In remote Zimbabwe where elephants roam and zebras graze, Hwange National Park is becoming one of the most favored places to go on safari. It’s adjacent to Victoria falls, making it a must to explore and view wildlife after admiring the famous waterfalls. Although Southern Africa has tons of safari parks, this unique place stands out on its own, for very special reasons. Here are just a few of many reasons why Hwange should be your next safari destination.
1It’s almost guaranteed you’ll see elephants
Courtesy of Michael Sprague/Flickr.com
Elephants prosper in Hwange National Park and is in fact, overpopulating (a breath of fresh air compared to seeing extreme endangerment in other national parks). Going on a safari trip in the area will almost guarantee that you see herds of elephants as they are ubiquitous. The elephants thrive so well in Hwange that there has been controversies of culling them to stop them from overpopulating and draining the park’s resources. The culling ended in the eighties and since then, the population ballooned (a huge benefit for those on a safari).
2There are 400 species of birds
Courtesy of Derek Keats/Flickr.com
From large predatory birds to fragile-looking songbirds, Hwange National Park is teeming with feathery creatures, making it a paradise for birders. It’s advised to bring binoculars to look in the trees for a wide variety of birds such as Dickenson’s kestrels, the yellow billed kites, martial eagles and the kori bustards. The park has several bodies of water which attracts birds of all sizes and colors.
3You can actually camp there
Courtesy of Michael Sprague/Flickr.com
We don’t mean game lodges, but actual campsites where you can stay in tents and caravans (in a secured and designated location, of course). Hwange National Park is an excellent place to “rough it” in the wilds of Africa for a more genuine experience before and after your safari. A good place to start is Hwange Sinamatella Camp, which is located by a watering hole where you can see the wealth of wildlife that comes to visit.
4You’ll find prides and other herds
Courtesy of John Culley/Flickr.com
Hwange National Park is a protected space where animals are supposed to thrive, especially large mammals. So it was a big shock when Cecil the Lion made headlines across the globe for being illegally hunted in the park. Despite the tragedy, prides still preside over the land along with cheetahs, wild dogs, cape dogs, African leopards and hyenas. The park remains a largely protected area for the herds to reside freely (and for safari tourists to safely watch).
5It’s close enough to visit Victoria Falls
Courtesy of flowcomm/Flickr.com
Get more out of your trip to Hwange Park by visiting Victoria Falls afterwards to see one of the most stunning and majestic waterfalls on the planet. Victoria Falls is world-famous, being on par with Niagara Falls where the bottom of the falls disappears into cloudy mist. During dry season, brave daredevils can go swimming on the top of the falls, peeking nervously over the edge to see the waterfall in its full splendor.
6You can visit conservations
There are two conservations in Hwange National Park including the Painted Dog Project Centre, where the wild dogs are being rehabilitated after being injured or orphaned. Visitors can explore the facilities to see behind-the-scenes of caring for the animals and what efforts are being made to raise awareness to protect them. You’ll also get to meet some of the animals and learn more about their biology and temperament. The other conservation is the National Leopard Project, where a team works effortlessly to care for them.
Part of the wild and adventurous appeal of going on a safari in Africa, involves the possibility of having up close encounters with wildlife.
Game drives, bush walks and boat rides are all great methods of searching for animals in the wild. However, what if you didn’t need to leave camp in order to experience an intimate wildlife sighting? What if the animals came to your doorstep?
Imagine waking up to see a pride of lions outside your window, or having your breakfast interrupted by a herd of elephants. While this may sound too good to be true, this is in fact the reality of many lodges in Africa where they have chosen to forego the fences and allow the wildlife to roam freely throughout the camp. Although just because a lodge doesn’t have a fence, doesn’t necessarily guarantee any wildlife visitors. By nature, animals are wary of humans and will avoid unfamiliar structures. However, there are a few places that are lucky enough to experience regular visits from their wild guests.
These are some of our favourite lodges where the wildlife roams free and animals are known to visit on a regular basis:
Situated in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, Mfuwe Lodge plays host to a very special wildlife spectacle. Each year between late October and mid-December, staff and visitors at Mfuwe look forward to a special visit from elephant families that have been regular guests at the lodge for three generations. The elephants walk directly through the lodge’s reception lobby, to feast on the fallen fruits from the large Wild Mango (Cordyla Africana) tree in the lodge grounds.
Renowned for the ‘Armchair Safari’, Kanga Camp is located in the most remote part of Mana Pools National Park – Kanga Pan. This pan is the only known water source in the area available throughout the year, making it a hub for wildlife and Kanga Camp is perfectly placed to offer you a front row seat to the wildlife action. From the comfort of the deck chairs, guests might be lucky enough to see elephant, lion, wild dog, buffalo and even leopard drinking in front of the lodge.
