It’s red list announcement day today, and the Extraordinary Africa team are celebrating, as Kenya has finally been removed from the list! Needless to say, our sundowners are most definitely of the champagne variety! Safari is by its very nature a pretty socially distant sort of holiday as almost all of your time is outside -you can read here a trip report from John and Mags who travelled to Kenya with us in November.
So, if you are itching to get exploring, here’s our top recommendations for socially distant safaris in Kenya (several of them have some excellent last minute special offers too):
Walking on the wild side
In most of the camps we use the game drive vehicles are open to the elements to maximise your photography opportunities, but if you want to be totally in the open air, a walking safari is the way to go. These are beloved by safari aficionados as you experience total immersion in the bush and get a much more up-close, intense safari experience than you do from a vehicle. Standing nearby a big bull elephant is an excellent way to feel how small your place in the universe is!
Karisia Walking Safaris, run by Kerry and her husband James is easily amongst the best walking safari options in Kenya. You can walk out for a few days or weeks- with each day tailored to your interests and how energetic you are feeling. Our favourite thing to do is to use the walking safari as a transfer between two remote safari camps so you have a dose of luxury to start and finish your adventure.
Private safari houses
Kenya has always been the go-to choice for family friendly, owner-run safari lodges, and staying in a private safari house is really a natural extension of this. The whole schedule runs around you and your family, mealtimes are just for you, and if you want, you can choose to see no-one but your staff for the duration of your stay.
Some of Kenya’s safari camps are deliberately tiny, to really emphasise your sense of remoteness and escape from the outside world. So if you want privacy, but with the romance of canvas, this is the way to go. Saruni Wild for example has only 3 tents- gather your friends (or family, if you haven’t seen enough of them over the last few months) and get packing!
Take private driving transfers.
While numbers on light aircraft flights are still fairly low, chances are if you’re using them to access remote game reserves you’ll be sharing the plane with other passengers. So you can either choose to charter, or to take private transfers to your lodge or camp instead (there are a series of strict protocols our drivers use to make sure you are protected!) Some areas are just too remote to make this feasible, but Amboseli, Samburu and certain Laikipia properties can be reached in a fairly easy drive from Nairobi.
For example- the Safari Series (the newest, and most fun camp on the block in Laikipia) can be reached in under 4 hours from Nairobi, travelling mainly on tarmac roads. So you could be having sundowner drinks in Heathrow and brunch (or at the very latest, lunch) in the bush.
We can also arrange private drivers to help you reach the Masai Mara, though the roads here are a bit more of a mixed bag (we once saw a pothole big enough that it’d absorbed most of a mini-bus) so we’d pick the camps for you a bit more carefully!
If all else fails- there’s always a private flight!
Needless to say, our safari camps have some pretty serious anti-covid protocols in place- (some of the manuals we have run to multiple a4 pages of details!) Most of these are behind the scenes so you may not notice them, but you can expect things like being asked to wear masks on light aircraft flights, increased hand sanitising and separate dining when you’re staying in safari camps. Some camps may also take guest temperatures on arrival.
At the time of writing to fly to Kenya from the UK you will need to show a negative PCR test taken no more than 96 hours before travel. Children under 5 are exempt.
We’re packing our bags- want to get the ball rolling so you can pack yours?
John and Mags, two of our most experienced, and intrepid, safari-goers report back.
Our daylight flight with BA was very good, with only 70 passengers onboard. John had treated us to First Class and we had a wonderful experience.
We were a bit confused who would be meeting us… later the hotel bus turned up and the driver took us to the hotel, leaving all the BA Crew waiting as they were also staying at the hotel too ! So it all turned out fine. We had a lovely spacious, well equipped room and slept very well. (Editor’s note- this was the airport Crowne Plaza–we use it a lot for an overnight crash-out).
The next day, following an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we were met by Emmanuel, our Asilia driver/guide… Emmanuel proved to be an excellent and considerate driver, and we liked him very much for the duration of our first few days. We had opted to drive from Nairobi down to Amboseli, avoiding the inevitable gridlock of traffic crossing to Wilson Airport, and also to avoid mixing with too many other people which we thought was a great choice.
