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Zambia: Q&A with Grant Cumings

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This month’s T+L includes my feature story on Zambia, which some (like me) are calling Africa’s next great safari destination. One key reason: the lodgings themselves. While big-name international safari companies have made inroads in Zambia, the field is still defined by intimately scaled (and decidedly un-corporate) bush and river camps, which hew to a more authentic, back-to-basics feel, while still offering a “luxury” level of service. Many of these properties are owned and/or operated by native Zambians, who bring a decidedly personal touch to the endeavor. Case in point: Andy Hogg, co-founder of the Bushcamp Company, whose six stylish camps in South Luangwa National Park are profiled in my story. Then there’s Grant Cumings, whose family runs two excellent properties, Chiawa and Old Mondoro, in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park.

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Zambia: Packing for Safari

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As I prepared for my Zambian safari last fall, it wasn’t so much the hippos and crocodiles that worried me; it was the prospect of fitting everything I’d need (clothing, boots, camera gear, binoculars, etc., etc., etc.) into a single 25-pound duffel bag. That’s the typical (I say cruel and unusual) baggage limit on the tiny planes that deliver you into the African bush. And if you already suffer from a chronic overpacking disorder, the whole predicament can send you into flop sweats. After much worrying and winnowing down, I somehow made it work—with 2 pounds to spare, no less. (See below for my packing list.)

My other concern on safari? Looking like a total dork. As any veteran can tell you, there’s not exactly a surfeit of stylish options for safariwear (good lord, the very word). It’s a bland-on-beige world of elastic waistbands, unflattering pleats, and “patented anti-wicking fibers” the texture of Hefty bags. Then again, wearing a J. Crew polo and jeans on a bush walk makes you look (and feel) even sillier. Surely there was some happy medium—comfortable, practical safari clothing without the doofus factor?

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Zambia: Africa’s Next Great Safari Destination

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This month's Travel + Leisure includes my feature story about a 10-day safari in Zambia that I experienced last fall. I’ll be posting additional material on my trip all week here on the blog—and you can visit T+L’s Facebook page to see a slideshow of my safari photos.

I’m grateful to have a pretty great job here at T+L, traveling the world and writing about it and whatnot, but I have to say: I can’t recall a journey I full-out loved as much as this one. Zambia was my first safari—my first visit to Africa as well—and I’m now kicking myself for not having done it sooner. Since returning home I’ve driven my wife and friends crazy by raving 24/7 about Zambia and how amazing it is. Forgive me. It’s hard to come down from a trip like that.

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"Inspire, Educate, Raise Awareness, and Transform": Q&A with the Founders of Epic Road

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Mark Lakin and Marc Chafiian believe that travel can not only change a person, but the world. Longtime friends and world travelers, Lakin and Chafiian saw a major hole in the luxury travel market: High end packages that combine philanthropy with luxury. Together, they created Epic Road, a New York City-based luxury travel boutique that creates customized holidays combining adventure travel with charity and conservation work in Africa and the Arctic.

We sat down with the Lakin and Chafiian in their photography-filled gallery in Greenwich Village to talk about distributing solar powered lights to locals in Africa, transformative travel, and running from wild elephants.

What makes Epic Road different from other travel boutiques?
We try to blend experiences. Our clients will go on an incredible safari, and then on top of it they’ll have a humanitarian or conservation experience that’s meaningful for all parties. We find that people get very excited about it. Our real hope is that our clients' trips become a catalyst  for understanding, for empathy, and that we can create a movement for the issues we’re addressing when clients come home. Our thing is about positivity. It’s about going into a place and having fun, having an adventure.

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Trip Doctor New Year’s Resolution: Saving for a Safari

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In 2012, I crossed one major dream trip off my list: a gluttonous tour of Italy, focusing on agriturismos throughout Emilia Romagna. And while it may take more than a year for me to save up for the next dream trip, I’ve resolved to start planning—and more importantly, putting aside the cash—to make it happen.

The destination and length of my trip are to be determined—but I know I want to safari in good company, particularly with friends who call Zimbabwe home. We’ll likely spend a few relaxing days in Harare before taking off on a game-tracking adventure, likely in nearby Zambia or South Africa. I've already started mining our recent safari planning guide to get a sense of cost, but even with friends on the ground, I know this vacation won’t run cheap. Here, a few tools that will help me start saving.

