EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

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

 

Wednesday
Jun222016

The Best Honeymoon Safaris - Top 5 Honeymoon Safari Destinations According to Travel Experts at Epic Road

This list of our top 5 honeymoon safaris are each the perfect blend of romance and spectacular wildlife sightings. Africa is home to epic landscapes, natural wonders, incredible cultures, iconic wildlife and remote romance. It really is the perfect destination for newlyweds looking for an extraordinary romantic getaway. After all, a honeymoon is meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and an African safari vacation is exactly that. The best honeymoon safari destinations according to us are Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia and the Seychelles. We recommend Benguerra Island and Tofo Beach for Mozambique, Zanzibar for Tanzania, the Cape Winelands & Kruger National Park for South Africa, Hardap for Namibia and both North Island and Fregate Island for the Seychelles.

Best Honeymoon Safari #1 - Benguerra Island & Tofo Beach, Mozambique

Mozambique is the perfect destination for incredible underwater safaris and an all-around 5-star luxury experience, as we wouldn't suggest anything less for your honeymoon. The warm current contributes to the never-ending buildup of the pristine sandy coastline, over which coutless palm trees dangle - creating an idyllic tropical island stretch of beach.

An exquisite piece of paradise surrounded by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean where the pace of life slows and the scent of fresh grilled lobster fills the air. Relax on intimate beaches and only get up for a dip in the crystal clear, bathtub-like waters.

Situated on the second largest island in the sunny Bazaruto Archipelago off the coast of Mozambique, is &Beyond Benguerra. Set in a protected marine conservation area boasting unspoiled coral reefs teeming with marine life. Looking out onto a sandy beach and set on a deep lagoon unaffected by the tides, this exclusive beach getaway is ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Surrounded by premier diving sites, the lodge provides access to an underwater wonderland with a rich variety of tropical fish species complemented by Africa’s only population of the rare dugong. The deep Mozambique Channel, which runs alongside the island, is renowned for its game fish and Benguerra Island offers some of the world’s best catch-and-release deep sea fishing and fly fishing opportunities. While the island is fringed with golden, sandy beaches, its interior is a lush patchwork of forests, wetlands & fresh water lakes. Horse riding trips and island expeditions cross both the coastline and the interior of the island, uncovering traditional culture at the local village and climbing soaring sand dunes.

As for Tofo Beach, it just so happens to be the world's premier destination for swimming with whale sharks and manta rays.

Best Honeymoon Safari #2 - Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar is a gorgeous white-sand archipelago located off the coast of Tanzania and home to historic Stone Town, one of East Africa's last remaining ancient cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can wander the town's narrow cobblestone streets and bustling marketplaces, swim in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean and come face-to-face with the exceptional aquatic life that Zanzibar has to offer. One of our favorite properties here is the Mnemba Island Lodge. The lodge occupies a previously uninhabited island just 5 km from the eastern coast of Zanzibar and at its center lies a tropical forest, home to spaniel-size suni antelope and brilliantly colored butterflies. The lodge itself boasts ten private bandas perfectly nestled in between lush forest and white beach.

Best Honeymoon Safari #3 - Cape Winelands & Kruger National Park, South Africa

A trip incorporating both the Cape Winelands and South Africa's Kruger National Park is the perfect romantic getaway. The Winelands' breathtaking bucolic hills, award-winning vineyards, restaurants and 5-star luxury properties paired with Kruger's 2 million hectares of land and over 147 species of mammals is simply guaranteed to be incredible - and that's exactly what you want for your honeymoon.

The Winelands has the quintessential charm and activities such as biking through the vineyards with a romantic picnic at sunset and Kruger has the adventure, the adrenaline-filled safari and the experience of a lifetime that will surely make the best of memories - and both have the luxury. Our selection of properties in the Winelands are mostly private estates boasting suites with verandahs and pools overlooking the vineyards and our selection of properties in Kruger are built on the very grounds that the animals call home, so you can often see them grazing or galloping by as you relax from your private jacuzzi as the big African sun sets, champagne in hand.

Best Honeymoon Safari #4 - Sossusvlei & Skeleton Coast, Namibia

Namibia is beginning to make an appearance on travellers' radars, especially those looking for an epic getaway that is romantic, luxurious and adventurous all at the same time. Namibia gets its name from the Namib Desert, a 10 million acre expanse of mountainous terrain, broken up by endless streaks of red and golden dunes and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. It's both rugged and peaceful in the sense that the surrounding wildlife and wilderness have adapted to harsh surroundings in an incredible way. The coastline is scattered with sunken shipwrecks and massive seal colonies, meanwhile lion, antelope, elephant, rhino and more roam the dunes. And you get to observe all of this from light aircraft or hot air balloon above and quad bike or 4x4 on ground. You can also trek up the dunes and roll down!

As for the properties, they're mind-blowing. The challenge of eco-tourism in Namibia has led way to incredibly innovative and luxurious desert lodges - ones that reflect and respect the natural surroundings yet provide every comfort imaginable. Among our favorites are Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Little Kulala and Serra Cafema.

Namibia is considered one of the top stargazing destinations in the world. Skies are often cloudless, there is little to no artificial light or pollution contamination and the overhead views of the southern constellations are truly unmatched. Some of our favorite lodges, as mentioned above, feature private rooftop sky beds built above open-aired luxury suites so that you can literally sleep under the stars.

In Namibia, everything is uncapped - the romance, the luxury, the nature, the wildlife and the adventure.

Best Honeymoon Safari #5 - North Island & Fregate Island, Seychelles

Saving the best for last may apply here. The Seychelles is a drop dead gorgeous archipelago of 115 pristine islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Kenya. We always say that the best part about the Seychelles are the sweeping vertical views, because when you're relaxing from your private pool or swinging lounge chair for 2, the panoramic view looks out over spectacular mountain tops, crystal clear waters, crescent shaped white powder beaches and some of the msot massive granite rock formations on the planet. Warm weather year-round, amazing luxury properties, award-winning beaches such as Anse Source D'Argent and spectacular diving make the Seychelles the ultimate destination for an exclusive luxury honeymoon.

North Island and Fregate are both private islands, exclusively accesible by helicopter or small boat. As North Island features only 11 villas, each at 5,000 square feet and with your own private butler on call 24/7, the property guarantees a truly luxurious experience. Rates include just about everything from scuba diving, private yacht rentals, hiking and kayaking but the price certainly reflects the abundance of services and amenities. Fregate Island similarly boasts 16 intimate villas, each one nestled into the coastal line, with a private pool and sunken jacuzzi and a sumptuous daybed overlooking the lush jungle behind and the deep blue seas beyond. Fregate Island is also home to 7 beaches, one frequently voted 'most beautiful beach in the world'. And we haven't even covered the spas...

Now onto the safari part. The Seychelles is consistently rated one of the best diving destinations in the world. Sea turtles, sting rays, whale sharks and a plethora of tropical fish decorate the healthy coral reefs and granite alcoves. And keep in mind that all of the resorts we recommend feature house reefs, which means that what will easily be the best diving or snorkelling experience you've ever had, is just steps from your daybed. The Seychelles is also home to 660 pound giant tortoises. The Aldabra Tortoise is native only to the Seychelles, they roam freely on the islands and will happily eat a handful of leaves right out of your palm. To learn more about our signature honeymoon in the Seychelles, click here.

Friday
May132016

The Best Safaris to See the Big Five - Top 5 Safaris to See Africa's Big Five

When researching the best safaris, you will often come across 'the Big Five'. The Big 5 refers to the African lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. These animals certainly aern't the only ones you wish to see on your luxury safari, but if your travel time is limited or this is your first safari, we definitely want to make sure you see as many as Africa's incredible wildlife as possible - including of course the iconic big 5. We have chosen five safaris that we feel are the top 5 safaris to see the big 5 and they are the following: Kruger National Park & Madikwe Reserve (South Africa), Serengeti National Park & Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania), Masai Mara (Kenya), the Okavango Delta & Chobe National Park (Botswana) and Hwange Park & Mana Pools (Zimbabwe).

It is sometimes difficult to see all members of the big 5 on one safari but at the right park, with the right guide and at the right time of day, you can certainly maximize your chances. Safaris usually take place in the early morning or at night, as the animals escape the midday heat and hide out in the shade for the better part of the afternoon. Expert guides know the land better than anyone else, as well as the animals' behavioral patterns and habitat preferences, which is key when trying to get a glimpse of the leopard for example, as they are such an elusive species. Many of the parks do offer self-guided tours but we do recommend that you opt for a fully guided safari at least once during your stay. Conveniently, many of the luxury safari lodges have in-house guides who are often times the best you can get.

If you want to really prepare for your safari, you can always learn about the species beforehand. To do so, visit our post on Seeing the Big Five on a Luxury Safari in Africa. With that, there's nothing left to do but read on for the 5 best parks to see Africa's incredible animals!

Best Safari to See the Big Five #1 - Kruger National Park & Madikwe Reserve, South Africa

Kruger National Park is South Africa's flagship game park as well as one of Africa's best national parks overall and one of the most famous nature reserves in the world. Kruger is home to over 147 species of mammals including over 2,000 lions, with 5-8 lions per 100km2. Kruger also hosts an elephant population of over 13,000, an estimated 37,000 buffalo, 1,000 leopard, 1,500-3,000 white rhino and 300 black rhino.

Madikwe Game Reserve is listed as the 5th largest game reserve but unlike Kruger, it is one of the lesser-known parks in South Africa. This allows for a more intimate experience while still offering an extraordinary safari and the chance to spot the big 5. Madikwe boasts common elephant, lion, white rhino and buffalo sightings whereas catching a glimpse of the black rhino and leopard is a little less frequent. Hippo, zebra and wildebeest are also common sightings throughout the park, as well as the endangered wild dog. Granted, the wild dog is not a member of the big 5, but given their highly endangered status, it is a rare privilege to see them and Madikwe has an exceptional population of these amazing animals.

A combined safari with Kruger National Park and Madikwe is hands down, one of the best ways to see the big 5 and an all-around incredible experience.

