Tag Archives: elephant

African Safari: Elephants at Tsavo East National Park

African safari Maasai mara-2

If you’re just tuning in, today we’ll be covering the last leg of WIT Founders Christina and John’s intrepid adventure into East Africa. This is part of our ongoing series on WIT Founders Christina and John’s 2017 African Safari this September. Together with Origins Safaris Christina and John are escorting a group of enthusiastic and safari-loving clients to natural reserves and wildlife conservancies. 

Today: Ithumba Camp Extension, The Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Tsavo East National Park

As part of an extra 4 nights in East Africa, Willamette Intl Travel included an optional extension at the Ithumba Camp in Tsavo East National Park.

Tsavo East National Park

One of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya, Tsavo East National Park was established in 1948. Tsavo is an incredible natural area 200 km southeast of Nairobi, just a 60-minute charter flight away. Spanning an area of 8036 mi² (20813.14 km²), it’s an ideal safari wilderness, with glimpses of giraffe, gazelle, lions, dik dik and buffalo.

The best part is how remote it is—so remote that the only way to get cellphone reception is to climb a huge boulder and stick out your arm!

Ithumba Camp & Ithumba Hills Camp

There are two camps called Ithumba, one is the more compact Ithumba Camp and the other is the 5-star, luxury Ithumba Hills Camp. Both camps are just minutes away from each other. We have featured the Ithumba Camp in a previous post, but it’s worth taking a second look at this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Every seven years, Tsavo suffers from droughts, causing thirst and friction as elephants roam onto small farmlands and destroy them looking for water. Fortunately Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage does an amazing job taking care of the animals.

In 2016, the Sheldrick foundation shared the story of Malkia, a young orphaned calf. When her mother died from thirst, Malkia was found at her side. It was necessary to rescue her young milk dependent calf, about six months old and undernourished.

She was fed greens throughout the night, then in the morning keepers landed a Cessna Caravan aircraft. The baby was prepared for the flight, laid on a mattress, placed on a canvas stretcher so she could be ably lifted into the back of the plane, which had already had the seats removed allowing for ample space for her to lie recumbent throughout the 1 hour flight with a Keeper by her side.  She was hydrated with a drip for the duration of the flight and arrived safely at the Nursery by 1.30pm in the afternoon.  She immediately fed on milk for the first time since being rescued, which was a relief, but she did look exceptionally tired and was ready to lie down on the soft hay of her stable to sleep.


Malkia has thrived in the Nursery, aided by her forceful nature.  She is a very determined and mischievous little girl, whose presence here has certainly been felt. Despite being so young when rescued, and under such sad circumstances, she has settled fast; loving and affectionate to her Keepers from the outset.  Malkia and her little friend Esampu have become extremely greedy and vociferous at meal times, with every feeding time accompanied by noise and barging! Despite being so small they can be extremely disruptive giving the Keepers quite the run around.  We are happy to report that Malkia has assimilated into Nursery life seamlessly and appears extremely happy and content amongst the other orphans and her now much loved human family.

The story and images of his rescue can be viewed by clicking this link: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/orphan_profile.asp?N=361

To Foster Malkia please click on this link: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/foster.asp

To make a general donation please click on this link: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/is/donate_now.asp

Handcrafted chocolate to help elephants!
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s friends at L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolates are supporting the DSWT’s work with their delectable selection of elephant chocolates.  Through an 8-step/3-day process, each elephant chocolate is hand-piped and hand-dipped by the artisans at L.A. Burdick. These beautifully handcrafted chocolate elephants are available for a limited time in stores and online.  (QUICK! This ends Friday!)

Origins Safaris will be joining Willamette Intl Travel at the 40th Birthday Bash in December! Hope to see you there!

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African Safari: Maasai Mara National Reserve

This is part of our ongoing series on WIT Founders Christina and John’s 2017 African Safari this September. Together with Origins Safaris Christina and John are escorting a group of enthusiastic and safari-loving clients to natural reserves and wildlife conservancies. 

African safari Maasai mara.png

In case you missed them, catch up with our earlier posts on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Samburu Game Reserve

Christina and John’s next stop escorting their guests on their Kenya/Tanzania tour was the Maasai Mara National Reserve. They’ll spend a few days game-viewing in some of Africa’s most stunning plains capes.


