Tag Archives: safari

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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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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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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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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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.

Mombo

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

Xigera

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

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

NORTHERN BOTSWANA

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

Linyanti

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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