Tailormade Africa is an Approved Fair Trade tour operator, which means that we actively support sustainable businesses certified under the Fair Trade logo. We are one of only two tour operators in the UK that have taken on this important mantle.
Many people travelling to Africa are, rightly, very concerned about the impact that their trip will have on the local communities, wilderness areas and conservation as a whole and whether or not they will be safe on their adventure to this incredible continent. While you can be assured that all of the destinations we support are safe and, to some degree, have programmes of Community and conservation support some go above and beyond to act sustainably and have a positive impact on the environment that surrounds them, whether this is the ecological environment or the social environment.
When you see the Fair Trade Tourism best practice label you are assured that everyone you deal with in the value chain gets equal pay for equal work. This assurance is based on a large set of stringent criteria, that have been set out by Fair Trade Tourism, that the safari lodge has to adhere to, and is tested by means of a third party audit.
The criteria focus on:
• Fair wages and working conditions
• Fair operations, purchasing and distribution of benefits
• Ethical business practice
• Respect for human rights, culture and the environment
If you would like to book your Tailormade Africa Fair Trade Safari, we have a range of accredited camps and lodges that we support who are eager to make you feel at home in Africa and show you their Communal and Environmental projects. In many instances, you will be able to directly support these initiatives and in doing so have an even more direct and lasting effect on the people and places you visit long after you return home.
The Okavango Delta is the crown jewel of the country and every Botswana safari should include some time here. It is a massive fan-shaped wetland which provides its inhabitants with one of the most pristine habitats on the planet. The Okavango River system which feeds it begins its journey in the highlands of Angola before it is swallowed up by the sands of the Kalahari. The area generally experiences two flood periods – the early floods (January-March) and the main floods (April-June). The first is caused by local rainfall and the second is brought on when the floodwaters arrive from Angola.
The scale and magnificence of the Delta helped it to secure a position as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. Although not a reserve as such, the wetland is surrounded by massive private concessions which are each home to very few camps indeed. Because of the nature of the terrain the area is accessed almost exclusively by fly-in safaris. This all equates to one of the most private and exclusive safari experiences available in Africa today.
Through our experience, we have found that it is very important to carefully select which areas you visit here. In general, the more water there is within an area, the less big game there will be. These wet areas are incredibly beautiful and will give you a taste of the classic Okavango but they must be combined with a drier area elsewhere in the Delta or even in the Linyanti region for an injection of big game.
We especially love the area around the northern side of the Delta (Duba, Vumbura, Kwara, Shinde) because the concessions here allow for a perfect combination of wet and dry activities (approx 30/70% mix). This also equates to an exceptionally diverse habitat which plays host to an incredible array of species. Further east, the Khwai concession still offers phenomenal game viewing with a much more affordable price tag due to the fact that it is not a private area. To the south-east the drier Chitabe/Sandibe concession offers possibly the richest big game viewing of all. Moving south and west, the concessions become more heavily inundated by the flood and the game viewing here becomes less reliable.
The classic Okavango activity is a makoro safari. The locals have for centuries used these traditional dug-out canoes to travel around the Delta and they will allow you to slide quietly through the lilies in search of some of the smaller creatures which inhabit the area. You should definitely try at least one whilst you are there! The walking safaris here also tend to focus on the finer details of the ecosystem whilst game drives will allow you to cover more ground and see more big game. Finally, boating safaris will allow you to get around and explore more of the pristine waterways and channels in the shortest time possible.
This massive region lies just north of the Okavango Delta and consists of 3 enormous private concessions – the Kwando, Selinda and Linyanti concession itself. The area is famous for the massive herds of elephants and buffalo which roam through here on their path between Botswana and Namibia. The concentration of predators is also exceptionally high and interactions between lions, leopards and hyenas are fairly commonplace. Perhaps the most special sighting to be had here though is that of the African Wild Dog. As this is Africa’s second most endangered carnivore, many people come here in search of this species alone.
We truly believe that this area competes with the Okavango Delta in terms of game viewing and at some times of the year even surpasses it! It is a place which has really captured our hearts. Few of the camps here are affordable but the high price tag will reward you with one of Africa’s most exciting and exclusive safaris. The one downside to the Linyanti is that it is dominated by mopane woodlands. In the wet season, these low bushes flush with fresh green leaves and this can make visibility a little more challenging from January to April.
The first concession to mention is Kwando, which is the largest in the area, measuring an impressive 550,000 acres. Only two camps share this enormous tract of land – Lagoon and Lebala, both operated by Kwando Safaris. These camps are certainly very comfortable but this company focusses on the safari experience itself above luxury. There is very little in it but we slightly prefer the style of Lebala, whilst Lagoon offers more varied activities.
