I had a fantastic time in Africa. We saw a vast amount of wildlife, virtually everything one could hope for, except for rhinos, which we knew we would not see. We did see elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, hyenas, wildebeests, buffalo, hippos, warthogs, African wild dogs, baboons, crocodiles, jackals, nine kinds of antelope, and more! The real highlight for me personally was finding, identifying (of course with the benefit of our guides’ expertise), and photographing over one hundred bird species.
Each one was a new thrill. After returning home I uploaded all one hundred or so bird observations to “iNaturalist.org”. Every one of them was seen and commented on (i.e. my identification either confirmed or corrected). Many were picked up by various “projects” within iNaturalist, such as Birds of Botswana, Birds of Southern Africa, and Owls of the World. One photo (Hooded Vulture) was selected as Observation of the Day, and was nominated for Observation of the Month!
Our guides were fantastic in their knowledge of animal behavior, birds, trees, etc. We had KK in Botswana, and Douglas at Davison’s Camp. Douglas was my favorite. He was absolutely delightful, not only in sharing his passion for the wilderness with all its living things, but also in sharing his own personal stories of life in Zimbabwe.
I loved the trip to the village (called ngamo) in Zimbabwe. This may have been my single favorite part of the trip. It was a moving experience to see the enthusiasm and optimism among the 7th graders we met. They sang songs and danced for us. Their joy in doing so was obvious. The principle was very engaging. We met the Head Man of the village and his wife, who shared with us the structure of the village political system, the local diet, the moral code they live by, their views of their government, etc. This was extremely interesting and educational. I also loved the two boat trips, one on the Khwai River and the other on the Chobe River. These provided very nice variety among many game drives in the jeep.
The transitions from one part of the trip to another worked perfectly! In every case, there was someone at the airport or at the border to receive us and guide us along to the next phase. This was amazing.
Some of the highlights/striking things from the Botswana trip were the abundance and variety of animals. And of course our guides knew every single bird. We saw many lions, their cubs, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, wildebeests , warthogs, hyenas, wild dogs, hippos and crocs and of course too many elephants to count. One striking event happened near the Chobe River after our boat ride. A herd of of elephants just finished drinking and were lingering near by. It was early evening and a male lion was scouting them out, appearing nonchalant. Suddenly, the herd coalesced and charged the lion who ran right past our vehicle. We broke the quiet rule and burst into applause for the elephants.
The amenities/food that stood out in Camp Davidson were the care the staff took to accommodate my gluten intolerance. The meals were all excellent. In Botswana, the mobile camp staff couldn’t do enough for us. The primitive conditions hardly mattered. The safari vehicles in Camp Davidson were far superior to those used by Wilderness Dawning. We hope they will upgrade them soon.
Planning our safari with Next Adventure was fabulous. We couldn’t imagine more knowledgeable, accommodating and eager professionals. I have recommended Next Adventure to several people and will continue to do so. I don’t think there was anything Jeremy could have done differently to prepare us. There were no surprises and the whole trip went off without a hitch.
Describing to a friend what it’s like to be on safari, well, you are awakened at 5:30, breakfast at 6 and in the vehicle by 6:30. The guides take out out for game drives with a cup of tea at 10 and continue on until lunch. Each day is quite different in that you never know what you will see and the guides always seem to know where to find the animals. You think it can’t get any more exciting and then it does. Seeing these animals in the wild is really breathtaking. Usually there is an afternoon siesta then back to the vehicles for more animal encounters. The guides always seem just as excited as we are at each discovery.
Some of Lance’s wildlife photos
Safari camps are always changing. Of course, the location and design are important, but it’s really people who make a safari experience special. It’s not only the guides, but the dining staff, the managers, and all of the hardworking folks behind the scenes who set the stage for our wonder.
Here at Next Adventure, we take safaris personally. We want to know the people who will be taking care of our guests and what the experience on the ground is really like. That’s why we make a huge effort to stay up-to-date and personally visit all the regions we recommend. This Spring, three-fifths of the Next Adventure team will be attending tradeshows and participating in educational and familiarization trips throughout East and Southern Africa, so we have the best information when it comes time to design your custom itinerary.
