Like Europe or the United States, Africa is as diverse as any continent. As Dallas or Los Angeles is as different as New York to Miami, safaris are as different as chalk and cheese. If you’ve done one safari, you’ve done one, and if you haven’t, it’s never too late to start. If you have perceptions about what a safari is all about, it’s now possible to have as rustic or luxurious as you want, and active as you want.
If you think a safari is limited to climbing in and out of a Land Rover, times have changed, at least with Ker & Downey Africa which offers safaris including rides by horseback, helicopter, hot air balloon, camel, plus hiking, biking, mountain biking, quad biking, and walking as well as via boat and even dug out canoe, referred to as mokoros. There are game drives, night safaris, birding, fishing, wine tasting, migration safaris.
You can swim under Victoria Falls. Sub-Sahara Africa is hot. Both Virtuoso and Travel Leaders, two networks of luxury travel agents, have it on their go lists for 2018. They’re not alone: Travel + Leisure (Zambia), The New York Times (Rwanda, Zambia), The Telegraph (Rwanda, Botswana, Zimbabwe), Architectural Digest (Rwanda), American Express (South Africa, Rwanda), Lonely Planet (South Africa, Mozambique), Cone Nast Traveler USA (Botswana), Conde Traveller UK (Mozambique), The Guardian (South Africa, Uganda), National Geographic (Tanzania), The Independent (Zimbabwe), CNN (South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Rwanda, Botswana, Kenya), Forbes (Congo, Namibia), Fodor’s (South Africa, Tanzania), The Los Angeles Times (Zambia) and Bloomberg (Namibia, Tanzania) all have various safari hot spots on their must visit lists.
There are many very good companies that offer safari travel to Africa, however, Ker & Downey Africa is based in South Africa, which gives it both a local perspective, and means they have strong local relationships. It also means having on the ground 24/7 emergency support in the same time zone and understanding the complexity of booking a holiday to Africa and focus. Ker & Downey Africa is also wholly focused on Africa. (By the way, and not to confuse things – there is another travel company based in Houston with the same name although it is a generalist company.)
So how addictive can Africa be? Ker & Downey Africa’s CEO Lee Kelsall was a corporate laywer at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCLoy LLP in London working the energy and natural resources sector before his vacation travel to Africa led him to making the career switch.
Ker & Downey Africa can customize trips based on the size of your party and the time you want to spend, however, below are two sample itineraries the company has arranged for VIP clients.
From Gorillas to Big Game and Diving, Three Safaris in One Trip
You’ll fly in a private jet from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to the lush terrains of the Okavango Delta and Selinda Reserve of Botswana and end off in the sparkling waters of the Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique. You’ll hike through dense African forests in search of gorillas and golden monkeys, sleep under the stars in Botswana and scuba dive off remote islands in Mozambique. From meeting the famous Abu elephant herd to tiger fishing in the Delta to sunset dhow safaris to meeting local communities in Rwanda, this Ker & Downey Africa LuxVenture will expose you to the the continent’s amazing diversity.
Day 1 – Volcanoes National ParkFly into Kigali + Transfer to Bisate Lodge
Arrive at Kigali Airport and transfer to Bisate Lodge (above) for two nights in the Forest Villa. Bisate won Jetsetter’s award as 2018 Best Safari Lodge Worldwide. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the rounded villas offer stunning views of the the brooding Bisoke, Karisimbi, and Mikeno Volcanoes while Bisate itself is set within an extinct volcano. Private decks and colorful decor are hallmarks of this eco-friendly lodge best known for its easy access to the neighboring Volcanoes National Park, home of the celebrated mountain gorillas. Go on a once-in-a-lifetime hike in search of the endangered mountain gorillas or on a golden monkey trek. If you want to connect with the culture of Bisate: take a guided community walk, go tree planting or visit the Dian Fossey Research Centre, named for the American primatologist and conservationist who advocated against mass tourism and poaching.