Best Safari to See the Big Five #2 - Serengeti National Park & Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

A safari in Tanzania is one of our all-time favorites, arguably our preferred safari overall, so the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater are certainly the way to go. The Ngorongoro Crater is a must as one of the world's most astonishing natural wonders, and the Serengeti is the perfect pairing as a quieter, more private safari experience.

Lions and other predator populations are always relative to the number of prey, so with sizeable numbers of blue wildebeest, gazelle, zebra and buffalo, the Serengeti is also home to a large population of lions. With 2 million wildebeest, 900,000 gazelle, 300,000 zebra and 70,000 buffalo, it makes sense that these vast plains are also home to 4,000 lions and 1,000 leopard. Serengeti National Park also hosts 2,700 elephants and though the rhino population is uncertain, the park has made great efforts over recent years to reintroduce and help protect the species. The Serengeti is also home to the Great Migration, the largest migration of mammals on the planet, so not only will you get to observe the big 5, you will see them interact with one another as they move through the ecosystem in search of food and water.

As for the Ngorongoro Crater, it is one of the most beautiful natural wildlife safari sites in the world and an exceptional place to see the big 5. The Ngorongoro Crater is a highly-esteemed wildlife sanctuary, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 8th Wonder of the World and Africa's Garden of Eden - home to over 25,000 large mammals, thereby making it the densest concentration of wildlife on the continent.The grounds are home to a healthy population of all members of the big 5: rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo. Other wildlife include cheetah, jackal, gazelle, hyena, foxes, flamingo and large herds of wildebeest. The wildlife stays in the crater year-round so there's really no bad time to visit, but it's a popular site and may therefore be more pleasant to visit during the shoulder or low seasons.

Best Safari to See the Big Five #3 - Masai Mara, Kenya

The Masai Mara lies directly on the path of the Great Migration, thereby making it the ultimate location for extraordinary wildlife sightings. The animals migrate from the Serengeti plains further north to Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. Much of what applies to the Serengeti in terms of wildlife sightings, is similarly relevant to the Mara. The reserve is home to roughly 825 lions, 35,000 elephants, 40 rhino, thousands of Cape buffalo and a healthy leopard population. The Mara hosts over 95 species of mammals and reptiles including resident crocodiles, spotted hyena, cheetah, giraffe and over 570 recorded species of birds. Similar to the Serengeti, the Mara's dominant inhabitants are the wildebeest, their numbers consistently ranking in the millions.

A safari in the Masai Mara can be done by open-aired vehicle, hot air ballon, on horseback or by foot. The Great Migration runs through Kenya from July to October but regular safari is on offer year-round and is amazing in its' own right, even preferrable to those who ardently wish to avoid crowds of any sort during their travels.

Best Safari to See the Big Five #4 - The Okavango Delta & Chobe National Park, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is one of Africa's last remaining great wildlife habitats and as such provides refuge to huge concentrations of game, including every member of the big 5. The delta sustains robust populations of white and black rhino, lion, elephant, buffalo and leopard. It is home to 130 species of mammals, 482 birds, 64 reptiles, 89 fish and over 1000 different plant species.

What is fascinating about the Okavango Delta is that the animals have adapted to the wetland habitat and resident lions have actually learned to swim in pursuit of their prey as well as climb trees for a better vantage point. The lions of Duba Plains within the delta have also developed the habit of hunting during the day as opposed to at night - this is good news for you as it means you will have better chances of spotting these big cats. Buffalo are typically the favored prey of lions and it is a common saying in the Okavango Delta that 'where there's buffalo, there are lions'.

As for Chobe National Park, it is Botswana's third largest park and has one of the largest game concentrations in Africa. Chobe is home to huge herds of elephant and buffalo as well as high numbers of lions and leopard and a smaller population of rhino. The area is famous for having the biggest elephants in the world both in size and number, with an estimated 35,000 to 55,000 depending on time of year. The elephants are extremely fond of the Chobe riverfront and have more or less claimed it as their own so you will most likely see them chasing other wildlife away from the water. The image above was taken at Chobe National Park and does a decent job of portraying a herd's territorial dominance over the waterfront...

Best Safari to See the Big Five #5 - Hwange National Park & Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe's largest game park extending over an area of 14,600 km2. It is a haven for wildlife and home to vast herds of elephant and buffalo and over 500 lions. Leopard sightings are fairly uncommon as per usual and rhino sightings are unfortunately rare. Outside of the big 5, Hwange also has an exceptionally large concentration of giraffe and a significant population of zebra.

To safari through Hwange National Park today is to see what much of Africa looked like centuries ago, and it's truly extraordinary.

Mana Pools is also up there as one of Zimbabwe's best parks and a World Heritage Site, coined as such even before the great Victoria Falls. The Zambezi River runs right through the park which is very inviting to the animals, especially elephants and lions. Mana Pools is also home to the other members of the big 5, rhino, buffalo and leopard and as you might imagine, the region attracts very large hippos and crocodiles. Mana hosts a special walking safari where you can safely get within just yards of lions and other big mammals - these operate between the months of May and November. Regular safari is available any time of the year.

Final Notes

The African continent has so much to offer, even beyond the most amazing safaris. Africa is home to many of our Earth's natural wonders, the few remaining indigenous tribal cultures and a selection of mind-blowing luxury lodges. Planning your safari can be a little tricky with so much to choose from, animal migratory routes and seasons to take into consideration but not to worry, that is what we're here for. Epic Road was named Top Travel Specialist by Travel+Leisure, notably for our expertise in travel to the African continent, so if you're looking for a customized & seamless experience, just send us a note at hello@epicroad.com.

Thursday
Apr142016

The Best Family Safari Lodges in Tanzania - Top Safaris for Kids & Families in Tanzania

An African safari is an incredible travel experience for everyone and for every occasion whether it's a honeymoon, a romantic getaway or a family vacation. As for families, especially those travelling with younger children, you want to make sure that the destination, accommodation and experiences are all child-friendly and can be enjoyed by everyone. A safari is the ultimate vacation for families, and even more so if you select the safari lodge that is right for you.

We have compiled the following list of the best family safari lodges in Tanzania & the top safaris for kids and families when visiting Tanzania. Our selection features lodges that expertly combine the notions of luxury, comfort, safety, fine foods, breathtaking natural surroundings, surreal proximity to Africa's iconic wildlife and last but not least, fun for all ages.

It is important to note that in the interest of safety however, the majority of safari camps do have age restrictions when it comes to younger children participating in safari game drives. These restrictions vary but most recommend that kids, at most, under the age of 12 or, at the very least, under the age of 6, not partake in game drives - the decision is often left upto the property manager's or your guide's discretion. To compensate however, many of the lodges have designed amazing programs that are specifically geared towards children with activities and are both fun-filled and educational. Moreover, the properties in the below list of the best family safari lodges all feature an incredible selection of activities that parents and children can enjoy together.

&Beyond Bateleur Camp

&Beyond Bateleur Camp is technically located in Kenya's Masai Mara National Park but seeing as it shares a border with Tanzania's Serengeti National Park, and given its' phenomenal reputation as one of the best safari lodges for families, we opted to include it regardless. &Beyond Bateleur Camp was listed as highly recommended at the Safari Awards 2016, specifically under the category of 'Best Family Safari Experience'.

The lodge easily and happily accommodates parents who wish to share a room with younger children. Safari game drives are available to children aged 12 and above, though those aged 6 to 12 are allowed on game drives per the lodge manager's discretion. Whereas children under the age of 6 are not permitted to participate in game drives, the camp has a series of supervised kid-friendly activities that can be arranged during your safari as well as during meals.

There is one thing in particular that makes the &Byeond Bateleur Camp such an exceptional safari lodge for kids and families - the &Beyond WILDChild Programme. As its' name suggests, the program was specifically designed for children and includes a series of exciting and interactive activities that offer opportunities to learn and to appreciate and partake in new experiences and cultures. Upon arrival, every child is given a signature WILDChild bag containing a logbook, crayons, pencils, an age-appropriate toy and more. It also contains a personalized welcome note as they want your child's experience to be just as special as yours.

Lamai Serengeti

Lamai Serengeti is operated by Nomad and is in our opinion, one of the best family safari lodges in Tanzania. Lamai is incredibly welcoming to families and features a great selection of activities that can be appreciated by adults and children alike. Whereas children under the age of 12 are generally not permitted on walking safaris, regular game drives are slightly more flexible here. Extraordinary animal sightings are great to share with the family and will surely create amazing memories that you will cherish for a lifetime. Lamai's pool is also child-friendly!

At Lamai, you can end the day with signature sundowners (juice for the kids) on top of 'the rock', home to an entertaining troop of baboons and panoramic views of the breathtaking, seemingly endless plains.

The accommodation at Lamai is comprised of 12 raised luxury suites, 8 of which are at the Main Camp and the remaining 4 make up the Private Camp. The front walls are made of mosquito gauze so that you can enjoy the views of the Serengeti and its' iconic wildlife even from the comfort of you bed. Depending on the size of your family, we may recommend that you book the 4-room Private Camp exclusively, which then has the added advantage of your own dining room, lounge and swimming pool.

Singita Sasakwa

Singita Sasakwa is the ultimate family safari lodge. The property is extremely welcoming to children of all ages, has babysitting services on offer and tailor-made activities to suite each and every family. Children's participation in safari game drives and related activities are left to the discretion of your private guide. Activities that children can partake in include swimming, archery, snooker table, tennis, baking lessons with in-house chefs, arts & crafts, visits to the Environmental Education Center, face painting, and a special program called the Mini Ranger's Course.

The program is specifically designed for young explorers are includes the following: tracking animals, frogging, butterly capture & release, a cosmic safari, learning bush survival techniques, flower-pressing, game-spotting competitions, nature quizzes and a final Ranger's test. Upon completion of the course, children are awarded a special certificate.

There are only 10 accommodation units at Sasakwa, including 9 cottages with the option of 1-3 bedrooms and 1 villa, all featuring a private infinity pool. For bigger families, we do recommend the villa which boasts 4 bedrooms.

Little Chem Chem

Little Chem Chem offers a great safari experience for families. Little Chem Chem features just 5 exquisitely decorated luxury tents, which you can rent out in its' entirety if you are travelling with a lot of family members. Each tent either has a king-size bed or twin beds, a charming rocking chair and study desk, a vanity area with dressing room and an en-suite bathroom. Each tent also has its own private fire pit so families can sit together and enjoy the sounds and star-speckled skies of the African night.

