10 Common Instagram mistakes and how to fix them

10 Common Instagram mistakes and how to fix them

Instagram mistakes hurt your growth, your brand, your revenue and your conversion rates. When used well, Instagram is a great tool to help you build relationships, show yourself as an expert and convert leads into sales. Make sure you are not making these mistakes on Instagram to help your safari business grow.

 

 

 

 

Read on to learn about ten common Instagram mistakes that you don’t even realise you have been making and how to fix them.

 

 

Mistake #1:

 

 

Posting outside your niche

 

 

We all know your niche, safaris, right? So make sure your Instagram profile reflects that. Make sure everything you are posting on your feed is related to safaris. This way when people find you on Instagram and see all of your safari content, if they like safari, they will follow you, these are your ideal followers.

 

 

And yes, posting about safaris includes showing your face (and that of your employees) on your posts. You are the face of your safari business so its important for your followers to see who you are. When your followers see your videos its helps them to get to know you, which will (hopefully) lead to them liking you, and eventually trusting you and consequently buying from you.

 

 

However, posting a reel about your dog, or a photo of your Grandma isn’t about safaris. Save that stuff for your stories, not your feed.

 

 

So make sure you are only posting within your niche. It is also a good idea to have sub-categories within your niche that you can post about.

 

 

If safari is your niche then you sub-categories might be

 

 

  • itineraries
  • travel in Africa tips & info
  • wildlife

 

 

This was you have a more strategic plan for your content

 

 

Mistake #2:

 

 

Being Colour Inconsistent

 

 

Colour consistent posts make your Instagram look tidy and well-kept. Not only it is professional, but people also find it easier to identify you because your Instagram colour gets etched in their mind.

 

 

Colour consistency doesn’t always have to be blatantly visible. Sometimes it’s just a little touch that ties all your posts together.

 

 

Some people might be following a very strict colour palette but if you do not want that, just choose one colour for all your posts to have along with others.

 

 

You should automatically choose your brand colours in that case. In the safari industry choose a colour to relates to that, for example neural, earthy tones.

 

 

Prints Across Africa safari content creation
@prints_across_africa

 

 

 

 

Mistake #3:

 

 

Posting Irregularly

 

 

Posting whenever you feel inspired or feel like it won’t get you the engagement you need. The more regular and scheduled your posts are, the more your followers will expect them and the better your analytics will get.

 

 

Another benefit of making an Instagram schedule is that you can figure out the exact time your followers are most active and plan your Instagram posts accordingly.

 

 

Use your instagram insight to see when your followers are most active and then post consistently during these times. The more followers are online when you post your content, the more likely they will engage with your post and the more it will get pushed to a bigger audience.

 

 

Know you should be posting regularly but just don’t have the time?

Let us do it for you! Check out our services page to see how we can help you leverage social media to increase your number of safari bookings

 

 

Mistake#4

 

 

Buying Followers

 

 

 

 

More often than not, we are so fixated on the numbers that we forget the things that are far more important –and in our case, that is engagement and loyalty in our followers.

 

 

The follows you buy to make your Instagram account look good are not going to help you. They will not repost your stories, leave heartfelt comments or send you DMs and so your engagement will remain low.

 

 

An Instagram account is dead without any real interaction between the account and the followers. You can’t hope to make sales, a reputation or a name for yourself if your instagram is full of followers who are not your ideal client.

 

 

If you have already bought Instagram followers, don’t worry. You can rectify your mistake by ensuring that all your future followers are there because they like what you are doing. This you can do by posting:

 

 

  • engaging stories
  • useful content that answers their pain points
  • quality feed posts with killer captions.
  • user-generated content 
  • interacting with your followers through comments.

 

 

For a more detailed explanation of what content to post to increase your safari bookings read this post; 8 steps to successful safari content creation or download the PDF guide and workbook here

 

 

 

 

Mistake #5:

 

 

Posting Low-Quality Images and Videos

 

 

Instagram is a visual platform, and that means quality is the ultimate king there.

 

 

Posting grainy photos, low-resolution videos, cropped, or distorted content will never work out for you and your growth.

 

 

This info graphic by Tailwind explains the sizes required for each type of post you can do on Instagram.

 

 

 

 

Use the guidelines to edit your content accordingly, and you will find your feed looking many times better.

 

 

In the safari industry we are lucky, what better subjects can there be for your photos than cute lion cubs, beautiful African scenery and gorgeous accommodation. Make the most of this and invest in hiring someone to take quality high resolution photo that you can use across the all your platforms.

 

 

 

 

Top tip use Canva pro to make one post and resize it instantly to fit all platforms.

 

 

resize your images for social media

 

 

Do you need quality photo for your safari business?

Let us take them for you! Check out our photography services for professional onsite photography to show off your safari business in it’s best light.

 

 

You can also purchase editable ready-made Instagram templates. If bought from a good source, such templates are already the right size and resolution for Instagram. And all you need to do is tweak them a little to match their feel with the rest of your posts.

 

 

Not only does that save your time, but it also provides you with the quality that you, otherwise, might not be able to achieve.

 

 

Coming soon, one years worth of strategic safari content! Content ideas and corresponding ready-to-post instagram templates for every single day of the year! Find out more and join the waiting list here.

 

 

Coming soon, one years worth of strategic safari content!

Content ideas and corresponding ready-to-post instagram templates for every single day of the year! Never worry about what to post again. Fine out more and join the waiting list here.

 

 

Mistake#6:

 

 

Ignoring the Power of Instagram Stories

 

 

Instagram created Stories to help you keep your account active and interactive.

 

 

Unlike the feed content, your IG stories don’t have to be top-notch quality –although it doesn’t hurt if they are!

 

 

You can ask your followers a question, tell them a visual story, get their feedback, make a big announcement and much more using IG stories.

 

 

Not using this feature might be one of the most damaging Instagram mistakes you are making. In fact, one of the researchers says that almost 500 million people view Instagram stories per day, and one out of five send in a direct message for an inquiry. Whoa!

 

 

If you are ready to invest some energy into stories, the first step would be to plan your content.  How will you use Instagram stories to engage with your audience, build up trust and convert lookers into bookers.

 

 

Here are a few example ideas for the safari industry:

 

 

  • Behind the scenes of getting ready for a safari
  • interview with you guide
  • safari packing tips
  • accommodation room tours
  • ‘getting to know’ the safari business owner
  • wildlife quiz
  • your safari questions answered

 

 

One good idea is to create a few templates you can use as a base for your stories. Use your brand colours and logo to ensure that your content looks consistent, original and professional while still being engaging and exciting.

 

 

As for the frequency, try posting Stories outside the working hours. This can increase your reach to about 5.82 per cent.

 

 

 

 

Mistake#7:

 

 

Not Using Hashtags

 

 

Posting without using relevant hashtags is hurting your reach for sure.

 

 

Instagram has hashtags to allow public pages to get a nice amount of exposure organically. By tagging your posts and reels with popular hashtags, you can get featured on the Explore page and the Hashtags’ catalogue page.

 

 

And how does that help?

 

 

It puts your content in front of a larger audience, including those people who have never interacted with you before.

 

 

You can use up to 30 hashtags for Instagram posts and 10 for a Story. But that does not mean you need to go all-in with your IG Hashtags.

 

 

Look for trending hashtags related to your post by using Instagram Search Bar. For example, by typing in #muffin, you will see multiple related suggestions below that you can use in your hashtags.

