5 of the best…Luxury wellness holidays

From educational eco-forest walks in Bali, to dining on nutritious organic cuisine grown in New Zealand, Paul Joseph, co-founder of wellness holiday specialists Health and Fitness Travel, picks five healthy eco-friendly holidays to make you feel more connected to yourself and nature…

These luxurious wellness retreats boast superb eco-design and green-friendly awards, meaning you can travel abroad happy in the knowledge that these retreats actively support sustainable tourism.

[gdl_gallery title=”Wellness” width=”115″ height=”110″ ]

Italy: Lefay

Situated on the shores of magical Lake Garda, this eco-friendly holiday destination values the connection between personal and environmental wellness. From the heat insulation and local natural materials used in the eco-designed architecture, to the use of renewable alternative energies, Lefay actively promotes eco-sustainability. Begin your holiday boosting your health and fitness by personalising your stay with activities from personal training to Pilates and Tai Qi. Ideal for a singles holiday, make the most of complimentary group fitness classes from yoga to circuit training, before unwinding with a relaxing spa massage.

New Zealand: Aro Ha

Encircled by New Zealand’s stunning Southern Alps, luxury wellness retreat Aro Ha fuses eco-friendly accommodation with self-sufficient cuisine, using locally produced organic ingredients from their on-site garden. Enhance the connection between yourself and the environment around you with sub-alpine hiking and kayaking across the lake to the natural bird sanctuary of Pigeon Island. Complement TRX, yoga and meditation sessions with daily therapeutic spa massages and unlimited use of the water therapy suites, to ensure you return home in optimal wellness from this breath-taking eco-friendly holiday destination.

Bali: Zen

Escape to this luxury holistic and eco-friendly wellness holiday destination in Bali, surrounded by pristine tropical gardens. This green retreat offers a range of healthy cuisine, using only the freshest ingredients, with fish caught in the nearby sea and fresh fruit and vegetables grown at the on-site farm. Get closer to nature with a sunrise dolphin sail, rice field trekking and educational eco-forest walks to learn more about local wildlife, flora and fauna. Escape the stress of everyday life with sunrise yoga, sunset mediation and holistic spa treatments.

South Africa: Karkloof Safari Spa

Working with environmental and wildlife professionals to restore the region to its natural splendour, the surrounding eco-system of the eco-friendly Karkloof Safari Spa in South Africa, is happily once again home to a diverse range of indigenous fauna, flora, wildlife and birdlife. The perfect destination for a luxury spa holiday, enjoy indulging with unlimited spa treatments using natural ingredients, from a Maldivian black pepper scrub to a coconut body polish. Explore your natural surroundings by hiking, fishing, mountain biking and spotting local wildlife with private guided safaris.

Greece: Porto Carras

Make a healthy getaway to the white sandy beaches of northern Greece where this eco-friendly holiday destination boasts Blue Flag beaches and respected awards such as the Green Key Eco Label. Using natural ingredients for relaxing therapies, such as mud and clay treatments, pamper yourself at a choice of two luxury spa centres. Ideal for a fun-filled activity holiday, relish in the variety of sports and activities you can enjoy from tennis to windsurfing and meditation. Take advantage of complimentary group fitness classes, including yoga and aerobics, to improve your fitness levels and leave you feeling renewed and revitalised.

For advice, guidance and booking visit www.healthandfitnesstravel.com or call 0203 397 8891

About the author: Paul Joseph is co-founder (with Adam Heathcote) of Health and Fitness Travel, the leading experts in tailormade healthy holidays worldwide. He searches for the rare and hidden gems around the world and puts together exclusive and trend-setting holidays for those who would like to improve or maintain their health and fitness whilst on holiday. As well as a love of all things travel, Paul’s other love is exercise, cycling and yoga. Paul also contributes to the travel pages of various high-profile newspapers and magazines where he offers his expert advice on wellness holidays.

