9 reasons to go on safari

I don’t like to make a habit of setting my alarm at 5am, but I can make an exception on safari. In fact, on a recent trip to Greater Kruger in South Africa, I found myself bounding out of bed as soon as I heard the guide’s gentle knock at the door. A far cry from burying my head in a pillow like I normally do. It was the thought of seeing lions in the wild that made me, but there are many other reasons to go on safari besides that!

If you’re unsure whether a holiday spent spotting wildlife is the one for you, I’ve rounded up my top 9 reasons to go on safari. I’m sure there are millions more, but these are the ones that made me fulfil a lifelong dream and book one. 

Reasons to go on safari

Reasons to go on safari

1. See animals in their natural habitat

This reason should be enough, in my opinion. Where better to see wild animals than in their own environment? Granted, a safari still seems to be a bit of an invasion of their privacy but if they don’t like the look of you, they can run away. And anyway, it’s miles better than locking them away in a cage in a country that their bodies just aren’t made for. Do a solid and go to them instead. 

Reasons to go on safari

2. Learn more about animals from the people that really know them

All of the guides I have had the pleasure of meeting have been fantastic. At Africa on Foot, the trackers had all grown up in the bush and the guides dreamed of protecting animals from a very young age. This gave them a passion for their job that you just don’t see with other professions. You could ask them a question about anything and they would tell you the answer with a big smile on their face. 

Africa on Foot: Staff

3. Support conservation 

All safari lodges in designated national parks charge park fees at the end of your stay. Instead of an annoying tax, this fee directly contributes to the animals’ welfare through park maintenance and anti-poaching tactics. As you settle in to your game drives, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re helping to protect the wonderful animals you’ve come to see. 

Reasons to go on safari

4. Support local communities 

The majority of staff at safari lodges are local to the area. In fact, five of the seven staff we met at my lodge in South Africa were born within a twenty minute drive of the park gates. By going on safari, you can help these communities by funding staff wages, buying local crafts in the souvenir shops and eating and drinking local produce. 

Africa on Foot: Staff

5. Relax

When you’re not out on a game drive, a safari lodge is a great place to relax. Most lodges have communal areas where you can read a book, have a coffee or watch the wildlife go by from the verandah. All are a great way to recuperate after early mornings and too much pinotage the night before. 

Africa on Foot: Drinks around the campfire

6. Make new friends

Safaris really are for everyone, meaning you’re likely to meet a very diverse group of people at your lodge. And they always have one thing in common – a love of animals. On our three nights at Africa on Foot, our fellow guests came from Australia, USA, Germany and France and we all had a great time drinking around the campfire, reminiscing about what we had seen during our day’s activities. 

Africa on Foot: Staff

7. Unique experience

The beauty of nature is that every safari is different. You’ll never see the same thing twice, making it an incredible experience each time you go. I know I’d much rather go on safari every year than stay at the same beach resort for a second time! 

Elephant in Yala National Park

8. Good photography opportunity 

Animals make fantastic photographs. If photography is your thing, you’ll be snap happy on a safari. Plus, the landscapes in national parks are just beautiful. Even if you don’t see any animals worth capturing, you’re sure to find incredible mountain scenery, lush forests and never ending plains through your viewfinder. Depending on where you visit, of course! 

Reasons to go on safari

9. Explore more than just Africa 

Remember that safaris shouldn’t just be reserved for Africa. I’ve had fantastic trips to see tigers and elephants in Indialeopards and deer in Sri Lanka, as well as lions and giraffe in South Africa. With a safari holiday, you’re spoilt for choice as to where you go. Try them all to see which type you prefer! 

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park, India

If my reasons to go on safari have convinced you it should be your next holiday, check out my review of Africa on Foot – a boutique safari lodge in South Africa – to start planning!

Have you ever been on safari? If not, do you think you’d enjoy it? If you have, where did you go and what made you book it in the first place? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

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Reasons to go on safari

2016 Travel Highlights: My Year in Travel

2016 has been a pretty weird year. But, ignoring Trump, Brexit and far too many tragic celebrity deaths, it’s been a pretty incredible year for me when it comes to 2016 travel highlights. My blog turned 1, I ticked a few places off my bucket list and I racked up a whole 8 trips abroad with just 29 days annual leave.

