All posts by sara@realafrica.co.uk

Family safari holidays

Africa offers the best family holidays – you just can’t beat a bit of safari and beach. Enjoy close encounters with wildlife, nights around the camp fire, sleeping under canvas in the African bush, animal tracking, conservation visits and a whole host of activities from horse riding, boating, night drives, walking and whale watching to snorkelling and beach combing. 

Still not convinced? Practicality is on Africa’s side too…

There’s very little time change to deal with – from the UK you’re looking at 1-3 hours time change so you can hit the ground running and not return to the UK 2 weeks later feeling totally spangled.

Easy access – Kenya, for instance, is only 8 hours away on a direct flight from London.

Stimulation – fresh air and lots of new exciting experiences ensures no one nods off on this holiday.

Value for money – a safari is likely to be the most expensive holiday you’re ever likely to enjoy.  However, it’s worth pointing out that most safaris are all-inclusive so you’re looking at a ‘holiday spend’, which you can budget for, rather than a holiday framework.

If Africa is firmly on your family holiday wish-list, you may be interested in the following suggestions:

Robin Pope Safaris - Zambia
Robin Pope Safaris – Zambia

Where should we go?

East – Kenya would be my top pick for a family safari. It’s easy to get to and relatively compact to explore.  There’s amazing density and diversity of wildlife, contrasting landscapes, good family friendly accommodation options and the people are wonderful.

South – South Africa is a brilliant family holiday destination and one of the best value destinations in Africa because of the exchange rate with the Rand (currently about 18 to the Pound). You can see the Marine Big Five as well as the Safari Big Five. Many families ask us about malaria free safari options – the Cape coast of South Africa is the perfect option with the Eastern Cape game reserves all malaria free. Madikwe near Johannesburg is also a ‘Big Five’ option and malaria free. These areas combine well with exploration of the Cape (Cape Town, Winelands, Garden Route) or with a beach break in Mauritius.

If you have older children and are looking for more adventurous options then Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are all wonderful. See out Family page for further info.

The Masai Mara is fabulous for big cats
The Masai Mara is fabulous for big cats

How long should we go on safari for?

3 nights is an ideal length of stay in any one camp/lodge, up to around 5 nights – you can do 2 nights but this tends to feel a bit short in our experience.

Combining two contrasting areas and staying 3-4 nights in each would be ideal. After this most people are ready for a lie in…

For the perfect family holiday, extend your stay with time at the coast or lake/river.

Real Africa guides and vehicles in Kenya
Real Africa guides and vehicles in Kenya

Fly-in or Drive-in? There are pros and cons to each… 

Driving -In Tanzania the Northern Circuit lends itself to exploration with private 4×4 and driver/guide – this is a very flexible and economical way to travel for a family and also gives you a chance to see the country in more depth as you pass through villages and communities. However you need to consider time in the vehicle overall – you are driving between destinations and also then in the vehicle for your safari. In addition you will be visiting national parks which means staying to the main tracks and not going off-road. Drive- in safaris are also possible in Kenya.

In South Africa and Namibia you can self-drive, however when on safari (e.g, Etosha) you have the option to park your hire car and join guided drives offering an ideal balance.

Flying – If you fly into a private conservancy you can enjoy a wonderful bird’s eye view of the landscape and you are able to maxime your holiday time. There are other significant benefits – you can off road, usually in custom 4×4 vehicles, and this helps you get much closer to the wildlife. You can also enjoy extra activities like bush meals, sundowners out on the plains, walking and tracking and you are not restricted to being on safari only between sunrise and sunset (as you are in a national park). It is a more expensive option.  Just be aware that there are luggage restrictions (15 kg max in a soft sided bag) and flights are often operated in small 12 seater prop planes, landing on remote and rough airstrips, so not ideal for those nervous about flying…

You can combine flying and driving for a more balanced itinerary. We will often give clients the option to drive in one direction and then fly back to save time/long journeys.

zzDSC_8583Framework for a family safari to Kenya

Nairobi – 1 night

Most trips require an overnight in Nairobi at the start or end because of international flight schedules – don’t waste this time in an airport hotel but get out and explore.  You can stay at a lodge in the national park and enjoy game viewing (very easy to access from either airport) or visit the Sheldrick Trust and/or AFEW Giraffe Centre. We can organise all this for you.

+Safari – 3 nights plus

3 nights per camp is the minimum time we would suggest on safari.

If budget and time allows it’s fantastic to combine two (or even three) contrasting areas. After around a week on safari, unless you are a real safari addict, you may start to long for a lie in so we think 5- 7 nights is the optimum amount of time giving you plenty of chance to see and experience as much as possible.

If it’s your first trip to Kenya we’d recommend including the Masai Mara, for example a 5 night fly-in to the Mara with time on the beach afterwards keeps things simple. Conveniently there’s a flight from the Mara to Diani (without going back to Nairobi).

Here are some of our favourite Mara safari combos:

Masai Mara and Samburu; Masai Mara and Laikipia; Masai Mara and Amboseli/Tsavo

+Beach – 4-7 nights

A few days on the coast is a perfect extension to a safari. Kenya offers several options. We love Diani and Msambweni, south of Mombasa. We also like Watamu. Lamu on the north coast is also very beautiful.

