Activities in Africa
Morning and Afternoon Game Drives
Game drives are the classic way to experience the African wildlife. Typically a game drive takes place in a custom-built safari vehicle (with either a pop-up top or open sides), which offers comfort, panoramic viewing, dedicated safari guide, optional refreshment on-board and radio-links for fast location of game.
The best time for wildlife viewing is 6.30 AM – 9.30 AM and 3.30 PM – 6.30 PM; this is due to the fact that most of the animals retire to the shade to rest during the middle (hottest) part of the day. For best viewing, the trick is not to look AT the bush but THROUGH it. Focus your eyes at mid-range distance, look under bushes and into the shadows, and watch out for those subtle changes in colour and continuity that may indicate the presence of wildlife.
A uniquely specialised activity, which is usually not permitted within the boundaries of the national parks and reserves, a night game drive is the ultimate safari luxury. Generally we have the opportunity to experience a night drive when staying within the boundaries of a private reserve. Some national parks have organized night drives which you can join for an optional cost while staying within the park.
Night drives are an exhilarating experience, leaving your accommodation after dinner, you will set off to discover the creatures of the night. This is the exclusive domain of hunters such as lions and leopards, and the only time when you may catch a glimpse of such elusive nocturnal creatures as aardvarks, civet cats, white-tailed mongoose and cape hares. Your vehicle will also be equipped with a powerful hand-held lamp, which can be used to sweep the bush for likely sightings.
Game & Nature Walks
Experiencing the African bush whilst on a game walk is one of the most special experiences in Africa. Leave behind the noisy vehicle as you follow your experienced ranger on and adventure of a lifetime. Guides are equipped with a rifle and armed with great knowledge on animal behaviour. Game walks need not be an activity that should give you pause, but instead viewed as a special experience.
Clients gain a special appreciation for the bush on a game walk. Generally no more than a couple of hours in length and conducted at a leisurely pace, they offer a special insight into the flora, fauna and wildlife of the African bush. Many game reserves (especially throughout Southern Africa) offer the experience and some trips have are especially tailored just to clients who wish to conduct the majority of their game experiences by foot.
Qualified rangers will make frequent stops to explain how animals are tracked in the bush, explain how plants may have been used by traditional cultures and if lucky, we may have the opportunity to view some great game from a vantage point which is just not possible within the confines of a vehicle.
Best Countries for Game Walk: Zambia, Botswana, South Africa
Safaris by Water
There are some great waterways and water-based ecosystems in Africa and conducting game viewing from a boat, canoe or mokoro (traditional watercraft) can be both peaceful and exciting.
Boating safaris are often conducted in the evening as the sun starts to set over the African horizon. We cruise at a leisurely pace, making frequent stops to view game along the way. Whether we are viewing hippos, elephants as they come to the river to drink or to appreciate the prolific birdlife of Africa, a boating safari can be a relaxing way to experience a late afternoon game experience, perhaps with a ‘sundowner’ cocktail in hand!
Canoeing safaris are an active way to explore some of Africa’s great waterways. Choose your level of involvement from a few hours paddling down the Zambezi or a multi-day trip combining an appreciation for Africa’s spectacular natural surroundings and game viewing. It’s a great way to be active while at the same time drawing up your paddles to get some great shots of your surroundings and any animals that may be swimming just off in the distance or have found their way down to the riverside for a drink.
Mokoro safaris are conducted in Botswana in a traditional Mokoro. A Mokoro traditionally was a canoe carved from a large tree used by the people of the Bavei tribe of the Okavango Delta region. Today mokoros are made of fiberglass for environmental reasons. Your mokoro safari will be accompanied by a ‘poler’ who is a local equipped with a pole about 3 metres long that allows for navigation of the delta waters. So sit back and enjoy as you take in the besutiful ecosystem and its prolific wildlife and picture-perfect sunsets.
Best Countries for Safaris by Water: Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia
If you have limited time and wish to skip the long drives that often accompany a traditional African Safari, a flying safari may just be for you. Flying safaris can are ideal for maximizing your vacation time. Many of the major reserves in East Africa and parts of Southern Africa have airstrips nearby that allow for direct access to a multitude of lodges.
