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How to view African wildlife from the River

Africa, an outdoor enthusiasts dream. An entire continent of open space filled with five ecosystems each offering a unique aspect to the landscape. Deserts, mountains, savanna’s, rain forests and coastline. One of the few places on earth where despite being the second most populated continent still contains many locations that look just as they did hundreds or maybe even thousands of years ago. 

Visiting Africa for its amazing scenery, landscapes and its most endearing feature it’s biodiversity. Containing the most flora and fauna still in existence Africa is one of the most desired locations for travelers looking to step into a world completely different then their own. 

Excited passengers whisking off in 4 x 4 vehicles on protected wildlife Safaris led by a local guide to search for the Big 5 (Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros) among others. But there is another experience, one less considered and yet an amazing more intimate way to see wildlife in a natural and sustainable way. 

The one source that all animals need for existence is water. Which is what makes very important to the existence of Africa’s wildlife, the rivers. 


Africa has dry and wet seasons that occur annually interacting with the animal behavior driving them to and from the rivers, their main source for water.  On average Africa’s wettest season is from April to early June and they see some rain October – December. However June through September is the dry period when animals begin migration to and along the rivers for sustainability. 

Like the animals, traveling along the rivers can offer explorers a unique experience for up-close wildlife sightings and viewing of wildlife in their natural habitats as they play, socialize, feed, bathe and rest. 

*Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways River Cruises

Traveling the Chobe and Zambezi rivers into the Chobe National Park in Botswana, brings guests to the source that attracts wildlife from hundreds of miles to the only water available during the African dry winter months. Offering unobstructed views of herds of elephant, giraffe, hooved animals and hundreds of birds all visiting for the season. 

In addition to the wildlife experience, the scenery along the river offers many opportunities for unexpected views of the river and the African landscape. Don’t be surprised if you also come across some other unexpected surprises like the breathtaking sunsets that you can see from your cabin balcony.


The best part of an African river cruise is you don’t miss out on the land safari’s. Time is also spent exploring on safari in the Chobe National Park among other areas within Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. 

Visit national parks, iconic locations like Victoria Falls and private game reserves all while enjoying the best available five star accommodations that are arranged for you based on the itinerary that you choose. 

Enjoying an African river cruise can offer many opportunities for immersing in the local culture, exploring the best sites and experiencing the bucket list adventures that most interest you. 

For more information on African river cruising, check out our website and let the adventure begin…….

Categories: Active Travel, Dream Vacation, Eco-Friendly, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

How to get the most from a visit to Luxor

The city of Luxor in southern Egypt, is a modern city, once the ancient Greek city of Thebes and former capital of Egypt known as Waset in the prime of Pharaoh rule during the sixteenth – eleventh centuries BC today is the gateway to the ancient Egyptian monuments..

Located on the Eastern bank of the Nile river, Luxor is the prime location for visiting the ancient sites found on both banks of the Nile river. Luxor was originally built during the 11th Egyptian dynasty as the home of the Egyptian god Aman-Ra and over the growth and power of the Egyptian dynasty grew into a wealthy and prosperous capital city of the Upper region from the 18th – 20th dynasties.

Today as was in ancient times, the city of Luxor is the center of daily life and still where you will find the majority of the people, the airport, hotels, port and the majority of the tourism industry that draws visitors to the area. 

Across the river on the West bank of the Nile is the location of the temples and burial sites of the ancient royals who ruled Egypt from the East bank. 

When planning a visit to Egypt, what are the sites to plan on visiting on both banks?

East Bank – 

The main archeological attractions outside the city of Luxor are the ancient temples of Karnak and Luxor which sit about 2 miles apart along the Nile river. 

The Temple of Karnak and Open Air Museum

The Columns of the Great Hypostyle Hall

The second most visited site in Egypt is one of Egypt’s largest surviving temples. Originally designed as the main religious site of the kingdom during the Middle Kingdom period (2030 to 1650 B.C) of Pharaonic rule dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun – Re saw continuous building well into the Ptolemaic period from 305 – 30 BC. 

Various monuments were added by the many Pharaohs (approximately 30) who ruled through the Middle Kingdom, during the Roman era, the New Kingdom and into the Ptolemaic period of rule making it one of the largest archaeological sites in Egypt. Filled with substantially decorated courts, temples, pylons and shrines that tell the stories of religion, coronations and military campaigns that occurred throughout the time of construction. 

With so many sites to see, one of the key sites is the Great Hypostyle Hall which is a 50,000 square foot area filled with 134 columns from 33 – 69 feet tall, an archaeological feat for construction of the time. Also worth visiting is the Open Air Museum, an archaeological museum featuring reconstructed structures from the various periods. 

Recommendation: Schedule time for the evening Sound and Light show that takes you on a visual journey through the history of the Karnak Temple region. 

The Temple of Luxor

The Luxor Temple Complex along the Nile River

The second of the primary ancient temples, was constructed from sandstone between 1500 – 1200 BC. Under commissions by the Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Ramses the Great (II) as a dedication to the Ka (original dynasty of Pharaoh gods) and the fertility god Amen was used for the annual Opet festival which paid tribute to the royals of Egypt. 

It is assumed that this was where the Pharaohs were crowned. Here you will find the chapels of the Amenhotep, Ramses II, Tutankhamun and Alexander the Great along with shrines that can be found between the Temples of Luxor and Karnak. During the Roman rule of Egypt, The Temple of Luxor was used as the center of Roman government. In the 11th century AD, a mosque was built on top of the temple, Abu al-Haggag, which is still active today.   

