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Nov 2018

Plastic-free Holiday? There’s a challenge.

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Traveller's Tales /

Plastic-free holiday? There’s a challenge.
Do you remember when the word “Gay” meant something different? How about the word “sick”? My daughters have different definitions for these words compared to me. How about the question, “Do you take plastic?”

A diving friend of mine was recently doing a seabed litter-pick in 20 metres of water and picked up a credit card issued in the 1950’s: it hadn’t degenerated at all.

Times change; Laissez-faire holiday attitudes change. And I’ve been asked to create a holiday, anywhere in the world, which is 100% free of single use plastic (Excluding the international flights which are a disgraceful plastic-litter producing machine). I’m really struggling!

Here are some things you CAN do:

Airports: equip yourself with a quality reusable bottle before you travel. Nothing ticks you off more than having to dispose of water at airport security. Really? Surely this law needs re-visiting. Anyway, check out the excellent for re-fills ‘air-side’.

Re-fills overseas: don’t assume the local tap water is undrinkable: check, because you’ll be surprised how many countries do actually have safe drinking water. And if you can’t drink from the tap, buy a filtering or purifying water bottle, or a UV water purifying pen. SteriPEN and Katadyn filtres Another thing that I swear by is which is a water bottle with a filter incorporated into the cap. Brillinat.



Water … safe to drink?

Soap: Remember soap? Forget the liquid ‘hand cleanser’ and buy a bar of soap! Simple.

Hotel toiletries: If we all tell the hotel we just don’t want them anymore, they will stop giving them.

Packed lunches: this is one of the things I’ve struggled with, particularly on the riding treks. Hotels, farmhouses and lodges often provide a packed lunch to carry in saddle bags, which is a service I really appreciate as a tour operator, but they are always shrouded in Clingfilm, complete with plastic knife and spoon. Why not take your own lunch box and camping KFS (knife, fork, spoon combo). My kids have recently done the D of E series and they used “sporks” which is a single utensil with spoon one end, sharp edge one side and fork t’other end. That’s all you require for a picnic lunch. We’ll even wash it for you each evening!

Bamboo: what an amazing wood this is! Toothbrush, soap dish and check this site

And finally, a bit naff, but drinking straws: treat yourself to a stainless steel straw which makes drinks taste cooler and they look cooler!

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Jul 2018

What’s In a Name?

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

King Mswati III of Swaziland has announced that henceforth the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland will change its name to Eswatini. He said, “The Kingdom of Eswatini meaning “place of the Swati people” reverts to the Swazi language name for the Kingdom. As we are aware, the name Swaziland was inherited from the British. If we are to give true meaning to our independence, time has come to give our country a name of its people. It must be said that this process is long overdue. Therefore, I have the pleasure to present to you, on this historic day, a new name for the kingdom. Our country will now be called Kingdom of Eswatini.


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May 2018

Cat or Dog?

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Recently snapped by a stealth-cam in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle: but is it a cat or dog?

Meet Atelocynus Microtis – or ‘Short-eared Bush Dog’ to his friends and a lot easier to say. These chaps were caught on film in Ecuador last week. They are surely one of the most mysterious, shy and rare canine species in the world and feature on the Red List of species. Although a canine, it stands just 30 cm at the withers and weighs in at 10 pounds, so is really cat-sized. To add to its cat credentials, its primary prey is rodents, and it sports a rather stylish reddish brown fur coat.


Napo Wildlife Centre

Short-eared bush dog, Napo Wildlife Centre

Bush Dog inhabits a wide variety of lowland rainforest habitats including the zone around Napo Wildlife Centre and the Swamp Forests. Notably bush dog favours swimming in Amazonian rivers and creeks and this is where most sightings happen. However, likely due to habitat loss, they have adapted to other eco-zones such as foothill forests up to 2,000 m. Their previous known range was easternmost in Brazil, westernmost to Peru, southernmost in Bolivia, and northernmost in Colombia. However, this has recently been expanded as sightings have now been recorded as far away as Central America.


Short-eared bush dog, Napo Wildlife Centre

Short-eared bush dog, Napo Wildlife Centre

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Mar 2018

Calving Season, Serengeti

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

For many people, the thought of the Great Wildebeest Migration brings to mind images of thunderous river crossings with crocodiles snatching at the heels of wildebeest as they make their way across East Africa’s rivers.