Optimum (and most expensive) time for Kenya is the long school summer holidays of July/August. Also a good time to visit is the Christmas and half term holidays (Oct, Dec, Feb). If Easter is early you can get a trip in during late March/early April (one of our favourite times to go because it is so quiet – this is also the most affordable time of the year) but the long rains tend to arrive in April and last through May so this is something to be aware of.

White Rhino in Greater Kruger, South Africa
White Rhino in Greater Kruger, South Africa

Framework for a South Africa family safari

Kruger & beach –  time on safari + a week in Mauritius (this combination requires 1 night at a Johannesburg airport hotel due to schedules). Alternatively you can fly or take a road transfer across the border to Mozambique for time on the beach. Optimum time for this type of trip is May to October.

Family Caper – 10-14 day self-drive trip exploring Cape Town, winelands, the Garden Route and a safari in the Eastern Cape. Optimum time for this is October to April. You can expect wild beaches, the chance to spot whales from the coast, boat trips, characterful and small boutique style accommodation and a grand finale in the Eastern Cape on safari.page 15 inset FAMILY 5

 

 

 

 

There are plenty of other exciting family holiday options in Southern Africa – how about Zambia and Malawi, or Zimbabwe and Botswana?

Victoria Falls in the Emerald Season
Victoria Falls in the Emerald Season

Things to consider

  • Rooms – family units – it can be a bit intimidating if it’s your first time staying in a safari tent so where possible we recommend family units so that all the family can be together. If you hear a lion roar in the night it’s good to be on hand and share the experience.
  • Camps with swimming pools are great for families, inviting relaxing time after breakfast or before the afternoon drive.
  • Depending on season you may prefer properties with air con.
  • Some camps offer special ‘Little Warrior’ or kids’ programmes as well as kids meals and even babysitting so please do enquire depending on the age of your children.
  • Vehicles – it is usual for you to share game drives with other guests in the camp vehicles. Some camps offer exclusive vehicles for a supplement – please enquire. Some camps insist that families with young children (under 7) book an exclusive vehicle. Most vehicles seat 6 guests but it does vary from place to place.
  • Age restrictions – many camps/lodges have a minimum age of 7 years so please check with us if you are travelling with younger children. We do have some camps that have discreetly fenced boundaries which might be safer for families with young children rather than those which are completely open. Camp staff (known as Askaris in East Africa) accompany you to and from you room after sundown.
Kaya Mawa, Lake Malawi
Kaya Mawa, Lake Malawi

What does it cost?

Cost depends on a range of factors including time of year you travel, how far in advance you book, availability and number of people/ages of children in your family.  Your preferred style of safari/ length of stay will also impact spend. £3000-£5000 per person is a realistic budget bracket.

More inspiration and suggested itineraries at realafrica.co.uk

 

Captivated by Kruger: review of MalaMala Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sands, South Africa

The Greater Kruger is an unfenced wilderness in South Africa , stretching over 400km from north to south. It combines private reserves and the national park and is known for high densities of lion, leopard and elephant. There are many ways to explore this wonderful and very accessible region which is at its peak between May and October during the long cool winter months. A safari in Kruger lends itself perfectly to being incorporated into a longer holiday in Southern Africa. 

Here, we review our recent stay at MalaMala as well as giving general information about the Kruger and how to combine it in your holiday.

Location

Three distinct camps (Main Camp, Sable Camp, Rattray’s Camp) stretch out along the Sand River in the vast MalaMala Private Game Reserve. The reserve is sandwiched between the famous Sabi Sands region of Greater Kruger and Kruger National Park itself -it  is the largest private Big Five game reserve in South Africa, comprising 13 300 ha (33 000 acres). The borders are unfenced allowing wildlife to migrate unhindered. The size of the reserve ensures guests enjoy an exclusive safari experience – you’ll see other MalaMala vehicles and anti-poaching teams going about their work but very little other traffic.

This area is known to be one of the best in Africa for seeing leopard. Guests have a good chance of seeing the MalaMala Big Seven (Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Wild Dog).

The setting is very beautiful with the Sand River in front of camp. The reserve has lots of contrasting scenery with dramatic granite kopjes (punctuated with klipspringer), mud holes perfect for white rhino and buffalo wallowing,  the river for crocodile, hippo and elephant, open plains, forest, huge sausage trees and statuesque euphorbia candelabrum.

Access

MMDSC_1771The camp can be accessed via fly-in from Johannesburg (and Cape Town), either fly and transfer via Skukuza (about an hour’s drive away) or Nelspruit KMIA (2 hour road transfer) or a private charter to the airstrip moments from camp.

