Category Archives: Safari

Fishing Holidays in Africa

Did you know that fishing not football is the most popular pastime in the UK? No I didn’t either although my brother in law is a keen angler. Fishing holidays are also growing in popularity and Africa is one of the best places to go. You get the chance to catch some really huge and exciting fish and relax in some beautiful scenery. You can also combine it with a safari and get the best of both worlds. Also the safari or beach option might please a non-fishing partner! With so much to choose from we have narrowed it down with some ideas below.

Botswana

One of the best places for a fishing holiday is Botswana and in particular the Okavango Delta. This huge inland river delta covers hundreds of miles and surprisingly doesn’t run into the sea but evaporates and disappears into the land. There are permanent lagoons and rivers but during the rains the area covered by water increases enormously. Fishing is available at most of the lodges on the Delta. We have several lovely luxury safari lodges and camps where all the game viewing is done by motorboat or mokoro (a dug-out canoe) and fishing is also widely available.  A day spent drifting through the reed beds passing big game and stunning birds whilst you fish is pretty unbeatable!

In the crystal clear waters of the Okavango River you can fish for tigerfish, tilapia, bream, nembwe and African pike. The tigerfish is an indigenous with an enormous appetite and they can grow up to 9 kilos in weight! The best time to fish for tiger fish is during the annual catfish or barbel runs. This is usually in our autumn from late August to the beginning of November. Bream fishing is usually best during our summer months, from April until August. We recommend staying at Camp Okavango  for excellent fishing. The lodges and camps can provide all the fishing equipment you need but you can take your own kit if you prefer.

Mozambique

Mozambique is a huge country stretching along the east coast of Africa from Tanzania to the north down to South Africa in the south. It offers a massive variety of habitats from the Zambezi River to the shores of Lake Malawi, from national parks filled with the Big Five to lush mangrove swamps and islands dotted off the stunning coastline.  However the main type of fishing done in Mozambique is  sea or sport fishing and the island archipelagos and coral reefs are outstanding here. Marine life includes whales, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and sharks. The Mozambique coastline, particularly the Bazaruto and the Quirimbas Archipelagos, offers some of the most spectacular sport fishing in the world.  This part of the Indian Ocean is a protected marine reserve meaning it is unspoiled and pretty undiscovered which makes it ideal for a luxury fishing holiday.  Combine this with some truly stunning hotel and beach resorts and some of the world’s finest beaches and Mozambique is a dream destination.

The deep Mozambique Channel has a very strong current and it provides a home to some of the world’s most exciting sport fish.  Species such as black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, shortbill spearfish, wahoo, dorado, various tuna species, king and queen mackerel, kingfish (jack’s), queenfish, barracuda and snappers are all  to be found here. Again there is plenty to do if you are travelling with a partner or friend who isn’t into fishing as there are plenty of fabulous beaches, scuba diving, snorkelling, sailing, boat trips and luxury lodges to relax in such as Ibo Island Lodge . The boat operators provide all the gear you will need for sport fishing and we can pre-book it for you or you can do it when you are there through the hotel concierge.

Malawi

Lake Malawi is another fabulous fishing destination for the keen angler and it is also popular for those who want to go diving and see the endemic fish species that live in this enormous inland sea.  Again like all our destinations the scenery as well as the wildlife is fantastic and we have some fabulous lodges and beach resorts dotted along the shores of the Lake. The water here is crystal clear, unpolluted and wonderfully warm and there are many sandy beach, islands and rocky coves providing plenty of different habitats.

The majority of the 400+ species in Lake Malawi are small tropical aquarium fish, mbuna. However you can also find sungwa (perch), ngumbo (lake yellow-fish), mpasa (lake salmon), sanjika (smaller relative of lake salmon), ncheni (lake tiger), kampango (catfish) and vundu (catfish). Fishing is year round but probably the best time to go is between September and April.  One of the best places to stay on the lake is Pumulani Lodge.  although there are more rustic options available too.

Although Lake Malawi is the main draw you can also do plenty of fantastic river fishing. The Bua River, running through the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, is excellent for salmon with the Luweya, Lufira and North Rukuru not far behind. In the Lower Shire River, below the Kapichira Falls on the southern boundary of the Majete Wildlife Reserve, tigerfish are abundant, joined further down by vundu and barbel as the river broadens. Heavier tackle and a boat are needed here. Dry season fishing between May and November is possible in the Lower Shire river and requires no licence. The streams and dams of Zomba Plateau, Mount Mulanje and Nyika Plateau are well stocked with rainbow trout. You are only allowed to do fly fishing in this area with flies tied on single hooks. The season runs from September to April. Please note you will have to take your own kit with you in most places although some lodges do provide good tackle. Please check with us first before travel.