Wildebeest migration, Serengeti safari

Wildebeest, Serengeti

Others may picture the seemingly never-ending line of millions of wildebeest on their great trek. However, the amazingness of the calving season is something that people tend to overlook. Calving takes place between January and February: in Jan/Feb the herds begin making their way to the south of the Serengeti after the rains start falling, and fresh grass begins to grow. The question of how the herds know when, precisely, the rains begin is something many people have pondered and the answer is that we actually do not know! Some say that they can smell the rain, others believe they can sense when the pressure in the air changes; the only thing we know for sure is that where it rains, the herds follow. Within a two to three week time period over half a million wildebeest are born with as many as 8,000 wildebeest being born on a single day!

Emerald season safari Serengeti Tanzania

Herd of Burchell’s Zebra Serengeti

The herds spend the majority of Jan, Feb and March in the Ndutu and Ngorongoro Conservation areas, although not within the crater itself. The soil in this area is rich in nutrients meaning the grass is perfect for young wildebeest to munch on and build up their strength in the first few weeks of their lives.

With the promise of rains from March to May, the young wildebeest are virtually guaranteed fresh grass during their migration all the way up into the central parts of the Serengeti. And it’ll come as no surprise that with all these baby zebra, gazelle and wildebeest stumbling around on wobbly legs, the number of predators in the area reaches a high. However, an easy meal is no guarantee! These mothers have been following this route for thousands of years and know most of the tricks that predators pull. Wildebeest mothers instinctively know to give birth on the shorter grass plains where approaching predators are easier to spot. Other mothers join them and actually form protective barricades around the young and most vulnerable new additions to the herd. Predators have to deal with extremely protective mothers who will do everything in their power to protect their young. If you’re travelling to the Serengeti during this time you’re guaranteed to see action unfolding between mothers, their calves and prowling predators.

Serengeti safari in the emerald season Tanzania

Lioness and cubs, Serengeti, Tanzania

It is not only the herbivores you’ll have the chance to see though, the predators too have co-ordinated their birthing times to coincide with the birth of their prey so their young have the highest chance of survival too. With thousands of baby wildebeest running around it is much easier for a mother lion, cheetah or leopard to find a meal for their hungry cubs as well as give them the opportunity to learn how to hunt for themselves.

All of these factors go to show that the timing and location of the calving season was purposefully selected in order to increase the chances of survival, both for prey and predator. The calving season is truly a remarkable time in East Africa and has so much to offer any safari-goer looking to see something other than the usual river crossing.

And the real winner? This is low season because there will be rain, so lodge prices are half the rack-rates; and air fares are reasonable. This is also known as the ‘emerald season’ because everything is green and fresh; the air is free from dust so the quality of photos is better, particularly panlow lodge prices make this an excellent time to be on safari.oramic shots. The drama of birthing, the interaction of predator and prey and the

Serengeti safari, emerald season Tanzania

Serengeti Elephants

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Feb 2018

Cotopaxi Re-opens

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

After a two year closure due to increased volcanic activity, Ecuadorian authorities have reopened the summit of the Cotopaxi volcano to walkers. Cotopaxi National Park is Ecuador’s most visited natural attraction and offers activities including horse riding, mountain biking and hiking; reaching the volcano’s summit is a major yomp, but great achievement.

Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador

Cotopaxi (5,897 m) Ecuador

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Dec 2017

Step forward Uganda

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Poised at the crossroads between the East Africa’s savannah and Central Africa’s rainforest Uganda has gone from being the ‘Pearl of Africa’ (so said a certain Winston Churchill) to something of a diamond in the rough (so said… us). The politics in the 1990’s was ‘turbulent’ (take a bow, Idi Amin) but after a period of stability and some serious investment, Uganda is on the up and quickly proving its pearly credentials once more.

Here are five reasons why Uganda should be your next holiday destination.

Mountain Gorillas
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest sounds (and looks) very Lord of the Rings, but it is in fact home to half the planet’s mountain gorillas. Gorilla trek permits are less than half the price of neighbouring Rwanda, so you get more silverback for your greenback. The trek is not for the fainthearted but the feeling of awe more than compensates.

Silverback pondering life

Vibrant Culture
The highlight of any trip to Uganda is in fact the Ugandans themselves. Modern Ugandan culture stems from dozens of regional tribal kingdoms each with traditional dress, arts and crafts, and tribal dance. The communities are alive and thriving.