Go behind the scenes helping rhino on a South African safari

Ever wondered what it’s like to work on a rhino conservation project? This new trip, supporting the charity Helping Rhinos, not only offers the excitement of a safari but also allows you to go behind the scenes with rangers in the Kruger National Park region.

[gdl_gallery title=”Rhino” width=”120″ height=”110″ ]

Poaching of endangered rhino is a big problem in South Africa. The charity Helping Rhinos runs a community project to help combat the problem in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve on the edge of the famous Kruger National Park. The project is involved in the tagging and tracking of rhino, training rangers, and working with local communities to raise awareness of wildlife conservation. On this safari trip guests will get a fascinating insight into life as a conservation ranger, learning bush skills and following their work as they monitor rhino out in the field. With every booking of this trip, tour operator Native Escapes will make a donation to Helping Rhinos.

Alongside the awesome rhino, you’ll also get the chance to spot the ‘Big Five’ on various drives, day and night, and walking safaris. Timbavati has been dedicated to conservation since 1962 and is now characterised by strong populations of cheetah, lion and leopard, as well as large herds of elephant, buffalo and wild dog. The region is also home to the famous ‘white lions’ known only to occur in Timbavati.


Over the nine day trip you’ll be staying at two different safari camps. The Tandu Tula Field Camp in Timbavati is relatively luxurious but has the style and feel of a bygone-era camp of the old explorer days. The non-permanent camp has been designed for minimal environmental impact with its four custom-designed tents and communal mess tent hosting a total of eight guests. Each tent has military-style camp beds, open-air bathroom with hot water bucket shower and eco loo – all part of the ‘out in the field’ experience!

The next half of the trip transfers to the Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge in Kruger National Park, where real safari luxury awaits. Six stunning ‘beehive’ style air-conditioned suites house king-size beds, en-suite bathrooms and outdoor showers. The stylish interiors, fabrics and artworks have been sourced from the local Tsonga community. From the lodge deck, you can watch animals gather at the nearby watering hole or as night draws in exchange stories around the communal campfire.

The Helping Rhinos Exclusive Safari runs from 31st August to 8th September 2014 (inclusive).

For full details, including full itinerary, prices and booking, visit www.nativeescapes.com

Touring with The Township Sisters in Cape Town

Guest blogger Rachel Watson takes a walking tour of Cape Town’s townships with new guides The Township Sisters…

The township name Masiphumelele means “we will succeed” in Xosha (one of South Africa’s 11 official languages) and the residents are doing just that. From the corner barbershop to the ice cream store, the library to the township pub, Masi (as it’s known for short) is a bustling, welcoming community waiting to be explored.

[gdl_gallery title=”Township” width=”115″ height=”110″ ]

I toured Masi with The Township Sisters, friends Ali and Mandy who have come together to help visitors to Cape Town experience a township tour through local eyes. They offer walking tours, guided by local people who have grown up in Masi and therefore give visitors a unique insight into the township – telling stories, introducing you to members of the community and leading you around as only a local can.

We met girl friends perfecting a Beyoncé dance routine in the community hall, teenagers catching up on homework in the internet cafe, a lady hand printing cotton tablecloths to be sold, children playing in the street… and all had a smile and a wave, a friendly greeting for the visitors to make us feel instantly at home in their community.

The Township Sisters’ tours are on foot, meaning that you’re right in the heart of the action – no soulless tour bus here, no peering out of a window and passing through without getting a true feel of the place. The comparison between here and the five star waterfront area of Cape Town couldn’t be more stark, but the friendliness and warmth in Masi shines through the comparable harshness of the living conditions. Taking a tour with The Township Sisters was a highlight of my time in Cape Town, and a unique experience.

Recommended for… Anyone who wants to experience a township tour in Cape Town, from a local perspective.

Be aware that… It’s a leisurely stroll so no particular level of fitness is necessary, but as the tours are on foot people with mobility issues may struggle.