Royal Malewane is located in Thornybush Private Game Reserve within the greater Kruger region, South Africa. One of the best amenities at the Royal Malewane Private Game Lodge is their private plunge pools that come with each room. It is not that uncommon for an elephant or two to drop by for a drink of water while you’re taking a dip and soaking up the sunshine.
Staying in an unfenced camp is an exhilarating and authentic bush experience, however, due to the obvious safety concerns, these lodges generally have very strict child policies. Guests also need to be accompanied by a member of staff when walking from one area of the lodge to another, especially at night.
Fancy sleeping somewhere gorgeously adventurous and unusual? Airbnb is not the only place to shop for the most unique, quirky and out-of-this-world holiday rentals and accommodation options. In recent years, Africa has set the standard for award-winning and innovative accommodation and this is reason enough to save up and go on safari this year.
Heck, afterwards you may just have the urge to seek out and embrace the masterminds who’ve thought beyond the four-bedroom wall to present us with these magnificent places to slumber.
Here’s our list of the top 5 places to sleep in Africa that will totally blow your mind:
1. Sleep with fish in an underwater hotel room in Zanzibar
In the north of the pristine island of Pemba in Tanzania lies The Manta Resort’s astonishingly impressive underwater room. The floating structure consists of three levels each offering guests a unique experience above and below the water. However, the most magical of them all is arguably the bedroom beneath the waves which affords 360 degree views of the underwater world. Sun worshippers can spend time on the upper landing deck by day and climb down the long ladder into the turquoise bubble by night. By turning on the spotlights, you can watch the shoals of reef fish carry about their nautical lives as you drift into a deep sleep.
2. Sleep on your own eco-friendly private island in Zambia
On a faraway private isle in the middle of the Zambezi River is where you’ll find Sindabezi Island. In fact, it’s the only luxury bush camp from where the Victoria Falls can be comfortably explored. Compromised of just 5 open-sided chalets, guests get to proclaim Sindabezi as their own personal retreat while staying at one of the most environmentally friendly properties in Africa. We don’t know what’s better – their commitment to sustainable tourism or the intimate, barefoot in the bush, island feel.
3. Sleep on a rooftop in an airstream trailer in South Africa
Situated at the heart of the bustling Long Street in Cape Town, the Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel is a quirky and convenient place to explore South Africa’s Mother City. The boutique hotel features a top-class eatery, luxury rooms and family suites, and better yet, South Africa’s only rooftop Airstream Trailer Park. A new world awaits on the rooftop. Among the seven uniquely designed trailers where guests can choose to spend the night, there’s an open-air cinema with weekly movie screenings and a sky bar perfect for sundowners on a summer night.
The 56,000-acre Loisaba Conservancy in Northern Laikipai, Kenya is one of the most beautiful places in Africa to sleep under the stars. It lies just off the equator overlooking the Kiboko waterhole, making it the ideal destination for stargazing and wildlife viewing all year round. The Loisaba Starbeds are handcrafted four-poster beds which sit on wheels and are rolled out onto a raised wooden platform so guests to sleep under the African stars. It’s the biggest bedroom in the world, where the night sky is your ceiling and the hills in the distance are you walls. Talk about sweet dreams!
5. Sleep in a luxury houseboat on the river in Botswana
Moving along the banks of the Chobe River, the Zambezi Queen is a unique floating boutique hotel in a class of her own. She is a 5-star, 42-metre long luxury houseboat offering unparalleled sophistication in one of the most remote locations on the planet. As a guest on the vessel, you can enjoy an adventurous river safari holiday, while still being surrounded by complete comfort and luxury. Wake up to the sight of an elephant drinking from the river or watch a fish eagle take flight – all from the comfort of your bed.
On a small peninsula looking out over the pristine waters of the Red Sea is the exclusive Egyptian resort of Soma Bay.
Featuring some of the best diving in the region, an 18-hole championship golf course, premium spas and seawater therapy centres, it’s gaining a reputation as a truly luxurious holiday destination – so let’s take a closer look at what this resort has to offer.
Soma Bay can be found on the Red Sea Riviera, about 45km from Hurghada International Airport. It’s home to some of the Red Sea’s most spectacular sandy beaches and enjoys year-round sunshine, with temperatures generally ranging from 20 to 30 degrees C. The peninsula has been developed as a resort over the last 16 years by the Abu Soma Development Company.
Soma Bay has five hotels and resorts to choose from – perhaps the most prestigious of which is the Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay. The first hotel from the luxury Kempinski chain to be built in Egypt, it’s modelled on a Moorish fortress and features a private sandy beach, a dive centre and most famously its own system of swimming pools and lagoons spread out over seven kilometres.