Zimbabwe and Zambia

Lake Kariba and the Zambezi River are the main highlights for a fisherman. The Zambezi River is the fourth largest river in Africa and is home to one of the continent’s most sought-after fresh water game fish such as the tiger fish. The tigerfish is an aggressive predator and  one of the fastest freshwater game fish in Africa which makes it a challenging species to catch and a great challenge for fly fisherman. Trying to lure the fierce tiger fish can be a real batlle as it usually puts on a dramatic display of fight when captured. Both the Upper Zambezi – the section of river above the Victoria Falls – and the Lower Zambezi – the section below the Kariba Dam wall – offer excellent opportunities to fish for tigerfish.

There are a number of excellent fishing lodges on the banks of both the upper and lower sections of the Zambezi and also there is a  huge range of wonderful safari lodges that offer fishing as well as game drives looking for the Big Five. Many of these lodges provide a range of fishing activities, all the way from a novice angler to the professional fly fisherman.  As fishing can be combined with game activities  and wonderful safaris this is a great holiday if you have a partner or friend who does not wish to fish as there is plenty to do and the lodge are all great places for relax with swimming pools and sundecks. For the visiting angler most can provide a full range of equipment is provided but you can take your own tackle if you prefer (please check before you travel!). We can recommend staying at various different lodges such as Mana Pools Camp many of which offer fishing along with safari activities and canoeing.

Some itineraries which feature our favourite fishing destinations include:

Desert and Delta Safari in Botswana

Tailormade Mozambique

Malawi – Valley and Lake Holiday

Best of Zimbabwe

But please note that we tailor-make all our holidays to suit you so if you want a purely fishing holiday then please give us a call and we can create one specially for you!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Hitting the heights on an African balloon safari

Ever wondered what its like to do a balloon safari in Africa? Robert was in Tanzania recently and went flying over Tarangire National Park.

I was woken at 5.30am by one of the Masai guards knocking gently on my tent. Fifteen minutes later, having been escorted by the same guard to the restaurant, I was standing on its terrace drinking fresh brewed coffee and taking to our pilot. Called Nihat, he had over 3,000 flight hours under his belt and spoke perfect English.

“I’ve been flying in Tarangire for over 2 years,” he informed me as he swigged syrupy coffee from a mug. “During that whole time I’ve never had to cancel a flight. The weather here is always excellent.”

Our land cruiser pulled up and we climbed in, leaving the camp as the first hint of dawn touched the eastern sky. It was a short drive, initially on a rough track before cutting off through the savannah to the launch site. The crew had arrived before us. The basket was in place, lying on its side with the burners and fuel all stowed and secured. The balloon was laid out flat on the grass and as we got out of our vehicle a large fan started blowing the first hot air into it. It rolled around, making it ripple like water in a bowl. Two crew pulled on a rope tied to the top of the balloon, keeping it taut.

Once the balloon was semi-inflated the burners started blasting into it and within minutes it was trying to lift itself into the sky, the two men on the rope now joined by a third as they fought to keep it down. On a signal from Nihat they released the rope and the balloon swung into the air, gently pulling the basket upright as it fought to get away. It was not yet inflated enough to lift from the ground, even if the basket hadn’t been anchored to a land cruiser.

We climbed into the basket. In a central section stood Nihat, surrounded in gas bottles and with the controlling ropes hanging in front of him. Either side the basket was dived into two sections, each with a low bench. Nihat gave a long burn, the heat strong on my head through the hat I was wearing. Slowly we rose off the ground and hung for a few moments on the anchor rope as final checks were done. When he was happy, Nihat released the rope and we rose into the African sky.

It was surprising how quickly we left the ground behind. It was so gentle it felt as if nothing was moving and yet the World shrank in size and dropped away below us. When we got to 500 metres we levelled off, the whole of Africa seemingly stretching away in all directions. Lake Manyara was to the west, its white bed catching the gentle light of dawn. To its south was Lake Eyasi while to the north was Mt. Meru and Kilimanjaro.

Tarangire was spread beneath us like an enormous pop-up map, the river that gives the Park its name meandering through its heart.

