Extraordinary Safari Dining Experiences
“True exploration is not a conveyance of the body to foreign realms; it is a journey of all the senses.”
Wherever we may venture, our safari dining experiences can form as many and as powerful memories as anything we may witness with our eyes. Though sight plays an important role in exploring new destinations, our senses touch, taste, hearing and smell can also be profoundly impactful.
In fact, smell is the strongest ingredient of powerful memories, our olfactory system the only sense directly linked to our brain’s memory and emotional centres – the hippocampus and amygdala respectively. Food is often a formative component of many of our earliest and most enduring memories. The aromas of the cooking and the flavours on our tongues, so closely linked to our sense of smell, have the ability to whisk us away to moments in our distant past.
This is why, while sounds and sights may simply remind us of another time or place, smells, and to a significant extent, tastes, will transport us there completely, evoking visual recollection and emotional reaction.
Regardless of our destination, food induces an almost photographic documentation of the time, the place, the moment and those we share them with. These same scents and flavours then become a direct portal into our pasts, exquisite enough to moisten the eyes or send ripples up the spine.
When this is coupled with extraordinary destinations and exceptional experiences, it forms indelible chapters of our lives, an internal scrapbook or photo album that will be carried with us forever more.
When crafting itineraries for our clients, food features prominently. Dietary requirements are, of course, taken into consideration, but so too do the potential experiences afforded by mealtimes.
Even if you aren’t the most ardent foodie, the freshly-shucked oysters at Cape Town’s Houts Bay, the fine dining with sunset views across the ancient architecture of Quito or even the simple snack shared with one’s guide on a Zambian walking safari can inspire the strongest recollections of your journey.
More than simply an adventure in gastronomy, these are five of our most complete safari dining experiences, bringing together exotic surroundings, unparalleled activities and banquets fit for kings, queens, and you.
NAMIBIA: Safari Dining with Skeletons
📍 Kaokoveld, Namibia
Hoanib Camp is nestled on the plains of the seemingly inhospitable Kaokveld landscape, towering dunes forming a protective perimeter against the blustering winds of the Atlantic Ocean.
Yet despite its arid appearance, the region is abundant in creatures that have, over millennia, adapted to be able to subsist in this environment.
Fortunately, guests of Hoanib Camp will need no such evolutionary adaptations, and an expert staff of gourmet chefs are on hand to provide mouthwatering delights three times a day. Freshly-harvested vegetables are gathered daily from the camp’s organic garden, vibrant in colour and flavour and served alongside traditionally and internationally-inspired dishes.
Simply taking breakfast al fresco, the sun rising over the dramatic landscape, is impactful enough, but Hoanib Camp’s Skeleton Coast Excursion is an incomparable gastronomic adventure unlike any other.
Taking to the rolling dunes in a four-wheel drive, your guide will draw attention to the animals that reside here and specific landmarks, winding through the sands to emerge on the remote Atlantic coast. Skeletons of shipwrecks litter the shoreline, seals bask themselves on the beach and, if lucky, you might even spot the highly unusual sight of an elephant taking a seaside stroll.
In this breathtaking setting, table, chairs and a delicious picnic lunch will be provided and you can enjoy your repast feeling as if you are truly the only person in the world. The most memorable of meals don’t need Michelin-star chefs or expansive kitchens, they simply need to be unlike anything else, and here on the Skeleton Coast even a simple picnic is unforgettable.
When the last morsel has been digested, a helicopter will take you on the short trip back to camp, inviting another perspective on this striking vista.
ZAMBIA: Paddles & Pizzas
📍 Upper Zambezi River, Zambia
Mosi-oa-Tunya – Victoria Falls – is a spectacular destination and often overshadows its impressive surroundings. The great artery of the falls, and lifeblood of the ecosystems on its periphery, the Zambezi River holds its fair share of wonder and awe.
From the banks, one can watch elephant drinking from the shore, hippos wallowing and a kaleidoscopic array of birdlife swooping, hunting and perching in the verdant grasses. But take to the water and the experience expands exponentially.
Sunset cruises are a frequent occurrence on the Zambezi. Many properties offer them and the incomparable beauty of the African evening hours more than warrants them. The boats themselves are wonderfully comfortable, offering a full bar, canapés, sometimes a full three-course and one of the finest views of the river system. Wonderful, yes, and most certainly memorable, though not distinctly unique.
However, by climbing into a canoe and drifting downstream, one sees with wild world undisturbed, completely at peace and offering little more than a curious glance to the silent passers by, rather than scampering or flying away in alarm.
Traversing the Zambezi down the gentle yet exhilarating Katombora rapids and through untouched wilderness is stunning, but all that paddling – albeit fairly subdued – can certainly work up an appetite.
Coming to shore, one is greeted by aromas curiously our of place in this remote location: that of freshly-baked pizzas. A comprehensive lunch spread awaits you on the riverbank, a Bedouin-like carpeted, cushioned dining area laid out under the umbral span of a jackalberry tree.
A chef prepares the most delicious and well-earned pizza in a bush oven, the smells of freshly-baked dough and melting cheese wafting across the shoreline, piquing the interest of some of the smaller riverine inhabitants.
The brick-lined canals of Venice may offer a more authentic pizza feast, but the banks of the Zambezi will make you remember every bite.
TANZANIA: Colonial Quintessence
📍 Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
In the earliest days of colonialism, the British gentry were insistent on their bourgeoise opulence. Cumbersome copper baths were hauled across the Maasai Mara, porcelain teapots and hallmarked silver cutlery were impractically stowed for the journey and a host of entirely impractical luggage was transported from England and across the African wilderness.
