DALLAS, August 27, 2012 - For travelers to Africa looking for the African Safari experience with a sustainable component as well, there is no better way to go than with a company called & Beyond. And Beyond has properties in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and India, so the choices are limited only by the time you have to spend on holiday.
Late last year I traveled to South Africa with & Beyond and found the safari experience and the various lodges I visited to be luxury-plus. Even better, the company gives back to the communities in which they are located so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
The & Beyond Foundation is all about conservation and is an independent, not-for-profit group whose mission is to ensure that the surrounding communities near the lodges derive benefit from conservation and tourism. If the local residents can feel the deep pride and take ownership of the land and the animals then they can be keepers of this vast area too.
The local communities consist of people from the Shangaan tribe nearby all the camps I visited. One day I even had the chance to visit a school where the children were more than welcoming and also a clinic where villagers come for all types of ailments.
Over the years & Beyond has practiced what they preach and have taught responsible tourism with an eye toward giving the locals a sustainable means of income that does not mean using the land for mining, hunting and abandonment of their village for relocation to one of the bigger cities.
Education plays a key role with & Beyond and the foundation has funded at least 16 classrooms at local schools. For every double classroom built the foundation plants a tree to offset the carbon footprint.
There is a also a Meal a Day plan with the & Beyond Foundation, which takes part in the building of kitchens at several schools that provides meals to 667 schoolchildren.
Basically, health, research and even implementing the proper technology and education in these areas is what sustainability is all about and with & Beyond’s track record, visiting one of their lodges means you get to play a part too.
My first two nights in South Africa was spent in a luxury tent at Ngala Tented Camp. Ngala Tented Camp (Ngala means “Lion” in Shangaan by the way) shares an unfenced boundary with Kruger National Park, which is one of South Africa’s largest sanctuaries and the largest nature reserve in the world. The park is teeming with the Big 5; Lion, Leopard, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo and the Rhinoceros and there are also plenty of hyena, giraffe, leopard and in some parts of the park the highly endangered African wild dog.
Don’t let the idea of “tent” at Ngala Tented Camp fool you. It’s luxury all the way with a spacious outdoor shower and little chance of getting eaten by a lion while showering. Add to that full-on electricity, three meals a day, wine and beer, games drives or walks and transfers to and from the airstrip so you can head on to your next lodge and who wants to leave, right?
Another nifty note is that Ngala was the first private game reserve to be incorporated into Kruger National Park and has exclusive rights over a good portion in that area. With reason, since the camp is all about a “light footprint” in this pristine country and was designed to incorporate “man” to fit into the existing trees versus tearing things down - the entire area therefore, is about minimizing environmental impact.
From Ngala Tented Camp I headed to Kirkman’s Kamp in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve (equivalent in size to the State of New Jersey), which is located adjacent to Kruger National Park. Same amenities same great viewing with the addition of a good chance for a leopard sighting, which is always a real treat and not as common as the viewing the other Big 5. Off road driving is also possible in Sabi Sand and that ups the game viewing factor in spades.
At Kirkman’s Kamp it’s a colonial atmosphere from days gone by and the property was once an actual homestead. There are 18 guest cottages with private verandahs and the large sitting room in the main lodge offers a 1920s ambience leading onto a sprawling green lawn where there is a chance to see wildlife as well.
Finally it was a stop at Exeter River Lodge where a hot tub awaited me on my balcony and views of the Sand River below meant watching a variety of animals all day coming to drink – particularly at dawn and dusk. Again, the same & Beyond amenities and a fantastic location in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in the western sector.
With only eight luxury suites here take note of the giant sausage tree perfect for lazing in the shade in the afternoon (do watch out for the naughty monkey troops) and the food at Exeter River Lodge is Pan African, with dinner served by candlelight in the African Bush.
It’s what dreams are made of and then some.
As for when to visit, South Africa sits on the Southern side of the equator so the summer months there of November and December are hot and humid, while September and October are hot and dry, but my favorite time to visit. Otherwise, April to June is always a good time to visit as well and a bit cooler.
Finally, when visiting & Beyond you will be treated to a warm welcome (Hoyo Hoyo’) so in return just say Inkomu (thank you) – for the time well spent in this astonishing part of the world.
For more information or to book visit & Beyond.
Rita Cook is a writer/editor with has over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 13-plus years. She is a frequent auto and travel contributor on a radio show in Los Angeles called Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings.
She also contributes travel and auto to the Anthony Duva show, which can be heard live from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST every Sunday at www.unregularradio.com.
Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association, writes for the Dallas Morning News Green Living Section as well as artist profiles and www.greensourceDFW and spends much of her time on the road traveling or working on books.
Her latest book releases are “Haunted Dallas” and “Haunted Fort Worth” from www.historypress.net. Her third book in the Haunted Series will be released in October “Haunted Bartlesville, Oklahoma.” Follow Cook at Twitter at @ritacook13.
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