About the Maasai Mara National Reserve

The Maasai Mara is a huge savannah wilderness covering 583 square miles (1,510 square km) in southwestern Kenya, bordering on the Serengeti in Tanzania. First established in 1961, the reserve is one of the richest spots on Earth to admire nature and wildlife in their element. It’s the photographer’s and naturalist’s paradise—with hundreds of species, nowhere in Africa is wildlife found more abundant. Year-round, you may see your fair share of lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, and hippos, with excellent chance to glimpse warthogs, baboons, crocodiles, jackals, impala, waterbuck, foxes and hyena.


During the Great Wildebeest Migration, which occurs between July and November for three months each year, you’ll have the opportunity to marvel at 2 million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle following the rains and grazing fields.


Last week, Christina and John shared a few full days of game-viewing in the Maasai Mara. Visitors can also enjoy night game drives, camping, cultural visits to manyattas (Masai villages), ballooning and dining in the bush. They spent 3 nights in the Mara Intrepids Camp, before moving for 2 nights in Kichwa for a fresh perspective of the reserve.

About the Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp

The elegant camp is known for its open-air, romantic ambiance. Combining bush practicality with refined simplicity, it’s an ideal base to catch the awe-inspiring Great Migration. Enjoy day and night game drives, bush walks along the Mara River or Oloololo Escarpment, hot air ballooning, and breathtaking views of the savannah from your tent bedroom window.

About the Mara Intrepids Camp

This rustic camp rests near the Talek River at the confluence of the Mara’s four game-viewing areas. Each of the 30 luxury tents is furnished in classical safari style, with large four-poster beds, ensuite bathrooms and handsome furniture.

Tune in Wednesday to see where Christina and John headed next on their Safari Expedition!

Origins Safaris will be joining us at the 40th Birthday Bash in December! Hope to see you there!


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Filed under Africa, Kenya

African Safari: Samburu Game Reserve & Elephant Bedroom Camp

conscientious traveler lewa safari Kenya-3

WIT Founders Christina and John Cooper are currently in Africa leading a Safari Expedition through Kenya with Origins Safaris. So today we’re holding a very special “Close Look” on Kenya, particularly Samburu Game Reserve and the Elephant Bedroom Camp.

Just a short 2-3-hour drive from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the semi-arid Samburu Game Reserve is probably Christina’s favorite spot in all of East Africa for scenery and large herds of elephants.


About Samburu Game Reserve

Samburu National Reserve is a rugged, semi-desert park in the Rift Valley province of Kenya. The area is approximately 65 square miles (104 sq km), and though smaller than its neighboring cousins Tsavo or Masai Mara, it’s relative remoteness makes for a naturally serene ambiance. Notable landmarks include the Ewaso Nyiro River, doum palm groves, riverine forests, acacia trees, and open savannah.

It’s famous for its plentiful wildlife, including cheetahs, warthogs, lions, elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, baboons and hippos, as well as the rarer long-necked gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa onyx. Lucky safari troopers may even spot the Kenya leopard. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to 350 different species of birds including vultures, kingfishers, battlers, guinea fowl, marabous and Somali ostriches.


In 2015, Christina and John saw a wild dog in Samburu—the first time they’ve been spotted in the region in 25 years! “Our guides were more excited than [even] we were,” Christina recalls. “It was almost dusk and we had to be back in camp but managed to watch them for about an hour. Next morning we got up very early went back to the area where we had sighted them, took about an hour to track them, but sighted them again, even saw a kill. Wild dog have an incredible range…as I know they have been sighted in the Serengeti.”

An African Safari Adventure is a lifetime experience like no other. Call Willamette Intl Travel to learn how we can arrange an Africa expedition that you’ll remember for years to come. Phone 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.


About Elephant Bedroom Camp

Elephant Bedroom Camp is one of our favorite lodgings in Africa. Nestled in the shade of doum palms beside the Ewaso Nyiro River, it accommodates 12 spacious, rustic tents with private plunge pool, hot and cold running water and electricity. The camp also has a spacious lounge and dining tent with large veranda, 240V charging facilities, lectures on Samburu culture by resident naturalist, and entertainment by local Samburu warriors. Breakfast and lunch are served ‘al fresco’ on the banks of the river and dinner in the dining area. But we think the video says it best:

Tune in next Monday to see where Christina and John are headed next on their Safari Expedition!

Origins Safaris will be joining us at the 40th Birthday Bash in December! Hope to see you there!

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Filed under Africa, Kenya

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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