For something extraordinary to do while staying at Victoria Falls, consider catching the Bushtracks Express. This is a step back in time as you board the steam train and travel out on to the famous bridge that links Zimbabwe to Zambia.
The train stops on the bridge to allow you to enjoy a 5 course dinner as the sun sets and the African night closes in – with the sound of the Victoria Falls in the background. You will have time between courses to step off the train to take photos of the Batoka Gorge and the stunning scenery about. Around 9.30 the train steams back to the Zimbabwe station and a short walk or drive will have you back at your hotel.
The same company provides river safaris on the Zambezi above the Falls. As they use shallow drafted boats with jet propulsion you can venture closer to the Falls than any other boat can – quite safely. A wonderful way to see the African sundown with a chance of an elephant or two coming down to drink their sundowner at the same time.
To find out more about these amazing tours and making them part of your own bespoke tailor made holiday please contact us.
Rovos Rail, one of our favourite carriers for that ”extraordinary” way to see Africa, have just announced a new 15 day trip that takes in Tanzania, Zambia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. It has taken patient diplomatic negotiations to arrange permissions along the whole route and it has taken over 2 years.
The inaugural trip sets off on July 16, 2019 from Dar es Salaam (a city familiar to Rovos Rail as it has been running its 15-day Cape to Dar trip since 1993), and includes a game visit in the Selous Reserve, a fly-in two-night safari in the South Luangwa National Park (Zambia) and a city tour of Lubumbashi (DRC). Thereafter, it joins the Benguela line for short walking tours detailing Angola’s recent history with journey’s end in Lobito. The voyage is available in reverse departing from Lobito (Angola) on August 2, 2019.
Rates, which start at US$12 820 per person sharing, vary according to suite type and are fully inclusive of accommodation, meals, all alcoholic and other beverages, room service, laundry, an on-board historian and doctor as well as excursions and the fly-in two-night safari (accommodation, meals, bottled water and a limited wine selection). Not included are pre- or post-tour accommodation, flights and transfers.
A wonderful way to see parts of Africa that are often difficult to access or combine. Give us a call to be one of the first to experience this amazing train journey – it will fill fast and places are limited.
If you would like to find out more and incorporate this in your own bespoke tailor made trip then please contact us for further details on Tel: 01323 446550 or email: email@example.com
This year has been a good one for rains in Southern Africa (well for most places) which is good news for farmers and the wildlife. The abundance of rain has seen the rivers well up which in turn has led to the amount of water flowing over the Victoria Falls being spectacular. There is nothing quite as awe inspiring as seeing and feeling the thunder of the Falls. You are also guaranteed to receive a good soaking from the spray – which can be seen from miles away.
Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis
This time of year is often portrayed as being one to avoid coming to this part of the world, but there are very good reasons to consider it. Yes, the game viewing will be more difficult as the wildlife has dispersed and the vegetation will be at its highest but this is the time that many animals have their young and the birds are in courting and nesting mode.
There is also the advantage of boat safaris in places such as South Luangwa and the flood in to the Okavango should be high allowing you the choices of travel in this unique environment.
It is all about planning – and taking advantage of the good rates for these areas at this time of year.
Give us a call or email to plan your trip to this amazing area on Tel: 01323 446550 – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ultimate Guide to Game Viewing and Safaris in Southern Africa
One of life’s richest rewards comes from the patient searching for, waiting and watching the world of Southern and Eastern African game. The memory of your first lion roaring, your first leopard lazily digesting his latest meal, your first herd of elephants carefully tending their young will live in your heart for ever. But, how to choose where to go, which lodge, how much to spend and what time of year. All these questions are asked of us regularly and the following is intended as a Safari Guide to help you decide.
There are some questions that you need to ask yourself, or us, which come under the following headings:
The most important question is ‘have you ever done any game-viewing before’ and if you have, what did you do, where did you go and what did you see – and therefore, what would you like to see this time?
Are there particular areas of Africa that you must see, such as the Etosha Pan, Serengeti Plains or Sabie River in Kruger?
What animal sightings will make your holiday? For example, if you really want to see cheetah, then you should have a better chance in Namibia as 25% of the world’s cheetahs roam the countryside there.
Do you want spectacular scenery such as the Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta, Mount Kilimanjaro or the sand dunes and deserts of Namibia, as a backdrop to your experience?
How luxurious do you want make the holiday? It could be anything from camping up to 5 star luxury or any mixture in between.
Do you want to self drive or relax and let your guide take care of you?
How adventurous do you wish to be? The experience of watching truly wild life from a vehicle is wonderful and exciting. However you can increase your adrenalin by opting for elephant back rides, mountain biking, horse riding or walking through the countryside that has the animals in. Alternatively, particularly in the Okavango Delta, you have the option of travelling by boat varying in size from dugout to decent sized crafts with drinks to hand.