Tortillis Camp is set in a lovely location, with the main area, deck and dining area and bar set on the ridge, with views out to Mt Kilimanjaro (weather permitting – which it rarely did for us, but that’s down to luck and time of year). The highlight of Amboseli was undoubtedly the prolific game, which we had hoped for but not expected. The huge herds of elephants, including the huge Matriarchs and Bulls with their enormous tuskers were a sight to behold.
And without exception, all the animals had young at this time of year (Editor’s note- late November), which was a bonus, and a real treat. We were surprised just how many areas of water there were. Apart from the actual lake, the rainwater from Kili and the recent rainfall had created large swamp areas, which was a haven for thousands of birds and hundreds of animals. In particular we were surprised how many thousands of flamingos there were, and apparently all the ones at Lake Nakuru and Naivasha have left that area which is now badly flooded, and they were all down at Amboseli. A wonderful sight : clouds of pink.
We also very much liked the Asilia Touring style safari vehicle, and its layout, which suited us well. It was very comfortable and spacious, yet still provided excellent game viewing from the 360 degree top opening.
Our private transfer from Tortillis up to Lewa with TropicAir went very smoothly. We had a Caravan to ourselves, piloted by Ian. We arrived early at the airstrip, and the plane arrived just as we did, so we left soon after and arrived early up in Lewa, a short flight of I hour 10 minutes.
We were met by David, our driver/guide whom we both liked immediately. He wore his red Masai clothing with pride every day. His English was excellent, as were in fact all of our guides, and all were easy to understand. We LOVED our time in Lewa House and were very glad we had chosen to spent 5 nights there : thank you for the suggestion ! We loved the terrain and the variety of game. On the way from the airstrip to the House, we passed 5 rhinos wallowing by the road, with others in the near distance too. Lewa House is a beautifully appointed family home, owned by Calum and Sophie MacFarlane. Calum came to Kenya 10 years ago, but Sophie comes from Lewa and the original ranching family. They were the perfect hosts.
We had a GORGEOUS room, Room 1/Waterhole (overlooking the waterhole) which was conveniently very near the house. We had both an indoor and outdoor bathroom and a lovely private patio. We ate breakfast on the lawn, usually with the children (11 and 8) and their adorable puppy ; lunch was by the pool ; aperitifs by the log fire in the spacious lounge and dinner (set menu) usually in the adjoining dining room, at one huge table which seated 10 socially distanced. And Calum and Sophie ate with us and were excellent company.
On our Anniversary a table had been laid for us in a separate entertainment area with lights and lit Chiminea in the walls making it warm and cozy with our own waiter John who showed us proudly his “oven” to keep the food warm. We were led by torchlight down a path with lantern lights and it felt like we had gone a long way from the lodge, but the reality was we had not gone very far as we realised after the meal !
2 ponies and Jersey cows also graze contentedly on the lawn and the waterhole attracted Somali Ostrich and other game whilst there were lots of birds helping us to breakfast too ! Perfect ! I should also mention that they have a super gift shop where I bought a LOT of things ! (retail therapy fix). You can see Mt Kenya from the house and all the rooms will have had wonderful views. Wifi was only available up at the main house, not in the rooms.
The game was outstanding. We were literally tripping over rhinos (both white and black) at every turn, often close and often in small groups. Grevy zebra were plentiful too and this is one of their last strongholds. David was also an excellent driver. About the only thing we did not like particularly was the vehicle we used, which was a more traditional (and less comfortable) old Toyota Landcruiser with open top and sides, but no opening doors. Which meant you had to haul yourself up and over the sides to get in (which we managed, but as we get older, will find increasingly tricky ). It also means you cannot stand to see game.
I did go for a ride at nearby Lewa Wilderness Camp (about 20 mins away) for an hour with Miranda, a super English girl. They have 45 horses. Bizarrely though, they only cater for guests 12 stone or under (Editor’s note- apparently it’s down to the horses they have and the weight they are able to bear). But I had a wonderful hack, riding right close to eland, waterbuck and zebra. I would highly recommend this.