“We’ve come up to find the breezes,” Nihat explained. “Different altitudes have winds that blow in different directions, its useful to know if I wan to move the balloon.” He nodded to the right. “Here there is a breeze from the East. I can use it if we need to get closer to some animals.”

We slowly descended as we approached the river, almost skimming the treetops as we dropped into its bed so that the steep-sided banks stood higher than we floated. Birds flew around us, their dawn chorus clearly audible  and a herd of impala stood together watching as we passed, their tails twitching nervously. Nihat gave a long burn, the heat hot on my skin in the cool of morning, and after a few seconds the balloon responded and carried us over the approaching Baobabs and above an acacia forest.

A family of elephants turned to face us, their trunks lifted as they tried to smell what was approaching. With one shrill trumpet, the matriarch told them to follow and she head off at a brisk pace into the undergrowth, her companions following in a line with the youngest in the middle. A couple of outlying members trumpeted in alarm, receiving an answering call to guide them in the right direction as we drifted overhead and away. My last sight of them was of them turning to face us once more, shaking their heads and returning to their grazing.

A herd of buffalo, maybe 150 strong, didn’t flinch as we passed overhead, oblivious to their silent watchers. A silver-backed jackal, jogged past and a family of hyenas sat warming themselves in the early-morning sun. Giraffes stood watching with idle curiosity while different types of antelope grazed unperturbed.

In a blink of the eye an hour had passed. Nihal had been looking for a landing spot, his spotters on the balloon radioing the back-up crew when a suitable place was spotted. We rose up, making use of that easterly breeze we’ed discovered earlier, before slowly drifting down to land in a spot I’d have thought it impossible to land in. When we were a few metres above the ground we all sat on the small benches in our sections of the balloon, holding rope ties oppositeand heads lowered. There was a gentle bump and the basket settled. We were down.

“You can sit up now,” Nihat instructed us and we stood as the crew rushed around with small blankets, throwing them over any prickly bushes that might snag the balloon as it deflated. The support vehicle arrived and we clambered out, about to be whisked away to a champagne breakfast. After the exhilaration of the flight, even that was going to be a bit flat.

Robert stayed at Tarangire Balloon Camp, where the balloon safaris are based and operated by Adventures Aloft.

By Robert Ferguson.

The Real Africa YouTube channel passes 500,000 views

Well, who’d have thought it? When I head off to Kenya in 2008 with a basic video camera and an even more basic grasp on which way to point it, I didn’t expect that our fledgling YouTube channel would grow to be one of the most successful travel channels in the UK. This week it went though 500,000 views, with nearly 400 subscribers.

Over the years the camera work may have got better but we’ve always tried to keep it authentic. The footage is all taken by our staff, guides or clients, there is no professional footage. We want our videos to show how it really is, not through a rose-tinted lens.

We’ve got footage taken on video cameras and phones, drones and night trap cameras. Our guides now have cameras so they can record some of the amazing things they see. This is reflected in the number of views we get and at this rate it won’t be long until we get to 1 million views. Many thanks to all our subscribers, we hope we can continue to keep you entertained and educated on the Real Africa.

So of all our videos, which are the ones we like best..

Most popular:

What noise does a cheetah make?

This video was taken in the Masai Mara in 2013 by Rob’s daughter who thought the noise was so cute. Currently our most popular video.

Most viewed:

Safari animals of Kenya.

Our first video, taken in 2008, and still popular, despite the rather dated picture quality..

Our favourite:

Elephant using a stick to give itself a pedicure.

Sometimes its the unusual things that are the most memorable. Lily took this video in Amboseli of an elephant that had just come out of the marsh. The care it took to get the stick in just the right position to scrape the mud out from between her toes is incredible.

 

We have lots more videos planned for this year. Why not subscribe to the Real Africa Video channel to make sure you don’t miss any?

 

Birdwatching in Africa

Most people visiting Africa think of safaris and the big game such as elephants, rhinos, lion and leopard. However the birdlife in Africa is absolutely stunning and there is a huge range of wonderful birdlife to be found in every country.  The green or rainy seasons are usually the best time for birdwatching and also tend to be the quietest and cheapest times to visit. Africa makes for a wonderful birding holiday and we can tailor-make some fantastic itineraries based around birdwatching in particular.