 

 

Experiment with the number of hashtags and which hashtags to use. You can even make your own hashtags to catalogue your content! However, be careful not to use the same hashtags every time, find. number of hashtags that work for you and keep mixing them up with each post/reel.

 

 

If you are struggling with what hashtags to use for your safari business then download our free ‘Safari hashtags’ here.

 

 

 

 

Mistake#8:

 

 

Posting without CTAs

 

 

Call-To-Actions or CTAs are an integral part of any web copy, and that includes Instagram captions.

 

 

CTAs tell your audience exactly what they need to do with the post. With their help, you plant an idea into your viewers’ minds of what you want them to do. For example, you can ask them to tag their friends, comment on what they like about your post, direct message you about an itinerary, book a call with you or anything really that relates to your product/business.

 

 

Have a look at some example below

 

 

 

 

Mistake #9:

 

 

Having a Private Account:

 

 

You can choose to keep your Instagram account private or public. But as a business who wants more and more audiences to follow and engage with their profile, a private Instagram account isn’t the right way.

 

 

If you keep your Instagram account private, the content isn’t going to show up in the explore section to your potential audience, and your followers won’t be able to share your posts on their Instagram stories and the hashtags that you use -such as geo-hashtags- aren’t going to appear on the hashtags pages. All of this is going to restrict your reach to the users outside your following list.

 

 

Private Instagram accounts surely give a feel of exclusivity to the followers, but if you don’t already have a substantial following, this isn’t going to do you any good. A public account will show your content to the users, apart from your followers as well, increasing your chances of gaining new ones.

 

 

You can make your account public by following these simple steps:

 

 

  1. On your Instagram, go to settings.
  2. Go to ‘Privacy.’
  3. Under ‘Account Privacy,’ turn off ‘Private Account.’

 

 

You are ready to enjoy the benefits of a Public Instagram account!

 

 

Mistake #10:

 

 

Not jumping into new features

 

 

Although Instagram started as a simple picture and video posting platform, it has been evolving since its launch in 2010. It has introduced many new features -like Instagram stories and its stickers, IGTV videos and of course Reels.

 

 

When a new Instagram feature appears on the platform, people are usually reluctant to use it as much as they use the old ones. But just like a brand that advertises its new products or services extensively, Instagram also gives the new features a higher reach by making it appear more in people’s feeds.

 

 

If you are not using these new features, your competitors who are using them will start to show up more to your potential audience and steal those followers and engagements that you could have gotten.

 

 

You can use the new features along with the already present ones to complement each other. For example, if you are a brand, you can use reels to create small clips of your safari experience to help the follower feel like they are there with you, or want to be there with you!

 

 

This way, after watching the Reels, due to their extra reach being a new feature, more audience is likely to end up on your profile.

 

 

Reels don’t have to be complicated. Have a look at the statistics from this very simple reel I posted.

 

 

 

 



So there, you have it 10 Instagram mistakes you might be making that are harming your business. Instagram is an amazing, free, tool, if you can lean to use it correctly it can really help with improving you reach, reputation and safari bookings.

 

 

Are you a busy safari business owner struggling to keep on top of your content creation? No problem, let us take it off your hands!

Check out our service pages for custom, strategic safari content creation, designed to attract your ideal client and increase bookings

 

8 steps to successful safari content creation

8 steps to successful safari content creation

This blog post will talk you through how to build a consistent content strategy to attract your ideal client and increase revenue in the safari industry. Read on to discover the 8 simple steps to successful safari content creation.

Do you find yourself constantly fumbling to find a photo and write a caption for your Instagram? Do you have a list of relevant hashtags saved somewhere but can never remember where? Have you signed up and handed over your precious email for various free social media hack ideas and cheat sheets but are still lost when it comes to actually writing a post?

Do you have a website and all the great intentions to have an informative and valuable blog but don’t actually know what to write about?

If this sounds like you then you need to keep reading.

Start your journey to successful safari marketing content…

Where to focus your attention

It’s easy to get distracted by social media, you are constantly being told you need to post every day, be present on your stories, jump on new trends, post reels, have a Linkedin account, make Youtube videos… the list is endless. You get caught up doing the small tasks that stop you from doing the things that actually matter. Trust me, I’ve also been guilty of this.

But here’s the truth…an Instagram post a day will not make or break your business. Instead, you need to be focusing your attention on your own land, your website. Instagram, Youtube, Twitter etc are all rented land. At any moment that land can be taken away from you and all your hard work disappears before your eyes.

However, if you put your time and effort into your own land, your website, it will forever be working for you behind the scenes. An evergreen marketing gem. With the correct content on your blog, your website will consistently put you at the top of the list as the number one company to book their next safari with.

Let’s have a look at the steps it takes to make that consistent, quality content. Ready to get off the social media content hamster wheel? Follow the steps below, and then fill out the prompts to build your rock-solid safari content strategy.”

8 steps to successful safari content creation

Step 1 identify your ideal client

Once you have identified your ideal client you will have a better understanding of how to target them. Who is your ideal client? This will depend on the type of safaris you run. Maybe you do photographic safaris, cultural safaris, traditional ‘big 5’ safaris. Who are your previous clients, are they old or young, which countries do they come from, do they like luxury or budget safaris.

Step 2 – identify their pain points

Understanding their pain points enables you to write content to solve them and consequently position yourself as the expert. What is it that your ideal client is struggling with? Use polls on Instagram/Facebook to ask your followers what their biggest issues are when it comes to planning and booking safaris.

Conduct 30-minute research calls. Offer free safari advice in exchange for 30 minutes of picking their brain. On the research call ask your ideal client, ‘If you could click your fingers and get one thing done in relation to your safari holiday, what would it be?’

You can also use the Google search page to help you identify their pain points. Type in the pain points you identified on the research call and look at what other related issues people are searching for.

People also asked google search

Then scroll to the bottom of the google page for ‘related searches’ use this to inform your next content.

Related search

Step 3 – Publish quality content on your blog once a week to solve their pain points

Showing up consistently builds trust with your audience and Google. From your market research and polls write content that solves their pain points. For example, if your market research call identified ‘not knowing where to go on a first-time safari’ as a pain point then your first blog might be ‘Top 5 destinations for a first-time safari’. Use their exact words to ensure that when they are searching for answers on google your blog has a good chance of showing up. Inside your blog use ‘calls to action’ too, for example, ‘book your first safari now’. This will then link your ideal client to your itineraries, booking page or a way to schedule a consultation with you or your team.

Still need help? Our ‘done for you’ services packages include ‘content strategy planning and content creation.‘ We will do all the planning and writing for you. All you need to do is focus on your current guest while we attract the next ones. Find out more here.

Step 4 – Use social media to boost your reach

Being present and social on social media enables you to be approachable and at the forefront of people’s minds when thinking about the safari. Select the most appropriate social media for where your ideal client ‘hangs out’. For example, if you are targeting corporate businesses or high-end luxury safari-goers then use Linkedin. If your ideal client is a budget safari-goers then you could utilise ‘Backpacker’ groups on Facebook.

Post snippets from your blog onto social media or make a video giving a few bits of information from your blog. Your calls to action should lead them to your website, put your website as your bio link.

Identity and stick to a posting strategy that works for you. For example, posting 3 times a week at the time when your followers are most active (use insights to find out this information).

Still need help? If you are thinking you don’t have time to be dealing with constant social media content creation, no problem, we can do it for you! Our ‘done for you’ package includes social media marketing so you can be present with your audience without the stress. Check out our packages here.

Get the next 4 steps for successful safari content creation delivered to your email address.

