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

Our Top Ten Island Getaways in Africa and the Indian Ocean (Part 2)

Brrr, this hasn’t been a warm summer so far has it? Are you dreaming of some proper sunshine and some beautiful far off beach where the water is the temperature of a warm bath and the sky is always a perfect blue? Well forget the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, Africa has some truly gorgeous island getaways just right for escaping our typically British wet summer or at any time of the year.  Way back in January we covered the first five of our top ten island getaways and now it’s time to reveal the next five.

Some are tiny with just a handful of rustic hideaways whilst others are much larger and more established with lots of luxury hotels, fantastic water-sports and world class restaurants.  All of them have sublime scenery; some have dramatic rocky coves whilst others have dreamy beaches with white sand and turquoise waters. Here are the next 5 in our favourite top 10 as voted by the Real Africa team.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

Zanzibar is still commonly known as the Spice Island (although its official name is Unguja or Zanzibar Island). It is the largest and most populated island of the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, off the coast of Tanzania. The African island has been for centuries an important trading centre, a melting pot of African, Indian and Arab influences. Zanzibar’s major attraction is Stone Town, with its whitewashed colonial houses, charming shops, bazaars, mosques, shady squares and intriguing courtyards. Stone Town is a very atmospheric, exotic, exciting and historical town where you can catch glimpses the sea and boats plying their trade in and out of the bustling port. Many buildings are crumbling away and there are tiny alleyways to wander down, bustling markets and the smell of spices fill the air. Another big attraction are the beautiful white sandy beaches lapped by the turquoise sea. The coast of Zanzibar is truly spectacular and all the beaches are stunning from rocky coves to huge stretches of perfect palm backed soft white sand. There are a wide range of hotels here with small boutique five star options such as the fabulous Baraza Resort to larger more family friendly options. There are places to choose for their seclusion and tranquillity and places to go for fabulous food and nightlife. Many of the larger resorts offer great water-sports facilities and fabulous excursions such as dhow cruises and dolphin safaris.

The  Seychelles

The Seychelles are being included as a group of islands, mainly for the reason that I cannot pick one over the other! There are several islands where we offer a fabulous beach getaway; from the larger Mahe and Praslin to the smaller private islands of Bird Island and Denis Island.  Once a hideaway for pirates and Arab merchants the islands now a popular tourist destination with many different hotels and resorts. Its white sandy beaches  are among the most beautiful in the world and you may well have seen these iconic beaches in photographs before. The palm trees, soft white sand, huge granite boulders and turquoise waters are truly perfect. The Seychelles also have substantial expanses of tropical forests with birds such as the endemic Seychelles Bulbul. You can chose from quiet little boutique hotels perfect for a honeymoon to large family friendly resorts with fantastic water-sports across the Seychelles and all the islands have something different to offer. The snorkelling and scuba diving is wonderful with coral reefs providing a home to a huge range of marine life. We like Praslin for its pretty scenery and its glorious beaches but all the islands are fabulous. If you are looking for luxury, romance, style and the most incredible white sandy beaches on a private island – then Denis Island is the place for you! We also offer hotels on La Digue, Mahe, and Bird Island.

Funzi Island, Kenya

Funzi Island is a tiny island off the coast of Kenya sitting in the middle of the gloriously warm and crystal clear Indian Ocean. It is easy to reach being only 15 minutes by air from Mombasa. This is the place to come for a true Robinson Crusoe style getaway. Although this is barefoot luxury not basic! If you want to stay on Funzi Island you will stay at the lovely Funzi Keys which nestles peacefully in the private white sands of its own peninsula. Designed to blend unobtrusively with its idyllic beachfront setting and to reflect the influence of the local culture and coastal architecture, the accommodation consists of nine spacious sea front cottages set along the high-water line and eight sea view cottages, all constructed of stone and thatch with large netted windows open to the balmy sea breezes. Surrounded by water and superbly located on a west-facing beach with glorious views of the African sunset, this remote and exclusive hideaway is the perfect place to escape from the outside world in style.

