Safaris with a difference
It is magical to be in a vehicle watching wildlife. Whether you are self driving or being taken around in an open sided vehicle by your guide the excitement of spotting an animal or bird and then watching it does not diminish.
However here are some suggested other ways of seeing wildlife and experiencing all that the bush has to offer:
This has to be one of the nicest ways of seeing wildlife at a pace that suits you. It is also a chance to see the smaller things that you miss when in a vehicle. Your guide and ranger (armed) have excellent eyes for spotting all sorts of things and enjoy interpreting the tracks and signs along the way. Your heart rate will rise when you see lion or a herd of elephant but your guides ensure that you are not in any danger.
These types of safari could be for a few hours or for several days, usually starting after an early breakfast and taking breaks during the heat of the day. Distances are not great but can be extended if you have to go round an animal. Moving quietly through the bush brings you close to many animals and gives you a chance to study their actions. The beer at your camp is always welcome at the end of the day!
Walking safaris are in some of the best wildlife areas in Africa and come highly recommended.
This is another great way of seeing wildlife and enjoying the thrill of horse riding in the bush. Having a certain amount of skill at riding helps and those who are confident will enjoy the freedom of riding over the veldt or through bush. Other animals seem to accept horse and rider as something not to worry about, allowing you to ride close to them.
As with walking you can spend half a day or be in the saddle for a few days. In the latter case the crew ride on ahead of you to set up camp so that when you arrive the fire is lit, the kettle is boiling and the tents are up. The horses are very well looked after are usually as keen as you to head out.
For those that are not so comfortable on horses, there are places that will accommodate your skill levels and set a time table that allows time to recover from each ride – perhaps visiting the area’s wildlife on a game drive as an alternative.
This activity is available in many African destinations so has different scenery and wildlife opportunities to consider.
Mountain Biking Safaris
As cycling has become more popular so the advent of the mountain bike safari has come in to being. Some lodges/camps have offered this for a number of years but the scale, length of the safari and locations have grown. As with walking and riding, decide on how much time you want to spend in the saddle and tailor make your trip accordingly.
Presently there are not as many longer distance cycling safaris as with horse riding but this is changing. Picking the right time of the year (and this applies to walking and riding) is important and the amount of your holiday that you want to spend doing this activity.
It is all about the planning and the options available and of course the time you have and the price you want to pay.
This is another completely different way of seeing wildlife. Many Lodges and camps based on or very near water offer trips on lakes and rivers in boats of varying sizes. This is a terrific way to see things like hippo, crocs and a host of birds up close and having the chance of seeing rarities such as otters. One of the best moments must be when you are on the water watching the sun go down and a herd of elephant come down for their evening drink.
Now picture yourself in a kayak on a river or lake doing the same trip. Somehow it seems more magical and personal. There are options to kayak for a few days or just for a day or less.
Sea kayaking can be just as much fun with inquisitive seals coming to check you out and dolphins tempting you to try to race them.
Island Hopping Dhow Safaris
In places like Mozambique and Madagascar where there are so many different islands to explore, then taking a dhow safari is the best way of travelling between them. With the option of taking to kayak to explore further afield or to visit the mangrove swamps there is always something to do and see.
Diving off the dhow to go snorkelling or to swim to shore ready to help set up camp for the night on a deserted beach helps to leave the modern world behind. There is something special when you sail in to a bay, drop anchor and then snorkel over pristine coral. Later sitting around a fire made of drift wood and with the waves on the beach as a backdrop symphony as you discuss the day’s events is unique.
Not all game lodges are welcoming of children and it is worth discussing this with your advisor. For those with concerns about health there are places that are malaria free and have just as good wildlife to offer. There are a good number of lodges that welcome families and in some places the adults’ are envious of their children’s activities. Who would not want to make a bow and arrow and then go in to the bush tracking!
Looking to older children’s requirements there are places that have options to be involved in work with animals in crisis or learn about conservation. For those contemplating a Gap Year careful planning will ensure that you have a truly worthwhile experience, which should look good on a C.V. Getting value for money is important and researching each option is vital.
If your interest is in the history of Africa or archaeology then there are places that will take you back to the dawn of man or to the battlefields of a number of wars – WW1, WW2, Boer, Zulu and a host of places relating to the wars for independence. There are many places to see Bushman art and to learn about a prehistoric hand axe and even try making one yourself. The museums found in East and Southern Africa are an overlooked but hugely interesting source of information. Adding in these to your safari itinerary will enhance the whole experience.
Safaris to see a given animal/bird
The obvious type of safari in this category is trekking to see the mountain gorillas of Rwanda but if you long to see a leopard or rhino or a host of different birds then careful planning is required. There is never any guarantee when wildlife spotting but your chances of seeing something in particular is enhanced by being in the right place.
There are migrations that go on all year but being at pinch points such as river crossings or just in the right part of the migration ensure you have the best view of this amazing spectacle. The same applies to birding – seeing the birds in their mating plumage are seeing them at their best – so pick the right time of the year.
Which ever type of safari you have in mind it is always worth talking to an expert about what, where, when and how to go. It will always pay dividends.