Top Seven Reasons to Visit Turks & Caicos

Top Seven Reasons to Visit Turks & Caicos

Well known for its turquoise blue waters, Turks & Caicos is the dream destination for all things ocean: snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, kiteboarding, sailing, and sun tanning. This Caribbean British Overseas Territory is an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of the Bahamas. The largest island, Providenciales (Provo) is most well known and most visited due to its pristine white sand Grace Bay Beach and crystal-clear water.

Here are the top seven reasons to visit Turks & Caicos:

Easy access:
Less than a four hour flight from New York, or a ninety-minute flight from Miami, nonstop flights from over 11 U.S. cities land at Providenciales International Airport (PLS). From there, it’s a quick ride to many resorts.

Drivable:
Rental cars are easily picked up right outside the airport, and driving the island is manageable (although on the left side, so be prepared!)

Year-round sunshine:
Turks & Caicos averages 350 days of sunshine a year, and ocean temps stay at around the 80-degree range.

Nature at its best:
Looking for casinos, nightlife, or water parks? You will not find this here – Turks & Caicos’ appeal is getting you up close to nature and the powdery white sand that lines its shores with plenty of secluded, crowd-free beaches.

Abundant wildlife:
An expansive barrier reef protects the coast and supports an abundant animal life including dolphins, turtles, stingrays, and fish, making this the perfect destination for diving and snorkeling excursions. Hop on a stand-up paddle board or launch a kayak to explore the many winding mangrove channels and see first-hand the island’s beauty.

Amazing resorts:
Turks & Caicos natural beauty is complemented by its many first class accommodations. Here are a few of my favorites:

Grace Bay Club: This all-suite property has three distinct offerings: an adults-only section; a family-friendly section; and The Estate, the luxe resort within a resort. The property features a sprawling beach front with open air restaurants and dining for laid back luxury and plenty of elbow room.

Ritz Carlton Turks & Caicos: This newly built luxurious and modern property features beachside dining and pool area, an open-air lobby with a trendy restaurant, bar, and sushi spot, a lux Spa and fitness center plus a kids’ club.

Amanyara: This secluded resort, set in a 18,000-acre nature reserve, has that signature Aman Orient touches throughout. The hotel’s lush tropical pavilions offer quiet seclusion, and the sprawling beach front area overlooks a marine reserve.

Rock House: The island’s newest resort brings Mediterranean cool to the Caribbean. The unique and private hilltop accommodations, some with private plunge pools, are scattered throughout this secluded property. Relax and take in the panoramic views at the 100-foot infinity pool perched on the oceanfront cliff.

Delish Dining:
For a small island, there is no shortage of restaurant choices from world-class gourmet dining (BLT Steak, Coco Bistro, Sui Ren, Grace’s Cottage) to casual local beach restaurants and bars (Mango Reef and Da Conch Shack). Don’t go home without indulging in crispy conch fritters, creamy conch chowder, fresh conch ceviche, and steamed spiny lobster.

It’s never TOO early to plan your next adventure. Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com and find out about upgrades, complimentary breakfast, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel customers.

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For more information on my trip planning services, please click HERE.

What to Expect on Safari in Tanzania

What to Expect on Safari in Tanzania

The word “safari” comes from the Swahili language meaning “journey,” but a safari is more than a journey – it’s a life changing and mind-opening experience, and something to definitely move to the top of your bucket list now that international travel has opened up.

Tanzania offers one of Africa’s most dynamic safari adventures, whether explored on its own or paired with another East African destination. Bordering Kenya to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Rwanda to the west, twenty five percent of Tanzania has been designated as a conservation area. It boasts multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, the largest national parks and Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. Most travelers come for the Serengeti’s “Great Wildebeest Migration,” the largest movement of animals in the world, but there is plenty of wildlife to view year-round including the big five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino).

On my itinerary, after spending time on safari in Kenya, we flew from Nairobi’s Wilson airport to Kilimanjaro International Airport, Tanzania, and from there, hopped onto a quick flight by bush plane to Lake Manyara Airstrip.

Photo by Leif Blessing on Pexels.com

A safari in Tanzania includes six-to-eight-hour daily game drives conducted by a professional guide to designated protected areas in a pop-up roof style 4×4 vehicle. Most safari vehicles come fully equipped with cold beverages, binoculars, charging ports, and wifi. You will become fully immersed in local knowledge about the landscape, flora, and wildlife encountered along the way. Often a “walking safari” can be arranged and a highlight of the day will be lunch enjoyed outdoors “in the bush.”

There are several locations you can include in your Tanzania itinerary based on how much time you have allotted to your trip. Traveling between the various locations will be by 4×4 vehicle or bush plane, depending on travel distances and budget. Here are a few top locations to consider:

Ngorongoro Crater:
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this three million year old volcanic caldera is known for its incredible population density of animals that call this fertile 100 square mile grazing area home.

Lake Manyara National Park:
Stretched out at the base of the Rift Valley (a lowland region that forms where Earth’s tectonic plates move apart), its shores are populated by more than 500 bird species including thousands of pink flamingoes. If you look up, you might also catch site of tree climbing lions!