If you have found these steps useful then fill out the form below to receive the next 4 steps, plus a bonus step and workbook delivered straight to your email so you can start your journey to successful safari content creation.

If you have found this blog useful then please consider sharing it so others can benefit too.

6 Simple wildlife photography tips to secure that outstanding shot

6 Simple wildlife photography tips to secure that outstanding shot

Wildlife photography doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow these 6 Simple wildlife photography tips to secure that outstanding shot. Also, be sure to read the follow-up tips to make sure that your photos are secured for a lifetime.

 

The first part of the post is about taking the shots, the second part is about keeping the shots! Both parts are very important parts of the wildlife photography process.

 

This article contains affiliate links, as an associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This will not cost you anything extra. 

 

6 Simple wildlife photography tips to secure that outstanding shot

 

 

 

1. Get down low

 

This is my number one tip that will immediately make a big difference to the look of your photos. When we are on safari we tend to be looking down on the animal from the car. Especially if you are in one of those land cruisers where the roof pops open.

 

You know the score you are standing on the seat, head out of the rood, the wind in your hair. You are scanning for animals and you find something and immediately you excitedly start taking photos.

 

This is where I want you to pause, take a second to get down and sit on the seat or even crouch on the floor of the car. Now place your lens out through the window. Getting lower to the ground gives you a better chance of getting on eye level with the animal or below. This gives you a more realistic perspective and makes the viewer feel more connected to the animal.

 

With larger animals, like elephants, shooting from below them really gives them stature and allows the viewer to get a feeling of how big they really are. I took this photo while lying on the ground as the elephant walked past.

 

A large elephant in black and white

 

If you are in an open land cruiser then even better, you might be able to lie down on the car floor on your stomach. If this is not possible then another way is to place your camera outside of the car and, if you can, tilt your camera screen upwards towards you so you can see what you are shooting.

 

2. Shoot in Appateur priority mode (A)

 

In aperture priority mode you set the aperture and your camera sets the corresponding shutter speed and ISO (if your ISO is on auto).

 

This means you are deciding the depth of field (how much of the photo is in focus) and your camera sets the shutter speed accordingly so your exposure is balanced. The lower the f-number e.g. f2.8 the smaller the depth of field. This means less of the shot will be in focus. A lower f-number gives that shot where the animal is in focus and you get a beautifully blurred background.

 

Lion cub on a termite mound

 

If you are taking a landscape shot you will want the whole scene in focus so you will need to raise the f-number to about 8-11.

 

As stated the camera will then set the shutter speed to balance the exposure for you and you don’t have to worry about that.

 

3. Use a bean bag to steady your camera

 

A lot of wildlife photography takes place in a car where you don’t have the luxury of being able to use a tripod. To add to the issue, you are likely using a long lens. With a long lens, it is important to keep it still to avoid blur. A good substitute for a tripod is a bean bag. Place the bean bag over the car window and rest your lens on the bean bag. This enables you to keep the lens steady while you take your shot.

 

If you don’t have a bean bag or don’t want to carry one then fill up a sock with rice (uncooked obviously).

 

4. Shoot at the correct time

 

There are two reasons why safari equates to early mornings. One is the animals are more active in the morning as it is cooler in temperature. Two, the lighting is perfect for capturing these moments.

 

Buffalo Sunrise

 

The same goes for golden hour, just an hour or so before the sun goes down. Make sure you are out and about during these times to try and capture the animals at the best time. Keep an eye on your ISO, you might need to raise it a little to compensate for the lower light conditions.

 

A lion yawning

 

5. Don’t always zoom in

 

It is tempting when you have a long lens to use it to its fullest. The temptation is to always zoom as far as possible and get as close to the animal as possible. This is not always the best option. The beauty of a safari is seeing the animals in their natural habitat, out in the wild. Try to get a variety of shots including ones where you can see the whole animals in their surroundings.

 

Lion and Tree

 

A bonus tip is to notice the direction the animal is looking and leave space in that direction. This helps you tell more of a story with your photo as it leaves the viewer wondering what the animal is looking at.

 

A male lion looking in to the distance

 

6. Have spare SD cards & batteries

 

If you are anything like me you will be taking a lot of photos while on safari. You don’t want to miss any opportunities so it is better to take the shots while you can. However, this does equate to a lot of space being taken up on your SD cards and you won’t always have access to a way to back them up while you are away.

 

To overcome this make sure you have lots of spare SD cards. Also, consider the quality of the SD card, the higher the c number the faster the card is, the faster you can take photos. 10 is the highest c number meaning it will write the photos to the camera faster.

 

A slower SD card will take longer to store the photos meaning you might have a period where the camera is buffering while it saves the photos. You will not be able to use the camera at this point. Therefore it is worth investing in a quality SD card.

 

Of course, you also need to consider the size of the SD card. I usually don’t use anything less than 128gb but you can get SD cards that go up to 4Tb these days. I usually use these by SanDisk:

 

 

In terms of batteries, you always need to have a backup. Electricity isn’t always the most reliable to be able to charge your batteries every night. You might also be out for long days and might have to switch to a new battery. I always have 2 spare batteries with me on safaris.

Keeping the shots

Ok so now you have taken some amazing photos from your trip, the next part is just as important.

We have all done it, we have taken the photos, we know there are some killer shots in there. But we haven’t gotten around to downloading the photos, deleting the rubbish ones and backing up the good ones.

I know, I know backing up photos is not as exciting as taking the photos, but once you have done this part you can do the next exciting part. Editing and sharing the photos. So let’s take a look at the process of backing up your photos.

7. Backing up your photos

If you do have access to a laptop on your travels then it is a good idea to back up your photos. If not you will have to wait until you get home. To do this you will need a hard drive. For safari or even if you just travel a lot, I would recommend a more robust one. There have been numerous times where I have bought a normal hard drive and it has ended up breaking and I have lost a lot of photos.

Trust me, the sunken heart feeling when the hard drive corrupts and you lose the photos is not worth the few extra pounds you saved when you bought it!

I now use these ones by Lacie. They are more durable and can withstand a bit of rough treatment:

8. Back up your photos again!

Ok, so you have moved your photos from your SD card to your hard drive. Remember this is when you should then be filtering out the good photos and deleting the bad. The next step is to back up again the remaining photos. Remember when I told you about my hard drives corrupting… this is why you back up again. We now have a ‘My cloud’ device to ensure we don’t lose any more photos. This device backs up your photos to the hard drives inside and then onto a cloud system so you can access them from anywhere.

So there you have my 6 simple and effective wildlife photography tips. Plus tips on backing up your photos. I hope you found it useful. Remember the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy your holiday. If you miss the shots, don’t worry. I can assure you once you have been on safari once, you will definitely come back!

If you enjoyed this post you might also want to check out these related posts:

Top 10 things to pack when camping in East Africa

Top 10 things to pack when camping in East Africa

What are the top 10 things to pack when camping in East Africa?

When camping, especially in the bush in East Africa, you need to make sure you are prepared. This list of the top 10 things to pack when camping in East Africa to help you have confidence when camping in the African bush.

*This article contains affiliate links, as an associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This will not cost you anything extra. 

  1. Hot water flask

Being able to boil the kettle once in the morning and then store the boiled water in a flask where you know it will stay hot all day is a game-changer. We use Stanley flask as they really do keep the water hot all day so whenever you stop for your mid-day cuppa it’s simple and fast.

2. Jet Boil

Staying with the tea theme… my second must-have is a jet boil, you literally have boiling water in minutes!

