EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Thursday
Aug062015

When to See the Great Migration by Epic Road

The greatest migration of mammals on the planet, one of the most spectacular sights in the world and a MUST on any true traveler's bucket list. Each year, millions of zebra, gazelle, giraffe and wildebeest move across the vast plains of East Africa in search of food and water as the seasons change and the drought takes over - from the Serengeti in northern Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in south-western Kenya. 

A frenzy of territorial conquests and mating, grazers and predators alike, Darwin's survival of the fittest at play - let the games begin. As the grazers move, the predators follow and with roughly 18,000 miles to cover year after year, many will fail to reach the finish line. The Great Migration is arguably the most thrilling game-viewing on the continent, not to mention the breathtaking landscape that is the Serengeti - the entire experience is recognized as 1 of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa, and rightfully so. So whether you're partaking from an open 4x4, hot air ballon or on foot, you will undoubtedly witness some of the greatest species on the planet; lions, wildebeest, elephants, giraffes, hippos, cheetahs, leopards, zebras, crocodiles and more.

And lucky for you, this phenomenon lasts the entire year. Read on for a full breakdown of the best ways to experience the Great Migration according to season (and according to us). So pick your season and choose from our favorite award-winning luxury lodges built along the path of the Great Migration, guaranteeing you won't miss a thing.

WHEN: January, February, March - WHERE: Ndutu, southern Serengeti  

A 3-week period in the southern region of the Serengeti marks the birthing season for the wildebeest. The herds remain here until they recuperate and their newborns develop enough strength to make the trip north. Wildebeest babies are literally born to run, they can stand within minutes of being born and run alongside the herd within a single hour, and you have first row seats to the show. As nature would have it, the abundance of young calves renders this prime feeding season for predators - making it very likely that you will also witness a lion, cheetah or hyena kill. 

* We recommend the following luxury safari lodges: Serian (Serengeti South), Olakira Ndutu, and Mwiba Lodge

 

WHEN: April, May - WHERE: Seronera, central Serengeti 

As spring comes to an end and with the start of the rainy season, the herds continue to move north into the central Serengeti. Seronera, located at the heart of the Serengeti National Park, tends to be a cumbersome and less seemingly personal experience due to a high volume of tourists. The onset of the rainy season also more than likely means that many camps will be closed. In short, not our favorite time to go, but if camps are open it's a different story and the surroundings are extra beautiful as heavy rains cover the land with endless flower fields - so make sure to ask us before totally crossing it off your list. 

* We recommend the following luxury safari lodges: Dunia, Serengeti Under Canvas, Four Seasons Serengeti

 

WHEN: June, July - WHERE: Grumeti River, western Serengeti

June and July are possibly the most exciting months out of the year when it comes to the Great Migration. The region implicated is home to the Grumeti River aka the 1st major challenge that the herds will inevitably face. Attempting to cross the river, exhausted from the journey and up against hunting crocodiles hoping to take advantage of distressed zebra and wildebeest, is no easy feat. Understandably not ideal for the herds, but the Grumeti River crossing happens to be one of our favorite moments and places to witness the Great Migration. The surrounding natural beauty is particularly breathtaking and the luxury lodges in the area are truly phenomenal. 

* We recommend the following luxury safari lodges: Faru Faru, Sabora Tented Camp, Sasakwa Lodge and Singita Explore

 

WHEN: August, September, October - WHERE: Lamai Wedge, Mara River & Maasai Mara

Following the strenuous river crossing and with the arrival of fall, the herds move towards the Mara River and settle for a short while in the Maasai Mara. Behold panoramic rolling hills and savannah bordered by deep green forest and acacia woodlands - the ultimate wildlife habitat and well worth the trek (both for you and the animals). It's picturesque and beautiful and with with few visitors, it's also one of the most remote and unspoiled parts of the Serengeti. Not without action however as the Mara River too, is filled with crocs chomping at the bit. 

* We recommend the following luxury safari lodges: Lamai Serengeti, Singita Mara River Camp, Serengeti Bushtops, and Mara Plains Camp

 

WHEN: November, December - WHERE: Lobo & Seronera

Rains begin to dissipate and the herds move south through the Loliondo area (vast last owned by the Maasai, an ethnic group of semi-nomadic people) and back into the Serengeti National Park to birth their young and begin the cycle anew. December is particularly great as it's essentially an end of year migration/ gathering and you have the privilege of seeing a huge variety of game including big cats, always cast in the shadow of their prey. 

* We recommend the following lodges: &Beyond Klein's Camp, Serengeti Under Canvas, and Dunia Camp.

 

Click here to learn about our signature travel for the Great Migration. 

Thursday
Aug062015

Seeing the Big Five on a Luxury Safari in Africa - the African Lion, the African Elephant, the African Leopard, the Cape Buffalo and the Rhino

AFRICA - Africa is the second largest continent, home to the world's longest river, biggest desert, storybook safaris and the big five. SAFARI - Derived from the Swahili word for 'journey' or 'expedition', safari was originally associated with hunting big game. US President Teddy Roosevelt popularized the idea of safari when he embarked on one himself, with the desire to fill the Smithsonian Institute with African specimens. Many of the animals they brought back were members of the big five.THE BIG FIVE - Coined by big-game hunters as the 5 most difficult animals to hunt in Africa: the African lion, the African elephant, the African leopard, the Cape buffalo and the rhino. Today, the concept of safari has greatly evolved - ridding of its hunting connotation and affirming itself as a socially and environmentally-conscious trip during which travelers can appreciate the African continent and its extraordinary wildlife, and that is the definition that we support. Meanwhile, numerous conservation programs strive to restore the numbers of these animals in the wild. (Visit our signature experience page to find out how you can get involved) 

Beyond the encyclopedic definition of a safari, is our signature luxury safari. In addition to thrilling wildlife sightings, breathtaking panoramic landscapes, gorgeous sunrises & sunsets and unobstructred star-filled skies, a luxury African safari lets you enjoy all of the above from the most intimate and magnificent safari lodges on the continent. 

Rooftop beds for stargazing, Swarovski binoculars, palatial open-aired suites with fireplaces, thatched gazebos and massive canopied beds, private decks, spillway pools, and outdoor free-standing porcelain tubs, all looking out onto the beautiful and remote wilderness. 

And those are just the amenities, as far the experiences are concerned - prepare yourself for candlelit dinners in the bush or aboard a floating pontoon on the Zambezi river, champagne while watching a lion kill, a hot air balloon ride over the Great Migration, the ability to trail a pod of whales along the continental shelf from your private plane and so much more...

As we often say though, luxury isn't just about single malt scotches and high thread counts. For us, it's also about singularly exceptional access to some of the greatest wonders of our world. Coming face-to-face with the Big Five is one of those wondrous experiences and will most likely be the highlight of your trip.

We've put together a short description of each member of the Big 5 so you know what to look for on your safari!

LION

Lions once roamed most of the African continent as well as parts of Asia and Europe. Today, they can only be found in sub-Saharan Africa, with the only exception being a small population of Asian lions residing in India's Gir Forest. Lions live in groups, the males being the protectors and the females, the primary hunters. The easy way to differentiate the sex of a lion on your safari is to know that only males boast manes. Female lions hunt in packs as the animals they track down are often much faster, these include antelopes, zebras, wildebeest etc...Aside from teamwork, they have the added advantage of camouflage as their golden color blends inconspicuously with the light greens and yellows of the African savannah.

ELEPHANT

Weighing up to 8 tons, the African elephant is the largest land mammal on Earth. Other than size, dominant characteristics include large ears and of course their signature trunk - a versatile tool used to send warnings, greet others, bathe, drink water and pick up objects that weigh as much as 550 pounds. Reputed to have a sense of smell four times greater than bloodhounds, elephants can detect water up to 12 miles away. And as you might suspect, they need a lot of it - up to 50 gallons and 200-600 pounds of food per day. They have a slightly abnormal social structure, as females and calves often cohabitate whereas males typically live in isolation. Other standard elephant behavior that you might witness on safari is a lot of ear flapping and very messy mud baths - both of which are done for cooling purposes. 

LEOPARD

Sleek & powerful, the leopard is the most elusive of large carnivores and fully capable of hunting and killing beyond its size. If you've ever wondered why leopards can look slightly different, it is mainly based on their habitat. Forest dwellers boast dark coats whereas leopards who live in warmer areas are much lighter - just as East African leopards have circular spots (aka rosettes) and southern African leopards have square ones. They are strong climbers and will often store their kills in trees to avoid theft from lions and hyenas (relatively lazy species that prefer to steal than hunt for themselves). Leopards can weigh up to 140 pounds and can run as fast as 36mph. 