Olduvai Gorge:
This “Cradle of Mankind” holds the earliest evidence of the existence of our human ancestors. The Leakey family and fellow paleoanthropologists, discovered human fossils dating back two million years. The forest, swamp, and grasslands are home to monkeys, baboon, jackals, spotted hyena, bull elephants, hippo, and dark maned lions.

Tarangire National Park:
Hosts one of the largest populations of elephants in its vast savannah dotted with giant iconic baobab trees. During dry season, herds of zebra, wildebeest, and their predators (lions, cheetahs, leopards) make their way to this area because of its large river, an important water source.

Arusha National Park:
Home to Mount Meru, the second highest peak in Tanzania, a walking safari through the wide open plains will get you up close with giraffes, zebras and Cape buffalo.

Serengeti National Park:
A World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of Africa, this park lives up to its ancient Maasai name which means “endless open plains.” The sweeping savannah grasses turn golden in the dry season, then green and dotted with wildflowers in the rainy season. The Serengeti welcomes the constant grazing of large herbivores. Annually, over 1.1 million wildebeest joined by herds of zebra and Thomson’s gazelle, traverse over 800 kilometers. They graze in the southeastern portion and then make their way towards the north in search of more verdant lands. The Serengeti, along with the South Kenyan Mara ecosystem across the border, is where the wildebeest can be viewed by land, chartered plane, or hot air balloon.

Where to stay?
Accommodations in Tanzania include luxury tented lodges, tree houses, small inns, and hotels. Some accommodations are outfitted with private plunge pools and outdoor terraces with panoramic views. As a travel agent, I can help you pick the perfect accommodations for you and family.

Elewana The Manor at Ngorongoro
Neptune Luxury Lodge Ngorongoro
Neptune Luxury Lodge

It’s never TOO early to plan your next adventure. Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel customers. Looking for the best of the best Safari experience? Let me help you plan your trip with Micato Safaris, one of the world’s top outfitters, delivering unparalleled service.

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, please click HERE.

Asante Sana! (Thank you!)

Safari in The Laikipia Reserve, Kenya

Safari in The Laikipia Reserve, Kenya

A Kenya Safari requires much advance planning, but with the help of a travel agent, the process becomes stress free. As a travel specialist, it’s my job to create a seamless experience from take off to safe return home. My recent article on Safari Planning Basics will help you jump start your itinerary and take this from dream trip to reality. After an overnight stay in Nairobi, hop a bush plane to Maasai Mara for excellent game tracking, and then on to Mount Kenya for a little rest and relaxation. Next stop, a stay in The Laikipia Reserve — the perfect addition to your safari experience.

Known for its untamed beauty, The Laikipia Reserve was formed when the ranches of the Colonial era were converted from farming to wildlife. Possessing one of the largest elephant populations in East Africa, it is one of the last strongholds of the endangered black rhino. The plateau has reverted back to its wilderness roots, with a wildlife refuge supporting huge numbers of game including lion, cheetah, leopard, wild dog, impalas, gazelle, and reticulated giraffe.

After arriving by bush plane, we visited the Loisaba Conservation Center, a 56,000-acre wildlife conservancy located within Laikipia. As poachers continue to kill thousands of elephants and giraffes throughout Africa, organizations are banding together to develop strategies to stop the illegal killing of these threatened species. Education is one of these key strategies. The organization aims to become the hub for conservation education in Laikipia for the local community, tourists, and students. The center’s ultimate goal is “to help inform visitors about community-based conservation and how this model, with their support, will help preserve the area’s habitat and the endangered animals that live here.” Through their work, they show how conservation benefits both wildlife and the community.

Located within the reserve, Elewana Loisaba Lodo Springs offers the ultra-private lodge experience with eight private, spacious tented rooms each with impressive views over the valley below. With floor to ceiling windows, wide plank wood floors, oversized bathrooms, expansive decks, and minimalist but sophisticated Africana furnishings, they have more in common with boutique accommodations than their canvas namesake. (Click on this video below for a tour of my accommodations.)

Our days were filled with long morning treks and drives across the savannah as we searched out rhino, dik-dik, eland hartebeest, warthog, and Cape buffalo. The resort arranged breakfast served in the bush, and also offers horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, and nighttime game drives.

For something REALLY unusual, stay a night or two at the Elewana Loisaba Star Beds. Poised on a rocky outcropping, this lodge features individual thatched roof accommodations with four-poster wooden beds that sit on raised wooden platforms. At night, the beds are slowly rolled out to the outdoor deck for guests to enjoy the most memorable sleep under an endless African sky. The Star Beds are rustic in design and are meant to harmonize with the natural rocky landscape.

It’s never TOO early to plan your next adventure. Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, for assistance and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership. Looking for the best of the best Safari experience? Let me help you plan your trip with Micato Safaris, one of the world’s top outfitters, delivering unparalleled service.

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, for assistance with Amex “Pay with Points” and Amex Fine Hotels & Resort Hotels, please click HERE.

Single Parent Travel Tips

Single Parent Travel Tips

Traveling with kids can take some planning and more so for the single parent, especially during these constantly changing times. With no one to share the load, single parent travel may cause some trepidation. Although most of our family travel was enjoyed together (myself, my husband and our two sons), there were plenty of times, due to work schedules, I ventured abroad alone with my two boys. When my older son went off to college, my younger son even tagged along on some “blended” business/leisure (bleisure!) trips to London and Spain.