The continent is vast with a massive array of different habitats; from montane and rain forests, marshes and wetlands, deserts and salt pans, lush grasslands and soaring mountains and a very diverse coastline. You also have endemic birds specific to that country or those just passing through on their annual migrations. With so much to choose from we have narrowed it down with some ideas below.

South Africa

South Africa is home to the highest number of endemic bird species in the whole of mainland Africa due to its excellent climate and wide range of habitats. The Cape area is an excellent area for birdwatching with plenty of interesting and rare species attracted to the unique fynbos vegetation. In fact the Cape is an extremely important area as its unique habitat and vegetation is home to endemic bird species not found anywhere else. We offer stays at the De Hoop Nature Reserve and Grootbos Private Reserve which are both excellent birdwatching spots in the Cape. In fact most places along the Cape and the beautiful Garden Route offer great birdwatching opportunities to see species such as Salvin’s albatross, cormorants and large colonies of gannets. And we mustn’t forget the colony of African penguins at Boulder Bay.

In the Cape and all over South Africa you can see some fantastic birds of prey or raptors in places such as the Drakensberg Mountains, and in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. These include various vultures, eagles and falcons including the pygmy falcon and the African fish eagle.  And of course the world famous Kruger National Park is home to a vast array of wildlife including wonderful birdlife such as the intriguing Honeyguide Bird.

Botswana

To the north lies the enormous country of Botswana. Much of northern Botswana is a true wilderness with no signs of mankind for hundreds of miles and is home to huge amounts of wildlife including fabulous birds. In Botswana you have a complete contrast in habitat from the arid salt pans and the Kalahari Desert to the opposite extreme of the Okavango Delta and its vast tracts of wetlands, rivers, marshes and islands. Another great spot for birdwatching is the Chobe National Park which is a huge area of wilderness.  Most people head for the Okavango Delta and after the summer rains the birdlife really comes into its own in October and November when you will see lots of water loving species such as a variety of egrets, herons, cranes and storks. There are also plenty of smaller breeds including various babblers, finches and lark as well. If you are lucky you might even see the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl.

Namibia

Neighbouring Namibia is also home to some extreme opposites with arid deserts and the famous sand dunes of Sossussvlei to the wild and remote coastline which is home to large numbers of sea birds including cape cormorants, white pelicans and terns. The best time for bird watching in Namibia is actually during the rainy season, between November and April.  One of the best places to visit is the Etosha National Park which is home to vast salt pans that fill with rain during the winter and become home to large flocks of both pink flamingos and blue cranes.

The deserts of Namibia are also home to many species including plenty of birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and the only endemic bird species of Namibia, the dune lark. You can stay at our lodges and camps in Namibia which are all in excellent locations for birdwatching including the stunning Fish River Lodge overlooking one of the world’s biggest canyon and home to soaring raptors riding the thermals.

Zambia

The central location of Zambia means that it is home to a real mix of birds from all over Africa including birds from southern, eastern and central Africa.  It is also home to the unique shoebill which is highly sought after by birders. Again the rainy or green season over our winter months is the best time to go birdwatching and you can often see visiting species over-wintering here before heading north. Zambia is home to the best walking safaris and this means that keen birdwatchers can really make the most of getting up close to the local birdlife.

Malawi

Neighbouring Malawi is also home to some rare species mainly based around the shores of Lake Malawi and in its dense forests. This huge lake is more like an inland sea in terms of size and its shores are lined with all sorts of varied habitats including marshes, savannah and forests, which support a wide range of species.  The Shire River and the Liwonde National Park are excellent birdwatching places with some fantastic birds including Pel’s fishing owl.

Rwanda

Rwanda is not somewhere that people think of as a birdwatching destination as most people come here to see the endangered mountain gorillas. However, birdwatching in Rwanda is superb and it really is a must-see destination for birders. Despite its diminutive size Rwanda is home to over 600 species including the Albertine Rift endemic bird species. The best place to stay is the Nyungwe National Park which is set amongst the montane forest and home to 13 species of primates alone.

Kenya and Tanzania

Kenya and Tanzania are excellent destinations for a birdwatching holiday and Kenya is home to the second highest number of species in Africa. Kenya holds the world-record ‘bird watch’ – with 342 species seen in 24 hours! You can see everything from the famous flamingos of Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru to the vultures and maribou storks picking over the predators’ leftovers.  The famous national parks are not just home to the Big Five but also many birds including migrants such as swallows and various waders.  The Masai Mara is home to the rosy-throated longclaw and magpie shrike and the Samburu is home to the shining sunbird and pink breasted lark. In Tanzania the southern parks of Selous and Ruaha are excellent birding spots as they are vast and unspoilt and teeming with a variety of species. Over a thousand species have been recorded here including a good amount of endemic species such as Mrs Moreau’s warbler, Loveridge’s sunbird and the Usambara eagle-owl.

