EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Saturday
Aug112018

The Best Way to Experience the Ngorongoro Crater

 

One of the best places in Africa for a safari to see the Big Five and other wildlife is Tanzania’s Ngorongoro crater. Here in northern Tanzania, the dense concentration of some of Africa’s most iconic species paired with the dramatic landscape formed by the crater makes this one of the best places for a safari for everyone from families to honeymooners. The Ngorongoro crater is the largest volcanic caldera in the world and was formed millions of years ago when an active volcano exploded and collapsed on itself. The crater rim is a natural enclosure inside which is a rich and fertile grazing ground for wildlife that live there, including elephants, lions,  wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, leopards, African wild dogs, cheetah, hyena, buffalo, and flamingos. Most famously, there is a number of critically endangered black rhino living within the protected area.

There are plenty of fantastic options for luxury accommodation around the Ngorongoro Crater. Some of our favorites include the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for its romantic ambiance, The Highlands for its incredible views all the way to the Serengeti, and Entamanu for its high level of privacy. All of the best properties near the Ngorongoro Crater have expert guides and a variety of activities beyond just the usual descent into the crater to see wildlife from afar. You can have a picnic on the crater floor while hippos come to drink water in the lake, or watch the sunrise or sunset from atop the crater’s rim.

One of the best times to visit the Ngorongoro Crater is from December - March, which is the best time to see the great migration and wildebeest calving. Combine a few days near the Crater with some time in the Serengeti. Understand the best time to go to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater and other safari destinations and make sure to plan the best safari possible with help from our experts at Epic Road.

Saturday
Aug112018

The Best South Africa Luxury Safari Experiences

A luxury safari in South Africa is likely to be one of the most best vacations of your life. For some travelers, seeing iconic African species in the wild and discovering the most beautiful places on the African continent is a life-changing journey. While you stay in some of the top-rated safari lodges with amenities like private plunge pools, award-winning food, and the most stunning views of the African bush, you can also choose to incorporate special experiences that will make your trip more than just an amazing vacation. You can learn about endangered species, interact with wildlife in a natural and respectful way, and have the chance to positively impact local communities.

Curious travelers who are especially interested in endangered species can opt to join a day excursion with a conservation scientist, where they will be able to take part in microchipping or collaring a wild animal in order to help preserve the future of the species. For example, you’d take off in a helicopter with a team of experts and locate a rhino, tranquilize the animal and help the team place a microchip under its horn so it can be tracked remotely and therefore better protected from poachers. You can get a preview of how the magic happens in this short video. It’s an incredible privilege to be in such close proximity to one of these amazing animals.

The endangered pangolin is the world’s most-trafficked animal, and research scientists are doing their best to save this scaly, nocturnal creature from extinction. Travelers who plan their safari with Epic Road can join an expert in the field for a night walk to a pangolin’s burrow, where they may have the chance to see this elusive animal up close, something that few people ever get to do.

For pure fun and exhilaration, go diving to see massive yet harmless whale sharks off the coast of South Africa. Whale sharks can grow over 40 feet long and almost 50,000 lbs, and swimming alongside these gentlest of giants is a true adrenaline rush.

For a more human interaction, visit a remote village where members of an indigenous tribe are living without electricity, and give them the gift of solar light which allows them to safely work or study after the sun goes down. Check out this video to see one of Epic Road’s clients take part in this rewarding experience. Travelers who choose this experience will have the opportunity to deliver and demonstrate the use of the lights in person, and then go home knowing they’ve made a difference in the lives of a number of people on the other side of the world.

To add special and impactful activities onto your luxury safari in South Africa, you must plan your safari well in advance with the help of an expert travel advisor who has the connections to create best and most memorable trip possible. Epic Road specializes in custom-made safaris in South Africa and all over the rest of the continent, sending clients to the world’s most exciting destinations.

Sunday
Jun102018

The Best Ways to See Victoria Falls

There are so many reasons to add a visit to Victoria Falls to your bucket list, especially if you’re already planning a trip and want to experience the best of southern Africa and visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Victoria Falls is considered the biggest waterfall in the world, and sits on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe with the source of its cascading water coming from the beautiful Zambezi River. The location of the Falls creates opportunities for several adventurous and memorable ways to explore this incredible natural phenomenon, like wading into the Devil’s Pool or taking a helicopter ride for a bird’s eye view.

For adventurous travelers looking for an adrenaline rush, the Zambezi River is considered one of the top places in the world for a one-day white water rafting excursion where you’ll hike in and out of a gorge to reach the water and then hit series of wild rapids interspersed with periods of calm waters. Or take a dip into the most amazing natural infinity pool in the world, the famous Devil’s Pool, a spot bypassed by the river’s strong currents where people can actually swim right out to a sturdy rock lip that keeps them from falling over the edge, making for some unparalleled photo opps. Finally, thrill-seekers who take the 364-foot bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge will get an unforgettable rush, not just because of the epic fall but because of the stunning cascade of water that acts as a backdrop. Travelers looking for a calmer and more romantic way to see Victoria Falls might opt for a flight through the air for optimal breathtaking views of this amazing natural wonder. There are two options for flying: a helicopter tour or a flight by microlight aircraft, a plane with an open cockpit that fits just a pilot and a passenger and is known as the motorbike of flying for how similar it feels. From ground level, travelers can take a canoe ride through the calmer parts of the Zambezi River or board a sunset cruise on a riverboat for spectacular views of the falls and the surrounding wilderness when it’s time for those sundowners.

Plan your trip to Victoria Falls to include one of these special experiences that allow you to get up close and you’ll really understand why the local indigenous tribe calls it “The Smoke That Thunders.”

When to go to Victoria Falls

It’s possible to add game drives in nearby game parks, or combine a few days near Victoria Falls with a safari in Zambia, Zimbabwe, or Botswana. The best timing for the best views of Victoria Falls is May through August when you’ll have the clearest sight from the river or from the air. Activities that require low water such as swimming in the Devil’s Pool or white water rafting can generally only be done from August to January. The falls are at their most powerful during the wet season from December to March, and therefore the scene is the most dramatic though the extra mist and cloudy skies can hamper viewing.

Sunday
Jun102018

How to Experience the Best of Kenya

Of all of the African countries where you can go to experience the most iconic luxury safari, Kenya has some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes. Kenya offers some of the best game viewing on the continent with huge numbers of lions, leopards, elephants, cheetah, zebra, giraffe, and more. Many people choose a classic safari with expert-led vehicle game drives and perhaps a sunrise balloon ride over the plains, especially if it’s their first safari. But for adventurous travelers who want an alternative kind of safari, it’s possible to create a customized itinerary with special experiences that offer opportunities for heart-pounding, thrilling adventures on foot, on a mountain bike, or in a private plane or helicopter.

A Bike Ride Through The Amboseli-Chyulu Corridor

Join the annual Ride for Lions and embark on an unforgettable mountain biking adventure through the Amboseli-Chyulu corridor, an area of conserved land that serves as a key pathway between national parks for lions and other species. You’ll spend the days biking along the stunningly beautiful corridor of land that you’re helping to preserve, and spend nights under the stars at luxurious mobile camps with a final night at beautiful luxury lodge Ol Donyo. By joining this 6-day adventure, travelers will be directly contributing to wildlife conservation through the Land for Lions Initiative. On top of directly contributing to efforts to save lions and their habitat, the cost of this wild ride is 100% tax deductible. Active and adventurous travelers ready for a wild ride can book directly with Epic Road.

Flying by Helicopter or Plane over the Laikipia Plateau

A sunrise balloon ride while on safari is one way to see the incredible landscapes below, but consider a more unforgettable and over the top safari experience - swooping over Kenya’s awe-inspiring Laikipia Plateau by helicopter or private plane. The sparsely populated Laikipia Plateau is backdropped by Mt. Kenya and is a sprawling wilderness home to stunningly dense concentrations of wildlife, including some of the highest populations of endangered species like the Eastern Black Rhino, the Southern White Rhino, and the African WIld Dog, among others. Travelers can visit private wildlife conservancies and stay at luxurious ranches, including beautiful Ol Jogi and Segera Retreat. Segera is the home to the original biplane made famous in Hollywood masterpiece Out of Africa and for a substantial donation to Segera’s 4C projects (initiatives related to Community, Commerce, Culture, and Conservation) travelers can take a private ride in this relic from a bygone area. A private helicopter ride over the region can also be arranged. Get a taste of what it might feel like to soar across Kenya’s amazing landscapes by checking out a short video from Ol Jogi and Matador Network.

A Walking Safari with a Maasai Tribesman

Explore the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the northern Serengeti plains the slow way, on foot, with a Maasai tribesman as your guide. This region has some of the most spectacular game viewing on the continent, and you have the opportunity to see it all it as part of an authentic cultural experience with this semi-nomadic tribe, one of the last of its kind in the world. Your Maasai guide will teach you their ways - how to reduce your carbon footprint and how to track animals by reading their footprints. You can also join a traditional Maasai jumping ceremony or train in traditional stick fighting, and eat a delicious meal made from local ingredients cooked right there in the bush.

