BREAKING NEWS 2022

Dedicated Wildlife Photo Tours

 

 

Add a wildlife safari in Africa onto your Zanzibar scuba diving tour

2022 has has a great start! The WHO have declared that this is the year that Covid Ends. So to celebrate, we are launching a series of escorted and self guided wildlife photography tours.  We are smashing this year with the launch of new tour packages in Kenya with acclaimed Photographic host Sara Jenner and guided Scuba Tours by Raf Jah in the Maldives and the Red Sea.  For those seeking their own path, we have camera clubs from as far away as Canada visiting Kenya.  There is literally so much going on right now, that we barely have time to update the website before packing for Male and Tanzania.  Raf has ordered a new Nauticam housing for his Nikon D780 , from Jussi Mike’s Dive cameras. As soon as it arrives we will be hopping on Turkish Airlines to Istanbul, Africa and the Maldives.

FLIGHT BOOKINGS HELP

Through our professional booking portals we have always had some awesome flight deals. We  know exactly how to get the best possible prices for business class and premium economy. It is often a case of where you book from, and how you book it. For example the BA website can have a sale on for Qatar Airways flights, that are 30% cheaper than on the QR website. It’s all all about how and where you search and the website you use to book!

Always ask us to help you find the best flight connections for your wildlife or dive safari tour. This is why we are here.

Ozkan the Onboard Chef on Turkish Airlines BKK-IST

NEW OFFERS FOR  LUXURY NAMIBIA

 

We have been offering customised Namibia tours which are full of wildlife, history and stunning landscapes, but now with new partners who have easily weathered the Covid Debate. Our epic journeys take you through Etosha National Park and the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Our exclusive 14-day Namibia safari tour that takes in the Skeleton Coast, The Namib-Naukluft and Etosha National Parks and introduces you to the Himba people.

 

 

 

SCUBA DIVING IN YAP ISLAND

Yap and Palau

Aside from the customised tours for Namibia, we are looking forward to late 2022, and our new dedicated manta ray and shark diving package for Yap Island in Micronesia.   Why yap, you may ask? well Yap is the best connected of the most remote nations on earth. That means that it is in the middle of the pacific Ocean, its the most magical small island on and yet it has  connections to Palau and Guam every week. So you can get there, but its quiet! The Second reason? Well the diving in Yap is absolutely spectacular, with resident Manta Rays and schools of sharks and pelagics.  What about the water you ask? The water visibly  in Yap is nearly always 50m. Ok so thirdly, where do you stay? Well Yap island boats a world class small boutique dive resort called “the Manta Ray Bay Hotel.” Fifth good reason to go to Yap? Yap Divers is a world class, full service dive centre. As Raf says, “Once the plane has left, you are the only tourists on the Island of Yap“. That means its you and incredibly friendly people until next week! Reasons six and seven Yap is safe, clean and welcoming. And the final reason to visit Yap? It is packed with history and culture.

Oh and did I mention that Yap Island is the home of schooling resident Manta Rays? In the Tzimoulas passage and Stumptish, you can find families of Manta Rays for most of the year. They do move from one side of the Island to the other, but other than that, they will be on one side of the reef or the other. Manta Rays are majestic creatures, and Bill Acker, the owner of Yap divers and the Manta Resort knows each and every one of them. Hang out with Bill and have a beer on his restaurant ship the Mnuw and ask him about the Yap he has known since 1977.

 

WHY TRAVEL NOW?

We believe that it is our moral duty to help developing nations to build their economies through tourist traffic. Covid has hammered oour friends and partners around the world. They need our help and Tourism helps everyone. From the CEO down to the coffee vendour on the corner, so lets do our bit and start booking our travel to Africa, and Micronesia.

 

Tent
Safari camps can be really quite luxurious

Africa, is it safe? Are safaris running? Can I travel to Africa? Lets find out..

 Africa is open, safe and welcoming, and right now Africa is quiet, so you’ll have large swathes of the park to yourself. There has never been a better time to go. So let’s look at some of the questions that we are asked  about the most frequently.

Walking in Hwange National Park

What parts of Africa are safe to visit?

Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Uganda are all quite safe to visit. Of course all travel has risks, flying to London or New York City has its inherent risks, but in Africa the risk is manageable and we know how to mitigate it. People ask is there Covid in Africa, and the answer is of course yes, there is almost nowhere in the world that does not have covid, but in East Africa the rates are incredibly low. We recently travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to check out the situation, and life was continuing as normal, with masks on in big cities. Staying in a luxury camp, with a constant breeze and going on safari in an open roofed vehicle are probably the safest forms of tourism out there.

What is the best time to go on safari in Africa

The best time to go on safari is tomorrow morning. There are so many agents who will give you specific times of year to go on safari, because they know no better. Africa is massive, when it is raining in Kenya, it will be dry in Zimbabwe. When Namibia is impassable, Tanzania is glorious. Even in Tanzania in the low season of May, when the Serengeti is inundated with water, we can find you a lodge in Ruaha National Park, with so much to see. You may wonder why would you want to visit “out of season” and the answer is so simple, because it is just that- the low season. You will have the parks to yourself. The traditional “best time to go on safari in Africa” is based upon the dry season in that specific country, but there are also huge benefits to seeing the lush grass and foliage during the green season. The key is to allow an experienced operator to plan your trip.

 

Pemba IslandWhich African country is best for safaris?

Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia are the best nations on earth for safaris. Uganda and Rwanda are the best for Gorillas and other primates. Uganda alone has 20 species of primate half of which are rare. Tanzania is the best nation on earth for Chimpanzees, with easy access at Gombe Stream.  If you want a completely wild experience, then Mahale national park is the place to be in Tanzania. Namibia’s desert safaris are a sight to behold, and the elephants of the Okavango delta in Botswana are mightily impressive . All in all, South East Africa is just stunning. Choose your favourite African destination.

Is Kenya good for safari ?

When you take into account seasons, pricing and service, Kenya is amazing. Kenya is offers better value for their top class Kenya safaris. The Masai Maara is the northern extension of the Serengeti and home to the great migration . The lodges are probably the best in Africa and the service in Kenya is the most polished in East Africa. But Kenya’s true wonders are the northern parks of Samburu and Naivash and Nakuru. North West of of Marsabit, you have the Chalbi desert and Lake Turkana. Any one of these parks makes for a wonderful combination with the cats of the Masai Mara. When you combine this with the azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean around Mombasa’s long white beaches, you have an incredible combination.

Where to stay in Tarangire

Is it safe to go on safari in Kenya during covid?

Kenya has done a fantastic job of dealing with Covid-19. The numbers are low and the camps have taken extra special measures to ensure client safety.  Kenya has been happily accepting visitors for months. The choice is always yours, but we have clients departing for Kenya all the time. As we said above things constantly change, but Kenya is definitely taking Covid seriously and acting responsibly.

LeopardWhat are Kenya’s  entry requirements during covid

To enter Kenya, you need a negative PCR test within 96 hours of arrival . You also need to fill in an online. This gives you a QR code. Then you need to get a Kenya E-visa prior to embarkation. You can only get the Kenya E-visa with the QR code. (or is it the other way round.) You will need all three of these documents to enter Kenya. When you leave Kenya you will need another negative PCR test to board any serious airline. Reliable and rapid tests can be done in Nairobi. Our safari operators are fully experienced in arranging these for our clients. Results can be had within 12 hours. Costs on average are $120-$130 per lab.

Tarangire Wildlife

Dive Walindi
Sharks can be seen all over the red sea

 

So lets be honest. The last year has been pretty grim. We have had a few postponements, no cancellations, but the world is still turning. Then a month ago, something odd happened. We started getting bookings again. Not from people who were being optimistic about 2021 or ealry 2022, but from  genuine hardy travellers who actually want to go travelling. The UK may have red listed the whole of Africa south of Sudan, but the rest of the world have not. We are coming across more and more fed up people who want to go last minute. We’d be delighted to organise your safari last minute, but please, give us a more than  a week, as in some countries such as Tazania it gets a bit tight  to get all the ducks in a row and organise permits.

