Types of Safaris and Activities
Generally speaking there are two types of safaris - group safaris (typically 6-8 people) with set departure dates throughout the year and tailor-made or customized safaris that depart upon request for one or more people.
Group safaris are typically led by one guide and support staff. Accommodations vary from high quality camping to nights spent at more comfortable permanent lodges and tented camps with the amenities you would expect in a standard hotel room – namely proper beds, en suite toilet / shower, etc... Group safaris are a great option for single travelers who wish to meet others and avoid a large single supplement cost. The downside is you do not who the other group member’s will be and whether everyone will get along. All activities are done together for the duration of the trip.
Tailor-made or customized safaris are the preferred option for most travelers. With the help of your personal Ultimate Africa travel consultant you can determine your own departure date, trip length, areas visited, types of accommodations and activities. Accommodations vary from comfortable camping to exclusive permanent lodge and tented camp accommodations that would impress the most discerning world traveler. Acitivites are done either privately or with other guests at each lodge / camp. As you are not part of a group you can choose your own level or social interaction. Contrary to common belief tailor-made safaris do not necessarily cost more than group safaris. Of course if you choose to travel by private aircraft with a personal pilot / guide and stay at Africa’s finest safari properties the costs can add up quickly.
Please note that most of the safari lodges and tented camps we recommend are small, exclusive and dearly sought after. To ensure availability we suggest planning and booking your travel arrangements at least 12 months in advance.
A typical day on safari starts with a pre-dawn wake up with hot tea and biscuits. Activities are normally decided upon over dinner the previous evening. As the sun rises you will head out into the bush with your guide on a wildlife viewing drive, walk, or canoe / boat safari. Mid morning (between 10 AM - 11 AM), as wildlife activity begins to slow, you will return to camp for brunch.
The middle of the day is spent resting as wildlife activity is very limited. You may enjoy reading, take a nap, or relax with a cooler of drinks at a nearby wildfife viewing hide (available at many lodges and camps).
Your afternoon activity starts with tea and snacks near 3:00 PM and extends past sunset with cold drinks served in the bush. At dark you will return to camp for a refreshing shower before drinks at the bar or around the fire. Dinner is normally served at 8:00 PM followed by dessert and after dinner drinks around the fire. Most guests retire around 10:00 PM.
Safari activities are numerous and varied. Those noted below will give you a sense of what is possible.
Boating / Sailing – Imagine exploring the coast of east Africa from an Arab dhow or Botswana's famed Okavango Delta from a river boat! Jet boating is on offer at the world's largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, as are sunset cruises. In Cape Town, South Africa you may surprise a loved one with an evening champagne cruise. What a way to celebrate your visit to one the world's top 10 most romantic cities! (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania / Zanzibar, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Bushwalks - Walk or hike through wild and remote areas of Africa while learning the secrets of the bush from your expert guide. Zimbabwe and Zambia stand out as the only countries where you may enjoy guided walks within National Parks. Most people enjoy a 2 to 3 hour walk from the lodge in the morning with a wildlife viewing drive in the afternoon. Whole day walking trips between camps and portered walking safaris are also possible. Zimbabwean guides are recognized as the most highly trained of all African guides, having to complete several years of training and testing before attaining their license. Most Zimbabwean and Zambian guides are armed for client safety and carry a portable radio. Walks are usually slow paced over even terrain. To walk with the wildlife in Africa is an experience not to be missed. (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Bungee jumping - Yes, bungee jumping! If you are so inclined Africa offers the world's two highest commercial bungee jumps; 111 meters off the Victoria Falls bridge in Zimbabwe and 216 meters off the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa. (South Africa, Zimbabwe)
Camel back riding - Many guests are thrilled to spend several days camel riding. High atop your camel you can explore Africa's beautiful landscapes and wildlife in an environmentally friendly manner. With local guides to lead you, riding camels is a leisurely way to enjoy the bush. (Kenya, Tanzania)
