Adventure Travel Blog

  1. Why you should ditch the map and get lost

    Picajsxs andyjarosz on 18th August 2011 | 1 comment

    Reading a map

    You arrive in a city and check in to your hotel before getting ready to hit the streets and explore your new surroundings. What is the most important item that you choose to take with you on your walk around town? For many people it will be a map, whether contained within a guidebook or a separate sheet of multi-folded paper. A map allows you to plot your own city tour, to find the most direct route between two points and most importantly to find your way again when you get lost. Given such obvious benefits is there any justifiable reason why you should choose to leave your map behind? 

    The joy of getting lost


    Many people have a fear of getting lost. Within the confines of a city however, temporarily losing your bearings is rarely going to lead to you veering too far off course and there are often clues (street signs, metro maps) to help you work out where you are. Besides which, ending up somewhere you didn't expect to be is usually no bad thing. It is those moments where you stray from your intended trail that can reveal the most memorable surprises: the little-known local bakery, the fantastic bar or the beautiful old church that wasn't in the guidebook.

    More than this it is often by ditching the map that we stop looking down at our route on a piece of paper and start appreciating what is actually around us. It's a lot easier to admire buildings, observe local dress and engage in some serious people watching if we don't have to concern ourselves with following a particular trail.  

    How to get by without a map 

     

    So next time you're exploring another city and are nervous of heading out without a map, just take a few moments to follow these simple steps and your unguided stroll around town should be a pleasant journey of discovery. 

    1. Study the map in advance and know the rough whereabouts of two or three places that you are determined to visit. Knowing their locations relative to the central square or cathedral/main mosque is often enough to find them.

    2. If there is a major river that runs through the city make a mental note of its course (north-south or east-west). 

    3. Know where your hotel is located relative to the main landmarks and pay attention to landmarks as you leave your hotel so that you recognise them on your way back.

    4. Go out and enjoy! 

     

  2. Safari Camps and Lodges in the Masai Mara

    Missing Tourdust on 17th August 2011 | 0 comments

    Mara Camps Sign post

    Recommendations and price guide to a number of camps and lodges in and around the vicinity of the Masai Mara. Tourdust can arrange a wide range of safaris in the Masai Mara or can organise tailor-made Kenya holidays. Call us on 0203 291 2907 or email help@tourdust.com to discuss your requirements.

    Kenya is one of the more affordable, but also one of the most over-run safari destinations. It is strong though in two departments, the Masai Mara and the range of incredible safari camps on offer. Despite its popularity the Masai Mara is still capable of delivering knock-your-socks-off wildlife encounters and if you choose your location right, breathtaking wilderness. The choice of lodges though, can be a little bewildering..

    There are only a handful of places sited in the reserve itself, most are situated near the entrance gates or on private conservancies adjoining the Masai Mara. The advantage of the private conservancies is that camps tend to be situated in glorious wilderness, and often they play host to their own wildlife too. Bush walks and night drives aren't possible in the reserve itself, but are a huge plus when staying on private conservancies. Places situated near the gates can be a mixed bag, for example, some near the Talek River area have incredible views over the river and plains, but the drawback is over development with busier roads, touristed Masai villages and lots of fenced in camps backed up against each other. 

    Fixed lodges and hotels are relatively rare and are rightly outnumbered by the safari camps, which tend to offer a more authentic safari feel. Those not aligned with camping, needn't worry as in reality, virtually all camps offer permanent tents with solid flooring, en-suite bathrooms and comfortable beds. It is more of a hotel room with canvas walls than a tent. The advantage though is a feeling of camping amidst the bush, with open fires and sweeping views.

    The following list is a shortlist of those we most often recommend, it is by no means an exhaustive list, but is a good starting point. The choice of course is an entirely personal one and will depend on your budget, and whether your prioritise luxury service and swimming pools, or are simply looking for expert guiding and a good place to rest your head.

    Recommended Large Mid-Range Camps

    All feature permanent tents with permanent flooring and en-suite bathrooms.  Whilst the ambience doesn’t compare to the top end properties, some do manage to engender a little of the candle-lit camp fire atmosphere. These camps tend to be located close to the busier park gates.


