Pandemic-weary Americans plan for summer despite COVID surge

HONOLULU (AP) — A high school prom in Hawaii where masked dancers weren’t allowed to touch. A return to virtual city council meetings in one Colorado town after the mayor and others tested positive following an in-person session. A reinstated mask mandate at skilled nursing facilities in Los Angeles County after 22 new outbreaks in a single week.

A COVID-19 surge is underway that is starting to cause disruptions as the school year wraps up and Americans prepare for summer vacations. Many people, though, have returned to their pre-pandemic routines and plans, which often involve travel.

Case counts are as high as they’ve been since mid-February and those figures are likely a major undercount because of unreported positive home test results and asymptomatic infections. Earlier this month, an influential modeling group at the University of Washington in Seattle estimated that only 13% of cases were being reported to U.S. health authorities.

Hospitalizations are also up and more than one-third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at high risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Northeast has been hit the hardest.

Yet vaccinations have stagnated and elected officials nationwide seem loath to impose new restrictions on a public that’s ready to move on even as the U.S. death toll surpassed 1 million people less than 2 1/2 years into the outbreak.

“People probably are underestimating the prevalence of COVID,” said Crystal Watson, public health lead in the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security’s Coronavirus Resource Center. “I think there’s a lot more virus out there than we recognize, and so people are much, much more likely than they anticipate to be exposed and infected.”

A major metric for the pandemic — the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. — skyrocketed over the last two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The figure was about 76,000 on May 9 and jumped to nearly 109,000 on Monday. That was the highest it had been since mid-February, when the omicron-fueled surge was winding down.

Deaths are still on the decline and hospital intensive care units aren’t swamped like they were at other times during the pandemic, likely because vaccinations and immunity from people who have already had the disease are keeping many cases less severe.

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“The nature of the disease has changed. Two years ago I was seeing a steady flow of bad pneumonia cases. Now we are in a situation where people should be able to avoid that outcome by taking advantage of vaccines, pre-exposure prophylaxis (for high risk), and early anti-viral therapy,” Dr. Jonathan Dworkin, a clinical infectious diseases physician in Hawaii, said by email.

In Hawaii, which once had one of the nation’s lowest rates of infection, hospitalization and death, new cases are surging among the state’s 1.4 million residents. The University of Hawaii will again require masks indoors across its 10-campus system beginning Wednesday.

With cases climbing for eight straight weeks, Hawaii has the second highest infection rate of any state, trailing only Rhode Island. But because positive home test results aren’t counted in official data, Hawaii’s health department estimates that the case count is actually five or six times higher.

Despite its surge, visitors have been flocking to Hawaii’s beaches, especially in recent months.

Yaling Fisher, owner of Hawaii Aloha Travel, said bookings to the islands haven’t slowed during the surge. On the contrary, they’ve increased.

“Even now we are still busy,” she said. “We don’t see any cancellations.”

Samantha Hanberg, who was in Hawaii this week with her newlywed husband, said the couple left their masks at home in California when they left for vacation. She said she contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and subsequently got fully vaccinated, so she too feels safe.

“Nobody wants to get sick, but it’s definitely not at the forefront of my thought process anymore,” she said, snacking on shave ice on Waikiki Beach. “I’m to the point now where I just I want to go back to living and enjoying life, and not being so worried.”

Officials initially shut down Hawaii’s tourism industry by requiring all incoming passengers to quarantine. They shifted to a testing requirement and then a vaccination exemption before dropping all restrictions in March.

Hawaii was the last state in the nation to drop its mask mandate, though it remains the only state to require all public school students to wear masks while indoors — a rule that will remain in effect throughout the summer and possibly into the next school year.

Nearly two years after California Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide stay-home order, the state formally shifted to an “endemic” approach in February. Like Hawaii and many other states, its weekly infection rate has risen dramatically of late.

The new surge led the school districts in Pacific Grove and Berkeley to reinstate their indoor mask mandates, while an outbreak at a Northern California long-term healthcare facility had sickened at least 12 people by Friday.

