EPIC ROAD'S SAFARI BLOG

Entries in Luxury African Safari (4)

Thursday
Mar132014

Top Natural Wonders of Africa

Botswana SafariAt Epic Road we’re privileged to have travelled through some of nature’s most breathtaking places and inspiring landscapes,  and we’re often asked which would make it onto our bucket list of the world's most spectacular must-see natural wonders. It’s a tough choice, but here are our favorites for sub-Saharan Africa:

1.) Botswana – The Okavango Delta: In the middle of the arid Kalahari Desert lies a miracle of nature: a lush oasis of waterways and islands, teeming with birds, wildlife, and flowers. This remote, remarkable wetland known as The Okavango Delta is flooded each year with approximately 2.63 cubic miles of water, which eventually evaporates, transpires and drains into the adjacent Lake Ngami.  The floods peak between June and August when the delta expands to three times its normal size, and the abundance of water attracts animals from surrounding territories, resulting in one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife. Visitors to the Delta can expect to see bush elephant and buffalo, hippopotamus, blue wildebeest, giraffe, lion, cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, spotted hyena, black rhinos and white rhinos, along with one of the Africa's richest pack densities of the endangered wild dog. Birders will also be kept busy trying to spot the more than 400 species of birds that inhabit the area.

We love the Okavango Delta because it is a place where conservation is prioritized and travelers have access not only to a place of great natural beauty and peaceful energy, but can also learn, explore and experience amazing adventures while on their luxury African safari

Related Epic Road Luxury African Safaris:

Selinda & Okavango Delta - Botswana's Water Wonderland

Botswana Family Safari: The Lion King Experience

2.) Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda – The Virunga National Park: The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo runs along the border between Uganda and Rwanda, and boasts a rich diversity that surpasses any other park in Africa.  This UNESCO World Heritage site covers an area close to 2,000,000 acres, with multiple habitats that include swamps and steppes, the snowfields of Rwenzori, lava plains and grassy savannahs. The Virunga Mountain range also consists of eight, mostly dormant volcanoes, except for Mounts Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira (both in the Democratic Republic of Congo)—which also happen to be the most active volcanoes on the continent.

The park is also home to iconic African animal and plant species—many of which are red listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—including the critically endangered mountain gorillas and eastern lowland gorillas, African elephants, chimpanzees, owl-faced monkeys,  and more than 20,000 hippos.  We are in awe of the men and women who toil tirelessly in efforts to protect all wildlife in the park.  It is one of the most incredible biomes in the world, definitely worth saving, and definitely worth a visit on your African safari !

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Gorilla Tracking in Rwanda

Rare and Endangered Wildlife in Uganda

3.) Kenya – the Rift Valley: If watching the Great Wildebeest Migration from a hot air balloon isn’t on your bucket-list, well, it should be, as the the experience is an unbeatable way in which to view one of nature’s most incredible shows.  The Migration ends in Kenya's Maasai Mara region,  situated in the Rift Valley, with the Serengeti Plains running along its southern end.  The Mara covers 200 square miles of open plains, woodlands and riverine forests and is home to an enormous variety of wild life, including zebra, giraffe, gazelles, monkeys, buffalo, elephants, and hippos. It is a place where mighty herds congregate, where the cycle of life plays out daily, and Maasai warriors share their ancestral homeland with the fierce predators of Africa.

From July to October every year, the search for fertile grazing grounds and water draws more than 1.3 million Wildebeest who migrate in a single massive herd across the Serengeti over the border into Kenya—an amazing display of nature that stretches from one horizon to the other. The Mara River presents a formidable challenge for the Wildebeest, who plunge into the raging waters, fighting against swift currents and the constant threat of hungry crocodiles.  The Wildebeest herds are then followed by predators, most especially lions, though cheetah, hyena and jackals are also commonly sighted.

