Gathered around a cheerful fire, July’s safari travellers discuss the sightings of the day. The winter night sky is so full of stars it lends a luminous glow to the scene and the far-off baying of hyenas promises a busy game drive in the morning.
Timing is everything. If you want the best seats in the house, you need to book your place well in advance. When it comes to once-in-a-lifetime journeys to Africa’s vast playground, you definitely want to be in the front row seats for all the legendary spectacles.
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.
Johannesburg is Africa's economic powerhouse known to locals as Joburg, Jozi and Egoli (the ‘city of gold’). The city is modern and enormous, sprawling in all directions as the heart beat of commerce demands more offices, houses and malls. About 60 kilometres away lies Pretoria, which is the seat of administrative government in South Africa and a very pretty city with jacaranda-lined streets. Both of these urban centres are vibrant and cosmopolitan, linked by a fast-moving, multi-lane highway and the high-speed Gautrain, making it easy to explore the places that played a critical role in Nelson Mandela’s life story or which honour his legacy.
If we’re being totally honest, most of Africa’s flagship wilderness regions are wild, free and unfenced (except for the outermost borders!). Some lodges prefer, or are required by regulation, to fence their living quarters and this is obviously great for families with small children and lodges with larger guest numbers. But, let’s face it, our dreams of wildest Africa include hearing lions roar a stone’s throw from your tented suite and gazing out at a busy waterhole from the camp’s deck.