Bucket list safaris for 2021 and beyond
We’re delighted to be sending clients back to Africa and are planning many more safaris for the coming months. With wide open spaces, few visitors and remote lodges Africa ticks all the boxes for a post-lockdown holiday. We’ve had some fun collating 10 bucket list safaris for 2021 and beyond, covering a range of exciting, action filled and fun holidays for inspiration. Our expert team is ready and waiting to answer your questions – just one word to the wise, the welcome degree of exclusivity these safari offer does mean that planning well in advance is highly advisable, since they are very well-liked and get booked up early.
1. Private houses for family and friends – Safari and beach Zambia and Malawi
Base yourselves at this selection of private houses and enjoy encounters with lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, hippo and more in beautiful parts of Southern Africa. Each accommodating up to eight adults in great comfort, these safari houses offer complete privacy and excellent access to the world beyond their doors. Tangala House is the perfect spot from which to explore the scenic splendour of Victoria Falls and the massive Zambezi River upstream, Chongwe River House on the edge of the Lower Zambezi National Park has wildlife coming right up to the deck; Luangwa Safari House on private land just outside South Luangwa National Park has a regular stream of animal visitors to its own front of house waterhole, and the underground hide right beside it; Ndomo Point House has a gloriously secluded setting beside Lake Malawi with far reaching views to the mountainous Mozambique shore.
2. Celebrate Christmas and New Year in style – South Africa and Mozambique
South Africa’s easy connections from the UK, superlative lodges, guiding and wildlife viewing – especially on the private reserves – make it a firm favourite. Head to the Kruger region, where the sun will be shining, for first class safaris at lodges like Tanda Tula, Dulini, Chitwa Chitwa or Singita Ebony, and then make use of a direct flight from the local airport to the characterful coastal town of Vilanculos in Mozambique.
Lodges such as Santorini are a short distance away, while out in the spectacularly beautiful Bazaruto Archipelago are Azura Marlin Beach and Benguerra Island Lodge, both offering luxurious accommodation, superb hospitality and plenty to do if guests don’t feel like relaxing. The waters around the islands are protected by a marine national park, and the diving and snorkelling here is among the best you’ll find anywhere.
3. For adventurer seekers – remote western Tanzania
It’s easy to overlook how big Tanzania is ….. four times the size of the UK, and stretching from the Indian Ocean to the edge of the Congo basin. The western parts are astonishingly remote, incredibly beautiful and very wild.
Katavi National Park is blessed with a wonderful mix of habitats that includes swamps, grassland, palm forests, huge floodplains, and dense riverine forest. Its major river is home to massive numbers of hippos and crocs, and herds of 1,000 plus buffalo roam the plains. Cats are regularly seen, as are elephant, giraffe and zebra; in fact, Katavi is reckoned to have one of the very highest densities of large mammals in Africa. Chada Katavi is the epitome of the ideal authentic safari camp, pared back luxury, revelling in its setting and spectacular sense of isolation, and cosseting guests with a special blend of homeliness and wilderness.
The densely forested Mahale Mountains rise out of the depths of Lake Tanganyika like the green clothed ramparts of another world. It’s a compelling destination, combining the finest chimpanzee habitat in East Africa with stunning scenery. Greystoke Mahale, with the forest to the rear and the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo visible 40 miles away across the lake, is one of Africa’s most iconic lodges transporting visitors to another world. With chimpanzee tracking, boat cruises, kayaking and fishing, as well as forest walks, village visits and relaxing on the lakeshore beach, this is a fabulously restorative destination.
The pairing of these unique places creates a magnificent safari and it’s a regular atop the bucket list safaris chosen by the Aardvark Safaris team.
4. Epic fun from June to October – Private Zimbabwe
Mana Pools is sublime, one of the most beautiful wildlife habitats in southern Africa – a variety of huge trees sprinkling floodplains and grassland akin to a Capability Brown parkland, with the Zambezi River forming a ha-ha at its northern edge. Wildlife thrives on the excellent grazing and plentiful year-round water and it’s a wonderful place to see elephant, lion, buffalo and wild dog. Walking and canoeing safaris are particular highlights, as is the chance to enjoy this spectacular wilderness in privacy.