RHINOCEROS

The rhino, with its distinctive horn, is the second largest land mammal after the elephant. There are 2 main types of rhino - black & white, though they are all grey in color. The terms are in fact a result of a mistranslation. Early Dutch settlers in South Africa referred to white rhinos as 'Weid mond rhino' meaning 'wide-mouth rhino'. This is because the easiest way to distinguish the two is by their mouths. Black rhinos are grazers and therefore have smaller hook-shaped lips that help them to grasp firmly onto vegetation. They are slightly shorter and typically weigh less, 1,700 - 3,000 pounds versus the white rhino, 4,000 - 6,000 pounds. We've also observed that a white rhino will run in front of its mother whereas a black rhino trots behind. Unfortunately, this incredible species is one of the most endangered animals in the world but many great organizations are actively devoted to protecting rhinos and ensuring their survival. (FUN FACT: Rhinos once roamed throughout Eurasia and were depicted in cave paintings by early Europeans)

CAPE BUFFALO

The Cape buffalo is the only member of the buffalo and cattle tribe that occurs naturally on the African continent. The species is relatively short in stature, standing at 51-59 inches but is massive when it comes to weight, topping out at nearly 2,000 pounds. They congregate in herds of several hundred and spend the bulk of their time grazing in open grasslands, swamps and forests, almost always near a large source of water. Strength in numbers is key for the buffalo as lone wanderers who separate from the herd are vulnerable to lions. They can run up to 35mph and can occasionally outrun their predators, but they are slow to gain speed and often fall victim to ambush attacks. Despite their docile cow-like appearance, Cape buffalo are extremely dangerous, and observers are always surprised by the force demonstrated when males fight over rank and females.  

Monday
Apr062015

Circuit Of Change Launches Their Online Store!

Epic Road’s favorite workout studio Circuit of Change launched their new online store today and we couldn’t be more excited!

Founder Brian Delmonico is a former gymnast and Ironman triathlete and his fiancé Alyssa Rasul is Circuit’s Wellness Director, and together they are the ultimate dynamic duo. 

Circuit of Change is a spiritual bootcamp that combines yoga, pilates, gymnastics, martial arts, boxing and meditation to form a signature practice unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. 

"Circuit of Change is what a workout should be: an energizing yet calming practice that reminds you of your own ability to transform not only your body but also your mind.” - The Huffington Post

The workouts are phenomenal - dimmed lights, rhythmic music and powerful movements paired with Brian’s infectious energy really allow you to tap into a level of strength you never knew you had. 

Brian started this insatiable craze three years ago as a summer outdoor practice and Epic Road co-founder Marc Chafiian was one of his very first students. Now, he has a studio in Union Square Manhattan, a significant loyal following and he’s just launched online workouts and a branded workout mat!

“We can’t use normal yoga mats because of our hybrid style class” Brian says, so, he engineered one. This 10-millimeter thick mat provides shock absorption, specifically designed to withstand Circuit’s brilliantly unorthodox moves and it’s made from non-toxic, 100% recyclable materials.  

If you’re a passionate traveler, Circuit’s versatile mat and online training are your means of keeping up with your fitness goals while on the go. So make sure to check out Circuit of Change’s new online store! I personally have my eye on the COC Deluxe Bundle, including all 6 workouts, the ultra mat and Alyssa’s 30 Plant-Based Recipes book. 

Go to www.circuitofchange.com and watch the following video to learn more!

Tuesday
Feb242015

When and Where to See the Northern Lights

Colloquially known as the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon in which the skies of the northern latitudes are painted a kaleidoscope of surreal colors and patterns. Named for the Roman goddess of the dawn, the lights occur when highly charged electrons from solar winds react with particles in the earth’s atmosphere around the North Pole. The pattern of emerald, fuchsia and indigo colors change in response to the amount of oxygen and nitrogen in the air.

northern lights safaris and tours
When to See the Lights

Because darkness is typically required to view the lights, they are usually not visible from mid-April until mid-August. This is because the sun does not fully set in these extreme northern latitudes during this period. The best time to view the lights is from September to late March because this is when the night sky is darker longer. The lights may be visible against a lighter sky and at other times if they are strong enough. The peak viewing is typically in the months of September and March, which coincides with the fall and spring equinox. Flares may begin as early as 4 p.m. and go through the night with peak periods between 10 and 11 p.m. Viewing may also be hampered by the illumination of a full moon as well as city lights. Be on the alert for weather forecasts as low-lying clouds can obscure the display, which occurs high in the atmosphere. The altitude of the lights enables them to be seen from miles away.

Where to See Northern Lights

The light pattern traces an oval path, called the auroral oval, which is centered on the earth’s magnetic north pole. The location of the strongest display on any particular night is determined by changes in solar winds and the exact location of the magnetic pole, which can vary from year to year. The oval covers major portions of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Iceland as well as Scandinavia and parts of Russia.

Due to its northern Arctic location in the Barents Sea, Svalbard, Norway is a prime location for viewing this natural wonder. The lights are visible here from November until February. Svalbard travel also enables you to witness the Polar Night. During the period from mid-November until the end of January, the region is without daylight. This scenario increases the likelihood of seeing the northern lights because a light blue twilight is as bright as it gets. The Polar Night also provides an opportunity to witness the fainter Day Northern Lights. When you visit Svalbard, you can follow the lights during a Snowcat safari or explore the countryside on snowmobiles. Along the way, you may also see reindeer and arctic foxes in their natural habitat.

With minimal light pollution, locations like Greenland and Northern Canada offer the opportunity to view the lights from September until early April. The former U.S. military base near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland averages 300 nights of sightings per year. These stats are equaled by the Northern Studies Center in the Manitoba town of Churchill. Depending upon atmospheric conditions, the lights may be visible further west in locations like the northern Yukon, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territory from August until mid-April.

Surrounded by towering pines, the Kruna region of Sweden and Finnish Lapland offer views of the awe-inspiring lights from late November until late March. Located 900 meters above sea level, the sky viewing station in Abisko, Sweden is virtually free of interference from noise and light pollution. Towns across the area celebrate the lights that are visible more than 200 nights per year. The Norwegian government added a feature to their passport that reveals an image of the northern lights when viewed under a black light. Along with Iceland and Northern Alaska that offer possible viewing conditions from August through early May, the northern lights are also visible in the Shetland Islands and Cairngorm National Park of Scotland, where the phenomenon is called the Merry Dancers.

Organized excursions take you to the best locations where you can see the northern lights. Along with the greatest lights shows on earth, these tours include luxury accommodations and gourmet dining. Contact Epic Road for more information on northern lights safaris and tours.

Tuesday
Feb242015

A Guide to The Seychelles Islands

Seychelles Honeymoon

Located off the coast of Africa, the Seychelles archipelago is a dazzling chain of more than 100 islands. The secluded beaches and natural beauty of this Indian Ocean paradise has attracted seafarers and adventurers for centuries. While some islands are small rocky outcrops, others are teeming with wildlife and adorned with wide swathes of palm tree-lined white sand and lush mountainous interiors. This oft-photographed setting creates an unforgettable backdrop for one of the world’s most romantic holiday and honeymoon destinations.


The Seychelles Islands also feature some high-energy distractions, such as snorkeling, scuba diving and hiking into the unspoiled backcountry. Beach bazaars and other special events like the Creole Festival and SUBIOS Underwater Festival introduce couples to the island’s eclectic music and cuisine. The lively sound of polka, percussion instruments and folk music ride the tropical trade winds along with the tantalizing aroma of curry dishes and fragrant tropical fruits.

With so much to offer, a trip to the Seychelles Islands should include a visit to more than one island. The Vallee de Mai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in the heart of the Praslin National Park. Untouched since the 1930s, the near-primeval palm forest is the habitat of the rare black parrot and boasts the coco de mer, which is the largest seed in the world. Praslin Island is also home to Anse Lazio beach whose sheltered atmosphere consistently ranks as one of the top destinations of its kind in the world. Curieuse Island, the setting for a museum and historic site, is well known for the national marine reserve that is home to the giant Seychellois tortoise. Rustling palms and giant granite boulders are iconic landmarks at Anse Source d’Argent lagoon. This pristine strip of sand on the island of La Digue is the most famous beach in the Seychelles. Cousin Island is a prime birding area that serves as a nesting habitat for numerous migrating and indigenous species, including striated herons and the Seychelles blue pigeons and magpies.

