While Africa is the continent for travellers yearning to see animals in their natural habitat, if timed right, South Africa and Tanzania are often called on because of the possibility of seeing the Big Five of the bush and the Marine Big Five in one adventure. Penguins, seals, sharks and dolphins can be seen all year round along the pristine coast of the Western Cape but the Southern Right and Humpback Whales migrate to South Africa’s warmer waters from June to October. These spectacular sea-creatures can be spotted breaching the water from the shore or you can have the humbling experience of sharing the ocean with a mammal that’s quite possibly twice the size of the shell you’re floating on.
The Coastal region of Hermanus and Gansbaai are the major hotspots for Whale Watching in South Africa with quite extraordinary sightings all along the coast or from several accommodation options that are in prime position to view them from your room, the garden and whilst having your meals or Sunset drinks. The Islands of Mafia, Zanzibar and Pemba of East Africa, adjacent to the Taznanian coastline affords opportunities to see them too along with excellent populations of Whale Sharks.
Madagascar is an abyss of wildlife birdlife, variant habitats and ecosystems. Madagascar also boasts wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. Here are some reasons we love a Madagascar safari.
With this in mind, we highly recommend speaking to Rob, one of only a handful of highly experienced Madagascar experts in the UK. He has designed countless trips across the country over the last decade and spent a huge amount of time exploring the majority of Madagascar.
To help with the understanding of this vast and diverse country we have split our website into four distinct areas - Northern Madagascar, Eastern Madagascar, Southern Madagascar and Western Madagascar. Most people will only visit one or two of these areas in a trip, due to time and budget considerations, so it is all about finding the right area for your interests, travel personality and budget. A combination of speaking to us and getting a feel for the areas will achieve this. On the whole, in each area, you will find Lemurs, reptiles and amphibians, birdlife, diverse scenery and landscapes, and beautiful beaches. However, each have their own species and differences, so we can walk you through this.
Described as the eighth continent, it separated from mainland Africa 165 million years ago and today 93 per cent of its mammals, 98 per cent of its reptiles and amphibians, and 89 per cent of its plants are endemic. Chief among them are 90 species of lemur, including the enigmatic aye-ayes and sifakas; chameleons the size of your fingernail; frogs; snakes; over 100 species of bird; humpback whales; dolphins; turtles and so much more.
Habitats run the full gamut from tropical rainforest and huge fields of razor-sharp limestone pinnacles to massive baobab trees, caves, mangroves swamps and white-sand beaches and islands. Its the destination for wildlife fanatics, but also offers diving, snorkelling, flavourful cuisine, trekking and, of course, a warm and friendly welcome from the Malagasy people.
Madagascar is Africa’s ninth-poorest nation, deforestation (due to charcoal production) is spreading rapidly but, by visiting, tourists are supporting local communities and reaffirming that investing in the protection of their unique ecosystems is essential for future generations.
Madagascar is a vast and extraordinary country, where tourism is still in its infancy; any trip must be well planned. There are simply too many areas and experiences to mention, so a good chat to discuss your interests is certainly needed. We have explored the country extensively and have strong local connections built up over many years of travelling there, to ensure you get the most out of your trip to a country like no other, so we look forward to planning this together.
At Tailormade Africa we are absolutely convinced that the key to a successful trip is in the small details. In combination with your own travel personalities, quirks and nuances, likes and dislikes, the planning of your safari is only truly possible if we, your Madagascar specialists, understand who you are. Please do drop us an email or call to have an informal chat. This will save you a lot of time and possible confusion and will immediately assist us in being able to completely tailor a Madagascar safari to your wishes, budget and time considerations.
Unguja is the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago and the largest of the three islands, including Mafia and Pemba, often called 'The Spice Islands.' Home to around 1.3 million people the islands main industry are spices, raffia and tourism. Visiting the island will not only mean relaxing on its beautiful beaches, but also it is well worth visiting the spice plantations, the Jozani Forest (home to the endemic Red Colobus Monkey, one of Africa's rarest primates with only around 1,500 left), and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the capital Stone Town.
A Zanzibar holiday will mean beautiful beaches, white sand and palm trees. The sea is ideal for swimming when the tide is right and there are great reefs for snorkelling and diving, especially around the Mnemba Atoll in the North-East and Menai Bay area in the South-West. With so many hotels popping up on the island over the last 10-15 years, we only recommend accommodation we know deliver in terms of experience and service.
In the North, traditionally busier with more resorts and larger hotels, you do need to be careful on where you pick and we only recommend Essque Zalu, Kilindi and then slightly further down the North-East coast Matemwe Lodge, Matemwe Retreat and Matemwe House, and of course the top island retreat of Mnemba.
Then further south, in the South-West area, which is much more remote, with smaller beaches and coves, and with a laid-back feel, we recommend The Residence.
When on Zanzibar we do feel a night or two in Stone Town is well worth considering. With its rich culture, a mixture of African and Arabic, its narrow alleys, colourful and varied shops, fascinating spice and slaving history and vibrant atmosphere, it would be a shame to miss out on visiting the capital. We recommend Zanzibar Serena Inn and Zanzibar Palace here.
Lying around 50kms north of Unguja and 50kms east of mainland Tanzania with a population of around 400,000 Pemba is a real gem of an island for those looking to get away from the crowds. For us visiting Pemba is really about giving yourself the chance to immerse yourself in island life.
The majority of Pemba is dominated by small-scale farming as the island is more fertile and hillier than Unguja. It is well known for its clove trees, with this being one of Zanzibar's largest exports, and the island is home to around 3.5 million clove trees. Locals also grow rice, bananas, cassava and much more on the island. Pemba is also home to some of the very best diving anywhere with untouched coral and abundant marine life. This is a major draw for visitors, along with those interested in game fishing and pure relaxation away from larger tourist areas.