    #1 ILKELIANI CAMP – A good mid range budget option with 25 comfortable tents. Has some nice touches which give the place a great ambience.  Meals are served in a candle-lit mess tent and tents have concrete floors and full bathroom facilities (hot showers, toilet, basin) and proper beds.
    - Price guide: from $850pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara

    Ilkeliani Dining TentIlkeliani Bedroom


    #2 SIANA SPRINGS INTREPID - Siana Springs is sited on a large private conservancy which is a big plus in this price range. It is set within a nice forested area which means plenty of  small game (bush bucks and monkeys) around the site but less in the way of sweeping views. There are 38 decent sized tents with proper beds, permanent floors and bathrooms and electricity (when the generator is running). There is a nice swimming pool and large dining area with a wonderful open air terrace.. The only drawbacks are buffet meals and the 25 minute drive from the camp to the Masai Mara reserve. (Family activities available)

    - Price guide: from $850pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara


    #4 KICHWA TEMBO CAMP – A very highly regarded larger mid / high end camp with 50 well appointed tents. Tents are comfortable and the camp has good service with great attention to detail. There is a great bar and fire pit area and a swimming pool with incredible views.

    - Price guide: from $1100pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara

    Kichwe Tembo Classic Safari Tent Kichwa Tembo 2 Kichwa Tembo pool Kichwa Tembo


    #3 GOVERNERS CAMP  – Well renowned larger camp (37 tents) in an excellent game rich area. Lovely tents, great service, excellent food and fantastic location with big game walking right through the camp. (no swimming pool)

    - Price guide: from $1250pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara

    Governers Camp Governers Camp tent location Governers Camp Bedroom Governs Camp 2

     

    Highly Recommended Small Mid/High-End camps

    The Masai Mara offers an abundance of fantastic small camps. Many are very high end, but there are a handful who are more affordable, yet still offer the wilderness feel, often with a strong environmental and community ethos.


    #1 BASECAMP MARA – Progressive camp with excellent focus on environmental impact. Located in the Talek River area minutes from the park (which is a little over developed, but is an incredible location for its views over the river and park and its proximity to the park). Tents have fantastic riverside locations with views of the river and the plains beyond.  All tents are en-suite with memorable outdoor showers and composting toilets (not for the squeamish). Has admirable ties with the local Masai community and is one of the few camps which goes out of its way to look after families. Has a raised gamewatching platform but no swimming pool.
    - Price guide: from $1100pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara

    Basecamp Mara 2 Basecamp Mara Basecamp Mara Guide Basecamp mara community


    #2 DOROBO BUSHCAMP – Very remote camp with just six simple tents a bush bar and a fireplace. This is a bush satellite camp to the main Basecamp Mara. Hosts excellent interaction with the local Maasai. On a three day stay here you would have one day in the Masai Mara reserve and the remainder enjoying bush walks in the private conservancy in which it is located. (no swimming pool)
    - Price guide: from $1100pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara


    #3 KICHECHE MARA CAMP – Another excellent small camp (11 tents) which attempts to strike the balance between small camp luxury and reasonable prices. It is set in a superb private conservancy which hosts fantastic wildlife, the food is excellent and the tents are spacious and very comfortable. The wildlife wanders right through the camp, but with ample staff attention to safety us superb. (no swimming pool)
    - Price guide: from $1250pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara

    Kicheche Mara Camp Bedroom Kicheche Mara Camp Dining Tent Kicheche Mara Camp 3 Kicheche Mara Camp 1


