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On Safari with John Stevens

Newsletter - December 2012

2012’s final edition of On Safari with John Stevens sees us wrapping up a great year, with some of the highlights inspiring us to explore even more exciting safari possibilities for our guests next year!

We all appreciate how coming to Africa can change your world-view and John is a great advocate of this. You can watch as much television as you like, but National Geographic has nothing on the reality of Africa’s vast wildness and experiencing it up close and personally is incomparable.

Imagine tracking a rhino, following wild dogs to their den, seeing lions go in for the kill, or walking with elephants… see the never-ending blue sky vistas you only find in Africa, hear the grass rustling as a warm breeze tickles the savannah plains, awake to the sounds of hyena calls and feel that satisfying, dusty fatigue after a full day in the bush. It changes you, being so close to nature, learning how clever it all is, and, above all, understanding your humble place in it…

Join us as we introduce some transformational journeys that may encourage you to visit Africa soon; we look at a wonderful camp and community project in Northern Kenya called Tassia; then we ask what makes a great guide - and just how critical it is to have your very own on safari…

Signature Safaris

We’re busy working on some great ideas for next year’s Signature Safaris. These safaris are personally endorsed by John and will see our guests enjoying the company of great guiding friends and wonderful destinations.

In the meantime, a small taste of what you can expect in Zimbabwe 2013… about an authentic tented safari from Mana to Gonerazhou and the ultimate in safari adventures – John’s “Dream Itinerary” here…

North & South

Milo and Sarah of the Mana Pools Safari Company’s tented mobile camp in the Zambezi Valley in northern Zimbabwe team up with Ant and Rawana Kaschula in Gonerazhou, which is in the south-eastern corner of Zimbabwe for a Bush Camp Combo like no other. Combine rugged, beautiful landscapes with incredible game viewing and walking in the wild… both Mana Pools and Gonerazhou are two areas in Africa that remain truly wild and unspoiled by mass tourism. These vibrant camps, run by young, energetic, passionate people, offer the best in comfort and class on the banks of the Zambezi and Runde Rivers…
This itinerary is best taken between May and November, and is dependent on availability. Please enquire now, if you are interested.

A Great Guides Safari in Zimbabwe

When John was asked to think of his “dream” safari, he of course looked to his homeland for inspiration. Start off in Gonerazhou National Park for a bushcamp experience, then on to Pamushana in the Malilangwe Conservancy for a luxury stay amongst the Big Five. From here, on to Hwange National Park - one of the finest elephant conservation areas in Africa, with up to 30,000 elephants, Mana Pools for some World Heritage magic and then Victoria Falls for a truly spectacular finale.
Dates are October/November 2013 – please contact us now if you are interested as places are limited.

Our Featured Camp: Tassia Lodge, Northern Kenya

Few regions in Africa offer as much diversity as northern Kenya; as Stuart Butler, Lonely Planet author and photographer, describes it… “…a land of vast shattered lava deserts, camel herders walking their animals to hidden oases, fog-shrouded mountains populated by giant-tusked elephants, barren islands crawling with dinosaur-like reptiles, acacia woodlands teeming with wildlife and the jade waters of stunning Lake Turkana. It is also an area of unforgettable adventure.”

Tassia Lodge is set in the Laikipia, a stunning wilderness area, situated on the 60,000-acre Lekurruki Community Ranch. It gives a spectacular and breathtaking view of the Northern Frontier District towards Samburu and is neighbour to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Borana.

This is wild country. It is unlikely that guests will see another visitor for the duration of their stay... Activities at Tassia include night game-drives, helicopter excursions, paragliding, forest walks, bird viewing, bush walks and trips to Il Ngwesi village.

Visit Tassia Lodge online

Tassia Community Projects

Martin Wheeler and Antonia Hall are in partnership with the Maasai community of the Lekurruki Group Ranch (Tassia Lodge). They pay an amount into the community, which increases each year. On top of this, the community receives a percentage of the guest bed night fee and the conservation fee.