Day 2 – Volcanoes National Park
After breakfast choose into one of the unique experiences at Bisate Lodge, such as the golden monkey trek. It begins at Volcanoes National Park headquarters and takes you in search of this beautifully-colored and fascinating primate that lives in groups of up to 30 in the bamboo forest. Or take a village tour guided by a former poacher.
Day 3 – Volcanoes National Park
After breakfast you’ll be transferred to Volcanoes National Park Headquarters for the main attraction: gorilla trekking. Guests are allocated to one of the twelve habituated gorilla groups to visit for an hour.
The time of the trek varies depending which gorilla group is being visited – from 45 minutes to a few hours. The trekking is at a high altitude, but is well worth it. In fact, many people call it the experience one of the most profound of their lives. That afternoon you are transferred to Kigali Serena Hotel, the 2017 World Travel Awards winner as Rwanda’s best hotel .
Day 4 – Private jet from Kigali to MaunCharter flight to Selinda Camp
In the morning, after breakfast at the hotel, you will be taken to Kigali Airport. Your private jet will fly you to Maun in Botswana, where you will then board a charter flight to Selinda Camp (It gets a perfect 5-star rating from Trip Advisor over 200 + reviews).
A tented lodge built among the trees, Selinda Camp has splendid views over the palm-studded floodplains. Each Meru-style tent is set under thatch with a veranda, an open-air shower, a stone bath, and appointed with furniture and décor from throughout Africa.
Day 5 – Selinda Reserve
After breakfast all attention is directed towards finding the reserve’s most exciting wildlife. Experienced professional guides lead the way in 4×4 Toyota Land Cruisers or on foot. The walking safari gives you a chance to experience Africa from the ground and enjoy close encounters with wildlife such as wild dog, lion and elephant.
Days 6-8 – Charter flight to Okavango Delta
A charter flight will take you from Selinda Airstrip to Abu Camp, where you’ll spend two nights. With a special focus on elephant conservation, Abu Camp provides visitors an intimate experience with these incredible animals. Conde Nast Traveler say it is a “don’t miss” stop in Botswana. You’ll stay in one of the six opulent tents featuring an indoor and outdoor shower, an outdoor copper bath and a plunge pool sunk into the elevated teak decks. Highlights include mokoro safaris, walking safaris with the elephant herd, and the opportunity to spend one night under the stars in the star bed where you can the roar of lions and the rumblings of the nearby elephant herd.
Fly by charter flight from Abu Camp to Jao Camp (a Reader’s Choice winner by Conde Nast), for three nights in the watery heart of the Okavango Delta. The camp is set in an area where forested islands meet vast floodplains and the nine spacious tents, with indoor and outdoor showers, are shaded by a canopy of trees. This luxurious camp is frequently visited by wildlife, including a family of mongoose that has made Jao its home. As well as top-class game drives, walking safaris, mokoro trips, and boat safaris, guests can also picnic on the pristine Hunda Island.
Day 11 – Private jet from Botswana to Vilanculos, Helicopter transfer to Azura Benguerra Island
A charter flight to Maun Airport is followed by a two-hour flight in a private jet to Vilanculos in Mozambique. A helicopter transfer will then take you to Azura Benguerra Island for seven nights in your Infinity Beach Villa (above). This unspoilt island in a marine national park is postcard perfect. It has miles of deserted white-sand beaches and an immaculate turquoise sea dotted with local dhows passing by. Azura Benguerra, the first eco-friendly resort in Mozambique, was hand-built by the local community and is operated in partnership with it. Imagine private villas on the beach, a personal butler-host and a non-stop array of fresh seafood. It’s probably no surprise it was on Travel + Leisure’s 2017 World’s Best list.
Days 12-17 – Azura Benguerra Island
Enjoy island living – interspersing action and relaxing. Go on a dhow cruise, scuba dive in remote diving spots, snorkel, kayak, speed through the ocean on a boat cruise or explore the island by Land Cruiser. The marine life and corals are often cited as the best off the East Coast of Africa. There are hundreds of species of tropical fish, coral, rays, invertebrates, as well as the possibility of seeing various species of turtle, whale sharks, or humpback whales during their annual migration. Sightings of dolphin are common and if you are lucky, the highly endangered gentle giants, the dugong, may make an appearance too.