‘Good’ credentials…

  • Touring on foot rather than in a vehicle makes the tours much more eco friendly
  • The Township Sisters support community projects in Masi – such as the local crèche – by arranging sustainable donations such as blankets, furniture and uniforms.
  • Tour guides are recruited from local people, providing jobs for members of the Masiphumelele community


For more information about The Township Sisters, visit their Facebook page here

About the author: Rachel Watson caught the travel bug during her gap year in 2002, and has no plans to stop exploring! She works in Customer Operations and blogs about her travel experiences in her spare time. Visit Rachel’s blog at http://dancing-like-no-ones-watching.blogspot.co.uk/ or follow her on Twitter @RacheyRoo183

World’s 10 most extraordinary places to stay

Ever wanted to spend the night in a lighthouse in New York state? A treehouse in Laos? Or a cave hotel in Turkey? These are just three of the 10 most extraordinary places to stay in the world – according to travel experts Lonely Planet.

To accompany the launch of their first ever collection of world’s best hotels, Lonely Planet has revealed its top 10 list of unusual accommodation choices. We reported the Lonely Planet ‘eco accommodation’ list last week and now pick out some of the Goodtrippers-friendly options on the ‘extraordinary’ list: here are our picks…

Planet Baobab, Gweta, BotswanaPlanet Baobab, Gweta, Botswana

Second in Lonely Planet’s list, this funky lodge is a must if you’re visiting Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. You can choose to stay in a traditional mud hut (en-suite and adorned with art made with the natural pigments found in the many termite mounds in the area), or a traditional grass hut (en-suite and constructed using the same methods as the original bushmen of Botswana). If you fancy it, camping facilities are also on offer. Walkways wind through the baobabs (which are lit up at night) to a pool and bar-restaurant. Spot meerkats and elephants while you sip your sundowner…


Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, AustraliaPeppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania, Australia

No. 5 in the Lonely Planet list, this eco-friendly lodge is located on the edge of the spectacular World Heritage site Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Cabins are nestled privately in the bushland, with wallabies bounding past the windows and wombats shuffling amid the trees. Locally sourced game, wine, cheeses and honey permeate the restaurant’s menu, one of Tasmania’s best. The view from the spa is a dense thicket of King Billy pine trees. Guests can choose from couples’ or family cabins, right up to suites with private outdoor tubs and fuel-efficient fireplaces.


Free Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, CanadaFree Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, Canada

Treehouses for grown-ups! These fantastic handmade orbs, suspended among the tall trees of west coast rainforest, are kitted out like cosy boat cabins inside (mod cons including iPod docks all present and correct) and are accessed by rope walkways and spiral ladders. You’re encouraged spend time in your swaying sphere to immerse yourself in the local wildlife – the chattering birds and squirrels, now on your eye-level. The site also has showers, a sauna, kitchen and barbecue.


Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South AfricaThonga Beach Lodge, South Africa

This luxury resort by the beach is environmentally-friendly and remote – it’s one of few such lodges within the 328,000 hectare iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its spacious huts are scattered through dune forest, some with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. Whales frequently pass by, and Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles nest on the nearby beaches. Take a nature trek with a local expert, a deep sea dive, or simply relax in the spa or indulge in the lodge’s fresh seafood and salads.


The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, LaosThe Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos

Completing the Lonely Planet top 10 is this outstanding experience in Laos. Imagine waking to the sonorous call of the endangered black-crested gibbon, stretching in your bed a hundred feet up in the triple canopy, and nursing a coffee on your balcony as you watch the dawn mist crowd in over the jungle valley below. The tree houses, erected by conservation group Animo, are a thing of wonder straddling the giant trunks of strangler fig trees. You have to take a zip wire to ‘fly’ into your night’s accommodation! Dinner is delivered fresh from the nearby campfire, and music is the ambient sound of cicadas as fireflies dance in the night air.