 

We are off to Egypt in August. It will be hot, but that is also a benefit. We’ll be diving in the southern red sea on the shoals of rocky, zabargat and daedalus reef. Egypt is still quiet so we hope to have a sedate time with only a few liveaboard dive vessels around us. Then we will head off on a land tour accross to the valley of the kings, Aswan, the temples of Abu Symbel and end up in Cairo. We are so busy, I have not even managed to make up the web page for the tour. So if you want to see the Pyramids and a shark or ten, please send us an email at info@orientafrica.com

 

Until our next report, keep safe, keep well. And if the fancy takes you- keep travelling!

THE MALDIVES. SENSIBLE SAFE AND STUNNING Tourism Never Sleeps

We have been busy over the past few months. The world went in phases of who is open and safe for tourism and who is closed.   Our clients come from all over the world, and so our life is constantly interesting. In fact our biggest business recently is the rebooking and rerouting of clients from one dive or safari destination to another. Its been fun seeing so many people carry on with their lives, dodging adversity. Recently some European and US clients insisted on travelling to the Maldives. This was an escorted tour and so we had to operate the tour ourselves.  You can imagine our consternation  at leaving the UK which was going into meltdown. But we filled out all the forms, had our PCR tests, carried proof of employment and headed out to Heathrow. The Turkish Airlines ground crew were very helpful, and booked our bags all the way through to Male. We boarded the A350 and took off. What struck us as soon as the plane left the UK was the change in atmosphere. The sun came out and the world looked so different .

ISTANBUL AIRPORT

Istanbul Airport, our old friend, was running at 30% capacity, but was busy compared to Heathrow, people were heading to planes, clutching PCR test reports and having them inspected. Istanbul, the busiest airport in Europe during the pandemic, is proof that people are moving around the world safely. We changed planes and had a hot dinner in a superb restaurant, washed down by a really good Turkish white. We then boarded  a comfortable B777-300er for the flight down to Male Atol.

NORTH MALE ATOL
At Male we stayed a night in a guest house and experienced the local culture. The next morning we were collected and joined Blue Force Fleet. Here David, one of the owners took charge of our group and guided us  for a week of stunning diving around the Northern Atolls.  The vessel Blue Force One was very comfortable and the service top notch. In fact I would say it was the best liveaboard we had been on to date.  Our last days on the Safari boat were incredible. We dived with scores of nurse sharks and rays. We had been lucky to share our experiences with some charming people.

The morning of departure dragged on.  Eventually, and after a slightly tedious check in experience, we boarded a battered 20 year-old Dash8-300. We took off and headed south to the southernmost atoll in the Maldives. We passed a British Airways jet that had just landed,  and then I nodded off. I woke, now and again to see the most stunning coral reefs. And then we landed at Gan Airfield. The long runway and most of the buildings were built by the RAF, who occupied the site until 1976. The Astra cinema still sits beside the road, and the tower was the low type favoured by militaries around the world

The streets of Addu were spotless. The people polite and kind. After a snack, we went for a walk, and found dreamy lagoons, tiny clean beaches and watched massive fishing boats go out through the breakwater. We stored our dive gear at the Equatorial dive lodge, and met Mr Rasheed, the owner. His family had been in Gan for generations and his father and grandfather worked on the airfield. He showed us some historic photos of a well-remembered visit by the Queen.

Addu Atoll was a different world. We felt as though we had stepped back in time, to an uncomplicated world, and perhaps a real view of the Maldives. Uncluttered with concrete and with a truly relaxed atmosphere, Addu was a combination between KhorFakan and the South Pacific. A series of islands to rival St Helena  or Pemba in terms of allure.

 

Most people do not come across new/unheard of and barely touched dive locations. If they are lucky enough to do, it may happen once in their lives, I was lucky enough to stumble across the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1995. (And foolishly started a dive centre). In 1998 I found Pemba (and foolishly started a dive centre and hotel). We had the excitement of finding and naming dive sites! I thought that everything had been discovered, found and packed with tourists. And then we found Addu Atoll and my whole take on diving changed.