There is no reason for any parent to feel overwhelmed – some simple advance planning can help eliminate unnecessary stress and lead to a very memorable vacation whether you are traveling stateside or out of the country:

Use a Travel Agent:
That’s me! A travel expert will help you to put all the pieces together in advance and forecast the pitfalls, so you are not caught off guard. Of course, there are always unforeseen events that happen during travel (weather, flight delays, illness), but why not try to control the things you can control?

Survey your documents:
Besides checking passports for ample expiration dates, check if you need travel consent from a co-guardian. These are all things that should be worked out well in advance of your trip. If you’re traveling to Canada, for example, you must have your child’s passport, birth certificate, and a letter of authorization from any co-parents. Your vacation plans may abruptly end at the airline check in desk if documents are not in order.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

Testing and vaccine requirements:
Vaccination status and negative COVID testing will be the key to entry to many countries, cities, tourist sites, and restaurants. In pre-COVID times, vaccine requirements have always been on the books for many destinations, for example Yellow Fever vaccinations. As a Travel Agent, I provide clients with resources to verify requirements for vaccination, testing, and health declarations.

Purchase travel insurance:
“Hope for the best, plan for the worst,” and that includes trip delays, cancellation, or illness before or during traveling which can be covered by travel insurance. My kids have visited doctors (for thankfully mostly minor issues) in many corners of the world, including a trip to the ER in Australia for some stitches, so having travel insurance is definitely a necessity. Now, many countries require travelers to purchase specific policies in advance of travel that cover COVID related issues.

Include the kids:
Everyone has an opinion, even the little ones. The more invested they are in the trip, the less likely they will complain. Help kids prepare for travel by engaging them in a little research. Planning a beach vacation with snorkeling? Purchase a waterproof Fish Identification Card to study local sea life prior to the excursion. Heading on a hike? Download a trail map to pick out trails that match your family’s experience level. Sightseeing? I always scoped out museum websites in advance to seek out exhibits that would appeal to my boys. They loved archaeology and Egyptology, so when visiting London’s British Museum, we went straight to the Rosetta Stone to catch a glimpse before the crowds converged.

Consider dietary needs:
Are the kids on special diets, are there allergies to consider? Check out menus and make reservations in advance – OpenTable is a great resource. Including healthy eating habits while traveling is something that can easily be embraced. Read my article on how to Eat Healthy on Vacation for plenty of tips.

Move more:
My recent article on how to Stay in Shape on Vacation includes suggestions on how to keep kids active. Walks, hikes, biking – there are many ways to tire them out. Besides National Parks or UNESCO sites, there are also State or County Parks to explore and those will most likely be less crowded and smaller scale which is perfect for younger travelers.

Get up early:
Starting early is always the best way to avoid crowds no matter where you go. If you are traveling west to an earlier time zone, your body clock will still be on your local time so take advantage of early rising. Traveling to a hot weather destination? Mornings are usually cooler which is a great time for strenuous activities.

Fight jet lag:
Flying across several time zones is never easy but try not to take the easy way out by crashing at the hotel as soon as you arrive. For an overnight or red-eye flight, I book hotel rooms for my clients for the night before so they can access their room first thing in the morning. Take a quick shower, leave your luggage and head out for some easy afternoon walking, exploring, or beach time. Enjoy an early dinner, and try to get to bed close to normal turn-in time. Jet lag will slowly dissipate each day.

The power of pools:
We have taken our kids around the world and one thing we always tried to look for, especially during a city trip, is a hotel with a pool. After a full day of sightseeing, there is nothing better to cool even the crankiest of travelers than an afternoon swim.

Include some down time:
On vacation, don’t expect family members to spend every waking moment together. Everyone can use a good afternoon nap no matter his or her age. Schedule some quiet/alone time – adults included!

Keep it fun!
As you think about making your future travel plans, even sightseeing focused trips can include some unique activities no matter your destination. In London hop in a Mini Cooper tour, in Paris indulge in a chocolate making class, in Madrid take a tapas tour, and in Portugal, you can even take surfing lessons.

Mix it up:
This idea comes from my client, Kenneth Traficante, a certified Financial Planner with Equitable Advisors, New York City. I recently planned a vacation for him and his two teen daughters to Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Sedona, Scottsdale, and Phoenix. Ken wanted to introduce his girls to the juxtaposition of two contrasting experiences: the exciting and over-the-top man-made city of Las Vegas verses the grandeur and natural beauty of the Grand Canyon. “Opposite experiences” keep vacations interesting – consider ways to enjoy both city pursuits and more nature focused activities. Ken’s itinerary included Cirque du Soleil shows, Grand Canyon hiking and star gazing, and a Sedona Pink JEEP tour. He loved that it gave his girls an appreciation and an understanding of the diverse world we live in – a perspective we could all use a little of right now!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s never TOO early to plan your next adventure. Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, for assistance and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership.

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, for assistance with Amex “Pay with Points” and Amex Fine Hotels & Resort Hotels, please click HERE

What to Expect on Safari at Mount Kenya

What to Expect on Safari at Mount Kenya

My previous articles on Kenya traced my Micato Safari adventure which began with a layover in Nairobi followed by a bush plane transfer to Maasai Mara. Next on the itinerary – a bush plane flight northeast to Nanyuki in central Kenya. Known as the gateway to three-million-year-old, Mount Kenya, and the wilderness of Mount Kenya National Park, Nanyuki is also home to the famous Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club — Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway stayed here.

