Tag Archives: africa

Ringing in the New Year

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It’s our last post of the year, and 2016 has been quite a big one!

Thank you to all of our clients whose trips we’ve arranged these year; it was our pleasure to see that you enjoy the vacation you deserve. We hope that you made albums full of memories to treasure your whole lives. Some of our clients this year have been new, some we have serviced for the past 20 years. We take pride in providing the most special and informed travel arrangements for each and every one. Thank you, clients and subscribers to our blog, without you our business would not be possible.

This past year there have been a fair share of changes in the office. We saw long-time staff member Linda Fisher retire. Krista left for Arizona, and Racheal, Lori and Debbie joined us as new agents.

Our Agents embarked on a few trips this year, which we’re so excited to share with you. Christina and John led a group in Namibia. Barb visited the new locks at the Panama Canal. Pam dropped in on the islands of Malta. Nancy sailed with Viking Ocean, and Barb and Racheal with Un-Cruise Adventures to Baja California. Wailana moved to Stockholm, where she continues to work with our social media.

Next year we will celebrate our 40th birthday–quite an accomplishment! Mark the weekend of August 5-6, 2017 on your calendars, we’ll be planning a special Birthday party. We hope to see you there.

For more updates, catch up with us in our newsletter from Fall 2016.

Here’s to 2017 having more Travel in store for everyone!




Safari in Namibia

Transylvania, the Land Beyond the Forest

The Elephants that Came to Dinner

Napili Kai Beach Resort

Agent Trip Report: Malta

And a flashback from the past: Where to Spot the Southern Cross

See you next year! — From all of us at Willamette Intl Travel

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Filed under Africa, California, Europe, Mexico, Namibia

Safari in Namibia: Feedback from Our Clients

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PLUS Photos from WIT Owner Christina

In August and September, WIT Owners Christina and John escorted a group through the Namibian Desert, with the assistance of Ultimate Safaris. 

Our Clients, Jacques & Evelyne V., wrote a great letter about their adventure with them. We are proud to feature their feedback from the trip here. Read on for the enlightening details: 

“My wife Evelyne and I, Jacques, were on a safari from 27 August to 7 September with Michael and Usko as our drivers, guides and live encyclopedias with the Christina and John Cooper group from Willamette Intl Travel. We are back home in Paris, France now so we would like to take some time to say how much we enjoyed the whole trip.

First of all, we wish to thank Michael and Usko (our drivers and guides) for being such fantastic, wonderful persons. They are both the best drivers we have ever encountered on trips: very safe drivers, courteous, polite, efficient, discrete, always well dressed and made us feel like they were family or old friends which in a way they were for the time we spent with them, nearly twenty hours a day. 

They have eyes like hawks and saw way before any of us what and where to look for wild animals, birds or plants. They always knew where they were going, never got lost and kept their vehicles in tip-top shape and always nice and clean inside and out. We always had cool water to drink from the refrigerators in the cars and if any of us wanted to stop for any reason, all we had to say was ‘stop’ and they did. Sundowners were special moments that we appreciated very much. The lodges, tented camps and hotels were marvelous and so was the quality and presentation of the food served at meal times.

We can only hope for Ultimate Safaris that you will be able to hold on to Michael and Usko so that they will not go to work for another company but could there be such competition to attract these two extraordinary men? We don’t imagine another company in Namibia to be better then Ultimate Safaris. We were extremely impressed from the first to the last days with Christina and John, the staff of Ultimate Safaris, and your wonderful country of Namibia.

Thank you very much, Michael, Usko, and the Ultimate Safaris staff for being such great hosts, you have done a fabulous job to make our trip memorable.

All the best from Evelyne and Jacques.”

Below are a few photos taken by Christina on her iphone — along with her comments — rare glimpses into the deserts of Namibia. 


Ghostly elephant in Etosha National Park. As you can see, it’s very dry – they’re desperate for a good rainfall, which has not happened for a few years. The elephants rolling in the “white dust” appear ghostly.


The shrub shows how dry Etosha National Park, and indeed Namibia, is


This is the type of countryside around Sorris Sorris Lodge, Darmanland, quite amazing rock outcrops


This is a room at our Sorris Sorris Lodge in Darmanland. Truly amazing architecture and surroundings, amazing accommodation and food. Each course of dinner was served on differently designed china from Portugal.


We did the balloon ride over the Namib Desert–a gorgeous sight!


This is in the Namib Desert – golden sand – our guides found the small spider which buries deep into the sand — but I enjoyed the shadows!


There are the very rare desert elephants in Darmaland — they have adjusted to living with very little water and go deep into the dry river bed. We were very lucky (or perhaps because we had such great guides!) to find them — we were actually surrounded by a herd of about 30.

