We Love Love Love an African Safari Adventure!
To begin, Africa is the world’s second-biggest continent, covering around 20% of the Earth’s land. Its biomes include jungles, deserts, grasslands, and mountains. Home to over 1,100 species of mammals; 2,300 species of birds; and 1,600 species of reptiles, it’s a veritable paradise for photographers, animal lovers, and anyone who appreciates stunning natural beauty. In short, it is one of the most incredibly amazing places you will ever visit!
Your first safari will always hold a special place in your heart!
My first safari was at Buffalo Camp at Kapama Private Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park. It was a magical adventure, and I was hooked!
The Food is Fabulous!
Every meal you are served will be incredibly delicious and beautifully presented. Typically, you will have a lot of farm-raised game—including impala, warthog, and kudu (a type of antelope with tall, curvy horns). Many lodges offer local, farm-raised game that’s used in traditional dishes, which have been tweaked for international tastes. In Cape Town (a must-see city to visit before or after your safari), I love the Cape Malay cuisine, which is a melting pot of flavors from the east west, reminiscent of colonial times.
Local Luxury Abounds in Africa!
Luxury is everywhere but my first recommendation would be Jack’s Camp in Botswana. Originally founded in the 1960s as a jumping-off point for hunting expeditions, it now offers luxury photo safaris. With magnificently appointed tents, an extensive collection of local artifacts, and a shaded swimming pool, it’s the perfect place to experience all the region has to offer (and still sleep comfortably while doing so).
There is no shortage of wine anywhere!
There are plenty of wine and spirits around every turn but, the best place, hands down are the Singita Lodges. This ecotourism collective has lodges in four countries—South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Rwanda—and boasts one of the most extensive wine lists in all of Africa. Most lodges have 180 wines or more, which are hand-selected by François Rautenbach, one of the world’s top sommeliers.
It is easy to relax and be pampered!
Although we find that most safari lodges pamper you beyond your wildest dreams, if you are looking to truly relax and be well taken care of, head to Gibb’s Farm in Tanzania. Set atop a ridge overlooking the Great Rift Valley, the spa offers massages from Maasai medicine men that are unlike anything you’ve experienced in your life. You can also get treatments with local ingredients like Olkaria red clay (which really works wonders for your skin and circulation).
History is everywhere!
First, check out the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe. This opulent, Edwardian-style hotel was built in 1904 to accommodate workers building the “Cape to Cairo” railway. You’ll find a treasure trove of colonial-era artifacts there.
Then, head for the Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. It’s named for the thousands of ships that have sunk in the local waters, which are some of the most treacherous in the world. Not only will you discover fascinating tales of nautical adventure, but staying in one of the shipwreck-shaped rooms will give you a story or two of your own.
Finally, just outside of Cape Town lie its famous vineyards—many of which were established by Jewish emigrants (by 1914, there were over 40,000 Jews living in South Africa). It’s an obscure but fascinating bit of history, and if you ask around, you’re likely to hear stories you’ve never heard before.
Thinking of the best hidden gems and my mind immediately goes to Zambia. If you know where to look, you can find walking safaris there, where you trek from camp to camp with a local guide.
Pure gold for photography enthusiasts!
Photography is what you do on safari but, if you’re serious about getting the best possible shots, book a private vehicle and guide for the day. Most lodges offer small group drives twice a day (once in the morning and again in the evening), but if you have your own transportation you can spend more time out in the wild. Plus, there’s less of a chance that one of your over-excited companions will spook the animals.
What’s my absolute favorite thing to do in Africa?
My answer would be, “Gorilla trekking in Rwanda or Uganda.” You may have seen them a million times before in movies or magazines, but believe me, there’s nothing quite like getting face-to-face with them in real life!
African Safari: Four Fast Facts
Regions: East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda) / Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique)
Departure points: There are excellent flight schedules from NYC, Washington, DC, and Atlanta on the East Coast, and from LAX on the west coast.
Trip Duration: We recommend a minimum of 10 nights on the ground to take full advantage of the experience.
Notable wildlife: Lions, cheetahs, zebras, elephants, gazelles, rhinos, wildebeests, ostriches, ibises, hippopotamuses, giraffes, gorillas
Jeffrey Ward, aka the Savvy Navigator, is one of the best-travelled people you’ll ever meet. He’s visited 94 countries at last count, and he’s on a first-name basis with hospitality professionals around the world. If you’re looking for an expert guide to the most stunning locations and unforgettable experiences, you’ve come to the right place.