Some Northeastern school districts have also revived their mask mandates, including those in Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island.

However New York, which was once the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, doesn’t seem likely to follow suit. The city is dealing with another surge in cases, but Mayor Eric Adams has all but ruled out bringing back a citywide mask mandate unless hospitals get inundated again.

The city’s school district jettisoned its practice of closing classrooms if multiple students test positive, merely recommends that masks be worn and even abandoned its requirement that students need to be vaccinated to attend prom.


Dazio reported from Los Angeles.


Find more of the AP’s pandemic coverage at

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How to Plan the Ultimate Summer Trip (on a Busy Family’s Budget) – West Virginia State Parks

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It’s not too late to plan a Memorial Day trip — Here’s where to go for great hotel rates

It’s not too late to plan a Memorial Day trip — Here’s where to go for great hotel rates

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How to plan an epic Disney ‘Stars Wars’ trip — without paying $6,000

How to plan an epic Disney ‘Stars Wars’ trip — without paying $6,000

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on the website are from credit card companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. Please view our advertising policy page for more information.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How Gen Zers Can Use Cards To Plan A Vacation

As summer starts rolling in, we start to feel the desire to go on vacation. The sun is out, holidays are coming up and we’re ready to take a break to recharge. Alas, the costs of that summer trip are rising fast. According to a recent Bankrate survey, 7 out of 10 U.S. adults are changing their summer vacation plans accordingly—taking fewer trips, staying local and picking cheaper destinations.

Still, many adults plan to take at least one trip during the summer season, including 75 percent of Gen Z. As Gen Zers start exploring their financial independence, here are a few tips to help minimize the cost of that next vacation.

Tip #1: Be open-minded and flexible

You can’t control the economy, especially if it’s drifting out of your favor with recent inflation and rising federal interest rates. But you can control how you approach your vacation mindset. Start thinking outside the box. If a beach vacation is too expensive, perhaps visit a lake this year. If air fares are too high, indulge in a road trip. Take a small group of friends to a rental property instead of a hotel. There are many ways to vacation, and this could be a good time to explore other options.

Best card for flexible plans: Flat-rate cash back

Flat-rate cash back cards are great if you want to change plans on a dime. The rewards will always come through, whether you take a flight, go to gas stations or pay for accommodations. You can also use these rewards after the trip to cover some of the expenses on your card, alleviating the pressure on your balance.

Suggested cards: 

Tip #2: Check out card programs

While people are aware that credit cards come with travel perks, many are unaware of the variety of travel benefits that you can receive, even if you don’t carry a premium card. From insurance on baggage and car rentals to annual free nights, there’s a lot to look forward to.

Best card for travel plans: Travel rewards cards

Travel cards are always going to boost your home-away-from-home comfort. These cards often have higher rewards rates on flights, rentals and hotels and other benefits for you to enjoy year after year.

Keep your own travel preferences in mind when deciding which card to pick. If you tend to be most comfortable with a road trip, look for cards that offer rewards for gas and grocery store purchases. If you find yourself in an airport multiple times a year, a card that gives lounge access can be a great investment.

Suggested Cards:  

Tip #3: Plan around new requirements

COVID-19 changed everything, especially the travel landscape. Depending on where you’re traveling, there’s a chance you’ll face higher prices, safety mandates or even mandatory testing before arriving. Make sure to research your destination’s health guidelines before booking and, if there’s a window for refunds, recheck before your trip to stay prepared.

Best card for new requirements: Premium cards

No one can prepare for everything. If you find yourself facing unexpected expenses, premium cards often have higher spending limits and 0 intro APR offers that can help you keep your debt down. You can also get benefits like credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, early boarding and travel insurance. With perks like this, traveling quickly becomes less of a hassle and more of an adventure.

Suggested card: 

Tip #4: Take advantage of relaxed summer holidays

The best part about summer is that it includes the low-stake holidays. While popular, Memorial Day and 4th of July do not hold the same urgency as perhaps Christmas or Thanksgiving. Therefore, planning trips before or after those days is less of a hassle.

