Schoenfeld

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.)

What you have to imagine is bouncing around at 10 or 15 mph, the guide alternating between driving and looking down his side at the road. He stops, backs up, and goes “these are fresh leopard tracks. There’s a large female leopard who has a den not far from here, and it looks like she was heading that way.” He the turns off-road (or follows a slightly worn trail in that direction) and we spot the leopard. Or, he follows signs of a hyena, which spots us and heads into the bush. The guide backs up, heads in another direction, then parks. Two minutes later the hyena trots into view.

The guides can tell the age of an elephant from the footprints – not just the size, but how well defined the back of the prints are – the older feet are more worn down. They know the animals’ habits well enough to find them, and they’re so sharp-eyed that they see animals (or tracks) when all we see is empty terrain. They stop, point, and wait patiently, until we see the kudu, or owl, or leopard they’ve pointed to. On our walking safaris, what they read in the tracks was beyond belief.

They navigate at night by the stars, and when there are no stars because of cloud cover, by landmarks – a bent tree here, etc. That may not sound like much, but it’s a wilderness; locally, everything pretty much looks like everything else, and because the roads resemble curvy snake trails more than straight lines, it’s nearly impossible to get oriented. Combine this with deep knowledge of the animals’ habits and an encyclopedic knowledge of their traits, and what you get is nothing short of astounding. I can’t put it in words, you have to go there yourself…


To bookend the safari, they started with a few days touring Cape Town from the exquisite Kensington Place, and they ended with Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls, where they had the best breakfast EVER!

Let’s start planning your custom safari!


Khwai Tented Camp


Linyanti Bush Camp

photo by courtney alexanderson

Courtney & Christian’s Honeymoon Safari

Just stunning…there is a constant parade of animals coming down the hill and you can see the vastness of the flat, open landscape. — Courtney, SF


Honeymooners Christian and Courtney wanted a special kind of adventure, a honeymoon safari, to celebrate their wedding. They connected on their own with a non-profit organization to volunteer in a rural area of Zimbabwe, and Next Adventure linked a custom safari with our partners at African Bush Camps including a visit to spectacular Victoria Falls. They raved about the seamless operations, the quality of the camps and guiding, and the perfect order of diverse experiences in the safari designed by Kili.

After a week of volunteer work and rugged accommodations, the happy couple flew out to Mana Pools National Park to start their honeymoon safari at Zambezi Expeditions on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. Upon landing in Mana Pools, they were greeted by a herd of ostrich and Lovejoy, their guide. Lovejoy, like all the guides and staff Christian & Courtney encountered, was excited to show off his country and was friendly, knowledgable, attentive, and far exceeded any expectations of hospitality. Lovejoy even went out during the midday siesta to search for a pack of wild dogs that Christian & Courtney hadn’t yet spotted. Of course, he found the pack of wild dog and brought all of the guests out to see them. From canoeing and walking safaris to driving in the park, each day was full of wildlife sightings at a nice pace.

Zambezi Expeditions

Moving inland to Kanga Camp in the remote wilderness of Mana Pools, Christian & Courtney continued to search for the elusive leopard. They were in awe of the constant progression of animals to the ‘pan’ or water hole just in front of the lodge. Surely, a leopard would be prowling around the area… Well, during dinner, their guide Bono spotted a leopard near the pan and set up a scope so they could view it better in the darkness. This proved to be a highlight of their stay at Kanga along with the bush BBQ and the platform sleep-out under the stars. Courtney remarked that, “the skies were so clear that Venus, Saturn, & Mars were all visible to the naked eye and the blanket of stars made it easy to feel small in the universe”.

Kanga Camp

Our intrepid honeymooners then flew to Hwange National Park, where they were guests of the team at Somalisa Acacia. They described camp as ‘Just stunning…there is a constant parade of animals coming down the hill and you can see the vastness of the flat, open, barren landscape’. In Hwange, they saw Jericho of Cecil’s pride gnawing on a buffalo carcass and cubs frolicking around. Elephants wandered through camp, and they saw so many birds with their guide, Calvet, that Courtney confessed, ‘I could easily become a bird nerd!’ The food at Somalisa Acacia, like in all of the camps they visited, was varied, fresh & delicious. They loved hearing about the local culture and tribal customs from their guide who donned his traditional dress one evening to tell stories, answer questions and laugh.

