We love Africa, it’s a melting pot of sounds and tastes, cultures and people, scenery and wildlife and nobody knows this more than our Travel Expert Jo.
So she’s decided to share her top ten experiences in Africa, hoping it will inspire you to discover this fantastic continent and make the kind of memories that will last a lifetime.
Please read on to find out more. We hope you will love them all as much as we do!
1. Balloon Safari, Serengeti
‘Safari’ is the Kiswahili word for ‘journey’ – A balloon safari is the ultimate journey from the moment you are collected from your luxury camp in the early hours of the morning the excitement of the experience ahead really takes over. Wrapped underneath a Maasai blanket to keep warm you stare out into the darkness until in the distance you catch sight of the flames of the hot air balloon breaking the dark morning sky.
You stand and watch as the balloon fills, before climbing into the basket, and as the sun creeps over the savannah of the Serengeti and another incredible day in Africa begins you head up into the sky. The bird’s eye view is simply breathtaking and an experience like no other, floating over trees and peering down at the game-rich plains of the Serengeti was one of those African moments that makes you pinch yourself just to check that it’s real.
2. Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
Rwanda is one of the best places to trek to see mountain gorillas. It feels like the land that time forgot with never-ending hills, beautiful mountains, and pre-historic fauna. Several gorilla families can be found in the Volcanoes National Park, which can only be reached by foot (don’t worry, treks can be tailored depending on the fitness level of the guests).
NOTHING prepares you for when you first stumble upon them. They are so familiar yet so regal up close. You can’t help but feel a connection, as they hold their babies like humans, and socialise in such a familiar way. However, it’s when you see the Silverback, the leader of the pack, that you see the true gorilla. He saunters past, ignoring you – telling you through his body language that this is his territory, and you are just a visitor. It is one of the most unique and mesmerizing things you can do.
3. Bush Dining
The camps and lodges in Africa do so many things well and keeping the guests on their toes about where they might be dining next is one of them. The hurricane lamp pathway and the lamps dangling from a Baobab tree like Christmas baubles give the game away. The camp team has yet another surprise, an alfresco bush dinner feast under the African night sky.
A breakfast underneath ebony groves in Zambia’s South Luangwa; a champagne breakfast after your hot air balloon ride in Ruaha in Tanzania; a picnic lunch on one of the wild beaches of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia; a bush lunch by the Mara River with the hippos honking in the background in Kenya, a castaway picnic in the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique; special sundowners on the Makgadikgadi salt Pans in Botswana or a dinner floating on a pontoon in the Zambezi River. Come dine with us…
4. Walking Safari
A walking safari is a true safari for the senses. It is not just about what you see but also about what you can hear and smell. Away from the rumble of the game viewer, the silence allows you to soak in all of the sounds of Africa bringing you closer to nature.
Although there are some destinations where you can get quite close to the larger game on foot, this type of safari is more about focusing on the smaller species, walking the same tracks animals have before, and learning about the ecosystem’s flora.
5. Sleep Out
There is nothing like sleeping underneath the African night sky with just a mosquito net between you and the moon. Sometimes the ‘luxury’ is the experience itself.
There are many different sleep outs to experience in Africa from traditional fly camping out in the bush reminiscent of the early days of safari, walking safaris sleep outs, to star bed platforms. Vicky spent the night at @chiawasafaris star bed.. ‘It was the MOST incredible and unique experience. Falling asleep under a ceiling of stars, listening to the elephants crossing the Lower Zambezi river just metres from your bed, and waking up to a magnificent African sunrise. It is was one of the most magical and probably the most romantic thing we have ever done!’
6. Helicopter Safari
Take a journey off the beaten track, enjoying a bird’s eye view from an open-sided helicopter—whether it’s a flyby of Mount Kilimanjaro, exploring the wilds of northern Kenya, soaring over Botswana’s Okavango Delta, or a captivating flip over Namibia’s Skeleton Coast.
In Africa, enormity and boldness define every aspect, from the vast Rift Valley landscapes to the roaming African elephants, the thunderous roar of lions, and the cultural diversity across the continent. It’s no wonder the safari experience has taken a bold turn with helicopter safaris.
Let us craft this unique experience into your next Africa adventure.
7. The Great Migration
Although the Mara River crossing often gets a lot of attention due to the gruesome outcomes, the true spectacle of the migration is seeing the plains of the Serengeti or the Maasai Mara covered, as far as the eye can see, with dots of wildebeest and zebra. There is nothing more immersive than being surrounded on every side of your game vehicle by a chorus of grunting gnus.
As the migration passes through, eating all the grass in sight, the ecosystem comes alive with the predators being more active and as a result, the greater food chain feeding off their success. It is a fascinating time for game viewing and photography.
When is the best time to see the migration you might ask? In short; any time from January to September – you can travel to Tanzania and Kenya to witness this wildlife spectacle – although heavy rains in April and May can disrupt game viewing.
Some brilliant luxury mobile tented camps in the Serengeti follow the pattern of the migration; so you can catch the wildebeest and zebra carving south in January and February, crossing the Grumeti River in June/July or heading up and back into the Mara in August and September. As well as some lovely camps and lodges in the Masai Mara.
8. Canoe Safari
To have a change in perspective is what makes a canoe safari so unique and special. A safari on a game vehicle gives you an elevated position, a safari on foot gives you a vantage point at eye level whereas on a safari by you are at a much lower angle looking up. There is something quite magical about leaving the hum of the game vehicle behind and it being replaced by the gentle noise of the paddle gliding through the water –it can be serene and at times exhilarating.
The most renowned location to enjoy a canoe safari is on a specific stretch of the Zambezi River. On its northern bank you have Zambia’s Lower Zambezi and on its southern bank you have Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools. Both countries are well known for their high standard of guiding. With their guidance you can immerse yourself in the experience and listen to every bird call, every hippo honking and to enjoy watching elephants come down to drink from the water’s edge.
9. Skeleton Coast Flying Safari, Namibia
If you ask any Africa fanatic what is on their Africa bucket list, a Skeleton Coast flying safari in Namibia with one of the Schoeman brothers features very highly. I was lucky enough to go on one of their safaris a couple of years ago. Below are some of my memories.
‘See that sedimentary mountain? The one with the jagged face and neat stripes of multi-coloured rock. Eighty million years ago that was once the ocean floor’. I am on the edge of my seat in a light aircraft just metres above the mountain in question, hanging on to our guide Bertus Schoeman’s every word. This remote corner in the north-west part of Namibia is as wild as it gets – much of the topography hasn’t changed for millions of years – and it is hard to comprehend that others may have been here before you.
There are too many highlights to count but here are a few from my adventure; flying ten feet above the shipwrecks that still litter the Skeleton Coast, swooping down to land on the beach, landing on a clay pan in the Sossusvlei corridor, listening to the dunes ‘roar’ then driving across them in a land rover, boating on the Kunene River and, as a finale, flying over the mountains of Angola are memories that will stay with me for ever.
10. Mokoro Safari, Botswana
The Mokoro is synonymous with Botswana’s Okavango Delta as for many generations it was the only way to get around the Okavango Delta transporting people and goods around the Delta and being the canoe of choice for Batswana fisherman. This narrow dugout canoe is powered by pushing a long pole off the bottom of the Delta floor, similar to punting, and it’s perfect for navigating through the reeds and the crystal clear, narrow water channels.
A mokoro safari is not so much about your big game encounters, it’s a slower pace safari, more focused on learning about this intricate inland river delta. How it was formed and the legacy of past plate tectonic movement on the Delta today and exploring the animals and birds, large and small, that live within its perimeters.