Top Safari Destinations for Christmas

December is ripe with opportunities to experience sensational wilderness in many parts of the world. here is our pick of the bunch to get you started:

STEP OFF THE BEATEN TRACK IN THE SERENGETI

Few places can compete with northern Tanzania when it comes to vast areas of wilderness and wildlife. but few people recognise what a rich experience awaits those prepared to step just a short distance off the beaten track.

The best-known event in Tanzania is the migration of the wildebeest, unsurprisingly the river crossings and calving draw much of the attention when it comes to safaris in the Serengeti; these are truly remarkable things to experience.

But in December, just as the herds thunder onto the short grass plains of the Serengeti, followed by mobile camps and tourists, we recommend looking to the North. By all means visit the migration for a night or two, but then head to the other end of the park and leave the crowds behind. Here, with the wildebeest gone, resident wildlife of all kinds thrives. This is one of the few areas where you have a real possibility of seeing the Big 5 in an unspoilt setting, and likely on your own. Black Rhino are frequently seen in the area along the Mara River. The long lush grasses that grow in the rolling valleys are havens for elephant, buffalo herds graze the Lamai Wedge and the warm flat-topped rocks typical of the area are the ideal places for lion and leopard to survey their domains.

And what’s more, all of this can be experienced from the verandah of your own private house – Mkombe’s House, just a few miles from the Mara River itself.

ESCHEW THE CONVENTIONAL AND HEAD FOR MADAGASCAR

Isolated for 65 million years, Madagascar is the oldest island on earth and hosts a cornucopia of unique wildlife, close to 200 mammals and over 100 bird species are found nowhere else.

Add into the mix flashy chameleons, freakish geckos and fascinating insects – this country’s critters are truly remarkable. With tropical rainforests, pristine beaches and endearingly eccentric towns, Madagascar is the ideal destination for an exploratory road trip. Head east from Antananarivo, the charming chaotic capital, to the Analamazaotra sector of Andasibe-Mantadia NP (when in doubt add a couple more vowels) for an opportunity to encounter the largest and loudest lemur – the Indri – whose teddy bear looks and wailing song make it unmissable.

Further south, via fabulous food and woeful wine, are the hot springs of Ranomafana whose surrounding forests contain a dozen prosimians including dancing Sifakas and pocket-sized bamboo lemurs – astonishingly the particularly photogenic golden bamboo lemur was only discovered in 1986. Crossing the spine of Madagascar takes you across to the drier west, land of the inimitable Ring-tailed Lemur, baobabs and inselbergs – here you can hike through sandstone canyons and swim under waterfalls in palm-fringed pools, before hitting the coast at Tulear which offers rewarding snorkelling and diving in the rich warm waters of the Mozambique Channel.

ISLAND HOPPING AROUND THE GALAPAGOS.

For families and groups of friends looking for a once in a lifetime experience, it’s hard to compete with sailing from island to island in the Galapagos on board your own private yacht.

Sail the seas at night to reach spectacular mooring points for you to head ashore and experience the natural phenomenon of these islands. During the day you’ll have plenty of time to explore beneath the surface. Equipped with specialist snorkel gear, jump in and you may find yourself joined by frolicking sea lions. A truly unforgettable experience.

The importance of boat size can’t be overstated. The smaller the boat, the more you’ll be able to explore shallower areas that bigger boats can’t access meaning trips ashore will be away from other visitors. A favourite of ours is the 12 berth Beagle – a rather beautiful 105ft steel hulled brigantine with teak decks and comfortable interiors, an excellent chef and brilliant guides.

TIGERS, TURBANS, LEOPARDS AND TRUNDLING CAMELS IN INDIA’S RAJASTHAN.

In winter the searing heat of Rajasthan subsides to warm sunny days with cloudless skies inviting exploration of India’s semi-desert state, its regal past and iconic wildlife.

There’s really nothing quite as thrilling as tracking tigers in the wild and the craggy hills, ancient ruins and dry forests of Ranthambhore are one of the best places in India to spot them. In winter, thousands of birds migrate from Europe and Siberia making the former royal hunting reserve an ornithologist’s paradise.

To the west, where scrub meets granite hills, crimson turbaned Rabari shepherds lead their flocks in search of pasture, and respect and live in harmony with leopard. Guided on foot or in an open jeep, you will search for the superbly camouflaged spotted cat may which may reveal itself among the rocky landscape.

Staying in exceptionally comfortable camps and restored forts and palaces, we highly recommend also including some time to dip into Rajasthan’s rich culture, gaze at night skies filled with an impossible number of stars and discover colourful villages where life moves at the pace of a trundling camel cart.

WILD NEPAL IN THE JUNGLES OF BARDIA NATIONAL PARK.

Head off-grid into the jungles of western Nepal to the pristine wilderness of Bardia national park; with lush forests, meandering river valleys and diverse wildlife you’ll experience wild Nepal at its best.