Flights are generally undertaken in small light aircraft ranging from 4 – 12 guests and not only does it shorten travel times, but they also offer a glimpse of Africa from the air. It is not uncommon to fly over parks and reserves where wildlife can be spotted from above. Flying over Botswana’s Okavango Delta can be one of the most rewarding experiences where clients can appreciate the vast and unmatched ecosystem of the delta.
You can expect to pay considerably more for a flying safari, but the reward can be well worth the cost, especially if you desire to see as much as possible in a short time.
Best Countries for a Flying Safari: Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana
Balloon Safaris typically begin with a dawn wake-up call, a cup of tea, and a short drive to the take-off site. Here guests can watch as the balloon is inflated then, as it rights itself, they are invited to climb into the 8-10 person basket (which is equipped with safety belts). Piloted by a qualified balloon pilot, the balloon will drift in the direction of the prevailing wind and can rise up and down according to the pilot’s wishes. An ideal way of viewing game, it is an unforgettable experience that usually lasts around 45 minutes to an hour before coming down to a controlled landing. Traditionally a champagne breakfast is then served (usually a full English breakfast) as flying certificates are handed out. The support team then load the balloon while the guests enjoy a game drive back to the lodge in another vehicle.
Best Countries for a Balloon Safari: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia
Bird-Watchers will delight in visiting Africa. Some of the most prolific birdlife in the world is on offer whether you choose East Africa or Southern Africa. The diversity of African birdlife is startling in its colour and vibrancy and will be sure to be a memorable experience.
There are specific trips that are designed just for the bird-watching enthusiast, but any safari that visits some of Africa’s great bird habitats will offer some great opportunities. Whether it’s the lakes of the Great Rift Valley such as Lake Nakuru, home to thousands of flamingoes or pelicans at times of the year, or the Okavango Delta with its enormous diversity of bird-life, any birder novice to expert will be left satisfied.
Special multi-day safari experiences with a focus on ornithology can be easily organized with a dedicated ornithologist.
Best Countries for a Bird-Watcing: Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana
Trekking / Hiking
Africa offers some great trekking opportunities. Africa’s most popular trekking destination is Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain on the continent. However lesser known ranges and mountains can offer a less travelled route, such as Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains or Mount Kenya or Mount Meru. Considerable in their difficulty level, preparation is a must.
Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,336 feet it’s Africa’s highest peak. The trek to the summit takes you through 5 different climatic zones. More than 20,000 people attempt the climb every year. Routes vary in degree of difficulty, traffic and scenic beauty. The least difficult routes are Marangu and Rongai; the more difficult routes are Machame, Shira and Limosho. The longer routes have more difficult hiking but you’ll be more acclimatized and your chances of reaching the summit are therefore higher.
However, trekking need not be so involved and less strenuous hiking offering some spectacular scenery can be had in Africa was well. South Africa is home to some great trails whether they wind their way through the Drakensberg Mountains, along the Wild Coast north of Durban or along the famed ‘Otter Trail’ in the Tsitsikamma National Park along South Africa’s Garden Route. Spectacular scenery and walks can also be found in the Fish River Canyon Area of Namibia.
Best Countries for Trekking: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa
There are few experiences in the world that can match the exhilarating thrill of tracking a Mountain Gorilla family through the thick tropical rainforests of Uganda or Rwanda. George Schaller famously stated that “No one who looks into a gorilla’s eyes – intelligent, gentle, vulnerable – can remain unchanged, for the gap between ape and human vanishes, we know that the gorilla still lives with in us”.
Uganda is home to about 50% of the world’s Mountain Gorilla population within the confines of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Rwanda too has a considerable portion of the total population within the Parc Nationale des Volcanoes.
Well-monitored and permitted, the cost of a permit to undertake this experience is dear at $500 US. However, there is arguably no more intimate and interesting wildlife experience in Africa.
Gorilla-tracking can involve several hours walking to locate the families deep within the bush and clients should be aware that at least an average level of fitness required. However, the walk through the bush quickly fades into memory as we settle down to observe and gawk in awe at these magical creatures of nature for the next hour.
