Wondrous, wild Africa can fuel many adventurer’s travel dreams – the only problem is, where do you start? If you are feeling the need to spend Christmas a little differently this year, here is our Africa Top 6 to get you started…
Wilderness Camp in Kenya is a nostalgic nod to the safaris of the early explorers and pioneers. Free from artificial luxury and modern disturbances, it is Safari as it was meant to be. Tucked away deep inside the incomparable Saddle Valley, it is just you, the Maasai, the wildlife and the stars – absolutely no unnecessary distractions. With only five tents, each fitted with a private bathroom and ‘safari-shower’, it offers the privilege of ultimate seclusion. Wilderness Camp offer Walking Safaris tailor-made to suit guests’ preferences, ranging from a couple of hours to several days with mobile camping – a truly wild experience.
Be Tarzan for the night at The Sleep Out Deck in Kanana. Overlooking an expansive water hole and just a mere 20 minutes’ gentle drive from camp, when filled by the annual rains the water hole is home to hippo, crocodile and a myriad of bird life. With the arrival of the dry season and as water recedes, the plains turn into a rich grassland and attract abundant game by day and night. The sleep out deck is constructed on two levels – the upper deck provides your sleeping quarters, and the lower deck for when nature calls. With star-lit views you can only find in Africa, you will wonder why it took you so long to start your African adventure.
Tracking Mountain Gorillas in the mist on the steep climbs of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is without doubt one of Uganda’s main attractions. Seeing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat go about their daily routines is truly unforgettable. Uganda is the only place in the world to offer the rare opportunity to spend a full day with researchers and conservationists as they undertake the tracking and gentle habituation of a new gorilla family. For gorillas to became habituated to the presence of humans is a long and gentle process that takes around five years. Each family group of gorillas are slowly exposed to park rangers on a daily basis. Over this period the rangers’ presence is more frequent and in closer proximity. Once the group is deemed ready, they are made available to paying tourists to spend the magical hour watching them interact with their family.
If African Wild Dogs could be re-named, it has been suggested that tourists might be keener to see these rarely seen canids, and perhaps even contribute more to their conservation. With the most creative but accurate optional name being Painted Wolf, it i clear to see how visitors from Europe and North America would cherish their fortunate sightings and not see the wild dog as something tantamount to a stray, seen at home. Living in small families across sub-Saharan Africa, the total population is believed to have dipped below ten thousand. Ruthless and highly successful hunters, packs are known to have huge ranges up to 1500sq.km and they can achieve speeds of over 35kmh. Their quarry is often captured through highly coordinated teamwork and amazing stamina. Wild dogs are regularly seen close to Konkamoya, located in Zambia’s Kafue National Park, where they have denned and successfully raised pups to the obvious delight of the lodge’s guests.
It is a region for those who wish to experience Africa at its most unspoiled and authentic. Malawi is blessed with a rich diversity of flora and fauna and has nine National Parks and Game Reserves, in fact, some of Africa’s most undiscovered wildlife hotspots. In the south, Liwonde National Park is brimming with elephants, whilst the Shire River attracts countless hippos and crocodiles. Nyika National Park, in the north, is Malawi’s largest national park with one of the highest densities of leopard in Central Africa. If it is the big five you are after, then head to Majete Wildlife Reserve, one of Malawi’s leading wildlife sanctuaries. The reserve is home to ten tousand animals and a decade ago saw the re-introduction of two thousand five hundred of them including lion, black rhino and leopard.
Heralding the New Year is the Incwala Festival, the most important annual cultural event in Swaziland – and it has just begun. The event is a celebration which unites the country, helps gain the blessing of ancestors, sanctifies the kingship, and celebrates the beginning of the harvest season. A sequence of four days culminates on 18 December’s Big Incwala, which is the major day of the festival. On this day feasting and dancing reach a climax, with thousands of people thronging the royal parade grounds. The ceremony ends when the King of Swaziland, Mswati III, in full ceremonial dress, joins his warriors in the traditional dance and enters a special sanctuary to eat the first fruits of the season. An utterly festive experience.