Growing up in South Africa, I was extremely fortunate that my parents were passionate about travelling and always up for trying new experiences. From a very early age I was introduced to the magic of travel and taken on some incredible adventures. These trips were mostly outside of South Africa and sparked my love for travel and ignited my eagerness to explore as much of Africa as I possibly could. It wasn’t until I found my other family, my Rhino Africa one, who also shared my love for this continent as well as giving back to its local communities and protecting its wildlife, that I was able to realise my dream of experiencing some of the most remote and beautiful places in Africa. The scene was set, the script written perfectly and I haven’t looked back since.
Lights, Camera – Africa!
One of my favourite feelings about exploring Africa is the anticipation of what lies ahead. Perhaps it’s an incredible animal sighting, an unexpected viewpoint or a life-changing cultural experience. Without exception it’s never what you imagined… it’s always much much better!
Between the awe-inspiring waterfalls, breath-taking mountain peaks, far-reaching rift systems, networks of waterways, coastal deserts, tropical rainforests, and savanna grasslands, Africa is truly the land that keeps on giving.
No matter how many times you have been to Africa, there is still so much more to see. One itinerary which ticks all of the boxes for someone coming to Africa for the first or the twentieth time is the perfect City & Safari combination. This itinerary starts in Cape Town and then jets off to Zimbabwe and is the perfect balance of fast and slow, gripping action and powerful drama. And like any good screenplay the cast, visuals, rhythm and timing are all absolutely key.
My Breakthrough Star Performance – Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is my biggest surprise so far! It’s a country full of bright smiles and immense love and pride for the land. Like most people, my first thought of Zimbabwe as a place to visit was Victoria Falls and then moving onto neighbouring countries for safari. Not anymore!
After having done a trip through Zimbabwe and witnessing first-hand the diversity and lesser travelled safari destinations, I am inspired to make her the star of my itineraries. But what’s a leading lady without the best supporting role? That being the case, I open the scene with the Mother City.
Start your Adventure in Cape Town
Now some might be upset that I am referring to Cape Town as only a supporting role because she is definitely lead actress material! But even Meryll Streep has four Oscar nominations in a supporting role.
The Mother City is one of the most diverse and picturesque cities to start your journey. It’s also one of the only major cities in the world built between towering mountains and the vast ocean. One of these mountains being part of the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’ – our very own Table Mountain.
In order to maximise this incredible phenomena, I would recommend staying somewhere you get to view the mountain, the city and the ocean all at once. There is only one place to stay for this requirement and that is the luxury boutique hotel of Camissa House. An eight-bedroom sanctuary which offers exclusivity, stunning views and a central base to visit attractions including the V&A Waterfront, beaches, penguins and Cape Winelands – an area not to be missed.
I would recommend at least a 3 nights stay to give you enough time to recover from your long haul flight and explore the many wonders Cape Town has to offer. If you are wanting to include the countryside or Whale Route, I would add a couple of extra nights onto your itinerary – you won’t regret it.
Now to set the scene in Zimbabwe
As if one natural wonder isn’t enough, the next stop takes you to the second. The mighty Victoria Falls. An easy 3-hour direct flight from Cape Town, this is your much anticipated introduction to the main protagonist.
Victoria Falls is unique in that it straddles two countries, Zambia and Zimbabwe. There are many lodges and hotels in this popular area, but my suggestion is to spend your time upstream, away from the crowds and where you can witness some of the most spectacular sunsets reflected against the Zambezi River.
One great place to stay is Old Drift Lodge. This lodge is perfectly positioned as it hugs the shores of the wide, slow-moving river where lazy boat rides to meet hippos and crocodiles can be enjoyed. This home-away-from-home is close enough to visit the cascading falls but just enough distance from the lights of the town to present you with a star-lit night sky as far as the eye can see.
Off-the-Beaten-Track in Hwange
Next up, Hwange National Park, my biggest eye-opener! Having previously travelled to its unfenced neighbouring park, Chobe National Park, I thought this would be a very similar experience. All I can say is that it certainly is not. The elephant density in these two parks are some of the largest in all of Africa, yet Chobe seems to be the preferred choice for most travellers. I was blown away by the vast beauty of Hwange and by feeling so isolated and immersed in nature – it felt like we were being given our own private show.
I was fortunate enough to explore most of the lodges within the park (all part of the job description of course), but one that stood out for me was Somalisa. Whether you’re staying at their main camp, family camp or adventure camp, you’re getting the same jaw-dropping cinematic experience; including its elephant pool. Nothing quite compares to sharing your lunch date with these gentle giants… but I won’t spoil the surprise too much, you’ll just have to go!
Sensational Lake Kariba
Our next destination starts with a short light aircraft flight to Lake Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world. Remember the opening scene in the Lion King, where Rafiki holds Simba up on top of Pride Rock? This is exactly how I felt when standing at Bumi Hills overlooking the expansive lake below! Except instead of a lion cub, I was enthusiastically holding up a Gin & Tonic towards the endless views of the Zambezi escarpment.
Including Lake Kariba in an itinerary is a perfect way to break up land-based activities of your typical driving safari with water-based ones. Bumi Hills offers a variety of amazing experiences such as catch-and-release fishing, unique birding and cruising past thirsty wildlife along the shores. One of my highlights was meandering through the steep cliffs of the Sanyati Gorge and locking eyes with a truly enormous crocodile. I think this one has been there since prehistoric times.
Closing scene in Mana Pools National Park
Last but certainly not least, we finish with one of my personal favourite spots – Mana Pools. I distinctly recall the moment our wheels touched down on the gravel runway, it was late afternoon and there was a light low-hanging mist between the trees. The sun was setting so the glow against the haze intensified from a scattering of golden saffron-orange into a deep coral-pink. To top it all off, as we came around the corner we were greeted by Boswell, a big tusker elephant famous for his unique feeding habits. That welcome alone still gives me goosebumps.
My stay in Mana Pools was a unique one for me. The bonus for me, and probably the highlight of my trip, was glamping in luxury tents along the banks of the Zambezi River at Zambezi Expeditions. At first I was hesitant about this as we are in the middle of the African bush, sleeping in tents and quite exposed to the wilderness around. But if there’s one thing Africa has taught me it’s that the moments that get your heart racing and feet tingling are the moments you’ll remember forever! I will never forget waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of rustling leaves, and peering through the mosquito netting to find moonlit hippos peacefully grazing just outside our canvas tent.
Your African blockbuster is waiting for you!
Sometimes it takes a drastic global pandemic to make you realise what is most important to you. After extended quarantines and country lockdowns, I for one have definitely realised not to take travel for granted ever again.
Travelling to unique parts of the world, meeting new people, appreciating wildlife in their natural habitats, tasting, smelling, seeing and listening – living life to the fullest. Africa is a very special part of our planet, with magic that you can only truly feel yourself. So, what are you waiting for? Africa is ready for you!