Best Countries for Gorilla Tracking: Uganda, Rwanda
Africa is a great place to experience some of the world’s best adrenaline activities if that’s your cup of tea! Most centre around the Victoria Falls area where one can engage in a number of heart-pounding experiences! Whether you’d like to try jumping off a bridge with the Vic Falls Bungee jump experience, or perhaps raft one of the world’s mightiest rivers, the Zambezi, these are just two of a whole slough of activities available in the Vic Falls area. Also available is the electrifying Gorge Swing, microlighting over the falls, or perhaps undertaking the Lion Encounter experience. If getting your heart racing is a must for you, plan enough time in Vic Falls to tell stories for years!
The other major centre for adrenaline activity is Swakopmund in Namibia. Here you can go quad-biking through the red dunes, skydive against the picturesque landscape or try your hand at sand-boarding!
Oh, and don’t forget that the world’s highest bungee jump is in South Africa at Bloukrans at an astounding 216 metres! Any way you look at it, Africa is a great place to get your blood going!
Africa offers some of the most picturesque golf courses in the world. Golf is also a favourite pastime amongst the African business community, all of which adds up to the fact that countries such as Kenya and South Africa are a veritable golfer’s paradise. As well as offering specific golfing resorts, some lodges offer immediate access to the nearest golf course, many of which are either overlooking the Indian Ocean, or scenically located.
Some of the world’s best courses are located here and have been designed by the likes of Gary Player, a legend in the international golfing community.
Africa is also the only place in the world to have the following rule: ‘If a ball comes to rest close to a hippopotamus or crocodile, another ball may be dropped at a safe distance, but no nearer the hole, without a penalty’.
Whether you simply take in a game as an add on to your safari experience or you wish to partake in a specific gold holiday, the great courses on offer will leave you with a desire to return!
Beach & Relaxation
The Indian Ocean coastline of Africa is one of the most beautiful in the world. Silver sands, year-round clear-blue waters and tropical palms are hallmarks of this area.
Known as the Swahili Coastline, thanks to the unique mix of African, Arabic and Portuguese people who typify it, it also offers; a wide range of ancient cultural sites; mosques and ancient Swahili towns; a vibrantly colourful cuisine; a wide range of marine parks backed by coastal parks and the last remains of the African equatorial rain-forests; endless water-sports, child-friendly pursuits and nightly entertainments for all tastes; and one of the world’s most famous barrier reefs. As for the accommodation, thanks to its long-established tourism infrastructure, the choices range from 5-star resorts and world-class spas, to simple palm-thatched chalets on the beach.
Best Countries for a Beach Experience: Kenya (Mombasa), Tanzania (Zanzibar), Mozambique
International PADI dive school offering equipment, training courses and guiding to local reefs and (in some cases) wrecks.
The Indian Ocean coast features some magnificent dive sites and a wide selection of dive centres, which cater for complete beginners and experienced divers alike. It is also possible to do a ‘fun dive’ where no experience is required and a guide takes you down to 6 metres. Due to the Indo-Pacific current, the Indian Ocean boasts the same fish species as Australia: manta rays; reef, hammerhead and whale sharks; turtles and multi-coloured reef fish in coral gardens. Wall and pinnacle dives with dramatic drop-offs together with wreck, drift and night drives are also offered. Divers must carry internationally recognized accreditation both PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club) are acceptable.
Big game fishing for marlin, tuna, king fish, wahu etc using fully-equipped and crewed boats.
The Indian Ocean coastline of Africa is a Mecca for deep-sea fishermen, many world and all-Africa records being held in Kenya. There are six types of billfish in the waters, striped, blue and black marlin being the main species together with sailfish, swordfish, sharks, wahoo, yellowfin, tuna and dorado. Boats typically depart in the early morning, trawl for bait and then head out to the deep water to wait for the big catch. The fishing season is August to March (billfish season from November to March).
Most resorts offer boats which carry snorkellers out the short distance to the reef or can be done from the shoreline. Most supply snorkeling equipment and guides – however you may prefer to bring you own. If swimming a marine park, you will have to buy a ticket – which are usually available from the hotel or the boat captain. Snorkelling can be done at all times of the year, but conditions are considered best from December to March. The best visibility for snorkeling is at low tide just before the tide turns.
Options for sailing vary greatly ranging from hired catamarans and dinghies to trips on traditional fishing boats (known as ngalawa) or dhows. Sailing is good all year round, though October is particularly good.