Tip: For a less crowded and amazing additional temple experience, visit again at sunset or in the evening to walk the grounds of the Luxor Temple when the ruins are lit up. 

Luxor Temple at Night

Luxor Museum

Between the two temples along the Nile river, an archaeological museum filled with antiquities from the graves of Tutankhamun, statues that were found within the Luxor Temple and the mummies of Ramesses I and Ahmose I. 

West Bank – 

As if the East Bank did not offer enough ancient Egyptian experience, the West Bank offers a deeper dive into the ancient Egyptian culture filled with Pharaonic death temples and decorated tombs. 

The Colossi of the Memnon

Former entrance to the mortuary of Amenhotep

The first site you will pass as you are headed along the main road will be the twin statues of Amenhotep III sitting facing the river Nile accompanied by statues of his wife and mother. Constructed of quartzite sandstone the 60 foot statues which are estimated to weigh approximately 720 tons each sit in ruins and are almost unrecognizable. 

Originally constructed to stand guard at his 85 acre mortuary temple which at the time of construction was considered one of the largest and most richly decorated in Ancient Egypt, the statues are some of the few remains of the original complex which eroded over time from river flooding by the nearby Nile. 

Medinet Habu 

Temple mortuary of Ramesses III

Your next stop will be the temple of Ramesses III. One of the best preserved temples of the New Kingdom period, it’s location is directly across the river from the Temple of Luxor and originally the site of the temple of the god Amun, the god of creation and fertility.  

Ramesses III enclosed the Amun temple and built his memorial shrine within the complex. 75,000 square feet of shrine are decorated with script and scenes from Ramesses’ many military triumphs and festivals that were celebrated in his honor during his reign. 

Within the complex you will see large statues of Ramesses, large halls, courtyards and a church that was added during the Greco-Roman period. 

Valley of the Queens

Necropolis of Valley of the Queens

Just southwest of the temples of Medinet Habu, built into the cliffs is the necropolis of tombs of the royal family members. Here you will find 90 tombs of Egyptian queens, princes and high officials of the New Kingdom. 

Starting in the 19th Dynasty with Sitre, wife of Ramesses I, the Valley of the Queens became the traditional burial site and by early BC and AD, due to lack of space, tombs were being reused for nobles and mummified animal remains. 

Many of the tombs had been robbed and vandalized over the thousands of years that they sat abandoned, however in 1905, the tomb of Nefertari, wife of Ramesses II was discovered. Referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of Ancient Egypt”  it is considered the most beautiful tomb in Egypt. Commissioned by Ramesses II for his favorite wife, his love for her can be seen in the level of detail and vibrant colors used within the designs of the tomb.  

Still an active archaeological site, new discoveries are still being made and some tombs may be closed or inaccessible when visiting. 

The Ramesseum

Pillard hall of mortuary temple of Ramesses the Great

The mortuary temple of Ramesses the Great (II), known as the great warrior, is one of the largest temples of the New Kingdom era. Originally named the “Mansion of Millions of Years” for Ramesses dedication to Egypt as the most powerful and most celebrated ruler of Egypt, the complex is nothing short of a fantastic step into the ancient past. 

Featuring gateways and pillared halls filled with columns, sanctuaries and the remains of one of the largest statues in the world estimated to stand originally at 92 feet. All that is left is 62’ of his base and torso. Unlike other mortuaries, the shrine features rising floors and drop ceilings symbolizing the rise of Egypt under Ramesses power. 

Also within the complex are temples dedicated to Ramesses mother and first wife Nefertari and a temple palace. One of the highlights of visiting is the preserved painted ceiling and walls decorated with scenes of his military successes and his representation as a god of Egypt. 

Valley of the Nobles

As you journey on you will see scattered through the hills the tombs of the high nobles who assisted and guided the royals during the Old and New Kingdoms and through the Golden age of Thebes when it was the most powerful city in Greece. 

Stopping in to explore some of these lesser acknowledged tombs will offer a unique experience into the history and culture of the times. Each chapel of the tomb is decorated with scenes telling the stories of its owners and also sharing details into the lives of the ancient Egyptians. 

Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings

Your final leg of your journey and one the more  popular destinations of Luxor will take you to the inland location where you will find hidden within the valley walls 63 tombs of the New Kingdom (1550 – 1070 BC) pharaohs and their royal family members.  

Divided into the East Valley and the West Valley, your primary focus will be the East Valley which has many available tombs for public visiting. Each tomb within the Valley has a KV number which means Kings Valley and then the order for which the tombs were opened by archaeologists. 

Some of the tombs that may be accessible for visiting are all the Ramesses with the exception of Ramesses II who has a separate tomb closer to the river (see Ramesseum above) and Ramesses the IIX whose tomb has yet to be identified. As well other New Kingdom pharaohs with the most well known being the boy pharoah, Tutankhamun. The tombs are carved into the cliffs with shafts that lead underground into the burial chambers, decorated with images, religious text and their supposed journies into the afterlife. 

Although Tutankhamen is the most well known of the pharaohs it is worth knowing that his tomb has the least to see as most of the tomb has been relocated to Cairo. 

Note that not all tombs may not be open at the same time, some are periodically closed for renovation and the more popular tombs like Tutankhamen, Ramesses VI require an additional ticket for entry. The area is still a live archaeological site and subject to closure for additional discovery, it is worth checking before arrival to avoid disappointment.  

Visiting the Pyramids of Giza

Egypt offers many rewarding experiences and definitely needs to be top of the list with a visit to Cairo to see the Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza. But also a visit to Luxor and both banks of the Nile needs to be part of the itinerary. Expect to spend at least 3 full days to explore all of the sites and experiences mentioned above.

