Jessica & Gearóid’s Epic First Safari

“We sat quietly as they ate around us, we were no more than a few feet from the majestic beasts – it was the most incredible experience of my life” — Jessica


Photo by Jessica

It really was unreal – we saw amazing animals on every drive, but the top 2 scenes were a pride of lions chasing a leopard up a tree, robbing its dinner, proceeding to finish off the impala, then a pack of hyenas sniffing for scraps once the lions moved on, and finally the leopard making its way out of the tree and running off.

The other, absolutely moving experience was our first night at Lions Sands – there were a herd of elephants just outside our room, so we skipped the evening safari – the herd eventually made their way right up to our plunge pool and deck (pictured on the right) – we sat quietly as they ate around us, we were no more than a few feet from the majestic beasts – it was the most incredible experience of my life.

Visit their blog www.roadtowelltravelled.com and follow their travels on their Instagram account @road.to.well.travelled 

More of Jessica’s & Gearóid’s Photos

Learn More About Their Itinerary

Morukuru Family De Hoop - Sunrise on the beach.jpg

Coastal Adventures in South Africa

Kruger & Cape Town are a popular combination, but South Africa has much more to offer with an abundance of Big 5 reserves like Madikwe, Marataba and Kwandwe and extraordinary art, food and wine touring.

One area we love to visit is the Cape Whale Coast & Floral Kingdom where you can hike among incredible wildflowers, go sand boarding or fat biking on the dunes, spend the day tide-pooling or whale watching from your bed…

Here are a few spectacular lodges from which you can play, explore and experience more of South Africa’s stunning Cape region…


Lekkerwater Beach Lodge


Morukuru Beach Lodge


Grootbos Forest Lodge


De Hoop Collection

Up Close and Personal – A Family Safari Road Trip!

“On the first day, we went out looking for lions, and we certainly found them. In fact, not only did we find them, but we found 4…two males and two females. Both sets were mating to the left and right of the vehicle. We learned that they actually mate every 15 minutes for 4 days in a row. Wow. I felt like I was intruding on some private time…I needed to have a cigarette.” — Mari & Alex


To really be there, going to Africa for the first time, the true surprise is simply being there. You think to yourself, ‘Am I really seeing zebra, giraffe and kudu?’ To be able to see all of these creatures up close – as close as you want to be (and we definitely pushed our boundaries) – is something you really don’t expect.

Photo by Mari & Alex

One time, we were especially close to the female lions – from 1-20 feet, and what was surprising to me was that I never felt like our family was threatened. There was a certain respect that the guides held for the land and the animals. They just knew the environment, and we could tell they weren’t going to put us at risk. Honestly, the fact that we could camp out in the Savannah in the middle of the night, allowing our own children to stay watch – you have to have a lot of faith to make a big leap like that. Not once did we ever feel scared because ever-present was the mutual respect between humans and animals; a certain understanding. It was very cool.

It happens from the very beginning, too. We left Johannesburg and took a long drive to Botswana where the adventure literally began at our border crossing – from South Africa to Botswana. We went out in an open Land Rover with one of the more experienced guides…sort of like a Grand Uncle kind of guy who was very hospitable. As soon as we were loaded up, we drove across – or actually, through – the river, which was the boundary between South Africa and Botswana. Everything was dirt road from that point onwards, and we’d only made it 100 yards when our driver pulled over so we could watch some zebras. He told us to look back – he’d seen movement – and sure enough, out of the bush came an elephant, and then another, and then a whole herd of elephants. Our jaws dropped in amazement – we’d only just crossed over, and here we were having animal experiences.

Just the presence of these animals…to be greeted by the most beautiful of beasts…is incredibly moving. It’s the entire reason we went, and there it was, unfolding before us in only 100 yards. Zebras, giraffe, Impalas… I’m even forgetting the names of all the creatures we saw. It was a wild kingdom.

A Sensual Adventure

At our second stop, or concession, we were having our orientation and they said that they wanted to pitch an idea to us. This was when they asked us if we wanted to sleep out in the Savannah, hiking out about 3 miles…along with two guides and their guns. Doing this meant that each of us would have to stay awake for 2 hours per night to keep watch. My first reaction was YES! I mean, what other time in your life would you be able to camp out in the Savannah with wild animals? It was the most amazing experience.

