The new year marks a fresh beginning, even if only on our calendars, yet this year feels very different. Everyone has felt the effects of the pandemic, many with great sacrifice and sadness, and this past year has certainly made me rather reflective.
Being locked down at home has got me thinking back to the best days of my life, a striking number of which I realised have in recent years been in Africa, with family and friends: proposing to my wife in the Serengeti; racing my children down Namibia’s giant, red dunes; watching my son’s excitement on catching his first fish on the Zambezi; and dancing under the stars with friends on my 50th birthday (that’s us in the photo at the bottom). The list could go on and on.
Bumping through the bush on 4×4 adventures, and laughing, chatting and relaxing are common to all my Africa memories, but at their heart is a great chunk of time with the people I love the most. That is the real privilege.
After a hard year, I’m finally starting to plan ahead for another Africa adventure: I cannot wait to be back in the wilderness with friends. These trips are truly good for the soul and I commend them to everyone.
Check out the ‘Escape with your Inner Circle’ piece below for some fantastic exclusive use locations in Africa – they are truly magical places to stay.
Zambian Cheetah Cheer
Athletic and sleek, cheetahs are a thrilling sight on safari, posed photogenically on boulders or displaying their astonishing hunting speed. A species described as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List, fewer than 6,700 cheetahs remain in Africa today and conservation efforts are essential to protect them. They now occur across only a fraction of their historic range and face extreme challenges from human-wildlife conflict, the illegal pet and fur trade and habitat loss.
Cheetahs are naturally solitary and nomadic, roaming widely and requiring large areas of connected habitat for their survival. Three quarters of their current range covers unprotected lands, which has caused populations to fragment, putting their future at risk. Protected wilderness areas are very important for the survival of the species, which makes news of their return to north-eastern Zambia for the first time in a century a cause for great celebration.
Arriving in the Bangweulu Wetlands just in time for Christmas, three male cheetahs were successfully translocated from three separate parks in South Africa – Mountain Zebra National Park in the Eastern Cape, Rogge Cloof in the Northern Cape, and Welgevonden in Limpopo – as part of a phased reintroduction of cheetahs to the area under the auspices of the NGO African Parks. Over the coming year, females will be moved into the area in the hope of establishing a healthy breeding population.
The new arrivals in Zambia were initially released into large, temporary enclosures for acclimatisation, before being fitted with tracking collars to enable their long-term monitoring. The cats will ultimately be free to roam Bangweulu’s protected plains, hunting the region’s thousands of endemic black lechwe.
African Parks’ initiatives with local communities in this region have led to a dramatic decline in poaching and a steady increase in wildlife. This cheetah reintroduction is another significant step in restoring the wildlife diversity of Bangweulu while also helping to secure the long-term survival of this species.
It’s also exciting news for wildlife enthusiasts who can stay on the edge of this watery wilderness at Shoebill Island Camp – perhaps combining a fly-in trip to Bangweulu with the game-rich Luangwa Valley.
If tracking cheetah is on your safari wish list, do check out Expert Africa’s top spots on the continent for cheetah sightings, on our website’s dedicated cheetah page.
Travel Ban? Best Plan Ahead!
Every country is experiencing the pandemic in a different way and many of us simply cannot travel to Africa now. However, most of Expert Africa’s trips are planned six to twelve months ahead, so many of our travellers are doing that right now: organising trips later this year, next year and as far ahead as 2024.
All of this is a welcome lifeline for our tourism and conservation partners across Africa, where our holidays are their livelihood. We hear all the time how much they’re looking forward to welcoming travellers back, and the work they are doing to ensure safe and amazing experiences for you in the future.
In 2021, our camps and lodges already have many bookings which were deferred from 2020, so space can be surprisingly tight. Securing the best arrangements in privately-guided safaris can be a challenge, though it’s never insurmountable.
Our knowledgeable team are adept at creating outstanding, memorable trips. We know the camps, wildlife areas and guides personally. Get in touch and we’ll share our knowledge and experience as we help you to plan your own best days in Africa.
Are you determined to get fit in 2021? Suffering from lockdown cabin fever? Fed up with online yoga and the same jogging route? Get active on your next African adventure instead! There are myriad options for walking, riding, swimming, kayaking and cycling all across Africa, and the best trips combine the action with breathtaking locations, great food and outstanding guiding.
