Tag Archives: safari

A group of resting lemurs katta looking at the camera.

Thrilling Animal Encounters: Reviews of WOW Trips

For many people, seeing wild animals in their native habitat is their favorite reason to travel; that’s the common thread in the trip reviews you’ll read below. True wildlife sightings can’t be engineered, and there is a growing sensitivity to the ethics of animal encounters. The folks on our WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts can put you in the right place, at the right time, and with the right local trackers to maximize your chances of seeing wildlife in its natural state. Here’s how to get your own WOW trip.


Ecuador: “At Mashpi Lodge, a biologist identified a new species, the ‘Mashpi glass frog,’ which he found for us on a night walk…”

A frog clinging on the traveler's glasses frame.

A Mashpi glass frog clings to an eyeglass frame. Photo: Traveler Robin Madden

“We just returned from a 10-day trip to Ecuador, with our two adult sons and one of their partners, and unlike most, we did not include the Galapagos in the itinerary. We chose to visit the Amazon and stay at Napo Wildlife Center, and Mashpi Lodge in the Cloud Forest. These two places were chosen due to their commitment to the local communities and preservation of the incredibly biologically diverse ecosystems in which they are each set. Carmen on Jordan’s team put together a seamless experience.

Though remote, the Napo Wildlife Center is both elegant and comfortable. Our experience included a local guide from the indigenous community. The lodge is owned and operated by the local community—a rarity in luxury lodges. Mornings started early, 5:30, but oh, the payoff! We saw multiple species of monkeys, more than 40 different birds, caiman, river otters, and a sloth, as well as various snakes and insects.

At Mashpi Lodge, Fernando was our guide, and he is the ‘frog whisperer.’ He is a biologist who did research there prior to becoming a guide and identified a new species, the ‘Mashpi glass frog,’ which he found for us on a night walk. We had the extraordinary luck of witnessing a battle between a wasp and a tarantula. The wasp won, killing the tarantula and depositing her eggs inside to hatch in about 10 days. Fernando videotaped the whole encounter. It was like watching a National Geographic special, but it was right there in front of us.” —Robin Madden

Read more reviews of Ecuador trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Mexico: “Four days in a remote whale-watching camp alongside private boat excursions to key wildlife sites…”

Diver swimming with whale shark

Diving with a whale shark. Photo: Journey Mexico

Zach and his wonderful team—Carolina and Jose among many others behind the scenes I’m sure—planned the most outstanding mother-daughter spring break trip to Baja California, Mexico, for my 20-year-old and me. We were interested in a nature-focused experience, spending all of our time on whale watching, sea lions, whale sharks, etc.  Zach was so thoughtful, spending a series of phone calls with me figuring out what kind of travelers we were and what kind of experiences would be right. He then proposed the perfect itinerary, including four days in a remote whale-watching camp alongside time in La Paz on private boat excursions to key wildlife sites and a transfer evening in Cabo. We weren’t excited about spending time in busy Cabo, and he found us an under-the-radar boutique hotel that checked all our boxes (quiet, beautiful, excellent service).

The trip itself was flawlessly executed.  Carolina went out of her way to figure out where we could skip logistics steps and bypass lines. It couldn’t have run more smoothly during a very crowded time in Baja. I was also so appreciative of their flexibility and help when, at the last minute, I had a medical emergency and couldn’t go with my daughter. They immediately shifted all of the reservations to a new family member who accompanied her. Hearing their glowing, joyful reports every day of the amazing time Zach and team had organized was almost as wonderful as being there myself. We can’t recommend Zach, Carolina, Jose and team more highly.” —Cate Bradley

Read more reviews of Mexico trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Canada: “We are so thankful to have experienced polar bears in the wild with a small group on foot…”

Polar bear with cubs in Canadian Arctic.

A polar bear with cubs in the Canadian Arctic. Photo: Shutterstock

“This was a fantastic trip!  I’ve been thinking about seeing polar bears for years and imagined traveling in tundra buggies outside of Churchill looking for bears. Thank goodness I reached out to Marc and his team for their help!

Marc suggested a walking safari at a remote camp. He also helped determine the optimal time and best experience based on our interests. It was amazing! The tour is 6 days—4 days at the camp and one day on either end in Winnipeg.  The camp is 60 km north of Churchill, we flew in on an 8-passenger plane and saw a polar bear from the air! The entire time we were at the lodge, there were 3 bears around the camp. We had so many opportunities to see them from the lodge, from the viewing decks outside, and walking on the tundra. Equipment was provided and very much appreciated for protecting us from the Arctic winds. We were also lucky enough to see an amazing show of the northern lights.

As we were preparing for our trip, our questions were quickly and accurately answered by Kate on Marc’s team. We appreciated their recommendations and support. We are so thankful to have experienced polar bears in the wild with a small group on foot.” —Deborah Wente

Read more reviews of Canada trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


The Galapagos Islands: “We had penguins nibbling our fins, watched sea turtles noshing underwater and sea lions performing acrobatics…”

woman snorkeling underwater in Galapagos with giant tortoise

Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands. Photo: Traveler Colleen Grazioso

Ashton did an incredible job helping us plan our vacation of a lifetime to the Galapagos to celebrate our Dad’s 75th Birthday (and my 50th!).  We spent eight days aboard a sturdy and very comfortable catamaran that sleeps 16 passengers across eight passenger cabins. The ship has a crew of ten that provided amazing service. It was incredible to have the entire boat to ourselves. With no internet onboard, we spent real quality time relaxing together. My dad claims he spent more time with his grandkids on this trip than over the past 15 years combined!

We walked on young lava around volcanoes, hiked up mountains, kayaked in caves, saw tons and tons and tons of all sorts of iguanas, swam on deserted white-sand beaches, watched octopus in tide pools, walked next to giant land tortoises, and saw lots and lots of blue-footed boobies. Several of us are certified SCUBA divers and were a little upset before we got there that we wouldn’t be diving on this trip but, I have to say, the snorkels we did on this trip were more spectacular that any dives I have ever done, anywhere. We had penguins nibbling our fins, watched sea turtles noshing underwater and sea lions performing acrobatics in front of us—every single day. We saw rays and whales and sharks and eels and tons of colorful fish and starfish the size of hubcaps. If you like to snorkel, this trip will top anything you have done, I guarantee it!” —Colleen Grazioso

Read more reviews of expedition cruise trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Southern Africa: “My daughter and I were profoundly affected by the emphasis on sustainability and respect/harmony with nature…”

elephant close-up in Zambezi river in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s Lower Zambezi River is home to massive herds of elephants. Photo: Wilderness Safaris

“My daughter and I had the most incredible trip to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, as organized by Cherri and her team. One thing I always appreciate about your specialists is their desire to understand my particular travel needs and desires. We started with 5 days in Cape Town, mixing up our need for outdoor activities—hiking and biking—with cultural and historical highlights. Then, off to Camp Moremi in Botswana, where we did 7 jeep drives that brought us so close to all the animals. Having been in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater before, I really appreciated the small and intimate camps in Botswana. When we found animals, there were only 2-3 Jeeps, and we did not crowd them. This allowed us to see animals mating, feeding, nursing, fighting, and other activities that are just part of life.

At Camp Okavango, which is surrounded by water, our safaris were by boat, canoe and on foot. We loved this—the quiet, the birds, the alarm calls! Once, on walking safari, we encountered a male elephant at close range. Our guide, Taps, quickly advised us on how to act and proceed. We felt entirely safe, and at the same time, were within 10 feet of the elephant. He even sniffed us!

Our final stop was at Dulini Leadwood in Sabi Sands, and I have to say, this was beyond fantastic. Within one day, we saw all of the Big 5 animals! Again, we were able to watch animal behaviors that are so rare, such as a leopard with her 3- month-old cub, playing.   While an African safari is never inexpensive, this one surely met all the criteria of ‘trip of a lifetime’. My daughter and I were profoundly affected by the emphasis on sustainability and respect/harmony with nature. This is my 5th trip with one of Wendy’s experts, and we have 2 more coming up. I love doing my own travel planning, but when going somewhere that has myriad options and connections, it’s just so much easier with one of your travel planners. Thanks so much.” —Milinda Martin

Read more reviews of Southern Africa trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Alaska: “The Kodiak Brown Bear Center was very interesting—and did we see the bears! We saw them in the water, on the land, and even in the trees…”

Alaskan brown bear sow and its cub at Brooks Falls in katmai National Park, Alaska

An Alaskan brown bear sow and its cub at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our fifth trip to Alaska was again spectacular, thanks to Judith. We wanted to visit Kodiak Island for bear viewing and also try ocean fishing. The Kodiak Brown Bear Center was very interesting—and did we see the bears!  We saw them in the water, on the land, and even in the trees!  We also enjoyed the lodge and the limited number of people that can stay at one time. There are only four cabins.

Judith also made arrangements for us to go ocean fishing in Homer with a full-service charter—meaning, not only did they provide the bait and tackle, but they also handled the cleaning and made arrangements for processing so we could ship our catch home for us to enjoy. The scenery was spectacular, and the sea was relatively flat. We saw whales and puffins, and we fished for salmon and halibut. Our hotel was on the Homer Spit, so we could watch the boats come and go. One evening we brought our dinner back to the hotel so we could watch the sunset from our picture window, and our dinner view was a group of sea otters having fun playing in the water. Another wonderful trip! Thank you, Judith, and also thank you, Wendy Perrin, for your list of travel specialists.” —Marsha Friedli

Read more reviews of Alaska trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


The Galapagos Islands: “It was simply mind-boggling how many amazing animals we saw up close…”

photo of Sea turtle swimming underwater in the Galapagos island

A sea turtle in the Galapagos. Photo: Shutterstock

“My family of four (two parents, 10yr old, 12yr old) took a one-week Galapagos cruise aboard the Elite. Allie planned the trip. EVERY aspect of the journey was incredible, and none of us wanted to leave.  We plan 90% of our travel on our own, but with a trip like this, which we thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, we wanted to be 100% sure we got it right. We are so happy Wendy linked us up with Allie. Allie was essential to helping us sort through the blizzard of options (land-based or boat-based? which of a hundred boats? large or small? monohull or cat? four-day or longer? etc.). She helped us make it perfect. So perfect that maybe it won’t be once-in-a-lifetime.

