Category Archives: Safari

Safari by the Seasons

What’s the best time to go on a safari? This is undoubtedly the most asked question we receive. The answer? You can safari year-round in Africa but undeniably some places are better than others at certain times of year.
 
shutterstock_78023380When you should go on a safari depends on many factors including  what you are hoping to see and your budget as well as wildlife movements and weather patterns .
 
We recommend speaking to the team for advice based on your individual circumstances,  but to give you some ideas of what we like to do when and why,  please read our quick safari by the seasons guide below!
 
You can see detailed information about sub-Saharan safari destinations in our country guides here. 
 
 

UK SPRING (March – May)

 
 autumn vineyard cape townSouth Africa is a good option during these months of the year – it is autumn in the southern hemisphere which means South Africa’s Cape is usually beautiful during the Easter holidays enjoying mild dry weather which can continue right throughout May. Temperatures tend to hover around 20 degrees which is perfect for self -drive and sight-seeing. It’s still warm enough to eat alfresco and walk the beach.
 
This time of year offers other substantial benefits too – as well as being cooler, it is much quieter and accommodation rates are lower then during the peak months of November to February. However, if you’re hoping to see whales, they don’t tend to arrive in their masses until July time although you may be lucky…
 
 
Rhino DSC_1693Coral Lodge Kayaking on lagoonGreater Kruger, South Africa’s most famous safari destination is entering its prime time,  which stretches from  April/May until October  –   rainfall subsides, the bush starts to die back and wildlife is usually more prolific/easier to find as it congregates around known water sources.
 
Combine your Kruger safari with time on the beach in neighbouring Mozambique (also good from April/May onwards), or with the Cape coast.
 
WWDSC_6125Looking for a beach escape? The Seychelles are glorious March – May. This time of year marks the end of the north-west monsoon and Manta Rays start to gather in the channels around the islands.
 
The shores of Lake Malawi would be another excellent choice  from April onwards as the weather becomes increasingly clear and warm. Days on the lake and nights beneath the stars can be combined with a safari in Majete and/or Liwonde. 
 
We also like bush and beach combinations during the Easter holidays in East Africa – for example, the Masai Mara and Diani Beach. This choice is not governed by the weather however which can be changeable at this time. Rates are very competitive March-May with many special offers, which reflects the unpredictability of the aforementioned weather –  the long rains can arrive at any time from March onwards and usually last well into May. Downpours can be sudden and heavy but often clear to bright sunshine. The long rains start in the west and sweep towards the Indian Ocean coast, often not arriving on the coast until early May. Rates are as low as they go at this time of year on safari. Baby animals are everywhere and the landscape is increasingly lush and green.  Elephants love to play in the rain. A Samburu day in  late May/early June, after the rains, is a truly wonderful thing.
 
Nxai Pan AldKBs_r.jpegZambia 1In Southern Africa the rains come earlier, from November to March leaving the parched Kalahari Salt Pans in Botswana refreshed. Easter is one of our favourite times to visit this area.
 
Victoria Falls is also resplendent following the rains and you can see it in Full Flood at this time of year – the sheer volume and power of water surging over the Falls means the view is often obscured by spray and walking the Rainforest trails is a very wet activity!  You can try your luck at seeing a Lunar Rainbow if full moon occurs at the time of your visit. This is a dramatic time to visit the Falls.
 
 

UK SUMMER June to August

Migration TZFor the majority of safari destinations, this is the optimum time to be in Africa, with the exception of Cape Town and the Cape coast.
 
You really are spoilt for choice! June is our secret season when conditions are excellent but visitor numbers (and airfares/lodge prices) are not at their maximum until July/August.
 
600UgandaGo gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda, see dramatic river crossings in Kenya/Tanzania as the Great Migration moves from northern Serengeti to the Masia Mara, stake out a waterhole in Namibia’s Etosha, enjoy walking safaris in Zambia or Zimbabwe’s legendary Mana Pools,  or float down the serene channels of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The trademark weather pattern of this season is cool, dry and clear.
 
For beach lovers, the Indian Ocean coast offers good visibility for diving and snorkelling and the southern ‘Kusi’ breeze helps to cool you down. Humpback whales start to migrate along the Kenyan coast from July/August.
 
 

UK AUTUMN September to November

September is one of our favourite times in East and Southern Africa – the short rains do not tend to arrive until November and with the migration on the plains of the Mara throughout September into October you are likely to be treated to some exceptional wildlife viewing both here and in the northern Serengeti in Tanzania.