The region is also home to the Maasi people, who value tradition and ritual, and who rarely hunt, preferring to live harmoniously alongside wildlife. It is this rare co-existence of man and wildlife that makes the Maasai one of the most unique natural habitats in the world, and one of the most unforgettable places you can visit on your luxury African safari.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Crossing the Mighty Mara River

Maasai Wilderness and Elephant Conservation Safari

Maasai Walking Safari: A Slow Safari Experience

Conserving Africa's Big Cats - Kenya

4.) Mozambique - Vamizi: There are times when it’s not only what you see on the surface that takes your breath away; sometimes you have to look a little deeper, like the beautiful landscapes of Vamizi, one of 32 tropical islands in the Quirimbas Archipelago. This narrow stretch of land is covered with thick forests of Acacia, Hibiscus and Casuarina trees, and edged by glittering white-sand beaches that give way to the pristine turquoise ocean. Vamizi is a sanctuary for humans and animals alike: a place where green turtles make arduous journies up the sands to lay their eggs, giant coconut crabs nestle within the coral, and rare samango monkeys and exotic birds make their homes within mangrove forests.

It is when you venture beneath the surface of the gentle waves, that you realise the true natural beauty of Vamizi. Here, the coral reefs have been protected from bleaching by cool rising currents from the deep, and are alive with vibrant colourful sponges, corals and a myriad of fish species. The huge laced gorgonian fan corals which cling to the sides of the drop offs and the whip corals swaying in the gentle currents are mesmirizing, and for experienced divers the opportunity to explore Neptune’s Arm—considered one of the top ten dive sites in the world—will be impossible to resist.

We love Vamizi for its exquisite tranquility above and below the surface, and because of the emphasis on sustainable luxury safaris, leaving the island refreshingly free of the damage that often results from tourism and development.  

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Vamizi Island, Mozambique: Castaway Chic

5.) Namibia – the Namib-Naukluft National Park and the Kunene Region: Namibia is known for its varied dramatic landscapes, and the strikingly beautiful dune fields of the Namib and the Sossusvlei, found in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in the southern part of the Namib Desert, are absolute must-sees. The Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by massive dunes, many of which exceed 600 feet, and glow vivid shades of red, orange and pink, the result of high iron deposits in the sand.  Vegetation grows on the higher dunes, drawing water from underground ephemeral rivers which occasionally flood the surface, and when dry the pans turn almost white from the resulting concentration of salt.  While the Sossusvlei is not teeming with wildlife, there are many small animals in their area which can survive with little water, including small reptiles, rodents and jackals, as well as larger mammals such as oryxes and springboks and ostriches.

The Kunene region is one of even more contrasts. You wouldn’t expect it but the arid, lunar-like landscape is becoming a genuine wildlife destination where you’ll regularly see desert-adapted animals including elephants, black rhino, lions, Hartmanns Zebra, giraffe and gemsbok. We love that the government had the foresight to give local communities land management rights, resulting in more than 70 conservancies and wildlife sanctuaries, and successful conservation efforts that have led to an increase in the number of desert-adapted black rhinos, one of the largest and fastest-growing rhino populations on the continent.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Romance and Luxury in the Nambian Desert

6.) South Africa – the whole country: South Africa has so much to offer visitors that we’re declaring the entire country a natural wonder!  This modern, cosmopolitan nation has an incredibly rich biodiversity, which plays out across some of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, along with rich forests, stunning coastlines and deserts. The Cape Floral Kingdom, found in the southwest portion of the Western Cape, contains 9600 plant species, 70% of which do not grow naturally anywhere else on earth. Table Mountain, in the heart of the Floral Kingdom, has more than 1,500 plant species alone, and the views from the 3,500 fot, flat-topped sandstone peak are spectacular. 