Next is the Selinda concession, coming in at 320,000 acres. It is home to three main camps owned and operated by Derek and Beverly Joubert – world renowned National Geographic filmmakers. Under the Great Plains Conservation banner you will find Selinda Explorers (one of the most authentic camps around), Selinda Camp (a more classic style of safari) and Zarafa (which easily competes for the best camp in Botswana). Much further south Motswiri offers a great value for this area, where horse riders and more adventurous guests will feel right at home.
The Linyanti concession itself is operated by Wilderness Safaris, who have built a great reputation for themselves as one of Botswana’s leading safari companies. Kings Pool sits at the throne as the most luxurious premier camp, whilst Duma Tau and Savute camp are set at a more classic level. We love DumaTau in particular for its modern and dynamic design. There is just a very special atmosphere to be experienced here.
It is also worth mentioning an area which is actually part of the Chobe Forest Reserve but lies on the Linyanti River and has been partitioned off for the exclusive use of African Bush Camps. The Linyanti Bush and Ebony Camps here can also offer fantastic game viewing in the dry season and come in at a much lower price than the other camps in this area.
The mere mention of the name Kalahari conjures up images of romance and adventure. It is derived from the word “Kgalagadi” which means “The Great Thirst” or “Waterless Place”. The Central Kalahari Reserve itself lies right in the middle of the country and is Botswana’s largest national park. The desert habitats here and the species which they attract are very different to the rest of the country’s main safari areas so it can make for a wonderful contrast on longer trips.
There is no surface water here besides a few pans which fill up for a few days during the wet season. At this time (December – April) this desolate place suddenly flushes with green growth and gives rise to a temporary abundance of life. The fossil riverbeds, remnants of those which flowed through here thousands of years ago, attract large numbers of desert antelope and their predators.
During the rest of the year (May – November) this is a stark and barren place, where the local inhabitants eke out a harsh existence. At this time the game viewing can be challenging, especially considering the absence of elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo. Experienced safari aficionados, however, will appreciate the sheer desolation, the stark landscapes and the lack of other people.
This vast wilderness, with only two permanent camps, offers one of the lower visitor densities anywhere. Tau Pan and Kalahari Plains are of a very similar standard and which one you choose will depend largely on the other camps in your itinerary. The safari here is focused mainly on game drives during the day with the odd Bushman walk. No night drives, off-road driving or walking safaris are allowed so your safari activities are fairly restricted. There are a handful of other properties just outside the national park which offer more flexibility and they will also make forays into the park itself. These are generally of a lower standard but the stand out is definitely Deception Valley Lodge.
Within the Kalahari ecosystem lies a series of expansive salt flats protected predominantly by the Makgadigadi Pan and Nxai Pan National Parks. This area is exceptionally dry and arid, so game is usually sparse and difficult to find in the dry season (May – November). At this time of the year it is the smaller things which will fascinate you. Meerkats, aardwolfs, brown hyenas and aardvarks take centre stage whilst walking with the San Bushmen give you a real cultural injection. Some parts of this area are dotted with grass islands and salt-resistant palm trees but there are also places here which are so barren you may feel as though you have landed on the moon. In these parts there is an eerie silence. No insects chirp, there is no sound and if you look far enough you can even see the curvature of the earth.
During the late rainy season (March-April) up to 25,000 zebras migrate into the pans from the Okavango Delta – a round trip of some 360 miles . This well-kept secret represents the second largest movement of zebras on the continent which are also followed closely by their predators. Whilst the numbers of game are undoubtedly greater in the wet season, there is an argument to say that the dry season is the best time to experience the real essence of the pans.
The three most luxurious offerings in this area are operated by Uncharted Africa in a private concession to the east of the national park. Owner Ralph Bousfeld is one of Africa’s most renowned private guides and he personally ensures that his guides receive exceptional training. His father was a pioneer of safaris in Botswana and the flagship Jack’s Camp is named in his honour but we personally prefer the equally luxurious San Camp for its more light and airy feel. The comparatively simple Camp Kalahari offers a more affordable way to experience the unique activities on offer here.
The Boteti River forms the western boundary of the park and draws wildlife in from miles around. It is at its best from June – November when the river becomes a series of pools and animals are forced to concentrate around it. There are two options for exploring this area. Meno A Kwena is another adventurous camp with a decidedly quirky flair and is run by another old safari hand, David Dugmore. Leroo La Tau is a more luxurious lodge with a beautiful situation on the Boteti.
To the north, Nxai Pan National Park is a somewhat more subtle safari experience as the salt pans in this area are not quite as stark or expansive as Makgadigadi. The only camp here is operated by Kwando Safaris and can make for a great combination with the Delta or Kwando camps in the green season.
