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      How to pack for an African safari

      Packing for a holiday can be difficult, but packing for an African safari comes with additional confusion. Apparently, it’s warm but I need to stay covered? Are khaki colours a fashion choice or essential? How much bug spray do I bring? Is it true that it gets cold in the evenings? What about cultural dress codes?
      As someone who has been on safari in Kenya , Botswana and Zambia my personal safari packing list have improved over time. The first time I went on safari back in 2012 I had no idea what to bring and ended up borrowing clothes off my mum as she had made better choices than myself. But earlier this year I took a trip to Kenya and this time I was actually quite impressed with my own safari packing skills.
      Here is exactly what I packed, so you can get it right the first time.
      Daily Outfits
      There are three things to keep in mind when choosing what clothes to bring with you:
      Neutral colours so not to attract attention from animals Layers that you can add or remove as the temperature changes Protection from the sun My favourite safari outfit is khaki shorts, a loose-fitting white top, white trainers and a thin hoody to throw on top in the cooler evenings. I also took a small rucksack with me for day trips that had sunglasses and a sunhat in it for the midday sun. Be aware that you’ll be jumping in and out of high trucks, so shorts work better than dresses.  
      If you’re a guy, the same rules generally apply. Three quarter length shorts and a shirt will work well. Plus sunglasses and comfortable shoes.
      It depends on where you are staying, but some safari resorts have swimming pools. Many people still opt for fashionable swimwear so feel free to wear the same bikini or trunks you bought for last year’s Caribbean or Mediterranean beach break. Also remember flip flops or sandals as the paths back to your room might be rockier than you’re used to.
      If you’re doubling up your safari with a beach stay (such as the Kenya coast, Zanzibar or Mauritius) clothing choices here will be the same as any European or Caribbean resort. Bring along a nice pair of sandals and maxi dress, or a casual shirt, for the evenings. 
      Sleep wear
      It’s cooler at night, so I would recommend full-length pyjamas.
      It’s not uncommon to see people taking pictures with a DLSR camera (and a high-zoom lens) but I personally prefer a good point and shoot camera. I took my DLSR on my first safari but it is bulky to carry around and I didn’t always have to time to play with the settings when a leopard was sneaking past. I prefer something that easily slips in my pocket, isn’t highly valuable and does most of the work for me.
      A lot of phone cameras are also high quality these days, and many of my Kenya photos were taken on my Samsung. I’d recommend everyone takes a camera of some kind but it is really up to you.
      (A note on DLSRs if you’re considering buying one for safari: DLSR cameras don’t automatically take better pictures, and if you don’t know how to work yours, or own a suitable lens, you might end up with photos that aren’t any better than if you’d used your phone)
      Other technology
      I also took my tablet and iPod. The first of which I only used once as I was so busy. My iPod came in handy though when we were driving long distances between safari camps.
      Also remember to pack all of your chargers and spare batteries. The plugs in Africa also change depending on what country you are in – so double check before you pack.
      Toiletries, Medications and Beauty Products
      A full face of make-up will melt in the sun,  but foundation, mascara, some concealer and neutral lipstick is still quite normal on safari.
      As with any other holiday remember your basic toiletries: antiperspirant, shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush. On our first night we stayed in a Tented Camp where we were only allowed a short shower and there wasn’t much time for a beauty regime. But every other resort we stayed in had en-suite shower rooms with no restrictions on shower time. If you like to glam it up on safari, I’d recommend picking your resort carefully.  
      And yes, you’ll need bug spray. One bottle should easily do you for a week. Spray it on your clothes as well.
      Remember to check with your GP and travel clinic if you’ll need anti-malaria tablets.
      The important and legal things
      If you’re a UK citizen, you’ll need your passport to get into most African countries. As for visas, this depends on the country. For Zambia I had to send my passport off in advance, have it stamped and sent back to me. For Botswana the safari company offered day visas and for Kenya I had to pay $50 dollars for an entry visa at airport border security. Remember to check the Gov.UK website for up-to-date information.  
      Some African money (such as Zambian Dollars) are what is known as a closed currency and you cannot change in advance. So you’ll need to stop by a bank machine as soon as you arrive.  
      If you’ve already been on an African safari, do you have any items you’d recommend bringing? Or do you have a packing mishap to share? Let us know in the comments!   


