In a few days time we will be attending "Indaba", Africa's largest travel industry expo. This allows us to be well informed on new tours, operators, lodges, hotels and air routes. Most countries also deploy their tourism management to provide updates on what is happening across their nation. Indaba ensures that we have the latest offerings and deals to present to you. We have forged close relationships with owners and management of these companies over the past 25 years and renewing those acquaintances is essential when seeking the best for our clients.
After Indaba we will once again be visiting Madagascar, to scout out new destinations and options for our growing operations there. One of the areas will be the (seen above) "Marojejy National Park" - a great wilderness area in the north of the country where hiking is a special feature. See our website at Madagascar Travel Centre.
2018 has become a crazy year for visiting Africa. Securing bookings for this year became difficult back in the last quarter of 2017 and has been trickier ever since. A surge in the number of tourists from USA and East Asia has been one of the prime factors behind this demand pressure. In most instances we are still able to find accommodation and safaris for this year's season, but it is limited.
We still have one single room and one double room available in our Africa group tour departing in July. We will be closing bookings for this tour on April 30th.
Our Madagascar group has a closing date of May 31st.
The India "Visa on Arrival" system is working well, but the Government of India has recently distributed the following information which is important to know:
"Government of India does not appoint any authorized agents to apply for e-Visa on behalf of any applicant. Do not fall prey to such fake e-Visa portals claiming to provide Express e-Visa services by charging a hefty amount for same. The official website of Government of India for e-Visa and related visa services is www.indianvisaonline.gov.in " (Niraj Sharan, Asst Director General , Ministry of Tourism, Delhi)
Should you do a Google search for e-Visa online you will find many of these unauthorized portals - please beware.
Further it needs to be understood that many tourists assume that Indian Visa is arranged on arrival in India and make arrangements to travel. They then turn up at the airport where they will be denied boarding until they secure a visa BEFORE they travel.
You are advised to visit this site and apply for e-Visa and print the confirmation which normally comes with in 48/78hrs and bring this along to board the flight. A valid Passport for more than 6 months, air ticket and e-Visa confirmation is must to board a flight to India.
It is with some pride that we celebrate 25 years of assisting our clients to Africa, India and beyond. When we commenced we would not have envisaged still being in business in 2018, but here we are. Thousands of happy travelers have used our services (in partnership with our general travel arm ..... Journeys Unlimited) and we have formed strong relationships with many of them. We still arrange travel for one of our clients we helped in the very beginning of 1993 !!!
A Happy New Year to you, Thanks for working with us, and we look forward to a fabulous 2018.
In our blog dated 1 June 2017 we commented on TripAdvisor and the confusion that its new format and direction were causing to users.
It is disturbing that what used to be a great forum for users has now become a marketing tool and loses its unbiased value. TripAdvisor now has a new "tool" which properties use ("This business uses tools provided by TripAdvisor [or one of its official Review Collection Partners] to encourage and collect guest reviews, including this one."), where the properties solicit reviews from clients for TripAdvisor ("Review collected in partnership with this hotel"). These are noted on each review as such.
Amazingly we have yet to see one of these where the recommendation is "Poor" or "Terrible" .... and we suspect we never will since it is now pre-filtered by the property, and then by T.A. (as part of their "partnership" agreement).
We are finding T.A. becoming increasingly biased and the value from user reviews has diminished hugely. What a pity.
Our sister agency, Journeys Unlimited is operating a "Culture & Cuisine" small group tour to India in February (departing 31 Jan). We designed this tour to cover the highlights of northern and southern India, but added special features along the way. Seeing some of the lesser known parts of Delhi and being shown how to prepare an Indian meal the authentic way are just the start. Being at The Taj at the right time of day, seeing the ghats of Varanasi before the tourists flood the area, or ensuring 2 nights stay in the backwaters of Kerala to see what life is really like there ..... simple features that we have learnt from the past 25 years of operating groups in India.
There are a few rooms left on this tour so be quick and phone us to be included in this special tour. Bookings close 1 December, if not sold out before. Journeys Unlimited : 02 9939 5660
We love Madagascar, and to further promote this fabulous destination we have decided to create a part of our agency dedicated to just Madagascar.