The full Lonely Planet Top 10 Extraordinary Places to Stay

  1. Mihir Gahr, Rajasthan, India
  2. Planet Baobab, Gweta, Botswana
  3. Prendiparte B&B, Bologna, Italy
  4. Qasr Al Sarab, UAE
  5. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, Tasmania, Australia
  6. Free Spirit Spheres, British Columbia, Canada
  7. Taskonak Hotel, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey
  8. Thonga Beach Lodge, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa
  9. Saugerties Lighthouse, New York state, USA
  10. The Gibbon Experience Treehouse, Bokeo Reserve, Laos


You may also be interested in the Lonely Planet’s top 10 eco stays


Lonely Planet reveals 10 best eco hotels

To celebrate the launch of its first ever collection of the world’s best hotels, travel experts Lonely Planet have revealed its 10 best eco-friendly places to stay.

The list features a diverse selection of eco accommodation, as chosen by a panel of travel experts, from Lapa Rios in Costa Rica and Maison Anglaise in Morocco, to Bunlungula Backpackers in South Africa and Earthship Rentals in New Mexico, USA. All 10 of the outstanding eco-friendly places to stay have made impressive strides to minimise their impact on the environment and have made positive contributions to their local communities.

Lonely Planet’s collection of the world’s best hotels, also includes a top 10 ‘Extraordinary’ places to stay, and a top 10 ‘Best Value’ places to stay list.

[gdl_gallery title=”LP eco” width=”120″ height=”110″ ]

LonelyPlanet.com editor Tom Hall was part of the expert panel who selected the finalists. He said, “We’re delighted with our first ever list of top hotels. This collection is one of a kind we believe, as it is put together by the most well-travelled people on earth. At Lonely Planet we’ve been giving recommendations to travellers about where to stay for 40 years. Our guidebook authors provide their honest opinion and never take freebies in exchange for positive coverage, so you can trust our reviews.”

The Lonely Planet ‘Eco’ list in full:

1. Lapa Rios, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica – This lodge lies in a private nature reserve that serves as a buffer for Costa Rica’s remote Parque Nacional Corcovado. It consists of 16 gorgeous bungalows with four poster beds, garden showers and private decks. Simply put, this is the promised land for nature lovers. (Read our Lapa Rios review here).

2. Bulungula Backpackers, South Africa – Feel like one of the family at this community-driven lodge. Bulungula Lodge is nothing more than a group of traditionally designed rondavels owned in partnerhsip with the adjoining community, but a stay here is an immersive experience. This is a place to unwind and disconnect, completely solar and wind-powered, and where a menagerie of animals wander the unfenced property.

3. Chole Mjini, Chole Island, Mafia Archipelago, Tanzania – Get back to nature with a treetop stay at Chole Mjini. This lodge is like nowhere else along the Tanzanian coast. Accommodation is in imaginatively designed tree houses – simple, chic and nestled amid the vegetation for maximum privacy. A short walk away are vine-covered 19th-century ruins, and beyond that, a lively village.

4. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Aguas Calientes, Peru – In the heart of a patch of restored Andean cloud forest, is this hotel in the form of whitewashed cottages, scattered through a 12-acre site. The rooms are full of Peruvian fabrics, ceramics and art, but the real enchantment is the forest itself, a stupefying ecosystem of butterflies and birds, not to mention the world’s largest collection of native orchids.

5. EcoLodge Chepu Adventures, Chiloe, Chile – Perched on an overlook peering oEcoLodge Chepu Adventures, Chiloe, Chileut onto three rivers and 140 sq km of sunken forest, is EcoLodge Chepu Adventures. The owners have designed everything at this eco-fierce property with the end goal of complete self-sufficiency, from infrared solar showers, to wind-generated electricity. Green-conscious travellers cannot get enough of the mystical kayak trips at dawn, the views and the barbeques.

6. Maison Anglaise, Taroudant, Morocco – Watch the sunset from the roof terrace of this tall medina house in the walled market town of Taroudant. Maison Anglaise is an excellent place to learn about Berber culture – the English-speaking staff organise visits to rural villages and schemes the guesthouse supports, including soap-making and beekeeping. It has been awarded the Green Key eco-label for its sustainable practices, such as using solar panels to heat water and serving locally grown produce.

