Africa, with all its many diverse nations (that’d be 54 in total) is a die-hard people pleaser. And that’s hardly surprising when you consider its long list of pleasing credentials. Formidable landscapes? Check. A fascinating history? Check. An incredible mixed-bag of cultures? But of course! Oh and then there’s the small matter of wildlife. Lots and lots of wildlife. And it’s not your run-of-the-mill selection of fauna either, oh no, Africa is home to all the bona-fide cool stuff. Elephants, leopards, lions, you name it, Africa claims it. Zebra! Yes, plenty of zebra. Giraffe! Oh yes, lots of them. And then another trillion forms of animal life to marvel at. Showcasing everything from The Big Five, to The Little Five, birds, bushveld and enough critters to make you go cuckoo (and yes they have them too) you don’t go to Africa and walk away with a simple shrug and a “hmm not bad.” No way. You walk away with a newfound appreciation for the continent that takes first prize for WOW.
Packing for safari
It’s not a fashion statement, or a joke, khaki really will help you blend into the safari landscape. Most animals are not accustomed to bright colours so camouflage helps if you’re hoping to get close to the Big Five. Furthermore, insects love a strong colour, so stay away from the bright apparel. Citronella soap and/or lotion is a great deterrent, as is a stiff gin and tonic. True story. Mosquitoes detest the quinine found in tonic water - and add the gin, just because. Game drives always have cold moments no matter what the season, so gloves and beanies are smart items to pack. You’ll also be thankful for your own pair of binoculars. For game drives when the animals aren’t within metres of your truck, you don’t want to be scrambling for binoculars shared between the entire group.
Cape Town considerations
Travelling to South Africa (and Namibia) has never been cheaper. The South African Rand which has the same value as Namibian Dollar, has a great exchange rate and makes your travelling experiences so much cheaper on the ground. Spend your saved dollars at Cape Town’s exquisite Mount Nelson Hotel and indulge in their opulent high tea, making sure you try the typical South African milk tart, ‘melktert’. It’s a good idea to visit Table Mountain in the morning, when the views are better, but also because the wind usually picks up later in the day. Table Mountain’s Aerial Cableway will also close if gusts make it too dangerous. The same applies for Robben Island; morning ferries are a more reliable option as weather can turn too sour for sailing in the afternoon.
When to see Victoria Falls
The Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are truely one of those sights you must see once in your lifetime. The Zambezi River is at its lowest between October and early December, whereas its highest level is between March and May. This can result in both positive and negative outcomes for Victoria Falls; low levels will expose more bare rock, whereas high season can produce a soak-inducing back spray and limited visibility. Extreme low and extreme high levels can also hinder the opportunity for adventure activities such as white water rafting. If water levels aren’t on your side, plan a tour of Victoria Falls from the sky; scenic flights by helicopter or microlight plane will impress, whatever the water level.
Cuisine to tickle your tastebuds
Meat lovers can’t go wrong with a Boerewors sausage. Also known as the farmer’s sausage, this grunty concoction has a guaranteed 90% meat and a medley of spices, including toasted coriander seeds, black pepper, nutmeg and cloves. You might want to throw a few on your Braai, a South African barbecue. Using only wood or briquettes (charcoal), the flavours are rustic and extremely delicious. Other outdoor dining experiences include post-safari sundowners followed by a boma dinner in the bush. Enjoy fine wine, gourmet food and a starlit sky. If crisp linen and crystal glass is more your thing, Cape Town is awash with fine dining restaurants and impressive menus crafted by top rated chefs. For days when the budget won’t stretch, head to an African food hall. The food is still exquisite, but at a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere.
The Great Wildebeest Migration
The Great Wildebeest Migration is actually a year round occurrence as the wildebeest are always on the move; motivated by an instinct to seek fresh grazing and water. Your experience will depend entirely on what month you visit. From calving seasons and key months when the great herds of wildebeest cross the Mara River, to vast treks across the plains of the Serengeti, every occasion will bring a different perspective on one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. The masses begin their move north from Tanzania to Kenya from late June through to July, whereas river crossings tend to take place from July to November. And then, driven by the rain, they head back to Tanzania sometime in October. Over two million animals migrate between July and October, including 1.7 million wildebeest, as well as zebra and antelope, so there are many moments for that once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Self-Drive your own adventure
Fortunately for us, if you’re planning on self-driving South Africa and Namibia, you won’t need to switch sides because like NZ, they are left-hand drive. And due to fantastic infrastructure, the roads are smooth, well signposted and a pleasure to cruise along. You’ll need a full New Zealand Drivers Licence to hire a car, with most rental companies boasting high quality vehicles and options to suit everyone. If you’re keen to explore independently, you can still drive to a lodge, park up and check in for the night. The following day, sit back and let naturalist guides take you on off-road game drives in custom-built vehicles provided by the lodge. With so many amazing sights to see, self-drive is the perfect idea if you’re looking for freedom in your Africa adventure, and you don’t want to go as part of a larger group.