In the company of one of Nepal’s top wilderness guides, spend your days exploring the jungles in search of wild elephant and the elusive tiger. To track tiger on foot is one of the most exciting experiences you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Deep in the Sal Forest, split your time between a luxury jungle lodge and a simple tented safari camp so you and your family can relax and unplug from civilisation in both safety and style and experience life in the jungle in the company of true Nepal safari pioneers.

Top 5 Wilderness Safaris

For those looking to get off-grid and into pristine wilderness, here is our pick of the bunch:

1. DOGSLED EXPEDITION IN ARCTIC SWEDEN

Few places can compete with northern Tanzania when it comes to vast areas of wilderness and wildlife. but few people recognise what a rich experience awaits those prepared to step just a short distance off the beaten track.

The best-known event in Tanzania is the migration of the wildebeest, unsurprisingly the river crossings and calving draw much of the attention when it comes to safaris in the Serengeti; these are truly remarkable things to experience.

But in December, just as the herds thunder onto the short grass plains of the Serengeti, followed by mobile camps and tourists, we recommend looking to the North. By all means visit the migration for a night or two, but then head to the other end of the park and leave the crowds behind. Here, with the wildebeest gone, resident wildlife of all kinds thrives. This is one of the few areas where you have a real possibility of seeing the Big 5 in an unspoilt setting, and likely on your own. Black Rhino are frequently seen in the area along the Mara River. The long lush grasses that grow in the rolling valleys are havens for elephant, buffalo herds graze the Lamai Wedge and the warm flat-topped rocks typical of the area are the ideal places for lion and leopard to survey their domains.

And what’s more, all of this can be experienced from the verandah of your own private house – Mkombe’s House, just a few miles from the Mara River itself.

2. MOROCCO: THE HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS

Isolated for 65 million years, Madagascar is the oldest island on earth and hosts a cornucopia of unique wildlife, close to 200 mammals and over 100 bird species are found nowhere else.

Add into the mix flashy chameleons, freakish geckos and fascinating insects – this country’s critters are truly remarkable. With tropical rainforests, pristine beaches and endearingly eccentric towns, Madagascar is the ideal destination for an exploratory road trip. Head east from Antananarivo, the charming chaotic capital, to the Analamazaotra sector of Andasibe-Mantadia NP (when in doubt add a couple more vowels) for an opportunity to encounter the largest and loudest lemur – the Indri – whose teddy bear looks and wailing song make it unmissable.

Further south, via fabulous food and woeful wine, are the hot springs of Ranomafana whose surrounding forests contain a dozen prosimians including dancing Sifakas and pocket-sized bamboo lemurs – astonishingly the particularly photogenic golden bamboo lemur was only discovered in 1986. Crossing the spine of Madagascar takes you across to the drier west, land of the inimitable Ring-tailed Lemur, baobabs and inselbergs – here you can hike through sandstone canyons and swim under waterfalls in palm-fringed pools, before hitting the coast at Tulear which offers rewarding snorkelling and diving in the rich warm waters of the Mozambique Channel.

3. KAFUE NATIONAL PARK, ZAMBIA

For families and groups of friends looking for a once in a lifetime experience, it’s hard to compete with sailing from island to island in the Galapagos on board your own private yacht.

Sail the seas at night to reach spectacular mooring points for you to head ashore and experience the natural phenomenon of these islands. During the day you’ll have plenty of time to explore beneath the surface. Equipped with specialist snorkel gear, jump in and you may find yourself joined by frolicking sea lions. A truly unforgettable experience.

The importance of boat size can’t be overstated. The smaller the boat, the more you’ll be able to explore shallower areas that bigger boats can’t access meaning trips ashore will be away from other visitors. A favourite of ours is the 12 berth Beagle – a rather beautiful 105ft steel hulled brigantine with teak decks and comfortable interiors, an excellent chef and brilliant guides.

4. NAMIBIA CONSERVANCY SAFARIS

In winter the searing heat of Rajasthan subsides to warm sunny days with cloudless skies inviting exploration of India’s semi-desert state, its regal past and iconic wildlife.

There’s really nothing quite as thrilling as tracking tigers in the wild and the craggy hills, ancient ruins and dry forests of Ranthambhore are one of the best places in India to spot them. In winter, thousands of birds migrate from Europe and Siberia making the former royal hunting reserve an ornithologist’s paradise.

To the west, where scrub meets granite hills, crimson turbaned Rabari shepherds lead their flocks in search of pasture, and respect and live in harmony with leopard. Guided on foot or in an open jeep, you will search for the superbly camouflaged spotted cat may which may reveal itself among the rocky landscape.

Staying in exceptionally comfortable camps and restored forts and palaces, we highly recommend also including some time to dip into Rajasthan’s rich culture, gaze at night skies filled with an impossible number of stars and discover colourful villages where life moves at the pace of a trundling camel cart.

5. MONGOLIA

Head off-grid into the jungles of western Nepal to the pristine wilderness of Bardia national park; with lush forests, meandering river valleys and diverse wildlife you’ll experience wild Nepal at its best.