All in all, there is plenty to think about and we have the expertise to help you make your decision. Very often we have experienced it ourselves!
So where in Southern or Eastern Africa should you be thinking of? What follows are some outline sketches of places that will give you a holiday to remember.
South Africa The Mighty Kruger This is the flagship Park of Southern Africa and quite rightly is world famous. Covering an area the size of Wales and located in the northeast corner of South Africa, the Kruger National Park springs into most minds as a ‘must do’ on the game-viewing carousel. For a cost effective holiday, stay at one of the many Rest Camps locate actually in the Park, but unless you are an experienced game-viewer, it is entirely possible that you will not see very much, simply because you will be unsure where to look.
A popular alternative is to stay at one of the private concessions on the western border of the Park. Here you’ll find a range of top luxury game lodges, and several others that offer a cheaper option. The advantage of these concessions lies in the fact that the Guides are experts and know the terrain intimately, and the most likely areas for viewing the game. You will come away wondering how they managed to see a lion in the tall grass, when it takes you three minutes to see it, even when someone is pointing to the spot! These options can look expensive, but often represent good value when you take into account what is covered and the level of accommodation that you will be staying in.
The north of the Kruger, known as the Pafuri region, is further away from mainstream South Africa and consequently far less visited. However it is well worth the journey. The wildlife is spectacular and being in the fever tree forest along the Limpopo adds an extra dimension.
Addo Elephant National Park Situated within an hour’s drive of Port Elizabeth, this Park boasts having the Big 7; the usual big five plus whales and Great White sharks at the right time of the year. From this you will gather the Park also includes some of the coast. This makes an ideal couple of day’s stop at the eastern end of the Garden Route. You are almost guaranteed to see elephant, but will have to work a little harder to see some of the other big 5 as their numbers slowly recover.
There are a number of other Parks and private game reserves throughout South Africa which are well worth your consideration if you are in the area. Each of them has its own charm and wildlife experience. If there is a particular animal or setting that you have your heart set upon, then let us know and we will suggest the best areas to find them. These include the St Lucia Wetlands of KwaZulu Natal, the Madikwe to the west of Johannesburg and the Waterberg to the north of Johannesburg. The latter two (as well as the Addo Elephant Park) have the advantage of being non-malaria areas.
Namibia Etosha National Park There is something magical about seeing a giraffe’s form wavering in the heat haze as it crosses the white expanse known as the Pan. This park has no equal in Africa in that all of the game is dependent on the waterholes that fringe the Pan during the long dry season. Then, if the rains are good, the dry salt pan becomes a lake for a short time, at which point the wildlife disperses to take advantage of the grasses growing in the usually arid parts. Should you be tempted to stay within the Park and there are good reasons to do so, you will have the chance of watching the disputes that arise at the waterholes located at the Lodges, if you can stay awake throughout the night. This could be an encounter between elephants and rhinos or just a jackal trying to find a place between the zebra’s legs. The Park and the wildlife Concession areas along side it, are worthy of a three day visit. As with South Africa, the level and prices vary from camping up to luxury tented camps/lodges where you can watch the animals coming down to the waterholes from the advantage of the bar or your veranda.
Deserts Most of Namibia is classified as desert and it is possible to plan a trip that will take you to 4 distinctly different types. Starting with the Kalahari and its wave dunes, this desert has more vegetation than most. As a consequence, there is more wildlife to be found, particularly those that favour the open savannah type of terrain. Following that there are the two Karoos – Nama and Succulent and whilst they share a name they have their own character. The flora varies and the Succulent has the advantage of the mists that roll in from the cold Benguela current running up the Namibian coast. As you would expect, there are more succulent types of plants found here. Finally there is the Namib Desert famous for its huge red sand dunes, as seen on many advertisements and always feature in any documentary on the country. None of these deserts are without life. Coming across Oryx in the middle of the Namib, makes you wonder what they live on. Some of the invertebrates are unique to this region and the bird life stunning. Finish your trip here with a few days in Swakopmund, known as Bavaria by the sea. The architecture has been influenced by the history of the place over the last 100 years. It is also a wonderful place to take trip around Walvis Bay to see the abundant life that it supports. You are guaranteed to see seals (at very close range!) and dolphins. If you are lucky you will also see whales and turtles.