3. Camping stove

This is a no brainer if you want to be able to cook for yourself and save money you will need a camping stove. We use this one by Cadac as it has 2 burners and it’s easy to get the gas refills here in east Africa.

4. I overlander App

This app helps you plan your stopovers and find campsites and essentials along the road

4. Headlamp

Better than a torch for the obvious reason of not having to carry it. We use led Lenser headlamps as they are powerful, light and rechargeable

5. Battery bank

You will be on the road for long periods of time and yes you can use your car to charge your phone. But what about when you are hiking, at the beach or just relaxing in your tent. Then you will need a battery bank to charge your phone. I have this one by Anker and I can get at least 3 full phone charges from it so you don’t have to constantly charge the battery bank.

6. First Aid Kit

We use this one by Lifesystems it is the ‘solo traveller first aid kit’, it has everything we have needed, we then just add in things like paracetamol, hydration sachets etc. I can’t find the exact one but this is a similar one.

We then carry a smaller version when we go on hikes etc

7. Leatherman Knife

It is always useful to have a leatherman it can be used to open bottles, file nails, cut wires etc.

8. Water purification tablets

I actually have only had to use these once and that was when I was hiking up Kilimanjaro. However, they are cheap and small and it doesn’t hurt to bring them along, put them in your hiking pack and if you don’t have to use them then great!

9. Matches!

You don’t want to be stranded without a way to make fire unless you are an expert at bushcraft. These ones are more heavy-duty than usual.

10. Led light bulbs or magnetic strip lights

Hang them in a tree, magnetise to your car, either way, they are great for being able to see what you are eating when camping!

What did I miss?

I hope this guide to the top 10 things to pack when camping in East Africa. If there is anything I have missed, let me know in the comments below.

If you have enjoyed this blog please share it for others to see.

Your Kenya Safari Questions Answered

Your Kenya Safari Questions Answered

Feeling overwhelmed?

If you have been thinking about a safari but are a bit overwhelmed with all the information out there, then keep reading. This blog post focuses on answering your Kenya Safari questions to find out if it is the best place for you to go on safari. Here are your Kenyan safari questions answered:

Kenya safari questions answered

So there you have your Kenyan Safari Questions answered. If there is anything else you would like to know about a safari in Kenya then do not hesitate to reach out, leave a comment below or email me directly, I will be happy to help.

If you have found this useful then please share it for others to see:

Kenya Safari questions answered

How about checking out these other safari destinations:

Acacia Hill Academy

Acacia Hill Academy

As a teacher who is currently not teaching, I have a lot of pent up teacher energy that needs to go somewhere productive!

This is why I am volunteering with a local school called Acacia Hill Academy. The school is located in the local village just outside the conservancy, only about 20 minuted drive away.

Locally owned and run

The school is privately owned by a local Maasai called Johnson he had donated some of his land for the school to be located, hired teachers, built classrooms and is overseeing the running of the school.

There are currently 4 classrooms and 4 teachers. Each year as the school grows there will be a new classroom built. The school is quite new and are still finding its feet but it is a great start. The school was built out of the frustrations of parents and their wish for smaller classes and higher quality education. The school aims to keep the numbers of students low so that the quality of one to one tuition can remain high. Currently, there are only 21 children attending the school. The problem with this, however, is that means there are not a lot of school fees coming in to be able to pay for teachers salaries and accommodation, food for the students, textbooks etc.

A school classroom

Aims and objectives

The academy only hires local teachers from the same village and aims to educate the children, not just in traditional education but also in issues regarding conservation, wildlife and tourism. Given their proximity to the Wildlife Conservancy, these children are likely to be the next generation of rangers, guides, managers, waiters, house keekers etc in the tourism and conservation industry so it is important to teach them the value and importance of these industries from an early age.

How am I helping?

My aims are to support the school in reaching its objectives. This for a start has been in a simple way of helping to decorate the new classrooms. I have been painting educational content on the classroom walls to aid in their teaching. I am also helping to support the teachers with their teaching methods and just supporting them in their delivery in particular in the delivery of physical education which is not always a priority in local schools.

Paintings on a wall

Goals for the future

We have many goals for the future and of course, the wish list is great, but the number one priority is to make the school sustainable. At the moment the school is relying on donors to help build the classrooms and pay the teachers salaries but this is not sustainable in the long run. Many parents cannot afford to pay the school fees for their children.  This means there is not enough money to pay the teaches salaries, for food for the students or to build further classrooms, by textbooks etc.

As you see providing high-quality education is not as simple as building a new school, there are many and far-reaching consequences and of course benefits. Without also educating and providing opportunities for the adults they will not be able to pay for the education for their children. The priority, therefore, is finding a way to provide opportunities for the parents, thus enabling them to pay school fees and therefore teachers salaries etc. Thus securing the future of the school for the next generations.

Additional goals

In the future, the school wishes to add more classrooms and of course, teachers as the needs increase. They also wish to erect a security fence around the school to ensure the safety of the children.

As a PE teacher myself, I understand the importance of physical education and I aim to be able to create a football and netball pitch on the property to give the students and the surrounding community somewhere to safely play sport, be active and stay healthy. I also wish to provide the adults with further education by running evening classes, this should help increase their employment chances and lead to a better future for their children also.

A classroom full of children

How can you help?

If you have a trip planned to Kenya and have extra room in your luggage, one of the easiest ways you can help is by bringing over provisions. The following are always of use

  • clothes, shoes, trainers
  • school supplies – textbooks, exercise books, stationery, educational posters etc
  • sports equipment footballs, netballs, nets, rackets etc
  • sports kits, particularly football and netball
  • toys, educational resources

Maybe you are coming on a trip and have a particular skill you are willing to spend time sharing and educating others about. Maybe you wish to organise a trip specifically to help and volunteer, if so get in contact and I can help organise that for you. Can you hold a fundraising event or collect donations from your community? Maybe you are in charge of the charitable arm of your business and are looking for a charity to support. Does your school wish to partner with Acacia Hill Academy as pen pals to learn about their culture, traditions and way of life? Maybe you have been involved in projects like this before and have some advice?

If there is any way you can help please do not hesitate to reach out and get in contact and we can discuss further.

Please share this post so we can reach as many people as possible.

Acacia Hill Academy
Everything you need to know for a self-drive safari

Everything you need to know for a self-drive safari

Everything you need to know for a self-drive safari in East Africa

An overloading trip anywhere in Africa is not a small undertaking. There is a lot you need to prepare for from petrol stations potentially running out of petrol, being on the roads for over a day without seeing another car, punctures, shops not being well socked, roads being flooded or just washed away and lots lots more! Read this post to understand everything you need to know for a self-drive safari.

A land cruiser on open ground in Namibia

Overprepare

Firstly the best thing you can do is be over-prepared when you pack. If you are coming from Europe or the USA etc don’t expect things to be the same as they are there. You will not find convenience stores or petrol stations on every corner, shops are not open 24/7 and there are plenty of times when things are just ‘temporarily not working’. When temporary can be anywhere from 10 minutes to months.

It is important, therefore to have everything you need with you. When you see a petrol station fill up, don’t wait for the next one. Have spare tyres and puncture repair kits, have plenty of water, a shovel and enough food with you. I will give a comprehensive packing list later so you can check off exactly what you need. 

land cruiser next to a large rock with an elephant painted on it

Embrace the challenge

That being said, a lot of times it is the challenges that make the trip so much better. With challenge comes achievement, sometimes it also brings temporary failure, but in the end, you will succeed. You will soon learn that there is always a way. People will always come to assist you and together you will ‘make a plan’ and then eventually you will be back on the correct route.