Evoking images of a charming watercolor painting, the scenery of Mahé includes azure waters and scenic bays as well as the verdant slopes of Morne Seychellois, the chain’s highest peak. Couples can explore the mountainous jungle and dive or snorkel in pristine sites offshore amidst bottlenose dolphins, whale sharks and other aquatic animals. The largest island, Mahé is the location for the city of Victoria, the national capital as well as the popular Beau Vallon Beach. Victoria is filled with colonial buildings, shops and restaurants with menus featuring the island’s Creole-inspired cuisine like the unique Seybrew beer and grilled octopus, a national favorite. Historic buildings include the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the Clock Tower, a focal point in the city. The century-old Seychelles National Botanical Gardens houses a colorful and aromatic display of palm, spice and fruit trees. You can experience the delightful fragrance of vanilla and cinnamon in the Le Jardin du Roi Spice Garden. While Beau Vallon offers the best swimming, surfers are drawn to the swells and breaks of Anse Intendance.

Whether your dream is to relax in the sun, explore a different culture or embark on an eco-tour showcasing rare species, your adventure await in the Seychelles. These idyllic islands boast stunning beaches, brilliant azure seas and verdant nature reserves as well as fine restaurants and luxury accommodations to make your stay more enjoyable. Experience adrenaline-pumping water sports, explore the remote outer islands or just lay back and enjoy the nocturnal sounds under a blanket of stars without the distraction of modern lights and noise. With its countless secluded coves adorned with sea-sculpted granite boulders that make it a favored setting for magazine photo shoots, the Seychelles is an amazing destination for a romantic getaway.

Tuesday
Feb242015

Luxury travel to Japan and Ryokans

Japan is a study in contrasts with ancient temples and customs that coexist with modern skyscrapers and technology. Set against the scenic beauty of the Land of the Rising Sun, the harmonious juxtaposition of the past and present as well as Eastern and Western cultures is an enigma to most people. Luxury travel to Japan enables guests to experience a nation that readily accepts current pop culture, such as karaoke and anime, while remaining true to earlier periods symbolized by the geisha, bonsai and meticulous tea ceremonies. Rather than stay in a western-style high-rise hotel in the city, visitors can experience these time-honored customs by arranging accommodations in a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn.


Originating during the Edo Period in the early 17th century, ryokan were inns that provided accommodations for guests as they traveled along Japan’s roadways. The inn typically featured tatami-matted floors, sliding doors, communal baths and public areas where guests relaxed while wearing the yukata, or the traditional casual summer kimono. The ryokan usually has a large entrance hall with couches and chairs where guests gather and talk. Rooms may feature a porch or balcony. The common bathing area, or ofuro, is typically segregated by gender and uses water from an onsen, or hot spring, if one is situated nearby. Luxury ryokan may feature private baths. Bedding consists of a futon that is laid out on the floor. The ryokan provides guests with a yukata as well as breakfast and dinner. Meals often consist of traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki, or multi-course meal, which features regional and seasonal specialties. In addition to inns located throughout the countryside, visitors can find a variety of luxury ryokans in Tokyo as well as other cities.

More than just a place to sleep, these time-honored inns are an opportunity for travelers to experience a traditional Japanese lifestyle and sense of community. When staying at ryokans in Kyoto or other locations in Japan, guests should follow traditional etiquette, such as removing their shoes before entering. A pair of slippers will be provided for walking in common areas. No footwear is worn on the tatami floors. A complimentary tea service is normally available in each guest room, which also has a table and zabuton cushions. The staff lays out a futon in the evening and removes it in the morning. Because this is considered customary service, the room attendant may be offended if ryokan guests leave a tip. Since a ryokan is designed to be a place of serenity, guests are asked to keep noise to a minimum and avoid commotions in common areas. They should also refrain from storing items in the tokonoma, or alcove, which are decorated with artwork, bonsai trees or flowers. Guests are encouraged to wear the yukata. To wear it correctly, place the left side over the right. Men wear the sash on the hips, and women wear it higher on the waist. The yukata should be worn tightly closed.

There are several highly regarded inns dispersed throughout the country. Nestled in a forest near Hakone, the Yama No Chaya ryokan is reached by crossing a bridge suspended over a mountain stream. The inn offers a variety of rooms with wonderful views of the Hayakawa River. The nearby Tonosawa hot spring supplies the open-air baths. The cozy Family Inn Saiko is one of the highest-rated ryokans in Tokyo. Near the lively Ikebukuro neighborhood, it features modern facilities set against a backdrop of traditional hospitality. Serene atmosphere and excellent cuisine are highlights of the Biyu no Yado ryokan in Nagano, Japan’s third-highest rated inn. Located in the laid-back Shitamahi area, the Sawanoya is a family-operated ryokan with a homespun atmosphere. In operation since 1949, it specializes in providing services for foreign travelers. The Ryouri Ryokan Shiraume is one of the most highly regarded of the ryokans in Kyoto. Its name means white plum, a reference to the 200-year-old plum trees that adorn the property. Located in the Gion historical district, the inn along with the teahouse that once occupied the site have been pleasing travelers for centuries.

Staying in a ryokan enables guests to experience Japan’s incredible ancient and modern customs. Contact Epic Road for assistance arranging luxury travel to Japan and accommodations in a traditional Japanese inn.

 

Sunday
Feb152015

How Can Americans Travel to Cuba?

In an effort to normalize relations, the U.S. Government has revised the rules and regulations concerning travel to Cuba by American citizens. While regular travel for Cuba vacations is still banned, the restrictions for 12 other types of travel have been relaxed. For example, it is now easier for people to visit their relatives, attend sporting events, participate in humanitarian relief efforts and take educational people-to-people trips. In contrast to purely recreational activities, such as a day at the beach, these people-to-people excursions are designed to bring residents of each country closer together through shared experiences. The trips, which are open to everyone, have pre-arranged itineraries filled with stops at historic sites, museums and other cultural attractions like lectures and visits to community projects. These itineraries ensure that the trip complies with the U.S. State Department travel restrictions. The guidelines governing the amount of free time that occurs on these trips have yet to be determined. Tours of Cuba often include visits to Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Varadero, the three most popular destinations in the country.


The capital of Havana is a vibrant Caribbean city with a Latin vibe set against a history of swashbuckling pirates and Spanish colonialism as well as the glitz and glamour of the 1950s. Accentuating the spectacular beach, the Malecon is a popular five-mile-long seaside boulevard with stunning views of the bay and the city’s eclectic mix of architectural styles. Historic buildings include the restored 18th century Fortress of San Carlos and the National Capitol. The fortress is the largest Spanish colonial bastion in the New World, and the ornate National Capitol houses the world’s third largest indoor statue and the Room of the Lost Steps, which is renowned for its acoustics. The Old Town area, including the museums of the restored Castle of the Royal Forces, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the extensive collection in the national art museum, guided tours of the city generally include visits to an authentic cigar factory and the Havana Club Rum distillery. Along the cobblestone Merchant Street, visitors can experience museums, shops and restaurants as well as ongoing social projects and a statue of Simon Bolivar.

Located on the southeast coast, Santiago de Cuba is the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution. It was from this seaside town, that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara launched their movement in the 1950s. The city has also played a part in the evolution of Cuban art, music and literature with its Afro-Caribbean influences. Santiago de Cuba is the location of Don Facundo Bacardi’s first rum factory and the Casa de Diego Velazquez, the oldest extant residence in the country. The imposing UNESCO World Heritage Castle of San Pedro sets atop a promontory overlooking the harbor. Visit the museums dedicated to rum and the revolution as well as the famous Moncada Barracks and the meticulously restored frescos and hand-carved wood of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Fidel Castro and 100 followers stormed the military garrison in 1953 as one of their first revolutionary acts. Erected in the 16th century, the cathedral contains the remains of Diego Velazquez, the island’s first colonial governor. The Cemetery of Santa Ifigenia is the final resting place of national hero Jose Marti and members of the Bacardi family.

Located on the Hicacos Peninsula, Varadero boasts an uninterrupted 15 miles of crystalline sand and warm turquoise water. The country’s premier beach destination, the community is the center of Cuba’s burgeoning tourist industry. Varadero is home to the natural beauty of the Parque Josone with its botanical gardens and bird habitats as well as the Bellamar Caves, a national monument featuring impressive underground galleries and rock formations. The park also hosts numerous cultural events celebrating traditional Cuban music and dance. Visitors can also attend a performance of the famous Cuban cabaret-style Tropicana Show. Cuba’s marine and undersea splendor is on display with scenic boat tours, exceptional diving and mini-submarine excursions of the mangrove forests, reefs and shipwrecks of the nature preserves on this island archipelago. An elegant historic beach house on the peninsula now serves as a museum with period furnishings, photographs and other exhibits that chronicle the story of the resort.