Botswana Botswana is land locked; South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia form its borders. A quick glance at a map and you’ll see that the main inhabited areas lie in the east of the country. This leaves vast areas of desert and savannah grasslands to the west and north west, largely inhabited by a variety of game both large and small. This is wildlife in its truly natural state – herds of elephant and zebra wander the plains, a variety of cats searching their prey, and an array of birds and smaller game. In the north is the famous Chobe National Park, and travelling west and south west from there brings you to the Moremi Game Reserve, the Linyanti and Selinda concessions and the wonderful Okavango Delta. The Delta is a world of its own. The heavy summer rains falling in the Angola Heights to the Northwest, find there way through the water courses, arriving in the Delta in June and July. This is high season, despite being their winter. Not only is the Delta rightly famous for its wildlife, it is also interesting geologically as well. This is the southern end of the Rift Valley, and plate tectonic movement is even now changing the landscape. The Savuti River channel is an excellent example – as few as 25 years ago, the river was alive with water based life. Today it is a dry river bed, and one of the main migration routes for herd of zebra in this area.
In the south eastern corner of Botswana, in the Tuli Block is hidden away Mashatu, a spectacular wildlife conservation area, butting on to the Limpopo River. Not only is it blessed with abundant wildlife, but there are also a number of historical sites covering the history of this region from pre-historic times.
There really is no other choice than to visit for yourself!
The birth place of safaris in the modern form Kenya still has a lot to offer and some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa. It is true that certain parts can be busy but the country is vast enough to get away from those areas. Ensuring that you are in the right place to see the huge wildebeest and zebra migration in the Masai Mara does require planning. Speak to someone that knows where and when to go. The bird life is amazing all over the country with some of the Parks having over 400 species regularly seen in them.
The plains of East Africa are the birth place of man and if you are interested in archaeology then there are a number of sites to visit. Add in the different cultures of the 50 plus tribes that live here and you have a wonderful variety of things to do on your holiday.
The Kenya coast is rightfully popular and again it is possible to get away from the crowds and have an experience of being on a remote silver sand beach is an ideal way to relax after the excitement of being on safari.
Kenya meets all budgets but for the quality experience and the more secluded, remote wildlife areas are there but cost a bit more.
Perhaps not as well known as its neighbour Kenya, Tanzania has a huge array of different types of Parks and animals to offer. World famous Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park should be near the top of your list for the sheer scale of the wildlife that migrates through these areas. Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s largest free standing mountain has always been a challenge that many cannot resist.
Down in the south the Selous National Park offers wildlife experiences that are based on the mighty Rufiji River. You have the option of boat and 4×4 game viewing. There is something magical about viewing a leopard on a rocky cliff from the boat below. For those that love chimps then the Parks in the west of the country are the place for you and for those that want a safari experience in a place well of the beaten track then the Ruaha National Park would suit very well.
Add in time on Zanzibar or Pemba Island for a beautiful beach experience to give you the perfect finish to you time in East Africa.
What else should I take into consideration?
Distances in Africa are deceptive on a map. Roads can be difficult, particularly if there has been rain recently and driving on dirt roads requires less speed and a bit more concentration. Flying is a real alternative and may not be as expensive as first thought.
Petrol stations are few and far between, so fill up if your tank is half full. Also you will have to pay for your fuel with cash.
In Namibia the week-end still exists, so expect shops to close on Saturday afternoon and Sunday
Take advice on your itinerary. There is nothing worse than arriving somewhere knowing you will be leaving tomorrow and realizing that you really ought to be there for 2/3 days
Take some warm clothes. A game drive at 05:00 will be cold until the sun rises. This is particularly true if you go in their winter.
Take your driving licence – even if you only plan on riding a quad bike.
Laundry facilities are available at a lot of places along the route. So it is possible to pack less. This may well be a necessity if you plan on flying locally.
Take more film or memory than you ever imagine you will need.
You do not have to believe all the stories that your guide tells you.
Do not leave your common sense at home. You will be asking for trouble if you wander around with your wallet on display in a known rough area. Adopting a low profile will benefit your security.
Weather The time of year that you visit a country will affect the kind of wildlife that you will see. After the first rains, many animals will disperse to take advantage of the grass growing in usually arid places. This, together with the extra grass and foliage, will make animal spotting difficult. However the wet season has its compensations. There is something magical in seeing a desert covered in flowers, the birds in their courting exotic plumage and the mass outbreaks of invertebrates and insects. Because of the size of the countries in this part of the world, it is impossible to say a blanket “best time” to visit. Discuss this with someone who has been and knows. That having been said, the climate change affects Southern and Eastern Africa as well, so no guarantees can be made. High temperatures, particularly in the desert regions, can be expected. However, the lack of humidity in these areas makes the heat much more bearable.
Malaria and other health issues It is a fact that some of the best wildlife experiences are in areas that are malarial. This is partly why they have remained mostly untouched by modern life. If this is a concern to you, then we can advise you on where to go that is a malaria free zone. Africa has other diseases to think about and the best advice you can get is from your own doctor. It is a given that you should not swim in non moving inland water. Most of Southern Africa has potable water straight from the tap, but if you are concerned, use bottled.