Then there’s the incredible wildlife. While South Africa covers less than one percent of the earth’s land mass, it is home to six percent of the world’s mammal and reptile species, and ten percent of the world’s plant, fish and bird species. Sightings of Africa’s Big Five happen on a daily basis, particularly in the Kruger National Park. South Africa is also the custodian of 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, and the opportunity to catch sight of one of these prehistoric creatures during your South African safari is an experience that will linger for a lifetime.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Jet Set in Cape Town

Vintage Wine and Fantastic Food in Cape Winelands

Microchip a Rhino in the African Wild

South Africa Family Safari: Luxury, Wildlife and Adventure for All

7.) Tanzania - Kilimanjaro National ParksNgorongoro Crater: With Serengeti (shared with Kenya) and Kilimanjaro National Parks and Ngorongoro included on the list of winners of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, it’s easy to understand why we include it on our top ten.  To begin with, the Great Wildebeest Migration, which occurs from July to October of every year, starts in the Serengeti, and is considered one of the most spectacular wildlife events in all of nature. Then there's the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro, one of Africa’s best known attractions and one of the the most accessible of the world's highest peaks.  The landscapes of Kilimanjaro are diverse, with the cultivated lower slopes making way for lush forest, and encompassing habitats for elephants, leopard, buffalo and the endangered abbot’s duiker, along with other small antelope and primates. Higher up the slopes you’ll find the moorland zone. Higher still, the alpine desert which supports very little life, and gives way to the ice, snow and majestic views from atop the roof of continent.

In addition to these wonders, Tanzania contains the nearly three-million-year-old Ngorongoro Crater, a vast un-flooded volcanic caldera home to almost every species of wildlife in East Africa—an estimated 25,000 animals.  And also not to be missed on your Tanzania safari: the fascinating, historical Zanzibar Archipelago, off the Tanzanian coast, which include the culturally significant islands of Unguja (known more commonly as Zanzibar) and Pemba. Zanibar's location in the Indian Ocean made it a natural regional trading center, famous for its spices, Stone Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and exquisite coastlines.  Unguja especially is renowned for its powdery white sand beaches and fringing coral reefs, rich in marine biodiversity.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater

Serengeti Safari: Witness the Great Migration

Safari in Zanzibar: Low Key and Local

Tanzania Family Safari: A Classic African Experience

8.) Zambia and Zimbabwe - Victoria Falls: When it comes to understanding the incredible power of nature, there is nothing like an African adventure safari at Victoria Falls. Located on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, this awe inspiring curtain of water has columns of spray that can be seen from miles away. The falls are classified as the largest in the world based on their width of 5,604 feet and height of 354 feet, and at the peak of the rainy season more than 1.766 cubic feet of water per minute plunges into the river gorges below, transforming the generally placid Zambezi into a ferocious torrent of rolling rapids and rolicking waves.

The walls that encase Victoria Falls are capped by mist-soaked rainforest, and the surrounding area also contains two national parks: The UNESCO designated Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park which runs over 16,000 acres on the Zambian side, and the 5,683 acre Victoria Falls National Park in Zimbabwe.  There are also a number of smaller parks—including the Zambezi National Park, Matetsi Safari Area, Kazuma Pan National Park and Hwange National Park—containing sizeable populations of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, and a variety of antelope. Vervet monkeys and baboons are also common, and the portion of the Zambezi River above the falls is also home to large populations of hippos and crocodile.

Related Epic Road Luxury Safaris:

Re-Imagining Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe Safari: Autheticity by Car, Boat and Foot

Victoria Falls Family Safari: A Water Wonderland

 

Monday
Jul152013

Luxury Safaris for Everyone

'Luxury safari' conjures a different image for every traveler. Across Africa, top end lodges and luxury safari operators offer a wide range of luxury safaris across a spectrum of access, landscape, dining, guiding and lodging. A luxury safari in Botswana or South Africa will invariably be a different experience to a luxury safari in Tanzania and Kenya. The former focuses on water and oasis activity, whereas the latter focuses on the wide, open plains of the Serengeti and the Great Migration.

South African Luxury Safaris:

South Africa is perhaps Africa’s most family-friendly place to experience safari. The proximity of Cape Town makes a mixed trip of wild beauty and cultural experience an easy option—and reduces necessary medical precautions and lightens packing. You won’t sacrifice the ‘wild’ in wilderness though—South Africa’s safari parks are some of the best places in Africa to spot the “big five.”