Volcanoes National Park lies along the Virunga Mountains, with 8 ancient volcanoes, which are shared by Rwanda , Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just a short two-hour drive from Rwanda's capital of Kigali, the park is a central location for exploring one of most amazing and in some cases life-changing experiences you can ever have - Mountain Gorilla trekking . At 160 kms² the Volcanoes National Park is part of a 433km² trans-frontier conservation unit that also includes the Virunga National Park and Mgahinga National Park, which protect the DRC and Ugandan sectors of the Virungas respectively.
Ranging in altitude from 2,400m to 4,507m, the Volcanoes National Park is best known to the outside world as the place for almost 20 years, where American primatologist Dian Fossey undertook her pioneering studies of Mountain Gorilla behaviour. After her tragic death, the film 'Gorillas in the Mist' drew worldwide attention to the plight of the Mountain Gorilla and Gorilla Tourism as a whole.
Gorilla Trekking remains the most popular activity in the country and is a sensational and moving experience to get up close to these amazing creatures, of which there are only around 880 on the planet. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that should be on everyone’s ‘bucket list’. There are at present 10 habituated gorilla groups for visitors to see and one set aside for research from which the Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony is selected. This means a number of 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists going watch gorillas on a single day. Gorilla Permits are priced at US$1500 per person and we recommend booking 3 to 6 months in advance, especially during Rwanda's high season of June - September.
The park itself has some fantastic accommodation on offer to add to your Rwanda safari. Most are mid-high end including Virunga Lodge , Sabyinyo Lodge and the new Bisate Lodge , but there are also several mid-range options too, including Mountain Gorilla View Lodge . Most people will spend 2-3 nights in the area and include one or two Gorilla treks, along on with seeing the Golden Monkeys and various other activities on offer in the area, before moving on to another national park like Akagera or Nyungwe to continue your Rwanda safari, or head to simply relax around Lake Kivu .
Near the park, the bustling and vibrant markets of Musanze are a place to immerse yourself in everyday Rwandan culture or visit just inside the park Iby'Iwacu Cultural Village. Here you can expect to be greeted by thunderous drumming, joyful dancing, and the kind of hospitality that has permeated Rwandan society for centuries. You can also go deep into the earth with Musanze's caves - one of the area's newest attractions, offering easy hiking and brilliant views of cascading lights from the surface, a colony of bats and unique rock formations. Also, visit Buhanga EcoPark - a small and serene forest packs in a great deal of biological and cultural significance. Various trails cross through towering trees home to a variety of bird and butterfly species, and the location is built on an ancient sacred site that was used for coronation rituals of Rwandan kings. Fascinating experiences all adding to your Rwanda safari .
To reach Volcanoes National Park it is around a 2.5 - 3 hours drive from the capital Kigali , which is a distance of just over 100kms.
Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) which inhabit the slopes of the Virunga volcanoes are a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, the largest living primate on earth. They are massive - with a short and thick trunk, broad chest and shoulders, longer arms than the stubby legs, their eyes and ears dwarfed by the large head, a flat nose and large nostrils and a shiny black muzzle. Their fur is mainly black, but adult males have a silvery "saddle" on their back thus the name Silverbacks. The face, hands, feet and breast are bald. A fully grown male can be twice as large as a female and weigh up to 220 kg. The tallest silverback recorded was 1.94m and the heaviest, a 1.83m silverback, weighed about 266 kg.
Numbering only about 780 individuals worldwide, this amazingly large hominid is now listed on the IUCN Red List of critically endangered species due to habitat loss, poaching, disease and war. Mountain Gorillas not only share 95% of their genes with but are possessed of an uncanny physical and social resemblance to, humans. For this and other similarities, these gentle giants invoke a deep mystery, wonder and curiosity in humans – coming face to face with a Gorilla family in the wild is therefore emotional, mind-boggling and often extremely confusing. It makes us think deeply about ourselves. Trackers to one of the habituated families will be delighted to know their visit contributes to the preservation of these very special creatures.
After an early breakfast, drive to the Volcanoes National Park to be allocated a gorilla tracking group. At 0700 hrs there will be a briefing by your trackers then drive to the trailhead for the start of an amazing adventure.
The exhilarating trek, in the footsteps of the rare and critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, the largest living primate on earth, starts in the cultivated foothills of the Virungas with stirring views in all directions. Upon entering the national park, her paths littered with fresh spoor of the mountains’ elusive buffalo and elephant, trekkers will be immersed in the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with colourful bird calls, butterflies, etc. Through gaps in the canopy, the magnificent Virunga peaks, among the highest in Africa yet easily accessible, are glimpsed, beckoning an ascent. Weaving through overhanging vines, moss-covered hagenia and giant lobelias that thrive in the tropical climate, our experienced trackers, they spent their entire lives in or close to this forest, bring you up close with the family. Upon sighting the gorillas, you will stay with them for a magical hour as they go about their daily life, feeding, playing, resting; raising their young. Coming face to face with a giant silverback must truly be one of the greatest wildlife experiences on earth!