A tour guide is highly recommended for the most enjoyment and best understanding of the sites you are visiting. Our favorite way to explore ancient and modern Egypt is by river cruise to travel in luxury with every detail thoughtfully designed for a one of a kind experience of both ancient and modern Egypt. 

Categories: Active Travel, Dream Vacation, Eco-Friendly, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Finding Adventure at Victoria Falls in Africa

Despite the negative press that South Africa is receiving right now from the Covid-19 variant, when travel is safe, Africa is one of the most fabulous travel destinations for both the casual tourist and the adventurous. 

Victoria Falls during dry season

Both awe-inspiring and the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls happens to be located on one of the most alluring continents in the world, Africa. One of the seven natural wonders of the world is located along the Zambezi River at the border of the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe where lies the majestic site that many aspire to visiting on their travel bucket lists. 

Named by Scottish explorer David Livingstone in 1855 after Queen Victoria, the almost 1 ½ mile basalt cliffs form the falls where water from the Zambezi river plummet over the edge and into the gorge some 300 feet below. The power of the falls can be seen from 30 miles away, heard from 25 miles away and the mists can be felt as high as 430 yards from the falling water. 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow when the water levels peak at the end of the rainy season in late March or early April. Alternatively the falls will reach their lowest points in the fall during the dry period when it is even possible to walk through specific points of the falls.  

Victoria Falls Lookout Bridge

Surrounded by rainforest, another basalt cliff faces the Main falls with a path through heavy spray  offering exceptional views of the falls. Another option for viewing, is from the Knife-Edge Bridge for panoramic views of the Main falls and the Boiling Pot area where the river switches down the Batoka Gorge. For the more weary, views from Livingstone Island during the dry season or the Falls Bridge that crosses over the Zambezia provide panoramic views. 

Depending on the time of year that you visit, after seeing the beauty and power of Victoria Falls, there are many options for immersing yourself with the area finding adventure at and around Victoria Falls. We recommend that you hire a local guide as some of these experiences can be dangerous for those not familiar with the area. Not all adventures require physical activity, but each offers the opportunity for an adventure you will remember forever:

Flight of Angels

Regardless if it is during the peak flood period when the falls are at their highest or dry season when it’s at its lowest, flying over Victoria Falls is one of the most astounding and most personal ways for seeing the falls from an angle most do not have the opportunity to.

From the windows of a small prop plane, follow the Zambezi river to the gorges that form into the massive magnificent Victoria Falls offering panoramic instagram worthy photos and an unforgettable experience. Other flight options are by helicopter to get you even closer to the action, also flying over the Batoka Gorge and Mosi-oa-Tunya National park. 

Your flight experience usually ends with a DVD of your 15 – 30 minute flight as a souvenir to take home and share your experience with others. 

Victoria Falls from the air

Swim in the Devil’s Pool

Close to Victoria Falls, rock pools have formed and the most popular for its location is Devil’s Pool. Located near Livingstone Island at the edge of the falls with a sheer 325 foot drop, the site provides the heart-pumping exhilaration of a natural infinity pool looking over the side of the falls. 

The most active part of this experience is the climb down to the Zambezi river and swim across the pool. Unless you are the fearless type who jumps full throttle into the raging waters of the pool from above. Regardless, the thrill that you will get from the view at the edge and feeling the force of the river flowing over the falls providing an invigoration and energy that you will not soon forget. 

Devil’s pool is seasonally accessible depending on the water levels. Access to the pool can be dangerous and it is highly recommended that a guide be hired for the safest experience. 

Swim below the Falls

Another unique experience is to swim the rock pools located below the falls to view the basalt cliffs as the water cascades above you. 

A more active experience involves walking the Batoka Gorge to the river where inflatable rafts and a guide await you to paddle to a location near Victoria Falls for some unique and amazing views. Once your rafts arrive at the rock pools below the falls, you can enjoy some downtime swimming and enjoying the waters that surround you. 

Although more physically demanding, this 3 hour or so guided experience allows you to immerse with the geology of the region as you walk over the rocks and interact directly with the river before walking back up the gorge at the end of your tour. 

Kayakers and Rafters on the Zambezi River

Kayak or White Water raft the rapids of the Zambezi River

From the top of Batoka Gorge, an experienced white water guide will fit you with a paddle, helmet and life jacket before leading you down the 450 – 800 feet to the river to board your kayak or raft boat. Your guide will then steer you through the rapids and direct you for safety with the ultimate enjoyment. 

Although no previous experience is required, this is an encounter for those who are both physically able and mentally prepared for this type of adventure. Other requirements may exist as determined by your tour provider.

Kayaking is usually a full day experience offering breakfast at the top of the gorge and picnic lunch as a final reward for your day’s activities. White water rafting offers a half or full day or for the active adventurous type, enjoy the “float of angels” taking a full day on the Zambezi followed by an overnight in a camp deep within the Batoka Gorge to wake up and take on another full day of a roller coaster of rapids. 

The best time for rafting all 23 rapids is during the drier season from early summer through early winter. 

Victoria Falls is but one of the many Africa experiences that adventurists venture to the farest regions of the earth for. Other exciting journeys await you with safaris within Tanzania and Botswana and spending time at the beautiful beaches and winelands of South Africa’s Cape’s rugged coast.  

