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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 …
Accessible only by light aircraft, the brand new Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp sits on an island in the dry Khumib riverbed. Straddling the private Palmwag Concession and the Skeleton Coast National Park, the camp is perfectly positioned for exploring this rugged and remote Skeleton Coast.
Eight Meru-style tents make up the living quarters. With sumptuous interior and full ensuite, each tent opens onto a canopied verandah with views straight down to the dunes. The large shared lounge area is filled with comfortable sofas and armchairs and leads into a separate bar and dining area. The large decked terrace has magnificent views, and is ideal for al fresco dining.
Four-wheel drive excursions will explore the roaring sand dunes, windswept plains, canyons and saltpans of this unique landscape. As barren as it looks at first, there is plenty of game just around the corner. This area has one of the greatest concentrations of desert adapted elephant and lion, and home to some elusive and unusual predators like the shaggy brown hyena and the black-toed jackal.
Enjoy a scenic flight over the crumbling shipwrecks and craggy shores of the Skeleton Coast, or take an excursion to see the shipwrecks up close and visit a Cape fur seal colony.
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.
Namibia is a unique African experience, with its battered coastline, dramatic red sand dunes, moonscape deserts and wildlife that has adapted to the arid terrain. This rough planning guide explores Namibia’s major highlights. The distances are significant, so we usually arrange for transport by light aircraft between destinations.
We suggest you allow at least 8-10 days for this journey.
Starting in Windhoek, fly first to Namibia’s most spectacular attraction. The large, white salt and clay pan of Sossuvlei is best know for the dramatic red dunes that surround it. These are some of the highest dunes in the world, reaching almost 400 meters. A photographers dream, the rich reds and dark shadows of Sossusvlei in the early morning are guaranteed to deliver dramatic images.
The incredible landscape can be viewed on game drives or horseback, from a hot air balloon or a quad bike. It looks empty, but on closer inspection you will discover teaming life on the ground and in the air. Snakes, geckos, ostrich, springbok, aardwolf and raptors are just a few of the creatures that have adapted to survive in this desert landscape.
Little Kulala offers a luxury desert experience. Set amongst ancient camelthorn trees on the Auab River, it’s well positioned for exploring Sossusvlei.
The Bushmen called this region “The Land God Made in Anger”. The Portuguese sailors called it “The Gates of Hell”. Whether viewed from the land or the sea, this stretch of Atlantic Ocean coastline has a sense of foreboding danger. But the mist enshrouded beaches, rusted shipwrecks and bleached whalebones also have a melancholy beauty.
The vast rolling sand dunes and uninhabited desert plains are home to the greatest concentrations of desert adapted elephant and lion, as well as the endangered black rhino. The dunes meet a desolate coastline, and a scenic flight affords incredible views of the stark shoreline and lonely shipwrecks.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is an exciting new camp that opened in August 2014. The Camp has magnificent views and glorious isolation, with only eight tented rooms, and offers great opportunities to explore the coastline and the infinite plains.
Etosha National Park
Etosha is one of Africa’s largest game parks, with its main feature being a saltpan so large it can be seen from space. Wildlife is abundant here. Elephants roam in the thicker vegetation, lions are camouflaged in the golden grasslands, giraffe rise majestically above the desert landscape and the endangered black rhino wanders the plains. Over 340 species of bird can be found here, and after the rains a cloud of flamingo fills the skies as water fills the saltpan.
We recommend staying in the Ongava Private Game Reserve that borders Etosha. The luxurious Little Ongava has 3 spacious private units, each with its own plunge pool and magnificent views over the plains. The Ongava Tented Camp is in a different section of the reserve, with eight comfortable tented rooms. Both are ideal places from which to explore Etosha and the many private hides and walks of Ongava.
From here you can return to Windhoek, or consider adding Serra Cafema on the northern border.
This is just a rough guide. Let us create a personalized itinerary that is perfect just for you.