Today, transport and rational thought have both improved greatly, but that era will forever encapsulate our imaginations and interpretations of the quintessential safari.
The prodigious vistas of the Ngorongoro Crater still hold that sense of the unknown, of wandering into lost worlds and prehistoric landscapes. Though you won’t find brachiosaurus roaming the plains while pteranodons circle the skies above, the captivating caldera does steal one’s sense of place and time.
Here, in this almost isolated ecosystem, the classical colonial safari is still very much alive. After a game drive across the grasslands, a private three-course luncheon awaits, but your dining room isn’t the back seat of your game vehicle or a hastily-strewn picnic blanket. A complete dining service has been prepared for your arrival; elegant timber furniture, crisp white linen, crockery and fine silverware – a personal chef is even on hand to serve hot gourmet dishes at your requests, impeccably presented as if in a city restaurant.
Except you aren’t surrounded by walls and a ceiling, the murmurs of fellow diners your soundtrack and the bustling streets laying the other side of a thin pane of glass. Your surroundings reach to the horizons, unfettered by the hand of man, your soundtrack, the silence of the bush, punctuated by the occasional bray of zebra, and no window nor urban gridlock can be comprehended in this luxurious yet remotely wilderness setting.
When painting imaginings of a safari luncheon, it is this improbably perfect scene that we create, though as quickly as we picture it, it vanishes into the mists of impossibility.
But possible it is, and this spectacular dream of dining experiences will endure far beyond the last delicious mouthful.
SOUTH AFRICA: Beneath a Million Stars
📍 Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
The astral sky is possibly the finest ceiling of any dining room in the world. Dining under the stars, the gentle flicker of firelights playing with the shadows of one’s surroundings and the aromas of open fires and food drifting on the evening breeze – what could be better?
In South Africa, they have refined the humble barbecue into an art form and nationally-celebrated culinary practice. The barbecue, or braai as it is named in Afrikaans, is significantly more rustic than the shining chrome, gas-fuelled apparatus often used across the western world, but a good chef never blames his oven, and the culinary mastery of the braai is second to none.
Often a more permanent brick structure, though on safari usually as minimal as a grill over an open fire, the braai is as rudimentary as cooking forms can be, but the results are worthy of a first-class restaurant.
Picture, if you will, an afternoon game drive. The high sun radiates down on the grasslands, animals run, cameras click and, as the day slowly draws to a close, tummies begin to rumble.
As the golden light of sunset begins to creep across the landscape, your driver turns for home, but instead of returning to camp, he takes you instead to a temporary boma, safe enclosure under the sweeping limbs of a baobab.
Here, prior to your arrival, a fire has been lit, a braai hovers, sizzling, above it, and an exquisite dining room has been created for you – furniture, tablecloths, plates and silverware – all in the wide-open bush.
You sup your sundowners, gazing out to the Van Gogh palette of oranges, red and indigos of sunset, and revel in the recollection of the day’s drive. And then, the smell.
The stars blink to life like staccato fairy lights, you turn to a full spread lit by lamps swinging gently in the branches and the sweet and sumptuous aromas waft from the braai, tendered expertly by a chef clothed in full kitchen whites and towering toque blanche on his head.
On par with any established restaurant, service is impeccable, the choice of dishes abundant and the sweet and tender offerings straight from the braai as mouthwateringly delicious as any could wish for, far surpassing the primitive nature of its source.
Not only is this all privately catered to the utmost standard, but there is something in its simplicity, far from the fuss and chaos of any contemporary kitchen, that makes a boma braai in the bush so sensorily, almost overwhelmingly, poignant, and a dining experience that will be indelibly imprinted in your mind’s gallery.
BOTSWANA: Beyond the Horizon
📍 Okavango Delta, Botswana
The most memorable safari dining experiences are those that are consummate. The food need not be exceptional, the location humble, the conversation ephemeral; but when there is enough uniqueness in all of these things, they culminate in dining experiences that aren’t simply memorable, they are acutely unforgettable.
A helicopter flight across Botswana’s varied landscapes and the arterial fingers of the Okavango Delta is an incredible excursion for any traveller. Pair this with a cool, crisp glass of champagne and the dream begins to take form.
Alighting on a private island, the river’s path diverging to envelop your sanctuary, and the unforgettable is almost complete. The rich scent of the fertile riverbanks, the sounds of flowing water, chattering birds and the occasional distant trumpet of elephant adorn the moment in yet more captivating layers. And when served upon this foundation of wonder and perfection, a light picnic lunch becomes the most memorable banquet ever served.
It is in this accumulation of sensory stimuli that the magic happens. However many Möets you may have sipped, from that moment forth its smell will transport you back to your private island in the middle of the Okavango.
As the sun sets on your final meal of this culinary journey across Africa, your helicopter sparks to life, you climb aboard, a broad grin gracing your lips, and you take to the air, watching the day’s last light creeping across the landscape, a blanket of a million hues. Flocks of birds silhouetted by the sky descend for eerie nightly roost, the delta glistens in the golden evening and your imagination updates its definition of perfection.
Wherever you might travel and for however long, meals will always be a necessary part of your journey. Though enjoying the taste of your meals is imperative, but by engaging the other senses – the sights and sounds surrounding you, the smells of the bush combing with culinary aromas, and the feeling the warm African sun on your face – a breakfast, lunch or dinner becomes so much more than the necessity of nourishment.
With our extensive knowledge of these safari dining experiences, moments we have almost always enjoyed firsthand, we will elevate your safari meals far beyond a standard repast to refuel the belly and into the place of unforgettable memories. Contact your travel designer today.