In the company of one of Nepal’s top wilderness guides, spend your days exploring the jungles in search of wild elephant and the elusive tiger. To track tiger on foot is one of the most exciting experiences you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Deep in the Sal Forest, split your time between a luxury jungle lodge and a simple tented safari camp so you and your family can relax and unplug from civilisation in both safety and style and experience life in the jungle in the company of true Nepal safari pioneers.

6 Of The Best Beach & Safari Holidays

Whether it’s your first time or your fifth, every safari holiday is a truly magical experience that will remain with you forever. As exceptional as they are, the days spent travelling the savannah are full of non-stop action. You’ll be up before sunrise, adventuring under the searing African sun during the day, and spending the evenings gazing up at the magnificent starry skies. That’s why, when you’re not exploring, some much-needed R&R is in order.

For this reason, a safari and beach holiday is the perfect combination. As well as immersing yourself in the unforgettable wildlife of Africa’s expansive landscapes, you can kick back and enjoy an idyllic beach escape that leaves you feeling pampered and nourished.

This spectacular pairing will be the trip of a lifetime, so don’t waste any time booking your dream beach and safari holiday.

Have a look at our top six destinations for inspiration.

1. Selous and Mafia Island, Tanzania

Selous and Mafia Island, Tanzania

Best experienced between July and October, this safari and beach holiday combination offers the opportunity to get off the beaten track into remote, remarkable places.

Selous is the largest game park in Tanzania and offers a stark contrast to all others in almost every way. Only a few hundred feet above sea level, this park boasts a huge variety of wildlife which you won’t see on other safari holidays. Stay in the Nomad Tanzania’s Sand Rivers Selous for five-star service in a small but luxurious safari lodge, and explore the different habitats on foot to discover wondrous places inaccessible by car.

Over on Mafia Island, which lies off the Rufiji delta just a 30-minute flight away from Dar es Salaam, you can embrace everything Tanzania’s first marine park has to offer. The waters provide the ultimate diving experience, with over 400 species of fish to see. Rest your head at Pole Pole on the east coast of the island, seven small bungalow suites that provide an intimate slice of perfection.

2. Waterberg, South Africa and Bazaruto Island, Mozambique

Bazaruto Island, Mozambique

Tucked away in Limpopo province, the pristine, rugged and ancient Waterberg region doesn’t make it on to most South African travel itineraries. Thankfully this loss is your gain, as Waterberg is a fantastic alternative to the packed and overexposed Kruger area. Unlike the latter, which tends to feel slightly controlled and regulated, Waterberg exudes freedom and authenticity, boasting soaring mountain peaks and vast open plains.

3. High Atlas Mountains and Essaouira, Morocco

Atlas Mountain

If you’re keen to go off-the-grid then you must experience our expeditions in the High Atlas Mountains. Led by a herd of mules carrying the beautiful tented camps, you will be led through the breathtaking wilderness by our expert guides. Your days exploring on foot will be followed by nights beneath a blanket of stars.

This enchanting experience can be perfectly complemented by a few days of bliss at Essaouira, a laid-back seaside town where you can spend your time delving into the sheltered markets and enjoying delightful fresh fish in the many fabulous restaurants on offer. Although not a beach by definition, this quaint town by the sea is sure to calm things down after your time in the wild.

4. Sossusvlei and Namibia’s Skeleton Coast

If you’re looking for a twist on the beach and safari holiday, then consider Namibia for an adventure encompassing the giant dunes of Sossusvlei and the wild Skeleton Coast. This flying safari by plane will see you soar above some of Africa’s most beautiful scenery and enjoy views of extraordinary desert-adapted elephants and lions. Expect to drift over sand waves, land on deserted beaches, and drop into valleys far beyond the reach of humans.

Make no mistake, this is one of the greatest experiences in Africa, and anything but your typical safari and beach holiday package. After all, it may not be wise to put anything more than a toe into the raging, shark-filled waters of the south Atlantic!

End your trip with a few days at Swakopmund, Namibia’s largest coastal town, for wonderful seafood and a chance to soak up the beaches and palm-lined streets. And as you tuck into your prawns, try to convince yourself that the previous four days exploring Namibia by private plane weren’t just a dream.

5. Luangwa Valley and Lake Malawi, Zambia

The Luangwa Valley in Zambia is probably the most famous park in the country and boasts all-round good game drive and, in recent years, a well-earned reputation for walking safaris. We love an adventure on foot that allows you to be at one with nature and experience the thrill of tracking animals in their territory, with unforgettable viewings on their terms.

After a walking safari in the Luangwa Valley, Lake Malawi provides the perfect escape, which some may argue is even better than a beach. The water is warm, clear and home to a colourful array of tropical fish. This makes it an impeccable spot for snorkelling, learning to dive or kayaking. Still an uncommon destination on the tourist map, Lake Malawi has a small offering of gorgeously designed lodges that have retained a wonderfully authentic feel.

6. Masoala and Antongil Bay, Madagascar

Few places offer an all-in-one beach and safari holiday as comprehensively as Madagascar. Head to the Masoala peninsula in the north east of the island to find an exquisite rainforest tumbling to the shores of the Indian Ocean. Between July and September, you can watch spectacular humpback whales glide, breach and slap their tails from the comfort of your beachside bedroom. Of course, you could always get a little closer. Stick your head under the water and you’ll hear their song, or paddle out in a kayak and you may see them pass you just a few metres away.