Zambian and Zimbabwean Luxury Safaris:

Zambia and Zimbabwe are known for thrilling safari at more modest price points, which focus on guided walking safaris. In many ways, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in the South Eastern heart of Africa, are the undiscovered gem of the country.  Zambia boasts one of the largest swaths of land under national park protection. And the crown gem of the two nations is the majestic, thundering Victoria Falls—unlike anywhere else on earth.

Tanzania and Kenya Luxury Safaris:

Perhaps the image often associated with safari is the open plains, covered by grazing animals, low trees, swaying grasses, and the canny predators they hide. This is the Serengeti. The vast Mara-Serengeti ecosystem is the stuff of movies, books and dreams—think Earnest Hemingway game hunting. The wide plains are home to wildebeest, lions, zebra, cheetahs, giraffe, elephants, antelope, and more, best seen by jeep or four-wheeler, arranged by one of the spectacular luxury lodges in the area.

Rwanda luxury safaris:

Rwanda is the lush, green, misty heart of Africa. The most spectacular safaris are the ones that bring us eye to eye with the continents gorillas—one of our closest relatives—in one of their last remaining habitats on earth. In most gorilla safaris, a guide will lead you up the forested hills of volcanoes on foot, to quiet clearings where you can watch the gorillas live and play in peace.

Botswana and Namibia Luxury Safaris:

The Kalahari, across Botswana and Namibia, is the oldest desert on earth. Still, there is vibrant life there, concentrated in great diversity around oases and waterholes. Desert safaris focus on these pockets of concentration, where spectators can quietly watch usually solitary animals, like the black rhino, interact with a range of desert neighbors, including giraffe, ostrich, and lions. Despite the vast emptiness of the desert landscape, some of Africa’s most spectacularly luxurious lodges are found here. And last but not least, Botswana's Okavango Delta is in a league of its own when it comes to game rich luxury safaris that combine mokoro rides on the water and open vehicle game drives.  It's the pinnacle of luxury safaris.

 

 

Wednesday
Jun262013

Discover Namibia: Skeleton Coast Luxury Safaris and Beyond

Namibia is home to the world's oldest desert, the Namib, meaning ‘vast place.' The landscape across the desert is indeed vast, and diverse—ranging from tthe spectacular pink and orange dune seas to the so-called ‘long wall’ where the ocean meets the tall sands to the mysterious and foggy Skeleton Coast.

The Namib’s Sand Sea in Naukluft National Park has recently been added to UNESCO’s list of 217 World Heritage Sites. The area is the first in ten years to meet all four of the criteria. The ever-changing dune landscape is believed to be the only one on earth shaped by fog.

Namibia is a truly singular place to experience nature. Curious global nomads will thrill in exploring the region’s endless solitude via nature drives and quad bike excursions through the towering red sand dunes. Boating on the Kunene River, bordering Angola in the north, offers a lush conduit through the desert’s green riverside oases.

At Epic Road, we have a special place in our hearts and minds for the often otherworldly and entirely unique landscapes of Namibia. One of our global nomads, Amanda Manchia, wrote to us, “I recently went on a week-long, mind-boggling journey through Namibia with Epic Road. The Namib Desert was an unexpected, endless, arid expanse of sand dunes and mountains set among the dense bush of southern Africa. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Namibia is a gorgeous country unlike any other.”

Here are a few of our favorite destinations in the country:

Sossusvlei: The startling salt and clay pan of the Sossusvlei, in northern Namibia, have been drawing curious travelers for generations. The pan is surrounded by immense red sand dunes of breathtaking beauty that stretch unbroken in rolling, crested waves until they reach the sea. They can be explored by car, quad bike, or even a hot air balloon. The area is inhospitable but not barren—you may catch sight of one of the adapted species that calls Sossuvlei home, like the jackal, the ostrich, and the oryx.

