Africa’s unrivalled wonders will captivate your heart, mind and spirit
From towering peaks and great lakes, to mass migrations and vast deserts, Africa is full of natural wonders. Whether you're planning your first trip to this incredible continent or your tenth, we believe the best way to explore is in complete privacy and with the most knowledgeable and charismatic guides.
The following African icons are ones we feel everyone should see in their lifetime. No matter which piques your interest, our safari designers will weave it into your itinerary. Your next incredible journey begins here.
Hear the roar of “The Smoke that Thunders
The Victoria Falls Hotel — undoubtedly the oldest and grandest of Zimbabwe’s hotels — overlooks the waterfalls’ spray cloud and dramatic gorge. You’ll sleep each night in antique four poster beds, and take afternoon tea on the manicured lawns. It’s as if you are travelling in time.
For something more discrete, choose Islands of Siankaba, an idyllic retreat spread between two private islands in the Zambezi. The secluded chalets are linked together by wooden bridges and walkways between the trees, where birds twitter overhead. In a similar vein, we’re also huge fans of Tongabezi, whose romantic cottages sit right on the waterfront; and Toka Leya, a splendid safari camp where you can start each day with a gentle river boat ride.
Thrill seekers can take to the water, swimming in Devil’s Pool or white water rafting in the gorge. More sedately, dine on Livingstone Island overlooking Victoria Falls, or appreciate the iconic view from above during a helicopter flight.Top Tips:
- The waterfall is at its most spectacular between February and June.
- Swim in the Devil’s Pool in the dry season: it gives you an unforgettable adrenaline rush!
- Even if you’re not staying at The Victoria Falls Hotel, get a taste of its colonial splendour by popping by for afternoon tea.
Serengeti and Masai Mara
Witness the greatest wildlife spectacle on Earth
The Serengeti and Masai Mara lie side by side, the world’s largest wildlife migration circling around and between these two magnificent national parks throughout the year. Millions of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope progress across the plains in search of water and grazing lands, and in their wake are the big game predators, biding their time for their next tasty meal.
The location of the herds — and thus the prime spots for game viewing — change from season to season, but there’s also a great deal of resident wildlife year round, so there’s always something to see. If you wish to move with the herds, you can shadow their steady progress by staying in a mobile camp such as the exclusive Serengeti Safari Camp, or by taking daily jeep safaris from Singita’s luxurious Faru Faru Lodge.
In the Masai Mara, we can imagine no finer place to stay than the award winning Cottar’s Bush Villa, which you can have entirely to yourself. It’s the ultimate private getaway for family and friends. Built by hand using local, eco-friendly materials, the views across the open savannah are breathtaking. Rise up above the Earth on an early morning hot-air balloon ride whilst the temperature is still cool, then later in the day ride amongst zebra on horseback, take a game drive, or walk beside giraffe. You can also immerse yourself in the Maasai’s indigenous culture by joining the villa’s Maasai Warrior School.Top Tips:
- For the most exclusive experience, stay on one of the private reserves that border the two national parks.
- To optimise your wildlife viewing, combine a static property such as Mwiba Lodge with one of the mobile camps.
- The wildebeest are calving in February, so it’s then that you’ll witness the great miracle of new life.
A watery wilderness rich in wildlife
For Africa’s most exclusive safari, choose Botswana’s Okavango Delta. It’s an environment as varied as it is beautiful: the waterbirds diving in the lagoon are different to those chirruping in the forest canopy; the creatures seen on a night-time game drive aren’t the same as those spotted in daylight; and the feeling of gliding along the waterways by traditional mokoro canoe is incomparable to pursuing a herd of zebra across marshlands and islands by private helicopter. The concentration of predators on Chief’s Island is second to none.
Botswana’s government has taken a strict approach to tourism development, permitting only a small number of responsible operators to set up lodges and camps. However luxurious, every property must be removable without a trace, so you can be confident that their environmental footprint is kept to an absolute minimum. The government’s priority is the preservation of the land and its wildlife, and the support of community development, objectives Africa Exclusive fully supports.
