EXPLORE THE EXCEPTIONAL
Safari Adventures Beyond the Conventional
Safari adventures are exceptional, however you experience them. Africa’s cultures, landscapes and wildlife will rob you of breath time and again, whether on your first or twenty-first visit.
Despite the wonder of a safari adventure, there is an aspect of convention or conformity to most African safaris. Spectacular, yes, but with just a hint of predictability. Each morning, you wake not knowing what to expect, and yet your daily game drive will reveal elephant, lion, giraffe and scores of leaping antelope and grazing zebra. It is magical, no matter how much you expected it, but it is, for all its beauty and uniqueness, as you expected.
It is our goal in all that we create to defy this convention. Every itinerary delivers beyond the expectations of our clients, surpassing wildest dreams and loftiest hopes to deliver truly inimitable safari adventures. While daily activities may follow a similar playbook, the nuances far exceed the standard offering, but that in the exclusivity of private reserves, the luxury of accommodations or the impeccable personal service not found in any package tour or pre-designed safari adventure. In its very design, every one is unique.
Yet regardless of abundant luxury, bespoke creation and impeccable standard, we are always striving for even greater levels of individuality and unparalleled individuality.
With every itinerary, there is a wealth of additions that can be included to infuse the exceptional with the unexpected.
From feeding orphaned elephants to sipping sundowners on your very own private island in the middle of the Okavango Delta, these are some of our favourite exclusive safari adventures.
Let us begin by saying that human contact with animals should be avoided at all costs. Petting zoos and other interactive activities are invariably at the detriment of animal welfare, and we definitively avoid and dissuade from such interactions.
However, there are rare times when your presence can be of benefit. Private game reserves are established as conservation sanctuaries first and foremost. Because of this, guests are afforded the opportunity to become involved as volunteers with their protection efforts. Monitoring and tracking elephants, tagging and notching rhinos and taking part in a pangolin protection initiative are just some of the conservation safari adventures that one might participate in. It isn’t glamorous work, nor is it cuddling adorable and fluffy baby animals. It can be hard and dirty work, but the reward for your efforts is incomparable and something that will stay with you forever.
If you don’t wish to volunteer, there are other opportunities available. Not quite so hands-on, though certainly up close and personal, various care centres across Africa nurture orphaned animals, rehabilitate big cats to be returned to the wild, and, when necessary, provide permanent sanctuary for creatures unable to venture back into their natural habitat. By attending these organisations, guests directly fund continual aid, research and protection, and can witness numerous animals far more closely than when on safari.
The sights, sounds and utter tranquility of Africa’s landscapes is strikingly profound. It is so rare that we can walk into the world and find even a moment without the residual sounds and impacts of humanity.
This is never more evident than at night, and with a little bit of planning, one can bask in its serenity.
One of the most idyllic ways to drift into an ocean of stars is at one of the growing but elite number of treehouses. These wonderful overnight venues aren’t the two-by-four boards nailed haphazardly to the uneven limbs of a backyard tree, they are every bit as luxurious as the premium venues that host them.
From the Nay Palad Bird Nest in Kenya to Lion Sands’ Insta-famous Chalkley Treehouse, these exquisite, exotic creations provide unfettered views across the veld, premium sleeping facilities – all securely fly-netted – and fully-appointed bathrooms.
A dinner banquet will be served upon your private viewing platform and you can sip champagne as the sun slowly sets and the blanket of night sweeps across the sky.
Fall asleep under a million twinkling stars with the lullaby of the bush gently easing you into a blissful slumber.
To truly appreciate the vastness of the African sky, journey to Botswana, to the desolate and expansive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Escorted by the San Bushmen, you can enjoy an astronomical sleep-out par excellence. The vast, flat salt plains give no light pollution and no visual distraction from the heavenly display above.
Taking your meals in the embrace of nature is all part of almost every safari adventure, but there are several ways that you can bring the exceptional to the conventional.
Take, for example, the remarkable Ngorongoro Crater. All but sealed from the rest of the world, Tanzania’s immense volcanic caldera spans 3,202 square miles (8,292 km2) and is home to a wealth of wildlife. On the crater floor, a delicious picnic spread will be prepared just for you, and you can dine surrounded by nature as if you are the only ones in the world.
Elephants, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, jackals, serval cats, and endangered wild hunting dogs can all be found within Ngorongoro’s prodigious crater, but you won’t find any giraffe; it is thought that their already precarious gait prevents them from traversing the towering mountain walls surrounding the grasslands.
Taking a picnic on your own private island adds even more exclusivity to the safari adventure. In Botswana, you will be whisked away by helicopter to the heart of the Okavango Delta and here, surrounded by water and wildlife, you will alight on a small, dry cay where a divine picnic will be prepared. Alternatively, venture to Mozambique and discover the romantic tropical delights of dining upon an isolated sand bar, the warm, tranquil azure waters encompassing you in peace and privacy.
The many cultures of Africa are absolutely fascinating and unequivocally unique. As with numerous African experiences, one can easily visit a Maasai village or discover the handicraft of the Zulu people, but it will often be with many other tourists, and a more commercial (and less community-beneficial) interpretation of the real thing.