After an early breakfast, drive to the Volcanoes National Park HQs where you will be allocated a Golden Monkeys tracking group. At 0700 hrs the briefing by your trackers will begin and then drive to the trailhead for the tracking.
The very beautiful Golden Monkey has a golden body, cheeks and tail with contrasting black limbs, crown, and tail-end. Not much is known about their behaviour; other than they live in social groups of up to 30 individuals and their diet consists mainly of leaves and fruit and its thought that they eat insects too. Restricted to the highland forest of the Virungas especially near bamboo, they share this habitat with their Big Brother the Mountain Gorilla, inhabiting a small area that overlaps the territory of one of the Gorilla families. Together, they face the same threats; snares, human encroachment etc. and are listed on the IUCN Red List of critically endangered species.
Tracking usually takes from 2 to 4 hrs. Once you come to the habituated families, you will spend the allowed one hour with them as they go about their daily life; adult monkeys frolic in plain view, feeding on bamboo leaves and leaping from perch to perch while females carry their young, completely oblivious of on-lookers. Afterwards, trek back to base and drive to the lodge for a deserved shower then lunch.
As an afternoon activity, enjoy sightseeing around the Twin Lakes - Burera and Ruhondo, two shimmering volcanic crater lakes located high in the Virungas and separated by a narrow stretch of earth – their deep blue waters ringed by steep hills and tall waterfalls in a most spectacular backdrop, the Virunga Volcanoes. Optionally walk with your guide in the hills bordering on the lakes in search of birds, descend and walk along the lakes and through the local village and its small marketplace or stop for afternoon coffee at the adjacent Virunga Lodge .
Return to lodge early evening for dinner and overnight.
After an early breakfast, transfer to the Park HQs where you will be allocated a trekking guide. At 0700 hrs you'll receive your briefing, then drive to the trailhead for the start of 5 to 6 hrs hike (depending on individual fitness) culminating at Dian Fossey’s grave lying, between Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanoes, next to the graves of the gorillas she loved and studied for a lifetime.
Dian Fossey was a famous American primatologist who undertook an extensive, daily study of Africa’s Mountain Gorillas in the forests of Rwanda over a period of 18 years! Initially encouraged by Louis Leakey, Dian devoted her life to the study and protection of mountain gorillas.
Regrettably murdered on December 26 1985, in the Virunga Mountains, her legacy lives on through The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International , a non-profit dedicated to the conservation and protection of gorillas and their habitat.
On a thrilling hike on the edge of the Virungas, visitors can pay their respects to this incredible ‘lone woman of the forest’, as she was popularly referred to by her staff, at Karisoke where she was interred.
Do note while she was here, Dian Fossey lived and worked at Karisoke Research Centre which was then located between Karisimbi and Bisoke Volcanoes at 3000m. After her death, she was buried at the same location, as were, subsequently, some of her favourite Gorillas. The Research Center was later moved from the site and is now located in Musanze town (former Ruhengeri) 30 minutes from the Park's HQ. They are just ordinary offices occupied by researchers. There is now almost nothing left to see at the original site except Dian Fossey’s grave and those of the famous Gorillas as well as some arrows showing different places. People do still visit, but please note it is a difficult hike and there is not much to see; but there is a thrill can in hiking the volcano.
The best time to visit Volcanoes National Park is:
The Virungas, a branch of the Albertine Rift, is a chain of mostly dormant volcanoes, (except Nyiragongo & Nyamuragira) lying along Rwanda’s northern border with DR Congo and Uganda. The range consists of 8 major volcanoes. Their lower slopes are covered by a Montagne Forest which elevates to Neoboutonia (2400 to 2500m), Bamboo Forest (2500 to 3200m) and Hagenia-Hypericum on the more humid slopes from 2600 to 3600m in the south and west. From 3500 to 4200m, the vegetation is characterised by Lobelia wollastonii, L. lanurensis, and Senecio erici-rosenii while grassland occurs from 4300 to 4500m.
Bordering Virunga National Park in DR Congo and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda, Volcanoes National Park (130 km²) encompasses 5 of the 8 Virunga volcanoes i.e. Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo - with Karisimbi, 4,507m the highest and Sabyinyo, 3,634m the oldest.