Zambezi Expeditions and Little Vundu can be booked exclusively for up to 12 guests, ideal for a group of friends. Zambezi Expeditions offers excellent wildlife viewing and good walking, while Little Vundu is on a private concession guaranteeing undisturbed wildlife viewing and complete freedom. At the park’s eastern end Sapi Explorers is currently the only property in Sapi Reserve’s 120,000 hectares of private wilderness. Small enough for exclusive bookings, it is also perfect for a private safari experience. Even better, enjoy both ends of Mana Pools during a week or longer safari split between these fabulous spots.
5. Ultimate Namibia
Namibia’s unique landscapes blend ridiculously beautiful scenery and stark contrasts with surprising amounts of wildlife. If a safari here is not already on your bucket list, it should be. The good news is that it’s perfectly possible to include the very best bits of this huge country in one itinerary. The NamibRand Nature Reserve in the southern sector of the Namib Desert, home to the majestic Sossusvlei dunes, is your start point with Kwessi Dune Lodge or Wolwedans Dunes Lodge ideal places to stay. Both are spectacular locations in which to enjoy e-biking, quad biking, horse riding, walks and star gazing.
Next, take to the air with the legendary guides at Skeleton Coast Safaris and skim over shipwrecks, lagoons filled with flamingos and pelicans, vast seal colonies, and abandoned settlements. Dropping onto airstrips that no one else can access, explore further on foot or by Land Rover. An exhilarating few days ends on the Kunene River, an improbable blue and green scar cutting across the northern edge of the country en-route to the Atlantic shore.
From here, fly south and return to the relative normality of the Ongava Private Game Reserve where lion, black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe and several pretty antelope species roam some of the richest wildlife habitat in Namibia. Stay for three nights at Ongava Tented Camp for an authentic safari experience, with wildlife of all sorts coming to the waterhole right in front of the camp; it’s superb by any measure. It’s worth taking a day trip next door to Etosha National Park where the characteristic salt pan scenery holds a surprisingly wild range of wildlife.
6. Great plains to great apes – East Africa’s finest
This stunner is a sublime mix of mountains, rainforest, open savannah, big herds of wildlife, and mountain gorillas.
Choose either the Masai Mara or Serengeti for some of the finest wildlife habitat in the world, and whether or not the wildebeest migration is in town, there’s always phenomenal amount and variety of animals to see including lion, elephant, buffalo, cheetah, hyena, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe.
In the Masai Mara we particularly like Offbeat Mara, Kicheche Bush Camp, Naboisho, Ngare Serian, Mara Plains and Cottars, all of them on private conservancies on Masai owned land. In the Serengeti, a number of authentic semi-mobile tented camps such as Serengeti Safari Camp, Olakira Camp and Serengeti Under Canvas follow the migrating herds across the plains. There are also some super permanent camps and lodges such as Lamai Serengeti and Namiri Plains in great spots to enjoy superb wildlife away from the busier migration spots. The Serengeti has several private wildlife reserves around its edges, where night drives, walking, sleep-outs and completely private wildlife viewing. Singita Faru Faru and Sasakwa, Klein’s Camp and Mwiba Lodge are good examples of places to stay in these reserves.
Uganda and Rwanda both offer excellent gorilla tracking, and while the Masai Mara is best combined with Uganda, Rwanda works beautifully with the Serengeti, in each case making use of direct scheduled flights. Uganda has the advantage of less expensive accommodation and lower gorilla permit prices, while Rwanda offers greater luxury and perhaps slightly easier trekking terrain. Lodges we like include Bwindi Lodge and Clouds Lodge in Uganda, and Virunga Lodge and Bisate in Rwanda.
7. Uber-stylish mobile safari – Exclusive Tanzania
Sleeping under canvas in Africa is not to be missed – to be properly immersed in the wilds, part of the surroundings and the great drama of life on the plains is a real safari highlight. Take this a step further, to a private mobile camping safari and you have a fabulous option for a family safari adventure. Choose a private camp in a private wildlife reserve it becomes a matchless experience. Singita Explore is a completely private tented camp, set up for each booking in a private spot in the 350,000 acre Grumeti Reserve (bigger than Berkshire).
