Contrary to popular belief, bucket lists aren’t only for retired folk. Today, youngsters are more switched on than ever before and after spending hours watching BBC or Lost Planet documentaries, many can’t wait to come to Africa and experience the thrill of seeing a leopard in the wild or elephant family at play for themselves.
At Go2Africa, we don’t recommend anything to our clients that we haven’t tried ourselves – it’s our ‘we know because we go’ policy in action. This is especially important when it comes to recommending something as sensitive as an animal encounter. By ‘animal encounter’ we don’t mean observing animals on ordinary game-viewing experiences but when an interaction with the animal is the main focus of an activity, such as gorilla trekking or visiting an elephant orphanage.
It’s impossible not to like giraffes. Their languid manner and slightly puzzled expressions have entranced us since one was shipped to a disbelieving Italy in the 1400s. It is an animal so peculiar in appearance that its scientific name - Giraffa camelopardalis - reflects its perceived similarity to both a camel and… a leopard.
Lions are one of the most sought-after sightings on a safari. The excitement of seeing them is somehow connected to our primal 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!
The iconic images of African wildlife are typically of large, leopard-studded trees in rolling savannahs, sweeping vistas with wildebeest and zebra stretching to the horizon, silhouettes of baobabs and dramatic heart-wrenching depictions of animals battling it out against the elements in the continent’s harshest environments. Photographs of these scenes abound in the pages of magazines and coffee table books, and are spread thick and wide across the Internet. But there’s another part of Africa, a wild eden, which offers a different safari experience where fresh images can be found, even for experienced photographers and safari goers. That place is the Eastern Cape, in South Africa.
We’re often asked by travellers what they should be booking by when to avoid disappointment. There’s nothing worse than having your heart set on doing a southern Africa safari with your kids for the Easter holidays and thinking you have oodles of time to arrange it all, only to find that all the best accommodation was booked up months previously. It’s no fun staring at the four walls of your living room when you could’ve have been watching endangered wild dogs on the hunt or a leopard snoozing peacefully in the branches of an acacia tree…
October in Africa and the weather is in charge. In East Africa the short rains have begun and the landscape replies with a blanket of fresh green grass. South of the Zambezi, however, it has barely rained since May and animals mill around the remaining waterholes.
From the dusty tents of explorers to exquisite eco-conscious lodges - the African safari has come a long way in the past hundred years without losing any of its romance and adventure. Today, many tented camps mirror the grandeur and opulence of days gone by, while others have completely reinvigorated the safari lodge, offering a brand new take on African aesthetics, authenticity and luxury.
Planning your safari is very exciting – there are so many bucket-list experiences to choose from and natural wonders to see, every kind of accommodation you can imagine and as many different settings, from mountains to beaches, rainforests to deserts.
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.