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.
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.
So sorry for not getting back to you sooner – we have had a hectic time since returning from honeymoon – we have a new member of our family who we picked up the day after returning from Tanzania, Barney the puppy! He is an adorable bundle of energy who is keeping us busy!
Our trip was amazing!!! We had the best time ever and saw all the big 5 (the rhinos were in the distance but our guide assured us it was a rhino and not a water buffalo!). On our first afternoon in Tarangire we saw a lion stalk and kill an adult zebra which was exciting (although a little moving when she didn’t have a tight enough grip on the zebra to kill it!). We were also lucky enough to see two river crossings in the northern Serengeti after spending 3-4 hours on our first afternoon there watching the wildebeest walk to the river bank and peer over the side, but not daring to make the jump. We took some amazing photos and our guide even showed us a trick of taking photos with our phones through the binoculars!
All the staff at the camps were lovely and friendly and we loved Kati Kati camp. We heard lions and leopards near our tents at night and we woke up to zebras eating their breakfast as the sun was rising. Eddie our guide was fantastic, so knowledgeable and it felt like we spent a week with David Attenborough teaching us about all the animals.
Zanzibar was a stark contrast to the safari and it took us a while to get used to relaxing and doing nothing. Breezes was a lovely hotel and we went snorkeling nearby which was fantastic – the best snorkeling and range of fish we have ever seen!
We are glad that we now have Barney to keep us busy as it has reduced our post-honeymoon blues.Thank you so much for all your help making it a trip of a lifetime and we can’t wait to go back and do it all again!
You are honestly not going to believe this, but I have literally just sat down to start typing a message to you when yours came through! We arrived back early yesterday morning, came home, had a shower and went straight to work – brutal but the best way to slot into a normal routine and get over the jet lag.
We cannot thank you enough for all your help with arrangements, and your patience with all our questions. Without a shadow of a doubt this has been the trip of a lifetime! It was short, but felt like we were away for months – yet neither of us wanted to come home and could’ve quite happily have stayed in the Serengeti 🙂 We cannot fault the arrangements – transfers were smooth, accommodation was brilliant and the people very friendly and attentive. Really appreciate your help with the extra night hotel stay after Kili– we could’ve stayed another night at Mweka camp, however the shower and soft bed was most welcome 🙂
This might sound a little bit nonchalant / arrogant, but we didn’t find Kili that challenging – apart from summit night. It was at the end of Day 2 when we spoke with the guides about the upcoming days and they said based on our fitness and pace the walks for the next couple of days would only be about an hour a day. We struggled with the decision overnight and the morning of Day 3 decided to divert and join the Machame route. Absolutely no regrets as Day 4 was both our favourites – climbing the Baranco Wall and the Lava Tower. I think the altitude of the Lava Tower (hike high, sleep low) help with our acclimatisation – thankfully neither of us felt the effects of it. But summit night was still a big challenge, and we were both so relieved to have made it to the top.
The Serengeti was superb! We both fell in love with Grumeti Tented Camp – the setting and layout of the camp is nice and intimate and just beautiful. The hippos add a great touch to it, even though a bit scary when they brush past the tents at night. We were very fortunate to have seen the migration at both camps in the end too! Talk about being lucky!
I will be writing photography based blogs on the different portions of the trips, and will send them over as soon as they are done. Although it may take a while – I downloaded around 4,000 photos last night, and now need to make the selections for editing…
We will be definitely doing more Africa trips in the (hopefully very) near future and will 100% be in touch about it – the Serengeti is on our radar again, as well as Namibia and Botswana…
Let us know how and where is best for us to submit a review for you 🙂
We had a cup of coffee last week with Shaun Davy, who even brought some African sunshine to Edinburgh with him! Shaun and his family created the amazing Amanzi and Anabezi Camps in the Lower Zambezi in Zambia so we seized the opportunity to ask him a few questions about setting up the camps and his personal highlights of safari in the Lower Zambezi. Read on for the local’s lowdown…
What’s it like building a camp from scratch and why did you choose the Lower Zambezi?
Difficult and rewarding. We have one of the most remote camps in the park so the planning and logistics were challenging to say the least. The nearest hardware store is a 14-hour round trip from camp, but that is how you create a special place – build something beautiful in a beautiful place. The Lower Zambezi has got to be one of the most under visited parks in the region, and we wanted to find a way to share it with people.
