Safari Activities & Special Interest
- Game Drives »
- Walking Safaris & Trekking »
- Riding Safaris (Horses, Elephants, Camels) »
- Species specific interests »
- Cultural Experiences and Community Lodges »
Most big-game viewing in Africa occurs on game drives in either open or closed 4×4 vehicles. Open vehicles may or may not have a shade roof, and closed vehicles will always have roof hatches, as well as normal windows. The safaris we arrange do not use minibuses for game-viewing unless it is specifically requested. It is usual for game drives to take place in the early mornings and late afternoons, avoiding the heat of the day when animals are least active. However, in certain regions longer half day or full day drives are possible or required. Game drives allow you to cover a wide range and get closest to big game.
In certain game conservancies and private concessions, driving ‘off road’ is permitted, whilst in designated National Parks and Reserves this is usually not allowed. Your guide will nearly always drive the vehicle, and in some cases may be supported by a ‘tracker’ or ‘spotter’ who will sit up front and help find the animals. Most game drive vehicles can cater for between 4 and 10 guests, though the better operators will try and keep to a maximum of 6 guests per vehicle. It is possible at many properties to pay extra to book your own private vehicle which gives you complete freedom and exclusivity when game-viewing.
Night drives are often possible and interesting because you are specifically seeking out nocturnal species which you are unlikely to see during the day. Your guide, or his ‘spotter’, will use a powerful spotlight to find the animals. The animals are located by the reflection of their eyes, and whilst the quality of viewing and photographical opportunities may be more limited at night, the search can be exciting and night drives do throw up some really rare and unique sightings. Night drives are not always possible as many National Parks and Game Reserves do not permit them.
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Walking Safaris and Mountain Trekking
Walking is widely available throughout Africa and allows you to experience the bush in a totally different way to a game drive. Without the sound of an engine, your senses come alive and you hear, smell and see things that you miss from a vehicle. In addition to getting a little exercise, walking safaris also allow you to learn about the smaller aspects of the bush – plants, tracks, insects, birds, dung etc. Of course, coming across big game on foot can also be highly rewarding and can occasionally get the heart racing!
Many safari properties offer nature walks as individual activities (for just a few hours), whilst across Africa there are a limited number of more serious walking trails, which can include walking over several days and staying in fairly basic ‘fly-camps’ in the wilderness. There are also certain permanent camps which offer comfortable accommodation but specialise in walking. A crucial element to any walking safari is the guide, not only from an enjoyment point of view but also in terms of safety. Rules and regulations on carrying firearms do vary, but it is usual for either your guide to carry a firearm when walking, or for you to be accompanied by an armed ranger. In a few places walking is conducted without a firearm. It is usual for a maximum of six guests to accompany one guide on a walking safari.
In terms of more serious mountain trekking, Africa offers limited options. Mount Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and Mount Kenya offer the two highest peaks in Africa and are both quite serious treks. Uganda’s Ruwenzori ‘Mountains of the Moon’ are mysterious, remote and not for the faint-hearted, whilst South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains are impressive but more accessible to all abilities. However, there are good ‘hiking’ opportunities throughout Africa, including (but not limited to) Rwanda’s Virunga Volcanoes, Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Highlands, Kenya’s Matthews Range and Laikipia Plateau, Malawi’s Nyika and Zomba Plateaus, Namibia’s Damaraland and a variety of places in South Africa, including coastal hikes.
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Riding Safaris (Horses, Elephants, Camels)
Riding Safaris are available in limited places across Africa. Most countries will offer some form of riding opportunities, though Kenya, Botswana and South Africa are particularly known for the variety of options they offer. Exploring the bush on horse-back is a real privilege and can throw up some unique experiences, especially when getting close to plains game.
Certain camps or lodges which have stables will offer horse-riding as an individual activity (as an alternative to nature walks or game drives). Whilst this gives you the flexibility to choose how much riding you wish to do, please note that these riding safaris usually cater for mixed riding abilities, so are less likely to satisfy very experienced riders.
