We are tremendously excited to be celebrating our 20th year in business in 2021. We’ve relished our 20 years of exploring our favorite continent and leveraging those experiences to create customized, once-in-a-lifetime safaris for our guests. Memories from countless trips feed the desire to share our favorite, most transformational experiences. And while we could fill volumes with our personal highlights, we’ve narrowed the list down to our top 20 all-time African safari experiences (in no particular order), to share with you during this special time.
Few in numbers, mountain gorillas are huge and incredibly strong, not to mention intelligent and whimsical. Seeing them in person is an experience like no other. On gorilla treks in Rwanda and Uganda your guides help you find them in the beautiful, vibrant rainforest so you can watch their natural behavior for one precious hour.
This stunning backdrop to South Africa’s ‘mother city’ begs to be explored. Hiking up isn’t for the faint of heart but is incredibly rewarding, and you can take a cable car down (or both ways) to save your knees. We also suggest a helicopter flight over the mountain and the Twelve Apostles Range to really experience the awesome beauty of the area.
Chimpanzees are complex, energetic, entertaining, intelligent and rare. The longest continuous study of these amazing relatives is in Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains National Park, whose namesake peaks plunge into the crystalline depths of sparkling Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s longest and deepest lake. In this remote and wild area of the country you can trek to see chimpanzees in a breathtaking setting that is only accessible by boat, further increasing your sense of adventure!
For a calming safari experience, nothing beats gliding smoothly by elephants on shore as they sip from the clear waters of the Delta. With only a pole propelling your traditional canoe, your expert guide will help you spot the Delta’s wonders – the smallest, most colorful frogs, aquatic antelope, hippos and more – as you peacefully pass through the ancient channels of this natural wonder.
There’s nothing quite like a walking safari. It gives you the chance to see iconic animals like lions and giraffes from a very different perspective, as well as to learn about smaller creatures such as dung beetles and bee-eaters. You also see tracks and signs from myriad creatures. Even better is to experience the remote wildness of Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park on a walking safari that has you making your way between camps on foot with your expert guide!
Mana Pools National Park is remote, wild and all about water activities. Any angler (or nature lover!) will thrill at the chance to try their rod against Africa’s fiercest inland game fish – the tiger fish!
World-renowned boutique hotel Giraffe Manor is a Nairobi icon. Sitting on a 140-acre giraffe sanctuary that is home to the endangered Rothschild species, the semi-habituated giraffe residents delight guests by leaning into the windows at breakfast for an unforgettable morning greeting!
South Africa’s stunning winelands aren’t just a pretty spot – they are turning out world-class wines that rival old and new world bottles across the globe. The culinary landscape matches that excellence, so what better way to spend a day than taking a relaxing vineyard tour followed by a private wine and food tasting with one of the area’s passionate vintners?
Set amid one of the most jaw-dropping and memorable landscapes in Namibia – and there are a lot of jaw-dropping landscapes in this desert beauty – Mowani Mountain Camp has our favorite sundowner spot in the country! Lounge on pillows atop massive scarlet boulders while sipping a drink and taking in the colors of a spectacular African sunset over the magical Damaraland landscape.
There are more than 100 different types of lemurs – from tiny Goodman’s mouse lemurs to the indri – the largest and loudest of all. Hearing the incredibly loud calls of the indri and watching them move amidst the wonders of Madagascar’s incredible biodiversity is an incredible experience.
The African night is truly special, and we like nothing more than experiencing it to the fullest on a treehouse sleep out. The views of billions of stars in the sparkling skies are a treat, as is hearing the whoops of hyenas, loud lion roars and other nocturnal animal calls. We also like having the comforts of home at hand – a beautiful, comfortable bed, flicking lanterns, an ensuite bathroom – as well as the exclusivity of our own space in the wilderness.
It’s hard to resist the quirky personalities of meerkats, and Tswalu Game Reserve is one of the best places to view these playful creatures. Tswalu’s two habituated colonies let you observe their antics close up without disturbing them. The Reserve is also home to other unusual species including aardwolf, African wild cat, wild dog, brown hyena and the extremely elusive pangolin. A visit to Tswalu gives guests the best chance for a sighting of wild pangolin in southern Africa.
Whale sharks are literally the biggest fish in the sea and for marine aficionados swimming among them is not to be missed. These giants can grow to more than 32 feet long and weigh over 20 tons! Diving or snorkeling with the shy animals is both exhilarating and humbling, and Mafia Island, Tanzania, as well as the northern shores of Mozambique, are two of the best places on earth for this experience.
If ever there were a ‘bucket list’ item, this might be it! One of the world’s ‘Seven Summits,’ 19,340-foot Kili is the highest peak on the African continent and an adventure to climb. Hikers love the challenge as well as the diverse climate zones you pass through on the way to the roof of Africa.
Set among some of the highest and oldest sand dunes on earth, you’ll need an early start to climb ‘Big Daddy.’ Every step you take inches you closer to its summit, and you’ll work for every bit of progress. Once on top, more than 1,000 feet from its base, you can marvel at the surrounding crimson-hued sand sea that stretches all the way to the Atlantic Ocean!
Birders should not miss the Okavango Delta. The astonishing array of bird life on display – more than 400 recorded species – is nothing short of dizzying. One of our favorite birding adventures is zipping through the maze of channels in the Delta on a motorboat (a thrill in itself) to visit a rookery where you can observe the young of many species squawking and begging for a meal from their parents while small crocs wait below for those who fall from their perches.
A visit to the singing wells is a completely unique experience. At certain times of year, Samburu tribesmen take their livestock to the singing wells where the men dig for water to fill up troughs so that their cows and goats can drink. Each family owns one well and they sing to their livestock as they bring water up. The cows recognize their family song and come down to quench their thirst. No pictures allowed!
Imagine yourself neck deep in a placid pool gazing over the edge of one of the world’s largest waterfalls. This is exactly what you’ll experience when you take a dip into the Devil’s Pool atop Victoria Falls on the mighty Zambezi River in Zambia! The thrill will wow you and the photos will be priceless!
Art lovers will enjoy an exclusive entre into the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. Located in the famed Victoria & Albert Waterfront in Cape Town, the museum is a visual stunner filled with priceless artwork representing the African diaspora. We suggest capping off your visit with a relaxing drink in the Ocular Lounge where you can enjoy 270-degree views of Cape Town and Table Mountain.
Take off from the vast Serengeti Plain before dawn for a peaceful and beautiful float over one of Africa’s most magnificent wildlife areas. Watch the sun rise, absorb the beauty of the landscape and spot wildlife before landing to enjoy a Champagne bush brunch. This is an experience not to be missed!
These are our top 20 all-time African safari experiences, and we endorse and celebrate every single one! We have countless more experiences up our sleeves as well and it’s our commitment to you to create the perfect and unique combination just for you.
Photos courtesy of Anisha Barrientos, John Cagle, AAC President Kent Redding, AAC Journey Specialist Sara Stark, The Bushcamp Company, River God Adventures, AAC Livingstone Club member Rhea Mae Chavez, South Africa Tourism, Mowani Mountain Camp, Hans-Jurgen Mager, Lion Sands, Tswalu Kalahari, Sebastian Pena Lambarri, AAC Livingstone Club members Dean & Lisette Clemons, Camp Xakanaxa, Sarara Camp, AAC Livingstone Club members the Raben Family, Grant Durr and Sayari Camp