Here’s some of the spots we can’t wait to experience!
Tswalu – The Motse
For many years, Tswalu has been a perennial favorite, and it is unlike anywhere else. It occupies a relatively unknown corner of South Africa, and it has a completely unique ecosystem which is home to extraordinary wildlife like meerkats, pangolin and aardvark as well as plentiful plains game and predators. It is also known for a comfortable and stylish decor which will be completely refurbished in 2019. We can’t wait!
This sector of the Okavango Delta has always been a beautiful and productive area for wildlife viewing, but now, with the brand new Qorokwe Camp, it’s the only place you can track relocated rhino on foot. Plus, the new camp is simply stunning!
Sarara’s main camp has always been a real home run with families visiting Northern Kenya. There are wonderful cultural interactions like witnessing the extraordinary Singing Wells, and there are great conservation experiences like visiting the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary which rehabilitates orphaned elephants. While Sarara has been a pioneer in Star Beds and fly camping experiences, this year we’re excited to see their new seasonal Treehouses. There just can’t be too many ways to sleep out under the African sky!
Kili likes to call Davison’s Camp “a little camp with a big heart.” This simple camp is perfectly positioned in the Linkwasha reserve in Hwange National Park offering outstanding big game wildlife viewing. It’s a prime area for spotting cheetahs, and it comes at a great price point. For even better value, choose Davison’s during the shoulder season when the plains are lush and green, and you can avoid peak season rates.
The renowned and totally brand new Duba Plains Camp sits in the heart of the Okavango Delta. A recent guest said it all, “I am not a religious person but I now understand that the Garden of Eden can now in fact be found at Duba Plains.” A matrix of palm-dotted islands, flood plains and woodland, the 77,000 acre private reserve typifies the region’s unique landscape.
Duba Plains Camp offers 5 bespoke tents, in addition to a separate 2 bedroom suite aptly named the Duba Plains Suite, all designed by Dereck Joubert to fit into the landscape and to take advantage of the shapes and textures of shade but also to evoke the old classic African safari style of the 1920’s. It is a wildlife connoisseur’s getaway with literally thousands of animals in an almost endless pattern across the flood plains.
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.
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.
Spending nine days in the bush, camping & traveling through Botswana’s most spectacular parks, encountering wildlife, dining & sleeping under the stars listening to the hippos jostle and the lions roar, all without having to cook a single meal or pop a tent or worry about a single thing other than keeping your camera charged!
It is beyond words.
Starting with a light aircraft flight into the Xaxanaka region of the Moremi Reserve for two nights, we went on to a camp near the Khwai River. After a five hour bumpy, sandy drive through the Mababe Depression, we were met by a few elephants checking out our campsite in Savuti. Then we continued on to the Chobe River, and finally ended up in Livingstone, Zambia for a hot hotel shower and a drenching at the edge of Victoria Falls.
Here is the full itinerary.
So many thanks to my traveling partners and the wonderful team, Mike, Bafana and Talu from Wilderness Dawning.
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.
Andy and Melinda’s first trip with Next Adventure was three years ago to Tanzania and Kenya. For this year’s trip Kili put together a 17-night safari including Zambia’s renowned South Luangwa National Park, Victoria Falls, Botswana’s Okavango Delta and a day tour of Johannesburg exploring South Africa’s history.
We had a spectacular time! Our camps in Zambia—Kaingo and Mwamba—cater to photographers and each has a hide (blind) from which we got stellar opportunities to see a leopard kill and photograph hippos and elephants.
We got an overview of Botswana’s ecological diversity, from the watery Delta to the barren Kalahari. Selinda was probably our favorite camp (though it is nearly impossible to choose) where an intrepid guide led us to wondrous sightings of African Wild Dogs, cheetahs, and a pride where a lioness dragged a roan antelope to feed seven hungry cubs.
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…
Earlier this year, we put together a private group camping safari for five friends. The trip started with everyone meeting up in Johannesburg and then moving on to Livingstone for a visit to Victoria Falls. From there, they embarked on a 9-day “Migration Routes Safari” with private air charters to three different mobile camps throughout the Okavango Delta, a great introduction to Botswana’s diverse ecology.