Camping - Imagine sleeping in a dome tent as elephant browse through your camp, or sleeping on an island in the middle of a river under a mosquito net while hippo snort nearby. Camping in the wilds of Africa is an exhilarating experience. (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Canoeing - Canoeing in Africa has to be one of the most rewarding activities anyone can experience. In the company of an experienced guide guests may enjoy canoe trips lasting from a few hours to ten days. An ideal addition to any safari is to spend three days canoeing along a remote African river. Hippos and crocodile abound along with other wildlife including elephant, buffalo, and numerous species of antelope and birdlife. Nights are spent camping on islands or at mobile tented camps set up along the river bank prior to your arrival. Some lodges include canoeing as an activity to be enjoyed at your leisure. Canoeing is generally not strenuous and both young and old find canoeing to be a memorable experience. (Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Cultural interaction - From bustling city markets to remote fishing villages, the options for interaction with the wonderful people of Africa are endless. Many guests choose to visit small villages near where they are staying to get a glimpse of African culture. These short visits are often viewed by guests as the most rewarding and eye opening part of a safari in Africa. Opportunities exist for the more adventurous to spend one or more days/nights living in villages and sharing in the chores that fill African day. From carrying water and firewood to sitting for hours around a smoky fire many people feel that their lives are forever changed by this experience. Keep in mind that the best wildlife locations are generally not the best locations for cultural interaction. (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Elephant back safaris - Spend an half day or several days in the life of an elephant! From the back of an elephant guests will amble down small forest paths and across open savannas. Guests will learn all about these magnificent animals as they feed, rest and play. If you are lucky you may even have a chance to swim with these gentle giants. Riding an elephant through the African bush is an enchanting experience. (Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe)
Fishing - Fishing in Africa is tremendous. Remote lakes and slow flowing rivers teem with bream, perch, and catfish. The world's most powerful freshwater fighter, the tigerfish, is only one of the numerous African fish which will test your skill and equipment. Private bass dams abound, and clear mountain streams are often filled with trout. Deep sea angling off the continent's eastern and southern coasts can be incredible! A fishing holiday in Africa is a fisherman's dream come true. (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Game drives - Game drives (wildlife viewing drives), both day and night, are the most popular activity with clients on safari. Game drives last anywhere from 2 hours to whole day excursions with lunch in the bush. Typically night game drives are not allowed within National Parks although there are a few exceptions. Normally night game drives occur on private land adjoining, but outside, National Parks or on private wildlife conservancies. In east Africa (Kenya, Tanzania) the tradition has been to use closed sided vehicles as guests are often transported long distances by road. Many east African safari companies use minivans. We DO NOT cut costs by using minivans or buses on our road based safaris in east Africa. We use closed sided 4x4 vehicles ensuring that we can get to our destination no matter what the weather may do! The vehicles seat 5 with a guide and have roof hatches for game viewing. Most Ultimate Africa clients are now choosing to utilize light aircraft to move between safari properties in east Africa – this is more comfortable and allows valuable vacation time to be spent enjoying the activities at your destination. Wildlife viewing drives are then conducted in lodge / camp based vehicles. As these vehicles are not used for long road transfers a small, but growing, number of east African safari lodges / camps are switching to open sided 4x4 vehicles for wildlife viewing. In southern Africa (Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe) light aircraft are used for most inter-camp transfers and the vast majority of lodges and camps use open sided 4x4 vehicles. These vehicles are built to handle the rough terrain found in many National Parks allowing guests to reach remote areas. Open vehicles enhance wildlife viewing as clients are able to more richly experience the sights, sounds and smells. Photography is superb without having to stand. Most open vehicles have a canopy to shade the harsh African sun. Ultimate Africa highly recommends open 4x4 vehicles for all game viewing. (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Golf - For the golf enthusiast there is nothing more unique than a golfing holiday in Africa. From 9 hole courses set amongst towering granite outcrops to championship courses with crocodiles in the water hazards guests will be amazed at the variety of golfing opportunities. Most courses charge nominal fees which means an African golfing safari is an unbeatable value. (Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe)
Helicopter, microlight and fixed wing flights - While at Victoria Falls in Zambia / Zimbabwe you may enjoy helicopter or fixed wing flights over the world's largest waterfall. The more adventurous may enjoy a microlight flight over the Falls - shooting through the rising mist as the ground breaks away deep into the Batoka Gorge below. Scenic fixed wing and helicopter flights are also available in other parts of Africa such as the Namibian coast, over Kenya's Masai Mara and South Africa's Cape Peninsula. (Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Hiking - Hiking may be enjoyed throughout Africa, in some case within National Parks! Imagine hiking Cape Town’s famed Table Mountain to be rewarded with spectacular views of the Twelve Apostles and the city bowl far below! Or searching for chimpanzees in the thickly forested Mahale Mountains of western Tanzania! (Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Horseback riding - If you enjoy horseback riding short trips from your comfortable lodge or several day excursions add a new dimension to an African safari. As the wild animals are more comfortable with the site and smell of horses in the bush wildlife can be closely approached. Relive the pioneering days of untamed Africa or ride slowly though beautiful mountain forests as colorful birds flutter from tree to tree. Note that most horseback safaris generally do not take place in areas with abundant wildlife. (Botswana, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe)