With Allie’s guidance we chose a small boat (the Elite has a 16-person max). Small boats can be rocky, so she steered us toward a catamaran for more stability, to minimize the risk of seasickness. The water was generally smooth, but on one or two nights with bigger waves, we were very happy to have two hulls, especially while watching how tippy the monohulls were. We didn’t really think about it beforehand, but being aboard a catamaran allowed for a wider beam and more spacious rooms on board.

The reason to go to the Galapagos is the geological and natural history,. We saw blue-footed boobies, courting frigate birds, gulls, Galapagos hawks (hunting and eating marine iguanas!) and more. We encountered a number of Galapagos tortoises in the wild. In the water, on numerous snorkeling activities, we saw more types of reef fish than I could name, from little gobis and half-inch baby puffers up to tuna. Small sharks skimmed the bottom, oblivious of us. Penguins flashed by, within a few feet, as they hunted, and we actually saw them catching fish. We never sought out sea lions because as soon as we hit the water, they found us, swimming within inches of us in circles and loops, trying to get us to play with them. Pods of sea turtles munched on algae as we floated above, swimming so close to us at times that we actually had to struggle to swim away in order not to contact or disturb them. It was simply mind-boggling how many amazing animals we saw up close.” —John Strachan

Read more reviews of Galapagos trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Costa Rica: “We were able to see howler monkeys and troops of both white-faced capuchin and spider monkeys…”

White-Headed Capuchin monkey in Manuel Antonio, the rainforest of Costa Rica.

A white-faced Capuchin monkey in Costa Rica’s rainforest. Photo: Shutterstock

“My wife and I, along with our three children (elementary, high school, and college age), worked with Priscilla in the planning of a trip to Costa Rica in March. We were able to mix in plenty of activities with some relaxation.

Our first stay was at The Springs Resort and Spa in the Arenal Volcano area. The hotel offered plenty for the children to do beyond swimming. The waterfall rappelling excursion Priscilla recommended was very fun. At the hotel we spotted sloths and toucans, and the view of the volcano from the hotel room was spectacular.

Our next stop was La Paloma Lodge in Drake Bay, on the Osa Peninsula. The Sunset Rancho offered a fantastic view of the ocean, and the meals were great. Our excursion to Corcovado National Park was a highlight and we were able to see Howler Monkeys and troops of both White Faced Capuchin and Spider Monkeys. We also saw an arboreal anteater, Coatimundis, and a saltwater crocodile. Priscilla set up a wonderful night tour where we were able to see snakes, frogs, spiders, a scorpion, and even a fleeting glimpse of a Kinkajou. Cocolito Beach by the lodge offered some great waves for boogie boarding and never felt crowded. From beginning to end, Priscilla and the team provided a lot of details/organization so we could just enjoy the trip.” —Nelson Mongiovi

Read more reviews of Costa Rica trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Kenya & Rwanda: “It’s hard to explain the joy and wonder one experiences when face-to-face with a gorilla family, but it was extraordinary, and we are forever changed…”

A gorilla in Rwanda. Photo: Pixabay

“We recently returned from a truly amazing trip to Kenya and Rwanda, organized by Dan. We began planning our trip over a year ago, initially interviewing two companies that were rated as being in ‘the top five’ by respected travel publications. Disappointed that their representatives weren’t really listening and designing trips that met our criteria, we reached out to Wendy’s team and got connected with Dan.

Dan is a great listener and promptly put together an itinerary that excited us and met our requirements. With his guidance, we selected two locations for safaris on private lands in Kenya, the Lewa Conservancy and the Mara North Conservancy. The safari experiences at the two locations complemented each other really well.

In Lewa, we saw four of the Big Five upon arrival, just on our drive from the airstrip to camp! Home to countless unique species, there we also saw Grevy’s Zebra, white and black rhinos and even wild dogs. Fortunately, we also made it to the Maasai Mara in time to see the Migration and a drama-filled river crossing, as well as all the Big Five. Our last stop was Rwanda, where we went gorilla trekking for two days. It’s hard to explain the joy and wonder one experiences when face-to-face with a gorilla family, but it was extraordinary, and we are forever changed.” —Gina and Roger Symczak

Read more reviews of Kenya and Rwanda trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


African Safari: “Watching a pride of lions feast on a freshly killed hippo…”

Travelers taking photo with the rainbow behind them at the safari in Masa Mara Conservancy, Kenya.

Martha and James Issokson saw not just wildlife but a rainbow on their safari in the Masai Mara Conservancy.

“We just returned from a wonderful stay in Kenya. Daniel’s guidance enabled us to narrow down the many possibilities for a trip to Africa. He was helpful in selecting the time of year, the locations, and also the type of resort experience we wished to have. We stayed at two of the Kicheche resorts from February 4-12. The selection of camps in the Masai Mara Conservancy and the Ol Pejeta Conservancy provided a wonderful variety of terrain and wildlife to view.

The location, food and level of service were above and beyond our expectations. Experiences like viewing elephants, buffalo and gazelles from our tent at the Ol Pejeta camp and watching a pride of lions feast on a freshly killed hippo at the Mara Conservancy made our trip one we will not soon forget.” —James and Martha Issokson

Read more reviews of African Safari trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.



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tourist woman on safari in South Africa sitting in jeep with elephant in distance

Here’s Why I Felt Covid-Safe on Safari

As the floodgates of travel reopen and we all learn to negotiate staying safe while away from home—and as European sidewalks and museums are once again crowded with visitors—I want to tell you about the low-risk travel formula I’ve hit upon: an African safari. I’ve spent time in southern Africa twice in the past year (in Botswana and Zimbabwe in 2021, and in Namibia and South Africa in 2022), and on both trips I felt safe and returned home Covid-free. Here’s why:


Our safari vehicle at Sabi Sabi: no sides or top, with our ranger at the wheel and our tracker up front. South Africa
Our safari vehicle at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve: no sides or top, with our ranger at the wheel and our tracker up front.
Our enclosed vehicle at Little Kulala in Namibia.
The salad buffet and open-air dining room at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, South Africa.
The salad buffet and open-air dining room at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge.
The open-air “lobby” at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa.
The open-air “lobby” at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge.
The dining room at Earth Lodge, South Africa.
The dining room at Earth Lodge.
A special outdoor table for my family at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia.
A special outdoor table for my family at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia.

Just about everything happens outdoors.

On a safari, the bulk of your day is spent on game drives—and at most camps, that means being in a vehicle with no sides (and often no top), and plenty of fresh breeze immediately diluting any exhaled virus particles. Vehicle set-up does vary by camp and by destination; this is something worth discussing with an in-the-know travel planner before your trip. The camps I visited in Namibia’s desert, for example, use enclosed vehicles to keep the sand out. I could open the windows and pop up the roof when I wanted fresh air, and I felt comfortable riding inside with my guides after confirming that they’d been vaccinated (more on that below).

Long before Covid, most safari camps and lodges were already designed for outdoor dining. A year ago, every single meal I ate on safari was served al fresco. On my recent trip, camp staff opted to set up indoors on a couple of chilly mornings and rainy evenings. In the few instances where I didn’t feel comfortable enough sitting near a window, they happily moved my family outside—and brought us blankets to stay warm, and even luminaries for ambiance.


Our tracker in Sabi Sabi, Lesley, teaches my son how to grind coffee in the bush.  South African safari
Our tracker in Sabi Sabi, Lesley, teaches my son how to grind coffee in the bush.
inside a charter flight with pilot and tourist woman South African safari
Charter flights make for close quarters; every one of our pilots was vaccinated.
tourist woman and guide on safari in South Africa
Namibian guide Joas arranged for treatment at a private hospital when his parents got Covid; he’s vaccinated.

Most people in the travel industry are vaccinated.

At the time of my most recent trip, just 30% of South Africa’s population and 15% of Namibia’s population was fully vaccinated. But I asked every person I was in close contact with if they were vaccinated, and the answer was always yes. Some of those in Namibia felt that their job was at risk if they didn’t get vaccinated; at the camps I visited in South Africa, a local clinic had vaccinated the entire staff. Even when a country’s overall vaccination rate is relatively low, uptake among people who work in travel is often much higher.


The sitting area in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge safari
The sitting area in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge
The bedroom in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge South Africa
The bedroom
The indoor/outdoor bathroom in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge in South Africa
The indoor/outdoor bathroom

You’re not interacting with lots of people, even when camps are full.

I visited a range of camps and lodges this year, from remote spots with just eight tents to one with 25 stand-alone villas. While each one was busier than the places I visited last year, nowhere ever felt crowded. I could chat with fellow travelers over the breakfast buffet or at the airstrip waiting for a charter flight, but I never found myself in close quarters with strangers. What’s more, there’s a bit less mixing at safari camps these days: Before Covid, the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve where I stayed, on the edge of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, grouped the same guests together for both game drives and meals. Today, those who don’t pay for a private vehicle will likely share one with others, but each group dines separately.

A savvy fixer can speed you through the only place you’ll find crowds: the airports.

Johannesburg Airport was a ghost town a year ago, but things have picked up significantly since then. Luckily, each time I arrived at an airport on my most recent trip, Trusted Travel Expert Cherri Briggs had someone there to meet me. Sure, I’m capable of navigating check-in counters and customs procedures on my own—but having a minder accompany me meant that I got to skip to the front of lines and use security checks reserved for crew and other VIPs. So even though the airports were busy, the time I had to spend in them shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers was minimal.


Photographing Soweto with our photojournalist/guide.
An impromptu drum lesson in Soweto.
Witnessing the devastation of recent flooding on Soweto’s streets.
Visiting a preschool in Soweto. Photo: Ilan Ossendryver
A spontaneous embrace from a food vendor at a Soweto market. Photo: Ilan Ossendryver

I saved my riskiest interactions for the end of the trip.

While the safari was the main purpose for my trip this year, I wanted my ten-year-old son to see a bit of urban Africa as well. We were flying through Johannesburg, so Cherri helped me plan a day-and-a-half in the city. Since city activities were the part of the trip when our exposure to Covid was likely to be highest, we built this into the end of my trip rather than the beginning. On our last day in Africa, a photojournalist-turned-tour-guide took my family to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Satyagraha House (where Gandhi once lived), and the Kliptown neighborhood of Soweto. Cultural exchanges can be tricky, and in Soweto I planned to follow my hosts’ lead in terms of Covid protocols, without disrupting the flow by asking about vaccination status; in practice, that meant going indoors unmasked to visit a preschool, to hear a group of local musicians perform, and to buy some knit hats from a trio of enterprising grannies. Everywhere I went, the welcome seemed warm and genuine, and I’m glad I didn’t have a mask hiding my smile for those brief interactions. (I tested five days after returning home, per CDC guidance, and was negative.)