Take guided walks into the jungle behind your campsite to find endemic lemurs, brightly coloured birds and plant species that are simply unknown to science. Later, you can swim and snorkel in the warm waters of Antongil Bay and indulge in the local rhum arrangé and exquisite seafood with a French-Indonesian twist at the beach bar. This safari and beach combo is distinctly un-run-of-the-mill and will appeal to the more adventurous, but an exceptional destination and one of our favourites.

Book your beach and safari holiday today
Here at Natural High, we can organise your dream safari and beach holiday at the destinations above and many more. Our team has spent over 20 years organising and embarking on safari trips. All this knowledge and expertise enables us to plan perfect, tailor-made holidays, with personal insights to make your experience extra special.

Setting you up in authentic yet luxurious accommodation and offering the chance to see the world’s most phenomenal wildlife in their natural habitats, a Natural High holiday is one you’ll never forget. Enquire now, and let the adventure begin.

Tanzania’s Top 5 Family Safaris

Few places can compete with northern Tanzania when it comes to vast areas of wilderness and wildlife. but few people recognise what a rich experience awaits those prepared to step just a short distance off the beaten track.

The best-known event in Tanzania is the migration of the wildebeest, unsurprisingly the river crossings and calving draw much of the attention when it comes to safaris in the Serengeti; these are truly remarkable things to experience.

But in December, just as the herds thunder onto the short grass plains of the Serengeti, followed by mobile camps and tourists, we recommend looking to the North. By all means visit the migration for a night or two, but then head to the other end of the park and leave the crowds behind. Here, with the wildebeest gone, resident wildlife of all kinds thrives. This is one of the few areas where you have a real possibility of seeing the Big 5 in an unspoilt setting, and likely on your own. Black Rhino are frequently seen in the area along the Mara River. The long lush grasses that grow in the rolling valleys are havens for elephant, buffalo herds graze the Lamai Wedge and the warm flat-topped rocks typical of the area are the ideal places for lion and leopard to survey their domains.

And what’s more, all of this can be experienced from the verandah of your own private house – Mkombe’s House, just a few miles from the Mara River itself.

2. YOUR OWN PRIVATE SAFARI HOUSE

ON A FAMILY SAFARI, ONE OF THE THINGS YOU’LL VALUE MOST WHEN YOU GET TO AFRICA IS FLEXIBILITY TO PLAN YOUR DAYS AS YOU GO.

You’ll want to make or change plans according to how you feel each day. Get up early one day and be out before dawn. Take a picnic and return to camp at dusk. Other days, sleep-in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast in camp heading out for a gentle bit of game-viewing before returning for lunch and a glass of cold white wine and a swim. Private safari houses like Kiba Point in the Selous of Mkombe’s House in the Serengeti are all about this approach to safari. You’ll have a highly experienced private guide and vehicle at your disposal and meals can all be planned to suit you.

3. MIX IT UP: BOAT, DRIVE, WALK

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A BIT OF VARIETY TO KEEP CHILDREN ENGAGED ON SAFARI.

Selous and Ruaha in Southern Tanzania offer the ideal combination for families. Both have fewer visitors than the north and both are home to prodigious wildlife. Safaris are in open-sided 4×4 landrovers. Ruaha is known for very large herds of buffalo, a strong elephant population and it’s an excellent place to see lion and leopard. Early morning game drives along the Mwagusi or Mdonya Rivers often turn up large cats soaking up the rays on a crisp morning air. Selous is bisected by the massive Rufiji River where boat safaris are a great contrast to days spent in a vehicle. Throw a line in and try to catch a tigerfish while gently drifting past phalanxes of hippo and of crocodiles.

4. STRIKE OFF ON A WALKING SAFARI

FOR FAMILIES WITH OLDER CHILDREN (AT LEAST 12 YEARS OLD) THERE ARE FEW EXPERIENCES AS MEMORABLE AS A WALKING SAFARI.

Supported by a lightweight mobile camp and lead by a highly experienced armed guide, a walking safari is not only an exhilarating experience, it’s also one of the best ways to unplug and leave facebook and the internet behind. Learn to identify the sound of ox-peckers that betray the presence of dangerous game like buffalo – or how to read tracks and the wind, to creep up unseen on elephant. By night sleep under the stars in simple mosquito net tents. Safaris like this in Ruaha are genuinely life-changing experiences.

5. COMBINE YOUR SAFARI WITH SOME R&R BY THE BEACH

THE GREAT THING ABOUT TANZANIA IS THAT IT NOT ONLY OFFERS WORLD-CLASS WILDLIFE INCLUDING MOST OF THE MAJOR AFRICAN MAMMAL SPECIES IN SEVEN OF ITS NATIONAL PARKS, IT ALSO HAS SOME OF AFRICA’S BEST WHITE SANDY BEACHES.