Adding special experiences to customize your luxury safari will make your trip to Kenya that much more memorable. Read more about the exciting adventures you never thought were possible and get inspired to start planning your safari with Epic Road!

Thursday
May102018

Travel to Kanazawa, Japan’s Best Hidden Secret

It would take a lifetime to discover the best of Japan’s hidden secrets, and many travelers with limited time will only see the highlights of major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Even still, it’s possible to maximize your time and see off the beaten path sites in Japan that will give you a more authentic and unique travel experience in this incredible Asian country with so much fascinating history and culture. History buffs should take a trip to beautiful and historic Kanazawa, just two hours by bullet train from Kyoto, where you’ll explore one of the best preserved castle town from the Edo period. Below are some of the best sites and experiences in Kanazawa.

Considered one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, Kenrokuen Garden is a beautiful place to visit year-round. In the spring, the garden is decorated by colorful plum and cherry springs, flowers such as azaleas bloom in the summer, and fallen leaves of fiery colors make the garden glow in fall. In winter, the snowy garden has "yukizuri" or "snow hangings" built to protect the plants from heavy snowfall, which includes a conical array of ropes that hold up branches to prevent them from breaking. The name "Kenrokuen" means "having six factors," which were used to design the garden’s perfect landscape: expansiveness, peacefulness, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and fantastic views.

The Nagamachi Samurai District was where samurai families lived during the Edo period, and has some buildings that were spared during WW2 and are centuries old. Narrow pedestrian-only lanes, cobblestoned streets, and winding canals make the area very beautiful and photogenic. Some of the former samurai residences and gardens are even open to the public. A visit to this enchanting neighborhood is like going back in time and visiting a fascinating part of Japan’s history.

Kanazawa Castle’s history begins in the early 1546 when it was founded as a religious school for Kanazawa Mido. One of the most interesting features of Kanazawa Castle is the variety of stonewalls located on the castle park grounds. The castle park is sometimes referred to as a "stonewall museum" due the different eras the walls were constructed. Throughout its history the castle has seen a number of fires and a large fire in 1759 almost burned down the entire castle. In 1996, a project was started to rebuild Kanazawa Castle using original construction techniques.

Finally, the most unforgettable part of your trip to Kanazawa will be a visit to a local master sword maker who will show you how to forge your own blade. Planning a trip to Japan can be overwhelming and is best done with the help of a true expert who can help you discover magical places and experiences you would never find otherwise.

Wednesday
Apr042018

The Best Seychelles Adventure Travel and Conservation

The Seychelles is a remote Indian ocean island nation perfect for travelers looking to unwind on some of the world’s most idyllic beaches and also fit in a bit of adventure. With its unspoiled coral-fringed talcum powder sand beaches, secluded luxury villas surrounded by massive granite rock formations, romantic private island hideaways, some of the best spots for scuba diving in the world, and endless summer climate, a Seychelles honeymoon or family trip is likely to be one of the most memorable vacations of your life.

On top of being a perfect slice of island paradise, the Seychelles are an incredibly biodiverse ecosystem that is home to whale sharks, rare giant tortoises, endangered dugongs, tuna, and more fascinating marine life. With an understanding of how important it is to conserve its pristine natural environment, 99 percent of which is ocean, the Seychelles government is also a top destination committed to environmental protection. In early 2018 the government announced a new conservation measure to create two huge marine protected areas, guaranteeing that 16 percent of the country’s ocean territory will be preserved and better defended against threats like climate change and illegal fishing.  

Read more here about where to stay and what to do in the Seychelles while on an amazing custom trip with Epic Road.

Wednesday
Feb282018

Travel Tips for the Best Gorilla Trekking Safari Experience

 

If it’s not already at the top of your bucket list, gorilla trekking in Africa really should be. For adventurous travelers with an appreciation for wildlife conservation, seeing mountain gorillas in the wild is likely to be one of the best most special travel experiences you’ll have in your lifetime. Watch from just feet away as families of gorillas eat, nest, feed their young and play with each other in their natural habitat. Not only is the experience life-changing for you, but because the species is critically endangered, with just 800 of their kind left in the world, by embarking on a gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda or Uganda you’re making an important contribution to wildlife conservation.

We’ve put together answers to some common questions you may have when planning a trip to see gorillas in the wild so that you can have the best gorilla safari experience possible:

 Where in Rwanda do mountain gorillas live?

Less than 800 endangered mountain gorillas remain in the world and about half of them live in Volcanoes National Park or Parc Nationale Des Volcans, an extraordinarily beautiful and vast expanse of land where you’ll find dense, rich rainforests, open grasslands, and bamboo forests. Volcanoes National Park borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the two parks share eight volcanoes that make up the Virunga mountains. All of the volcanoes in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park are dormant. Legendary primatologist Dian Fossey wrote Gorillas in the Mist about her experience researching mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park.

Where in Uganda do mountain gorillas live?

One of the most beautiful places to experience a gorilla trekking safari is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in the southwestern corner of Uganda near the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Rift Valley. Approximately 350 gorillas inhabit Bwindi, which is also home to hundreds of rare and beautiful bird and butterfly species.

Are there any other places to see mountain gorillas?

Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a third option for especially intrepid travelers. Due to ongoing instability in the region, trip planning is done on a case by case basis based on experience of the traveler, and the stability of the region at that time.

How much does gorilla trekking cost?

In Rwanda, permits for non-residents are $1500 per person. This does not include transportation or lodging. In Uganda, permits are $600 per person most of the year, and $450 in the low season (April, May, November).

What is the difference between gorilla tracking and gorilla trekking?

Technically, gorilla tracking refers to the work that scientific researchers do to find the families of mountain gorillas in the wild. Gorilla trekking is the act of hiking through the mountains and forest to find and subsequently visit with these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat.

What other animals can you see when you go gorilla trekking?

Rare, endangered golden monkeys also live in Volcanoes National Park. Tracking golden monkeys is exhilarating, as these small and curious animals swing from treetop to treetop at a fast speed. Permits are obtained separately but are much less expensive than the permit for gorilla trekking, and both experiences can be had in the same day. Golden monkeys inhabit an area of the park at a lower altitude than the mountain gorillas. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’s misty rainforest has a rich biodiversity. Many primate species call the park home, including white colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, and baboons, as do elephants, antelopes, and over 300 bird species.

What is the weather like in Rwanda and Uganda?

Gorilla trekking trips take place year round. In both Uganda and Rwanda’s mountainous regions there are two dry seasons, December - February and June - September, with temperatures averaging in the mid-80s Fahrenheit. Wet seasons run March - May, and September - November. While these parks are year-round travel destinations, it is ideal to travel during the drier months for the best wildlife viewing, including gorillas.

Is there an age restriction for visiting mountain gorillas?

 Yes, you must be over 15 years old to obtain a permit for gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda.  

Other tips for Gorilla Trekking in Africa:

In both Volcanoes National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park there can only be a maximum of one group of eight visitors per day per group of gorillas. Because of the limited availability it is important to plan your trip along with obtaining permits well in advance of traveling to Rwanda. It’s common for travelers to add their gorilla safari experience to a safari to another part of Africa, like Kenya’s Maasai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. See our dedicated pages on Rwanda or Uganda for more details including luxury accommodation options, and get in touch to let Epic Road seamlessly plan your life-changing gorilla trekking adventure in Africa.

Friday
Feb232018

Travel Guide to Namibia’s Best Adventures, Honeymoons, Luxury, and Wildlife

 

Visit Namibia and you’ll find incredible and diverse places, each offering a different kind of perfect luxury vacation depending on the what kind of African safari adventure you’re looking for. Namibia is one of Africa’s best kept secrets, and it’s one of the best countries for a safari because Namibia has thrilling adventures, plenty of opportunities to see rare and endangered wildlife like the desert-adapted black rhino, top choices for secluded romantic lodges with luxurious amenities, and the possibility of an unusual cultural immersion with indigenous Namibian tribes. One of the things that makes Namibia unique is that it is the second least populated country in the world, so if you want an off-the-beaten-path adventure Namibia is a top choice for a rewarding and wild safari experience. Most of the country is mountainous desert - the Namib is the second largest in the world, after the Sahara - but there is also a long stretch of beautiful coastline to explore.

We’ve compiled a Namibia travel guide with the best reasons to travel to Namibia for every kind of traveler:

Namibia for honeymooners

Namibia is one of the best places to experience a romantic safari honeymoon. Known as one of the best destinations in the world for stargazing because of the vast open expanse of desert, cloudless skies, and lack of light pollution. Some of the best and most luxurious and romantic lodging properties in Namibia have rooftop starbeds and telescopes to make the experience extra special. And the remote nature of some of the accomodation options make for plenty of privacy, a lost-in-the-desert fantasy come true.

