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Apr 2019

Patagonia – Latest News

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

Several of you will know Cathy in Chile and Dominik in Argentina, the wonderful characters who guide the trans-Patagonia rides. There are big changes coming up for 2020.

The problem we have noticed over the last two seasons is water – or rather the shortage of water in the rivers. The Grand Traversée ride contains as a star feature several river crossings which can be several hundred metres wide with the water lapping your stirrups and the horse’s belly all the way! It’s a thrilling experience, particularly because you can dip a cup into the river (upstream of the horses!) and drink directly from it; it’s that clean and glacier fresh.

Horse riding holiday in Patagonia

Crossing the Rio Puelo, fed from a glacier in Chile, Patagonia.

The trouble is that rainfall in Patagonia’s summer (Nov to March) has declined significantly, making the lakes and rivers run lower than usual. Global warming? Well, probably. The glaciers still produce run-off but it’s not being topped-up from rain. We have traditionally crossed the Chile-Argentina border by boat across a lake to the rapids, up the rapids and across another lake to the new border. During late Jan, Feb and March there simply isn’t enough water in the rapids to make them navigable. The alternative is a 14 hour road / trail trip – which ticks everyone off!

Sadly we will not be running the Grand Traversée after Jan each year.

The Huaso Trail remains as it is but in a truncated season. We’ll be tweaking The Andes Crossing itinerary which will continue to run between Oct and March each year, but note the contingency plans on day 6. Here’s a summary of the Patagonia rides:-

Ride title Days Season
Grand Traversée


Nov, Dec & Jan
Huaso Trail


Jan & Feb
Andes Crossing


Oct to March
Patagonia cattle drive

Twice p.a.

Oct & March


The Grand Traversée remains my favourite, by far. An epic ride that takes you into the heart of remotest Patagonia giving you a glimpse of a way of life that is as far from ‘digital’ as it’s possible to get on a horse. I wonder how much longer this ultimate riding experience will be able to operate?

Riding holiday Patagonia

Driving cattle on the Pampas, Argentina. Approaching the foothills of the Andes.

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Apr 2019

Okavango Delta water level Apr 2019

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

Water level in the Okavango Delta. (17th April 2019)
Recent updates from Botswana suggest that it is likely to be a dry year. Rainfall levels have been lower than normal and flood levels are lower than previous years. This will limit water activities in areas without permanent water, such as rivers and lagoons. Water activities are expected to start later than normal in 2019, probably around August time. However, when water is scarce wildlife congregates around pools making the game viewing spectacular, particularly from the back of a horse. Riding and game drives have been good, as have walks. All transfers in and out of camps that we will be using in July will probably be by land / donkey, rather than by makoro.

Riding Holiday in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Big Game viewing frm the back of a horse

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Apr 2019

Grow your own clarinet!

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

Yes – you read that right!

Buffet Crampon is a French manufacturer of woodwind musical instruments, including oboes and bassoons, but they’re best known for their clarinets which are the brand of choice for many professional musicians.

Venture Co has been working with the African Blackwood Conservation Project  since 2002. ABCP collects ebony tree seeds; propagates; and gives saplings to shamba farmers (shamba = smallholding) to plant around their fields and homes thus establishing beyond doubt their boundaries. After all other field markers could be moved! Ebony trees take a lifetime to grow (70 or 80 years) to a useable size, so boundaries become well-established, and there now exists an incentive to protect the young ebony trees. The Makonde carving industry in Kenya and Tanzania, combined with sapling-nibbling goats, have devastated the ebony trees creating the need for some conservation.

Grow your own clarinet

Ebony seedlings

Even with all our clever technology and material science degrees, the best woodwind instruments are still made from Dalbergia Melanoxylon or ebony, or Mpingo in Swahili. Ebony’s density, dimensional stability and machinability are difficult to replicate. So there are all sorts of stakeholders in the future of the modest Mpingo.

Last year Buffet Crampon visited the nursery and tree planting sites in Tanzania, and agreed to finance the project. They continue to lead the industry with the manufacture of “Greenline clarinets and oboes” made of recycled blackwood. This material has the same acoustic properties as the harvested wood, remains stable in all playing environments and is not prone to cracking. It is therefore reducing current harvesting demands for ebony. And before too much longer modest supplies of mature ebony will once more become available.

If you visit the project for an hour or so, after a Serengeti safari, who knows, you could plant a clarinet for your grandchild.

Contact us for safari ideas and quotes.


Sebastian Chewa, founder of the Mpingo Project

Sebastian Chewa, founder of the Mpingo Project

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Apr 2019

Black rhino in Tanzania

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

Black rhino
The black rhino population in Ngorongoro Crater has been decimated by poaching over the last 50 years – that’s not news. What is great news is how successful the conservation efforts have been. Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) have been the ‘feet on the ground’ and it’s all been paid for from income derived from wildlife tourism: conservation funded solely from safari visitors to the Ngorongoro Crater.

Here are the stats:-

Year    Popln
1968      108
1977         25
2018        52

Nowadays the rhinos are under 24-hour camera surveillance which has reduced poaching and improved husbandry allowing more calves to survive. A few blacks have also been reintroduced to Ngorongoro, from South Africa, to improve the gene pool.

The oldest resident is Fausta (54 years) and she is now on a special care programme because they recon 50 years is the usual life expectancy for a rhino.

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Apr 2019

Poachers in Kenya

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

The Fate of Elephants & Black Rhino
“Wildlife poachers in Kenya will face the death penalty”, so says Najib Balala the Minister of Wildlife in Nairobi.

Kenya is home to a wide variety of species and remains a popular safari destination, but its reputation has been damaged by Al Shabaab activities and the continued niggle of poaching. In 2018 69 elephants, out of a population of 34,000; and 9 rhinos, from a population of under 1,000 were poached.

The highly social African elephant

“We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of US$200,000” Mr Balala said. “However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.”

Needless to say, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights opposes the move and would like to see the death penalty abolished worldwide.

Recently 2 black rhino and a calf were poached in Meru National Park, virtually cancelling out the overall rhino population’s growth in Kenya, according to the Save the Rhino organisation; gestation periods are 16 to 18 months.

Social-media reaction varies from some users applauding Kenya and calling it “fantastic news” and others insisting it should never happen. Watch this space.

Happy as a rhino in a mud-wallow!

Happy as a rhino in a mud-wallow!

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