Articles by Shaun Embury

Shaun Embury

Shaun is a Web Content Editor for the Audley website. He has travelled extensively, including Europe and further afield to Canada, USA (including Alaska), New Zealand, Australia, The Middle East, plus over a dozen countries covering East and West Africa. The highlights of his travels include camping in the desert near the little known pyramids of Meroe in Sudan, visiting Mountain Gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo and sea kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. Working on the website day-to-day continues to fire his interest in travel and a motorcycle trip through South America along the lines of "The Motorcycle Diaries" remains an ambition.

Claire takes a novel approach to helping endangered gorillas

A gorilla collecting money at Audley

A gorilla collecting money at Audley’s recent cake sale

In November 2013, Claire, one of our ticketing agents here at New Mill went on a gorilla trekking trip to Rwanda with Audley.

On her return, and knowing that she’d like to help with gorilla conservation in some way, she recently completed the Gorilla Run. Along with nearly 1,000 other people (naturally all dressed in gorilla suits) she ran the eight kilometer course in London in order to raise money.

As if this wasn’t enough, prior to this she also organised a cake sale here at Audley – always a favourite with staff. This, together with the run means she has managed to raise over £1,000 to date, a great achievement.

The proceeds of her efforts will go to The Gorilla Organisation, a UK based charity at the forefront of gorilla conservation.

Well done Claire.

Claire describes her encounter with a troop of wild gorillas in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains

Claire in Rwanda

Claire in Rwanda

The weather was perfect: it wasn’t raining or too hot so the gorillas were quite active. After maybe an hour and a half of hiking up the mountain we had our first glimpse of the group.

First, we saw a few females and adolescents, then a mother and maybe a three year old infant. Finally, the huge silverback male turned up. It’s very hard to describe quite how amazing it was to see them all and so close as well.

They seemed very relaxed and quite accepting of us. Some people have asked me if I felt scared or anxious but I can honestly say no, not at all. In fact, I felt truly exhilarated and in awe that I was getting to spend an hour with these wonderful wild animals in their nature habitat.

The group sat around grooming each other and eating bamboo and other vegetation. A few times the adolescents got quite close to us and we were told to step aside so there would be no contact with us (gorillas are susceptible to human viruses such as colds).

Claire's cake sale at Audley

Claire’s cake sale at Audley

At one point two of them got quite playful and whilst running by us one of them grabbed my leg as if to steady himself on the uneven ground. I couldn’t believe this had really happened. I was filming them at the time and you can hear the surprise and elation in my voice.

After the group dispersed into the jungle slowly, and with the guides showing us the way, we followed them into another clearing where they had settled again.

This time the young ones were up in the trees above, climbing and swinging happily. I had my back to them whilst filming when one of them suddenly released the branch he had just climbed down on, instantly catapulting all the leaves into the air and then back down onto our heads. We really were in among them all and it felt incredible.

A silverback photographed by Claire

A silverback photographed by Claire

In this clearing there was a mother and tiny baby, who we could just about see poking his head out of his mother’s arms: he was adorable.

When our hour was up the guides told us we had to leave them. I can freely admit at this point I had tears in my eyes as I was totally overwhelmed with emotion and sadness that I had to go.

It truly was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.

If you would like to find out more about an Audley tailor-made trip to see wild gorillas in Rwanda, please ring one of our specialists on 01993 838 580 or contact us online.

Alternatively, browse our Rwanda or Uganda gorilla trekking guide, which also includes itinerary ideas, all of which can be tailored to suit your individual preferences.

Singapore Airlines just got even better

Singapore Airlines

Enjoy greater standards of entertainment, comfort and hospitality with Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is one of the world’s leading carriers as evidenced by their five-star rating from SKYTRAX as well as direct feedback from Audley clients.

Operating the A380 and newly delivered Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on its long-haul routes has allowed Singapore Airlines to introduce new cabin products across its classes.

The airline now features one of the world’s most advanced in-flight entertainment systems, with larger screens and touch-screen handsets, as well as more spacious and comfortable seats in First, Business and Economy classes.

Singapore Airlines is now setting the industry benchmark for premium air travel.

New routes

silk_air_B737SilkAir, the regional wing of the airline is launching services to two new Southeast Asian destinations, increasing its network to 47 destinations in the Asia Pacific region.

Its thrice-weekly services will operate to Kalibo in the Philippines, and between Mandalay and Yangon in Myanmar.

In addition, SilkAir will operate 35 times weekly to Phuket in Thailand, up from the current 30 times weekly, while in Australia, services to Darwin will be increased to five times weekly, a rise from the current four times weekly.

Finally, in Indonesia, services to Palembang will be increased to five times weekly and subject to slots approval, and services to Balikpapan will also increase from the current six times a week to daily flights.

If you would like to find out more about an Audley tailor-made trip to a destination in Southeast Asia, please ring one of our specialists on 01993 838 100 or contact us online.

Mara Rianda, one of our Africa charities, has reached its ten year anniversary

The head teacher outside the new school

The head teacher outside the new school

One of our charities in Kenya, Mara Rianda, has just reached its ten year anniversary. The charity started when the founder Richard Long asked a local school teacher what they needed and was told ‘chalk would be a miracle’. Their most recent achievement is the opening of a new medical centre, which Richard visited in October.

He reported that the community were ‘just overwhelmed to have their own medical centre; it was truly an answer to their prayers’.

