Wildlife has a habit of putting human achievements in the shade. The thrill of spotting an elephant, tiger or whale in the wild will always trump any sighting of a tall tower. Release a dolphin near a great bridge, and it’ll hog the attention.
But there are animal-spotting holidays, and then there are wildlife experiences of an altogether more remarkable magnitude. These special interactions can remain seared in the memory for a lifetime – and they don’t have to involve roughing it through inhospitable landscapes, either. These unforgettable encounters come with the creatures – and the comforts.
The National has put together a list of Top 10 trips that will let you experience the natural world.
Among this Top 10 are 2 from the Southern African region.
Microlighting with eagles, Zambia
There’s no shortage of animals to spot in eastern Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, but the Tafika Camp offers a different perspective. The owner, John Coppinger, takes guests up in his own microlight for a bird’s-eye view of the buffalo, hippos and general bush-waking-up activity below.
The bird in question is an eagle, and they’re often found swooping and soaring at the same heights as the microlight. It’s impossible to look elegant by comparison, but it is possible to glide over fluffy chicks tucked up in nests before watching herds of elephants plod towards the river for a morning bath.
Tafika is one of the remaining owner run camps in Africa with John and Carol ever present. The result is a camp that genuinely cares for each and every one of its guests. The quality of guiding here is some of the best in Africa with Brian Jackson, Isaac Zulu and Stephen Banda offering a level that is hard to beat anywhere; they have been guiding in the Luangwa for years. Couple these facts with the setting and the excellent game viewing on offer and you have one of the best camps in Africa.
The only camp in Zambia offering this activity, flights of 15 minutes provide a breathtaking bird’s eye game viewing experience.
Cruising the Chobe River, Botswana
The rule of thumb in Africa is that where there’s water, there’s wildlife – and the Chobe River in Botswana is notorious for the high concentrations of animals slurping water from its banks.
When hundreds of elephants go for a drink at once, the best vantage point is from on the river itself – which is where the purpose-built Zambezi Queen houseboat comes in. Lions, leopards and buffalo are also regularly spotted, while hippos and crocodiles swim close to the vessel.
A maximum of 30 passengers can stay on the boat at any one time, with fishing tuition and bird watching sessions coming as part of the package. And there are plenty of birds to see – over 460 species have been recorded within the Chobe National Park.
The Zambezi Queen is unique in that it’s a sophisticated, elegant experience that has not lost the essence of all that is uniquely African.
The Zambezi Queen is conveniently located about 80km from both Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Livingstone Zambia and 3km from Kasane International Airport all of which have international airports and operate regular scheduled flights out of Johannesburg, with Kasane been ideally suited to charter flights.
The Zambezi Queen cruises on the banks of the magnificent Chobe National Park with its teeming wildlife and approximately 120 000 elephants and over 400 species of birds.
The rest of The National’s Top 10 includes:
Horseback safaris in Kenya
Swimming through jellyfish in Palau
Tiger snapping in India
Snorkelling with whale sharks in Australia
Watching turtles laying eggs, Grenada
Sailing to the wall of penguins, South Georgia
Whale-watching under the midnight sun, Norway
Tundra buggying with polar bears, Canada
Date: 30 September 2013