It's the start of the winter school holidays in Australia, our favourite time of year in Far North Queensland. There’s lots of good news in this month’s blog and plenty to warm your heart from Africa.
Firstly, with officially 46% of Americans and 48% of the British population fully vaccinated, we are delighted to say that people are starting to book African safaris again, providing a vital boost for our industry after almost two very hard years. Singaporeans are also making good progress with vaccination rates and quarantine-free travel may not be too far into the future, according to a recent Ministerial statement. Australia is taking a little longer, with 23% now partially vaccinated. That includes me and I am really looking forward to being able to get on an international flight again in the not too distant future!
For those who are now able to travel, it’s a great time to talk to us about your best African safari options for the months and years ahead. There are great deals available with our partners on the ground in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Botswana and Namibia, and the companies we work with have gone above and beyond to ensure that all the COVID-19 protocols are followed to ensure your safety and wellbeing. Our partner in Kenya and Tanzania, Asilia Africa, is offering up to 25% off for long stays in their safari camps (8+ nights) and for bookings that are 6 weeks out (last minute). Could there be anywhere better to go on holiday than the remote African bush with only a few other people, resting in a large glamping tent as lions roar in the background and wild animals graze outside?
We are still organising Australian safaris for anyone who can be tempted to visit the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, two World Heritage areas that are right next to us here in Cairns, North Queensland. Several of our African safari guests from various parts of Australia are venturing out on adventures in search of tree kangaroos, cassowaries and crocodiles in the months ahead, and it’s not too late to book. We can arrange everything from your expert local guide to your accommodation, and the weather up here is absolutely perfect in winter, today a lovely 26 degrees Celcius!
In other good news, I’m delighted to announce that one of our safari guests, Manish Chopra in the USA, has won the Natural Selection safari with a bid of US$15,500, all of which is being donated to Natural Selection’s COVID Village Support Appeal. These funds support vulnerable local families in Botswana who are battling to get by as a result of the loss of tourism income. Thank you to the amazing team at Natural Selection in Botswana who continue to support local Indigenous people in these very tough times and congratulations Manish! This dream safari includes 3 nights at the opulent Jacks’ Camp in the Kalahari Desert followed by 3 nights at the stunning Tuludi Camp in Khwai Private Reserve, valued at US$27,000.
My right hand man on the Akagera Elephant Project, Godefroid Nyamurangwa (pictured below) has been busy over the last six months learning how to farm potatoes after one of our most generous safari guests from Singapore got behind him to seed fund a sustainable livelihoods farming project near the park. All of us realised last year how challenging it would be to survive in the tourism industry for those who were casual workers, entirely dependent on tourism to survive, which is why we asked for your support to help them through last year. Our Rwandan food program, paid for by Matson & Ridley Safaris’ safari guests, lasted for about four months when the pandemic started in 2020, supporting 30 guides and their families, but longer term another solution was needed to bring in sustainable income, which is how the potato farming project kicked off. This week Godefroid and 15 other local Rwandans are harvesting their first crop! The potatoes are a good size and it looks like there’s plenty of them, so we are all absolutely delighted with this. They will use some of these potatoes to start the next crop after this harvest.
June is one of the best times of year to be in Botswana and it’s when I usually take my groups over there to experience the Great Zebra Migration at Makgadigadi National Park and the Okavango Delta in the dry winter months. It’s actually made me a bit heart-sick this year as the cooler weather of June sets in as it always reminds me it’s safari season, and this is my second year of not being able to get over there. To rub salt in the wound, my safari group and I were supposed to be at Mapula Camp in the Okavango Delta a few weeks ago, when brand new African wild dog puppies were sighted at their den with adult wild dog baby-sitters, providing the most epic sighting for guests who were there. Experiences like this are what make an African safari so much more special than any other holiday, with memories that really do last a lifetime. Click here to watch the facebook video.
And finally, you may have seen some of the global news story about the herd of elephants in China that went wandering away from the safety of their reserve in southern China and into a city of about 9 million people last week. Chinese people have been following the journey of these elephants as they are being trailed by media and drones. I spoke to ABC News 24 TV about these Chinese elephants on the move last week. No one knows yet why this herd has decided to move, but given the general loss of habitat for Asian elephants and the fact that this protected population is growing (there are now about 300 of them in a small area in southern China bordering Laos and Myanmar), it could be related to localised competition, human-elephant conflict or they could simply be searching for good habitat (tempted along the way by crops that people are growing which they also love to eat). It will be interesting to see what happens with this herd and it is at least heartening to see such interest from the Chinese population in their plight. I hope it will raise awareness of the threats facing Asian elephants in the wild today across their range, in particular the impacts of habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, and the associated human-elephant conflict.
Time to escape to nature and rewild your soul? Let us plan your dream safari in Africa and Australia. Contact us today.