Far from the main tourist routes, in a remote corner of southeastern Zimbabwe, Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge sits surrounded by pristine wilderness. This elegant but simple lodge, with its well-tended gardens, overlooks the wild and rugged terrain of Gonarezhou National Park.
From the viewing deck in the main lodge you can watch the local elephants, hippos and crocodiles in the Save River below. Or set out with Chilo’s professional guides to explore the unspoiled wilds of red sandstone, baobabs, elephants, buffalo and big cats.
The guiding is a highlight at Chilo Gorge. Clive Stockil, the founder, was born and bred in the area and has been guiding since 1973. He is a renowned authority on the wildlife and communities of the lowveld.
A very special option for Chilo Gorge guests is an overnight stay in a remote tented camp, accompanied by a professional guide: an unparalleled encounter with nature.
Chilo Gorge has long been involved with the local Shangaan communities. The CAMPFIRE program, Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources, was started here and has since become an Africa wide program. Visitors to the lodge are given a unique opportunity to spend a day with the people of Mahenye Village, who open their doors and their hearts to visitors.
When not tracking wildlife, exploring the wilderness or discovering new cultures relax in the lodge, which is light, spacious and graceful. The all inclusive luxury rooms feature spacious ensuites, private balconies, and fabulous views. The main lodge features a shaded swimming pool, lounge, bar and dining area.
Chilo Lodge brings the outside in – somehow managing to create a luxurious, comfortable space that celebrates and shows off its wilderness setting.
Photographs compliments of Chilo Gorge
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
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.
Zimbabwe is becoming a hot safari destination again. Its praise is deserved because “Zim” is home to some of Africa’s best guides, most amazing landscapes and some surprising history. This rough planning guide explores the breadth of Zimbabwe’s historical and native wonders.
Start your trip at Victoria Falls: the Smoke that Thunders.
You will marvel at the immensity of the Falls themselves: from the ground, the air or the mighty Zambezi River.
This is also the playground of Zimbabwe. Thrill seekers will love the bungee jumping, hydro-speeding and a host of other adventures. How long you stay will depend entirely on the length of your bucket list.
Hwange National Park
The largest game park in Zimbabwe, Hwange stretches south of Victoria Falls to Bulawayo and west to the Kalahari Desert. It is home to a stunning array of wildlife and famous for its massive herds of buffalo and elephant.
We suggest you try out a couple of the intimate tented camps scattered through the park.
Somalisa and Little Makalolo are both exclusive tented camps, situated in the middle eastern section of the park. Somalisa offers breathtaking views of savannah grasslands, while Little Makalolo overlooks a vibrant waterhole. Both offer guided walks, game drives and birdwatching.
Camp Hwange is further west set on a rise in a private concession, overlooking the Shumba Pans.
Matobo National Park
The oldest national park in Zimbabwe, Matobo is as much about history as it is about wildlife.
Discover a rich heritage of ancient rock paintings amongst the granite kopjes of this ancient landscape. Created over 2,000 years ago by the San (bushmen) there are beautiful friezes of giraffes, elephants and kudus.
These hills were also the scene of the famous indaba between white settlers and Ndebele leaders in 1896.
We recommend either Big Cave Camp or Camp Amalinda which both offer comfortable accommodation and sweeping views of the Matopos Hills.
Prepare to be surprised! Great Zimbabwe is a ruined, walled city in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe. Once the royal palace for the Zimbabwean monarch, much of the grandeur of the place remains despite the crumbling walls.
While visiting Great Zimbabwe you can stay at Norma Jeans Lakeview Resort, quaint B&B style accommodation that makes a homey change from safari camps..
If you’re up for a little more wildlife than consider heading to Gonarezhou National Park on the Mozambique border. Stay at the luxurious Chilo Gorge, with its spectacular views and first class guiding, or Singita Pamushana.
This is just a rough guide. Let us create a personalized itinerary that is perfect just for you.