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“Once you have the soil of Africa under your fingernails you will be forever drawn back to the continent.” It’s an old saying, but I believe it is true. After 14 years in Canada I still feel the pull of the African bush. I have to go back. I need to reconnect with what I do. I need to establish relationships with the owners of resorts, safari camps and tour operators. But most of all I need to go for my soul.
My latest trip to Africa was short and business focused, but it was still a salve for my African soul. The primary purpose of the trip was to participate in a travel conference that brought together travel agents and designers with the best operators from throughout Africa. But I started my one-week trip in the African bush. Continue reading …
Tucked away on a 37,000 hectare private Kulala Wilderness Reserve, Little Kulala shows off the haunting beauty of the Namib desert. Inspired by its environment, the neutral colours, rich textures and natural light of the camp blend perfectly into the sprawling desert. You will truly experience the vastness of seemingly endless landscapes and vast starlit skies.
Kulala means “to sleep” and the camp is made up of 11 thatch roofed villas, or kulalas, each with climate control, ensuite with indoor/outdoor shower, a private deck and plunge pool. Each kulala has a rooftop skybed where you can lie back and drink in the African night skies.
The spectacular red dunes of Sossusvlei are what bring people to this area and Little Kulala is the only camp with direct access. Climb Big Daddy with its red sands reaching over 300m above the valley floor. Head out in the early morning and capture the deep reds and rich shadows of the sunrise over Sossusvlei. Or take a hot air balloon safari, floating across the dramatic dunes and returning for a champagne breakfast.
But there is more to explore than the dunes. Take a quad bike tour of the beautiful Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Wander the hills and dunes on one of the guided walking trails. Walk or drive in search of the smaller desert animals like the bat-eared fox, or take a night walk to look for the dancing lady spider.
Then return to camp to shop at the craft boutique, lounge in the library or enjoy a sundowner overlooking the magic desert landscape. Just drink in the serenity.
Each of the three thatched villas is meticulously appointed and includes a private plunge pool, ensuite bathroom, sala and an outdoor shower with views of the waterhole. The entertainment area is ideally set up for relaxation and stylish dining.
Guests share a dedicated guide to ensure an optimal nature experience. As well as the private Ongava Reserve, there is the incredible expanse of Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s largest game parks, to explore.
The wildlife here is plentiful year round. Game drives will view elephant, lion, black rhino, springbok, gemsbok, hartebeest, leopard, cheetah…and the list goes on. The birdlife is also spectacular; look out for the White-tailed Shrike, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Hartlaub’s Francolin and the abundant raptors roaming the endless skies. The more adventurous may choose to track the endangered black rhino on foot.
Return to Little Ongava to enjoy champagne in a warm bath as you stare out over the magnificent plains. Enjoy a sundowner looking out over the busy waterhole. Dine on your veranda and drink in the vast African skies. Do as you please – this is your own private piece of Africa.
Partly owned by the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), this rustic camp is designed to offer guests unique insights into the ecology of this vulnerable area, as well as contributing directly to its conservation.
Namibia’s desert-adapted black rhino is a true desert survivor. Ancient rock art shows rhinos in the region centuries ago, but the late 20th century almost obliterated them. By 1982 less than 10 rhinoceros survived in Kaokoland and an estimated 30 to 40 survived in Damaraland. Thanks in part to the efforts of SRT; northwest Namibia now enjoys the largest truly free-ranging black rhino population left in the world.
The camp is remote and provides a personalised experience. Holding a maximum of only 12 guests, the setting is minimalist but still full of character and comfort. The eight raised Meru-style canvas tents each have a private verandah where guests can take in the sweeping valley that stretches to the Etendeka Mountains in the background.
The comfortable, tented dining and lounge areas are also elevated. Sit in the large lounge or one of the comfy chairs and read one of the many books on Namibia, or gaze through the partially opened sides of the tent to the panoramic views beyond.
Evening meals are taken around the fire pit. Here guests gather to recount tales of day’s adventures.
The rhino tracking starts early. Trackers from SRT are in contact with your guide, informing them where to find the rhino. Usually guides will drive to within a kilometer of the rhinos’ location and then approach on foot.
The rhino is not the only game to be found on the Concession. There is a healthy number of desert adapted elephants, a large population of Hartman’s mountain zebra, giraffe, oryx, springbok and kudu. The predator population is Namibia’s largest outside of Etosha, with lions, cheetah, leopard, brown and spotted hyenas.
Serian Serengeti South is a seasonal camp that operates only between December and late April. Because the camp is mobile it is more basic than some of the luxurious lodges. But what it lacks in luxury it more than makes up for in atmosphere and adventure. This is a place to feel the true heart of Africa.
The camp is open in the months when this area is inundated with a million or more wildebeest, and at the height of wildebeest calving season. With exclusive use of a 250,000-acre conservation area, guests experience the great migration in an intimate way, far from the hordes of tourists and jeeps.
Alex Walker has been guiding and outfitting safaris for over 30 year. He and his hand picked professional team of guides have created distinctive safaris, focused on walking and exploring.
This is a place to disconnect and be seduced by the rhythms of Africa. The eight tents are stylish, but basic. There is no telephone or Wi-Fi. Instead, guests enjoy exclusive use of a vehicle with a private guide and spotter to explore and the seemingly endless short grass plains and divorce themselves from the everyday world.
The truly adventurous have a unique opportunity to walk with experienced guides and Hadzabe bushmen into the wilderness for two or three days fly camping. This is an unadulterated bush experience, shared with those who know and understand the bush.