7. Earthship Rentals, Taos, New Mexico, USA – If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live completely off the grid, then this is your chance. In the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains near Taos, lies a small collection of buildings that seems equal parts Gaudi masterpiece and Dr Seuss whimsy. These are the so-called Earthships, radically designed buildings made from recycled materials (think old tyres and glass bottles) and boasting impeccable green credentials.

8. Dana Guest House, King’s Highway, Jordan – Jordan’s top bolthole is also home to one of the Middle East’s most amazing views. Dana Guesthouse blends into the sandstone cliff face sitting on the 1,200m-high tip of Dana Nature Reserve. The guesthouse is run by Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, and the staff are highly knowledgeable about the reserve’s natural wonders. The simple stone-clad rooms are designed to invite you to watch the sunrise light up the gorge below.

9. Nuli Sapi, Papua New Guinea – Nuli Sapi is located in a pristine area of mountainous Nuli Sapi, Papua New Guinearainforest-covered islands, tiny traditional villages and teeming aquatic life. The bungalows themselves are simple but comfortable and made entirely of bush materials, with a veranda perched over the water. Aside from admiring the tropical beauty, there’s much to do here. Nuli Sapi is deeply committed to the surrounding communities – locals can take you out bushwalking, snorkelling with manta rays, fishing, canoeing or simply for a village visit where you can learn about traditional cooking techniques.

10. Baikaler Eco-Hostel, Listvyanka, Russia – Siberian log cabin-style dorms, yoga and chill-out decks await you at this hostel. Russia isn’t exactly celebrated for its eco-friendliness, but the country’s only purpose-built hostel on the shores of Eastern Siberia’s Lake Baikal bucks the trend, big time. The enlightened owner has crafted a green sanctuary complete with solar-heated water, triple insulation, an electricity supply generated partially from solar panels, and energy-saving lighting and electrical devices throughout.

For more on the Lonely Planet’s top eco stays for 2014 click here

Have you stayed at any of the Lonely Planet’s favourite eco-friendly hotels and hostels? Tell us what you think…





Volunteer diary (Part 2) – wildlife monitoring in Makalali

Guest blogger James Bailey shares the second and final part of his diary – this time volunteering with Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation in South Africa’s Makalali game reserve (read part one here)

[gdl_gallery title=”Makalali” width=”125″ height=”110″ ]

Monday 12th November
Week one in Africa has come and gone and it was now time to leave Lapolosa Wilderness. We were up, loaded and on our way by 06.00. The destination was to Hoedspruit where were picked up by Rangers from Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation, a volunteer organisation that runs research on the Makalali game reserve.

There was an orientation and briefing before settling into the well-equipped camp. Had the opportunity to get to meet the other volunteers, some of whom had been there for at least a week, others much longer. The ID books came out when a small snake slithered across the porch… A good torch was handy to get from dinner back to the bedroom. This wasn’t to avoid stubbing your toe but to shine into the long grass to make sure you weren’t being watched.

Tuesday 13th November
Up at 05.30 for  06.00 drive: one of my duties for the week was to check the Nissan was road/bush worthy. When it comes to cars I know nothing so I had to pay particular attention when I was being briefed by Ranger Tamsyn. As part of the monitoring services that Siyafunda provides for the reserve we did a set route drive. Another responsibility of mine was to record all sightings and behaviour of pachyderms. Luckily this didn’t include warthogs (who technically fall into the category) there are far too many of them and I was busy enough announcing the GPS coordinates of the general game.

The great thing about having an open camp was that anything can walk through. During the afternoon we had plenty of nyala and warthogs grazing on the fresh growth created by the lawnmower.

For the general game drive that evening I set off in the trackers seat. The drive was very productive from a pachyderm perspective; a herd of ten elephants and three rhino were noted. The rhino came right at the end of the drive and blocked our road. We had to sit there in the dark until these gentle giants decided to move on.

