A “Godmother” Of All African Adventures?

Now that the Mother of all African Adventures is behind us, it seems my fascination with Africa isn’t over yet!  So what would I do for an encore?  If you’ve been reading this blog for the past several months, hopefully you enjoyed hearing how I planned the travel to South Africa, Mauritius, Madagascar, Ghana & Tanzania and saw most of my target birds.  But there is still so much more to see!

So what would be on my list if I do a “Godmother” of all African Adventures?  Here are a few places on my radar.

  1. Namibia – Peach-faced Lovebirds, Ruppells Parrots & more.  This would be a self-drive trip.
  2. Zambia/Botswana/Zimbabwe/Malawi – would choose the best of these for Brown-necked Parrots, Lillian’s Lovebirds, Black-cheeked Lovebirds, Meyers Parrots & more.  Most of these places might require using the car/driver option which is not my preferred method so I would be looking hard for national parks I can get to with public transport & taxis.  So far, these are looking like the most expensive for lodges so I need to do the most research here.
  3. Ethiopia – the layover wasn’t enough, I’d like to get to Menagesha NP for Yellow-faced Parrots, Black-winged Lovebirds & more.  Easy day trip from Addis Ababa or spend one night there.
  4. Uganda – I think my odds for African Grey Parrots are better here than in Ghana.  I’d use public transport to Fort Portal, then a taxi to Kibale.

IMG_3193WHAT DO I NEED?

Short answer – United miles as Star Alliance is by far the best alliance for Africa.  I could supplement with some Avios to get from Namibia to Livingstone, Zambia via JNB.  So looks like Chase will be my best friend for a while longer!

A Couple Good IHG Pointbreaks For Eco-tourists

The latest IHG Pointbreaks list which offers specified hotels for a bargain 5000 points was less than inspiring.  Oceana & Africa missed out completely.  The complete list can be found here.  The best options are for people doing USA road trips.  This list is valid for bookings through 31 July.

Consider these possibilities if you are headed to South America.  Cuiaba is the gateway to the Pantanal.  The hotel is pretty nice although not the best location if you are going for an early start.  We did this trip in 2012 before I started this blog so I don’t have posts yet but I will be blogging my past trips as soon as I finish the current trips.

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HOLIDAY INN CUIABA

Although this hotel is a city property, Panama City’s small size means it’s not such a long drive to Soberania National Park.  Get yourself an award ticket to PTY, a rental car and book a few nights for a long weekend of birding!

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CROWNE PLAZA PANAMA

New E-Book To Support Golden Conure Conservation!

As regular readers know, I am passionate about birds and the Golden Conure is one of my all-time favourite species.  In 2012, I was lucky enough to see them in the wild in their natural habitat in Brazil.  Recently, I was invited by Pompom – the leader of the Golden Conures International Facebook group to contribute an article about my trip to this wonderful project.  She assembled a dedicated group of writers from all over the world – all of whom donated their chapters so that all the proceeds from this book could go to the World Parrot Trust’s Golden Conure Survival Fund.   Mine is Chapter 16:  Goldens at the End of the Rainbow.

The e-book is being sold by Pocketmags which goes by several other names depending on where in the world you are located.

MagazineCloner.com – UK & Europe
GGADigital.com.au – Australia
Magamall.com – Canada & USA

You will need to create an account with Pocketmags before ordering.  Once you pay for the book via credit card or Paypal, the book will be stored in your account and you will need to access it via the account.  This protects the copyright of the book.

Link to order this e-book

GC book1Don’t be confused by the Avizandrum 12 issues per year thing.  The book is being published by the same folks in South Africa who publish this monthly avicultural magazine.  You will only get one e-book, it’s not a monthly thing.   The currency will probably default to your home country’s currency, I was charged in AUD.

 

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HOW TO ACCESS YOUR E-BOOK

This was the confusing part as I was not familiar with this online publishing company.  In some ways, it is kind of like the Kindle for PC app.

The book will appear in your account.  When you click on the “READ” button, you can choose which online e-reader you want to use.  They have a Silverlight or a Flash reader but you must be online to use them.

If you are using an iPad or other tablet, there are several apps available.

Lastly, most people will want to be able to read the book offline.  This works similar to Kindle for PC.  You download their reader here.