So that’s why I felt safe on safari—but here’s why I’d go back in a heartbeat:

Rhinos in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve South Africa
Rhinos in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Lions drinking after a kill South African safari
Lions drinking after a kill.
Playful lions south africa safari
Playful lions.
cheetah seen on safari in South Africa
The enormous lungs beneath a cheetah’s prominent chest aid its sprinting abilities.
an elephant seen on safari in South Africa
A thorny breakfast for an elephant.

The wildlife experience is unchanged since Covid.

Few corners of the globe remain unaffected by Covid; the African veld seems to be one such spot (excepting, perhaps, the hand sanitizer that appears beside your sundowners on evening game drives). This was my fifth time on safari, and I saw more animals at Sabi Sabi than I’d seen on any other trip: playful packs of lion cubs running laps around their mothers; elephants munching on shrubbery, seemingly unconcerned by the plant’s inch-long thorns; a barrel-chested cheetah and her offspring that came close enough we could hear them purring; a leopard and the impala kill it had dragged impressively high into a tree; two sturdy rhinos, unaware that their horns would soon be removed to discourage poaching. The wildlife that brings so many to Southern Africa is still there in abundance.


Transparency disclosure: So that I could experience South Africa, WOW Lister Cherri Briggs arranged for a reduced rate at Bush Lodge and Earth Lodge in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. Everything I did on my trip is accessible to every traveler who contacts Cherri via Wendy’s WOW questionnaire. Thanks to Wendy’s WOW system, you’ll get marked as a VIP traveler.


white woman traveler portrait Botswana Africa Safari with animals in background

Why 2021 Is the Year to Go on Safari

As we dip our toes back into international travel, you might assume you’re better off avoiding a place like Africa: The variants sound scary, after all, and vaccination rates are low. The local medical infrastructure is stretched thin. And 15 hours is an awfully long time to wear a mask on the flight over. You might also assume you can always take a safari next year or the year after instead.

I weighed all those factors myself this past spring—and then decided to go on safari anyway. Why? I am fully vaccinated with a shot that’s proven to be reasonably effective against current variants (so even if I did get Covid, current medical thinking is that I would most likely not need hospitalization). I’d be spending the bulk of my time outdoors, at remote camps where the staff is regularly tested and has little contact with the cities that host the great majority of Africa’s Covid cases. And I could use the same masking and distancing strategies there that have kept me safe for the past year. For me, the benefits far outweighed the risks.

I’m so glad to have taken advantage of this highly unusual opportunity to go on safari now, while the camps aren’t full but the animals are abundant, and before pent-up demand pushes the cost of a safari even higher than it was before Covid. Every single traveler I met during my time in Botswana and Zimbabwe was grateful to have made the same decision, with any anxiety they might have felt beforehand evaporating on that first game drive.

In fact, I returned home convinced that anyone who has a safari on their bucket list should go this year. Here’s why:

You’re outdoors the whole time.

On safari, almost everything you do is outdoors. Meals…
Game drives.
Even the vehicles are open-air.
Baboon behavior is fascinating to watch—and so reminiscent of human interactions.
Botswana's birdlife is varied and numerous; here, a saddle-billed stork takes flight.
This white rhino is a benefactor of Great Plains Conservation's relocation project, which aims to protect the animals from poachers. (That's why its horns have been cut.)
It felt like I had the bush all to myself—and I very nearly did.


Aside from airports and a few van rides, every moment I spent with others during my time in Africa was in the open air—much of it on glorious game drives and breezy boating safaris. I stayed at Duba Plains Camp and Selinda Camp in Botswana, and at the Victoria Falls River Lodge in Zimbabwe; in each, the main lounge area had a canvas or thatch roof and no walls, allowing for excellent air circulation. Meals were all outdoors too; in Botswana, dinners were even brought to my private deck to get around the country’s ban on public alcohol consumption. (Rest assured, the safari guides are still happy to serve sundowners in the bush to cap off your afternoon game drive.)

There is no crowding of safari vehicles.

Before Covid, many of Africa’s most popular places and experiences were being pushed to their limits. But this year, in places like the Ngorongoro Crater or the Masai Mara—particularly during the Great Migration in August and September—it will be far easier to see the animals without other vehicles invading your view. I even met travelers who got their own private trek to see the gorillas in Rwanda. Such exclusivity would normally cost $15,000 but was theirs for free, simply because not all the permits had been sold the day they trekked.

You can book something at the last minute.

At Victoria Falls, I had this natural wonder of the world nearly all to myself too.
The paths and viewpoints that are usually packed with tourists were almost completely empty. I saw only 10 other people in the hour that I spent there.
I also made a spur-of-the-moment decision to buzz the falls by helicopter!
In any other year, I’d have had to reserve rooms at the small camps I visited at least a year in advance. But everywhere I went there were available rooms. At Selinda Camp in northern Botswana, I arrived by boat.
Common spaces at the camps I visited were all open-air; here is the library at Duba Plains Camp.
My tent at Duba Plains Camp had a plunge pool that overlooked the Okavango Delta.
My "tent" at Selinda Camp had hardwood floors and a copper bathtub.


I’d been captivated by the reviews we’ve received over the past year of safaris planned by WOW Lister Julian Harrison. So once I was fully vaccinated, I enlisted Julian’s help to plan my own trip. After hearing that he’d soon be heading to Botswana himself and could scope out the situation on the ground, I made that my main destination. In any other year, I’d have had to reserve rooms at the small camps I visited at least a year in advance. But everywhere I went, there were empty rooms.

Availability for 2022 is already hard to come by at many safari camps and lodges, since so many 2020 and 2021 bookings have been postponed. Right now may be your only chance to plan a safari and not have to wait years to actually travel. (And with camps eager to attract guests, you may also be able to strike a deal and get an extra night or a helicopter ride for free; that certainly won’t be the case next year.)

The local staff are so happy to see you.

Everyone from safari guides to airport workers told me how grateful they were to see travel picking up again.

Some travelers who are thinking about a safari worry that their presence at a lodge could increase the health risk to local staff, by bringing them into closer contact with coworkers and travelers. Every time I brought this up with the people I encountered during my trip, the response was the same: For them, the ability to earn a living greatly outweighed the risk of getting sick. Everyone from safari guides to airport workers told me how grateful they were to see travel picking up again. Many are supporting not just themselves but also extended family—and bringing the strict health protocols followed in camps back to their local villages.

The animals are not skittish.

I wondered if the animals would be more skittish right now, with so few vehicles around in the last year. Clearly they are not—the lions weren't bothered by us at all.
That's a white rhino in the middle of the road.
We watched a lion pup eat its lunch (zebra tartare).
This elephant pulled plants up from the roots, then swished them around in the water to clean off any dirt before eating them.
These oxpeckers are feasting on insects they find in the zebra's coat.
African wild dogs are one of the world's most endangered mammals. My safari guide knew where one pack's den was, so we got to spend more than an hour with them.
The common warthog—so ugly it's cute.
A lone wildebeest at sunset.


I wondered whether, after more than a year without vehicles around, the animals might be shy. They weren’t. I’ve never been as close to African wildlife as I was on this trip. While it was easy to socially distance from the few other guests at my camps, my six-foot bubble was frequently tested by lions, elephants, and even endangered wild dogs. One reason for this? The camps Julian chose for me are located in private concessions, where the animals have never been spooked by erratic, inexperienced drivers or great clusters of vehicles.

You’re keeping the poachers away.

When the world shut down in spring 2020, conservationists worried that poachers would seize the opportunity to get their hands on rhino horns and elephant tusks. The best-run camps developed systems to maintain a presence on their lands—but I also heard stories of interlopers taking up residence at camps that were left empty during the lockdown. As places reopen and game drives become a daily routine once again, the presence of travelers among the animals is essential to driving those poachers away.

The required Covid tests are easy.

tourist and safari guide in Botswana plain with helicopter landing to administer covid test on game drive

Selinda Camp arranged for a nurse to fly to me during my game drive to administer my Covid test.

For the test I needed before my trip, I made an appointment at a local clinic that promised same-day results. A mail-in kit would have been easier, but I wanted to take a single test with a quick enough turnaround time that I could use it for both my overnight layover in Johannesburg, and for entry into Botswana the next day. You can find both in-person and at-home options here.

Botswana also requires a free rapid test on arrival. Julian made sure I was seated in the first row of economy on my flight from Joburg, so that when I arrived at the Maun airport, I was among the first to be tested. About 10 minutes later, I had my negative result and was on my way.

To enter Zimbabwe (and to later get back into the U.S.) I needed a third test, which Julian assured me would be arranged by my camp’s staff. In Botswana, a nurse flies from camp to camp, testing travelers and bringing the swabs back to a lab in Maun. At some camps, that could mean missing a morning game drive while you await the nurse’s arrival—but not at Selinda Camp, where Julian had me stay. Not wanting to diminish their guests’ experience, the managers there have arranged for the helicopter to land at a designated spot deep in the bush. When I headed out on my morning game drive the morning of my test, my safari guide planned the route so that we were having breakfast right where and when the helicopter touched down. A nurse hopped out and took samples from my nose and throat; the results were emailed to my airline the following morning. The test cost $330—but considering what people pay for a WOW-worthy safari, it’s money well spent not to miss a moment with the animals you came all this way to see.

The airports are empty.

tourist woman standing in Johannesburg South Africa airport with no crowds around during pandemic

There were no crowds in the Johannesburg airport.

If you’ve flown domestically this summer, you’ve probably noticed that U.S. airports are a zoo: long check-in lines, big TSA queues, packed gate areas. But at all four African airports I flew through, social distancing was a breeze, with wide-open terminals and more employees than travelers.

Ready to plan your own 2021 trip to Africa?

There are a number of safari specialists whose strengths you can read about on The WOW List; all of those experts are following entry requirements and camp operations closely so that their traveler’s trips are low-hassle. If you’re not sure which one will be the right fit for you, click the black button before for a personalized recommendation.

Ask us for a safari recommendation


Transparency disclosure: So that I could investigate Southern Africa on your behalf, WOW Lister Julian Harrison arranged for complimentary stays at Duba Plains Camp and Selinda Camp in Botswana, and at Victoria Falls River Lodge in Zimbabwe.