Antonia's work with the Mokogodo women and their "Waste not Want not" (WnWn) jewellery project goes beyond financial contributions…

“We now have 165 Maasai women involved in the beading project! The project and sales are growing so quickly that I'm looking into the idea of young designers coming to volunteer at Tassia to work with the Maasai ladies. The aim is to create more funky designs, that will set the women of Tassia apart from others, as well as being a sustainable source of income for them.” Antonia Hall

The twin philosophies behind WnWn are, firstly, to utilise the traditional beading and jewellery skills of the women, thereby creating a sustainable source of income for them.
Secondly, sourcing as much of the raw materials in these products through recycled items, such as trinkets and broken jewellery, donated by supporters of the project.
For instance, discarded bottles are beaded into water and wine decanters, coasters and place mats are beaded in muted colours to suit any interior and fallen branches are carved and beaded for bottle openers.

Other Tassia Projects that might interest you…

SCHOOL PROJECT: Martin and Antonia, through kind donations from guests, have so far built three pre primary (nursery) schools.

ANTI-SOIL EROSION PROJECT: this improves the quality of the environment, allowing grass seeds to be caught and grown in over grazed land. It offers employment and education about land management.

TREE PROTECTION PROJECT: The main big Acacia trees in front of the lodge have been wrapped with wire, to protect them from elephant ring barking which kills the trees.

BIRD OF PREY PROJECT: Martin is a falconer. He has set up a bird sanctuary, taking in injured birds of prey. He nurses them back to health, training and hunts them until they are fit and healthy enough to be released back into the wild. This project provides work for the community in building the enclosure as well as ongoing education about the importance of bird of prey conservation and work for members of staff.

BUY A BRICK: Buy a brick is a concept that Martin and Antonia have developed that enables guests and friends of Tassia to get directly involved with the development of infrastructure.
The bricks are used to build water tanks, water troughs for the community and their livestock, as well as security buildings, outposts and schools.
The soil that is used to make the bricks comes from expanding natural wallows, which means that the project has a beneficial knock-on effect on the environment, people and wildlife.

The Importance of a Great Guide

In our newsletters and Signature Safaris, we like to feature John’s friends and associates in Africa’s guiding world, particularly those who have learnt their craft and built up fine reputations over the last 20 or 30 years. Experience is key – and a good reputation is the measure of a great guide.

Suffice to say we are extremely proud of John Stevens’ reputation. It takes years to build up the kind of name that makes a difference to the experience guests can expect on safari.
Generally, a great guide can be described as passionate, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, trustworthy and energetic…

Although Africa’s safari industry retains a high level of guiding standards, some countries better than others, occasionally the odd "Ray Ban Ranger" or "Jeep Jockey" slips through! The ultimate safari experience demands the highest levels of professionalism, but a friendly personality, passion and great knowledge are all part of the package, too.

John Stevens spent 16 years in Zimbabwe National Parks as Warden of Mana Pools and then Warden of Matusadona National Park, followed by 2 years as a professional hunter. He then spent 15 years as a safari guide in Mana Pools and Matusadona, where he still specialises in walking in wilderness areas and tracking rhino on foot, but has simultaneously expanded his portfolio in the last ten years or so into other African safari countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and more. You have only to go with a less capable guide to realise just what a difference that kind of experience can make to your safari…

“John Stevens will be one of the first people mentioned if you ask ‘who are the top safari guides in Africa’? He is the quintessential ‘Zim guide’: a leader in an outstanding generation of bush guides that emerged from Zimbabwe in the 1980s. They seem to share a genetic code: an excitable, boyish enthusiasm for adventuring in the bush, a decided preference for walking or canoeing safaris rather than using a vehicle, brilliant knowledge, amazing tracking skills and the ability to be close to wildlife without confrontation. In short, they give you an intimate, sometimes dramatic, experience of wild Africa.” Roddy Bray

See more from Roddy Bray’s “Great Guides”

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