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Meet Zambia’s groaning hippos, growling leopards and mango-stealing elephants

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Of leopards and aardvarks

Word had begun to spread throughout South Luangwa National Park in east Zambia: A male leopard had killed an aardvark and dragged the carcass up a tree.

My guide, Abraham Banda of Norman Carr Safaris, shook his head when he heard. Aardvarks, he explained, are an incredibly elusive animal. They are nocturnal and spend most of their lives burrowed in the ground. Abraham grew up in a nearby village and has been guiding for 27 years. Just the night before, he had been chasing down what would have been the 11th aardvark sighting of his life. “And now,” he said, “I think the leopard is eating my aardvark.”

Our little group on this game drive — me and two delightful retirees from Pennsylvania, Bob and Kay McClenathan — missed seeing the leopard and his kill that night. But the next morning, Abraham still had aardvark on the brain and suggested we see what had become of the ant-eating animal.

Scanning the area, Abraham and our scout, Viyato Zulu (who wore a black beret and carried a rifle to deal with “situations”), agreed that the leopard was gone. We exited our Land Rover for a 50-yard “walking safari” toward the tree where we thought we’d find the aardvark’s remains.

We’d nearly reached the spot when a dark shape dropped out of a different tree.

The shape was the leopard.

He ran away for a few yards, and then, faster than any of us could have reacted, ran back, stopping maybe 30 feet from where we were, and let out a loud, menacing growl.

“OK, we’re just going to back up very slowly,” Abraham whispered. None of us breathed again until we were inside the truck.

Abraham explained later that he hadn’t been too worried because leopards usually flee conflict; it was only when the leopard returned and growled that Abraham realized this wasn’t most times. “He had something to protect,” Abraham said.

We’d all forgotten to look for that aardvark.

Camp visitors from the wild

I had arrived two nights earlier at Chinzombo lodge, the fanciest of the luxury safari company Time + Tide’s five camps in the riverine and woodland savanna landscape of South Luangwa.

My 52 Places list had actually featured another Zambian game park, Liuwa Plain National Park, which also has a Time + Tide property, in the far western grasslands of the country. But it wasn’t open yet for the season during the Africa leg of my trip, and would have been difficult to revisit later on, so I chose the closest approximation.

We were ushered in by a young male lion ambling up the road in front of us. He was making a low mewing sound. “He’s lost his mate, and he’s looking for her,” Abraham explained.

Chinzombo is near the city of Mfuwe, on a bend in the Luangwa River, which meanders with twists and turns that leave ecologically rich oxbow lakes behind when the river changes course. Animals gather in and around the river year-round, including one of the highest densities of hippos on the continent. From our camp and on our twice-daily drives, we’d hear their chorus of grunts, groans and squeaks like a bunch of rusty doors having a conversation.

They weren’t the only animals making their presence known. Several times, I came back from lunch to find elephants near my villa (one of six in the camp). I’d wake up from a nap and see troops of vervet monkeys or baboons using my patio as a thoroughfare.

The capriciousness of nature never ceased to amaze Abraham, which is why he was such a fantastic conduit for this rugged terrain and its inhabitants. “Wow!” he would say, stopping the vehicle and turning off the engine so we could hear birds chirping and warthogs grunting.

I also spent a day at Nsolo, one of Norman Carr Safaris’ four South Luangwa bush camps, where I went on a walking safari, a fascinating journey into animal-world forensics, analyzing plants, insects and droppings to guess what had happened the night before.

As for that lion, we followed his soap-opera drama. He reunited with his mate one day, and by evening she was wandering off without him. “He has no use for her right now,” Abraham said, explaining that they’d eaten and it wasn’t mating season. Still, the next night we heard him mewing for her again.

The mango thieves

Our Land Rover stopped on a cliff at the edge of the park just as a procession of some 30 elephants was making its nightly river crossing. Through binoculars, we watched their hesitant march. Bulls with their great tusks forged ahead, making sure the coast was clear of predators, and moms paused every few minutes to give their calves time to catch up. There must have been seven families of majestic mammals forming a line of tiny shapes in the distance, silhouetted against the setting sun.

This was Abraham’s secret spot for a safari tradition known as a sundowner: a happy hour of double-strength gin and tonics served in crystal glasses from the hood of our vehicle. It was that rare moment when we could get out of the vehicle — after Viyato had made his safety inspection — in a particularly picturesque spot.

On the way to Chinzombo lodge, we had passed through Mfuwe, which is really a 20-mile series of connected villages that stretches from the airport to the park’s border. The villagers grow mangoes, and it turns out those adorable elephants we’d been watching have developed a taste for them. They were heading across the river to conduct a fruit robbery.

“Elephants are a bit of a nuisance,” Abraham said. “They come every night, and all you can do is yell your lungs out and chase them away. It can be dangerous. If cornered, they trample people or gore you with their tusks.” Elephants are also responsible for the worst deforestation I saw in the park; they can eat a patch of trees down to the stumps.

While we stood outside, sipping our drinks, we heard a rustling from some trees nearby. And there, maybe 50 feet from us, was an elephant. And then another appeared. And another. Soon there were half a dozen.

Abraham instructed us to drop our voices to a whisper. All they wanted was to cross the river and get some mangoes. They would do us no harm, as long as we didn’t startle them.

The elephants sized up the situation, and then they went for it, passing right past the vehicle, and filing, one by one, down what looked like a sheer sandy cliff. Soon they were racing across the riverbed and through the water to join their companions in the mango groves.

I was thrilled, a little scared, and in utter awe that I was living that moment. It was light enough to see them, but just dark enough that taking pictures wasn’t an option. All I have are the memories, and I will have those forever.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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