebras in the camp, just in front of the main lodge.

The game is starting to come back after years of depletion.


Game viewing at Singita

Game viewing at Singita


After flying back to Arusha, and then to DAR, I transferred by land out to the Ras Kutani Beach Lodge.

With no traffic, it’s a 1:15 drive from the DAR airport (mine was 1:45 in traffic), or a 12-minute air hop. This lodge provides a very nice, relaxing alternative for an after-safari beach experience. The lodge is part of the Selous safari company portfolio, along with their 2 Selous lodges. The property has 4 suites, with private plunge pools, 9 “castaway chic” cottages, and 1 family cottage. a few of the cottages have lagoon views.

Their cottages have large verandas with hammocks, spacious king/twin rooms, and large bath areas. The resort is super causal, with most guests walking around barefoot. There’s a beautiful beach with very warm water for those mid afternoon dips.

For my return flight out, I had a 7am air hop transfer back to DAR, in more than enough time for my 8:35 am BA flight back to London.

Ras Kutani is a well-kept secret and the perfect solution for guests needing to overnight in Dar es Salaam. Two nights here after the northern circuit, or Selous, is the perfect way to end a safari. It’s also closer than Zanzibar and provides a good alternative.


Ras Kutani Beach

Ras Kutani Beach


All said, Tanzania is a beautiful country with plenty to offer a variety of visitors. Get in touch with us here at African Safari Consultants and we’ll make sure your trip is as unforgettable as Jeff’s.

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Red Hartebeest collides with mountain biker Mon, 17 Oct 2011 13:11:23 +0000 A jaw dropping YouTube clip was recently circulated like wild fire on all the major news networks and social media platforms. You must have seen it by now – the guy on a mountain bike who gets slammed into by a flying antelope.

Click to view clip :  Red Hartebeest collides with biker

If we sold mountain bikes, helmets, or insurance we’d be focussing on the guy. But this is an African Safari’s blog and so here is a bit more about the antelope (which was unharmed in the accident by the way).

It was a Red Hartebeest, a common species which occurs throughout the grasslands of Southern and East Africa. It is the second fastest antelope in Africa reaching speeds of up to 65 km/h. (The fastest antelope is the Tssesebe) A Red Haartebeest is about 1.5m (5ft) tall and weighs between 120-200kg (265-440lb) The word hartebeest originally comes from the Dutch spreaking Boer settlers who thought it looked like a deer. Hert in Dutch means ‘deer’ and beest is ‘beast’.

Being a common widespread species, and supposedly not threatened, it is a firm favourite in the hunting fraternity. We do not condone hunting AT ALL! Instead we urge you to invest in a good camera and come on a photographic safari. However, if the thrill of mountain biking in the bush appeals to you, it can be arranged. Selected non-Big Five game reserves allow controlled mountain biking trails. For more information contact one of our African Safari Consultants

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Birders vs non-birders on safari Fri, 07 Oct 2011 09:07:16 +0000 Non-birders on safari

Now here is a dilemma. We recently had a couple who all in all had a fantastic safari in Botswana and Kruger except for one recurring problem….They proclaimed to not be very interested in birds, but just as luck would have it, they found themselves on game drives with keen birders, or twitchers or bird fundis or whatever other
name you give to people who want to stop, reach for their binoculars, and identify and observe our little feathered friends! Our clients found this boring and frustrating, and would have preferred to have spent the time
tracking the Big Five as opposed to sitting in hushed bird-watching mode.

Now this is a tricky potentially explosive situation! And as a safari operator, I have given a solution some thought.

Firstly, serious birders would let us know that they are looking for a specialist birding trip and we would arrange a birding guide and exclusive use of the safari vehicle accordingly. Fanatical birders can be quite weird and potentially intimidating! They are known to travel vast distances in extreme conditions to tick off a sought-after rare species. Dinner table conversation will be exclusively about birds and brag stories about which SBB (small brown bird) was spotted where. They are a mixed bag of humans, coming from all walks of life but will definately have a pair of super-binoculars hanging around their neck at all times.

