Tag Archives: safari

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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What it’s Like Using a Travel Agent

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Willamette Intl Travel is a travel agency based in Portland, Oregon.
Thought about using a Travel Agent to book your next trip, but not sure what that might entail? According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), 85% of all cruises and 70% of all tours are finalized through travel agencies. Agents are invaluable resources who work tirelessly to provide you with excellent service before, during and after your trip.
 
But what does working with a travel agent entail, exactly? Particularly one of our awesome travel agents at Willamette Intl Travel? Let’s take a look!
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HAVE A CHAT

The first step involves sitting down with one of our qualified travel agents and discussing the potential trip. Sometimes clients have an exact itinerary already in mind, sometimes they have just a general idea. Your travel agent, with their years of experience and information, can help you narrow down your ideal trip.
This is the time to get a sense of your travel style, your needs, preferences, and budget, in order to plan the perfect package for you and your family. Your travel needs are the most important factor to us. We don’t try to upsell you or push an itinerary or destination when it obviously doesn’t work for you. We’ll find one that fits you best.
 
Agents typically ask for passport names and ages at this point, which will be necessary down the line to hold space on airlines, hotels or cruises.
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ENCYCLOPEDIC RESOURCES

Swimming through the endless volume of options on the internet can be a headache–that’s where the agent comes in. Travel agents do all the legwork for you, and draw from their vast, firsthand experiences in the industry. They know which tour guides to recommend and which cruise ship best fits your style and budget.
If you want a romantic week away, maybe a resort on Maui. More the adventurous type? We’ll recommend Costa Rica over, say, the Bahamas. If you want something new and luxurious—why not try river-cruising in Myanmar? We keep in mind travel trends and plan accordingly.
 
At this point, we communicate with you mostly by email and phone. Some clients prefer to return to the office to discuss the details of the trip further but it’s not absolutely necessary.
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DISCOUNTS AND PERKS

Next, we look into discounts and perks. We have access to offers and special packages that are sometimes exclusive to travel agents, or even to our particular agency. We might know which travel guide might be a perfect fit for you, and other times we supply a couple options to choose from. The industry is constantly changing, and as travel agents, we keep abreast of all changes.
 
This on-the-feet, out-of-the-box thinking especially comes in handy for a tailored or unusual trip, such as a cruise to Svalbard, vacation to Hokkaido, hike through the Dolomites, or safari in Namibia or Indonesia. We know how much a relief it is to speak to someone face-to-face who knows so much about the destination and has probably been there.
 
We work daily with global software platforms, which gives us backend access to air, hotel, car or other travel services worldwide, and compare prices and routes, to get you the most value for your price point.
 
We also assist with groups, such as wedding parties to Cancun, multigenerational trips to Disneyland, or educational programs to Lagos. We know it’s a headache to coordinate everyone’s plane, hotel, cars–and it’s our pleasure to do it for you.
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PROPOSALS

Once we come up with a plan, or even a few plans to choose from, we send our proposals your way. What’s more, we’ll advise you of any foreign travel requirements to your destination: travel advisories, required documents, weather conditions. We’ll answer any questions you might have. We always include any special terms and conditions, and notify you if something is nonrefundable.

RESERVATIONS

Once you give approval, depending on the trip, we may put a deposit or full payment down at this point. We never make deposits without checking with you first. Many tour guides or cruises require a deposit, with gradual payments or full payment required closer to departure. In some cases, tour guides require full payment upfront. If this is the case, we advise you accordingly.
Once first deposit is made, we recommend a travel insurance plan that is right for you. (Read more reasons why we love travel insurance.)

PERKS

Where it’s possible, we call in all the connections we’ve solidified over decades in the business. We contact the Sales Rep at the hotel or resort, and plan a special something at your hotel. Whether it’s a room upgrade, fee waiver, or popular but unattainable tour reservations–we’ll do our best to draw in all the perks. 
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DURING YOUR TRIP

Once you depart, our live phone service is available 24/7 for booked clients, to reach in case of emergency. If your flight is delayed and you miss your airport pickup, we’ll make the call. We work as a team, keeping extensive files on all of our clients, so if the agent with whom you booked is not available for some reason, another agent can fully assist you in an emergency. This type of personalized attention just simply isn’t available when you book through an online travel site. If some mishap happens, if your room is unacceptable or your ferry is delayed, you can call your travel agent and we’ll do our best to serve. 

AFTER YOUR TRIP

Welcome back! We’re thrilled that you booked with us. If there are any loose ends with any of your arrangements that we can help out with, we’ll happily address them.

willamette intl travel: expert trip curators and counselors

Are you in the Portland area? Give us a call! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, North America, South America

A Closer Look: Ithumba Safari Camp in Kenya

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Tsavo East National Park, Kenya

Step into Africa…

Willamette Intl Travel Owners Christina and John frequently guide small groups through Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and last year, Namibia. They make it their business to know the ins and outs of safaris, camps and unique adventures in Africa. They usually take 1-2 trips per year with a small group, and over the years, they’ve accumulated a wealth of insider info on the continent. Considering a trip to Africa in 2017 or even 2018? Give Christina a call at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com for the scoop.

