As an adventure travel company, one of the things I have always said is “we only run active tours”. No bus tours for me, thank you. However, I must admit our two African safaris stretch that a bit.
In Africa, we run a “hike, wine, and safari” tour that is absolutely incredible. And just last month in Tanzania we added a five-day safari to the back end of our Mount Kilimanjaro trek.
Now, safaris themselves are amazing. I am a pretty jaded traveler, having seen many places and sights around the world, but I can truly say a safari is a top-five experience of a lifetime. The thrill of seeing animals in action, the beauty of being in the great African outdoors, and the joy of discussing each day’s sightings with your fellow safari participants is something everyone should experience once.
Plus, we do two things to enhance the experience for active travelers. First, we schedule the safari as part of a tour, specifically by adding in hiking (South Africa) and the Kili climb (Tanzania). Second, we get out of the vehicle to do short walking safaris twice on each trip, which both gets us a little exercise and gives us a distinctly unique viewpoint.
My experiences in Tanzania and South Africa have been entirely different. In Tanzania we visited the southern Serengeti region during the Great Migration and so saw tens of thousands of wildebeests and zebras plus half a dozen separate prides of lions who were feasting on them. We also visited Ngorongoro Crater, a picturesque setting with almost theme park-like perfection – and yet entirely natural. In Tanzania, the vistas were vast and it was easy to feel you were on the set of the Lion King.
In South Africa, our safari experience is very different, in part because it takes place in a private reserve. While the area seems huge, the expanses are nowhere near as large as in Tanzania. On the plus side, the guides and trackers pretty much know which animals are in the area and it is simply a matter of finding them. Even better, because we were allowed to drive at night (unlike in the Tanzanian national parks), we were able to be out when the animals, especially the predators, were most active. The whole experience was like a search for National Geographic-style action sequences, keeping us all on the edge of our seats for the drives.
Both safari experiences have a few things in common. The local staff are exceptional. The lodges and tented safari camps are luxurious. The food is excellent and the service impeccable. You really feel as if you are an English baron or baroness out on an Africa safari in the late 1800s!
We are just now setting our schedule for 2011 and our two African trips are planned for February (Tanzania) and October (South Africa). Leave a comment on this blog post if you are interested to join us!