You will stay on vast private concessions where you will be amongst a tiny number of guests: camps with just four or five magnificent canvas suites are the norm. Expect to dine on lovingly made cuisine and fine wines beneath the endless African sky, perhaps during a picnic brunch or a lantern lit braai. Choose one of Great Plains Conservation’s extraordinary properties to learn about their protection of the endangered African wild dog and their partnership with Rhinos Without Borders, or stay at Wilderness Safaris’ Abu Camp for unforgettable encounters with elephants.
- Hop between camps on a small plane for ease of access and incredible aerial views.
- Botswana’s camps and lodges offer best value between December and March.
- Combine the Okavango Delta with a stay at Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi Pans to experience the full breadth of Botswana’s ecosystems.
Challenge yourself to summit Africa’s highest peak
The world’s tallest free standing mountain, Kilimanjaro, is both the literal and metaphorical highpoint of Africa. Unlike the other Seven Summits (the highest mountains in each continent), the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is accessible by non-climbers, though reaching the top is still no mean feat. It is one of the most exciting physical challenges you can complete, and the sense of achievement is unforgettable.
Accompanied by an experienced guide and team of porters, who will support you every step of the way, fit and determined trekkers can climb Kilimanjaro in about six days. Africa Exclusive ensures that all the porters you hike with are fairly paid and not overburdened; staff wellbeing is hugely important to us as a successful ascent is a collaborative effort. There will be plenty of people to carry your bags and equipment, so you can focus on enjoying the experience of the trek.
Think carefully about who you would like to attempt this challenge with. We can arrange for you to join a small scheduled departure with a group of like-minded souls, or arrange for you to trek as a private party with your chosen friends or family.
To reward yourself for all that exertion, you can then celebrate your achievement with a rather more relaxing safari or beach holiday in Kenya or Tanzania. A luxurious stay at Chem Chem, or a few days at Gibb’s Farm in the Ngorongoro Highlands, is the perfect way to recover from fatigue and aching limbs. Three Main Routes:
- Access along Machame is “easy”. You can acclimatise gradually, and there’s plenty to see along the way.
- Rongai is slightly longer, and it tends to be much quieter. It’s on the northern side, granting a different perspective on the mountain.
- Lemosho is the longest route but it allows you to take your time and ascend the mountain at a sedate pace.
South Africa’s gastronomic and cultural heart
Cape Town is one of the world’s most vibrant cities; a cosmopolitan bastion of culture on the southern tip of South Africa. Here you will find not only the finest restaurants on the continent, but also some of the best in the world, the menus reflecting the city’s many and diverse origins of its population. Add to this superb galleries and museums with ever-changing exhibitions, lively bars (many of which are along the waterfront or have views of Table Mountain), plus fabulous opportunities for whale watching and even cage-diving with sharks, and you will understand how you could spend a month here and still not do it all.
Easily combined with a safari in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia or Zambia, visitors to Cape Town often fall in love with the waterside location, the dramatic mountainous backdrop, the ease of access to the Cape Winelands, and the spectacular scenery of the Garden Route. Enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top of Table Mountain and you will see a quite different — though no less beautiful — view of the city if you take a boat trip out to Robben Island.
The largest and most impressive hotels in Cape Town are along the V&A Waterfront. The Cape Grace is our particular favourite; it’s one of the Leading Hotels of the World. For something a little smaller and more intimate, we recommend the exquisite Ellerman House, or perhaps Four Rosmead, idyllically nested at the foot of Table Mountain.
- British Airways flies direct from London to Cape Town, making for a comfortable, convenient journey.
- Allow at least three days to do justice to Cape Town, and extend your stay to a week to explore the Cape Peninsula and Winelands.
- Remember that Cape Town’s summer is from November to February. The weather is perfect around Christmas and New Year — make sure you book far enough in advance.
An extinct volcano brimming with life
The impressive Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania was formed when a vast volcano erupted two million years ago and then collapsed in on itself. This important UNESCO World Heritage Site is a spectacular feature of the landscape — a great green bowl with ample water supply — and also home to 25,000 animals, including herds of Grant’s zebra and blue wildebeest, and all of the Big Five. There is a particularly high concentration of lion: there is so much for them to eat here that they thrive!
