Tanzania Tours

If you used Google Earth like we did, you will have discovered that the GPS coordinates mentioned will take you to the area of Tanzania’s Grumeti River where the great wildebeest migration is heading.

It’s the green season and animals have started the long walk across the Serengeti in search of greener grasses.

The star of this spectacular annual event is the million or so wildebeest. They can make you smile, these irregular animals that tend to look like they were put together by a committee. They are one of the odder-looking members of the antelope family; not at all like their sleek and slender cousins.

But the wildebeest is surprisingly fast and agile. Between four and five feet tall, weighing as much as 600 pounds, wildebeest are powerful animals. There are two species – blue and black. The differences are found in the curve of the horn and the color of their fur. They have powerful hooves that are designed to allow them to travel over rugged terrain, and prevent slipping or sliding in the mud. The curved horns help protect them from predators that are especially plentiful during migration. The back end of the body closely resembles that of an ox.

As they begin the 500- to 1,000-mile journey, the herd cannot slow down for those unable to keep up such as the old, weak or very young.

We have a penchant at Big Five for trying to figure out odd things. We were curious about how many steps it might take a healthy adult wildebeest to walk the same distance as it would for a safari vehicle to drive. I know that sounds like one of the uncertain challenges by the guys from Top Gear. But those of you who know Ashish know he is a car geek who uses car metaphors to explain the world.

While we are not mathematicians, Ashish is pretty good with a calculator. All things being equal, we figure that the vehicle traveling an average of 40 kilometers an hour will take about five hours to drive from the Central Serengeti to Northern Serengeti. The poor wildebeest will have to take some 1,148,000 hoof beats to cover that same distance.

The migration is currently heading toward the Grumeti River before turning north. Explore our newest adventure that takes you into the world of the wildebeest: President’s Pick: Tanzania Safari in the Sun.

Tadoba National Park Tour

The bark of India’s ghost tree changes with the season from pale pink to green, and even at times light blue. But it’s the summer skin of white that gives it that other-worldly feel. It stands out against its surrounding as the slim branches curl and twist and spread, leafless poking up to the sky.

A member of the gum family, the ghost tree, also called mahua, has soft wood that appeals to tigers. They sharpen their claws or mark the bark as part of their territorial messaging. The tree begins life pushing its way through a rocky landscape and is normally found with stones at its base. This deciduous tree with horizontally-scattering branches grows as tall as 49 feet on hillsides and higher ground. This invites the cautious leopard to drag its kill to the top to better keep a wary eye out for tigers. And the ghost tree calls to sloth bears, too, for they are fond of its flowers, which, once digested, turn into alcohol. You may find the bears sleeping near a waterhole after having their fill of the mahua’s flowers.

Man has also found the ghost tree useful as it releases a natural karaya gum that is used as a laxative, and as a thickener in cosmetics and medications. In manufacturing, it is added as a binder, emulsifier and stabilizer in preparing beverages and foods.

The sometimes spooky-looking trees live in Tadoba National Park, also known as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, one of India’s 47 project tiger reserves. Estimates suggest only about 3,900 tigers are left in the wild on the entire planet. Of all the big cats, tigers are the most endangered. This park is said to have up to 72 tigers spread over 241 square miles, which means you have a good chance at spotting these magnificent creatures.

Although the major attraction here is, of course, its tigers, the park is home to large herds of chital as well as sambhar, barking deer, chousingha, gaur, Nilgai, and whistling wild dog. At night, you may glimpse one of the small civets. For bird watchers, they can search for some 195 species of birds such as the honey buzzard, the crested serpent eagle, the shy jungle fowl and paradise flycatcher. Reptiles include the endangered Indian python, terrapins, star tortoise and cobra. During the monsoon season, spiders abound including giant wood spider, signature spider and red wood spiders.

Landscapes dotted with ghost trees and the stunning wildlife make for a rewarding safari adventure such as on the 15-day Naturally India journey, which focuses on India’s wildlife in Tadoba as well as two other parks.


Enjoy this brief video of two brothers.



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The oldest known textiles found to date in the Americas are fragments of six woven textiles and cordage discovered in Guitarrero Cave in northcentral highlands of Peru. The weavings, from plant fibers, date to between 10100 and 9080 BCE.

In the South American Andes, wool came from camelids, primarily llamas and alpacas that were both domesticated by about 4,000 BCE. In the Inca Empire of the Andes, women did most of the weaving using backstrap looms to make small pieces of cloth and vertical frame and single-heddle looms for larger pieces.

Andean textile weavings were practical as well as symbolic and of ceremonial importance. They were also traded, used as currency and tribute, and as an indicator of social class and rank. Sixteenth-century Spanish colonists were impressed by both the quality and quantity of textiles produced by the Inca Empire. Some of the techniques and designs are still in use.

The Awamaki project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Peru that works to empower women’s associations. It partners with eight artisan cooperatives in the rural Peruvian Andes that still use  methods such as the backstrap looms to create traditional textiles. They provide women with training and vital access to global markets not previously available to them.

“I founded Awamaki in the belief that income in the hands of women is the best way to lift communities out of poverty,” said Kennedy Leavens, founder and executive director of Awamaki.

The objective of Awamaki, a Quechua word that means hand weaving, is to help women develop a sustainable source of income to increase their families’ quality of life and opportunities. The textile cooperatives weave, knit, spin and sew. Awamaki offers these women training in quality control, improved skills, product development and business.

A Seattle native, Leavens launched Awamaki in early 2009 with two staff members, a handful of volunteers and ten women weavers. The focus was on connecting women artisans to markets through a store and wholesale business, and through a tourism program.

Today nearly 200 women are learning not only how to survive in this fast-paced world, but how to improve their lives and the lives of their children. Most of them have been working with fabrics since they were small, learning the craft in their Andean communities. Awamaki supports the women in becoming leaders who can help transform their communities.

In the heart of these Quechua communities, you can engage with these women through an impactful and intimate community visit to learn more about the pre-Incan weaving traditions and the remarkable Andean indigenous culture that has managed to survive. You learn about backstrap weaving and how it relates to their culture and history. You will receive a demonstration of the entire process, beginning with how alpaca or sheep wool is hand spun into yarn, how local plants are used as natural dyes, and finally how the yarn is woven into the final product. After the demonstration, you also have the opportunity to try weaving yourself.

You can add this rewarding encounter to almost any Peruvian itinerary such as Peru Andes Adventure by Train.


This project is part of our ongoing commitment to global sustainability. For more about sustainable travel in Latin America, visit www.galapagos.com.


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