Somalisa Acacia Camp

Finally, Christian & Courtney said goodbye to the bush and spent two nights at the historic Victoria Falls Hotel for a luxurious end to their honeymoon safari. Rising early to head into the park, they saw tons of rainbows and had quiet trails to themselves. From their hotel it was easy to explore the bustling town and enjoy an absolutely fantastic evening on the night train ride for dinner. Now back at home, they cannot stop saying ‘sundowner’ and dreaming of their next trip to Africa!

Let’s start planning your custom safari!


Courtney & Christian’s Honeymoon Safari Photos

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.

Hwange Sunset on walking safari

Walking in Hwange with the Johnson Family

So much of what we do here at Next Adventure is getting to know each client and pairing them with just the right selection of destinations and experiences. The Johnson Family, a group of 7 travelers, was looking for something unique and adventurous, an active safari for the whole family. After considering a lot of options, we crafted a customized tour of Zimbabwe that featured extensive time in Hwange National Park including a 3-day walking safari with specialist guides and platform sleepouts and 2 nights at the luxurious Linkwasha Camp followed by 3 nights on the Zambezi at the spectacular Ruckomechi Camp near Mana Pools.

One of the many highlights of their trip was their specialist walking safari guide Themba who wrote this report of their time walking in Hwange.

You can read more about their trip on their excellent travel blog:

The Walking Safari
Hwange National Park
Mana Pools

And, here’s some of the highlights from their trip. All photos are courtesy of the Johnson Family.


ITINERARY IN BRIEF

28 June: Arrive in Victoria Falls, transfer and overnight at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (2 nts)

29 June: Full day to spend at your leisure or choose from many activities in Victoria Falls

30 June: Shared light aircraft transfer to Hwange National Park, Davison’s Camp (1 nt)

01 July: Begin your Hwange Walking Safari, Scott’s Pan Platform (1 nt)

02 July: Continue exploring the environment on foot, Ngamo Plains Platform (1 nt)

03 July: Conclude walking safari at Linkwasha Camp (2 nts)

04 July: Full day of game viewing activities in the Linkwasha concession from camp

05 July: Shared light aircraft transfer to Mana Pools, transfer to Ruckomechi Camp (3 nts)

06-07 July: Wildlife viewing in the Mana Pools area from your base at Ruckomechi Camp

08 July: Shared light aircraft transfer to Harare International Airport in time for your international departure


Learn more about custom safaris in Zimbabwe

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. Meeting families in a local village and spotting birds and wildlife from a sunset cruise on the Zambezi were auspicious signs for the rest of our safari. To set the tone for our entire trip, we received extraordinary, friendly and personal attention at every moment while at Toka Leya.

Botswana

From Livingstone, we flew across the Okavango Delta to our first bush camp, Tubu Tree Camp, and we were awestruck by the landscape and the unique ecosystem: the termite mounds, the “islands”, the seasonal changes, the long journey of the water from Angola into the Kalahari sands, the tree and plant species, and the medicinal and functional plants. The region captured our interest and our hearts forever.

To land at Tubu Tree’s airstrip, our pilot actually had to ‘fly by’ an elephant to move him off the airstrip. As if that wasn’t enough of an amazing welcome, we were greeted by the singing staff of Tubu Tree when we arrived at camp. It was the best greeting throughout our trip. The staff shared their happiness and excitement with us over the arrival of the ‘pushing’ water into the Delta. Our view from our tent was remarkable: each day we watched five or more species play, fight, court, chase, eat and relax in the flood plain in front of our room. We actually wish we could have spent more time in the room.

Perhaps one of the highlights within a trip of many was the expert guiding of Seretse ‘The General’ while at Tubu Tree. He immediately figured out how much we enjoyed learning, and he entertained and educated us for three days and nights. Seretse was committed fully to making sure we were having the best experience possible, and it was very special to be the only couple in the Land Rover for so many outings. We saw our first leopard, our first lion, a rambunctious baby elephant mock charging us, and the spectacular sight of a herd of buffalo racing through the water.

Across the Delta we flew–in a helicopter this time–arranged as a surprise by Next Adventure! During this short low-flying flight we spotted massive elephant herds (100+ elephants), a large cape buffalo herd and beautiful running giraffes.

Chitabe Lediba’s setting, being mostly dry in comparison to Tubu Tree, gave us an important, differentiated experience, sandwiched between Tubu Tree and Little Mombo. The camp was delightfully small, simple and humble when compared to the others. We had fun, memorable communal meals at Chitabe Lediba. At the table were people from Massachusetts, California, South Africa, Kenya and London. It was a great two nights of fun, food, drink, stargazing and conversation.

