Join us on a journey through Africa, Madagascar and Latin America. Discover the natural beauty that these continents have to offer. Read our travel articles written by experts in Africa & Latin America.
An extraordinary story about young Mountain gorillas has been published on the informative website Wildlife Extra. The gorillas have been observed destroying the snares laid out by poachers. The snares constitute a serious threat to these endangered primates, which makes the news that staff members of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund have seen several young gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park breaking the snares, all the more remarkable. This behaviour demonstrates impressive cognitive skills, explains Veronica Vecellio from the Karisoke Research Centre, and shows that the gorillas are doing their part to combat poaching, which to date has resulted in several fatalities.
Young gorilla destroying a snare. (Courtesy of Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund)
Meru National Park is a less well-known reserve in Northern Kenya. Over the past few years the wildlife populations in this area have proliferated dramatically. There are only a few camps in the 870 km² park and visitors should see a variety of game including some unusual species such a Reticulated giraffe and certain rare antelopes. Elsa’s Kopje is one of our favourite camps in Meru. It was brought into the international spotlight when George and Joy Adamson raised the legendary lioness Elsa there and the book was published followed by the film ‘Born Free’.
On a recently trip, as we were making our way back to the lodge, just before the ascent up to the property, our guide ground to a sudden halt at an unassuming thorny bush. To our surprise, he pointed out nocturnal Bush Babies which permanently reside there, but are almost never seen in daytime. It was such an unexpected and memorable find, not least because these adorable creatures are hard to see, even at night.
Famous for its various species of giant tortoises, the Galapagos Islands is home to about 20,000 individual tortoises. Butone of these, Lonesome George, stood out from the crowd. He was first found in 1972 and was believed to be the last of his sub-species (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni). Conservationists tried for years to get him to mate with females from a similar sub-species, but to no avail, even putting up a reward of $10,000 for anyone who found a suitable mate. Just like Ling Ling and Tong Tong, the giant pandas famous in the 1990’s, no offspring were ever produced.
Sadly Lonesome George has recently died, found dead by his keeper who had looked after him for forty years. He was thought to be about a hundred years old which is relatively young as his sub-species can live to two hundred. The Galapagos tortoises demonstrate the phenomenon of ‘gigantism’ which occurs in some species when they evolve on isolated islands. In the late 19th century sailors and fishermen arrived and hunted the tortoises for their meat and almost drove them to extinction. George was very popular with the 180,000 or so tourists who choose a Galapagos holiday each year and the Ecuadorian people even had an image of him on their bank notes and stamps.
Simon Reeve visited Lonesome George before his death whilst filming the BBC series Equator – watch the video below.
Street Child of Sierra Leone is an inspirational charity whose aim is to get children off the streets and back into school. I came across Street Child through organising the travel arrangements for one of the runners and have been bowled over by the commitment and enthusiasm of every person I’ve come into contact with. Rainbow Tours was one of the Post Race Event sponsors and this is just the beginning of our involvement. The marathon raised over £400,000 and we’re already thinking about how we can be involved next year. Lewis Aldridge is a volunteer for Street Child and sent in this report and photos of this year’s Kiln Sierra Leone Marathon.
Kiln Sierra Leone Marathon, image by Mark Gillett
“I’ve just come back from a wonderful and inspiring trip to Sierra Leone and wanted to tell everyone at Rainbow Tours about it. I’m in love with Africa and spend as many of my holidays there as possible, but up until now I hadn’t been anywhere over in the West. I also love running. So when I heard there was a charity organising the first ever marathon to be run in Sierra Leone, it was something that I just had to get involved with.
We flew direct from London to Freetown and transferred straight to Makeni where the run was to be held and where the charity, Street Child of Sierra Leone, works tirelessly to get children off the streets and back into school. The marathon day itself was phenomenal. I’ve run about a dozen marathons and it was the best one by far. The scenery was sublime and the atmosphere was electric, but perhaps above all I think it was the 170 or so international runners all running for the same cause which made it really special.
Kiln Sierra Leone Marathon, image by Mark Gillett
After leaving Makeni I decided to rest my tired legs by spending a few days down by the sea. The beaches in Sierra Leone are some of the best in the world. I spent one night on the delightful Banana Island followed by two nights on the wonderful Tokey Beach. And on the last day I went to see the Sierra Leone national football team play in the national stadium in Freetown. I recommend it all. I love Sierra Leone. It’s safe, friendly and practically devoid of tourists. I can’t wait to go back for next years race!”
Kiln Sierra Leone Marathon for Street Child. Image by Mark Gillett
If you’d like to donate to Street Child, get in touch with Rainbow Tours or go to the Sierra Leone Street Child’s web page on Virgin Giving here. Regular giving really helps the charity to plan ahead and they say monthly donations are key to Street Child’s stability and growth – here’s a reminder of what just £10, £20, £40 or £100 a month can do.
£10 a month – Pays school fees, uniform, materials for 3 children.
£20 a month – Funds a child’s journey from the streets to family and school.
£40 a month – Trains a community primary school teacher and pay them a basic wage.
£100 a month – Pays a social worker’s salary: who supports 50-100 street children.
I’m just back from Panama. I have to confess that I went with a preconceived idea of what Panama would be like, thinking it would be all about the canal and not much else. But I can report that this trip has made me do a 360 degree turn. Once there I loved Panama City with its newly restored historic centre, trendy bars, cafes, and new boutique hotels and it was fun seeing huge ships going along the canal. There’s a lot to do here and it wasn’t hard to fill the three days, especially as we opted for a trip to the Embera Parara Puru Indian Community, located in Chagres National Park, just outside the city. The Chagres River is the key source of water for the Panama Canal, and due to the canals importance to the country economy, the government created the national park in order to manage the natural rainforest and its water table.
We set off after breakfast from the Bristol hotel, travelling by road for about an hour and a half to a “natural bridge” as they called it where we took a motorised canoe boat upstream for about 30 minutes. Suddenly the air was filled with the sound of drums and flute music, and we could see people on the bank awaiting our arrival. We’d reached Parara Puru, a village that has been adapted by the local community to demonstrate their culture and traditions. Tourism is a major source of income for the community, funding education, providing clothing and food. The community has it’s own school which is open to all the local children, where they learn to speak and write Spanish. Some of the older pupils travel to Panama City to study English.
Arrival at Parara Puru
It was fun just to walk around the community, seeing the girls cooking on the floor and chatting to people about their beliefs and customs. The kids seemed very free and at one with their natural surroundings. I also enjoyed the visit to a waterfall about 20 minutes away by boat and then a short walk through the rainforest forest. We swam in the pool at the bottom of the falls which was a welcome way to cool off!
Lunch was delicious – I tucked into tasty fried fish and plantain served in palm leaves. The fish was caught in the Chagres River but the community is not allowed to cultivate the land as the national park is a protected area, so some food stuff has to be bought in.
Sonia sampling fried fish and plantain, Parara Puru
All in all it’s a well-managed experience so that you don’t feel that your visit is inappropriate in any way. I’d definitely recommend booking this trip as part of a Panama holiday. There’s much more to say about the gorgeous Caribbean beaches in Panama – Boca del Toro and the San Blas Islands, but that’s the subject of another blog!
Africa and Latin America are brimming with spectacular sights and breathtaking experiences, and our mission at Rainbow Tours is to ensure that every holiday is exceptional. Each trip is planned with care and insight. At the same time we aim to ensure that tourism has a positive effect on the countries we send visitors to and on the people they meet.