In late January, when the 19th Egyptian Marathon took place in Luxor, one special entrant caused some surprise and consternation. In fact the policeman at the car park said that young Felix wasn’t allowed.
After much negotiation by Felix’s companion, Kim, he was able to proceed and win hearts along the way. You see Felix is an orphan and resident of Animal Care in Egypt (ACE). That’s right, Felix is a donkey!
Meeting the proud Maasai people and learning more about their traditional village life in Kenya was all part of the amazing Africa experience for Intrepid’s Dyan Mckie…
“I can understand why most travellers are inspired to visit Africa to see the unbelievable animals. I too was extremely excited to see white and black rhinos, giraffes running across the road and a Masai Mara lion, who decided to check us out from only two feet away. Plus I will never forget the cheetah who stalked a gazelle, but made a last-minute decision to leave it alone only yards from our 4WD! The animals are primarily why people go to Africa, but with some surprise, my Africa journey was more about the people.
In 1835 Charles Darwin described the Galapagos Islands as a “living laboratory”. Fortunately centuries later the islands are still a haven for unique flora and fauna, but there is a growing threat – tourism. In an effort to protect the native animals, new cruising restrictions will come into effect in 2012, but more can be done to travel responsibly in the region.
Intrepid’s Active Galapagos is a great example, because you stay on the islands and support communities by dining in local restaurants, rather than just running up a tab on the boat. And as Sean Kennaway discovered, your wildlife encounters will still be amazing…
Traditionally made by carving out the trunk of ebony or kigelia trees, the mokoro is the most popular mode of transport for navigating Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It’s no wonder that traversing these wonderful waterways in a dugout canoe, or modern fibreglass version, is such a trip highlight, but as Fay Whitelaw discovered, hippos still have right of way in the Delta…
“We had a wonderful, relaxing ride at sunset in a mokoro in the Okavango Delta. It was an amazing experience, lazing back while our guide poled us through the reeds. We even saw an elephant taking his arvo drink from the Delta after a hot day. It was great having a new perspective – looking back at this huge mammal from the water. We enjoyed a lovely evening and had plenty of pics to prove it. An experience that could have only been improved if we had a bottle of wine!
When Dara Leonard swapped her group leader role for group traveller she was expecting to be wowed by the creatures of Africa, but it turned out that her fondest memories were not from seeing giraffes and gorillas, but from meeting the people…
“Mzungu is one of the first words I learned in Swahili! This means ‘white person’ and everywhere in eastern Africa I went I heard the word. After leading trips in South East Asia for the past year, I decided it was time to take my own holiday and visit eastern Africa for the first time and to do it on an Overland truck with Intrepid. It took me a few days to get out of ‘leader mode’ and back into the adventurer that I am, but once I did, I had no problem playing the role of traveller once again.
Untouched by human civilisation until the early 19th century, the Galapagos Islands remain one of our planet’s greatest wildlife viewing destinations. If you are ready for an archipelago adventure with a difference, Intrepid’s Pamela Arcos explains why Active Galapagos is her top trip…
“This island-hopping trip explores the Galapagos by panga boats and you stay in hotels, which means you have more time to meet the locals. Your adventure begins on San Cristobal island with an exhilarating downhill bike ride to admire the fantastic views from the highlands. Each day you’ll enjoy amazing wildlife experiences and my favourite encounters include watching iguanas feed on underwater seaweed, seeing Galapagos penguins scurry about the islands and silently observing giant turtles guarding their nests on the beach. Leon Dormido is one of the best spots for snorkeling and here I’ve seen sharks swimming calmly close by – how incredible it was to feel a giant animal sharing his world with me!”
The ancient Greeks believed that dolphins were closely related to Gods and Goddesses, Australian Aborigines consider the dolphin a spiritual guide and protector and dolphins hold special significance for Maori people of New Zealand. So it’s no wonder Zoe Rees felt it was a real privilege to swim with these captivating creatures…
“As I floated in the deep blue water, I looked up, admiring the piercing sapphire sky and back drop of the dramatic mountains surrounding the harbour. It was spring, but still some snow remained on the highest peaks. I glanced down, trying without luck to see the ocean floor, shivering with a mixture of cold water chills and anticipation. Suddenly someone on the boat moored nearby let out an excited “behind you! behind you!”
Seen one herd of elephant, think you’ve seem them all? Wrong! There’s no way you can ever tire of seeing these incredible creatures in the wild and getting up close to a bull elephant is still one of Sean Elliott’s most magical moments in Kenya…
“From the very first game drive we were just blown away by it all. And that excitement didn’t let up until our last day in Kenya, when we topped it off with an amazing experience. Throughout the Intrepid trip we were lucky enough to come in close contact with giraffes, zebras, lions, warthogs (like pumba from The Lion King!), hyenas, rhino and hippos, but it’s the elephants that I’ll always remember.
When the ‘call of the wild’ comes to you, it’s good to keep in mind how you can view wildlife in an optimum way. A way that enables you to experience wildlife behaving naturally and that doesn’t stress the animals. Intrepid’s friends at the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Born Free Foundation have helped us compile the following tips:
- Respect the ‘personal space’ of the wildlife in their habitat. If a visitor or vehicle causes an animal to alter its behaviour, then the visitor has invaded its space and influenced its normal behaviour. Observe nature as it occurs naturally and not as to how it responds to your presence there.