ENCOUNTER MOUNTAIN GORILLA
The last wild mountain gorillas on Earth inhabit the Virunga Mountains straddling Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. To see them first-hand is one of our world’s most unique wildlife encounters, but you will have to work hard for your reward, trekking deep into the forest. The excitement builds steadily throughout the hike, because you never quite know where the gorilla troop will be. That first glimpse of dark fur through the lush green canopy will be forever etched into your memory.
Primatologists such as Dian Fossey have spent decades studying the gorilla, learning about their habits and family groups in a bid to ensure their survival. Tourist trekking permits are issued in tiny numbers — Rwanda has just 96 each day — so it is a true privilege to be alongside the scientists.
There are three different ways to enjoy a gorilla encounter. You can trek with a small group, request a private guide for your own family or group of friends, or enjoy a longer habituation experience with a gorilla family as they become accustomed to the presence of people. Whichever you choose, you will no doubt be mesmerised by the human-like qualities of these incredible mammals, enchanted by the time that you spend amongst them.
WALK WITH SARUNI RHINO
The Sera Conservancy is a 350,000 hectare stretch of unspoilt wilderness in northern Kenya. Here you’ll discover not only the first community-owned rhino sanctuary in Africa, but also the first and most successful reintroduction programme of black rhino in Kenya. Here, they have pioneered the opportunity for you to track these magnificent creatures on foot.
Highly trained Saruni guides and rangers walk with you through the bush. In these early stages GPS technology helps to protect and locate the conservancy’s rhino, as guides learn their unique behaviour patterns. That first sighting is magical, enhanced by the knowledge that you’re supporting vital conservation work.
GET UP CLOSE WITH ELEPHANT
The African elephant is the continent’s most iconic species, and one-third of those living in the wild are found in Botswana.
You will frequently see elephant herds on game drives, but the real delight is walking amongst them. Abu Camp is home to a semi-habituated group of orphaned and rescued elephant. Here you can become a member of the herd, watching them feed, bathe, and play. You can even sleep out by the elephant boma, dozing off to the sound of their rumbling snores.
ENCOUNTER AFRICAN WILD DOG
The endangered African wild dog is a must-see for wildlife lovers. Less famous than the Big Five, they are harder to spot as there are only around 6,600 left in the wild. If you’re fortunate enough to come across a den or pack out hunting, you’ll see their playful, social nature, plus their skill at taking prey down.
Africa Exclusive’s recommended places for dog sightings are in Kenya’s Laikipia Wilderness Camp, and at Luwi Camp and Nsolo Camp, both of which are in Zambia. Take a game drive in the early evening, and be sure to stop by the den.
TREKKING WITH CHIMPANZEE
Chimpanzee get far less attention than their rarer gorilla brethren, but they are in fact our closest primate relatives. They are also much more active, not only swinging through the trees but also building nests and jumping about on the forest floor.
Take a boat across Lake Tanganyika into one of the chimpanzees’ most important sanctuaries, the breathtaking Mahale Mountains National Park. It’s estimated that 800 chimps live here. Hike through the forest with a guide to find them living in family groups, then walk and watch them romp, feed and commune.
SWIM WITH WHALE SHARK
Mozambique’s Indian Ocean coastline is sprinkled with archipelagos of tropical islands, and on their coral reefs live all manner of marine life. These waters are a fabulous playground for snorkelling and diving, and you can swim amongst whale sharks and manta rays!
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, growing up to 14m in length. They are peaceful and completely harmless to humans: they only eat small schools of fish, plants, and algae. The best place to spot them is in the Bazaruto Archipelago where our favourite place to stay is the idyllic Azura Benguerra Island.