The pure beauty of the place, the Zambezi is an iconic river that runs through one of the last accessible wildernesses. To be able to experience this place through so many different activities like canoeing, boating and walking makes the Lower Zambezi a must-do safari experience.
With so many choices, what type of safari do you prefer and why?
I love being on a boat floating down the Zambezi, there is something special about letting nature pull you through one of its great spectacles.
What’s been your best wildlife encounter ?
I was on a game drive and we came across a herd of elephants that were all around us. We stopped under a tree to get out of the afternoon sun and observe the herd. Suddenly there were small pieces of bark that started dropping into the vehicle, we looked up and in the tree directly above us was a female leopard who we had not seen but had obviously sought shade in the tree. There was a moment of panic, for all involved, as the leopard decided how it was going to vacate the tree. Fortunately, our guide quickly reversed and the leopard settled back down and allowed me to take one of my most cherished wildlife shots.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re in camp?
I love fishing, mostly because it gives me an excuse to spend the day in a boat floating down the Zambezi.
Are there any favourite wildlife visitors to camp?
There are six cubs who were born this year to the two daughters of a lone lioness called Guvu (her name means ‘lump’ because she has a growth on the side of her belly). She came to the Anabezi area by herself, fought three males who attacked her, fought them again to protect her two cubs, which she raised to adulthood, and she has now single-handedly established a pride in the area. A real testament to survival and motherhood.
And what about memorable experiences for guests in camp?
About two years ago a leopard killed an impala and dragged the kill under Tent 7. The guests in that tent were woken up to the sound of crunching bones. They were thrilled, but we were forced to move them because the leopard left the carcass under their tent and came back to feed the following night; it was not the sound that bothered the guests but the smell that was a bit much!
Huge thanks to Shaun for the interview and we’re all now hoping we can get back to the Lower Zambezi so very soon!
We had a lovely interview with Tony Zephania, one of the walking guides at Namiri Plains. Tony has had an inspiring career, starting off as a waiter for a safari camp before his enthusiasm for all things wildlife shone through and he was entered into the Asilia training programme to become a fully fledged safari guide. He is now one of Asilia Africa’s head guides and, as Tony puts it himself, “a childhood dream has come to life”. Read on to hear more about his love of the smaller wildlife, and some of his experiences on safari.
Can you tell us more about Asilia’s Trainee Guide Programme?
So the duration of the initial walking training was 30 days – this was safe rifle handling, elephant rifle shooting and safe walking how to approach and avoid dangerous animals. Then I did a year as a backup guide with a very experienced walker – totalling to 100 hours of walking – then I was coached and assessed as a lead walking guide for 20 hrs. Fortunately I had learned well as a backup guide and I passed.
What’s the best part of your job?
Birdwatching and exploring the small life on a walking safari.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
When guests come in with high expectations of big game and on walking safaris that is not what we are looking for – we appreciate the smaller life in the bush – who are just as exciting. I also struggle with guests who do not speak English so I take more time with them to ensure they understand.
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not with guests?
I like spending my time watching or listening to wildlife programmes. I also like to sit with my guides and discuss work challenges and how to overcome them.
Which National Park is your favourite to visit?
Even though I’m now based in Eastern Serengeti I have to be honest and say it is Ruaha National Park because the wildlife and landscape is so diverse.
What animals do you enjoy seeing on safari?
Birds mainly, but for large mammals, I enjoy watching elephants.
How many miles do you end up walking every day?
Depends what we come across and what we see and what the guests want out of their walk- but on average 3 miles a day.
What’s the best experience you’ve had on safari?
When I saw for the first time an elephant giving birth in Ruaha and it was almost dark but I could see everything. So very special and a moment I will never forget.
Have you had any amusing experiences with either animals or guests?
Yes! One of my guests jumped out of the car when we were viewing a leopard and the leopard climbed out of the tree. He did this to impress his fellow photographic friends who had been waiting for hours for the leopard to move. He thought it was very funny but it was so dangerous.
Huge thanks to Tony from Namiri Plains Safari Camp for answering all our questions. Namiri Plains is currently undergoing a complete refurb, and we’re super excited to see how the renovated camp looks once it reopens in Autumn 2019.