Zanzibar is the best known of the beach destinations with pristine white beached on the east coast in particular. If you like the idea of somewhere a little more off the radar then consider Pemba Island, just to the north and originally at the heart of the global spice trade. Mafia Island to the south is an excellent place for keen snorkelersand divers, while those looking for the ultimate desert island escape could do a lot worse then trying Fanjove Island with it’s beguiling 19th century lighthouse built from coral stone

Top 5 Walking & Trekking Holidays

1. WORLD-CLASS WALKING SAFARI IN ZAMBIA’S LUANGWA VALLEY

BEST TIME TO VISIT: DRY SEASON – JUNE TO OCTOBER

The Luangwa Valley is where walking safaris were born back in the 1960’s. Now nearing their sixth decade immense pride is still taken in their operation and execution, a gruelling apprenticeship and qualification system ensures only the top guides become walking guides and ensures the superb safety record.

The Luangwa Valley also happens to be one of the most beautiful places you could undertake a walking safari, the slow meandering eponymous river is flanked by beautiful glades of riverine forest and green grazing plains. An ever changing landscape where the only constant are the hippos and crocs. Plentiful elephant and a plethora of antelope along with graceful giraffe and humongous herds of buffalo complete the picture.

Head up to the far north of the South Luangwa National Park and you’re guaranteed to be in one of the few places on the planet where lion far outnumber man. Here along the crystal clear Mupamadzi River you can find one of the most authentic safaris available anywhere – and the focus is very much about being on foot.

Combine with… Lower Zambezi where the ability to get out on the river on boat or canoe affords another perspective, or over to the Victoria Falls.

2. LUXURY TREKKING IN NEPAL’S HIMALAYAS

BEST TIME TO VISIT: OCTOBER/NOVEMBER AND MARCH/APRIL

Nepal offers some of the best trekking in the world amid truly spectacular mountain scenery. The country is home to eight of the ten tallest mountains on earth, and while they are hugely impressive even from afar, nothing beats getting up and close and personal with the Himalayas on foot.

Hiking for four to six hours each day in the company of your expert guide our luxury adventure takes you along ancient winding paths between snow-capped peaks and roaring glacial rivers amid the epic mountain landscape. You only need carry what you need for the day and there’s plenty of time to soak up the extraordinary views and discover village culture.

Each night is spent at a rustically comfortable mountain lodge with en-suite rooms; luxury here is the excellent personal service, evening drinks around a dancing fire, your bed warmed by a hot water bottle and falling asleep beneath a blanket of stars.

Combine with… a safari in search of tiger and rhino in Chitwan National Park

3. TREKKING WITH A PRIVATE CAMP IN MOROCCO’S HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS

BEST TIME TO VISIT: YEAR ROUND

Morocco is a wonderfully exciting country to explore. It’s a short flight from Europe and offers unimaginable diversity, from the souks and squares of the imperial cities to the dunes and mountains of the south.

Time slows down when you head off into the wilds of Morocco. For just a few days you can leave the modern world behind and gently explore the stunning mountain passes, accompanied by your expert Berber guide. Our trekking holidays in Morocco are typically spread over 4 days and 3 nights – a complete adventure that starts with 4-5 hour jeep journey to your pick up point where your private crew and pack animals await you. The treks take you up arid hills, plains peppered with sweet-scented herbs and then, suddenly, impossibly lush valleys.

Walk by day to explore soaring mountain passes, leafy groves of almond trees and high alpine pastures. At the end of the day your luxurious tented awaits you – crisp white walk-in safari tents, proper sheets and duvets, khilims and a brocaded dining tent. Mint tea revives after the days walk, while freshly cooked food is prepared by your chef under a blanket of stars.

Combine with… time in the bustling souks and squares of Marrakech.

4. WALKING SAFARI ALONG THE DRY RIVERS OF RUAHA

BEST TIME TO VISIT: DRY SEASON – JUNE TO NOVEMBER

Ruaha is East Africa’s largest National Park and the best in the region to undertake a proper walking safari. The Great Ruaha River, with its impressive gorges, pools and rapids runs or a hundred miles close the park’s southern boundary creating stunning rugged landscapes.

Ruaha sits at the crossroads of East and Southern African flora and fauna with good populations of Greater and Lesser Kudu, ostrich, eland, sable, a lot of lion, wild dog and a bird list comparable to all of Botswana. It’s also home to one of the highest concentrations of elephants in the world and few animals are as rewarding when encountered on foot as elephant.

Nowhere in Ruaha is busy, with the Park receiving a fraction of the visitors that head to the more famous northern attractions of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, but in a remote northern corner the inimitable Kichaka Expeditions has been operating gold-standard small tented camps and fly-camping since 2003, where the ethos has always been to get out on foot and be properly immersed in the wilderness.

Combine with… the Selous Game Reserve which has a much more southern African feel – or hit the beach on Zanzibar.

What’s Madagascar like for a Family Holiday?

Few places can compete with northern Tanzania when it comes to vast areas of wilderness and wildlife. but few people recognise what a rich experience awaits those prepared to step just a short distance off the beaten track.