Coastline of South African Cape

With so much to see, how do you explore these regions seamlessly and enjoyably? Imagine an experience that combines all of the experiences in a 10 – 21 day African experience. Start your journey on land combined with four nights on a small private luxury African boat drifting along the river all the while having an up-close wildlife experience before heading back on land for more time to explore Victoria Falls, the villages and unique highlights of the region.

Plan now for travel in 2022 and beyond. For more information on the safest and most intimate ways to explore Africa with river cruising visit our webpage.

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Find the lesser known Secrets of Egypt

Egypt, the origin of civilization, is primarily identified for the Nile River, the mysterious Pyramids and the Great Sphinx that date back to the ancient Pharoahs. If you are more of an Egyptophile, you have more knowledge about the mummies, the temples, the archaeology and early Egyptian royalty. But if you are like me, a bucket lister who wants to experience Egypt, wants more than a popular guidebook experience, where do you visit for some of the lesser known secrets of Egypt, while also seeing the key sites?

The country of Egypt is known for its relations to the Middle East however physically, it is located in northeast Africa. Cairo, the capital sits on the Nile river, today a very modern and luxurious city, is the perfect introduction to the culture and history of the Egyptian antiquities. 

When planning your Egypt agenda, you will no doubt have the highlights of visiting the Nile River Valley, the city of Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and the 4500 year old limestone monuments of Giza. Here are 5 lesser known experiences throughout the region that you can add to your must see list for an unforgettable experience. 

Djoser Pyaramid
  1. The Pyramid of Djoser – is an archaeological site northwest of the ancient capital city of Memphis, home of the Sphinx. Serving as the necropolis (cemetary) for the ancient Egyptian capital. The Djoser Pyramid was built for the burial of the early Egyptian Pharaoh Djoser in the 27th Century BC. The Step Pyramid is part of a large necropolis site (Saqqara) of many tombs of court officials and lesser royalty known as the “tombs of the nobles”. Built using stone and clay, the Step Pyramid was the first pyramid that the Egyptians ever built. Originally designed as a house of eternity with a flat roof and sloping sides in the standard for the time, mastaba style, the tomb evolved into a 200 foot six-layer pyramid. Within the structure, the limestone walls still contain images that were painted approximately 4,500 years ago. Underneath the pyramid are a labyrinth of tunnels almost 3.5 miles long. The pyramid and the complex are an amazing representation of early Egyptian architecture and with about 7 other structures in the area was one of the largest complexes ever built at the time. Saqqara is approximately 30 minutes outside of Cairo and 10 minutes from Old Memphis. 
The Suq Market of Old Cairo
  1. Khan el-Khalili – during a visit to Old Cairo, visiting a bazaar or suq market as it is referred to in Egypt is a must to physically transport yourself back in time. The main trade area established by the Muslims in the 14th century is now a standard part of the Cairenes lifestyle and a must see attraction. Khan el-Khalili, the largest and most popular of the bazaar’s is made up of many historic structures that combined offer more than just a place to bring home fun souvenirs. You will find handmade items, antiques, spices, gold & copper artifacts and jewelry. Visiting is truly a scavenger hunt of exotic local merchandise scattered throughout a maze of shops and alleyways. In addition to the shopping experience, there are many old cafes throughout to round out your visit. If you are looking for a great spot to sit, and sip some local tea or try a hookah while you people watch, El-Fishawi is the oldest cafe in the bazaar, for a full Egyptian dining experience, head over to Naguib Mahfouz Cafe near the Khan-el-Khalili compound. 
The Temple if Isis
  1. Temples of Philae – located near Aswan, a historic city on the river Nile, is an island where a significant number of Egyptian archeological sites can be found. One of Nubia’s major monuments, the sacred former temple site is an astonishing experience to add to your agenda. Started in Egypt’s Pharaonic era and completed in the Greek-Roman period between 332 BC – 395 AD are the majority of ancient structures that were relocated brick by brick to a Agilkia island for their protection from flooding. You will arrive by rowboat to the temple complex as you explore the area you will journey through well preserved temples and structures of ancient Egypt where you will see first hand the original hieroglyphic reliefs that are still in the process of being translated. To fully understand the story and history of the complex from erection to conversion as a Christian pilgrimage site, you can also visit the site at night for an amazing Sound and Light Show. 
  1. Temple of Edfu – One of the best preserved temples in Egypt, can be found within the lesser visited Edfu region along the West Bank of the Nile Valley. Built in honor of the Egyptian God Horus, the first national god of Egypt, also known as Apollo by the Romans, represented kingship and the sky. Horus, depicted in drawings as a falcon was worshiped from late prehistoric Egypt through Roman Egyptian occupation. The temple’s building started in 237 BC and was completed in 57 BC. The structure originated during Pharaoh rule under Ptolemy III and was completed by Ptolemy XII. The inscriptions on the walls describe life during the Hellenistic period including the language, religion and culture with scenes of the mythical conflict between Horus and Seth for the claim to the throne. Edfu can be reached within 2 hours from Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. 
Glide over the Valley of the Kings
Sail along the Nile River
  1. Bucket list worthy experiences – the last experiences if not already on your to do list, may be one’s that you may not have known about or thought about, but highly recommended for the region:
  • Take a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings and Queens. This unique experience offers you views of the temples and monuments as you glide over Luxor and Karnak on the West Bank of the Nile while the sun rises and illuminates them by the light of the sunrise. A once in a lifetime view of the ancient sites that even the Pharaohs themselves did not have.
  • We also recommend discovering the view of Cairo from a Felucca. Experience traveling by ancient river vessel used by royalty as you watch the sunset and sail the Nile river as many of Egypts Pharaohs and Queens did thousands of years ago.