We hired an SUV in Johannesburg and stopped off in Hazyview for a night (staying at Rissington Inn – an easy 4 hour drive mostly on the N12, from OR Tambo) which then made MalaMala a simple 2 hour drive the following morning. The first hour or so is on tarred road, we then registered at Shaws Gate, paying our park fees, to enter the reserve area. There is an undulating  dirt track which is well sign -posted with plenty of passing places. We came across this beautiful male leopard within moments of starting our 20km journey to MalaMala. We also saw elephant and white rhino along with many antelope and zebra.MMIMG_4930

view IMG_4971Accommodation and style

MalaMala Camp Bar3MalaMala Camp Rooms5.6_2We stayed at Main Camp, the largest of the three camps, which consists of 19 luxury air-conditioned thatched rooms and suites. The lodge has been on this spot since the 1930s, originally a hunting lodge and converting to conservation and photography in the 60s – the first to do so. The camp was completely refurbished in 2018 and transformed from the old-school and old-fashioned hunting lodge style,  to a beautiful far more contemporary property – the refurb has been sensitive with the historic exterior, boma, where Nelson Mandela has dined and various artworks all preserved.

MMDSC_1786Travelling as a family we stayed in one of the Waterhole Suites. Other rooms/suites face the other direction towards the Sand River. The children had their own twin room and bathroom which led to a huge double bedroom, bathroom with bath and shower and wonderful outdoor shower.

Along the front of the room and accessed from both bedrooms by sliding glass doors was a wooden deck looking over the waterhole where we had hippo, nyala, kudu and mongoose as visitors. Rooms are extremely comfortable and stylish, retaining an African flavour with a natural colour palate, porqupine quill  lamp and wildlife artworks. There are many thoughtful touches, for instance umbrellas in the hall, USB ports, extensive mini bar and fresh ice, a sweetie jar for the children. Closets had lighting, towels were fluffy and complimentary bath products smelt divine.

Sable and Rattray’s camp are smaller and quieter. No children under 12 are permitted at Sable Camp and no children under 16 at Rattray’s Camp.

Seasonality

MMDSC_1736MalaMala is open year-round. Visiting in April we knew it was the end of the rainy season and the bush would be very lush. As expected the weather was rather unpredictable. One day we had blue skies and temperatures of 38 degrees and the next it was 22 degrees cloudy and raining – we quite enjoyed the contrast – we still saw amazing wildlife, the landscape was beautiful,  and even when we got soaked on the morning drive we knew we were returning to lovely hot showers, coffee and breakfast!

May to October (the cool dry winter) is considered the peak time for this area – the bush starts to dry out and die back, and weather is more  consistent and reliable. Wildlife is easier to see as it gathers around the water sources and is not so easily concealed by the bush.  If you are keen to combine a safari in Greater Kruger with a stay in Cape Town then April/May and September/October are the best months.

The safari day

MMDSC_1734The daily schedule changes with the seasons – for our stay we would be woken at 515am, for tea/coffee and a light snack on the deck at 545am with other guests,  before departing at 6am. We would usually be back at camp for a hearty breakfast by about 9am.

After breakfast there is time to relax and enjoy the camp – for instance the swimming pool with its glorious views over the Sand River. It’s lovely to sit and read, or watch the wildlife come and go from the waterhole. We’d have lunch about 1pm – lunch is delicious!! Depending how much you indulge you may need a lie down afterwards…

Breakfast and lunch are both in a buffet format and very high quality with a good choice. Where possible we dined alfresco on the deck. Breakfast included fresh fruit, juice, a hot buffet including pancakes or waffles and fresh breads. Lunch  always included a lovely selection of salads plus cold meats, quiche and condiments as well as a hot option, for example, a curry. There was a choice of desert from fruit salad and ice-cream to lemon meringue.

In the afternoon we would meet at 3-315pm (more bite size treats on offer plus tea/coffee and cold drinks) and leave at 345pm, returning to camp at around 7pm. On one evening we did stop for sundowners out on the reserve but wildlife viewing certainly takes priority here. Pre dinner drinks and nibbles would be in the bar at around 745pm with dinner following. We enjoyed gathering in the bar and completing the ‘sightings board’ each evening with all the guests and rangers – a very communal activity.

Dinner is chosen from a set menu with Michael the barman suggesting suitable wine pairings from the delicious range of South African wines. We enjoyed a candle-lit dinner on the deck on our first evening and joined fellow guests around the camp fire in the ancient boma, beneath the jackalberry tree on the following evening. Members of staff presented a cake and sang traditional songs around the fire to help one couple celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

Staff

MMDSC_1707The staff added greatly to our experience from the efficient management team of Nerine, Alex and Vusi to the waiting staff such as smiling Stephalina with 22 years service. Everyone gets to know Michael-the-barman, who is a joy.  Our guide was Thabisani from Richard’s Bay – he was a lovely chap, a skilful driver and very knowledgeable – we even learnt some Zulu and Shangaan in two days. We enjoyed talking to him about all manner of things from culture to wildlife. It is customary for rangers to join guests for breakfast and sometimes at other meals as well.

The folder in the room dodges the question of tipping and leaves it very much at the discretion of guests which we can understand as it is a tricky one. For many people, a safari holiday is the most expensive trip they will ever make but if you can tip then it is hugely appreciated by the staff.  As a very general budget we usually work on $10-$30 US per person per day.  You tip your guide/ranger directly with the ‘golden handshake’ at the end of the stay,  and place your contribution for behind the scenes staff into the tip box (usually at reception).