Dispatch from Kenya: What a Safari Looks Like Now

As countries around the world start to reopen to travelers—some even to U.S. residents—we want you to know how travel experiences in those places will differ from before and how to make them as Covid-safe as possible. So, in a new article series, we will be following the pioneers on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts as they road-test their reopened destinations anew. Remember, these are the trip planners with the highest standards in the world—they’ve earned these stellar reviews—so we’ll ask them how local safety protocols measure up; the savviest ways to sightsee and explore; and the safest places to stay, eat, and get health care if necessary. In other words, we’ll follow them as they do all the in-country legwork so that you don’t have to.

First up: Julian Harrison, an African safari specialist who’s just back from an adventure in Kenya with his son Christian.  Because Julian felt his experience in Kenya was safe and delivered unexpected perks, he will be leading an exclusive, small-group trip back there in December, using his favorites of the camps and lodges he just road-tested. (If you’re interested in joining this trip, contact Julian via his WOW List page to ensure you’re recognized as a VIP. Here’s why.)

Julian Harrison just returned from Kenya, which is open to U.S. travelers.
zebras in Kenya savanna
“The benefit of being in Kenya right now: It’s just big, wide-open natural space without the tourists and the vehicles.”
infinity pool overlooking the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya
One of the camps Julian checked out was the Sirikoi Lodge in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where he caught this sunset view over the infinity pool.
The seats at Doha airport were blocked off for social distancing, and passengers were required to wear face masks and shields for boarding and deplaning.
"Typically, in the Maasai Mara, in a day’s game drive, it’s not unheard of to see 100 vehicles. But right now, you’re not seeing other vehicles. It’s just you and nature."
Julian and his son were the only people scheduled on their Air Kenya flight to the Lewa Wildlife conservancy.
Safari lodges, like the ones at Mahali Mzuri Camp, are socially distanced by design, and all camps give guests temperature checks every day.
Richard Branson’s Mahali Mzuri Camp had a cute take on Covid signage.
Every building in Kenya is required by law to have hand-washing facilities and sanitizer outside.
“During our spectacular drive through large herds of wildebeest, we encountered only three other safari vehicles all day.”

Did you get a Covid test before the trip?

Yes, travelers to Kenya must bring proof of a negative result from a Covid test taken within 96 hours of arrival. We also needed to fill out a health declaration form online and undergo a health screening upon landing.

How did you get to Kenya, and what should we know about the flight?

Christian and I chose to fly over on Qatar Airways via Doha. Their health and safety protocols made us feel very safe:  Every passenger was given a face shield to wear when boarding and disembarking the plane, and the flight attendants wore protective gear over their uniforms with masks and safety glasses. The business-class cabin from JFK to Doha was perfect for social distancing, since it offered individual cabins with doors to shut. The cabins are not foolproof—because the walls don’t go as high as the ceiling—but you’re still not having that direct line of sight with other passengers.  For the most part, everybody stuck to the rules, wearing masks throughout the flight except when drinking or eating.

Did the airports feel safe?

JFK Airport was deserted, with virtually nothing open. In the lounge at JFK, there was no service at all: no food, no drinks being served, nothing. You just had the ability to sit in a comfortable chair (and every other seat was blocked off).

Doha was a little more happening, in terms of shops being open, but all public seating had a banner across every other seat that said “Do not use this seat.” They were good about that throughout, with middle seats blocked everywhere, including on the plane.

How did the health screening go when you landed in Kenya?

We lined up at a lean-to outside the terminal, where they checked our Covid-negative certificate; asked for the QR code we’d been given when we filled out the online health form; and took our temperatures. Once that was done, they let us into the building to go to immigrations and customs.

If you arrive without a QR code, you have to fill out the form and get that code while you wait in line. And if anyone were to show up with no test or a positive test, I assume they would need to go into quarantine. It’s unlikely that someone would have shown up without a test, though, because when we were checking in for the flight in New York, they confirmed our results.

What safety protocols did you find on safari?

Every safari camp and lodge—in fact, every building or structure, such as a supermarket—is bound by law to have hand-washing facilities and sanitizer outside the premises, and you must use them before entering and have a temperature check. And even while you’re staying at a camp, they check your temperature every morning. Safari vehicles are equipped with temperature checks too.

Also the staff and guides all get Covid tests and temperature checks on a regular basis. Meals at camps are taken in separate locations, to avoid being close to others.

How safe did it feel, compared to back home?

I actually felt safer in Kenya than in the U.S.  In the U.S. you can go anywhere as long as you’re wearing a mask, but in Kenya you can’t go unless you’ve washed your hands and had a temperature check.

And the level of infection is extremely low; it’s not huge numbers of people who have died from Covid. I think part of the reason the rate of infection in most African countries has been low is that the governments there are used to this stuff, because of viruses like Ebola. So as soon as Covid reared its head, they went into lockdown. They got on with it as soon as possible, to get rid of it.

Even South Africa, for years and years before Covid, every time you entered the country, you got a thermal scan and they checked your temperature.

Were you able to stay socially distanced on the game drives?  How?

Pretty much all camps have limited the number of people per vehicle, going from six people to four people. And wherever possible, they are giving individual groups their own vehicles, so they’re not with strangers.

All the vehicles I rode in were open-air—and that’s because of the properties I chose. (You usually get closed vehicles at lower-end properties or when you’re doing an overland circuit where you take the vehicle from Nairobi, visit several properties and then go back to Nairobi, because you don’t want to be in an open vehicle when you’re out on the road.)

How does the wildlife now compare to before the pandemic?

I wouldn’t say you’re seeing more wildlife but that you’re seeing it pretty much all to yourself.  Typically, in the Maasai Mara, in a day’s game drive, it’s not unheard of to see 100 vehicles. But right now, you’re not seeing other vehicles. It’s just you and nature.

For instance, in the Maasai Mara, at Mahali Mzuri Camp (owned by Sir Richard Branson), during our spectacular drive through large herds of wildebeest, we encountered only three other safari vehicles all day.

Later in the trip, we did a full day into Tsavo East National Park and did not see one other vehicle the entire day. That is the benefit of being there right now: You’re experiencing those parks like the early pioneers did, before tourism even happened.

What has the pandemic made harder?

Having to get the Covid test ahead of time is harder, I guess. And it’s harder that people are perhaps more nervous to travel because of the unknown. But that’s one of the reasons I went on this trip—to check it out for myself. And I felt pretty comfortable.

The general consensus I hear from travelers is that they are not all that concerned about being in Africa. It’s getting there—the airports and flights—that concerns them. But I think the airlines’ filtration systems are equipped that if everyone wears their masks and does the right thing, it’s pretty safe.

The other concern I hear is: What if I get Covid in Africa? What medical facilities are available? We automatically sign up all our clients for the Amref Flying Doctors service, so if anybody gets sick, we cover them, on top of their own insurance, for getting from a camp to a hospital in Nairobi. And the government has insisted that all the counties in Kenya must have a minimum of 300 safe Covid beds.

What did you learn from your own trip that has helped you build the small-group adventure you’re planning in December?

First and foremost, I learned that it’s a safe country to visit. Nobody can guarantee that somebody’s not going to end up with Covid, but in my opinion, if you do all the right things, I think it’s a low-risk, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feel like a pioneer and see these landscapes and animals without tourists.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Hippos in river with mouths open Zambia Africa

Ask Wendy: What Type of Camera Should I Take on Safari?


Wendy and Tim,

Any recommendations for what type of camera to take on safari in Zambia? I see that you went last year. I know that Tim has pro stuff, but could you recommend a camera to lug along that doesn’t cost as much as the safari? Thank you, Katherine


Katherine, here’s my husband TIm’s reply:

“Katherine, you are right: The photo gear I brought on our safari in Zambia was indeed professional. Which translates to heavy and expensive. A real commitment to the craft is required.

But our boys (then 13 and 15 years old) each brought one of the newer superzoom compact cameras. These cameras use an electronic viewfinder (EVF) to reduce size and expense. They also have amazing zoom lenses that get you up close and personal to the subjects from quite a distance away. They offer a very wide-angle view of the zoom range too, which seems counterintuitive to safari photos. But you’ll be surprised how many times you’ll be almost too close to the animals—especially if you want to show them in their environment.

giraffe jumping in grass on zambia safari in africa

It might seem counterintuitive, but a good safari camera should offer a very wide-angle view so that you can include an animal’s surroundings in the shot. Photo: Charlie Baker

We brought a Panasonic and a Nikon for the boys—and they shot the giraffe and bird photos you see here with them—but I would consider Canon or Sony as well. The cameras range from about $300 to $900. Check out the Panasonic Lumix, Canon PowerShot, Sony Cyber-shot, or Nikon Coolpix. All are very good cameras and would be excellent for general use once you are back home. It’s a very good idea to get them in your hand and give each a test drive to see what best fits you. Is it comfortable to hold? Does the zoom button match up naturally with your fingers? Is it easy to line up your eye with the viewfinder? Does it work with your glasses?

bird on a branch on safari in Zambia Africa

The newer superzoom compact cameras let you get very close-up shots but are not as bulky or expensive as professional gear. This shot was taken by our son Doug, on safari in Zambia. Photo: Doug Baker

The cameras have a battery life of more than 300 photos (much less if you shoot video. And all these cameras will). Many safari lodges are off the grid but have some way to charge camera batteries. So always buy at least one spare battery. Two spares would be even better.
Buy high-capacity memory cards so you don’t run out of space. A 64GB card costs about $30 and can hold thousand of pictures.

Buy it well before you go and practice with it. Go to youth soccer games to capture their movements like a herd of impala. Or go to the zoo and practice with your new camera. That way, you will have worked out the kinks before your trip and will be ready for that bull elephant’s mock (we hope) charge.”


Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab Wendy and camel

Wendy’s Best Travel Moments of 2017

The highlights of my travels this year were a combo of the most surprising discoveries, the most worthwhile experiences, and long-anticipated moments that finally came true. These are experiences I wish for you in 2018. If you’d like advice for how to arrange them, I can help you over at Ask Wendy. Wishing you and yours extraordinary travels in 2018!

Zambia Elephant Cafe Wendy feeding elephant

Did you know you can feed and pet elephants in the wild?  We did this at the Elephant Café, an unfenced wildlife sanctuary near Victoria Falls, Zambia, that has replaced elephant rides with gourmet cuisine as a way to earn revenue to support the animals. In this photo, I’ve just told an elephant “Trunk up!” so I can throw grain into his mouth. Check out the video here.