In this particular case, the other guests on the game vehicle were most likely just keen birders who love seeing the animals, but who have seen their share of lazy lions lying in the shade. These folk have probably been on safari a few times and want to learn more about the birds and the trees. It is generally first-time safari goers who aren’t particularly interested in birds and the ‘Little Five’, and who still have a lot to learn about the African bush. For them (and our recent past clients), being on safari with keen birders can be dull and seemingly time wasting. I am tempted to say to these folks ‘sit back, relax and enjoy the sounds and smells of the bush…you never know what might walk out from under a tree off to the left while everyone else has binoculars glued to their faces looking right!!!‘ But in all seriousness, the solution lies in the hands of the safari lodges. Lodge staff and rangers should chat to their guests and get an idea of their interests and then, if possible, assign them to separate safari vehicles so that…birds of a feather can flock together!

African Jacana - his long toes allow him to 'walk on water'

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Wildlife pic of the week: The African Buffalo Wed, 28 Sep 2011 10:57:42 +0000 The African Buffalo is a respected member of the Big Five even though he might look like a mellow bovine. His cousins in the East, the Asian Water Buffalo, can be domesticated. Not this guy!  He is extremely dangerous, and is capable of killing a lion. He is on the trophy wish list of big game hunters and I am pleased to report that he has gored and maimed many a hunter! You have heard the expression – ‘like a wounded buffalo’ to describe someone who is so mad with rage and attacks relentlessly again and again…Those geeky looking horns actually act as a ‘shield’ and the thick bone is capable of stopping a rifle bullet. We do NOT condone big game hunting! But we do encourage you to join an African Safaris photographic safari to the Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sands, the South Luangwa National Park, the Lower Zambezi National Park, the Masai Mara and the Serengeti.

It is thrilling to be in a safari vehicle amongst a herd of buffalo. You are quite safe if you stay in the vehicle, but you definitely get a sense of their power and potential danger.

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The great migration – the gory aftermath Mon, 26 Sep 2011 09:58:18 +0000 Being in East Africa’s Masai Mara and Serengeti national parks during the annual migration is high up on every animal lover’s wish list. The awesomeness is in the sheer numbers and the opportunity to witness one of
nature’s most incredible spectacles.  Not everybody is lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time to see the famous River Crossings – when thousands of wildebeest, on auto-pilot, launch themselves as one into crocodile infested rivers with a seemingly blind faith in ‘safety in numbers’.

As nature has it, there are casualties and this is good news for the predators – the crocodiles, hyena, jackal, other small mammals and ultimately squabbling parties of vulture and ugly marabou storks.

jackal & vulture 'tidying up' in the Serengeti

But be prepared. The aftermath of the migration is not for the faint hearted. You will need a strong stomach.  The river banks and immediate surrounds are literally littered with carcasses being chewed and pecked.  Grim as it may be, this is all part of nature’s big plan as hundreds of creatures, birds and insects ultimately benefit from the gory slaughter.

Vultures and a 'picked clean' carcass

If you would like to visit East Africa and see the migration it is best to start planning and booking your trip now. It is tricky choosing which safari camps to book as it all depends on the time of year and whether you travel to Tanzania or Kenya or both. Talk to one of our African Safari Consultants for more advice and info.

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World Rhino Day – 22 September 2011 Wed, 21 Sep 2011 13:22:21 +0000 One of the Big 5 – Rhinos on Safari

I have done a blog post before on Rhino poaching when it was all looking like it was getting out of control a couple of months ago.  There was a huge outcry and then things looked like they calmed down a bit and some progress was being made……but suddenly it has all gone way out of control again and I read that a Rhino is being killed every 22 hours!!  There is a big protest that is going to happen tomorrow in Cape Town, South Africa, outside our parliament buildings, calling on our government to do more to help save these endangered animals that are being so ruthlessly killed for their horns.

Let’s hope that progress is made world-wide in recognizing the plight of one of Africa’s most famous animals.