At the suggestion of another couple, campmates from Durban, South Africa, we joined them in a full-day drive instead of splitting the day into two drives. The camp staff enthusiastically agreed to an all-day drive including an amazing campfire-cooked lunch on the bank of the Gomoti River. We spent a memorable 13-hours with our guide, OD, and our two campmates.

We covered miles and miles of territory and saw lions, lions and more lions. We will forever remember Chitabe Lediba for its lions. There are three prides of Lions in the Chitabe concession. I believe we saw every member of every pride…including their cubs. We also experienced two days of leopard cub drama. Day one we spotted a lone cub in a thicket without its sibling and mother. Day two, much to everyone’s relief, we returned to see that the mother and the cub sibling had returned.

We went to Africa not thinking hyenas would be very interesting but we discovered them to be just the opposite. Their pups found us interesting and walked directly to us, curiously inspecting us and our vehicle, biting our tires and playing and fighting with one another as their nursing mothers carefully watched. Regarding bird watching, where Tubu Tree delivered us beautiful water bird sightings, Chitabe Lediba  showed us nearly every species of owl, eagle and vulture, which really rounded-out our bird sighting experience.

Our arrival at Little Mombo was preceded by an hour-long, breathtaking helicopter ride over Chief Island and the Moremi Game Reserve. The flight was highlighted by truly spectacular rhino sightings, including a black rhino and her baby and a white rhino and her baby. The wildlife around Mombo continued to deliver outstanding experiences like a rare sighting of a male cheetah, a leopard with an impala kill in a tree, and a running baby giraffe. Our guide, Sefo, took the time to show us how to track and often stopped to draw prints of different species.

The hospitality and special details at Little Mombo impressed us. On night one our bed featured a “Welcome to Little Mombo” message written on top of the comforter with beans. On night two there was a “Happy Anniversary” message written in English and Setswana…a classy detail that made us feel pretty special. We were treated to a luxurious private “bush picnic”. The picnic was near Mombo’s hide and adjacent to a main channel.

We never guessed we would be sitting in beanbag chairs eating fine cheese and drinking wine in the Okavango Delta! At one moment during the picnic we had six species in close range seeming to watch us as we relaxed, including a family of busy hippos, a small herd of Lechwe, a fish eagle, a bull elephant, baboons, vervet monkeys, and some cattle egrets. Finally, the sundowners beneath a Baobab tree – we met the other Little Mombo guests for cocktails at the base of an old Baobab tree. The staff brought not only the fixings for cocktails but also furniture and lighting. At that moment it could have been the world’s most exotic cocktail party.

Cape Town

From the plains of Botswana, we flew to the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town. Four days in the Kensington Place Boutique Hotel was an outstanding hotel experience. The manager was a joy to talk to and a great source of information. We were upgraded to a room adjacent to the hotel that turned out to be a very large, luxuriously appointed five-star studio villa. We just loved it.

Once again, our guide, Lazarus, was exceptional. We spent four full days with him, so we got to know him relatively well. He was as much a part of our experience – and as enjoyable – as the activities and sightseeing. Like all of our guides on safari we most enjoyed getting to know their personal stories and sharing conversations with them throughout our stay. In Cape Town, the District Six Museum, as suggested by our guide, was fascinating and heartbreaking, and it gave us a proper contextual link between Cape Town’s apartheid-related troubles and the state of South African society today. This was a more powerful and intimate experience than we expected.

Cape Winelands

The unexpected raw beauty of the Cape Peninsula coastline made us feel like we wanted more time to walk the beaches and explore. Our visit to The Cape of Good Hope was a special moment in Mike’s family history, and the winelands were familiar (being from Northern California) and charming. Your dining recommendation of The Tasting Room was the most eclectic dining experience EVER. The entire experience was strange and surreal and unlike any high-end dining experience we’ve ever had. The menu and plated presentation was completely wacky and wonderful. Thank you!

Everything about our safari was perfectly planned. The personal, concierge-style of hospitality; the well-designed luxury tent palaces. Every camp had something unique and special about the tents/rooms; the self-sustaining operations in the middle of nowhere fascinated us, and each setting was a standout. 

