Bushtracks Expeditions Lets You Build Your Own Safari From Scratch

Bushtracks Expeditions offers fully customizable safarisFor more than 20 years Bushtracks Expeditions has been helping travelers visit Africa to experience the classic safari to its fullest. After two decades in the business, it is safe to say that they’ve learned a few things about organizing an unforgettable excursion into the remote corners of the continent. Now, they’ve taken all of that knowledge and experience and placed it online in a new tool that makes it a breeze to customize every element of your own personal safari, which they’ll then organize to your exact specifications.

This new online tool launched recently on the Bushtracks website where travelers are free to join any one of the company’s existing itineraries or completely build their own from scratch. That process can be as easy or as complex as you’d like, as the website gives you the option of starting with one of the preexisting safari options and simply tweaking it to fit your needs or you can begin with a completely blank slate and build the entire schedule into a dream excursion that will create memories to last a lifetime. And for those who don’t like to make too many tough travel decisions, there is even a safari wizard that asks you several easy questions then provides recommendations based on your answers.Of these, the tool that will be the most intriguing to experienced travelers will certainly be the “Build A Trip” option. This tool gives you full control over your entire African adventure, starting with the dates you are planning on traveling and the number of people in your party. From there, you’ll select your arrival destination from such cities as Cape Town, Dar Es Salaam, Nairobi and Windhoeck, amongst others. Once you decide where it is you would most like to begin your safari, you’ll then be presented with day-by-day options for the lodges that you would like to stay at and the activities that you would most like to do while you are there. Accommodations range in price but are all very comfortable with some high-end luxury options available as well. Some of the activities that you can choose from include such options as game drives through local wildlife preserves, trekking excursions, cultural experiences, visits to the spa and so on. You’ll fill up each day of your personal itinerary with all of the things that you’d like to do and Bushtracks will take care of organizing those events for you.

If you’re the kind of traveler who likes to have complete control over every aspect of your trip, then you’ll certainly enjoy the level of customization available here. Not only will you be able to build your perfect safari experience, but the expert guides at Bushtracks will do all of the work of putting the trip together. This kind of tool provides the best of both worlds, giving you the chance to design your own optimal experience while still getting full service from a well-respected travel company that has a reputation for delivering top tier service.

Extraordinary Journeys Offers Disabled Travelers A Chance To Go On Safari

Extraordinary Journeys offers safari for disabled travelersFor many travelers an African safari represents the ultimate escape – and for good reason. Visiting Africa can be a life altering experience, not to mention a once in a lifetime opportunity to see amazing wildlife in their natural environments. But for disabled travelers such a journey can seem like an impossible dream, after all the African bush isn’t exactly wheelchair friendly. But one adventure travel company is looking to change that by offering a safari option that is easily accessible, even for guests with physical limitations.

Extraordinary Journeys offers an 11-day itinerary to Botswana that delivers everything a traveler could hope for when visiting Africa. The tour takes guests into some of most impressive game reserves on the continent where they’ll get the opportunity to spot lions, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and dozens of other animal species. They’ll even go on a motorboat excursion deep into the Okavango Delta, a region that is famous for its rich and diverse wildlife. And at the end of the day, they’ll return to comfortable and luxurious safari lodges that have been designed to extend the experience even further.

But where this trip differs from most others is that it also caters nicely to travelers with disabilities. All of the lodges are fully wheelchair accessible, as are the 4×4 vehicles used on the daily game drives. Even the boat used on the Delta excursion is wheelchair friendly ensuring that no guest will ever need to be excluded from any of the amazing experiences this trip provides.

I have been fortunate enough to visit Africa on several occasions and a safari is one of my favorite travel experiences of all time. The fact that Extraordinary Journeys is making possible for all travelers to enjoy that experience is something that should be commended.

For more information on their safari for disabled travelers click here.

[Photo Credit: Extraordinary Journeys]

A Traveler In The Foreign Service: The Best Foreign Service Blogs

smoking huge joint womanThe World Wide Web is saturated with amateurish blogs created by people who’d be lucky to command the devoted readership of their immediate family members, let alone the wider public. There are scores of blogs managed by Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and while many of them are worth reading, some are downright bizarre. This post will steer you toward some Foreign Service related blogs that are well worth your time.