Namibia for wildlife lovers

Namibia is known worldwide for making efforts toward environmental conservation and protection of wildlife. It was the first country in Africa to include environmental protections in its constitution.Through various organizations like Africat or Save the Rhino Trust it’s possible to visit with rhinos, leopards, lions, cheetahs, and positively impact the preservation of these incredible species. Namibia is home to the iconic animals that make for a perfect luxury safari, as well as lesser known endangered species including the wild dog, oribi, and piku. For birders, Namibia’s Kunene River is one of the best places to observe rare birds from a boat or, for the more adventurous, while white water rafting.

Namibia for luxury seekers

Seeing the topography and ethereal landscapes by air is one of the most special ways to experience in Namibia. Fly by hot air balloon over Sossusvlei, the tallest dunes in the world, or Deadvlei with its wild-looking dried out camel thorn trees. Take a helicopter ride to explore the shipwrecks and seal colonies on the mysterious Skeleton coast. Stay at a luxury lodge and enjoy sundowners, spas, stargazing and more.

Namibia for adventure junkies

There are several ways to experience the soaring scarlet dunes of Sossusvlei, arguably the highest dunes in the world. Climbing them is an adventure in itself, even for very fit travelers, so another option is to jump on a quad bike for a thrilling ride over the hilly sands. The Skeleton coast isn’t your typical beach, so called for the seal and whale remains that have been pushed ashore by strong currents, and also for the ancient shipwrecks just off the coast, where sailors and their vessels met their doom on hidden rocks in the roiling waters. No wonder it was dubbed as “the land God made in anger.” Drive or ride by car or swoop along the rugged terrain in a low-flying plane - both are fun and adventurous ways to see the mysterious sights and wildlife that live in the areas that connect the interior of the country with the coast.

Namibia for cultural enthusiasts

Immerse yourself in local culture with an authentic experience with the Himba tribe, a fascinating semi-nomadic indigenous group living in the remote northwestern corner of Namibia. The Himba’s traditional cultural practices are very different from the western world. Both adults and children wear hairstyles and headdresses that signify certain life milestones have passed or how big their families are. They apply a substance called “otjize” made from butterfat and ochre to their skin for care and beautification, giving it a striking red hue. For a really special and impactful interaction, Epic Road clients can give the gift of light to one of the Himba communities by delivering LUCI solar powered lights. The Himba live without electricity, and solar powered lights help them work or study in the evening and cut back on respiratory illnesses caused by keeping fires lit inside huts.

Check out our Namibia page for the best luxury lodging options in Namibia, and more information on the best time of year to visit.

Monday
Dec112017

MOZAMBIQUE LUXURY TRAVEL TIPS 

There are many reasons why Mozambique is a top choice for a luxury beach vacation. Mozambique has so much to offer - private islands, untouched wilderness areas, deserted sandy white beaches, incredible marine life, freshly caught seafood, and adventurous activities to fill your days. The perfect backdrop for a honeymoon or romantic holiday, Mozambique is also ideal for family vacations, getaways with friends, and bucket list trips for retirees.

There are many types of adventurous activities in Mozambique. For experienced scuba divers Mozambique offers plenty of opportunities for world class scuba diving and one of the best diving spots is Neptune’s Arm, an underwater island surrounded by pristine reefs just waiting to be explored. Mozambique is also one of the best places to swim with whale sharks, in fact Tofu Island is considered the whale shark capital of Africa. You can also participate in a sea turtle conservation program during nesting season with a reputable organization. Other ways to experience the beautiful surrounding land and sea are snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, horseback riding, and swimming with dolphins.

Where should you go in Mozambique? The Bazaruto Archipelago is made up of six stunning islands where you’ll find some of the best beaches in Mozambique. Tourism is still relatively new to the region, so the resorts that have sprung up are remarkably secluded with plenty of privacy and opportunities to feel like a castaway on a deserted island, with all of the luxury amenities you can imagine within reach - barefoot luxury at its best.

The best time to visit Mozambique? The optimal dry season runs from April to December, and the wet and rainy season (Mozambique’s summer) goes from January to March. Turtle nesting usually takes place from November to March, Whale shark spotting generally takes place December to March.

How do you get to Mozambique? The capital, Maputo, is just a 45 minute flight from Johannesburg, which is an international hub with direct flights from the United States. We recommend experiencing Mozambique by combining it with a luxury safari in Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe/Victoria Falls, or Botswana, as direct charter flights can be arranged fairly easily.

Check out our complete page on Mozambique including our favorite luxury resorts, and email hello@epicroad.com to plan your upcoming dream trip!

Tuesday
Nov212017

The Best African UNESCO World Heritage Sites to Visit

Curious about how to visit Africa’s best UNESCO World Heritage sites? Amazing African safari experiences can include incredible encounters with exotic wildlife and nomadic tribes, rewarding experiences that contribute to conservation initiatives, relaxation at luxurious lodges and spas, and visits to some of the most interesting historical sites on earth. History or culture buffs looking to cross as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites off their bucket list will find a plethora of fascinating offerings on the African continent, and many of the top UNESCO sites can easily be included on an African Safari trip with Epic Road.

Known by a local tribe as “The Smoke That Thunders,” Victoria Falls makes the UNESCO list and also snags a spot on a the much smaller list of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Marking the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, this soaring waterfall can be explored in numerous thrilling ways - rigorous rafting on the rapids of the connected Zambezi River, flying by helicopter over the falls at sunset, go bungee jumping, and more daring adventurers can swim at the edge in the famous Devil’s Pool.

Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area is perhaps the most wildlife-dense spot on the continent. The protected area’s main feature is the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera, which offers a stunning sunset scene from its rim. The area is a prime place for Big Five game viewing, including critically endangered black rhino. The adjacent Serengeti National Park, another UNESCO site, is a prime spot to see the annual great migration wildebeest, zebra, hippos, giraffes and more of their wild friends as they head into the northern plains on quest for food and water. The most magical way to see to see the largest mammal migration on the planet? By hot air balloon at sunrise.

Even on a short visit to Morocco it’s impossible not to immerse yourself in the country’s fascinating cultural history, and it’s possible to hit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites on a single trip. For a departure from the frenetic energy of Marrakech, visit bohemian seaside Essaouira’s medina and take in the striking blue and white fortified historic walled city that earns a spot on UNESCO’s list. Stroll through the souks looking for beautifully handmade souvenirs and walk along the beach where the coastal winds make cool Essaouira a go-to spot for windsurfing enthusiasts. A few hours inland in the Ouzarzate province, as a sidestep on a visit to the foothills of the breathtaking Atlas Mountains, the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is made up of castle-like structures made from earthen mud brick architecture that is beautifully emblematic of southern Moroccan culture.

Just a short ferry ride from Capetown’s V&A Waterfront district, Robben Island feels a world away. With a somber history, its buildings are powerful symbols of democracy and freedom. Also within suitable distance for a day trip, botany enthusiasts should check out the Cape Floral Region protected areas that are famous for their unparallelled diversity and density of plants, including many species that are endemic to the region and also under threat.

Learn more about Epic Road’s many different types of luxury safaris throughout southern and eastern Africa.

Friday
Oct272017

Family Travel Destinations for Luxury and Adventure

Planning a fun family getaway with kids doesn’t have to mean sacrificing adventure or luxury-style travel in favor of theme parks and all-inclusive resorts. Some of our favorite destinations rank high in terms of safety and tick the right boxes for family travel - optimal weather during school break times, palatable food for picky eaters, sleeping arrangements that are comfortable and convertible, and where you can see a lot in a week or so. What lies beyond those basics is even more of a draw - a bonding opportunity for the whole family through experiences that  will thrill travelers of all ages. Through a face to face encounter with an endangered species, or exposure to a wildly different culture, experiencing the sights and natural wonders that feel a world away from home, or taking the opportunity to give back through conservation initiatives, both parents and children will go home with a feeling of significance and a broader understanding of the world beyond the familiar.

Africa has so much to offer families of all kinds. In fact, we’ve dedicated a whole page to ideas for African family safaris. In particular, Botswana is a sparsely populated country with a peaceful energy and vast open spaces for exploration. A beautiful green season coincides with spring break times and brings about lush vegetation and lots of animal babies. In this atmospheric land reminiscent of the Lion King family members of all ages will find themselves enchanted. Canoe through the Selinda Spillway filled with zebra, hippos and elephants, embark on a meerkat walking safari, or go a step further and take part in a solar light distribution to a village where children can interact with others their own age, taking with them life lessons and memories they will cherish their whole lives.

Iceland has been named the most peaceful country in the world for several years in a row now and its location just a few hours from New York and London makes it a prime choice for families looking for a shorter excursion, as highlights can be seen and done in less than a week. Reykjavik has all the conveniences of a big city and easy day trips to waterfalls and thermal pools will keep everyone occupied and also offer some of the most incredible frame-worthy photo opportunities. More adventurous families with slightly older children can also opt to sleep out in a luxury camp on an ice blue glacier giving them more exposure to incredible nighttime spectacles in the sky, depending on the time of year: the never ending day under the midnight sun, or the mind-blowing northern lights.