Best card for this: Rotating categories

Often rotating categories cards change throughout the year to 5 percent cash back in select categories consumers will most likely spend in during the season. If you’re trying to look ahead, you can check categories from the previous year to get an idea of what will become available in the upcoming seasons.

You see a boost in cash back in categories like travel, transit, gas stations, restaurants and live entertainment, an easy way to make your next trip worthwhile. Just be aware you may have to activate the categories each quarter.

Suggested cards:  

  • Discover it® Cash Back: 5 percent up to $1500 in purchase each quarter on rotating categories (then 1 percent) with no foreign transaction fees
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: 5 percent cash back (up to $1500, then 1 percent) on grocery stores, streaming services and online purchases with travel insurance benefits
  • Citi Custom Cash℠ Card: 5 percent back on top spending category per billing cycle (up to $500, then 1 percent) including restaurants, select travel and select transit

Knowing when to travel and when to stay home

You may be craving a change of scenery but that doesn’t necessarily mean now is the time to go. When calculating your decision, consider all the pros and cons in order to make a decision that aligns with both your budget and personal well-being.

Go, because…

  • It’s a good opportunity to spend the points you earned. If you’ve been saving rewards points all year and are looking for a way to use them, a vacation is a great option. Not only is it an effective way to cut back on costs, but it can also allow an opportunity to splurge on card perks like hotel or flight upgrades.
  • It’s a great way to earn cash back. Often travel categories get higher rewards with credit cards, especially if the issuer has its own travel portal like Chase or Capital One. This is an opportunity to earn a percent or two more on cash back while having fun.
  • You may need a break. While vacations often look like a luxury, taking time for yourself is a necessity. Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, and breaks are vital to balancing life. Even if it’s a staycation, finding time for yourself outside of your normal schedule will be beneficial overall.

Don’t go, because…

  • It’s still expensive. Sometimes, our budgets don’t have room for time away. It may be better to plan a trip for 6 months out or longer if your debt is high or you’re planning to make a large purchase soon. In the long run, it’ll save you stress while giving you something to look forward to.
  • It’s easy to overspend. If you tend to spend a lot more on vacation than usual, going on a vacation could be taxing on your budget when you come back. If you carry a balance on your card afterward, you will incur interest on your card, which has recently risen.

The bottom line

Traveling today can easily be overwhelming, but your credit card can be more helpful than you think. If you’re getting a new card, look at the travel perks that will be beneficial to you. If you have a card, check for points and cash back opportunities on flights, gas and more.

Either way, there are plenty of opportunities for you to explore the world around you, whether local or international. Vacations are meant to be a time to unwind and, with some research, you can have your best one yet. Just like anything in personal finance, find what makes the most sense for you and go from there.

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Tips to Plan a Trip to Mount Rainier National Park​

Ohanapecosh River standing on the precipice of Silver Falls in Mount Rainier National Park.

Thomas Franta/Getty Images

Ohanapecosh River

5. Ohanapecosh and Stevens Canyon (southeast): This region boasts lighter crowds, waterfalls, box canyons and towering old-growth trees. Its entrance also closes as the weather intensifies, but it’s typically open from late May to early November.

Where to Stay and Eat

Paradise. From May to early October, check into the Paradise Inn, which sits in the park, high on the mountain’s southwestern flank, about 19 miles from the Nisqually entrance. Its 121 rustic rooms are tucked under a steep, shingled roof designed to shed snow (which can linger until June or July). In the evenings, rangers often give talks in the grand lobby, an inviting space with twin fireplaces, cedar-slab tables and a rustic carved piano.

Longmire. The historic Longmire District is home to the park’s other lodging option, the cozy 1926 National Park Inn (technically in Ashford, about 6 miles from the Nisqually entrance). Its 25 tiny and basic rooms don’t have Wi-Fi or TVs, but the property stays open year-round. Insider tip: Don’t miss the spectacular views from its veranda rocking chairs and afternoon tea beside the lounge’s oversized stone fireplace.

Both properties have ADA-accessible rooms.