To us, a safari is an invigorating, immersive, interactive, fun, mobile wilderness symposium, and it is an investment in your health and well-being. Africa settles emphatically in your soul, and, when you return home, it becomes clear that Africa will always be with you. The safari experience is so much more than wildlife and photography, it’s non-stop stimulation of the senses; the smell of sage on your clothes following a drive; dodging a thorny acacia branch as it slips through your Land Rover; the stench of a predator’s kill; the distant roar of a lion at dawn; the whoop of a hyena; the warning song of a francolin; the conversations with locals; the silhouettes of baobab trees at sunset; the unforgettable grunt of a hippo at night; finding the southern cross in the night sky; being awakened by a baboon fight beneath your tent and the exciting child-like feeling of anticipation around what tomorrow will bring. The total safari experience includes everything a camera can never record – those uniquely nuanced sensory experiences that are forever yours and yours alone.


Mike & Trina’s Anniversary Safari
Victoria Falls, Botswana, and Cape Town

Itinerary in Brief:

Day 1: AM arrival in Livingstone, Zambia. Transfer to Toka Leya Camp (2 nts)

Day 2: Full day of exploration in Victoria Falls and Livingstone

Day 3: Light aircraft to the Okavango Delta, transfer to Tubu Tree Camp (3 nts)

Days 4-5: Wildlife viewing activities from your base at Tubu Tree Camp

Day 6: Liight aircraft transfer to Chitabe Lediba Camp (2 nts)

Day 7: Wildlife viewing activities from your base at Chitabe Lediba Camp

Day 8: Helicopter transfer to Little Mombo Camp (3 nts)

Days 9-10: Wildlife viewing activities in the Moremi Game Reserve from Little Mombo

Day 11: Flight to Maun, connect to Cape Town. Transfer to the Kensington Place Boutique Hotel (4 nts)

Day 12: Full day private tour of Cape Town, Table Mountain & Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Day 13: Full day private tour of the Cape Peninsula Cape of Good Hope & Boulders Beach

Day 14: Day at leisure to explore the other highlights of Cape Town

Day 15: Full day private tour of the Cape Winelands with drop-off at Le Quartier Francais (1 nt)

Day 16: Transfer to Cape Town International Airport for your international departure

Kudu in the Grass, Linyanti

A Spin Through Bots & Zim

In May, I had an opportunity to travel with African Bush Camps to experience their intimate safari camps in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and I also had a chance to visit a few other camps and lodges nearby. It was a great experience and a wonderful introduction to a safari company that is leading the industry in environmental design and sustainable community-supported conservation.

Explore a full interactive map of my itinerary below, and get in touch to learn more about safari options in Southern Africa.

Linyanti Bush Camp – Chobe – Botswana

My first stop was Linyanti Bush Camp on the Linyanti channel just outside of Chobe National Park. As we approached the camp after a game drive from the airstrip, we spotted our first cat, an adult female leopard coming out for the evening’s hunt. The camp is simple, classy and comfortable with a nice dining tent and a sitting area looking out over the marshes. The lack of water in the channel was the talk of the camp as the rains were late. News of the coming floods was traveling faster than the water itself. The staff was genuinely warm, they were wonderful storytellers, and they seemed to make an immediate connection with each guest.

In the evening, we had one of the most beautiful sundowner experiences I can remember on the edge of a perfectly still pond mirroring a huge sunset. A family of curious elephants cautiously approached for a drink while we clinked our glasses and snapped hundreds of photos.  

Khwai Tented Camp – Moremi – Botswana

We were welcomed to Khwai Tented Camp with traditional songs and a personal introduction by the whole team. The camp sits on a seasonal lagoon, the main area is comfy and rustic, and the staff really makes you feel at home. The guest tents can feel a little close together, but they are classic and well-appointed with bucket showers and a nice, spacious deck overlooking the lagoon.

The camp is on a community-run concession on the eastern border of the Moremi Game Reserve where we had a good sighting of an adolescent leopard posing and changing positions and soaking up the last of the day’s sunshine. After a fun sundowner with lots of elephants and hippo interactions, the night drive back to camp was very busy. We had a serval sighting, and we watched a baby hyena climbing all over it’s mother. With lots of time for photographs, and our guide was very good helping us with nighttime photo settings. Our group arrived just outside of camp for a lively bush dinner with singing and dancing amongst hundreds of lanterns and millions of stars.

The Khwai village visit was particularly meaningful. We met with an elderly San woman who talked about the relationship between her culture, the government of Botswana, the national park service and the wild game that regularly pass through the village of 200 people.

Victoria Falls Hotel – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

Stately, classic and a little aged around the edges is part of the charm of The Victoria Falls Hotel. The beautiful grounds are meticulously trimmed by resident warthogs, and mongoose families scurry about. A grand patio overlooks the Gorge with a huge column of mist rising over the falls.

