Upskill on a holiday in the world’s best classroom

April 14th 2021  |   Photography Safaris, Wildlife Safaris, Unique Experiences  |  by   Francis Naumann
Upskill on a holiday in the world’s best classroom

Africa’s wilderness areas provide a wonderful canvas for an eclectic range of learning opportunities.  Whether it’s turning twigs into bush toothbrushes or taking the first steps towards a scuba diving qualification, there’s something for everyone. Here are just a few of the incredible things you can do in the world’s best classroom.

For the photographer
With an intoxicating mix of wildlife, vibrant colours, beautiful 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 through 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.

Letaka Safaris Photography Safari

Wildlife drive on one of Letaka’s specialist photographic safaris

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.

Anyone with a passing interest in photography will enjoy a camp with a hide where you can get extraordinary close up shots of the wildlife. The options range from a camouflaged boat anchored mid-river to treetop platforms, all situated to ensure peak viewing without the animals even knowing you are there. And finally, there are camps like Zarafa and Mara Plains where each tent is equipped with a professional Canon camera set and where photography tuition is available on request.

Kainigo Camp, photography hide

The hippo hide at Kaingo Camp in Zambia, one of several that guests at the camp can enjoy

More details on safari camps with hides and tips for photography safaris.

For the budding safari guide
Maybe you don’t want to give up the day job and actually become a safari guide, but you’d like to learn how to drive a 4wd through the river, how to approach big game safely on foot, and get behind the scenes back at camp. If so, the African Guide Academy, based at Kwapa Camp in the Okavango Delta, runs courses throughout the year with seven, 14 and 28 day options suitable for anyone who is active and curious about nature. Training can cover every facet of guiding, with mammals, birds, reptiles and plant life the primary focus along with most of the activities on offer in Botswana as well.

African Guide Academy, Botswana, safari guide course

Learning in the wilderness at the African Guide Academy

For something slightly less intensive, Serian’s Pyramids of Life – where guests join the award-winning guide team as they brush up their skills under the guidance of safari gurus – is one to consider. Swapping the classroom for an immersive safari experience in the Masai Mara or Serengeti is an exhilarating way to spend a holiday.

A little different again is the offering at The Safari Series where, instead of being taxied around sitting in the back of a 4×4, guests can get behind the wheel of a classic series Land Rover to explore where and when they want. Accompanied by a professional guide and ranger it’s a great way to explore this private conservancy in northern Kenya. Guests keen to learn more can also spend time with the Masai elders with lessons on leadership, courage and tradition.

Exploring in a classic series Land Rover at The Safari Series

For the underwater enthusiast
Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline contains some of the world’s finest coral reefs and offers wonderfully varied diving holidays from the warm tropical waters around Mozambique to the cooler seas off South Africa’s coast. Several marine parks and reserves line the coast of Kenya, continuing to even better diving off Zanzibar and Tanzania’s offshore islands.

Mnemba Scuba diving

Taking the first steps towards learning to dive at Mnemba

Mozambique and the Seychelles offer truly world-class dive sites, while Mauritius is a wonderful holiday destination for first-time divers. Madagascar’s diving is superb, with all sorts of exciting discoveries to be made, and South Africa offers tropical waters off northern KwaZulu-Natal and cold-water diving off the southern coast if you are brave enough to dive with great white sharks. Finally, some of the most rewarding diving is in the freshwater Lake Malawi; with its range of colourful freshwater species and underwater rock formations; it is a revelation to even the most experienced divers.

Six Senses Laamu diving

Wonderful diving at Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives

Plenty of coastal hotels offer PADI training for complete beginners, with some like Aardvark Safaris’ favourite Kinondo Kwetu starting you off in the swimming pool. For more advanced divers there’s the opportunity to complete qualifications or gain experience in deeper waters.

Kinondo Kwetu

Learning to scuba dive at Kinondo Kwetu adds another layer to your holiday

Read our blog on Africa’s best dive sites for more information.

For the children
There are individual camps like our old favourites Ant’s Nest and Hill whose guides will take kids on bug and spoor walks, or the wonderful ‘safari school’ at Laikipia Wilderness. There are mobile operators like Drumbeat Safaris who will plan an entire itinerary around a family’s specific interests – so if you are travelling with an elephant enthusiast or a budding birder we can make sure they get the best attention. There are guides who will delight in making bow and arrows, who will spend ages toasting marshmallows over the camp fire and who’ll play football during down time.

Ant's Nest children's bush walk

Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill – paradise for families

Then there are the bigger operators with fun programmes running throughout their camps and lodges to entertain, inform and educate. Among our favourites are:

Ker and Downey’s Young Explorers’ which covers tracking on foot and in 4×4 safari vehicles, identifying spoor and a range of birds. There’s even the chance to try poling a traditional dugout canoe and sit behind the wheel of the game drive vehicle.

&Beyond’s Wildchild programme where younger visitors to Namibian camps might learn how to find food and water in the desert while Okavango Delta adventures include fishing and making necklaces with the Delta’s beautiful water lilies.

Singita’s Mini Rangers’ course includes tracking, bush survival techniques, bird spotting competitions, nature quizzes, and a ranger’s test. A certificate on completion recognises new-found knowledge and accomplishments.

Singita Ebony family

Children enjoying a bush walk at Singita Ebony

Head to East Africa for the Saruni Camps’ Warriors Academy which is a fabulous learning adventure allowing families to explore the wilderness, wildlife and authentic lifestyles of Africa’s iconic Masai and Samburu tribes.

If exams back home are a worry Leobo Observatory can even provide a holiday tutor. You might be hard pushed to find time for revision though as this extraordinary private house is equipped with its own vehicle and guide, quad bikes, horses, an off-road buggy, mountain bikes, clay pigeon shooting, fishing tackle, and a telescope. There’s even a helicopter on site, ideal for access to the more remote spots on the reserve.

Pool aerial shot Leobo Observatory, Waterberg South Africa

Fun for all the family at Leobo Observatory

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday encompassing any of the activities in the world’s best classroom mentioned here.  Our team of experts has travelled widely throughout Africa. They 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.

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