      Staff Travel Diaries: Kenyan Safari

      To say Kenya is a once-in-a-lifetime trip is an understatement. Located along Africa’s eastern coast, it is home to three of the continent’s most notable national safari parks, plus has a beautiful shoreline overlooking the Indian Ocean.
      Even though Kenya was not my first trip to Africa (having previously been to Cape Town, Zambia and Botswana) I was really excited to be given the chance to see a different side the continent and explore this iconic country (and try and spot some of the animals I hadn’t managed to on previous safaris – namely the lion and leopard).
      You might be aware that Kenya took a bit of a hit when the UK government issued a travel ban in 2014 warning against all but essential travel to Kenya’s coast. Even though it wasn’t the whole country, the areas effected included the beach resorts just south of Mombasa. The UK government has since lifted the ban and Kenya is now considered a safe place for British travellers.
      The Kenyan Tourist Board has been working tirelessly to get the number of UK tourists back up to its previous levels – and to do so they recently invited 30 British travel agents to explore the country, with myself being put forward to represent Barrhead Travel. I don’t think I need to explicitly tell you that this was an amazing experience – so I’m going to let my travel diary do that for you.
      Day 1 – Nairobi National Park
      After a seven hour flight, the last thing you want to do is to drive another four hours to your hotel. Thankfully our first day of adventure was Nairobi National Park – a sprawling savannah that surrounds the capital city where animals roam freely. Even on the short journey from the airport to the park we seen giraffes wandering in the distance.  
      Our accommodation for the night was the Nairobi Tented Camp, the only accommodation right in the heart of the park. If you’ve come to Africa for adventure, this is where you’ll find it: there’s no fences so animals can just stroll in, you can hear animal sounds in the night and the staff have to give you a safety briefing when you arrive (no walking outside in the dark by yourself!). Saying that, the camp was still comfortable with proper beds, en-suites in each tent and complimentary Wifi.  
      After we’d shaken off our jet lag we were taken to the nearby David Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage, just in time for its afternoon feedings. Elephants aren’t typically common in Nairobi – with this being one of the few places to get a glimpse of them – and are taken here away from threats before being slowly re-introduced to the wild when they are three years old.

      One tip for when you go on safari is to do more than one game drive as different animals prefer different times of day. While we were travelling between the camp and the Elephant Orphanage, giraffes and warthogs were front and centre. However, when we went out for a late afternoon game drive we saw something a bit different. The expert game drivers known where certain animals hang out and keep each other informed of where certain animals have been seen that day. He took us to a section of the park where another guest had been lucky enough to see a lioness in the morning. The game drivers also have sharp eyes for things moving in the bushes and were able to see what we couldn’t: a lioness resting under a large bush with her cubs.
      After our final game drive of the day, we closed our first night in Kenya by relaxing around the campfire with a beverage of our choice (gin, wine and certain beers were included in the price) while the sound of hyenas was heard in the distance.
      The next morning we were awoken at 6am to catch out flight to Tsavo. A fairly simple and mundane thing usually – but not when you’re in a safari park. The break of dawn is the perfect time of day for lion spotting, and sure enough there was one strolling along the road side in the early hours! How is that for a morning commute?
      Day 2 – Tasvo National Park
      On day 2, we left behind the exotic and dusty colours of Nairobi for the reddish hues of Tsvao National Park. Our accommodation for the night was Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge – my favourite accommodation of the trip. The stand-out feature of the lodge was its restaurant and relaxation area looking out over a watering hole where animals come to drink (you can also ask reception to wake you up if a certain animal comes to drink in the night!). It’s located close to the Tanzanian border and on a clear day you can see the peak of Kilimanjaro climbing over the horizon.
      One my previous holiday to Africa, it was a lion and leopard that I hadn’t been lucky enough to see. In Nairobi, I was fortunate enough to tick a lion sighting off my bucket list, but the leopard was still on the list. Until we went out for our evening game drive in Tsavo that is. The game driver told us we would be lucky to see one, but nevertheless he took us to all the places in the park that were popular with leopards (volcanic rock for example) and there the leopard was – just chilling by the roadside!

