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April 11, 2012

Q&A with the Father-Son Duo at Karell Travel Group

By Lacy Morris

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Lioni n the Okavango Delta,Botswana(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
A lion in the Okavango Delta, Botswana (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Acquired in 1991 by Norman Pieters and his wife Kathy, the family-owned business of Karell Travel Group is named after the original two owners who were close friends with the Pieters. After Norman took over the company, he promised that he would never change the name and would use the original logo in all advertising materials. That same level of commitment and honesty continues 21 years later, as Karell is known for its high level of individual attention and orchestrating completely customized trips.

A year after Norman acquired the business, hard financial times hit when Hurricane Andrew swept through the Gulf Coast, leaving wreckage and a grim economic future for businesses that were in its path, including the Miami-based Karell Travel Group. A reinvention was in order, so Norman altered his business to specialize in one area: African travel. This was a novel idea at the time, but it worked, and today the company flourishes. Norman has been named for the fifth-consecutive year to Travel + Leisure magazine's A-List of the world's best travel agents, only two of which go to those in the business of safaris.

Continue reading "Q&A with the Father-Son Duo at Karell Travel Group" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Exotic Escapes · Trip Ideas

September 06, 2011

Safety in the World's Newest Nation—South Sudan

By WorldNomads

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(South Sudanese celebrate winning the referendum on independence)

There's a pretty good chance you've never visited this country, because until July 9, 2011, the Republic of Southern Sudan didn't exist. Of course it did physically exist—the land, the water, and the people—but until the official declaration of independence, it wasn't a nation.

Unless you are an aid worker, a United Nations official, or a very foolhardy traveler, it's unlikely you've been anyway, because this was one of the most dangerous places on the planet.

Civil War
Northern Sudan and the government in Khartoum were at war with Southern Sudan and the rebels based in Juba, the country's largest city. It was Africa's longest civil war, 1983-2005, and resulted in the deaths of two million people and the displacement of another four million.

Visitors not caught in the crossfire, or stumbling on the tens of thousands of landmines littering the countryside, ran a gauntlet of outlaws and criminals who regarded any foreigner as an intruder, or a walking bag of cash to be held for ransom.

Continue reading "Safety in the World's Newest Nation—South Sudan" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Travel News

March 23, 2011

Egypt: Still a Safe Tourist Destination

Egypt, Cairo, Minarets of Hassan mosque at sunset(Sylvester Adams,Photodisc,Getty)
The sun sets over Hassan mosque in Cairo (Sylvester Adams)

A couple of weeks ago I wouldn't blame you if you bumped Egypt down on your travel to-do list. The North African country was in the news a lot, and not for good reasons. The first bad report came over the holidays when a series of shark attacks near the resort town of Sharm-el-Sheikh resulted in four injuries and the death of a German tourist.

Less than two months later protestors took over the streets of the capital city of Cairo in a successful attempt to oust longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from a 30-year rule. The uprising featured a series of demonstrations, marches, looting, labor strikes, and violent clashes between the protestors and government supporters. Though the shutdown has subsided with the transition of power, many Egyptians fear that the negative thoughts outsiders may now have about their country are longer lasting.

My husband and I visited both cities back in November, only a few weeks before the craziness began. We started in the capital city for seven days filled with friendly people and the most amazing food, despite what we might have heard. The next time you are in Cairo you have to eat at the restaurant Tabouleh, home to the best Lebanese food I have ever eaten.

Continue reading "Egypt: Still a Safe Tourist Destination" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel

August 17, 2010

Safari Essentials: Your Guide to Packing for the African Plains

By Guest Blogger

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Safari(Tom Powell)
(Ziara Safaris)

So, you've booked that safari that you have been planning and plotting for years. I know from experience that the excitement can hardly be caged, as you tell everyone you meet about the destination you are soon to visit, the scenery that exists there, and the wildlife that you're sure to spot.

But stop some of that gloating and take advantage of the weeks leading up to your departure to buy any last-minute essentials. Of course, knowing exactly what to take can be tricky. Over packing= paying excess baggage fees at the airport. Under packing= the potential to be stranded without some bare necessities.

As a seasoned veteran, I've put together a guide of the most essential items to take with you on an African safari. Pack accordingly and you can't go wrong.

Continue reading "Safari Essentials: Your Guide to Packing for the African Plains" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Travel Tips

August 16, 2010

Climb Kilimanjaro—For Free!


Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa, is widely considered the easiest climb of the seven summits—which isn't to say that the climb is a cake walk. But now you have a chance of at least getting to the base of the famed mountain—for free—thanks to a new sweepstakes brought to you from Polarmax and Backpacker Magazine.

The winner (and one guest) will receive round-trip airfare, ground transportation, four nights at a Tanzania hotel (meals included), and a six-day guided round-trip trek to the summit with author Macon Dunnagan. You also get a cache of technical base layers from Polarmax, featuring their new TransDRY wicking cotton fabric, a revolutionary move on the gear front that aims to bring all the tech-savvy features buttery soft cotton apparel.  (Editor's Note: We've tried the stuff—and this kind of cotton doesn't kill; it wicks and dries like the best of the synthetic varieties out there.)

Enter now through October 11, 2010, by visiting Polarmax.

