My first evening on Botswana’s Chobe River was the stuff of dreams. I sat on the roof of a game drive vehicle and watched in open-mouthed wonder as herd after herd of elephants poured out of the surrounding forest and down to the river to drink. Many younger ones broke into a run, their trunks and ears flapping in excitement; the older ones usually managed to keep to a dignified pace – at least until the last few yards. The countless trampling feet sent dust billowing into the air, turning the setting sun into a huge, hanging orb of fire.
It’s early morning and the still-cool air is filled with the buzzing and chirping of countless insects and birds. You’re walking single file along a dusty hippo trail when suddenly your guide gives the signal and you freeze: up ahead a lioness wanders into view, fixes you in the gaze of her savannah-gold eyes, then with a flick of her tail slinks away again into the surrounding bush.
Blessed with abundant wildlife and a benign climate, South Africa has long been a leading safari destination. Its most famous and flagship national reserve – the Kruger National Park – is Africa’s oldest conservation area. Among South Africa's reserves you'll find Big 5 safaris in malaria-free areas and conservancies for rare and endangered animals, ranging from rhinos and cheetahs to aardvarks and mountain zebras. These attractions combined with a first world infrastructure make South Africa the perfect choice for a first-time safari goer.
Few countries rival South Africa when it comes to wildlife and convenient travel. Home to the Big 5 and a bird list that nudges North America’s, it’s a country that takes conservation seriously: just one of its game reserves is the size of Wales while many others provide strongholds for endangered rhinos, cheetahs and wild dogs.
The first time I visited Victoria Falls I was eight years old. We put on raincoats in the bright Zimbabwean sunshine then wandered into an Enchanted Forest filled with a low rumble and fine drizzle. I’d been excited about seeing this big waterfall but had never imagined something so powerful it could surround me with sound and soak me with its rainbow-lit spray – it was magical!
The full bodied pinotage swirled in my glass, its luscious plum colour staining the edges. Aromas of raspberries and black cherries floated through the air and I offered up my glass for a refill. Wine tasting at Spier means three things: generous helpings, numerous samplings and expert advice.
If I close my eyes and think about my past trips to Namibia, my mind floods with memories so vivid I can smell the dry fragrance of the desert and feel gritty sand crunching under my shoes. I remember when I stood on a camel thorn, stifling a gasp less I threaten the silence of the game-packed Okaukeujo waterhole, and when we climbed a Spitzkoppe peak at dawn, my rubber shoes gripping the granite, as the sun bathed the campsite below us in a soft pink light...
It began with a question: are there any African wildlife destinations left where you won’t be surrounded by a pack of 4X4s at every sighting and be confronted by manicured luxury lodges around each corner? I must admit I had my doubts before I gritted my teeth and went on a winter camping safari to a remote slice of the Kalahari. I wanted the wilderness but I also wanted to be comfortable.
One of the biggest questions to ask when you're considering a safari in Africa is: east or south?
The world's largest waterfall and its surrounding game reserves are just two of the many attractions which draw people to a Victoria Falls holiday. This iconic destination has also earned its reputation as the adrenaline capital of Africa; it has one of the highest – and definitely the most spectacular – bungee jumps in the world along with a long list of adrenaline-charged activities including abseiling, bridge-swinging, tandem parachuting and white-water rafting.