There are so many safari options, it can be tricky working out what’s best for you. Here we look at the joy of private conservancies and how they differ from a national park/reserve experience.
Private Conservancies vs National Park Private conservancies are privately owned and run conservancies or reserves which tend to be located just outside the main national park or reserve. To maintain migration corridors national parks (like Kruger in South Africa or the Masai Mara in Kenya) are unfenced wilderness areas allowing for the free movement of wildlife.
National parks are managed by local councils and government bodies who are responsible for monitoring wildlife, anti-poaching, security and maintaining roads and facilities. Lodges are usually quite large to accommodate demand and visitor numbers are not usually limited. In peak seasons there can be a high density of vehicles. There are strict rules in the national parks – drivers must keep to designated trails and safaris can only be enjoyed between sunrise and sunset.
Private conservancies in contrast, work in partnership with the local community landowners. Because they are owned and managed privately, visitor numbers are strictly controlled. In Mara North in the Masai Mara for instance there is one guest on average to every 350 acres. Camps and lodges tend to be small so guests see very few other vehicles compared to the national park.
There are significant benefits of the private conservancy model for both the visitor and the local community:
Environment Private conservancies protect important ecosystems, for example the Greater Mara Eco-System in Kenya and the Okavango in Botswana. They help to stop the degradation of these eco-systems, conserving wildlife and bio-diversity and allowing the habitat to recover.
Community Local people are able to earn an income from eco tourism and wildlife conservation. In Kenya, Maasai landowners are able to benefit directly from working in partnership with camps and lodges, being paid a ‘bed night’ fee for every guest staying. In South Africa’s Greater Kruger the conservancies operate in the same way – collaborating with the local communities.
Eco-tourism Private conservancies champion low density responsible travel. In a nutshell this is the best way to safari without the crowds.
The exclusive private conservancy safari experience
Private conservancies are often accessed by light aircraft flight, served by their own airstrip. Flying-in helps to maximise your holiday time and gives you a wonderful bird’s eye view in the process.
Guests can enjoy a wide range of activities. These include 4×4 safari, night drives, walking, bush dining and sundowners on the plains. You don’t have to be back in camp by sundown so you can enjoy the conservancy to the full – stopping for a gin and tonic at sunset or heading out on a night drive with flashlights after supper.
Private conservancies offer a quality, low density experience. Instead of large lodges you can stay in small tented camps/lodges. You’ll see fewer vehicles and enjoy better quality game viewing.
You can get closer to the action. It’s good safari etiquette for guides to stick to trails to prevent grass erosion, however in private conservancies should you come across something exciting, like these gorgeous lion cubs, you can go off road to observe more closely – something you are prohibited to do in a national park.
You can safari in the knowledge that your stay will be benefiting the local community and contributing to wildlife conservation.
Focus on Mara North, Kenya
The Mara North Conservancy offers 64,000 acres of prime wilderness situated immediately to the north-east of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and works in partnership with local Maasai landowners. In MNC, there are eleven member camps. Each is represented by a land management committee. The committee meets monthly with the Maasai Landowners Committee representing over 800 Maasai landowners, who have opted to lease their land for conservation. The MNC is one of the largest community and private sector owned conservancies in the world and this is the first time many Maasai have been able to receive a direct income from wildlife.
Crucially, all the camps in the private conservancies promote low density tourism. This ensures an exclusive safari experience and minimal impact to the environment and its wildlife. This is the same across Eastern and Southern Africa.
Take your pick from Olare Motorogi and Mara North to name just two of many fantastic conservancies in the Masai Mara, Chyulu Hills on the edge of Tsavo and Amboseli or undiscovered Kalama or Sera north of Samburu. Kenya has many wonderful conservancies to choose from.
Tanzania also offers wonderful private conservancies including five star Singita. Further south you can enjoy legendary Selinda or Linyanti in Botswana’s Okavango among many other excellent choices, Linkwasha in Zimbabwe’s Hwange, Ongava in Namibia, or Sabi Sands and Timbavati in South Africa’s Kruger. Private conservancies offer guests the chance to get off the beaten track, for example Tswalu Kalahari also in South Africa, or Namunyak in the Mathews Range of northern Kenya.
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.
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.
Most people who go on safari bring a camera to photograph the animals. Many also bring video camera or use their mobile phones to record some of the amazing things they witness. Its a great way of letting others back home share the excitement. Real Africa has its own popular You Tube channel – Real Africa’s Video Channel , with nearly half a million views.
Here are some of our favourite clips.
1. The Battle of Kruger.
Perhaps the most famous clip of them all, viewed over 75 million times. In it, a baby buffalo is caught by lions who then have to fight a crocodile off before the buffalo herd regroups and returns. Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending for the buffalo…
2. Impala finds novel way to escape a cheetah.
When a cheetah gets this close, its normally bad news for the impala. Not this time as the impala finds a clever place to hide. Watch out for the bit at the end when they let it out.
3. Baboon gets into a car.
I love this one. The people are so confident, banging on the windows and trying to get the baboons attention. Shame they hadn’t locked the doors.
4. Meerkats climb on cameraman.
I know, hardly cutting edge photography but admit it, those meerkats are cute.
5. Leopard drops in on a kill.
On safari everybody wants to see a kill. This is the only one I’ve ever seen where the chase is vertical. The gazelle didn’t know what hit it.
6. The Predators don’t always win.
This leopard thought it would have a baby warthog for breakfast but the warthog dad had different ideas.
7. Catching it doesn’t mean you’ve won.
This leopard has caught an impala but is chased away by baboons. (Baboons and leopards really don’t like each other). Amazingly, the seemingly dead impala recovers and escapes.
8. Elephant pedicure.
Animal behaviour can be strange. This elephant has just finished grazing in the marshes of Amboseli in Kenya, wading up to its knees in muddy water. It then wanted to get the silt out from between its toes and used a clever way to do so.
9. Learn new things.
Do you know what noise a cheetah makes? You’ll be surprised..
10. Any camera, anybody.
You don’t need to be a BBC Wildlife cameraman armed with a state-of-the-art camera to film something amazing. This clip was filmed by an 8 year old on her mobile phone. What a sight.
Keep an eye on our channel for more amazing videos, as well as guides to safari, the countries, National Parks and animals of Africa.
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
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!
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!