Adventure meets creature comfort on luxury African safaris with Ker & Downey across all points of the world. These journeys have a front-row seat to the wildlife and wonder of the wilderness, balanced with an opulent place to rest and relax. Plunge pools and private decks make these lodges feel like a sea of comfort in the African plains and the mountains where gorillas roam. Delicious meals prepared by the on-site chefs are enjoyed with fellow guests and high tea is served with the surrounding floodplains or wide expanses as their backdrop. Luxury tented camps offer views of wildlife nearby, the perfect place to sip on a glass of wine as you watch the beautiful sunset. Excellent private guides and superior service combine for one unforgettable adventure.
The continent is full of majestic wildlife, jaw-dropping landscapes, and fascinating cultures. Ker & Downey helps you narrow in on which countries to visit on your next African safari.
South Africa has a lot to offer, from bustling cities to camps in the bush. The Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp is nestled in the Sabi Sand Reserve which abounds with the Big Five – elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and buffalo. See hundreds of species of birds soar through the blue skies, the vivid black and white stripes of the rows of zebras, the yawns of resting big cats, and the outstretched necks of graceful giraffes as you head out on a safari drive.
This country is a favorite safari destination to put on your wish list. Okuti is an intimate camp and photographers will love the consistent game viewing year-round. Drift into dreams of the explorers of the past, as you gaze at the sparkling African skies above the Moremi Game Reserve.
The Land of a Thousand Hills is small, but there’s a lot of wildlife packed into its green, seemingly endless mountains. Watch chimpanzees swing through the lush canopy of the Nyungwe Forest National Park, home to a large percentage of primates in Africa. Baboons and monkeys coexist in this jungle and the range of species is astounding. The biodiversity here attracts nature lovers who are looking to spot mountain gorillas near the Virunga volcanoes.
Indulge your inner explorer at the Ol Pejeta Bush Camp in the Laikipia region of central Kenya. Abundant wildlife frequents the area around the tented camp, often spotted frolicking by the river during game drives. Elephants, lions, baboons, zebras, and some 100 Black Rhinos roam these carefully preserved lands. Visit the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, the only one in Kenya, to see these playful creatures up-close.
Republic of Congo
It’s a wonder that this impressive place still feels like its never been seen by human eyes. Trek through the thick jungles of Odzala-Kokoua National Park with one of the globe’s largest populations of Western Lowland Gorillas. Colorful birds fly through the foliage and elephants wander out of the dense, steaming forests to congregate in open water holes.
Unwind on the quiet, secluded beaches of Mozambique. See hundreds of elephants at the Maputo Special Reserve. Turquoise waters teem with vibrant fish. White Pearl Resorts is a secluded luxury property with spectacular views of the coast. Dine on fresh seafood and sip on refreshing cocktails. Mozambique isn’t always on a traveler’s radar, but it should be because of its blend of culture, conservation, and colonial architecture.
AFRICAN SAFARI TOUR: WHAT TO EXPECT
The day starts early on safari. A knock on the door or outside your chic tent is followed with a soft voice announcing the arrival of your morning Rooibos tea or coffee. This is your wake up call. Daylight hasn’t broken yet but you take your rooibos tea with a splash of milk as you eagerly dress for the morning, wondering what the day holds. You walk to the main lounge of the lodge to meet your guide and set out in the crisp morning air on your morning game drive. Just like the guide and tracker, your eyes are constantly scanning from left to right, looking for game. Perhaps you happen upon a pride of lions, lounging in the middle of the road.
After spending several minutes watching the lions without another vehicle in sight, you decide to move on. There’s so much to see in the bush. You head to the local waterhole to catch a herd of elephant cooling off and taking long drinks of water while the young ones play with each other.
You circle around to the other side of the waterhole where your guide stops and unpacks a table and picnic basket of pastries, teas, and coffee for a break in the drive. As you are holding your warm mug of tea, you watch as a hippo emerges from below the water, its nose poking out in your direction. After a few minutes, another hippo or two sticks its nose out of the water, greeting you while you enjoy the refreshments before moving on. Among the plains game, you see a dazzle of zebra, with a young foal standing close to its mother, and a journey of giraffe munching on the fruits of the treetops. You finish the drive searching out leopard and find a female walking through a dry riverbed. After the morning game drive, you return to the lodge to a delightful spread of fresh food to nibble while you relax. You might book a session at the spa, take a dip in your plunge pool, or catch a nap before setting out again.
