With its stunning diversity, mesmerising wildlife, and myriad landscapes, Africa offers some of the hottest experiential travel encounters for the year ahead. We’ve done the hard work for you, with our list of seven must-visit destinations for your bucket list.
Located in Eastern Africa, Tanzania continues to thrill safari travellers with its diversity and upclose-and-personal wildlife encounters. From the Ngorongoro Crater, one of Africa’s most celebrated conservation areas, where Asilia Africa recently opened luxurious and unashamedly contemporary safari retreat The Highlands, to the expansive splendour of the Serengeti, site of the annual Great Migration, Tanzania offers a comprehensive African safari experience for newbies and regular explorers alike.
The Great Migration is a truly once-in-a-lifetime wildlife encounter, as 1.5 million wildebeest, 300,000 zebra and countless antelope gather their young for the long journey from the Serengeti’s vast grassy plains north to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve in search of seasonal grazing. These vast herds, which can be seen from both the ground and the air, cross raging, crocodile-infested rivers and expansive savannahs where lions and cheetah lie in wait during an annual pilgrimage that’s been described as the “Greatest Show on Earth”.
While the Great Migration, which takes place year round, is best known for its dramatic river crossings, one of the most fascinating and underappreciated periods is the calving season, between January and February, when large numbers of young draw predators from far and wide, ensuring spectacular wildlife spotting throughout the Serengeti. Country Holidays’ Tanzania Calving Migration Safari includes a visit to the acclaimed Arusha Coffee Lodge, including a tour of a local coffee estate; and stays at the iconic Ngorongoro Crater Lodge; the newly-renovated mobile camp Asilia Olakira; and at Serengeti Under Canvas, a spectacular mobile tented camp at the heart of the Southern Serengeti. You’ll enjoy double-daily game drives in search of large cats and spy the Great Migration at dawn from a hot air balloon before jetting off the coast of Tanzania, for nights at the luxurious Residence Zanzibar.
Already one of the most captivating landscapes in Africa, the beauty of Botswana’s Okavango Delta has earned it a place on the list of Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, as well as UNESCO recognition. Regarded as the ‘jewel of the Kalahari’, safari goers will be able to delve into an ecosystem of over 22,000sqkm that’s home to 200,000 large mammals, as well as countless bird and fish species, ensuring Botswana’s best elephant, hippo, lion and leopard viewing. The annual flooding, between May and October, breathes life into the Delta, offering captivating wildlife viewing, especially during its peak between June and August. All you have to do is decide where to base your explorations.
The Delta boasts wet, dry and mixed camps. The activities of wet camps embrace the region’s flood plains, channels and aquatic ecosystems; while dry camps offer year-round game drives and Big Five spotting. Mixed camps offer the best of both worlds for time-starved travellers, with daily boating, driving and walking safaris.
In the Okavango Delta, guests are recommended to try both wet and dry camps to get a true sense of this remarkable destination. Wet camps include andBeyond’s Xaranna Camp, famed for its sunset champagne mokoro cruises, and its walking safaris, led by local Bushman guides who share insights into the San culture and traditions; and the newly re-opened Belmond Eagle Island Lodge, one of the region’s most luxurious, which recently-launched half-day or full-day helicopter and horseback safaris, ideal for Africa veterans looking for a truly unique way to take in the beauty of the Delta.
For a more conventional dry camp experience, stay at andBeyond Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge, a magnificent safari camp set in a cool forest canopy and located on a private concession adjacent to the wildlife-rich Moremi Game Reserve; and Wilderness Safaris’ highly sought after Mombo Camp, which will emerge from a luxurious makeover this year.
If you’re only in Botswana for a few days, both Wilderness Safaris’ Vumbura Plains camp, which is managed by local communities, and andBeyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp are great mixed camp options, offering a remote and wild game viewing experience, as well as access to the intricate network of channels and lagoons of the Delta.
A truly spectacular emerging African destination, Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, and one packed with adventure and unique wildlife. The island split from the Indian Peninsula 88 million years ago, allowing for an unparalleled biodiversity, 90 percent of which is endemic.
Country Holidays offers both private and Signature Departures Madagascar Air Safari itineraries on this remarkable island paradise; by using private air charters, travellers can scour the destination in as little as ten days, avoiding the delays that hamper commercial flights, or countless hours spent driving on long, bumpy roads that quickly deteriorate in the wet season.
Most travellers are drawn to Madagascar in search of lemurs and some of the island’s best lemur viewing can be found at the luxurious Anjajavy l’Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property nestled at the heart of its own private coastal reserve. There’s also the opportunity to explore the spectacular Andasibe Mantadia National Park with a local primatologist, who will offer insight into the park’s 11 lemur species, including Madagascar’s largest lemur, the indri.
Still the Grand Dame of African safari destinations, South Africa has something for every traveller, from captivating game viewing to world class winelands, pristine coastline, and a vibrant culinary culture. See the very best of this remarkable country in 10 days capturing the essence of the Rainbow Nation, from world-class game reserves to whale watching and the eclectic communities of the Cape Peninsula.
