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Dear Vacations To Go Customer,

Alan Fox is on safari in South Africa with SITA World Tours and his final report, from Singita Lebombo Lodge, is below.

Please scroll down to see this week's tour deals.



Two hundred yards short of touchdown, the pilot of our 12-passenger Caravan suddenly revved the engine back to full power, pulled the nose up and aborted the landing. We climbed and banked to the right, making a circle to line up for a second approach.

Once on the ground, the pilot told me that a wildebeest had wandered onto the landing strip on our first approach, darting back into the thicket when we buzzed by overhead.

In Africa, one can expect the unexpected. It is good to be back.



I am writing today from the last stop on my safari, the spectacular Singita Lebombo Lodge in Kruger National Park. I arrived two days ago on a short flight from my last lodge.

The land here is beautiful, isolated and rugged. There are interesting rock formations, meandering rivers, sheer cliffs and great vantage points from which to watch the sun set. I've loved the unpredictability of each and every day.

We've had a close encounter with four sleepy lions as they snuggled up together like big kittens. We've trailed small but fearless honey badgers as they chased some unseen prey.

We've watched as hulking, nebulous blobs in dense fog turned into elephants and zebras, and just missed stepping on a deadly boomslang (venomous, green snake) sunning itself on a path.

We counted a dozen motionless crocodiles hiding in the weeds on the banks of the Sweni River, like traps waiting to be sprung. We visited with a herd of skittish Cape buffalo being stalked by a pride of lions.

On our first night at Lebombo Lodge, we dined poolside under Orion and the Southern Cross. Last night, we danced to local music with the Tsonga tribe in a torchlit boma.

Kruger is South Africa's largest game reserve, by far, stretching 220 miles from north to south and 40 miles from east to west. Most of the park is open to the public but nine large tracts of land have been set aside as privately operated "concessions" that hold long-term leases.

Lebombo Lodge shares one of these huge, private concessions with sister property Sweni Lodge. The concession is leased by Singita and located in the southeastern region of the park, on the border with Mozambique.

The biggest advantages of the private concessions are the high quality of the accommodations and food and service, the low number of guests and vehicles allowed inside the concessions and the fact that the private owners allow their guides to leave the roads to get closer to the animals. Visitors to the public areas of the park are not allowed to stray from the roads.

Lebombo Lodge features 13 spacious bungalows and a villa that can be configured as two two-bedroom units or one four-bedroom dwelling. The bungalows look down on the life-giving N'Wanetsi River.

The walls of the bungalows are made of glass, with wooden screens for shade and privacy. The interiors are beautifully decorated, open and contemporary, and filled with natural light.

Elevated back decks are perfect for game viewing or lounging on a sleepy afternoon. There's a king bed inside and a smaller bed on the deck, covered with mosquito net, for anyone who'd like to sample sleeping outside.

I had to try this and can recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind an occasional unexplained screech from the great, black beyond.

Service is the name of the game at Lebombo Lodge, with a friendly staff that anticipates every need.

There is an outdoor restaurant (poolside) and a boma, for cookouts by the fire. A bar, lounge, self-serve deli, fitness center, library, wine studio, boutique and gallery round out the amenities.

Gazing out the window from my bungalow, it's hard to imagine that South Africa suffered through the worst drought in recorded history in 2015 and 2016. Today, Kruger Park is lush and green for as far as the eye can see, but last year there was not a single blade of green grass to be found anywhere.

Plants withered and disappeared, and meadows changed to deserts. All but the deepest waterholes turned to sludge and then to cracked, sun-baked earth.

Animals that depend on grazing, such as elephants and buffalo, were the worst affected, along with hippos, which spend most of their day submerged in water. As these enormous animals grew weak from hunger and thirst, they became easy prey.

There's a thin line between "eating" and "eaten" out here.

While drought is a disaster for some species, it is a bonanza for others. With food so readily available, the number of predators and scavengers--such as lions, hyenas and vultures--actually increased.

Finally, in January of this year, the rains returned to Kruger. Now that the water holes are filled and the rivers are flowing again, the decimated populations of elephants and hippos and buffalo are bouncing back, but it will take years to reach their former size.

In the meantime, with so many young mouths to feed and fewer animals to hunt, it is the large lion prides that are under pressure.

A safari is a sensory overload and it takes a while to digest what you've seen. There is nobility in the animals and their timeless rituals, a rhythm to the rain and drought. But the entire system is at risk in the age of exploding human populations.

If you are like me, you will leave your safari certain that this all must be protected for future generations. That's why Vacations To Go has been a corporate sponsor of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund since I trekked to visit a gorilla family in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park in 2010.