Vehicles

The vehicles are completely open allowing for unrivalled wildlife viewing. They have 3 rows of 2 seats meaning everyone had a great view. They are very comfortable and the camp has steps to help those with reduced mobility get in and out more easily. There is a central hatch between each pair of seats for putting your camera or binos. In here you’ll also find blankets and ponchos. There is also a place to put your water bottle (each guest is presented with a smart named metal water bottle on arrival and can refill this with still or sparkling water from the main deck water station as needed).

Wildlife

Leo DSC_1716webIMG_5003Sabi Sands is known to be one of the best places to see leopard in Africa but we really did not expect to come across one within 5 minutes of driving through Shaw’s Gate! This was one of three leopard sightings during our short 2 night stay. We also had the joy of observing a pack of 8 Cape Hunting Dogs (wild dogs) as they socialised and warmed up on the tarred airstrip as the sun came up. I was not expecting to see cheetah with the bush so dense but we were treated to a fascinating face off on the last morning between an injured male and a hyena.

MMDSC_1655We enjoyed numerous and incredibly rewarding white rhino sightings, seeing several young with their mothers and being able to watch really interesting behaviour.

MMDSC_1808We saw elephant on the way to MalaMala and caught up with a lovely big bull on one of the afternoon drives but we had to work hard to see any others which is unusual for this area. Rhino DSC_1699  We were rewarded for our patience in the end with one the most memorable elephant sightings I’ve ever had – a huge herd on the move surrounded our vehicle just before sundown – there must have been at least 80 elephants with lots of babies. It was incredibly special – you can see the short video clip on our social media feeds (Facebook; Instagram; Twitter).

MMDSC_1867Lion were equally elusive – one large pride had been feeding on a rhino carcass for a couple of days (died from natural causes) on the neighbouring conservancy of Londolozi and continued to feast there during our stay, not appearing until we left! (We managed to see fabulous lion feeding on a buffalo kill further south in Kruger National Park.)

Antelope, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, hippo and many different bird species were all easy to see. We even saw a crocodile in the river. The most unusual sighting had to be the honey badger as it raced across the track right in front of us.

Value for money

Make no mistake, MalaMala is at the top end of the safari spectrum. Rates included all meals, drinks, game activities and WiFi. Hospitality, food and drink, guiding and accommodation were all exceptional, generous and wildlife sightings were rich and varied.

South Africa is an excellent holiday choice currently – the South African Rand is about 18 to the Pound (April 2019) so you can enjoy a diverse holiday combining a few days on safari with time on the Cape coast for example, for really good value, in comparison to other destinations.

Staying in a private reserve permits off-roading and the chance to have very close wildlife encounters. You can also drive at night. If you are on safari in the national park you are limited to using the set road routes and you can only drive between sunrise and sunset. They each offer very different experiences.

We offer many different camps and lodges in the Greater Kruger covering a range of price points, from small tented camps such as Garonga and Honeyguide to luxury lodges including MalaMala, Arathusa and Motswari. Please speak to us for advice.

 

cropped-logo-1.pngWild weekend – how we like to incorporate a safari to Greater Kruger within a holiday

How long to safari? 2 nights is really too short – we prefer a minimum stay of 3 nights in any one camp so you can really have a chance to see as much as possible (Kruger is a vast area so it also works  well combining stays in different locations as we did).

Whether you fly-in or drive-in there are many ways to combine safari time in Greater Kruger within a longer holiday. Here are a few ideas:

CPTshutterstock_102271513Stay in the Cape – fly from Johannesburg or KMIA Nelspruit to/from Cape Town. Kruger and the Cape are best combined April/May or September/October.

Visit Victoria Falls – you can fly on to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg or to Livingstone (the Zambian side of the Falls) from KMIA Nelspruit making for a fabulous cross border holiday.

Zambia 1 Coral Lodge Kayaking on lagoonEscape to the beaches of Mozambique or Mauritius – there are many options here – you can travel by road from Southern Kruger across the border to Maputo in about 3 hours, for beaches in Southern Mozambique, or you can fly to Vilanculos for the Quirimbas. Alternatively you can overnight at Johannesburg airport and fly to the island of Mauritius.

Go golfing – wish list golf courses are within reach of Kruger including Leopard Creek on the southern edge. Sun City is also easily combined with a safari to Kruger.

Take the train –  two of the world’s most luxurious trains operate in southern Africa out of Pretoria including the Blue Train and Rovos Rail. The Blue Train has a special Kruger itinerary as well as a 2 night journey to Cape Town. Rovos operates to Cape Town as well as a special golf and safari itinerary.

Explore by car –  self-drive the stunning Panorama route in Mpumalanga or connect south to Durban to explore the battlefields of KwaZulu Natal. The Drakensberg Mountains are another option.

Looking for a malaria free safari option? South Africa has several malaria free Big Five reserves – speak to us about Madikwe or the Eastern Cape.

To find out more about holidays to South Africa please visit the dedicated country page on the Real Africa website or call us for a chat on 01603 964 730.

The 2019 wish-list (continued): mad about Malawi

Malawi is a rising star on the safari scene. Known as the ‘warm heart’ of Africa, visitors can enjoy idyllic lake shore stays along with exciting safari options,  ranging from ‘Big Five’ breaks in Majete to wild weekends in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.