To book a flight and travel to Cuba, American citizens must work with a professional agency that has an official license issued by the State Department.

Sunday
Nov232014

Best Places and Hotels in Myanmar

Set against a mesmerizing tapestry of mysterious jungle temples, tranquil beaches and spectacular mountain scenery, Myanmar is a burgeoning travel destination. Once known as Burma, this mysterious Southeast Asian nation is a unique combination of ancient traditions, colonial customs and modern amenities. Visitors will discover cosmopolitan cities like Yangon and Mandalay as well as remote ethnic villages at the foot of the Himalayas and beaches on the Bay of Bengal. The opening of the country provides numerous luxury Myanmar travel opportunities.


The country’s commercial center and largest city, Yangon features colonial architecture and the 326-foot-tall, gilded Shwedagon Pagoda, the most important religious site in Myanmar. The Strand Hotel, opened in 1901, has hosted legendary figures, including novelists Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell. The cultural capital of the country, Mandalay is home to the Royal Palace and the golden Maha Myat Muni Paya statue of Buddha. Stroll along streets lined with tree-shaded monasteries and local crafts shops. Located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, the Bagan archaeological region has the world’s largest and densest collection of Buddhist pagodas, temple, stupas and ruins. Many of these buildings date back to the 11th century. From the Scott Market in Yangon to the stalls of Muse along the Chinese border, you can find stylish bargains, timeless finds and exquisitely handcrafted souvenirs.

Famed for its biodiversity, the landscape of Myanmar is a beautiful montage that encompasses lush vegetation, soaring mountains and soft sandy beaches. Hike the foothills of the Himalayas, rock climb and raft raging whitewater rapids. Located in the Kachin State, Putao is famous for its rare orchid specimens. Freshwater Inle Lake is a wildlife sanctuary and the breeding ground and nesting site for thousands of migratory aquatic birds. Here you will see fishermen rowing boats with their legs and farmers tending traditional hydroponic gardens.

Adventurers can explore the majestic stalactites and stalagmites on Haingu Island, which was named for its subterranean caverns. Visit the Mergui Archipelago to view rainforests as they appeared thousands of years ago for an up-close encounter with tropical birds, elephants, armadillos and monkeys that live in this unique habitat. Snorkel or dive amidst rays, pipefish, nurse sharks and anglerfish and dolphins just offshore. Relax on miles of palm tree-lined beaches set against a picturesque backdrop and watch as colorful sunsets signal the end of the day.

Isolated from the outside world for decades, Myanmar is enriched by the cultural history of its diverse population. Travel back in time as you visit remote minority villages whose people still live as they did hundreds of years ago. These communities provide a fascinating contrast to the large modern cities that also preserve vestiges of their indigenous and colonial traditions. The country is a rich combination of sights, sounds and flavors. Influenced by its neighbors, Myanmar cuisine features delicious local dishes, such as roasted duck, deep-fried gourds, fish noodle soup and banana cake. Witnessing the dress, music and festivals of the Yang, Kachin and other distinct ethnic groups is an once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience.

Accommodations in Myanmar range from modern downtown hotels to beachside bungalows and rain forest lodges. Luxurious and comfortable surroundings are also available in mountaintop retreats and aboard ships that cruise the Irrawaddy River. These hotels provide guests personalized services, which include spas and wellness centers in addition to the magnificent views, distinctive architectural details and beautiful fabrics. They serve as the perfect setting for relaxing between shopping, dining and sightseeing excursions. You can enjoy afternoon tea, surf the swells off Cheduba Island, trek the legendary Burma Road and experience a bird’s-eye-view of thousand-year-old pagodas from a hot air balloon. For an unforgettable adventure, let Epic Road help you customize your Myanmar travel itinerary.

Saturday
Nov152014

Cruise Through Antarctica by Zodiac or Kayak

Exploring Antarctica, one of the last remaining unspoiled wildernesses on the planet, is a life-changing experience. The spectacular landscape will take your breath away as you trace the footsteps of legendary explorers. A mix of state-of-the-art and time-honored vessels makes it easier to visit the bottom of the world, which was once inaccessible to everyone except the most fearless adventurers.

Antarctica Travel by Zodiac or Kayak
One of the most exciting innovations is the modern Zodiac, which traces it lineage to rigid-hulled inflatable boats first introduced in the 1930s. These versatile boats enable guests to disembark the cruise ship and travel among the icebergs. It provides up-close views of wildlife and access to the mesmerizing landscape. The rigid floor and solid hull design of the Zodiac enable the boat to provide a comfortable ride while traveling quickly across the water. The Zodiac has a larger capacity because it has greater buoyancy than a traditional boat, which creates a lower center of gravity and better stability. The boat is almost impossible to capsize. The shallow draft enables the small boat to reach close to shore. The motorized craft is highly maneuverable, which makes it ideal for navigating the rocky coastline and reaching places traditional boats cannot access. Because of their qualities and versatility, famous undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau used Zodiacs on numerous expeditions.

By shuttling passengers from the larger cruise ship, Zodiac excursions enable you to explore the inlets, channels and a variety of landing sites. You can observe whales, seals and penguins in their natural habitats. View pods of humpback whales on their annual migration along with rookeries that contain thousands of penguins as well as several species of seal frolicking along the shoreline. You can also visit scientific research stations, museums and historic sites. See where scientists study the atmosphere, oceans and stars. Visit museums and monuments dedicated to Ernest Shackleton, Robert Scott and other distinguished explorers and seafarers. Embark on a hike to vantage points that offer magnificent panoramic vistas of this White Desert.

The number of sightseeing trips that you will make each day depends on the weather and the length of each excursion. Since there are no docks, most excursions will have wet landings. As the nose of the boat is positioned against the shore, you will disembark the Zodiac in approximately a foot of water and walk ashore. As a result, it is important that you wear the protective clothing specified by your cruise line.

For at least 4,000 years, sea kayaks have enabled people to explore coastal waters, rivers and inlets. Unlike a Zodiac or other motorized boats, a kayak is quiet, which means that you can get closer to penguins and other animals as they feed or sleep nearby. Hear the natural shifting and cracking of the ice, uninterrupted by the noise of the modern world, as you glide across fjords flanked by towering glaciers and icebergs whose silhouettes reflect off the clear water. Led in small groups by an experienced guide, a kayak adventure is an opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring sea life and majestic icy habitat in a more intimate and personal way. Enjoy the independence, solitude and tranquility that only a kayak can provide while exploring the rookeries and other nesting sites dispersed along the coastline. The excitement of whales, seals and penguins surfacing nearby is an experience that you will remember for years to come.

Antarctic Zodiac and sea kayak excursions will rekindle your adventurous spirit. Let Epic Road help you in create a dream itinerary for an once-in-a-lifetime vacation to this powerful and unforgettable wilderness.

 

Tuesday
Nov112014

Climb the Glaciers: Hiking in Antarctica

The polar ice cap is one of the most amazing sights on earth with scenery and wildlife like nowhere else on the planet. An Antarctica luxury safari can bring storied images to life. Imagine yourself tracing the footsteps of the legendary explorers of old, such as Amundsen, Scott and Shackleton, as you embark on an Antarctica hiking expedition. Gaze out over the Southern Ocean where majestic turquoise icebergs, fluking whales and tobogganing penguins set the stage for inland trips across the unspoiled ice- and snow-covered landscape towards the ancient mountains, snow-capped black volcanoes and 100-mile-long glaciers of the Great White Continent. Discover the rookeries of the region’s diverse birdlife as well as scientific research stations and historic sites as you trek cross-country on short walks along the shoreline or on extended hikes inland. 

Antarctica travel climbing glaciers

Some of the best trails are found on the Antarctic Peninsula and the surrounding islands. Unlike much of the rest of the continent, Deception Island is not completely covered by ice. One of the world’s most incredible islands, it is actually a caldera, which is the summit of a still-active volcano. Hikers leave Whalers Bay and head towards the 130-meter-high summit viewpoint above South East Point and Neptune’s Window. Witness spectacular views of Port Foster and the rocky outcropping known as the Sewing Machine Needles. Paradise Harbor is the destination of choice for those who want to witness the amazing natural phenomenon known as glacial calving in which massive blocks of ice break away from the larger ice shelf. The surrounding glacial mountains provide numerous opportunities for capturing the photos of a lifetime. The nearby Shetland Islands offer the chance to view a variety of wildlife up close, including penguins, fur seals and giant petrels. The islands’ mountains provide marvelous overlooks for spotting pods of whales offshore. 

