So, what is safari in Africa really about?
Don’t get me wrong, the wildebeest migration is an impressive spectacle, and seeing the ‘Big 5’ is very special, but for me, this is not what the safari experience is all about….there is so much more to it – being away from the maddening crowds of the real world and reveling in the wonder of the African bush for a start.
The sounds and smells of the African bush are hard to compare to. There is something about them that creates a romance – a really strong feeling which draws those back to Africa time and time again.
Whilst wildlife is the main reason one goes on safari, there are so many elements to a safari which add to the overall safari experience. I’m talking about the guides, the activities, the location, the camp ambiance and where you are sleeping. Together, these make or break your safari holiday – you need to get these right – and I’m here to help!
Here are my thoughts on how to make these just right:
1. Guides – the guides are by far the most important element in anyone’s safari. A brilliant guide will not only point out the wildlife before you’ve managed to see it, but will also have the most incredible eye for the bush and spot wildlife you would have never noticed. An outstanding guide will go even an extra mile and feed you with interesting facts along the way – they make you feel like you are learning about the surroundings from the master himself / herself. At Imagine Africa, we pride ourselves in only finding outstanding guides. Tried and tested by our team, our safaris are privately guided unless it’s a guide from your camp or lodge. All the guides are professionally trained to a high standard with a great command of English. We know that certain guides suit different clients so if you have a particular interest or language requirement then please let us know and we will find your perfect guide. We know guides can transform a holiday, and we want to make sure all our clients experience this.
2. Activities and Experiences – different lodges and parks offer different activities and experiences – these can really add to your overall holiday memoroes. Here are a couple of my favourite and where you can do them:
Sundowners – there is nothing quite like sundowners where you stop the vehicle, get out and sit with a gin & tonic or a beer in hand whilst you watch the sun set over the bush or on the banks of a river. A sundowner can be arranged in most lodges in Africa, get in touch with any particular requirements on 020 3141 2810.
Walking safaris – Accompanied by an experienced guide, a walking safari is an intense alternative. You’re instantly more connected to your surroundings and your senses heightened. The original way of tracking game; a walking safari is all about the little things. The home to the walking safari is in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley – in my opinion, the original and still the best.
Hot Air Balloon Safari – Take a hot-air balloon safari over the vast plains. If you go as the sun rises, you will see the bright pink-orange haze visible for miles. It is a remarkable site during the wildebeest migration – you can see the spectacle from such a different angle. You can’t feel disappointed with this experience. Hot air balloon rides are most popular in the Masai Mara and the Serengeti.
Fishing – particularly at Azura Selous – fishing in the Great Ruaha river at the front of the lodge is really rather special – it is super relaxing and a great way to spend the late afternoon as they sunset hits in. There are plenty of fish, including the Electric Catfish and Tiger Fish. The camp has all the equipment, so you just bring yourself.
3. The Location – To me there is nothing better than being away from the crowds where you can enjoy a safari without every man and his dog. I don’t mind not seeing every animal under the sun if it means I can sit with a pride of lion for an hour or two, watching them as they watch me, without another vehicle in sight or setting up a bush breakfast in the middle of nowhere and not worrying about vehicles buzzing around you.
Here are a few great properties that I would recommend (with even those in popular areas being still tucked away!):
Masai Mara, Kenya: Saruni Mara, Ol Seki, Kilima – the wildlife is unbeatable in the Masai Mara – but here you will be away from the crowds.
Selous, Tanzania: I’m a massive fan of Azura Selous – again you are away from everyone and feel like you have the park to yourself.
Damaraland, Namibia: The wildnerness feel that you get when staying at Etendeka Mountain Camp is out of this world.
4. Camp Ambiance and accommodation – there is nothing worse than walking into a camp where you instantly feel uncomfortable. Admittedly most camps you walk into you are welcomed with the African smile, a nice cold towel and a refreshing welcome drink. What is one client’s dream camp, may be another’s nightmare – some may like a tent whereas others may prefer a luxury lodge – so this is where you speak to us, we know all the camps inside out and we’ll be able to match these to your taste.
To me there is nothing better than sitting, watching, listening and hearing the sounds of Africa and escaping the real world. I was lucky enough to head off to the Selous Game Reserve for the weekend staying at Azura Selous a few weekends ago. Some people asked me if it was worth going for such a short time. I say yes, but you have to choose your camp wisely. Make sure you are choosing somewhere that offers the full safari experience from the wildlife element right through to what I have mentioned above…..they all play a role in creating that unforgettable safari experience and when you are paying a lot of money for it you want to get it right!