The best-known event in Tanzania is the migration of the wildebeest, unsurprisingly the river crossings and calving draw much of the attention when it comes to safaris in the Serengeti; these are truly remarkable things to experience.

But in December, just as the herds thunder onto the short grass plains of the Serengeti, followed by mobile camps and tourists, we recommend looking to the North. By all means visit the migration for a night or two, but then head to the other end of the park and leave the crowds behind. Here, with the wildebeest gone, resident wildlife of all kinds thrives. This is one of the few areas where you have a real possibility of seeing the Big 5 in an unspoilt setting, and likely on your own. Black Rhino are frequently seen in the area along the Mara River. The long lush grasses that grow in the rolling valleys are havens for elephant, buffalo herds graze the Lamai Wedge and the warm flat-topped rocks typical of the area are the ideal places for lion and leopard to survey their domains.

And what’s more, all of this can be experienced from the verandah of your own private house – Mkombe’s House, just a few miles from the Mara River itself.

What To Take On Safari

The first thing to say is that everyone always takes too much so try to be different; most of the smaller camps have excellent and often complimentary laundry services, which are able to return clothes the same day (weather dependant). Very few camps require anything too smart and as a rule layers is the name of the game.

For game drives you’ll find that shorts and a long sleeved shirt will be perfect (long sleeved so you have the option of rolling up or down). In many parks it gets quite cold in the mornings and evenings so you will need a light jersey and warm (probably sleeveless) fleece at these times. A light rain jacket (easily stuffed in the bottom of your bag) could just save the day if you’re travelling in the green season.

For walks we usually wear shorts and a long sleeved shirt, though some people prefer to walk in long trousers to keep grass seeds and ticks at bay. A good compromise is those trousers that zip apart at the knee to become shorts. Unless you’re climbing mountains you won’t need heavy duty boots; the most important thing is that they are comfortable and well broken in. Lightweight goretex boots or something similar with a bit of ankle support work well. Light & comfortable slip on shoes are also useful in and around camp.

Colours; khakis and natural colours are probably best, but people can get carried away here. The most important thing is not to wear bright colours or white on safari, although around camp on the beach everything goes.

Make sure you take hats, ideally wide brim and tight (with a tie as a last resort) so you don’t lose them from cars or boats, and plenty of sunscreen / block. If you have even remotely sensitive eyes, after a few days of glare and dust you will almost certainly be thankful for eye drops or eye wash of some sort. Game driving vehicles are either totally open or have large open roof hatches so you are often in direct sunlight. As it’s often quite a pleasant temperature or even fairly cool in the mornings you can easily forget how strong the sun is.

Take swimming / beach things for anywhere on the coast as well as areas like Mahale (or any of the camps with swimming pools). Kikois & kangas have a multitude of uses as sarongs, scarves or whatever so worth snapping up a few at the earliest opportunity. If you’ve got long journeys or waits, it’s an ideal time to listen to music – we’d highly recommend bringing an ipod for these moments. Likewise consider a small travel set of chess or backgammon – to be whipped onto the vehicle bonnet as you wait for your plane to arrive on some far flung bush strip.

Binoculars, photographic, and video

Binoculars

We think these are the single most important element of your packing. We would recommend bringing the best pair you can afford and (most definitely) try to take a pair each. If you are buying binoculars, try lots of different pairs, don’t be tempted to buy anything too small and avoid gadgets like zooms. Roof prism binoculars with internal mechanisms (Leica 8 x 32 my personal choice) are likely to give you the best quality.

Photography and Video

Bring lots of extra camera memory – you will undoubtedly use it. If you’re still that way inclined, bring plenty of film – best not to assume that you can buy it out there although the reality is its probably available in any decent sized town or major lodge, albeit expensively. 100 – 200 asa is perfect for most places but pack a couple of faster films for use in any thickly forested areas. The ideal all round lens for a trip such as this is probably a 28 – 300 mm zoom. A small bean bag is often very useful to rest the camera on to stop camera shake. If you bring the bag with you beans can be supplied locally. If you can’t find a bag an old sock would work was well.

If you need video batteries charging, this can be done at most camps. You will need a UK type 3 pin plug and electricity is generally 220 V AC. Give your charger and batteries to the camp manager or your guide and they will organise charging for you. Bring plenty of spare batteries so some can be left charging during the day whilst you’re out and about – the peace and quiet of smaller camps can be shattered by having to run generators into the evening solely to recharge peoples camera batteries. If you can find a 12V charger for use with a vehicle cigarette lighter, bring that too as a back up.

Baggage

The baggage allowance on light aircraft is usually 15kg (32lbs) per person, this must be packed in soft bags, not hard suitcases. It is often helpful to have two or more small bags rather than one large one – and an easy way to make bush pilots happy.