This post shares my 2016 travel highlights month by month:

January
Our 2016 travel highlights started with my first visit to Scandinavia. Copenhagen was chosen as the destination for my Christmas present to Tim, thanks to its newness to us both and its endless list of things to see. Having been warned off the city for being too expensive, we were pleasantly surprised to find the flights were cheap and the accommodation was reasonably priced, but we were travelling seriously off peak. January had just begun but the festivities of new year were a distant memory as many of the major attractions (including Tivoli Gardens – a place I longed to see) shut up shop for the winter. Despite this, we still managed to fill our days wandering the streets, drinking lager and eating open sandwiches. And we couldn’t have been happier. Warmer, sure, but not happier.

2016 travel highlights: Copenhagen

March
Our March trip was a bit closer to home as we spent a weekend in Cambridge. We had a couple of days to explore the beautiful university city, filling our time with a punting trip along the river, eating in boutique restaurants and sleeping in a cosy little Airbnb apartment. We were walking in Stephen Hawking’s footsteps as we found his old college,  crossed the city’s famous bridges and walked through its many beautiful parks. We really enjoyed our visit to the city and would definitely recommend it to others looking for an alternative weekend to London.

2016 Travel Highlights: Cambridge

April
April was the month I found a new country to rival Spain as my favourite place on earth. Sri Lanka just seemed to have it all – culture, beautiful landscapes, wildlife, sunshine and some of the most friendly people I’ve ever met. We went on the Wild About Sri Lanka tour with On the Go Tours and were treated to a fantastic group and one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had. The tour enabled us to take in the main sights of the country – Sigiriya, Dambulla, Kandy, a train ride up into the hills of Nuwara Eliya and some incredible game drives in the national parks where we were lucky enough to see elephants, monkeys, birds and even an elusive leopard. It was easily one of the best trips of my life and, ignoring the elephant orphanage, I loved every minute.

2016 Travel Highlights: Sri Lanka train

May
Just a few days after returning from Sri Lanka, I was back at Heathrow on a plane to Tokyo for a long weekend in May. I wouldn’t normally make a habit of travelling a 24 hour round trip just to spend 48 hours in a city, but it was all thanks to a trip my office had planned to say thank you for our hard work over the past year. Who was I to say no to a free trip to the Far East?! Having visited before, I made the most of going to the places I wish I had gone to last time. This included Tokyo Skytree, a karaoke bar and, of course, Disneyland Tokyo.

2016 Travel Highlights: Tokyo ladies in kimonos

June
To celebrate my birthday in June, we flew over to Lisbon for a long weekend. It quickly became one of my very favourite cities thanks to its laid back European feeling, stunning architecture and one of the tastiest little pastries that I made it my mission to eat as many of as possible (I managed 8 in three days).
A week later, Tim also treated me to a weekend away in Kent where we stayed with our lovely friends Kat and David and visited the historic town of Rochester.

2016 Travel Highlights: Lisbon

July 
No Would Be Traveller list is complete without a mention of Valencia, so of course we headed there in July. I spent another week in the Spanish school Españole, learning the language and living like a local in a perfect apartment right in the centre. We spent the weekend taking a tapas tour, visiting the oceanografic (huge aquarium) and taking in the city’s fantastic atmosphere. Of course, I loved it.
We also spent a luxury weekend away in Evesham in the Cotswolds. Having won the chance to drive a BMW i8 for the weekend, Tim was in his element and I was too as it meant I could explore the local area, eat meals with over 5 courses and drink Pimms in the garden of a luxury hotel. July was good to us!

2016 Travel Highlights: City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

September
We spent September pretty close to home with a weekend trip to Berkhamsted to celebrate Tim’s birthday and our anniversary. We stayed in a beautiful log cabin we found on Airbnb and loved exploring the town using it as our base. Our weekend was spent visiting Berkhamsted Castle, watching a movie in the beautiful Art Deco cinema, The Rex, and eating in some fantastic restaurants. Just like Cambridge, Berkhamsted is a fantastic place to go if you’re looking for somewhere outside of London but with enough to keep you busy. That’s why we chose it in September.

2016 Travel Highlights: Weekend in a log cabin, Berkhamsted

October
October was one of the busiest months for us, as we spent a weekend in Vienna, another in Brighton and a week in India.
I had been to Vienna before with my parents, but it felt different to go back when I could choose where to go and what to see. We took advantage of the Vienna Pass so we could get fast track and discounted entry to all the main sights including Schonbrunn, Stephansdom and trips on the tourist buses.
To celebrate 10 years since I started university, we returned to Brighton to stay in a big house with my old housemates and their significant others. We reminisced by visiting the university campus, eating at our old favourite restaurant and taking a trip on the new i360.
The month culminated with India, where we were back on an On the Go Tours trip to the Golden Triangle. We took in Delhi, the Taj Mahal at Agra, the Amer Fort in Jaipur and incredible wildlife at Ranthambore National Park.