Trails also head to McMurdo Sound and the famous Ross Ice Shelf. In addition to views of Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in the world, visitors to McMurdo Sound are presented with stunning scenery and a range of fascinating animals. A trek to Observation Hill provides a bird’s-eye-view of the research station. Hut Point is the setting for the historic Scotts Hut, a relic from the early 20th century. The Dry Valleys are one of Earth’s most extreme deserts. The Ross Ice Shelf is a frozen floating mass of ice the size of France. Special craft enable visitors to go ashore and investigate the unique glacial formations. 

Experience every mountaineer’s dream as you survey magnificent panoramic vistas of an endless horizon while climbing Antarctica glaciers and scaling the summit of rocky peaks. Explore the awe-inspiring untouched alpine terrain, including icy crests, hidden valleys, ridge traverses and rock pyramids that feature unlimited climbing potential. Feel the breathtaking serenity of this ice- and snow-covered wilderness and the thrill of what polar expeditions must have felt like while hiking in Antarctica. Adventurers have made amazing climbs on Linder Peak as well as Mounts Dolence, Rossman and Sporli. The quintessential hiking and climbing experience is the ascent of Mount Vinson. Part of the Ellsworth Mountains, the mount is unparalleled in its beauty. This highest peak on the continent is 600 miles from the South Pole and rises majestically from the Ronnie Ice Shelf. 

Once the purview of only the most intrepid explorer, hiking in Antarctica can now be enjoyed by almost anyone in good health. 

Tuesday
Oct282014

Best Small Cruises to Antarctica

One of the driest and coldest continents, Antarctica is also renowned as one of the last unspoiled wilderness frontiers on earth. Cruise travelers will find spectacular towering mountains and extensive glaciers that provide a unique habitat for an array of fascinating aquatic birds, marine mammals and other creatures, which thrive in the frigid environment. An Antarctica cruise provides the opportunity to view this amazing polar ice sheet and its animal habitats up-close in style and comfort. 

antarctica cruise

Experience an incredible phenomenon known as glacier calving, which causes huge blocks of ice to break away creating country-sized icebergs. Witness pods of whales on their annual migration, seals sunbathing on the rocks and penguins frolicking on the ice. Enjoy panoramic vistas of the volcanic crater that forms Deception Island and distinctive natural rock and ice formations that resemble futuristic sculptures. These excursions can include side trips to the Falklands and South Georgia Island as well as historic whaling sites and research stations. Several cruise lines offer intimate excursions for both experienced and first-time travelers.

Silversea features elegant and luxurious cruises with inimitable personalized customer service. This expedition of discovery for discerning travelers features a relaxing, informal lifestyle in a cosmopolitan atmosphere aboard the Silver Explorer, a purpose-rebuilt expedition ship. Passengers can savor sophisticated elegance that includes special amenities like a sauna, fitness center and full-service spa as well as an Internet café, a beauty salon and live entertainment. Exciting trips enable guests to view whales, penguins and seals during onshore nature hikes and offshore jaunts across the serene water on a Zodiac. Lectures provide interesting perspectives into the local geology, flora and fauna that guests generally see during the next day’s adventures. Silversea offers an amazing Antarctica cruise that will be an awesome life-changing experience.

Quark Expeditions has the largest number of ships operating in the area, which provides you with even more opportunities to select the Antarctica cruise experience of your choice. Employing some of the most knowledgeable guides, Quark offers more varied, longer and innovative itineraries that usually travel further south than other expeditions. The company was the first line to circumnavigate the continent twice in a season during 2005. National Geographic nominated Quark’s Far-Side Semi-Circumnavigation tour as one of the top 50 adventure expeditions a lifetime. Their awe-inspiring adventures include helicopter flights that explore the Weddell Sea and some of the world’s largest ice shelves that take guests beyond the Antarctic Circle. Quark Expeditions offers some of the most in-depth excursions to the White Continent. Options range from excursions that land among massive colonies of breeding penguins to “do-it-all” adventures, which include the environmental tapestry of the Falklands and South Georgia. 

Antarctica XXI offers ease and luxury with a remarkable fly and cruise combination package. The adventure begins in quaint Punta Arena, Chile, one of the world’s most southern cities. From here, intrepid travelers fly to the South Shetland Islands off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula where they will meet the cruise ship. Bypassing the treacherous Drake Passage by air enables you to spend two extra days exploring the spectacular wildlife and scenery of Antarctica by land and sea. The modern cruise ships are comfortable expedition vessels with ice-strengthened hull, which make them ideal for expeditions to some of the world’s most inaccessible places. Passengers also enjoy customized personal service. Nature guides help guests discover the hidden treasures of Antarctica through fascinating lectures, naturalist-led hikes onshore and Zodiac excursions afloat. Antarctica XXI provides a delightful combination of relaxation and adventure in the frozen wilderness.

Antarctica, once the exclusive haunt of daring explorers, is now accessible to other outdoor enthusiasts. Modern icebreakers and aircraft make traveling to and around the continent safer and easier. Antarctica travel is unlike any other destination, let Epic Road guide you through the planning process of selecting the best small cruises to Antarctica.

Sunday
Oct192014

Travel to the Massive Penguin Colonies of Antarctica

Antarctica Emperor Penguins

An Antarctic cruise and luxury safari is the opportunity of a lifetime to explore one of the world’s last unspoiled frontiers. There is a broad range of amazing wildlife in this frigid environment. Throughout the journey, the panoramic views will reveal various species thriving in their native habitat. One of the most sought after animals of Antarctica is the penguin. Of the world’s 17 penguin species, six have adapted to the continent’s frigid ecosystem.

 

Emperor Penguin

The largest penguin, the Emperor, stands almost 4 feet tall. Although these colorful birds comprise the smallest segment of the overall penguin population, breeding colonies can number in excess of 100,000. As winter approaches, Emperors move inland to breed in traditional locations. Previous mates locate each other through bugle-like calls. Upon discovering each other, they bow and display the unique orange patches on the side of their heads. Although their breeding process is one of the most arduous for all penguins, over 75 percent of couples successfully raise offspring.

 

Adélie Penguins

Named after the wife of English adventurer Dumont d’Urville, Adélie penguins are small birds that weigh approximately 10 pounds and stand slightly more than 2 feet tall. During the summer months, they congregate in rookeries than can encompass up to hundreds of thousands of birds. As winter approaches, they travel closer to the edge of the ice shelf where the temperatures are warmer. Males attempt to reclaim former nesting spots and present pebbles as gifts to their mate. Adélies can lose up to 45 percent of their body weight during the entire breeding process. Once the chicks are able to go to sea and feed, the breeding colony is abandoned.

Rockhoppers Penguins

Rockhoppers are the smallest of Antarctica’s penguin species standing slightly more than 20 inches tall. Featuring a spiky black and yellow-feathered crest on the top of their heads, they roost among the rocky slopes of the islands bordering the Antarctic Convergence. Their breeding colonies, which congregate in the same location each year, can number in the hundreds of thousands. Although they comprise the largest segment of penguins, their population is declining rapidly due to overfishing, which reduces their food supply. As a result, Rockhopper penguins are listed as a vulnerable species.

Chinstrap Penguins

Named for the line that runs beneath their face from ear to ear, Chinstrap penguins are similar in size to Adélies. They prefer the relatively warmer waters near the islands off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Located on the side of a dormant volcano known as Deception Island, the Bailey’s Head colony contains nearly one million birds. Fights erupt as the male and female birds challenge their competition for mates and nesting spots in rocky terrain that is free from ice and snow.

Gentoo Penguins

Early explorers named these birds for their feathers that resemble a turban. The world’s third largest penguins, these birds have pale markings behind the eyes as well as red-orange beaks and peach-colored feet. Their colonies are situated along the Antarctic Peninsula. Preferring inland nesting sites, the colony travels to the sea by following the same common path, which makes it easier to reach the feeding grounds. Should the first brood be unsuccessful, Gentoos may lay another set of eggs if it is early enough in the season. Their major populations are found on South Georgia as well as the Falkland and Kerguelen Islands.

Macaroni Penguins

One of six crested penguin species, Macaroni penguins were named for their ornate yellow plumage that is situated above each of their eyes. This moniker is a derivative of the term Macaroni Dandies, which was used to describe flamboyant dressers in the late 18th century. They also have red eyes and an orange-brown bill. Similar in size to Adélies and Chinstraps, they prefer the islands around Antarctica and rarely venture onto the continent. Their largest colonies are found on Heard and South Georgia Islands.  The International Union for the Conservation of Nature considers these penguins vulnerable.

During the Antarctic travel season, a variety of land- and ship-based excursions provide wonderful opportunities to witness these marvelous creatures up close. Contact Epic Road to book your adventure and meet these resilient and quirky little birds.