Not specific to families, but worth mentioning nonetheless, is the unparalleled wilderness and proximity to wildlife. Lions roam the camp and call for each other at night, elephants march down to the lake to cool off and spray themselves with water, cheetah sprint by before your very eyes and the surrounding dense woods are full of iconic African wildlife including leopard and eland.

Activities on offer include both day and night game drives, animal tracking experiences, photographic safaris, private helicopter tours, hot air balloon safaris and more.

Serengeti Bushtops

Serengeti Bushtops is a Tanzanian haven for family safari seekers. Their 2 family tents are ideal for bigger families, especially since they are linked by a short bridge to create a private family suite that can accommodate up to 8 persons. One thing to note however is that only children over the age of 7 are permitted to stay at Serengeti Bushtops.

Activities beyond the safari game drive include walking safaris, breakfast in the bush, local community visits, Kuria archery lessons, Swahili lessons, traditional board games, aromatherapy massages and simply relaxing from your private outdoor hot tub. If you're feeling social, you can also hang out at the open-aired restaurant, library or sit by the campfire and pool.

Private Selous Family Safari

The Private Selous Family Safari is perhaps the bespoke family safari experience to be had in Tanzania. You experience the luxury of an entirely private safari lodge with a private guide and camp crew who are dedicated exclusively to your every need and to ensuring that your safari experience as a family is nothing short of perfect and better than you could have ever imagined. Take full advantage of private safari game drives, the private pool, your luxury open-aired suite, the nearby hot springs and Miombo forest and essentially what will be your own private little corner of Africa.

One of our favorite experiences for families here is fly camping. An afternoon walk leads you to a small camp set by the water where adults can enjoy fun cocktails and everyone can enjoy a 3-course dinner under the stars. In our opinion, 'glamping', or glamorous camping, is the ultimate compromise or happy medium for parents and kids so we definitely recommend that you opt for fly camping during your stay at Selous.

 

Friday
Mar112016

Top 10 Festivals in India - Time Your Travels around India's Most Popular Festivals

There are endless reasons to visit India - Indian cuisine, tiger safaris, national landmarks ranking among the 7 Wonders of the World, a diverse landscape including the northern Himalayas and the golden beaches of Goa, and an incredibly vibrant culture largely contributed to by India's most popular festivals. As a year-round destination with so much to offer, when to visit India can often be a tricky undertaking, so why not plan your travels around India's best festivals? There are said to be more festivals in India than there are days of the year so we have compiled a list of the top 10 festivals in India that should absolutely be taken into consideration when planning your next visit. So make the most of your travels and celebrate some of India's most popular festivals where beautiful colors, music, food, arts, religion and people come together and bring even more life to an already extraordinary destination.

Keep in mind that some of these festivals have a specific location and others are celebrated country-wide, so make a note of which Indian cities are at the top of your list and select festivals accordingly - or vice-versa.

Read on for Epic Road's list of India's Top 10 Festivals. And if you're looking for travel experts to plan a custom itinerary for you so that you can have a worry-free vacation, visit our signature travel to India page or email us at hello@epicroad.com and we'll take care of everything, from the moment you leave and until you return, down to the very last detail. We were recently selected as 'Top Travel Specialist' by Travel+Leisure so rest assured, you'll be in good hands.

1. Diwali - The Festival of Lights

Diwali is one of India's most popular and prominent Hindu festivals, also known as the Festival of Lights. During Diwali, people celebrate all over the country by decorating their homes with clay lamps, candles and Ashok leaves. Everyone takes to the bustling streets and markets to show off their new clothes, to share sweets with friends, family and visitors alike and to light the night with fireworks and crackers.

Diwali takes place over the course of 5 days between mid-October & mid-November every year. (Specifically scheduled for the darkest new moon night during the month of Kartika in hte Hindu lunisolar calendar)

2. Ganesh Chaturthi - The Elephant-Headed God, Pujas & the Final Day of Visarjan

Ganesh Chaturthi is another very important Hindu festival in India, celebrating the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed God. Beautifully crafted life size idols of Ganesha adorn both the interiors and exteriors of homes and are further used to compliment public pandals or fabricated structures that are commonly used in religious ceremonies. During this festival, people celebrate with song, dance, theater, and a special focus on giving back with the setup of free medical and blood donation stations.

Ganesha Chaturthi is a 10-day affair that takes place in either August or September. (Specifically scheduled for the 4th day of the 1st fortnight during the month of Bhadrapada in the Hindu lunisolar calendar) Pujas are performed every morning and every night and the last day of the festival is known as the day of Visarjan - the immersion of an idol in a body of water. You probably won't be present for the entirety of the festival so you should definitely try to make the last day as it's said to be the most special.

3. Holi - The Festival of Colors

You could say that Holi is a prime contender and Diwali's main competition for the title of India's most famous festival. Not only is it celebrated country-wide, Holi is internationally acclaimed and probably the most well-known Indian festival beyond national borders - Holi is often referred to as the Festival of Colors. On the eve of Holi, people celebrate by constructing enormous Holika bonfires and thereafter singing and dancing through the night. On the actual day of, everyone gathers to partake in the world's largest paint fight - people cheerfully decorate each other with every color imaginable and some come fully decked with water guns and colored water filled balloons. The festival commemorates the victory of good over evil and the onset of spring.

Holi is held in March (Specifically scheduled for the full moon during the month of Phalgun in the Hindu lunisolar calendar) and though it is celebrated all over the country, the most vibrant celebrations can typically be found in the North.

4. Navrati & Dussehra or Durga Puja - The Holy Ganges & a 10-day Celebration

The first 9 days of this festival are known as Navrati and are filled with dance in honor of the Mother Goddess; the 10th day is called Dussehra and this 2-part festival is observed country-wide. In Eastern India however, the same festival is referred to as Durga Puja, where large statues of the celebrated Goddess are made and then immersed in the holy waters of the Ganges. Regardless of where it takes place, what it's named or how it's celebrated in different regions, this is by far one of India's best festivals and an incredibly social oriented event, allowing you the amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and both observe and partake in the dramatic dance performances that Navrati, Dussehra & Durga Puja are so well-known for.

The festival takes place between the months of September & October. (Specifically the first 10 days of the month of Ashwin in the Hindu lunisolar calendar)

5. Krishna Janmashtami - Mathura, Vrindavan & Human Pyramids

Krishna Janmashtami is a particularly esthetic and colorful festival beyond being one of India's most important religious festivals. People fast during the day, they break with a special meal after dusk and then go on to visit temples, pray, dance and sing throughout the night. Younger children are often dressed up like Lord Krishna as this festival celebrates Krishna's birthday. A special traditional component of the festival involves people forming massive human pyramids in an attempt to reach and break clay pots which have been strung up high for the occasion.

The festival occurs in either August or September (specifically the 8th day of the month of Bhadrapad in the Hindu lunisolar calendar) and is celebrated by the Hindu community all over India - though the festivities in Mathura and Vrindavan are especially popular.

6. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan - 50,000 Camels & the World's Largest Pop-up Marketplace

The Pushkar Camel Fair is an incredible event where 50,000 camels and as many as a quarter-million people assemble in the tiny desert town of Pushkar, Rajasthan. It is a 5-day affair and is exactly what it's called - a camel fair - where merchants come from near and far to buy, sell and trade camels. The camels are adorned with jewels and dressed to impress, and the festival is accompanied by great feasts, cultural shows and the world's largest pop-up marketplace.

The Pushkar Camel Fair occurs in autumn, at the same exact time as the Kartik Purnima Full Moon Festival. So you're actually getting 2-1 as a livestock fair converges with a religious festival and takes over the beautiful rural town of Pushkar. If you prefer to avoid the larger crowds that inevitably come with the fair, you can always arrive a few days before the actual event as the traders and their camels will already be there.

7. Kerala Temple Festivals, Kerala - Thrissur Pooram & Exotic Elephant Processions

The southern state of Kerala is a must when visiting India, regardless of any special festivities. That being said, Kerala's exotic temple festivals are definitely worth planning your travels around. Magnificent processions of bejeweled elephants fill the streets and are accompanied by colorful floats, fireworks, drummers and other musicians.

The temple festivals are only held in Kerala and the most popular of them all takes place at Vadakkumnathan Temple in Thrissur - it is hence referred to as Thrissur Pooram. They are held between the months of February and May and each one typically runs for about 10 days.

8. Goa Carnival, Goa - Never-ending Party on India's Beaches

Similar to Kerala, we recommend a visit to the golden hippy beaches of Goa any day of the year, but if you can, you might as well visit when it's exceptionally lively and experience a fantastic cultural celebration. Goa Carnival is greatly anticipated by all and attracts people from all over the world. During the festival, the streets come alive with color, enthusiastic parades, guitarists, musicians, traditional dance and all-around never-ending party.

The Goa Carnival typically lasts 3-4 days and is of course only held in Goa. It takes place during the month of February.

9. Onam, Kerala - Intricate Floral Designs & Snake Boat Races

Onam is yet another one of India's most important festivals as it marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali. People celebrate by wearing traditional dress, decorating the ground in front of their homes with incredibly intricate floral designs known as 'Pookalam' and preparing a very elaborate meal consisting of 13 dishes called 'Onasadya'. The main attractions of this lively festival include snake boat races (Vallamkali), as well as public dances such as Kaikottikali clap dance and the Pulikali procession where artists are disguised as tigers and hunters.

Onam is a 10-day harvest festival that occurs in either August or September and is only celebrated by the communities of Kerala. (Specifically corresponds to the month of Chingam in the Malayalam calendar)

10. Ratha Yatra, Puri (Orissa) - Colorful Chariot Parades

Ratha Yatra is a huge Hindu celebration and one of India's most famous festivals. The main attraction of the festival are the enormous, colorful and intricately designed chariots that are built to resemble temples and pulled through the streets of Puri. People come from all over the world and volunteer to help local priests pull these chariots all the way to the grand avenue of the Gundicha temple.

The festival is held during the months of June & July and only takes place in Puri, Orissa.

