Category Archives: Travel Stories

Gem’s hidden gems

This was my first time in Tanzania and as my previous African adventures had been in the south or north of Africa it was a real treat to explore the east.

On arrival at Kilimanjaro International airport our guide from Lifestyle Safaris was there to greet us and we made the relatively short trip to Arusha Coffee Lodge to relax before we embarked on our East African adventure.  The lodge was just what we needed – cosy individual lodges, lovely food and a warm welcome. We also took the ‘Bean-to-cup’ coffee tour and their extremely enthusiastic coffee expert (who I suspect may have had a little too much caffeine) gave us a demonstration and a much needed drink to wake us up.

We were up early for our safari to the Tarangire National Park.  In a trip filled with highlights – this was one of my favourites.  I knew it was famed for its large elephant herds but I wasn’t prepared quite how many we saw and how close and inquisitive they would be.  As an elephant lover it was a truly memorable experience. The baobab trees here are amazing with huge fat trunks and bare branches that looked like roots in the sky (it looks like the tree is upside down!) and they are everywhere here in the park.   In the evening we enjoyed the amazing view of Tarangire from the decked dining area of the Mbali Mbali Tarangire River Camp and enthused about our day over a few sundowners around the fire.

After breakfast we were back on the road and on to Lake Manyara.  Here you can enjoy the views from the aerial tree top walkway or for the braver visitor – by zip lining through the tree tops (I opted for the walkway). We then enjoyed a half day safari before making our way to Oldeani Mountain Lodge for a swim in the ‘pool with a view’ and more sundowers and safari stories around the fire.

The little visited Lake Natron was our next stop. This place really is worth every single minute of the dusty, four-hour, very bumpy journey.  The new airstrip will make it more easily accessible, but there is something about the remoteness of Lake Natron that makes it extra special (if that’s indeed possible).

The place is quite simply stunning.  Ol Doinyo Lengai, which in the Maasai language translates to “Mountain of God”, is a huge active volcano in the Gregory Rift – which makes for a awe inspiring backdrop to the beauty of the Lake and its thousands of flamingos.  This adventure lovers’ paradise offers hiking and mountain biking or you can cool off with a waterfall trek and swim (yet another highlight). Lake Natron also has ancient Homo sapien footprints preserved by past volcanic events so you can literally follow in their footsteps.  Lake Natron Camp is eco-friendly, basic but comfortable and the hosts and staff from the local village make sure guests get a warm welcome. The natural pool makes a great spot for sundowners and a refreshing dip (you will need it as it gets VERY hot here) and the resident fish will give you a thorough pedicure as soon as you dip your feet! Day six and it is time to say goodbye to Lake Natron and make our way to yet another highlight – the Ngorongoro Crater.

After a very comfortable stay at The Manor we set off early to the Crater rim.  As you begin the long decent to the crater floor the wildlife puts on a show as the animals reveal themselves from the thick forest that lines the crater walls peeking out from the mist that sits at the top.  When you reach the crater floor, you see the volume and variety of game that have made this former volcano their home. The size of the crater is just incredible and to think it once had top on it; the mountain must have rivalled Kilimanjaro. Inside the crater is a whole ecosystem so the animals don’t have to move or migrate as everything they need is here. It’s a great place for photography, it can get very busy with other vehicles but it’s definitely worth a visit.

 

It was then a game drive on to the central Serengeti and a stay at the lovely Asanja Moru Camp where we had an evening meal under the stars and the next morning surprise breakfast in the bush. The Serengeti was without doubt the most amazing game viewing experience I’ve ever had – leopards on the hunt, lions standing on a kopje (just like Pride Rock in the lion King) and the unforgettable sight of the Great Migration.  I’m not prone to emotional outbursts but I did have a wee tear in my eye at the sight of thousands of wildebeest and zebra on the run.  We were all so captivated by the adventures of the herd we found ourselves willing them on as predators came and went and at the sight of any vulnerable animals that strayed from the relative safety of the herd.  It really was high drama at its very best.  Black cotton soil nearly stopped play as we got stuck for a while in the jeep.  There was much hilarity as we all teamed up with our guide and did our best to free ourselves from the thick mud. Fortunately help was on its way and we were soon back on the road.  Like all the mini adventures you have on safari – it made for a great fireside story and many more laughs along the way.