Traveling with your family or a small group of friends can be complicated: making restaurant reservations for a group can be tough or impossible, getting around isn’t easy with tourist maps and a couple of rental cars, and hotel arrangements for groups are expensive and inconvenient. Families and small groups of friends can avoid those complications and experience some great benefits by teaming up on an African safari.
Safari Houses can be a great choice, but one of the most authentic safari options for families and small groups is to buy-out or exclusively reserve small tented camps or private mobile safaris.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Chindeni Bushcamp – Zambia
Sublime, peaceful, tranquil and perfect are just a few of the words guests use to describe Chindeni Bushcamp. Located on the edge of an oxbow lagoon in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, Chindeni Bushcamp accommodates up to eight guests in classic canvas tents with vaulted ceilings and private verandas that reach out over the lagoon.
Spend the day watching birds, hippo and elephant visit the lagoon, or go deeper into one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in Africa on a guided walking safari or game drive.
Naibor Tented Camp – Kenya
Somewhere in the middle of the vast Masai Mara Game Reserve’s 1500 square kilometers sits a small collection of luxury tented camps called Naibor. With three separate camps, Naibor is a great choice for a group or family to explore the Mara. It is perfectly situated to experience the wildebeest migration crossing over the Mara river, plus cultural visits to the nearby Masai communities just outside the reserve can be arranged.
Of course, spectacular sundowners are on the menu, but guests can also enjoy a “bush meal” far out in the rolling grasslands.
Wilderness Dawning Mobile Safaris – Botswana
Wilderness Dawning offers the adventurous family or group 10-day & 14-day overland safaris that “endeavor to enrich our guests and enhance their love of Africa.” Days are spent with some of the best guides in the business game-driving through Botswana’s renowned wilderness areas including Nxai Pan, Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango and Chobe National Park.
Experiencing diverse habitats and a tremendous variety of wildlife while relaxing night after night in a rustic camp under the stars makes Wilderness Dawning’s mobile safaris the ultimate adventure.
Selinda Explorers Camp is also a great tented camp option for families and groups. Read about it here as a Featured Destination.
Get in touch to learn more about these or other safari options for families and small groups.
Photos are courtesy of the camps.
Maybe our favorite thing is receiving detailed trip reports from our clients after they’ve returned from their custom safari, and this might be the best one yet. Pat and Charley celebrated his birthday on a safari that took them through Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Selous Canoe Trail and Kalahari Desert. We’ll let Pat tell you all about it:
Hi Kili, we had the most amazing trip, thanks to you and Louise. It was a dream come true, and Charley loved EVERY camp, even though he initially had concerns they would be too “fancy” (as I had expressed, he’s a real low-key guy).
He said many times that he was so impressed how you had responded to our discussions and came up with such a perfect itinerary. We loved the diversity of the locations, from the desert to the woodland and waterways.
Of course he loved the canoe trip best, as did I. It was a wonderful end to the journey and I’m glad the sequence worked out as it did.
Next Adventure always has an eye on the best up-and-coming safari spots. Our picks for next year are from two very diverse countries, Botswana and Tanzania.
With our intimate knowledge of Botswana, we always have a secret to tell you about the best camp to visit any month of the year. The Okavango Delta’s floods bring a distinct seasonality to the patch-work ecosystems of the region and wildlife viewing varies dramatically between even neighboring spots! Our favorites pics for dry season are Duba Plains, Selinda Camp and San Camp.
In Tanzania, we love combining the seldom-visited northern Serengeti, where the Migration masses without attendant throngs of tourists, with lush and remote Mahale National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. where you can sit next to wild chimpanzees! Our favorite accommodations in these hot spots are Lamai Serengeti and Greystoke Mahale – stylish and upscale camps managed by innovative safari company Nomad Tanzania. Ask us about the best seasons to travel to these hidden gems.
The channel was clear amber in near-dusk.
I saw a kingfisher alight, black
and white, on a papyrus stalk.
And as the kingfisher darted, a soft spray
of pale pollen floated down. I was
hushed then. And heard
the bird chitter. As darkness came, rowing,
the channel was a blue-black
slash in autumn night.