They are home to the rare and critically endangered Mountain Gorilla. Other mammals present include the Golden Monkeys, black-fronted duiker, buffalo, spotted Hyena and bushbuck. Over 170 species of birds recorded include at least 13 species and 16 subspecies endemic to the Virungas and Rwenzori. Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda, Parc National des Volcans protects the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range and the rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, embracing evergreen, bamboo, open grassland, swamp & heath.
The climate in the Volcanoes National Park is typically damp, with daytime temperatures averaging 50°F (10°C).
The park itself has some fantastic accommodation on offer to add to your Rwanda safari. Most are mid-high end including the well-established Virunga Lodge and Sabyinyo Lodge . Bisate Lodge opened its doors in 2017 and is a super high-end addition to the park. One & Only Gorilla's Nest will be open in July 2019, followed by Singita's Kwitonda Lodge in August 2019. For those who cannot afford the high-end lodges, decent mid-range options include Five Volcanoes Boutique Hotel and Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.
This is quite possibly the quintessential African destination. When it comes to safari, Tanzania really does have it all and it is certainly one of the most popular among our clients. It is the kind of place which experienced safari hands could easily visit four or five times, but it also makes for a fantastic first-time safari. Here are our reasons why we love Tanzania safaris.
Both Clyde & Rob have vast experience in creating top quality Tanzania safaris. Clyde has been a professional safari guide there for many years and Rob has also spent a huge amount of time in Tanzania over the last decade. So for honest expert advice on Tanzania contact Clyde or call him on +44 7809 726266 or email him on [email protected] . Alternatively, contact Rob - call him on +44 7791 360170 or email him on [email protected] .
Tanzania can effectively be split into three distinct safari circuits, the first and most popular of which is the Northern Parks. Most itineraries through here will make use of a vehicle and guide who will stay with you for at least some of the trip. Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Ngorongoro make a wonderful introduction to safari and help to set the atmosphere. However, the Serengeti is the crown jewel of the region and plays host to the Great Migration where approximately two million wildebeest, zebra and antelope move in a constant cycle in search of the rains and good grazing. Other fringe areas that are well worth making the effort to visit are Lake Natron, Lake Eyasi and Lake Victoria.
The southern circuit in Tanzania offers a safari experience more akin to those in Southern Africa. The burnt red earth and phenomenal predator population of Ruaha make for an action-packed adventure and incredible game viewing. This is wonderfully contrasted in the Selous, where time is whiled away in a more leisurely fashion. Boating safaris allow you to search the lush waterways for hippos and crocodiles whilst sipping on gin & tonic.
The western circuit is the least travelled region in Tanzania due to the expense and difficulty of getting there. Most visitors are safari aficionados who are rewarded with very low visitor numbers indeed. Katavi is an extraordinary wilderness area and Mahale offers the very best Chimpanzee trekking experience in Africa.
As if this wasn’t enough, the beautiful Islands & Coast region includes the wonderful remote Tanzania Coast and tropical beaches of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands lie within easy reach. A combination of safari and beach is very popular amongst honeymooners and families to Tanzania and can be one of the most affordable safaris you will find because of the lower cost of the beach lodges. A few visitors will even extend their trips to include a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro – the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
The Serengeti National Park is home to truly incredible scenery and magnificent wildlife including the largest lion population in Africa. Famed for it's annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra the Serengeti covers around 5,700 square miles consisting of vast grassland plains, savanna, woodland and riverine forest. The park borders the Maasai Mara National Reserve and together with several other smaller reserves and conservation areas they form the larger Serengeti ecosystem. This really is one of the most spectacular and iconic African safari locations!
Some of the game in the Serengeti resides permanently in certain areas, however many more migrate and with this is mind careful planning is needed when visiting the Serengeti to avoid busier areas and make the most of your experience. We have therefore to help with this planning split the Serengeti into three areas - the Central 'belt' including the Western Corridor and Eastern area, and then the Southern and Northern sections.
This part of the Serengeti lies north of the Seronera area and stretches for around 60 miles up to the border with Kenya and the Maasai Mara National Reserve. As it is so far North this area receives relatively few visitors, with it being a very long drive from the central area, and thus flying into this region being the preferred method of arrival. Of course this adds expense, but for those willing to head to the North the reward is well worth it - prime migration viewing between July and October with, if you are lucky, the spectacular and famous river crossings over the Mara River. Outside of migration time this is still a fantastic area to get away from the crowds in the Seronera area and the nearby Maasai Mara, with some of the best camps around in the Serengeti.
In the North we recommend Sayari Mara Camp, which is located here year round and it's sister mobile camps Olakira and Ubuntu. We also like the Lemala Kuria Hills and Lemala Mara Camps, along with the Serian Camps and for those on a lower budget - Kaskaz and Nasikia Mobile Migration Camp. So many great camps in this area! We will happily find the right one to suit your tastes.