We were very sad to leave Lewa, and said we would love to return. With your help we chartered an Air Kenya Caravan (2 pilots) to take us to the Masai Mara to Rekero Camp, which took 1 hour 10 mins, and we saw some wonderful scenery along the way – once again just the two of us!
At the Mara, we were met by Francis, who we also liked immediately. He was a very experienced driver (which was essential when we encountered rivers he had to ford, and deeply rutted muddy roads). He was great fun too and we got on very well indeed. It was only a short 20 minute transfer to the camp, which is set on the banks of the Talek River, and has stunning views from the main deck. The staff were extremely welcoming and friendly at all times.
In the evenings, there was a campfire and they also had a small private dining area, which was delightful. We did notice some mozzies and tetsies here. The food at Rekero was excellent, thanks to Clapperton the chef and his assistant Wilson. The waitstaff were very attentive and friendly too .
We had visited the Masai Mara many many times over the past 40 years and never have I seen it so deserted, with so few tourists. Which was excellent from our point of view, as sightings were undisturbed by dozens of vehicles all crowding around a single animal, which we hate (Editor’s note: us too!). Many, if not most, of the wildlife had young which is a big draw for us travelling in November, and although we did have rain it usually came at night and only stopped us going out one afternoon. And we were astonished at the profusion of game and birdlife too and put this down partly to the location of the camp but also the lack of disturbance by other vehicles. We were extremely lucky to see cheetah with very young cubs, leopard, a lion pride also with playful cubs, to name but a few.
We took the 1615 scheduled Safarilink from the Mara back to Wilson Airport in Nairobi, (which was very late and had 10 of the seats occupied Which of course we thought of as strange !) where we were promptly met by Asilia guide Rufus, who then took 1 hr 45 mins to get across the city to the International Airport. Even he thought this was not great, but there was nothing much he could do as the traffic was completely gridlocked. We had a good supper at the Crowne Plaza hotel before our flight back to London at Midnight.
I took 7600 photos over the 14 days, which says it all. We both feel it was without doubt one of the best safari’s we have ever been on. The combination and order of the camps we stayed at worked perfectly, with differing terrain and vegetation and a huge variety of game and birdlife.
We have come home feeling wonderfully refreshed and bringing back many very special memories.
Richard first rang us on Thursday morning. 24hrs later he was on a plane to a safari in Kenya. So, if coronavirus means you can’t commit too far in advance, or you suddenly realise you need to use your airmiles, a last minute safari is very much a possibility.
How to make a last minute safari happen?
Give us as much information as you can about the essentials. If you’re dying to stay in a tented camp, have to do a sleepout, hate crowds, or have to be back at work on Monday, tell us. We’ll throw all of our resources at finding something unforgettable, and the more detail we know about what you want, the quicker we can find something amazing for you and get you onto your flight.
After the essentials are taken care of, be as flexible as you can. We know the lodges and camps that have instant availability, or last minute discounts, and the people we can rely on to come through for you at 24 hours notice. If you’re flexible, we can often find you a better trip more quickly.
Embrace the slow safari. We are huge advocates of taking time to properly immerse yourself in a safari camp. If you want a guide to show you his top secret spots, or surprise you with a magical sundowner, or take you to see a much coveted wild dog den, then you need to get to know him. And this means a longer stay in a safari camp. Not only does this get you a much better safari, it dovetails beautifully with the practicalities of a last minute safari- you’re much more likely to find space at one camp for 4 or 5 nights, than try to find 5 nights at individual camps that fit together.
If it’s peak season, be prepared to throw money at the problem. While last minute discounts do occasionally exist, particularly in shoulder or off-peak seasons, in general, the really charming good value spots are the ones that get booked up first. So late in the day, it’s often the spectacular, but slightly more expensive lodges and camps we can find space at. The downside is obvious, the upside? Well, we can be pretty sure you’ll make memories to last a lifetime.
Take care of the medical side. Aside from malaria-freesafaris in South Africa, most safari destinations are considered to be malarial. Most malaria tablets need to be taken at least a day before you arrive in a malarial area. Certain countries (or combinations of countries) require yellow fever certificates, so if you don’t have one let us know. It’ll probably mean countries like Uganda are ruled out, but there are plenty of other amazing places we can find for you.