New Zealand is also considered one of the safest countries in the world, a utopian paradise where airport security is practically non-existent because it doesn’t have to be. Plentiful outdoors activities including swimming with wild dolphins, exploring coastal waters via catamaran or kayak, fly fishing, hiking, exploring mermaid pools, and much more. Parents will love wine tasting in Marlborough where plenty of the wineries are kid-friendly. There are even cultural immersion opportunities with indigenous Maori groups in their villages that are organized and well-equipped to handle visits from tourists. Finally, visions of the spectacular Aurora Australis (the south pole’s version of the Northern Lights) from New Zealand’s south island will leave everyone spellbound.

In Japan, a culture of respect, rich history and ancient traditions that are strikingly different from most everywhere else will result in a sensory-filled learning experience for the whole family. In Tokyo, older kids and teenagers will delight in a trip to the famous Tsujiki Fish Market or a stroll to experience neon overload in Harajuku. Art, music, and all types of media make this capital city a mecca for pop culture lovers. For more traditional learning experiences, there are dozens more temples and UNESCO World Heritage Sights than one can experience in one trip, as well as plenty of natural wonders in more rural areas. Accommodations range from traditional to modern all over the country, and japan is known for being one of the safest and cleanest places on the planet.

At Epic Road we create custom itineraries for families to ensure all needs and interests are met. Check out our pages with expansive info dedicated to family safaris, Iceland, New Zealand, and Japan.

Sunday
Oct012017

Foodie Destinations in Africa - Capetown, Marrakech, Zanzibar

When you visit some of our top destinations in Africa you’ll find culinary options across the continent that are as diverse as the people and the many cultures and customs that make it so vibrant. And if you’re one of those people with a penchant for both food and adventure, exploring far-flung destinations with your taste buds may be one of your top reasons to travel in the first place. In fact, sampling local flavors is one of the most authentic cultural experiences you can have in a foreign city. In the melting pots of Capetown, Marrakech, and Zanzibar, food influences from across the globe mix together with a result that is nothing like what you will find at home.

Capetown, South Africa

Capetown is not only a culinary capital on the African continent, it’s also known as a top foodie destination around the world. Traditional South African cuisine is hearty and flavorful, and often meaty. One dish you’re likely to find on many menus is boerewors, a coiled sausage made from beef and either pork or lamb that is usually grilled and often served with a porridge called pap. Cape Malay curry is another local favorite, created with local produce and a signature mix of spices like saffron, turmeric and cinnamon. Carb lovers might gravitate toward bunny chow, a curry dish served inside of a hollowed out bread loaf that hails from the coastal city of Durban known for its colonial and Indian influences. For more modern tastes, the Mother City’s food scene is continuously expanding with new cutting edge restaurants popping up on the regular, often helmed by world-famous chefs creating innovative menus that incorporate the most current global food trends. Check out our in-depth survey of the current restaurant scene for more specific restaurant ideas: The Cape of Good Eats.

 Marrakech, Morocco

From high-style modern fusions to the most traditional Moroccan dishes, from food stands inside the frenetic medina to cozy, darkly lit caverns to restaurants on the rooftops of souks, there is something in Marrakech for every taste and budget. Feast under olive trees on locally sourced vegetables and herbs, or oysters fresh from Dakhla, or delectable steak tartare, while Andalusian music plays softly in the background. Not sure what to order? On more traditional Moroccan menus you’re more than likely to see tajine, which is a succulent Berber stew named for the pot in which it is cooked, and Tanjia, which is a simple dish made from beef or lamb slow cooked overnight in urns on hot coals, oil, spices and preserved lemons. Tanjia stalls are prevalent around the city, and they also serve mechoui, which is whole roasted sheep, and roasted sheep’s head. Harira soup is another typical moroccan dish, it’s quite filling and generally combined meat with flavors churned up by a base of tomatoes, lentils and chickpeas. In Marrakech the food is delicious and the richness of the culture and surroundings only enhance the experience. Imagine breakfast in your luxury riad or cocktails with views of the Atlas mountains. Read more about luxury travel to Morocco with Epic Road here.

 Stone Town, Zanzibar

In Zanzibar’s capital city its historically Swahili cuisine has evolved over time to incorporate Chinese, Indian, Portuguese, and Arabian influences, which means for a smaller city the options are very diverse. Bucket list food items in Zanzibar include sorpotel, a combination of boiled diced meats that usually include some combination of tongue, heart and liver. Sorpotel is emblematic of the international nature of Zanzibari cuisine as it is originally a dish of Portuguese origin that gained its true identity by way of Goa. A menu item you likely won’t leave the region without trying is Pilau, a rice similar to what westerners call pilaf that cooks while soaking in a broth with a medley of spices, fried onions, meat and vegetables. Biryani is similar to pilau only the meat sauce is added after rather than during cooking. Boku boku is a good option for the less adventurous - a relatively simple dish of meat skewers flavored by cumin and ginger. As a seaside city, high quality fresh seafood of many kinds and in many forms is also readily available. The inner city of Stone Town is a UNESCO world heritage site with beautiful architecture, and you can’t beat eating on a rooftop, watching the sun set on the Indian Ocean, surrounded by the sounds of prayer calls. Stone Town and its surroundings will tantalize all your senses - read more about luxury travel to Zanzibar with Epic Road here.

Wednesday
Sep202017

Cape of Good Eats

Cape Town’s Jet Set Dining Scene Takes Center Stage

Updated September 20, 2017 

You’ve frolicked with penguins, hiked to the top of Table Mountain and navigated Noordhoek Beach on horseback.   If you think your luxury safari trip can’t get any better, think again.  Cape Town’s Jet Set dining scene is an eclectic feast, with world-class menus built around an evolving array of food and flavors, and restaurants characterized by their cool vibe, gorgeous patrons and edgy design.  This dynamic global city offers a fusion of influences—African, Mediterranean, Asian and French—and one-of-a-kind eateries abound.  It’s a foodie’s delight, serving everything from fresh seafood to imaginative gourmet dishes, and here are a few of our favorites.

THE SHORT MARKET CLUB: Located just off happening Bree Street, The Short Market Club is chef Luke Dale-Roberts’ newest venture, following the success of his other restaurants Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club. Dale-Roberts’ wife Sandalene has spearheaded the design here, creating an impressive ambiance by marrying old-world elements like antique barn doors and leather covered tables with a modern open kitchen that includes a Braai barbeque. The menu takes a cue from the design (or perhaps vice-versa) by re-inventing old classics with contemporary touches: Highlights include beef carpaccio with a miso-cured egg yolk, a crispy pig cheek with gorgonzola and granny smith apple, and perfect West Coast oysters.

BOUCHON BISTRO: Centrally located Bouchon Bistro is situated inside a winery which makes for earthy, cellar-like ambiance while still feeling upscale. Small plates and desserts are expertly paired with worldly wines, and the “Travel Through Your Glass” option, a weekly selection of wines by the glass, is a great way to taste and learn. Patrons come for the intricate dishes like artichoke and pea risotto or tender beef tataki and stay well into the evening for the romantic and cozy atmosphere. 

THE SILO HOTEL: Inside the brand new, luxurious Silo Hotel are three noteworthy spots to satisfy any discerning traveler’s food and drink cravings. On the sixth floor of the hotel, formerly a grain factory, is the Willaston Bar, a vibrant space with a long bar, deep blue velvet banquettes and soaring, pillowed glass windows that look out over the harbor. The bar then opens into the Granary Cafe, a refined eatery with an eclectic menu featuring delectable items like beef tartare, fresh seafood bouillabaise and a special Sunday Roast served on a carving trolley. Reservations at the Granary are advised. To round out the options, the Rooftop Bar at the Silo is an ideal spot to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand. The menu offers light fare and is open for lunch, too. 

THALI: Both menu and space are designed with groups both large and small in mind at atmospheric Indian tapas restaurant Thali. Exotic colors and patterns in the decor fill the restaurant’s multiple spaces, including a beautiful outdoor patio. Chef Liam Tomlin from Chef’s Warehouse does up an impressive menu with the highlight and most popular item being his signture “Tapas for 2” that may include such delicacies as black dhal, butter chicken, banana leaf steamed fish and tandoori cauliflower. Thali doesn’t take reservations but the bar is a cool spot to wait out a table.

VILLA 47: Family-owned Villa 47 offers three separate menus in a dynamic, multi-level space. Ground floor Locanda is a sleek Italian bistro and a choice spot for a mouthwatering eggs Benedict breakfast. One floor up, tapas bar and event space Stuzzico oozes a sultry nighttime vibe, an ideal place to sip an aperol spritz during DJ nights and First Thursday celebrations. The top floor venue, called simply Restaurant, offers a unique Asian-Mediterranean fusion menu in a luxurious space with rose gold mirrors and a central skylight. Yet another soon-to-be favorite, see-and-be-seen spot on buzzy Bree Street.