It might just take a bit longer or take you a different route but it is often along this new route where all the excitement happens.  It is along this new route where you are presented with opportunities to get to know the locals, learn new cultures and traditions, learn the local way of improvising with what you have and making it work.

A hammock attached to a land cruiser

Personal Experineces

I have so many stories from my time in East Africa, where things didn’t go to plan. Where something went wrong but it always worked out in the end and I can look back at all the times with a smile on my face. I remember the events of what subsequently happened fondly.

The best advice I can give you for when things go wrong is to not stress. Do what you can to try and prevent the situation from occurring in the first place but once it has occurred then you need to just go with it. Don’t stress about the things you can’t control, stay calm, use your head and come up with a solution. 

A land cruiser with bikes on the back

Stories from the road

One story that springs to mind is when I had friends visit me in Tanzania from South Africa and Malawi. The first situation was when I went to pick them up from the airport. We were only about 10 minutes from the airport and the car radiator blew up. We spent a few hours at the side of the road and eventually got towed to a local garage.

The rest of the trip continued in a similar fashion. We were a large group so we towed a trailer with a rooftop tent with us. The trailer broke on no less than 4 occasions. We spent a lot of time trying to fix it at the side of the road and meeting many helpful locals along the way.

On one particular occasion, we were stuck for a long time. We had exhausted playing noughts and crosses in the sand with the Masai children and the sun was about to set. At that point a Diamond Gin truck came by, we flagged it down got a few ‘samples’ and proceeded to have sundowners with the Masai (adults) while we continue to attempt to fix the trailer.

6 people standing in front of a gin truck
The Gin truck we flagged down

In that entire trip, we pulled the trailer with us for 10 days and only used the tent on top of it on one occasion. The rest of the time it was out of action.  Eventually, we left the trailer at a campsite and continue the trip without it as it was causing more harm than good. My friends and I affectionately refer to that trip as the ‘Roadside retreat’ due to the amount of time we spent on the roadside. 

Three ladies in a rooftop tent on a trailer
The only time the trailer was used

We flagged down the Diamon gin truck got a few ‘samples’ and proceeded to have sundowners with the Maasai (adults) while we continued to attempt to fix the truck

Ladies sitting on a land cruiser roof

Be safe

We are lucky to have lived in very safe countries, whenever we have broken down we have been at least two of us and we always stay together. We have never had a situation where we have felt unsafe. However, there are some countries where it would be dangerous to break down, especially at night. To be honest you need to prepare and try and avoid those situations as best you can. 

Be prepared

An example of being underprepared was a young couple we met in Namibia. They were travelling around Namibia in a Ford Corsa. Bear in mind Namibia has endless gravel roads, desert and has a small population for the size of the country and you will understand the issues this car may cause. In the back of their car, they had firewood, a tent, 2 chairs and some 2-minute noodles.

To prepare their car for the trip they painted the side of the car in blackboard paint so they could write messages on their car… Unsurprisingly their car had broken down and they were stuck at the campsite outside the Sousesveli with a broken car, no food and their visa running out the next day (I’m not making any of this up). To help them out we gave them dinner and discussed their options with them.

In the end, they had to exchange their broken car for a lift to the border the next day so they could renew their visa or leave the country. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for spontaneous travel and seizing the day but you need to be realistic about travel and take the necessary preparations. 

A man sitting on a land cruiser roof

Car preperations

In terms of car preparation sometimes it does depend on what county you are in but a lot will be te same. Whatever country you are in I would say it is best to have a 4×4. We have a V8 land cruiser so we know we can handle any situation. Our trips are always multi-day, multi-destination trips. We camp and are usually self-sufficient when camping, meaning we cook for ourselves.

A lot of the time this is out of necessity as much as it is preference. We like to visit remote areas and sometimes even bush camp so you need to have everything with you.  Here is a list of what is permanently in our car and then the extras we add: 

Aland cruiser with a draw system and fridge installed

Permanently in the car 

  • Roof top tent – matters, pillows, duvet stays in the tent  
  • Main Fridge
  • Front fridge – small fridge mainly for drinks 
  • Puncture repair kit 
  • 2 spare tyres
  • Tyre pump
  • Pressure gauge 
  • Triangle 
  • Shower curtain and shower pump system 
  • Awning 
  • High lift jack 
  • Jump starter 
  • Jump leads 
  • Gas canister 
  • Spotlights 
  • Dual battery system 
  • Solar pannel 
  • torch
  • first aid kit

Extras 

  • 20L water tank 
  • 2L drinking water container 
  • solar shower 
  • Shovel 
  • Blanket 
  • Chairs 
  • Table 
  • washing line & washing powder
  • Kitchen equipment –
    • Kettle 
    • Saucepan 
    • Fraying pan 
    • Cutlery 
    • Mugs 
    • 2 ring gas hob 
    • Washing up bowl 
    • Plates 
    • Bowls 
    • Gas bottle 
    • Thermos 
    • bucket
    • washing up liquid, tea towel, cloth

Electronics 

  • iPad 
  • GPS 
  • Phones
  • Camera

Apps 

  • Maps.me 
  • Tracks4africa 
  • Google maps 
  • The Kingdom Guide
  • Sasol birds 
  • Google translate 
  • XE – currency exchange 
  • Maps.me

Route planning

A large part of your preparation will be planning your route. Having an idea of how far you will be driving in a day and where you will be going will help you to also plan where you need to top up fuel, food and water.

We start the trip with a full fridge of meat, milk, yoghurt, etc and full stock of dry food and fruit and veg. Generally, we will need to re-stock after a maximum of a week so you need to ensure your route planning allows for this or plan your food intake accordingly. Usually, you can find fruit and veg being sold on the side of the road so this is easy to top up. Canned good and quality meat are harder to find.

If you know you will be in a remote area and doing a lot of driving then you may need to take an extra petrol canister. Remember driving times will generally be longer than they will be to cover the same distances in Europe or the US. As a side note, never believe google maps’ predicted travel time, it is ALWAYS longer than the predicted time. 

The roads are generally not great. They are mostly single lane, there are a lot of trucks, goats, camel, sheep, cows, people and bicycles on the road. Some roads are just dirt roads and some are littered with potholes.

If you want to be comfortable and not drive all day then try and drive less than 500km in a day. This will give you enough time to get to a camp set up and be prepared before it gets dark. 

A land cruiser at the gate to mikumi National Park

Travelling preferences

As a general rule, I like to be at a campsite for around at least 2-3 nights. Sometimes this isn’t necessary or desired as it might just be a stopover. However, if it is a planned part of your route then at least two nights is good. Two nights gives you time to enjoy the place take in your surroundings and do some activities before you have to pack up and move on.

Obviously, a great benefit of road trips is that you can move around and experience a number of places on one trip. This is great but don’t try and fit too many places into your trip. If you only stay one night at each place it doesn’t give you time to enjoy the place, you will spend most of your time driving to the camp, setting up and packing up camp.  

One of the best things about self-drive safari is that you can take your time. You are on your own schedule and there is no one to rush you. If you are particularly enjoying a place then stay a little longer the next place will still be there tomorrow.

A land cruiser parked new to a tree with the roof top tent open

Pros and Cons

Remember it is not all plain sailing when self-driving. The roads are not always great and you may experience mechanical issues. It’s long hours on the roads and some things will go wrong. The other drawback is that you have to organise everything yourself. From park entrance fees, routes, shopping, cooking etc. A self-drive safari isn’t for everyone but if you love freedom, and are confident driving long distances in a 4×4 then it just might be for you.