Read More of Our Posts on Namibia:

Considering a Unique Adventure in Africa? Call us up or schedule an appointment at our office. We have been sending clients to Africa (and guiding them) for years, and would love to share with you all we know about this amazing continent. Let us book the perfect African safari for you! Call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 


Filed under Africa, Europe, Namibia

Balloons in Namibia

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WIT Founder Christina reports from Namibia today:

Well worth getting up at 440am for this experience!

Christina and her husband John are escorting a small band of travelers through Namibia for the next few weeks. Call Willamette Intl Travel for everything you need to know about travel to Africa. 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com. 


Photo by Christina Cooper



Namib Sky Balloon Safaris are a famous tourist attraction in the Sossuvlei Area and Namib Rand Nature Reserve. It’s one of the most unforgettable experiences in the whole country. Visitors meet 30 minutes before sunrise, at three points: Sesriem, Kulala Lodge, or the Reserve. Then marvel at a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind sunrise! You drift silently over the desert for about an hour, with exceptional views of the red and tawny desert sands. Upon landing, enjoy a champagne breakfast and a nature drive back.

For the past couple weeks we’ve been sharing all about Namibia on the blog. From wildlife safaris to action-packed adventures, this country is a jewel among many. In case you missed them, our previous posts on Namibia: Reading List and Just the Facts


Filed under Africa, Namibia, News

The Elephants that Came to Dinner

Wild Elephant Herd Walks through a Hotel

For years, Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia has played host to a group of elephants who shuffle through the lobby and the courtyard to feast on mangoes. Watch as they bring their newborn baby, “Lord Wellington,” through the premises. Though normally dangerous creatures, especially with a new calf in tow, these particular African elephants have an unprecedented trust for the cameramen and hotel staff.

WIT Owners Christina and John embark on escorted trips through Kenya and Tanzania every year! Read all about our upcoming Africa trips in our Newsletter. You’ll find details on page 4 regarding trips to Namibia (Aug 2016), Serengeti and Tanzania (Feb 2017), and Kenya (Sept 2017). Call us to get on the waitlist for Namibia–there may just be a spot for you! On our newsletter you can also check out the report from the 2015 trip (page 5), and our clients Doug & Diane’s feedback on their 6-week trip to South Africa (page 14). 

WIT Agent Nancy was fortunate enough to go on a South African Safari last year. Check out her elephant photos from the trip: 
[This is] a series of my photos while on safari in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve. A baby ellie challenged our vehicle; his Mom didn’t let him get so close though.  And the extreme close up of Mom is because she was about six inches from the back of my head, as I sat on the top back seat of the vehicle 🙂
Who doesn’t adore Baby Elephants?
More Posts on Africa on our Blog:
WIT Owner Christina in Tanzania: 
Would you like to know more about Africa? Let us know in the comments! Subscribe to our blog to get the latest weekly updates on travel. 


Filed under Africa, News

Origins Safaris + WIT Escorted Trip to East Africa

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Considering a safari in Africa? For years, Wittravel has partnered up with Origins Safari, providing unforgettable trips to travelers with a passion for wildlife and adventure. Wittravel’s owners, Christina and John, possess a deep love for Africa and are eager to recommend Origins’ tailor-made trips with our clients.

Origins Safaris first had their start as East African Ornithological Safaris back in the ’60s. The organization’s team of specialist ornithologist guides led birdwatching tours all over Kenya and Tanzania. Now, Origins organizes trips all over East and Central Africa. Picture yourself spending a day with the tribes of the Omo Delta, or photographing Mountain Gorillas at the Virunga Volcanoes. Chase the migration in a helicopter or rest up from that day’s safari in your private tented camp. Looking for somewhere special to spend your honeymoon? Why not join Origins Safaris for a week on the savannah, toasting your new life together over champagne as you admire your panoramic view of the stunning Great Rift Valley?

Whatever your niche, Origins can help you find it! Their expert guides lead unique, amazing trips that are specially tailored to your needs.

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Safari in Fall 2015! Just about every year, Wittravel Owners Christina and John escort a small group to Kenya and Tanzania with the help of Origins Safaris. They still have limited space on two tours this Fall! The first tour needs to be in Nairobi by 28 September, and the second group departs in October. Give Christina a call at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to find out more. Hurry! These escorted expeditions are incredibly popular!

Check out the full itinerary on page 12 of our newsletter: http://wittravel.com/WIT%20Newsletter%20Winter2015_web.pdf

Or click here to check out the Gallery of one of Christina and John’s previous trips with Origins Safaris!

