THE OKAVANGO DELTA
Described as ‘the jewel of the Kalahari’, the Okavango Delta – a tranquil and isolated oasis set in the harsh and arid surroundings of Botswana’s bush and desert – is widely regarded as one of Africa’s best safari destinations, with its rich diversity of fauna and flora. Explore this unique ecosystem across land and water and two different camps in this lush and vibrant time of year, full of migrant birds and fat antelope, under steadily clearing, deep blue skies.
CENTRAL KALAHARI GAME RESERVE
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the second largest reserve in the world and by far the most remote reserve in Southern Africa. It covers an area of 52000 square kilometres and it is home to rhino, black-maned lion and desert-adapted elephants among other striking game species. Unlike other Botswana safari destinations, January through to April is the best time to visit. During this rainy, 'green season' in Botswana, the beautiful interdune valley become lush with vegetation, attracting thousands of springboks and gemsbok, a good number of ostriches, herds of wildebeest as well as giraffe.
CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
Chobe National Park is an extensive safari area that is most famous for its large population of elephants. The park is bordered on one side by the Chobe River, which provides the perfect habitat for thousands of hippos and crocodiles. There are 400 species of bird in this wildlife-rich area, and bird enthusiasts may be lucky enough to see the elusive Pel’s fishing owl here. One thing's for certain: Chobe National Park holidays will bring rich wildlife rewards.
Maun has been the starting point of expeditions into Botswana's wildlife areas since the turn of the century, and it is now the safari capital of the country and the gateway to the Okavango Delta. It's a little town, dotted with modern shops and offices, while its suburbs are a mix of a few traditionally built, thatched rondavels and an increasing number of more modern, tin-roofed brick houses. Look carefully amongst the older ones these and you'll find quite a lot which incorporate old tin cans from drinks into their mud walls.
Maun is well connected with Johannesburg by scheduled flights and has a very large, tar runway - capable of taking the largest of jets - and a smart, new airport building beside it.
THE MASAI MARA WILDLIFE CONSERVANCIES
While the Masai Mara National Reserve is the focal point of the Greater Mara Ecosystem, in the last decade there have been a number of conservancies that have been established which border the unfenced national reserve. These conservancies are on private land owned by Maasai families that have been set aside for wildlife conservation and tourism. The landowners lease their land to safari companies and lodges, who then pay monthly fees which go back into the community, funding education and other development initiatives. In return the Maasai are still allowed to graze their cattle on the land, but only under strictly controlled conditions. As a result of the establishment of conservancies, Maasai communities have benefited from economic upliftment, while wildlife numbers have increased as land that was once over grazed by cattle is now being rehabilitated as wilderness.
THE GREAT MIGRATION
The constant year-long migration is an iconic natural phenomenon, the timing of which depends on environmental factors, the weather and of course, the animals themselves. In short, the biggest mammal trek in the world follows the rains. The herds travel 800 kilometers clockwise in a circle through the Serengeti and Masai Mara ecosystems in search of greener, mineral rich pastures and water. In general, the best time to see the Great Migration in the Masai Mara is from July to October. Keep in mind though, mother nature is her own boss.
Crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, the Amboseli National Parks is one of Kenya's most popular parks. The name "Amboseli" comes from a Maasai word meaning "salty dust", and it is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. Nature lovers can explore five different habitats here ranging from the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli, wetlands with sulphur springs, the savannah and woodlands. Amboseli is synonymous with two key things - large herds of elephants and magnificent views of Mt. Kilimanjaro as the backdrop.
Tsavo is made up of two separate parks, Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park. Located in Coast Province of Kenya in between Nairobi City and Mombasa. Tsavo is nearly 22,000km2, being the largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world. The park was split into two due to the railway going from Mombasa to the interior of Kenya. The slightly larger Tsavo East is generally flat, with dry plains across which the Galana River flows. Tsavo West National Park is more mountainous and wetter than its counterpart, with swamps, Lake Jipe and the Mzima Springs. It is known for bird life and for its large mammal’s e.g. black rhino, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard, hippo and Masai lion.
In 1898 two African lions, known locally as "The Ghost" and "The Darkness", killed a number of workers on the East Africa Railroad at the Tsavo River and halted the project until they were hunted down and shot by a British foreman. The incident was described in a book titled The Man-Eaters of Tsavo that became, in 1996, the basis for a movie starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer.
THE GREATER KRUGER
The Kruger National Park has attained international renown, but the terms ‘Kruger National Park’ (KNP) and ‘Greater Kruger’ are often used interchangeably, despite their differences. The distinction between the two is important, to understand both the tourist experience and how this conservation model has impacted the wildlife of the area. The ‘Greater Kruger’ refers to 344,000 hectares (860,000 acres) of protected land to the west of Kruger National Park that provides a more substantial area for wildlife to roam freely. Private and local community property owners own this additional land, and most is utilised for commercial purposes.
The Greater Kruger is utilised primarily for photographic tourism and is home to some of South Africa’s best-known Big 5 lodges. Strict access results in low visitor numbers compared to the neighbouring KNP, and off-road driving (by experienced guides), night drives and bush walks guarantee fantastic wildlife encounters.