Egypt is a bucket list experience. If you would like to discover the extended history and culture of  Egypt starting in Cairo and then traveling from Luxor on a 7 day river journey, to visit the most important sites and some of the lesser known secrets of the region, discover more about river cruising from our website. 

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Visit South Africa for the Wine

Visiting the continent of Africa is always top of bucket list for the amazing wildlife and outdoor experiences. Many times a visit to Africa will begin or end in Cape Town which is located in the African country of South Africa. Did you know that Cape Town offers beaches to relax at, forests and mountains to explore and lush winelands that produce some of the top new world vintages?

Cape Winelands beauty

South Africa is a country on the southernmost tip of the African continent. Cape Town is located on the western coast of the African peninsula surrounded by the Indian Ocean. The wet winters and hot dry summers provide a Mediterranean climate, similar to the region of Bordeaux, in France and provides for ample wine production with major vineyards surrounding the city of Cape Town.

Considered a New World wine region, wine in South Africa actually dates back to 1659 when the first bottle of wine was produced in Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town. With time and transportation growth, availability to sell in international markets has put South African wine onto the Viticulture map.  

Today you can find about 60 appellations throughout the South African wine system and production happens in production centers located around Cape Town. 

Stellenbosch Mountain

Most popular today for red wine production specifically the Cabernet grape and another notable vintage, a cross breed of the hard to grow Pinot Noir grape and the sturdy Cinsaut grape, Pinotage, is the second most planted red grape in the country. Recognized by many growers as the grape of South Africa, Pinotage can be found as a single vintage and also in local blends plus created in many styles; barrel aged, rosé, fortified ports and red sparkling wines.

Chenin blanc (referred to as Steen) is the most widely planted white grape in South Africa and can be found in the western region of the Stellenbosch winelands. 

The Cape Wineland district is located in the Boland region of the Western Cape that makes up over 10% of the total land of the Cape Town suburbs of Paarl, Worcester, Wellington and Stellenbosch. 

The Town of Stellenbosch

Approximately 30 minutes from Cape Town is the oak-lined village of Stellenbosch, the second-oldest and best known of South Africa’s wine regions. One of the, if not the most, scenically attractive and historically preserved towns in South Africa that was planted in 1679. Today 14% of annual wine production in the country occurs at 17 cellars within the district. Stellenbosch is located 28 miles from Cape Town where the surrounding mountains and coastal False Bay provide an average temperature of 68°F during the summer growing season. 

Two recommended cellars to visit while visiting Stellenbosch are Longridge and Glenelly Estates. 

Longridge is known locally for their biodynamic and organic winemaking practices. Established in 1841 they have created a vintage of environmentally stable wines without the use of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers using only natural methods. Their primary growths are Steen (Chenin Blanc), Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage. In addition to a Wine Lounge with tastings and vineyards tours, they also feature a restaurant with farm to table South African inspired dishes accompanied by scenic views of False Bay and Table Mountain to enjoy while sipping some of their award winning wines. 

The vineyards of Stellenbosch

Glenelly, just a 10 minute drive from the historic town of Stellenbosch is also an environmentally driven wine estate. The French owned estate features South African wines produced with French growth inspiration with vintages of their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, in addition to Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a Chardonnay Reserve. A tasting room is available daily (except Monday) with scenic views of the estate and local mountain regions plus a bistro offering a French inspired menu serving lunch daily and dinners on the weekends. The one of a kind privately owned wine museum offers another experience when visiting this lovely wineland estate. 

In addition to its connection to wine, the Cape Winelands is a popular culinary center of South Africa where local growers produce olives, fruits and cheese. The Winelands also offers beautiful scenic drives with mountains and many miles of hiking and biking trails for the active adventurer. 

The best time to visit the Winelands is between March and May during the South African autumn harvest when the weather is warm and sunny. Summer (November through January) is another popular time to visit the winelands while also enjoying the beaches of Cape Town with warm, longer days. 
Experience three days in Cape Town including the opportunity to spend the day in the Cape Winelands before a 10 day Africa wildlife adventure with Chobe river cruise. Learn more about this amazing bucket list experience in Africa.

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Where to Go on Safari in Africa

One of the tops on many bucket lists is visiting Africa. Getting close up encounters with animals in their natural environment is an experience that will be different for every guest based on time of year and how they choose to visit. The best way to experience wildlife in Africa is by safari but with many regions within Africa with wildlife, how do you narrow down your options of where and when to visit. 

Sunset over Botswana

Two of the best countries within the continent of Africa to visit for a safari experience are Tanzania and Botswana: 

Tanzania  

The United Republic of Tanzania is an African country in East Africa that has coastline on the Indian Ocean, Bordering Uganda in the north, Kenya in the northeast, Mozambique in the east, Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda to the west. Tanzania is most known for Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa. 

The best time to visit Tanzania to enjoy the wildlife is based around the rainfall. While the summer period is November to February and the cooler winter period is May to August, the rainiest periods are October – December. The ideal time is during the drier shoulder periods of March, April, August and September. 

Approximately one-third of Tanzania’s land is dedicated as a protected conservation area featuring 16 national parks in addition to game and forest reserves. Featuring many biodiverse areas you will find a variety of animal habitats:

The Serengeti – Tanzania

Serengeti – The Serengeti plain is where you will find the largest concentration of wildebeest and zebra who are known for their annual massive migrations when the herds move north from breeding locations to the grassy southern plains. For sure a not to miss experience, movement can be seen year round, but the massive movement will occur July – October when they can be seen crossing the Mara river in the Northern Serengeti. You will also find giraffe, gizelle, impala and many species of reptiles in the region like crocodiles who habitat in the Grumeti River. 