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Filed under Africa, Kenya, Tanzania

Women’s Travel Group: Morocco

Sita Morocco

Join Women’s Travel Group for a Christmastime adventure in Morocco!

The well-established travel group SITA has partnered with Women’s Travel Group to provide this fantastic opportunity for a women-only trip to Morocco. Flying Solo? Pairing options may be available.

This trip is bookable through Willamette Intl Travel, call us at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for more details. We can arrange pre-/post-trip travel as well. 8 Days not enough? Extend it with a few extra days in New York or Spain!

Here’s a quick schedule of what to expect:

Day 1: Mon Dec 23. Depart New York for a short flight to Casablanca.

Day 2: Tue Dec 24. Casablanca/Rabat. (L,D). Arrive in Casablanca, be greeted at the airport by an English speaking guide. Drive through to the capital of Rabat. After lunch, enjoy a city tour of Rabat visiting the Kasbah of Oudayas Hassan Tower, the Royal Palace, Chellah Necropolis, Mohammed V Mausoleum, and the city gates. Overnight at the Sofitel Jardins des Roses.

Day 3: Wed Dec 25 Rabat/Meknes/Fes. (B,L). After breakfast, head to Fes via Meknes and Volubilis. Tour the beautiful small town of Meknes and its historic ramparts, stables and the majestic Bab El Mansour gate. Proceed to the well-preserved Roan ruins of Volubilis nearby, from which the lions came for Roman Gladiator fights. Stop in Moulay Idriss, home to the tomb of the founder of Islam in Morocco. Overnight at the Sofitel Palais Jamai in Fes.

Day 4: Thu Dec 26 Fes. (B,D) After breakfast, the English speaking tour guide will take you on a tour of the medina, old city, founded in the 9th century and a World Heritage Site. Take a tour of the University Karaouine, one of the oldest in the world, founded in 859 by a woman. Also visit beautiful fountains, arts and crafts, and the famous tanneries and souks of Fez. That evening, enjoy a dinner with entertainment at the Palais Medina Restaurant.

Day 5: Fri Dec 27 Fes/Marrakech. (B,L). Depart for Marrakech via the Middle Atlas. You will drive through picturesque pine forest, gorgeous hillscapes, and Ifrane, a popular ski and summer resort. Overnight at the Kenzi Menara Palace in Marrakech.

Day 6: Sat Dec 28 Marrakech. (B,L,D). Your English speaking local guide will take you on a tour of historic monuments, including the Koutoubia Minaret, Saadian Tombs, Menara Gardens and the Palais Bahia. In the afternoon, you will be driven to a cooking class at Riad La Maison Arabe (priced separately).

Day 7: Sun Dec 29 Marrakech. (B,L,D). After breakfast, you will visit the beautiful Les Jardins Majorelle, a botanical garden designed by Jacques Majorelle in 1920s from plants imported from all over the world. Then you’ll explore the medina and the world-famous Jemaa El Fna and come face to face with acrobats, snake charmers, fortune tellers, singers, healers, poets and food stalls. Enjoy the evening at a delicious Moroccan restaurant with accompanying folklore show. There is also an optional excursion into the historic Portuguese harbor of Essaouira.

Day 8: Mon Dec 30 Marrakech. (B). Depart Marrakech for New York City.

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Filed under Africa, Group Travel, Morocco, News

Top Safari Camps of Botswana

By Christina Cooper

Botswana is not an inexpensive destination, but if budget allows definitely worth the expense. The camps are small and exclusive and inclusive. If you have limited time, and can only visit one region, probably the best area is the Okavango Delta, and the Moremi Game Reserve close by is considered by many to be the best game viewing in Africa. The four following camps are great options, with varying budgets for each type of traveler.


A Wilderness Safari premier camp, Mombo Camp is  located on Chief’s Island within Moremi Game Reserve (Okavango Delta) and boasts perhaps the best game viewing in all of Africa. Mombo is definitely a dry camp and does not offer water-based options. If budget allows (it will be minimum of $1500 per person per night), I would probably splurge and head to Mombo. (I stayed there 15 years ago and paid 400 per night, which I thought outrageous at the time!!) Even at the high pricing, Mombo has to be booked a year in advance. You can sit on the veranda at the lodge and see the animals grazing – and at night they do wander through the camp. It is a magical, but expensive, spot. It is still one of my all-time favorites.