As you know we got home on Friday and because we launched straight into a busy weekend I haven’t written sooner to say an enormous thank you to you for arranging what was a truly wonderful holiday. We really did have the most amazing time – everything worked like clockwork ( apart from the elephant on the runway at Shukuza!!!!!!) and we said so many times while we were there how clever you had been to send us to all the different places which we loved in all their different ways.
It was lovely when we first arrived to have three days atMontusi to switch off and revel in those views – we thought we couldn’t go better!
Three Tree Hill lodge was perfect, Fugitives Drift even better and then the joy of seeing all the animals at the next two places (Notten’sand Makakatana [ed]). We felt incredibly lucky seeing so many animals although I think the highlight had to be seeing a female leopard one day sleeping and then the following day up a tree with her kill! We also saw a fabulous male leopard who strolled by the jeep so close we could have just reached out and stroked him!
There is a danger I could get far too carried away with superlatives but we did just want to say a really big thank you. We saw so much…….. scenery, culture, animals, not to mention being thoroughly pampered everywhere we went with fabulous food and drink as well as meeting so many lovely people in the lodges. The staff couldn’t have looked after us better giving us such welcomes either on arrival or when we got back from our various expeditions.
We can understand how you love it!
If we can ever recommend anyone to come your way we will…..
While the UK was having a second winter, Alex somehow found an urgent reason to jet off to theSeychelles. I think we call it “research”. Well, that’s what she’ll tell you, anyway.
Alex gives us the lowdown on her island-hopping trip to the Seychelles
What makes the Seychelles so special? The beaches are ridiculously lovely, especially on some of the outer islands, and they have a wonderfully safe, relaxed and peaceful feel.
Favourite bits? I was totally charmed by La Digue where there aren’t really any cars, so guests cruise sedately around on bicycles and golf carts. It was incredibly tranquil and the hotel I was staying at (Le Domaine De L’Orangeraie) had an amazing spa right up on the hill, so you could have a massage looking out at the island and the ocean- bliss.
Seeing the giant tortoises on Denis Island was pretty special too- the oldest, Toby is 120 years old. Though his age didn’t stop him chasing after Clara, a mere whippersnapper in her 60s.
“Less favourite” (ahem!) bits? There were a couple of fairly bland resorts I wasn’t too excited about – names hidden to protect the innocent (ish)… The laid-back island-style of the Seychellesgenerally works best with the smaller hotels, though there are some excellent exceptions to this. There are some seriously lovely resorts, especially at the top end, but some of the more mass-market places were pretty unexciting. Given the cost of getting to the Seychelles I think you’d want to feel like you were somewhere really special, so I’ve put those onto my “steer clear” list.
What’re the hotels like? Utterly charming and not as glitzy as you might expect. The Seychelles has quite a glamorous reputation, but the hotels, even the really high-end ones, in fact- especially the really high-end ones, have a very laid-back feel to them. If you turned up wearing heels and dripping in diamonds you might feel quite out of place.
Constance Ephelia on Mahé
One of the best seats at the Four Seasons Hotel
How would you plan a trip to the Seychelles? Well, BA’s direct flights to the Seychellesstarted at the end of May, making this a really easy combo with a safari in Kenya or South Africa. Or, if you have more time to spare, island hopping in the Seychelles would make a really fun longer trip.
Top tips? Unless you’re staying on La Digue, I’d recommend booking pretty much everywhere on at least half board. Though there are quite a few great restaurants we can recommend for lunch, in the evenings you’re fairly unlikely to eat out. As the Seychelles are right in the middle of the Indian Ocean much of the scrumptious food and drink you’ll get is imported, and is consequently more expensive than on mainland Africa. Knowing that you’ve paid for the bulk of the trip up front takes the hassle out of things on the ground and mean you can concentrate on enjoying yourselves instead.
It always seems such a shame that so many honeymoonersjump right into an adrenaline-pumping safari when they’re still tired from the wedding and, more often than not, an exhausting overnight flight or two. So, wherever we can, we try to tempt our guests on a safari honeymoon to spend a day or two relaxing before they head off on their adventure. Here’s our pick of places to really relax…
Ras Kutani– This ultra laid-back beach lodge is just a 20 minute light aircraft hop south of Dar es Salaam, so if your priority is to get your feet in the sand as quickly as possible it should be top of your list. There isn’t masses to do here except eat, sleep, snooze with your book and take a dip in the Indian Ocean. Ideal preparation for a safari in the Ruaha or Selous Game Reserve.