Nankoma Island, Marelli Islands, Lake Malawi, Malawi

Nankoma Island is one of many different islands on Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is like a beautiful inland sea due to its enormous size. The waters are crystal clear and warm and perfect for swimming in. You will find many different white sandy beaches around the lake and islands as well as rocky coves, laid back beach bars, expensive boutique hotels, tiny rustic lodges and bustling towns.  There is something for everyone here and it works perfectly as a beach extension at the end of a safari in Malawi. Tucked away on Nankoma Island, a part of the Marelli Island archipelago, is the Blue Zebra Island Lodge. The lodge is a simple, eco-friendly place with rustic safari chalets which are great for those who want to make the most of the location for water sports and scuba diving and who are looking for a laidback informal type of holiday. For those who don’t want a safari tent you can also book a larger more private wooden style chalets called the Kingfisher, the Cormorant and the Fish Eagle. It is also a great place for families.

Mauritius

Mauritius is a huge island and country in its own right. It is a beautiful, lush green island that offers the visitor lots to see and do. There are national parks to visit, mountains to climb, waterfalls to gawp at, hiking trails to explore and bustling markets to shop in. The scenery and wildlife of Mauritius are wonderful and this is a great family destination. Port Louis is the beautiful and atmospheric French Creole capital with lots of French colonial architecture but also many foreign influences as befits its place in the Indian Ocean between Africa and Orient. There are lots of wonderful restaurants, shops and galleries across the island so you will never be bored.

But of course, Mauritius is most famous for its wonderful coastline and amazing beaches. White sandy beaches backed by palm trees and the soaring volcanic peaks. And the water is crystal clear and warm with wonderful coral reefs and abundant marine life meaning this is a fantastic place for snorkelling and scuba diving. If you are looking for somewhere lively then you should head north to Grand Baie, where you’ll find a lively restaurant and bar scene. If you love water-sports and windsurfing and kitesurfing then the north is the best part of the island for you. The east coast is best for beach lovers and the south-west corner is a family favourite with calmer waters and some excellent diving and dolphin-spotting too. We offer the Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius, a wonderful luxury beach resort on the East Coast. Set in beautiful tropical gardens of almost 20 acres and 158 acres for the golf course, the hotel is surrounded by lush greenery making for a tranquil retreat. The beach itself is protected by an offshore coral reef making it ideal for swimming and water sports.

So now you can dream all about tropical islands in Africa and the Indian Ocean. You can find out much more on our lodge library at the top of the home page where you can find all our beach retreats or follow the link here. Or you could give us a call and let us know just what kind of place you are dreaming of and we can fix you up!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

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

Marine Safaris in Tanzania and Mozambique

We are famous for our safaris but did you know that you can also enjoy a marine safari off the coast of East Africa? We have several wonderful places where you can explore the incredible range of marine wildlife whilst swimming in the crystal-clear, bath-warm waters of the Indian Ocean.

Fundu Lagoon, Pemba, Tanzania

This small and intimate award winning eco-resort is set on the tiny and unspoilt island of Pemba off the coast of the larger island of Zanzibar. This resort has won many awards for its barefoot luxury accommodation and this year it won the Best Marine Safari Experience in Africa for 2015. The resort and its partner diving operation , Dive 71, focus hard on preserving the unique marine ecology in the area whilst offering a 5 star PADI diving experience. You can do everything from snorkelling up to specialist week long diving qualifications.

The area’s main attraction are the warm, clear waters with visibility between 20-40 metres and temperatures around 25-28 degrees. There are miles of pristine coral reefs which hosts a vast array of fish and other sea creatures. The shallow reefs combine with huge drop offs which make for exciting diving and also a spectacular range of sea creatures. This area has currents so all diving is drift diving.

The area has a wide range of marine life from hawksbill and green turtles to manta and eagle rays, from dolphins and barracuda to tiny reef fish. At certain times of the year you may see whales passing on their migration routes. This area  is one of the best diving locations in the world.

Click on the link to find out more about Fundu Lagoon.

