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When you think of a safari, you probably think of a big 4x4 Jeep, hunkered down on a dusty African road, with a host of excited passengers peering out of the windows, all eagerly trying to spot the next animal. While this is probably the most common style of safari and has its own perks and benefits, there are others that are definitely worth exploring such as:

1. Hot-air Balloon Safari

No other option allows you to get such a feeling of scale and wonder as a hot-air balloon safari. High up in the sky, you have the opportunity to view incredible sights such as the Wildebeest Migration or elephant herds wandering the plains. Balloon safaris give you a sense of grandeur simply unattainable through any other means of transport, and are also perfect for viewing scenery such as mountains, waterfalls and rainforests. Bear in mind that will you will be high up above the game as getting too close to the ground could pose the risk of the balloon being snagged on trees.

East Africa balloon safaris give you a new perspective over the expansive savannah landscape.
Observe the scale of massive herds from the air.

How to do it: The Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya are ideal for balloon safaris, which depart at dawn when the wind is lowest and are a great add-on to a more traditional Big 5 or Migration safari.

2. Canoe Safari

Although humans have evolved to desire a wide variety of adventures beyond our primal needs, (such as safaris!) the animals we go to view aren’t interested in people watching and still seek out two natural resources above all else: food and water. Being in a canoe, floating along a river in the heart of one of Africa’s many game reserves, provides a great opportunity to spot wildlife up close and offers a completely unique perspective from the water. When they come down to the bank to drink, you can observe the animals from the relative safety of the water.

Canoe safaris aren’t just great for wildlife viewing though, they are also a perfect adventure escape. Paddling down the gentle rivers of Africa, exploring the wild and untamed land, you’ll feel very far away from the life you lead at home. You will travel with an experienced guide who will ensure your safety should you come across hippos or crocodiles.

Elephants cross a river in Mana Pools Game Reserve in Zimbabwe, one of the best destinations for canoe safaris.
A canoe safari lets you observe animals on their way down to the river, without getting too close.
Observing animals while on foot is an engaging experience.
Your guide & tracker will share interesting details about the terrain, animals & plants.

How to do it: Botswana’s enormous Okavango Delta has plenty of channels and waterways that are perfect for paddling – it’s no coincidence that a traditional mokoro or dug-out canoe has long been the best way to navigate this game-rich wetland. A 4-day canoe safari is a great add-on to a traditional safari – this canoe adventure is of our favourites.

3. Walking Safari

It doesn’t get more personal than this. Just you, the ground beneath your feet and the African wilderness beyond. Your guides can tell you about the historical context of the area you are exploring, the relevance and importance of certain plants, the ecosystems and the wildlife, too. This is the perfect chance not only to feel connected with the natural world but to experience it through touch, sight, sound and smell; a full immersion of the mind and body. A walking safari is by far the most engaging but also the most strenuous, as there are no barriers between you and the wild world. Ensure you are accompanied by professional guides, who are well-versed in the area in which you are exploring, however, and your experience will be nothing short of incredible.

How to do it: Zambia‘s incredible guides pioneered walking safaris in the verdant South Luangwa Valley, which still sets the standard for safari-goers who want to lace up their boots every morning. One of the best options is this 8-day walking safari adventure through both South and North Luangwa National Parks.

4. Horseback Safari

Riding on horseback through the reserves of Africa combines many of the best elements of both walking and traditional safari tours, with a few ‘extras’ sprinkled on top. Like walking safaris, you feel a connection to the wild world of Africa but with the advantage that many animals are more relaxed in the presence of the horses. Like a traditional safari, you get easier transport and can travel a greater distance but without the noise of an engine. What horse safaris really bring to the table though, is the ability to go where neither human nor car could easily reach: rivers, narrow passes and rough terrain. It is worth noting, however, that horseback riding safaris can be intense and usually require strong previous experience in horse riding — they are not a beginner’s game.

A group of riders with their guides enjoy a horse-back safari in Tanzania's wildlife-rich Grumeti region.
A horse-back safari in the Makgadikadi Pans during Botswana's Green Season offers a good chance of witnessing the zebra migration.

How to do it: The Grumeti is a beautiful part of Tanzania that is home to Singita Faru Faru, a luxurious safari lodge where you can saddle up for day out along the Grumeti River. In about June, you could see thousands of wildebeest cross the river during their annual migration to the Masai Mara – a very dramatic spectacle! Riders should be relatively experienced and all horses are well trained by their caring handlers.

Of course, it is completely possible to combine all of these exhilarating activities into your traditional safari, depending on your destination and the time of year. Chat to your Safari Expert about including a hot-air balloon ride or a canoe excursion and see Africa from a completely different perspective.

Written By

Mark Crouch

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