One of the most popular components of the South Africa Ultimate Luxury tour is a visit to the acclaimed winelands of Western Cape. Start your adventure in Stellenbosch, on a private tour of the Franschhoek Motor Museum, home to vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles dating back over 100 years, including the late billionaire Anton Rupert’s own vintage collection. Borrow one of the museum’s beautiful saloons for a tour of the family’s spectacular wine estate, including a tasting at Anthonij Rupert Wine Cellar’s Terra Del Capo tasting room. After lunch at Overture, one of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants, you’ll have the opportunity to polish your new-found ornithological insight with a chocolate and wine tasting at Waterford Estate, followed by another tasting at renowned Boschendal Estate, one of the oldest wine producers in the New World. Extend your Western Cape adventure with nights at the luxurious Delaire Graff Lodge, or head back to the Victoria & Albert waterfront to learn more about South Africa’s world-class wines from one of the city’s best sommeliers, at the One&Only Cape Town.
Perfectly suited for travellers who have already enjoyed the contemporary safari experience and are looking for the next challenge, tracking highland gorillas in East Africa’s mountainous paradise is the ultimate wildlife encounter. The Land of a Thousand Hills, a landscape of brooding volcanoes and dense primeval jungles, is home to both mountain gorilla and golden monkey communities.
Depart from the capital Kigali for Parc National des Volcans, Volcanoes National Park in northwest Rwanda, from which acclaimed zoologist Dian Fossey studied the region’s dwindling bands of mountain gorillas. You’ll track the communities with experienced guides, spending an hour with these critically endangered and often-elusive primates before returning to your accommodation for a late lunch. There’s also a chance to trek the Dian Fossey Hike to Karisoke Gorilla Research Centre, a voluntary research project, with opportunities for great bird watching and golden monkey encounters along the way.
Time your visit to Rwanda with the mid-2017 opening of Wilderness Safari’s Bisate Lodge; located in a natural amphitheater at the heart of an eroded volcanic crater and home to just six sublime ensuite rooms, the lodge is a short drive from Park Headquarters, where mountain gorilla hikes depart, and offers visits to the Iby’wacu cultural village; the twin lakes of Buhondo and Burera; and the lava tunnels of the Musanze Caves.
One of the most coveted African destinations for 2017, Namibia offers travellers an ever-changing landscape of desolately-beautiful coastlines, undulating dunes; and enthralling wildlife. From the more than 1,000 ship wrecks which punctuate the Skeleton Coast to the north, a region known by the Bushmen of the Namibian interior as “The Land God Made in Anger”; to the rolling seas of sand that form the Namib Desert; to the fascinating ghost towns of the Sperrgebiet diamond belt, Namibia has something for every intrepid traveller.
Visit some of the most beautiful and remote corners of the country, including day trips to ghost town Kolmanskop; view the Grand Sand Sea and the Skeleton Coast from the air; and explore Fish River Canyon, the largest in Africa. There will also be time to dine on the region’s best seafood at Pelican Point at Walvis Bay on your way to stays at stunning Sorris Sorris Lodge and andBeyond’s desert-wreathed Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, home to some of the best stargazing in southern Africa.
For travellers who prefer to explore at their own pace, private itineraries can include a stay at Wilderness Safaris’ Hoanib Skeleton Coast, from where you can explore the ship wrecks and seal colonies of this remarkable coastline, as well as the floodplains of the Hoanib River, and famed fishing spot Klein Oasis by 4x4, before returning to the camp by air.
Perhaps not your first choice for an African encounter but certainly a destination that has endeared travellers for generations, Ethiopia offers a very different African encounter, with soaring highlands, a rich, complex culture, and the opportunity to step back in time to the continent’s first people.
One of the most unique experiences in Ethiopia is the traditional Coffee Ceremony, which involves processing raw, unwashed coffee beans into some of the finest Joe in the world. Watch as your hostess performs the ceremony by burning incense to ward off evil spirits before positioning a traditional jebena clay coffee pot over hot coals. Green coffee beans are cleaned over the fire before being roasted in a wok-shaped pan, releasing a strong coffee aroma that’s essential to the ceremony. The beans are ground in a mortar called a mukecha, and the coarse grounds are then added to the now-boiling water in the jebena, before being served in handle-less ceramic cups by your hostess. Each round of strong black coffee comes with a separate bunna tetu or blessing; one for the spirits, one for the hostess, and finally one for those who drink.
If Ethiopia’s rich architecture and history is more your thing, there are also opportunities to tour with local scholars, from a professor from the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, to a specialist in the country’s tribal and religious beliefs. Enjoy a guided tour of the Addis Ababa Museum, where striking photo exhibitions detail the country’s often turbulent history; visit the capital’s Trinity Cathedral and Museum; delve into the vibrant Merkator Markets; explore the Menelik Palace, once the seat of power of Ethiopia’s emperors; or gaze upon ‘Lucy’, the remains of a 3.2-million-year-old humanoid, at the national museum. Finish with lunch at the Makush Art Gallery, during which notable architect Professor Fasil Giorgis will discuss Ethiopia’s traditional and contemporary architecture.