Big Game
Uganda is technically a Big Five safari destination but doesn’t quite compare to Kenya or Tanzania – yet. Rhino, for example, went extinct just after the Idi-era, and have been reintroduced successfully, but are not yet widespread throughout all the national parks. Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls are already amazing parks to explore.

Uganda big game

Lions in Kidepo N.P.

To the west is the glacier-capped Rwenzori mountain range, romantically labelled the ‘Mountains of the Moon’. To the south is Lake Victoria and at 26,500 square miles is the main reservoir of the Nile. The central grasslands are home to huge grazing herds, and dense forest, verdant wetlands and mountain slopes create diverse habitats.

The primate inventory is impressive: 15 species in all and Uganda is one of the few places where you can see chimpanzees in the wild. The chimp treks are outstanding; so well are the chimps habituated and relaxed with people that you can join a full day ‘nest-to-nest’ programme, spending all day in their company.

Uganda wildlife: Bufaloe & lion

Mexican standoff in Uganda

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Sep 2017

A Good Read

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

There’s nothing like a good read to get the travel muscles twitching: here is a selection of the best, 3 from India, 3 from South America and 4 from Africa: Africa gets an extra just because “The State of Africa” is such a remarkable piece of research:-


Title Author Country of inspiration Continent
Famished Road Ben Okri


Nigeria Africa
Blood River Tim Butler Zaire/DRC Africa
The State of Africa Martin Meredith Africa Africa
One Day I will write about this place Binyavanga Wainaina Kenya Africa
Shantaram Gregory Roberts India India
The Impressionist Hari Kunzru India India
The God of Small Things Arundhati Roy India India
100 Years of Solitude Gabriel Marques Colombia S America
Tschiffely’s Ride Aime Tschiffely South America S America
Innes of My Soul Isabel Allende Chile & Peru S America


The best from Africa is Ben Okri’s “Famished Road” – just because it’s pure imagination. The best from India is Gregory Roberts “Shantaram” – just because it’s a true story. And the best from South America is “Innes of my Soul” because it’s so utterly moving.

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Sep 2017

Bag Ban

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Kenya has been in the press for the last couple of weeks because the result of last month’s presidential election was declared null and void by the Nairobi courts: a landmark ruling on the continent of Africa. What has gone unnoticed is Kenya’s ban on carrier bags which is the harshest in the world.

Punishment for carrying, manufacturing, or importing lightweight plastic bags ranges from $19,000 to $38,000 or a jail term of up to four years! And we think we’re hard done by paying 5p for a bag!

Traders in Nairobi swapped cheap lightweight plastic bags for cartons, paper bags and envelopes, while grocery stores sold reusable fibre bags and cardboard boxes.

This ban marks the third time Kenya has tried to cut down on plastic bags; an estimated 100 million bags are given out by supermarkets every year. Previous attempts focused on bags of a certain thickness and were never really enforced. Today bags litter most Kenyan roads, clog sewers and streams, damaging soil and water sources and harm animals that eat them.

Bag mountain, Kenya

Bag mountain, Nairobi, Kenya

About a dozen other African countries have instituted taxes as well as full, or partial bans on plastic bags, including Rwanda, Mauritania, and South Africa. More than 40 countries around the world have similar policies in place. Costa Rica is working toward banning all single-use plastic by 2021. Large retail shops in the UK have to charge 5p per plastic bag. The US has no national ban or tax on plastic bags.

Supporters of the ban in Kenya claim it will give rise to new businesses. Already, traders are selling canvas bags, baskets, and tote bags. The ban has caused the loss of thousands of jobs as manufacturers suspended operations to avoid steep fines. Makers of alternative carrier bags are, however, doing booming business.

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Aug 2017

Babies in the Bush

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Traveller's Tales /


Here’s a report to warm heart and soul: rhinos went extinct in Botswana in the late 1990’s.

Rhino mum and baby, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Rhino mum and baby, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Last year Sanctuary Retreats and other lodges in the Okavango Delta formed a partnership to translocate 2 black rhino from Zimbabwe and 9 whites from South Africa to reintroduce the species.

Translocating rhino, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Translocating rhino, Okavango Delta, Botswana

The exciting news from the Okavango Delta is that 3 calves have just been born!!

The crucial thing is the on-going monitoring of the rhinos to keep poachers away.

Rhino mum & baby, Okavango Delta, Moremi, Botswana

Rhino mum & baby, Okavango Delta, Moremi, Botswana

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