The tents are beautifully fitted out in a wonderfully authentic campaign style, offering loads of space, lavish bedding, big bathrooms with plenty of hot water delivered on request and a flushing loo. Meals are a celebration of outstanding culinary skills usually enjoyed al fresco, whatever the time of day. Personal, intimate and exclusive you can plan each day as you wish viewing the wildlife, which is fabulous here year round, in specially adapted vehicles and on foot. Community visits, star gazing and night drives are all wonderful additions.
8. Celebrate in style – private island luxury
What better way to celebrate a big birthday than treating your nearest and dearest to a holiday on a private tropical island somewhere out in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean? Happily, a number of spectacularly beautiful islands fit the bill, accommodating from 12 to 50 people. Appealing on many fronts – remote, pristine, richly populated seas, delightful accommodation, varied activities and great snorkelling, diving and fishing – these tropical idylls will really hit the re-set button.
Among those to book for a private party are Fanjove, Mnemba, Thanda, and North, but our very favourite is Denis Island in the Seychelles. With gorgeous rooms, beautiful white sandy beaches, history, a working farm, plentiful marine life, a pool and tennis court, it’s bliss for a family. It’s also relatively easy to access, just 30 minutes from Mahe airport by air.
9. Brilliant Botswana – best of the best
Northern Botswana holds one of Africa’s most pristine expanses of wildlife-rich wilderness, within which the fabled Okavango Delta and the Linyanti and Selinda region are outstanding for exciting wildlife viewing in real privacy. It’s an incredible area for an extended safari too, since some places in the Delta offer terrific boat and dug-out canoe trips while others are excellent for safaris in a vehicle. For a real bucket list safari we’d recommend spending time in each area to get the very best out of this amazing part of Africa.
Amid the extraordinary wildlife are a handful of Africa’s most luxurious safari camps, with Selinda Camp or Zarafa in the Selinda Reserve, Duba Plains in a drier part of the Okavango Delta and the magnificent new Xigera in a stunning watery part of the Delta, top of the list. Selinda and Zarafa are wonderful places for day and night drives and walking safaris, with boat trips available when water levels allow. Duba Plains has a colossal wildlife population, and is best suited to safaris in open vehicles, although short boat trips can be enjoyed on the channel in front of the camp if there is enough water. Xigera is positioned beside a permanent channel of the Okavango River, which is deep enough for boat trips year round. It thus has access to the heart of a huge expanse of papyrus swamp which is superb for bird watching and finding sitatunga. Walks on the densely forested islands, and gentle cruises in dug-out canoes are also fantastic here.
10. One to book ahead
Rovos Rail has a well-earned reputation as the operator of one of the most luxurious trains in the world. Surprisingly perhaps, for such a luxury-focused business, it has a pioneering spirit when it comes to exploring new destinations. 2022 will see the launch of an amazing journey travelling nearly 2,000 miles from Victoria Falls in Zambia to Lobito on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Angola. Swinging northeast through Zambia, the train heads north into the Democratic Republic of Congo, before turning west to travel all the way across Angola to the coast. Known as the Copper Trail, this stretch of railway takes in the Zambian and Congolese copper belt, and the itinerary includes a guided tour of the city of Lubumbashi, known for its artisanal workshops, as well as several walking tours in Angola. Lobito itself is an historic colonial town, positioned on one of the best natural harbours in Africa, which became the terminus of the Benguela railway connecting the Congo and Zambia Copper Belt with the ocean and export markets around the world.
The journey takes 15 days, and operates in both directions. As well as the time in Congo and Angola, a three night safari in Zambia’s superb South Luangwa National Park is included. More details will follow as they become available.
If you like what you’ve read here about our bucket list safaris and want to find out more, do get in touch – chatting to people by phone or email is what we do best. We listen, we explain, we answer all sorts of questions even those you didn’t know to ask, and finally we make suggestions. If this is your first time to Africa or your twenty first, we have a team standing by to help make the planning easy and the journey the best ever. Please get in touch whatever stage you’re at.