What to Pack for a Walking Safari

When packing for a walking safari, there are a couple of key principles to stick to. Make sure you are going to be comfortable and don’t plan on wearing bright colours or white while walking. Remember that the sun in Africa is fierce so go for long sleeves, lightweight trousers and a wide-brimmed hat – sunburn is not fun. Shorts are fine, but you might find yourself getting a bit scratched up. Natural fabrics are often more comfortable than synthetic stuff. Choose your walking shoes carefully: light but sturdy hiking boots are ideal. Sun-cream is a must, and it is quite handy to have a little bottle which you can carry with you for reapplication.

For the most part, water is carried by the guide, however if you’re on a long walking safari, it’s good to have a water bottle on a shoulder-strap to make sure that you keep well hydrated. Compact cameras and binoculars are ideal for walking, and if you do have a big pair of binoculars, there is a strap that helps to spread the weight across your shoulders which is much more comfortable than having them hanging around your neck.

We’ll give you specific advice for the safari that you are going on, but should you have any particular questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us.

10 Reasons to Visit Rajasthan

Compiling a must-see list in Rajasthan is not easy – there are just so many fantastic things to see and do. This area of India is ideal for any wildlife lover also wanting a taste of culture. One place of note to strike out into wild India in search of the majestic tiger as well take in the iconic must-see sights such as the Taj Mahal at Agra. We love this part of India as it allows us to follow the road less travelled and find hidden palaces and mystical off-the-beaten-track temples.

Royal palaces complete with resident maharajas who enjoy nothing more than conversation with guests.Wild landscapes of vast deserts and rugged hills perfect for hiking, cycling, camel treks and jeep safaris.

  1. Impregnable forts with incredible stories of Rajput chivalry and derring-do.
  2. Magical festivals of colour and lights, huge fairs trading horses, camels and cattle.
  3. Villages frequented by snooty camels and trundling bullock carts, wandering cows offered the first chapatti of the day fresh from the housewife’s oven.
  4. Warm, proud people; traditional farmers with giant turbans and even larger moustaches, Rabari herdsmen and Bishnoi conservationists, deposed royalty held in highest esteem.
  5. Tigers, birds and wildlife in protected sanctuaries, in lakes, deserts and forested hills.
  6. It’s a foodies paradise from saffron flavoured lassi in a recyclable clay cup to a five course dinner around a candle-lit step-well.
  7. Bazaars and markets teeming with life, colour, artisans and craftsmen and women at work.
  8. Temples and shrines with incense filled air, vermillion daubed gods and chanting priests.

 

Time May Be Running Out To Save Your Favourite African Safari Wildlife

A safari trip in Africa remains a life changing experience for most people and one of the reasons is the chance to see some magnificent creatures that are becoming increasingly rare in the wild. Some of the best known safari animals are under critical threat and unless things improve significantly, several of our favourites could face extinction in our lifetime.

A recent report by the WWF claims that by 2020, wildlife populations could have reduced by two-thirds in just 50 years. Extinction rates are now 100 times their natural level due to deforestation, pollution, hunting, overfishing and climate change.

The IUCN – (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) is the global authority on the status of the natural world and publishes a regularly updated Red List of threatened species. With the help of some of recent Red List data we have compiled a list of some of the endangered animals you might yet be lucky enough to see on a safari trip.

1. Black Rhino

photo credit : Wikipedia

Remaining population: 5,000

Threats: poaching, hunting, habitat destruction, civil unrest

Red List status: CR (critically endangered)

Just over a century ago there were over 800,000 black rhinos in the wild. Since then industrial scale hunting and mass clearances for agriculture have decimated their population. Currently the main threat faced by the black rhino is poaching driven by the illegal trade in their horns for medical purposes, particularly from China and East Asian countries and also for ornamental use from mostly Middle Eastern countries.

Where can you find black rhino?

Ol Pejeta Wildlife Reserve in the Laikipia district of Kenya is Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary. Other great places to see black rhino include the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, Damaraland in Namibia, Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa.

2. African Elephant

Remaining Population: 415,000

Threats: poaching, habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflict

Red List Status: vulnerable

African elephants are literally running out of space and time. Only a hundred years ago there were estimated to be between 3 and 5 million elephants in Africa. In just a century their numbers have been decimated to just over 400,000.

Africa’s elephant population has crashed by an estimated 111,000 in the past decade primarily due to poaching. Although elephant habitats are now protected, less than 20% of these areas are under formal protection. 2016 estimates suggest there are only around 415,000 elephants in existence across Africa.

Where can you find african elephant ?

African Elephants currently occur in 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa including many popular safari destinations. Some of the best places to see elephants include Chobe National Park and Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, Tsavo East and Amboseli National Parks in Kenya, Kruger National Park in South Africa, and the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.

3. Cheetah

Remaining population: Under 10,000

Threats: habitat destruction, poaching, human-wildlife conflict, predation

Red List status: VU (vulnerable)

The cheetah is endangered mainly due to loss of habitat – their low population density means that cheetah require much larger areas of land to survive than do those of other carnivore species. The species also suffers from prey loss and direct persecution including from farmers seeking to protect their herds.

Where can you find cheetah?

The best places to see cheetah on a safari include the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. But there are other good opportunities for sightings in national parks, game reserves, and conservation centres in other African countries including Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Namibia which has a Cheetah Conservation Centre in Otjiwarongo where you can see rehabilitation in action and get up-close and personal with these big cats.

