New year, new you: Get active in Africa
It’s that time of year when we resolve to be better, healthier, and more dynamic human beings. Whether that’s hopping onto the yoga mat or striking out for a run, there’s something energising about simply committing to exercise at the dawn of a new year. How about taking that a step further and planning an active holiday?
You could be forgiven for thinking an African safari is a sedentary affair, but going on safari needn’t mean simply sitting in a vehicle: there are countless incredible wildlife encounters and unforgettable adventures to be enjoyed via more active mediums. In fact, getting active on an African holiday can offer an entirely different way to see a destination, experience the local culture and absorb your surroundings.
Take inspiration and jump to it with (at least) one of the following.
One of the best ways to explore Africa’s amazing wilderness is on foot with an experienced guide. A walking safari offers the perfect opportunity to slow things down and take time to appreciate the natural world at a more relaxed pace. Walks tend to take place early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day, with many camps in private reserves and national parks offering this as an alternative to going out on a wildlife drive.
Options are as varied as they are addictive and can incorporate everything from trekking with camels to learning bush survival skills. Some operators offer the opportunity to walk for several days with the camp moving as you do.
Zambia is one of the top destinations for walking safaris thanks to its outstanding guides. Head to the national parks of South and North Luangwa as well as the Lower Zambezi for plentiful wildlife and captivating scenery.
Zimbabwe is also renowned for its exceptional guides. Their rigorous training means that they are permitted to walk wherever, enabling a degree of flexibility not to be found elsewhere. Botswana is another Aardvark Safaris favourite. The numerous private concessions provide fantastically remote and pristine areas that you will have mostly to yourself and the resident wildlife.
In East Africa, walking safaris with Karisia Safaris in northern Kenya – accompanied by Samburu guides and camels – provide a fascinating insight into the culture of the local people. While in Tanzania, multi-day walks across the highlands of the Ngorongoro Crater and in the Serengeti with Wayo Safaris afford an incredible way to see the land through the eyes of the locals as well as explore little-visited parts of Africa.
Canoe and mokoro
As with walking, canoe safaris can range from half-day trips to expeditions lasting several days, tackling Africa’s mighty rivers as well as unspoilt creeks and inlets. Canoe safaris are typically conducted in two-man Canadian-style canoes, although in Botswana a traditional dug-out mokoro is used, propelled by a pole. Gliding through the waterways of the Okavango Delta at eye level with the vegetation is an incomparable experience that would be right up there on our Botswana bucket list and Xakanaxa Camp, with its year-round water, is a great place to stay to enjoy this activity.
In Zimbabwe, the best canoe safaris are multi-day options, camping in the magnificent Mana Pools National Park along the way. While in Zambia, trips can be arranged as a shorter activity from many of the lodges in the Lower Zambezi National Park, making it a great option for families with teenagers. Take a look at Chongwe Camp as one of our clients’ favourites in this area.
If you’re considering adding on a few nights at the beach, then a sea kayak is the perfect way to get active while seeing the coastline from a different perspective.
For anyone up for a challenge, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro affords one of the greatest natural highs around. The world’s tallest freestanding mountain and Africa’s highest point, tackling Kilimanjaro takes a bit of training but is well worth the effort. Options typically vary from six to eight-night climbs and we have three preferred routes: Machame, Lemosho and Rongai. These are the most scenically varied, keep you off the busier routes for much of your climb, and also offer the greatest chance of success due to the length of time spent acclimatising to the altitude.
At 5,199 metres high – versus Mount Kilimanjaro’s 5,895 metres – Mount Kenya is a mighty second runner. While the highest peak of this extinct volcano, Batlan, requires technical climbing skills, Point Lenana can be reached on foot via eight walking routes. There is also some fantastic highland hiking to be enjoyed around the peak itself.
We also love Uganda’s snow-capped Rewnzoris, Mount Elgon in Kenya, Mount Meru in Tanzania (Kilimanjaro’s less daunting and slightly smaller neighbour) and the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. Put simply, whatever your aspirations and level of fitness, Africa has a climb for you.
From Kenya’s spectacular marine parks to Tanzania’s idyllic offshore islands, ans world-class diving in the Seychelles to the teeming tropical waters of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal, there’s a huge variety of diving holidays to be discovered in Africa. Great news for beginners and experienced scuba diving enthusiasts alike.
For those with a few dives under their belt, there is a wealth of marine life to be discovered at the flick of a fin. Kenya’s southern coastline offers excellent diving, with regular sightings of turtles and reef sharks. The waters of its five marine parks are also home to numerous wrecks.
Further down the coast, the island of Madagascar counts over 30 types of whales and dolphins amongst its watery bounty. Time + Tide Miavana has a PADI approved dive centre so is perfect for beginners and experienced divers alike.
Or head to Mozambique for superb drift dives over walls and pristine reefs. The Seychelles has it all and is a fantastic place for beginners and experienced divers alike. It’s also a great spot for family diving holidays, with resorts like Lemuria on Praslin offering diving courses for teenagers too.
Whichever activity you plump for on your African holiday, you’re sure to come back energised and raring to go.
We would be delighted to help you plan a safari encompassing any of the destinations mentioned here (or any of the many others from our little black books that we’ve built up since 1999). Our team of experts has travelled widely throughout Africa and can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. Do get in touch – chatting to people by phone or email is what we do best. We listen, we explain, we answer all sorts of questions even those you didn’t know to ask, and finally we make suggestions. If this is your first time to Africa or your twenty first, we have a team standing by to help make the planning easy and the journey the best ever. Please get in touch whatever stage you’re at.