And because the African bush is a living and breathing, thing, your afternoon game drive won’t be anything like your morning game drive. You’ll search out and successfully find those leopard cubs your guide was talking about earlier in the morning, or see a group of vultures circling overhead leading you to a recent kill. You’ll watch as cheetah cubs playfully chase each other and climb over their mother. As the sun begins to set, you’ll stop for sundowners and witness as the sky turns from blue to pink, then orange and purple, before finally setting below the horizon. To head back to camp, your tracker pulls out the spotlight and quickly scans from right to left, looking for the nocturnal animals of the bush.
Dinner is served in several courses by candlelight, or in the boma with traditional fare. You swap stories from the day with other guests and your guide, fondly remembering the excitement you felt seeing the first pride of lions and eagerly anticipating the next day’s drive. You may decide to start your day with a walking safari or a cultural visit to a local village and end your day dining under the stars.
Whatever you decide, each day is different and unique, but the spirit of the bush remains. It is constantly evolving; the living, breathing, beating heart of Africa that draws you back again and again, and there’s nothing that compares to a African lion safari in the African bush.
TYPES OF AFRICAN SAFARI TRIPS
Walking African Safari Wildlife Safari
Experience Zambian walking safaris with Ker & Downey. A Zambian company invests in the protection of South Luangwa National Park and its surrounding communities, all while creating the premier destination for wildly authentic Zambia walking safaris.
There is scarcely a place in Africa as simultaneously wild and untamed as Zambia. The nearly 300,000-square-mile nation boasts 20 national parks, yet only a fraction of the tourists seen in its neighboring countries. With plentiful wildlife and a reputation for the continent’s top guides, a safari in Zambia is as authentic as they come.
South Luangwa National Park is relatively untouched by man and employs fierce conservation practices as well as being a great place for Zambian walking safaris. As a result, it’s teeming with wildlife. The Luangwa River is the lifeblood of the park, with large numbers of a variety of species, including zebras, lions, elephants, and Africa’s highest concentration of leopards gathering around its tributaries and oxbow lagoons.
The best way to experience this pristine corner of the world is on a walking safari. Here in one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries, the wilderness is so unspoiled, it’s as if you’re blazing trails for the first time. And no one delivers a better Zambia walking safari in this unsung destination than The Bushcamp Company.
Founded in 1999 by Zambia native Andy Hogg and Italian-Malawian Andrea Bizzaro, The Bushcamp Company offers intimate safaris spread throughout the southern portion of the park in remote locations far from other tourists. From a main lodge to six exclusive bush camps (each accommodating no more than eight guests), the result is a highly personalized experience.
Mfuwe Lodge is The Bushcamp Company’s award-winning 18-chalet heart, set in an area of the park renowned for its prolific game. Giraffes, hippos, buffalo, antelopes, and crocodiles are frequent visitors to Mfuwe’s lagoon, just below the lodge. But it’s best known for a group of local elephants that walks up the stairs and through the lobby every November to get to the wild mangoes growing nearby. Herds of these curious and seemingly friendly elephants can reach up to 70 strong, a number that speaks to the park’s conservation practices.
Each of The Bushcamp Company’s six unique bush camps tastefully blends luxury with a traditional aesthetic that celebrates the spirit of safari pioneers. Chamilandu’s chalets, for example, are set on stilts, while Bilimungwe’s lie under majestic mahogany trees and embody the feeling of a slow safari. Chindeni is set on the edge of a permanent lagoon and has won awards from Condé Nast Traveler as a top resort, not only in Africa, but the world. The camps are stylish, but the main focus is on the guides and safari experience itself.
The camps all lie within 60 miles of Mfuwe Lodge. They’re the only properties in the area, so you won’t see any other vehicles traversing the region. Intrepid travelers can also make a walking circuit between the camps on your African safari tour.
South Luangwa National Park offers a diversity of experiences from canoeing to night drives. And while game drives are on offer to round out your experiences at each camp, the main event takes place on foot. Their motto, “From a vehicle you see Africa. On foot you feel, hear, and smell Africa,” shapes their approach to the safari and therefore Zambian walking safaris.