Southern Right Whales  collect off the Cape coast of South Africa to calve with the Hermanus Whale Festival held in late September – while humpbacks can also be seen in Cape waters. Temperatures start to soar providing wonderful respite from the autumn chill in the UK. Outdoor concerts and picnics begin as the weather warms.

September is a plum month for Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. October sees the highest density of wildlife as water sources shrink.  Temperatures are at their peak in October – it can be very hot and dry – and Victoria Falls can be reduced to a trickle at this time of year before the long rains arrive in November so if you want to combine the Falls with a safari the optimum time to visit is really June to August.  Weather can be unpredictable in November, however many of the seasonal mobile camps stay open for the first week or so.

 
Looking for a beach break? We love Mauritius in September/October.

UK WINTER December to February

East Africa is the place to be. Catch up with calving on the Serengetis southern plains in Tanzania, enjoy the white sands of the Spice Islands and Kenyan coast with water visibility at its best for snorkelling and diving.

Uganda is also a good option in January/February time and is the next best time of year to go gorilla trekking after June-September, which is considered peak gorilla season.
 

If you’re looking for heat – South Africa’s Cape is celebrating the Southern Hemisphere’s summer sunshine, with January and February the hottest months of the year (expect the thermometer to sit around 30 degrees+). Safaris in the malaria-free Eastern Cape are fabulous but further north in Kruger you can expect very wet and difficult conditions with impassable roads – something to consider as safari vehicles tend to be open style with very little protection from the elements.

Don’t rule out Southern Africa –   like Kruger, it is in the grip of the wet and warm Green Season throughout the UK Winter (this means sudden downpours, dramatic skies and a lush landscape), however, in some areas such as Chobe, the Okavango and Hwange there are excellent permanent camps open year-round, offering very good deals.  On safari you’ll be rewarded by many migratory birds and this is the time for young animals to be born.
 

Garonga

The Great Migration – everything you need to know about calving in the southern Serengeti, Tanzania

The Great Migration of wildebeest, zebra and other plains game  in search of fresh grazing between Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara is the largest overland migration in the world involving over 1.5 million animals.

Migration TZCatching up with the Great Migration is a spectacle on many people’s bucket list. The first image that comes to mind for many may be the river crossings, particularly the dramatic crossing of the Mara River, the last obstacle before reaching the Masai Mara (July-September time). However, being on the Serengeti’s southern plains in the early part of the year for calving is another excellent time to see the migration .

The migration is not one super herd but a collection of herds moving in different directions and at different speeds. The herds move in search of fresh grazing and so their progress is dictated by rainfall. With rainfall becoming increasingly erratic the path and timings of the migration has become a little more unpredictable in recent years but you can expect to see the migration in Tanzania for around 75% of the year and in Kenya for 25%.

The annual cycle is punctuated by a number of key events – calving being one of them.

Calving season on the Serengeti’s southern plainssLIDER DSC_8606

The migration arrives and stays on the Serengeti’s southern plains and on the edges of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area between January and March annually.

During these first few months of the year the wildebeest are grazing on the nutrient rich short grass following the short rains in November. This is the perfect arena for giving birth to their young – the grass is still low enabling them to see predators more easily, and the new shoots are soft and full of goodness, thanks to the fertility of the volcanic soil in this region.

Remarkably virtually all the wildebeest calve within a 3 week window which usually falls between late January and late February. Around 8,000 calves are born each day at the peak of the calving season.

WWshutterstock_139534196shutterstock_128317355Compared to the rest of the year, the herds are fairly sedentary while they feast and calve so this is an excellent time to observe them.

Predator density at this time on the southern plains is said to be higher than anywhere else in the world. Many predators also raise their young at this time, with  young wildebeest the perfect target for young cubs learning survival skills.

What to expect

-Epic views – short-grassy savannah studded with rocky ‘kopje’ outcrops – sometimes punctuated by the occasional Serengeti leopard or cheetah.

-Noise! Wildebeest have the nickname ‘gnu’ and this is the sound you will hear.

-Fabulous wildlife sightings with the chance to see predators and predator/prey interaction – short grass means good visibility.

When should I book if I want to visit during calving season?

If you have your heart set on a  specific week, particularly in February and around school half term,  then you should try and book a year in advance – camps are small and it is high season offering good weather and excellent wildlife sightings so the earlier you book the more likely you are to secure your dates and preferred camp.