Zambia Chiawa Wendy dancing

For me an African safari isn’t just about viewing wildlife. It’s about meeting people from a totally different culture. When these kids in Zambia welcomed us to their village with songs and dances, of course I joined in and did as the locals do. Yes, I looked like a spazz, but it got a lot of laughs and helped break the ice. See videos from our village visit here.

Zambia Chiawa girl with Frisbee ring

We brought school supplies and toys—including Frisbee rings—to the folks of Chiawa, Zambia. Africa travel specialist Cherri Briggs, the Trusted Travel Expert on my WOW List who arranged our safari, has spearheaded a number of life-changing community projects there. Our time in Chiawa was a highlight of our Africa trip. Here’s why.

Victoria Falls helicopter Doug

Victoria Falls, which is arguably the world’s biggest waterfall, can’t be fully appreciated until you see it from above. It’s like looking back in time because you can see the geological history of the land unfold. Watch video from our helicopter flight here.

Victoria Falls Hotel veranda

This is one of the world’s most enchanting and iconic places to stay: The Victoria Falls Hotel, built by the British in 1904. It transports you back in time to the days of B.O.A.C. Clippers and steamer trunks. You feel like you’re just one step away from Stanley meeting Livingstone.

Victoria Falls Hotel presidential suite2

Tim and I stayed at The Victoria Falls Hotel on our first date, eighteen years ago. When we came back this year, married and with children in tow, they upgraded us to the presidential suite. Queen Elizabeth II and Oprah Winfrey slept here too.

Zambia South Luangwa National Park elephants

In our ever-more-crowded world, a safari in Africa increasingly means battling other Land Rovers to jockey for the best position to see the wildlife. But deep in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, we had the animals—and the landscapes—practically all to ourselves. We were certainly the only people watching these elephants cross the river. Just by looking at them, you can gauge the depth of the water, eh?

Zambia pizza lunch in the bush

Bush brunch!  It’s such a surprise when you’re on a game drive, you round a corner in the middle of nowhere, and there’s lunch waiting for you, complete with panoramic view. It’s an even bigger surprise when you get to make your own pizza!   First we rolled out the dough with a rolling pin, then we sprinkled on our choice of toppings. Bush brunch is one of the special touches you get at Bushcamp Company camps. For more on our extraordinary safari, see Where’s Wendy: Exploring the Next Great African Safari Spot.

Zambia Zambezi River tiger fish

Tim’s dream was to catch a tiger fish in the Zambezi. I’ve never seen him so happy.

Zambia Chiawa hut laptop

“What kind of drums do they play in your church?” That was one of the best questions we got in Zambia. When this man asked us that question, I pulled out my laptop to show him a video I’d shot—in Bratislava, of all places—of an historic pipe organ filling an ancient church with gorgeous music. This man had never heard a pipe organ before. If you’ve never heard Zambian music before, listen here.

Dubai Burj Khalifa view from hotel balcony

Recognize this? It’s the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. This was the view from my hotel balcony on an overnight layover in Dubai. Of course Lindsey Wallace, the U.A.E. travel specialist on my WOW List who made our arrangements, knew exactly which hotel and room are best when you’ve got only one night to see as much of Dubai as possible.

Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab desert oasis

It looks like a movie set, eh? Qasr al Sarab is an oasis fit for a sheikh and dropped in the middle of nowhere in the Abu Dhabi desert, just a few miles from the Saudi border. Many people ask me how to spend a Dubai layover. My answer: Make your layover at least three nights, and spend at least two of them at Qasr al Sarab, which is only a three-hour drive from the Dubai airport. I guarantee it will transport you to another place, time, and frame of mind that you won’t want to leave. We were there in August—of all crazy times for a desert adventure—and, as much as I hate heat, we loved every minute.

Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab camel caravan

A sunrise camel ride at Qasr al Sarab is the Mercedes of camel rides. The camels are well groomed, and the tack is first-rate: The saddles are extra-comfortable, the handles are easy to grip, and there are step stools to help you on and off.

Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab Wendy and camel

Me and my new friend.

Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab dune bashing

Dune bashing at Qasr al Sarab is nothing less than spectacular. If you opt for the “hard drive” (as opposed to a “soft drive”), it’s more thrilling than any roller coaster.

Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab dune bashing sunset

This is how your off-roading adventure ends: sunset on the dunes.

Burj al Arab beach with kids

The kids went swimming in the Persian Gulf for the first time. Recognize this hotel?  It’s billed as the world’s most luxurious—and, now that I’ve stayed there, I have to agree. It’s the Burj al Arab, where the kids hit the beach with new friends they made in Dubai.

Burj al Arab room desk

Check out our room. At the Burj al Arab, this is just your typical guest room. Each room is two stories tall and comes with its own 27-inch Apple computer and printer.

Burj al Arab Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara

To get the full Burj al Arab experience, we dined in the aquarium that is British award-winning chef Nathan Outlaw’s Al Mahara restaurant. We were in awe of both the fish and the prices.

Ski Dubai Mall of the Emirates

I’d been wanting to see this for years. It’s Dubai’s indoor ski resort, inside a massive shopping mall. This is merely the base of the mountain. I was surprised by how much Ski Dubai looks, feels, and even smells like an actual Alpine ski lodge, from its equipment-rental shops to its chalet-style bistros serving fondue.

Morocco boys making bread

Making a staple of local life with their hands is a good way for kids to learn about a country. So we were thrilled when, in Marrakech, the kids learned how to make Moroccan bread from scratch, the centuries-old way.

Morocco communal oven

After rolling and shaping the dough, we carried it down the street to the communal oven where the whole neighborhood takes their bread to be baked. It was way cool.

Morocco desert sandboarding

There’s Doug sandboarding in the Sahara. We spent a magical night at a luxe desert camp in Morocco, just a few miles from Algeria.

Morocco desert camp at night

Here’s the Sahara desert camp where we slept. We even had showers and flush toilets in our tents.

Morocco Fez carpet store aerial view

Carpet shopping has been a colorful way to experience local culture for centuries. But if you end up buying a carpet—or seven—it needs to be because you love it, not because a rug merchant persuades you it’s a wise financial investment. (It probably isn’t.) This was the kids’ first time carpet shopping—in Fez, Morocco—and the store was so theatrical about it, with men in white lab coats serving us tea and rolling out about 100 carpets in quick succession, that we had a blast.

Morocco Fez carpet store Wendy and boys

Voilà! This carpet now lies in our living room. At left is the merchant who put on such a fantastic show. (We set a price limit.)

Grand Velas Riviera Maya beach

This was the moment—at Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico—when the Wendy Perrin Global Travel Summit had just ended. After many long days of conference prep and hard work, we finally got to hit the beach for a Taco and Tequila Tasting.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya bed rice

That’s colored rice! The Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s artistic staff recreated the WP logo on the bed of every Global Travel Summit participant!

Marseille Old Port from atop ferris wheel

I get excited when a formerly gritty, crime-ridden place that people used to avoid transforms itself back into a charming city and culinary magnet. Strolling the streets of Marseille—a stop on this Mediterranean cruise—I was struck by the colors everywhere, from the building façades to the seafood dishes that thousands of people were lunching on outdoors in the early April sunshine. I shot this photo from atop the ferris wheel in the old port.

Kitty Hawk Wright Brothers Memorial

This is the site of the world’s first airplane flight, in 1903. We drove to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for the kids’ February school break—and let me just say that February was a lovely time in the Outer Banks: The weather was great, the Wright Brothers National Memorial uncrowded. Our dog, Macy, hasn’t been on a plane yet, but she comes on all our road trips.

Hong Kong Ngong Ping cable car

This kitschy souvenir photo is from New Year’s Day 2017. Thanks to time-zone changes and a flight itinerary that took us more than half-way around the world, our January 1 lasted about 40 hours. We boarded our flight home from Sri Lanka shortly after midnight and landed in New York City at about 10pm on the same day. In between was a Hong Kong layover long enough for us to take the Ngong Ping cable car up to the Big Buddha. There are better ways to spend a Hong Kong layover, but after the red-eye from Sri Lanka, the fresh air and the 360-degree views of Hong Kong’s islands and the South China Sea were what the doctor ordered.


Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

To see rainbows at the Falls, go in the afternoon.