Hot air ballooning - As the African dawns unfolds before you the balloon slowly inflates. Soon you are floating silently above the awakening bush. You drift lazily spotting wildlife and enjoying the amazing scenery of Africa. Across rivers and over small villages filled with smiling waving people you land in an open field where you are met by the retrieval vehicles. Champagne corks pop as you enjoy a beautiful breakfast in the bush. (Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa)
Penguin watching - Jackass penguins may be seen in colonies along the coast of South Africa - the most famous location being Boulder's Beach in Cape Town. (South Africa)
Quad bike excursions - A handful of safari camps / lodges offer quad bike excursions. Whether exploring the world's oldest desert - the Namib, or crossing the Kalahari, quad bikes are an exciting addition to the safari experience. (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa)
Rafting - White water rafting in Africa cannot be beaten! The Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe provides some of the world's most incredible white water rafting. From the intense 1 day white water run below the Victoria Falls (+/- 15 class 4 and 5 rapids depending on water levels) to extended 7 day runs, rafting enthusiasts will have a lifetime of stories to recant to their friends back home. (South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Riverboarding - Half day and full day riverboarding (bodyboarding) excursions may be enjoyed below Victoria Falls in the Batoka Gorge. Your guide will instruct you in the finer art of "surfing" the Zambezi River. (Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Scuba diving / Snorkeling - Scuba diving and snorkeling along Africa's miles of coast is INCREDIBLE! From the spice island of Zanzibar to South Africa's Kwa-Zulu Natal a few days diving / snorkeling is a wonderful way to complete a wildlife safari. In our opinion some of the best diving in Africa may be had at Rocktail Bay in South Africa. In fact Rocktail offers one of the finest diving experiences in the world. If you were to travel up and down the coast by boat you would see there is no one else around! Simply beautiful untouched white sand beaches lapped by the warm Indian Ocean! Roughly 100 kilometers of virgin beach. The vice president of Mares Dive Equipment rates it as one of the top 3 dive destinations he has ever visited (and he has done over 5,000 dives around the world)! In addition to a wide variety of tropical and sub tropical fish species guests may encounter a variety of sharks, whales, dolphins (common), and leatherback and loggerhead turtles. (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa)
Shark cage diving / Watching - The world’s greatest predator, surviving unchanged for over twenty million years, patrols the oceans off the coast of South Africa. Adventurers may wish to spend a day or two shark cage diving near Cape Town. Guests will have the opportunity to view Great Whites from a boat and from an underwater cage. Please note many experts now feel that chumming (baiting) for shark is not environmentally friendly (back in the day many safari camps baited for lion and leopard until this practice was deemed environmentally insensitive). A new and more environmentally friendly option is to use sea birds to locate sharks and view them from the surface. Ultimate Africa is pleased by the evolution of shark viewing in South Africa and strongly recommends this new way of finding and viewing sharks. (South Africa)
Surfing - The coasts of south western and southern Africa offer some of the world's most remote and exciting surf breaks. From Jeffrey's Bay in South Africa to Namibia's wild and desolate Skeleton Coast South African surf guides can share with you their favorite secret spots along with their wonderful hospitality. (Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa)
Tracking - One of the most exhilarating experiences in life must be tracking African wildlife on foot. Your professional guide will teach you the fine art of tracking. You will learn how to differentiate between animal species by their spoor, discern their recent actions and behaviors from inspecting droppings or tree and leaf fragments, and estimate their pace through the bush as you quietly follow in their footsteps. (Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Train / Rail safaris - Journey back in time aboard a steam train as you make your way through big game country. Fully restored steam train trips depart from many cities in Africa. These train journeys last from one night to two week excursions. A train ride into the heart of Africa is a great way to start your safari! (South Africa and multi-country)
Whale watching - Whale watching along the coasts' of Namibia and South Africa can be spectacular. Southern right whales can be seen from July to December each year (August, September and October are the most popular months). What a tremendous sight to see these enormous mammals. (Namibia, South Africa)