Tuesday
Oct142014

Antarctica Wildlife Safaris: Penguins, Whales, and Seals!

One the world’s last frontier’s, Antarctica is a fascinating and mysterious landscape that few travelers have ever experienced. Uninhabited by man, this stark environment invites curious and intrepid adventurers who desire to observe a fascinating range of exotic wildlife. Modern icebreakers enable guests on an Antarctica cruise to reach this remote wilderness in safety and comfort. During a luxury safari, you will have panoramic vistas of snow-white glaciers crashing into the ocean, massive sea-sculpted icebergs and shimmering cliffs towering over the water. There will also be opportunities to experience close encounters with some of nature’s most fascinating creatures. Put on snowshoes and hike the ice sheet, weave in and out of icebergs on a zodiac or glide silently on a kayak among the creatures that inhabit the Southern Ocean.

Antarctica travel
These excursions enable you to view animals of Antarctica, such as penguins, whales and seals as they live in and adapt to their frigid environment. You can witness massive colonies of Emperor Penguins as well as Chinstraps, Gentoos and Rockhoppers feeding, courting and hatching. Watch as these “flippered flyers” waddle and frolic on shore and then move effortless through the near-freezing water. They can stay under water for up to 20 minutes and travel at speeds over 12 mph. Their well-insulated bodies have a thick coating of fat, a layer of soft downy feathers and an outer coat of oily feathers. Penguins often fluff their feathers to release trapped heat and cool off. Near sighted on land, penguins have keen eyesight under water that they use to avoid predators, such as leopard seals and killer whales, the largest species of dolphin.

In addition to orcas, several species of whale live in or near Antarctica during various times of the year. These include the blue, sperm, south-right and humpback species. Once hunted close to extinction, Southern Ocean whales are making a comeback as the area around the continent has been declared a sanctuary, which is monitored by the International Whaling Commission. Many of these species feed in the cold waters during the summer before migrating north to warmer water to mate and breed. When the calves are a few months old, whales return south to the rich feeding grounds during the austral spring.

Seals are another group of mammals that are an important part of the Southern Ocean’s marine ecosystem. Only six of the world’s 35 species of seals live in Antarctica, but they comprise the majority of the planet’s seal population. Even though they have no ears, they possess remarkable underwater hearing using a type of sonar to navigate and to locate food. They can also perform these feats in complete darkness. Commonly sighted Weddell seals prefer to rest on the ice and snow rather than open land or rocks. Other species that reside in Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia Island include colonies of fur, leopard and elephant seals. Watch as male elephant seals fight for dominance and fur seals move faster on land than humans do. International treaties have been enacted to protect these animals.

On an Antarctic luxury safari, you will witness unspoiled landscapes that encompass mountainous terrain and rugged coastlines formed over thousands of years by glacial activity. Explore this unique setting of epic scenery and amazing wildlife on a variety of onshore and ship-based activities. The environment is the habitat of marine creatures and aquatic birds that are seen nowhere else on earth. Experience the thrill of tracing the footsteps of the legendary explorers of a by-gone era and visit historic sites on the untamed White Continent and nearby islands. You can select from a wide range of travel and accommodation options. Enjoy the luxury and elegance of a Silversea Antarctica cruise; take a helicopter flight with Oceanwide to land among emperor penguins. Experience the wilderness adventure of a lifetime in an ecological camp in the interior with White Desert. Be inspired, start planning your excursion to the largest ice mass on earth with Epic Road and experience one of the last remaining truly wild frontiers on the planet.

Tuesday
Sep022014

Top Luxury Safari Spots for Birding

In addition to large game animals, the spectacular landscape of the African continent is home to a wide range of rare, exotic and colorful bird species. The diverse environments in this vast geographic region support numerous endemic and migratory bird populations. The habitats include coastal wetlands, deserts, mountains and forests. An extended African safari holiday provides the opportunity to explore every aspect of the beautiful natural surroundings. These remarkable excursions enable birders to witness some of the most extraordinary sights on earth, such as majestic birds of prey soaring high above the savannah or the elusive little brown jobby hiding in the thick brush. Prime birdwatching locations are dispersed throughout southern and eastern Africa.

Namibia

Situated on Africa’s Atlantic coast and extending to the east, Namibia boasts a remarkably diverse landscape, including the Central Plateau, Bushveld and Great Escarpment as well as the Namib and Kalahari Deserts. This must-see country actively pursues habitat and ecosystem conservation, which results in fantastic bird areas, such as Etosha National Park, the Caprivi Strip and Walvis Bay. These natural settings support a large permanent bird population and attract numerous migratory species. A luxury safari enables you to spot the endemic dune lark and the endangered ground-nesting Damara tern as well as flocks of blue crane, lesser flamingos and eastern white pelicans.


namibia safari

Zambia

Home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Victoria Falls, landlocked Zambia offers some of the planet’s best African safari opportunities. The country provides a storybook glimpse into Africa’s awe-inspiring natural beauty with its high plateaus, dissecting river valleys, grasslands and evergreen forests that create nine eco-regions. As a result, Zambia boasts a wide number of endemic and migratory species, such as the massive shoebill stork and the African pitta, whose breeding ground is found in the Zambezi River catchment. Birders can see a diverse mix of east, south and central African birds, which includes more than 750 different species, such as herons, ibises and wattled cranes as well as the Chaplin’s barbet with its distinctive red eye patch.

zambia safari

Mozambique

Situated on the Indian Ocean and extending more than 1,200 miles from north to south, Mozambique is divided by the Zambezi River. The two topographical regions encompass coastal lowlands, inland plateaus, mountain highlands and lush woodlands. Home to the Pel’s fishing owl and the endemic green-headed oriole, the Gorongosa National Park is a diverse habitat with excellent birdwatching opportunities. During a luxury safari, birders can see spectacular migratory and native species like the white-tailed blue flycatcher, olive-headed weaver and mangrove kingfisher as well as the endangered Thyolo alethe. Birdwatchers are frequently recording new sightings in the unspoiled Quirimbas Archipelago located in the country’s far north.

 

Mozambique safari

Tanzania

In addition to famous topographical features, such as the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Great Rift Valley, Tanzania is home to a host of bird species endemic to East Africa, including the yellow-collared lovebird, Pemba green pigeon and Mrs. Moreau’s warbler. More than one-third of the country has been set aside as nature reserves, marine parks and conservation areas to protect the local flora and fauna. Over 1,100 species of birds have been recorded in Tanzania, including 35 that are listed as globally threatened. Along with eagles, flamingos and ospreys, the country’s diverse ecosystem also supports two introduced species, the house crow and the rock pigeon, a variety of accidental species, such as the white-chinned Petrel and the vulnerable grey-crowned crane.

Tanzania safari

Kenya

From the low coastal plain along the Indian Ocean to the central highlands bisected by the Great Rift Valley, Kenya has designated a significant amount of land as natural wildlife habitats. While Kenya is a popular destination for Big Five safaris, the country also boasts a significant population of other animals, including reptiles and avifauna including country’s national birds, the rooster and lilac-breasted roller. Kenya’s range of climates and landscapes as well as its location on migratory paths makes it a prime year-round birdwatching destination. The country holds the world-record bird watch with 342 species observed in 24 hours. Along with weavers, magpie shrikes and the rosy-throated longclaw, you can view the yellow-billed stork, goliath heron, ostriches and the little grebe as well as the rare pink-breasted lark and pygmy falcon during an African safari.

kenya safari

Sunday
Aug242014

Scuba Diving In Africa

This blog post was written by Jason Goldberg, the owner and training director of Accel Scuba in Westchester.

So, you’re considering taking the trip of a lifetime to Africa with Epic Road.  Undoubtedly, you’re intrigued by the gorgeous landscapes, wildlife and cultures.  However, don’t forget that several locations in Africa also provide the opportunity for additional exploration underwater.  Scuba diving in Africa, specifically in Mozambique, Zanzibar and the Seychelles, is some of the best in the world with relatively easy access to vast sea-life and crystal clear waters.