Photo by Mari & Alex

It’s difficult to portray what we witnessed…through all of our senses. Infinite stars…stars beyond what you could imagine. We’ve been to Yosemite. We’ve been to Yellowstone. There is just no comparison. You’re serenaded by a cacophony of the sounds, too. The laughing hyenas, the hippos, and what’s called bush babies, which are little monkeys that live in the trees…and they literally sound like babies.

Over one outdoor dinner, we could hear lions roaring in the distance while we were eating. There was nothing between us and the lions, which could seem unsettling, but part of what gave us comfort was the fact that the guides called each lion by their name – simply by knowing the sound of their roar. Oh, and the smells! The smells were things we’d never smelled before. The basil and African sage, which had a sweet lemony smell to it, was sweet and very pungent.

Late Night Surprise

One night, we were on safari driving around. It was much later than we usually stayed out, but it was probably only two hours after sunset. Our drivers seemed a little disoriented – like they were lost – but they kept driving. One of the guides was holding a big spotlight, and we were looking for elephants. He was shining the light on either side, and suddenly we saw a campfire in the distance. They told us they thought it was an anti-poaching crew; that they go out there and sometimes catch poachers and keep them in camp until authorities pick them up. There were a couple other trucks parked when we pulled up, and it was clear we were going to talk to these guys. Admittedly, we were a little concerned. As we approached the camp, we could see a fairly large group, shadowed by the firelight, and as we got closer, we realized that it was a group of student guides. Whew! Turned out it was planned all along, and they’d made a great dinner for us, and one of them was showing us how to take night shots.

They had tables, chairs, and table coverings. They had amazing food there – Mealie Pap, kind of like a porridge, or polenta, that’s served with a meat, or a stew. You use your fingers and you scoop it up and just eat it. My family also enjoyed the Mashatu chili, which was a flavorful and spicy chili prepared by two amazing women, Nomo and Rosena. The night before we left, my son’s girlfriend wanted to bring some home, and they gave her a jar of it along with the recipe. Can you believe that? At the next stop, we had to put our food in the storage container, and accidentally forgot it there. That was probably the biggest disappointment of our whole trip.

Dirty Fingernails

Photo by EcoTraining

We’d go back. In a heartbeat. It would be great to go back to the same places for the nostalgia, but on the other hand, we’d probably want to see something different. It’d be great to go to Kenya to see the mass migrations…where they have herds of millions of animals. Now that we’ve gotten a flavor of Africa, we understand there is so much more to see. It was such a wonderful experience, and Jeremy and Kili had so much to do with that. From one conversation where we shared our vision, they took exactly what we described and made it happen. We didn’t want to travel like privileged Americans where we were driven around, etc. We wanted to go where they had good labor practices. We wanted the opportunity to touch the land with the dirt going through our fingers, touch the trees, and smell the environment. We didn’t need champagne and chocolate fountains (well maybe a little), but from the very beginning…the languages, the sounds and the sights, the people, the environment. It was just such a whole medley of sensations.


Here’s Some of Mari & Alex’s Photos


 
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Jane & Alan’s First Safari

When I was a kid I read things about Daniel Boone and the Native American explorers and scouts. They had lore like “they could tell from a broken twig that an animal had passed this way…” I didn’t make much of it at the time. It was an abstract idea, filtered through the experience of a city kid, but what we experienced in Africa was amazing. — Alan S., Berkeley, CA


When travelers return home from an African wildlife safari, they often describe the experience as being “beyond words.” Luckily, our recent clients Jane & Alan found the words to describe what it was like to be out on a game drives while visiting Khwai Tented Camp & Linyanti Bush Camp. Enjoy their photos below along with their excellent description of a classic african game drive!


First, the guides knew their miles-wide terrain as well as I know my back yard. There aren’t very many roads – what passes for roads are basically dirt or sand paths, with non-stop bone-jarring ups and downs. Anything else looked like a track that had been run over by a jeep (more likely, a Land Cruiser) a few times – top speed 20 MPH, with curves and ruts all over the place. We also learned what “all-terrain vehicle” meant – deep sand, thigh-high water, marsh (in search of buffalo), etc. (The cars were modified so that their air intake valves were at shoulder height, allowing the vehicle to go through deep water without compromising engine intake.)

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Tree-scratching Lion

Bee & Chaz Capture Rare Safari Moments

On the way to the airstrip at Mara Plains we watched this baby gazelle being born on New Year’s Day. This is how this safari trip has gone. Every day something absolutely remarkable. — Bee & Chaz

As an old saying goes: The only way to have great ideas is to have a lot of ideas. We think the same applies to safaris and wildlife photography. The more time you spend in the bush, and the more photos you take, the better chance you’ll have of getting great shots.

Bee wanted to make sure she had the perfect camera for her safari, and she couldn’t have been happier with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Olympus customer service went out of their way to make sure she had the newest technology without it being too heavy or unwieldy. We hesitate to guess how many photos Bee & Chaz took to narrow it down to these wonderful photos, but we can tell you where they were and a bit about their two most recent safaris.

White Browed Coucal vs Chameleon, Mara

White Browed Coucal vs Chameleon in the Mara

Our guide Duncan at Mara Plains saw the White Browed Coucal attacking this chameleon. We watched in wonder as he systematically tried to pull the chameleon off the bush by trying to unwrap its tail then pulling on the chameleon’s limbs. After some time in the epic struggle for life vs lunch, the coucal gave up and the chameleon survived…for the moment. — Bee & Chaz

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Family Safari Kid with Tortoise in Kruger

Family Safaris – Our Personal Picks

Family Safari for Kids in Kruger

Rainie’s Bush Walk in Kruger

As you might have guessed, the Next Adventure team fully supports taking the whole family on safari! As family safaris have grown in popularity, the options for quality family experiences have also grown. Some of the best camps and lodges now provide dedicated family spaces and phenomenal creative resources ensuring a safari with children or grandchildren is a pleasure for all.

The beauty of these family-friendly camps is that guests can spend quality time with the kids as well as finding time to pursue their own interests or just relax while in camp. Here are a few of Next Adventure’s favorite places to spend time in the bush with kids of all ages!


Jeremy’s Pick for Family Safaris: Imvelo’s Elephant Express

The combination of iconic Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls typically makes for a family trip of a lifetime! With Imvelo Safari Lodges, you get a tremendous value, comfortable accommodations and outstanding wildlife experiences in Hwange. Children ages 7 and up are welcome at all properties, and they will marvel at the wildlife and cultural programs which are integral to the Imvelo safari experience. Best of all, every family member will love the Elephant Express train transfer, a vintage open-air railcar that rides along the edge of Hwange National Park for truly unique wildlife viewing with a nostalgic twist!

Imvelo – Kids on Safari


Kili’s Pick for Family Safaris: Lamai Serengeti Lodge

One of my favorite options for families is the Lamai Serengeti Lodge, which sits tucked amongst the rocks of a kopje in the Northern Serengeti with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It’s just a few miles from where the wildebeest cross the Mara River, and, for roughly a quarter of the year, between late July and October, this is where you’ll find the iconic seasonal migration. One of the advantages of this lodge is a range of options for families of different sizes, including the Main Lodge (8 tents, children 8 & up), the Private Camp (4 tents, children 5 & up) and the exclusive use Mkombe’s House (up to 4 adults, 6 children of any age). Private vehicles are available at main & Private camp at an additional cost while a private vehicle is included in Mkombe’s House. Walking is possible for children 12 and older. This is an ideal location to include on your family’s Tanzania safari!

Lamai Serengeti Lodge


Louise’s Pick for Family Safaris: Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge & EleFun Centre

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge was one of my granddaughter’s first safari experiences when she was just 18 months old. To say that this luxury lodge is a perfect choice for kids of all ages is an understatement. The wildlife viewing in the renowned Sabi Sands is unparalleled, and the lodge excels at making families and kids feel right at home. Two newly opened luxury villas add to the ambiance and are exquisite, spacious, and perfect for a family stay. The rest of the 25 suites are equally charming and can accommodate families as well. The EleFun Centre is staffed by a professional childcare team and organizes age appropriate activities in the Junior Tracker (ages 4-8) and Junior Ranger (ages 9-12) programs. There is a play area and organized games for kids of all ages available all day long in addition to the formal programs.