A few specific operators offer multi-day riding safaris which are suited to more experienced and dedicated riders. These longer safaris will typically involve spending up to 7 hours a day in the saddle, with nights out in the bush in more adventurous ‘fly-camps’ or ‘mobile tented camps’, which adds to the whole safari experience. Many of these dedicated riding trails operate through big game country, where dangerous game can be encountered, and we therefore recommend that you talk to us about the standard of your riding to ensure you do not attempt a trail that is not suitable.
Some operators cater for non-riding partners, offering the chance to enjoy alternative safari activities whilst rides are taking place, meeting at rendezvous points during the day.
The breed of horses used varies from Boerperd (a South African breed) to Thoroughbred, and many cross breeds bred for their stamina and sure-footedness. The tack used varies from Australian stock saddle to more traditional English saddles. It is worth talking to us about the type of riding you enjoy at home so that we can best match you to the most appropriate ride in Africa.
Riding elephants through the bush in Africa is possible in very limited places in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Typically you have a chance to learn all about the elephants and watch them interact naturally as well as actually ride them in the wild. It is possible to see other wildlife whilst on the elephants, but the focus tends to be on the unique elephant experience.
In Kenya, camels are sometimes used to transport equipment and food whilst on walking trails, and it is possible for guests to ride the camels. An interesting experience, but most people will find walking more comfortable!
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Species specific interests
Africa offers a very wide range of wildlife viewing, but some of the key species that can be specifically focused on include the big cats (lion, cheetah and leopard), black & white rhino, wild dog, gorilla, chimpanzee and elephant. Specific species of birds can often be made the focus for a safari, whilst there are many other mammal species that may really capture your imagination. Rarer species are obviously much harder (or impossible) to guarantee, but we have the expertise to be able to suggest where you need to go to see more unusual or rare species. Not all animals and birds are found in all safari destinations, so it is important that you tell us if there are specific species you are very keen on or simply wish to see.
Whilst elephants can be viewed throughout East and Southern Africa, there are places and properties that focus specifically on elephant viewing, elephant research and/or specific elephant interaction (occasionally including elephant-back safaris). Such safaris will offer anyone who is really keen on elephants, a most thrilling experience.
Mountain Gorillas are wonderful to see and, within the countries we specialise in, can only be found in south-west Uganda and northern Rwanda. Truly a unique and often moving experience, gorilla tracking can be hard work and a reasonable level of fitness is required. Rwanda tends to offer easier conditions and is certainly the better destination for a short fly-in visit just to see the gorillas, whilst Uganda (or a Rwanda/ Uganda combination) suits a longer exploration of the region, combining primate viewing, game-viewing and birding. All gorilla families visited by tourists have been habituated to human presence, and permits to see them in either country cost US$500.00 per person. They are often booked out well in advance.
Chimpanzees can be viewed in fewer than ten destinations throughout East Africa (Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya). This includes a few chimp ‘orphanages’ which do not offer wild ‘chimp tracking’ experiences. However, where chimps can be genuinely seen in the wild, it is a fantastic experience. Chimps are smaller than gorillas, but live in larger groups and are often more vocal and more active. However, like gorillas they need to be habituated in order to allow tourist viewing (otherwise you would barely glimpse them). You need to be reasonably fit and capable of walking ‘up and down’ slopes for several hours to track chimps in the best places.
Whale-watching is possible off East Africa at certain times of year (Humpback whales) though the best whale-watching in Africa is found off the southern coast of South Africa, where for five months a year Southern Right whales can be seen very close to shore or on dedicated boat excursions.
We do not specifically arrange birding group tours, but many of our customers are keen birders and we often arrange tailor-made itineraries that focus on birding. East and Southern Africa, together with the Indian Ocean Islands, offer fantastic diversity in terms of habitats and ecosystems, which in turn creates varied birding experiences. Migrant species pass through East Africa in September/October on their way south, and come back through in March/April, settling in Southern Africa between these times.
