WOMEN ON THE RUN

SINGITA SABORA TENTED CAMP

SERENGETI GIRLS RUN

GRUMETI FUND

PHOTOS: SINGITA LODGES
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June is when we find ourselves at the tail end of WOOD’s spring fever and tantalizingly close to the start of summer and FIRE’s heat and chutzpah.  Adventure this time of year includes all kinds of outdoor activities, ranging from soft and sublime to bold and potentially punishing.

Nowadays, many sophisticated travelers seek heart-racing action on their trips – from whitewater rafting to mountain biking to scuba diving with sharks. Pushing one’s physical limits not only recharges the personal batteries, but also comes complete with drop-dead-gorgeous scenery, new friends and memories to last a lifetime. Luckily, when it comes to all of the above, Africa’s cup runneth over.

Photo: 2018 Serengeti Girls’ Run; Singita

Which is why we are thrilled to hear that eco-elegant outfit Singita has just announced that entries for the 2019 Serengeti Girls Run are officially open! The exclusive, purpose-driven experience is aimed at raising funds for empowerment programs for girls and women in Tanzania that are focused on providing opportunities for women to become leaders in conservation.

Taking place October 25-30, 2019, the philanthropic adventure includes five all-inclusive days at Singita Sabora Tented Camp and a run that will see participants complete 13 miles daily over three days, traversing some of the most iconic wilderness areas in Africa. The multi-stage event invites runners of all levels to cross the vast plains in Singita’s private concession in the western corridor of the Serengeti, where they’ll encounter an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking scenery at every turn.

Photo: 2018 Serengeti Girls’ Run; Singita

Known as a dedicated conservation brand, Singita has been preserving African wilderness for the past 25 years, with 14 luxury, award-winning lodges and camps across five regions. Its Singita Sabora Tented Camp is an intimate 1920s-inspired explorers camp that embodies the magic of a bygone era. Featuring opulent chandeliers, Persian rugs and bowls filled with fresh roses, it provides a space for the runners to rest and recuperate at the end of every day.

Photo: 2018 Serengeti Girls’ Run; Singita

The all-women Serengeti Girls Run is part of Singita’s signature collection of conservation safaris called “Safaris with a Purpose,” and is held in partnership with the Grumeti Fund to support the empowerment of girls and women in rural Tanzania. Each runner’s participation includes a donation designed to assist in funding numerous nonprofit initiatives, including scholarships for local girls in secondary school, vocational studies and university; training girl mentors and providing life skills and internships; as well as enterprise development training for women and environmental education for girls from local secondary schools.

Photo: Singita Sabora Tented Camp; Singita

Runners are accompanied by expertly trained, experienced anti-poaching scouts from the Grumeti Fund, who’ll keep an eye out for curious animals, while a support team in a shadow vehicle will be on hand to take care of their safety and comfort. The Grumeti Fund is a nonprofit organization carrying out wildlife conservation and community development work in the western corridor of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania. 

More than just luxury by night and the run of a lifetime during the day, the Serengeti Girls Run offers participants various opportunities to engage with the women who benefit from these programs. The day after their arrival, guests can join girls from the local community on a short 2-mile fun run, followed by a career fair where they can share their own inspiring stories with hundreds of girls from neighboring villages.

Photo: 2018 Serengeti Girls’ Run; Singita

During the five-night itinerary, the participants will also visit the Grumeti Fund’s Environmental Education Center, which hosts week-long courses for local students on conservation and minimizing our impact on the Earth, as well as an opportunity to meet the Fund’s anti-poaching team to find out how they preserve and protect the region’s critical ecosystem.
This year’s event will take place from October 25-30, 2019. To book your place, email Katherine Cunliffe, info@grumetifund.org or visit: https://spark.adobe.com/page/Vjz62315LRb1I/.