If you want incredible views of Ngorongoro we may arrange for you to stay right on the crater rim at the remarkable Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. It is a dramatic piece of architecture, bedecked with the trappings of a baroque chateau such as crystal chandeliers, impressive fireplaces, and sumptuous hand-knotted silk carpets. The lodge’s WILDChild programme will inspire little ones to engage with the environment around them, complementing the family friendly game drives and other activities you can enjoy together.
With more time available, combine the crater with the surrounding Ngorongoro Highlands. This region is a paradise for adventure tourism, with numerous trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding.
The location of Plantation Lodge is completely magical: the views seem to stretch on forever, first across gentle slopes and forest and then to the mountains beyond. Some 140 species of birds make their home in the surrounding gardens, putting on an endless display, and come nightfall you can sit on your lantern lit veranda listening to the sounds of nocturnal creatures nearby.
- One full day in the Crater is time enough to explore the caldera floor, then head off in search of other unique experiences.
- Try different activities during your stay: your experience in a vehicle is quite different to that on a bike or whilst walking.
- Combine Ngorongoro with one of Tanzania’s other iconic areas, such as the Serengeti or Selous.
The Big Five
Five bucket list species every safari first timer should see
Seeing the Big Five — lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros — in the wild is the single most common objective for those on a first time safari, and understandably so. There is nothing more exciting than encountering a fully grown lion, his roar rumbling and echoing, as he stares directly into your lens, or following a family of elephants through the trees, watching the little ones play.
You stand a very good chance of spotting all five on safari in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana, and experienced guides understand just how to track each species.
Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve in South Africa is a fantastic choice for a Big Five safari as there is a high concentration of game. The animals roam freely between here and the neighbouring Kruger National Park, and in the dry season they are drawn in significant numbers to Sabi Sands by the reserve’s steady water supply. Stay in an air conditioned suite at luxurious Tengile River Lodge to be in the heart of the action.
Rhino and leopard are the rarest Big Five species, and once again South Africa is a great option. But for more intimate experiences with fewer crowds, head instead to Kenya’s vast private reserves or the picturesque wilderness of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. In a pioneering operation Rhinos Without Borders has relocated 100 South African rhino to the Okavango Delta for safety. Top Tips:
- If lion are top of your list, Kenya’s Naboisho Conservancy has the highest concentration.
- Choose one of the private reserves bordering the Kruger or Masai Mara for a more personal Big Five experience.
- Get hands on with rhino conservation on South Africa’s Phinda Private Game Reserve; become part of the elephant herd at Botswana’s Abu Camp!
Spend precious time with Africa’s great apes
It is estimated that there are just over 1,000 mountain gorilla left in the wild: the species is critically endangered. They live in the Virunga Mountains of central Africa, straddling the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
The high cost and limited numbers of gorilla tracking permits are controversial, but we believe the governments of Rwanda and Uganda are doing the right thing. The income permits generate pays for conservation efforts, not only for the gorilla but also for other threatened species which share the same habitats. And as very few permits are issued, there’s no risk of overtourism: guests have an intimate encounter, and the gorilla themselves are unflustered by the presence of people.
Typically our guests choose to join a small group — a maximum of eight people — and trek through the forests to find groups of semi-habituated gorilla. You can spend an hour with a family group, watching them eating, communing and playing. Private tracking permits are now issued too, and in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest you also have the incredible opportunity to participate in an emotional habituation experience with conservationists. This is the ultimate in wild mountain gorilla encounters, and something we wholeheartedly recommend you try.
‘When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future,' Diane Fossey.
- Live like a gorilla at Bisate Lodge, albeit a bit more comfortably, in stylish guest pods inspired by the nests these great apes make.
- Combine your gorilla trek with a traditional safari. You’ll find abundant big game viewing at Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. If you’re in Rwanda, we recommend a visit to Akagera National Park, where you’ll find all of the Big Five.
- For a primate extravaganza, we can arrange a chimpanzee trek in Kibale, staying at one of our favourite places, scenically stunning Kyaninga Lodge.