The guiding principle of The Bushcamp Company is a commitment to the wildlife and the people in South Luangwa. Since its beginning, The Bushcamp Company has made it a priority to provide tourism’s benefits to the people of Zambia and to educate them on the benefits of conservation.
Currently, The Bushcamp Company sponsors, funds, and organizes projects that promote better education, health and employment for the people living in the remote areas around the properties. They sponsor students, pay teachers’ salaries, and have built classrooms and staff housing. In addition to sponsoring 350 local school children, they feed more than 2,000 students each day, which has contributed to improved concentration, energy, and overall health. They even take local children on game drives. Is there a better way to teach children about the benefits of conservation than showing them the purpose?
The company’s commitment to Zambians doesn’t end there. In 2014, it started the “Commit to Clean Water” project to drill boreholes in remote villages to provide safe, clean drinking water. They support a tree planting program which adds approximately 500 trees a year; they raise funds to assist anti-snaring patrols through the sale of curios made by local craftsmen from snare-wire retrieved from the bush; it employs solar technology throughout its properties; and it donated a light aircraft used for surveillance and monitoring to Conservation South Luangwa, a privately funded charitable organization that works with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to reduce the conflict between humans and wildlife.
The Bushcamp Company’s impact on the local wildlife and communities of South Luangwa National Park is far-reaching, resulting in a wildlife sanctuary that continues to offer an unrivaled safari experience for generations to come.
The Best African Safari Spa
‘Best Safari Spa’ award-winner Royal Malewane tops our list for best spas in South Africa.
There’s no better way to relax and unwind than at the spa. Paired with the peaceful setting of the bush and cosmopolitan amenities of the city, South Africa offers some of the best spa experiences. Here are our top choices.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better spa in the wilderness than at Royal Malewane, winner of the ‘Best Safari Spa’ in the 2016 Safari Awards, and world-renowned for its beautiful setting and luxurious treatments. It’s an oasis to restore mind, body, and spirit in the serenity of the Kruger area. The treatment rooms and private relaxation casitas are centered around a sparkling heated lap pool in a central courtyard. A full range of health and skincare treatments are available from internationally-qualified in-house therapists. Facilities include a steam room, jacuzzi, hot and cold African baths, and a fully-equipped gym.
The Karkloof Safari Spa offers a unique hybrid spa-safari experience that mixes quintessential game drives and unlimited spa treatments. 17 generous treatment rooms look out into the native bush and specialized treatments from Thai therapists are designed to uplift, revitalize, and recharge the body and soul. Spa facilities include Kniepp pools, flotation pools, sauna and steam rooms, indoor roman baths, and open air Jacuzzis. There are also first-class yoga instructors that can lead you in a time of stretching and meditation.
Located in the Cederberg Region of the Western Cape, the spa at Bushmans Kloof has one of the most picturesque settings in Africa with a dual Spa Gazebo that looks out onto the staggering rock formations and the majestic beauty of the reserve. The whole spa experience at Bushmans Kloof is deeply rooted in the area’s unrivaled natural beauty and inspired by the healing essence of Africa, with signature spa treatments using a range of B|Africa products that combine indigenous African plant extracts with the natural goodness of the sea.
The Bush Spas at Singita Ebony and Singita Boulders Lodges offer a holistic and healing approach to their treatments and are designed to complement the beauty and tranquility of the bush. The sister properties in the Kruger area each have two treatment rooms — one at each can be used as a couple’s treatment room, and you can also enjoy treatments in the privacy of your guest suite or out on your private deck.
The One & Only Cape Town is located on two islands at the center of the V&A Waterfront. On one, you’ll find the guest rooms and several suites, and on the other, the resort’s exclusive spa retreat. The spa at the One & Only is the largest in the city, with 12 private treatment villas, a relaxation room, sauna and steam facilities, couples treatment rooms, two vitality pools, and a full-service salon. Highly trained professionals can perform a variety of ancient and modern treatments for a customized spa experience in the city pre- or post-safari.
The Saxon is tucked away in a tranquil and quiet suburb of Sandhurst. Its state-of-the-art Spa and Studio is a holistic retreat founded on ancient rejuvenating spa techniques. For a can’t miss experience, try the signature Sound Therapy treatment – it involves Tibetan gongs, bells, and bowls, and is performed on a heated waterbed.