Ashford. You can get more bang for your buck just outside the park. The mountain town of Ashford sits 6 miles west of the Nisqually entrance, the only one open year-round to cars. This area has the largest and most sophisticated selection of accommodations and restaurants close to Rainier. You can book a tree house or cabin in Ashford at the Wellspring Spa & Woodland Retreat, a bohemian sanctuary in a fern-cloaked forest (think “Hobbiton meets Rivendell,” with a labyrinth, driftwood arches and outdoor cedar hot tubs). Nearby, the 1912 Alexander’s Lodge at Mt. Rainier has 23 quaint rooms (the upper floors are accessible by stairs only). For extra charm, stay in one of the turret rooms, overlooking the waterwheel.

Also in Ashford, the Paradise Village Ukrainian restaurant serves such dishes as white-cabbage borsch, galushki (gnocchi) and sour-cherry pierogies, alongside crepes and baked goods. This spot’s also home to the Instagram-famous “Cannibal Hot Tub” — a giant kettle over a wood fire — which is open by reservation, even to visitors staying elsewhere. Load up on rib-sticking, climber-carb-loading fare nearby at the Copper Creek Inn, the mountain’s top-ranked eatery. Find out for yourself why its blackberry pie wins raves. Or wait till just before the park boundary and indulge in pork momos (dumplings) at the Wildberry Restaurant.

Mineral. Fifteen miles west of Ashford, in Mineral, Elkamp puts a modern stylish twist on tent and RV sites. It offers amenities more typical of a boutique property, such as escorting all new guests to their sites, and delivering ice and firewood. It will expand in 2022 to include cabins, yurts, a tree house and a luxuriously appointed Airstream. Savvy visitors gravitate to the old barn, where the effusive owners sell art, vintage camping items, gourmet treats such as cinnamon-bourbon-pecan popcorn, and local Hellbent and Half Lion craft beers.

Eatonville. To Rainier’s west, sip a draft at Eatonville’s Mill Haus Cider Company, a new venue with an outdoor music stage and covered patios with firepits. You can also take in a flick at the 1942 Roxy Theater.

Wilkeson. If you’re driving to the park from Tacoma, stop by the former coal town of Wilkeson, en route to the park’s car-free Carbon River entrance 14 miles to the southeast. It offers handsome 19th-century architecture, and some of the state’s best wood-fired pizza at the Carlson Block. Savvy travelers line up an hour before opening (once the restaurant uses up its 120 balls of dough, it’s done for the day).

Note: Many Mount Rainier-area restaurants close for the winter and stay open only until 8 p.m. in the peak summer season.

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How to Plan a Safari Honeymoon in 2022

Long before I met my husband, I resisted the idea that a honeymoon should be the most incredible trip of one’s life. Far too much pressure! I didn’t want to save a location or an adventure for a trip I wasn’t sure I’d ever be lucky enough to have. The fact that our own honeymoon would take place in 2021 knocked expectations down a peg further—we’d hoped to go to Japan, but the country remained closed to tourists. While researching vacations that felt, at a minimum, really special, we were finally swayed by imagery of couples outfitted in khaki wielding binoculars, a pride of lions in the foreground. Let’s go on safari!

Following the horrors and panic of 2020, an African safari was a surprisingly safe bet: It’s an outdoor activity sans crowds. I expected to buy a bunch of linen clothes and see some cute animals. What I couldn’t have anticipated was how much I’d absolutely love it. Within days of arrival in Kenya, we were observing lion prints in the dirt and translating their calls, naming varieties of bird, sensing by the awkward turn of a giraffe’s neck that a cheetah was approaching, and waking up at 4:45 a.m. in excitement.

Despite our intentions, we’d gone ahead and experienced the vacation of a lifetime. I wept daily from sheer wonder. But plotting the trip was a bit more complicated, and came with more questions, than a throw-a-bikini-in-a-weekender-and-go Caribbean stint. Here’s my best advice for those interested in hitting the savannah, as well as guidance from safari and African travel experts.

safari zebras
One of the most delightful aspects of safari was watching the animals interact—antelopes and elephants nosing up to the same water, or birds hanging out on a zebra’s back.