Soma Bay’s reef extends for several kilometres and is rich with a variety of marine life, including morays, crocodile fish, barracudas and thresher sharks. This makes it a great location for diving and snorkelling activities: Panorama Reed and Abou Kafan are among the best spots to experience the underwater landscape, as well as the famous (or infamous) Salem Express Wreck.
Designed by South African champion Gary Player, the Cascades golf course at Soma Bay is one of the finest in Egypt. The 18-hole, par 72 course offers stunning views of green fairways amid the surrounding desert and the crystal-clear sea beyond. Adjacent is a nine-hole Golf Academy course that’s ideal for less experienced golfers, also designed by Gary Player.
The Red Sea’s thalassotherapy (sea water therapy) facilities are world-renowned, and Soma Bay has some great spas where you can receive all the massages, body scrubs and face rituals you desire! You can experience the health-giving properties of seawater and seaweed at Les Thermes Marins des Cascades, an extensive spa that can be found on the main resort complex.
With a land surface exceeding 30 million square kilometers that makes it the second largest continent on earth, Africa’s scenery is rich, diverse and unparalleled. Little wonder that when the first tales of early European explorers eventually reached home, they inspired even greater numbers to visit the continent.
Going to Africa is on many people’s bucket lists, none less than wildlife and nature photographers. Still, Africa is too big for anyone to explore all of it in their lifetime. Once you have all the required gear (more info here) the following should feature high up on your list if you have to choose just 5 locations.
Namib Desert, Namibia
Is it possible to find beauty in a desert? When we think of deserts, what comes to mind is barrenness and monotony. You will change your mind when you make it to the Namib Desert. With views that you could easily mistake for a perfect oil painting, the number of scenes calling for a photo will be overwhelming.
Perhaps being the world’s oldest desert is why it’s so unique and breathtaking. Seemingly endless miles of copper and sand dunes dotted with zebra, gemsbok and desert elephants coexist with various reptile, bird, insect and plant species. Dunes can get pretty tall with heights above 300 meters not being unusual.
Most people have heard about the Congo rainforest, the second largest in the world. Despite its name, the rainforest is not confined to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville. It stretches into the four more countries including Gabon. Gabon’s rainforests are especially enchanting.
A country whose land area is 10 percent larger than the United Kingdom’s but with a population just under 2 million, more than 80 percent of the country is covered in forest. Large tracts of pristine and untouched forests have made Gabon a paradise for forest elephants, chimpanzees, lowland gorillas and mandrills. And if the forest isn’t enough for you, the Atlantic coast beckons where you can capture humpback whales and leatherback turtles in their element.
Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda
The Rwenzori Mountains have a mystical ambience that makes for a unique experience. The snow-capped peaks, soaring glaciers, the sprawling valleys, the nine lakes, rocky cliffs, crags, bearded lichen, montane cloud forests, bamboo forests and tropical rainforests are the dream of every nature photographer.
Changing altitudes takes you past several biospheres allowing you to see nature at its finest. There are multiple routes for ascent and descent meaning you have quite a range of options to choose from the when looking for the route that is most scenic.
Serengeti Plains, Tanzania
You’ve not truly been on an African safari if you haven’t visited the Serengeti. Its name means ‘endless plains’ in the Maasai language. One of the largest and least spoiled wildernesses in the world, the predominant vegetation is grassland and woodland. But people who go to the Serengeti rarely do so for the flora.
The savannahs of Tanzania’s signature national park are home to unrivalled game-viewing. Lions, buffalos, zebras, gazelles, wildebeests, spotted hyenas, crocodiles and vultures are the species you are most likely to run into.
Undoubtedly, the most spectacular event at the Serengeti is the wildebeest migration across the Mara River. Hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebras move between the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti.
Zambezi River, Zambia/Zimbabwe
Africa’s fourth longest river winds through six countries and stretches 2,700 kilometers. It supports vast numbers of wildlife and millions of human inhabitants. The Zambezi marks the Zimbabwe-Zambia border. Its most iconic section is the roaring Victoria Falls.
Perhaps millions of photos have been taken of the permanent mist rising above the falls but there’s no harm trying your hand too at snapping the perfect shot here. You’ll also be spoilt for choice on the wildlife side where there are large numbers of hippos, elephants, zebra, giraffes, crocodiles, heron fish, bull sharks as well hundreds of bird species.
If you were thinking about going on a photography tour of Africa, these locations would be a great place to start. There’s so much more though and even these superb places mean you are barely scratching the surface.
Mauritius attracts more South African holidaymakers than almost any other destination in the world. In fact, the Association of Southern African Travel Agents has just named this Indian Ocean island the second-most popular holiday destination for outbound travel from South Africa.
The variety of resorts on the island and value-for-money options make the island famous, says Luandre Krause, Team Leader at Flight Centre Pinelands. “In Mauritius, you can enjoy a tropical island holiday, without having to travel across the globe or endure the costs of applying for a visa.”