    #4 PORINI LION CAMP – One of our favourite camps located in an exclusive 20,000 acre Olare Orok Conservancy on the banks of the Ntiakatiak River, a seasonal river with permanent hippo pools near the camp. With 10 luxury guest tents the camp is very exclusive, giving you a real 'in the bush' experience. The tents are very spacious and have private verandahs along the length of the tent, providing the perfect space relax and enjoy the beauty of the African wilderness. Each tent has a double and single bed, en-suite bathrooms with flush toilets and hot showers. Food is excellent with fresh baked bread and high quality meals prepared by the camp Chef. The Porini Camps are run on an inclusive basis, with meals and drinks (including house wines and beer), night game drives, bush walks and sundowners all included. (no swimming pool)
    - Price guide: from $1300pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara

    Porini Lion Camp Interior Guest TentPorini Lion Mess at nightPorini Lion Guest BathroomPorini Lion Camp Interior Guest Tent


    #5 PORINI MARA CAMP – Arguably the best wilderness option, just 6 tents situated on their own privately owned conservancy (Ol Kinyei), run in partnership with the local Masai community. The conservancy is a stunning wilderness with rivers, forest, open grasslands and views over the Masai Mara.  The Porini Camps are run on an inclusive basis, with meals and drinks (including house wines and beer), night game drives, bush walks and sundowners all included. Because of its location it is best visited in tandem with a stay at Porini Mara Lion Camp
    - Price guide: from $1250pp for a three day safari including flights from Nairobi to the Masai Mara

    Mara Porini Guest TentMara Porini Mess TentMara Porini Guest TentMara Porini Fireplace


    Tourdust can arrange a wide range of safaris in the Masai Mara or can organise tailor-made Kenya holidays. Call us on 0203 291 2907 or email help@tourdust.com to discuss your requirements.

  3. Highlighted review: 7 day fathers & sons custom Atlas trek

    Missing Tourdust on 17th August 2011 | 0 comments

    Peter Lemon travelled with Tourdust on a 7 day custom trek in the Atlas Mountains in August 2011. Read on for his take on the trek: 

    Five middle aged fathers and their teenage sons headed to Morocco in high spirits for a 6 day trekking trip culminating in an ascent of Mount Toubkal. Despite 4 members of the group missing the Saturday afternoon flight we were soon re-united due to an early Sunday morning flight and some quick planning by Mohamed. We met our guides Ibrahim and Mustapha and headed into the high Atlas. We had researched the trip and designed our own bespoke itinerary to include less walking on tracks and more ridge walking and summits. This worked really well although we were a bit over-ambitious, and we had to adjust things to suit the capabilities of the bulk of the group. I would strongly recommend the more adventurous trekker to consider following a bespoke route. We spent the entire week in glorious isolation, not seeing another tourist between the first night and the last night on the mountain. We camped in some surreal places, up to 3456m in altitude, and our only interaction with other humans was with the wonderful Berber people.

    Our chef Samir provided us with plentiful, healthy food as well as helping the guides during the day. None of us suffered from any tummy troubles which pays tribute to his skill and cleanliness. He also provided us with copious amounts of “Berber whisky” otherwise known as mint tea. The muleteers did a great job of looking after the camp and moving our gear from site to site with total efficiency. 

    The fact that it was Ramadan (and the tough daily sectors) meant starting at 5:30 most mornings and our longest day lasted 11 hours. We worked really hard with most people struggling at least once with the altitude or fitness. However the boys all performed really well with winging at a minimum. They just got on with it despite the hard work, long days and some scary scrambling sections.

    After the Toubkal ascent we headed back to Imlil and then onto one night in the luxurious Chez Momo which came as a real treat after such a hard week before returning to the UK still in high spirits and totally fulfilled by our tremendous experience.

    I have nothing but praise for Tourdust and Mohamed who did everything possible to make this holiday one to remember by five very proud dads and five inspired teenagers.

     


     

    If you are interested in arranging a trek in the Atlas Mountains, start your research at our trekking in morocco page which includes all our trekking itineraries (1 - 6 days) as well as guides to the Atlas Mountains and climbing Toubkal. If you want to get in touch about a custom trek in the Atlas Mountains, email Ben on help@tourdust.com.