 

ADDU ROCKS

Marc Kouwenberg the owner of Aquaventure was telling me that Addu was famous for sharks and Mantas. I have seen enough of both, so I was not bothered. What he did not tell me was that Addu, was one of the most special places on earth. This Atoll is one of the final frontiers of global scuba diving. It is host to the healthiest most vibrant coral reefs that I have seen si

nce the first days in Pemba. Every reef is packed with fish. Ripping currents drag us along the walls, which are like gorgonian fan farms. Sharks appear from nowhere and disappear. Manta Rays swim lazily in the passages. Down deeper 300lb tunas swim lazily by. On a safety stop today we had barracuda, turtles, eagle rays and jacks swim past us.  And this afternoon we dived on the SS British Loyalty.  Swimming into the cavernous engine room, the giant Sulzer engine was covered in yellow snapper. Everything here is pristine, untouched, unbroken and on every dive site, we have seen no other divers.

I am blown away to be able to say, that for the third time in my life, I have stumbled upon one of the worlds final frontiers of Scuba diving. And thankfully I am not too disturbed at telling people about it. The 40 seat aircraft that comes here, the tiny guest houses and few resorts will keep the reefs and walls safe for a few more years.

 

 

My return journey took me to India for business that could not be avoided, then through Dubai and Turkey where I worked for a month before returning tothe UK. The whole process took in 14 PCR tests, wearing masks and being careful. The end result was that none of our party, or staff or local sta ff were affected by covid-19. We all took the most sensible precautions and were never blasé.

 

But we are living proof that safe tourism is not only possible, but is continuing regardless of the world shutdown. So we can go, but go safely.

INFORMATION

Blue Force One Package from £1704

Including food accommodation on board , diving, all taxes, tips, local payments etc etc . Flights to Male from £750 Night in a guest house £50

Addu Atol Package  £1967

12 nights in Deluxe Addu Guesthouse B&B, 1 night Deluxe Hulhumale Guest house half board, Maldivian domestic flights ex Male, 20 dives , All airport transfers

Upgrade to Resort Accommodation at the Equator Village (with Bar)  £2553 full board basis including Alcoholic Drinks

 

Mikumi National ParkWE ARE OPEN

Recently someone asked if we were still operating. The answer was of course yes.  We are open and fully operational. We recently conducted a journey across Tanzania to see every park that we offer, inspect safari lodges and see the Chimpanzees of western Tanzania. The journey was sensational, after 5 weeks in a very open and safe Tanzania we flew out of Zanzibar to London. After 5 days quarantine, we took a covid test and and carried on with our lives. The test and release system in the UK was long overdue but worked perfectly. In addition our next tour is to the Maldives which is on a UK travel corridor and does not require any form of self isolation. But again, we believe that by mid to late 2021 all of this isolation business will be history. And the time to travel will be in that golden period when the world is safe and yet the less adventurous amongst us are still at home.

lissenung

FLEXIBLE BOOKING CONDITIONS.

The amount of interest that this trip generated was unbelievable and at this time we are putting together tailor made safaris in Kenya Tanzania, Namibia and Botswana for the 2nd half of 2021. The second question we are being asked is what are you booking conditions? We have a COVID FLEXIBILITY GUARANTEE. If you book after 1st December 2021 then your booking is fully flexible for 354 days if it is affected by the Corona virus. Full details are on our corona information page. But in short, you can book with us and know that if you cannot make it, or the destination temporarily closes, we will look after you, and change your booking. We have a proven track record of changing our clients bookings in the face of Corona and waiving all fees due.

 

Whichever way you look at it, now is the perfect time to plan and book your next safari or dive adventure.

Antarctica

Papuan Village Raja Ampat

GETTING IN TOUCH

So do keep your enquiries coming. And if our phone is busy,  send us a whatsapp message to +447736872259 or email info@orientafrica.com . Due to the demand, we are working every day including Christmas and Boxing day and new years day. There are NO holidays at African and Oriental ltd. Well, except yours that is!