•    MyTab.co: The Italian getaway was only possible with the help of my honeymoon registry. I won’t be getting married again in 2013 (phew!), but birthday and holiday presents can still go into my travel fund. MyTab.co serves just this purpose, allowing users to collect money (from gifts and from personal savings) that must be used for travel. The best part? A “match my cash” program that earns users discounts on flights and hotels.
•    Mint.com: My husband and I have used Mint.com since merging bank accounts, but I’d love to maximize its potential in the new year. The tool, which analyzes where your money goes, can help me pinpoint areas where I can spend less (taxis, mid-week lunches)—then, it’ll show me how much leftover cash I have at the end of each month.
•    Miles, miles, miles: Getting to southern Africa will represent a large fraction of my total trip costs. I’ve been collecting miles, and will continue to do so, but if you’re not, check out this handy graphic from NerdWallet.com, which outlines the great sign-up bonuses that travel cards shell out for new users. Signing up for a card can earn up to 40,000 points—almost half of what you’d need for a long-haul flight on most airlines.

What trip are you saving for in 2013? Do you have tips we should add to our list? Let us know in the comments!

Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.

Photo courtesy of Micato Safaris

Did You Check That Camel's License?

Did You Check That Camel's License?

Good news: Camel safaris have entered the 21st century.

The Times of India reported the other day that officials in Jaisalmer, in India's Rajasthan, are implementing a user-friendly way of booking one of the popular, days-long camel safaris in the neighboring Thar Desert: pre-paying beforehand, the same way you would pre-pay for a taxi at a train station.

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Don’t Pet the Animals: Planning a Family Safari

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When I began to plan a trip to Kenya, I knew my elegant “Out of Africa” fantasies would have to wait. We were going to Kenya as a family, and traveling with two boys, ages seven and eleven, pretty much precludes “elegant” anything. Still, I had hopes for close encounters with big cats, and sundowners with my husband while we gazed over vast expanses of savannah, perhaps with a picturesque giraffe in the distance.

And in fact while we did not attain Baroness Von Blixen levels of sophistication, we did manage something almost as wonderful: our family safari bridged that sometimes painful gap between “family trip” and “vacation,” and resulted in what our older son described as “the most epic vacation ever.” 

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Just Back: Exploring South Africa with World's Best Winner Micato Safaris

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We here at T+L know that our readers are the savviest around. So when I decided to go to South Africa essentially on a whim with three weeks’ notice, I decided it would be prudent to leave the trip planning to the experts. And if Micato Safaris’ impressive showing in our annual World’s Best Awards is anything to go by—they were voted Top Safari Outfitter for the ninth year running in the 2012 survey, out in the August issue—they must be the best.

The Micato experience begins before you’ve even boarded your flight, with the delivery of a mammoth safari bag filled with a bound itinerary, helpful packing list, and some gifts (a handy flashlight and a stylish passport holder), all wrapped in animal-print tissue paper to get you in the safari spirit. But even for someone like me, who likes to plot out every detail on my trips, it was nice to surrender myself to someone else’s expertise for a week and let them handle the logistics.

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Wake Up (and Tune In) to Wild Africa

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It's one thing to watch a herd of wildebeest thundering across an obscenely large, 3D flat screen dangling precariously from your living room wall. It is quite another to witness the Great Migrations in the flesh, accompanied by the sweet smell of your morning coffee swirling with the kicked-up dust from the Serengeti plains as the high-pitched trumpets of young elephant calves (or grunts from those numberless gnu) waft into your bedroom.

Toss away that remote. Two new properties, new to Tanzania and Kenya, obliterate the "Channel" and key in on the "Discovery" of the African wild.

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Contest Watch: $9K Safari, 12-day Euro Vaca + More!

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March comes in like a lion (luxury safari anyone?) and out like a lamb (a wool beret from a Parisian boutique!) with this month’s globetrotting Contest Watch.

Kenya: iExplore.com Photo Safari Contest
Enter by April 22, 2011


The frequent T+L Best of the Web winner, iExplore has kicked off a new contest for shutterbugs. Simply visit http://photocontest.iexplore.com/, register, upload your best photograph, and then spread the word. Site visitors can vote for their favorites, advancing a group of 20 photographs to the finals. A panel of nine award-winning travel photographers and media writers will pick the winner.

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