  4. Ethiopia, famine and whether to travel or not?

    Missing ben on 11th August 2011 | 0 comments

     

    Ethiopia is once again in the news. With famine declared in neighbouring Somalia, an ensuing refugee problem and drought and poverty issues of its own to tackle, it is worth asking whether now is the time to travel to Ethiopia.

    The reality is that Ethiopia is a large country, and the areas affected are a long way removed from the lives and locations encountered by tourists in Ethiopia. It is fascinating asking Ethiopians about their recollections of the famine in the 80s. Many have less awareness of it than we do in the UK. Famine is a regional problem in Ethiopia. Visitors are often surprised by the gulf between their vision of a famine torn country and the relatively well organised and well-schooled urban areas. 

    In considering whether to visit, there are two main considerations, the logistical and practical impact the events will have on your trip (will I be able to get around, will there be food and drink available etc.) and the ethical impact (will my visit in any way hinder the aid effort, will it aid the economy etc.) and it is worth dealing with both separately.

    #1 The Logistical and practical implications: The logistical impact of the famine on a visit to Ethiopia at the moment is negligible (arguably non existent). The famine hit areas are a long way from the tourist trail and there will be no shortage of food or drink, the restaurants and bars will be as busy as ever serving the local Dashen and St George beers.

    #2 The ethical implications: The ethical argument is necessarily more complex, but most are of the opinion that stopping visits and depriving the economy of tourism spend will only do more damage. The Ethiopian economy is at the awkward historical moment where it must shift from a primarily subsistence agriculture based economy to a more industrialised economy.  With 70% of the population still living subsistence rural lifestyles, clearly there are challenges ahead. One of the best hopes Ethiopia has to minimise the brutal cultural impacts of this change on those affected is a strong and thriving tourist economy. There are no rights and wrongs when it comes to ethical judgements, but those interested would do well to read this thoughtful post on the subject of ethical judgements on where we should and shouldn't travel.

     

     

    As ever, visitors are advised to check the latest travel advice from the FCO. There is also excellent advice from addisadvisor on this Tripadvisor forum thread

     

  5. Do all travellers serve as national ambassadors?

    Picajsxs andyjarosz on 10th August 2011 | 8 comments

    Rule Britannia

    How many times have you observed a group of tourists behaving in a particular way with total disregard to their surroundings and muttered, "Typical bloody ........ (insert Brits/ Americans/ Aussies/ Germans/ other)". We see other people acting in a certain manner or even dressing in a particular way and can often guess where they are from, merely by the stereotype to which they are conforming.

    I have to admit that we often play 'guess the nationality' where, in a popular tourist spot we will sit and watch the crowds go by and try to work out where people are from just by their mannerisms, the clothes they wear and the way they interact with both their own group and other people.

    Which way prejudice?

    The fact is that when we venture away from our homeland we are too often pre-judged according to those who have gone before us. If we turn up in a small town in Morocco and a week earlier a group of rowdy, drunken and unpleasant Brits have been staying many locals will be less than delighted to see more Brits arriving and will fear a repeat performance. If we arrive on that hiking trip in the Andes immediately after a British couple had spent their entire tour complaining about anything and everything the guide may well keep a wary eye on us in case we behave in the same way.

    Just as we are judged by those who went before us, so will others later be greeted and treated according to how we behave. If we act as the model visitors, displaying respect, curiosity and sensitivity, then anyone who follows us with our ‘label’ (Brit, English-speaker, European, depending on where we are) will find the hospitality they receive influenced by our earlier actions.

    Should we care?

    So what, you might ask? Is it our responsibility to act in a particular way? We sign up for a holiday, not to serve as ambassadors for our country. Can’t we just do what we want to do without carrying out this unwelcome and uninvited role?

    The answer of course is that we are free to do as we please and have no obligation to take on any ambassadorial considerations when we meet other people on our travels. We can be considerate or selfish, curious or ignorant. After all, the chances are that we’ll never meet the same people again. But whether or not we accept it, when we visit out-of-the-way places we are influencing how others will be received when they follow in our footsteps. Surely it makes sense to make life easier for them, just as we hope others have done for us?

     

    Photo: Malias on Flickr