      Day 3 – Mzima Springs and Glamping
      At the start of Day 3, the organisers told us not to head to the restaurant for breakfast as they had something extra special in mind. Instead, we were taken straight out for an early morning game drive, where they parked the car at the bottom of Lion Rock. Turns out our breakfast was taking place here – an experience guests can actually pay for! They even took chefs with them and there was full buffet complete with hot food and an omelette station!
      Afterwards, the game drivers from Kilaguni Lodge took us out for one last trip, to Mzima Springs to see the hippos. Hippos aren’t always the easiest animal to spot (I hadn’t seen any of previous trips to Africa) as they much prefer to bask in the water, so a trip to some springs is a must if you want to meet any. The springs themselves are set up with pathways and lookouts perfectly positioned for hippo spotting – and sure enough there was a small collection of them floating right in front of a lookout.
      At Mzima Springs we were met by the manager from Severin Safari Lodge who was going to take us on to the next leg of our journey. This time we were heading to a luxury tented camp that was the definition of glamping and was designed with relaxation in mind. My tent had its own en-suite with private shower and toilet, double bed, and porch area while the wider camp had an open-air building that included a reception, library and dining room as well as separate buildings for a swimming pool and spa area, hall for events and a gym!
      We went out for another game drive that evening – and spotted another leopard jumping up volcanic rocks! As a special touch, the manager of the tented site arranged for the game drivers to take us to one of the highest nearby peaks in the park for some champagne and nibbles with fantastic views of the breath-taking landscape.  
      Day 4 – Diani Beach
      While Kenya is typically associated with safari holidays, it is also an amazing beach destination with an eastern coast that overlooks the crystal waters of the Indian Ocean. We were greeted at the Baobab Beach Resort by enthusiastic native African dancers, and were handed fresh coconuts with the tops cut off for a refreshing drink. We were promptly given a tour of the resort which was massive and would be perfect for a wide range of holiday makers.
      Africa wasn’t new to me, but this was my first ever glimpse of the stunning Indian Ocean that the Baobab Beach Resort looks out on to. One of my favourite activities during the trip was the jet skiing that they had arranged for us that afternoon, which was another first. It was potentially the most invigorating but terrifying thing I had ever done, but after 30 minutes whizzing about the shoreline you pick up pace and find a speed that works for you.
      Day 5 – Mombassa
      Our stay in Mombassa was short, and generally most people book a hotel here to be closer to the airport on their final night. We stayed at the Sarova Whitesands that also overlooks the Indian Ocean and it is a fantastic all-round beach resort perfect for a wide range of travel personalities.
      As the sun set on our final night in this beautiful country, the manager of the resort invited us for a private drinks reception in the beach hut with all drinks on him. Afterwards we headed to the restaurant and helped ourselves to the generous buffet options before relaxing back in our rooms ready for our journey back to the UK with Kenyan Airways! 
      As a final note, I’d like to personally thank you everyone at the Kenyan Tourist Board (both in the UK offices and the HQ in Nairobi) for inviting Barrhead Travel to be part of this educational trip. It’s a beautiful country and shows a different side to the multifaceted continent of Africa. Everyone needs to be put it on their bucket list, even if they’ve already been somewhere else in Africa before.


