Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Winter Wonderland

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Yuzawa is a small town located in the mountainous prefecture of Niigita, Japan and it is a wonderful place to visit throughout the year.  Our first trip to Yuzawa was at the beginning of spring however, snow was still falling and the “Japanese Alps” (as they are known) were covered with deep, powdery snow – perfect for a 5 days skiing trip.

Whilst the township of Yuzawa is quite small and nondescript, it is nestled at the base of some spectacular mountains and home to four ski resorts.  The mountains in Niigita are not as high as the European Alps or the Canadian Rockies but what they lack in height the make up for in snow.  Japan is known for its high annual snowfalls and the “powder hound” runs.

Getting to Yuzawa from Tokyo is easy.  The Max Tanigawa bullet train leaves Tokyo station every 30 minutes and, after a comfortable 90 minute ride, it stops right under the Gala resort (the largest ski resort in the area) – incredible service.  This is one of the reasons why the area is so popular with Tokyo’ites.  Leave Tokyo around 0700, have breakfast on the train, arrive at the ski hill as it opens (0830) and be skiing by 0900.  After a day of skiing you can be back in Tokyo for dinner and a baseball game!  Perfect.

Given that we planned to ski for three of our five days, we opted to book into a hotel in the township.  This allowed us to be on the ski hills when the opened.  Our choice of lodging was the New NASPA Otani hotel.  Otani is located right at the base of Mount NASPA and you can literally walk from your room to the ski locker and then step outside to the ski lift.  After a long day of skiing you can relax in the hot spring fed baths that are a part of the complex.  The Japanese know how to live!

The following blogs capture some of our experiences in Yuzawa.  To see some what we experienced on the ski hills you can take a look at this video we made.  Enjoy

Share This Post

Morning Safari

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The sun rises over the Delta as we depart Jacana Bush Camp for our early morning safari. Our stomachs are full from another delightful breakfast and we are rugged up in ponchos so as to stop the cool morning air from penetrating our clothing. Moputi, our guide, opens up the Mercury powered tinny and we accelerate down the shallow channel.

Taking Flight

During the day the channels are used by the boats at the camp. By night these channels become aquatic pathways for elephants, hippo, fish, crocodiles and other Delta Dwellers.
Birds, large and small, take flight from the reeds lining the channel we are negotiating. The birdlife in this part of the Okavango is amazing and, whilst we are not “birders“, it is hard not to be impressed by the sheer beauty of a huge bird taking flight and being silhouetted by the sun rising in the African sky.
What a day this is going to be.

Share This Post

Mokoro Dreaming

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

The bow of the little mokoro pushes the waterlilly plants and flowers out of the way as Isacc (our expert pole man) navigates the small canoe across the shallow waters near the Jacana Bush Camp. We are on an afternoon safari. The seating position in the mokoro is lower than the waterline and this gives you the sensation of being in the water – a truly magical way to see and feel the incredible Okavango Delta.

Sensational Serenity

The crystal clear waters of the Delta allow us to see the sub surface plant life and an array of fish. Skimming past beautiful leaves and flowers makes the whole experience feel surreal.
Isacc stops the mokoro alongside a perfectly vertical reed. He has spotted something. A tiny, brightly camouflaged frog is trying to go unnoticed. The guides must have binocular vision to be able to see this beautiful little amphibian.

We push on into the African sunset and absorb the beauty and serenity of this magical place.

Life moves at a very slow and respectful place here in the Okavango.

Share This Post

Waking To The Hippo Alarm Clock

Monday, September 10th, 2012

In the Delta you don’t need an alarm clock because one of two things will wake you for your early morning safari – a friendly guide or, at the Banoka Bush Camp, the morning chatter of hippos. In the not so large waterhole outside our tent, 12 hippos wallow in the shallow Delta water. This is Hippo heaven.
During the dark of night the hippos leave the water and go in search of food. They spend most of the night feeding on grasses and they venture quite a distance from their territorial waterholes. As the sun rises the hippos return to the cool of the water so as to protect themselves from the hot African sun.

Back Home

Like excited children going to the beach for the day, the hippos can’t seem to contain themselves as they get closer to the waterhole. They grunt and groan with pleasure as they immerse themselves in the familiar waters. – “We’re home” is what they seem to announcing.
We settle into our delightful breakfast as the hippos settle into their aquatic resting place for the day. Our day of activity is about to begin – their’s is about end.

Grunt, groan, aaaarrgghh. Hippo speak.

Share This Post

Welcome To Banoka

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Willie negotiates the last of the bumpy track into the campsite. Over the sound of the jeep’s engine we hear singing. We round the last corner of the well worn track and come to a stop in the camp’s welcoming area. Camp staff have come out to greet us and they are singing a traditional Botswana welcoming song. We have arrived at Banoka Bush Camp (check out the great article on Mahlatini website)
As we step down from the dusty jeep we are presented with a cold face towel and an even cooler drink. We’re introduced to the camp managers – Mish, Lops and Claire. An air of “relax, slow down, your here” surrounds us and we feel instantly at home. They are all genuinely happy to meet us and the pride they take in their work is immediately evident.
We’re escorted to the camp’s expansive dining and meeting area to receive our camp safety briefing. As we pass through the entrance we notice the huge waterhole which the camp is built around. At least a dozen hippo are wallowing around in the shallows and their loud grunts and growls are a perfect accompaniment to our extensive camp briefing.
What a way to start our safari.

Share This Post

Arriving In The Delta

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

The speed of the turbine engine powering the Cessna Caravan reduces to idle as the young bush pilot expertly manoeuvres the plane for our arrival into the dirt airstrip in the remote Okavango Delta.  Our short and comfortable ride from Maun, Botswana is coming to an end.

Large passenger windows provide us with an excellent view of the landscape below and we stare into the vastness of the Delta looking for any sign of movement.  After all, we did come here to see some animals.

On Approach

As the pilot banks the aircraft onto the base leg The Princess points excitedly at the scene below.  A small herd of zebra graze on the dried winter grasses as a family of giraffe reach high up into the trees for their next meal.  Several huge elephants, oblivious to the plane overhead, approach a small waterhole for an afternoon drink.

We barely notice the plane’s purpose built undercarriage absorbing the forces of the rough surface of the bush runway as the plane touches down.

We have arrived in the mighty Okavango Delta.

Share This Post