Scuba diving in Mozambique you are likely to encounter large sea life, including whale sharks and manta rays.  As the largest marine protected area on the African continent, over 2,000 species of beautiful reef fish and five of the ocean’s seven marine turtles can be found in these waters.  There are dive sites that cater to beginner and advanced divers alike.  Visibility is generally decent, but can be impacted by tides and current.  Water temperatures range from 75-82oF year-round.  Divers seeking to encounter whale sharks and mantas must visit the village of Tofo – the ‘whale shark mecca of the world’ with manta reef a short boat ride away.  Divers seeking a more serene experience of reef diving should consider visiting one of the many islands of Mozambique.

scuba diving safari mozambique

Zanzibar is home to Mnemba Atoll which is known to divers as the tropical fish capital of East Africa.  With warm water temperatures hovering around 80oF year-round, and visibility consistently at or over 100-feet, Zanzibar is a tropical diver’s paradise.  This magical destination offers wall diving, endless reefs, and historical wrecks.  This is one location where there is something for every skill level of diver.  The conditions on the west coast tend to be calm and suited to beginner divers, and the currents on the east coast provide challenge for advanced divers.  Scuba divers in Zanzibar may encounter blue spotted rays, moray eels, octopus, green turtles and hawksbill turtles.  When visiting Tanzania you may be tempted to visit some of the higher elevation attractions.  Remember to plan your trip accordingly so you do not visit those attractions within 24 hours of your last dive.

scuba diving safari zanzibar

Imagine diving in clear turquoise waters with reefs, walls, drop-offs, wrecks and canyons.  Now set the water temperatures around 82oF.  Don’t image it!  Go scuba diving in the Seychelles.  The archipelago nation of over 150 islands offers one of the world’s most diverse marine environments, teeming with both fish and coral life.  Dive sites in the Seychelles range from 25 to 100 feet providing options for divers of all experience levels.  We recommend that beginner divers visit when the waters are calmest – March through May and September through November.  Visibility during these months may reach or exceed 100 ft.  During these months dive boats may travel further into the ‘outer’ islands where sightings of sharks and manta rays are common. From June through August strong winds and cooler waters prevail, which bring with them massive whale sharks.  Local dive centers will visit these areas during the migration, and encounters with whale sharks during this season is high.  However, we only recommend those dives for advanced divers.

scuba diving safari seychelles

If you are considering a vacation to one of these extraordinary destinations through Epic Road, speak with your travel expert about including Scuba diving as part of your adventure.  If you are not a certified diver, seek out a top-rated instructor in your area.  Be sure to interview the instructor and ask about training philosophy, amount of time you will spend training, training equipment, and how long the instructor has been diving and teaching.  Would you want to learn to drive from someone who only learned to drive three years ago, in a car without airbags?  Make sure your instructor is personable, can teach, and has actual and significant diving experience.  Make sure the training equipment is state-of-the-art and has a dive computer.  Consider completing your open water dives with an instructor locally (or relatively close-by) prior to leaving for your vacation.  If you are already a certified diver consider taking a refresher course, an Advanced Open Water course, or a specialty course (such as Nitrox or Navigation) to further your training and increase the diving opportunities available to you.  Prior to your trip bring your gear to your local dive shop for service.  And, no matter your level of training, be certain to become a member of Divers Alert Network (www.diversalertnetwork.org) and consider purchasing one of their insurance policies.  DAN offers an invaluable service connecting divers with dive medical professionals, hyperbaric chambers and evacuation coordination if necessary.

Be sure to explore the undersea world as you plan your journey!

Jason Goldberg is the owner and training director of Accel Scuba in Westchester.  Accel Scuba offers private classes during evenings and weekends and has a relentless focus on skill mastery, safety and customer satisfaction.  Courses may be taught at a client’s pool or one of several pools in Westchester County.  Jason has been diving for over 25 years and holds the ratings of NASE Open Water Scuba Instructor, PADI Professional, American Safety & Health Institute Instructor Trainer, and Emergency First Response Instructor.  He is passionate about global travel, cultural exploration, and teaching others how to breathe underwater.  You can find Jason and Accel Scuba online at www.accelscuba.com, or by calling 914-266-0559.

Friday
Aug082014

Top 10 Reasons to Go On an African Safari

At ER, we urge you to abandon any excuses! When it comes to the life-altering value of travel, we can only think of reasons to go. A luxury African safari offers everything from incredible local African cuisine to the exploration of yourself and humanity. Explore the reasons ER thinks you should embark on an African safari now!

  1.  Some Animals Might Be Around for a Limited Time: Now is the time to see some of Africa’s wildlife first hand before extinction poses a real threat. Many of the Big Five like elephants, rhinos, and lions might not be around forever, so why give up the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats?

    big five african safari
  2. Perfect Honeymoon/Wedding Destination: The salty, quiet air of an island off the coast is perfect for any romantic getaway. Whether it be a honeymoon safari or wedding celebration, Africa’s pristine beaches and aquatic safaris allow you to have as much excitement, or as little, as you choose!

    luxury romantic honeymoon safari
  3. Feel A Deeper Connection With Humankind: Africa is the original source of all human life. Discover the cultural remnants of millions of years of human development simply by stepping foot on this continent.
  4. Hear the Music of Africa: The heartbeat of Africa sounds something like a reverberating drum, a gospel choir, or even a sweet, sad jazz ballad playing late in to the night. Let Africa’s musical culture and many subsequent festivals lead you through your travels.
  5. Live Luxuriously: Take a break from the quick pace of daily life. Slow it down and enjoy the luxury of a spa day, decadent food, and some of the world’s most breathtaking views. All of this and more can be found at one of ER’s many offered lodgings.
  6. Indulge Your Adventurous Side: If you’re in need of an adrenaline rush, nothing is more thrilling than encountering a pride of lions just after a hunt or crossing paths with a massive elephant while in an off-road safari vehicle. Or get even closer with a guided walking tour!
  7. Give the Gift of Travel to A Loved One: Nothing is more valuable than stepping out of the norm to see how other parts of the world live. Provide someone in your life with the opportunity to learn lessons and create memories that only travel can provide. Whether it be for a parent, friend, or significant other, the gift of an African safari is priceless.
  8. Learn What it Means to Live Off the Land: While visiting with one of Africa’s native tribes, you will truly understand what it means to live simply. Whether you are hunting alongside the Hadzabe or watching one of the Maasai’s many traditional rituals, you will see how the tribespeople of Africa never take more from the earth than they need.
  9. Explore New Love: An African safari can be just as exciting as your new romance! Create your own adventures by going on a ballooning trip at sunset or hiking across vibrant orange sand dunes. Take on a new part of the world with your companion by your side!

    safari hot air balloon
  10. Give Back to Your Planet: There is something very special about volunteering while you travel. Walk away knowing that you left a positive impact on the land you learned to love! ER has plenty of opportunities to do just that. Spend the day at a land preserve, microchip a rhino, or adopt a baby elephant. Wherever your interests lie, there is a chance to make a difference.

Book your African Safari now! 

Sunday
Aug032014

Seeing The Big Five on A Luxury Safari

The world’s second largest continent, Africa, boasts a beautiful unspoiled landscape filled with a diverse range of animal species that has attracted adventurers for centuries. Derived from the Swahili word for long journey, a safari was originally a trip undertaken by big game hunters. These professional hunters coined the term Big Five, which includes lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and the critically endangered Cape buffalo, in the late 19th and early 20th century to describe the largest and most difficult prey to track on foot. Today, most safaris are designed to observe and photograph wildlife as conservation efforts strive to rebuild the numbers of these animals in the wild.

A luxury safari, featuring spine-tingling wildlife adventures, spellbinding scenery and fascinating cultures, is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. These remarkable excursions are one of the best ways to explore the majestic grandeur of Africa’s spectacular natural setting and view amazing animals up-close in their habitats. In addition to close-up wildlife sightings and stunning panoramic vistas of a gorgeous remote expanse of wilderness, a luxury African safari enables you to enjoy gourmet meals and comfortable accommodations as you create memories that will last a lifetime. While you may encounter an endless array of animals on an African safari, the big five are the most well known.

Lion

big 5 luxury african safari lion

The top carnivore, lions live in groups known as prides on the savannah. These majestic animals are arguably the most sought after member of the big five. Their golden color enables them to blend into the grassy terrain, which makes it easier for these efficient hunters to stalk their prey. Males are generally easier to spot because they have distinctive manes and tip the scale at more than 500 pounds. Because females are more agile, they hunt for the other members of the pride. The male’s role is to defend the group against intruders.

Leopard

big 5 luxury african safari leopard
Although leopards are more numerous than lions, the prince of cats is difficult to detect because it is solitary, and the rose-shaped pattern on its coat provides excellent camouflage. This stealthy cat conceals its movement in the trees where it relaxes, surveys the terrain and devours prey. Like lions, leopards prefer to hunt from sunset to sunrise. The smallest of the big cats, the leopard is renowned as a strong swimmer and for its ability to run at speeds approaching 36 miles per hour.