Malawi also offers adventure – climb Mt Mulanje, Malawi’s answer to Kilimanjaro. This huge slab of mountain south of Blantyre is surrounded by tea plantations and is incredibly scenic. Best explored on foot, there are trails suitable for all abilities, including 21 peaks to walk (or climb). Venture to Viphya for mountain biking and walks on the stunning plateau or Zomba, an 1800m high mountain range with forest, lakes, waterfalls and abundant wildlife.

Why go now? Malawi has transformed in recent years with concerted conservation efforts. Wildlife is thriving.  Black rhino have returned to Majete and cheetah to Liwonde (after an absence of 20 years). Lion were re-introduced in 2018,  while an ambitious elephant re-location was completed in a mission to see herds once more in Nkhotakota.

In Majete. tourism has increased 14 percent from last year, with over 9,000 visitors bringing valuable money to the reserve and communities. African Parks has maintained a 15 year track record of zero poaching of elephant and rhino. In Liwonde, numbers are up 25%.*

Quick Fire Malawi

shutterstock_554639089 national parks/wildlife reserves: Malawi has 5 national parks (Lake Malawi, Nyika, Liwonde, Kasungu, Lengwe) and 4 wildlife reserves (Nkhotakota, Majete, Vwasa, Mwabvi).

Here is a short guide to help you get to grips with Malawi:

Nyika National Park in the North is Malawi’s largest park with over 400 species of birds including Denham’s Bustard and the wattled crane and the highest density of leopard in central Africa. The park is especially good in the rainy season when wildflowers and orchids cover the plains. Varied scenery includes a waterfall and lake as well as a neolithic rock shelter. Chelinda Lodge  provides classic accommodation.

Liwonde11eLiwonde National Park in Malawi’s south is dominated by the Shire River and has an excellent population of  elephant as well as hippo, buffalo, zebra, crocodile and antelope. It is also now a sanctuary for more than a dozen black rhino. It was founded in 1973 and is one of Malawi’s most beautiful and most popular parks. Boat and 4×4 safaris are both excellent ways to explore. The river draws good numbers of elephant.  Mvuu Lodge and Camp on the River Shire’s bank offers four large ensuite tents and one stone and thatch honeymoon suite with views over the lagoon and there is also a natural rock hewn swimming pool. The camp has 12 units – a mix of stone and thatch chalets and family tents. Lovely Kuthengo Camp is a new addition to the park – a small seasonal tented camp, also on the river.

Robin Pope Safaris, Malawi
Robin Pope Safaris, Malawi

Majete, also located in the south has a fascinating back-story. It was once a prolific game refuge but by the 90s much of the big game had been eradicated due to poaching, logging and agriculture. But in 2003 African Parks  took over management of the reserve and it is now an inspiring model of sustainable development and biodiversity. Many different species have been reintroduced including lion, black rhino, elephant, antelope, zebra and leopard making this a Big Five destination once more.  Today there are more than 12,000 animals in Majete. We love Robin Pope Safaris new Mkulumadzi as a fantastic base for exploring the reserve.

Tongole
Tongole

Nkhotakota is Malawi’s oldest reserve and also under the management of African Parks. The beautiful Bua river flows at its heart. Dense rainforest gives way to miombo woodland rich with flora and fauna. The best way to see the reserve is by kayaking down the river or walking with a guide.  Birdlife is fantastic with over 280 species recorded,  and you may even be lucky enough to spot elephants coming to drink at the river or antelope in the woodland. Leopard and lion are more tricky to see.  Tongole Wilderness Lodge is a fantastic lodge, recently opened and nestled in the dense foilage. Open-fronted suites with panoramic views and raised decks allow you to soak up the majesty of the reserve.The park sits in the east of Malawi near the lake. Nkhotakota used to have more than 1,500 elephants but, after years of poaching, less than 100 of them remained. African Parks has successfully translocated 500 elephants from  Liwonde and Majete to Nkhotakota in recent years .

Kaya Mawa
Kaya Mawa

Lake Malawi: Malawi’s lake shore stretches some 500km. It is a paradise of small communities, sandy shores and small islands. Lake Malawi National Park was the very first freshwater national park declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.  Cape Maclear, located on the southern shore of Lake Malawi, is the busiest resort on Lake Malawi with a wide range of accommodation to suit most tastes.. We like the simplicity of Mumbo Island, just a few kilometres off the coast, a good value, eco-friendly, rustic and laid back little lodge perfect for downtime. If you enjoy a few more luxuries then Pumulani Lodge is also in this area on the western side of Cape Maclear,  conveniently accessible via Lilongwe. Right on the north eastern shore of the lake is idyllic Likoma Island with its stunning beaches and luxurious accommodation in the form of Kaya Mawa. The lodge is beautifully designed. This is a special spot for relaxing, indulging and soaking up the dreamy views of the Mozambique coast just 40km away.

Practical points: British citizens require a visa to visit Malawi. (USD $75). Malaria is present  throughout Malawi so anti-malarials are recommended. The unit of currency is the Kwacha. The rainy season runs from November/December to March. Between April and October Malawi’s weather is perfect for holidaying offering cool nights, and warm clear days. There are currently no direct flights to Malawi. The main gateways of Lilongwe and Blantyre can be reached via Johannesburg (using South African Airways or BA to J’Burg) although depending on season and offers other routes are also available.