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Elephant Diaries on BBC Four tonight

Sheldrick elephant sancturay

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya

I have blogged several times about the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a popular and worthy charity based on the outskirts of Nairobi (you can see these blogs here, here and here).

Following the trials and tribulations of the nursery’s herd of baby elephants, Elephant Diaries is a five-part series starting tonight at 7.30 pm on BBC Four.

To find out more see Elephant Diaries on the BBC website.

If you would like to find out more about an Audley tailor-made trip to Kenya, please ring one of our specialists on 01993 838 510 or contact us online.

Song Saa launch Foundation Festive Appeal

Song Saa Private Island

Song Saa Private Island

The owners of Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia have just launched their Song Saa Foundation Festive Appeal, with the aim of raising in one month $25,000 (£15,300) for the Song Saa Foundation.

The Foundation is very close to the heart of owners Rory and Melita Hunter and central to what they are trying to achieve at Song Saa, with its focus on environmental sustainability, assorted wildlife projects (see my blog about how they saved animals in cruel zoo) but in particular, helping the local community of Prek Svay on the Koh Rong archipelago.

Please take a few minutes to find out more about the appeal by viewing the video above.

Make a difference, try a “voluntourism” project in Kenya with Me to We

Volunteers on a 'Me to We' project in Kenya

Volunteers on a ‘Me to We’ project in Kenya

Craig Burkinshaw, Audley’s founder is always keen to find and promote new responsible travel initiatives and so impressed was he with his latest find that he decided to join the charity’s Board in order to personally help out.

Me to We is a non-profit organisation which arranges trips to visit local communities around the world, including India, Ecuador and Kenya. Audley are currently the only travel company in the UK offering places on Me to We projects, allowing travellers a genuine insight into the cultures of the countries they are visiting as well as directly benefiting the local communities in these places.

Our Africa specialists have put together a brand new itinerary which combines a safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara with three days of volunteering in Bogani, a local community not far from this famous park.

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Remembering Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918 – 2013)

We were really saddened to hear about the news of Nelson Mandela’s death but we also see this as an opportunity to celebrate and remember his inspirational life and achievements – and talking to our contacts in South Africa, this seems to be the approach that the country as a whole is taking. In the Audley Africa department we are taking time out to remember Nelson today and raise a glass to him as a team.

Ruth Milligan
Audley Africa Safari Manager

Wild Burma – episode two

Putao in Burma

The remote Putao area in northern Burma is home to a multitude of wildlife

I blogged a few weeks ago about the new BBC series Wild Burma: Nature’s Lost Kingdom. It has certainly grabbed the attention of Audley’s Burma specialists, so if you haven’t yet seen it here is a reminder that episode two is on BBC 2 tonight at 9pm.

If you missed the first episode then catch it again on the BBC iPlayer.

Call our Burma specialists on 01993 838 105 for more information about Audley tailor-made trips to this fascinating country, or contact us online. Alternatively view our first-timers guide to Burma to see what you could be missing.

In Mandela’s Footsteps

Nelson Mandela statue in Johannesburg

Nelson Mandela statue in Johannesburg

Nelson Mandela is one of the iconic figures of the modern era and a new film based on his 1994 autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ will be premiering to UK audiences in January. It’s this recent history of apartheid that not only holds a fascination for many movie goers but also a sizable number of visitors who travel to this fascinating country each year. With this in mind our South Africa specialists have just put together a brand new itinerary.

Robben Island

Robben Island

In Mandela’s Footsteps charts some of the most significant places Nelson has been linked to. In fact in some cases you literally can walk in the footsteps of the man himself; the most famous (or infamous) perhaps being in the prison on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town. Nelson was incarcerated here for two decades during the apartheid era.

The itinerary starts in Johannesburg. Here you will visit the Apartheid Museum which offers an experience which is both informative but also humbling. There are displays of photographs, film and texts which lead you through the years of segregation. In addition you will visit Constitution Hill, or if you’d prefer an alternative option is a guided tour of the township of Soweto.

The itinerary also visits places in and around the beautiful Drakensberg mountain range. You will visit the iconic battlefields, the site of numerous struggles between the Boer, Zulu and British armies.

Even among the stunning scenery of the Drakensberg you are never far away from symbols of the apartheid years and it’s here you will stop at the Nelson Mandela national monument, marking the site of his capture before he was imprisoned.

The trip finishes in Cape Town and a visit to the aforementioned Robben Island.

If you would like to find out more please call our South Africa specialists on 01993 838 550 for more information or contact us online. Alternatively view our South Africa itinerary ideas, all of which can be tailored to your individual requirements.

Born Free presentation at Audley

Guest speaker at Audley, Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation

Guest speaker at Audley, Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation

Last Friday, myself and 24 other employees sat in the Waterwheel Room here at Audley and spent the next 30 minutes engrossed by what our guest speaker had to say.

Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna

Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna

His name was Will Travers and those of you who have seen the classic 1966 wildlife film Born Free, the name will probably sound familiar. This is because Will Travers is the son of actor and actress Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, who played George and Joy Adamson, the real-life couple who raised Elsa the lioness in that famous film.

In fact such was the interest around the company when it was announced that he was coming in to speak, Will kindly agreed to do two talks one after the other to meet demand, thus accommodating 50 people in total. I’m sure had we had more room we could have easily doubled this audience again.

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