If you are flexible then 6-9 months in advance is ideal.

Where to stay and for how longKusini your-private-serengeti

Ewanjan18We recommend lodges around the Ndutu area in the first three months of the year.

There are a number of excellent mobile camps including the Serian Mobile, Lemala Ndutu and the Asilia mobile camps.  Sanctuary Kusini, Lake Masek Tented Camp, Ndutu Lodge and the new Ndutu Kati Kati tented camp are permanent options in this area. Depending on the position of the herds and the timing of your visit we also recommend the high quality Lemala Ewanjan and the excellent Elewana Pioneer Camp in the south-central area.

2-3 nights at one camp is the minimum amount of time we recommend – you could easily stay longer. It is great to combine a stay in Ndutu with a camp in the south/central or central area of the Serengeti for a contrast (these areas have excellent resident wildlife), or how about combining your Serengeti experience with a visit to other parks on the Northern Circuit? (Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire).

Tented camps are very comfortable offering walk-in tents,  ensuite bathroom and an outdoor seating area. Camps vary in size, luxury and budget.

You can expect a 7 or 8 day safari trip to Tanzania including the Serengeti to cost anything from £2,040 per person plus international flights (Small Group Escorted Tour) to over £4,500 for a luxury private safari. (Please note: during the migration months these prices rise).

What will the safari day look like?13fac_lemala-1

Custom safari 4×4 vehicles are used to view the migration. You rise just before dawn, and have a snack before heading out with your professional guide on your morning safari for 2-3 hours before returning for a hearty breakfast in camp. In private concessions you may head out with a picnic breakfast.

If you fly-in to your camp, camp vehicles are usually shared with other guests (there are a few exceptions). If you are enjoying a drive-in safari with a private vehicle and driver/guide then you have the luxury of your own space.

You have the day to relax at camp, enjoy lunch and view wildlife as it comes and goes. Some camps offer additional activities during the day.

After a light afternoon tea you depart on the afternoon game drive, usually at about 330pm until sundown around 6/630pm. In private concessions your vehicle can stay out beyond sundown and you can night drive. It is also possible to off-road in the private concessions of the Serengeti.

Can I combine a migration trip with the beach?Breezes beach NCP7775

Yes – December to March offers lovely weather for the beach, and good water visibility for diving/snorkelling. Zanzibar is the most easily accessible destination from the Serengeti and offers a wide range of lodges.

Here’s an example luxury bush and beach combination.

Sample trips

See our Tanzania page for inspiration.

For Migration safari inspiration specifically please click here>>

WWKusini SR001411By March the plains have usually started to dry out and food is depleted so the herds start to move north and west on their epic journey to Kenya, pausing only as they reach the rivers that block their path.

This is the next phase of the migration…

If you are thinking of a wildlife holiday to Africa please contact us on 01603 964 730 or email enquiries@realafrica.co.uk

You can find further information about the sub-Saharan destinations we visit on our website. 

St Valentine’s Day Ideas

It’s Valentine’s Day this week and we have some great ideas for those of you who are stumped for a good gift or looking for a truly romantic gesture.

Kenya is home to a truly Out of Africa experience and as this year sees the 30th anniversary of that wonderful film starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford we think it’s perfect for a Valentine’s Day celebration. If you haven’t got time to get there this year then maybe you could book it now for a trip later in the year – after all who doesn’t like to receive a pair of tickets to a romantic destination as a surprise?

We recommend staying at many different romantic lodges and tented camps in Kenya.  One of the most romantic is the recently opened Angama Mara in a private conservancy on the edge of the world famous Masai Mara National Park.

Angama Mara

This is an incredibly romantic place because of the absolutely breath-taking views. These are so spectacular it’s almost impossible to drag yourself away from the camp to go on safari!  Each tented suite enjoys a 180° view over the beautiful Masai Mara stretching out far below. The Masai Mara is the best-known game reserve in the world, home to the Big Five and the world famous Migration which runs from July to October of each year and also the home to some truly stunning African scenery. The Out of Africa back-story adds romance and the tented suites are decorated in traditional romantic safari style with extra touches of luxury making it feel even more special. The staff at Angama Mara also go out of their way to make sure your stay is special and you will have some incredible memories to take home with you.

Other than Kenya two of our other favourite places for romance are the intimate and luxurious tented safari camps of Botswana and the luxury hotels on the shores of the stunningly beautiful Lake Malawi. In both these places we can off the exceptionally romantic experience of sleeping under the African night sky in a star bed. You can’t get more romantic than that!