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Cultural Experiences and Community Lodges
Africa is almost as well known for its colourful peoples as it is its wildlife, and many African holidays will include some form of cultural interaction without any specific cultural activities being arranged. Whilst it may be the wildlife that draws you to Africa in the first place, sometimes the people of Africa can provide some of your most compelling memories.
When staying within designated National Parks & Reserves (where there are usually no local villages), you will still meet local people in the form of guides and staff. In particular, local guides will be able to offer an insight not only into the natural world but also their lives in general. Outside these dedicated wildlife sanctuaries, much of the land is owned and/or occupied by local communities. Safari camps and lodges in these regions (even when located just inside a wildlife reserve), will usually work very closely with local communities and you will often be able to visit villages and learn as much about the local community as you desire. In some countries, specific camps and lodges are owned and run totally by the local community offering an even more in-depth experience, whilst in more remote, less visited regions it is possible to visit nomadic tribes who have had little exposure to western influences.
Cultural experiences are widely available away from core wildlife regions, including the coastal destinations. The entire length of the East African coast is teeming with people and culture, from large ports to sleepy fishing villages on remote islands. Most beach holidays will offer opportunities to explore local life.
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Water is the ‘source of life’ and Africa is blessed with many wonderful rivers, great lakes and tranquil lagoons which support abundant wildlife, Boats, canoes, and local dug out ‘mekoros’ are the usual ways to enjoy fantastic viewing of species that live in, or rely heavily upon the water. Hippo, crocs, otters and water birds are the most obvious examples, but elephant, buffalo and certain species of antelope are also heavily associated with wetland regions.
Boat safaris and houseboats are obviously limited to destinations where there is deep, permanent water – usually major rivers or lakes. Where this is possible, we view the option to get out on the water as real bonus. A boat cruise will often be more relaxing and offer a different perspective from normal game drives. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and southern Tanzania are the countries most associated with boat safaris, but there are limited options across the rest of Africa. Houseboats are available in a few limited places in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.
A ‘makoro’ (singular) is a local dug-out canoe propelled by a standing ‘poler’. Although used by locals in a few different wetland regions, mekoro (plural) excursions are mostly associated with Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where they are used to explore the shallow floodplains and channels of this wonderful wetland paradise. Many camps in the Okavango will offer mekoro excursions as relaxed activities where you learn about some of the smaller aspects of the delta (birds, reed frogs etc) and appreciate the tranquillity of the environment, whilst it is also possible to undertake a more in depth ‘makoro trail’ spending a few days exploring the inner reaches of the delta and searching for specific species such as sitatunga (a rare aquatic antelope) and Pels fishing owl.
Canoeing is possible on a number of Africa’s great lakes and rivers. The best canoeing safaris are found on the Zambezi River (Zambia/Zimbabwe). You do not need to be fit to undertake a canoeing safari, as you will always canoe downstream, though a little fitness for lake and sea kayaking will help you enjoy longer paddles.
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Africa from the air
Africa is scenically stunning continent and whilst game-viewing usually takes place at ground level, there are various ways you can enjoy the African scenery and sometimes wildlife from an aerial position.
Scenic flights are available as specific activities in limited regions, though most safaris will include light aircraft transfers which will give you wonderful views of the local landscapes. Zambia and Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls is specifically known for its scenic ‘Flights of Angels’ over the falls (by fixed wing, helicopter or microlight), whilst scenic highlights such as Namibia’s Skeleton Coast or Namib Desert can also be viewed on dedicated scenic flights.
Helicopter and micro-light flights are possible in a few places, the latter of which is sometimes conducted as a game-viewing activity. Alternatively, it is possible to have that ‘Out of Africa’ experience in a ‘bi-plane’ as a few exist and are now available for scenic flights.
Hot-air balloon safaris are available in a number of spots, most famously operating over the rolling plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, where it is even possible to witness the incredible wildebeest migration from the air. Limited hot-air ballooning options exist in other parts of Africa, including Namibia.
