Why Africa is the ultimate bucket list destination


By Steve Upton

Travel has always been in my blood. I was born in Bahrain, and from an early age can remember the call of the mosque as the sun rose, and the organised chaos of the souq. I spent time in Cape Town as a child, with views across the bay to Table Mountain and braais on the beach with friends, then lived in Sydney, commuting past the Opera House each morning and enjoying this so familiar, yet distant part of the world. Since then travel has turned from a passion and hobby to a career. As my children will tell you, if I’m not travelling then I’ll be planning my next adventure. What greater joy in life to share that passion for adventure, and the knowledge of a continent like Africa with like-minded travellers?

Africa is just vast! It covers a huge geographical chunk of the world, yet it is in its people that you see how vast it really is. The languages, tribal groups, cultures and food can be so foreign to one and another, as if from another world. For me, Africa truly comes alive as you encounter those people who call it home. When it comes to travelling this continent, this vastness can be off putting. Where to start? For many it is safari, but which destination is best?

In planning your next trip, it really is best to talk to a specialist. I love to see an Africa trip a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. Working out which pieces of the puzzle you want to explore this time, and which pieces fit together best. Africa is a jigsaw you will never be able to finish; every time you return from here, you will always find there are more missing pieces to discover.

South Africa is home to the ‘‘Big 5’’ and is a great place to start if you have never been on safari. For younger families especially, there are some wonderful smaller game reserves that are easy to get to, with the added benefit of being non-malarial. Yet it is in the expanse of the Greater Kruger (the size of Wales) where you will encounter one of the highest densities of wild animals in Africa. Alongside the Kruger National Park, this area is made up of a number of smaller unfenced private reserves and it is really worth discovering some of the less well known reserves to add to the adventure.

Your South African safari jigsaw puzzle really could combine a number of other pieces. To the east are the warm waters, pristine coral reefs and idyllic white sand beaches of Mozambique’s long stretch of coast. Benguerra Island, pictured below, is a stunning paradise hideaway off the coast, a relaxing addition to a busy few days on safari. To the west is Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city, and redolent with history that is well worth exploring, as well as world class hotels and iconic restaurants. You can even extend your stay in the beautiful winelands town of Franschhoek.

East Africa is home to those iconic names – Maasai Mara and Serengeti – places we’ve seen in the movies and heard about when discussing the Great Migration. Both are great starting points into Kenya and Tanzania, and yet there is also so much more. In Kenya, head north to the less well known Loisaba Wilderness, home to the Samburu people. In Tanzania, combine the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater with Tarangire National Park, often a favourite park among guides due to its size and remoteness, particularly in the southern section. Which pieces fit together best here? Perhaps time to unwind to the East, with the beaches of Mombasa and Zanzibar to welcome the weariest of traveller. Or head West, with greater primate adventures, with the gorillas and chimpanzees in the jungles of Uganda and Rwanda.

Southern Africa is home to the less well-known destinations of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. At its geographical heart, the Victoria Falls flows across the borders of Zimbabwe and Zambia, and is one of the world’s largest waterfalls. Locally it is called Mosi-oa-Tunya – literally the ‘‘Thundering Smoke!’’ It is easily combinable with many safari options. Take a mokoro boat on the Okavango Delta of Botswana and see the hippos as their eyes start to breach the surface of the water, or hop on a light aircraft (a bush taxi) to South Luangwa National Park in East Zambia, as this offers the unique combination of open, grassy plains and mature woodlands, alongside the pristine Luangwa river.

Alternatively, jump in a 4×4 for a self-drive adventure and head west to Namibia, a safari destination unlike any other in Africa. Much of its wildlife has adapted to its arid desert landscape, which can be experienced in Etosha National Park. Drive North to the Skeleton coast, with its inaccessible shores, dotted with shipwrecks. Head inland to the Caprivi Strip, as the arid wasteland gives way to verdant waterways. However adventurous you want to be, there are a wealth of options in Africa. Let Savile Row Travel help piece together your next African adventure, and the one after that!


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