Family of White Rhinos

I found a few interesting bits of information about the Rhino that I thought I would share in honor of their day tomorrow:

-  The collective noun for a group of Rhinos is a crash or herd
-  The main difference between the Black Rhino and White Rhino is the shape of their mouths
-  The White Rhino have broad flat lips for grazing
-  The Black Rhino has long pointed lips for eating foliage
-  Rhino horns consist of Keratin only – the same type of protein that makes up hair and fingernails
-  There are 5 species of Rhino of which 3 are classified as critically endangered
-  2 species native to Africa and 3 species native to southern Asia
-  The biggest predator of Rhinos are humans

If you are in South Africa you can help and donate to many organizations.  You can also buy a bag from Supermarket Chain Woolworths and proceeds go automatically to help Rhinos.  Have a look at this quick video I found:

Save the Rhinos from Extinction

And just a reminder for how wonderful these animals are – some really cute footage of a Mom and baby posted by Londolozi earlier this week:

Mom and Baby

Please all do something!

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A significant piece of History – STEVE BIKO – 12 September 1977 Mon, 12 Sep 2011 10:37:33 +0000 Some South African History

There are some fairly significant historical moments around this time.  The most notable this year of course is the 10th anniversary of 9/11 – a tragedy beyond comprehension, and a fairly important piece of American history.  Our hearts go out to all those who are mourning and remembering their losses at this time.

I think times like this are good for reflection and remembrance.  In South Africa today – 12 September – we also have a noteworthy piece of our past to reflect on.  In 1977 a young man by the name of Steve Biko died while in police custody.  He was only 30 years old.  He was interrogated in Police Room 619 for 22 hours, tortured and beaten so severely that he went into a coma.  He suffered a major head injury while in police custody.  It was reported at the time that this head injury was a result of an attempted suicide by Biko, “hitting his head against the wall”.  At deaths door, he was thrown into the back of a land rover and driven 1,100km from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria where he was admitted to a prison with hospital facilities.  He died shortly after arrival at the hospital – it was the 12th of September 1977.

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia - Steve Biko

The police at the time also claimed that he died due to an extended hunger strike.  However, an autopsy done reveals that he died from a brain hemorrhage caused by massive injuries to the head.  I was 3 years old at the time – so this is not a death that I remember consciously.  But I have to question why older people at the time did not think it was strange that a political activist in Apartheid South Africa died while in police custody?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

It is South Africa’s current Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille, working alongside a personal journalist friend of Steve Biko’s, Donald Wood who exposed the police coverup in 1977.  This was a high profile case at the time and it got a massive amount of international exposure.  Biko was the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa and would empower much of the urban black population.  He played a part in the organizing of protests which led to the Soweto Uprising on the 16th of June 1976 where a heavily armed police force fired on innocent school children, killing many.

There is no doubt, that were Steve Biko still alive today, he would have played a significant part in the rebuilding of South Africa, the Rainbow Nation.  And it is a reminder for those of us that live in these times, how terribly important freedom of expression is!

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Photo of the Week: Kruger Park Sunset Fri, 09 Sep 2011 12:36:21 +0000 Why the Kruger Park is such a Safari favorite

One of my colleagues has recently done a trip up to the Kruger Park, and it is always awesome to see the pictures they come back with.  As much as I love the animals, I also love those sunsets!  Here is my favorite one from her trip, taken on game drive at Simbambili:

Kruger Park Sunset

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Client Feedback: An Awesome African Safari Wed, 07 Sep 2011 13:28:00 +0000 African Adventure - South Africa, Zambia & Botswana

Some great in depth feedback from clients who have recently traveled with us.  Open, honest & some super footage at the end too.  Enjoy the read and if you need any advice or thoughts on the properties or itinerary they mention please get in touch with us and we will happily help you out:

Dear Jeff,

I hope your trip was as wonderful as ours!  Marvelous and memorable.  Thanks for all the help with planning.  We were picked up everywhere we were supposed to be and ushered where we needed to be.  Flights were all on time.  But, this was clearly not a “restful” vacation as we were never up after 6:30 a.m.  Go, go, go!

Kensington Place was beautiful and we certainly could have had a few extra days in Cape Town – love that city.  My bike ride was awesome and I can highly recommend for rentals and guiding.  My route is here: .  Mark went to the horse race track but didn’t win a thing all day – he had a blast.

