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What did I get myself into?

What did I get myself into?

It was exactly 40 years ago today that I stepped foot in TravelSchmidt for the first time. I was a keener – excited to take my first group of clients around the world. The destination didn’t really matter to me, as long as I would be travelling! As you can imagine, it didn’t quite work out that way…

Travel to Africa – and save the Wildlife!

There’s no time like the present to visit Africa, says editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler Pilar Guzmán: “I’m going on safari in Africa. I (begrudgingly) confess that it will be my first trip to Kenya and Tanzania, and I’m taking my son Will. While I’m not a big fan of the proverbial “bucket list” when it comes to travel, this has been high on my list for a while. At a time when many people have postponed trips to East Africa over fears of Ebola [and politics], I feel it’s the right moment to make a strong statement in favor of travel there. Tourism to Africa is a roughly $80-billion-a-year industry that flows up into government budgets, supporting all levels of civil sustenance, from anti-poaching and wildlife conservation to anti-corruption. Largely because of concerns about Ebola and terrorism, tourism to East Africa has suffered significantly over the last six months—down 25 to 45 percent at many lodges, despite the fact that there’s never been a documented case of Ebola in East Africa. If tourism revenue continues to decline, conservation efforts will be cash-strapped. And should this happen, many believe that the future of wildlife—including elephants, rhinos, and lions—will be severely threatened as foreign interests with an eye on ivory, horn, and hide buy up protected land and encourage poaching. This is what bumped Africa to the top of my list. Make no mistake—this is no sacrifice. … I intend to see and experience all the wonder and grandeur of East Africa that I can. I’m excited to do so in tandem with my animal-loving nine-year-old, on whom the magic will not...

Elephant Trunk Road!

Elephants use Underpass that links two Wilderness areas for the first time How did the elephants cross the road? They went underneath it! Dusk had settled on Mount Kenya’s forested slopes, and traffic had slowed to a trickle on the region’s major highway. That’s when three elephants crossed through Africa’s first dedicated elephant underpass – a new solution to the increasing problem of animal-human conflict in Africa. It was 6:47 p.m. when a gleaming set of white tusks poked through the end of the newly built underpass. A second set of tusks appeared. Then a third. Moving cautiously, the three young males climbed a bank of dirt, made a sharp left turn and crashed into the forest. The $250,000 tunnel – built with donor funds – has successfully connected two wilderness areas and two distinct elephant populations separated for years by human development. The elephants successfully crossed a major road without putting themselves or motorists in danger, and without damaging crops or scaring residents in a nearby village. “The first time we had a report about an elephant going under the underpass it was very exciting. We didn’t expect it to happen so quickly,” said Susie Weeks, executive officer of the Mount Kenya Trust, one of the partners in the tunnel project. “They actually managed to go through it within days of it being opened.” The 15-foot-high (4.5-meter-high) tunnel opened for elephant business around Christmas, and on Jan. 1 a bull elephant named Tony made the first crossing. Accompanied by two other young males, Tony moved through the underpass again as an Associated Press reporter captured the first ever...

Elephant Emotions – Part 3

Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is celebrated for their pioneering work reintegrating orphaned elephants back into the wild. ‘Elephant Emotions’ by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick Unlike us and other primates who have to learn everything the hard way, elephants are born primed with knowledge vital to survival, which is imparted to their brain in their mother’s womb.   Knowledge about what to eat and what not to eat, subservient gestures about how to behave when confronted with an older, stronger stranger in order to avoid conflict and so on. Their sense of scent, like their hearing, is incredibly sophisticated. Trunk to the ground, they can follow a scent trail unerringly and at a run. They can decipher chemical, hormonal messages, and they have a mysterious perception that defies all human logic, able to foresee important events ahead of time.    We have witnessed this time and time again amongst our orphaned elephants. I have been privileged to live amongst elephants (and other animals too) all my life, observing them in a wild, and hand-rearing their orphaned young. But it has been the rearing of the infant milk dependent babies that has given me an in depth insight into the elephant psyche. Hand in hand with the good times, have come heartbreaks in abundance, but each elephant life saved has rewarded us richly with untold satisfaction. When rearing long-lived animals such as elephants, one must dig deep from inner reserves to find “staying power,” for it is a long-term assignment parallel to raising a human child. It took me 28 long years...