Elephants

big 5 luxury african safari elephants
African elephants, the world’s largest and heaviest land animal, splash and play in the water. Adult bulls can weigh up to 15,000 pounds and attain a height of 13 feet. Reputed to have a sense of smell four times greater than bloodhounds, elephants can detect water up to 12 miles away. You can watch elephants use their trunks to care for their young, lift objects that weigh up to 550 pounds and explore their environment. The animals cool their bodies by flapping their ears and taking mud baths.

Rhinoceros

Big 5 Luxury African Safari Rhinos
The pre-historic looking rhinoceros, with its distinctive horn, is the second-largest land mammal. All rhinos are grey in color. The two dominant species, black and white, are distinguishable by the shape of their upper lips. While a white rhino calf runs in front of its mother, a black rhino calf trots behind. You can watch them wallow in the mud to keep cool. This animal, one of the most endangered species in the world, is now receiving protection through international conservation agreements and cooperation.

Cape Buffalo

Big 5 Luxury African Safari Buffalo
African buffaloes are social animals that graze in grasslands, swamps, forests and open land with abundant sources of water. According to naturalists, the herd uses a communal system to decide in which direction the group travels. Although these large bovines appear docile, observers are usually astonished by the sound and force of the impact of the animal’s horns when males fight for rank and females. Adult bulls also use their rock-hard horned heads to defend other members of the herd from crocodiles and lions.

A luxury safari hearkens back to the Golden Age of African excursions described by Hemingway and the romance of “Out of Africa.” The adventure combines stylish and sophisticated amenities with the thrill of the wild where you can enjoy spectacular views of the endless horizon during the day. At night, you can experience the unforgettable nocturnal sounds of this unspoiled wilderness beneath a blanket of stars on a Big Five Luxury African Safari Tour

Tuesday
Jul222014

Top Ten Most Interesting African Tribes (That You Can Visit!)

A visit with the world's most ancient tribal civilizations is a highlight of any safari to Africa. The traditions these tribes still practice today were created by the forefathers of all of humanity, and the chance to explore their music, language, traditional garments and ancient cultural ceremonies gives travelers a rare glimpse into our collective history and shared origins.

Suri: This southwestern Ethiopian tribe is comprised of about 30,000 members.  Body decoration is an important marker of beauty in Suri culture.  During adolescence, most girls have a plate inserted in their bottom lip as an indicator of attractiveness. Scars are also considered desirable, and the Suri practice scarification rituals to create as many as possible. 

Himba: These northern Namibian tribespeople are semi-nomadic and pastoral. They primarily breed cattle and women typically perform the physical tasks, while men are responsible for political and legal matters. Due to the little clothing they wear, the women are known for the thick mixture they use as sun protection, called ‘otijze’ which is made of butter fat and ochre.

Hadzabe: Out of 1,000 tribespeople, about 400 Hadzabe still thrive as hunter-gatherers and live according to ancient nomadic practices. Oral tradition influences many of their lifestyle choices, such as the custom of sleeping under trees in the dry season, following age-old stories about the habits of their giant, hairy ancestors called the Akakaanebe. Genetically, the Hadzabe are not closely related to any other tribe and are located in north-central Tanzania on reservation lands.

Samburu: The Samburu, or ‘Lokop’ as they call themselves, are distant relatives of the Maasai, and reside in north central Kenya. They operate as a gerontocracy, and their leaders are the eldest members who are believed to have the ability to curse younger tribespeople. The Samburu are extremely religious, however, and consider their God Nkai to be the ultimate source of punishment—the tribal elders simply do his bidding.

Karo: Between 1,000 and 3,000 Karo people live on the Omo River in Ethiopia, depending on it for their livelihood. Annual flooding makes the area’s biodiversity rich and therefore plentiful for collection, which the Karo use to their advantage. 

Mursi: Surrounded by mountains and the Omo River on either side, the Mursi live in one of the most isolated areas of Ethiopia. Men and women undergo many rites of passage during their lifetime to prove themselves to their tribe, such as ‘thagine’, a violent duel between men. The Mursi are religious, believing there is a force bigger than themselves which materializes in the form of something found in the sky, like a rainbow or a bird.

Hamar: As of 1994, there were over 45,000 people in southwestern Ethiopia who identified with this tribe. As a semi-nomadic people, they move their cattle to greener pastures and live in round huts assembled nearby. The Hamar follow special marriage rituals, such as the well-known bull-leaping ceremony, during which a man must leap over a line of cattle to gain the right to marry, have children, and own livestock.

Maasai: The Maasai are known for their friendliness and eagerness to welcome visitors to their villages in Kenya and Tanzania. Despite living in close proximity to modern amenities, the Maasai have resisted a great deal of outside influences and have been able to maintain many of their traditional values. When warriors come of age, they are expected to fulfill certain tasks such as the adumu, which involves ten or more days of singing and dancing.

San Bushmen: Known as Bushmen, the San people span across Southern Africa, including Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. These indigenous hunter-gatherers prefer to be identified using the names of their individual nations, because each holds a unique identity. They speak a variety of languages, which involve a clicking sound.


Nyakyusa: The Nyakyusa people, who live in southern Tanzania and northern Malawi, believe they descend from Nyanseba, a Nubian Queen who was abducted by herdsmen who turned her reign into an emperorship. To honor her, Nyakyusa boys take their mother’s clan name, while girls will take their father's.

Tuesday
Jul012014

Southern Africa's Original Tribe: Botswana's San Bushman


botswana safari

For 80,000 years the San people, known as the Bushmen, have thrived in the Kalahari Desert. These traditional hunter-gatherers are believed to be the original inhabitants of southern Africa, spanning across Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The San are one of the populations from which all modern humans descend, and their culture is just as vibrant today.

The Bushmen communicate through a variety of distinct languages that are all based on clicking sounds, which can be represented in writing using a variety of symbols. Women often act as the leaders of their family unit and are not required to be gatherers -- many hunt too! It is an incredibly important part of San upbringing that their children’s only responsibility is to play and explore, because they view youth as an important time to enjoy life’s many offerings.

One of the San’s best-known rituals is the Trance Dance which allows, through trance, the ability to harness spiritual powers that can be used to heal sickness, bring luck to hunting, and even command rain to end a drought. It is believed that the dancing and traditional ornaments they wear, such as dancing rattles, draw in spirits from the night. A great deal of ancient San depicts this exact tradition, proving the Bushmen’s long-term trust in its powers.

While the San Bushmen are lively people who honor their culture, they are not completely free from modern struggles. They have been oppressed time and time again, being evicted from their land and feeling the force of society to conform to more modern practices. Regardless, they continue to protect and live off the incredible land they love and have called home for thousands of years, the Kalahari Desert.

Visiting the Bushmen

San Camp: With white fabric tents dotting the incredible multicolor skyline of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, San Camp is certainly one of the most chic and remote locations in Botswana.  The land itself is the remnants of a lake that was once larger than Switzerland, but dried up thousands of years ago. It left behind one of the world’s largest salt flats, an absolutely stunning natural wonder. Guests are allowed to accompany the San Bushmen on an authentic hunt and observe the ritualistic methods that are used as well as the colorful spirit of the people.

Jack’s Camp: This camp is an uber luxurious oasis amidst the remote wilderness and heat of the Kalahari Desert. Jack’s Camp offers walking tours that meld the curiosity of world travelers with expert knowledge of the Bushmen. They share their favorite local places to spot meerkat families, hyenas, and other fascinating wildlife that inhabit this glorious desert. You will also have the opportunity to visit a remote cattle post to learn more about traditional Botswanan culture. When it comes time to settle in at the lodge, enjoy the grand 1940’s Hemmingway style plush decor and private, spacious tents overlooking the expansive landscape.

Tau Pan Camp: Located in the center of the Kalahari Game Reserve, this campsite provides an eco-friendly stay on the edge of an ancient sand dune. With its rare views and fantastic history, Tau Pan is for those who want a fully immersive experience. Enjoy a nature walk with the Bushmen who will expose you to some of Africa’s best game viewing, and teach you their tried and true ways of surviving in this intense climate. Get the chance to see a local watering hole and the abundance of wildlife that flock to it!

Monday
Apr282014

Elephant behaviors and communication and the poaching crisis in Africa

Elephants can communicate with each other over long distances over 5-10 miles away through a low pitched sound that is inaudible to humans. So a big question that scientists and concerned elephant lovers have is what are elephants saying to each other when poachers are killing other elephants in the region. If we understood their language better could we use the information to slow the poaching through better enforcement? The Elephant Listening Project has tried to answer that exact question. Interested? See more info here about elephant behavior and the poaching crisis in Africa

 

The Elephant Listening Project is a not-for-profit organization associated with the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology