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Old Safari Favourites and Journeys Beyond the Obvious

Mark Pearson picks his perfect safari…

Sometimes when planning a safari we want the familiar ‘classic’ safari experience. Tried and tested safari destinations which always deliver.

While other times the spirit of adventure calls and we want something a little different, unusual and stimulating.

So, with Coronavirus in our midst, what better way to spend the time than picking the perfect safari until things calm down?

With that in mind over the next few newsletters one of the Zambezi team will guide and inform you about some of our own favourite safari destinations. But with some top tips and tricks to avoid those over-congested waterholes!

First, what’s your perfect safari style?

  • Dreaming about a classic traditional safari? With picnic breakfasts and sundowners on the open plains and amazing wildlife encounters. Tall tales by the campfire at dinner and a cosy bed in your well-equipped safari tent. Finally falling asleep to the sounds of the African night. Great wildlife, great hospitality and company. Easy in, easy out. Does this sound like your ideal safari?

If so – go for one of the ‘Old Faithful’ safari destinations, but take advice on how to avoid the crowds.

Hwange Campfire Tales

Hwange Campfire Tales with Ele’s - credit Amalinda Collection

Or, you don’t like to follow the herd? Avoid the mainstream. Instead, seek out undiscovered and unspoiled safari gems. You want to be a pioneer and adventurer rather than fly with the flock. Different landscapes, authentic cultural interaction and unique wildlife events are what attract you. If this is you then it makes sense to take the same approach on safari.

You need to go beyond the obvious!

Mark’s tips on how to go on a classic safari without the package crowds…

PLUS... how to get into the more remote and wild safari areas for those who prefer to go ‘off piste’!

Africa's top spots

Mark Pearson, one of Zambezi’s “old hands” who many will know, is first up with his favourite safari destinations. Time to dust off those binos and discover two of his top destinations Kenya and Zimbabwe.

First…Kenya - vast open plains full of iconic African wildlife

Mark says “Kenya’s always great for that traditional ‘Out of Africa’ safari feeling. Classic, classy and timeless!”

Kenya’s Masai Mara still gives that classic authentic safari, yet in a more mainstream destination. Easy in and out - guaranteed crowd pleaser for friends and family with loads of wildlife, great guiding and hospitality for all.

Yes, the main national parks can get uncomfortably crowded at peak migration times, but if you know the right places to go you can still have an authentic safari with the wildlife to yourself.  Most people don’t realise there is a 2nd wildebeest migration in the Mara earlier in the year.  Making it a great time to go.  This footage was taken in February when the wildebeest are calving en masse.

Smaller tented camps in private conservancy areas are the way to go.

  • The wildlife is amazing and the minibuses aren’t permitted.
  • Explore with Maasai warrior trackers.
  • Night and walking safaris uncover vast numbers of typical African animals.
  • Stay in tented camps, safari houses and lodges in private reserves.
  • The Mara is the perfect first time or easy safari with loads of wildlife. And, if you follow our advice you’ll have the open plains to yourselves.

Old Safari Favourites – but without the crowds!

As recently returned Phil and Julia Williams told us, “The Masai Mara always delivers”.   They saw an amazing array of wildlife including lion, cheetah, elephant, giraffe and much more.  The took this beautiful photo of a balloon rising behind the herds just after dawn.


Balloon & Zebra in the Mara - credit Julia and Phil Williams

With large numbers of resident animals as well as the Great Migration in situ August - October, there really is no bad time to visit the Mara.  There are locations to avoid however, especially during peak migration season!  To avoid the crowds we’d recommend sticking to the excellent and exclusive private conservancy areas, such as in these sample itineraries…

Beyond the Obvious – for something a little different….

For something a little bit special, Kenya’s northern wilderness will definitely appeal – remote, with prolific wildlife and fascinating cultures.  With plenty of activities, it’s also a big favourite with families.

A fly-in safari to Laikipia and Samburu offers a different sort of safari with smaller camps and lodges, often family run. Gorgeous mountain scenery, stunning wildlife - with hiking, biking and horseback safaris to camel riding.  Plus meeting remote tribes and visiting local schools - something for everyone. A unique and adventurous safari with a difference far away from the mainstream crowded national parks, in some of Kenya’s most dramatic landscapes.

And, for the true explorers we’d recommend an expedition to Lake Turkana for some truly wild landscapes and experiences.

 Next … Zimbabwe – southern Africa wildlife central!

Mark says, “Wilderness camps, top lodges, wildlife, scenery and culture. Zim always delivers the perfect safari if you know where to go.”

Zimbabwe is where Zambezi originated and it produces high quality safaris for our clients time and time again. Once they experience a top notch Zim safari, our family and friends return year after year.