      10 photos that will make you want to visit South Africa immediately

      1. These cuddly zebras in Kruger National Park

      2. Route 44 along the Western Cape

      3. These elephant statues in Lost City

      4. Tsitsikamma National Park along the Garden Route

      5. This vineyard along the Stellenbosch Wine Route

      6. These penguins splashing around at Boulders Beach

      7. This leopard in the Kalahari Desert

      8. This beautiful aerial shot of Cape Town

      9. An elephant crossing the road in Kruger National Park

      10. This beach found in the waterfront city of Cape Town


      A beginners guide to The Gambia

      If you’re looking for an affordable luxury escape, then look no further than The Gambia. Located on the Atlantic coast of Africa, one of its biggest pulls is its sunset-perfect 80km coastline; and while that number might not be impressive in terms of numerical value, the picturesque butterscotch sands make it a peaceful alternative to busy Mediterranean or Canary Island resorts (and at an amazing price).
      But The Gambia isn’t just beaches. Its moniker is ‘the smiling coast of Africa’ thanks to the friendly warmth of its natives. And like all of Africa there is an abundance of culture to be found – from local markets to National Parks. Interest piqued? Below we’ve rounded up a selection of must-know information to help you choose The Gambia for your perfect sunshine escape.
      What to do
      Gambia has a wealth of things to do, whether you’re after beaches, sport, culture or some relaxation. Here’s just some of the activities you can get up to.
      The Gambia boasts an unspoilt Atlantic coastline and the warm waters that run along it are the same as you would find in Cape Verde. Most beaches have hotels adjacent to them and will be decorated with sun beds, either provided by the hotel or a beach bar. Surfing is also growing in popularity thanks to waves that are available all year round and waters that are incredibly safe.  
      James Island
      A UNESCO World Heritage Site, James Island can be found in the Gambia River 30km inland on the north bank of the river close to Juffureh and Albreda (Gambia Day Cruises are popular). On the island lies the fort known as Fort James (named after James, the Duke of York, later King James II of England) and provides a fascinating look at the African-European history of the nation.
      Visit a National Park
      The Gambia has several national parks, all brimming with rich wildlife. Choose between Niumi National Park, Kiang West National Park, Tanbi Wetlands National Park or River Gambia National Park.
      Visit Senegal
      A twin-centre adventure that includes the neighbouring Senegal is a popular option when looking for a trip to The Gambia. Day excursions that cross the border and back are also available, in particular to the vibrant city of Dakar or Goree Island.
      When to visit
      The Gambia is a year-round destination, but winter is its high season when average temperatures reach heights of 32°C. Summer is also a great time to go for sunshine, and is a relaxing alternative to the busy beach resorts of Europe.  
      Getting there
      The Gambia is only a 6-hour flight from the UK and works within the same time zone, meaning travellers won’t be subject to jetlag. During the summer there are weekly daytime flights from Gatwick; and during the winter there are regional flights twice weekly from both Manchester and Birmingham.
      It’s also worth noting that UK visitors don’t need to organise a visa in advance, unless they plan to stay more than 28 days.
      Where to Stay
      Affordable luxury is very much a reality in The Gambia, with a great selection of luxury hotels, boutique hotels and unique lodges that are a lot cheaper than those in other long-haul destinations. All-inclusive package options and adult only resorts are also available.
      The currency used in The Gambia is the Dalasi, and you can get roughly 60 of these for every pound. Everything is also cheaper in The Gambia and typically speaking you can get a three-course meal in a high-end restaurant for what would be £25pp in the UK. A bottle of beer is roughly £1.


      5 scenic stops along South Africa’s Garden Route

      The Garden Route along South Africa’s breath-taking coastline is simultaneously world-famous and secluded. A place where every year travellers come to strike a long-awaiting tick on their bucket-list but still remains pleasantly undisturbed and basks in natural organic beauty. Between its start and end points, travellers will awe at rugged but leafy cliffs that look out onto undisturbed stretches of ocean – with plenty of hidden gems to discover along the way.
      1. Oudtshoorn

      It’s not just people who appreciate the beautiful landscapes of the Garden Route – some of Mother Nature’s most fascinating creatures do as well. The town of Oudtshoorn has been named the ‘Ostrich Capital of the World’ and many travellers stop by here to visit one of the many ostrich farms. There is also the nearby Cango Caves and Wildlife Reserve that is home to some of Africa’s best-loved felines.
      When leaving Oudtshoorn you can also make the choice to carry on along the Garden Route or turn onto the Route 62 wine route – where some of the finest African port wines originate.
      2. Wildnerness