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I started this series nine months ago to help people get a better understanding of what life in the U.S. Foreign Service is like. Many of the posts have been about my experiences but I’ve also introduced readers to an intrepid, single female diplomat fresh off of tours in Syria and Pakistan, a diplomatic courier, a USAID Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Afghanistan and others. But spend some time at the sites listed below to get a flavor of what it’s like to represent the U.S. Government in The Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Pakistan and dozens of other exotic locales.toothless woman with stretched earlobes peasantOne major caveat here is that FSOs have to be careful what they write because free speech only takes you so far in the precarious, uber-cautious world of government service. Most FSOs have disclaimers on their sites warning that the views expressed are their own, but many still tend to steer clear of tackling political issues or anything controversial.

Peter Van Buren, a now retired diplomat who wrote “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,” was effectively driven out of the Foreign Service partially because he posted a link to a cable on WikiLeaks and made some disparaging remarks, which he later apologized for, about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his website.

There’s no doubt that his experience has had a chilling effect across the board, so visit the sites below to get the low-down on the Foreign Service lifestyle and the travel opportunities, not the dirty underbelly of how diplomacy plays out overseas.

Some of the blogs below contain little, if any biographical info, and I wasn’t able to read each one in its entirety, so my apologies in advance if my impressions of these blogs below miss the mark. That said, I would invite the authors of these fine sites to tell us more about themselves, if they dare, in the comments section.

Diplopundit

Domani Spero has no U.S. government connection and thus has the freedom to write about the world of diplomacy without having to worry about his career. Diplopundit is as close as you’ll find to one-stop shopping for a candid look at what’s going on in the Foreign Service community.

Adventures in Good Countries- Getting Along In The Foreign Service

I love this blog. The author, apparently a single female public diplomacy officer who, “doesn’t date outside the visa waiver program,” blogs with style and passion about life in Japan, Pakistan, Jordan and elsewhere, coping with Multiple Sclerosis and whatever else pops into her head. How can you not like a writer who offers advice to protesters on how to construct a good effigy? (“Don’t just throw something together with the rationale that you’re only going to burn it anyway – take some pride in your work.”)

We Meant Well

You might not agree with Peter Van Buren but you will want to read his blog, which is sometimes offensive but never boring.

Third Culture Children

This blog, which details the lives of a family of five living in Recife, Brazil, La Paz, Bolivia and elsewhere, is one of the very best Foreign Service related sites out there. It’s a particularly good resource for parents who are wondering what the overseas experience will be like for their children.

amy gottlieb usaidAmy Gottlieb’s Photography & Blog

Gottlieb is a doctor and a USAID FSO currently serving in South Africa. Her portraits from Jamaica, Nepal, Vietnam, South America, Africa and beyond are as good as any you’ll find anywhere.

Adventures Around the World- A Foreign Service Officer’s Tales of Life Abroad

The author of this refreshingly candid and well-written blog is currently in Kabul and has previously served in Iraq and Nepal. Here’s how she described the “honeymoon” period at a new post: “The honeymoon period is the time frame after moving to a foreign country where the excitement of being somewhere new overshadows certain harsh realities of living in a foreign country. People burning piles of trash in the street give the place ‘character’ and bargaining with a taxi driver is part of the ‘adventure.'”

Worldwide Availability

This is a stunning photo blog from an American diplomat who was born on a farm in China and is currently serving in South Korea. Visiting this site is the next best thing to booking a ticket to Seoul. Also, for those who are curious to know how long it takes to join the Foreign Service, take a look at his instructive personal timeline for some clues.

Wanderings of a Cheerful Stoic

Anyone who features a photo of themselves (I presume) with a Gambian poached rat on their homepage is all right by me. This is a blog from a FSO posted in Conakry, Guinea, a place where “you tend to find yourself without a really specific reason.”

The Slow Move East- Thoughts on Being an Expatriate

Hannah Draper, a FSO currently serving in Libya, might be a “Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East,” but her writing is compulsively readable.

Where in the World am I? Notes from the Streets of Hyderabad, India

A FSO in Hyderabad who previously served in Burundi blogs about food and life overseas with gusto.