Kevin Rose

Where to go

Trying to narrow down which country, or even which area of the African continent, to see can be difficult, but a great place to start is simply asking yourself what kind of experience you want. “What’s the most important to you? What type of wildlife are you looking for?” says Naledi Khabo, the CEO of the Africa Tourism Association. “If you want to couple the gorillas and the big five, you can do Rwanda, or Uganda and Kenya. Kenya and Tanzania are probably the most expansive safari experience. If you want to have a little mix of everything, then I would say you do southern Africa.”

Indeed, South Africa allows visitors to pack in cosmopolitan evenings and urgent history alongside enthralling nature. “You can be in Cape Town—enjoy beach, enjoy cityscape, enjoy the wine country—and still be able to do safari while you are in that one province,” says Jerry Mpufane, the president of South African Tourism, North America. Maybe honeymooners also like to combine a safari trip with some days vegging on the beach. “There are beach options that you can tag onto to an East Africa circuit,” says Liz Loftus, a private travel designer and sales manager at the safari travel company Alluring Africa. “It is possible to combine with the Seychelles or the Kenyan coast or Zanzibar.”

giraffe safari
A giraffe was one of the first animals to greet us upon arrival.

Courtesy of Kaitlin Menza

For my own trip, I really wanted to combine two countries to max out the time, and considered South Africa + Botswana or Kenya + Tanzania/Zanzibar. Ultimately, Covid-19 made it a poor time to hop borders, given testing requirements, but many of those restrictions have since changed. Instead, we hit up four stops within Kenya: two safari lodges with wildly different terrains (Chyulu Hills and the Maasai Mara), a beach, and time in the capital city.

When to go, and for how long

Given the American approach to vacation allotment, and that you may have just taken time off around your wedding, it can be difficult to request a significant number of days off for a honeymoon. But you already know you’ll regret it if you don’t.

Considering that even direct flights from the U.S. will take up a day on either end, “it’s definitely an eight-day minimum, but I would much prefer to be looking at two and even three weeks,” says Charlotte French, a travel consultant and founder of Cavatica Luxury Travel. We stayed for two weeks, moving between regions about every three nights. “Usually we’ll say a minimum of three nights in each safari destination, so that you can get a chance to tuck in and experience where you are. Two nights is pretty fast,” says Loftus. “There are a couple places in East Africa where two nights is acceptable, like the Ngorongoro Crater. But if you’re in the Serengeti, maybe four, because it’s vast and you’ve got more area to cover.”

And if relaxation is truly the name of the game, you could easily spend longer in a single lodge. I’d read a warning from a travel influencer that safari gets boring after three days, and now think that person lacks curiosity; I could have spent ten zen days following a single cheetah family on their hunts and been totally thrilled.

cheetahs, safari
We spent a morning watching cheetah brothers hunt and nap.

Courtesy of Kaitlin Menza

As for the seasonality, the experts say there’s really not a bad time to go. A big pull is the Great Migration in east Africa, the annual pilgrimage of herds of wildebeest, zebra, antelope and more as they search for food and water—and try to avoid the lions, leopards, and cheetahs that attack them like fish in a barrel. It takes place from May to December, though, so there’s loads of time to take it in.

Additionally, winter (the months of May through August) can be great in southern Africa because, “You’ve got less green and less leaves on the trees. It’s actually the best time to view all kinds of animals because you literally see more,” says Mpufane. And anyway, “We actually never experience a winter by Northern Hemisphere standards,” he continues, since temperatures are fairly warm year-round. Animals won’t need to hide from the blazing sun of mid-day, as they do in the warmer months (September through April), though spring might bring an abundance of baby animals.

It truly goes back to determining what you want to see. But alright, if there’s really a week to avoid? “The one time that’s honestly the worst, only because of availability, is actually over the Christmas/New Year holidays,” says French. Rates go up, and lodges are booked years in advance.

safari elephant
At mid-day in November, the animals made their way under the trees to hide from the hot sun.

