Courtesy Talbot Tours
Say “safari” and people immediately think of sweating in khakis, swatting at mosquitoes and roughing it in tents on the African plains.
Not so, said Serge Talbot, president of Talbot Tours, which has been offering its Kenya Safari Adventure tour for 14 years.
“They think it’s going to be a tough journey; yes, there’s a long flight, but once you’re there, it’s probably more of a vacation than you’ll ever take,” Talbot said.
Guests stay in African lodges that are the equivalent of four- and five-star American resorts, all located at higher, cooler (and relatively mosquito-free) elevations, he said.
Game drives are scheduled when the animals are most active: early morning and late afternoon. Every morning, travelers take a guide-led drive in a safari van through one of the game reserves, where they will spot an “incredible variety of animals,” Talbot said, including lions, giraffes, gazelles, antelope, elephants, baboons, buffalos, wildebeests, zebras — the list of wildlife is endless.
Then guests return to their lodges — one is a tree lodge built on stilts overlooking a waterhole — for breakfast and free time to swim, read a book, walk the grounds or take a nap. Lunch is served before the group heads out again around 4 p.m. for the second game tour of the day, Talbot said.
“That’s your day; it’s incredibly relaxing and enjoyable,” he said.
Talbot offers the 13-day safari about five to eight times each year, and the company has departures in May, July and November of 2014. Talbot Tours usually limits each trip to about 20 to 40 people, to provide “a wonderful experience for each passenger,” Talbot said.
“It’s on so many people’s bucket lists, and they’re not sure why until they’ve been there,” he added. “Everyone talks about trying to provide a ‘wow’ experience. Well, there’s nothing else like this.”
Jo Ann Carr and her husband first started traveling to Nicaragua 18 years ago with their church. They fell in love with the country and the people and started offering Nicaragua trips through Interlude Tours five years ago.
“All the people are very friendly down there; everybody greets you with a smile,” said Carr, president of Interlude Tours. “We fell in love with the people, and that’s why we love to share it.”
Interlude’s nine-day Natural Notable Nicaragua tour, with a TAP guaranteed departure in February, starts in Managua before the group heads north along the Pacific Coast to León. As a university city, León is a cultural hub, Carr said, and is near the World Heritage site where Spanish explorers landed. Spanish colonial architecture is everywhere, including the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, one of Central America’s largest cathedrals.
Groups also visit a cigar-making factory in Esteli and the El Castillo del Cacao chocolate factory in Matagalpa.
From León, travelers spend five nights in Granada, which is home base for the rest of the tour. Interlude’s native, English-speaking guide talks about the city’s history, politics and architecture, and leads guests on day trips to go bird watching, take a boat ride on Lake Nicaragua, visit local artisans, hike around the volcano and zipline through the canopy over coffee plantations.