With magnificent views of Mount Kenya, the Fairmont offers 110 luxuriously appointed rooms set in over 100 acres of landscaped gardens. This more traditional, and historical inspired property is a nice compliment to the more rustic/luxury tented camps or boutique lodge experiences found in other parts of the country. The Safari Club, with its central low rise main building, is ringed by individual quaint cottages that offer more privacy. There are a variety of dining options including private al fresco dining experiences; open-kitchen restaurant, Colobus; or cozy wood paneled bar, Zebar. A wide range of services and amenities are offered from rigorous to relaxing – golf, trout fishing, spa, horseback riding, and mountain ascents, which can be combined with visits to local game reserves to continue that Kenya safari experience.

Nestled in the lush foothills of Mount Kenya, Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club is uniquely located right on the Equator, stretching into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. We were welcomed on property with an Equator Ceremony, accompanied by local Kikuyu songs and dance (and an equatorial demonstration that proves water does indeed run down the drain clockwise in the Northern side, and counterclockwise on the Southern side).

Plan to stay a few days at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club because there are plenty of excursions within a short driving distance to keep you busy. Safaris can be exhausting with early morning game drives and bush flights therefore you might want to also put a visit to the pool or the spa on your itinerary if you need a little down time or pampering.

Here are a few other day trips and experiences to enjoy in the Mount Kenya area:

Animal Orphanage:
Visit the animal orphanage, just a short walk from the hotel, for an opportunity to learn more about endangered wildlife including the Mountain Bongo, one of the largest forest antelopes known for its striking reddish-brown coat, distinctive white and yellow stripe markings, and spiraling antlers. The orphanage, located within the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy, is also home to injured, neglected, abused, or frightened wild animals that are tended to with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. Rare white zebras are safe from extinction due to the orphanage’s active breeding and release program. Motivating local youth to become future conservationists is another goal of the organization, hosting over 10,000 students annually giving them one to one contact with wildlife. A stroll through the orphanage will put you up close and personal with a variety of species roaming free including friendly warthogs, tortoises, and llamas.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy:
A safari drive through this 90,000-acre ranch will give you the chance to gaze upon the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and two of the world’s last remaining northern white rhino. The conservancy’s goal is to ensure the protection of existing rhino, elephant, and other wildlife that call this landscape home. And, it is the only place in Kenya to see chimpanzees. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy also supports the people living around its borders to ensure that wildlife conservation translates to better education, healthcare, and infrastructure for the next generation of wildlife guardians.

Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary:
This sanctuary was established as an agreement between the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the Jane Goodall Institute to provide lifelong refuge to orphaned and abused chimpanzees from Western and Central Africa. Many were confiscated from cramped and unnatural living conditions and arrive with injuries sustained from abuse at the hands of humans. Some arrive with broken bones or bullet wounds and others are psychologically traumatized after witnessing the slaughter of their family members. At Sweetwaters, they are nursed back to health and coached to relearn the many skills necessary to survive in the wild like hunting, eating leaves off a tree, or building a sleeping nest. Some must learn to shed human behaviors such as walking upright. During your visit you will have the chance to watch the chimps as they explore, climb, socialize, and learn to be chimpanzees all over again.

I can’t forget to mention these adorable “domesticated” animals which call the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club their home. Tusker and Grammy, Canine Ambassadors, who come from a local guide dog association, don’t actually live at the hotel day and night. They are cared for by a staff member who brings them home in the evening and handles all their vet care. These precious pups take their role of welcoming guests very seriously and are available for a leisurely walk around the property.

It’s never TOO early to plan your African Safari Adventure. Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, for assistance planning a Kenya Safari itinerary and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership.

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, for assistance with Amex “Pay with Points” and Amex Fine Hotels & Resort Hotels, please click HERE

Seven Ways to Eat Healthy on Vacation

Seven Ways to Eat Healthy on Vacation

My recent article, “Ten Ways to Stay in Shape on Vacation,” helped you kickstart and maintain your fitness journey while away. Incorporating an active lifestyle into any vacation can lead to unique ways to really explore a new destination. Another key ingredient of memorable travel experiences is savoring local cuisine. Whether it’s diving into homemade pasta and olive oil in Tuscany or indulging in hot chocolate and crispy churros in Madrid, you want to delight in the diverse local cuisine while abroad without sacrificing all those healthy habits you may have curated during your recent downtime. Enjoying a vacation with healthy goals intact should not be unobtainable.

This week, I am pleased to introduce guest blogger, Wendy Bonilla, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. Founder of “Well Balanced with Wendy,” she empowers her clients to create a healthier relationship to food through one-on-one coaching. Here are Wendy’s “Seven Ways to Eat Healthy on Vacation”:

Scope out options ahead of time:
The great thing about travel today is that internet access is readily available, therefore there’s plenty of access to restaurant menus right from your phone. Before heading out to dine, check out what’s offered and decide what to order in advance. It’s much easier to be less tempted and stick to those healthy choices if a decision is made beforehand. Do some research BEFORE the trip to scope out restaurants, cafes, and food tours that have more healthy options on the menu. 