 

Tuesday
Mar012016

The Best Tiger Safaris in India - A List of the 5 Best Places to Spot Tigers

The iconic tiger is an elusive animal so we have narrowed down what we consider to be the best safaris in all of India, which are coincidentally reputed to be the 5 best places to spot tigers. The following list is primarily based on tiger population, documented tiger sightings and best experience overall. India is home to roughly 2,226 tigers residing across 40 different national parks but if you want to maximize your chances of seeing a wild tiger, we recommend that you opt for one of the following tiger safari parks: Bandhavgarh National Park, Ranthambore National Park, Kanha National Park, Jim Corbett National Park & Satpura National Park.

Read on for a brief description of each to figure out what the best tiger safari is for you!

And if you're looking for travel experts to plan a custom itinerary for you so that you can have a worry-free vacation, visit our signature travel to India page or email us at hello@epicroad.com and we'll take care of everything, from the moment you leave and until you return, down to the very last detail. We were recently selected as 'Top Travel Specialist' by Travel+Leisure so rest assured, you'll be in good hands.

1. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Bandhavgarh National Park is consistently rated the #1 best tiger safari in India and the #1 best place to spot tigers for one simple reason - it has one of the highest densities of tigers in the region. The main area of Bandhavgarh extends over 100 square kilometers and is home to over 50 wild tigers. That may not sound like a lot but with only 2,226 tigers remaining in total and with a ratio of tiger:land that plays in your favor, you are almost guaranteed to spot a tiger at Bandhavgarh. To give you a good frame of reference, Kruger National Park in South Africa is spread over 19,485 square kilometers - nearly 2,000 times bigger than Bandhavgarh.

Note that within the park itself, certain zones are better than others for spotting tigers so if you want to book the best zones, we recommend that you do so well in advance.

Other animals at Bandhavgarh National Park include several different species of antelope and deer as well as native bison, fox, bear & leopard.

2. Ranthambore National Park, Sawai Madhopur

Ranthambore National Park is similarly rated as one of the best tiger safaris in India, if not the best. It is specifically known as the best tiger safari for photographers - in fact, the better images of Indian tigers that one can find were most likely taken at Ranthambore. Whether you're a professional photographer or not, a tiger safari with your loved ones is certainly something you're going to want to document so make sure to keep Ranthambore National Park at the top of your list.

It is one of India's largest parks, spreading over an area of 1,335 square kilometers with a population of roughly 50 tigers.

Believe it or not, the tigers are not the only attraction here as the park is dotted with gorgeous ancient ruins, including a fort that both the tigers and leopards are particularly fond of - so you might be lucky and get an amazing shot of a regal tiger lounging about or slowly walking by, with the added benefit of distinct local architecture in the background.

Other animals at Ranthambore National Park include leopard, jungle cats, crocodiles, hyenas, sloth bears & native foxes.

3. Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Kanha National Park is one of the best places to spot tigers because the grounds are primarily large open meadows. Beyond providing better tiger sightings, the grounds are also strikingly beautiful and home to the hard-ground barasingha, an endangered species of deer that can only be found at Kanha.

The park extends over 950 square kilometers and hosts roughly 130 Indian tigers.

Other animals at Kanha National Park include wild pig, striped hyena, black buck & ant-eating pangolin (aka a scaly anteater).

4. Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

Jim Corbett National Park has a great reputation as one of the best tiger safari parks in India partly because it's been around since 1936 and is therefore one of India's oldest parks. After your safari through Jim Corbett, we highly recommend that you visit one of the grounds' watchtowers and get a bird's eye view of the wildlife below and beyond.

The park is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, spreads out over an area of 500 square kilometers and is home to over 165 tigers - making it one of the best preserved national parks in all of India.

Other animals at Jim Corbett include leopard, sloth bears, deer, jungle cats & fishing cats. Most notably however is a thriving population of over 600 Asiatic elephants - this is why Jim Corbett National Park is often referred to as 'Elephant Park'.

5. Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Satpura National Park is the best tiger safari for travelers looking for a more private and intimate experience. Only 12 vehicles are permitted in the park at a time so if you absolutely want to avoid any crowds, you should highly consider a tiger safari at Satpura. Satpura is unique as the only park that offers a walking safari, allowing you to disembark from the jeep, explore the grounds and track the elusive tiger by foot - with an expert guide of course.

The park extends across roughly 525 square kilometers and is home to over 340 tigers.

Other animals at Satpura National Park include several species of deer as well as hyena, leopard, foxes, bears, wild dogs & flying squirrels.

 

*Alternate Tiger Safari Suggestions: Other great parks include Sundarbans National Park (West Bengal), Pench National Park (Madhya Pradesh), Tadoba National Park (Maharashtra), Nagarhole National Park (Karnataka) & Bandipur National Park (Karnataka).

 

Monday
Feb152016

Why an Okavango Delta Safari Needs to be on Your Bucket List

Why does an Okavango Delta safari need to be on your bucket list? Here are our top ten reasons that help to explain why the Okavango Delta is one of the best safaris and an adventure of a lifetime. The Okavango Delta is located in Botswana, an extraordinary country located in Southern Africa. Botswana safaris are some of the best that the continent has to offer including Chobe National Park, the Kalahari Desert, Makgadikgadi Pans, Savute and the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, but notably their flagship Okavango Delta safari. And that is due in large to the fact that the Okavango Delta is one of the best places to see the Big Five (African lion, African elephant, African leopard, Cape buffalo, White/Black rhino) and one of the, if not the, best water safaris as it hosts a series of winding waterways and an annual flooding making it one of the largest inland deltas in the world - which you get to explore by dugout canoe! Last but not least, the Okavango Delta is home to many incredible luxury safari lodges - including Mombo, Little Mombo, Kings Pool, Jao Camp and Zarafa Camp, conceived by National Geographic filmmakers Dereck & Beverly Joubert. The Okavango Delta is the ultimate safari destination, a unique romantic getaway or honeymoon and an overall must on any avid traveler's bucket list.

1. The Okavango Delta is a Beautiful Destination as One of the Last Unspoiled Wilderness Areas on the African continent.

The Okavango Delta is one of the last remaining unspoiled wilderness areas on the African continent. When you’re there, you truly feel as though you’re one of the few to have ever traversed certain landscapes and in some areas, you may very well be. Sometimes you even have the privilege to walk on tiny unexplored islands. The product of humanity is virtually non-existent with the exception of incredible sustainable luxury safari lodges, each of which blends seamlessly into the natural surroundings. The wealth of fauna and flora alike creates an atmosphere of enchanting no man’s land.

2. It is Home to Some of the Best Wildlife Sightings in Africa and is a Great Place to See the Big 5

The Okavango Delta may quite possibly be the best wildlife sighting and safari you’ll ever experience. Not only is the density of wildlife unparalleled but the proximity is extraordinary. You will undoubtedly come across prides of lions, packs of spotted wild dogs, humongous hippos, tree-climbing leopards, cheetah, hyenas, 300 lb. buffalos, innumerable elephants and giraffes, wildebeest, impala, zebra, incredible birdlife and so much more. You’ll observe these animals in their untouched natural habitat, you’ll see lions wading through the water, elephants rolling in mud to cool off, large crocodiles lounging in the sun, giraffes galloping across endless terrain and you’ll almost always be just a few feet away. The Okavango Delta is truly a wildlife wonderland and the best part is that the animals are living and thriving as they were meant to, the areas you will safari in are not closed off and are completely protected from human activity. Embarking on a safari through the Okavango Delta is like entering another world altogether. 

3. The Okavango Delta is a Year-Round Destination

The Okavango Delta is a year-round destination. Depending on what you’re looking for and looking to do, there is something for everyone every day of the year. Generally speaking however, Botswana’s Okavango Delta offers great animal sightings year-round. If you travel during the green season from December through March, you can expect intermittent showers but this also means extra lush vegetation and lots of young babies – seeing a lioness interact with her cub is a memory that will stay with you forever. Elephants are also a very affectionate species and watching them play together inevitably puts a smile on your face.

4. It is One of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa

The Okavango Delta is the 1000th site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 2014 and rightfully so. It also secures a position as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. The Okavango Delta is a natural wonder in and of itself, an oasis amidst the parched Kalahari Desert. A vast ecosystem created by a localized seasonal flooding in an otherwise dry environment, each year approximately 11 cubic kilometers of water spreads over the area to form one of the largest inland deltas in the world. Whether you’re exploring the delta by hovercraft plane, boat, vehicle or foot, the landscape will truly take your breath away – lush greens, serpentine water trails, colorful birdlife overhead and incredible wildlife on the ground – what are you waiting for?

5. The Okavango Delta is One of the Best Water Safaris in Africa

The Okavango Delta is home to a series of mind-blowing canoe and water trails. The Okavango is a group of meandering waterways and scattered islands that are best explored by dugout canoe – locally known as mekoro. Mekoro are traditional canoes made by digging out the trunk of a large tree that grows in the area, such as an ebony tree. The mekoro has since evolved however in an effort to promote the preservation of large endangered trees and are therefore increasingly made of fibre-glass. One of our favorite experiences involves canoeing the famous Selinda Spillway, the waterway that connects the Okavango Delta to the Zambezi river. It is nearly impossible to depict these awe-inspiring waterways in a way that does them justice, which is why we’ve chosen the above photograph to accompany this post – though even the best image can’t convey the true magic of the Okavango Delta.

6. There is an Amazing Selection of Luxury Safari Lodges & Some of the Best Safari Guides

The Okavango Delta is home to amazing luxury safari lodges. Our favorite luxury safari lodges in the Okavango Delta include Vumbura Plains, Zarafa Camp, Selinda Camp and Duba Plains Camp. Vumbura Plains mimics the design of a contemporary beachside ranch getaway and features thatched villas each with a private plunge pool, outdoor shower and deck from which to enjoy the breathtaking views. Zarafa is probably one of the most well-known properties in the area as it was conceived by National Geographic filmmakers Beverly and Dereck Joubert. Zarafa is an intimate camp with just four luxury tents and an insane attention to detail and hospitality. The Selinda Camp is composed of eight beautiful tents, adorned with traditional artwork and featuring deep stone baths. Duba Plains Camp is by far one of the more remote safari camps in the Okavango Delta. It is built on an island shaded by large indigenous trees and surrounded by expansive terrain – the ultimate location for wildlife sightings. These lodges all maximize on the gorgeous natural surroundings and provide unique experiences beyond the safari, such as romantic candlelit dining aboard a boat on the Zibadianja Lagoon. But even that is a safari in and of itself as the lagoon is often teeming with hippo and elephants.