Vacations To Go supports the wonderful people who protect the last 900 mountain gorillas from extinction. We are a very, very small part of an incredibly large conservation effort that must succeed throughout this continent and the others.

As one of the leading operators of concessions, reserves and accommodations in Africa, Singita is at the forefront of the conservation effort. The company owns 12 amazing lodges and camps in South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and is the guardian of 1 million acres of pristine land.

People who go on safari ultimately fund much of this conservation and are an indispensable part of the solution.

In an hour, I'll climb into a bush plane to start my journey out of South Africa. My safari is over far too quickly but I'm not headed home quite yet.

I'll check in next week from the Earth's oldest desert.

Alan Fox



To view photos or a slideshow from this leg of my journey, please click here.



Alan Fox is traveling for the second time with the deluxe safari operator SITA World Tours. The company has more than 80 years of experience and specializes in guided travel to exotic destinations.

SITA offers upscale safaris throughout Africa on scheduled departures for small groups but will also customize a safari for as few as two people. They work with the best lodges and guides in each destination and take care of every detail.

The safari experts at Vacations To Go can help you find the perfect SITA safari. To see SITA safari itineraries in Africa, click here. To see all SITA tours worldwide, click here.



Here are this week's Top 15 Tours. All prices are per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability.

1) European Experience, 14 days with CostSaver by Trafalgar. Begins in London and ends in Paris. Save $50 per couple. Starting at $2,195. Departures from September 10 through December 24, 2017.

2) The Exceptional Region of Bordeaux, 5 days with CroisiEurope. Begins and ends in Bordeaux. Save 15%. Starting at $1,512. Departures from April 14 through October 25, 2018.

3) Highlights of Taiwan, 8 days with SITA World Tours. Begins and ends in Taipei. Starting at $1,565. Departures from September 5 through December 12, 2017.

4) Tropical Costa Rica, 9 days with Collette. Begins and ends in San Jose. Save $200 per couple. Starting at $1,799. Departures from October 7, 2017 through April 6, 2019.

5) Northern Welcome, 9 days with CIE Tours. Begins and ends in Dublin. Save 5%. Starting at $1,800. Departures from April 14 through October 13, 2018.

6) Antebellum South, 8 days with American Queen Steamboat Company. Travels between New Orleans and Memphis. Save $400 to $1,000 per couple, plus enjoy free shore excursions and more. Starting at $1,999. Departures from January 8 through November 12, 2018.

7) Great Italian Cities, 10 days with Trafalgar. Begins in Rome and ends in Venice. Save up to 7.5%. Starting at $2,030. Departures from November 10, 2017 through April 6, 2018.

8) Imperial Splendors, 10 days with Globus. Begins and ends in Munich. Save 10%. Starting at $2,149. Departures from April 3 through December 2, 2018.

9) Sensations of Southern France, 8 days with Emerald Waterways. Travels between Nice and Lyon. Fly for free from select gateways. Starting at $2,995. Departures from April 21 through October 13, 2018.

10) In the Footsteps of the Incas, 10 days with Trafalgar. Begins and ends in Lima. Save up to 10%. Starting at $3,481. Departures from February 13 through December 4, 2018.

11) Natural Wonders of Iceland, 10 days with Insight. Begins and ends in Reykjavik. Save up to 10%. Starting at $3,735. Departures from May 12 through September 8, 2018.

12) 8 Day Delightful Douro, 8 days with Scenic Cruises. Begins and ends in Porto. Fly from $495 per person. Starting at $3,895. Departures from October 29 through December 13, 2018.

13) The Complete South Pacific, 27 days with Collette. Begins in Cairns and ends in Auckland. Save $500 to $1,000 per couple. Starting at $6,999. Departures from October 14, 2017 through April 25, 2019.

14) Introduction to Spitsbergen, 9 days with Quark Expeditions. Begins and ends in Longyearbyen. Save $3,000 to $5,000 per couple. Starting at $7,295. Departs June 4 & 14, 2018.

15) Adventure to the Chilean Fjords and Antarctica, 15 days with Hurtigruten. Begins and ends in Santiago. Save $4,000 per couple. Starting at $9,055. Departs November 7 & 20, 2017.


Customers in the US and Canada can call us toll-free at 800-680-2858. For a list of our other toll-free numbers worldwide, click here.

For savings of up to 82% on ocean cruises, click here.
For river cruises up to 50% off, click here.
For discounts of up to 50% at hotels and all-inclusive resorts, click here.
For the lowest rates on Africa safaris from budget to luxury in quality, click here.

Please email me your comments, suggestions and questions at alanfox@tourvacationstogo.com and I will respond the same day.

If you enjoy our newsletter, please forward this email to family and friends.

Sincerely,

Alan Fox
Chairman & CEO
Vacations To Go



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