The following morning was a very early start – but worth it as we were setting off on our balloon safari!

This really was a magical experience – from the game drive to get there – seeing all the animals going about their time-time adventures – to seeing the sunrise as the balloon took off.  I’m not a big fan of heights, so was a little nervous but that was soon forgotten as our excellent pilot gave us an extremely smooth flight, take-off and landing.  The game, views and whole experience was simply incredible.  On landing we had a champagne toast to our balloon adventure before a game drive on to a wonderful bush breakfast where we got to meet people from all over the world and share our safari stories. After a great stay at Mbali Mbali Soroi Lodge (with its amazing outdoor shower) we said goodbye to the Serengeti and our wonderful guide and set off to the airstrip for our flight to Zanzibar!  We then spent the next three nights in the luxurious Baraza Beach Resort.   Each of the private bungalows has its own private plunge pool and terrace area as well as a large communal swimming pool next to the beach with its warm water and perfect white sand.

 

 

The food here was delicious with a choice of restaurants and dining areas including beach and poolside. The water sports and trip options were also great fun with snorkelling at the lagoon, kayaking, and tours of Stone Town and the spa was a paradise within paradise.

It was then time to say goodbye to Zanzibar and the wonderful friends I had made along the way.  As I took off from Kilimanjaro airport (with Toto’s Africa playing in my head) the mountain didn’t disappoint as I had a great view of the summit as I flew over and said goodbye to Tanzania – for now.  It was the perfect end to a truly memorable trip.

 

A clients tale…..Leopard & Hyena making friends!

Clients of our, Reg and his daughter Loraine, recently returned from a trip to Kenya where they visit every year as they have fallen in love with the Mara. This year they took their friend Marina and went back to stay at Kicheche Mara camp. She must have been their lucky charm as they had some fantastic wildlife encounters.

He sent us this wonderful account of a leopard and hyena chilling together in the midday sun, as well as some fascinating lions ……

“We had a fantastic time! Every year we go we say that it can’t get better but we are proved wrong.

We saw something we have never seen before (and neither had any of the guides or camp hosts!). A leopard was having a rest under a tree relatively close to a hyena who was lying in a small hollow. They were aware of each others location. The hyena was getting a bit hot so got up and walked about 75m to rest under the shade of a bush. The leopard, some 10 minutes later, got up and started to walk in same direction. We thought that, as there is not much love lost between the two, the “muck was going to hit the fan”.

Incredibly, the leopard laid down next to the hyena (within a couple of feet). The hyena looked up and at the leopard then laid down again. The leopard looked at the hyena, groomed itself and just rested.

Lions up tress, whilst not unique, is still not your every day scene, especially when they are 15/20ft up the tree and looking very comfortable.

We left camp one morning to track a pride of lions. When we found them George (our guide) realised that they were heading back to camp so we followed. At about 9.30 after following them they went through the camp (three of them) between the tents (about 100 yards from ours) to carry on their journey to a previous nights kill over looking the camp.

 

Counting the days until the next adventure……… ”

If you would like to have the opportunity of being lucky enough to experience something as magical as this, then please contact us and we can make it happen!

In the meantime take a look at our Kenya section for some inspiration!

The 10 to 4 Mountain Bike Challenge

One of the best-kept secrets on Africa’s adventure tourism calendar is the 10 to 4 Mt Kenya mountain Bike Challenge which raises money for the Mount Kenya Trust. Held annually since 2002, when a small group of enthusiastic mountain bikers cycled from 10,000ft above sea level down to 4,000ft, it is the major fundraiser for the Mount Kenya Trust conservation NGO.