7. The Okavango Delta is the Ultimate Destination for Photographers

The Okavango Delta is a photographer’s dream come true. Inspiring backdrops and wildlife and the proximity to both, allow for wanderlust-inducing imagery, whether you’re an aspiring photographer or simply wish to cherish the memories and share with others.

8. It is also the Perfect Romantic Vacation or Honeymoon & Hosts a Surreal Sunset

The Okavango Delta hosts a gorgeous sunset. The sky over Botswana is often graced with a big iconic African sun, that which we relate to the Africa of storybooks; it rises and sets over the mighty Okavango Delta. Part of what makes the sunset so mesmerizing is that the forefront will often be accompanied by a herd of elephants or other wildlife passing through. Additionally, some of the properties listed above host outdoor beds for stargazing and have personal binoculars and telescopes on sight for your convenience – because the sky will continue to enamor you long after the sun has set. 

9. The Okavango Delta is Home to One of the Largest Mammal Migrations in the World

The Okavango Delta is home to the second largest migration in the world, just after the Serengeti. At the onset of the rainy season in November, as many as 25,000 zebra begin their migration in search of water and food. As noted above, the wet season means an abundance of young and both zebra and wildebeest can run alongside their mothers within just an hour of being born. Witnessing a young zebra foal or wildebeest calf walk and run for the very first time is spectacular and evolution never fails to astound us – a young zebra is the same height as its mother so it can be shielded from predators such as lions and other big cats that prey on comparatively weak and inexperienced young. To note is that the migration throughout the Okavango Delta is extraordinary and surprisingly unknown as it is often shadowed by the Great Migration in Tanzania.

10. Botswana is Greatly Committed to the Conservation of Animals & Their Habitat

The Okavango Delta is committed to the conservation of the animals and their environment, an effort that resonates deeply with us as well. The Botswana government correctly recognizes not only the fundamental importance of ensuring that the wildlife remain protected but that the local communities benefit through this conservation. Many African countries struggle with disallowing the local population to hunt as it is a long-standing way of life for many and a means for income and food. By providing jobs that support the conservation of species, the local government and organizations on the ground can better protect the area while empowering Botswanans to do the same and maintain a sustainable way of life. And it makes sense for everyone, with the region being a leader in conservation, tourism is an increasing sector and those that travel from near and far to witness the wonder that is the Okavango Delta, allow for the continued commitment to the environment. It is referred to as eco-tourism and is done in a way that is not harmful to the natural habitat. That being said, the Okavango Delta will not remain a secret for long, so we encourage you to visit sooner vice later!

 

Wednesday
Jan202016

10 Reasons to Celebrate the New Year in Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa is one of our all-time favorite destinations any time of the year, but New Year’s is a particularly great time to visit and here are ten reasons why!

 

1. Award-winning Restaurants

The restaurants are obviously there year-round but dining on New Year’s in Cape Town is particularly lively and festive. For those of you looking for a glamourous New Year’s celebration, the Bungalow is an absolute must. The Bungalow is Cape Town’s replica of Malibu where you can watch the sun set beyond the edge of the Atlantic Ocean from the dramatic cliff upon which it sits and while sipping on an amazing selection of cocktails. Serving South Africa’s best wines and champagnes, delicate plump sushi, delectable carpaccio and endless choices of mouth-watering freshly-caught seafood. Other restaurants to consider are Mondiall and the 12 Apostles. A few things to look forward to at Mondiall are an excellent waterfront view of the fireworks and white mushroom crème brulee, meanwhile the 12 Apostles similarly features gorgeous views of the coast and a luxurious 5 course menu. To learn more about some of our favorite top restaurants in Cape Town, click here for our post on Cape of Good Eats.

2. Luxury Yacht Cruise

There’s nothing to welcome the New Year quite like a luxury yacht cruise in South Africa’s Camps Bay. A change of pace, great views and fun cocktails await.

3. Jet Set in the Cape Winelands

We can’t think of a better time to sample top vintages than New Year’s and of a better place than the Cape Winelands. So for those of you who have been to Napa far too many times and are looking to celebrate in style, consider spending New Year’s in Franschhoek, just an hour and a half from the center of Cape Town. The town of Franschhoek boasts a wide selection of internationally recognized and award-winning cellars and restaurants. It is also home to the annual Kinky Summer festival where you can dance the night away as the clock encroaches on midnight.

4. Winter is summer in Cape Town

For many of us, New Year’s is characterized by a cold snowy day from which we seek refuge by celebrating indoors. In Cape Town however, a southern hemisphere destination, the seasons are reversed and the best time to visit is during the hot sunny months of November through March – with New Year’s being right in the middle. Do note however that we’re not the only ones to know this, and if you’re planning on spending the holiday in South Africa at this time, it is best to book far in advance.

5. Festivals & Parties

The New Year’s Eve lantern festival in Nieu Bethesda is a great way to welcome the next 365 days. You can make your own lantern at the Bethesda Arts Center and later join the parade as the night draws to a close. Or rather celebrate ‘a la Great Gatsby’ and attend a 1920’s themed Masquerade ball at Chicago Piano Bar, where you can choose from a sit down dinner and dance or just partake in the dancing! There are so many festivals and parties to choose from when you spend New Year’s in Cape Town.

6. Ox Braai Roast

One of the biggest bashes in town and a traditional celebration. This annual New Year’s party involves a plethora of alcohol and perfectly roasted ox spits. From there, many will continue the festivities on the beach at Kenton-on-Sea, a small coastal town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, otherwise known as the Sunshine Coast

7. Swim with Penguins

New Year’s is the perfect opportunity for new experiences and it’s not every day that we get the chance to swim with penguins off the coast of South Africa. A day at the beach takes on a whole new meaning when you’re darting in and out of the water with 3,000 African penguins at Boulders Beach. Shark diving is also on offer for the adrenaline addicts and bucket list enthusiasts.

8. Kruger Park Safari

As a company with a deep appreciation for the African continent and its extraordinary wildlife, we’ll recommend a safari any day of the year so why not New Year’s? Kruger Park is a bit of a trek from Cape Town but as one of the largest game reserves in Africa, it’s certainly worth it. Kruger National Park is the flagship of South African parks – it extends across 2 million hectares of land and is home to an astounding number and variety of species including more than 150 mammals, just over 500 birds and roughly 115 reptiles. You will undoubtedly see most if not all of the Big Five: lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards and rhino.

9. Hiking Table Mountain

Most of us can agree that celebration is always better and more gratifying after a good challenge. Start New Year’s Eve with a hike up Table Mountain where you will see breathtaking vistas at every turn of the way. We recommend the Platteklip Gorge Trail which can take up to three hours but the panoramic view of the city and the surrounding sea at the top is the perfect way to jumpstart the ensuing night’s festivities.

10. Hot Air Balloon in South Africa

You can take on this experience in one or two ways. You can either embark on an enchanting balloon safari on New Year’s Eve or you can use the experience as a cure to New Year’s inevitable hangover. Wake up before dawn (or stay out until dawn) and float over the game of golden Magaliesburg or the bucolic hills of the Cape Winelands as the sun slowly creeps above you. Follow this spectacular experience with a champagne breakfast, especially if you’re going for the post New Year’s option - the hair of the dog is a thing for a reason. 

Friday
Dec182015

Africa's Best Beaches

When one speaks of taking a trip to Africa, 'safari' inevitably comes to mind. We're here to tell you however that Africa has so much to offer, and one of those things is an incredible selection of award-winning, off-the-grid gorgeous beaches. The beaches in Africa are out of this world, so read on to learn about some of our favorite beach destinations on the African continent. 

BEST BEACHES SEYCHELLES

Any list of top beaches in Africa worth reading includes the Seychelles - hands down, one of the best beach destinations Africa has to offer. 

The Seychelles, an archipelago of 117 islands off the coast of Kenya amidst the Indian Ocean, have emerged as one of the world's most romantic getaways. Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their honeymoon here and they certainly took advantage of some of Africa's greatest beahces. The private island of Desroches boasts several miles of secluded beach and amazing coral reefs where visitors enjoy diving, bike riding and moonlit dining. Those wishing to extend thir stay on the island can stay at the Desroches Island Retreat, the only accommodation on the island, featuring just 20 luxury villas, an incredible spa and a gorgeous pool built on the sea line. 

Other private islands to keep on your radar are North Island and Fregate Island. North Island is only accessibly by helicopter and truly tailors the experience to you, whether you want a romantic beach picnic, activities for the kids or a week dedicated to exploring the reefs, your wish is their command. Rates include just about everything from diving to private yacht tours to mountain biking. Fregate Island is simlarly only accessible by helicopter, small plane or boat and it's quite honestly one of the most stunning places you may ever lay eyes on. The island is home to 7 beaches, one of which is frequently voted 'most beautiful beach in the world', thousands of free-roaming Aldabra Tortoises who will happily eat a handful of leaves right out of your palm, unique tree-house dining venues and so much more. The property on Fregate Island boasts 16 gorgeous villas built into the coastline, each with private sunken jacuzzis, terraces and panoramic daybeds overlooking the lush jungle behind and the crystal waters in front. 

One of Africa's best beaches also qualifies as one of the world's best beaches and has been awarded as such, year after year. The beach we are referring to is Anse Source D'Argent and is also located in the Seychelles, specifically on an island called La Digue. Coined by many as the picture perfect beach for its dark boulders surrounded by pristine white powder sand and crystal clear waters that quietly lap the shoreline. 

BEST BEACHES CAPE TOWN

Camp's Bay Beach, Camps Bay, is located just outside of Cape Town. Graced with the ideal positioning, this gorgeous beach is situated adjacent to 5-star luxury properties, exclusive restaurants, upmarket clubs and cocktail bars. Camp's Bay Beach, truly one of the best beaches in Africa, is the recreational retreat for visiting celebrities and local luminaries alike. 