Kanana Camp, Botwana

This little camp is a hidden jewel on the Xudum River in the Okavango Delta. The area is home to a long line of little islands dotted with lush greenery and trees interspersed amongst the rivers and lagoons. As you would expect the Okavango is filled with wonderful wildlife and you can take the camp’s glass bottomed mokoro canoe to make the most of it. The camp is tiny with only seven spacious twin and double-bedded safari tents each with an en-suite bathroom.  The tents are well spaced apart which means they all feel very private without being too far from the main camp area. New for 2016 are the amazing Star Beds which allow you to sleep out under the Botswana stars. With no light pollution the star gazing here will blow you away and the star beds means you can do it in style!

Nkwichi, Lake Malawi

Nkwichi, is a really wonderful secret that we are not sure we want to share – but we will! It really is a wonderful paradise tucked away on the beautiful shores of Lake Malawi.  There are 8 secluded beaches set along a stretch of the beautiful Rift Valley coastline which are all around Nkwichi. Not only do you have easy access to stunning beaches and crystal clear warm waters along the lake but also to some untouched wildlife and inland scenery. The accommodation at Nkwichi is also very romantic as you stay in lovely chalets and house set around the resort. Tucked away in the treeline, each chalet is unique.  All individually are individually designed and built using local materials to blend in to their surroundings, they deliver absolute luxury in a natural setting. This means they are really private and romantic with 4 poster beds and rock-pool baths carved out of local boulders and all of them have mesmerizing vistas of the lake. Nkwichi is also home to a fabulous star bed which means you can also sleep out under the stars. If you don’t fancy that then you can still enjoy a private dinner on the beach. Lake Malawi is often called the Lake of Stars so it really doesn’t come more romantic than that!

 

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

Where should I go on safari?

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s dark. At this time of year, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to holidays! If you’re having a destination dilemma, and are tempted by a safari, read on – you’ll find the top ten questions we get asked at travel shows every year (with answers.) It might just help you narrow the selection down! 

In the entertainment world the New Year is punctuated by a series of glittering awards ceremonies – in January you have the Golden Globes, followed by the BAFTAs and then of course it’s the Oscars at the end of February.

In travel, it is our busiest time of year with wall to wall travel shows, brochure requests and enquiries galore  – so we are just as busy but possibly not quite as glamorous!

Travel Shows offer a great opportunity to find out everything you need to know about your destinations of interest. You can pick up brochures on a whole range of places and experiences, ask the experts your burning questions, and enjoy presentations on world food and travel in the celebrity and destination theatres.

Here are some of the most common questions fired at us during the travel shows (with abbreviated answers – if you want the ‘full’ answer , do give us a ring on 01603 283 517).


Where should I safari in 2016? Here goes with the top ten questions. 

Q.Where’s the best place to catch up with the migration?
 A.Kenya’s Masai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti (depending on time of year).
Take a look at this classic tented safari holiday, put together with the Migration in mind.

Q.We’re on a budget – where do you recommend? 
 A.South Africa and Kenya currently offer the best value in Africa. 
This 19 day trip to South Africa, including a stay in a tented camp in the Greater Kruger is fantastic value.

Q.We’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Where do you recommend?
A.It has to be Botswana…ideally combined with Victoria Falls (but the answer will vary depending on who you speak to!)
To be honest, if you go once, and do it right, we know you’ll be smitten and desperate to return to Africa!
Q.We’ve travelled lots in Africa and are after something completely different? 
A.Namibia or Ethiopia will make a big impression.

Q.Where can I see rhino?
 A.Your best chances are in Kenya (Lake Nakuru or Laikipia); South Africa (KwaZulu Natal); Namibia (Etosha, Damaraland)

Q.Where can we have an adventure? 
A.Take your pick: Zimbabwe (walk in Mana Pools, canoe the Zambezi, track rhino on foot in Matusadona); Botswana (horse ride, canoe, camp) Uganda & Rwanda (trek to see gorillas and chimps); Tanzania (climb Kilimanjaro, dive the Indian Ocean); South Africa (cage dive with a Great White); Zambia (incredible walking safaris)

Q.What do you recommend for a classic safari and beach holiday?
 A.Tanzania is wonderful – combine a classic Northern Circuit with the Spice Islands of Zanzibar or Pemba. Or get off the beaten track, and head to the vast southern parks of Selous and Ruaha, followed by the mainland coast or rustic Mafia Island with its marine reserve.  Alternatively combine a safari in South Africa’s Kruger with the beaches of Mozambique, or safari in Zambia before chilling on the shores of  Lake Malawi. Got more time and a bigger budget? Try Botswana and Mauritius, or Kenya and the Seychelles.