Eat a nutritious breakfast:
Breakfast doesn’t have to be early in the morning, but make sure to have a meal before embarking on your day. Studies find that people that wait TOO long to eat end up feeling hungrier than people who start the day with a healthy, filling breakfast. Make sure breakfast includes plenty of healthy fats and proteins. Pancakes are delicious, but they are filled with sugar and will leave you feeling hungrier sooner. A nutritious breakfast will supply the sustainable energy needed to take on the day’s activities. 

Watch portion size and eat what you want:
Sampling local cuisine is a big part of getting the full experience out of your time away, so don’t deprive yourself! One way to enjoy without guilt or missing out is to eat smaller portions. When eating buffet-style, be mindful of how much food you put on your plate. Take less than what you think you want to avoid overeating. If the food is served to you, check in with how hungry you are after a few bites – most likely, you’ll find you aren’t hungry anymore and you will not need to go back for seconds. 

Eat mindfully:
Take time with each bite. (People who eat slowly tend to eat less). Enjoy the local fare and slow down and focus on all the flavors, ingredients, and textures for the most fulfilling experience.
 
Eat more vegetables with every meal:
Try to make vegetables at least half of what is eaten at each meal. This trick works especially well at buffets, where there are often WAY too many options. Choose a couple tasty-looking veggie sides, and already, you’ve filled most of your plate.

Pack healthy snacks:
Packing snacks in advance can be key to curbing cravings while traveling. Staving off a sudden surge of hunger can lead to healthier food choices throughout the day preventing a frantic binge on less nutritious foods. Some good options to bring along are fruit, trail mixes, and protein bars – pack some individual snack packets in your carry on, or you might even be able to grab a few portable items from the breakfast buffet at your hotel or cruise ship. [This tip is especially helpful if you are traveling with children – of all ages!]
 
Stay hydrated:
Our bodies sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, so it’s important to stay mindful of water intake. Carry a refillable water bottle and take a few sips every thirty minutes. Feeling a burst of hunger? Drink at least eight ounces of water, then check in with your body to see if the hunger has subsided. 

Looking to continue on the road to healthy eating? Wendy Bonilla can support you in taking control of your food cravings and emotional eating habits, so you can feel confident in your body and show up more radiant in ALL areas of your life. For more information, connect with Wendy on Instagram or Facebook.

It’s never TOO early to plan your next adventure. Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership.

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, please click HERE

Photo credits: Ella Olsson, Jane D, & Anna Pelzer

What to Expect on Safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya

What to Expect on Safari in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Rolling grasslands, graceful acacia trees, sweeping vistas teeming with wildlife, drifting clouds, and sun filled skies. Welcome to Kenya. Home to the some of the richest landscapes and animal life.

Kenya’s most treasured natural resource is the Serengeti Maasai Mara ecosystem – its two names reflect the two countries that share this landscape: Tanzania and Kenya. In the area’s Kenyan north, the landscape varies with winding rivers and greener tint, and is less savannah-like than in the Tanzanian south. The Big Five (lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, rhino, and elephant) inhabit this region along with 500 bird species and a few dozen other mammal species including a half million gazelles, 1.3 million wildebeest, and 200,000 zebras whose famous migration crosses the border between the two countries year after year.

No matter what month you travel in, there is plenty of wildlife to experience in Kenya. Bucket list trips require advance planning, so starting several months out will enable you to select the accommodations and itinerary that matches your specific requirements. Need a general introduction to kick start your safari planning? Check out my recent article, Safari Planning Basics. Most Kenya safari itineraries include bush plane flights between several of the country’s regions including Maasai Mara, Mount Kenya, and the Laikipia plateau. Kenya boasts a variety of accommodations ranging from standard hotel-style to the most lux, boutique-style tented experiences.

My recent trip began with a two-night stay in Nairobi. (Click here, to view my article on Planning a Layover in Nairobi). After our city experience, we shuttled to the local airport and boarded a bush plane for an hour flight to Maasai Mara. Upon landing, we were warmly greeted by Maasai villagers with song, dance, and refreshments before climbing into our safari vehicle to head to the lodge. (The Maasai are a semi-nomadic, indigenous tribe whose ancestral territory stretches across Kenya and northern Tanzania). The safari experience started immediately — we stopped along the way to view the wildlife and enjoy a quick walkabout.

Our home for three nights was the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, a beautiful lodge surrounded on three sides by the Mara River. The main lodge area features indoor and outdoor spaces to lounge or dine including an expansive curved wood deck that winds along the riverbank and offers excellent views to the river below.

The lodge’s bedroom tents, generously spaced throughout the lush property, are set up high along the riverbank and offer a bird’s eye view of the hippo families as they lounge along the riverbank, their ears and eyes just visible above the waterline. Each tent is outfitted with a four-poster pillow top bed, private en-suite bathroom, and outdoor verandah. The décor and furnishings reflect the local community incorporating the patterns and rich reds of the Maasai textiles. Although the sides and ceiling of the tented structure are made from canvas, once you pass through the zippered entrance, the lodging more closely resembles the personality and warmth of a finely appointed boutique-hotel suite.

