Happy new year and here’s hoping your year has lots of inspiration and adventures of the African kind in it!
To kick off 2016 with a resounding trumpet we’d like to share the exciting news that Matson & Ridley Safaris’ new website matsonridley.com is now live! For a dose of inspiration and some ideas on your next African adventure, please take a look and share it with your friends.
Matson & Ridley Safaris has been a labour of love of Andy’s and mine for the last two and a bit years, and we’re delighted that many of you have already been on not one but two safaris with us, as well as signing up for more in the future. I think this is a sign that we’re on the right track with the life-changing experiences in Africa that we’re offering.
You can read some of the feedback we’ve had from guests on our safaris on our Testimonials page. The overwhelming feedback we get is that people love the fact that they’re not just having an amazing experience on our safaris, they’re also learning a lot while there, very importantly, able to also give back while on holiday, and to see their positive contribution with your own eyes. You can read more about the conservation projects we support on our Conservation page.
We are learning, growing and passionate about continuing to provide incredible safaris that make a difference to Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda (and open to any others you suggest to us!). Check out our Safaris page to learn more about the destinations we tailor safaris to. Life is short and there’s so much to explore!
Our family safaris are growing increasingly popular, so if you’re interested to learn more about taking your precious treasures on the trip of a lifetime check out our Family Safaris page. There are great deals available with discounted rates for kids.
If you’ve had a great safari with us, please let your friends know about us and help us grow our business into one that can really make a difference in conservation. Go on – take a moment for an Africa fix – matsonridley.com is now live!
I’ve always wanted to check out the Philippines, and living in Asia for the last couple of years finally afforded us the opportunity to do a bit of exploring. Ever heard of Palawan? It’s a series of islands to the west of the main Philippines islands, quite off the beaten track and home of the famous Underground River, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is considered to be the world’s longest underground river. Conde Naste magazine recently awarded Palawan the best island award as part of their 2014 Travel Awards – and here’s why.
Having packed up our house and put all our possessions in storage in Singapore, Andy, the boys and I headed for Manila for three days of Let Elephants Be Elephants events with my LEBE co-founder, Nadya Hutagalung, organised by our fantastic Philippines team, Ian Angelo King and Joey Mead. More on the Philippines launch of LEBE in a future blog, but for now let me take you to Palawan, Asia’s ultimate, undiscovered adventure and ecotourism destination.
Travelling with two kids under the age of 5 is sometimes a challenge, but the thing about the Philippines is that the locals adore kids – and that really helps. The warmth and friendliness of the people we met, from complete strangers to the lovely people we stayed with, was one of the most memorable parts of the stay. Okay so there were extremes – I had my wallet stolen in Manila, while holding the hands of two small kids (pick-pocketed right out of my bag), and we did have a bad experience with the owner of one place we stayed, but the generosity of others just astounded us. Palawan feels a bit like Africa in that way; you never know what’s going to happen, but when you go with the flow, magic sometimes happens.
Thanks to the generosity of some folks we met in Manila at the LEBE Land Rover event, we ended up at a little piece of paradise called Lagen Island. A private island looked after by a lovely team of locals, overseen by our impressive guide Bilog, the place had its own luxury two bedroom, two bathroom villa, made largely of bamboo, and even a resident wild Oriental Pied hornbill, we felt like we’d pretty much landed in heaven. We bought fish and lobsters and squid from the local fishermen, cooked on the coals by Bilog and team, and ate like kings in front of a big camp fire right on the beach at night. Surrounded by shallow, warm water and its own sandy beach, it was the perfect place for us and two little boys to rest up.
The scenery in the El Nido area is something else. Think islands with gorgeous, soft sand beaches, towering limestone cliffs, fully vegetated forests and swaying palm trees. What struck us about the whole of Palawan was how undeveloped the place was – in a very good way. Most of the island still has intact forests and there’s not a high rise in sight, even in the main town of Puerto Princesa. We hope it stays that way. Electricity on Lagen Island is powered by generator and there’s no refrigeration, which means going by boat into town every few days to buy ice for the cooler boxes, a good excuse to enjoy that breath taking scenery again.
