Africa’s proud wildlife heritage and startling natural beauty bring millions of visitors to her shores – a staggering 70 million visitors every year. As international travel slowly resumes, Africa is open and ready to welcome her own domestic visitors, too, so why not use the opportunity to plan a trip to visit some of the continent’s bucket list experiences.
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda
Rarely does a guest return from meeting the legendary mountain gorillas without using the term ‘life-changing’. Dedicated conservation efforts have seen the population almost double in the past two decades, but even so, there are only an estimated 1 000 individuals in the wild.
Rightfully so, the process of visiting the gorillas is carefully controlled – only six tracking permits are issued per troop per day with a strict maximum of one hour’s daily contact. The experience is bookable through your hotel or directly at www.rwandatourism.com – be sure to enquire about any post-pandemic or South African resident specials.
Luxury hotel brand One&Only have extended their footprint in Rwanda; in addition to their property in Nyungwe Forest, they have recently opened Gorilla’s Nest in the North. The property is the closest to Volcanoes National Park, where the gorillas, golden monkeys, and astonishing birdlife can be enjoyed.
The Serengeti is one of the world’s most celebrated reserves, where every year a staggering two million animals migrate across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, a wildlife spectacle that often tops African bucket lists. The best times for wildlife viewing are from January to February or from June to September. In late July and August, the wildebeest make daring crossings over the Grumeti and Mara rivers – a feast for crocodiles and photographers alike.
Hospitality legends Four Seasons have been welcoming guests to this special region for almost a decade. Their Safari Lodge is a luxury home-base in-between safaris, of which the most spectacular must surely be witnessing the wildlife from a hot air balloon, followed by a champagne breakfast in the bush.
Coursing through an abundance of countries and cultures, the mighty Nile is the world’s longest river. It begins its 66 650-kilometre journey just South of the equator and then winds through an impressive 11 countries before finally emptying into the Mediterranean.
Most cruises travel from Luxor to Aswan through Egypt’s Nile Valley, with the journey ranging from three to seven-day passages. There is no shortage of luxury boats, which essentially serve as floating five-star hotels. Many of the luxury cruises also have Egyptologists on board who offer fascinating insights into the ancient country.
Sanctuary Retreats is one such, offering uber-luxury stays in their fleet of four unique boats.
Standing before the majestic Victoria Falls is an experience for the body, mind, and soul. Experiencing it for the first time, I was reminded of David Livingstone, who, as the first European visitor, announced when seeing the falls: “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” At a bewildering 1 708m width and 108m height, it’s no wonder the locals know the falls as “The Smoke That Thunders”. The falls can be admired from both Zimbabwe and Zambia, with the former offering a more substantial view.
Perhaps one of the most fitting stays would be to overnight on an island on the mighty Zambezi River itself. A one-hour drive upriver from the falls, Tsowa Safari Island, offers guests authentic accommodation situated in the Zambezi National Park.
In this environment, one of nature’s greatest natural dramas unfolds. An ancient conversation between rainfalls thousands of kilometres away in the Angolan Mountains and Botswana’s watery wilderness’s Okavango Delta. This previous life-giving water traverses countries until the Delta’s two fault lines coerce it into slowing down and fanning out over the land. The result is virescent slivers of landscape intersected by blue-veined waterways.
Along these waterways, the wildlife revel in the annually-welcomed water. Elephants turn into water babies, pods of hippo determinedly protect their territories, and lechwe leave magnificent sprays of water as they dart along the water’s edge. Xigera is Botswana’s newest and possibly most impressive safari offering. The lodge sits on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve, and in this wild setting, the lodge will sleep a maximum of 24 guests in 12 exclusive and private units – all designed to luxuriously profile the 1000th Natural Wonder of the World.
A string of idyllic islands are scattered along the Indian Ocean on Africa’s East Coast, and the most sought after of all of them are the Seychelles. The dreamy archipelago encompasses 115 islands – most of which are uninhabited. For South Africans, these postcard beaches are easily accessible with direct flights from Johannesburg, just under five hours away.
Mahé is the capital and largest of the islands, and on one of its most spectacular private coves, you’ll find the iconic Four Seasons resort. The glass-fronted units with overflow pools hug the surrounding cliffs with unparalleled views. For the ultimate luxurious castaway experience, allow the team to fly you to Desroches – their own private island resort.
With 25% of Africa’s continent covered in desert, this list wouldn’t be complete without a night in the desert spent with one of the continent’s oldest tribes. The Bedouin are the traditional nomadic Arab Tribe who inhabit North Africa’s deserts, and most Moroccan itineraries include a night in the desert. Few experiences could compete with reclining on beautifully detailed Arabian carpets, feasting on fragrant Moroccan cuisine, with a dazzle of stars overhead.
The evening entertainment may include poetry recitation, traditional sword dances or classes teaching traditional tent knitting. Let’s not forget the obligatory journey over the dunes on a camel. Sahara Feeling is one of several reputable companies offering bespoke tours with local guides.