Kevin Rose

What it will cost

There’s no way around it: A safari is a luxurious vacation experience, and the international flights and typically all-inclusive lodges are not cheap. But there’s certainly a range of the latter. “I would say luxury starts at around the $750 range per person per night and goes up from there,” says Khabo. Some destinations and their activities cost more than others, such as Rwanda’s typically $1,500 gorilla trekking permit for international tourists, or Botswana as a whole. “Botswana is definitely going to be your premium cost,” says French, “starting at $1,250 per person per day.” And that’s before international airfare, though with a bit of luck and hunting it is possible to occasionally find a sub $1,000 flight.

mara nyika camp
One of our stays was at Mara Nyika Camp, a tented lodge where we watched animals stroll while sipping coffee from our patio at sunrise.

Great Plains Conservation

A tour operator or travel agent who specializes in safari travel can help bring costs down or help you determine where to spend and save if presented with an overall budget. “There are way to maximize the value for the dollar that you’re spending, whether that’s utilizing shoulder season pricing or these honeymoon discounts or a long stay,” says Loftus. “Maybe it’s ‘No, you’re not going to get a 14-day trip, but we can do it in 10 and check off all of the things that are the most important to you.’” These experts will also know which lodges are looking to fill a room, which are recently renovated, which are housed within the same hospitality group and might offer a discount, and so on.

What to pack

In my pre-safari ignorance, I really thought that all the khaki and olive-colored clothes were kind of a shtick. A costume! But it turns out that no, folks generally wear the neutral colors of the surrounding savannah, in cotton or linen fabrics, for a few solid reasons: Bright colors can distract the animals, white gets dirty in the dust, and dark shades attract tsetse flies, not to mention the hot equatorial sun. Worry not, though—you don’t need to buy an entirely new wardrobe for the experience. A tour operator, travel agent, or the lodge itself will likely have a suggested packing list, but I ultimately packed a total of three safari outfits (combos of t-shirts, linen buttondowns, and linen joggers or leggings) that I mixed and matched.

“Pack less and not more, and remember that certainly, [at] any luxury lodge, they’re going to do laundry, same day or overnight,” says French. Indeed, we were able to wash our clothes at each stop. Khabo has another mantra: “Layers, layers, layers,” she says. “If you remember nothing else, remember layers.” Temperatures can drop to the 50s or lower at night and in the mornings, while reaching the 80s mid-day. My husband and I were fine in a fleece jacket or heavy sweatshirt, plus wide scarves and hats with wide brims.

what to pack on safari
I made do with a few linen buttondowns layered over tank tops.

Courtesy of Kaitlin Menza

Another thing to keep in mind is that lodges are often reached by tiny airplane, which often have weight limits around 20 kgs (or 44 lbs) for a passenger’s entire bag allowance, meaning main suitcase and carry-ons combined. And the main suitcase should actually be a soft-sided bag like a duffle, no wheels. “Almost all of the smaller planes you’re going to fly on, they’re going to require a soft-sided bag,” says French. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been traveling and an American’s turned up with great big, standard hard suitcase, and they can’t get them in the plane.”

Among my most urgent packing tips? Bring ear plugs. On night two of our trip, while tossing and turning with jet lag, we were woken by a family of lions roaring playfully outside our room for hours. What at first was a spooky delight ultimately became a sleep ruiner.

What to know about Covid-19 precautions

While restrictions are gradually lifting around the world, a negative PCR test is still required to enter many African nations as of mid-2022, though rules vary by country and change often. Check the website of a country’s embassy or the U.S. State Department’s list of country-specific information to see what you need. Vaccination rates are lower than in the U.S., owing to lack of supply, but in my time in Kenya, masking and public signage around hand-washing and other precautions were more widely adopted than what I’ve experienced at home in New York City. Plus, our lodges had changed their mealtime procedures to distance guests, primarily outdoors, among many other safety measures.