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GIVE AND TAKE

NAANKUSE FOUNDATION

OOMAANDA LODGE NAMIBIA

Title Image: Omaanda Lodge, Zannier Hotels
Title Image: Rudy & Marlice van Vuuren
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There is hope emerging from conservation efforts in Namibia, and the story of the Zannier Reserve is one of the most inspiring. The reserve was initially intended for development into an urban area, but thanks to the joint intervention of international athlete-turned physician Rudie van Vuuren and his wife Marlice and the Zannier family, the land has been converted into a pristine conservation area. Set on a 7,500-hectare, family-owned swath of land, the Zannier Reserve is blessed with a great biodiversity of habitat and wildlife.

Meet “the Cheetah Whisperer,” Marlice van Vuuren, a native Namibian woman who was raised with an abundance of love for Namibian bush. She has dedicated her life to the conservation of the magnificent animals and people who make Namibia the unique country that it is. Marlice grew up surrounded by the orphaned and injured animals on her parents’ farm where, for more than 30 years, all creatures in need of desperate care have found a haven and the loving touch they so desperately need.


Marlice van Vuuren and Whisky. Photo: N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary

In 2000 Marlice married her perfect match, Dr. Rudie van Vuuren, a man sharing her love for Namibia, its oft-threatened animal species and unique people. Together they founded N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary, Namibia’s only charity lodge, a place where the conservation of animals and culture are interlinked. And true to its name, N/a’an ku sê means “God will Protect us” in that beautiful San language.

Located inside the Zannier Reserve, the N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary provides a safe haven and second chance for countless injured, orphaned and conflict animals. More than just a “run-of-the mill” game reserve, it is a vibrant, dynamic sanctuary that plays an active conservation role in Namibia. An impressive 120 carnivores have been rescued and released in the wild by Naankuse in 10 years!


Rudy and Marlice van Vuuren. Photo: N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary

In accordance with Namibian law as stipulated by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), using captive large carnivores for breeding is strictly forbidden, as is the touching them. At N/a’an ku sê, human contact is limited with large carnivores earmarked for potential release, as habituation of any kind can lower their survival chances in the wild. The Sanctuary’s motto to keep the wild in the wild where possible, and to return the wild to the wild if circumstances allow. Whenever possible, animals are released into suitable habitats – from the smallest meerkat to the largest leopard. Only animals too ill, abused or habituated remain at the sanctuary.


Wildlife Conservation Volunteer. Photo: N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary

With its outstanding reputation, it’s no wonder visitors from all corners of the globe come to N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary in search of enrichment through its impressive volunteering opportunities, which can last anywhere from two weeks to three months at five different sites around the country. Wildlife Conservation Volunteers provide an important resource in caring for and feeding the animals on a daily basis, as well as, helping to maintain and develop the sanctuary. Volunteers feed the animals, take them on walks, prepare the animals food and help with any other projects that may arise at the sanctuary. Although the focus is hands-on animal welfare, there are also educational and recreational activities for volunteers, and all fees help sustain the Foundation’s ongoing work. After all, all work and no play is a big “no no” at N/a’an ku sê.


Sunset at the Omaanda Lodge Namibia. Photo: Omaanda Lodge by Zannier Hotels  

Looking for the perfect place to treat yourself after “doing good” at N/a’an ku sê? Just a short distance away, Namibia’s newest luxury adventure lodge, Omaanda by Zannier Hotels, offers discerning guests not only front-row access to Namibia’s most emblematic wildlife, but also serious rest and relaxation. The experience comes complete with 10 well-appointed round thatched huts along with a cozy bar, spa, boutique and heated infinity pool overlooking the majestic savannah. Guests can take advantage of twice-daily excursions and safaris to top-off their thirst for adventure, including VIP access to N/a’an ku sê and the Shiloh Wildlife Sanctuary.

Photos and Sources: The Omaanda Lodge by Zannier Hotels; N/a’an ku sê Lodge and Wildlife Sanctuary; The African Wildlife Foundation

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At the most basic level, a guide is a person who advises or shows the way to others. In practice, however, being a guide is more than a profession; it is an art that requires creativity, enthusiasm, love for all living things and a lot of patience. To the best of the best out there (you know who you are), the American Revel Traveler says thank you!