Lastly, if you have any questions about packing at the last minute- call our office. With many years of safari experience under our belts, we can tell you what you really, really need and what’s just nice to have. If we’re honest, a sense of humour, a soft-sided bag, and an appreciation of a good sunset will do most of the job.
This makes it much easier for travellers to get insurance and should (in theory) mean that UK travellers would not need to quarantine on return. However, the currently available flight routings mean that quarantine would still be required for Namibia, though we hope this will change shortly. The full detail is on our table below.
There is further good news on the quarantine front! The new UK Test to Release scheme means that a rather arduous 14 day quarantine can be reduced to 5 days from leaving a country not on the travel corridor list. So if you were to say leave Kenya on a Thursday morning, you could spend a long weekend at home sorting photos and making friends and family jealous, then take a test on the Tuesday morning. Provided results come back negative, your self-isolation is at an end!
Even better news in our eyes is that if you spend 5 days in a country on the travel corridor list on the way home there’s no need to quarantine at all. So if you say, ended a safari in Kenya or South Africa with 5 days in the Seychelles, there would be no need to quarantine when you get back to the UK.
Where to go now:
At the moment, we think the best way to travel with the least uncertainty is to book relatively at the last minute, hopefully avoiding any sudden changes of national policy.
We’d recommend Kenya and Tanzania for phenomenal safari – as a reminder, Tanzania does not require a PCR test, and includes Zanzibar for anyone looking for winter sun. Rwanda and Uganda would be wonderful for gorilla trekking. While Uganda remains on the FCO advisory list, gorilla permits are reduced to $400 pp till March for anyone who chooses to travel. Namibia is a great choice for anyone looking for a rather glorious road trip around one of Africa’s most beautiful countries. Lastly, if you are someone who has always wanted to visit Botswana and are put off by the cost, this is absolutely the time to go- there are some astonishing discounts (like this one) on offer until March.
Once every so often, absolutely ridiculous special offers come across our desks, and this is one. You may well know that the Okavango Delta has the reputation as one of the best places in the world for safari. What you may not know is that within the Okavango Delta, some of the very best game viewing is found on Chief’s Island.
If you wish to do safari on Chief’s Island you can either stay within the public areas of the Moremi Game Reserve, and take your chances with other vehicles, or you can stay in one of two ultra high end private camps- Mombo or Chief’s Camp– both of which cost over $2,000 per person per night. In fact, at the height of peak season, Chief’s Camp costs an eyewatering $3,285 per night. And yes, that is per person.
Camp reopens on the 10th of December, and there are astonishing re-opening special offers, starting as low as $294 (£226) per person per night. If you can, go now.
The fine print: During high season (21st Dec- 3rd Jan) stays cost from £554-£443 per person per night ($720-$576ppn), otherwise the range is £376-£226 ($490-$294) per person per night. This runs until the 31st of March, and the more nights you stay, the better the per night price is.
Logistics: At the time of writing (November 2020) UK residents will still need to quarantine on return from Botswana, though we hope this will be lifted soon. As the Foreign Office still advises against travel to almost all of mainland Africa, you will need to get appropriate travel insurance. Lastly, a negative PCR test will be required prior to travelling to Botswana. Worth it? Absolutely.
We’ve been champing at the bit to have travel to Rwanda added to the UK travel corridor list for months. Rwanda has been on the EU green list since around August, but the Foreign Office have only just started recognizing the huge differences between African countries and their approach to Covid 19. Rwanda, which has had long experience in tackling Ebola, has not been messing around.
At the time of writing (November 2020) the UK remains under lockdown, however once we’re free to travel, here’s how to do it (and a picture of a gorgeous gorilla to remind you why!)
Flights to Rwanda:
While the UK quarantine rules have been lifted for travel to Rwanda, they are still in place for many of the countries you would need to travel via to get there. So the obvious option for flights would be to fly to Dubai, and connect on from there with the direct Rwandair flight. We all hope the Rwandair direct flight from London resumes soon.