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · All Inclusive Vacation · Free Stuff · From Around the Web · Outdoor Adventures

July 21, 2010

An Introduction to the Masai Mara

By Guest Blogger

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Sunrise on Masai Mara National Reserve
A Masai Mara Sunrise (Ziara Safaris)

A lot has been said about the Masai Mara before, and for good reason. Tucked away in southwest Kenya, it's the country's most popular national park, and if you take in the small size of the reserve in comparison with some of the giants like Amboseli or Tsavo West, you can immediately glean that there must be something truly special about this park.

The Masai Mara, totalling 938 square miles, is essentially the northern continuation of the Serengeti of Tanzania. Though dwarfed by its southern sister, the richness and concentration of wildlife in the Masai Mara is second-to-none. It is undoubtedly considered the best place in Kenya for spotting each of the "Big Five”—lion, elephant, leopard, cape buffalo, and black rhino—due partly to the sheer diversity of landscape and vegetation in this corner of Kenya.

Wildebeest migration
Wildebeest migration, Masai Mara, Kenya (Ziara Safaris)

Start with the image that's immediately conjured upon hearing the word "safari”—that of the open, rolling savannah. The Masai Mara offers plenty of this quintessentially African landscape. You will gaze from your safari vehicle, or if you're lucky from your lodge or tented camp, and be faced with open plains, a washed-out greenish-gold in the dawn hours, and a deeper orange-gold under the blaze of the sunset. Open lands such as this are often favoured by cheetahs, which can sprint unhampered across the landscape in pursuit of an unlucky gazelle or ungainly wildebeest.

Continue reading "An Introduction to the Masai Mara" »

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Exotic Escapes

June 11, 2010

Safaris for Kids

Masai Mara National Reserve - Anup Shah - Digital Vision Getty 200329039-001
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya (Anup Shah/Digital Vision/Getty)

Safaris were once such a luxury that they were reserved only by honeymooners for that trip of a lifetime. Well, times have certainly changed. These days more and more safari outfitters are catering to the post-honeymoon crowd, otherwise known as families. At Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa, the “Kids on Safari” package (geared to children ages four and up) lets the little ones see the Big Five, and have special visits to the Born Free Foundation to see lions that almost died in captivity, soon to be released into the wild. In Zambia, Norman Carr Safaris has a special “Kids Go Wild” trip that teaches about the conservation of lions in the dense bush. Families also learn to play traditional African drums and mold clay pottery into African sculpture. At Sanctuary Olonana in Masai Mara, Kenya, children spend a morning with kids at the local Maasai school after touring their village.

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Related Topics: Africa Travel · Family Vacation

June 10, 2010

Experience Africa from the Comfort of Your Swively Office Armchair

The Web has lit up like a blinking switchboard with chatter and viral marketing about the World Cup, which kicks off tomorrow. There’s no way to keep up with it all, but we thought this ad spot from Puma nicely captures the freewheeling spirit of Africa. Enjoy the armchair tourism. For more travel resources related to the World Cup and South Africa, check out our 2010 World Cup Special Issue, including periodic updates from our correspondent on the ground, globetrotting journalist Evelyn Spence.

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Related Topics: 2010 World Cup · Africa Travel · Travel Videos

June 04, 2010

Top 10 Soccer Cities in the World

By awayblog

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FIELD OF DREAMS: Barcelona's Camp Nou (Wikimedia)

In just one week, the world's eyes will be fixed on South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first time the quadrennial football/soccer event has been hosted on the African continent. And that's a lot of eyes—an estimated 1.5 billion people tuned in to watch the final game of the 2006 tournament—a testament to the global appeal of the "beautiful game." To celebrate this year's running of the event, presents its totally opinionated list of the world's ten best soccer cities, where the game is part of the city's cultural DNA. Agree? Disagree? Tell us in the comments section.

10. Munich, Germany
9. Mexico City, Mexico
8. Glasgow, Scotland
7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
6. Rome, Italy
5. London, England
4. Buenos Aires, Argentina
3. Madrid, Spain
2. Milan, Italy
1. Barcelona, Spain

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Related Topics: 2010 World Cup · Africa Travel · Top 10 Lists

May 07, 2010

Putumayo Releases New South Africa CD for 2010 World Cup (Plus: Win a Free Trip to South Africa!)

By awayblog

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Putumayo-south-africa On Tuesday, May 18, recording label Putumayo will release its latest compendium of world music to celebrate the approach of the 2010 World Cup, which will be held in South Africa in June and July, the first time the quadrennial soccer tournament has been hosted on the African continent. The new CD features 12 songs and artists that reflect the artistic and cultural diversity of southern Africa's "Rainbow Nation," from urban-infused reggae beats to more traditional arrangements from the likes of the Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir. Enjoy the samples below, plus check out Putumayo's website for more clips and to pre-order your copy.

Bholoja - Mbombela

Miriam Makeba - Orlando

Soweto Gospel Choir - Ngahlulele

In addition, Putumayo is hosting a "Win a Trip for 2 to South Africa" contest at participating retail outlets throughout the US and on its website. The 13-day, 12-night winning prize includes round-trip airfare and all accommodations. The contest ends June 30.

Visit's 2010 World Cup Special Issue for more World Cup-related travel inspiration, exclusive travel guides to South Africa's top cities and natural wonders, plus live dispatches from our reporter on the ground during this year's running of the world's biggest sporting event.

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Related Topics: 2010 World Cup · Africa Travel

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