Tom LaRock on January 29th, 2015

While Michael is exploring northern Tanzania with a small group of our travelers, I came across an account of one of the rarest wildlife encounters that can occur while on safari in Africa. Londolozi is one of the private reserves west of Kruger National Park. It is one of my favorite destinations in South Africa and is famous for its population of leopards.

However, this story isn’t about leopards – it’s about an animal that is literally the “rarest of the rare” – the pangolin – an ant and termite-eating mammal that wears a coat of scales to protect itself. Yes – scales on a mammal! Several of our repeat travelers that I have taken to Africa have put this unique creature at the top of their “must see” list. We haven’t been successful yet but some of them will be exploring southern Africa again with me next January in the hope of getting that once-in-a-lifetime sighting of a pangolin.

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about Londolozi – one of the best wildlife destinations in Africa! – Tom LaRock

Here is the story of this amazing safari experience:

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Tom on September 11th, 2014

When people learn that I used to work at zoos, I’m often asked which zoo is the best zoo in the United States. My answer starts with my comment that there are many criteria that go into evaluating a zoo and that people have different priorities in evaluating the importance of these criteria. In my view, the “best” zoo is the one that has the greatest impact on the conservation of wildlife – as an institution. While there are many zoos in the United States that offer exceptional opportunities to learn about wildlife, present them well, have outstanding animal care staff and programs and are active participants in the conservation of wildlife species, there is one that, in my opinion, stands out – the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

WCS has come a long way since 1993, when then-director William Conway began the transformation of the New York Zoological Society into an international powerhouse for conservation, under the new name of the Wildlife Conservation Society. From the early days of my zoo career, I can still recall Bill Conway addressing a room of zoo professionals about the importance of zoos becoming centers for real conservation. He was quite clear in his message: the successful zoo of the future was going to become a conservation-centered organization – not just a place to exhibit and care for animals.

WCS continues to operate the New York City zoos (Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo), along with the New York Aquarium. Visitors at each zoo experience state-of-the art wildlife exhibits, providing enlightening glimpses into the natural world that lies beyond the city limits of New York. Its leadership position in wildlife conservation is enhanced by the professional efforts of over 200 scientists who are employed by WCS and its management over 200 million acres of protected land throughout the world. While there are other great worldwide conservation organizations, the Wildlife Conservation Society stands out through the number and variety of its effective, science-based programs – conservation initiatives that make a difference in locations across our world.

To learn more, please take a look at the WCS website.

Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) grew out of the dedication and perseverance of Ian Craig, who, along with his brother Will, converted their ranch at Lewa Downs into the Lewa Conservancy in the 1990s. NRT’s mission is simply stated: To develop resilient community conservancies that transform lives, secure peace, and conserve natural resources. Today, the communities of this part of northern Kenya have placed almost 10,000 square miles of their territories under the management of the NRT.

While many “mission statements” for conservation organizations in Africa include references to transforming lives and communities and conservation of natural resources, the words “secure peace” stand out in the NRT statement. The tribal communities of northern Kenya have traditionally been enemies, especially when it comes to cattle. And when drought strikes, as it has now, tensions can rise to the point that, in the past, have led to armed conflicts.

The success of the NRT’s efforts at securing peace are on display in their newsletter. In August, Samburu herders lost track of 13 head of cattle. These cattle are worth approximately $4,440 – an impressive amount in a country where the average agricultural wage is just $2 a day! Let me remove the suspense – the cattle were found and returned to the Samburu herders. But the fascinating part of this story lies within the details – those who found and retuned the missing cattle were members of the Borana tribe, who have often been the Samburu’s enemies. This was a groundbreaking event in the NRT’s effort to secure peace. And there’s much more to the story. Please take a look at the NRT newsletter to discover what happened next: Northern Rangelands Trust newsletter

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We are often asked this question after our travelers read their personalized Pre-departure Safari Guide. Luggage weight limits for most international flights are higher and travelers are often surprised to learn this smaller weight limit applies to their safari flights within East Africa. Photographers are often most concerned as they calculate the total weight of the various cameras and lenses they plan on taking on their safari.

The 33 lb limit is set by the various air carriers which fly between our African destinations. Unlike international flights, the weight limits for these internal flights generally applies to the total weight of all your luggage – including your carry-on.

The majority of the aircraft used for these flights are classified as “light aircraft” – small aircraft that carry 4 to 12 passengers. Each of these aircraft have a designed weight limit and, in order to insure everyone’s safety, the weight of the luggage is limited.

Over the 27 years that I’ve been designing and conducting safaris, I’ve learned a few “techniques” that may help if you have any concerns about the weight of your luggage.

So, if you have questions about your luggage and its weight, give me a call at 336-776-0359 or contact me through the Safari Professionals website.


There are hundreds, if not thousands, of conservation organizations in the world, many of which work in Africa. In my opinion, few of them come close to the effectiveness and importance of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project – also known as the Gorilla Doctors. Working in the three countries where mountain gorillas are found – Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their mission is simply stated on their website: “The Gorilla Doctors are dedicated to saving the lives of critically-endangered mountain and Grauer’s gorillas through health care. Our international team of veterinarians is the only group providing these animals with direct, hands-on care in the wild.”

We encourage you to learn more about the Gorilla Doctors by subscribing to their newsletter. You’ll find it here:

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Tom on August 18th, 2014

As I prepared for my first safari 25 years ago, I learned I needed adapters in order to charge my camera batteries. I was told that the electrical current in East Africa was based on the European standard of 220 volts and a converter would be needed to lower the current to the 110-120 volts system that is standard in the U.S.A.

In addition, the plugs would also be different and it was recommended that I purchase a kit, which would include the converter and a number of plug adapters. Not knowing which plugs I would find, I packed the entire hefty kit. After arriving in Kenya, I found that only two of the adapters would be needed. I knew traveling light simplifies my travels and now I was carrying some items that would not be needed.

A universal plug adapter makes it easy to use almost any electrical item you may bring on your safari

A universal plug adapter makes it easy to use almost any electrical item you may bring on your safari

Fortunately, today’s technology allows us to pack less to accomplish the same goals. Almost every electrical item you may wish to carry with you on safari is now made with dual voltage capability – eliminating the need for the heavy converter. Before you depart on your safari, please check your devices to confirm that they have the dual voltage capability.

Today it is easy to find a “universal power adapter” – one that contains all the various plug adapters in one, lightweight tool. In addition to simplifying your safari packing, this universal adapter prevents the loss of the individual adapters that are included in the kits. Individual adapters are quite small and are easily misplaced or left behind as we travel.

However, I’ve yet to find a “universal” plug adapter that includes an adapter for the majority of outlets you are likely to find in South Africa.

With travel continuing to increase in popularity around the world, we can continue to look for creative products to make our safari life more comfortable and more convenient.

If we can help you with any questions about electrical devices you may wish to take with you on your safari, please give me a call at 336-776-0359.

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