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01 Oct 2015

Africa: Safari with a difference

A guided jeep may be a popular way to go on safari but it’s not the only way to view African wildlife. Katherine Lawrey and Chloe Cann source other types of safari to thrill the senses.

Xaranna elephant safari

Walking safaris

Walking safaris

You can’t get any closer to the sights and sounds of the bush than standing on your own two feet in the wilderness. Since 1990 Robin Pope Safaris has been leading mobile walking safaris in the isolated extreme north of South Luangwa – Zambia’s premier big game park.


Groups of no more than six people strike out into more remote parts of the savannah to trek along the banks of the Mupamadzi river (a major tributary of the Luangwa river).


The area boasts a wide variety of game in a mixture of riverine and open grasslands.


Guests cover a distance of around six miles each day. They sleep in large walk-in tents with proper bedding, and the camp has a shower under a tree and a bush loo. Each camp is set up in advance and luggage is transferred for guests.


Rob Clifford, operations director, says: “With no 4WD vehicle to separate you from the wilderness, every sight, sound and smell is powerfully intensified. Your guide leads you through the bush where you have the chance to spot elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion, giraffe and hippo, plus more than 450 bird species. You’re taught to read the language of wild animals, and to identify animals’ behaviour. Guests need to be over 16 years old, of average fitness and able to walk for four hours at a stretch.”


Book it: Robin Pope Safaris’ seven-night trips are available between June and October and cost from £2,996pp (based on two sharing). They include all safari activities with expert guides, all meals, transfers and park fees. Flights extra.


Horse riding safari

Horse riding safari

Why not enjoy an old-fashioned adventure with the help of a loyal steed? New this year, andBeyond has partnered with Okavango Horse Safaris to offer horse riding safaris for guests staying at andBeyond Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp and andBeyond Xudum Okavango Delta Lodge in Botswana.


The ranger-led rides explore the Okavango Delta’s untouched and beautiful landscape, officially named the 1,000th Unesco World Heritage Site last year, and provide the opportunity to get up close to the native birds and wildlife including the giant horned kudu, secretary birds, cheetah, African wild dog, elephant, antelope, hippo and giraffe. Both lodges have nine safari tents complete with outdoor loungers, plunge pool, indoor bathtub and al fresco shower.


Joss Kent, chief executive, says: “A horse riding safari is a fantastic way to experience the diverse landscapes of Botswana and also to get up close and personal to native birds and wildlife.”


Book it: Abercrombie & Kent offers seven nights at Xaranna Okavango Delta Camp from £4,280pp, including all meals and drinks.


Mountain biking

Mountain biking

Two wheels may not be as fast as four legs, but a bicycle can still cover a fair amount of ground. Swaziland’s Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary stretches for 4,560 hectares, composed of grassland plains and granite peaks. It is not a Big Five park so this opens up a whole range of new safari experiences including the option to go mountain biking, as offered by Acacia Africa. Expect to find some exotic species in this conservation hotspot, such as the honey badger, dwarf mongoose and striped polecat, along with hippo, ostrich, kudu and baboon. Arno Delport, sales and marketing manager, says: “You can hire a guide or buy a map, but clients will have a more rewarding experience if they are accompanied by someone who is knowledgeable about the flora and fauna. The excursions last for around two hours and it’s a more intimate safari without any barriers as you’re open to the elements – the animals including zebra, wildebeest, impala observed from very close quarters.”


Book it: Acacia Africa’s nine-day Kruger, Swaziland and Durban small group safari starts from £750pp (two sharing, excluding flights) plus local payment from £97pp including transport, twin-share accommodation, most meals, and services of a tour leader/driver. Suitable for children from eight years. Starts Johannesburg and ends Durban.


Dhow safari

Dhow safari

Step back in time for a safari experience that’s as romantic as it is traditional. G Adventures incorporates a safari via a traditional dhow boat in Bazaruto national park in Mozambique in its Mozambique, Kruger and Swazi tour. Rachel Wasser, innovations manager, says: “The dhow boat safari gives people access to remote islands and tons of marine life in the Mozambican Channel, with incredible snorkelling.”