Ibo Island Lodge, Quirimbas, Mozambique

Another award winning lodge that we are proud to offer is Ibo Island Lodge which won the Best Marine Safari Property at the Safari Awards this year. This stunning lodge on a tropical island off the coast of Mozambique is also an excellent place to see the incredible marine wildlife in this area.

You can go snorkelling if you are inexperienced but just want to catch a brief glimpse of the underwater life. You can head deeper to the coral reefs and dramatic drops for the more serious and experienced divers.  The PADI dive centre at Ibo offers a wide range of diving experiences and qualifications.

This area offers incredibly beautiful underwater landscapes with clear waters and excellent visibility and warm temperatures. There are gentle currents here so no worries of drift diving. The best diving around Ibo Lodge is at a place called the Light House. It’s a long coral reef that stretches across a square kilometre. This shallow reef contains large gardens of coral tables, soft corals, bucket corals, green tree corals and a drop off of 21m were you can see a good range of tropical fish.

Another site close to Ibo is Matemo where you can swim with dolphins and turtles and the many brightly coloured reef fish. Another exciting place to dive is the wreck of a 100 year old steamer just off a nearby sandbank. As this is shallow it is perfect for snorkelling and the water is so clear that visibility down to the wreck is excellent.

The Quirimbas Archipelago is a magical mix of rare and beautiful fish, pristine reefs, crystal clear waters and fantastic marine mammals. Whether you are an experience diver or a novice snorkeller you can see all kinds of marine life including dolphins and turtles, not to mention the hump backed whales which you can often see between July and September.

Ibo Island Lodge also offers the rare experience of swimming with wild dolphins in their natural environment. The dolphin experience lasts 2-3 hrs and includes an introduction to dolphins and their behaviour, a briefing on boat safety, marine life and responsible interactions with the dolphins. The dive centre uses the regulated Swim Code of Conduct, created to ensure a sustainable eco-friendly approach. They wait for the dolphins to approach and never try to swim after them.  Dive Quirimbas  is an Ethical Marine Mammal Campaigner in Mozambique who supports the dolphin care code of conduct.

Click on the link to find out more about Ibo Island Lodge

Posted by Ruth Bolton

Wildly romantic honeymoons and romantic escapes

As we gallop towards Valentine’s Day we thought it a fitting time to focus on some romantic holiday ideas. Whether it’s a honeymoon you are deliberating or simply a romantic escape to celebrate a special milestone, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here at Real Africa.

Undeniably romantic, Africa offers starry skies, wonderful candle-lit camps and incredible barefoot beach retreats. Add to that a bounty of wildlife and culture and you have the perfect romantic escape.

Ultimate off -the-beaten-track romance – it has to be Botswana

The Okavango from the air

Many of the lodges and camps we use in Botswana are small varying from 4 tents (Zarafa) to a dozen or so in the Delta and even in Chobe National Park, our preferred lodge, Muchenje, is hidden away in the quiet Forest Reserve in the west, on an escarpment overlooking the Chobe River and far from the crowds associated with Kasane. There are only 11 chalets, all with private decks and wonderful views over Chobe.

Chobe is an excellent option if you want to experience the natural wonders of Botswana but are on a tighter budget. You can combine Victoria Falls with a side-trip to Botswana’s Chobe National Park for a safari, which can easily be accessed on tarred roads from The Falls. This makes a great week long itinerary, and a stay at The Falls is romantic in itself. Chobe is impressive – it has the densest concentration of wildlife in Africa and is famous for its huge herds of elephants. To see a sample itinerary click here.

Another way to experience Botswana on a budget is to travel out of the peak season which runs from April to October. There is a safari special called Five Rivers which we get every winter and is offered on our newsletter and website for travel Nov to March – it always fills up within a week or so. There are also a number of lodges owned and managed by the same company which can be combined to make a cost effective itineraries  – these include Ker & Downey, Kwando, Footsteps Across the Delta and Desert & Delta among others.