African Horse Safaris – Our Top 5
African horse safaris combine the best of adventure with the thrill of searching for wild game on horseback, and luxury with beautiful and comfortable fly camps and lodges to return to in the evenings. At Ker & Downey, we’ve worked hard to handcraft high experiential horseback safaris using some of the best guides in the business. Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to the expert guides leading our horseback safaris, but today we’re kicking off the series with an overview of the journeys themselves.
Our African Horse Safaris in Kenya explore the Chyulu Hills region, Hemingway’s beloved “Green Hills of Africa,” with four days of riding through vast savannah, volcanic craters, and mist forests is pursuit of giraffe, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and syke’s monkey. Each day consists of four to six hours of riding and at night, you’ll return to the comfortable ol Donyo Fly Camp, nestled next to a large volcanic crater and the perfect place to watch the setting sun and share bush stories around the campfire. After four days spent exploring the Chyulu Hills, you’ll head to the famous Masai Mara Game Reserve for a traditional safari experience at Mara Toto Camp with game drives and village visits. There’s a minimum of fourteen years for this African horse safari, but it’s available year-round.
Our Botswana horseback safari mixes luxury and adventure with five days of horseback riding through the Okavango Delta and three nights at the iconic Shinde Camp. Before your riding safari begins, you are paired with a horse that has been hand-picked for you from over 60 horses, mostly thoroughbreds and thoroughbred crosses, Arabians and Arabian crosses, and Boerperds, that call the Okavango Delta home. For five days, you’ll ride through a maze of papyrus lined waterways, canter with herds of wildebeest and zebra, and get up close to a variety of wildlife. At night, you’ll hear the sounds of hippos grunting in the water nearby and the roar of lions while chatting by the fire. There is no age restriction for riders on this African horse safari, but we recommend riders have intermediate to advanced riding skills to truly enjoy the ride.
Out of our top five horse safaris, Tanzania is the most luxurious with accommodations on horse riding days at the exclusive Singita Explore Camp – a true “Out of Africa” experience. You’ll spend 4 days riding through the Grumeti Reserve located in the Serengeti, an area saturated with game and home to over 2,500 lions. Each morning you’ll head out on horseback through the plains, hills, and valleys, returning each afternoon for lunch and tea. In the afternoons you have the option to head out on another short ride or take a game drive with your private guide, seeking out new experiences in the region. Because the camp is an exclusive use camp, you’ll have an entire staff to cater to your every whim and desire. This safari is available June through the first weeks in November, but there is an minimum age requirement of fourteen years and we recommend riders have intermediate to advanced riding skills to truly enjoy their adventure.
If you’re planning an African riding safari that the whole family can enjoy, our horseback journey through South Africa is the perfect option for you. It’s available January through May and July through December and there is no age minimum or required skilled level. You’ll be accommodated in luxury lodges throughout the journey, each with horseback riding activities available for all skill levels, including Shetland pony rides for young children. Because there isn’t a set horseback riding itinerary, you can set your preferences for how many hours you want to ride and which activities you want to participate in at each lodge. Polo enthusiasts wishing to learn the sport can even visit the stables and tuition center at Kurland Hotel and Spa, home to internationally renowned championship polo grounds and site of one of the ten best polo matches in the world. And at Grootbos Forest Lodge, children can partake in private riding lessons, sure to spark their love for the animals and horseback riding.
Our horse safaris through Namibia are handcrafted for our most experienced riders with eights full days of riding from Twyfelfontein to the Skeleton Coast through the rugged terrain of Damaraland. You’ll awake each morning to a lavish breakfast around the campfire before beginning a four to five hour ride. You’ll break for lunch, and perhaps a siesta, before continuing onto your next campsite. As you make your way west, you’ll encounter rare desert-adapted wildlife like elephant, rhino, cheetah, and plains game. This exciting adventure is available from June to July, and because there is the possibility of coming upon lions and the unique rugged terrain of the area, riders should have advanced riding skills.
PLANNING YOUR AFRICAN SAFARI VACATION
For many, a safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But where do you even begin? There are (literally) hundreds of properties spread throughout Africa’s top safari regions. And once you decide on properties, how do you even get there? Drive? Fly? Walk? (Yes, as in walking safari.)