Cedric Frank, Team Leader at Flight Centre Cavendish Square, says the store receives approximately 20 queries a month for Mauritius, equal to major European and Far East holiday destinations.
“While Mauritius resorts remain a popular option for South African families, there is a great deal more to do on the island. It’s an all-rounder destination appealing to different interests, as our Flight Centre consultants have discovered first-hand,” says Nicky Potgieter, Leisure Marketing Leader.
From pyramids to lush hiking trails, here are some unusual Mauritius experiences to add to your itinerary:
It’s not only Egypt that has pyramids
Pyramids in Mauritius? That’s right. There is much debate about the origin and significance of seven small monuments that appear on the South side of the island, on a flat plain known as Plaine Magnien.
The structures are similar to pyramid structures found on the Mediterranean island of Sicily and the island of Tenerife off the western coast of Africa – islands that, like Mauritius, have volcanic origins.
Take a hike
Consider climbing up the Le Morne peak, take a leisurely walk through the Black River Gorges National Park or summit Le Pouce and Black River Peak for unforgettable views.
With its highest point reaching 490 metres, Le Morne is not too demanding physically, and the six-kilometre round-trip will last roughly three or four hours. Try to embark on the hike in the early hours of the morning when the sun is more forgiving and also, do not attempt the hike on rainy days: the trail is extremely slippery, and the clouds won’t let you appreciate the views.
At 812m, Le Pouce or ‘The Thumb’, so named because of its thumb-shaped peak, is the third highest mountain in Mauritius.The mountain’s relatively central location on an island that’s only 45 kilometres wide and 65 kilometres long means you can see much of the island from the summit and its slopes. A hike of 4.3 kilometres will take approximately two to three hours.
The Black River peak (Piton de la Petite Rivière Noire) is part of the Black River range and is the highest mountain in Mauritius at 828 metres. Hikers can choose different routes to the top. The easiest is via Plaine Champagne as you will start at an altitude of about 678 metres and therefore only need to go up the remaining 150 metres. The hike to the top is approximately 3.5 kilometres. You can also start lower via the trail of Plateau in Chamarel but it is more of a climb, even if not too difficult. The elevation at the start is about 250 metres and the distance to the top about 5.2 kilometres. The trail of Grand Piton in the Black River Gorges is the hardest and longest way up. The elevation at the start is around 100 metres and the distance to the top 5.5 kilometres.
For the thrill-seeker, there are several zip-lines on the island, at varying heights. Flight Centre experts’ favourite is the Chamouny Zip Line in Riviére des Galets.
Cosy up under the sun or plan a day trip to soak up more of the island’s unique heritage.
Plan a day tour to the Chamarel Rummery for some rum tasting, or visit the island’s tea factory to sample some delicious teas over lunch. There are also Hindu temples to discover around the island, while Mauritius is home to one of the oldest horse racecourses in the southern hemisphere.
The island’s man-made forest offers impressive views of the valley, or there is shopping at the Grand Bazaar, quad biking for families and trips to the Seven Coloured Earth. Grand Baie is best for nightlife, sunset cruises and day-time markets.
Solo travellers can enjoy all the island has to offer, with organised parasailing, diving, kayaking, sea scooting and dolphin encounters.
Go ‘glamping’ in Mauritius
In Otentic, the island’s first and only tented eco-lodge, the Otentic Eco Tent Experience, rests on the slopes of Grande Riviére.
There is a choice of river and mountain experiences, with accommodation in comfortable safari tents.
Otentic is also the starting point for many hiking and mountain biking trails. Kitesurfing, sea and river kayaking, kayak-rafting, SUP (stand-up paddle) and snorkelling trips are also available.
Mauritius is a world-class luxury destination and is a front-runner for wellbeing experiences in the region.
From yoga and tai chi to hiking and sophrology, there are plenty of opportunities to relax.
Seven Colours Wellness Experiences are available at three different locations in Mauritius: Heritage Le Telfair, Heritage Awali and the Veranda Resorts using the power of colour and chromotherapy lights, vibrational music, aroma-therapeutic fragrances, energised water and healing hands to stimulate the senses.
With so many resorts and activity options, it is worth speaking to someone who has experienced all of these highlights and more at your local Flight Centre store.
7 travel tips from Flight Centre Mauritius experts
Always pack SPF50 sunscreen and a proper sunhat.
Take your snorkelling gear.
Opt for a catamaran instead of a speedboat tour. Catamarans have a net at the bow where you can relax.
Parasailing is an extraordinary experience offering spectacular views.
Pack your metal straw. Indian Ocean islands are increasingly sensitive about single-use plastic straws and bans are already being applied on many islands.
Opt for an all-inclusive package. You will save in the long run, and it ensures excellent value for money.
Explore the outer island. Your resort may be what you paid for, but this added experience is priceless.