Still, for all the obvious reasons of the last two years, purchasing travel insurance is a great idea, in the case you get sick before or during your trip and need to alter arrangements. And this is another case where a travel agent or operator can really help, whether it’s by keeping on top of the restrictions or arranging your PCR test to return to the U.S.

safari birds
The most surprising part of safari might be how quickly one turns into a bird person.

Kevin Rose

How to get the most out of a trip

It took us a day or two of the safari experience to get a handle on how it worked: Generally, at our lodges, two game drives were offered per day, in the early morning and late afternoon, with a long break in the middle for lunch, naps, and general relaxation. We set the start times with our guides, which in our case meant gathering before sunrise because we were just so excited.

zebra jawbone
During our stay at Ol Donyo Lodge, we were able to go on a walking safari, where our guides pointed out paw prints and here, the jaw of a zebra.

Courtesy of Kaitlin Menza

“From a purely logistical perspective, it’s definitely [about] communicating what your preferences are, either before arrival or right upon arrival, and getting an understanding of what your options are,” says Khabo. “If it’s not communicated, you may miss out on an opportunity.” If we wanted to try out the other possible activities—safaris on foot or bike or horseback, say, or glimpsing local art or shopping, or taking visit to the nearest village—we had to let the staff know so they could plan it for us.

Another aspect we didn’t realize right away was that we could simply ask our guides to find our favorite animals for us. “They can’t guess what you’re interested in. They really want to talk to you, and they’re incredibly knowledgeable,” says French. “Don’t get in a vehicle and not strike up a conversation. Those conversations with your guides are going to be the most memorable of the trip, too.”

baby cheetahs
A litter of cheetah cubs played next to our car on the final morning of safari.

Kevin Rose

We chatted for hours with our two guides: One told us about his upbringing within the Masaai while we sipped coffee under a banyan tree, and taught us about each tooth in the old jaw bone of a zebra we found in the dirt; the other took our challenge to spot the extremely elusive leopard seriously and finally delivered, with glee, under the pink sky of our final night, a mother and baby nuzzling in the tall grass.

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Tylorstown coal tip: Public exhibition on remediation plan to be held this week

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is hosting a public exhibition to provide more information about the next phase of the Tylorstown landslide remediation works.

The public exhibition on phase four of the Tylorstwon remediation plan will be held at Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre on Thursday, May 19. Its aim is to keep the local community informed on project progress.

A large coal waste tip suffered a landslide at Tylorstown in South Wales in February 2020. This was triggered by the unprecedented weather during Storm Dennis.

Emergency drainage work was completed shortly after the event, forming phase one of the remediation scheme. Phase two and three included embankment scour repairs, removal of material from the valley floor to receptor sites and reinstatement of two paths running through the site. These works were completed in summer 2021.

The next phase proposes remediating the remaining tip on the hillside to make it safe. This is a major element of the remediation plan and requires planning permission.

Informed by a public consultation in early 2022, the planning application is currently being finalised. This will be submitted to the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council soon for formal consideration by the Planning and Development Committee.

Subject to full approval from the planning committee, the council would conduct preliminary works over winter 2022 ahead of the main work starting in spring 2023.

Completion of phase four would enable future enhancements to the local community route and the creation of a riverside park at this location.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council frontline services director Roger Waters said: “Rectifying the damage caused by the Tylorstown landslip remains a council priority, along with improving active travel links for wider community as part of the remediation process to make the area safe.

“Having completed the first three phases of work by June 2021, additional activity to stabilise the slope over the remaining closed footpath took place in the autumn. This is the latest work on site to date, as we now look towards developing phase four.

“This phase of work will focus on remediating the remaining tip on the hillside, in order to make the area safe. It represents a significant element of the overall remediation plan, and the community was able to have its say in a pre-application consultation held in January and February 2022, which was a valuable exercise to shape the council’s final planning application.”

In March, the Law Commission of England and Wales published its final recommendations for a new safety regime for coal tips in Wales to replace outdated laws and improve risk management. The Welsh Government will decide whether to implement the Law Commission’s recommendations.

Read Dave Petley’s Talking Point on how the Aberfan disaster transformed the way mining waste is managed in the UK and what spoil tip risks still remain.

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