The famed Puerto Princesa Underground River was worth a visit for the impressive stalactites and the sheer adventure of being in the dark on a little boat while bats and swallows fly past your head. Solo, now almost 5, thought it was a grand adventure. Although bear in mind it’s a bit of a mission to get there, two hours on winding roads from Puerto Princesa, and then a boat ride across the ocean to the point where you actually enter the cave.
It’s the sunsets and the peace that will stay in our memories the most. The sense of space, the huge vibrant skies and the warm waters with incredibly tame fish that you can snorkel right up to without them swimming away is really a recipe for a great escape. You do have to keep your wits about you with the kids (life jackets, mosquito repellent, eyes in the back of your head!) but for adventurous families or couples I can’t recommend this place highly enough. A huge thanks to Vivien, Ed & Bilog for taking such good care of us. Lagen Island’s gorgeous private villa can be booked here.
While in Puerto Princesa, which is a 4 hour drive from El Nido, we stayed at the Legend Hotel and met the owners, Antonia and Wyden, who happened to be there at the time and were just the most hospitable people ever. The rooms were of a good standard for the very reasonable price, clean and very big, and more than did the trick for us, plus the breakfast spread was ample for our family. The staff went out of their way to meet all our needs, which really helps when traveling with kids.
Travelling with an almost one year old, Shep, especially one with very red hair and incredibly white skin, was an experience in itself. Everywhere we went, locals described him as a ‘talking doll’, and he really got the celebrity treatment. We would have found it a lot more challenging traveling there if we hadn’t had our wonderful Philippino nanny, Julie with us the whole time. Julie wasn’t just our nanny while there – she was translator, guide and body guard for Shep from all the ladies who wanted to hold him as he literally stopped traffic!
All in all, other than the incredible islands, the warmth of the Philippino people was one of the things we loved the most about travelling there. At the moment, El Nido doesn’t even have an ATM, so it’s really a tourism hotspot waiting to happen. Our hope is that as El Nido opens up to the world, it develops in a way that keeps intact its reefs, forests and islands, because something this magnificent really is worth saving.
I’m delighted to have had huge interest in my guided safaris as part of my new ethical safari business, Matson & Ridley Safaris. My Okavango Delta safari for this year sold out in a month, the Namibian one planned for September 2015 has only 3 places left (so get in quick if you want to be on this one!) and I reckon it’s time to let you know about another one I’ll be guiding next year in July… to one of the most famous parts of Africa – Kenya!
Happy new year Africa-philes, elephant lovers and friends of the planet!
I’m kicking off the new year with some exciting news. It’s been in the works for a little while, and won’t be a surprise to many of you. This year I’m finally turning my love of Africa into a business. Many of you have been on safaris based on my advice on where to go and what to do in the past and some of you have even joined me on safari. Now you can actually book your African safari through my new company, Matson and Ridley Pte Ltd, a fully licensed travel agency, and join me in the land we all love for a very different kind of African experience.
Just a few days ago I was in the Save Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe, sitting by an African wild dog den where a dozen or so puppies (the cutest baby animal you’re ever likely to see) huddled up together for warmth. It was an extra special experience because it’s so uncommon, as the dogs only den for a few months a year during the winter months, and also because they are so endangered (only about 5000 left in the wild). Sightings like this are rare, and the Save Valley Conservancy is one of the best places to experience it – check out this footage I took of an adult regurgitating meat for the super cute bundle of puppies! (more…)
I love a family adventure…. I mean, let’s be honest, travelling with a rambunctious toddler in the far flung parts of the planet is not quite the same as when you’re travelling on your own. You can’t take the same risks and there are things like killer ants and venomous snakes to factor in. But there’s a lot you can do in the wild, as our intrepid son Solo taught us recently in Borneo. (more…)