Malawi offers good value. One of the reasons for this is the relatively compact nature of the country and good network of tarmac roads ensuring guests can combine key areas easily. To give some idea of driving times in the south, please see below:

Lilongwe to Liwonde – approximately 4 hours

Lilongwe to the lake – approximately  3 hours.

The lake to Majete  – approximately 5 hours.

Majete to Blantyre – approximately 2 1/2 hours.

(Flights are also available with Ulendo Airlink,  for example Lilongwe to Likoma Island…)

Summary

Malawi is a fantastic and very rewarding holiday destination – you can enjoy a safari as well as time on the lake in one holiday. Malawi offers lovely weather from Easter right through to Halloween making it a good choice for families looking at getting away during the main holidays.  The people are incredibly warm and friendly and there is increasing choice when it comes to accommodation.

Malawi is an inspiration when it comes to conservation – wildlife continues to thrive; visitor numbers are on the increase and through eco-tourism,  more and more jobs are created for people in the community.

Because predator numbers in Malawi’s parks and reserves are not as high yet as in other safari destinations, we think Malawi is a hugely rewarding choice for repeat visitors to the continent, or to visit in combination with its wild neighbour, Zambia.

 

Find out more about holidays to Malawi, see sample itineraries,  or speak to us about travelling to Malawi on 01603 964 730.

*Source: African Parks

 

The 2019 wish-list (continued): walk on the wild side in Zambia

Zambia is an incredibly exciting destination offering the perfect blend of prime wilderness, outstanding wildlife and wonderful camps.

Luangwa Safari House
Luangwa Safari House

An exciting network of large and remote national parks provide plenty of opportunity for an immersive safari experience, from the oldest, Kafue, to the newest, Lower Zambezi.

This is a gem of a country where hospitality is warm, wildlife is awesome and scenery spectacular – we urge you to go.

When to go?

Dry Season
Dry Season

The long dry winter months April to October is the optimum time for a safari to Zambia. Days are warm and sunny and nights are cold. As the season progresses temperatures soar with October usually the hottest month. This is also when wildlife densities peak, as animals gather around the remaining water sources.  Riverside camps offer  a refreshing  breeze and superb sightings. Camps/lodges with pools are a good choice if travelling in the heat of October/November.

Mfuwe Lodge - the Emerald Season
Mfuwe Lodge – the Emerald Season

The long rains tend to arrive late November into December time and stay until March  – this can make unsealed roads impassable. However permanent camps are open year-round – the Emerald Season can be a very rewarding time to travel. I speak from first-hand experience having spent a week in the Luangwa one November just as the rains arrived – it was astounding to see the overnight transformation of the park. Wildlife was exceptional. Some camps depending on water levels offer safari by boat giving you a unique perspective.

Five reasons to add Zambia to your safari wish list

Walking in July
Walking in July
Nkwali
Nkwali
  • Walking safaris

South Luangwa has been the home of the walking safari. since the 1960s. Guiding is consistently high quality and quality bush camps ensure a top notch experience. You can easily spend a week here. walking between bush camps, or combining a few days walking with a lodge and 4×4 safari. Walking can be tailored to your needs but 8-10km per day between camps is what you can expect. Although South Luangwa offers the largest variety of walking safaris, you can also enjoy walking in Kafue and the Lower Zambezi.

This 8 day safari combines contrasting camps and includes a walking element along with a 4×4 safari in the South Luangwa.

Luangwa Bush Camp
Luangwa Bush Camp

Luangwa Bush Camp max1100x600

Busanga, Kafue
Busanga, Kafue
  • Nights under Canvas

Zambia offers incredible rustic bush camps. These vary in style.

During the peak dry season months of July to September you can spend a night or two of your safari in a mobile ‘fly camp’.

These fully serviced mobile camps are extremely comfortable and well-equipped with walk-in tents and full bedding. The ‘safari’ bucket shower is under a tree and the long-drop ‘bush loo’ has a wooden throne. Meals of a high standard are served under the open sky with just the glow of the camp fire and paraffin lamps.

Overlooking the Luwi River
Overlooking the Luwi River

Mobile camps allow visitors to access really remote areas where the wildlife is unused to people.

Zambia is also famous for its tented seasonal camps which open in April-May and are taken down at the end of the dry season in November.These camps, some with canvas and some with thatched roofs offer more facilities than the simpler mobile  ‘fly camps’ but are still incredibly rustic and positioned in low vehicle/prime wildlife areas. Robin Pope’s Tena Tena for instance is a cluster of six tents on the Luangwa River. Ensuite bathrooms are open-air. Power is provided by solar panels and fresh drinking water comes from a bore-hole. Time & Tide’s wonderful Luwi  is nestled in a grove of ancient mahogany trees, the tented suites designed to fully immerse guests into the bush experience. Set along the riverbed and overlooking the floodplains below, guests can watch the abundant wildlife right from the privacy of their own suite. Feathertop beds, an open air, ensuite bathroom and a peaceful seating area create a comfortable guest experience in this seasonal camp.