2016 Travel Highlights: India's Golden Triangle - The Taj Mahal, Agra

November
To make up for a pretty busy October, November was a quiet month for travel, but we still managed to squeeze in another trip to the Cotswolds to celebrate the beautiful wedding of my brother and sister in law in Moreton-in-Marsh. It’s a beautiful little town and well worth a visit if you fancy a taste of little England!

December
We rounded off 2016 in style, at the rooftop garden of Herodion Hotel in Athens. The fireworks display next to the Acropolis was spectacular, and a once in a lifetime experience that we were very grateful to have. Apart from the wonderful New Year’s Eve celebrations, our long weekend in Athens was full of good food, amazing sights and snow. Yes, really, it snowed in the city centre for the first time in about five years and we were there to witness it!

2016 Travel Highlights: Athens

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Overall, 2016 has been one of the best years of my life and I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store. With plans to visit Hong Kong, South Africa and Hungary already in place, it just might be even better. 

What did you get up to in 2016? What are your travel plans for 2017?

My trip to India through the medium of video

In October, I went on an epic tour of India’s Golden Triangle. Now you’ve read about it, it’s time to see what really happened… This travel video combines the highlights from my trip including visits to Delhi’s famous sights, our first view of the Taj Mahal and a very out of focus tiger in Ranthambore National Park.

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What did you think? Do you want to see more of my videos? Subscribe to my YouTube channel now!

Ranthambore National Park: the real life Jungle Book

There are fewer than 4,000 tigers left in the wild. Over half of them live in India, and it was our mission to find one.

With the Bengal tiger its national animal, India is doing all it can to conserve the endangered animal population. In 1973, a Government sponsored scheme called Project Tiger was launched to protect the environment they live in, monitor their movements and, critically, foil the efforts of poachers. It has seen some success, with some reserves experiencing enough breeding activity to kick-start growth in other areas of the country.

Ranthambore National Park, India

One of the reserves Project Tiger protects is Ranthambore National Park, which is in the north of the country close to the Golden Triangle tourist circuit. With 31 adult tigers and a few cubs calling it their home, Ranthambore is one of the best places in India to see tigers in the wild; Yet, you’d still be very lucky to catch a glimpse of one. Much like everything in India, the park is absolutely beautiful. It’s set in an area of jungle, and is easily identified by the ancient abandoned fort that overlooks the park, giving Ranthambore its name. If you’ve ever seen or read Kipling’s The Jungle Book, you could imagine Mowgli running through the trees, King Louis sitting on his throne and Shere Khan silently stalking his prey. For us, it was the perfect setting for spotting tigers.

Ranthambore Fort, India

Our safari experience was interesting. We had three game drives over two days, all of them in a shared canter, though we longed for a two seater jeep like the one that zipped past us to get the best views. By the third drive, we had come to learn the safari guide’s routine: the leisurely drive along their preferred route, the secret signal that meant ‘no tigers here’, and the very random toilet break in the middle of the park where you are, very much, at the mercy of nature. A tiger could literally jump up on you and rip your face off if it wanted to, and at times, I wished it would.

Ranthambore National Park, Indai

Ranthambore National Park, India

Now, let me tell you about the animals we saw: langur monkeys, deer, mongeese, peacocks, more deer, pigs, a few other birds, did I say deer? We even saw no less than three sloth bears (which are actually rarer than tigers in the park) that kept our carnivorous yearning at bay for a while. But there was only one thing we wanted to see.

Sloth Bear in Ranthambore National Park, India

I started to think everything was a tiger. The orangey colour the sunlight made as it hit a rock, the growl made by the canter’s engine as it changed gear, even the trees growing straight up in formation started to look like tiger stripes, but alas, no.

Sloth Bear in Ranthambore National Park, India

Until…

On a number of occasions we were told by passing guides they had spotted something in a different area of the park. Each time, we raced on a rollercoaster ride through the park in the direction they pointed us. Most of the time, it was a false alarm. But once, it worked.

Yes, readers, we saw a tiger.

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park, India

And it was just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Hidden under a tree and its thick foliage lay an adult male tiger. He yawned, stretched and heaved his incredible body up onto his front legs, before lifting up on to all fours. He then walked ahead of us, his eye-catching black stripes and orange fur now unmistakable against the green jungle surrounding him. He stalked confidently alongside our queue of jeeps, apparently undeterred by the vehicle engines and shrieking humans who couldn’t believe their luck.