What are Rwanda’s rules?
Before your board your flight to Rwanda you will need to fill out the government contract tracing form (we’ll provide you with a link in your departure information).
When arriving in Rwanda you will need to show a negative PCR test certificate taken within 120 hours of departure. The certificate needs to mention that it is a PCR test. When you arrive in Rwanda you will need to quarantine at a designated hotel for 24hrs and take another test (this costs about $60). Provided your results are negative, you are then free to continue on your adventure. Obviously, we will help sort this all out for you.
On departing from Rwanda if you are showing Covid symptoms you will also be tested (and need to show a negative result) before you are able to leave the country.
What coronavirus measures are in place in Rwanda?
Firstly, you will need to wear masks in public places.
When you go to Akagera National Park you will need to walk through a disinfection bath at the entrance, and carry hand sanitizer in your car. To allow physical distancing, numbers on game drives and boat safaris will be limited.
We’re utterly delighted that people are heading out to Africa once again. And a bit jealous. Travelling to Africa during coronavirus is certainly not as easy as it once was, with the sort of logistical and bureaucratic challenges that would be all too familiar to travellers of 50 or 60 years ago. But likewise, you have the sense of adventure, astonishing discounts, and the sort of empty game reserves and beaches that people experienced in times gone by.
We’ve only turned slightly green as our guests told us about virtually empty reserves, game drives that moved them to tears and a virtually deserted crossing of the wildebeest migration.
For those looking up at darkening skies and plummeting thermometers, The Seychelles are now welcoming travellers from across the world. You will need to arrive with a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of travelling (this can be stretched to 72 hours if you come from a low risk country). If you are from the UK you will need to spend your first 5 days in one designated hotel. However, these include places like Constance Lemuria, Ephelia, and Denis Island Lodge so this isn’t much of a hardship!
Hotels are operating largely as normal, however you will tend to find staff wearing masks, you may have your temperature taken, and some facilities (mainly kids clubs and some spa facilities are closed). But with warm weather, cold cocktails and some of the best beaches in the world, that’s a compromise we’re very happy to make! On the 5th day you will need to take a Covid test, and then, provided that your test result is negative, you’re free to head off and explore the Seychelles.
Zanzibar is also open to travellers and does not require a negative PCR test, however UK travellers will need to quarantine for 14 days on return.
Safari during coronavirus
Borders are now open for Kenyan safaris and we are trying not to feel too jealous of our guests heading off this month to explore. A negative PCR test is required to travel and UK visitors will need to quarantine on return. But if you get to stay at say- Rekero and enjoy the world-class game viewing of the Masai Mara largely undisturbed, we’d be seriously tempted.
Hot off the presses- Botswana will be opening borders on the 9th of November. Guests will need to arrive with a negative PCR test, and will be checked for symptoms on arrival. Access is tricky without travelling via South Africa (more of which below), so we’d recommend arriving via Victoria Fallsfor ease of access. For the Zambia side of Vic Falls, as with a Zambian Safari, you will need to show a negative PCR test on departure as well as on arrival.
If you are concerned about the uncertainty of needing to arrive with a negative PCR test, Tanzania does not have a test requirement and travellers over the last few weeks report the sort of safaris we can only dream of. As with safari in Botswana and Kenya, you will need to quarantine if you are returning to the UK from a safari in Tanzania.
We should also throw in a mention for Namibia. You can take a private road trip in your own vehicle and this is the 2nd least densely populated country in the world, so social distancing is not a problem. A negative PCR test is required for travel. UK travellers will need to quarantine on return, but we are hopeful this will change soon.
Our travellers, like us, love visiting South Africa, however for now, residents of the UK and US aren’t able to enter South Africa unless they’ve spent at least 10 days in a low-risk country first. So for the really determined, a 10 day trip in say, Namibia, would be more than do-able, and with the temptations of Cape Town and safari in Kruger National Park at the other end, we can quite understand why you might take this option.
So for now, we’d say the most straightforwards places to visit would be the Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, however we love a challenge and can help you make most things work!