 

If you are not a fan of spending nights under canvas, you can opt for a permanent lodge or safari house. These have more facilities and creature comforts. Zambia has superb ‘safari houses’ perfect for groups of friends or family groups. These houses are fully staffed with driver/guide and cook – choose from large, luxurious riverside Chongwe River House with its amazing pool, to small Robin’s House complete with its own hide .

Canoeing the Chanel
Canoeing the Chanel
Boating from Chongwe River House
Boating from Chongwe River House
  • Canoeing the Zambezi

The Lower Zambezi is Zambia’s newest national park and sits bang opposite Mana Pools in Zimbabwe. If you like variety then this is the place to go – you can boat, walk, drive and fish, all with a beautiful mountain view and sublime wildlife. Canoe trips are exceptional allowing for very close encounters with large species like elephants who come to the river to refresh.  You can glide along silently without disturbing the wildlife.

As well as exploring by canoe, motorised boat trips provide the chance to explore larger tracts of the riverside.

Combined with walking and 4×4 safaris this is a wonderful way to experience the richness and diversity of Zambia’s national park network.

Victoria Falls in the Emerald Season
Victoria Falls in the Emerald Season
  • Victoria Falls/Livingstone

No trip to Zambia would be complete without a visit to the Falls. Livingstone is the town on the Zambian side of the Falls where many activities such as rafting can be organised. A number of stunning river lodges stretch along the river bank upstream from the Falls. Lodges provide complimentary transfers for guests to the Falls with some also offering activities such as river cruises. These lodges are a wonderful choice for pre or post safari R&R. An increasing network of domestic light aircraft flights connects several of Zambia’s key attractions with the main gateways of Lusaka and Livingstone meaning you can combine parks such as the Lower Zambezi and Mfuwe in the South Luangwa more easily than ever before.

Wild Dogs
Wild Dogs
  • Endangered species – wild dogs rule

Visitors to Zambia can enjoy spectacular wildlife including the chance to see many rare and iconic species. The Zambian Carnivore Programme recently announced that the South Luangwa National Park is now officially home to Zambia’s largest African wild dog population. Despite being one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, wild dogs in and around the South Luangwa National Park have enjoyed several years of increasing numbers, and there are now estimated to be approximately 350 adults and yearlings living in the Luangwa Valley.

 

To find out more about Zambia’s national parks, you may be interested to read our country guide here.

You’ll also find sample safaris, with price guides.

 

 

 

The 2019 wish-list (continued): bedazzled by Botswana

Thinking of a holiday to Botswana? Here’s what you need to know!

Botswana, in a nutshell offers:

  • small camps, most often in private concessions
  • a range of activities  including 4×4 safaris, walking, horse riding, canoeing and boating, fishing, birding, mobile/fly camping
  • a fantastic array of wildlife, including the opportunity to see many rare and endangered species
  • diversity of landscape –  combine the arid salt pans of the Kalahari Desert with the islands and channels of the Okavango Delta

Five Rivers Bots NxaiPan2Also in Botswana’s favour is the negligible time change – it’s just GMT + 2 hours.

For those seeking some R&R pre or post Botswana safari we recommend the beautiful river lodges close to Victoria Falls but there are additional options, depending on budget, for example you can combine Botswana and South Africa very easily.

K&D Bots sundownersBotswana Okavango Delta smallThe question of budget

If you are looking for pristine wildlife areas to explore with very few other guests and vehicles, along with quality guiding and lodging then Botswana delivers. This is a destination which prides itself on low density, high quality eco-tourism.

Travelling out of high season (the dry winter months of July to September when wildlife densities are at a peak) will give you access to lower rates. Best rates and availability can be found during the Green Season (lush summer months of December to March), although not all camps are open throughout this period.

Safari packages are all-inclusive,  from food and drink, activities and guiding to your laundry so the cost of your holiday is all paid before you leave home.

You can see further sample safari itineraries and explore price guides here.

shutterstock_203430058Getting there

Botswana’s reputation for exclusivity comes largely down to accessibility – small luxury camps/lodges hide away in wonderfully remote locations and many are only accessible by light aircraft/helicopter, either from the main gateways of Maun and Kasane or as inter-camp transfers, which we arrange for you as part of a safari package.

There are currently no direct flights to Botswana – the vast majority of our clients fly direct to Johannesburg in South Africa, from where there are good reliable connections with SA Airlink on to Maun or Kasane. As a very rough guide, you should budget c£675-£1100 per person for economy flights via Johannesburg to Maun, depending on season, availability and special offers.

It is also possible to arrive into Victoria Falls with c3 hour road transfer to the Chobe lodges,  via Kasane. Because Chobe is accessible by road it is the most popular (and the most economical) of Botswana’s key attractions.

 

Zarafa_GuestTentExteriorSunset_May2009 XUDUMa-botswana-safari-at-andbeyond-xudum-okavango-delta-lodge-23.jpg.950x0 WEBshinde leopard cubs ker and downey mar 15Why Botswana excels as a safari destination

Private Concessions – low density, high quality safari experiences

Visitor numbers are strictly limited in private concessions. Individual camps normally have less than a dozen or so camps/rooms. This means very few vehicles, minimal erosion/vehicle tracks in the bush and little environmental impact. These factors all contribute to the quality of guest safari experience.

