African game reserves flooded, travelers stranded

game reservesKruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and a UNESCO Biosphere location. This week, the park was closed as massive flooding of the once-in-one-hundred-years magnitude stranding American and Canadian tourists who had to be airlifted out yesterday.

After a swollen river burst its banks and washed-out a bridge. “There wasn’t any other way to get out of the park,” Canadian Linda Freeman, airlifted out of the area told Reuters.

Flooding in southeast Africa this week has killed at least five people, forced thousands to evacuate homes and led to an airlift of about 20 foreign tourists in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane, weather officials said.

All organized game drives have been suspended as more than 1,500 people have been forced to flee their homes with local weather stations reporting a 267mm rainfall (10.5 inches) in one 24 hour period earlier this week, over five times the classification for heavy rain.




Gadling’s Kraig Becker was on safari in Kruger National Park not long ago and tells us:

“In all, I spent six days in Kruger, and was given the chance to explore it both on foot and by vehicle. In those days, I found that it lived up to its billing as one of the top safari destinations in all of Africa. Not only is the wildlife all that you would expect, and more, but the landscapes are breathtaking as well. In my travels within the park boundaries, I saw beautiful rivers, emerald forests, and stunning canyons. The gorgeous scenery was an element I wasn’t expecting, and it helped to further separate Kruger from the Serengeti.” Read more here.

Flickr photo by Sito Wijngaarden

Dog found at summit of Kilimanjaro

Climbers found a dog at the summit of KilimanjaroFour climbers on Tanzania‘s Mt. Kilimanjaro had a surprise waiting for them when they arrived at the summit of Africa‘s tallest mountain last week. After making the long, and sometimes arduous, trek to the top, they were surprised to find a dog had arrived before them.

Antoine le Galloudec, Kristina Meese, Irina Manoliv and Monique Indino were climbing with a local tour company, when they approached the top of the mountain, known as Uhuru Peak. Galloudec said that he needed to heed the call of nature and stepped off to the side of the trail to take care of business. He was shocked to find the dog lying on a rock no more than a meter away.

The group was careful not to disturb the adventurous pooch, choosing to instead snap a couple of photos using a cell phone. When they later showed those photos to one of their guides, he told them that the same dog had been spotted at one of Kili’s lower camps ten years ago. Why the dog is still on the mountain, and how it has survived so long, remains a mystery.

High winds and cold temperatures are a common occurrence on Kilimanjaro, although it is the thin air that is usually the most difficult condition for people, and animals, to adapt to. If this really is the same dog that was spotted on the mountain a decade ago, he has probably become quite acclimated to life at altitude. Finding food is most likely a bigger challenge, although while I was there a few years back, there were plenty of small rodents, even high up, and I’m guessing the dog could find scraps left behind at some of the camps as well.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is one of the top treks in the world, and while there are no technical requirements for completing the climb, it is physical demanding to say the least. The hike to the summit generally takes about 5-6 days, and the view of the surrounding landscape is spectacular, however. I’d recommend the climb to anyone looking for a challenging adventure, but be sure to cap the experience with a Serengeti safari afterwards.

New luxury safari camp opens on the Serengeti

A new luxury safari camp on the SerengetiAfrican travel company Nomad Tanzania opened a new safari camp earlier this week, offering travelers a unique experience in a small group, luxury setting. The camp, which is located in a remote region of the northern Serengeti, sits not far from the border between Kenya and Tanzania, offering visitors spectacular views of the Mara River and the wildlife that inhabits the endless African plains.

The accommodations at the new site features just 12 tents divided between two camps. Eight of the tents are in the main camp, while four others occupy a smaller, private camp, nearby. Each of the camps has its own private bar, dining hall, library with adjoining map room, and natural rock swimming area. The tents feature spacious, private verandas, 24 hour power, hot and cold running water, flush toilets, and indoor baths, along with outdoor showers. In short, this journey into the bush isn’t exactly roughing it.

When visitors venture away from camp, they’ll find plenty to enjoy as well. Daily game drives will give them the opportunity to witness the beauty and wonder of the Serengeti, which includes the annual Great Migration of animals across the countryside. Guided walks allow travelers to explore the region on foot and bush picnics make for a sublime way to spend an afternoon.

Prices begin at $4200 per person per week (Remember, I did say luxury!) which includes accommodations in a private tent, all food and drink, plus game drives and other activities.

This looks like a completely different Serengeti experience from the one I had a few years back. I camped in a two-person dome tent that was anything but “luxury.” Despite that however, the African plains remain one of my favorite destinations ever, with amazing wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and a true sense of adventure. A stay at this new camp looks like it would be a perfect (and romantic!) way to visit Tanzania.

Conservation victory: Serengeti highway plans cancelled

Serengeti
Plans to build a paved, two-lane highway through the Serengeti National Park have been canceled.

The road, which was supposed to bring better access to Lake Victoria, will possibly be rerouted further south to avoid having an impact on the Serengeti’s rich wildlife.

There’s already a gravel road across the park, but paving it would have attracted much more traffic and probably fencing. The U.S. government expressed concern, as did UNESCO, after a study showed the project would affect the annual migration of millions of animals that’s one of the wonders of the natural world.

This is a rare victory of common sense over unbridled “development.” It’s also an example of how being eco-friendly can be good for the economy. Tourism generates a major part of Tanzania’s income, and there’s no way a road cutting through the nation’s most valuable natural resource wouldn’t have had a negative impact.

[Photo courtesy D. Gordon E. Robertson]

U.S. expresses concern over proposed Serengeti Highway

The Obama Administration questions a proposed Serengeti Highway. The U.S. government has expressed concern over a proposed new highway that would pass through the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, citing a study that indicates the road could have an adverse effect on the annual migration of animals there. Reportedly the Obama administration raised the issue with the Tanzanian government recently, and it could be a point of discussion for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is currently visiting the African country.

Last year, Tanzania announced plans to create the new highway, which officials say will help spur economic development in northern areas of the country. The plans immediately came under fire from environmentalists and scientists who predicted that the road would change the migration patterns of millions of wildebeests, zebra, antelope, and other animals that travel between Tanzania and Kenya each year. Opponents of the proposal even suggested an alternate route for the highway in order to lessen its impact on the Serengeti itself.

So far, all pleas to the Tanzanian government have fallen on deaf ears, and their plans to construct the new road are moving ahead. Ultimately, when it is complete, the highway will link the cities of Arusha and Musoma, although the plan now is to leave the 50 mile section that crosses through the Serengeti unpaved. Environmentalists say it isn’t the road itself that will alter the annual migration, but the amount of traffic that will pass through the area. The route is expected to be one of the busiest highways in northern Tanzania when it opens.

It is unclear at this stage if the U.S. government can do anything to alter the construction of the highway, but with Clinton in the country on a 3-day state visit, it seems likely that the topic will at least be broached at some point.

When I visited the Serengeti a few years back, I completely fell in love with the place. It is one of the most spectacular and magical places I have ever visited, and the thought of it being altered by this road is disheartening. Hopefully a compromise can be found that will limit the impact of the new highway, allowing the amazing animals that live there to roam freely.