Next in Cape Town are the Clifton beaches. Featured in several different travel publications, the Clifton beahces are thought of as some of the most beautiful and romantic beaches in the world, let alone in South Africa. They received the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2014. 

Cape Town is also home to Bloubergstrand Beach. Offering one of the best uninterrupted views of stunning Table Mountain and Cape Town, this long beach is clean, quiet, and amazes visitors with its breathtaking panorama. 

BEST BEACHES MOROCCO

Legzira beach, Sidi Ifni, Morocco. This quiet, tranquil beach's primary draw is the amazing rock structures that stretch far out into the water, as well as the rarely seen off-the-grid water caves. Visitors particularly find a visit at sunset most beautiful and most memorable. 

Not to miss is the seaside town of Essaouira. What makes Essaouira so unique is the remnants of its bohemian past - crocheted rasta beanies are sold in the bustling souks and surfers come from all around the world to lap up the waves and what is now considered one of the top windsurfing spots on the planet. It's one of Africa's best beach destinations alright, but if you ever get bored of soaking up the sun and crisp ocean breeze, there's so much more to do. Hit the boardwalk where you can go wine tasting and watch snake charmers perform their best tricks! 

One of Morocco's most scenic routes runs right through Mirleft, another flourishing surf scene with gorgeous beaches and beckoning restaurants lining the main street. Other Moroccan beaches on our radar are Al Hoceima, Saidia and Taghazout. 

BEST BEACHES MAURITIUS 

Le Morne Beach, Mauritius. A gorgeous beach stretching more than 3 kilometers, with a visually stunning location - a mountainous backdrop paired with a light blue sea. The waters are so clear that visitors can observe the fish and other underwater life without ever having to leave the white sandy beach. 

BEST BEACHES KENYA

Diani Beach, Kenya. This beautiful 20-kilometer stretch of palm-fringed beach is nothing short of pristine and entirely kept clear of seaweed as a result of coral reef formation just offshore. 

Watamu is similarly incredible - boasting smooth white beaches and gentle turquoise waters. Watamu is within Kenya's Malindi Marine Reserve Park, a marine protected area, allowing for phenomenal snorkeling and diving, some even say the best in all of East Africa. 

BEST BEACHES MALAWI

Chitimba, Malawi. Not many inland beaches make Africa's best beaches list, but this one certainly merits the honor. Densely vegetated hills and trees wrap around the beach bordering one of Africa's biggest lakes, Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is, simply put, a freshwater paradise, and home to 1,000 different species of fish. 

Not to be missed is Likoma Island - an enchanting tiny island that has everything you could ever want from a beach vacation, pristine beaches, calm translucent waters, untouched reefs and the most relaxing atmosphere. Whether you want to lounge atop dramatic waterfront cliffs and watch the sun set, pick up a soccer game with the friendly locals or indulge in a gourmet dinner under a sky awash with innumerable stars - the beaches of Likoma have it all and will guarantee a truly incredible vacation. 

BEST BEACHES MOZAMBIQUE

Bazaruto, Mozambique is an idyllic tropical island beach. The island's peaceful sand beaches extend endlessly out into the clear turquoise water before dropping off into the azure hues of the Indian Ocean. Palm trees dangle over the beach, providing welcoming shade on hot summer days. The Bazaruto Archipelago is also renowned for its diving opportunities, so divers get the double benefit of great waters and a beautiful beach. 

Tofo beach is also one of Mozambique's best beaches. Characterized by an intimate stretch of beach with clear waters and for those who venture out into deep waters, a hotspot for divers and fishermen alike. 

BEST BEACHES NAMIBIA

Skeleton Coast, Namibia. This is not the typical clean sandy beach by the seaside, which in itself may lend to its popularity. A wild, wide, rugged stretch of beach between the Kunene and Swakop Rivers, cold air over the Atlantic Ocean colliding with the warm air of the Namib Desert often leaves the beach shrouded in fog. Curiosity seekers look out for ships that have run aground in the rocky, shallow waters off the beach. A great deal of seals and marine bird life can be spotted near the shipwrecks. Hauntingly beautiful is perhaps the best way to describe Namibia's Skeleton Coast. 

Other than being fun to pronounce, Swakopmund, Namibia should also be on your radar for Africa's best beaches. More of an adventure playground than a relaxing getaway, and offering a plethora of activities from fishing, surfing and kayaking to quad biking and sand boarding. 

BEST BEACHES GABON

Other beaches that stray from conventional beach stereotypes are the beaches of Loango National Park, Gabon. These beaches have become famous for this surfing hippos, best seen in January (that's right, surfing hippos). This uninhabited coastline of the park, more than 100 km long, also sees leopards, gorillas, buffalo and elephants trek across the sands. Loango is the only place in the world where one can see all these animals in a single setting. 

BEST BEACHES TANZANIA

Mnemba Island, Tanzania - hands down one of the most popular beaches in Africa. Mnemba is a private island cast amidst the Indian Ocean and belonging to the Zanzibar Archipelago. From here, visitors can watch whales and dolphins, and of course, one of our favorites, swim with whale sharks. Only 10 cottages rest on the island, owned and operated by luxury travel company &Beyond. Each little cottage is a little piece of heaven, all right off the beach with private verandas and tucked away in the shade of a tropical beach forest. 

BEST BEACHES MADAGASCAR 

Sainte Marie Island, Madagascar. This tropical paradise, one of the best beach destinations Africa has to offer, has year-round sunshine, incredibly calm, warm waters, and pristine, white sand beaches lined with endless palm trees. Divers can't get enough of the gorgeous coral gardens, and viewers up on land can see humpback whales, in season of course. 

Wednesday
Oct282015

When to Visit the Seychelles

When it comes to enjoying a picture-perfect tropical vacation getaway, you can't go wrong with the Seychelles. A chain of 115 islands situated northeast of Madagascar off the East African coast, the Seychelles are characterized by year-round warm temperatures, white sand beaches, clear, warm waters and an array of natural and cultural attractions. Kick-start the planning for your trip by determining when to visit the Seychelles, where to stay and what to do. The following tips will help. 

About the Seychelles

Only a handful of the Seychelles' 115 islands are inhabited, and the majority are found in the Inner Seychelles, which include Mahé, the main island and location of capital city Victoria. This is also where you'll find Seychelles International Airport, which is how most visitors arrive here. You have many options when it comes to Seychelles attractions, including botanical gardens, nature preserves and, of course, some of the most stunning beaches in the world. 

When to Visit the Seychelles

There's really no bad time to visit the Seychelles, that's how paradise goes. Seychelles beaches are beautiful throughout the year, and the weather is fairly consistent. The year-round average temperature is 81 degrees, but most agree that April, May, October and November are the best times to visit because they are transition times between the humid, hot weather brought by the northwest trade winds from November to March and the cooler, drier southeast trade winds from April to October. The rainy season typically starts in November and ends in January, though this rarely means day-long or consecutive day rainstorms. Peak tourist season occurs in December & January and July & August. 

Where to Stay

The vast majority of visitors stay on Mahé, the main island. You can take your pick from many upscale resorts, including many all-inclusive options. In Victoria, you'll also find numerous luxury hotels. Before booking a hotel or resort, investigate 'things to do in the Seychelles' to ensure easy access to your favorite attractions and activities. Some of our favorite properties include Four Seasons, Maia and Savoy in Mahé, Raffles in Praslin and three private islands only accessible by similarly private boat, plane or helicopter and they are North Island, Fregate Island and Deroches Island. 

What to Do

There are plenty of things to do in the Seychelles. A few examples include:

  • Beaches - Seychelles beaches are famous around the world for their incredible beauty. Crystal-clear Indian Ocean waters maintain a year-round temperature of around 80 degrees, and soft, white sand makes it a breeze to kick back, relax and soak it all in. Consider hiking from Beau Vallon to Anse Major to find some especially scenic, isolated beaches. Be sure not to miss the most popular Seychelles beaches too, including award-winning Anse Interdance and Ance Source d'Argent. 
  • Victoria - The most populated city in the Seychelles. Victoria is a splendid place to explore. It boasts numerous restaurants, cafes, art galleries, markets, monuments and museums. Spend a few hours at the stunning botanical gardens, or take a tour of a well-preserved Creole plantation house. Be sure to hit the town after dark too - the nightlife is incredible! 
  • Water Sports - The Seychelles are a water sports enthusiast's dream come true. Rent a boat to explore the islands as you see fit. Try your hand at windsurfing in May or October. Great snorkeling and scuba diving are to be had at Baie Temay as well as at Glacis and the reef near Port Launay. 
  • Food - Seychelles cuisine is characterized by seafood and Creole influences, so the food is equally spicy and fresh. Red snapper is especially popular, and you can't go wrong with a locally brewed beer or dark rum. 

After deciding when to visit the Seychelles, map out your itinerary. Try to include Seychelles beaches and a variety of other Seychelles attractions. Regardless of when you visit, one thing's for sure: You're in for the trip of a lifetime. 

 

Thursday
Oct222015

When to go to the Maldives

If you're thinking about when to go to the Maldives, you'll have two main things to consider - activities & weather. Visitors enjoy a variety of beach-based activities such as swimming, fishing, snorkeling, diving and surfing, all made possible by year-round tropical temperatures ranging between 80 and 90 degrees. But with tropical weather comes the inevitable rainy season - and we do recommend that you plan your travels around it. That being said, even at the height of the wet season, it would be unlikely to experience more than 3 consecutive days of solid rain. Rain can occur at any time of year, and often times with very little warning, so don't let the different seasons dissuade you all too much - the Maldives is paradise even when its raining!  

Basics

The Maldives offer two main seasons. The islands normally experience dry weather from January to April. Vacationers looking to maximize on sun often opt for this season. The rest of the year generally brings increased precipitation as well as bigger waves, more hotel vacancies and less expensive lodging. During these months, travelers can take advantage of resort spa services and a selection of water sports. Although traveling outside the dry season means that storms and rain are more likely, warm weather nevertheless persists and marine life is more varied. 

Beach

If you're looking to relax, dig your toes into hot sands and wade in bathtub-like turquoise waters, you'll be happy to know that beach season is year-round. The dry season does of course limit your chance of rain so if you want to play it extra safe, be sure to schedule your vacation during this season. The islands see consistent sunny 80 degree weather 365 days a year more or less, but you can expect lower humidity and less wind from December to April. Beyond beach-based activities, the dry season is perfect for hiking, sightseeing and all around exploring. 