Q.Where can we tick off the Big Five?
A.Kenya is your absolute best bet. We even have a sample holiday called The Big Five! Don’t forget the Big Seven – head to South Africa for that!

Q.We want to see leopard – where do you recommend?
 A.Our top picks would be Zambia (the South Luangwa offers night drives, ideal for catching up with these nocturnal beauties); South Africa (Greater Kruger – Sabi Sands area); Botswana (a private concession in the Okavango)
Q.What’s the best time to go?
A.Sub-saharan Africa covers a vast area so it depends where you are going and what you would like to see! As a very general rule the peak months for Botswana, Zimbabwe , Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa’s Greater Kruger  are May to October. For East Africa the peak months for safari and beach are December to February and  June to October while the weather in Ethiopia and South Africa’s Cape would be best November to March. The peak months for gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda tend to be between June and September, the long dry season.

By Sara White.

 

Top 10 Wild Gifts for Christmas

There’re  just 10 days to go till Christmas Day. Are you stuck for gift ideas? Here’s our Top 10 Wild Christmas gifts for that ‘hard to buy for’ person in your life.

1.Spend time with the relations – Gorilla trekking permit, from US $600 (Uganda) to US $750 (Rwanda)

  • Find out more about gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda here.
  • See sample gorilla trekking safari holidays here.
  • Read Lily’s account of gorilla trekking here.

2.Mistletoe moment – fall in love with Africa and give a subscription to Travel Africa, the world’s only magazine dedicated to exploring Africa, from £15. Check out their subscription offers here.

3.Cloud Nine Experience – take to the skies at sunrise with a hot air balloon safari, complete with champagne breakfast from £325  (available in the Masai Mara, Serengeti and Tarangire)

  • Read about Robert’s experience in Tarangire here.
  • Find out more about hot air balloon safaris and other unforgettable safari experiences here.

4.Christmas Cracker – traditional cool, colourful cotton Kenyan Kikoys (try saving that after a few sherries) from £25. We love these ones from Blue Summer.

5.Flight of Angels – fly high over Victoria Falls, from £100 – £180 per person. A fabulous way to take in the full drama of this natural spectacle.

  • See a video of the Flight of Angels here.
  • There are many excursions from Victoria Falls – you can get some ideas here.
  • See sample safari itineraries in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

6.Trumpet Fanfare – adopt an elephant, from US $50 per year. Enjoy monthly emails updating you on your elephant with pictures and videos.

  • Find out more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust fostering programme here.
  • Read about Kithaka and Arruba, the elephants fostered by the Real Africa Trust here.

7.Give a Great White Christmas – adventurous cage diving in South Africa from £120 per person. It  might not be the most obvious thing to give your loved one, but cage diving with  a Great White in South Africa’s glorious Cape is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Cage diving can be easily added to any tailormade safari in the Cape. Find out more about our safaris and holidays in South Africa here.
8.A Night with the Stars – sleep out under the great African night sky from US $625 per person per night. Romantic, wonderful, unforgettable – this is a real Christmas cracker. There are many lodges offering a star bed experience including Loisaba and Serian in Kenya, Little Kulala in Namibia, Tswalu in South Africa, Baines and Jao Camp in Botswana. We love Nkwichi on Lake Malawi and the Dove’s Nest at The Hide in Hwange. 

Read our blog about the best star beds in Africa here.

9.Jumbo Bells – Real Africa silver elephant pendant, from £140 each. These beautiful hand-finished eles, as worn by Saba Douglas-Hamilton, are made by jeweller, Penny Price and were specially commissioned by Real Africa for our 15th anniversary. 30% from each and every one (all the profit) is donated to conservation charity Save the Elephants.

To find out more or to order online please click here. Please note: due to overwhelming demand we are now looking at New Year deliveries!

10. Gold, Frankincence, Myrrh …and travel show tickets of course – let Brian Jackman, Monty Halls and other travel experts inspire you in the travel theatres and spend your day consulting the specialists about your future travels plans. Compliments of Real Africa.

Request your complimentary tickets to the new Telegraph Travel Show or Destinations Manchester or London here.