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Watersports, Fishing, Diving and Snorkelling
Our destinations including thousands of miles of tropical coastline, hundreds of islands surrounded by the Indian Ocean and many beautiful freshwater lakes.
Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, Malawi and South Africa all offer fantastic diving and snorkelling opportunities. The east coast of Africa is very tidal, usually with a prominent offshore reef, which is good for diving but makes snorkelling from the shore limited in most places (snorkelling from boats can be excellent). However, wonderful ‘snorkelling from the shore’ is possible from various islands off East Africa and in the Seychelles. It is possible to take diving courses in a number of destinations, whilst particular highlights include swimming and snorkelling with dolphins (dolphins are very common along the whole African coastline), turtle viewing, good shark viewing in Mozambique, South Africa and the Seychelles, colourful cichlid fish in Lake Malawi and the possibility of seeing whale sharks, mainly in Mozambique and the Seychelles.
We do not tend to specialise in dedicated sailing holidays, though it is possible to rent sailing yachts in destinations like the Seychelles. Smaller craft such as 8 berth Catamaran are great for families or small groups and are available in a few limited places such as on Lake Malawi. If it is just a bit of fun you are after, sailing boats such as lasers and hobie-cats are available in a limited number of beach resorts.
A wide range of fishing is available throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. The Indian Ocean offers fantastic deep-sea/ game fishing and countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa, Mauritius and The Seychelles all have access to good fishing grounds. Bone fishing and shore-based fly-fishing is possible in a few destinations, but is best in Mozambique and The Seychelles, whilst freshwater fly-fishing opportunities are available in a number of places, notably South Africa (for trout mainly). One of Africa’s most charismatic fish is the Tiger fish, which are principally found in southern Africa’s great rivers and lakes, including the Zambezi River and Lake Kariba. There are many places along the Zambezi that offer ‘tiger fishing’ and fly-fishing is an increasingly popular alternative to traditional ‘bottom’ or lure fishing. One of Africa’s largest fish, the Nile Perch, can be fished on Lake Victoria, whilst general freshwater fishing is possible in many places where there is permanent deep water.
Because much of East Africa has an ‘offshore reef’, the best surfing is found around the coastline of South Africa, including the Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town regions. Wind-surfing is possible at many beach destinations, whilst more specialist kite-surfing is available in fewer places, predominantly Kenya, South Africa and Mauritius. Kayaking is available at many beach resorts, but some of the best kayaking is offered on Africa’s great lakes, in particular Lake Malawi. Motorised watersports such as water-skiing, para-sailing, jet-ski’s etc tend to be more available at commercial resorts in Mauritius, in Sun City, and to a lesser degree, other coastal and lake resorts in East and Southern Africa.
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Adrenalin Sports and Adventure Activities
Whilst South Africa is a highly developed country offering by far the widest range of outdoor adventure sports, including rock-climbing, abseiling, paragliding, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, tubing and much more, Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and nearby Livingstone (Zambia) have become known as the ‘adventure’ capital of Africa. The Batoka Gorge (in to which the falls plummet) is home to bungee jumping, gorge swings, jet-boating and arguably the best white-water rafting experience in the world. Quad-biking, horse-riding, canoeing safaris, microlighting, helicopter flights and elephant-back safaris are all available in the region.
In Namibia, Swakopmund offers dune boarding, quad-biking and sky-diving. White-water rafting is also available on the Nile in Uganda.
Quad-biking is not especially associated with game-viewing but is available as a fun activity in a number of spots across Africa. Some of the best experiences include desert exploration in Namibia, trips across the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana and exploring Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau. You do not usually need any experience to enjoy quad-biking.
Mountain Biking is available in a variety of locations, from rugged mountain environments to wildlife viewing areas and beach destinations.
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Our specialist knowledge and experience allow us to arrange holidays that include a wide variety of specific interests. Some of the subjects we are able to cover include specific photography tours, wild flowers and botany, dendrology, lepidoptera, archaeology, historical tours and battlefields, wine farms and wine-tasting, rail journeys, golf and health spas. Please speak to us and let us know your specialist interest.
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