Ruaha National Park is one of the finest safari and wilderness areas in the whole of Africa and arguably the finest in Tanzania. Its low visitor numbers, sense of true remote wilderness and some of the best safari camps and guides in the country make it a real safari lovers paradise. Including Ruaha in any Tanzania safari as either part of a longer trip combining with the Selous Game reserve to the east or Katavi National Park to the west is highly recommended. In fact, Ruaha can easily be combined with the Northern parks of Tanzania by combining with Tarangire National park before making your way to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti.
At Tailormade Africa we have a deep and impassioned love for Ruaha and urge all safari visitors to consider visiting. There are only a handful of camps too here and 90% of them we feel are just fantastic. Well run, authentic in the bush camps at varying degrees of luxury. The management and staff of all the camps we endorse have created ambient and warm welcoming atmospheres. That home away from home feeling. Our favourites would be Kichaka camp, probably the best walking safari experience in Southern Tanzania with professional guide Andrew (Moli) Molinaro. Kwihala, Jongomero, and Mdonya all very different from each other but all excellent in their own right. Kigelia Camp makes up the last of the camps we have a strong feelings for. A quick mention of a camp being built as we speak and sister camp to Kwihala, the exciting addition of Jabali Ridge Camp due to open in September of 2017
The wildlife viewing in Ruaha is sensational. The variant ecosystem and biodiversity here plays host to a whole range of animal species set against truly epic scenic backdrops. Interestingly this park sort of sits in a buffer zone between East and Southern Africa terrain which gives you an interesting and ultimately magical mix of the Plains of the Serengeti/Massai Mara in equal measure to the mixed (Miombo) woodland, Acacia scrub and woodland and Baobab terrain of Southern Africa. All that along with a seasonal river, the Ruaha River, helps create this remarkable park.
The walking safaris here deserves special mention as they are few places in East Africa that has “real” big game walking safari. Tracking down and spending time with Elephant, Lion and buffalo on foot is an extraordinary experience. Currently there are only a handful of guides that have the required skill and numbers of years of experience behind them to offer this twist on a safari safely. The best guides of East Africa all work in Ruaha at some point in their career as is very much a safari aficionado’s paradise, remote and away from the dense visitor numbers of most of the other parks and game reserves in Tanzania.
This is Zimbabwe’s best-known and largest National park and is a real heavyweight in the contender for Africa’s finest. Certainly, in terms of the diversity of wildlife, birdlife and ecosystems we think it is pretty hard to beat from late June through to Mid- November. The best time of year to visit this park is from Mid- July through to late September as the bush dries up, opens up and the herds start congregating. Green season, however, is also pretty amazing especially for scenic backdrops, birdlife and baby animals being born!
Elephants are particularly numerous here and offer some of the largest herds at the permanent waterholes. Four of the big five occur here in Hwange in great numbers but the fifth, Rhino, are becoming an ever decreasing sighting. Lion prides are strong, as are Cheetah sightings and Wild Dog. Sable and Roan Antelope are commonplace here whilst rare in most of the rest of Africa and the old favourites of Zebra and Giraffe grace the plains in large numbers.
A safari to Hwange National Park should always include a camp in the East at a minimum of 3 nights but we like to ideally have 5 or 6 nights between this sensational game viewing area and the area to the western side. Both are very different ecosystems and give you the full Hwange spectrum.
The quality of the guides themselves is astonishing and Zimbabwe is still home to Africa’s most professional and knowledgeable guides. Big game walking safaris highlight this fact more than any other activity and we would highly recommend that all guests, who are able to, do this particular activity as often as possible.
In combination with Mana Pools National Park in the extreme north of the country, a tailormade Zimbabwe safari designed by ourselves can be counted amongst the very best safari trips in the whole of Africa. Helped by one of our Directors having spent many years as a Professional guide and Safari Camp manager having his own walking safari operation in Mana Pools over a 14-year safari guide career. We really do believe that Tailormade Africa can offer trips over and above the normal offerings of Zimbabwe itineraries of virtually every other “safari specialist company”.
Mana Pools National Park is a World Heritage site and Africa’s most sensational safari area! A bold claim we realise however the combination of some of the best game viewing alongside the most experienced professional guides, breathtaking scenery, the stunning lower Zambezi river and the most incredible walking safaris really do make this national park stand out.
The river frontage which sits just in front of large areas of open, winter acacia woodland with their cathedral-like statures is like no other safari habitat. The feeling you get when you are there for yourself is not something we can accurately describe for you: it is something incredibly special.