To experience Sossulvei in luxury, stay at the isolated Little Kulala, where you’ll sleep peacefully in a climate-controlled, thatched villa with a romantic skybed for rooftop stargazing. It’s hard to imagine a sky where the stars burn more brightly.

Damaraland: You might not expect large wildlife in Damaraland’s vast sandy wastes, but there it is. The desert sustains small but vibrant populations of rhino, oryx, ostrich, elephants and giraffe, who have adapted to survive the harsh demands of life in the desert. The region is also home to some astonishing scenery, including petrified forests, craggy mountains, and prehistoric rock paintings. In Damaraland, the slow passage of time is palpable.

At Desert Rhino Camp, the largest population of free-ranging black rhino is on at your doorstep. In collaboration with Save the Rhinos Trust, Desert Rhino camp offers a comfortable place to observe on of the most magnificent, and fastest dwindling, species on Earth.

Skeleton Coast

In a land of little water or resources, the Skeleton Coast is a major exception. The cold ocean water is rich in fishery resources, which support populations of brown fur seals and shorebirds that, in turn, serve as prey for the Skeleton Coast's lions.

It’s a fascinating ecosystem that makes for a great safari. Despite the inhospitable, arid weather, life finds a way.

Kunene River

The Kunene River is a rare channel of life in a very dry desert--a winding band of green surrounded by the lunar landscape of the Namib Desert stretching to the Serra Cafema mountain range in the north.  It is a precious resource to the people and animals of the region, and it draws an impressive panoply of wildlife to its shores. 

We recommend experiencing this desert oasis from Serra Cafema, the most remote camp in Namibia. The only way to reach the lodge is by a 3hr, light aircraft trip from Windhoek. Once there, you'll be rewarded by a riverfront, Meru-style tent with an en-suite bathroom and a private deck, complete with breathtaking views of endless wilderness.

The l camp shares this region with the Himba tribe, one of the last true nomadic people in Africa.  

Luci solar lights and the Himba People

We often wonder at animals’ ability to adapt to inhospitable conditions; we forget that we, too, are a species who have made homes in some of Earth’s harshest corners. The Himba, one of the last true nomadic people in Africa, have built a home and a way of life in the desert that few could imagine or endure.

Epic Road is working alongside MPOWERD to bring Luci, a solar-powered inflatable lantern, to the Himba people. Amanda Manchia told us:

“The Himba people are thriving in one of the harshest environments on the planet—their bodies muscular, their bellies full, and their livestock hearty, despite the relentless heat and minimal water, plants, and shade. While visiting with these tribes, Epic Road arranged for me to deliver solar lights to members of the Himba tribe that do not have access to electricity. The potential impact on their lives is huge: increasing productivity and safety, decreasing CO2 emissions, reducing incidents of pulmonary diseases, kerosene burns, and risk of gender based violence, as well as saving money spent on kerosene. I spent several hours herding cattle to a small underground water source with four welcoming Himba women. I was struck by how strong, independent, and resilient these women were and how indomitable the human spirit can be when pushed to the limit. This trip made me realize that the only thing that holds any of us back from achieving the extraordinary is the determination, confidence and discipline that defined these women. When I returned home, I felt a renewed sense of self, that any obstacle was surmountable, and that anything is possible.” 

Thursday
Jun132013

ER's Top 10 Romantic Lodges in Africa

Whether your idea of perfect romance is tropical brilliance or exhilarating adventure, old-world safari tents or sleek modern vineyards, surrounded by ocean or surrounded by dunes, eating top gourmet meals or fishing for your own—Africa has it all. Here’s a list of ER’s ten favorite spots to truly feel romance.