If ever there was a time to trust a travel designer, planning a safari is it.
What to Know
It’s difficult to plan a safari on your own. There are a bunch of logistics involved, including chartering planes and hiring drivers. And this is one place your GPS isn’t really going to help you.
There are also a lot of factors that can dictate when and where you go on safari. Things to think about include what wildlife you want to see, how active you want to be, what style camp you want (you can find everything from basic tents and bucket showers to luxurious and lodge-like), and who your traveling companions are. So with all of that in mind, we’ll try to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about planning a safari.
When to Go
The answer to this question is usually, “When can you go?” Most Americans will plan their safari around common school holidays like summer or the winter break between semesters. Ambitious travelers might also try to squeeze in a safari over Spring Break using the weekends before and after for travel time. But if you have some wiggle room in your travel dates, there are some clear advantages to traveling during different seasons.
- High Season: As the name suggests, High Season is generally when most people travel on safari. Rates are at their highest and you’ll need to plan several months to a year in advance to secure prime safari space at your choice properties. But, it’s a time when the weather is cooler and dry, the tall grasses are gone, and animals congregate around water holes, making it is the easiest time of the year to see the wildlife. Coincidentally, it coincides with the US summer holiday (between about May/June and September/October).
- Low Season/Green Season: The Green Season in Africa is the period of time that comes after the annual rains. The dry savannah has turned green and lush and the game is active. However, they are harder to spot in the new, tall grasses. But it is a season coveted by photographers for the rich colors and contrasts between the blue skies and green grasses. You’ll also find lower rates, lower tourists, and less time is needed to secure optimal space.
- Shoulder Season: The Shoulder Season is the months that come between the high season and low season. They are the transitional months when weather is slightly unpredictable. At some properties, rates fall in between low season and high season prices.
Where to Go
Unless you are talking about a gorilla trekking safari or are on a safari to see something very specific (like the desert-adapted elephants in Namibia), there are generally two regions you need to consider for a safari: Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania). Each country offers something a little different. This is where the Ker & Downey travel designers really shine when it comes to planning your safari, combining countries, properties, and activities to craft a custom itinerary suited to your desires and needs. To see some of our staff’s favorite trips to Africa, head here.
We recommend at least 10 days for a safari, but more time is always better out in the bush. The flights from the States are long and eat up at least a day on either end of the trip. Combined with jet lag, you’ll want to give yourself ample time to really enjoy your journey.
Is a Safari Suitable for Kids?
Absolutely. Safaris are an excellent option for family travel. Besides opening your children’s eyes to a world much different than their own, there are many properties that cater their programs specifically to children. Some properties will take kids as young as two, while others prefer them to be a bit older. Your Ker & Downey designer will be able to decide where and when you should go on safari when you’re traveling with children, but be sure to check out some of our suggestions for family safaris here.
What do I Pack?
This can vary depending on where you are traveling and what activities you will be doing on your safari. Before your departure, we send you our packing suggestions based on your destination. In an interview we did with Ralph Bousfield, one of Botswana’s sought-after guides and co-owner of Uncharted Africa Safari Co., he said, “It’s important to be practical… I think it’s great travelers go crazy about dressing the part. But all the extra accessories just to ‘look good’ are unnecessary. It’s important to dress comfortably and to be ready to embrace the adventure.” Take a look at our recommended safari packing guides (and shopping lists!) to get a good idea of what to expect when packing for safari.
Why You Should Go on Safari with Ker & Downey
As you can tell, there are a lot of things to consider when planning an African wildlife safari. In addition, safaris are often once-in-a-lifetime trips that come with a higher price tag than other destinations around the world. Don’t you want to make sure your long-awaited trip goes off without a hitch? Ker & Downey has over 50 years of experience with creating safaris. Our designers draw on years of experience and personal relationships to craft the perfect custom journey that fills your travel wishlist in the most efficient way possible. We’re excited to work with you to plan your safari.
WHAT TO BRING ON SAFARI
HOW MUCH DOES AN AFRICAN SAFARI COST
Interested in an East African Safari? Click here to learn more about what Ker & Downey offers to Kenya and Tanzania.
Interested in a Southern Africa Safari? Click here to learn more about our journeys to South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.