Please note that the UK is current under lockdown until the 2nd of December so UK based travellers are not able to travel until then, though we know that many of our Africa-lovers are based all over the world. Ozzie friends in particular, we know you won’t be in Africa for a while, and you are missed!
There is no doubt that Africa has been hugely hardly hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Not, thankfully, by a high level of infections (see more on this from the BBC here), but more from a total lack of tourism which is vital to many African economies.
It will come as no surprise that in almost all of the countries we work with there is virtually zero social security. Jobs working in safari camps or beach lodges are highly prized, and supports 8-10 dependents. With no guests, there are no jobs, and with no jobs feeding your family becomes pretty terrifying.
As those of you who have been to Africa will know, our colleagues and friends who work on the ground are incredibly determined and imaginative and capable of working miracles in the most adverse of circumstances. Their commitment to supporting their staff, the wider communities and conservation projects is nothing short of inspirational.
Offbeat Mara is beloved of Extraordinary Africa guests, and the pioneering conservancy concept around the Masai Mara has inspired community tourism projects across Africa. Protecting areas beyond the national parks helps preserve vital habitat- it is crucial that these are preserved for wildlife. The Adopt-a-Plot programme helps to continue this magnificent work (and if you donate $800 or more this can be used as a travel credit for your next safari- win-win!)
It’s not just communities who suffer from lack of safari guests- without the (sometimes considerable) park and conservancy fees that guests pay, there’s simply no money to pay rangers. Without them, wildlife is seriously vulnderable to poaching, especially during a time when many people are out of work and bushmeat is widely available. Ride4rangers raises money to fund salaries for staff on the front line of conservation- you can donate to the cause yourself, or if you’ve had enough of sitting still during lockdown, you can create your own challenge to raise funds- read more about it here.
Lastly, if you are based in the UK, please help! At the time of writing the UK government has blindly extended a blanket ban on travel to anywhere in mainland Africa, despite the fact that coronavirus levels are generally far lower than in the UK or in other European countries where the UK has travel corridors. For us, this seems unreasonable- as many countries have both a rigorous testing system and low levels of cases. For example- the EU includes Rwanda alongside just 8 other “third countries” (including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore) that travel restrictions should be lifted for. Sign the petition to encourage the UK government to reconsider here.
There’s a little known “special” in the safari world: residents’ rates. Safari companies across Africa offer heavily discounted rates for local residents, so that they get to experience the natural wonders on their doorsteps. For many these would be unaffordable otherwise, and it means that camps can fill empty beds at the last minute or during low season. Not only this, but there’s a huge conservation benefit in local residents enjoying and appreciating the animals and landscape they might not otherwise see.
We are utterly thrilled to see one of our favourite safari collections extending residents rates as a thank you to doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. This averages out at about a 70% discount on most camps. We are all so incredibly grateful for the work they have done, and know they will need a break more than most when this is all done.
Over the border in northern Tanzania you can choose from six gorgeous camps in the Serengeti. Olakira, Kimondo and Ubuntu are seasonal camps which broadly track the movements of the Great Migration. Sayari sits in splendour in the far north of the park, Dunia- famously staffed by an all-female team- and Namiri, in a splendid spot for big cats. If you want serious style, we’d find the Highlands at the Ngorongoro Crater a tough one to beat, though the walking in this area gets us even more excited than the lodge. A short distance from such a well-known safari spot, it feels incredibly wild, authentic, and unspoilt. As a last stop in northern Tanzania, you can also stay at Oliver’s Camp in Tarangire– a particular favourite for elephant-lovers during the dry season.
The ladies of Dunia
Sunset at the Highlands
Lions near Namiri
Heading further off the beaten track into Southern Tanzania, the wild and ruggedRuaha is one of our favourite parks in all of Africa. Here you can choose between rustic Kwihalaor serious luxury at Jabali Ridge (have sampled, can confirm- very nice). Then for birding and boat safaris, not to mention an extremely civilized way of being, Roho ya Selous has a pretty location in the Selous Game Reserve.