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge


Nicole’s Pick for Family Safaris: Lewa Wilderness

In the heart of Central Kenya’s Laikipia region, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is one of the most successful private conservation efforts. This rugged home to the Big 5 and many endangered and rare species has been part of the Craig Family legacy since 1972. Lewa Wilderness features 10 suites, four of which are specifically designed for family safaris, and children of all ages are welcome, little ones under age 5 stay for free. Lewa Wilderness is the hub of all activities on the conservancy, offering East Africa’s only open cockpit biplane and a stable yard of horses suited to all levels of experience. Guests can also camel ride among the wildlife, enjoy flexible game drives, take guided bush walks, visit the local community enhancement projects, and much more.

Lewa Wilderness


Whether you’re looking for adventure, education, relaxation or (D.) All of the above, there are so many wonderful family safari options! Get in touch today to start planning your perfect family safari.

Wildebeast ,Tubu Tree, Botswana

Mike & Trina’s Sensational Anniversary Safari

It was clear to us as our safari unfolded, that Kili listened carefully to us and, through a couple of phone conversations, teased out nuanced information that ultimately translated into specific experiences designed to delight us. Next Adventure nailed it. –Mike R., Fresno, CA

Mike & Trina wanted to celebrate their 30th Wedding Anniversary with a memorable trip to Africa, and Kili connected with them to craft just the right combination of experiences to suit their interests and style. Read their trip report below to see just how Mike & Trina felt about their Next Adventure anniversary safari! All photos are courtesy of Mike and Trina.


Mosi Oa Tunya Falls, Zambezi River, Zambia

Mosi Oa Tunya Falls, Zambezi River, Zambia

Our anniversary safari began after a restful night in Johannesburg and a morning flight to Livingstone, Zambia. Toka Leya Camp, on the shore of the Zambezi River, is a perfect starting point for a safari. We had the chance to walk with Zambian Rangers to locate and observe a rare White Rhino in Mosi Oa Tunya National Park and stand in the soaking spray of the stunningly beautiful and powerful flood-stage Victoria Falls.

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Happy Lion near Selinda

A Safari for Sisters in Botswana & Cape Town

Myra came to Next Adventure looking to share a special, once-in-a-lifetime, first-time safari with her sister Toby. After getting to know them and their preferences, we settled on a slightly off-season safari in Botswana followed by a visit to Cape Town.

Early November is fast becoming the ‘not-so secret season’ because it still offers great wildlife viewing but with better availability and lower rates. Here’s what we came up with:

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Marataba has it all!

We spent several memorable days enjoying boat cruises on the dam, a herd of 100+ elephants and informative walking safaris. I was so excited about the area that I can’t wait to come back and stay at their newly-opened Marataba Trails Camp offering the only Big 5 walking trails in a malaria-free environment!

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Sample Itinerary – Cape Town, Kruger & Marataba

9 nights from USD $5,995 per person sharing (minimum 2 people sharing)

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Safari Portraits by Bruce M.

Bruce and Patty’s South Africa, Uganda and Kenya Safari

Bruce & Patty first travelled with us 5 years ago on a Wilderness Dawning camping safari. This time around they wanted to return to some of their favorite camps on a self-driving safari in Kruger National Park.

They also planned their own visit to Uganda for Gorilla-tracking, and we wrapped their month-long safari up with a few days camping in Kenya.

Here are their top 7 moments…

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Zarafa Zebras - Selinda Reserve - Botswana

Grant & Miriam’s Grand Tour of Southern Africa

Grant & Miriam’s three week trip in August of this year included some of our favorite destinations in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, and they have the photos to prove it… (click thumbnails to enlarge images)

It wasn’t easy culling 4,000+ shots, but here’s a glimpse into some of the things we saw. What you won’t see are the places we stayed, people we met and many, many other pictures of the wildlife and surroundings where we traveled.