Meet GodBless Mamuya.

“Isn’t that enormous heard of elephants a little close?” I asked my guide. In his kind and reassuring way, GodBless whispered back, “We respect the animals and so they will respect you.”

As with any profession, safari guides bring their individual strengths, personality and style to the job. Of course, it begins with enhanced knowledge of wildlife, habitat and everything that falls under that, including conservation, behavior and so much more. And guiding includes the need for exceptional people skills in order to understand the dynamics of dealing with different guests and managing their individual needs and expectations. An exceptional guide doesn’t just find wildlife; he/she makes the moments leading up to the encounter effortless, interesting and enjoyable.

GodBless fits the bill as a world-class specialist who knows his trade, understands the landscape, enjoys people and is proficient at every aspect of his job. Having attended tourism college in Arusha, his native city, GodBless first began his extensive training in tourism and hospitality with Africa’s premier luxury outfit, the Elewana Collection, nearly five years ago.


Photo: Corry Cook

The origin of the name Elewana is the Swahili word meaning “harmony”, a concept that perfectly embodies GodBless, and I will always remember his kindness and wisdom as he guided me and my fellow travelers through Tarangire National Park during a recent stay at the Elewana Collection’s Tarangire Treetops luxury property. During one of our many effortless conversations, he passionately described how Elewana’s Life & Land Foundation is the company’s commitment to responsible tourism, ensuring future generations can enjoy the wonders of Africa and safari adventure.

With the support from The Life & Land Foundation, Honey Guide Foundation manages the Program which focuses on reducing human-elephant conflict through methods of crop protection for local landowners in the Randilen Wildlife Management Area of Tanzania. Elephants frequently leave Randilen and Tarangire National Park to raid crops grown in the villages north of Randilen. This risks not only the livelihoods of local farmers, but also the lives of the elephants themselves, as people often target them with spears to protect their crops. This often creates a negative attitude towards wildlife and conservation among the villagers hence the necessity for a Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Program.

As part of the Program, Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) Toolkits are provided for farmers to deter elephants from raiding. GodBless’ knowledge and care for his surroundings and the wildlife in Tarangire actually inspired me to make a donation, in the form of a badly needed Elephant Horn, one of five key interventions in the HEC Toolkit used to redirect elephants, thus protecting crops and reducing conflict. The horn humanely encourages the majestic animals to turn a different direction, removing them from harm’s way.

Photo: Corry Cook

I learned so much from GodBless, but I know I only scratched the surface of this man who is so committed to his profession, his surroundings and the future of our planet.

The American Revel: Your name is very special. Where did it come from?

GodBless: My full name is GodBless Mamuya. It is a name that came from my grandfather. Before he died, he told me that he chose his name for me because it means, “the one who will come help people.”

TAR: Why did you become a Driving Guide?

GodBless: The bush is my office! I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my working day than at Treetops and in Tarangire National Park. I enjoy sharing my knowledge of nature and animals with visitors from all over the world. And I get to show them my beautiful country. I am very passionate about the wildlife and conserving the environment that we live and work in. Helping in any way to make sure humans and animals can coexist successfully is very important to me. 

TAR: What do you love about Tarangire National Park?

GodBless: The management of the Tarangire National Park is amazing. I am inspired by the dedication of everyone involved in the protection of our wildlife and the enjoyment of our guests. The park is famous for its huge number of elephants, baobab trees and tree-climbing lions. Making a donation to the Land & Life Foundation for equipment and people to support the coexistence of the communities and the wildlife is always welcome.

TAR: When I visit your native Arusha, what should I do?

GodBless: When you visit Arusha, you might go to a small restaurant called Fifi. It has the best hot chocolate.

TAR: What would you like people to know who haven’t been to Tanzania before?

GodBless: Tanzania is a peaceful country with a diverse ecosystem, rich cultures, wildlife, beautiful scenery and warm, welcoming citizens. Warm during the day and cool at night, Tarangire Treetops is the most marvelous place to enjoy and get a good night’s rest on the planet – at least so our guests tell me!

