It’s all new this month – new safari camps, new areas to explore and new life to celebrate!
There’s a buzz in the Expert Africa team as our travellers return to Southern Africa in numbers that we haven’t seen since 2019. New enquiries are pouring in from those hoping to return to Africa later this year on holiday – with many commenting that after two years with little travel, the anticipation of a great trip has extra allure – and a safari is now top of their lists. After two very quiet years, it’s wonderful to share in the excitement and it’s especially positive for the teams working on the ground in Africa.
Camps are becoming busy as well and guides are relishing being out in the bush hosting guests. Our knowledgeable team and the strength of our industry relationships are again proving invaluable as we work on the jigsaw of pieces that make up our trips. With limited availability, our experience is key; we know that there are some super spots still available.
Just as the first good rains make the grass spring up, this torrent of new enquiries seems to have brought with it a crop of new camps this season, including some very promising ones. There are three terrific new camps in Botswana’s Okavango Delta; two intimate camps in Tanzania’s rugged Ruaha National Park; a relaxed, bijoux addition to Kenya’s famous Maasai Mara; and two smart new camps on opposite sides of the stunning Zambezi River – one in Zambia, the other in Zimbabwe. We cannot wait to visit – see you there?
Couple these terrific new openings with some uplifting wildlife updates from land and sea, and it’s impossible not to feel upbeat and keen to start packing…
Mozambique is Turtle-y Awesome
Blessed with palm-fringed beaches and almost impossibly blue Indian Ocean waters, Mozambique’s tropical islands are home to some of Africa’s finest beach retreats and marine parks.
In southern Mozambique, the five islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago sit within an impressive marine park. Formed of pale, sloping sands that dip gently into the warm waters, a handful of beautiful lodges nestle under the shade of wild orange and cashew trees, all just a snorkel away from kaleidoscopic coral reefs. It’s an idyllic location. But our travellers are not the only ones enjoying the halcyon setting; turtles are relishing life in the marine park too.
After 20 years of monitoring turtles, Mozambique has just recorded its highest ever number of turtle hatchlings in the archipelago, no less than 4,219 successful hatchlings from 72 nests. It’s particularly good news that turtles from all five species found in the Western Indian Ocean (Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley) were among the hatchlings.
The sight of tiny turtles scurrying across the sand from their nests to the ocean’s lapping waves is irresistibly appealing. Despite their small size (around 6cm), they are tireless in their determination to reach the water. Using a caruncle – a sharp, keratin ‘egg-tooth’ which extends from the upper jaw and falls off shortly after birth – they split the eggshell and use the movement of their flippers to dig themselves out of their sandy nests in a mass effort. Often leaving their nests under cover of darkness, to avoid predators and the heat of the day, hatchlings have an inbuilt compass and navigate by moonlight towards the horizon. As adults, they will ultimately return to within 50 miles of their birthplaces to breed again. With effective protection and monitoring firmly in place on these islands, this year’s hatchlings should have a safe space to return to in years to come and Mozambique’s rich waters will host these magnificent creatures in growing numbers.
For a chance to snorkel and dive with turtles, dolphins and a myriad of reef fish, or to simply indulge in lazy days relishing gourmet picnics on desert islands and sailing dhows in search of humpback whales, have a look at our tempting Bazaruto beach retreats: they are the epitome of luxury beach holidays.
Reigning Cats and Dogs
We have frequently featured stories of wildlife translocation and conservationists’ valiant efforts to protect biodiversity across Africa. So it’s enormously cheering to able to provide positive updates on the successes of missions that we’ve previously covered.
The 11 African Wild dogs that were translocated to Zambia’s Liuwa Plain National Park at the end of 2021 have settled in extremely well, resulting in their release from the boma (enclosure) into the national park in April 2022. Originally moved from Kafue NP and South Africa, the dogs have spent recent months in adjacent bomas to facilitate social bonding before their long-awaited release. This slow and carefully process has been imperative to success and, given that the 11 animals moved as one pack immediately upon release, the patient strategy paid off. And what a wilderness playground they now find themselves in! We can’t wait to see them on our next Liuwa safari.
