Sensational Sabbaticals in Africa

September 1st 2019  |   Travel, Wildlife Safaris, Conservation Safaris, Unique Experiences  |  by   Alice Gully
Sabbatical in Africa - lions on a wildlife drive on safari

We’ve put together several, bucket list-amazing, sabbatical holidays and thought we should share how brilliantly a jaunt to Africa can activate the re-set button.  Running from two weeks to two months (or more), these trips can be planned as part of a worldwide holiday or stand alone, and for couples, families or single travellers.

The getting away from it all sabbatical

Expect: Limited WiFi, near-empty national parks (human that is, not wildlife), walking safaris and beach lodges that buck the trend.
Our suggestions: Start upstream of the Victoria Falls where you can slot into the pace of African life at somewhere like Sindabezi Island, an idyllic five-chalet isle on the Zambezi River. Then head to Liuwa Plain, a hidden gem for modern day explorers where hyena, in clans of 50 or more, are among the apex predators.  Antelope roam the sweeping plains, also home to magnificent birdlife, Africa’s second biggest wildebeest migration and a burgeoning cheetah population.

Next up is Kafue and the Busanga plains – one of Zambia’s least explored yet most rewarding wildlife destinations, famous for lion and prolific plains wildlife. Tiny Busanga Bush Camp, with its majestic views and varied activities is the perfect base here. Now well into the swing of things it’s time to explore on foot. Split six days between Luwi, Kakuli and Mchenja camps in the South Luangwa National Park, walking from one to the next and you’ll get to experience the Luangwa Valley at it’s very best. Leaving the wildlife behind we’d suggest your final stop should be the incredible Kaya Mawa, in the middle of Lake Malawi, for a week of utter spoiling.

Bedroom at Kaya Mawa, Lake Malawi

Kaya Mawa, Likoma Island, Lake Malawi

The splurge sabbatical

Expect: Luxurious lodges, conservation and sustainability ethos, iconic wildlife, sensational beach
Our suggestions: If you are really up for doing Africa once, at its very best, then this would be fabulous. Start with two days gorilla tracking in Rwanda, based at the new and extremely elegant Singita Kwitonda and villa, Kataza House. Hop across the border to Tanzania and the Serengeti where the luxury Singita experience continues. First at Singita Sasakwa Lodge, set on a hill with glorious views over the grasslands where the big wildlife roams freely, and then with Singita Explore, a sole-use mobile camp for up to 12 guests.

Lions at Singita Explore

Wildlife viewing with Singita Explore

It’s hard to beat the Serengeti but the Ngorongoro Crater comes very close and in Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, perched on the crater rim, you’ll find ornate architecture jostling with some of the world’s best wildlife viewing. For once, jaw-dropping is entirely appropriate. While some layovers can seem like dead nights you could never say that of Giraffe Manor, an extraordinary spot where giraffe wander through the gardens poking their heads through windows searching for treats. A night or two here and you connect onwards to the Seychelles and North Island.

Pool and beach, North Island, Seychelles

Barefoot luxury at North Island, Seychelles

This tiny spec in the middle of the Indian Ocean is a paradise of waving palms, powder-white beaches, glorious accommodation and world-class cuisine.

The conservation sabbatical

Expect: Interesting characters, behind-the-scenes access, active involvement
Our suggestions: To get stuck into a conservation safari you need to spend a decent amount of time in each place, so our first suggestion would be to spend a week at least on every stop. Northern Kenya is the start point on this trip, where Michael Dyer and Borana Lodge are at the heart of one of East Africa’s most successful rhino sanctuaries.

Black rhino and bird at Borana Lodge, Kenya

Rhino at Borana Lodge

With Michael Dyer booked as your private guide you’ll get an exclusive glimpse of his life as a trailblazing conservationist while experiencing the pristine wilderness on horseback, foot, bicycle and open top Land Rovers. Swapping rhino for elephant, we’ll arrange for you to stay at Elephant Watch Camp in the Samburu Reserve where Iain Douglas-Hamilton set up Save the Elephants more than 20 years ago. The camp is home to Iain’s daughter Saba Douglas-Hamilton who is both a wonderful guide and passionate conservationist – quite simply the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to African elephant conservation.

Saba Douglas-Hamilton with elephant herd at Elephant Watch Camp, Kenya

Elephants on a with Saba Douglas-Hamilton at Elephant Watch Camp. (credit. Tim Beddow)

It’s not only Kenya’s wildlife that’s under threat; communities too are under the spotlight. Plan some time at Bandas in the Wild, part of the House in the Wild collection, in the Masai Mara and you have the opportunity to experience real life Africa while working on innovative ways to improve livelihoods and conserve wildlife. Whether you stay one week or three months you will make a meaningful contribution to conservation and community projects.

The best bits of Africa sabbatical

Expect: City, wilderness, wildlife, culture
Our suggestions: Choosing the best bits of Africa is a tough ask and there are myriad options for this one. If it was my sabbatical here’s what I’d choose. Cape Town to enjoy good food, culture and activities. Then I’d nip across to the Kruger and the private Sabi Sands reserve for superb wildlife and luxurious accommodation at Chitwa Chitwa. Botswana would have to be on the list, so I would choose a combination of Duba Plains in the Okavango Delta and Selinda Camp in the Linyanti area to get the best of everything here.

Aerial boating in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Boating in the Okavango Delta from Selinda Camp

Victoria Falls is easy to access from Botswana’s wilderness so The River Club would make a good stop for a few nights to catch my breath. You can’t do the ‘best’ without stopping off in the Masai Mara and Mara Plains would be my choice here. I’ve seen the gorillas before and they’d certainly be on my ‘to do’ list again so three nights in Rwanda at Bisate Lodge would sort that.

Silverback gorilla in the undergrowth, Volcanoes National Park

Magnificent silverback gorilla in Volcanoes National Park, Bisate Lodge

I love diving so the beach would need to feature too – somewhere like Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives, would be the perfect spot.

Any questions on sabbatical safari holidays?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

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