 

Tarangire Wildlife

Tanzania Safari 2020

Moving the office to Tanzania for a month….or so

Many of our friends and clients are working from home right now. Businesses have been disrupted, jobs have been threatened and  life is difficult. It was difficult for us as well, our travel business literally stopped overnight. We have great bookings for so many of you, but only in 2021/2022. As tine went on, we came to realise that more and more people  needed a break.  People were prepared to take responsibibty, get insurance and travel. As you can read below, we came to Tanzania to see if it was ok, to find out, and to break new ground. The safari has not been easy.  Breakdowns,  tiring long drives between locations, cooking in the rain, and dust. We are on a budget and cannot afford deluxe lodges, we camp and stay in cheap guest houses (like the one in Mpanda that I am writing this from). But we feel we are doing the right thing. Here is why: 

Francisca and I have been in Tanzania since the middle of October. Many of you have been following us on facebook or our blog: Karamanju.com .We have been on Safari in Tanzania our own landrover, driving thousands of kilometres from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo, Korogwe, Arusha, Lake Natron, the Serengeti, Mwanza, Kigoma, Gombe Stream, and now south to Mpanda and Katavi. You could be forgiven for thinking that we are on the trip of a lifetime. Far from it, we have simply moved the office from South Wales to the back of a 90 Landrover.

You see, we were getting news that Tanzania had been largely unafected by Covid-19.  This was not just our safari travel suppliers saying this,  but western medical professionals based in the country.  You, our friends and clients have always been a highly educated and adventurous group of people. That is why we are friends with so many of you. You will travel, if you know what the risks are, and you believe the risks are manageable.

We had to put our money where our mouth was.

Tanzania had a brief flirt with covid and then opened up to tourism. The nation was accepting flights and clients without covid testing. People  started to ask questions to which we had no clear answers. We therefore decided we had to put our money where our mouth was, get on an aircraft, and see what Tanzania was like. So much of our business is Tanzania. We had to know, was Tanzania safe, was Tanzania still worth visiting, and more importantly was it feasable. (had the safari operations all shut?).

I wont lie, we were slightly nervous when we got onto the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft, but after 5 hours we were in Addis Ababa, and soon after that we were in Kilimanjaro.  As soon as we landed we felt completely at home. After a couple of days liasing with our friends at the Matembezi company, we flew to Zanzibar for some admin, We then flew back to Dar es Salaam and  picked up our landrover. The ride was not easy, after years of sitting it needed a new cylinder head (in Dar es Salaam) and new bearings (in Arusha). We picked up our photographer friend Sara Jenner and set off north to Lake Natron. After two days in the barren but beautiful place we continued. You can read the whole story here.

As the journey progressed, we saw the migration, soon after that we visited Gombe stream and now we are destined for Katavi and Ruaha national park.

Fly to Tanzania for Unbeatable Value and Safety

As we write this, we have been in Tanzania for just over a month. We have been blown away by the changes since we were last here. The once impassable tracks, are now proper graded earth roads. There is now good tarmac on some of the more remote district roads, trains run on time and often, Air Tanzania, the national airline operates all over the country in brand new Dash 8-Q400’s. The national parks are extremely well run and efficient. Tanzania Safari lodges are open, and a small number of hardened western tourists are here, seeing the great migration from their own private safari car. No one wears a mask, no one seems to be sick. We are not scientists, but we know what we see. Tanzania is eminentyly safer than any country in Europe or the USA. If you want to come on safari, then now is the time, while the numbers are low, the infrastructure is new and the people are desperate for good tourism to restart. Good tourism means tourism that puts money back into society, not just in the hands of a capitaist few.

So now is the time, take responsiblity for your own actions, get on a plane and fly to Tanzania. The people are waiting to welcome you.

Contact info@orientafricatravel.com for your tailor made Tanzania Safari Booking.

Tanzania Post Covid Recce

We just landed in Arusha in Tanzania. We are here to make sure that lodges we deal with are all open and doing well. We need to make sure that the dive centres are maintaining international standards of safety and maintenance. We had been told that Tanzania was barely affected by Covid-19 and that the nation was open for business. What we did not expect was what we found.

Tourists are landing in Tanzania

Our Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner was full. That means packed. There were a couple of middle seats free and that was it. The food was hot and good. We had a choice of wines and a choice of main course meal, in this covid-infested world. Sure all passengers and crew wore masks, but it was like a fully normal flight. The passengers were not traders going home, but tourists. We bumped into tourists from France, Britain and Austria. They were going scuba diving, and sea kayaking and snorkelling. The Aircraft landed in the island paradise of Zanzibar and around 120 tourists got off.