But if you really crave isolation,  then it has to be Duba Plains (pictured above) on the western side of the Okavango Delta,  reputed to be the very best place to observe lion, and said to be Botswana’s most remote camp amidst a 77,000 acre reserve. Before last year there was a very large pride and you could often see lion and buffalo going head to head.
The camp advise us that the lion pride has now splintered so although you have a good chance of seeing big cats the real joy at Duba Plains is being at a traditional rustic tented camp in a remote and very beautiful part of the Delta with guides that really know their stuff. That’s what you pay for.

Mombo Camp, and Little Mombo (possibly Botswana’s most expensive camp) sit on Mombo Island on the northern tip of Chiefs Island in the Delta. This offers the best all year round game viewing. There are only 9 tents at Mombo (plus another 3 at Little Mombo). You’ll see big herds of game as well as an excellent chance of observing big cats – there are 7 prides of lion in the area.

Honeymoon idea: embrace adventure and join the Selinda Canoe Trail, exploring remote waterways and fly-camping on deserted islands beneath the stars. Combines brilliantly with a couple of nights in a luxurious lodge in the Delta.

New horizons – Zimbabwe

Yes, Zimbabwe is back on the holiday map and feedback from our senior consultant Lily who was there last year is that it promises a sensational trip for those with the time and budget. The infrastructure and distances involved means that most areas are best accessed by light aircraft, and the camps are certainly pricey due to their remote nature, but having said that, some have already established a reputation for superb guiding and warm hospitality.  Mana Pools is considered a real gem in southern Africa. You can explore by 4×4, by boat on the Zambezi and also walking. Please do ask to speak to Lily if Zimbabwe is of interest. You can see some sample itineraries and lodges here.

Honeymoon idea: Looking for a once in a lifetime experience? Consider Singita Pamushana, part of our Ultimate Collection.

Zambia – camping – but not as you know it!

For those who want a pristine environment then staying at a mobile camp in Zambia’s South Luangwa is as close as you can get. The camps are taken down at the end of the dry season in October leaving very little impact on the environment and put up again in April/May time. Sightings of wildlife in and around camp are excellent and these mobile camps naturally have a different feel to them.

Camps can be combined in a safari circuit – each one is different in its outlook and construction so they combine really well. You can even enjoy bush walks between them.

We all have our favourites camps but tend to use Robin Pope and Norman Carr properties for most of our clients. You can find out more here.

Honeymoon idea: enjoy the thrill of a big game safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa and then crash out on the shores of beautiful Lake Malawi for lazy days in the sun. See our Valley & Lake itinerary here.

Other suggestions for getting off the beaten track in Africa…

Have you considered Mozambique? Ibo Island Dhow and Lodge Safari

Being partial to boats, being barefoot, water and islands the Ibo Island Dhow Safari is right up there on my wish list. If you like your holiday to have a balance of activity and downtime then this combination of dhow and lodge safari could be perfect for you.

Ibo Island lies in the incredibly beautiful Quirimbas Archipelago in Mozambique. The crystal clear waters lap sun-drenched white sand beaches.  Beautiful coral reefs teem with life from turtles and rays to spectacular reef fish such as parrotfish, groupers and batfish. Common, bottlenose and spinner dolphins can also be seen while humpback whale sightings are good between June and December. Turtle nesting generally occurs on beaches between October and February.

This 7 night module ex Pemba includes 4 nights island hopping and 3 nights at Ibo Island lodge itself. You island hop on a traditional Arab 12 metre dhow looked after by a Mozambican skipper, crew and chef. The dhow has been modernised and has an engine as well as sails giving lots of flexibility. You don’t sleep on board but camp ashore in some wonderful deserted spots.

Days are spent barefoot, exploring by kayak, swimming, snorkelling and sailing and by night you star gaze and cosy up by the camp fire to feast on freshly caught seafood prepared by the chef. The crayfish comes highly recommended! Ibo is one of 32 islands in the archipelago so there is no shortage of beautiful beaches and sand banks to explore.Camping ashore involves comfortable 2 person 3x3m walk-in dome tents with safari style stretcher bed with 2 in memory foam mattress and  insect screen. Mobile eco camp bathrooms are set up for you, with  traditional bucket showers and bush loo.