Jabali Ridge infinity pool
And if you really hate safari (seriously, are you sure?) Matemwe Lodge and Matemwe Retreat are laid-back spots on Zanzibar, where you can cheerfully spend a week or so snoozing beside the Indian Ocean.
Retreat roof terrace
The fine print:
Travel before May 2021.
Valid for any nationality with proof of work ID card showing name/job description – e.g. doctors, nurses, paramedics, elderly care home workers, pharmacists, ambulance drivers etc.
Discount valid for one partner or friend sharing a room.
Children aged 5-18 travelling with healthcare workers will be charged resident’s child rates.
Flights, park fees and other government fees charged as normal.
Postponements due to Covid-19 will be possible within the same rules as the company’s Covid-19 policy, with the only additional requirement to not rebook new postponed dates in high or peak season if new dates fall after 1 June 2021, due to the level of discount applied on this offer.
COSTS- all of our trips are completely tailor-made, so there are no fixed prices or fixed packages. However, to give you a general ballpark figure to start from, a 4 night safari at Mara Bush Homes plus 4 nights on Zanzibar costs from around £9,000 for a family of 4 using the special offer, excluding international flights. This would cost about £14,000-£17,500 normally.
10 days on safari in Northern Tanzania using the special would cost around £4,600 per adult excluding international flights.
A week’s safari in Southern Tanzania using the special offer costs from around £2,800 per adult excluding international flights. Normal price would be £5,200-£6,900 per person.
CHILDREN most of these camps have a lower age limit of 5, except for the Mara Bush Homes, the ultra luxury private villa at Jabali Ridge, and the private house on the beach at Matemwe which are totally private and have no lower age limit. As parents ourselves, we think we’d be very unlikely to take children much under 3 on safari.
After a few weeks of jet-setting in the southern hemisphere we finally pinned down Clare, our South Africa guru, to get her insider recommendations on her favourite country in Africa.
Why do you love South Africa? Or do you? We can’t just assume….
There’s so much to do here from the city buzz to rolling valleys, rugged coastline and safari, and they’re all spectacular. Being a true foodie, wine lover, and outdoor enthusiast (with admittedly, a distinct love of the odd bit of R&R) South Africa truly ticks all of the boxes, and much, much more.
What’s your favourite part of visiting SA?
I’d really have to say the people. Everyone was so incredibly warm and welcoming wherever I went. Some of my friends and family were sceptical about my travel to this part of the world having read some less than glowing news articles, but I couldn’t have been more swayed by the charm of South Africans. Absolutely nothing is too much for them to organise, and they really will go out their way to make visitors feel completely at home – utter bliss when you’re travelling solo and ready for a good natter!
We’re yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love Cape Town, but where’s your favourite place to stay?
Arriving in Cape Town after an 18 hour flight, I couldn’t have been more excited to sink into my large and seriously inviting bed at the Cape Grace. It’s on the bustling Waterfront (albeit tucked away enough to still be peaceful) and is the ideal spot to head out for an evening stroll and dinner at one of the nearby seafood restaurants. The day beds in the spa are the perfect place to read a good book and take in the glorious views up to Table Mountain. For something a bit livelier I’d probably head down to the hotel’s Bascule Bar for a cocktail, or try to choose from one of their 400 whiskies.
Top tip: every evening the Cape Grace offers complimentary wine tasting hosted by one of the hugely informative sommeliers – it’s a great way to meet other guests and to swot up on your wine facts.
If you had to give a personal recommendation for family trips to South Africa, where would you suggest?
If you’re headed to the Winelands then Boschendal caters for even the fussiest family member. There’s a wonderful farm school where children are looked after by qualified childminders and taught all about foraging, outdoor cooking and upcycling – maybe even enough to teach the parents a trick or two! Each child receives their pair of wellies and hat, ready to explore the greater countryside. For the more active, there are mountain bike and hiking trails galore as well as horse riding and plenty of farm tours. If you’re craving some adult time, ask for a babysitter and sample some of the seriously good food in their fine-dining restaurant, the Werf.
Top Tip: If you’re there on a Friday during the summer, be sure to check out the evening market.
Where’s your secret hotspot that no-one really knows about?
