Although Africa has 30 500km of coastline, it is not its magnificent beaches that Africa is most well-known for. Africa is the world’s premier safari destination. I have been very fortunate to have go on hundreds of safari drives and I still learn something on almost every drive. Going on safari is a bug that once it has bitten it has no cure, Africa gets into your blood.
Q2 Travel offers African safari tours in 13 countries in South and East Africa. The normal question I get asked when travelling is, “What is your favourite safari destination in Africa?”. I must, in all honesty, say that I have a several favourites, all with their own excitement and uniqueness. Here are a few of my favourite safari destinations, in no particular order.
Best safaris in Africa
Walking safari in the South Luangwa
Known as the home of the “walking Safari” with Norman Carr as the “father of the walking safari”, the South Luangwa is one of my favourite destinations. All safaris, walking, driving and by boat are centered around the Luangwa River that runs through the park. As is common in southern Africa, it is the dry season that is best for safaris.
I had the privilege of doing a walking safari with Debs from Robin Pope safaris. It was one of the highlights of my life.
Starting out on foot we walked along the Luangwa River. After the wet season, the river retreats leaving oxbow lagoons, and it is on the edge of one of the lagoons that we found a lone buffalo stuck in the mud. The policy is not to intervene in nature, so we stayed and watched this unfortunate animal struggle for a while, however the bush was calling. A little while later, Debs heard alarm calls up ahead and we went to investigate. We found fresh blood droplets and leopard tracks. We followed the trail in the hope of finding the leopard, but the trail led into a very dense section of bush which is where we surmise the leopard, wily animal that it is, had gone to ground with its prey. We retraced our steps to the stranded buffalo and were relieved to find that it was no longer there, it had managed to free itself. Kudus to leaving nature alone.
The evening was spent alongside the Luangwa River, where Debs named the various star constellations and we breathed in the hot night air of the African bush. We retired to our domed tents with comfortable mattresses and fell asleep to the night sounds of Africa.
The next morning Debs woke us early, and we set out before breakfast to find the pride of lions that had been roaring in close proximity to our camp the previous night. It did not take us long to find the pride. We crept closer, out of view behind a dune and downwind, until we reached the summit of the small dune, where, just a couple of meters away, the pride was lying on the riverbank. They were much more interested in a rival pride across the river than in us. We stayed for about 2o minutes before creeping back to the safety of our camp. Needless to say, racing hearts and all, this was once of my most memorable experiences.
Walking safaris in the South Luangwa fall into two categories. The first, wilderness camping, is similar to the safari that I went on, where you sleep out in the wilderness in tents. The second is much more civilized with walking taking places between lodges but nights spent in the lap of bush luxury. Both safaris have their charm and it really comes down to personal taste as to which one you should choose.
Fun Fact: Norman Carr, father of the walking safari concept that has been adopted elsewhere in Africa, managed to successfully raise Big Boy and Little Boy, orphaned lion cubs, and return them to the wild.
Annual Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti eco system.
1.8 million animals comprising approximately 1.3 million wildebeest and 500 000 Thompson’s Gazelles move from the southern Serengeti plains to the Masai Mara in the north and back again, every year. The is referred to the great wildebeest migration. The whole migration exercise is merely to eat the grass that is greener on the other side.
Imagine sitting on your open safari vehicle surrounded by thousands of snorting animals, kicking up dust as the move purposefully in the same direction. On encountering the swollen Mara River, they plunge down its steep banks into the water, and literally swim for their lives. These brown, swirling waters house some of the largest crocodiles in the world, who have lain in wait for a whole year, just for this opportunity.
Contrast this with thousands upon thousands of wildebeest spread over the green plains of the southern Serengeti, giving birth to their young, almost all within a few weeks of each other. Here another danger awaits. The predators of this area know that this time of the year presents a golden opportunity to gorge themselves, get fat and a little bit lazy.
This is one of Africa’s best safari experiences.
Fun Fact: The Wildebeest produce one average about 420 tons of dung a day. Two thirds of this dung is processed by dung beetles. Industrious little creatures!
The rains fall in the highlands of Angola from December to March each year. These rains cause the Okavango River to flood, but water starts flowing into the far reaches of the Okavango Delta a few months later. The reason for this is that the area is so flat, that the waters travel very slowly and when the rest of the country sits in the grip of a dry winter, the Okavango Delta is at its fullest. This abundance of water when the rest of the country is dry attracts the abundant wildlife to the Delta.
The flooded Okavango Delta sees open savannah plains transformed into shallow lakes and rivers with only the highest ground rising above the water and forming a myriad of islands. The reed-lined channels are where you will use the mokoro, a traditional hollowed-out log boat, to silently explore the waterways surrounding your luxury lodge. Also, on offer during this time, are safari boat cruises, game drives and nature walks.
When the waters of the Okavango Delta recede, starting in October, the savannah plains are exposed and with the onset of the summer rains the Okavango changes to brilliant green, albeit with less water.
It is essential that you choose you lodge/s well as not all lodges have the same activities and during different times of the year, the activities at the same lodge will most probably differ. My advice is that you structure you trip to the Okavango Delta to include two lodges in two different areas of the Okavango Delta to ensure that your get the very best of what is on offer.
Fun Fact: The waters reach the ends of the fingers of the Okavango Delta about 6 months after the rains have started falling in the Angolan highlands.
Look out for Part 2 covering some other wonderful African safari options.