If you want the freedom of self-drive but with more comfort then you can always stay at lodges instead of camping. This takes out a lot of the stress including shopping for food and cooking, setting up camp and finding camp spots. You can also ask the lodges to help you organise and pay for park and conservation fees and even do your actual safari with the lodge.

A land cruiser at a camp site

Are you convinced?

So what do you think? Is seld driving for you? If so check out this post: 5 must-see places in Northern Kenya or 10 photos to inspire you to visit Namibia for your first trip.

If you are not convinced then try reading this post: How to travel like a local for alternatives to self-drive.

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Everything you need to know about a self-drive safari

Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions in the comments below, I would be happy to help.

10 photos to inspire you to visit Namibia

10 photos to inspire you to visit Namibia

10 photos to inspire you to visit Namibia

I wanted to share with you a different place in Africa. This is just a short photographic trip through Namibia from our road trip. Namibia is a vast and varied country, from wide-open salt flats to sand dunes and desert to large rock Koppes. There is plenty to see and do. Here are 10 photos to inspire you to visit Namibia.

A lady standing in the road in Namibia
The open road without another car insight
A lady standing on some rocks in Spitzkoppe
Exploring Spitzkoppe
A lady sand boarding down a dune in Namibia
Sandboarding in Swakopmund
Dune 45 in Namibia
Dune 45
A man and lady cycling down a sand dune in Namibia
Fat biking in Swakopmund
A viewing tower in Etosha National Park Namibia
The viewing shelter in Etosha
A lady cycling on a gravel road in Palmwag, Namibia
Cycling in Palmwag
A lady standing on a large rock in Spitzkoppe, Namibia
Spitzkoppe

So there you have it a short trip through Namibia with these 10 photos to inspire you to visit Namibia. I hope you enjoyed the pics.

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10 photos to inspire you to visit Naibia

Have you been to Namibia? Which was your favourite part, let me know in the comments below.

Lions hunt a baby giraffe

Lions hunt a baby giraffe

Being able to watch a pride of lions hunting is not an everyday occurrence. Recently we received a call about a pride of lions hunting a baby giraffe. Luckily it wasn’t too far from camp so we grabbed our cameras and jumped in the car. After a quick radio call to locate them we turned off-road and headed to the scene.

Lions hunting a baby giraffe

https://youtu.be/TIze1qcE7R8

As you can see the mother put up a good fight. The actual hunt lasted a lot longer than the video. It took around 25 minutes for the lions to coordinate their attack and get close enough to succeed.

Circle of life

As heartbreaking as this was to watch, this is the reality of life in the bush. All animals have to eat and for lions to eat unfortunately another animal has to die.

The fact is that a baby giraffe isn’t a big meal for that many lions and so they will have to hunt again soon to feed their hunger.

Photographing the scene

When photographing emotional scenes like this it is important to get a variety of angles. Close up allow you to capture the gory details and really feel like you are in on the action.

Wide angle

Wider angle shots allow you to take in the whole scene. In this shot, you can see one of the dominant females resting off to the side. This is because she ate first, she got the lion’s share of the meal and now she is letting the others eat. This scene helps to show the complexities of relationships within the pride and gives you a deeper understanding of the social structure of a pride.

Cat nap

When the lions had finished feasting they approached the car for shade. The car was the only shade around as Lewa Wildlife conservancy has very few trees. The adolescent lions didn’t hesitate when approaching the car and were literally inches away from us as they lay against the side of the car.

The adult lioness, however, was much more hesitant and although you could see she really wanted the shade, she felt too uncomfortable coming that close. Eventually, she had enough of the heat and walked off in search of a tree for shade.

A truly amazing experince

As I said before, it is not often you get to see lions on a hunt. Watching these lions hunting a baby giraffe was heart-wrenching and spectacular at the same time. What made it even more special was the fact that there were only 2 vehicles at the whole scene.

In some National parks and conservancies, this is very unlikely and you end up being one of 10 or even 20 cars around the scene. For more info about Lewa read; When elephants visited Lewa safari camp. Or to find other places to visit read; 5 must-see places to visit in northern Kenya.

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Lions hunt a baby giraffe

Have you witnessed a lion kill? How did it make you feel? Let me know in the comments below.

If you would like to purchase any of these photos as fine art photographic prints then please contact me to let me know which one. You can also check out the prints already available in my online store.

How to travel like a local in East Africa

How to travel like a local in East Africa

When you travel in East Africa it can be difficult. Not everyone speaks your language, the roads are not as you expected, the travel times are much longer than expected. This post will take you through how to travel like a local in East Africa. Inside knowledge into how to get around easily and efficiently, well, as efficiently as Africa will allow!

How to travel like a local – what you need to know

Buy a local sim card

The first thing you need to do when entering the country is to buy a local sim card and load it up with data and airtime. Data is cheap, especially in Tanzania. With the Airtel network, you can buy 3GB for around $4.50 and 8GB for under $7.

Before you buy a sim, ask around which network has the best coverage. For Arusha, Tanzania Vodacom was the best. In Kenya, Safaricom is the best, but it depends on what area you are in. 

Use you phone as your bank account

Sometimes in East Africa, it can be difficult to get money out of your bank account. There may be limited ATMs where you are, or you will be charged for using your international card. To avoid this the best thing to do is load your phone with money.

Depending on the network you choose it will have different names, e.g. Airtel money, mpesa etc. You go to a local agent and give him the money and your phone number and he/she deposits the money onto your phone. You can now use your phone as you would a bank card, you can pay for transport, goods, services etc all by using your phone. The benefit is that you don’t have to carry cash around and you don’t get charged as you would for using your foreign bank card.

Dress like a local

This one is simple and yet often ignored. Dress to blend in – don’t wear skimpy clothing when walking in the villages/towns. Villages especially are often quite conservative, just look around you at what the locals are wearing and try and blend in. Often this will involve covering your thighs and knees and cleavage if you are a lady. In some places, it also means covering your shoulders.

How to travel like a local

Learn some of the Local language

Greetings are very important in East Africa. Before you start your conversation it is polite (and expected) to greet someone and ask how they are. If you can learn to greet someone in their own language then even better. The most general greeting in Kenya and Tanzania is ‘Habari Yako’. This loosely translates to ‘how are you?’ or ‘what’s the news?’ The reply is Nzuri or nzuri sana, good/very good.

Habari Yako?… Nzuri sana

Show respect

Respect for your elders is a very important part of the culture. To greet someone older than you/someone in a position of power, you say ‘Shikamoo’. Shikamoo effectively means ‘I respect you.’ The reply is ‘marahaba’, I accept your respect.

Save affection for private

Respect the local culture, most places are reserved in terms of showing affection in public, you might see men holding hands in friendship but not normally men and women. Save your affection towards your partner for when you are in private.

Understand the laws and customs

In some countries, it is illegal to be gay. Even if it is legal, it is not always accepted. Always look up the laws as well as the customs and culture before you arrive at a destination or even decide to visit a destination.

Be descrete

Don’t flash your money around in public, keep small amounts of cash available for when you need it and keep the rest hidden away separately.

Eat local

Try the local food, you can eat cheaply in the small cafes, tea rooms and Dukas (shops) on the side of the road. Favourites are chapati, mandazi (a bit like a doughnut), beef stew, ugali, chicken and chips. Ugali is the staple food of a lot of East Africa, it is made from Maize and almost has the consistency of mash potato. It doesn’t taste of much but if you have it with a beef stew it’s excellent for mopping up the sauce.