Scuba

The great thing about the rainy season is that it is favorable for diving, and you will likely encounter more underwater creatures during this time. Maldives' coral reefs are phenomenal year-round but the rainy season is notably exceptional. 30-foot manta rays, sharks, sea turtles and vibrant coral are just a few examples of the amazing wildlife you'll come across during your dive in the Maldives.

Surf

When surfers think about when to go to the Maldives, most favor the wet season's impressively large waves. Nevertheless, beginners may benefit from surfing or windsurfing on more tranquil seas. So schedule your Maldives surfing holiday during the drier months if you want to play it safe. 

Fish

Anglers have an understandably deep appreciation for the islands; and some will even fish at night. Although you can enjoy this activity at any time of the year, fishing enthusiasts typically favor November through March. December and April certainly won't disappoint either.

Events

One more component to factor in when deciding when to go to the Maldives is special events. If you don't mind a few crowds, you might consider celebrating New Year's under the shade of a coconut tree. If live music, great food and exciting parades are your thing, time your visit to coincide with Independence Day on July 26. 

Although the Maldives consist of over 1,100 islands, its climate remains largely uniform. You can more or less expect hot tropical weather throughout the year in any locale, but humidity and rainfall are subject to change depending on the season. So, as noted at the beginning, if you need to decide when to go to the Maldives, weather and favorite activities will rank among your most important considerations. 

To read about our favorite luxury resorts and what we love most about this Indian Ocean getaway, take a look at our signature travel in the Maldives.

Friday
Oct162015

When to Visit Japan

If you're trying to decide when to travel to Japan, you should know first and foremost about a few major events. Golden Week runs from April 29-May 5, mid-July through August is school break season and New Year's Day is a national holiday. Millions of people travel within Japan during these times, which naturally drives up the costs of transportation and accommodation; nonetheless, many foreigners do consider the holidays to be the best time to go to Japan because the larger cities are mostly deserted. Additionally, with the exception of a few days around the New Year, most museums and attractions remain open during the holidays. 

Weather & Climate in Japan

Japan is about the size of the American east coast, and it covers roughly the same latitudes, so temperatures and weather patterns vary greatly by region during the year. Overall, summer is hot and rainy throughout most of Japan, while autumn is cooler and dryer. Winters in northern Japan are snowy and prone to ice storms, yet visitors of southern Japan can get by with just a warm jacket during the late and early parts of the year. Typhoon season runs from late August to late September, and although storms rarely venture inland, expect to get wet wherever you go during this time. 

The Best Time to See the Cherry Blossom Trees

The best time to see the cherry blossom trees is dependent on where you are staying. For example, the best time to see the cherry blossom trees in southern Kyushu is mid-March, but flowers in Hokkaido don't start blooming until the beginning of May. There are dozens of cherry blossom species, each possessing unique beauty, but blooms only last a few days, which is why many will travel across the entire country to see these spectacular flowers arrive in every region during the spring. You can further plan your trip around local attractions like the remains of castle Nangusuku on Okinawa Main Island where the Ryukyu-higan-zakura trees bloom as early as January. Mt. Yoshino is another sight to behold as it is home to 30,000 trees that flood the hills with cherry blossoms during the month of April. 

Japanese Culture & Festivals

Almost every Japanese shrine hosts an annual festival, drawing hundreds of people out into the streets for dancing, games and celebrations. Festival dates often change, so check with the Japan National Tourist Organization if you're planning your visit in accordance with a festival, or you can always ask us as well!

Food in Japan & Kaiseki Cuisine

Kaiseki cuisine combines the best of traditional Japanese hospitality, food and art. Enjoying a traditional Kaiseki means eating a multiple-course meal made only with fresh, local ingredients that are perfectly plated and garnished. You can experience Kaiseki cuisine in a restaurant or as part of your stay in one of Japan's luxury ryokans.

Accommodations & Luxury Japanese Ryokans

Luxury ryokans are traditional, often family-owned, Japanese inns featuring wooden corridors, soft lighting emanating from paper-covered lamps and decorative baskets of wild flowers throughout, and most will serve Kaiseki directly in the privacy of your own room. All rooms in Beniya Mukayu for example, a ryokan in spa town Yamashiro, feature private hot spring baths facing private traditional gardens. Many of these establishments, like the 300-year-old Tawaraya Ryokan in Kyoto, have been hosting guests from all over the world for several centuries.

All in all, the best time to go to Japan really comes down to whenever you can. The weather is always great somewhere, so pick out the regions and attractions you want to visit, and let that guide you in deciding when to travel to Japan. To recap:

Spring (March-May) marks the height of the cherry blossom season, but it also marks one of the busiest travel seasons. Keep in mind that hotels are often booked out as far as 6 months in advance so make sure to contact us early on! 

Fall (September-November) is similarly a busy season but the autumn leaves in Japan are particularly vibrant and colorful and well worth a few crowds. 

Winter, as noted, can get cold and there's always a chance of rain or snow. That being said, crisp blue skies, delicious seafood and fewer crowds also make this a desirable season during which to visit Japan. 

*Our personal favorite time to visit Japan is from late Spring (mid-May to end-June) & late Summer (September to mid-October). The weather is great, the crowds are sparse, and if you're lucky you might just catch the end of the cherry blossom season! 

Thursday
Oct082015

When to Travel to South Africa

If you're planning a luxury holiday in South Africa, you want to make sure to pick a time that allows you to make the most of your vacation. So first things first, before choosing when to travel to South Africa, start compiling a list of things you want to do during your stay. You can then use this guide to decide when the best time to travel to South Africa is for you. *Northern hemisphere dwellers wanting to know when to travel to South Africa should keep one important fact in mind: seasons are reversed below the equator, so Christmas happens during the summer while July brings occasional snow showers. 

The Best Time to go on a South African Safari 

Kruger National Park is one of Africa's most popular attractions. During the spring and summer holidays, thousands of families flock to this 20,000 square kilometer game reserve with hopes of seeing some of Africa's most famous wildlife including lions, giraffes, zebra, hippos and rhinoceroses. Consequently, the best time to go on a safari in South Africa (i.e. peak season) is June through November - though April & May and December & January are also very good. The weather is beautiful and the low vegetation and plentiful water sources guarantee great game viewing. (Also, you won't have to deal with mosquitoes). And for marine life lovers, the best time for whale watching in South Africa coincides with their migration season - July to September. 

When to go Hiking in South Africa

If you want a clear view of South Africa's majestic mountaintops, late April through early June offers crisp hiking weather in Cape Town. If you dare to hike the mighty Drakensberg, the best time to go hiking South Africa's top tier is anytime other than mid-summer or mid-winter. That being said, be prepared for all types of weather patterns at all times. 

Best Time for a Beach Holiday in South Africa

The warm waters of the Indian Ocean invite people to the city of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal all year round. Cape Town's beaches are most popular between the months of November and April, including Christmas & New Year's. Nightlife and international tourism peak in January, making it the best time to visit Cape Town for those who love to mingle. During late summer and early autumn, beaches are less populated and far more conducive to a quiet getaway. 

When to Visit South Africa's Winelands

South Africa's wineries are well stocked all year long. For nature lovers, the best time to visit the South African winelands is during autumn and spring as you'll get to see the lush flora fill the sweeping hillsides. For foodies, the best time to go to the winelands is during the cooler months between June and August. You'll have an easy time getting reservations at Cape Town's five star restaurants, and you'll get to enjoy winter events such as the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, a 10-day celebration of South African dance, theatre, film and music. 

RECAP: When to Travel to South Africa

There are dozens of seasonal attractions that bring different types of travelers from all over the globe. For example, the world renowned Namaqualand daisies bloom in September, which also happens to be the month of the famous Zulu reed dance festival. If you want to go scuba diving, the annual sardine run between May and July is the best time to swim with South Africa's sharks and dolphins. So, as you can see, the best time to travel to South Africa widely depends on how you want to spend your time. 

Thursday
Oct012015

When to Visit India

India exudes diversity with its fabulous blend of cultures, landscapes and cuisine. If you're in the midst of planning a trip, you'll need to consider when to visit India, what to do upon your arrival and where to stay. Be sure to weigh the weather, annual events and terrain accessibility before you decide when to go to India. All in all, with the exception of a few summer months, India is a fantastic destination year-round - between the Taj Mahal, the Golden Triangle, the backwaters of Kerala, the Himalayan range, the busy bazaars and India's luxury hotels (many of which are palaces), you'll inevitably have an extraordinary time. Click here for our signature luxury travel to India after reading through the different criteria on when to travel to India, listed below!

The Weather in India

The country's weather is extremely varied. India experiences wet, cold and intensely hot weather conditions. The best time to visit India is from November to March simply because these months are usually cool and dry. Most India travel guides are in agreement in advising visitors to avoid the monsoon season as well as the hotter months. Lucky for you, they are one in the same and both occur May-June, leaving you plenty of time to explore all that India has to offer. 

The weather in India will almost always determine the best times to tour most of the country's unforgettable sites. For instance, the wet season can cause landslides in the Himalayan foothills. So, if you intend to trek the Himalayan range, then the ideal time to visit India is from March through the first half of May or rather from September through November. 

Unforgettable Sightseeing Opportunities

If this is your first tour of India, the Golden Triangle should without a doubt be on your travel itinerary. The Golden Triangle is made up of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. In Delhi, plan to visit architectural marvels like Jama Masjid (i.e. the Great Mosque) and the Red Fort. Agra is home to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur will give you a proper introduction to India's street life and bustling bazaars. 

Accommodations

India's finest luxury properties are intrinsic to your travels - and we'll tell you why. Throughout the years, India's wealthy built a number of truly extraordinary residences. Today, savvy hoteliers have converted many of these homes and former palaces into fine resorts. Unique tea estates, Raj-era guest homes and colonial residences provide historic and intriguing accommodations for those who visit India. Among some of our favorites are Taj Lake Palace, Chhatra Sagar, the Jawai Leopard Camp and Rambagh Palace. 