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Once you install the program, you log into it with your Pocketmags details and it will prompt you to download the e-book.  This will take awhile as it’s a large file.  You will then be able to read the book offline at your convenience.

GC book4Enjoy the book and please tell your friends.  You can learn more about Golden Conures and support them in the wild at the same time!

A Bittersweet Farewell To Thai’s Business Class

The last few years have been great not only for the places we have been but the way we got there.  Although in normal circumstances, we would never aspire to business class the US Airways promos and Chase credit cards meant that we had plenty of miles.  This luxury will soon be coming to an end for several reasons.  I’m running out of credit cards to churn.  US Airways is gone.  And airlines are getting stingier about releasing premium award seats.  So knowing that these would likely be our last business class flights for several years at least I wanted to really enjoy them.

THAI AIRWAYS BRISBANE BNE TO BANGKOK BKK

This was the first of a complicated USDM award to Israel returning from Barcelona.  We settled in, got comfortable and had champagne.

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This flight leaves at 2pm and arrives at 8pm Thai time so it really isn’t necessary to sleep.  I watched Bollywood films with English subtitles through dinner, then lay down for a nap just because I could!

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The onward flight was on Turkish Airlines so we couldn’t use the Thai Airways Spa.  We used the public spa upstairs for a half hour massage, then went to the lounge to relax, check emails and have some snacks before the next flight left.

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THAI AIRWAYS BANGKOK BKK TO BRISBANE BNE

I’ve blogged about this route before so I’ll just supplement it a bit here.  There was no way we were going to pass up one last massage in the spa, even though it was a tight squeeze before our flight.

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Purple is one of my favourite colours so I love the TG cabin decor.  The smiling crew were lovely as usual.

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I had to have my champagne!

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We were pretty tired so we rushed through dinner so we could get some sleep.  The lie-flat beds were very comfortable and had some fancy controls.  I love the quilts they use, so soft and comfy!

IMG_7380 IMG_7381 IMG_7382 IMG_7383 IMG_7384I slept like a log and didn’t even have time to see a full movie before arriving at BNE.  I don’t know if the future holds more mileage earning activities that would get us in business class again so we are on economy for at least the next 3 trips.  But this one sure was nice while it lasted!

Ethiopian Airlines Kilimanjaro – Addis Ababa – Bangkok

This was a United Airlines award and for this homeward bound leg we had Ethiopian Airlines from Kilimanjaro JRO to Addis Ababa ADD in economy (no business class available), then business class the rest of the way to Bangkok ending with Thai to Brisbane BNE.

Although the first leg was in economy, we did pay for a business class ticket with miles so I tried to get us into the lounge at JRO.  No dice.  The lady did try, she went and asked her supervisor if they could let us in and he said no.  It wasn’t a fantastic lounge anyways but would have been better than the gate.

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So off to the gate we went to mingle with the “hoi palloi” and show off my new braid.

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Mt Kilimanjaro was shy and didn’t come out to say goodbye.

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Same mediocre business section as before on the 737.  The flight to Bangkok was on a 767 which was marginally better but no lie-flat seats.  We were still tired enough to get some sleep.

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Breakfast – they did bring eggs but I forgot to get a photo.

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So Ethiopian Airlines left me less than impressed.  I would have liked it much better if we had been in economy paying less for the award as my expectations would have been lower.  Their economy is OK if that’s what you pay for.  But I don’t recommend paying extra to fly business on this airline.

How To Beat The Overpriced Taxis To The Airport

There seems to be some kind of racket in Arusha where all taxis charge $50 to the airport.  I am no fan of taxis at the best of times and even less so when I think I am getting ripped off.  Now for most people, your safari company will pick you up at the airport (maybe with additional charge so ask) but most people also stick around Arusha for a day or so afterwards to sightsee on their own.  When you are ready to leave, if you ask your hotel to call a taxi, it will cost $50.  Taxis on the street may be more willing to bargain but they do tend to jack up the prices for foreigners going to the airport.  Some of the domestic carriers do have shuttles but we were on Ethiopian Airlines that didn’t have a shuttle.

You don’t have to put up with these rates, here’s how to get 2 people to the airport for around $10.  Here’s the basic route using L’Oasis Lodge (highly recommend) as a starting point.

