Specialist safaris to book ahead
Among the many trips enjoyed in Africa are some with a specific focus: wildlife photography, a particular species, an annual event, or even a safari guide course, are good examples. Planning safaris like these is hugely rewarding and we love using our expertise to get all the details exactly right. As with everything a little out of the ordinary, the more time you can allow for the preparation the better the result will be. Here are some ideas of what’s possible:
Perfect your wildlife photography
With an intoxicating mix of wildlife, scenery and extraordinary light, the photographic opportunities in Africa are endless. Honing your skills in the company of an expert photographic guide is very satisfying and adds another layer to your holiday. Among a handful of specialist photography safaris, where a professional photographer accompanies guests, are small group trips run by Letaka Safaris. Every year, they run a couple of dedicated photography trips thorough key wildlife areas in Botswana. Perfect for keen amateurs who want to safari with like-minded travellers it’s an enjoyable way to maximise your skills. If you would prefer a more tailored approach there are a number of excellent guides who are also professional photographers. You choose where you’d like to stay and we will arrange for the exclusive use of a vehicle so you can tailor each day and work with the photographer to get the shots you are hoping for.
Letaka’s photography trips run twice a year and are limited to six travellers.
Experience the world’s largest mammal migration
The end of October heralds the arrival of millions of straw coloured fruit bats in a remote corner of the Kasanka National Park. Each year they roost in the same tiny patch of woodland in a specific evergreen swamp, feeding on the abundant seasonal fruit. By mid-November they have gathered in truly epic numbers, reaching up to ten million at the peak. Millions of bats in full flight against the setting sun is one of Africa’s most unusual sights and enthralling for any nature lover. Robin Pope Safaris run a special eight day Kasanka bat safari during which guests spend three days in the vicinity of the migration. The photographic opportunities are superb, especially at sunrise and sunset, and there’s also the chance to view the bats at close quarters from a specially built hide 60 feet up in the tree tops.
The Kasanka bat safari is available to just six people per year.
Track chimpanzees with the experts
Tracking the chimps through the rainforest on the slopes of the Mahale Mountains in western Tanzania last year is definitely something for the bucket list. With such human-like traits it’s captivating to watch youngsters, reminiscent of toddlers, showing off and learning how to walk, while adults can be seen protecting, educating and defending their family groups. The trackers at Greystoke Mahale, a glorious spot on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, know the chimps intimately and provide a fascinating commentary on who’s who. If you’re keen to learn about one of our closest relatives this is one of the best places to do it.
Be warned, the lodge has just six bandas and an excellent reputation, so space can be hard to come by.
Stalk the shoebill
The extraordinary looking shoebill wouldn’t be out of place in a dinosaur film; with its oversized shoe-shaped bill and large body it could easily pass as something that would have rubbed shoulders with T-Rex. You don’t have to go back in time, though, to see this birding prize, rather head to the Bangweulu Wetlands in north-eastern Zambia. The floodplains, woodlands, swamps and seasonally flooding grasslands are home to elephant, hippo and zebra, as well as rarer mammal species like sitatunga, black lechwe, roan and sable antelope. Over 400 bird species have been recorded including wattled crane, great white pelican, spoonbill and saddle-billed storks alongside the numerous heron, geese, egrets, and waders. But it’s the iconic shoebill that is often the real draw, with June the best month to spot one.
An annual small group departure takes a maximum of six people to visit this remarkable area.
Experience life as a safari guide
Anyone who has been on safari and wanted to get a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be a guide will enjoy Serian Camp’s annual Pyramids of Life guide refresher course. With camps in Kenya and Tanzania, guests can join for a week or the entire month that the training covers, spending time in either the Masai Mara or Serengeti. It’s a wonderful immersion in the wilderness allowing you to explore and learn with the best; documenting, painting and photographing your way to a whole new raft of skills. If you’ve less time to spare then Wayo Africa in Tanzania offers three and five day predator courses. Looking at lion, leopard, cheetah, civet, serval, hyena and jackal, participants cover tracking and behavioural traits and are joined on the course by a local trainee guide whose place is sponsored by your attendance.
Serian run just two courses a year, one each in the Masai Mara and Serengeti. Wayo’s courses run in small groups and private sessions can also be arranged.
Gorilla tracking in Uganda and Rwanda
Nobody ever forgets the first time they met a mountain gorilla face to face. The world’s largest primate is massively powerful yet amazingly gentle and caring, and remarkably we share more than 97% of our DNA with them. Even old safari hands, who have seen every country, and enough lions to last a lifetime, tell us that this is the best, most memorable adventure of all their African travels. You’ll need a tracking permit in order to spend time with the gorillas and as these are strictly limited it’s advisable to book well in advance to make sure you can track on the dates you want. Find out more about gorilla tracking in Alice’s blog here.
Gorilla tracking permits are limited to just eight per day for each habituated gorilla family in both Rwanda and Uganda.
If this has inspired you to dream about future safaris, please do get in touch – we would be delighted to chat, no matter how early in the decision making process you might be. Email is probably the best way to contact us right now and we’ll respond as quickly as we can – usually on the same day. We very much look forward to talking to you.