Vumbura Plains, Botswana

Vumbura Plains sits in the extreme north of the Okavango Delta. The lodge is styled like a contemporary beachside ranch house—a modern, airy design of light fabrics and pale wood. Each freestanding thatched villa is fitted with a large deck, a private plunge pool and an outdoor shower, all with spectacular views of the surrounding plains. Sit on the deck with your lover and watch as the wildlife pass by: elephants, leopards, hippo, and the famed “Golden Pack” hyenas.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania

The Ngorongoro Crater, a World Heritage Site, is a fantastically romantic destination in its own right, but the Lodge is undoubtedly the most spectacular way to view it. Each suite’s exterior is built in the Masaai’s rustic mud-and-stick manyatta style; each interior is fitted in total luxury, including an ensuite chandelier–lit bathroom and an opulent gem-tone design, all of which offer a plush frame for the dramatic views out your window.

Sindabezi Island, Zambia

Sindabezi is unique: a private island in the middle of the Zambezi River. The five open-plan thatched cottages all directly overlook the water, offering singular access to the river’s flora and fauna, and close proximity to Victoria Falls. The only sounds you’ll hear are the rushing water, the hippos, and you.

Delaire Graff, South Africa

Delaire Graff has everything: two gourmet restaurants, a state-of-the-art winery, a beautiful spa and two luxury boutiques, not to mention the stunning backdrop of Stellenbosch’s famed wine country. Nestled between mountains and vineyards, Delaire is paradise at its most sophisticated. Striking Cape Dutch architecture and stylized African interiors are simply the icing on the cake.

Sabora Tented Camp, Tanzania

Most travelers to Africa harbor a fantasy of the tented safari camp, a la Earnest Hemingway, where zebras canter past billowing tents and dinner is served on the open, golden plains. Sabora is the stuff of fantasy-- this northern Tanzanian explorer’s camp is permeated by a sense of nostalgic adventure and by the palpable pulse of the Serengeti.  Guests will delight in the thrill of knowing there isn’t much separating the comforts inside from the wildlife outside.

Vamizi Island, Mozambique

Imagine a tropical paradise, inhabited only by you and your lover, where the breeze blows through white curtains into your villa, and ruffles the surface of your private pool. Just a stone’s throw away, the azure waters teem with turtles, tropical fish, and corals. Samango monkeys chatter in the trees above. Welcome to Vamizi, a private island in the Quirimbas Archipelago of Northern Mozambique.

Kaya Mawa, Malawi

In the middle of spectacular Lake Malawi on Likoma Island sits Kaya Mawa, a luxury waterfront lodge, both chic and rustic. Kaya Mawa was voted as one of the top ten 'Most Romantic Places in the World' by Conde Nast, a Tatler top 101 Hotels in the World, and recently the 3rd Best Beach Property in Africa 2013 by the Good Safari Awards. Dive the unique freshwaters, kitesurf across the surface, or simply enjoy a romantic beachside dinner with your loved one.

Sossusvlei Desert Reserve, Namibia

In the heart of Namibia’s ancient Namib Desert lies the NamibRand Desert Reserve, an oasis of rolling gold, pumpkin and sienna sand dunes—one of the oldest landscapes on Earth. Sossusvlei Deset Lodge is pure luxury, from the air–conditioned desert villas constructed of stone and glass to the private wraparound verandas, outdoor showers, king sized beds, a personal spotting star-scope and the lodge swimming pool and walk-in wine cellar. This is remote, otherworldly wilderness that few will ever experience.

Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Tanzania

Faru Faru Lodge is pure classic, arechtypal African luxury. Fantastic views of the plains? Check. Freestanding porcelain tubs? Check. Sleek and modern wooden interiors? Check. Gorgeous outdoor swimming pool? Check. Access to the most spectacular wildlife on Earth? Yes, indeed. Faru Faru is the perfect jumping-off point for your African safari trip.  

Tintswalo Atlantic, South Africa

In the South African Shangaan language, Tintswalo means “the intangible feeling of love, gratitude and peace bestowed upon someone offering you a meaningful and worthy gift.” African vacations are frequently associated with adventure and exoticism, but Tintswalo offers something different: a charming new home. Atlantic is set above the quaint fishing village of Hout Bay, Cape Town, from where you can access both the city and its gorgeous coastal and inland countryside. But the gorgeous Mediterranean luxury of the lodge itself may make it hard to leave.