Ibo Island Lodge won the Best Marine Safari Property Award in the 2014 Safari Awards. The lodge itself, where you spend the final 3 nights, comprises three historic 150 year old mansions which have all been lovingly restored to their former glory. The luxury lodge sits in lush gardens with a pool. Each of the ensuite air-conditioned 14 rooms have been individually designed and enjoy wide airy verandahs to soak up the ocean views. The roof top restaurant is a wonderful place to enjoy a sundowner and watch the sun set. The island, which was an important trading post and which our senior consultant Lily has been lucky enough to explore is a real fairytale destination with a 200 year old historic town, 16th century fort,  crumbling ruins, wonderful architecture and small communities. The island’s interesting history as a result of being split between Portuguese and Omani-Arab rule for several centuries means there are many interesting forts and buildings amidst the fig trees and bourgainvillea to explore.

You can join scheduled departures with a maximum of 7-10 guests. There are also private departures (please ask) so as well as appealing to groups of friends and families, this is a great option for a honeymoon or romantic break. You can choose to lose yourself amidst a group or set sail exclusively.

You can see a day to day itinerary and find out more here.

Honeymoon idea: this 7 night dhow and lodge safari works brilliantly well when paired with South Africa since flights to Pemba naturally route via Johannesburg – depending on how much time you have, you could add  a 4×4 safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, staying in a beautiful tented camp like Honeyguide Mantobeni. The best time to safari in Kruger is during the dry winter months between May and November – and this is also the optimum time to be island hopping in Mozambique. There are many wonderful properties in Mozambique, some can be accessed more readily than others, for example Machangulo and White Pearl. Please do ask us for details.See a sample South Africa and Mozambique itinerary here.

Kenya – the quest to get off the beaten track!

Alex Walker’s Serian sits in the private Mara North Conservancy, bordering the famous Masai Mara National Park. For a stylish safari which embraces authentic Africa then Serian is a superb choice. Many of our clients combine Serian with either Borana on the Laikipia Plateau and/or Saruni Samburu further north – both fabulous and very much off the beaten track.  Our In Style sample itinerary combines Tortilis Camp in Amboseli with Borana in Lewa Downs and Serian in the Mara and can of course be adapted to suit you.

We also offer a week in the Mara for those who don’t want to move around too much and for whom the primary focus is wildlife.  You can combine Alex Walker’s  Ngare Serian camp with the Nkorombo mobile camp and a night in the ‘Nest’ – a treehouse overlooking the river – a fabulous safari combination. Serian also employs local Masai guides which enhances your experience with a cultural element. See a sample itinerary here.

Ngare Serian is a permanent camp set up on the Mara River with just six specious marquee  guest tents on hardwood decks. You access the lodge by a rope bridge.  The Nest suspended in an Elephant Pepper tree, is a treehouse over a salt lick on the Mara River, which you can walk to, guided by a Masai guide. The Masai keep watch from a distance while you enjoy fairytale privacy, game viewing, supper and a night under the stars. The treehouse is equipped with night vision camera, safari bathroom and a very comfortable nest for two. The Nkorombo mobile camp offers a different experience again, with just 5 traditional Meru style tents with ensuite facilities consisting of a bucket safari shower and flush loo. The salt lick harbours a variety of wildlife including black rhino, leopard and lion and gets you really close to the action.

Honeymoon idea: ask us about pre-booking a dawn hot air balloon flight over the Masai Mara, settling back down on the plains after an hour’s flight to a champagne bush breakfast.

There are more economical options in the private concessions bordering the Masai Mara. Karen Blixen Tented Camp sits on the banks of the river with 26 ensuite tents for example. You get all the benefits of being in a private concession but can keep costs down by staying at a slightly larger camp.