MADIKWE GAME RESERVE
Madikwe Game Reserve is a malaria free Big 5 game reserve. Imagine over seven hundred and fifty square kilometers of untamed bushveld the way it was long before man interfered. The Madikwe Game Reserve, situated in the North West Province of South Africa and run by the North West Parks and Tourism Board, reclaimed over seventy five thousand hectares of farmland and turned it into a wildlife sanctuary that has become home to a wonderful variety of Africa’s animals. The reserve has one of the largest elephant populations, all the predators, as well as the endangered wild dog, black and white rhino, buffalo and general plains game. Bird life is abundant.
PILANESBERG NATIONAL PARK
The Pilanesberg Park is close enough for a day visit from Johannesburg and can be reached within 3 hours. It's a sought-after wildlife destination in a malaria-free zone and is home to the big five. The unique biosphere of the Pilanesberg National Park is home to one of the country’s most famous wildlife areas. The park is set in an ancient volcanic crater. This well-stocked reserve has a dramatic landscape that supports a wide variety of plants, animals and birds.
Cape Town is not only a popular international tourist destination in South Africa, but Africa as a whole. This is due to its mild climate, natural setting, and well-developed infrastructure. The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl. Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway. Other attractions and popular sights and activities include whale watching, shark diving, a visit to Boulders beach to see penguins and a visit to the continent's most southernly destination - Cape Point.
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
The Serengeti is one of the most famous parks in Africa and is synonymous with wildlife and classic African scenery. It is Tanzania's oldest park and a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is home to the spectacular wildebeest migration and offers top-class wildlife viewing throughout the year. The Serengeti offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa. All the major safari animals occur in great numbers. Cheetah and four of the Big 5 are easily seen, but rhino sightings are rare, and only black rhino are present.
The Ndutu Region is part of Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It stretches to the unfenced southern part of the Serengeti National Park. There is plenty of resident wildlife such as elephants, hyenas, giraffes and big cats to be found all year round. The best game viewing spot is around Lake Ndutu, where enormous herds congregate. It is a shallow alkaline lake that is located on the eastern border of Serengeti national park. Ndutu is the only nature reserve in Tanzania where you are allowed to drive off-road. This allows you to get very close to the animals. Many predators are attracted by the calving happening here and roam this vast plain: lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and hundreds of wild dogs!
In 2008 the Usangu Game reserve merged its borders with Ruaha transforming it into Tanzania’s largest national park; it now covers more than 20,000km². Despite the size of the park there are still only a handful of camps found here, which has built Ruaha’s reputation as Tanzania’s best kept game viewing secret. Ruaha’s wild and untrammelled feel is what sets it apart from other reserves, making it a popular choice for regular east African safarigoers. Ruaha is well known for its varied dramatic scenery, which includes rolling hills; large open plains; groves of skeletal baobabs and along it's southern border, the Great Ruaha River, from which the park gets its name. Ruaha has a hot, dry climate which means the animals don’t tend to stray too far from dependable water sources. This makes predicting game movements far easier, particularly in the dry season.
The Zanzibar Archipelago, located in the Indian Ocean 15 miles off the coast of Tanzania, is a breathtaking spot to escape from the world. You’ll enjoy clear, turquoise-blue water; shallow sandbars perfect for wading; and many small, nearly deserted islands virtually unvisited by tourists. Explore the World Heritage Site of Stone Town, Zanzibar City’s old quarter. Or just go beach to beach between tiny fishing villages—each one's better than the next. It's the perfect destination to relax after a safari adventure.
SOUTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK
Experts have dubbed South Luangwa to be one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and not without reason. The concentration of animals around the Luangwa River, and its oxbow lagoons, is among the most intense in Africa. The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and is the life-blood of the park. The now famous ‘walking safari’ originated here and is still one of the finest ways to experience Africa’s pristine wilderness first-hand. There are 60 different animal species in South Luangwa National Park - the only notable exception is the rhino, sadly poached to extinction. With about 400 of Zambia’s 732 species of birds appearing in the Park, including 39 birds of prey and 47 migrant species, there is plenty for the birdwatcher to spot, whatever the season.
KAFUE NATIONAL PARK
Found in the centre of western Zambia, Kafue National Park is the oldest and largest of Zambia’s national parks. It covers a massive 22,400 km2.
First established as a National Park in the 1950’s by the legendary Norman Carr, Kafue is one of the largest national parks in the whole of Africa. Despite its size and prominent location only two hours drive from Livingstone, it remains little-known and largely unexplored with vast tracts of its virgin bush still untouched. Thanks to its size and variety of habitat types the Kafue holds a fantastic diversity of wildlife .
LOWER ZAMBEZI NATIONAL PARK
This Park is still relatively undeveloped, it’s beauty lying in it’s wilderness state. The diversity of animals is not as wide as the other big parks, but the opportunities to get close to game wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels are spectacular. The Park lies opposite the famous Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe, so the whole area on both sides of the Zambezi River is a massive wildlife sanctuary. Even though the Lower Zambezi National Park covers an area of 4092 square kilometers, most of the game is concentrated along the valley floor. Enormous herds of elephant, some up to 100 strong, are often seen at the river’s edge. ‘Island hopping’ buffalo and waterbuck are common. The Park also hosts good populations of lion and leopard, and listen too for the ubiquitous cry of the fish eagle.
Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world. Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometres, into a gorge over one hundred meters below.