      This aptly named town is wedged between the Kaaimans River and the Goukama Natural Reserve, and boasts year-round sunny temperatures. Around the town lies beautiful lagoons, stunning beaches, and tranquil seas that are known to attract whales and dolphins.
      3. Plettenberg Bay

      If your favourite kind of wildlife is connected to the ocean, remember to park your car by Plettenberg Bay. Its coastal areas are home to a large Cape fur seal colony, a seasonal penguin colony and waters where the ripples are caused by pods of whales. With waters this rich it has naturally become one of South Africa’s best places for diving and surfing.
      4. George

      Acting as the gateway to the Garden Route, this is the sixth oldest town in South Africa that will greet travellers with a charming welcome. The town is backed by the stunning Outeniqua Mountains, and is steeped by history with the George Museum and the old Moeder kerk, which is a Dutch reformed church. The town’s picturesque charm is topped off with the backdrop of the Outeniqua Mountains, where you’ll find the Outeniqua Railway Museum and the Outenique Choo-Tjoe train.
      5. Knysna

      Every famous coastal route has a hub dedicated to impressive seafood, and Knysna holds this title for the Garden Route. If you’re road-tripping in late June/early July, your taste-buds will appreciate a visit to the Knysna Oyster Festival. Also popular in this area is golf, thanks to its collection of first-class ranges such as Pezula Golf Course, Knysna Golf Course and Simola Golf Course.


      5 tips for your first African safari

      Africa, for many, is a dream destination. One of the many reasons why someone chooses this continent for their bucket list is the desire to go on safari and spot animals they've only ever seen on TV. Though some people see this as a holiday that will remain a dream.
      A safari in Africa is not as unachievable as some travellers might imagine. It is a long journey down to southern Africa – where most safaris take place – and can be perceived as an expensive holiday. Africa is now, however, becoming a more accessible holiday option for British travellers with many special packages including flights, hotel and a safari trip. If you're tempted to book your first safari here are some of our top tips to make sure you get the most out of it.
      1. Know what animals you want to spot
      A safari isn't like a zoo where different animals have been purposefully brought together for visitors. Out in the wild, the animals decide where they live. Leaving some safari parks better suited to predators such as leopards while some are better located to spot tamer animals like giraffes. The time of day you go for a safari is also important (lions, for example, tend to be easier to spot in the morning). Some will also provide more local culture – such as tribal dances – than others. When choosing which country – or even which reserve – researching where certain animals populate is essential to making sure you tick off as many bucket-list sights as possible.
      2. Buy a camera with a good zoom
      You'll want to take home some great pictures for your loved ones and for yourself to cherish forever. The animals, however, might not move close enough for you to get decent pictures and you'll be wishing you had a camera with a high-zoom lens. If you've been thinking about upgrading your camera anyway before your safari is the perfect time to do so. If you're generally quite happy with your camera equipment and don't want to purchase anything new for one trip, you can instead look into renting a camera or even just a lens.
      3. Drink plenty of water
      It's hard to imagine just how hot Africa can get unless you've actually experienced it. It's hot with dry air, therefore it doesn't take long for that thirsty feeling to creep in. Drink plenty in the morning before you leave and take a water bottle with you while you're out and about.
      4. Dress in lightweight clothing but pack waterproofs
      A lot of safaris involve boarding a boat to see the wildlife on islands and swamps. Keep a thin waterproof poncho in your bag and make sure your bag itself is waterproof to protect your camera and other valuables. Remember a big sunhat and sunglasses too!
      5. Bring binoculars (and patience)
      These are wild animals that are not trained to interact with humans. Guides can't always get up close to the animals and safaris don't work to a set schedule. Take a pair of binoculars so when you do see one of the Big 5 lurking in the distance, you'll be able to take a closer look (without getting scarily close).

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