Of all the chapters in the story that is East Africa's Great Wildebeest Migration, none is more dramatic than the river crossings. Arriving in wide-eyed anticipation, the herds pile up like an enormous traffic jam at the Grumeti and Mara Rivers, desperate to complete their journey through the Serengeti and back into the Masai Mara. But crossing the murky brown rivers is no easy task. Giant crocodiles have been waiting all year for the herds and things aren't much better for the survivors - big cats lie in ambush on the other side.
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.
Family holidays in Africa began at an early age for me but each has remained indelibly imprinted on my mind. I was a young child on our Lake Kariba fishing adventure in Zimbabwe and barely into my teens when we canoed down the Zambezi River and explored the Okavango Delta, but we still talk about these trips decades later. Although, as adults, we now lead separate and far-flung lives, subsequent family holidays to Zanzibar, Mozambique or Botswana have served to bring us together, reinforcing family ties and sharing wonderful experiences.
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...
Africa offers travellers the chance to witness some of nature's grandest spectacles. The continent is famous for its vast herds of wildebeest that cross the Serengeti, rumbling families of elephants in the Chobe, and the stylishly blasé leopards of the Kruger National Park. But by far the most transformative and up-close wildlife experience in Africa is a face-to-face encounter with the great apes of Uganda and Rwanda.
There are many wonderful places to photograph birds in Africa. The Chobe River in Botswana offers out-of-this-world birding from the vantage of a customised photographic boat, creating minimal disturbance and putting you in prime position to capture fantastic images. Close by, the Okavango Delta has several birding highlights throughout the year. Falling water levels in October expose sandbanks that attract nesting African Skimmers, huge noisy heronries rise and fall, and the summer rains bring exotic migrant species into the area. Further south, the bird list at South Africa's Phinda Reserve is so large that some say it offers the best birding in Africa!
Taking a road trip through Kenya is a great way to explore this iconic destination. My safari begins in the lush rainforest of Mount Kenya National Park where I discover that a good guide can turn an uneventful stroll into a magical experience. What more could you ask for: the haunting skull of a forest buffalo, monkeys whooshing through the canopy, and mid-morning tea served in a woodland clearing?