Lying to the south of Unguja, Mafia Island is home to just over 40,000 people and its population mainly relies on subsistence agriculture, fishing and the main market on the island. Tourism is not advanced at all here and the main reason for tourists to visit Mafia is for top quality scuba diving, game fishing and pure relaxation away from it all.
In 1995 the WWF helped to set up Tanzania's first Marine Park with the aim of protecting the area whilst improving the socio-economic well-being of the local communities through the sustainable, participatory and equitable utilization and protection of their natural resources.
Mafia itself consists of one large island and several smaller islands including Chole Island, only 2 square kilometres and with a population of around 1,500 people. If visiting Mafia we recommend the quirky and unique Chole Mjini Lodge on the island.
South Africa is often referred to as a world in one country and it certainly deserves such a title. There are very few places on earth which offer such a diversity of landscapes, cultures, wildlife and activities. Whether it is safaris or cities, beaches or winelands, surfing or skiing that you are looking for, you can find it all here.
In terms of safari, the Kruger region is an area which stands head and shoulders above the rest. We tend to prefer the private Sabi Sand and Timbavati reserves which adjoin the national park. The big 5 game viewing here is the most consistent you will find anywhere, with leopard and rhinoceros sightings being especially phenomenal. South Africa is also the only country which offers non-malarial reserves. Coupled with the stable political situation and easy style of safari, this makes it the best family destination in Africa.
Cape Town is Africa’s most beautiful city and also its food and wine capital. With Table Mountain straddling it on one side and the Atlantic Ocean stretching out on the other, it creates a very special presence. With so much to see and do, most visitors will allow for at least 4 nights here. The Winelands towns of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl are a mere hour’s drive from here and offer more incredible food, wine and spectacular mountain scenery. Slightly further on down the coast lies the town of Hermanus, which also deserves a mention for its whale watching between June – November.
To add to its appeal, the lodges and hotels here are the most luxurious in Africa. The standards of food, hospitality and service are truly world class. In addition, the country can be enjoyed throughout the year and the weak exchange rate makes it very affordable at the moment. What’s not to love!
At Tailormade Africa we are absolutely convinced that the key to a successful trip is in the small details. In combination with your own travel personalities, quirks and nuances, likes and dislikes, the planning of your safari is only truly possible if we, your South Africa specialists, understand who you are. Please do take a look at the overviews of each region below, but do drop us an email or call to have an informal chat. As South Africa has so, so much to offer, by us passing on our first-hand experiences it will save you a lot of time and possible confusion and will immediately assist us in being able to find the very best trip to meet your wishes, budget and time considerations.
Think of white sandy beaches, coconut palm trees, azure blue waters and a diversity of incredible marine life. These simple ingredients are what Mozambique is all about. Combine these with a rich blend of Portuguese-inspired culture, abundant seafood cuisine and a very strong rum and you have the makings of a magical and exotic destination!
The mainland in the far south of the country has unfortunately become very accessible to local South African visitors and this means over-crowding during peak seasons. Few of our trips visit this region, although there is one stand-out option called White Pearl Resorts situated in a quieter stretch of Ponta Mamoli.
Travel further north and you reach the spectacular Bazuruto Archipelago. This group of six sandy islands is still relatively accessible from Johannesburg or Kruger via Vilanculos, but the number of visitors is kept down due to the high cost and small number of lodges. Azura Benguerra and &Beyond Benguerra Island are by far the best options here. The snorkelling and diving are simply outstanding and the deep-sea fishing to be had here is world-class. Something to keep in mind is that these islands are not completely deserted and you will be sharing them with the local villagers. You will often see them on their fishing dhows and they are some of the friendliest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting!
To reach the truly deserted and idyllic paradise islands you must venture all the way up north to the Quirimbas Archipelago. Here it is possible to step off your veranda into the ocean and instantly be surrounded by a plethora of fish and other marine creatures, as these islands are comprised of coral and therefore attract more life. The mantle of Mozambique’s most luxurious beach lodges falls to Vamizi and Azura Quilalea, offering some exceptionally lavish villas for those who can afford them.
The Seychelles is widely considered to be one of the most pristine paradises left on earth today. The massive granite and coralline boulders which make up the 115 islands are cloaked in tropical forest, lined with the whitest sand imaginable and surrounded by coral reefs bristling with life. In fact there is a rich diversity of unique animal life both above and below the water. Most are completely uninhabited and the entire archipelago is strung out over more than a million square kilometres, lying 1000 miles off the African mainland. Despite this remote location, connections are fairly good with both Johannesburg in South Africa and Nairobi in Kenya.
It may come as a surprise to hear that the three main islands are fairly heavily populated and well developed, which has allowed a profusion of cultures to flourish. Mahe is the largest of the three and also functions as the regional hub. It tends to work well for those who prefer the larger resorts or if only a couple of nights are required. La Digue is the smallest and enjoys a very laid-back atmosphere, with no motorised transport and simple accommodation. For many, Praslin represents a happy medium between the two. It still offers peace and quiet but also the standard of accommodation and activities to match.
It is, however, for the smaller, more isolated islands that the country has become so well known. Most of them are home to just one small and exclusive property each. North Island steals the show with its splendour and comes with a matching price tag. Fregate Island offers top-end exclusivity, a step down in cost from North Island, and Denis Island offers something a little more affordable but still very special.
The Seychelles requires a lot in terms of both time and money but has much to offer because of the different characteristics of each island. Many travellers will therefore choose to spend their entire trip here, rather than combining it with a safari on the mainland. Barefoot luxury awaits!