Wildwaters– most people come to this luxury lodge beside the Nile for the excellent white water rafting that Jinja has to offer, however, the truth is that this tiny private island seems much better suited to doing nothing at all. The bathtubs out on the deck of your room are seriously romantic, and a dip in the pool just inches from the rapids would certainly be a great start to making life-long memories together. Follow this on with more magic with gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park.
Tongabezi– this charming, rustic lodge on the banks of the Zambezi is one of our dream spots to start a safari honeymoon. It just seems made for the sort of magic you don’t find elsewhere- lunar moonbows over Victoria Falls, swimming in the Devil’s Pool, and gentle early evening cruises to watch the sun set. From here, it’s an easy hop on to safari in the South Luangwa National Park.
Giraffe Manor– OK- so this one technically does involve a little wildlife- aside from the giraffes that you’ll meet at breakfast there are also a few friendly warthogs scampering around the lawns. However, with a couple of nights here you can truly relax before the early starts and long drives of a safari in the Masai Mara.
The Winelands– South Africa’s Cape Winelands are a truly blissful spot to spend a few days, whether it’s snuggling up beside the fire on a chilly winter’s day or riding through the vineyards on a hot sunny afternoon. Staying in central Franschhoek is the place to be for buzzing restaurants and the (occasionally raucous) wine tram, but if your wedding was party enough, there are some peaceful boutique hotels tucked away in the vineyards. Afterwards use the direct flights from nearby Cape Town to get up to safari in the Okavango Deltaor Kruger National Park.
Well, what can I say ! Another amazing trip Alex. Wonderful people and hospitality and the most fabulous wildlife I feel privileged to be able to see in real life.
Our guide, Clement, in Amboseli, lovely, charming man, very knowledgeable and went out of his way to try and get us a good position for the perfect photos.
Serena Lodge didn’t allocate us a view of the plains but it only needed a request to make that happen and it was done, no problems at all. We think the staff may have been fascinated by our name, ‘Luck’ ! As they just kept saying ‘Luck’ to us, haha!
Governors Camp (NOTE: this is in the Masai Mara) gave us the river view, as we requested but on arrival I decided a tent overlooking the savannah would probably be better. I asked if this was possible and they were very accommodating and said, ‘of course’ but would have to be on the second night. They seemed a bit concerned that they only had tent 37 available, right up the end, kind of on it’s own, but I swear this is the best tent in the camp ! Not a sound from the other guests, no one walking past and was able to sit outside watching the giraffe and zebra during the day. We were on our hands and knees at 3am peering though a gap in the tent door at this hippo munching the grass only 8 feet away! Fabulous memories. Lions bellowing all night, hippos and hyena making a racket too……love it 🙂
So, the balloon flight. it was a amazing and thank god we did it as we wouldn’t have seen the Big 5 if we hadn’t. It was Little Governors side of the river where the rhinos were. I managed to snap a quick shot from the balloon of two but they were very far away. I made it quite known to the guides how desperate Gary and I were to see at least one, they asked to see my photo, they knew exactly where it was and took us there on the way back and there they were. How lucky were we to see this magnificent, endangered animal in the wild.
As for the leopard…… Dickson searched tirelessly for the leopardfor us, made constant phone calls to the other guides, spoke to the Masai en-route trying to find out exactly where they had been seen then low and behold, one leopard and her cub appeared from nowhere as we flew over the canopy the other side of the river in the balloon! I was a very happy bunny 🙂 the captains of the balloons asked to see my photos as they were shocked she had a cub.
The food at Governors was really good and the staff were so lovely to us. Again, seemed fascinated with our name!
All in all, another amazing trip Alex, thank you.
Was going to attach a photo of The Big 5 for you but will only let me do two. We were so lucky to see so many other amazing animals too, even a Genet, a Serval, a Wild Cat, a Bateleur eagle, a cheetah hunt, lions matting, ostriches matting and a HUGE hippo yawn ! I took 1700 photos!
Won’t be Africa for the next few years but will certainly be in touch next time it is.