Wednesday 14th November

Lion cubs in South Africa (c) James Bailey

Up at 05.15 for our rhino walk and headed to the northeast of the reserve in the Landcruiser. On finding some tracks (12 hours old) we

set off on foot looking for them. We tracked the rhino for about 2km before losing it in thick bush. We did a big loop around and headed back to the Landcruiser. The whole trip was about five hours, no major game to report, but we did see a boomslang in a tree.

On our return, a leopard relocation team had arrived to trap a leopard that had become too familiar with the camp – it had already taken the resident tabby! They set up a trap behind the common room next to the volley ball court and baited it with an impala caracas.

A great game drive this evening, we spent one and a half hours watching a lioness and her four cubs. Afterwards I played my part in cooking dinner. The whole African experience is having such a profound effect on me, it’s simply making me very happy.

Thursday 15th November
Up at 06.00 and we were taken out to clear a road, I got the tracker seat which is such a great experience, it certainly wakes you up first thing in the morning. We spent the best part of three and a half hours chopping down trees and bushes, lots of knob thorn which made the job particularly hard and painful.

The evening game drive featured only general game. That was until we came across a lioness walking up the road with purpose. She was definitely heading to camp with the not-so-discreet smell of the dead impala guiding her in.

When she reached the clearing she saw the grazing giraffe, wildebeest and zebra – a sight you’d expect on a documentary. She watched them for a good ten minutes before stealthly moving into the thick bush. The game headed from the clearing into the bush but then suddenly came thundering back out having wandered into the path of the lion! Five minutes later all hell broke loose with the lioness launching into the mixed herd. With the hunt right behind the camp it made it very real that were living amongst wild and dangerous animals.

Friday 15th November
Headed off a 06.00 for our morning game drive to monitor buffalo which we located using telemetry. We watched them, and warthogs,

Warthogs in South Africa (c) James Bailey

in the dam for a while before driving on, during which we saw a rhino and calf as well as some good sightings of kudo.

The evening game drive was pretty uneventful but we did see a bull elephant. I spent the whole drive in the trackers seat which was a bit over-the-top for a 3.5 hour stint.

The first group had arrived at our make shift camp site about an hour before us and had got a couple of fires going. They’d chosen a dry sandy river bed. We were given our instructions – go to the toilet in pairs and we’d each have to do two hours sentry duty. However, it never got to that: after our dinner there was a big thunderstorm, one load went home early as with no tents they didn’t fancy getting a good soaking. We followed them about thirty minutes later with the lightning getting very close.

Saturday 16th November
Up at 06.00 – which was a lie-in. Today we were working close to camp on erosion control. This involved shifting trees and bushes that had been cut down to create a clearing to attract plains animals such as white rhino and cheetah. This was all moved down the road to bush pack an area that had previously been eroded. The day was hot, perhaps our hottest at 37 degrees centigrade. I spent most of the day in shady spots around camp chatting and trying to recover from the early morning dehydration and too much sun.

We went out for a short game drive in the evening, under three hours. Didn’t see any high profile game, certainly none that I needed to write up. One highlight of the drive was taking a look around a delapitated lodge which meant I spent the rest of the drive day-dreaming about restoring it to its former glory. A quick change when we got back and then off to a neighbouring reserve, Mahalla, where they run a bar every Saturday night if they’re not too busy with guests.

Sunday 17th  November
Adam took a group into town to visit the reptile park, on the way out, about 100m from the gate there were two female lions sitting alongside their wildebeast kill.

On our return we stopped at the kill, the lions looked stuffed, the two of them were big bellied and panting. Arrived back at basecamp but very jealous of those we’d left behind – they had two bull elephants visit the garden!

That night I stayed up into the early hours talking in the dark and listening to the night. We had a lion roaring to the left and a hyena to the right. Awesome listening to them but the lion was definitely getting closer. With the dead impala stinking in the leopard trap we thought there was a good chance that the lion was making a bee-line straight for us. We made a controlled but not very dignified exit back to our rooms.

Monday 19th November
Accommodation on safari (c) James BaileyUp at about 06.30 desperate not to waste any of the last day in bed. We sat around drinking tea and eating rusks until it was time to go. We passed the kill spot but nothing left from yesterday, the whole carcasse was gone in less than 24 hours.