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Ithumba Hills

Wildlife Haven

On the Kenya 2015 trip, Christina stayed at Ithumba Camp with 3 single ladies. They stayed at the original Ithumba Camp—not to be confused with the 5-star, luxury Ithumba Hills Camp. Both camps are located minutes from each other in the same area of Tsavo East National Park, 200 km SE of Nairobi—a 7 hour drive, or a quick 60-minute charter flight from the city. The park is an ideal safari location, spanning an area of 8,036 square miles–that’s larger than Wales! It’s so remote, the only way to get cellphone reception is to climb a huge boulder and stick out your arm. You’ll truly feel at home in this wilderness, with chances to glimpse a variety of wildlife: giraffe, gazelle, lions, dik dik, and buffalo.

A Luxury Safari Camp

Though close in proximity, the two camps serve different styles of traveling.

Ithumba Camp is located on the flatlands, a rustic and stylish property. Sleep under makuti roofs and shower yourself in sounds of nature. The camp offers just four tents, with en-suite bathrooms and outdoor showers from where you can admire the stunning starlight. Water and light are powered by solar panels. An open communal pavilion with a small roof terrace is open daily for meals; here you can find the game-viewing decks.

Ithumba Hills is based at the foot of Ithumba Hill, with views of the Yatta Plateau. Like the original camp, Ithumba Hills offers 4 tents, sleeps up to 8 people—but its rates are higher due to more luxurious facilities. Since the whole camp must be booked regardless of how many people there are, it can book up surprisingly fast, sometimes a year in advance. And when we say luxury, we really mean it—each tent offers a five-star experience, with en-suite bathrooms, huge shower areas and dressing rooms. Their game-viewing decks are located off the tents, and there is a huge infinity pool built into the rocks.

Both camps are fully fenced, as there are many wild elephants in the area. All food and drinks are driven in by your safari guide from Nairobi, though Ithumba provides the chef and two other staff.

Baby Elephants!

What really makes Ithumba shine, however, are the nearby Orphans’ Rehabilitation Units, an orphanage for baby elephants who have lost their parents to poaching or other means. Both Ithumba camps and unit are owned by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The DSWT initiative fights to save elephant lives and their habitats, with their Nairobi Nursery, Saving Habitats in Kibwezi Forest, and these orphan units in Tsavo East. 

Guests can visit the elephant orphans two times a day, meet the calves and chat with their handlers. It’s a special treat to watch baby elephants enjoying milk feeding times and their midday mud-bath.

Join us in September 2017!

Christina will be returning to Ithumba in September 2017. Call her now to start planning your unforgettable trip to Kenya! 503-224-0180 or info@wittravel.com

“I highly recommend Ithumba Safari Camp… after the amazing experience I had last year, I know it’ll be a highlight for you. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be completely surrounded by herds of wild elephants. You also learn what an incredible job Sheldrick Orphanage is doing in attempts to save these beautiful animals.”

–Christina

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Ithumba Hills

Photos of previous trips to Kenya:

Related posts on Africa:

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Filed under Africa, Kenya

Why More & More Millennials are Using Travel Agents

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Millennials are Turning to Travel Agents for that Personalized Touch

In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more millennials come into the office. Recent travel trends pave the way for customized, one-of-a-kind tours. Millennials are independent, they are internet-savvy, and they’re on the lookout for special travel experiences. That’s where travel agents come in.

Travel agents can be a great resource to tap into what’s new and unique in the travel market. We go out of our way to tailor each trip to the client.

A Better Travel Experience

A 2016 study from the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) found that 34% of millennial travelers have booked a trip through a travel agent. These days, travelers have tried it all—booked direct, booked online through a third party, consulted travel agents. There’s so much information online, it can be overwhelming to sort through what is genuine and what is merely a cookie-cutter package. Agents know the industry inside and out, and understand what might work according to particular travel styles. Those who have worked with travel agents report a better travel experience overall when tapping into an agency’s resources and know-how.

Great for Groups and Niches 

Millennials also tend to travel in groups more these days than ever. They fly home or abroad for bachelorette parties, reunions, weddings, etc. Agents listen to what clients need and manage accommodation, transportation, fun activities and group discounts.

Agents are also helpful especially for niche travel and exotic locales. Travelers looking to ride a riverboat down the Amazon jungle, take a gastro-tour of Vietnam, swim with the sharks, or enjoy a Namibian safari, would certainly benefit from agents who can offer decades of knowledge, exclusive discounts and a personalized, human touch.

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com to speak to one of our travel agents today!

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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. 

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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. 

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Filed under Africa, Europe, Namibia

Photos from South Africa 2015 are up!

This past May, our agent Nancy was invited by Giltedge to a two-week educational trip to South Africa. With the help of expert guides and service, she explored winelands, toured exquisite hotels, and hopped out on a couple spectacular safari drives through the Leopard Hills Game Reserve.

Check out her photos from the trip, now up in our Gallery!

Willamette Intl Travel has been organizing trips and escorting clientele to Africa for decades. We highly recommend Giltedge Travel for their exceptional service and customizable tours through South Africa and beyond. Call us to learn more: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Africa, Giltedge, South Africa, Vendors