Arusha to airportStep 1 – Lodge to main road.  For L’Oasis, this is about 10 minute walk down a dirt road to the main road.

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Step 2 – You will see a bus station and usually several people waiting for buses.  Mini-buses will pull up and the conductor will shout the destination.  When you hear “Moshi, Moshi, Moshi”, hop in.  The fare is around 3000-4000 Tanzanian Shillings, about $2.50 USD.  The mini-bus will be crowded and if you have heavy luggage (which you really shouldn’t) you may want to pay for extra seats.  It will take around an hour to the junction.  Tell the conductor you are hopping out at the airport junction road.  You won’t be the only one, though you will probably be the only foreigner.

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Step 3 – At the junction, taxis will be waiting and approach you.  We paid 10,000 TZS, around $5 USD.  Since we had plenty of time, we had lunch in a cafe and I decided to get my hair braided while my husband got a shave.

IMG_7315 IMG_7316 IMG_7317But there’s your transport from Arusha to the airport for around $10 USD!

Jardine’s AKA Red-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi)

The Red-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi), also known as the Jardine’s parrot, is a medium-sized mainly green parrot endemic across wide areas of Africa. It has three subspecies. The extent and shade of the red or orange plumage on its head, thighs, and bend of wings vary depending on the subspecies.

These two photos are a juvenile Jardine’s Parrot at Birds of Eden.

IMG_3446 IMG_3443Although I saw a Jardine’s zoom by at Arusha NP I didn’t get a photo of an adult so I will fall back on the Wikipedia one.

JardinesThey have a huge range across Africa in separated areas but many of these would be difficult for a tourist to access.  The best places are Arusha NP in Tanzania and Kakum NP in Ghana.

JP rangeLEARN MORE ABOUT THE JARDINE’S PARROT

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Xeno-Canto

VIDEO

IBC has a clip of some parrots in Ghana. I came up blank for a video on YouTube of WILD Jardine’s Parrots although there was a lot of captive bird clips.

 

Lodge Review: L’Oasis, Arusha, Tanzania

Everyone who is headed out for a safari in the northern Tanzania parks will be at least passing trough Arusha and most likely staying a day or two.  L’Oasis is located in a quiet area on the outskirts of town and a short walk from a main road where you can get public transport.

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Sadly Henry the Crested Crane was killed by a neighborhood dog last year.  I had really been looking forward to seeing him as he liked to hang around the swimming pool.

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The staff are very friendly and helpful.  In the right, you can see a small library if you are looking for a book to pass the time.  The power went out several times while we were there (the whole town, not just the lodge) so it was nice to have books!  The internet is strongest near the reception but we had the nearest bungalow which also picked up the wifi signal.

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They have a small souvenir stall.  That painting of the Superb Starling came home with us and is now in our living room!

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This is a dining room/bar/lounge area where you can just relax or order something from the menu which will be brought up to you.  The hamburgers were delicious!

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Here’s the pool by day and by night.

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The bungalows are really cute!   I loved the African decor and the towel animal!

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The ensuite

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Breakfast is included in most room rates and offers a good selection of eggs, fruit, bread and jam.  The artwork on the wall was really nice.

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A few birds hang out, probably more but we left really early so didn’t have time to see more birds at the lodge.  Mostly little Weaverbirds and Bulbuls.

IMG_7119 IMG_7120 IMG_7121You can book either through their website or try Booking.com if you have a good click-through portal.  Sometimes Booking.com is cheaper.  You pay at check out and they do take credit cards when the power is on.  If the power supply is dodgy, best to pay the night before if you need to use a credit card.

This is a fantastic little eco-lodge very convenient to town if you need to go there (we didn’t but you might).  It has real African character and we really enjoyed our stay!

Why You Shouldn’t Check Bags, Especially In Africa

The video I found on YouTube shows exactly how easy it is for crims to get into your checked bags, steal what they want and make your bag look like it hasn’t been touched.  His friend was robbed but you don’t have to be!

Although the man making the video recommends a hard sided bag, my solution is far simpler – don’t check any bags at all!  Use carry-on bags/backpacks such as the E-Bags Motherlode and bring a Scottevest so you can put any heavier items in the pockets if your carry-on exceeds the weight limit.  Some airports do weigh carry-ons so be prepared!