THE STACK: Housed in historic, 160-year old Leinster Hall, this traditional bistro proves that classic French fare need not be inventive to be delicious. An air of exclusivity trickles down from the members-only club upstairs while diners delve into a perfectly crusty croque madame or richly flavored coq au vin. The accomplished husband and wife team are trained hotelier and interior designer respectively, which is evident in the bold colors and high quality furnishings set between wood floors and pressed steel ceilings. 

HOKEY POKE: The Hawaian raw fish craze has officially come to the Mother City in the form of cool and funky Hokey Poke. The Menu features classic poke bowls as well as the option to choose innovative ingredients like samphire, jalapenos, or something called “nacho dust.” A strip of pink neon marks the entrance on narrow Church Street, and the interior white tiled tables and whitewashed walls are bathed in the same glow from a pink neon palm tree sign. Hokey Poke is decidedly casual - customers can order for takeaway and it’s still BYOB while they wait for their liquor license. 

CAFE CAPRICE: Café Caprice is where the cool kids are on a Sunday night. Combining artisan cocktails, a casual menu, relaxing landscapes and sidewalk seating, Caprice is at the heart of Cape Town's cosmopolitan social scene and has become a virtual landmark on the Camps Bay promenade. The ultimate sunset viewing spot but the fun doesn't stop there because hours are '9 a.m. till late'. *Thursday-Sunday, DJ's fill the space with laid-back house music.

BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB: As soon as you see the bejeweled tiger suspended from the ceiling, you know you’re in a quirky place.  With its bohemian vibe and kitschy, over-the-top neon décor, the design of the Bombay Bicycle Club may seem as though it would trump the menu.  But the restaurant takes its food very seriously, and offers an outstanding menu of fresh fish, giant juicy prawns, and gourmet platters of local meat, including venison tapenade, lamb shanks, and what many claim are the best ribs in Cape Town. 

THE BUNGALOW: Delicate plump sushi, smooth fleshy slivers of line fish, beef carpaccio, piles of prawns, panna cotta that wobbles like a voluptuous woman on stilettos…rustic The Bungalow may be, but food has never made the wooden board it's served on look so good.  Add to that a list of South Africa's best wines and champagnes (yes they stock French Champagne too), along with cocktails that preen and pose on the menu like a line of chorus girls waiting to be cast.  Despite all the fanfare about the food and the booze, nothing will prepare you for the magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean afforded from the dramatic cliff upon which The Bungalow sits in the ever-chic Clifton neighborhood—and never mind the well-heeled, gorgeous local patrons you will encounter.  Barefoot is the new Louboutin at The Bungalow, and as the sun drowns itself in a puddle as pink as rose champagne, curl up with your lover in a velvety private nook, or go find a new one on the sun-dappled deck.

ASOKA: In the shadow of Table Mountain on Kloof Street is Asoka, a stylish Asian fusion restaurant, bar and lounge, known for its distinctive design.  Located in a charming Victorian townhouse, Asoka’s main dining room is build around an open courtyard with an ancient olive tree—referred to as the Dharma Tree—growing straight up the middle.  An outdoor deck with a cozy copper fireplace, inventive menu of tapas and cocktails, and regular live jazz also add to Asoka’s ambiance of comfortable elegance and laid-back romance.

GRAND CAFÉ & BEACH: Perched on the pristine beach of Granger Bay, this local favorite is barefoot elegance at its best. More casual and less menu-focused than some of its competitors, Grand Cafe & Beach is a prime spot for groups to grab pizza and and libations on a sunny day. 

THE POT LUCK CLUB: Located on the top floor of the Old Biscuit Mill on Albert Road, Woodstock - a former industrial complex taken over & reinvented by new merchants, night markets, restaurants and designer stores. The Pot Luck opened its doors in February of 2013 and has since filled 2 sittings every night throughout high and low season alike, running to capacity of one hundred and twenty guests. Dubbed one of the coolest spots to kick back in Cape Town, the Pot Luck owes its success to fantastic views, innovative tapas-style cuisine & a relaxed yet edgy environment in a part of the Cape that has never before attracted an evening dining crowd.

HEMELHUIJS: Hemelhuijs is Dutch for heaven’s house. And if it's any indication of what breakfast tastes like in heaven, you might want to consider behaving yourself from here on out. You should also know that lunch is just as divine...mouth-watering creations such as pear-and-celeriac salad accompanied by hazelnuts & trout. Located on one of Cape Town's few pedestrian walkways, at the corner of exquisite and sublime, where fanciful treats are displayed in gold-painted bowls and beneath a collection of chandeliers intricately crafted from driftwood & star-shaped seedpods (whatever those may be). Hemelhuijs is an impressive showcasing of food, ceramic ware & lighting - so be prepared to take home some extra weight both on your person & and in your suitcase. Not to worry though, it will all be offset by much lighter wallets.

CHEF'S WAREHOUSE & CANTEEN: In need of a food fix & a good book list? Chef's Warehouse & Canteen gives you Liam Tomlin inspired tapas to take in on Bree Street and recommended recipe books to take home on the plane. Mediterranean, European and Spanish make for an ever changing menu with reoccurring favorites such as the feather-light gnocchi, al dente risotto or fresh oysters with shredded nori & lime, to be enjoyed with a side of Parmesan crisps and a cold craft beer or warm artisanal tea depending on the day. Rain or shine, desert is non-negotiable - silky smooth lemon posset & chocolate fondant with essence of orange and a scoop of orange ice cream. Don't trouble yourself with difficult decisions, you're on vacation, get both. 

MULBERRY & PRINCE: A stylish New York inspired eatery located at 12 Pepper Street, Cape Town. A marriage of South African & American conceives unto you creamy stracciatella with lovage and charred bread; cod with an ajo-blanco-inspired sauce; slow-cooked pork shoulder in brodo with burnt leeks and cucumbers & ricotta gnudi with parmesan broth and mushrooms. To complement Mulberry & Prince edgy menu, the space adheres to understated elegance and gives you a chic New-York feel with a South African flair. Expect stained glass, dirty pinks, lush velvets and an eclectic mix of custom-made and modern furniture alongside walls clad in the works of Cape-Town-based artist Kurt Pio.

TEST KITCHEN: A revolutionary blend and beautiful harmony of Peruvian, Venezuelan and Ecuadorean flavors. The Test Kitchen will not only inspire your taste for fine food but will further support your desire for mind-expansive travels. Award-winning chef Luke Dale-Roberts' appoints travel as his muse and the base for most if not all of his delicious creations - "my time in Europe taught me to cook; my time in Asia broadened my horizons". Exceptional South African produce, hand-made plates and bowls, accomplished wine flights, delectable nine-course tasting menus, theatrical style and risky food pairings make for an extraordinary gastronomical experience. Plan ahead, as tables at Test Kitchen can be booked online as far as three months in advance and it’s the most sought-after reservation in town. 

BELUGA: European and cosmopolitan, Beluga is housed in a century-old building and features an open-plan kitchen. It’s renowned for a sophisticated menu of sushi, dim sum and seafood selections, as well as contemporary twists on more traditional meat platters like Lamb Shank with wasabi mash, and Beef Ribs braised in coriander and ginger. On a warm night, ask to be seated in their beautiful stone courtyard. Beluga also has a very vibrant bar scene, offering a fun selection of cocktails—like white chocolate martinis and mojito lollies—that can double as desert. 

NOBU: For those craving a familiar taste, Nobu Cape Town at the luxurious One & Only Hotel and Resort is the first African outpost of the high-end sushi empire, and the menu features unique twists on the restaurant’s classic Japanese cuisine. Indulge in fresh local seafood with indigenous spices and flavors—like the popular Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno—paired with inventive Sake based cocktails from the restaurant’s trendy lounge.  After experiencing Nobu South Africa, home won’t feel so far away. 

THE ROUNDHOUSE: Nestled in the glens of Table Mountain and with sweeping views of Camps Bay and the expansive Atlantic waters, the Roundhouse will inevitably appeal to more than one of your senses. Tapas-style European cuisine with a touch of South African character and an extensive wine collection allow for unique tailored pairings and beautiful displays - every dish is truly a work of art. 

DUTCHESS OF WISBEACH: A restaurant that operates by Mae West's wise words, "you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough". Written up as a hip cross between a New York speakeasy and a Parisian cafe, with fun music and a Mediterranean menu that all help to create a buzzing cool vibe. Homemade ice cream flavors change all the time so no matter how many times you go, you're always in for a delicious surprise. 

KLOOF STREET HOUSE: Dark, boozy and cool. Kloof Street House is an eclectic restaurant, bar and lounge, featuring richly furnished dining rooms set in a gorgeous character-filled Victorian room. Go back in time and go for Sunday lunch Jazz, romantic candle lit dinner or drinks in their cozy garden resting under the shade of cooling lush palm trees. Enjoy mouthwatering sharing boards, Saldanha Bay Oysters and a variety of Moroccan, French and locally inspired dishes.  

Looking to lunch like a local and have a casual bite? Try Culture Club Cheese or Bacon on Bree, which are right next door to each other. 