Everyone leapt up on to their seats to catch a glimpse, their heads blocking our view. But then, the tiger crossed in front of the traffic, giving us the perfect angle to see his majestic figure as he disappeared back into the undergrowth and into our memories.

Mission accomplished.

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park, India

Our other two game drives were fruitless, and we heard people who took three game drives but didn’t see a single one. We’ve even heard stories of people who travelled to India three times and have never seen anything.

Sadly, that proves our conservation efforts are not enough (or that the tigers are too good at hiding from us – I hope that’s it). But it’s certain that more needs to be done to put an end to poaching and to safeguard the tigers forever. These beautiful creatures are far too precious to ignore and never see again. And let’s face it, zoos just aren’t the same.

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If you’re thinking of visiting Ranthambore to see a tiger, do it soon. Before it’s too late.

Have you ever seen a tiger in the wild? Would you want to? How do you think we can better protect the remaining population? Share your thoughts below.

How to avoid Delhi Belly

Having just returned from a trip to India, the question I’ve been asked most isn’t “did you see a tiger?” or “what was the weather like?” No, it’s actually “did you get sick?!” Well dear readers, no I didn’t.

An upset tummy – affectionately termed ‘Delhi Belly’ – is a very real danger in India. Travellers aren’t used to eating rich and spicy foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, and unfortunately hygiene and food preparation standards aren’t always as high as they are back home. For that reason, stomach upsets are very common and can completely wipe out days of sightseeing.

In this post I share my tips for avoiding Delhi Belly and what to do if you’re struck down with it.

How to avoid Delhi Belly

Despite the number of people who get struck down with the bug, it is possible to avoid. Here are the precautions I took, and take it from me, they work!

  • Practise good personal hygiene. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before meals. If there’s no soap available, bring hand sanitiser from home and use it! Also try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth without washing your hands first.
  • Send that dirty plate back. If you’re handed dirty cutlery or crockery in restaurants, ask for a cleaner set. They won’t mind!
  • Only drink bottled water. The water in India is totally unsafe to drink, so don’t do it! Bottled water is readily available in shops, restaurants and hotels so keep a good stash of it in your bag. You should also use this water to brush your teeth.
  • Hold the ice. You can never guarantee that ice in your drink is made from purified water, so it’s best not to have it. Drinks are usually kept delightfully cold in restaurant fridges anyway, so you don’t even need ice.
  • Avoid salad. Similarly, restaurants might wash their salad in contaminated water so don’t bother eating it. If you must eat fruit from markets, wash it first in your own drinking water or eat peelable fruit like oranges or bananas. Better yet, bring your own peeler from home for apples and pears!
  • Make sure food is piping hot. Buffets are ridiculously popular in India, as they can keep lots of tourist groups happy throughout lunch and dinner service. Unfortunately, the food is usually less than hot, making it more risky to eat. My advice is to wait for the fresh stuff, or order a la carte.
  • Eat at reputable restaurants. If you have a tour guide, they’ll usually be able to recommend ‘safe’ restaurants with good standards of hygiene. If not, check TripAdvisor to see whether other travellers have had a bad experience at that restaurant you’ve got your eye on.
  • Try not to eat street food. Yes, those pakoras from the little old man on the street might look delicious, but are they really worth ruining the rest of your trip for?
  • Be picky with what you eat. If you’re not a vegetarian already, consider becoming one in India. With 31% of the population being vegetarian, the meat free food in the country is very special and less likely to give you food poisoning. *whisper* you also HAVE TO try a MaccyD’s McSpicy Paneer. I’m salivating at the thought of it…!

 

How to treat Delhi Belly

Don’t panic if you’ve already got Delhi Belly – it can be treated quite easily with a few home remedies and by looking after yourself.

  • Stay hydrated. This is the most important thing you can do, especially in hot countries! Keep drinking bottled water and consider taking electrolyte to replace all the water you’ve lost during your sickness.
  • Take digestion medicines. There are hundreds of medicines out there to treat upset stomachs. Remember to bring some from home as pharmacies can be quite hard to find in India. Follow the instructions, and you’ll be feeling better in no time.
  • Take some time out. It’s worth taking a day out of sightseeing to stay in your room and make sure you get much better. Plus, how much fun can it be staring at another beautiful building when all you want is a toilet?
  • Get plenty of rest. I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better once I’ve had a good night’s sleep. Make sure your room is dark, get yourself comfortable and try to sleep it off.

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What are your tips for avoiding Delhi belly? Share your advice in the comments below!