There are some trips that everyone, regardless of age, gender or personality, has on their bucket list, and a safari is undoubtedly one of them.
The thrill of the chase and getting up close to some of the world’s most magnificent animals is an experience that appeals to everyone’s inner naturalist. After all, there’s a reason everyone loves The Lion King so much that Disney made it twice.
For many, this is also a once-in-a-lifetime trip. So it’s worth getting it right. Here the experts from luxury boutique safari operator, Sanctuary Retreats, share their top tips…
Know your audience
Your choice of safari will depend greatly on who is travelling with you but as a general all-rounder there are few better destinations than Kenya for almost guaranteed wildlife spotting without compromising on comfort. The Masai Mara National Reserve is world-renowned for its abundant animal life – particularly the Big Five – and makes an excellent spot for traditional game drives. It is also home to some of Africa’s most experienced safari hosts, making it ideal for first timers.
Time your trip carefully
Like any holiday that centres around wildlife nothing is guaranteed. But you can greatly increase your chances of spotting big cats, giraffes, elephants and the like by booking your holiday at the optimum time. If you’re heading to Kenya, go between June and August to catch the Great Migration of the wildebeest – and the hordes of predators it attracts. The warm nights mean this is also a great time for spotting aardwolves and bat-eared foxes along with elephant herds in Kenya’s acacia forests.
Start your safari in style
As with any holiday, where you rest your head at night can make a huge difference to your safari experience. And, while you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to high-end lodges and camps in Africa’s most popular safari spots, few offer the style and elegance and style of Sanctuary Retreats’ flagship property Sanctuary Chief’s Camp. Located in on a private concession in the Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, the property was re-built in 2016 to create a luxurious contemporary safari camp in one of the best locations in Africa. Offering ten stylish pavilions, the Camp has set new standards in the luxury safari experience.
For the epitome of luxury, the 620m² Geoffrey Kent Luxury Suite, named after the eponymous safari pioneer, can accommodate from two to six guests. The suite is ideal for honeymooners looking for the ultimate retreat or groups of friends in search of the utmost privacy and comfort, with two pavilions, a private kitchen, indoor lounge, private boma with fire pit, two private plunge pools and a secluded deck area. Even better, it is fully staffed – with a dedicated chef, personal waiter and housekeeper as well as a private vehicle with its own guide.
Other popular options include Sanctuary Ngorongoro Crater Camp in Tanzania’ wildlife rich Ngorongoro Conservation area and Sanctuary Olonana in Kenya, which boasts unbeatable views over the Mara River.
Go beyond the game drives
While a game drive on one of Africa’s big reserves is your best chance of seeing animals in the wild, there are plenty more ways to interact with indigenous wildlife – many of which help support local preservation efforts. For example, a visit to Sanctuary Baine’s Camp and Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp in Botswana will be rewarded with a chance to interact with semi-re-habituated elephants, while guests staying at Tanzania’s Sanctuary Kusini can contribute to the Serengeti Cheetah Project by monitoring the cheetah of the Southern Serengeti. Since Sanctuary Kusini developed the cheetah watch activity in 2009, guests have supplied valuable information on the movement and habits of over 60 different local cheetah, many of which had not been seen for years.
Meet the locals
If there’s anyone capable of unlocking the secrets of Africa’s great plains it’s the indigenous tribes. Luckily many of them have been more than welcoming to tourists and now do a thriving trade teaching visitors traditional bush crafts, sharing their expertise in animal tracking and telling the lore of the land. This is particularly true of the villages of the Masai Mara where families will happily welcome you into their homes allowing a unique insight into their traditional way of life.