SOUTHERN SUBURBS - Constantia, Noordhoek, Simons Town

Cape Town’s southern suburbs hold their own in terms of gastronomical delights. We’ve mined the options and picked the best in case you find yourself out that way or feel like getting out of the fray of the city - these are worth the trek. 

In Constantia...

GREENHOUSE: Modern South African fine dining at the serene Cellars-Hohenhort Hotel. Acres of lush gardens and vineyards surround the property where the restaurant has been carefully built around a beautiful 300-year old oak tree. Perhaps inspired by these surroundings, ever dish at Greenhouse tells a story, or such is the motto from this team of accomplished chefs, who make painstaking effort to create a harmony of flavors by selecting and combining local and meaningful ingredients. The artful presentation is almost as impressive as the food itself, and the kitchen is especially accommodating to vegetarians and other dietary restrictions. Greenhouse has won multiple culinary awards and is hailed as one of the country’s best restaurants.

CHEF’S WAREHOUSE AT BEAU CONSTANTIA: Chef Liam Tomlin’s newest outpost is situated inside beautiful boutique wine farm Beau Constantia. The open plan kitchen helmed by Ivor Jones, previously of Test Kitchen, and the elegant space offers some of the best views over the valley and False Bay. As with Chef’s Warehouse downtown outpost the signature experience here is “tapas for 2”. The ever-changing menu of chef’s selections is driven by seasonal and produce-driven mix of ingredients; current or past examples include coal seared blesbok and pork fillet with roasted apple. Of course, the excellent array of wines to pair with the food enhances the experience with opportunities to sample the farm’s own range called Pas de Nom and their bespoke Beau Constantia label, among many others. 

LA COLOMBE: La Colombe is contemporary cuisine at its finest. A creative twist of Asian, a touch of French and a flair of local inspiration make for an unexpectedly delightful fusion. Sourced from the restaurant's organic gardens, paired with an award-wining wine list & served over sweeping views of Constantia Valley, it's no wonder La Colombe is a frequent contender on Cape Town's Top 10 and no stranger to S.Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants. "The freshest seasonal produce, uncomplicated clean flavours and classical elegance are the essence of my inspiration and the passion for my food” - Chef Scot Kirton.

FOXCROFT: Renowned chef Scot Kirton has opened a sister restaurant to famed La Colombe in partnership with his pastry chef - and Foxcroft’s namesake - Glen Foxcroft Williams.  The airy, welcoming space has a freestanding central fireplace and an open kitchen and the menu focuses on quality, seasonal ingredients, like a 7-day dry aged duck breast with turnips and fermented plum. And Williams’ in-house bakery serves up crave-worthy homemade breads and freshly made pastries. Foxcroft has a laidback and comfortable design, while much of the furniture and lighting fixtures are locally designed. 

In Noordhoek...

THE FOODBARN:

The Foodbarn serves fine dining-quality food in a relaxed setting within family-friendly Noordhoek Farm Village. Chef Franck Dangereux, who got his start at La Colombe, has succeeded in creating a comfortable space for both adults and kids to enjoy beautiful food prepared with respect and love, without all the fancy bells and whistles. A place with a focus on sustainable and organic ingredients where one will find fresh bread and coffee roasted from local beans. And beyond just the restaurant, the experience here includes the Foodbarn Deli, a space that sells pastries and other takeaway items during the day and then turns into a vibey tapas bar at night. There’s also a secondhand Barn Bookshop, a favorite among area locals, and at Foodbarn Studio occasional interactive cooking demonstrations.

In Simons Town...

MANGATA: Located on busy St. Georges Street in Simons Town, the chef team behind Mangata, lead by owner William Sharp, has created a contemporary French fusion menu with staples like delicate ostrich carpaccio with bloody Mary jelly, a richly delicious duck breast, and a fantistic creme brulee. Also highly recommended are the 3- or 7-course chef’s tasting menu. The ambiance here is relaxed yet romantic - in colder months it’s a great spot to enjoy a drink by the log fireplace, or in the summer snag a spot on the balcony for views of Simons Town Harbor out to False Bay. If you’re doing a peninsula tour Mangata is the best alternative to some of the more touristy eateries. 

 

Tuesday
Sep122017

Top Destinations for Foodies in Japan, India, and Sri Lanka

Japan, India, and Sri Lanka have some of the most incredible offerings for food lovers that complement or even anchor the extraordinary experiences that can be had on a bespoke luxury trip to Asia with Epic Road. For some people, sightseeing and adventurous excursions are even just a way to fill the time in between meals, and even if you don’t consider yourself a true “foodie” a fantastic meal may end up being one of your favorite trip memories. Maybe it has something to do with sensory overload - the texture of the freshest sushi, the exotic aroma of the spiciest curries, that sleepy satisfaction following the finest meal that’s heightened by tropical surroundings.

TOKYO, Japan

Serious foodies know that Japan’s capital city has some of the best restaurants in the country, which as a whole is known for its incredible cuisine, and boasts some of the best food on Earth. In fact, Tokyo is the city with the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Fresh and innovative sushi is an obvious choice, and a visit to the world-famous Tsukiji Market is a must. Tokyo has excellent food offerings of all kinds that prioritize high-quality seasonal ingredients. Specifically, Yakitori - skewers of meat roasted over hot coals - is a good option for carnivores, as is Kobe beef and Wagyu, a delectable marbled beef that comes from a breed of Japanese cattle. For the Japanese comfort food comes in the form of noodles; in a place known as Ramen Street eight of the best shops cluster together. A visit to a brewery to taste the best sake in the world comes at a price but is worth the indulgence. Excellent dining options are found everywhere from street stalls to back alleys to exclusive eateries, including an Epic Road signature experience involving a private dinner with a geisha and musicians. 

RAJASTHAN, India

India’s Rajasthan region has some of the best food in this colorful nation, and the city of Jaipur sits at the top of the list of foodie hot spots with a cuisine that is influenced by a rich culture of exotic spices, busy bazaars, and diverse religious influences, as well as by its environment. Rajasthan is arid, but despite the dearth of vegetables that grow here the food is primarily vegetarian, with recipes including an abundance of lentils, beans, red chilies, buttermilk, flatbread, rice, garlic, and different types of curries mixing together various spices like fennel, turmeric, and cumin. Perhaps the most famous Rajasthani dish is called dal baati churma, a combination of three distinct flavors and textures: balls of dough (baati) that are usually dipped into a bowl of spice lentils (dal) and then churma, a mixture of wheat, ghee and sugar. Dal baati churma is emblematic of the Rajasthani way of combining sweet and savory in one meal, with no demarcation between entree and dessert. To sweeten the overall experience in Rajasthan, Epic Road can arrange a private full moon excursion to the magnificent Taj Mahal at sunset or a stay at the sophisticated Jawai Leopard Camp in the Aravalli Hills where meals include organic produce from their own garden. 

SRI LANKA

In Sri Lanka, the island’s colonial history means that the culture and gastronomy both have Portugese, Dutch and English influences. The food also takes a cue from nearby India with a strong focus on rice and curries, albeit without the bite - Sri Lankan food tends to incorporate milder spices like cardamom and cinnamon. Expect to see a huge variety of flavors in menu offerings, with unusual options like pumpkin curry with mustard seeds, jackfruit curry, and side dishes like mixed leafy greens with coconut, flatbreads and homemade chutneys. As a relatively small country, it’s possible to sample and savor it all in one trip: a visit to the tea plantations in the southern hill country, the high end restaurants and street food stalls in cosmopolitan Colombo, and fresh seafood restaurants in northern Jaffna. For a really special experience, Epic Road can set up private cooking lessons for a chance to learn - and taste! - more about this underappreciated cuisine. 

Click here to a deeper look at the incredible travel experiences to be had in different parts of Asia with Epic Road, and read more in depth information on our pages about Japan, India, and Sri Lanka

 

Wednesday
Sep062017

Off the Beaten Path Travel in Africa - Festivals and Ceremonies

 For a truly unique adventure in Africa, consider a trip to take part in a colorful arts & music festival or an authentic tribal ceremony. Africa has so much to offer in the way of fascinating cultural experiences where visitors are more than welcome to join in the festivities, and keep in mind that the less-visited places can sometimes be the most culturally rich. Tourists have a unique opportunity to support locals in nations where the local people are some of the most welcoming in all the world. Below are a few examples of experiences to be had across the continent at different times of year: from a courtship ritual in Chad to a sacrificial voodoo ceremony in Benin or a Burning Man-style festival in South Africa, there is so much to explore. 

AfrikaBurn - South Africa - Much like its U.S. counterpart Burning Man, AfrikaBurn is a collaborative celebration of the arts where a community of volunteers and participants create a temporary city of theme camps, musical performances, visual art creation, elaborate costume exhibitions, and more. Located in the remote and arid Tankwe Karoo National Park, a beautiful spot to experience the region’s desert flora, fauna, and wildlife. 