Ngorongoro Crater – Tanzania

Ngorongoro – the Manyara National park is where you can experience a game drive of animals including lions, cheetahs, monkeys, baboons and impalas. You will also want to visit the three million year old Ngorongoro crater which is the largest volcano caldera in the world and home to a gorgeous wildlife sanctuary filled with large mammals like hippopotamus who live in the lakes, bush and plains of the caldera. To experience the great migration that occurs here annually, you will want to visit between July and September. 

Botswana 

Unlike Tanzania, Botswana is primarily flat with the majority (70%) of it belonging to the Kalahari Desert. Located in central Africa, it borders South Africa in the south, Zimbabwe in the northeast and to the west and north of Botswana is Namibia. Besides the large area of desert, you will find the Okavango Delta, one of the largest in the world in the northwestern portion of the country. 

Why Botswana if it is mostly desert? Because of the diversity of the wildlife that you can find here. Besides desert and the delta, there are savannas and grassland regions where you will find wildebeest, antelope, the endangered African wild dog and the biggest concentration of African elephants in Africa which can be found along the rivers during the dry season. September is the peak time for experiencing wildlife as it is the end of the dry season. 

Chobe National Park – Botswana

Chobe National Park – Botswana’s original national park located in the Okavango Delta is biologically diverse making it a prime destination for experiencing wildlife. Taking a safari through the park has one of the largest concentrations of wildlife to observe when looking for the big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, water buffalo and the rare rhinoceros). Specifically lions can be easily spotted who reside in the area for the presence of the large number of elephants and their young who track them as their primary predator. 

Chobe River Safari – Botswana

The Chobe River –  a key location for spotting the “Big Five” game during the dry months. Both sides of the river are protected wildlife management areas. During the dry season the Kalahari elephants, lions and buffalo reside at the river, especially during the end of the dry season when families can be spotted from boats as you travel along the river. A highlight is the daily elephant bathing ritual which offers amazing afternoon photo opportunities. 

Serengeti Migration Camp* – Tanzania

Safari Lodges are found throughout both Tanzania and Botswana. Unique experiences featuring luxury and modern tented camps that offer immersive wildlife experiences. Seeing nature free from human intervention is the highlight of staying at a safari lodge. You will never know what encounter awaits you as you relax in your tent or while relaxing within the grounds before or after your safari. All inclusive, a stay at a lodge includes meals, guided safari and wildlife spotting, night-time campfires with all the amenities you would expect at a five-star resort but with a rustic charm. With so many to choose from, there is one that fits every budget and travel style. 

With so much to see, how do you explore these regions seamlessly and enjoyably? Imagine an experience that combines all of the experiences in a 10 – 21 day African experience. Start your journey on land combined with four nights on a small private luxury African boat drifting along the river all the while having an up-close wildlife experience before heading back on land for more time to explore the villages and highlights of the region. 

AmaWaterways Zambezi Queen – Chobe River

Learn more about luxurious African river cruise experiences from our website. 

-Asanti!

*Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways River Cruises

Categories: Active Travel, Bucket List, Dream Vacation, Eco-Friendly, Experience, River Cruise, Sustainable Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

How to Find Luxury when visiting Egypt

When you think of Egypt, your mind immediately goes to pyramids, desert and the cradle of civilization. Egypt is a bucket list venue, it is exploration, archaeology, archaic monuments and more or less venturing into a world embraced by Indiana Jones. 

Traveling to Egypt as one of the most luxurious places in the world like Rome, Dubai or New York city it is hard to imagine that Egypt would rise to the level of modern amenities and opulence that you would find in one of these other locations. But it does, with many options for high-end accommodations, spas, golf, sun and sea and even diving to make your bucket list experience a well rounded luxury experience. 

A country that is part of the continent of Africa, Egypt’s culture is more associated with the middle east. And yes while it does date back to ancient civilization to the time of Pharaohs, millennia old monuments, tombs and ancient historical relics, all were centered around the luxuries of the time. Even during the Greek and Roman Empire, Egypt was the playground of the rich and powerful. So as Egypt has become a modern city, it is not unexpected that it is to this day filled with luxuries and affluence just as it was many thousands of years ago. 

In fact Egypt in 2019, was a top spot for visiting elite (billionaires) who were flocking to the many locales that make Egypt so alluring:

Cairo

The capital city of Egypt, set on the Nile river has a history that dates back to the 26th Century BC. But today’s Cairo is a modern city with over 9 million residents. It is the largest city in Egypt and the largest within the middle east. 

Cairo boasts some of the most beautiful and luxurious hotels in the middle east. The Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Sofitel and St. Regis to name a few are all present. Additionally there are many options for boutique brands with postcard-like amenities for the ultimate experience. 

Travelers also have many unique options, like a stay at luxury hotels centered around archeology, dating back to the colonial era offering acres of landscaped gardens and the splendors of the old-world providing views off your balcony of the ancient Pyramids.

Today’s Cairo is a food destination, offering high end dining experiences with fine dining and Michelin rated to local standouts for superior dining experience. Le Pacha 1901, once a floating palace, is today a dining and entertainment facility on the Nile in Cairo offering 8 award winning restaurants.

Explore Cairo on private tours with English-speaking Egyptologists to the pyramids and many other historical sites that draw visitors with exclusive VIP experiences escorting you to the highlights of the area in luxury and based on your travel style.