Today we launch: MADAGASCAR TRAVEL CENTRE
Nearly all visitors to India require a Visa. For many nationalities this can be applied for on-line, however beware that there are numerous websites who appear to be the "official" site for Visa applications, but are service centres who charge unnecessary fees. Please ensure you only apply for an Indian "eVisa" through the Government site:
The past few months have been extremely busy for us - firstly with a group tour to East Africa for the Wildebeest Migration and then soon after, a group to Madagascar which arrives back in Australia tomorrow. Both groups were rewarded with amazing experiences and superb photographic opportunities. We shall be sharing some of the photographic moments here, and in our linked Instagram account, in the coming days.
The wildebeest migration was actually early this year, so at the time of our arrival in mid-July tens of thousands of animals were already swirling across the Masai Mara. Timing is everything with wildlife events, so we were pleased that once again our choice of date of departure placed us in the right locations at the right times. We see too many advertised tours that select timings that miss the outstanding moments.
In Madagascar our clients were also rewarded with the benefits of September - not too hot, very little rain, and lots of newborn lemurs clinging to their mothers. Madagascar continues to be one of our very favourite destinations and in the next few weeks you will be hearing from us in relation to a specific initiative for Madagascar.
Before the end of October (2017) we shall be releasing our "special" 2018 escorted group tour programs.... Why "special" - well 2018 is our 25th year of operation and on both tours we shall be celebrating this fantastic quarter of a century that we have enjoyed sharing with so many clients.
We are in the final stages of planning some new group tours for 2018. These will be announced soon.....
Also, watch our site for a new venture into a destination that offers more tan you could ever imagine .... coming very soon !!!!
For many years we have regularly used TripAdvisor as a source of feedback on properties that our clients visit. As individuals we have made many, many contributions from our personal experiences.
It is with HUGE disappointment that TripAdvisor has shifted its valued "independent advice" role to a "supermarket" which unashamably sells products. It is now extremely difficult to compare properties in the same location. Location descriptions have been revamped so they no longer encompass all that is available, and the whole site has become one giant "booking engine".
Many of you will have relied upon the concept of TripAdvisor to provide independent reviews from actual users. This is no longer its function - just look at it now.......
You also need to know that there is an industry thriving on writing biased or fake reviews for TripAdvisor sites. If you can find the reviews you want to read on the new website, you really need to read them with discretion as many won't be real travellers......
As a journalist recently wrote in a leading Sydney newspaper ..... Travel Agents (and tour operators) are your personal "project managers" for your trip. From their experience they guide you through the minefield that travel has become.
Information through the internet is a wonderful gift to us all, but commercial motives distort and bias its use to someone else's benefit .......
Commencing on the 1st July Safarilink (Kenya) will start using its new Dash 8 aircraft to provide an afternoon return service from Wilson Airport (Nairobi) to Zanzibar. This means that passengers will be able to fly out of the Masai Mara in the mid-morning and connect to this service for a mid afternoon arrival at Zanzibar, thus cutting many hours off the current connection times. Well done Safarilink !!!
Paying a visit to Gorillas in Africa has become very popular and Rwanda has excellent facilities and opportunities to do this. We have been advised that the cost of Permits is going to rise from the current US$750.00 per visit, to US$1,500.00 per visit. (A visit is normally 1 hour in duration)
The Botswana Government has decided to levy a US$30.00 "Tourism Development Levy" on every International Arrival (SADC countries excepted) commencing 1 June 2017. This is valid for unlimited entries during the following 30 days.
Botswana is already probably the most expensive Safari destination in Southern/Eastern Africa and the tourism sector is already taxed in many ways.
This direct levy is just adding to the cost of this destination ...... making Botswana less and less affordable for the average Australian safari goer.
Some fabulous news for tourism. Airlink, who provide convenient connections to many parts of Southern Africa, are upgrading their fleet to include Embraer "E-Jets". We expect to see these on the Johannesburg - Antananarivo (Madagascar) route later this year when our Madagascar Group tour travels. This fleet upgrade is a great bonus to travellers. Well done Airlink !!
Their official release (also source for the above photo):
"Amsterdam, The Netherlands, January 19, 2017 – Airlink, Southern Africa’s largest independent regional airline, is joining the E-Jet operator’s family. The airline is acquiring five E-Jets - three E170s and two E190s, from ECC Leasing, a wholly-owned Embraer subsidiary. Airlink will start to receive the aircraft in the first half of 2017."