It is the walking safaris here that set it apart. Several of Africa’s absolute top guides are found here. Having lived in Mana Pools for decades in some instances, these guides know individual bull elephants and lion very well indeed. So much so that remarkable close experiences on foot with both species, and wild dog too, are a regular occurrence but not for a person of nervous disposition.
There are several "mobile camps" namely Chitake Springs mobile camp and Ruwesi Canoe trail that take the raw wilderness experience of Mana Pools to a whole new level that we believe is absolutely unique to Mana Pools. Being 5 metres from big bull elephants, huge herds of buffalo or even predator kills on your own two feet will have your heart racing at a thousand miles an hour.
This is all only possible because of the extraordinary skill of guides that have worked this park with these animals for years and years. Vehicle safaris, boat and canoe safaris make up the rest of the activities with 2 camps being able to offer night drives as well.
The camps themselves either sit in the riverine area of the Zambezi River or are set back in the bush along one of Mana’s four natural and large permanent “pools”. These pools help make the area so prolific for game viewing.
There is no average or poor camp here nor any low-cost options. Deciding between them is usually determined by budget or your safari personality and you can be sure of a great experience regardless of where you choose to stay.
Mana Pools is not open year-round as the soil type when wet becomes a sticky bog. Ideally, the best time to visit this park is a little after dry season begins, around the end of June/middle of July, to give the bush a chance to dry up inland and nudge the game toward the permanent pools and the river.
Equally mid-October to November, whilst sensational for game viewing, is extraordinarily hot. Hot enough to have a very serious conversation with us here at Tailormade Africa about your heat tolerances. Only a handful of camps have swimming pools and permanent plumbing for endless cooling showers.
Mana Pools is better suited to clients that have been on safari before or at the very least for those with a strong sense of adventure. It really is a wild frontier only fully felt whilst you are there. Mana Pools is so good that we recommend you plan your entire Zimbabwe safari around it. The rewards for doing so are potentially life-changing.
Gonarezhou is Epic! A truly last frontier kind of wildlife area that is fast becoming harder and harder to find. It is second in size only to Hwange National Park when taken on its own but now that it has joined up with Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park and South Africa’s Kruger National Park to become The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, it is of a size that is quite hard to comprehend. This was done to allow the old migratory routes of animals that once circumnavigated this region to flow again, tearing down the fences and borders set up by the 3 countries. It is a wonderful project and is thriving.
The biggest distinguishing feature of Gonarezhou is the red sandstone Chilojo cliffs that tower above the park. In the right sunlight, it is simply an astonishing sight. The wildlife here is very good indeed with all members of the Big Five accounted for, especially Elephant, along with a supporting cast of almost all other species that Zimbabwe has. Even the elusive Nyala antelope can be seen on occasion. There are 3 river systems. The Runde, Save and Mwanezi help to attract all this game and importantly keep it all. Leopard & Wild Dog are in good numbers and along with Zebra and Giraffe, Hippo and Crocs.
What sets this region apart however as earlier mentioned, is the sheer unspoilt wilderness. There are only 2 camps and both of them are on the edges of the park rather than in it and in their own private reserves. You will not see another vehicles or people at all whilst out on safari other than that from your camp. The two camps are Singita Pamushana in its private Malilangwe Trust reserve and then right on the other side of Gonarezhou, you have Chilo Gorge Lodge. Both are fantastic. Singita the high-end option and Chilo the not so high end but still rather lovely! Gonarezhou is easiest to access from Johannesburg with several flights a week into both camps.
Walking safaris here are a must, as is sleeping out one night in a fly camp that both lodges offer. It should be said the standard of guiding in Gonarezhou is extremely high even by Zimbabwe standards!
Odzala represents one of the last truly pristine and remote ecosystems in Africa. In the 80 years since it was established, it has gained a near-mythical status due to the fact that very few people have ever been there, and the incredible stories that those few intrepid explorers brought back.
Few other protected areas can compare to Odzala when it comes to habitat and wildlife diversity. From the air, what appears at first to be an unbroken forest canopy stretching to the horizon, is revealed on closer inspection to be an incredible patchwork of forest blocks, moist savannah, sinuous rivers and glittering bais.
The bais – marshy clearings rich in mineral salts – are key to understanding and experiencing Odzala. It’s here that the greatest concentrations of bird and animal life are found, from swirling flocks of grey parrots and green pigeons, to small herds of forest elephant – the legendary ghosts of the forest.
Vehicles and boats permit access to the park’s different ecosystems, but it is on foot that you will gain the greatest appreciation of Odzala – following flooded elephant paths to penetrate forest blocks in search of shy antelope, or tracking western lowland gorillas through dense marantaceae vegetation.
Pottery fragments hint at the human history of this region, but in more recent times, our primate cousins have had free rein in Odzala. Like much of the Congo Basin, however, Odzala is increasingly threatened by loggers and ivory poachers.