Conservation 

Botswana has enjoyed more than 50 years of independence and in this time it has stood out for its consistent commitment to conservation and eco-tourism, particularly in the last decade with the leadership of President Ian Khama.

Khama, a keen conservationist,  introduced a ban on sport hunting in 2014 to help safeguard large species, however the policy is being reviewed by the new President.

Botswana has shown that given space and safety, rare species thrive, including critically endangered black rhino, wild dog,  black maned Kalahari lion, lechwe, puku, sitatunga, pangolin and aardvark.

  • Spotlight on Black Rhino

The ambitious rhino relocation to the Okavango Delta is just one compelling reason to travel to Botswana. The Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern edge of the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta and the 1000th UNESCO World Heritage site, is now a place that guests can see all the Big Five once again thanks to the efforts of conservation partners.

It’s a real privilege to be able to observe black rhino in the wild with only around 5,000 remaining in Africa. Guests can add a new dimension to their travels by enjoying a behind-the-scenes conservation experience – at certain camps it is possible to meet rhino monitoring teams to learn more about the rhino’s return to the Okavango.

Through our Explorers against Extinction charity campaign we have supported the work of Rhino Conservation Botswana, funding and equipping two rhino protection dogs, Primaa and Savas.

WWDumaTau_2014-06-99 GameDriveEles CGL 10134 MokoroGuests Xak 10392Activities

A fantastic diversity of activities from 4×4 game drives, by day and night, to walking and horseback safaris and boat excursions help guests get under the skin of Botswana.

Float serenely by mokoro down the Okavango Delta’s maze of papyrus edged channels, safari in Chobe National Park, dubbed ‘Land of Giants’ where more than 120,000 elephants roam, canoe the remote Selinda Spillway, fly camping on deserted islands as you go, walk with San Bushmen in the desolate Kalahari, the largest, most remotely situated reserve in Southern Africa, marvel at magical starry southern skies, visit the mysterious Savute region or witness the zebra migrations from the Chobe River and the border with Namibia to Nxai and Makgadikgadi pans,  the longest-known terrestrial wildlife migration in Africa.

Desert or Delta?

The ideal safari combines both desert and delta experiences.

The vast Kalahari Salt Pans include Tau Pan, Nxai Pan, Makgadikgadi and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. As a general rule these areas start to blossom following the summer rains which tend to arrive in November/December time and last until March.

The Delta encompasses the Okavango, Chobe and Moremi and can be visited year-round although wildlife densities peak in the winter months of July-September as the water sources dry up. Most of our guests travel between April and October.

Chobe is split into three main areas (Riverfront; Savuti and Linyanti). The Riverfront and Forest Reserve (above the river) can be accessed very economically by road from Kasane (as noted above). Most other destinations are accessed by light aircraft transfer.

Safari inspiration

To explore a whole range of different safari holidays in Botswana, as well as those combining Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia with Bostwana please click here.

Camps/Lodges

There are many different camps/lodges – you can stay in seasonal mobile camps with a real stripped back ‘explorer’ feel, permanent tented camps or more traditional lodge style accommodation with thatched/reed roofs, doors and windows – some of these will also offer air-conditioning.

Combining the camps/lodges of one ‘brand’ into a circuit tends to offer best value – these include but are not limited to Ker & Downey, Kwando, Desert & Delta, Wilderness, Great Plains, Under One Sky, African Bush Camps, Machaba.

Splash-Camp_Pool kadizoraballoon_crop600x400 Cheetah Moremi K&D IMG-20170129-WA0028-800x533What’s new in Botswana going into 2019?

Splash Camp opened in 2018 and is the newest addition to the Kwando family of camps (Lagoon, Lebala, Kwara, Little Kwara).

Ker & Downey’s Kanana Camp will re-open in April 2019 with a brand new look. The camp is currently enjoying a refurbishment. Dinaka opened in 2018 giving guests the option of combining properties in the Okavango (Okuti, Kanana, Shinde) with the Kalahari (Dinaka).

Wilderness has been busy expanding and enhancing its portfolio in Bostwana, particularly its Premier Camps. Jao Camp is the latest to receive a makeover and will be upgraded complete with new Jao Villas, opening in June 2019.  Mombo/Little Mombo  unveiled its brand new look last year in addition to luxurious King’s Pool, Linyanti. At last count there were over 20 Wilderness camps in Bostwana giving incredible choice at this luxury level.

Machaba Safaris are a new addition with Machaba, Gomoti Plains and Sable Alley.

Hot air ballooning is brand new for the Okavango, from Kadizora Camp.

We also have some fantastic new family safari options including a trip with Kwando, staying in family configured tents. Other family options include Desert and Delta and Ker & Downey (both offer 2 bedroom tents/units). These are great for families with children over 7 years old.

Explore Botswana in more detail using our information pages here.

Speak to someone with first-hand experience and in depth knowledge – call 01603 964 730 or email paul@realafrica.co.uk

To see our excellent client reviews please click here.

Coming next…Zambia.