4. Mountain Gorilla

Gorilla in Uganda

Remaining population: 800 to 900

Threats: poaching, habitat destruction, disease,  

Red List status: CR (critically endangered)

There are estimated to be less than 900 mountain gorillas left in the wild, which makes them critically endangered. The decline in numbers has continued through the years due to war, poaching, disease, and habitat destruction.

One of the ways safari goers can help save these gorillas is by supporting activities such as trekking. Gorilla trekking provides the money (from selling of gorilla permits) required for environmental initiatives, such as conserving and protecting the gorillas and providing locals with alternative sources of income.

Where can you find mountain gorilla?

Around 30 years ago mountain gorillas could be found in the Virunga National Park but the Congo is no longer the place to see these iconic apes. Rwanda and Uganda are now the best locations by far – particularly Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Uganda’s Bwindi forest.

5. White Rhino

Remaining Population: 17,000

Threats: poaching, hunting, civil unrest

Red List status: NT (near threatened)

White rhinos were believed to be extinct just over 100 years ago but extreme protection and management has brought them back from critically endangered to near threatened status. The white rhino is the second largest land mammal and is relatively unaggressive which is why poaching for its horn is the main threat.

Where can you find white rhino ?

The vast majority of white rhinos can be found in just 4 countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. Northern white rhinos are already extinct in the wild, and only 3 of these are known to be alive – these can be found at the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya.

6. Grévy’s zebra

Remaining population: 2500 or less

Threats: poaching, habitat destruction, human-wildlife conflict, predation

Red List status: EN (endangered)

Grévy’s zebra is the largest and most endangered zebra species. They are now confined to the Horn of Africa, primarily Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya. There was a population reduction of over 50% over the past 30 years from an estimated 5,800 in the late 1980s to a current population of around 2,500 individuals at most. These zebra are threatened by habitat destruction, hunting, disease, overgrazing, and competition for natural resources including water.

Where can you find Grévy’s zebra ?

The best places to see these zebra include Lewa, Laikipia and Sambru in Northern Kenya. But you may also see them in parts of southern Ethiopia.

7. Giraffe

Remaining population: under 100,000

Threats: habitat destruction, illegal trophy hunting, disease, human-wildlife conflict

Red List status: VU (vulnerable)

The world’s tallest animal is at risk of extinction after suffering a devastating decline in numbers, with nearly 40% of giraffes lost in the last 30 years, according to recent IUCN Red List analysis. Although not currently on the endangered list, many conservationists are calling for giraffes to be added to the list. According to the IUCN (which recently listed giraffes as a threatened species) just 97,500 of the animals exist in sub-Saharan Africa today. According to Sir David Attenborough  “These gentle giants have been overlooked. It’s well known that African elephants are in trouble and there are perhaps just under half a million left. But what no one realised is there are far fewer giraffes, which have already become extinct in seven countries.” Giraffes have suffered from loss of habitat, disease and illegal hunting for bushmeat as well as trophy hunting mainly from US visitors.

Where can you find giraffe ?

Giraffes inhabit 18 countries across southern and eastern Africa, with smaller isolated populations in west and central Africa. Some of the best places to see giraffe on a safari include the Serengeti in Tanzania, Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, Etosha National Park in Namibia, and Kruger National Park in South Africa.

8. African Penguin

(photo credit : Wikipedia)

Remaining population: 80,000

Threats: human-wildlife conflict (leading to food shortage), prey displacement

Red List status: EN (endangered)

The African penguin, also known as the black-footed penguin or jackass penguin is currently classified as endangered due to a very rapid population decline (by 50% in the last 30 years). Most of this decline is thought to be caused by food shortage – a result of industrial fishing and changes in the distribution of prey populations. The situation shows no signs of reversing and immediate conservation action is required to save these birds.

Where can you find African penguins ?

These penguins are endemic to southern Africa where it breeds at 28 localities in Namibia and South Africa. Boulders Beach in Cape Town is probably the only place in the world where you get close to African Penguins.

How can you help conservation efforts ?

Of course the actions of government and businesses can help make a difference, but we can all do our part. You might choose to book your next safari trip with an eco-friendly or conservation focused operator such as Natural High. You may also consider donating to conservation organizations and charities, adopting an animal, or volunteering.

Here are a few organizations which accept donations, provide volunteer programs or offer the chance to adopt an animal to help their conservation efforts. IUCN : International Union for Conservation of Nature IFAW : International Fund for Animal Welfare IAPF: International Anti-Poaching Foundation WWF: World Wildlife Fund WCS: Wildlife Conservation Society TDSWT: The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust AFC: African Conservation Trust IRF : International Rhino Foundation STE: Save the Elephants BCI: Bonobo Conservation Initiative AWF : African Wildlife Foundation

You could also start a fundraising campaign or get involved in local events. Other options include writing articles, blogging, or producing videos.

Why not get in touch with us at Natural High on our social media channels. We’d love to hear your stories and comments on this huge issue.

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