Use local transport

There is no doubt that local transport, namely the dala dala or matatus (minibuses) are the cheapest way to get around. For example, a 4/5 hour bus journey from Nanyuki to Nairobi cost $5. However, there is a reason for it being so cheap. The only limit to the number of people on the bus with you is the amount of physical space. Therefore it is not full until you have someone elses’ child sitting on your lap or a sweaty strangers crotch in your face. There is also no aircon and the bus stops a lot to pick up more customers making the journey slow. They are also known to drive like lunatics so take this recommendation with a pinch of salt.

Alternative options for a slightly more comfortable ride including, tuk-tuks or bodabodas (motorbikes). I would say the safest option is a tuk-tuk and it is still cheap. There are also bigger coaches that do longer journeys. These are a very reasonable ways to get around. For example, the Riverside Shuttle bus from Arusha, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya for example is $32 and takes around 7/8 hours depending on how long the border crossing takes.

For private transport Uber is available in Kenya and Tanzania has its own version called ‘Indriver‘. Download the apps for a safe way to get around.

Be cautious on the road

Watch out for motorbikes driving like nutters. Be aware that zebra crossings don’t mean much on roads, do not assume people will stop to allow you to cross! Motorbikes especially don’t stop so always look before you cross and be aware of them when driving.

Carry your licience and passport when driving

Police may stop you for unknown reasons and try and find an excuse to fine you. Make sure you have your driving licence and passport with you. Know the speed limits and the laws and abide by them. For example in Tanzania, you must wear closed shoes to drive.

Be polite and courteous to the police and you will not have a problem. A lot of the time they just stop you for a chat.

Learn not to take time seriously

Remember there is such thing as ‘African time’ in two senses of the word. Generally, timekeeping is not a strong point, expect people to be late and be pleasantly surprised if they are there on time.

In the second sense, there is a thing called ‘Swahili time’ which is 6 hours ‘behind’ normal time. Basically, 7 am is the ‘first hour’ in Swahili time. So 7 am is 1 o’clock, 8 am is 2 o’clock etc. When arranging meeting times etc always clarify if they are talking Swahili time or not. 

Be prepared for things to not go as planned

Be prepared for things to go wrong, shops to not be open when they say they would be, miscommunication, standard items to be out of stock and just generally things not going according to plan.

Life out here can be tough and there isn’t a 24 hour Tescos/Walmart around the corner to solve the problems. Things go wrong, that is just life and you can’t control it so just go with it.

Shop locally

For fruit and vegetables try and shop in the local market, it is much cheaper and a much more entertaining experience Remember to greet people in the stalls first. Most food items have a set price.

If shopping for clothes in the second-hand market the price for most things is negotiable. If the market owner sees that you are foreign and don’t know how much things should cost they might put the price up. Try and watch and listen to what locals are paying before you go in so you already know the rough cost.

At the end of the day, you should pay what you are comfortable with bearing in mind a little extra will go a long way for a lot of these people.

Stay at Air bnb’s

Air bnb’s are a great option for accommodation they are usually cheaper than hotels and offer more privacy. You can also usually be in touch with the house owner who can show you around or tell you about the best places to go.

General advise

Be aware of pickpockets in urban areas, keep belonging close to you. Always ask before you take photos of people, it’s just common courtesy. Don’t be offended when people shout Mzungu at you, it means ‘white foreigner’ it is not said to offend you, but often because they are excited to see you.

How to travel like a local

That was a lot to take in, but that is effectively how to travel like a local in East Africa. The main things to remember are to be respectful, laid back and try to blend in. Travelling around in East Africa is an experience in itself so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

How to travel like a local in East Africa
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Let me know if there is anything I have forgotten in the comments below!

Climbing the Sacred Mountain, Mt Ololokwe

Climbing the Sacred Mountain, Mt Ololokwe

Climbing the sacred mountain, Mt Ololokwe was a highlight of our northern Kenya Road trip. I always love being able to get out of the car on our road trips and get out and do some exercise and this hike was no stroll in the park.

Our alarm was set for 3:14 am as we were starting our walk at 4:00 am. However, it wasn’t even 2 am before we were woken up by elephants eating from the trees right next to our car (and consequently us as we sleep in a rooftop tent). The noise from them eating was incredibly loud, the elephants were at eye level with us as they crashed and barged their way through the trees. I managed to go back to sleep for under an hour before the alarm sounded and we were up.

The night before we had boiled water and put it in a Stanley flask so it was still piping hot. We made tea and coffee, had some light breakfast and then we were off. We carried a small backpack, packed with snacks and water and each had a head torch, an essential item.

We found Jackson, our guide, sleeping. He heard us coming and simply wrapped his shuka (Maasai blanket) around him, put on his tyre sandals, picked up his torch and stick and we were off! I wouldn’t normally take a stick as I don’t like having something extra to carry. However, we had been on a walk the day before and I had seen how steep it was and decided a stick was a good idea. 

Hiking in the dark

The entire walk to the top is in the dark, that is if you’re quick enough to get there before sunrise! This was clearly something Jackson was worried about. Consequently, the walk was definitely not at the usual pole pole (slowly slowly) pace that I am used to out here in Kenya. It was a definite marching pace. I think we only took 2 small drink breaks up to the halfway point.

The first half of the walk is very steep so make sure you are prepared. If you can get through this first half then the second half is easy in comparison. I am fairly active and quite fit and I was definitely building up a sweat in the first half of the walk.

Climbing the Sacred Mountain, Mt Ololokwe

Equipment

I would recommend a head torch as it allows you to keep your hands free for scrambling up the hill. In terms of temperature, even though it is still dark when you are walking it is still nice and warm. I walked in sports shorts and a vest top and I was fine until the top! I didn’t use walking boots, just trainers which would have been fine if the grip hadn’t worn out. Make sure you have a good grip on your trainers, especially for the way down.

On the way up you need to keep your eyes peeled, the elephants walk up this mountain during the cool of the night to visit the permanent springs to drink water. There was also lots of leopard footprints although the likelihood of seeing a leopard is very slim. 

Levelling off

After the halfway mark, or a little before it starts to level off slightly and you can catch your breath. You also start to feel the breeze a bit which is nice. There are various viewpoints on the way up but it’s obviously pitch black so save that for the way down! Nearer the top, you start walking through more open fields and can see a few lights from a village. 

To get to the top it took us 1:45 mins, but as I say that was at a good pace. We did have about 20/25 mins sitting at the top of the mountain waiting for the sun to come up so we could have gone a little bit slower if needed. From the foot to the top is 4.35km. 

Once at the top we found a good viewpoint to watch the sunrise and Jackson look a little nap under his shuaka, I assume to keep the wind off him. My one bit of advice is to remember a jacket for the top, a down jacket is perfect as it packs down small to squash into your bag. I didn’t bring one and I was so cold at the top!! If you can carry it I would recommend bringing a flask of tea for the top, it certainly would have helped warm me up a bit! 

When the sun comes up you finally can feel some warmth and you are awarded with incredible views over the Samburu district. We took some time eating our snacks and taking pictures and then started the walk back down.

The way back down

On the way down, you would probably think it would be faster but actually, you have to go a lot slower as it’s slippery and steep.  I feel on my bum 4 times but to be fair my trainers have all but run out of grip! You can also now see where you are going so you take a bit longer as you can appreciate the views and observe the fauna around you.