Morukuru Beach Lodge is one of those gems that you don’t want to shout too much about for fear of it being fully booked for evermore. The drive there isn’t for the faint hearted but boy is it worth it! Spend the day doing nature drives (in a safari vehicle with heated seats no less!) and ocean walks along the beach, before arriving back to warming hot chocolates laced with Amarula. Afterwards enjoy drinks and delicious food with your fellow guests, all whilst lapping up the most incredible sea views. I was too busy watching the whales out the window to eat my breakfast – I think I counted 8 at one time, incredible!
Top Tip: Take an early morning stroll over the sand dunes and you will more than likely find the place to yourself to really appreciate the stunning views.
This is a hotly debated topic at Extraordinary Africa HQ, but where would you choose to go for safari?
Tanda Tula. Set in the Timbavati Nature Reserve on the edge of Kruger, it epitomises the rustic safari camp vibe. All rooms here are tented but seriously well kitted out. There’s something rather romantic (with possibly some nervousness mixed in) about lying in bed, looking straight out of your tent and knowing that any form of wildlife could quite happily wander up to within a few feet of where you’re lying. Rest assured though, the wonderful staff here will ensure that your nerves are kept well under control!
Top tip: Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive white lion, known to be seen from time to time in the Timbavati
As an outdoors lover, where would you go for an active adventure?
Set just outside Plettenberg Bay, Hog Hollow is the perfect place for lovers of the outdoors. The huge rooms here are perched amongst the trees with large decks offering sweeping views over the valley. There are a wealth of activities to choose from whilst staying at Hog Hollow; hikes for even the most serious of walkers, adventure playgrounds for the younger members of the family, various animal sanctuaries to visit, horse riding (which Hog Hollow are well known for), or for those wanting to put their feet up, a quiet day on the beach. And the best bit after a busy day of exploring is to curl up by the warming fire pit for a sundowner with your fellow guests.
Top tip: There’s a great walk down the valley and up the other side (not for the faint hearted!) to Birds of Eden or the Monkey Sanctuary and once you’re finished, you can ask for a complimentary lift back to save those weary feet.
If you were sending a friend on honeymoon to South Africa, where would you recommend for romance?
For a serious dose of romance, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Dulini River Lodge. Sleeping just twelve guests in six suites, this is the perfect place to escape the rat race and indulge in some well-earned R&R. Each suite is vast, with the sort of bed you could easily get lost in. The shower and bath make the most of the wonderful views out to the river bed, and on warm days there’s a hugely inviting (heated) plunge pool out on deck where I happily spent a few minutes lapping up the peaceful surroundings while watching a herd of elephants slowly walking past. There was so much love in the air that one of the other guests assumed the manager, who had kindly offered to eat with me, must have been my newlywed husband…
Top tip: Do try their ChocaMocharula (hot chocolate, coffee, amarula) mix as a sundowner on a chilly game drive, it certainly warms those cockles.
You’re known in the EA office for your love of good food: where would you recommend to fellow foodies?
The winelands (and Cape Town for that matter) are renowned for seriously good food, and drink. So picking one is an arduous task, however, Babylonstoren is just one of those places that oozes foodie charm in the bucket loads. There’s a serious ethos here encompassing ‘from nature to plate’, and nearly everything found on the menu in the various restaurants, and for sale in the farm shop, comes direct from the farm. Not only is the main restaurant here (Babel) award winning and with utterly scrummy food, their harvest tables at breakfast are also a true work of art. If you’re lucky enough to be staying here in one of their charming cottages, we’d highly recommend scouting out some goodies in the farm shop to take back to your private state of the art kitchen via the chefs in the main restaurant who will more than happily provide you with some top notch cooking tips. If you’re after a bit of an Italian twist, do be sure to head to the bakery on a Monday or Friday for their Italian inspired homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas. After all that eating, walk it off with an informative tour of the farm grounds to see exactly where all their delicious food originates from, followed by a warming glass of red in the tasting room…
Top tip: If you’re looking for somewhere to propose, there’s an island in the middle of the lake which is called the “yes spot”, and staff will do everything to make it magical.