The tour also includes a wildlife walk in Swaziland: “This is great for bird watching, as it’s quiet and slow.” There’s also traditional safari tracking the Big Five in Kruger national park.


Book it: A 14-day roundtrip from Johannesburg is priced from £1,599pp, departing October 2015 and April 2016. Flights extra.




Self-drive is certainly the most independent way to do a safari, and Travel 2 recommends Namibia as a good destination in which to go solo. Michael Creighton, product manager, explains: “Etosha national park in the north is one of Africa’s finest national parks. It’s home to four of the Big Five (no buffalo). The larger animals mostly seen include lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, cheetah, hyena, zebra, springbok, kudu, and gemsbok. There is also good mobile network coverage in Namibia so GPSs are common to use as navigation. Driving is easy and safe making this tour ideal for friends, couples or families.”


Book it: Travel 2 offers a 14-Day Namibia Delight Self-Drive from £1,669pp, including accommodation, return flights, hire care, self-drive kit and meet and greet at Windhoek airport. Valid for travel between April 5 and June 23, 2016.


Hot air balloon

Hot air balloon

A safari that’s rich in animal sightings can leave your clients feeling as though they are floating on air – so why not set them adrift in a more literal sense? Somak Holidays offers hot air balloon rides as an add-on in both the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania.


Justin Coles, business development manager, says: “We’re definitely getting more enquiries from clients who want to do something a little bit different. For a honeymoon, anniversary or milestone birthday a hot air balloon ride can prove an extra highlight. The Masai Mara in Kenya, and Tanzania’s Serengeti lend themselves very well to hot air balloon rides. From above you can get some amazing photos and the animals are not scared by the balloons. The trips run year-round, but if it’s windy or rainy they won’t operate.”


Book it: An hour’s ballooning in the Mara is an optional add-on, with a bubbly breakfast included, for £275pp. A family-friendly five-night Kili Safari starts from £1,475pp, departing the UK every Saturday.


Helicopter safari

Helicopter safari

A more James Bond way to survey the panoramic plains is in a helicopter. Sanctuary Retreats offers flights at Sanctuary Baines’ Camp, Sanctuary Chief's Camp and Sanctuary Stanley's Camp in Botswana, as well as its properties in Kenya.


Renette Hartridge, director of UK sales, recommends a scenic helicopter flight for guests looking for something special on their safari. “Areas unreachable by vehicle or boat can be seen from above and showcase the sheer enormity of the Okavango Delta.”


Guests can choose a 30, 45 or 60-minute tour in a three-seater, one-turbine Bell Jet Ranger helicopter. This activity is offered on a year round basis. Early morning and late afternoon flights are recommended as this time usually provides the best light for photography.


Book it: Sanctuary Retreats offers three nights at Sanctuary Baines’ Camp from £344 per person per night based on two sharing including meals, drinks (excluding premium brands), park fees, two daily shared game viewing activities and return transfers to and from Baines’ Airstrip to the camp. Prices for a 30-minute scenic flight in a three-seater helicopter for a minimum of two guests start from $475pp.


Motorboat safaris

Motorboat safaris

The Okavango Delta consists of endlessly changing channels, tributaries and lagoons as well as floodplains, islands and mainland areas. Perched on a private island encircled by some of the deepest stretches of the Okavango Delta, Belmond Eagle Island Lodge in Botswana offers a water-focused safari experience.


Sean Clark, director of sales, marketing and touring, says: “No other lodge in Africa offers such a water-focused safari, with six different activities in craft including local ‘mekoro’ dugout canoes, barges and motor boats, and all included in the overall price.”


Spot birdlife including the famed Pel’s Fishing Owl. Elephants and hippos are also prolific, as well as crocodile and the Botswana aquatic antelope Red Lechwe. The lodge can be matched with Belmond’s two other luxury lodges, Belmond Khwai River Lodge in the Moremi game reserve and Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge in Chobe national park.


Book it: Prices for a Deluxe Tented Room at Belmond Eagle Island Lodge start from $1,560, based on double occupancy, per night. From November 1 until December 23 Belmond is offering four nights for the price of three at any combination of Belmond safari lodges in Botswana. Accommodation is fully inclusive, including all meals, safari activities and alcohol.


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