Transfer to Vic Falls went well and I can certainly recommend Islands of Siankaba.  Beautiful property, very relaxing, and nice to be away from all the activity closer to the falls.  We can also highly recommend the Rhino Walk in Mosi oa Tunya Park, especially for guests not doing a South African safari and who won’t have a chance to see rhino otherwise.  I am sorry we missed other things at Vic Falls, though, so you might suggest an extra day there to do Devil’s Armchair, white water rafting or other activities.  The helicopter ride was ok, and if we hadn’t done it we’d be sorry we missed it, but now that we’ve done it, we could have lived without it, especially in the drier season when the falls are so amazing and visible from ground level.  Plus, there was a bit of an attitude on the flight as the helicopter company had some mechanical issue before we got there and so some very young kid was rather upset that he had to wait, kinda making his family and everyone else a bit stressed.

Heading to Chobe was also easy with a smooth transfer.  Chobe Under Canvas, I think was our favorite camp.  Although it was “glamping,” really cold in the mornings, and incredibly secluded, the staff and the wildlife made it the highlight destination.  Could have done an extra day here, too, and the list of wildlife we saw here was impressive.  Ten minutes into the camp we saw a leopard!

On to Baines Camp.  I think our favorite thing about Baines was the fact that there were only two other couples, one of whom we came to learn is good friends with some neighbors in Lost River.  Small world.  We had fun with them and ran into them again on the way to Jo’burg.  We did the “sleep on the balcony” thing at Baines and were surprised by an elephant chomping grass and bumping into the railing not 5 feet from our bed.  Pretty cool!  They also did an amazing private dinner for our anniversary, which was extra special.

Finally, we were at Eagle Island, a lovely camp but after having such incredible privacy – none of the other camps had more than three other couples staying – Eagle Island was full up and crowded.  We loved the communal meals at the other camps, whereas Eagle Island/Orient Express does separate tables as a corporate rule.  Because Baines and Eagle Island offered more water options, I’d recommend three days at one or the other, but not both, and use the extra days so you can have an extra day(s) in Cape Town, Vic Falls and/or Chobe.

The amazing thing about Chobe was just the sheer volume and diversity of wildlife.  Nothing like it anywhere else.  Once we’d been to Chobe, going on a game drive elsewhere was cool because we could see the other tourists, who’d not been to Chobe, getting really excited about seeing an impala or elephant a quarter mile away!  In a sense, Chobe “ruined” it for us by spoiling us.  What a treat!  I’d probably recommend going to Chobe last, because guests will be totally blown away.

Everywhere we went, the food and weather throughout was incredible – great meals, no “stomach” issues, barely a cloud in the sky the whole two weeks.  And, as you’d told us, there was no issue at all with being gay at any property.  Not even a glance.  Thank you also for the champagne treat.  We shared it with others and it was really special.  We appreciate that.

Before I saw your message this morning, I was just saying to Mark, “I want to go back to Africa.”  He does, too.  I’m thinking Namibia!

Thanks again for everything.  Mark, you and Lise gave me an amazing birthday I will never forget.

Scott & Mark also got some super footage while they were away which they loaded up on YouTube.  I have chosen a couple of clips which I think are great – enjoy!

Elephants in the Mud     |    Energetic Lions    |    Super Staff

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View of the Week – Sunrise in Busanga Plains Fri, 02 Sep 2011 13:23:16 +0000 Wilderness Safaris Shumba Camp – Zambia

We were chatting in the office this week about Zambia and what a fantasic safari destination it is.  That of course reminded me of my Friday photo of the week and more importantly this week – the View of the Week!

My colleague Lise was recounting her time on the Busanga Plains in Zambia’s Kafue National Park and spoke specifically about the “loo’s with views”  We couldn’t find her images from her trip there but I had a dig around and found this beatiful sunrise image from Shumba Camp.

Shumba Camp is a premier camp in the Wilderness Safaris Portfolio.  Wouldn’t you love to watch the sunrise from this spectacular setting?

Sunrise over the Busanga Plains from your luxury safari tent

Kafue National Park is one of the largest in Africa.  It is remote, wild and diverse.  With abudant game and bird life – it is a destination for any repeat safari goer!

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