Little Vurumba

Within the Okavango Delta, Wilderness Safari offers a couple of Classic Camps, including Little Vurumba Camp. The advantage of Vurumba is that it is both a dry & wet camp. It is surrounded by water, so you can head out on Mokoros or motorboats. The advantage of being on the water is that you get to see more of the incredible bird life, and if you are lucky have close up encounters with hippos and even be able to watch elephants come down to drink. Little Vurumba is a very relaxed camp, totally unpretentious, with only 6 tents.

photo by Mazzali


Also in the Okavango Delta, Xigera is a special camp, small (10 tents) not lavish, but extremely comfortable. Both times I have stayed here  we have left feeling like family. The staff were incredible and the food provided by the Chef amazing. It is a little more basic than Little Vurumbu but a very special place. The bird viewing around Xigera is incredible. Maybe the game viewing was not as good as at Little Vurumba, and we had to travel just a little farther to see the game; however, on both occasions lions used the footbridge from the plains through the camp to an open area behind the camp, so we definitely had close-up viewing of the lion!


Shinde is not a member of the Wilderness group, but operated by Ker & Downey. Outside of the Moremi Game reserve, Shinde offers the next best game viewing in this region.  It too is considered a wet camp—closing in December and reopening towards the latter part of March—which is the “Emerald” or rainy season, and many of the camps close due to the level of the water. My fondest memory of our time in Shinde was one afternoon when we had stopped to have our “sundowners”(cocktails and appetizers to snack on) while watching the sunset.  Just after all was set up, a leopard was spotted some 50 yards away. We  jumped in our vehicle leaving the table loaded with all the drinks/glasses sitting out in the middle of “nowhere” whilst we tried to follow the leopard. The 2nd vehicle from Shine with Willamette clients  came across our abandoned table & cocktails and decided to take it over and wait till we returned, not knowing what had happened to us. It truly was a funny sight.  I also remember sitting for hours out on a boat in the far reaches of the lagoon watching not only elephant & hippos but also birds building their nests. Definitely would return to Shinde.

photo by whatleydude


Here you have Chobe National park, with its incredible elephant life. My favorite spots in the North are either Suvute or Linyati.


Kings Pool in Linyanti is another Wilderness premier camp, pricing about the same as at Mombo. Our time there was very special—especially as we had the camp reserved just for our Willamette Intl Travel group! The wildlife was fantastic. With the camp situated right on the banks of the river, the hippos would come out at night, taking refuge under the tent’s raised teak platforms.  At first, the constant snorting of hippos all night made it hard to sleep, but after a while it became quite reassuring, but definitely not a lullaby.

One evening we had to stay put in the lodge, because elephants had invaded the footpath between the lodge and tents. They were so quiet entering the camp,  it was not until we were walking back to our tents with the nighttime guards, that we realized our path was blocked. We had to quietly walk backwards to the lodge, where we sat until the early hours of the morning drinking and talking to the camp manager and the staff. Evidently not a lot of guests take time to speak to the staff, and the next night the camp manager told us the staff had been practicing all day local tribal songs and dances and wanted to entertain us. It was a very special evening.

Game viewing is great in this area, large herds of my favorite animal, the elephant, along with lion, cheetah, leopard, and a special treat, Wild Dog. We tracked them for hours one evening, and even went on a wild ride when they started to hunt.

photo by Mazzali

Duma Tau

This is a Classic Camp of the Wilderness family, recently rebuilt in 2012.  When we were there, they had to replace the zipper tent doors with actual locking wooden doors—as the baboons and monkeys had figured out how to unzip the tent, and were causing havoc with the guests’ belongings! The tents are not as luxurious as Kings Pool, but extremely comfortable with good air flow the camp slightly larger with 10 tents (including 2 family tents). Duma Tau is also a less expensive option. While we were there the lagoon was dry, but just after a short drive we were in the Linyanti swamp region, where birding was incredible, and the huge herds of elephants and hippos played in the swamp—it was truly an incredible sight.

photo by Gerry Labrijn

Kwando Lebala Camp

Owned by the Kwando . Definitely less costly than King’s Pool or Duma Tau,  tents were very comfortable, and the staff and the safari guides professional and friendly. We could sit out on the veranda overlooking the huge vistas of the Linyanti Reserve,  watching the elephants approaching from the distance, at first just a blur in the haze. They would spend several  hours around the camp, disappearing  as quietly as they came.  We also had a cheetah family very close to the camp, amazing to watch, and actually managed to see a lion kill. Usually you arrive just after the kill, when the hovering vultures tell you something has happened. We sat and watched the pride taking its turn at the kill according to their hierarchy— but after a while the smell and the flies were so obnoxious we had to leave for a fresher smelling area!!!

WIT Agent and Owner Christina has been to Africa on numerous trips and is deeply knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife and parks there. Call her for more information at 800.821.0401 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Africa, Botswana, Features, Guest Writers