Yet another species of Lemur has been identified in Madagascar - bringing the official count to 110 !!! This is amazing, given that most people would only have ever heard of two or three species.
We get very excited about Madagascar !!! A treasure-trove of natural history which reveals more to us every time we visit. The people are a delight and the landscapes are amazing.
Join us on a great adventure to Madagascar this September !
We trust you all have a fabulous 2017. The year has started as a big one for Africa. Our July group tour to Kenya and Tanzania is almost full (please contact us asap if you would like to join in - see here for details ). We are also finding that during the peak times (July-August-September) that many properties across East and Southern Africa are already booked out !!! Should you be considering a safari this year, then now is a great time to be talking to us on making those arrangements.
If you haven't already noticed, Channel 9 (Australia) will start broadcasting "Planet Earth II" during February. We have been fortunate enough to have already viewed the whole series and recommend it to you (amazing photography). Of course Madagascar appears in many episodes of the six part series. After watching it you may see why we love Mada so much, and you might consider joining us on our group tour in September to experience one of the most unusual destinations on earth .......
For most of November we conducted a group tour in South India. Whether it was the journey on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, cruising the backwaters of Kerala, observing the hard life of a dance student (11 years of long days and perfection) or experiencing the mysteries of Kerala chefs at work, it was a hugely varied itinerary showcasing a side of India that our group did not expect. One of the highlights was a short stay (just 48 hours) in Bandipur National Park where everyone saw tiger, leopard, wild elephants and dhole (India's rare native wild dog) - truly one of the best wildlife experiences possible.
A few days ago our group safari of southern Africa returned, and what a tour it was. The group witnessed a very spectacular buffalo kill by a pride of lions in South Luangwa, Zambia. We lost count of the number of Rhinos in Etosha National Park Namibia, even though poaching is becoming a big problem there (and saw lots of hard work by the anti-poaching patrols). The leopards in South Luangwa were also too many to count. As for ele's - they are everywhere ! A magnificient wildlife tour.
Why not join us on our next small group safari which will be in July next year to witness the great migration as it sweeps from Tanzania to Kenya - we already have bookings for this safari, so please contact us soon if you are at all interested.
Our small group tour to South India departs on the 31st October and we still have space for a few more participants. This is one of the most relaxing experiences you can have in India. The unique "French"'ness of Pondicherry, the regal history of Mysore, the mountains and tea plantations of the south, a great "little train" experience and then Kerala..... home to great food, wonderful people and a very relaxing few days on the "backwaters" in specialised houseboats.
This is not a tour we operate regularly so don't put it off, phone us now on (02) 9939 5660 and secure one of those few remaining places.
We are pleased to announce two small group tours for 2017.
East Africa - we have for many years taken clients to Kenya and Tanzania to witness one of the world's most amazing wildlife events - the great migration. We have been requested to operate it again and are please to do so next July, with this safari covering the top locations of that animal migration cycle. We shall be in the Masai Mara as the herds arrive from their long journey across the Serengeti, then we pop down into the Serengeti (via Lake Victoria) to see just what it is like after the wildebeest have left. Then to Ngorongoro Crater, a true "Garden of Eden" in the wildlife world, then across to Tarangire for the annual elephant migration. To finish - we stop at Zanzibar .... amazing food, amazing people and some special wildlife too. A small group led by Dennis Jones - who has over 30 year experience in photographing the wildlife of Africa - and knows the places, the game and the people very well. Join us in July 2017 !
Madagascar - one of our favourite destinations and we understand why David Attenborough has been going there since 1960. Join us on this very special tour to one of the amazing destinations on earth. While the flora and fauna that we see are unique to the island, you will experience the friendliness and a warm welcome from people whose culture and beliefs are very different from ours. Discover this with us. We shall also visit some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, relax on sandy beaches by the Mozambique Channel and undertake a rail journey that is the lifeline to the communities who live along its tracks. Words cannot describe how "different" this tour is from any you have ever undertaken. We can't get enough of Madagascar, and our clients from past groups agree that this destination is very special. Departing in September 2017.
Dennis Jones writes.......