Victoria Falls in Africa: 7 Do’s and Don’ts to Make Your Trip Extraordinary

A helicopter flight over Victoria Falls can bring the area’s geological history to life.
A helicopter flight over Victoria Falls, the world's largest waterfall, can bring the area’s geological history to life.
To see rainbows at the Falls, go in the afternoon.
To see rainbows at the Falls, go in the afternoon.
In dry season you can access Devil’s Pool without being swept to your death.
One advantage of dry season is that you can access Devil’s Pool without being swept to your death.
In dry season you can walk below the waterfall.
Another advantage of dry season is that you can walk below the waterfall. See those tiny hikers?
Around The Falls is rainforest with exotic foliage such as this Strangler Fig tree.
The rainforest around the Falls contains exotic foliage such as this Strangler Fig tree.
Entering the Victoria Falls Hotel is like walking back in time.
Walking into the Victoria Falls Hotel is like walking backward in time.
7. The Victoria Falls Hotel’s Terrace where high tea is served each afternoon.
This is the Victoria Falls Hotel’s Terrace, where high tea is served in the afternoon.
Tim and I think we were in one of the rooms along this corridor when we stayed in the hotel 18 years ago.
Tim and I stayed in one of these rooms the first time we were at the hotel—18 years ago.
This time we ended up in the hotel’s Livingstone Suite.
This time we were upgraded to the hotel’s Livingstone Suite.
The Livingstone Suite’s living room. Queen Elizabeth and Oprah Winfrey have stayed here.
The Livingstone Suite is where royals and celebs (Queen Elizabeth, Oprah Winfrey) have slept.
Yours truly on the balcony of the Livingstone Suite.
Yours truly on the balcony of the Livingstone Suite.
The Hotel’s Buluwayo room.
The Victoria Falls Hotel has room after room filled with history.
The Victoria Falls Hotel’s pool.
The Victoria Falls Hotel’s pool.
We took a jetboat to the Elephant Café.
We took a jetboat up the Zambezi River to the Elephant Café.
And we all shot video.
The kids and I had the same idea at the same time. You can watch the video below.
At the Elephant Café, you can feed and touch elephants.
At the Elephant Café, you can feed and pet elephants. (Watch the video below.)
When you say “Trunk up,” the elephant will raise its trunk so you can feed it by mouth instead.
When you say “Trunk up,” the elephant will raise its trunk so you can feed it by mouth.
At the Elephant Café, they give you bags of pellets to feed the elephants. Doug took a shortcut.
At the Elephant Café, they give you bags of pellets to feed the elephants. This elephant found a shortcut.
At the Elephant Café you’re welcomed with champagne.
The Elephant Café's elegant staff welcome you with champagne.
You eat in a comfy and elegant pavilion overlooking the Zambezi.
Lunch starts with hors d'oeuvres in this comfy and elegant pavilion overlooking the Zambezi. The Café seats a maximum of 24 people.
This was the menu when we ate at the Café.
Our lunch menu at the Elephant Café.
The appetizer: Carrot and Muchingachinga soup
The appetizer: Carrot and Muchingachinga soup
The entrée: Seared rib eye with Mongu rice and Nzembwe
The entrée: Seared rib eye with Mongu rice and Nzembwe
Dessert: Marula ice cream with a Mongongo nut cookie
Dessert: Marula ice cream with a Mongongo nut cookie
Our chefs, Adelina and Aubrey
Our chefs, Adelina and Aubrey
Time for our helicopter flight over the Falls.
Time for our helicopter flight over the Falls. (See the video below.)
Doug got a window seat.
Doug got a window seat.
The local name for Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders.”
The local name for Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders.”
The Bushtracks Express train that goes to Victoria Falls Bridge
This is the Bushtracks Express train that goes to Victoria Falls Bridge.
There I am, trying the cab on for size.
Yours truly, trying the cab on for size.
We spent time chatting with the engineer.
We spent time chatting with the engineer.
Charlie learns how to shovel coal.
Charlie learns how to shovel coal.
What a gorgeously restored train.
That's a gorgeously restored train, eh?
Ben Costa is the man who refurbishes the vintage trains that Bushtracks Express uses.
Ben Costa is the man who refurbishes the steam engines that Bushtracks Express uses.
Here we are on our first trip to the Falls, back in 1999.
This was on our first trip to the Falls, 18 years ago, when we first started dating.
And here we are today, with two extra people.
This time we brought two extra people along.


Victoria Falls is a must-see for many travelers to southern Africa. It’s the world’s largest curtain of falling water—a spectacular sight. It’s also the name of the town near the waterfall that offers an array of activities and has seen a lot of touristic development (there’s now a KFC—gasp!—on the shopping strip near the historic Victoria Falls Hotel). It’s also increasingly easy to get to: Located on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border, there is an airport on each side of the Falls—Victoria Falls airport on the Zimbabwe side; Livingstone airport on the Zambia side—and both are adding more flights.

But whether to go, and what to do there, depends on the timing of your trip. The month of March, for instance, is when the most water shoots through the Falls, making it as thunderous and heart-pounding as it gets. In March the curtain of falling water is a mile wide. You will get drenched from the spray. By contrast, in October, the driest month, the curtain will instead be a series of trickles with dry stretches in between, and there will be precious little mist to cool you off as you trek in the hot sun from one end of the Falls to the other. What makes things tricky for southern-Africa safarigoers is that the time of year when you will see the most wildlife (September and October, since those are the hottest and driest months, when the most animals are out searching for water) is the opposite of the best time for seeing the Falls (March and April).

My family is just back from Victoria Falls, as we made it the grand finale of our August safari in Zambia.  This was my second trip to Vic Falls—the first was 18 years ago—and now I wanted my kids to see it. I found a lot of new things worth trying, a lot of old things worth doing again, a lot of touristy things we skipped, and lot of cool things we wish we’d had time to do but didn’t. I’ve boiled our findings down to seven key recommendations for you (and be sure to check out our trip photos, above, that illustrate these recommendations) :

1. Tour the waterfall in the afternoon, not the morning.

We did both—so that you don’t have to. Our comparison found that mornings are cooler but more crowded, and you don’t get rainbows. Rainbows come when the sun hits the Falls from a certain angle—and that happens in the early morning only, from about 6:30 to 7:30, and then again in the afternoon. Three nights per month (during the Full Moon period), you can take a Lunar Rainbow tour, when you may see a “moonbow” (rainbows that take place at night).

It’s easy to buy tickets to the Falls (which is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm) and tour the site on your own, but I’m glad we did it with an experienced guide. He enabled us to skip the ticket-buying line, pointed out things we would have missed on our own (e.g., exotic plants in the rainforest around the Falls), and made our experience more educational by answering a ton of questions that the kids threw at him. To see the Falls properly, you need to walk a mile or two, and there are 16 viewing points, so allot about two hours for it with a guide, three hours if you’re doing it on your own. (Wear walking shoes with traction—the ground can get slippery—and carry a plastic bag to protect your camera from the spray.)

2. In drier months, take advantage of thrills that are possible only when the water level is low.

June through October—when the water level is at its lowest—is when it’s possible to try white water rafting . (Rafting starts and ends at a different time each year, depending on rainfall, but August and September are guaranteed; October can be very rough and rocky.) From late August through November you can climb down into the gorge and stand under the Falls, but be warned that it is a seriously tough hike.  Or, if you’re in a death-defying mood, in dry season you can inch your way along the lip of the Falls to Devil’s Pool, a legendary rock pool that sits at the sheer edge of the waterfall. (Check out the photo of Devil’s Pool in the slide show.)  If we’d had an extra day, we would have tried at least one of these activities.

3. Stay at the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel.

Built by the British in 1904, it’s one of my favorite grande dame properties in the world, with history in every hallway. Tim and I stayed there 18 years ago, when we first started dating. When the hotel heard we were coming back, this time married with children, they gave us the Livingstone Suite—the three-bedroom suite that Queen Elizabeth and Oprah Winfrey have stayed in. Check out the photos in the slide show!  In my humble opinion the Victoria Falls Hotel is one of those unique travel experiences that is worth every cent, but even if you opt not to splurge on a stay there, at least stop by for a gin and tonic—or, better yet, high tea on the Terrace—and a stroll through the gardens. When you pass by the concierge desk, ask for their leaflet entitled “A Brief History of the Victoria Falls Hotel.”

4. If you love elephants and/or are a foodie, splurge on the Elephant Café.

This elephant sanctuary on the Zambezi River was a trip highlight for my kids—for two reasons: First, we went there by jetboat. Out of a week’s worth of water activities that my kids did on the Zambezi, that jetboat ride up small rapids to the Café was their favorite. Second, where else can you feed and pet elephants?

The elephant family you meet was rescued from drought and culls decades ago; over the years, they’ve been joined by babies born within the herd. These elephants are treated extremely well, roam freely, and have plenty of land for doing so. Because it costs a fortune to keep them well fed and cared for, a year ago the elephants’ caretakers opened the Elephant Café as a new way to earn enough funds to support the elephants. Don’t worry: It’s not some sort of captive show, and elephant riding is no longer allowed. In fact, if you’re concerned about animal cruelty, this is your opportunity to see animals supported the right way.

The Café serves “bush gourmet cuisine” made from hyperlocal Zambezi Valley ingredients that are found and foraged within a 12-mile radius—especially wild nuts, fruits, and leaves that the elephants themselves eat. Founding chef Annabel Hughes, who grew up in Zimbabwe and lives in Livingstone, has trained local chefs who now do the foraging and cooking. (See them, and the delicious meal they created for us, in the slide show).

5. If water levels are high, consider a helicopter flight over the Falls.

The more water in the Falls, the more exciting the helicopter flight will be. The 12-minute ride gives you a perspective—a sense of what’s upriver and what’s downriver—that you won’t get any other way and that brings the area’s geological history to life. In dry season, though, if you’re looking for a way to save money, I’d say the helicopter ride is one of the activities you can skip. The only member of my family who would disagree is Charlie, and that’s because he sat in the front seat and had a superlative view throughout. Should you end up in the middle seat in the back, you may be disappointed. (For a taste of our helicopter flight in dry season, see my video.)

6. If you love vintage trains, consider the Bushtracks Express steam train to Victoria Falls Bridge.

The train chugs from the Victoria Falls Hotel train station to the Victoria Falls Bridge, which was the brainchild of Cecil Rhodes and was built in 1905 above the second gorge of the Falls. The Bridge connects the Zim side with the Zam side and represents No Man’s Land between the two countries.

Tim and the kids loved this train ride because they took full advantage of it in a way that few else on our train did. The other travelers, who belonged to a group tour, sat in a plush vintage compartment focused on cocktails and canapés, while Tim and the kids spent much of the ride in the cab, where they chatted with the engineer, fireman, and coal tender, helped shovel coal and stoke the boiler, and learned how to run a steam locomotive. (See the photos in the slide show.) There are currently four Bushtracks Express train rides on offer—two from the Zim side, two from the Zam side. Be warned that if you spend time in the cab the way we did, you could get a little dirty.

If you really love vintage trains, stop by the Bushtracks Express railyard in Livingstone and meet up with Ben Costa, who refurbishes the vintage steam trains used and has encyclopedic knowledge of steam engines.

7. Arrange your visit through a southern Africa travel specialist who has up-to-the-minute info on the logistical ins and outs.

Travel logistics in Victoria Falls can change frequently with no warning, and you can waste a lot of time in lines or coping with snafus. As an example, some activities are on the Zim side, others are on the Zam side, and going back and forth can be a time-consuming hassle, depending on whether you bought the right type of Visa, how many people are in the immigration line ahead of you, and whether your driver has the clout to get you past the line. My hyper-efficient two days in Victoria Falls, and the rest of my Zambia trip, were arranged by Cherri Briggs, one of the safari specialists on my WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts. Cherri lives part of the year in Zambia, knows every mover and shaker there, and can pull rabbits out of hats; it’s thanks to her that we got into the Elephant Café, met Ben Costa, were upgraded at the Vic Falls Hotel, and much more. If you’re interested in an Africa trip and not sure where or how to start the planning, feel free to reach out to me at Ask Wendy.


Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’s reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Wendy Perrin and young girl from Chiawa School in Zambia

This Is One Way My Family Gets to Know Locals When We Travel

For me an African safari isn’t just about game viewing. It’s about meeting new people from a totally different culture. And on any trip abroad with my kids, I want them to meet local children.