Sauti za Busara - Tanzania - Each February, vibrant Stone Town in Zanzibar hosts a music festival where locals and visitors come together to experience the best of East African music through performances by hundreds of local artists. Visitors can expect an atmosphere filled with electric energy set against an incomparable backdrop of coastal scenery, including some of the world’s best sunsets. 

Timkat - Ethiopia - Celebrated every January over three days, Timkat - also called the Feast of the Epiphany - is a colorful religious event involving horsemen, bells, trumpets, and a mass. Priests ceremoniously extinguish a candle in a river which is generally followed by participants jumping into the water.

Lake of Stars Music Festival - Malawi - On the banks of Lake Malawi, arguably one of the most picturesque locations for a music festival in the world, the town of Chintheche hosts Malawian musicians as well as globally famous artists, and the music-lovers who celebrate them, for an annual festival in September/October that also honors Malawian culture and raises money for local charities. 

Panafest - Ghana - a biennial celebration of music, performance, strength and resilience, Panafest promotes unity of Africans and people of African descent. The weeklong festival hosts creative performers of all kind in the realms of theater, music, poetry, and more.

Durbar - Nigeria  -  An annual tourist-friendly festival in various cities of northern Nigeria, Durbar marks the end of Ramadan with a roaring celebration of loyalty to the Emir. Men in extravagant turbans show off their horsemanship while wild performances by musicians and acrobats are accompanied by the shooting of muskets.

Gerewol Festival - Chad - Gerewol is a colorful and exuberant festival of courtship that takes place annually in Chad among the Wodaabe, a tribe of nomadic cattle herders.  The young men dress up in elaborate costumes and engage with young female tribe members in dancing, singing, feasting and flirting rituals.

The Nguon Festival - Cameroon - A biennial event dating back over 500 years, the Nguon Festival celebrates the culture of the Bemouan people with stunning costumes, dancing and rituals. Named for a type of locust to celebrate the harvest, the festivities hit a high point when the current king is deposed, critiqued and then ceremoniously reinstated to his throne.  

Voodoo Festival - Benin - Once a year in January the Beninese people come together to honor their spirits with a ceremonial goat sacrifice, and to dance and chant to drumbeats and drink gin. The event happily intermingles thousands of voodoo devotees and plenty of curious tourists. 

Interested in planning an unforgettable trip to the heart of Africa? Email us at hello@epicroad.com. 

 

 

Thursday
Jul202017

Top Tips for Your Honeymoon in New Zealand


If you’re planning a honeymoon to New Zealand, you’ve chosen one of the most pristine, otherworldly places on earth for your once-in-a-lifetime trip. With daring adventure travel to test your nerves, gorgeous, cliff-clinging luxury lodgings to calm your body and mind, and gourmet meals with local wines, produce and meat to tease your senses, New Zealand is a top choice for honeymooners. We’ve compiled a list below of just a few of the most romantic, memorable experiences in the land of the Kiwis. 

Stay

On the North Island, The Lodge at Kinloch, Taupo, is a modern version of a dramatic Scottish castle, where guests take in views of the gorgeous lake or play golf on their renowned par-72 course. For those wanting proximity to Auckland but a taste of country life, the Boatshed at Waiheke Island is a short ferry ride away, set amidst gardens, olive oil farms and vineyards. 

On the South Island romance, seclusion and outdoor adventures abound. At mountainous alpine lodge Blanket Bay, Glenorchy, honeymooners hike on trails past waterfalls and wildflowers, then unwind with soul-soothing spa treatments and cozy nights in front of the fireplace. Annandale, an elegant working farm on a peninsula near Christchurch, offers guests the luxury of a private chef in an off-the-grid location surrounded by fields full of roaming sheep. 

Taste

New Zealand has a culinary scene with top notch restaurants like the award-winning Sidart in Auckland, or the plethora of fine dining options in Wellington, the country’s culinary capital. Food is of the highest quality everywhere, with many luxury properties sourcing fruit and vegetables from the gardens on their own property, and sheep and cow meat is all free range. Freshly caught seafood in the form of mussels from local farms or Tuatua, a type of indigenous New Zealand shellfish that isn’t found anywhere else in the world, are readily available. For a truly authentic experience try Hangi, a Maori specialty comprised of some combination of fish, chicken, sweet potato, pumpkin, cabbage and root vegetables, cooked in a hole dug in the ground and best experienced on a visit to a Maori village. For wine enthusiasts visiting Marlborough, New Zealand’s most famous wine region, is a must. 

Experience

For adrenaline junkies, the best thrill ride of your life might be a bungy jump with your new spouse over the Nevis River in the Nevis Swing, which can hold two people. In Abel Tasman National Park, beautiful Cleopatra’s Pool is a good spot for a romantic dip, or ride down a waterslide that has been formed naturally by moss covered rocks. During the summer months (January - March) the beaches at Herne Bay are a luxe locale to see and be seen near surf and sun, while swimming with dolphins off Kaikoura and Lake Taupo fly fishing round out the outdoorsy activities for the more adventurous. During winter, heli-skiing in Queenstown is a surprisingly affordable, and unforgettable, treat, as is snuggling up at a prime spot on Stewart Island or Dunedin to watch the fantastical Aurora Australis, the Antarctic Circle’s answer to the northern lights. 

Contact us at hello@epicroad.com to start planning your perfect New Zealand honeymoon, and check out our main New Zealand page for more general information. 

 

Friday
Jun302017

New Zealand Travel: Top Surprising Facts

 

When planning your dream trip to New Zealand you’ll learn about all the best travel experiences, from daring outdoor adventures in Aoraki/ Mt. Cook National Park, to cultural immersion with the indigenous Maori people at a marae near Auckland, to touring with your taste buds through the Marlborough wine region. But whether New Zealand has been on your ultimate travel bucket list for years or you just added it, some of the following fun facts may surprise you:

1. World of Sheep - New Zealand is home to 40 Million Sheep and just about four million humans, which is the highest sheep to human ratio in the world. Sheep roam freely at some of the country’s top resorts, like the Annandale or Minaret Station.

2. Bungee Pioneers - The first-ever commercial bungee jump took place in New Zealand in 1988. The best spot for it now is world famous Nevis Bungee over the Nevis River,  a major adrenaline rush for even the most adventurous thrill-seeker. 

3. New Zealand is for Wine Lovers -  Marlborough on the north island is the biggest region and best known for its tantalizing and flavorful sauvignon blancs. Two-thirds of the wine produced in New Zealand is white but red wine enthusiasts will find plenty to satisfy their taste buds too. 

4. Golf Central - New Zealand has the most golf courses per capita in the world with more than 400, some of which are situated surrounding the most magnificent resorts, including Kauri Cliffs at Matauri Bay or The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.

5. Southern Lights - The southern hemisphere’s counterpart to the Aurora Borealis is the Aurora Australis and New Zealand is one of the best places to see this natural and fantastical light show in the sky. 

6. Shrinking Mount Cook - In 1991 a large rock fall sliced a full ten meters off the top of New Zealand’s highest peak turning the summit into a knife edge ridge, which means present day climbers will never reach as high in the sky as the early mountaineers. One of those early explorers was Emmeline Freda Du Faur, the fourth person to summit Mt. Cook, and she was faster than all of the men who preceded her. 

7. The Littlest Penguin - New Zealand (as well as neighboring Australia) is home to the world’s smallest penguin species, known as Korora by the native Maori, or also just called Little Penguin. These tiny friends stand at an average of just 13 inches tall. 

8. Culture Trip - For the Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous population, a typical greeting doesn’t involve a handshake or a hug but rather a Hongi, where two people press their noses and foreheads together at the same time.

 

Visit our main New Zealand page with more info about the mind-blowing experiences and luxurious lodgings you might find on a trip with Epic Road to this utopian corner of the world. 

Wednesday
Feb012017

Safari With Epic Road & Adopt A Baby Orphaned Elephant At The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust In Kenya

Elephants have lived on Earth for over 55 million years. 

Over just the last 100 years, we have lost 92% of elephants to habitat loss & ivory poaching.


A typical story...a baby elephant’s mother is illegally poached for her tusks which are turned into ivory trinkets and sold to supply the voracious demand of the wildlife trade. If the baby elephant is not also killed, she is often found draped over her mothers carcass, traumatized, and on the brink of starvation with no access to her mother’s milk.

Kenya's David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescues, rehabilitates and re-introduces orphaned baby elephants back into the wild. And as you can see, they are extremely well cared for.

@epicroad is a proud supporter of the DSWT and provides its' travelers with the special opportunity to have a private visit with dozens of orphaned baby African elephants who are being cared for until they are able to be released back into the wild.

Like human children, baby elephants need toys and stimulation. Highly intelligent, with a giant memory, they duplicate human children in many ways, so during infancy, distractions of all sorts must be built into the daily routine. The Keepers take them on walks and play with them every day, they even give them weekly coconut oilings which the eles are particularly fond of.

Cause for celebration is when a baby elephant plays for the first time, because only then can one be sure of a reasonable chance of success as an elephant will only thrive if they are happy.

Be that cause.

Email us at hello@epicroad.com to start planning your next transformative travel experience.