TAR: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

GodBless: I have always wanted to visit New York. After that, I’d see Dubai so I could see the Skyscrapers in person.  

Produced by Corry Cook
Sources and Photos: Many thanks to: the Elewana Collection; The Life & Land Foundation.

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“Conscious travel is a catalyst for social change.” So declares the website for Sweet Bocas, a luxury eco-retreat in Panama that puts serving its surrounding community on par with serving its well-heeled guests.

Set off the shore of its own private island in the pristine Bocas Del Toro archipelago on Panama’s Caribbean coast, Sweet Bocas offers a 15-acre all-inclusive retreat that pays homage to nature, sustainability, relaxation and style. The 20,000-square-foot, 7-bedroom, 3-story handcrafted overwater villa is the vision of former Montreal restaurateur Annick Belanger, who blended first-class amenities with unbeatable seclusion. The villa houses seven suites, a fully-equipped kitchen with culinary team, an espresso bar, entertainment-driven den, living and lounging areas, state-of-the-art gym, infinity pool and yoga studio. Additionally, two lakeside bamboo accommodations provide a tropical “glamping” experience under the stars. 

An exclusive-use property available for one party at a time, it is ideal for those seeking a place to unwind with a group of family or friends. With virtually no neighbors in sight, guests of all ages can experience this private paradise independently or with assistance by the house concierge. That includes getting acquainted with the surrounding marine environment with full use of the 30-foot motor yacht and boats, as well as premium experiences like surfing with world-renowned pro Terry Simms. Of course, there’s plenty to do away from the water as well, including bat cave explorations, indigenous tribe encounters, shaman healing, and more. Speaking of the fruits of the land, the island’s own sustainable gardens, orchards and farms provide the bulk of the ingredients for meals prepared by a world-class in-house chef.[

Photo: Sweet Bocas

Born in Canada and raised in Africa, Annick Belanger created this eco-paradise in order to provide a space for socially conscious travelers to truly engage. Sweet Bocas is a self-sustaining natural ecosystem, known as a permaculture, where sustainability is not just a buzzword. Commitment to guests is matched only by the commitment to the natural environment that envelops every aspect of guests’ stay, from the crystalline water, to the handcrafted teak house, to the farm’s handpicked produce and pure rainwater that guests consume.

That includes opportunities to visit local communities, participate in culturally immersive activities and leave a positive imprint on those that have called these sacred lands home since the beginning of time. Following the footsteps of her father, a pioneer and founder of trade schools and educational vocational programs that impacted many lives, Belanger believes education to be at the core of the mission at Sweet Bocas. 

Under Belanger’s direction, Sweet Bocas operates its own Dreamcatcher Foundation, which works in partnership with local nonprofit Give & Surf to support education and sustainable empowerment for the indigenous community in Bocas del Toro. Prior to 2011, there was just one small primary school offering inadequate education in unsatisfactory facilities in the Bahia Honda region of Bocas del Toro.

Photo: Give & Surf

Today, Give & Surf serves over 1,000 students per week in five indigenous and two local communities. The organization builds schools, staffs teachers, provides transportation to school (especially helpful as kids live in remote mangroves) and funds secondary education and university. More than 40 community development projects have been completed to benefit the communities of Bocas del Toro, with upgrades that include enhanced school buildings and a new community center.

In addition to letting guests shadow Give & Surf professionals during their stay, a stay at Sweet Bocas automatically includes a donation to the Dreamcatcher Foundation. Through the Foundation, the property is able to donate a percentage of every booking directly to Give & Surf. 

All told, Sweet Bocas offers an out-of-this-world escape that packs a punch when it comes to positive social and environmental impact. Heaven? You bet!

Sources: Sweet Bocas; Give & Surf  
Photos: Many thanks to: Sweet Bocas; Give & Surf; Nicholas Giombi For Photographers Without Borders 2015

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