The Wildlife

Two words: Tiger Safaris. Whether it be Kaziranga National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Kahna or one of India's other wildlife sanctuaries, we absolutely recommend that you include a tiger safari in your travels and witness one of the most majestic animals in the world. 

Beyond tigers, the beaches of Goa are, among other things, home to turtles, dolphins and a vast array of extraordinary underwater life. Goa also hosts a great nightlife scene, fantastic restaurants and luxury spa resorts. 

The Food 

During your tour of India, dining will certainly be an entertaining and memorable experience. We have to admit that India more or less leads the world in its use of spices. Cumin, chili, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, cloves and ginger are used liberally and generously. The ingredient fusion in your kebab is likely to both astound and satisfy your taste buds. India offers a lovely medley of regional cuisines, combining both local and surrounding inspiration. Persian stews, Kerala seafood, southern vegetarian curries and northern grilled dishes - all at your fingertips. 

The Culture

Because India's culture is one of the oldest in the world, it is naturally among the most intriguing. India is responsible for several religions, yoga, the arrival of intense spices in cuisine and so much more. The north, south and northeast are culturally distinct and have their own traditional nuances. When you travel to India, be sure to respect these cultures. Examples include removing your footwear prior to entering a temple, and wearing modest clothing when touring religious sites. 

Annual Events

Before you decide when to visit India, you must consider whether you want to be there during one of the country's renowned events or festivals. Johdpur hosts the Rajasthan International Folk Festival every October - this lively celebration features traditional dancing, artists and musicians. In January, you can enjoy the Jaipur Literary Festival. The Holi Festival, a celebration of color and love, is held at the onset of spring. And, Diwali, which is by far the country's largest festival, is held in either October or November, depending on the year. 

Last Thoughts

So, to determine the best time to visit India, start off by assessing the country's annual weather conditions. Be sure to then consider the pros and cons of traveling to India during one of its famed celebrations - this is more of a personal choice and mainly depends on how laidback or lively you wish your visit to be. All in all, be sure to keep in mind that the food, culture and accommodations make the destination worth visiting at any time of the year. 

Friday
Sep112015

Mind Blowing Adventures that Protect our Planet: Custom-Designed Trips Incorporating Luxury + Conservation

Epic Road custom designs bespoke travel that blends high-end luxury with some of the most exciting conservation efforts around the world. If you're looking to expand your horizons and go beyond the quintessential safari in Africa, beyond the regular dive in the Maldives and beyond the leisure cruise through Antarctica, we've got you covered. Help scientists satellite collar an endangered species, help marine biologists reconstruct coral reefs, and climb glaciers with experts to learn all about climate change and glacial retreat. We've compiled the following list of some of the most exhilarating and rewarding conservation experiences around the world. 

Satellite Collar a Wild Predator (Lion, Cheetah, Buffalo, Wild Dog)

The African Wild Dog is an endangered species, and lion, cheetah and buffalo are sadly hunted and killed by poachers every day. This had led us to pair with reputable conservationists, scientists and organizations across the African continent - all with the shared mission to protect certain species from extinction and prevent others from ever nearing that point. One way that we work with these groups is to secure satellite collars around the species in question. Epic Road sets up an experience where you have the ability to track an animal and help experts place these collars around their necks so that scientists can then analyze and study the animals' behavior. In many of the regions implicated, the government lacks the funds necessary for such initiatives, so by you dedicating one of your travel experiences to wildlife conservation, the species has a better chance at survival. The data provided by these collars is invaluable and the thrill of getting hands on with some of the greatest animals on the planet is unprecedented. 

Visit our 25 Signature Experiences by Epic Road to learn more and watch live footage of the above!

Hands-on Interaction with & Adoption of a Wild Orphaned Baby Elephant

The Ithumba Camp is a small mobile tented camp located in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, where young elephants are reintroduced into the wild after being rescued and rehabilitated. The camp is run in partnership with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a truly incredible rescue organization and one of the most revered in the world. Ithumba Camp was specifically built to satisfy avid travelers who crave intimate and authentic interactions with majestic elephants in their natural habitat, meaning virtually every experience you have here will involve the incredible species in question. The synchronized trumpeting of an elephant herd will take place of your morning alarm, you will spend the day observing the animals as they roam about, feed and take exciting mud baths. And you won't be watching from the distance that you might expect, you will be close enough to really grasp what makes the elephant so special, how the species interact with each other and most importantly, you'll witness the moment where rescued baby elephants are accepted by their adoptive families. At that moment, your entire perspective of the elephant species will change.

Visit our sample itineraries involving elephant conservation:

Scuba Dive and Grow Coral with a Marine Biologist to Build a Maldivian Reef

Stay at the 4 Seasons in the Maldives and work side-by-side with marine biologists and local environmental consultancy Seamarc. They will happily introduce you to their underwater office and put you to work, giving you the opportunity to help transplant coral frames. In 1998, 90% of Maldivian shallow water corals were wiped out due to the unusually warm waters caused by El Nino. Since then, Seamarc has helped to regenerate the population, transplanting more than 60,000 fragments of coral between 2005 and 2009 alone. Beyond coral reefscaping, make sure to sign up for the 'Manta-on-Call' service where the resort will immediately notify you of ray sightings, get you on a speedboat and in the water to swim with these massive gentle creatures topping out at 30 feet. The diving on its own in the Maldives is of course phenomenal, some of the best in the world, and most luxury properties feature their very own house reefs...all you have to do is walk down from your beachfront villa. 

Visit our page on Luxury Travel in the Maldives.

Track Faux Poachers in the Bush with Anti-Poaching Teams and Their Dogs

Link up with a renowned anti-poaching team and their K-9 unit. Watch as the dogs track a faux poachers' scent through kilometers of wild bush until it successfully and impressively finds the elusive person of interest. In recent years, poaching methods have become increasingly sophisticated, both within expansive parks and smaller private reserves. In response to the continued threat to Africa's remaining wildlife, many properties and parks have started working with highly trained tracker dog units. Their keen sense of smell is unparalleled and there are very few obstacles they can't overcome as they can easily sniff their way through the dark and across long distances. Furthermore, once one poacher finds out that dogs have been deployed, the news rapidly circulates and though it is hard to quantify, most will agree that poaching has seemingly decreased. 

Climb Ice Glaciers in the Arctic & Antarctica While Learning about Climate Change and Glacial Retreat

Experience the real Arctic up close, fully escorted by the most knowledgeable Inuit guides. Aside from ensuring that you don't get lost out in the Arctic expanse, they will also teach you everything you need to know with regard to the land, the animals, and issues such as climate change and glacial retreat. Same goes for Antarctica - hike up a turquoise glacier and learn all about what you see - and if you get thirsty on your way up or during the explanation, simply reach down and eat a handful of the cleanest snow on the planet.

Visit our full selection of Luxury Arctic Tours & our page on Antarctica

Adopt an Aldabra Giant Tortoise

The famous Giant Aldabra Tortoise is native to the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. Despite weighing upwards of 600 pounds, they are completely harmless and will happily eat a handful of leaves right from your hands. To prevent poaching, many of the islands host secure tortoise enclosures where the young are fostered until the age of 3 when they can safely be released into the wild. You also have the ability to adopt one of these friendly vegeterians and contribute to the ongoing care and breeding programs dedicated to conserving the Aldabra Giant Tortoise. (FUN FACT: The oldest Giant Tortoise, named Jonathan, is 182 years old and though he now lives in the British territory of St. Helena, he is originally from the Seychelles)

Visit our page on Luxury Travel in the Seychelles.

Scuba Dive with a Marine Biologist and Work with Sea Turtles

One of the most threatened forms of marine life is the sea turtle. The species is constantly threatened by pollution, fishermen and of course natural predators. During your visit to Kenya or the Seychelles, you can work with local organizations to search for nesting turtles along the beach as well as help monitor incubating and hatching. Watching baby sea turtles hatch and take their very first steps is a truly unforgettable experience. 

Visit our page on Luxury Travel in the Seychelles.

Trek Volcanoes in Search of the 900 Remaining Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda/Uganda/Democratic Republic of Congo

We're talking about singularly exceptional access to one of the planet's most extraordinary species - the Mountain Gorilla. We're also talking about one of the most dramatic landscapes on the African continent: the mighty Virungas, a chain of 15,000 ft. volcanoes stretching across Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Your visit contributes significantly to the conservation of the species so make your way to this fascinating corner of Africa and come face-to-face with one of the most endangered species in existence. 

Visit our sample itineraries involving gorilla trekking:

Get Hands-on with Penguin Conservation with a Biologist on the Beaches of Antarctica 

Escape the presence of man and explore the last and largest unspoiled wilderness on Earth, the last frontier, Antarctica. Work with dedicated biologists to learn about the many penguin species and the threats they face on a daily basis from commercial fishing accidents to global warming. Make sure to swim with these curious creatures at Deception Bay, because lets face it, when and where else will you be at arm's length from thousands of penguins? 

Visit our page on Antarctica

Thursday
Sep032015

Epic Road Co-Founder Mark Lakin Honored as "Top Travel Specialist" in Travel+Leisure's 2015 A-List

Epic Road Co-Founder Mark Lakin was recently selected as one of the best travel agents in the world. He has been honored as "Top Travel Specialist" in Travel+Leisure's 2015 A-List, specifically Best Travel Agent for Africa & Best Travel Agent for Antarctica. This is perhaps travel's highest honor and we couldn't be more thrilled. 

So if you're looking for an award-winning travel agent to design your next custom luxury adventure, you can reach him at hello@epicroad.com. Whether it be a luxury safari in Africa, an adventure on an Icebreaker to Antarctica, a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon in the Seychelles, a romantic getaway to the Maldives, a family vacation to Dubai, a culinary tour of Japan, a Northern Lights experience in the Arctic, a beach holiday in Southeast Asia, or access to the best nightlife in Cape Town - Mark will tailor the experience to your interests. 

Epic Road designs bespoke travel to Africa (including Seychelles), Asia, Indian Ocean (including Maldives), the Arctic and Antarctica

Take a look at our 25 Signature Experiences to get inspired for your next trip and read on for Mark's full feature in Travel+Leisure to learn why he was chosen as one of the best travel agents in the world and what that means for you.