Tanzania Safari tours have re-started.

After a short break, the Boeing 787 took off again and overflew the Pemba Channel  towards Kilimanjaro. We passed over the dark brown earth of Africa and landed at the delightful small airport at Kilimanjaro. We were through immigration with tourist visas in the blink of an eye. The Tanzania immigration service were efficient, polite and very reasonable. (they even allowed some French lad out to get money to pay for his visa). We were some of the first through immigration, and yet our bags beat us. The handling team were super impressive.

But what blew us away were the 100 plus tourists who disembarked and got into a series of safari cars. There were not one big group for I saw cars from quite a few operators.  “how long have the planes been coming full” I asked our driver Hussein.

“For the last month. It was bad, but now the tourists are coming on every flight. We are still nowhere near full, but it is great to have these new numbers”.

A full dreamliner every two days does not mean a season, but it means that tourism in Tanzania has restarted with a vengeance. If you want to book your tailor made Tanzania Safari of a lifetime, then do it now before Tanzania becomes busy again. Beat the crowds, get the best price and book now.

File photo of lions that I took in the Ngorongoro crater in 1998.

Turkish airlines has announced that it will be recomencing flights on the 7th of June. International flights will recommence on the 10th of June. The UK  is being served from Antalya and Istanbul. 

All of this bodes well for the global traveller, as this shows confidence in the world situation. Nations are going from strength to strength in dealing with the Corona Virus, and thus far Turkey has coped extremely well, and tourism is important to Turkey.  

This is not the end, but this is the begining of the end. So now is the time to plan that tailor made tour of Turkey. By the end of the summer we should have some normality and excellent holidays being operated in Turkey.  By the winter safari season, we think that Africa will be buzzing with travellers, photographers, divers and explorers. 


We don’t want you to book now, but please do send us your enquiries and we will do the best to fashion you your own tailor made itinerary. And as soon as the siuation is clearer? You can book your Turkish Airlines flight to your dream destination. 

 

 

The Corona Virus and resulting travel bans have hit all travel and tourism businesses. Over the past few weeks there have been conversations about travel trade bodies lobbying the UK Government to suspend or ammend the UK Package Travel Regulations to ease the cashflow issues of some of their members. As you will have read on the news, some (often large) companies have cashflow issues, and are laying off staff in order to survive.

At African and Oriental Ltd. we keep your money in an account until just before you are about to go on holiday.We only pay out small deposits prior to this. Our financial position is sound, and your money is secure.

We learned, in our 22 years operated in India & Africa, that disasters, political issues and total stoppages of air travel come from time to time. So we are well adjusted to dealing with such testing times. We will get through this, and we will keep you on your adventures.

We will be abiding by the UK’s Package Travel Regulations 1992.

 

Equipment Supplied by Mike's Dive StoreMike Calder was always good to me. He supplied my first ever dive centre when no one else would. He had this motto: Come to Mike’s For the “The best advice and the right price”. He treated everyone as his no 1 customer and built his business on bonhommie and quality service. Both of which were seriously missing in British Retailing in the 1990’s. His death from cancer threw me for six. A big man in the British Diving world (and I mean big at 6’4”!) was gone. Steve Brown, his super competent manager bought the business from Mike’s family and continued the tradition. He was also good to me. He continued to supply me in Africa and now, he helps our clients directly in the UK. Steve moved with the time, and built the online side of the business. Mike’s Waterfront Warehouse, was a warehouse again- shipping to clients all over the world. Steve could not do it alone, and has a wonderful backroom team of advisers, packers and shippers. They are all seriously brilliant. I would say that Mike’s Dive Store is the very best dive shop in Europe.
 
And in case you think that’s a big statement, it is with great pleasure that I can announce that Steve and his team have won the Diver : Dive Retailer of the year award. 

Mike’s Dive Store is official supplier to our Antarctic expedition, providing dry suits, cold water regulators and all sorts of other other excellent kit. So if you would like to grab something for one of our holidays (it does not have to be the Antarctic) then go ahead, follow the link and use the discount code Diveshow10 to get 10% off their already competitive pricing! 
 
Well done from all of us to Steve and the team.