Elephant Emotions – Part 2

Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is celebrated for their pioneering work reintegrating orphaned elephants back into the wild. ‘Elephant Emotions’ by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick Each elephant is a unique individual, just as are we, and each has its own unique personality. They can be happy or sad, placid by nature or more volatile. They can even be playfully mischievous, delighting in playing harmless pranks on other members of the family or herd. However, they are taught discipline from a very young age by their senior matriarchs. They know envy and jealousy, can throw tantrums and harbour grudges about a perceived injustice, just like human children.   And just like human children, they can be competitive for rank and status amongst their peers.   This applies to both males and females, for elephant society is complex, where female family units remain united for life, led by the oldest female of the group who is known as the Matriarch.   Young bulls remain with the female family until puberty, but then prefer the company of other bulls so that they can spar with one another in tests of strength and dominance, often attaching themselves to high ranking and revered adult role models, whom they emulate, and learn from.   However, they will always still keep in touch with their female family and visit them from time to time, but they are the scouts of elephant society, who must be more adventurous and seek out safe havens for their female loved ones. They prefer a more independent existence, for boys will be boys. That said,...

Elephant Emotions

Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is celebrated for their pioneering work reintegrating orphaned elephants back into the wild. ‘Elephant Emotions’ by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick Why is it that most people feel such empathy for elephants, even if they have never had close contact with them? Is it because of their size, their quaint characteristics, or the fact that they are so incredibly endearing as babies, tripping over little wobbly trunks that seem to serve no useful purpose other than get in the way? Or is it, perhaps, because elephants are “human” animals in terms of emotion, and in many other ways as well, encompassed by an invisible and mystical aura that reaches deep into the human soul in a mysterious way that defies human logic. I can vouch for that, for I have worked intimately with elephants for 55 years. My team and I have hand-reared over 150 orphaned elephant babies to date, some from the day they were born. I have known them intimately through infancy and childhood into their teenage years and even well beyond. For like us humans, some elephants like to stay in touch with those they love. Every elephant we rear is returned back where it rightly belongs to lead a normal elephant life back amongst its own kind, to cover vast distances in enormous elephant strides, enjoying the companionship of others, fulfilling all the tasks in life elephants were designed to do such as modifying habitats to trigger wildlife’s cyclic and eternal rhythms between grasslands and scrublands essential to the long-term survival...

Lions immigrate to Malawi

Press release:   “Early on Monday, July 30th, four lions – Sapitwa, Chimwala, Shire and Nakamba – were sedated and prepared for their flight from South Africa to Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi.  Two aircraft had their interior cabins specially tailored to accommodate the large predators, and with the pilots, veterinarians, ecologist, journalists, and of course the lions on board,  it was time to depart and head towards the lower Shire Valley in Malawi. At around 15h00, the staff and management of African Parks and government dignitaries witnessed the arrival of the Majete lions at the Nchalo airfield in Malawi. There was an air of excitement as the lions were transferred from the aircraft and securely placed into the vehicles before being transported to their purpose-built boma, where they will be kept in quarantine until their release at the end of August.  We can confirm that the lions are settling in well and are regularly seen exploring and feeding. The release of the lions is expected to boost Majete’s attraction as a wildlife destination and is receiving widespread publicity in the travel trade.  Dozens of community meetings have been held over the past few months to ensure that the local people around the park are sensitized to the introduction of the lions. After a 30 year absence, the introduction of lions to Majete represents the final step in the transformation of this once depleted park into a thriving ‘Big Five’ reserve.” To arrange your Lion Safari contact Africa Expert, Christine...