The events of 2020 have altered many of our holiday plans: a few cancelled, some altered and most postponed. As the global pandemic has evolved, closed borders, cancelled flights, government restrictions and health concerns have all played their part in these changes.
Thankfully though, some things have remained intact: the wildlife and wilderness areas we love have remained; the safari camps and guardians of the natural world continue to protect both, while waiting patiently for our return, and our travellers’ desire to venture to Africa remains steadfast and strong.
And Africa is now very much open for adventure! Intrepid travellers are currently reaping huge benefits from their perseverance and drive, in venturing away from home. Extraordinary wildlife encounters and unusually quiet national parks are resulting in some truly remarkable and private experiences for those who make the journey. Our travellers’ most recent reports are certainly giving us all itchy feet…
Surreal Serengeti – wild and empty
The Serengeti in September is always thrilling and intensely dramatic. The wildebeest migration is in full swing, with phenomenal herds of zebra and grunting gnu covering the grasslands and braving the crocodile infested rivers, while predators hunt day and night. The wildlife numbers and interactions are simply astonishing. Not surprisingly, the spectacle usually attracts large numbers of visitors to the park, but not this year.
As travel in 2020 was widely postponed, visitor numbers plummeted across Africa. But as borders have reopened, our travellers started venturing back to the continent’s wonderous wilds. For those few who made the journey, Tanzania’s Serengeti has delivered its spectacular wildlife show with unusual levels of solitude.
Recently returning from his trip, Expert Africa traveller Austin wrote: “I’ve always loved going on safari in remote national parks like Gonarezhou, Mana Pools, or Etosha in Southern Africa. They are always less crowded and game is plentiful. It just feels more wild when no one is around. This year, the Serengeti is exactly like that. With almost no one else on holiday, the Serengeti has felt like our own private national park.
Every morning we wake up to the sound of birds and watch the sun rise behind thousands of wildebeest as they make their yearly migration. Each day we see tons of game including elephants, giraffes, buffalo, lions, zebra, hyenas and more. Walking throughout the park is wonderful and I haven’t heard or seen a vehicle in days. In the late afternoon we head out on another walk, tracking big cats as they begin their evening hunt. Finally, we enjoy the beautiful sunset, have dinner, and fall asleep to the sounds of nature, ready to do it all again tomorrow.
While traveling can seem like a scary thought in these chaotic and tumultuous times, being able to take a break from reality and experience nature in its purest form here in Tanzania has been a much needed experience.”
If, like many of us, you’re feeling the need to escape to the wild, please do get in touch with us for some destination inspiration. There may never again be such a peaceful, private time to visit the Serengeti’s game-rich plains or traverse the incredible Ngorongoro Crater. Travelling over the next few months will afford access to the migration on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti, the most easily accessible part of the park.
Christmas around the campfire?
From total lockdown to advice about limiting leisure activities and keeping our distance from family and friends, many of us are living with restrictions on our lives.
With Christmas approaching our minds are drawn to happier times spent laughing, indulging and getting together with those closest to us. So why not do exactly that this Christmas?
Get away from the restrictions to form your own bubble. Spend quality time with just your family and close friends at a private safari camp or house in a pristine natural environment – distanced from the rest of the world.
There’s still space over the festive period for us to arrange exclusive use of a number of small camps, houses and safari lodges to suit families and small groups from two to 24 people.
Raise a glass to Rudolph the rhino, catch up around the campfire, and finish the year with a wonderfully restorative escape.
Sustainable conservation and community spirit – a message of hope
The last eight months have seen extraordinary challenges to the wildlife of East and Southern Africa and to the communities who strive to protect it.
As visitor numbers tumbled in March, dropping to almost zero by June, speculative stories in the media suggested that poaching would decimate the continent’s mammals. There was acute concern that people living in community wildlife sanctuaries and on the borders of national parks would start hunting animals for bush meat, hides and trophies to replace the park fees and salaries that had so abruptly stopped
And yet, bar a few isolated examples, this hasn’t happened. Even in the darkest times, local people have not lost heart or sight of their conservation instincts. In many areas where Expert Africa operates safaris, the desire to treasure and protect the natural world is so deeply embedded, after more than a generation of good practice, that it has not quickly eroded.
People working closely with wildlife in the conjoined worlds of tourism and wildlife conservation care deeply about their local animals and environment. In the case of some species – especially the big cats, elephants and rhinos – our partners and their staff follow the individual fortunes and life cycles of particular animals with as much care and attention as they pay to their human neighbours.
These people are determined to make a better life and support their families by continuing to care for the ecosystems they have inherited. The fundamental way they do that (leaving aside government money and grants from charities and NGOs), is by hosting and guiding us – safari travellers – in their camps and lodges. Thus the biggest share of every pound or dollar we spend goes into the local economy.
Tourism income pays for everything from guides’ and rangers’ salaries, to medical and vet bills, school and university fees and to mitigating the inevitable conflict that occurs between wildlife and humans – whether that’s in the form of compensation for livestock killed by predators, or elephant-deterrent beehive fences to protect crops, or sinking boreholes to reduce the pressure on water supplies.
So, with many safari camps mothballed or running with a reduced staff, those employees who remain are dedicated to keeping everyone’s dreams alive. They are carefully watching for the green shoots of recovery and following the news as closely as any of us, ever mindful that many people’s plans for a more prosperous future have been put on hold.
Since August, countries and airline routes have steadily been re-opening, and the initial trickle of undaunted safari travellers has become a steady stream. Our travellers are now making last-minute bookings to take advantage of quiet conditions and special rates.
As a safari-goer, and Expert Africa traveller, you can make a significant contribution to the lives of these camp guides, staff and communities, and the areas they protect. By visiting one of our countries and getting out into the bush, you contribute directly to the lives and hopes of dozens of people. Read our recent reviews for examples of recent travellers who have done just that.
In some cases you’ll need a negative Covid-19 PCR test just before you fly, and this is already becoming almost as routine as getting a visa, while insurance companies are increasingly flexible about covering such trips, especially as the low incidence of Covid-19 in Africa, and the inherently benefits of being outdoors are recognised.
If travelling in Covid season is not for you, then you might still want to make a direct contribution towards a future trip. Many of our partners in Africa have set up schemes to support the communities and conservation in their areas. They are appealing for contributions in advance that can be immediately deployed, in exchange for the same value discounted from your future booking. At Expert Africa we will be very happy to organise such payments and maintain them for you as credit: just speak to the specialist advisor you most recently dealt with, or any member of our sales team.
The recovery of people’s livelihoods and the return of full security for Africa’s wildlife might be a slow process, but initiatives like these can help to stop the revival from faltering. Please join us in helping these communities protect the world we all love.