What a whirlwind life has been with COVID-19. We hope and pray you are all keeping safe and sane and finding beauty in everyday life more than ever before. We have never craved Africa’s adventure more than this moment because it’s a continent so mysterious, magical and full of surprises.
More and more we have had guests, friends and family asking us ‘what’s your favourite safari property?’ It’s a tough question to answer as there’s certainly more than one on the list for each of us. It all depends on the stage of our lives, who we were travelling with and what meaning and personal reward we sought from the experience.
Please enjoy this selection of properties we’re placing under the safari spotlight.
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Old Mondoro in Zambia is off the grid and one of the best safari camps I’ve stayed at for its intimacy (only 4 tents so never more than 8 guests), its guiding (multi-award winning team) and diversity of safari activities.
In just three days (I recommend 4 night stay), I experienced the most mind-blowing boating safari, went tiger fishing, canoed up the Zambezi River, learnt about the little things in the bush on a wild walking safari and game drove into the heart of the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Old Mondoro is set in a grove of acacia trees on the banks of the Zambezi River. It’s sister camp is the renowned Chiawa Camp (also one of my favourites) and these owner run properties certainly pack an epic safari punch. The site is beautiful, overlooking a maze of hippo-inhabited islands and channels. Here, the park is characterised by vast flood plains and open acacia woodland making it ideal for walking and game viewing. Being on higher ground to the rest of the park, its bush is thicker and there’s an impressive inland lagoon or two!
Danica’s safari secrets – An elephant came to drink from my bathtub on day one while I was in it enjoying a cheeky glass of champagne! On day three elephants surrounded my room eating from the Marula tree so I could not easily get out in time for our departure. I radioed for help and my guide and vehicle came to the rescue. I had to use the escape hatch (climbing up a ladder) and slide down the roof into the vehicle on the other side. Now that’s a bushtale worth telling.
Image courtesy of Old Mondoro
Tintswalo is an inspirational company that we’ve been proud to work with for years. Its collection boasts six properties in South Africa, from the pebbled beach at the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, the famous Kruger region, to the lesser known Waterberg mountains and Welgevonden Game Reserve in Limpopo.
Guests from all over the world enjoy staying at Tintswalo properties because of the warm hospitality, dramatic views, impressive wilderness areas and of course the wildlife at the safari locations. Each property has its own personality, all are casually elegant. One of the most stunning features of each Tintswalo property that we have personally experienced is the feeling of welcome. You arrive as a guest and leave as a friend when you choose Tintswalo.
Image courtesy of Tintswalo
Odzala Discovery Camps
Dense, complex and remote, the 4 million square kilometre Congo Basin is perhaps the continent’s least explored wilderness. Congo Conservation Company has combined two pivotal areas in this magnificent sphere – the 13 000 km2 Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the north west of the Republic of the Congo, and the 7 500 km2 Sangha Trinational, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a collaborative protected area from the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon and Central African Republic. Within the Sangha Trinational is Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve.
Both Odzala and Sangha are part of the tropical rainforest ecosystem with rich fauna and flora, including the critically endangered western lowland gorilla, forest elephant, forest buffalo, and bongo to name but a few. Accommodations between Odzala Discovery Camps and Sangha Lodge differ, but the ethos remains the same – to protect and conserve the land and its inhabitants, making it commercially viable through low-impact tourism.
Image courtesy of Congo Conservation Company
Six Senses Zil Pasyon
One of the most fascinating hidden paradises has to be the multi-island nation of Seychelles sits in the Indian Ocean. There are 115 granitic and coralline islands. It’s home to the heaviest land tortoise in the world, the smallest frog and has the only flightless bird in the region. Almost 50% of the islands are national parks and reserves.
It’s no surprise that one struggles to succinctly sum up its beauty because wherever you look seems picture-perfect. From groves of swaying palms, long stretches of deserted beaches to the azure and shimmering warm water that laps on island shores.
While Mahe is the largest island, we like to escape to outer islands with less crowds for that castaway escape. Six Senses Zil Pasyon is an all-villa (32 villas) beachside paradise sitting on private island Félicité.
The setting is gasp-worthy with soaring rocky outcrops, swaying palms and white sandy beaches. It’s eco-conscious chic, another motivating factor for us. You can dip into your private pool, snorkel in the island’s crystal-clear waters and have your shoulder knots worked loose in the beach side spa. By night, sip from a jar of house-made rum and watch as the sun melts into colours across the horizon.
This place is for romance and relaxation. Children are welcome but it may not suit those with mobility issues because the terrain includes many sets of stairs.
Image courtesy of Six Senses Zil Pasyon
Cottar’s Safaris is run by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa, spanning five generations. The family are in the service of making lifelong memories for guests and providing the perfect blend of adventure, adrenaline and comfort. Cottar’s has the highest number of Gold (the highest professional level) safari guides within one camp in Kenya – each one chosen for their unique skill set, experience and personalities!
Family tents allow you and the kids the unique opportunity to sleep under canvas. If you’re a larger family, the Bush Villa accommodates ten people and even has its own 25 metre swimming pool for fun. This is authentic safari and of course luxurious. Of course we must mention the wilderness you’re immersed in and its abundant wildlife. You are in Kenya’s famous Masai Mara where big cats roam. Here you can engage in the original spirit and essence of ‘safari’.
Cottar’s offers a diversity of experiences from day and night game drives, guided bush walks, cultural visits to local Maasai villages, waterfall swimming and fishing (seasonal), a Maasai Warrior School, running with a Maasai Warrior, Canvas Bush Bath and even hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara.
Cottar’s is one of only ten accredited Global Ecosphere Retreats in the world. That means it influences a natural area of significant global conservation value, and, demonstrates their ability and commitment to achieve sustainability through the 4Cs (conservation, community, culture and commerce). The camp is also rated Gold by the Ecotourism Society of Kenya and has won a Green Globe Award from the World Travel Market.
Image courtesy of Cottar’s Safaris
Footsteps Across the Delta
On a Footsteps Across The Delta safari you enter one of the great, untamed regions of Africa: the spectacular Okavango Delta.
Experience the astonishing contrasts created when the mighty Okavango River flows into the arid Kalahari Desert – the result is a variety of habitats, riverine forest, palm islands, permanent swamps and dry sandveld all with an unparalleled wealth of animal diversity. This safari maintains the elegance and eccentricity of the original ‘under canvas African safari’. The emphasis is on exploring this breathtakingly beautiful and diverse environment as the first African explorers did, either on foot or by Mokoro (dependant on water levels).
The accommodation is secondary to the activities – but your comfort is certainly not compromised. You’ll stay in Meru style tents set up with twin beds, snug rugs, and colonial style furnishings.
Footsteps Camp can be booked on an exclusive-use basis for adults – and you enjoy walking, game drives, mokoro excursions and fishing. Families can also book it out for the “Young Explorers” program that offers three nights in the bush with game drives, bow and arrow making classes, lessons on identifying animal tracks, learning how to cook in the bush and more! It’s for children 7 and upwards.
Image courtesy of Footsteps Across the Delta
Bisate is located in the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes rearing up through Afro-alpine forests. Encountering one of the gorilla groups in the nearby Volcanoes National Park is a unique experience.
Six opulent en-suite forest villas maximise comfort and views while adhering to environmentally responsible principles and reflecting the rich culture of rural Rwanda.
Bisate is within easy driving distance of the Park Headquarters, from where gorilla treks depart daily. Walks on Bisate’s property offer birding and participation in the reforestation programme. Bisate was Rwanda’s first genuinely luxurious and eco-sensitive safari lodge, centred on Africa’s most immersive wild primate experience.