 Luxor to Aswan along the Nile River

Travel the Nile river as the Pharaohs once did between Luxor and Aswan visiting archeological sites and temples with breathtaking ancient views that still reflect a time when the eastern banks of the Nile were the place of birth and growth and the west bank was reserved for the eternal rest of royalty as their place of death.

The best way to experience this part of the Nile is on a luxury river cruise from Luxor, the original Egyptian capital, to Aswan. Enjoy the bucket list panoramic views as you travel the waters from your luxury ship’s balcony. If you prefer to stay on land near Luxor, today a modern day city, travelers can find refuge in luxury boutique hotels featuring inspirations of ancient Egyptian history and architecture. 

When visiting Aswan you will also find a luxurious five star private resort on Elephantine Island located in the middle of the Nile river. The hotel is completely surrounded by elegant gardens with modern rooms offering amazing views of Aswan across the Nile. Explore Aswan and her islands as the ancients did, by felucca, an oar driven boat with sails, symbolic of the region. 

Alexandria 

Alexandria is a port city in Northern Egypt on the Mediterranean sea. The second largest city in Egypt and the largest city on the Mediterranean, her history has influences of Greek, roman and Cleopatra’s Egypt. Today Alexandria is referred to as the “Pearl of the Mediterranean” for her cooler weather, location on the sea and modern amenities, making her a popular locale for resident summer visitors. 

The city, founded in 331 BC, by Alexander the Great, is home to the Alexandria Lighthouse one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the great library and the necropolis catacombs both considered seven wonders of the middle ages among many other Roman ruins that still stand scattered throughout the city today. 

With its rich history, Alexandria is historic yet also contemporary with modern skyscrapers, and experiences throughout the culturally-rich city. At two miles wide and 12 miles long it is often compared to Nice in France.  As one of the lesser visited Egyptian cities, there is a strong attraction for high end visitors looking for less touristy yet high luxury regions to visit. 

You will find multiple 5 star hotels along the coast offering luxury accommodations, dining, entertainment, spa services and may also offer private beaches.

The Red Sea Riviera

A lesser known destination on the Northeastern African continent, along the Red sea in Egypt connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. The region offers a relaxing and luxurious cosmopolitan beach resort experience.

Enjoyable climate, warm sea, many miles of shore and multiple underwater parks make this a popular scuba diving and surfing destination. 

Made up of resort cities along the western shore of the Gulf of Aqaba and the eastern coast of mainland Egypt offering inclusive luxury resorts providing pampering spa treatments, championship golf, beautiful beaches, high end dining, local entertainment, snorkeling and diving all are strategically placed along the coast for intimate relaxation and fun.

For anyone wanting a more private beach destination away from the popular Red Sea resorts, Agiba Beach in Marsa Matrouh offers a remote beach and the Fjord hole a small bay outside Taba is another option for its spectacular diving and amazing display of marine life. 

Egypt can be so much more then adventure but a truly luxurious bucket list experience. If you would like to discover the culture of old and modern Egypt spending a few days in Cairo and then traveling from Luxor on a 7 day river journey, discover more about river cruising with the option of some additional time in historical Alexandria or the resorts of the Red Sea.

Categories: Bucket List, Dream Vacation, River Cruise, Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
 
 

Why NOW is the best time to Plan Your Dream Vacation!

Travel has been on hiatus for months now leaving many with quarantine fatigue. Domestic vacations or weekend get-a ways may have taken visitors to a change of scenery, but the overall feeling is one of loss and disappointment. 

The biggest question I have been getting is, I need a change of scenery, where can I go right now. The short answer is for right now, stay home!

Still many are currently reluctant to proceed especially internationally, if borders were to open up and according to recent studies over 50% of American’s need more time until they are ready for international journeys. 

While 2020 is still uncertain with international travel bans, limited access to flights, slow down of state department facilities like passport offices and the overall unknown of the end of the pandemic, heading off into the sunset may be currently out of the question. 

But tourism is not dead!!!! The opportunity will present itself and when it does, will you be prepared for it???? 

Having a plan, an itinerary and possibly even a soft commitment saves lots of time and maybe even more money as others are scrambling to figure it out and commit with increased costs, less availability and more competition. 

Lack of current options leaves many dreaming about their next vacation. With pent up demand, why not commit to your dream and take the opportunity to have a plan to make it a reality, a long term goal that is set in motion? 

I am not guaranteeing that 2021 will be problem free, but with vaccine’s predicted in the near future, it is expected that by summer of 2021 or later – 2022, we can once again experience more normal expectations for travel. 

So how do you start to plan your dream vacation in a time of uncertainty? Here are 6 steps to get you on the road to your next “dream” vacation to make it all worth the wait. 

Don’t miss the end for our tip on how to save yourself time, value and planning on Steps 3 – 5. 

Step 1 – Pick a Location

do I want to go?

There are many options for how to plan where. Do you have a bucket list? That was easy! You have a list of places to start reviewing to see if they are still list worthy. 

Perhaps you love to search Pinterest, create a board of your favorite’s with pics. that you would like to visit. 

Research the locations that are top of mind that you have always wanted to visit, talked about visiting, dreamed about visiting. Research is a much easier task today with the internet and Google to view the local destination visitor bureaus to research. Check google groups or tripadvisor for experts in the region(s) you want to visit to ask questions and get the information that you are searching for. 

Step 2 – Pick a date or date range

do I want to go?

View your destination on Google maps and get a feel for location. 

The first question should be when is the best time to visit? Is it a coastal town or city that you want to visit in the warmer months, or is it a mountainous or a lake region that you can visit almost throughout the year, unless you are avoiding the cold and possible bad weather periods. If visiting a large city, when is the best and worst time to visit? You don’t want to be in Italy Easter week when all the shops, sites and many restaurants may be closed for celebration.