Photographs compliments of Alex Walker’s Serian Serengeti South
Amalinda’s nine individually thatched units each have a distinctive look and feel. Showers and toilets are built right into the granite rock face. Shared lounge, dining and library spaces are uniquely designed to capture the feeling of this granite wilderness.
These hills, where the nomads once held sacred ceremonies, are home to a wide array of mammals and birds. The highest concentration of leopard and black eagle in the world is found here, and there is a healthy population of the endangered black and white rhino.
There is plenty to keep you busy in the Matobo Hills: go rhino tracking, visit the tomb of Cecil John Rhodes, explore the granite hills and discover the millennia old rock art of the San Bushmen. But Amalinda is also a special place to relax. Whether you are lazing in the lounge or library, or treating yourself to a massage at the safari spa, you will be touched by the tranquility and spiritual energy of this place.
Photography and video compliments of Amalinda
The Singita Pamushana Lodge is the ecotourism arm of the reserve, and one of the most magical secrets on the African continent.
The setting is magnificent, with the lodge built amongst forests of Mopane and Baobab trees and overlooking the serene lake formed by the Malilangwe dam. There are six luxury suites and one five-bedroom villa, each with a private pool and extraordinary views.
Teeming with birds and wildlife, The Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve holds one of the highest concentrations of black rhino in Africa, fourteen different species of eagle, and endangered species such as the roan and sable antelope.
The magnificence of the landscape and the abundance of wildlife can be appreciated from the comfort of the lodge, or head out on a game drive, safari walk, sundowner cruise or mountain bike ride. Unlike other camps that follow a strict routine, how you plan your day is completely up to you.
If you tire of the views and the wildlife then play tennis on one of the lodge’s two tennis courts, set out on a fishing trip, head to the gym, relax in the spa, visit the 2 millenia old San rock paintings, or experience some local Shangaan culture.
But leave time to enjoy the exquisite food and wines. Pamushana Lodge is one of the continent’s most influential collectors of wines, with a cellar stocked with some of Africa’s most sought after reserves.
Everything is impeccable at Pamushana, but it is possibly its passion and its people that set this lodge above others of its kind. The level of service is exceptional. Your every whim is met, often before you’ve even had a chance to articulate it. And the passion for conserving this special place and developing the local villages gives this magical spot a special heart.
Photography and video compliments of Singita
Six elegantly furnished canvas tents sit along the edge of an ancient seasonal flood plain. Each is decorated in a bygone, colonial style with ensuite flush toilets and alfresco bush showers.
The dining and lounge areas are nestled under a soaring canopy of acacia trees and offer breathtaking views of the savannah plains and the famous Kennedy Vlei line.
After the first summer rains in November/December the plains are ablaze with seasonal wildflowers, making this the most beautiful spot in the park. The dry season between May and October offers some of the best elephant viewing in Africa, with elephants seen right in the camp.
The passionate and knowledgeable guides offer game drives, guided walks, bird watching and evening night drives. Expect to see elephant, kudu, sable, the rare and endangered roan antelope, buffalo, white rhino, lion, leopard, and hyena amongst other wildlife species.
Somalisa lets you explore Africa the way you have imagined: up close to nature with the romance of a true safari bush camp.
Little Makalolo is one of only a few private camps in Hwange, and guests enjoys exclusive use of an enormous concession area right in the heart of Zimbabwe’s largest game reserve.
The camp itself is intimate, with a sense of remoteness. There are six traditional canvas tents, each with an ensuite and indoor and outdoor showers. The shared dining area, living area and plunge pool all overlook the watering hole at the front of the camp, which is a magnet for wildlife.
This area of the park has impressive herds of buffalo and elephant and a high concentration of the rare and beautiful sable and roan antelope. It is also one of the best places to view the predators with lions, leopards, cheetah and wild dog on the prowl.
The excellent guides offer game drives in 4 x 4 vehicles and guided safari walks. Or you can get up close and personal from behind the log pile hide overlooking the watering hole.
Little Makalolo is environmentally and socially responsible. Funds from tourism flow directly to the local communities closest to the park through dividends and salaries. And a portion of each guests fare is allocated to Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust which allocates funds to approved conservation projects.
Photos compliments of Wilderness Safaris
NOTE: This safari idea only works between December and March.
The Serengeti is synonymous with the wildebeest migration. Most travellers try to be in the right part of the massive Serengeti plains at the right time of year to catch the migration. Which usually means that people tick the Serengeti off their list having seen only one end of these mighty plains.
We’ve got a better idea.
In the months between December and March the wildebeest have amassed on the vast, seemingly endless grasslands of the southern plains. The trick is to witness the grandeur of the migration without also having to witness the massive influx of tourists. For this we recommend Alex Walkers Serian Serengeti South Camp.
Alex Walker is an exceptional guide who not only knows how to track wildlife, but also knows plenty of secret corners of the Serengeti. The camp is positioned away from the main cluster so you are afforded an opportunity to see one of nature’s great wonders the way it was designed to be seen – one your own.
This is a semi-mobile, tented camp that stays up only while the wildebeest are running, so it’s more rustic than some luxury lodges but it’s still very comfortable.
Then Head North
The northern end of the Serengeti is completely different to the southern plains. Lush, rolling grasslands collide with tree lined watercourses and rocky outcrops, known as kopje. The feeling is wilder, more dramatic.
And here’s our secret. The wildebeest may have migrated south, but the zebras, gazelles, buffalo, giraffe, elephants, lions and leopards are still here, along with a very few privileged people who are in the know.
We recommend Lamai Serengeti, an up-market permanent lodge tucked amongst the rocks of Kogakuria Kopje with panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Explore the intricacies of the area with game drives or take a walking safari.