You could for example follow gemsbok amid the Namib-Rand’s desert dunes and sleep under the Milky Way on our three-day, guided Tok Tokkie Trails; challenge yourself to take on Etendeka’s 4 day trek through the hills of Damaraland’s Grootberg Massive for splendidly rugged panoramas; step quietly through the long grasses of the Okavango with Footsteps Across the Delta; walk the undulating, orange sands of the Trans-Kalahari Trail; or for an early morning run, how about ‘Running with the Rangers’ at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Bush Camp?
Or perhaps combine a first-class, Zambian walking safari with mountain biking among big game from one of our firm favourites, Tafika? Or join a WAYO mobile safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti for a combination of bushwalking and lake canoeing?
For the ultimate water and wildlife combinations, splash about with inquisitive seals while kayaking in Namibia’s flamingo-filled Walvis Bay; don your fins to dive beneath the waves on Mozambique’s teeming reefs; ride the waves on a kite-surfing course on Zanzibar’s East Coast; paddle-board on Lake Malawi from Likomo Island’s idyllic shores; or, for exciting wildlife encounters, paddle down the mighty Zambezi on the Mana Pools Canoe Trail.
There is something for every ability and every age, so pack those trainers!
Accompanying the growing desire to enjoy the wilderness without the background noise of an engine, more and more camps and lodges are introducing electric vehicles to offer blissfully silent game drives and boat trips and further their sustainability.
From a fleet of electric Land Rovers at Campi ya Kanzi in Kenya to Lake Manze’s solar-powered boats in Tanzania’s Selous and Ila Lodge’s fleet of land and water vehicles in Kafue, Zambia’s largest national park, the change is steadily sweeping the continent.
Silent safari vehicles can make it easier to get close to the wildlife, and reduces the carbon footprint of travel, making it a win-win for environmentally-conscious Africa enthusiasts. Do ask us for recommendations if this is something that appeals.
Baby Giraffe? Look Again…
Like the Namibian farmer who first spotted the small giraffe on the right, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a juvenile. But this is Nigel, a fully grown male giraffe with dwarfism, a remarkable rarity and one of only two such animals ever to appear in the scientific literature.
Nigel, and another giraffe of small stature named Gimli, in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, were located during routine photographic surveys conducted by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. As part of their efforts to protect giraffes, the GCF records giraffe numbers, population dynamics and distribution across Africa.
Having observed these individuals and noted their disproportionate limbs as calves, researchers used non-invasive photogrammetry to measure their limb dimensions precisely and compare them with giraffes in local populations. Both dwarf giraffes had notably smaller bones in their legs and, other than an unusual gait, appear to be surviving well.
These rare sightings were chance encounters, and remind us that, with patience and a little luck, any of us could make an extraordinary discovery in the bush. What might you spot on your next trip….?
Escape With Your Inner Circle
Global restrictions over the last year have largely prevented family and friends from seeing each other. But as vaccines begin to roll out, many of our travellers are planning ahead to a time when they can hug, laugh, chat and spend time with their nearest and dearest.
With so much to catch up on, we can’t think of a better escape than taking over a private villa or exclusive camp in a favourite African spot, and having the time to do whatever we please with our favourite people. From impressive farmsteads to intimate bushcamps, riverside retreats to beach houses, private safari houses to chic, boutique camps, there’s a wide choice of private options. As a restorative tonic after the trials of the last year, we cannot recommend them enough.
Outstanding food, friendly hosts, private guides and the freedom to create your own schedule make these trips the ultimate in safari luxury. Check out Galpin Tented Camp on Kwandwe’s super reserve or elegant Little Machaba overlooking the Khwai River floodplain in game-dense Moremi. Or plump for the strikingly stylish Kwitonda Lodge facing the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, or Namibia’s unique, curvaceous The Nest at Sossus. Then there’s a circuit of ‘safari houses’ in Zambia, including the stunning Chongwe River House, or you can kick back in kikois on Kenya’s idyllic Indian Ocean coast at Alfajiri Villas and simply gaze out to see over long, leisurely lunches.
Find more ideas on our website’s pages on Private houses & villas. Your most challenging decision might be who to invite to join your private party…