Since the 10 to 4 was established, over $500,000 has been raised to support the MKT in their work. This includes planting more than half a million trees, building and maintaining a 14km elephant corridor through farmland, two elephant underpasses, returning over 450 hectares of bare land to indigenous forest, tree nurseries nurturing hundreds of thousands of seedlings, and helped 50,000 Kenyans with health care and thousands of children understand conservation better.

    

Last year, under the radar, our Farside Africa Director Vicky Stirling took part in what only can be described as the ultimate bike safari. Not only did she take part but she also won her category and was the first female to finish the classic race completing 62km in around 4 hours – quite an achievement! Whilst out there she met some boys from Nanyuki who couldn’t afford to enter the race. It was too late for her to help them last year. So this year, along with a Kenyan friend, we are sponsoring two girls and two boys to compete in the race on the 9th & 10th February. The boys will compete in the Extreme race held over two days whilst the girls will take part in the Classic race held on the second day.

On day 1 they will cover about 90km facing an elevation climb of 2000m at high altitude with fast technical sections & single track. This is then followed by the Roller Coaster Classic on day 2. Starting at nearly 3000 meters, (10,000 feet), on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya, riders will descend some 70km over demanding terrain, through indigenous forest and wide open plains, abundant with wildlife, down to the Ngare Ndare Forest at 1940 meters, (6400 feet).

  

Our ‘NANYUKI Mambas’ team consists of David, Joseph, Joyce and Asmin who live in and around Nanyuki and we wish them the best of luck!

Please GET IN TOUCH if you would like to sponsor Farside Africa’s ‘NANYUKI Mambas’ team. Farside Africa has paid directly for the entry fees and team shirts so any extra funds raised will go directly to the Mount Kenya Trust.

Can you bike for 500 miles?

Malawi Cycle September 2018

500 miles is a Scottish based charity which raises funds to support the development and delivery of prosthetic and orthotic services in Malawi, Zambia and Zanzibar. They help people with impaired mobility of all kinds to get moving, as independently as possible, by helping them to access prostheses and orthoses.

The main focus of their work in Malawi is supporting the Malawian government to develop and deliver sustainable prosthetic and orthotic services which will be there for future generations – as well as for the people they help today. In Malawi, independent mobility is a passport into education for a young person. It means a chance of employment for an adult – and it affords social inclusion and participation for all. The full cost of producing an average prostheses in Malawi is just £175. That is all it costs to transform someone’s life. Read more about their projects here.

In September 500 miles are organising a 250 mile bike ride along the shore of Lake Malawi from Mzuzu city in the north down to Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. Along the way you will meet hundreds of Malawians, sleep in lodges on the white sandy shores of Lake Malawi as well as enjoying some of the country’s wildlife and incredible scenery.

You will fly to Lilongwe overnight on Saturday 15th September and start the bike ride on Monday 17th September in Mzuzu finishing in Lilongwe on Saturday 22nd September. You will then fly back to Edinburgh overnight the next day after visiting the 500 miles clinic in Kamuzu Centre Hospital.

Participant’s own costs are estimated at £2,000 – £2,500 per person which will include all flights (plus own bike), accommodation and food. It is recommended that you pay your own costs rather than raising funds for your participation, and suggested that you should aim to raise at least £1,000 per person for the 500 miles charity in Malawi.

If you are interested please contact [email protected]. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. They are aiming for a party of 18 and a number of people have already expressed an interest.

Spotlight on Zimbabwe…..Hwange National Park

There is an air of positivity in Zimbabwe and amongst its supporters since the coup that wasn’t a coup and we are all keeping our fingers crossed for the future of Zimbabwe and its people. With stability returning and investment in tourism growing we are optimistic that holidaymakers will be returning to the beautiful wilderness areas they have always been, such as the Hwange National Park.

Continue reading …

Travel update: Drinking Um Bongo in the Congo

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” 
– Hunter S. Thompson

The more I visit Africa the longer my bucket list gets, however for my latest adventure I was heading straight to the top of the list and heading to the Congo. I imagine this will conjure a mixed bag of responses (as it did from my family and friends) however for me this was a trip of a lifetime. Continue reading …