In this video you will see Epic Road Co-Founder Mark Lakin and client Jennifer Wexler meet, connect and bond with these playful and extraodinarily intelligent animals. 

For All Inquiries Email: hello@epicroad.com

Follow Us On Instagram: @epicroad

Thursday
Jan122017

The Best Travel to the Seychelles & the Seychelles' Best Kept Secret

The Best Travel to the Seychelles & the Seychelles' Best Kept Secret

The Seychelles is the ultimate destination for a luxurious beach vacation. Typically reserved for the most special of occasions, the Seychelles is the perfect destination for a honeymoon, wedding anniversary, the romantic retreat of her dreams, the best escape from reality - but that's due in large to the fact that the Seychelles is one of the most luxurious beach destinations in the world - a.k.a, one of the most expensive. But if you can afford it, that's all the reason you need. And whereas the Seychelles evokes that once in a lifetime exclusive, intimate, private beach dream trip for two, the Seychelles' 115 isles are also a preferred destination for a family vacation or a great escape for no particular reason. 

If the Seychelles is on your radar, as it should be, you can find everything you need to know about the Seychelles and how to have the most extraordinary of experiences whilst there by reading through Epic Road's Signature Honeymoon in the Seychelles.

Epic Road is an award-winning custom-design travel company - named Top Travel Specialist by Travel+Leisure two years in a row (2016 & 2015), with a special acknowledgement for our expertise & insider knowledge pertaining to the African continent & the best luxury travel to Africa as well as to Antarctica & Japan. 

So if you're looking for a customized, seamless & unforgettable experience - rest assured you'll get nothing less than when you travel to the Seychelles with Epic Road. 

To start planning your luxury safari to the Seychelles, just send us a note at hello@epicroad.com

And to uncover one of the Seychelles' best kept secrets, simply read on.

A 26 Foot Tall Raised Coral Reef Home to 100,000 Giant Tortoises

From above, the Aldabra Atoll, adrift the Indian Ocean, looks like a giant utopian green fortress - much like the Aldabra tortoise from which it gets its' name - a 470 pound gentle giant native to these waters and these bathlike turquoise waters and the greater Seychelles archipelago that dwells upon them. The species roam freely (and slowly) across many & most of the 115 isles, but this one atoll in particular is home to more than 100,000 i.e. two-thirds of the species' global population. This same atoll is also home to the world's second largest raised coral reef, topping out at 26 feet! 

A World Heritage site, consisting of four coral islands encircling an immense central lagoon and bizarre limestone structures referred to as champignons like the one pictured above. Over time, tidal waters will erode the coral, gradually chipping away at the structure's teetering stem before eventually toppling over into shallow waters.

Epic Road is your go-to travel resource for extraordinary, unique & impactful experiences all around the world. Our goal is to provide you with the knowledge & access so that you can do incredible things like reconstruct coral or get hands on with Aldabra tortoise conservation from one of the most arrestingly beautiful far-flung corners of the world; so that you can discover how to travel with purpose and always leave a place better than you found it; so that you can see for yourself that travelling this way always makes for a far better experience.

Epic Road was born out of the idea that you should never have to sacrifice consciousness for luxury to have an incredible travel experience, and that in fact, the most extraordinary of journeys include both moments of indulgence & inspiration. We pride ourselves on creating trips that make our clients feel alive with the right blend of adventure, immersion, education, comfort & safety...trips that focus on exploration and enjoyment, yet blend in experiences that broaden your perspective of humanity and the environment. 

Thursday
Jul142016

The Best Safaris to See Lions - Top 5 Safaris to See Lions by Africa Travel Experts at Epic Road

The lion is perhaps Africa's, if not the world's, most iconic animal. Travelers come from near and far to see the African lion, but sadly there are fewer than you might think. We have lost 98.4% of lions. If you've just read that and paused to reflect on how alarming 98.4% is, you'll be encouraged to know that your travel dollars to Africa's leading national parks often entirely go to the conservation and protection of these big cats. Eco-tourism is alive and well in Africa and the great part about safaris is that you're not only having an extraordinary experience, you're helping to conserve our world's incredible wildlife. Even the safari lodges turn around and contribute a great portion of their earnings to help protect the animals. So now that we've given you the best reason to go on safari, let's run through the best safaris to see lions. The following safaris are in our opinion, the top 5 safaris to see lions: Masai Mara National Reserve, the Okavango Delta, Serengeti National Park, Mana Pools National Park & the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary.

Best Safari to See Lions #1 - Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

The Masai Mara is a large game reserve in south-western Kenya, globally famous for its exceptional population of lions (as well as leopard, cheetah and many other species). This is where BBC filmed their series 'Big Cat Diaries' and where Disney filmed their documentary 'African Cats'. So if you plan to visit the Masai Mara for spectacular lion sightings, these two films serve as the ultimate teaser for what's to come. And that is because you will safari along the Mara River and through the territories of the Marsh Pride and a number of other lion families that were actually depicted in both these films.

The Masai Mara is also the stomping ground for Great Plains Conservation, an amazing company founded by National Geographic filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert, and a leading expert in eco-tourism. Their mission is to find the perfect balance of conservation, communities and commerce that allow for a sustainable and long lasting impact on both wildlife and wilderness. Their safari lodges and properties are phenomenal, their guides know the land better than anyone else and their dedication to and deep knowledge of the African continent will make for a truly extraordinary safari experience.

Best Safari to See Lions #2 - The Okavango Delta, Botswana

Botswana's Okavango Delta was named the 1000th site on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Simply put, the Okavango Delta is mind-blowing. It is one of the few places in the world that still feels untouched by man, wilderness and wildlife abound and you truly feel as though you've entered a different world. And to top that all off, the Okanvango Delta hosts one of the densest lion populations on the African continent. The Okavango Delta is an earthly paradise for Africa's big cats which allows for its safaris to boast guaranteed lion sightings.

Within the Okavango Delta is Great Plains Conservation's Duba Plains, a permanent island with exclusive access to a unique lion habitat and particularly know for its confrontations between these hungry cats and big herds of buffalo. The buffalo are trapped by surrounding water, a well-known fact to resident lions and your front seat ticket to epic battles between the two species.

Another camp to keep on your radar is Selinda Explorer's Camp. The property has access to a channel where the Okavango Delta links with the Linyanti and Kwando water systems, and where lions are often seen preying on hippos.

The Okavango Delta hosts an abundance of prey and is considered the predator capital of Africa. It is almost as if the delta was formed to give lions an upper hand in hunting, and this means you'll undoubtedly see a lot of them. A safari in the Okavango Delta is hands down one of the best safaris to see Africa's big cats.

Best Safari to See Lions #3 - Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The Serengeti is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world, in other words, it's a must on your top safaris list. The Serengeti National Park is home to the Great Migration, the largest terrestrial mammal migration on the planet, and similar to the Okavango Delta, lions and other predators certainly take advantage of the abundance of prey. 1.7 million wildebeest migrate in search of food and water and the lions follow. It's virtually impossible to miss a herd of that size so follow the migration and you can bet you'll see lions trailing behind.

With the right guide, and at the right time of year, you can expect more than 150 lion sightings. You'll see them resting on the ground, wading through the waters, taking down their unlucky prey and climbing nearby acacia trees. And that is why the Serengeti offers one of the best safaris to see lions, as well as one of the best safaris overall.

Best Safari to See Lions #4 - Mana Pool National Park, Zimbabwe

Depending on how close you wish to get to Africa's lions, a safari at Mana Pools may or may not be for you. Zimbabwe's Vundu Camp within the national park conducts walking safaris, enabling visitors to approach wild lions more closely on foot than anywhere else on the continent. So if you're up for it, you'll approach on foot to about 50 yards and then crouch down and continue to inch forwards within 20 yards. The experience is exhilarating and not to worry, you will be escorted and directed by an expert guide. These walking safaris operate from May through November, but a regular safari is available year-round.

Best Safari to See Lions #5 - The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary, South Africa

The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary is a unique opportunity for volunteers and avid travelers who are interested in hands on lion conservation. The sanctuary was created by Kevin Richardson himself, often called the 'Lion Whisperer' and you can forego teh typical safari experience or pair with it, and spend 1-4 weeks working with Kevin, his team and the lions under their purview.

Volunteers work from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, 6 days a week and while much of the work is physically demanding, it is incredibly rewarding to know that you're actively helping to conserve one of our greatest species. And if you're lucky, you may get the chance to interact with some of the younger animals.

Head of International Development for Twitter, Marie Sornin, has recently launched an incredibly inspiring personal project involving Kevin's work. She and her husband will volunteer at the sanctuary in November 2016, and will thereafte spend the next year raising funds for another couple to do the very same thing. That couple will volunteer their time in 2017 and fundraise for the next and so goes the cycle. It's a great way to actively encourage people to get involved in lion conservation and help raise awareness about the plight of the species, which is the sanctuary's ultimate vision. To learn more about how to get involved, send us a note at hello@epicroad.com