The hotel is in a constant process of updates and reconfigurations to stay current. Some rooms have newer bigger bathrooms that are completely modern and chic, while other rooms are being combined to make for very large and luxurious suites. The common areas can feel a bit formal, and the dining room seems unchanged from the historic photos that line the halls.

The best aspect of the Vic Falls Hotel is its on-going commitment to providing a comprehensive array of services to hotel guests and visitors. The full-service salon and barbershop make for a nice stop in the middle of a long safari, and the famous high tea on the veranda is a great way to pause and relax in style during a busy day of activities.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge has a wide range of accommodations from the newer, more exclusive Club, to the private stand-alone Suites to the Main Lodge. The Bar at the Main Lodge is busy and fun with a great view over a frequently visited waterhole below. The rooms have wonderful views with new bathrooms and all the amenities, and I found the staff to be particularly friendly and helpful. While the lodge is a little outside of town, the famous Boma restaurant is very close by. With nightly drummers, singing, dancing, fortune-tellers, The Boma serves an amazing buffet of traditional Zimbabwean dishes, a huge variety of grilled game meats and the must-try mopane worms (salty and crunchy). Sure, the dining experience is a little touristy, but it’s also great fun. There’s more than enough really good food, and you can’t help but enjoy the energy of the show.

Ilala Lodge – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

Ilala Lodge is another nice option right in town and one of the closest lodges to the Falls. The main dining and bar area is huge, opening up to a wide veranda with beautiful grounds right under the spray. It feels classy and relaxed, and the in-house restaurant, The Palm, is one of the best in town. The lodge is just around the corner from ATMs and shopping at the nearby Elephant Walk, famous for its persistent souvenir-selling entrepreneurs.

Gorges Lodge – Vic Falls – Zimbabwe

Imvelo’s Gorges Lodge has what no other lodge can offer: an absolutely breathtaking setting right on the edge of the sheer cliffs of the Batoka Gorge with an almost-nightly fly-by of black eagles and lanner falcons. Gorges is located a few miles outside of Vic Falls, and it’s nice to get out of the touristy center of town. The lodge is charming with a cozy little bar and open-air dining room. The staff is hired directly from the nearby village: warm, friendly and homespun. The chalets are comfy with recently refurbished bathrooms and showers and sliding glass doors that open up right over the gorge.  Little Gorges is a small tented camp next door, and the brand new tents are really well-designed to take full advantage of the awesome cliffside views.

Activities in Vic Falls

Vic Falls has become a destination for a wide variety of wildlife and adrenaline activities. Within an hour of crossing the border, I was leaping off the Vic Falls Bridge for an exhilarating Gorge Swing. I found it to be much more pleasant than the traditional bunjee jump which leaves you yo-yoing upside down for a few minutes after the jump. The gorge swing attaches at the torso which means that after the jump, while they reel you in, you can comfortably look around at the mossy, rain-forested walls of the Batoka Gorge from a completely unique perspective.

I also had an opportunity to experience the Falls from above on a short helicopter flip. It’s amazing to see the mighty Zambezi River spill over the shelf of the Falls with the gorge cutting it’s way East to the horizon. While the helicopter was fun, the microlight flight I did in 2014 is my favorite. With just you and a pilot puttering 1000 feet over the Falls on a moped with wings, you can feel the cool air from the Falls as it updrafts and jostles the tiny aircraft.

Somalisa Camp – Hwange – Zimbabwe

Somalisa Camp was the talk of the safari industry. It had just won a design award at We Are Africa as well as the first Gold certification in Zimbabwe from Green Tourism. While my expectations were high, Somalisa delivered. It is an oasis of a camp. As we approached, a small family of elephants was stopping by for a drink from the plunge pool right in front of the camp. On our orientation, a half-dozen elephants wandered between the tents and welcomed us by shaking the camelthron trees for a tasty little snack. The guest tents are incredibly well-designed with lots of character and thoughtful features: perfectly positioned charging points and light switches, a cozy wood burning stove, luxurious cowhide carpets and a spacious bathroom with a giant copper and porcelain tub and indoor/outdoor showers.