Very few visitors to Kenya get to explore the north – both Samburu and the Mathews Range  offer a fantastic experience and wonderful options for you. These areas offer a different more arid landscape, the Samburu people and their culture and a stay here combines perfectly with the big game of the Mara. Sarara Camp is our most northerly camp and really embodies off the beaten track.

Tanzania – Southern Parks and Islands

For a first time in Africa then Tanzania’s Northern Circuit is hard to beat, giving you that dense concentration of animals, diverse landscapes and a superb choice of camps and lodges.

But if you long to get off the beaten track and to see a quieter Africa then the Southern Parks of Selous and Ruaha can reap real rewards. We recommend you spend longer in each destination, 4 nights is a good amount of time in each park,  as the wildlife is certainly more challenging and unpredictable being spread out over a vast area. The best wildlife viewing is usually during the dry months of May to November time when wildlife concentrates around the water sources.

Ruaha is actually Tanzania’s largest national park. The mighty Ruaha River snakes along the southern border, with baobabs and floodplains fanning out from the river. You also have rolling hills. You fly into Ruaha from Dar es Salaam, a 3 hour flights, and then enjoy game drives from the camp/lodge you are staying at which can normally be accessed within an hour of the airstrip. This gives you an idea of the remote nature of the camps.

In Ruaha, if you really want to embrace the wild and remote nature of Ruaha, we recommend the small mobile tented camp, Kwihala by the Mwagusi Sand River. With just 6 tents Kwihala combines understated luxury in a very wild and beautiful environment. You have lots of comfort and a high level of service but its not flash or over the top. Tents have ensuite bathrooms with safari bucket showers (hot water!) and flush loo. Part of Asilia Camps, Kwihala gets incredible feedback with guiding at an exceptional level. You are unlikely to come across other safari vehicles and the area feels truly untamed. You can explore on foot, and enjoy game drives by day and night. This sort of rare environment does come at a price but you really do have a special experience.

If you prefer something more permanent and slightly less wild feeling, then the long established and more affordable Ruaha River Camp, run by the Fox family, would be our recommendation. It was the first camp in the park and gives you a very personal service even though perhaps looking slightly dated these days. There are 20+ individual stone and thatch riverside Bandas set over a hillside looking out over the Great Ruaha River and linked by two central mess areas. The bedroom and bathroom are really spacious. The Foxes’ children were raised here and so they are geared up for family stays. The location is really good with wildlife attracted to the river and it is not uncommon to find elephants strolling amidst the camp. Ruaha River Camp tends to be a more realistic option for many of our clients seeking the remote reaches of the southern parks but not wishing to completely blow the budget.

You can fly from Ruaha to the Selous, Tanzania’s other southern star. Selous Game Reserve is twice the size of the Serengeti with the Rufiji River at its heart and creating a network of swamps and channels. Virtually all of the lodges are in the northern tip of the reserve. We tend to use Rufiji River Camp, just inside the gate and again the original camp built by the Fox family, because of its superb location right on the river. You can explore by 4×4 here and by boat, a wonderful option. The camp is smaller than the one in Ruaha with just a dozen or so tents strung along the river bank with great views.

We also offer one of the newer lodges in the Selous, Azura Selous, formerly known as Amara Selous when it opened in 2010. There are only 8 tented rooms and the feel is smart and sophisticated. The location on the river is good although the camp is situated further west than the Rufiji Camp which is in the plum position for the densest wildlife. We know that Azura are keen to make Azura Selous a real beacon for expert guiding and hospitality and we look forward to seeing how they develop the camp. The manager is a keen photographer and knows where to go when!

See a sample southern Tanzania itinerary here.

Just as the Southern parks are less explored than the Northern parks, so is the southern coast and islands. Zanzibar attracts the vast majority of visitors attracted by the Spice Islands lush interior, atmospheric Stone Town with its magical architecture and markets. Very few people seem to make it to the quieter island of Pemba and Chumbe, both reached via Zanzibar but a very different prospec, or to the wondrous beaches and islands further south and accessible from Dar es Salaam.