  • Each trip is different and the quality of the parks, guiding and hospitality in the camps is exceptional.
  • Walking and canoeing safaris are a highlight here and both add that extra ‘wow factor’ to a safari.
  • The trick is to steer clear of the larger lodges and busy areas around the main gates. Instead get further into the heart of the wilderness areas with the best guides!
  • Like Kenya, we stay in private conservancy areas where possible.

In our experience Zim consistently provides raw, untamed wildlife encounters in some of the world’s largest protected wilderness areas.  With possibly the best walking and canoeing safaris in Africa.

Hwange Waterhole

Hwange Waterhole - credit Amalinda Collection

Old Safari Favourites – but without the crowds!

  • Matopos, Hwange and Victoria Falls – Vic Falls Big 5 Safari 30th Anniversary Special. Staying in small family run lodges and camps, this safari has it all – rhino tracking on foot, ancient rock art and fascinating cultural interactions and history along with stupendous wildlife and one of the world’s largest and most iconic waterfalls.
  • Or for those wanting some of Africa’s finest birding with their wildlife this green season safari ticks all the boxes – Hwange and Vic Falls – Birding and Wildlife Safari
  • Short on time? The Victoria Falls Big 5 Safari offers wildlife and waterfall action, as well as a drinks cruise on the mighty Zambezi River. It’s one of our most popular trips. Easily adapted to suit more or less adventurous styles. Wildlife, Rivers, Waterfalls.

Beyond the Obvious – for something a little different….

Zimbabwe has a well-trodden safari route around Victoria Falls.  Yet there is so much more, including amazing wilderness areas and history away from the beaten track.

In our eyes Zimbabwe is safari heaven - walking, riding, canoeing and boating safaris add to the wildlife experience here.  In fact there’s even a swimming safari!


Swimming with Elephants - credit Amalinda Collection

Just a few more ideas and inspiration for your perfect safari

  • The wildebeest migration is tricky - it tends to attract crowds -and lodges near the action sell out over a year in advance. There is much more to Africa than the migration, but for some it’s the once in a lifetime safari. And certainly amazing seeing millions of wildebeest! Plan well ahead. Read our The Serengeti migration - how to get it right!
  • Flying or driving? Africa is BIG! We’d concentrate on one or two areas near to each other to start with and take it from there. Flying around the continent tends to jack up the costs. Short charter flights in and out of camp are good. They can help maximise your time in the parks and reserves, so less time wasted on long road transfers.
  • An article on “going beyond the obvious”  is a primer or refresher for first-timers and seasoned travellers alike. Geography, seasons, people and some top tips. It covers our best areas in southern, East and Central Africa.
  • Escape from the crowds - if you’re flexible with dates then it pays to not fly with the flock! We can help with that. Our “secret seasons” - helps give an overview of when to find the best game conditions, few tourists and get the best rates.

Bush Breakfast Laikipia - credit Lewa House

Remember - authentic doesn’t mean ‘basic’!

  • A good safari will have everything you need, and nothing you don’t need!  We try to encourage people to have an ‘authentic’ African safari. One which is more about the wildlife and getting out into the wilderness than the thread count of the linen. (Although for those special trips which need bit more luxury we can of course provide!)  Read our article on “honest African dirt” - or why we shouldn’t let luxury get in the way of some top experiences.
  • So a good quality safari usually costs more than your average vacation or holiday. Due to its very nature – remote areas, expert guiding and all-inclusive of meals and drinks and park fees.

Getting there - easy in and out

  • Victoria Falls and Lusaka are southern Africa’s “safari hubs”. Both are easy in and out and offer some fantastic extraordinary safari experiences away from the crowds.   Classic destinations include Hwange, Chobe/Savuti, Okavango, Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Lake Kariba.   For something different consider Liuwa, Kafue, Mana, and the Kalahari. Start your research here.
  • Nairobi, Kilimanjaro, Entebbe, Kigali and Dar es Salaam are East Africa’s “safari hubs”. East Africa offers a more well-trodden safari route with a more ‘African’ flavour but it is possible to escape the crowds if you know where to go. A safari in Kenya is not only easy to reach - but will guarantee some of Africa’s greatest wildlife sightings in top private reserves. It’s a great first time safari choice and also great for families.

We hope you’ve enjoyed Mark’s tips and ideas.  We’ll have more next time.  In the meantime, talk to us about your preferred style and budget so we can find a good match. You’ll find us in various social media channels, please do share with family and friends.

So remember….in a short time things will go back to normal.

In the meantime, think of that warm African sunshine, the fresh green smell of the bush as rains approach, the ‘fizz’ of that ice cold sundowner drink as the African sun sinks below the horizon, and the roar of the lions beyond the camp fire.

Safari memories last a lifetime.

And finally, it’s never to early to start making safari plans.

Contact our Africa specialists