Days start early on safari with continental breakfast brought to your private verandah (look for my video of a tour of the accommodations at the end of this article). Most mornings, I drank my hot coffee under the watchful eyes of visiting silvery-gray vervet monkeys eyeing my plate of biscuits. After a quick walk down the paths to the lodge entrance, we climbed into our safari vehicle stowing our day packs filled with cameras, batteries, phone chargers, and sunglasses. The safari vehicle with its pop-up top and zip-down windows, was outfitted with binoculars, charging stations, wool blankets, and a cooler filled with beverages. Not sure what to bring on your safari? Check out my article, Safari Packing Tips.

Our mornings were spent on long meandering drives across the savannah led by our experienced guide and ambassador. Kenya guides are experts in botany, ornithology, geology, wildlife tracking, and identification. Our guide would radio other guides to share logistics on interesting sightings: a mama couger playing with her cubs, a lion relaxing in the shade of an acacia tree with her young brood, vultures circling a recent kill, or wildebeest and zebra drinking together from a watering hole.

Mid-morning, a full breakfast was served on a grassy plain, under an acacia tree complete with table linens, hot coffee, and a mix of culinary delights. (Plus, a port-o-potty with a view!) With our bellies full, we continued our trek to farther savannahs and then returned to the lodge midday, for a leisurely al fresco lunch.

In the late afternoon, we set out for our next game drive. Every day on safari is unique – there is always something new to see and experience. One day, our guide pulled over to the side of the path and instructed us to quietly tip toe through the brush. Not knowing what to expect, we were mesmerized to come upon a closely guarded rhino kept company by an around-the-clock armed guard to protect against poachers. So sad that these beautiful creatures are so endangered, but happy to know there are local organizations protecting them.

One day, we visited a Maasai village and met the residents and the village elder who gave us a personal tour of his mud home and showed us how to create fire with just sticks. We wandered through their outdoor marketplace and purchased locally made crafts including wooden sculptures, intricate beaded bowls, and richly colored woven blankets. (Look for my video of the Maasai village at the end of this article).

Afternoon game drives slowly stretch out into the early evening and end with partaking in MY most favorite end of safari ritual, “Sundowners,” which is an African happy hour. What’s required? Just sitting by the glowing campfire, cocktail in hand, watching the sun slip below the horizon, and dreaming of the next adventure.

Video of Maasai Village visit
Video of Fairmont Mara Safari Club Accommodations

Ready to plan your Kenya safari? It’s never TOO early to plan. Would you like to maximize the redemption of your American Express Points? Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership. I am happy to help you book your next safari adventure.

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, please click HERE

Ten Ways to Stay in Shape on Vacation

Ten Ways to Stay in Shape on Vacation

With Covid-19 vaccinations on the rise and Covid restrictions gradually lifting, travel is slowly starting to resume. Being stuck at home for months combined with the closure of many gyms has caused some unwanted “Pandemic Pounds.” There’s no reason a vacation has to contribute to this problem. Rather, it can be an opportunity to kick start your fitness journey. This week, I am pleased to introduce Guest Blogger, Jason Rodriguez, a New York-based fitness professional and founder of Fitness Journeys, a personal training and corporate health and wellness company. Here are Jason’s Ten Ways to Stay in Shape on Vacation:

PLAY SOMETHING
You might not be a kid anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun playing a sport or a silly game. Anything that involves moving your body is beneficial: volleyball, tennis, pickle ball, water polo, and throwing a football are all great options. Plan on playing golf on vacation? Walk between holes instead of driving a golf cart. (Supposedly, Mark Wahlberg sprints between golf holes, and he looks pretty good!)

SAMPLE LOCAL FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Let’s face it, eating is a big part of a vacation, but the focus doesn’t always have to be on high calorie meals and rich desserts. Some of the most delicious (and healthy) produce can be found and enjoyed while on vacation. [On your next trip, include a visit to a local greenmarket or farmers market — kids will love picking out their own healthy snacks.]

Granville Island, Vancouver


GO DANCING
No matter where you travel, there should be a place where you can “let the rhythm take you.” Whether it’s watching a live band or visiting a local club, dancing is a fun way to get in some exercise and see how the locals “get down.” You’ll have a blast, get your heart pumping, and maybe even learn some new moves to bring home with you. 

TAKE THE STAIRS
Wherever possible, choose the stairs. While on vacation, don’t be in such a rush to get everywhere. Instead of an elevator or escalator, take the stairs for a quick workout. If you want to have some fun, race your friends or children up the stairs once in a while.

Diamond Head State Monument, Oahu, Hawaii

WALK MORE
Try to plan some activities or restaurants that are walking distance from your hotel. Taking a walk instead of grabbing a taxi or Uber allows you to explore the local area and burn some calories in the process. 

BE A MORNING PERSON
Maybe it’s just me, but I love watching the sunrise while on vacation. It’s a beautiful way to start the day. If you get an early start, you’re also more likely to fit in that morning workout and finish breakfast before the rush. 

GO ON A HIKE
If you haven’t been hiking before, you’re missing out on this excellent exercise opportunity. There’s nothing like a hike to connect you with nature, relax your mind, and explore new scenic destinations. There are hikes for all fitness levels whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran looking for a challenging course.