So half way through our safari in Zambia, we spent a couple of days in a village in Chiawa district, visiting the school and getting to know the community. At the suggestion of Cherri Briggs, an Africa travel specialist on The WOW List who has spearheaded a number of conservation and community projects in Africa and has turned life around for many people in Chiawa, we brought with us from the U.S. a big bag full of supplies for the school and the teachers, and we gave the students a slide show about our life in the U.S. (our house, our school, our neighborhood) and the children we have met in our travels around the world.

The people of Chiawa could not have been lovelier or more welcoming. My sons Charlie, 15, and Doug, 13, had fun playing volleyball with the kids, pumping water, eating Zambian home cooking with their hands, even going to church. In the videos below, you can watch a group of young girls welcome us with lively dancing, and you can enjoy the glorious songs we heard during the church service. We made a lot of friends—some of whom I’ve already heard from on WhatsApp—and hopefully some of the kids and teachers in Chiawa will visit us in the U.S. someday.

Here are the videos:

First, a 30-second panoramic tour of the village. Charlie and Doug helped out at the water pump. “Water is life” is an expression we heard a lot in Zambia.


The Power Kittens is a girls’ club that is one of the empowerment efforts founded by Cherri Briggs. It’s a club for 20 upstanding girls in Chiawa (approx. 9 to 13 years old) who do good for the community. Watch how they introduce themselves. They sing, “We are Chiawa Kittens….Yes Yes Yes! You need to work hard. Yes, that is our motto. Kitten never fails in life….Our motto is to work hard in life!”


To help break the ice, I tried joining in this dance. I wiggled as fast as I could, eliciting a lot of laughs from the audience. Charlie shot video of it, but I’m not about to share it here!


Once the Power Kittens reach high school, they become Power Cats. Here they are, in their signature blue shirts, beating Charlie and Doug at volleyball.


Listen to the beautiful voices we heard in Chiawa’s Catholic church. The priest, Father Paul Sakala, is a lot of fun—and an avid world traveler who speaks Italian and English as well as three Zambian languages.


In case you can’t get enough of those harmonious voices, here’s one more song for you.

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’s reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

young elephant blocking the road in Zambia Africa

Where’s Wendy: Exploring the Next Great African Safari Spot

If you’re like me, you like to travel to places at that optimal moment when there’s enough touristic infrastructure for a unique adventure with all the creature comforts, but not so much yet that the tourist masses and chain hotels have arrived. Zambia is on the verge of that moment. Which is why I’m there right now, doing reconnaissance for you.

I brought along my advance team—my kids, Charlie (15) and Doug (13), and my husband, Tim. We heard from Cherri Briggs, who is one of the African safari travel specialists on my WOW List and who lives in Zambia part of the year (she has a house on the Zambezi river), that because Zambia is still under the radar, you can enjoy a high-value-for-your-dollar safari there that will have you alone amid sweeping landscapes, just you and the animals, no other Land Rovers or camera-clicking tourists in sight. It sounded like a great August vacation for the family, so Cherri designed an awesome two-week itinerary for us—which we’re now halfway through.

Most people thinking about an African safari choose between the two regions that are best known for it because they’ve been doing it the longest—southern Africa (e.g., South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe) and East Africa (e.g., Kenya, Tanzania). Zambia sits smack in between those two regions and, I’m finding, combines some of the best characteristics of each. I’ll be writing in detail about the pros and cons of Zambia soon—who should go, who shouldn’t, what’s the smartest itinerary, etc.—so stay tuned. In the meantime, here are a few snapshots from Week 1.

Pretty vegetables, eh? The ladies sell these in the village near Mfuwe Lodge. #Zambia #southluangwa

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Kids I met in the village yesterday. They’re 6, 10, 11, and 12. #Zambia #southluangwa

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Like father like son. #Zambia #SouthLuangwa

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Greetings from Chamilandu, a remote 6-guest bush camp in #Zambia. #SouthLuangwa @bushcampcompany

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Zambian roadblock. #SouthLuangwa

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Why we look forward to sundown. It’s when our car turns into a bar. @bushcampcompany

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Sundowners with a view. #Zambia #SouthLuangwa #hippos

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A parade of elephants. #Zambia #southluangwa

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Shower with a view. At Chamilandu Bush Camp, the chalets have three walls. @bushcampcompany #Zambia #southluangwa

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Lunchtime surprise in the bush: Make your own pizzas! @bushcampcompany #zambia

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Can you believe this is in the remote bush? #makeyourownpizza #middleofnowhere #Zambia

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#onthetable #inthebush #Zambia

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Bush brunch. #Zambia

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“Hold still, Doug!”

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You never know what’s around the corner in the bush.

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Inspired to start your own safari vacation?


Browse our Insider’s Guides to Africa’s best safari destinations, and reach out to the rigorously vetted and superbly well-connected safari travel specialists whom I recommend most highly—those on my WOW List. Reach out to them via the links below to be marked as a WendyPerrin.com VIP traveler and get priority attention and special benefits.




The Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania

South Africa

East Africa Safaris in Kenya and Tanzania

Africa Cruises

Not sure which location or travel specialist is right for you? Fill out the Ask Wendy form to ask me directly.

Cheetah in Kenya Photo by Susan Portnoy

Great Deals on Kenyan Safaris Are Happening Now: Don’t Miss Out

If you’ve been even toying with the idea of taking a safari, now is the time to book it. KLM has just announced a flash sale of airfare to Nairobi, starting today through March 14, for trips taken through May 31. Fares out of several major US cities start as low as $723. Even better news: Those aren’t the only flight deals right now. Dan Saperstein, one of our Trusted Travel Experts for East Africa and South Africa Safaris, reports that British Airways and Swissair are also offering fares right now for less than $800 (he’s even seen a few for less than $700), and that some discounted fares are extending through July and August. “These are all excellent deals,” he says, “as this airfare is usually anywhere from $1,100–$1,500 per person for these airlines (KLM can be upwards of $2,400 at times).”

In addition to the airfare deals, there are two other big discounts that travelers can take advantage of if they head to Kenya in spring:

1. Accommodations: “Pricing for the camps and lodges is also less expensive these months of the year,” Dan explains. “Rates typically go up around June 15th in East Africa, so combined with the airfare, you can see significant savings traveling during these months.”

2. Visas and fees: In an effort to encourage more family travel, Kenya just changed its entry visa policy so that all children under the age of 16 get into the country for free, effective immediately (adults are still $50). In the same vein, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that from July of this year, all park fees will be reduced and that VAT charges will be removed. Dan says, “It may not appear to be a huge difference on a daily basis, but it certainly adds up to a huge savings over the course of one’s safari, especially when traveling with a family.”

As for the key question of whether spring is a worthwhile time to take a safari, Dan says “absolutely it is. Rains can occur this time of year, but the ever-changing global weather patterns make it a worthwhile time to visit, as the animals are there to be seen year-round; they certainly don’t go inside if it happens to rain!”

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia

These Four New Lodges Offer a Rare Glimpse of Northern Namibia

Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia. Photo: Tino De Njis/Namibia Exclusive
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia. Photo: Tino De Njis/Namibia Exclusive
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia
Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia. Photo: Tino De Njis/Namibia Exclusive
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia. Photo: Greg Wright Architects/Namibia Exclusive
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia
Omatendeka safari lodge, Namibia. Photo: Greg Wright Architects/Namibia Exclusive
Elephants at Namibia's Xaudum Lodge
Elephants at Namibia's Xaudum Lodge. Photo: Namibia Exclusive
Namibia's Xaudum safari Lodge
Namibia's Xaudum Lodge. Photo: Greg Wright Architects/Namibia Exclusive
Namibia safair. Photo: Olwen Evans/Namibia Exclusive
Sheya Shuushona safari camp, Namibia
Sheya Shuushona safari camp, Namibia. Photo: Piers L'Estrange/Namibia Exclusive
Sheya Shuushona safari camp, Namibia
Sheya Shuushona, Namibia. Photo: Piers L'Estrange/Namibia Exclusive


A newcomer to the safari scene is making some of Namibia’s wildest country accessible with the opening of four small luxury lodges in remote northern regions. The lodges, designed by architect Greg Scott and constructed of native materials, are surrounded by spectacular scenery—boulder-strewn desert, red sand dunes, soda lakes. Far from conventional tourist routes, they provide rare access to such treasures as a river valley that is home to the endangered black rhino and a national park populated by some 3,000 elephants.

Namibia Exclusive Safaris is the brainchild of Vitor Azevedo, a native Angolan who came to Namibia as a refugee at age 12. Its mission extends beyond wildlife conservation and includes helping pastoralists and small farmers live sustainably on their ancestral lands. The company has developed equitable partnerships with local constituents organized into conservancies, and its programs give visitors a unique glimpse into the lives of people such as the Damaras, pastoralists who speak a click language. The first lodge, Sorris Sorris, opened in August 2015.

Perched atop granite boulders in a rocky desert landscape, Sorris Sorris has only nine guest rooms (like all the lodges), an outdoor pool, and panoramic views of the Ugab River and Brandberg Mountain, Namibia’s tallest peak and the site of hundreds of rock paintings. The river’s ecosystem provides habitat for the black rhino, the desert elephant, and the desert-adapted lion. In addition to nature drives, sightseeing here is done by hot-air balloon.

Omatendeka, at the headwaters of the Hoanib River, boasts a 360-degree view of plains and tabletop mountains. Natural springs attract lions, elephants, and the endangered black rhino, as well as zebra, oryx, springbok, giraffe, and eland. Activities include guided nature walks, game drives, and watching the animals at the waterhole outside your bungalow door.

Located inside Khaudum National Park, Xaudum is surrounded by Kalahari sand dunes covered in an acacia forest, habitat for an estimated 3,000 elephants, as well as antelope and the rare wild dog. The nine guest rooms are connected to public areas by raised wooden walkways.

Sheya Shuushona, on the edge of Etosha National Park, overlooks a vast saltpan that changes color with the season, from snow white to pink to turquoise. The pan becomes a lake in the rainy season, attracting flamingos, storks and cranes. The nine guest rooms can accommodate 18 guests at a time.

For more information or help planning a trip, contact Cherri Briggs of Explore, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Samburu woman from northern Kenya Photo by Susan Portnoy

Four Amazing Places in Kenya You Should Know About

Kenya is best known for the Masai Mara and the millions of wildebeest that crisscross its vast plains during the Great Migration, but this diverse country has so much more to offer travelers who love nature and adventure. If you’re contemplating a trip, here are four other amazing destinations you might want to add to your itinerary.