The long journey home gave me plenty of time to reflect on my trip.  I’ve had a truly great experience in Africa. Whilst I’ve been many times before, this trip has been different. I think it’s the hands on practical experience. It is hard work but I love the daily routine of getting up with the sun at 05.30 and going to bed at 20.00/21.00. The major event of the night being dinner which is an actual social event rather than something spent in front of the telly. The people you’re with are all like-minded and a pleasure to spend time with, they all have their own very distinct personalities and experiences.

I always felt safe in the bush but there are moments when you realise how dangerous things are and you can’t become complacent. Whilst it’s exhilarating you must know the boundaries and respect the animals. Meeting Adam (Australian) and Tamsyn (English) who had both taken a year or two out to study as professional guides has made me think seriously about doing something similar. There’s a very good chance I’ll return to Africa in the not too distant future.

If you missed Part 1 of James Bailey’s volunteer’s diary – read it here

Booking: James’ Siyafunda Wildlife and Conservation project trip was booked via Enkosini, a registered South African trust and a non-profit conservation project of The Lion Foundation. Enkosini works locally and internationally to encourage and promote a positive attitude towards wildlife and to insitute conservation-based employment. They believe that education and collaboration with the local community are keys to conservation.

For booking and further details of all their volunteering projects, visit www.enkosini.com (E: info@enkosini.com, T: +1.206.604.2664)

James Bailey


About the author: A Yorkshireman who lives in London but pines for Africa. Zoo advocate with habitat protection the ultimate, and don’t get me started on climate change nay sayers. Lets off steam through running, cricket and rugby.

Follow James on Twitter via @jhcbailey



[google-map-v3 width=”750″ height=”350″ zoom=”12″ maptype=”roadmap” mapalign=”center” directionhint=”false” language=”default” poweredby=”false” maptypecontrol=”true” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” scrollwheelcontrol=”false” draggable=”true” tiltfourtyfive=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkerlist=”Hoedspruit, South Africa{}animal-shelter-export.png{}wildlife monitoring in Makalali” bubbleautopan=”true” showbike=”false” showtraffic=”false” showpanoramio=”false”]

Volunteer diary – Working on a South African reserve

Guest blogger James Bailey shares his diary of a volunteering project in Lapolosa Wilderness (with a trip to Kruger National Park)

On the spur of a moment I booked a two week adventure to volunteer in the African bush. This meant I could realise my lifelong dream of working on a game reserve. These are a few of my thoughts and highlights from the diary I kept during my first week spent at Lapolosa Wilderness.

[gdl_gallery title=”Lapolosa” width=”107″ height=”112″ ]

Sunday 4th November 2012: A hotel in Johannesburg

I hope they took on board my comments about dietary requirements – ‘all I expect is the opportunity to have a few cold beers after a long hot day in the field and I’m not particularly fussed by beans’.

I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty – building bomas, pulling up old wire and my favourite, walking the fence line. However, I’m most excited by the fact that they tell you to bring a sheath knife. But all I have is a Leatherman which feels a tad inadequate. Not quite Croc’ Dundee standards.

Monday 5th November: Lapolosa Wilderness

Buffulo (c) James BaileyArriving at Lapolosa I was blown away by the scale.The very fact that it is 17km from the main gate to the camp shows how immense this place is at 20,000 hectares. At one point when we crossed the brow of a hill all we could see around us was the reserve – pretty impressive as it includes a mountain range.

My chalet makes the most of the view, whether you’re in bed, on the toilet or taking an outdoor shower. There’s no doubt this way of life is very special.

I joined others at the volunteer house where our guide gave us a good overview of what to expect from our stay. Embarrassingly it took me ten minutes to find my way home. Stumbling about the bush in the dark I must have looked like a complete idiot to the local fauna. Luckily Lapolosa is not a ‘Big Five’ reserve…

Tuesday 6th November

A day of hard graft spent taking down rusty barbed wire fences left over from the cattle ranch days. The job was tough: lots of cuts and blisters along with ripped gloves and clothing, but worthwhile. It’s a tangible and satisfying thing to clean up the reserve for the forthcoming animal introductions.

