Lions are the most sought-after sighting on a safari. The excitement of seeing them is partly because we expect to see them in Africa and are reassured when we do but there’s also something a bit more primal behind our fascination with them. Thanks to their reassuringly feline name – Panthera leo – we know we are technically dealing with ‘cats’ but lions are startlingly huge, almost bear sized. Their muscular, barrel-chested bodies and arrogantly jutting chins let everyone know who the boss is – and it’s not the 2-legged creatures wearing sunglasses!
Africa’s far-flung camps bring you closer to nature and offer the most authentic tented accommodation from the golden era of safari travel. The experience is comfortable, rugged, surprising and thrilling, but before you take a tour on the wild side, find out what you need to be prepared for and why we love these camps.
Spring is slowly coming to the northern hemisphere, luring many people from their hunkered-down hibernations, but in the south, winter is coming. But winter in the south is nothing like winter in the north – in fact, its cool evenings and balmy, dry days are perfect for game watching. High season for both safari and the Great Migration is fast approaching and lodges and camps are gearing up to welcome guests from across the globe.
March is not a relaxing month.The poet Ogden Nash described it as that month of 'wind and taxes', but March in Africa is an interesting ‘shoulder month’ between high summer and the start of autumn.
They say that the third Monday in January is ‘the most depressing day of the year’ as the bloom wears off your Christmas and New Year’s memories, you get back into the work grind and the bills start arriving again. Then around rolls February, usually the coldest, wettest and generally most miserable month in the northern hemisphere. Is it any wonder at this rather bleak time of year that our hearts and minds focus on escaping to warm beaches, sunny climates and tropical islands?
It's February in Africa and summer is in full swing. Rain has settled in across much of the continent and many of its top safari destinations, drenching the tropical coastline in afternoon showers. But it's not all grey clouds: choose the right destination, and you’ll find yourself under Africa's classic blue skies and gorgeous sunshine.
In many ways, Port Elizabeth is a great place to end off your Garden Route self-drive holiday. Lying in the Eastern Cape province, it’s the place where the Western Cape’s lush forests and plantations start giving way to burnt orange aloes and the thicket bush that is the perfect terrain for kudu and one of the Eastern Cape’s main attractions: elephants. Addo Elephant National Park lies less than hour from PE – as it’s known to locals – and is ideal for first-time safari goers who are looking for a completely safe, malaria-free, family-friendly destination.
South of the equator, January is midsummer. If you’re planning to come to Africa at this time, you might hear things like: it'll be hot, it'll be wet, the wildlife is as widely dispersed as the abundant surface water (instead of conveniently concertrated around waterholes), and some lodges and camps are closed for the 'off' season.
Soft white snowfall on Christmas Day is a real scene-stealer but the months before and after the powdery magic give the northern hemisphere winter a bad name: sludgy ice mixed with mud tracked all over your living room and grey skies as dull and endless as left-over turkey. Luckily, there's a a perfectly balmy solution to escape your central heating and trade your thermal underwear for beachwear and sandals: say ‘hello’ to Christmas in Africa.
Robben Island, lying off the coast of Cape Town, is part of a long list of islands known primarily for being prisons. But, unlike Rikers and Alcatraz, its history has seen it go from being a leper colony, to a thriving 19th century ‘town’ complete with a school and post office, to a notorious penitentiary, and now a must-see travel destination studded with historical buildings and home to a flock of adorable but highly endangered African penguins.