DRINK IN MODERATION
I’m not saying don’t have a drink, but there’s no reason to overdo it while on vacation. It’s much better to be clear and aware of your vacation in order to create those fond memories of your trip that will last a lifetime. 

DO SOME BODY WEIGHT EXERCISES
If the hotel or resort doesn’t have a gym, you can still do some body weight exercises in your room or on the beach: push-ups, crunches, squats, lunges, and planks can keep you looking great, feeling fit, and ready for the pool. 

MEDITATE
Vacation is the perfect time for self-reflection. Download a meditation App like Calm, Insight Timer, or Headspace and take five to ten minutes each morning to meditate. A simple technique is to sit in a comfortable position with your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your stomach; breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth; breathe in gratitude and breathe out negativity and stress. After all, mental health is just as important as physical health. 

For additional information and hear more tips on working out, virtual workout classes, and nutrition, reach out to Jason Rodriguez at fitnessjourneysnyc@gmail.com, or check out his website, FitnessJourneysNYC.com.

Ready to plan your next ACTIVE and HEALTHY adventure? Would you like to maximize the redemption of your American Express Points? Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership.

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box, enter your email address, and then respond to the follow-up email.

Sunrise photo courtesy of Zac Durant

Planning a Layover in Nairobi

Planning a Layover in Nairobi

My recent article highlighted how to jump start your Kenya Safari planning. As I mentioned, a safari requires advance planning (six months to a year is not unusual), therefore it is wise to start the research while you have some down time. As a Travel Agent, I am here to ensure that your dream trip is seamless from initial inquiry to safe return home and I can help you craft the perfect trip to suit your interests and budget.

International flights to Kenya are routed through centrally located Jomo Kenyatta Airport (JBO). Since most flights arrive in the late afternoon or evening, you will most likely need to stay overnight in Nairobi prior to boarding a bush plane at local airport Wilson. If your schedule allows, I highly recommend staying at least a night or two. Traffic can be daunting in downtown Nairobi, so an overnight stay will allow ample time between experiences and airport transfers. Plus, this will give you a chance to adjust to the new time zone and give you an opportunity to learn a bit about the country, the people, the culture and wildlife prior to embarking on safari. Here are just a few suggestions not to be missed:

Karen Blixen Museum:
“I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills…” is the famous first line of the novel, Out of Africa, penned by renowned Danish author Karen Blixen. The farm, owned by Karen (pen name Isak Dinesen) and husband Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke, gained international fame after the release of the 1985 epic award-winning drama based on this autobiography. Starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, it’s a must-see prior to your visit to Kenya.

Single handedly, Karen (and Streep) inspired a generation of safari goers (and safari chic!). Visit the farmhouse and Museum and step back in time to 1914 when Karen moved to Africa to marry her half cousin and carry out dairy farming in the then British Colony of Kenya. Her husband, however, changed his mind and wanted to farm coffee, which did not go well. After her divorce, Karen was left to run the financially troubled farm on her own, a daunting task for a woman of that generation. She fell in love with an Englishman, Denis Finch Hatton (Redford) and the rest I will not comment on, lest I spoil the movie.

Giraffe Center Wildlife Conservation Park:
On safari, you will of course see hundreds of giraffes in the wild, but at this Nairobi center, created by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, you will get up close and personal with the beautiful Rothschild giraffe and even have the opportunity to hand-feed this stately subspecies of the giraffe found only in the grasslands of East Africa. At the time the center was established in 1979, the animals had lost their habitat with only 130 of them remaining. This 60-acre sanctuary started with just two giraffes and now there are over 300 safe and breeding well in various Kenyan National Parks.

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust:
Founded in 1977, this non-profit focuses on anti-poaching and safeguarding the natural environment, enhancing community awareness, addressing animal welfare issues, providing veterinary assistance to animals in need, and rescuing and hand rearing elephant and rhino orphans. The Trust’s main base, the elephant orphanage, often referred to as the Nairobi Nursery, is in Nairobi National Park. As of now, the visitation to the center is closed, but hopefully will resume in the near future so you can witness the care and feeding of these lovely animals up close. In the meantime, you can support the organization by personally “adopting” an orphaned elephant.

Photo credit: Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Travel with a Purpose:
Including “Purposeful Travel” in any vacation is something easy to do. It’s about engaging in educational and mind-opening experiences that benefit both the traveler and the location, often shining a light on local communities, their needs and their accomplishments. My recent article Travel with a Purpose highlighted my visit to the Harambee Community Center, the non-profit partnership between Micato Safaris and AmericaShare, located in Mukuru, East Nairobi’s densely populated slum. During the pandemic, their school was hit hard, and students risked several months without guided learning which would significantly set back their future performance.  As an update to my article, I am pleased to report that through their Student Sponsorship Program, students were successfully connected to the online world: smartphones were distributed with access to educational apps, resources, and streaming lessons hosted by local teachers in the community. To find out more or donate, please visit AmericaShare.