Meanwhile, across the border in Malawi, the 6 dogs released into Majete and the 8 into Liwonde are thriving. Camera traps show that the Liwonde pack welcomed nine pups shortly after arrival, and the extended family are now regularly putting in appearances on game drives. Take a moment to enjoy the pack ‘at home’
Etosha Heights, on the border of the wonderful Etosha National Park, covers 600km², making it one of Namibia’s largest private reserves. Here big cats have been firmly in focus as, thanks to the considerable environmental care, the area is perfect cheetah territory. The reserve recently introduced two male cheetahs, rescued from farmland by the Cheetah Conservation Foundation, and embarked on a long-term research programme to collect data on the interactions between predators and prey on the reserve and in the neighbouring national park. Analysing the preferred prey and habitat of cheetahs is critical to ensuring the protection and survival of the species. Cheetahs are currently classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN, though there is a call by some to have the status upgraded to ‘Endangered’ due to declining global populations.
What’s New for Safari ’22
In early 2022, a flurry of new safari camps opened across Africa, a few of which merit special mention here. Pioneering safaris in previously inaccessible locations and bringing the latest in eco-luxury tents, we’re tipping these camps to become new hotspots with Expert Africa’s travellers.
Several of these camps have been created by close partners of Expert Africa, so we – and you – can be assured that great guiding, attention to detail and a solid conservation focus is embedded in these new places. If you’re planning your next trip, you should have a look at these or ask us for more details – we’re very excited to feature them.
East African Additions…..Ruaha Rules and Mara Retreats
In Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, the intimate, 4-tent Usangu Expedition Camp is the first camp in the Usangu Wetlands. Set up your own camera-trap on arrival, visit the nearby Douglas Bell Eco Research Station to see scientific field work in action, consider fly-camping in the ‘star-cubes’ on a guided walking safari, or take a leisurely boat trip along the maze of seasonal waterways.
In the remote northern reaches of Ruaha, veteran guide Andrew ‘Moli’ Molinaro and his wife Noelle Herzog, have opened a permanent camp, Kichaka Zumbua. Having run one of Tanzania’s top walking camps, Kichaka Expeditions, for years, Moli and Noelle have picked out the ideal safari base for this small but perfectly formed camp. With only 3 suites, each with a semi-circular plunge pool and panoramic roof terrace, this is a great spot for engaging safaris on foot, with world-class guiding guaranteed.
Wilderness seclusion in Kenya’s Maasai Mara ecosystem has arrived in the form of Offbeat Ndoto. With only four tents and careful attention to detail, this camp will surely become an Expert Africa favourite. Set in a picturesque valley in the Mara North Conservancy, overlooking the sycamore figs lining the Olare Orok river, this relaxed camp is friendly and effortlessly stylish, with wildlife aplenty, including excellent lion-watching and Great Migration viewing in the neighbouring Maasai Mara National Reserve. It’s a terrific spot, with brilliant opportunities for families and friends to take over the whole camp.
Southern African Selection…..Vintage to Cutting-Edge
Tucked under a shady ebony grove, between the upper reaches of the Okavango Delta and the Selinda Spillway, Okavango Explorers Camp offers a classic safari experience with a touch of 1920s expedition glamour. With wild dogs hunting here, large numbers of elephants congregating in the dry season and great birdlife on the water, it’s a super spot and a wonderfully down-to-earth addition to the Delta’s camps.
For under-canvas, historic glamour though, the rich décor of Duke’s Camp is unlike anything else seen in the Okavango. Reminiscent of its acclaimed sister-camp, Jack’s Camp in Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Duke’s Camp’s patterned tent interiors, canopied four-poster beds, mahogany antiques and Persian carpets create a distinct Old World aesthetic, matched by its afternoon tea served on vintage silverware and formal dinners at the vast banqueting table.
If a more contemporary twist on bush luxury is your style, Machaba Safaris – already well-loved by Expert Africa travellers for their marvellous camps in Botswana and Zimbabwe – are opening two new camps in 2022. The elevated, canvas-chic tents at Kiri Camp in the Okavango enjoy open-sided vistas, beautifully styled interiors and lantern-lit decks overlooking the water, but it’s the crack team in charge who will doubtless make this beautiful camp a stay to remember. Over in Zimbabwe, the same guiding principles are behind Mana River Camp, a simple safari camp on the banks of the mighty Zambezi, in a park famed for its abundant water and wildlife and superlative walking safaris.
Across the river in Zambia, luxurious Lolebezi opens its six striking suites in June 2022. A fusion of original architecture and Zambian artisan craftsmanship, it’s a captivating look. Beaded, cocoon canopies hang around the beds, ceiling-hung leather chairs encourage idle river gazing, and the intricate woven ceilings and glinting copper touches are all beautifully crafted. There are enormous riverfront picture windows, an infinity pool, a canopy walkway and a spa to encourage dreamy relaxation between safari activities on land and water.
Do get in touch with us to find out how any of these new camps can be incorporated into a tailor-made Expert Africa safari…we’d be delighted to help!