Far-sighted conservation and tourism policies offer a viable, sustainable alternative. By visiting Odzala you’ll not only be discovering a unique place, but you’ll be helping the people of northern Congo find a better way to live in harmony with the forests that have traditionally provided them with food, shelter and medicine.
Spending time in Odzala also gives you the opportunity to visit local communities and learn more about their sustainable forest lifestyles.
Visitors to Bwindi soon realise why the word “impenetrable” is included in the title. A dense swath of alpine rainforest blankets a steep mountainous terrain. At certain times of day, clouds can literally be seen forming from the top of the forest canopy.
This is home to our gigantic but gentle relatives, some of the last Mountain Gorillas remaining on the planet. A trek through dense jungle is rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime experience; to be in the presence of these awe-inspiring creatures in their natural habitat.
Trekking can be done from various points around the forest, from the easily accessible northern side, right at the edge of the forest, to the scenic, mountainous southern side that looks out over the Virunga Volcanoes.
Most would agree that Kibale one of the world’s top spots for primates with 13 different primate species (14 if you count yourself!). This is one of the top spots in the world to track or even habituate wild Chimpanzees. Should you find them you’ll marvel at the ways our closest relatives interact with each-other, and learn from your guide the secrets of this remarkable forest.
Visitors staying in nearby Fort Portal will be pleasantly surprised by the vistas of tranquil crater lakes and lush, green tea plantations. Those with a taste for adventure can undertake a mountaineering expedition in the nearby Rwenzori Mountains, a unique journey and the experience of snow on the equator!
Zambia is often referred to as the connoisseur’s safari destination. It is one of few places where you can still experience the Africa of old and much of it has remained pleasantly undeveloped. Due to the very adventurous and immersive nature of safari here, the country is generally suited to more outdoorsy travellers who may have been on a few safaris already. Having said this, the healthy dose of big game and flagship species will satisfy even those on their first safari.
Zambia has become synonymous with walking safaris, especially in South and North Luangwa National Parks. Here the good visibility and concentrations of animals near the river mean that close encounters with lion, elephant, hippo and crocodile are almost guaranteed. Night drives in South Luangwa in search of the smaller nocturnal creatures are particularly successful and the density of leopards here is higher than anywhere else in the world.
Many will combine their time here with a few days in the spectacular Lower Zambezi. The boating and canoeing safaris here add a refreshing aquatic contrast to the dry activities. You could even try your hand at catching the ferocious tigerfish. Ask many safari experts around the world where they would choose to go on safari tomorrow and most of them would choose this park without a doubt.
Few travellers find their way to the North Luangwa or the remote Kafue region to the west, though for us at Tailormade Africa we would consider them to be absolute hidden gems. Many more will begin or end their journey at the alluring Victoria Falls. This massive sheet of falling water is the largest on the planet and is one the the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Many areas become inaccessible during the rains, so game viewing is at its best in the dry season between May – November. The latter months are known for their very high temperatures so many will aim to avoid them. In the wet season the bush becomes wonderfully lush and alive with baby animals and colourful migratory birds so it can be a worthwhile time to visit considering the lower cost of safari.
This country has become something of an institution over the years and is where the lavish and luxurious hunting safari was pioneered and perfected. It is no surprise then that when tastes shifted toward the photographic safari in the 1950’s and 1960’s, Kenya was again at the forefront. Being spread out over a fairly large landmass means it offers a diversity of different habitats to explore, from endless savannas to snow-capped mountains, from harsh deserts to tropical coastlines.
The crown jewel is without doubt the world-famous Masai Mara reserve. It plays host to the most spectacular portion of the Great Migration, where up to two million wildebeest, zebra and antelope follow the rains in constant search of good grazing. The herds only move through the Mara between July – Nov but their time here is action-packed and chaotic river crossings are the norm. During the rest of the year, however, you will still be rewarded with healthy populations of resident game and much lower visitor numbers. Other safari areas which deserve serious consideration when planning a trip are Meru, Laikipia, Samburu and the Chyulu Hills.
Another drawcard that few safari countries are still able to offer is truly authentic cultural interaction with local tribespeople. Kenya will afford you the unique opportunity to visit Maasai, Kikuyu or Pokot villages.
After a rigorous safari schedule, there is no better way to round off your trip than with a week on the tropical beaches that line the coast. Only Kenya and Tanzania offer such an effortless combination of safari and beach. Unfortunately, Malindi has fallen victim to the large resort syndrome but the areas around Lamu still offer that laid-back barefoot atmosphere that most of our clients are hoping for. Even the spectacular Seychelles is easily connected via the main hub of Nairobi.