Is your dream African safari experience to track big game like the first explorers, glide over game filled plains in a hot air balloon or walk through the Africa bush with a family of elephants? Maybe it’s paddling past hippos and crocs on a wilderness river, visiting a Masaai village or helping researchers learn more about Africa’s extraordinary ecosystems.
There are many ways to experience Africa and because Rothschild Safaris has worked for years with the finest safari operators, we can tailor your African safari to include the activities and experiences that you want most. Below are some of the possibilities.
Game viewing is the primary activity of most African safaris and the most common way of doing this is on a game drive. Game drives let you cover lots of territory to maximize your chances of seeing birds and animals and often allow you to get very close without disturbing them. Where animals have become comfortable with game vehicles, it is not unusual for a lion to rest in the shade of your vehicle or for an elephant to browse so close you could almost touch them.
Game drives are led by experienced game rangers who explain the ecosystems you travel through and the activities and habits of the game you see. They are often assisted by a driver and sometimes a tracker as well. Game drives are typically done early in the morning (starting about 6am) and again in the late afternoon (starting around 4pm). Afternoon game drives often include a stop in the bush to toast the setting sun with “sundowners” (traditionally alcoholic beverages, but non-alcoholic alternatives are always offered) and snacks.
Some locations on an African safari offer night game drives. A spotlight is used by the guide or driver to illuminate the area around your vehicle and allow you to experience the bush at night when many animals are most active and when some are most likely seen like leopards, aardvarks and bush babies. They also offer a great opportunity to marvel at the star spangled skies of the southern hemisphere.
Bush walks are a great way to experience the bush in a very different way than in a vehicle. They are not available everywhere and the animals you see will be more wary so you will not get as close as in a vehicle. But coming on a lion, elephant or buffalo on foot is unforgettably thrilling. And just walking through the bush, feeling the ground beneath your feet, watching for tracks and sign, learning about the plants, trees, insects and smaller creatures of the bush is a wonderful wilderness experience.
Bush walks are always led by a game ranger, who is usually armed. You can do them as an alternative to a game drive or as a short excursion on a game drive. You can even do an entire African safari walking from camp to camp. The distances you cover will vary, but generally will be no more than five miles done at a leisurely pace over 3-4 hours and will include stops for water, snacks, interpreting tracks, taking photos and developing your wildlife skills.
Exploring the bush by water is another wonderful way to explore the wild beauty of Africa.
Boat cruises are popular and range from small craft that can get you close to wildlife or to a favorite fishing spot, and larger ones that offer leisurely scenic cruises that can include dinner and drinks. Canoeing is a great way to get directly in touch with Africa’s wild places and can be done as a short excursion or as a multi- day adventure. The Zambezi River and the channels of the Linyanti and Savute wetlands are famous for their canoeing opportunities. The mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe poled through shallow waterways, is another memorable way to experience the bush and is a specialty in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
A great attraction of an African safari is the amazing variety of traditional cultures that still thrive here and give travelers the chance to experience ways of life very different from their own. You can visit the camps of traditional hunter-gathers like the San of southern Africa or the Hazda of Tanzania for a glimpse into a way of life tens of thousands of years old, or the villages of proud pastoralists like East Africa’s Maasai and Samburu, or the remote villages of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. It is also possible to get a taste of contemporary Africa with visits to villages along your safari route or urban townships like Soweto in Johannesburg.
Opportunities abound for special interactions with some of Africa most iconic animals. You can walk through the bush with a family of elephants and touch, hug and feed them. Or trek forested mountains for close encounters with endangered gorillas, often described as the most incredible wildlife experience in the world. Interactions with wild chimps habituated to humans by researchers in the forests of Gombe and Mahale in Tanzania, or with big cats in reserves dedicated to their protection and reintroduction into the wild, or dives with great white sharks and cruises to see whales, dolphins and the amazing marine life of coastal Africa, or assisting researchers in their work to understand more about Africa’s wildlife and ecosystems are all possibilities.
The choices of fascinating things to do on safari are endless. Hot air balloons flights, horseback riding, hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, bunjee jumping, cave exploring, helicopter and microlite flights, diving, snorkeling, shopping, city tours, fine dining, wine tasting, self-drive explorations and just plain relaxing.