Is there a high season and a low season, when are those periods and what are the advantages and disadvantages of either options, ie. overcrowded with tourists, or minimal tourists but limited access to places you want to visit?

What is the weather during the time you want to visit? Rain, snow and extreme heat can affect your experience if you are not prepared or inclined to navigate through them. 

Step 3 – Set a budget

much am I willing to spend?

Depending on how far out you are planning your vacation can affect the cost of your experience. The earlier you commit, usually the better availability and pricing you will find, when availability first opens. But not all options are available if planning a year or more out and costs may need to be estimated for the time period based on the current costs for the same dates in the current travel year or booking period (peak, standard, shoulder or off peak). Expect approximately a 10% – 15% price increase per calendar year.

Cruise and tour providers offer itineraries 1.5 – 3 years in advance and generally offer their best pricing when itineraries are released. 

Hotel and land providers won’t have availability usually until a year or less prior when they renegotiate their contracts with groups and open space. 

Air and Rail open their itineraries 11 months or less and depending on if they are international or intra-national in many cases rail may not become available until 90 days prior.

Sites and museums may require tickets for entry, most release them 60 – 90 days prior to the visit date and can sell out quickly for prime dates!

Don’t forget to budget for those things that you may need but have not planned for like insurance, passports, Visa’s (if needed) luggage, international phone plans…..

Step 4 – How will I travel

is the best way to visit?

This can be the hardest part. Without knowing what the future holds, how do you know what may be in your best interest to meet your goals and have the assurances that you will be able to journey safely? 

You do not have to pave your own path, the good news is there are many options;

Ocean cruising – starting with the obvious, despite the bad press that cruising is getting right now from the CDC, ships have been anchored since March and yet the numbers on land continue to rise. This shows us that cruising was not the problem. In preparation for the future, cruise lines are initiating safety protocols, limited capacity and they have protocols to protect crew and guests for an enjoyable experience in the future and provide an opportunity to transport guests to multiple countries for immersion with many experiences, unpacking once.

River cruising – although you are on a small ship, you are journeying through countries, on yacht style ships comparable to floating boutique hotels. With accommodations for less than 200 guests and further restrictions currently at 100 or less, in my opinion, this can not only provide a safe option but also offer the most normal experience once we can start traveling again. River cruising is also one of my favorite experiences for immersion, inclusion and experience. 

Small group tours – accommodating 15 or less passengers exploring together using large motor coaches for social distancing, local guides, set planned out itineraries with a concierge companion guide, they have even incorporated contactless luggage transport, everything is thought out and pre-planned for a safe and yet immersive experience. There are small group tour options for all sorts of experiences and interests including biking, hiking, culinary, wine, less active…..

Independent travel – exploring on your own does not have to be 100% a solo adventure. Independent travel companies can guide you on the details of planning out an itinerary, arranging private transport and transfers, setting accommodations that meet your needs, planning for local guides and experiences and the best part is they are completely customizable to your wants. These companies will know how each of their local suppliers they work with have prepared for your arrival and safety and offer you an on the ground contact to assist with any requests or changes during your visit for a seamless experience. 

Step 5 – Commit to your dates

Lock in your plans

When you feel comfortable and you know the “when”, “where”. “how” and “what”, you can lock into your plans when exactly what you want is available and early booking discounts and promotions are being offered. Which is generally when amenities are first made available. 

Most suppliers require a small deposit and the bulk of the funds are not due until 90 – 120 days prior to the start of your journey. Confirm this when committing so you know all your options. Many suppliers also offer air options with protections should your plans change. 

If committing with non-refundable deposits, confirm what all your options for moving or rebooking should any concerns or fears for your future dates arise.

Now you can sit back and know that you are one step from your dream experience. You can be comfortable with knowing where you stand and what your options are in the future. But most of all, you can now dream about your future experience knowing that it is waiting for you.

Step 6 – Prepare to travel

Preparation can be the longest process and may take 6 months or more in advance of the beginning of your journey. These may include getting or renewing passports, purchasing insurance to protect you and your investment from the unexpected, Visa’s that may be required to visit more exotic locales, health checks and inoculation requirements for countries that you will be visiting, purchasing luggage and/or other items like walking shoes, hats, updating your telephone plans for international travel…. All to prepare you for your nearing adventure. 

Our Tip – 

OK as promised, our tip on how to save yourself time, value and planning for your dream vacation. 

….. Use a Travel Advisor! 

I am not trying to be self-serving because I am a travel advisor. Based on what I have seen these past 5 months, since the pandemic arrived on our door steps, has assured me that working with not just an advisor but, one who specializes in the location(s) you want to visit and the suppliers you want to work with can provide you the most bang for your buck. 

A specialist will know the information that you need inside and out, can be your best advocate for attaining your goals, should be 100% committed to your journey and if anything comes up, they have relationships with the vendors to guide and assist you. They can also keep you on track for all the milestones between your planning and your arrival home. Like myself, not all advisors charge a service fee, but regardless, the small fee is worth the cost of a seamless dream vacation.

In summary, when the time is right and you need to guide all the pent up travel energy into focus is the perfect time to start exploring your options, waiting may only offer limitations. 

If you would like to know a little more about the “Best Way to Visit” your destination(s), check out our Personality Quiz that matches your personality to your travel style and the experience best suited for you.   

Safe Travels!

Categories: Dream Vacation, Travel, Travel Bucket List | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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