I discovered that head torches and moths do not go together. I spent the evening pointing a second torch away to attract said moths from my face.

Wednesday 7th NovemberLapolosa Wilderness (c) James Bailey

Today we got to break all the rules; we got to set things on fire! As part of the reserve’s fire management plan we had to burn off two blocks which totalled about six square kilometres. Quite surreal; if you weren’t lighting it, you were putting it out. I must have lit about 1.5km of linear bush. Whilst that was fun it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as beating out the flames that were coming back towards the fire break.

With the whole block contained and about to burn itself out you had something very tangible to be proud of. This was made that bit better by the thunderstorm rolling in to wash all the nutrients back into the soil.

Thursday 8th November: Kruger National Park

We were up at 03.40 for our three-day trip to Kruger. The weather was terrible but it didn’t stop us spotting a good haul of game on our two drives – buffalo, white rhino, steenbok, klipsringer, African hoopoe, pied kingfisher, giraffe, leopard tortoise and elephants.

The elephants came to our lunch stop after pitching our tents. There’s a whole commercial area of curio shops and restaurants overlooking the river where a herd of 14 elephants, including young, were feeding. Walt Disney himself couldn’t have done a better job.

Friday 9th November

Baboon in South Africa (c) James BaileyJust as it turned 04.45 my alarm went off and like clockwork it started to rain again. The drive made up for the early awakening, highlights were leopard, hippo, spoonbill, cheetah, banded mongoose, sable, spotted hyena, lots of elephants, hamerkop, side striped jackal and a bedraggled honey badger. This cost me a bottle of brandy for the guide as that was my number one wish – well, after wild dogs but that wasn’t going to happen…

The tracking of animals in Kruger has met with the information age with BBM, Facebook and Twitter all being used to report sightings. However, to get the best sightings you still have to do a shed load of driving, be in the right place at the right time and know animal behaviour. Our guides did not let us down.

The early mornings are a killer but it does mean that your holiday lasts much longer.

Saturday 10th November

Pretty shattered after the Kruger trip – seeing the ‘Big Five’ is exhausting work – a lioness was spotted on our final drive. Spending time on Lapolosa and at Kruger has reinforced my desire for an outdoor life away from the hustle and bustle of city life – another dream…

Sunday 11th November

Late up this morning as it was our day off, it wasn’t a lazy day though! We went on a long hike in the blazing sun across the property for a cooling swim at Enkosini Falls. A great way to finish my time in the Mpumalanga Province. Tomorrow I head off to Siyafunda Conservation Initiative on the Makalali Game Reserve.

(Part 2 of James’ African game adventure coming soon…)

James’ Lapolosa Wilderness project trip was booked via Enkosini, a registered South African trust and a non-profit conservation project of The Lion Foundation. Enkosini works locally and internationally to encourage and promote a positive attitude towards wildlife and to insitute conservation-based employment. They believe that education and collaboration with the local community are keys to conservation.

For booking and further details of all their volunteering projects, visit www.enkosini.com (E: info@enkosini.com, T: +1.206.604.2664)

James Bailey


About the author: A Yorkshireman who lives in London but pines for Africa. Zoo advocate with habitat protection the ultimate, and don’t get me started on climate change nay sayers. Lets off steam through running, cricket and rugby.

Follow James on Twitter via @jhcbailey


[google-map-v3 width=”750″ height=”350″ zoom=”12″ maptype=”roadmap” mapalign=”center” directionhint=”false” language=”default” poweredby=”false” maptypecontrol=”true” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” scrollwheelcontrol=”false” draggable=”true” tiltfourtyfive=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkerlist=”Lydenburg, South Africa{}animal-shelter-export.png{}Lapolosa Wilderness project” bubbleautopan=”true” showbike=”false” showtraffic=”false” showpanoramio=”false”]