Mozambique

Mozambique is a huge country stretching along the east coast of Africa from Tanzania to the north down to South Africa in the south. It reaches inland to Lake Malawi and Zimbabwe and as such offers a huge range of landscapes and habitats.  For the most part it is lush and green with some great national parks such as Gorongosa  filled with big game and wonderful birdlife. The coastline, which stretches for more than 2,000 kms, provides a home for a vast array of birdlife from waders in the sandbanks and marshlands to the fishing species of the mangrove swamps and islands dotted off the coast and around the archipelagos. The Zambezi Delta is home to many rare and important species such as the mangrove kingfisher and the elusive but colourful African pitta.

You can find out more information on some of Africa’s finest birds on our website under our safari animal section.

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Fly-in or drive-in safari? The pros and cons.

Clients often ask us which is better – a fly-in or a drive-in safari? For those who are unsure, these are the two most popular ways to go on safari.

A fly-in safari, as the name suggests, means you fly into the National Park and do your safari in the vehicles of your camp or lodge. A drive-in safari means you drive to the park in your own vehicle and usually do your game drives in it too.

So which is better? Well, as so often, the answer is more complicated than this. In some places you can only fly, either because roads don’t exist, the terrain is too rough and/or the distances are too great. An example of this would be a safari in the heart of the Okavango Delta, a vast area of wetlands in Botswana. There is no option but to fly to your camp. Likewise, some areas do not have airstrips of a suitable standard to take passenger airplanes, meaning that driving to your destination is the only answer. An example of this would be a visit to Lake Eyasi in Northern Tanzania.

But if you did have the choice, what are the pro’s and con’s?

A fly-in safari.

Pro’s:

– Its quick. You can often reach your destination in a fraction of the time it would take if driving on African roads. You can therefore save a lot of time if time is precious.

– Its scenic. You will get great views of the countryside, often seeing game as you travel and a birds-eye view of the escarpments, parks and forests.

– Its exciting. The planes are small, designed for use on the small dirt airstrips they often use. Some to places like  the Masai Mara may have up to 38 seats, but most will be small 4-16 seaters, with your pilot sitting with you.

– You game-drive in camp/lodge vehicles, meaning your guides are specialists to that area and know all the latest sightings.

Cons:

– You miss out on seeing lots of the country you are in, and your perspective will be airstrips and National Parks, rather than seeing everyday life.

– You can miss a flight! If your connection is late and you miss a flight you have to wait for the next one, and that could be a wait of a day or two. One of our staff once missed her international flight home as her connecting flight from the Serengeti couldn’t take off for nearly two hours due to giraffe and buffalo on the runway. You don’t have that problem at Heathrow..

– Flights get cancelled, usually due to low cloud. These are small planes flying to small airstrips and good visibility is a must.

– They can be bumpy! Small planes tend to bounce around a fair bit in the hot air. If you like roller-coasters, of course, this should be in the Pro column…

– Camp/lodge safari vehicles are shared with other guests and rarely private to you.

Drive-in safaris.

Pro’s:

– You have your own private vehicle and driver. This means on game-drives you always have a perfect view from the windows and roof hatch. It also means you get to know your driver-guide who can talk about and discuss normal life in your destination, as well as about the flora and fauna.

– You can stop whenever you want, wherever you want for as long as you want. No timetables to keep to. You get to see everyday life in your destination, as the people go about their everyday lives.

– Your driver will know your interests and previous sightings, meaning you can focus on things you specifically want to see rather than the interests of the many.

Cons:

– African roads are not known for their glass-like surfaces, so journeys can be long and bouncy.

– Vehicles break down, roads get blocked and bridges washed away, so delays can happen.

The answer to the question of which style is better really depends on where you are going and what you want to do. For many safari holidays, a combination of the two is possible, allowing you to see something of the country and enjoy the company of a driver-guide, with one or two flights to cover the larger distances. Whichever you choose, few people feel they have made the wrong decision as both styles of safaris will give you a holiday that is both memorable and exciting.