The team at Wild & Isle has compiled a list of adventures that we would definitely travel for, right now. Read on to find out which African experiences we chose, and why.
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Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
There is something deeply touching – surreal almost – about sitting less than 10 metres away from a silverback as he, and his mountain gorilla family, go about their lives undisturbed. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes mountain range is a UNESCO world heritage site and home to over 300 of the iconic gentle giants – half of the world’s total gorilla population, in fact.
A gorilla trek experience is undertaken in such a way as to impact least on the animals. This includes tracking them down on foot. The hike requires a reasonable amount of fitness and is lead by expert guides and trackers who also offer a wealth of highly insightful info on the biodiversity and other animals of the rainforest. Most tidbits are usually delivered with an accompanying anecdote or some reference to local lore. Groups are kept to a minimum and each is allowed an hour with the gorillas before returning to the base station. It is possible to do gorilla treks year-round, although the drier months (December to February and June to July) offer the easiest tracking (and walking).
Wilderness walks in the Ngorongoro Crater and Southern Serengeti, Tanzania
To be on foot in Big Five territory is far more than a thrilling adrenaline rush, it is the most immersive safari experience you could possibly take. Walking the highlands of the verdant Ngorongoro Crater, or the plains of the Southern Serengeti with a local Maasai guide will give you the opportunity to experience things tourists in a safari vehicle never would. Going ‘off the driven track’ under the guidance of your experienced guide and with the protection of an armed ranger, will not only give you the opportunity of sighting all of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo) at eye level (from a safe distance of course), but also to focus on the ‘small’ things. It is these lesser-spotted mammals, reptiles and insects, as well as the in-depth local insights into the plant life; and the birding (there are over 500 species on the area’s bird list currently); that makes this experience priceless. In addition you will have the opportunity to meet the local Maasai who live in this area.
Catch (and release) a tigerfish on the Zambezi River, Zambia
The tigerish (Hydrocynus vittatus) is arguably Africa’s greatest freshwater game fish. Named for their similarities to the land animal, tigerfish have distinctive black stripes along the length of their body, large interlocking teeth and an aggression to match. An over-sized tail completes the package, putting these hard-fighting torpedos on the wish list of any self-respecting angler. A tigerfish’s first run is a long and hard, often interspersed with aerial antics and it is that action which draws anglers on annual pilgrimages to the reed-lined waters of the mighty Zambezi River in Zambia. However, it is not only experienced anglers who get to tackle these fish. Specialist lodges on the Zambezi offer clients (even those who have never held a fishing rod) every opportunity to catch (and safely release) a trophy ‘striped water dog’ (as they are locally known). Lodges such as Tusk and Mane supply high-end loan fishing tackle and have comfortable, well-equipped boats that are skippered by experienced fishing guides. The best time to go is between May and August, when the flood waters drain off the plains back into the main river. It is also a spectacular time for game and bird-viewing.
Climb to the Roof of Africa, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
At some nearly 20 000 foot (5 895 metres) above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa. This dormant volcano is also the highest free-standing mountain in the world. The mountain’s greatest attraction however, is that it is a trek even non-seasoned mountaineers can experience. Of course, it is no light hike and a good level of fitness and trekking preparation is required. There are various routes and time-options for the ascent but most hikers opt for options of six to eight days. Spending more time on the mountain not only means clients have longer to acclimatise but also to experience the unique biodiversity and beauty of the five different climates that traverse the mountain – from the lush rainforest of the lower slopes to the barren, desert-like plains higher up and on to a glacier at the summit.
Enjoy an island picnic, Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
Imagine reclining – without so much as a care in the world – on a white sand-spit surrounded by nothing but azure blue waters as the tropical sun warms your skin. Right now that might just be as good as it gets. Yet it’s made even better by the delicious chilled cocktail in your hand and the seasonal lunch spread out before you. In the distance lies the outer islands and pristine coral reefs (home to more than 2000 fish species) of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. A shore lunch (or as often referred to as a ‘castaway picnic) is the ideal way to cap off a dhow cruise or morning’s diving or snorkelling excursion in this pristine marine ecosystem. Depending on your mood, the prevailing weather conditions as well as the tide, location options range from the dunes of South Point Bazaruto to the sand spit of North Point Benguerra. The best time to visit the area and indulge in a decadent picnic, is the dry season (June to October).
See the desert-adapted elephants and rhinos, Damaraland, Namibia
Namibia is currently experiencing some of the heaviest rainfall in 20 years. What this means is that the desert- and semi-desert thirstlands of much of this spectacularly beautiful country have been transformed with carpets of green. Life abounds and now is the chance to see (and photograph) the famed desert-adapted elephants and rhinos with unique backdrops. We’d combine the trip with a few days down south in Sossusvlei, for the chance to see the desert in its finest green attire. It likely won’t be this green for at least another 25 years. If not more.