At the top of the mountain, there are also cycad trees. Cycads are the oldest living seed plants on the planet, they are much older than dinosaurs even (www.iol.co.za). 

 

Ancient cycads

Stopping to observe the ancient cycads and beautiful trees that adorn the top of the mountain 

It actually took us about the same amount of time to get down and we were back at camp by 8:30 am having brunch.  Overall I would say it’s a challenging enough climb to get that sense of achievement once you get to the top and the views are definitely worth it!

Accommodation

We stayed at Sabache Campsite which is at the foot of the mountain. The campsite was basic but fine, it has clean toilets and showers (with cold water). There is also a watchman who looks after your stuff and keeps the vervet monkeys away.

There is also a lodge at Sabache which has ensuite rooms and porches with amazing views of the mountain. However, it does look like it hasn’t been used in a long time and could definitely do with some updating to get it back to its prime.  

Costs

The hike and camping and conservation fees for the both of us cost just $70. This was resident rate which makes it a very reasonably priced weekend activity.  On top of that, there are tips for the guide and askari. 

 

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When Elephants Visited Lewa Camp

When Elephants Visited Lewa Camp

Let’s talk about safari. Many people have a favourite animal when it comes to what they want to see on safari. A lot of the time it’s lions, leopards or cheetahs, some kind of predator as they have the WOW factor. I understand that of course, it is exciting to see a lion, well initially it is, and then you realise that you have spent the past 20 minutes staring at a pride of sleeping lions when the only shot you can get is on the side of its face hidden in the tall grass.

Don’t get me wrong, witnessing and getting those shots when the members of the pride greet each other or the lion cubs playing or that iconic yawning shot is very exciting, but with lions, it’s usually 5 minutes of action, which you had better not miss, and 30 minutes of sleeping.

The same applies to Cheetah and leopards a lot of the time it’s a shot of them sleeping or resting, preserving their energy for their hunt.

A cheetah resting in the brown grass

However, with patients, you sometimes managed to get some kind of action shot, for example, a shot of a cheetah with Mount Kenya in the background

Or a scene you can turn into an artistic low key shot:

But the chances of seeing action when observing predators is quite low. I have lived in Africa for 7 years, been on countless safaris and in my lifetime I have seen one successful lion hunt, and one failed hunt, one successful cheetah hunt (a VERY long way away) and maybe 3/4 predators with kills that they had already made. While of course, these were amazing experiences, this is the exception rather than the rule. The likelihood of seeing some action is not really in your favour.

Let’s Talk About Elephants

If action and entertainment are what you are looking for when on safari then elephants are the animals for you. Yes, elephants do spend around 80% of their time grazing but during that time there is always a lot more going on. Elephants live in herds led by a dominant female called the matriarch. The matriarch is the oldest and wisest female of the group, she leads the herd to their feeding ground, to water and generally looks out for everyone’s safety.

Within the herd, there are usually one or two young calves. Depending on the age of the babies they are sometimes difficult to spot, very young calves (below one year) will still fit under their mother’s belly and spend all of their time close to her and usually shielded by the rest of the herd.

As they get a bit older they venture a bit further away and they are endlessly entertaining to watch, especially when they have not yet figured out how to use their trunk.

There will also be some adolescents who still at times play with the younger calves, or tussle with each other, especially younger males as they wrestle to test their strength. The adolescents are usually the ones to show you how big and strong are by flaring their ears and doing a mock charge at you to show you who’s boss.

 

When these bulls (males) become a bit older (around 12 to 15 years of age) you will find them on the outskirts of the herd. Bull elephants are slowly pushed away to prevent inbreeding within the herd, but they are sometimes reluctant to leave the safety of the group. The outcast males eventually go off on their own and roam alone. They are kept in good behaviour by the dominant bull in the territory who gets breeding rights with the females. Eventually, the young bulls will challenge the dominant male to try and win breeding rights.

Elephants are such gentle giants, you will be amazing at how a whole herd of 2-7 ton mammals can move so silently and quickly through the bush, you can literally lose sight of a 10+ strong herd in a matter of minutes.

 

 

A photo of a herd of elephant walking on the green grass with a cloudy blue sky

It is also fascinating to watch their feeding habits when the adults reach up to the branches balancing on their hind legs to bring down food for the smaller elephants,

They also use their feet to dig up the root of the grass and then hit the grass against the floor or their tusks to knock the soil off, this prevents unnecessary grinding down of their teeth as much as I’m sure it also doesn’t taste great. As I said there is always something interesting to see when watching elephants and the following image is one of my personal favourites as it is so unusual, this particular ele had a persistent itch and found the perfect tree to be able to scratch it:

One of the best times to observe elephants is when they are by water. At the first sight of water they often get so excited they can’t help but trumpet and run towards it. When drinking they are able to suck up around 10 litres of water in one trunk full. At a waterhole, you can often see the social structure in action as the matriarch is the first to drink and decided when it is time to move off. Once they have finished drinking they then enter the water and splash around and wrestle or splash water over themselves to cool themselves down. An elephant is fortunate to not have and predators that are able to take them down (besides humans) so they are able to spend time enjoying life and securing social bonds. I can spend hours watching elephants and never get bored.

This video was taken in Randelin Wildlife Management Area, just outside Tarangire National Park, Tanzania where Tarangeri Tree Tops is located

This is a great way to observe elephants as it allows you to get close without being obtrusive or putting yourself or the elephants in danger.  It also gives great opportunities for unique low angle photos.

Recently a herd of elephants camp to the camp to visit. The waterhole at camp had just been fixed and the elephants could obviously sense this and they were coming to get the first taste. The herd walked past the entrance to the lodge and followed the fence around until they got to the water. This gave me a fantastic opportunity to be on foot (safely behind an electric fence) while they walked past. I was lying on the ground to ensure the best angle to give the elephant the status it deserves. From a game viewer, the elephant is undeniably impressive but from the ground level, there is nothing more intimidating than a herd of elephants marching less than 50 yards away from you.

Once around the other side of camp, they made straight for the waterhole and spent around an hour drinking, feeding and cooling off, much to the guest delight at they had their afternoon tea. Here are some of the shots (available as fine art photographic prints) taken on the day:

Two adult elephants with their forehead and trunks together

A close up of elephants drinking at a waterhole

Three elephants, one baby elephant stealing water from the mouth of another

If elephants are your favourite animals are elephants and you are looking for the best places to see elephants then I recommend 2 places, in particular, one is Tarangire National Park in Tanzania, for that luxury trip you can stay at Tarangire Tree Tops and Chobe National Park in Botswana. I personally have been to both of these places (Tarangire on many occasions) and have never been disappointed.

With regards to reading more about the social structure of elephants or just learning a bit more about them from an expert then I recommend reading ‘The Elephant Whisperer’ by the late Lawerence Anthony it’s an amazingly touching story about his life with a herd of troublesome elephants on his conservancy in South Africa:

A photo of the front cover of the book 'the elephant whisperer'

The sequential book ‘An Elephant in my Kitchen’ by Lawrences’ wife Françoise Malby-Anthony is the story of how she continues her late husband’s conservation work, expanding to caring for not only orphaned elephants but also orphan rhinos, and the consequential lessons she learnt about ‘love, courage and survival’ is also definitely worth a read.

a picture of the front cover the book 'An elephant in my kitchen'

Check out other images available for purchase as fine art, sustainable photographic prints delivered straight to your door:

-Colour collection 

-Black and white collection 

-Dark Collection 

-Light Collection

-Nursery Collection