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Elephant in Marsh - Camp Shawu - Kruger - South Africa

Memories and Photos from Bill & Cindy

We asked Will & Cindy if they would share some of their stories and pictures from their past trips, and we got this wonderful array of safari memories and their ten best pictures from over the years…

We’ve done three African Safaris with Next Adventure, as well as a more recent India trip that Kili and Louise planned for us. We have so many stories…

The glass-walled cabins in a forest where I opened my eyes from bed in the middle of the night and was looking directly into the eyes of SOME large animal on the other side of the glass, having baboons swarm our jeep in Kruger with “Old Bob” and refuse to leave without handouts…

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Chongwe House - Zambia

The African Safari House

When our clients come home from safari, they usually say, “We’re going back?” followed by, “Next time, we’re taking friends.” Increasingly, families and small groups of friends are taking advantage of the benefits of sharing a safari. Traveling as a small private group opens up a world of value and possibilities unavailable to couples or solo travelers.

The growing availability of “Safari Houses” is one of the most exciting new offerings for safari goers. These private, exclusive-use accommodations are specifically designed to allow for the privacy and personalized service families and small groups enjoy. Safari Houses can usually accommodate 8-12 guests, and they can come with exclusive amenities like customized activities, flexible schedules, private vehicles, specialist guides and a dedicated house manager, personal chef and dining team.

Here are three of our favorite Safari Houses:

Chongwe Safari House – Zambia

Located on Zambia’s Chongwe River near the Lower Zambezi National Park, Chongwe River House sets the standard for the classic African Safari House. This four-bedroom house looks like it has literally grown out of the riverbank. Earthen walls mimic the lines of the surrounding terrain, and the sitting room furniture was carved from a single fallen winterthorn tree.

Wildlife viewing doesn’t get any better than in the Lower Zambezi with hundreds of species of bird, large herds of elephant and lion and leopard viewing.

The Villa at Grootbos – South Africa

The Villa at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve might be one of the most unique and distinctive Safari Houses in Africa. Located 2 hours from Cape Town in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, Grootbos is a luxury eco destination that has grown from one family’s passion for the unprecedented marine and botanical diversity found on the Southern tip of Africa.

The Villa offers spectacular views, stunning contemporary design and architecture, and exclusive opportunities to explore: guided fynbos nature tours, Milkwood forest walks, breathtaking coastal drives, marine safaris, wine tours and tastings and cliff-side cave excursions.

Singita Serengeti House – Tanzania

Singita Serengeti House sits on the slopes of the Sasakwa Hill, near the world-renowned Singita Sasakwa Lodge, with a wide, endless, unobstructed view of the 350,000-acre Grumeti Reserve and the wild Serengeti Plains. This private, exclusive-use lodge accommodates 8 guests with 2 suites in the expansive main house and a garden suite on each side.

The decor is a stimulating mix of contemporary European design with classic safari artifacts and details, and the world-class amenities include a private 25-meter infinity pool, a tennis court, an 18-horse equestrian center, and one of the most extensive wine cellars in all of Africa.

Each one of these Safari Houses boasts extensive children’s activities like tracking animals, star-gazing, flower-pressing, cooking and baking, young ranger programs as well as babysitting services and kid-friendly menus.

To learn more about these and other Safari House options, get in touch.

Click here for more safari options for families and small groups.

Photos are courtesy of the camps.

Yawning Lion

Jerry & Patty’s South Africa Safari

Rhino-marking at Tswalu

Rhino Marking at Tswalu

Jerry & Patty’s safari earlier this year included visits to Sabi Sands near Kruger National Park, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve and the Cape Winelands as well as some very exciting wildlife conservation encounters including witnessing a rare Rhino-marking.

In the ongoing battle between poachers and wildlife conservationists, we’re proud to support the efforts of partners like Tswalu Kalahari, and we’re especially glad that Jerry & Patty could experience this important work firsthand.

Here’s what Jerry had to say:

Once a year they look for young rhinos (about 18 mos) and tranquilize them for about 15 mins. They notch their ears for identification, take blood samples, microchip the horn, complete a general description, and when that is all done they reverse the tranquilizer and the rhino is up and ready to charge in about 3-5 minutes.

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