Cross Words- A Blog About Writing and Anything Else That Comes to Mind

Ted Cross, a FSO currently living in Budapest who apparently just signed up for Facebook last week (Friend him!), tells us on his homepage that his “dream is to be a published author.” I like someone who isn’t afraid to tell the world what he wants. He’s into fantasy and science fiction, neither of which interests me, but his blog is unique and his writing is lucid.

Four Globetrotters- The (Most Likely) Incoherent Ramblings of a Sleep-Deprived Single Mother Living Overseas with her Trio of Kiddos

Anyone who can pull off being a single mom in the Foreign Service is someone I want to meet. This blog, written by a former Foreign Service brat, isn’t nearly as incoherent as advertised.

Beau Geste, Mon Ami- The Chronicle of my Journey to and through The Foreign Service

Even a quick breeze through this visually appealing blog will give you an idea of how varied and interesting life in the Foreign Service can be. If nothing else, do not miss the photos of the tribal warriors in Papua New Guinea.

Zvirdins at Large- Jamie and Andrew’s Excellent Adventures

If you want a slice of life from the Marshall Islands, this is the place to go. I love this blog but I couldn’t bring myself to click into the video entitled “Pig Shooting” in a post on “Pig Butchering.” Yikes.

Talesmag

This isn’t a FSO blog per se, but the site’s stories and “real post reports” on hundreds of cities around the globe are an invaluable resource for those seeking insights into the Foreign Service lifestyle.

Let me know in the comments section if you think I’ve missed any great FSO-related blogs and if you’re the author of ones of the sites mentioned above, tell us a bit about yourself.

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

(Photos courtesy of Amy Gottlieb)

Video: The Tropic Of Capricorn

The Tropic of Capricorn is one of the five major lines of latitude on Earth, the others being the equator, the Tropic of Cancer and the arctic and antarctic circles. It marks the southernmost point at which the sun can fall directly overhead, and while its location is continually moving northward, it currently sits at about 23°26′ south latitude.

The beautiful timelapse video below was shot in a number of spectacular locations around the globe through which the Tropic of Capricorn passes – places like the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Kalahari Desert in Botswana and the Namib Desert in Namibia. It is filled with breathtaking images from some amazing locations and it is a perfect way to start your day. Enjoy!


THE TROPIC OF CAPRICORN from Greg Kiss on Vimeo.

Botswana Adventure Teaches Critical Bush Skills To Would-Be Explorers

Botswana's Okavango Delta, a beautiful place for an adventureWant to go on an African adventure while also learning an important set of skills that every explorer should know? If so, then Sanctuary Retreats has just the trip for you. Their exclusive two-night Delta Bush Skills Adventure will take you to Botswana’s legendary Okavango Delta, where you’ll stay at the luxurious Baines’ Camp while learning how to survive in the wilds of Africa.

Located on the banks of the Boro River, which feeds into the Okavango, the camp is an idyllic location for spotting wildlife and catching beautiful sunsets over the African plain. It features just five suites and has a host of amenities including a communal swimming pool and a large wooden deck for spotting lions or hippos that frequently wander by.

But visitors attending the Delta Bush Skills Adventure will have little time for soaking up the scenery. Instead, they’ll be busy acquiring new skills that could help them explore the wilderness in an entirely different way. For example, on the first day of the course they’ll learn how to make traditional spears for fishing and how to create rope from natural materials found in the environment around them. They’ll also learn how to track game, identify edible plants and acquire the skill of polling a mokoro – a dugout canoe that is commonly used by the people who live on the Okavango.

That is just the beginning, however. On day two they’ll also learn how to build a shelter, harvest palm nuts and trap wild game. Local women will instruct them on the fine art of basket weaving, helping them create their own personal souvenir to take home with them too. In the evening they’ll discover how to use the sun and stars to navigate just as the indigenous people have done for centuries.

The African safari has been a staple of travel for decades and Botswana is the perfect destination to experience that classic adventure. If you’re considering a visit yourself but would like to add a unique twist to your journey, then the Delta Bush Skills Adventure just might be what you’re looking for. Not only will you get to experience Africa in a beautiful and amazing setting, but you’ll also get the opportunity to learn some new skills in the process.