The Northern Frontier

Northern Frontier, Kenya, Africa Photo by Susan Portnoy

Northern Frontier, Kenya, Africa. Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

The rugged, mountainous Northern Frontier (which I recently visited as the guest of the Kenya Ministry of Tourism and East African Affairs) encompasses the Samburu, Kalama Laikipia, Shaba, and Lewa regions. It has the visual drama of Namibia with its miles of volcanic rock, desert-like terrain and harsh, though stunning landscapes.

Here you’ll find lions, leopards, and elephants and the usual game you might expect, but there’s more, it’s home to the “Northern Special Five,” endemic species you won’t see anywhere else in Kenya such as the oryx, reticulated giraffe, Grévy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, and the adorable gerenuk, a Somali name meaning “the antelope with a giraffe neck.”

Thanks to fewer travelers in the north, you rarely (if ever) share sightings with other vehicles. Animals are a bit shyer than those used to the constant attention in the Mara, but for many this “wilder” north is a refreshing change from areas where game has become so accustomed to humans they’re almost indifferent.

Landscape and wildlife aren’t the only reasons to venture to the Northern Frontier. Dan Saperstein of Hippo Creek Safaris, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Africa, sends many of his guests northward. And he explains that the cultural experiences are different there as well. “The Samburu, Borana, and even Laikipia Maasai, who are all quite distinct from the Maasai found in the south and in Tanzania, have different artwork and customs.” You can arrange for visits to local homes called Manyattas, and according to Saperstein, they’re often less commercial than in the Maasai villages in the south.

Related: East Africa Safaris: Insider’s Guide to Kenya and Tanzania

gerenuk animal in Kenya Photo by Susan Portnoy

Only found in northern Kenya, the gerenuk is Somali for “giraffe-necked antelope. Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

The best time to visit is during Kenya’s winter months, which fall between June and September. “It can be much hotter by the equator in summertime and we tend to avoid it specifically October through March, when it can be brutally hot.”

Lake Nakuru

The flamingos of Lake Nakuru, Kenya

The flamingos of Lake Nakuru, Kenya. Photo: Gerry van der Walt

Imagine the glimmer of a shallow blue lake at sunrise dotted by thousands of fluffy pink flamingos. The algae that grows in the warm waters of the Rift Valley’s Lake Nakuru, is a delicacy for the pastel flocks and other species such as pelicans and cormorants.

The number of flamingos varies depending on the water’s depth and food supply, but Gerry Van der Walt, co-founder of Wild Eye, a company that leads photographic safaris in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, says that Nakuru is “a perfect add-on to a safari that includes the bigger parks such as Amboseli National Park, the Masai Mara or Samburu. The diversity—which includes the lake shore and iconic fever tree forests—makes for an amazing photography and wildlife setting.”

buffalo at Lake Nakura Kenya

A buffalo, one of the many other wildlife species found at Lake Nakuru. Photo: Gerry van der Walt

Van der Walt has seen large numbers of flamingos at the lake year round, but for the best viewing he recommends trips in April through June after they breed in Tanzania and migrate north to Kenya.

Amboseli National Park

elephants on plains of Amboseli, Kenya Photo by Susan Portnoy

Elephants traverse the plains of Amboseli. Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

Elephant lovers, take note. Amboseli National Park near the Tanzania border draws huge herds of elephants that can number 80 members or more for your viewing pleasure. Underground springs, fed by the melting snow off Mount Kilimanjaro, attract elephants and many species of birds to the resulting swamps. They provide cool mud and life-giving water during the dry season, which runs between June and October.

Linda Friedman of Custom Safaris, another of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Africa, recommends Amboseli to clients who are interested in driving safaris through Kenya and Tanzania. “In addition to being able to view some of the largest elephant families in East Africa,” says, Friedman. “Amboseli is close to the Namanga border, making it a perfect two-day addition to an itinerary spanning both countries.”

The summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as seen from Amboseli, Kenya. Photo by Susan Portnoy

The summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as seen from Amboseli, Kenya. Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

While the elephants are the stars of the park, there’s plenty of other wildlife, and if you’re lucky, weather permitting, you may even get to see the Kili summit peeking through the clouds.

Related: Insider’s Safari Guide: The Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania 

Tsavo West

Shetani lava flow in Tsavo West, Kenya

Shetani lava flow in Tsavo West, Kenya. Photo: Finch Hattons Camp

Southeast of Amboseli is Tsavo West, another Friedman favorite. It first became famous in the late 1800s for the two, man-eating lions that killed a number of construction workers building the Kenya–Uganda railway. Today, without the threat to life and limb, travelers who love to immerse themselves in nature will find plenty to enjoy on game drives and guided walking safaris.

You’ll want to check out the Nile crocodiles and large pods of hippos that frequent Mzima Springs, a crystal clear stream that flows into three large pools connected by rapids. In the top pool, a glass viewing room provides visitors with a fascinating look at the water and its inhabitants below.

Tsavo West, Kenya

The view while driving through Tsavo West, Kenya. Photo: Custom Safaris

The Shetani (meaning devil) lava flow is an undulating black landscape that spans nearly five miles. It’s a marvel of spectacular jagged rocks and caves to explore along the road to Amboseli, and another must-see.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.


Read more from Susan Portnoy at her own site, The Insatiable Traveler, and follow her at facebook.com/Insatiabletraveler and @susanportnoy.

Uma Thurman on the cover of Town&Country, October 2015

You Too Can Save Africa’s Wildlife From Extinction

The best safaris are about a lot more than picturesque tented camps and iconic wildlife; they have a conservation-minded sense of purpose. I’ve been doing a lot of research on safaris and Africa’s endangered wildlife lately—you would be too if you were interviewing Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent, onstage at the Skift Global Forum next month—and I just want to share a riveting update when it comes to safaris with a mission: Uma Thurman’s Journey to Protect Africa’s Wildlife from Vicious Poachers, in the October 2015 issue of Town&Country.

“Rhinos have lived on this earth for millions of years, but wildlife experts estimate they may be gone in just 10—poached to extinction,” reports Town&Country executive travel editor Klara Glowczewska, who traveled in Africa with Thurman to cover the story. Approximately 4.5 rhinos are slaughtered every day, killed for their horn, which sells for as much as $35,000 a pound, making it more valuable than gold. Rhino horn is coveted by the newly rich in Vietnam, where it is viewed as medicinal and an aphrodisiac, and where it is ground into powder and used as a cocaine-like party drug.

Last year South Africa’s Kruger National Park lost 10% of its rhinos to poachers.  In Botswana rhinos are better protected. So the government of Botswana and the safari operator Wilderness Safaris, both role models for sustainable tourism in Africa, are working together to employ a revolutionary solution: They are translocating rhinos from South Africa to Botswana. It’s no easy task, considering that your typical 4,000-pound rhino doesn’t understand why it needs to move to Botswana. So Thurman and Glowczewska went on an eight-day South Africa-Botswana mission to rescue rhinos—and their story makes for a must-read adventure.

Darting rhinos in South Africa

Veterinarians dart rhinos from a helicopter during capture. Photo courtesy Explore, Inc.

Not only can you read about the trip, you can actually take it. Cherri Briggs of Explore Inc., one of my Trusted Travel Experts for African safaris, orchestrated Thurman’s trip and has created a similar adrenaline-fueled eight-day itinerary so that those of you with a deep interest in wildlife protection can become part of the most dramatic conservation story of the 21st century.

Capturing rhinos for translocation

Getting a rhino up and walking after sedation is a team effort. Photo courtesy Explore, Inc.

Briggs has arranged conservation-minded, even life-changing, safaris for the past 20 years. As for Wilderness Safaris, check out its integrated annual reports to see how they measure and report on the 4 Cs (commerce, conservation, community, and culture) that are embedded in their business model. A lot of travel companies talk a good game about sustainability; few volunteer to share publicly an annual report that details their sustainability goals and measures their progress toward achieving them.

So you’re in the best of hands with this safari of a lifetime. The price tag is monumental but designed to raise funds for the cause: $18,655 per person, plus a tax-deductible donation requirement of $25,000 that goes to Rhino Conservation Botswana.  Participants will help save critically endangered wildlife, have a purposeful and meaningful vacation (the best kind), and return home knowing they’ve made a difference. To book the trip, reach out to Cherri Briggs.

Rhinos in the wild

Relaxed white rhinos after release in Botswana. Photo courtesy Explore, Inc.

cecil the lion

Don’t Shoot: Social Media Photos Could Be Helping Poachers Track Animals

Most of us don’t even think about it when we snap a photo on vacation and slap it up on social media. Point, shoot, post—that’s the new normal. But if you’re sharing photos while on safari, you could be inadvertently making it easier for poachers to find and shoot wild animals.

How? GPS. Every photo you take with your phone (and some digital cameras) is embedded with a geo-tag, the GPS location of where the picture was taken. Now imagine the myriad of geo-tagged photos being uploaded to social media and public photo-sharing sites every day and you can see how poachers could use that info to hunt down their prey.

African Travel, Inc. —a fourth-generation safari-planning travel agency that also works to ensure the protection of African communities and wildlife—is trying to raise awareness about this side effect of social media and is asking tourists to disable the geo-tag function on their phones and to keep their posts private.

On its website, African Travel outlines the steps you can take to protect your photos by turning off GPS tagging while on safari:

iPhone: Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. There you can turn off Location Services entirely. Or, if you prefer, you can turn off location services (GPS) for your phone’s camera.

Android: Open the camera app, go to settings, and switch off the GPS tagging option.

Twitter: Geo-tagging will only be turned on in the Twitter phone app if you have done so manually in the settings menu (under Privacy > Location Services). If you are posting from a computer, click on the gear icon in the right corner and then go to Settings to check your privacy settings.

Facebook: Go to the gear icon in the upper right corner to check out your privacy settings. You can dictate who can view your information, posts, and updates. Visit the Timeline and Tagging section to make certain friends can’t post your location by checking you in at some locale or tagging you.

Instagram: Photos are automatically public unless you change your settings. Go to Edit Profile and change your settings so “Photos are Private” is on. Once you’ve made that switch, only friends can view them. To turn off geo-tagging when posting, turn off the Add to Photo Map option.

Pinterest: Click on your profile picture in the upper right hand corner and select Settings to see what the public can view, who can search for you, and what if any social networks you have associated with your account.

You can also share your photos with African Travel by tagging them @WeKnowAfrica.