Photo credit: Micato Safaris & AmericaShare

Travel with a Purpose, Part Two:
Another stop I made during my recent trip to Kenya was to learn about Huru International, which manufactures environmentally friendly, reusable sanitary pads that have been distributed to more than 175,000 girls in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Founded in 2008, this organization addresses an important issue: East African girls cannot afford sanitary pads and very often avoid school during their period resulting in missing as much as an entire month of school yearly. Girls who miss school fall behind, drop out, or even quit which leads to the endless cycle of poverty and gender inequality. Huru Kits are a simple, sustainable, and practical way to tackle this problem. The kits include a colorful drawstring backpack, eight reusable pads, three pairs of undergarments, detergent soap, and educational materials on HIV prevention and reproductive health. The items are replaced on a timely basis.

All Huru supplies are produced in their sprawling factory by women and men from underserved communities who have learned the art of industrial sewing and tailoring, along with lessons on business, finance, and entrepreneurship.  Now, in the age of Covid-19, the production facility in Nairobi is running full steam, producing much needed multilayered cloth face masks that are donated to the residents of Mukuru.

Huru also designs and manufactures lovely reusable, colorful fabric tote bags and lunch bags which we had the opportunity to purchase and bring home — a heartfelt memory of this amazing organization. For more information or to donate, please visit Huru International.

Ready to plan your next adventure? It’s never TOO early to plan. Would you like to maximize the redemption of your American Express Points? Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, please click HERE

Kenya Safari Planning Basics

Kenya Safari Planning Basics

Now that we have turned the calendar page and put 2020 behind us, it’s time to think positive, look forward and plan for future travel. It’s the perfect time to put some serious thought into a bucket list trip: an African Safari. A safari is a magical and unique experience that envelopes you in nature, culture, and history. Safaris enrich the mind, stretch the imagination, calm the soul, and encourage self-reflection. Out of the many countries our two sons have visited with us, our Micato Safari experience definitely stand out as most memorable. This is an itinerary that requires advance planning to ensure availability in the more intimate and authentic tented camps and lodges, arrange for visas, as well as inquire about any necessary inoculations. As a travel agent, I can help ensure the entire process runs smoothly from initial inquiry, to your safe return home.

LOCATION
A relatively small country in East Africa, Kenya’s capital and central transportation hub is Nairobi. Travelers fly into the international airport Jomo Kenyatta, while connecting flights within Kenya or to neighboring countries are booked from Wilson, the domestic airport just next door. After a short stay in Nairobi (most international flights arrive in the evening), you will reach the other areas of the country primarily by bush plane. There’s plenty to explore within Kenya, but if you have more time, a Kenya safari can be booked in conjunction with a visit to Tanzania (to the south), Uganda (to the west) or Rwanda (to the south west). These countries, plus 15 others, comprise what is known as East Africa.

LANDSCAPE
When compared with popular safari destination South Africa (located in the southernmost point on the African continent,) Kenya has a more temperate climate. To learn more, check out my previous articles on South Africa Safaris: here. The further north in Kenya you travel, the drier and hillier the landscape becomes as the area doesn’t benefit as much from the rains received in the south-west of Kenya. Because it shares its longest border with Tanzania, Southern Kenya is the best place to see glacier-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.

GAME VIEWING
Fantastic year-round game viewing makes Kenya a TOP safari location. Although it is a “Big 5” destination in the sense that lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino are found here, it’s difficult to see them all in the same place. Rhinos are the rarest and most difficult to find and unfortunately, due to poachers, have become a critically endangered species. Safari itineraries will often include overnight stays in Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu, Mt. Kenya, or the Laikipia Reserve in order to increase the variety of game viewing.

Kenya is the perfect place for first-time safari goers – because the land is so flat and open, it’s easy to enjoy 360-degree views and spot game throughout the year. Roads are well-maintained and English is widely spoken throughout the country. Long-standing conservation projects in Kenya also means that animals are generally plentiful and in good condition. Special relationships between tribal landowners, the government, conservationists, and safari operators mean that the needs of humans, nature, and agriculture are carefully balanced.

MAASAI MARA
Kenya’s most well known wildlife gem is the Great Migration: the 1,900-mile journey of over two million wildebeest (and zebra and gazelle) as they follow the rains over the Mara River into the Maasai Mara National Reserve where they feast on thousands of hectares of fresh grazing land. They stay for about four to five months, slowly mowing the Mara between approximately July and November when they cross back into Tanzania’s Serengeti region. (Only humans require a passport to cross this border!) The massive herds also attract large predators including lion, leopard, hyena and the occasional cheetah, therefore witnessing a “kill” on safari is most likely to occur during this time period.

Our guide took us on a bush walk to visit a rhino, heavily guarded against poachers

The main reason the Maasai Mara attracts the Migration is because its open, flat savannah dotted with flat-topped acacia trees, provides superb grazing. The wide landscape gives you that classic “safari look” with green grass turning golden as the seasons change. It’s impossible to know exactly when wildebeest will cross the Mara River – they don’t all cross in one place at the same time. Large groups can be viewed at different points and on different days. This unpredictability and sense of exploration is what makes safaris so exciting.

Subscribe to my blog to read my upcoming articles on Kenya including Safari Packing Tips, Weekend in Nairobi, and specifics on Maasai Mara, Mt. Kenya, and the Laikipia Reserve.

Need help planning your Bucket-list Trip?

It’s never TOO early to plan. Would you like to maximize the redemption of your American Express Points? Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for all Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers regardless of credit card membership

Become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all my latest articles right to your inbox: look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email. For more information on my trip planning services, please click HERE