Fortunately, we know ‘the real thing’, and precisely where to find it. Working with communities to provide support, education and welfare, a small handful of operations provide immersive cultural experiences that are a more true reflection of centuries-old tribal traditions.
Walk with the San Bushmen of Botswana and discover their ancient techniques for surviving in the barren landscapes; touch the otjize-daubed locks of Namibia’s Himba; sit alongside tribeswomen to learn their intricate beading techniques; hear the song of the Samburu singing wells; leap with the Maasai of Kenya – though perhaps not in pursuit of wedlock! These are not moments found in every package tour, they are intimate connections bestowed upon exclusive guests.
Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks – home to chimpanzees and mountain gorillas respectively – drastically limited their numbers of visitors. Protecting these endangered cousins of man, only a handful of guests are allowed at any one time to venture onto the mountainous slopes to share time with our closest living relatives.
Due to the fragility of both population and habitat, any great ape safari experience is somewhat prescribed, with very little customisation or alteration of your activity.
However, despite this, seeing chimpanzees, gorillas and other apes in their natural habitat is one of the most unfathomably breathtaking experiences one can undertake. For this reason, we highly recommend it as one of the foremost luxury safari adventures one can undertake.
To truly understand a country, you must step into its past and, as the Cradle of Mankind, a past is something Africa has an abundance of.
Though the oldest figurative artwork is said to be in Indonesia’s Sulawesi and from some 45,000 years ago, a recent discovery in South Africa has been dated at over 73,000 years old. Namibia, too, has some ancient cave galleries, and the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana – often referred to as ‘the Louvre of the Desert’ – contains four and a half thousand images dating back at least 20,000 years, with evidence of human presence found to be at least four times that again.
Less prehistoric, though in many ways more impressive, Egypt, of course, has abundant evidence of ancient cultures. More recently, though still many centuries old, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela draw historians and archaeologists to Ethiopia from all around the world.
Contemporary history has a tendency towards the more harrowing, though highly educational and informative. Robben Island stands a little over four miles (7 km) off the coast of Cape Town. The now-deserted penitentiary island was once the prison of Nelson Mandela and many of the political victims of Apartheid. Now a museum, it provides a confronting insight into this dark time in South Africa’s history.
Travel is a necessary part of more comprehensive safari adventures, and transfers on a private light aircraft can be great fun, but exceptional opportunities also await on a luxury African safari.
Arguably the most recognised Africa-centric movie of all time, ‘Out of Africa’, featured not only a wonderful depiction of colonial African safari life, but also an iconic scene with a certain yellow biplane. GAAMY, a yellow Gypsy Moth plane, so named for her tail number, was captured in the movie on an ethereal, impossibly romantic flight across the plains of the Great Rift Valley and Maasai Mara.
This very same plane, now almost 100 years old but lovingly restored to flight-worthy perfection, can take you into the skies to recreate that iconic scene of Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) and Robert Redford’s Denys Finch Hatton swooping and gliding across the African landscape.
For a more peaceful and more sedate airborne conveyance, a Serengeti balloon flight at dawn is almost equally as iconic and certainly as memorable, but air isn’t the only way to travel across the continent.
Camel and horseback safaris, as we have highlighted in other blogs, allow you to gain a closer connection to the herds of the plains than in a rumbling motor vehicle and allow you time to pause and reflect, offering new perspective on a more conventional safari adventure.
From the ‘world’s most luxurious train’ to a private helicopter excursion across the Mathews Ranges and Lake Turkana, there are plenty of distinctly unconventional ways to travel the continent.
Africa’s wildlife is without a doubt its greatest attraction. It is invariably why people visit, and what they wish to see the most.
While the Big 5, the endangered painted dogs and lovable meerkats are always gratifying to observe, but a small collection of creatures are exceptional.
Lions rank high on desirable animals to see in the wild, but white and tree-climbing lions add a distinct level of uniqueness. Lions are generally considered ground-dwelling big cats, lacking the need and perhaps having too much bulk, to spend their days in arboreal perches. However, in Lake Manyara National Park, lions are frequently seen in the limbs of trees. Thought to possibly be a way to escape the heat at ground level or gain a vantage point for spotting prey, it is a phenomenon rarely, if ever, seen anywhere else.
In the Timbavati region of Kruger National Park, a small genetic anomaly exists: a pride of white lions. Not classified as albino, this snowy, blue-eyed lions are quite captivating to see and found only in this specific location. TImbavati in fact means ‘the place where the star lions fell to earth’.
In the Green Kalahari to South Africa’s north, a host of spectacular creatures dwells. Cheetah, giraffe and more common animals live alongside bat-eared foxes, the rare brown hyena, aardvarks and aardwolves, and the pangolin, tragically renowned as the world’s most trafficked animal.
The region contains several parks and reserves all working tirelessly to protect and preserve these exquisite, fragile populations of endangered animals.
Whatever safari adventures you may choose, we will always defy convention and instill the exceptional, but with every journey there is always the opportunity to take your safari adventure to the next level, allowing you to experience Africa in a way very few others will ever be able to.