We had a lively dinner with other guests from all over the world, and the staff was exceptional. The host, the servers, the manager, the chefs and the guide all made an impression with their enthusiasm, warmth and professionalism. On our game drives, we spent time with a small pride of lions, relatives of Cecil, a cheetah posed for us on a fallen tree, and giraffes wandered through the Ngweshla Pan under one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Bumi Hills – Lake Kariba – Zimbabwe

Bumi Hills Safari Lodge has been a staple on the shores of Lake Kariba since the 80s, and it was a pleasure to experience it for myself. Bumi is perched high on a hill with a spectacular view of the lake, and the game drives around the lodge offered lots of elephants, zebras and two lionesses on the prowl. On our sundowner cruise, the lake was perfectly flat, while the shore was crowded with thirsty elephants. While in some ways Bumi is showing it’s age, the recent renovation and relaxing resort feel offer a much-needed pit stop during a safari.

Kanga Camp – Mana Pools – Zimbabwe

Kanga Camp is easily one of the more unique and interesting camps in the Mana Pools area. It is set a little more than an hour from the Zambezi River around a very productive waterhole which is frequently visited by bathing elephants and thirsty leopard. It feels like a rustic, remote outpost, but the guests tents and main areas are homey and comfortable. Like all of the African Bush Camps properties, they seem to have thought of everything from the guest’s perspective while keeping a truly classic safari feel with big roomy tents, thoughtful amenities, a big outdoor shower area, and a secluded deck right on the edge of the waterhole. From Kanga, the game drives can include a visit to Mana’s Long Pool or a trip out to the Zambezi Expeditions camp for a paddle down the river. However, the more popular activity is to choose a comfortable armchair and watch the parade of game come visit the only reliable waterhole for miles.

Perhaps the best experience of my trip was the Kanga Under the Stars sleepout. We dined in a dry river bed, with our barefeet buried in a foot of sand, and we sat up late around the bonfire listening to hyenas calling all around us. With a bright full moon, we barely needed a flashlight to climb up onto the rustic lofted sleeping platforms draped only in mosquito netting. It was the best sleep of the trip!

Ruckomechi Camp – Mana Pools – Zimbabwe

Since I was in the neighborhood, I also had an opportunity to visit Wilderness Safaris’ Ruckomechi Camp which was just recently refurbished. The result is truly breathtaking. The centerpiece is an expansive deck that stretches along the Zambezi with stunning views of the hills just across the river in Zambia. The two main common areas, a bar tent and dining tent, are light and airy and luxurious, and the guest tents are simple and chic. As striking as the accommodations are, the best part of Ruckomechi is the friendly staff, the excellent guiding and the variety of ecosystems you can explore.

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photo safari Zebra Fighting

Karen & Hank’s Zimbabwe and Botswana Photo Safari

Karen & Hank are keen photographers who went on their first photo safari last year to Kenya and Tanzania. This year, the focus turned to Southern Africa, specifically areas in Zimbabwe and Botswana that offer exceptional wildlife viewing in November when the dry season transitions with the start of the summer rains.

Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks in Zimbabwe combined with the Linyanti/Selinda Reserve and Okavango Delta of Botswana provided a range of complementary experiences, ecosystems and wildlife, and we selected camps that could perfectly accommodate their interest in a high-quality photo safari.

We just returned from an incredible safari  organized by Kili McGowan at Next Adventure. Kili did an amazing job listening to our needs, and creating a custom photo safari itinerary for us. Each camp was special in its own way, and we felt privileged to be able to learn about some of the history and culture in these two countries, as well as achieve one of our primary goals – to obtain outstanding photographs of wildlife! Kili was extremely knowledgeable about the weather and wildlife we were likely to see in each place. We look forward to traveling to Africa again soon and will enjoy working with Kili to plan our future adventures. —Karen P.

Itinerary in Brief

Day 1 Arrive in Vic Falls, Fly to Hwange, Transfer toLittle Makalolo Camp (3 nts)
Days 2-3 Private safari activities from Little Makalolo Camp
Day 4 Transfer to airstrip, Fly to Mana West airstrip, Transfer toRuckomechi Camp (3 nts)
Days 5-6 Private safari activities from Ruckomechi Camp
Day 7 Transfer to airstrip, Fly to Vic Falls Airport, Transfer to The Elephant Camp (1 nt)
Day 8 Transfer to Airport, Fly to Little Vumbura via Kasane, Transfer to Little Vumbura (3 nts)
Days 9-10 Private safari activities from Little Vumbura
Day 11 Transfer to airstrip, Fly to Savuti Camp (3 nts)
Days 12-13 Private safari activities from Savuti Camp
Day 14 Transfer to airstrip, Fly to JNB via Maun for international departure

See more of Karen’s amazing photography!

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