Lazy Lagoon is a beach resort set on Bagamoyo island in the Zanzibar Channel around 80 km north from Dar . You reach the island by boat. It hit the headlines when Boris Johnson holidayed here and subsequently floated out into the Indian Ocean on his lilo! There are only 12 private beach bungalows or bandas with thatched roofs right on the beach with super ocean views – a great place to unwind.

While the alternative Mafia Island is accessed by a flight from Dar and is the Africa of old with sandy streets, overgrown ruins, few visitors and surrounded by a sensational marine reserve. We are fans of the laid back and rustic tree houses at Chole Mjini, or for more traditional comforts,  Pole Pole. Many people forget that you can enjoy white sand beaches lapped by the Indian Ocean at exceptionally good value by heading to the beaches south of Dar. This maximises holiday time by cutting out long journeys and makes great use of your budget. We love Protea Amani Beach and Ras Kutani.

Honeymoon idea: explore Pemba and enjoy the best of barefoot luxury with a stay at Fundu Lagoon. The small and laid back island of Pemba is Zanzibar’s sleepy and very beautiful neighbour.

South Africa Desert Dreaming – Tswalu Kalahari

South Africa offers a myriad romantic choices suitable for all levels of budget – from small guesthouses with individually styled rooms and lush gardens in the heart of the Cape winelands (we like Wedgeview and Akademie Street) to cool tented camps in Kruger, like Honeyguide Mantobeni.

There are places just perfect for romance, for that special occasion, like Grootbos on Walker Bay, or Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse in the Drakensberg Mountains with its sumptuous food. Very much off the beaten track in the midst of the Kalahari is Tswalu Kalahari, a very special safari lodge. Tswalu has it all – it has the dramatic landscape, it has the wildlife. Service is impeccable, food delicious and the 8 suites at The Motse are beautifully appointed with open fires, indoor and outdoor shower and private sundeck overlooking a watering hole.  It is so off the beaten track that many would struggle to pinpoint its positon on a map…

Honeymoon idea: combine the Kalahari with the Cape for a week of pure luxury. See sample itinerary here.

We want to be alone…

Africa’s most exclusive destinations

The number one question at travel shows from prospective clients looking at honeymoon options is: will it be busy? In answer, it depends very much on your budget and the season you wish to travel. Africa has plenty of places where you can escape the crowds; the most exclusive destinations being Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Here you can really relish space. Camps are small, with only half a dozen or so tents,  and are located in remote and vast wild areas which need to be accessed by a light aircraft more often than not.  The emphasis is on the quality of experience with guiding exceptional.

Avoid the crowds and travel in the Green Season

If you are happy to travel out of peak season you can look forward to a real treat. The rains in Africa are often referred to as the Green or Emerald Season and although you can expect thundery showers every afternoon (perfect siesta time…) you can also expect to see wonderful dramatic skies, nursery herds, with many of the animals having calves and pups at this time of year , and a lush landscape with flowers on the plains and trees in fruit. To get a flavour of the Green Season check out this new’s post on Zambia.

Seek out quiet corners

Even in the world-famous Masai Mara in Kenya, it is possible to find hidden gems – there are private concessions surrounding the main national park where visitor numbers are strictly monitored.  These concessions, which you fly-in to, have a handful of small secluded camps tucked away along a river’s edge or in a quiet grove, like Alex Walker’s Serian. In the Mara North Conservancy for example,  there is a ratio of just 1 guest to 350 acres allowing the camps here to offer a premium safari experience and a chance to escape the crowds associated with certain times of year in the main national park where larger lodges operate at maximum capacity.

We would urge you to be realistic in your expectations and to discuss your requirements fully with us so we can advise accordingly – if you are heading to East Africa to witness the Great Wildebeest Migration then do not expect to be alone!

Please note: all of the suggestions made here can be tailored to suit you and to make a complete itinerary including flights from the UK.

To find out more about any of the properties or holiday ideas here please call us on 01603 283 517.

Because many of the camps and lodges detailed are very small, the most important thing is to contact us as early as you can in order to avoid disappointment!

By Sara White