Type of accommodation: The level or type of accommodation will depend upon the budget that you wish to work within. We can take that into account when putting your itinerary together. We are happy to look at everything from camping to quality 5 star luxury lodges and hotels. Southern Africa has a reputation for offering true value for money in its accommodation, particularly in the owner operated small hotel or guesthouse. Our experience over the years in this region means that we have visited many of the properties that we suggest and know the owners well. Let us know what you expect where, and we will do our best to find something that suits.
Getting there As with accommodation, there are options available. It will depend on your budget and the level of comfort in which you wish to travel. Discuss this with us and we will always endeavour to obtain the best deal for you.
In summary Game viewing is a wonderful life-changing experience – plan carefully, listen to an expert, then sit back and enjoy Mother Nature at her enchanting and magnificent best.
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.
Photo courtesy of Isibindi Africa
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.
Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis
Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis
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.
With nearly 30% of the country reserved for wildlife, Zambia has much to offer for tourists that like something different. Probably the most famous area is its part of the world famous Victoria Falls and the surrounding Park. A sundowner cruise on the Zambezi above the Falls is a wonderful way to end a day of exploring this location.
The South Luangwa National Park very early on promoted the walking safari, giving visitors the chance to see wildlife at a pace set by their group and a chance to experience Africa up close and in perspective. This is still one of the best places to undertake this activity as the lodges/camps involved are small in size and so well located.
The plains of Kafue are spectacular as are some of the lake orientated Parks. The people are friendly and pleased to meet you. What is more, Zambia is not on the “usual” safari list making your experiences here exceptional.
Click below to see Zambia sample itineraries, and our safari guide:
South Luangwa is one of Africa’s most pristine wilderness areas and is also one of the leading destinations for walking safaris.
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South Luangwa Safari
South Luangwa is one of Africa’s most pristine wilderness areas and is also one of the leading destinations for walking safaris. This is truly unique way of viewing the animals, birds and flora of this region and getting to know your guide, guard and support team. The following suggested tailor made itinerary will give you a cross section of experiences of the area and lodges:
South Luangwa has been one of Africa’s most pristine wilderness areas and has also been one of the leading suppliers of walking safaris. This is truly unique way of viewing the animals, birds and flora of this region and getting to know your guide, guard and support team. The following suggested itinerary will give you a cross section of experiences of the area and lodges:
Day 1: Arrive South Luangwa National Park
There are a number of ways to get Mfuwe, the small airport that serves the South Luangwa National Park and the chances are it will be a small aircraft for the final leg. Begin with a stay in a lodge with a view over the river. Depending on the time of the year the river could be flowing but later in the year it will become a series of pools offering a lifeline to all the animals in a dry landscape. This afternoon, enjoy the first game drive in to the Park. A couple of nights here allow for acclimatization to the new environment.
Game drives this morning go deep into the Park and to the first seasonal camp (they are all dismantled as the rains arrive). These camps are all well located along a tributary river that leads down to the main Luangwa River. They are small sized, sometimes with just 8 – 10 guests. Game drives here will include viewing some of the special animals to be found locally such as the rare Thornicroft Giraffe, Puku, arguably the prettiest zebras – Crawshays zebra and over 400 different birds. All of the Big 5 are here except the rhino which has been poached to extinction. The chances of seeing large prides of lions and packs of wild dog is high and sightings of leopard a regular feature. Two nights here gives a good chance to get to know the area. Meals are likely to be under a giant tree or in an open area overlooking the river. A great chance to swap stories and think about what opportunities the next drive may bring.
Today, transfer to the next small camp with the option of going in the safari vehicle or setting out on foot. There will be only a few people walking and the guide, guard and support men all have very sharp eyes do not miss a thing. How long the walk takes will depend on the speed of the slowest member and any detours around lion, elephant etc that may be needed. The fact that you are on foot gives a frisson and an alertness that is absent in the vehicle. It also allows time to see the small animals and to find tracks of lion, python and all that has passed that way recently. In addition it puts the size of the animals encountered in to a personal perspective. The guides inform you of what you pass and see and ensures your safe passage to the next camp. Again two nights is recommended here to make the most of the surroundings.
On to the next camp, again either on foot or by vehicle. Each camp has its own distinct character and the staff members are very loyal to their group and proud of the quality of service they offer. For those that want a truly different experience there is the chance to sleep out on a sand bank under a mosquito net with just you, the stars, the animal noises and a camp fire. In truth the guard and guide are camped not very far away ensuring all is well. Spend two nights here.
Return to a camp on the Luangwa River for the last night of the safari. Perhaps undertake a night drive to see those animals that only come out after dark.
Day 10: Depart South Luangwa National Park
Start the journey home or combine time here with a few days on Lake Malawi or at the Victoria Falls.
Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis
Photo courtesy of Peter Ellis
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The adrenalin rush of taking a walking safari instead of travelling by vehicle makes for a very exciting safari experience.
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