White Water Rafting, Helicopters, Fishing and Swimming Under Victoria Falls (10 Days)
This Ker & Downey Africa Luxventure takes you into Botswana’s most secluded wildlife regions – the Moremi Game Reserve and Selinda Reserve, and ends off with the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. You’ll start your trip in Moremi Game Reserve where you will track endangered wild dogs and be in the presence of Africa’s greatest predators. You will challenge your fears by leaving the comfort of your private game vehicle and embarking on a walking safari in the Selinda Reserve with expert guides at your side. Your journey will end in Victoria Falls where you will experience the majestic roar of the powerful Zambezi River from your lodge set on an island only accessible by boat. Expect tiger fishing and white water rafting on the Zambezi River, helicopter flights over the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls, and the general sense of adventure that is the trademark of this wide ranging 10-day trip.
Day 1 – Moremi Game ReserveFly into Maun
After arriving in Maun you’ll catch a charter flight to Sanctuary Chief’s Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve. Located on Chief’s Island, this iconic lodge is consistently rated as one of the top safari camps in Botswana by Condé Nast and Travel & Leisure. Your home for the next three nights has 12 secluded luxury bush pavilions that ensure privacy, each with a thatched roof, a spacious seating area, indoor and outdoor showers, a private game-viewing deck and a plunge pool from which you can enjoy sundowners while scoping out the passing wildlife.
Day 2 – Moremi Game Reserve
Your first morning in Botswana will start with an early wake-up call for your three-hour game drive. Before departing with your expert and epxerienced guide you’ll be able to tuck into a full English breakfast. Then your Delta adventure properly kicks off. Moremi is celebrated for its big cats and wild dogs and that’s exactly what you’ll be tracking down across the reserve. After a morning coffee on the vast plains of the Okavango Delta, you’ll head back to the lodge for an early lunch on the main deck under the trees. After lunch you have time to relax before you set out on your mokoro safari. Skilled guides will lead you through the tranquil waterways of the Okavango with the chance of encountering elephants, hippos and crocodiles.
Day 3 – Moremi Game Reserve
Your second full day at Chief’s Camp starts with a morning game drive (after breakfast of course). On returning to camp you can decide to spend your day at leisure at the swimming pool or get a taste of being back home with Chief’s Camp’s famous wood-fired pizzas. After you will take a scenic helicopter flight over the delta to end off your last day in Moremi Game Reserve. You access areas unreachable by vehicle or boat and the unobstructed views allow for Instagram worthy photographic opportunities. In the evening you can enjoy a private dinner on your terrace.
Day 4 – Selinda Reserve
After breakfast you transfer to Andrew Harper Grand Award recipient Zarafa Camp by charter flight. Prepare for three amazing days at Botswana’s first Relais & Chateaux property, which is situated on the far-eastern edge of the private 500 square mile Selinda Reserve in northern Botswana. Overlooking the Zibadianja Lagoon, this intimate and environmentally-innovative camp has just four tents and is capable of hosting a maximum of eight guests at a time. Each of the spacious canvas-topped tents have a large bed, copper bathtub, and veranda with private pool that offers sweeping vistas of the sprawling plain.
Days 5 and 6 – Selinda Reserve
The next two days in Selinda can be tailored to your liking. Morning and afternoon game drives are available and, if you’d like to go beyond your conventional safari, you can take to the Selinda plains on a walking safari with your professional tracker and armed guide. Depending on the time of year, boat safaris are also available on the lagoon. This will all take you that much closer to the diverse and abundant wildlife Selinda is known for. Cheetah, wild dog, lion, and leopard are the predators you’re likely to see in the area while elephant, lechwe, buffalo, zebra, and giraffe are also common.
Day 7 – Victoria Falls, Zambia, Flight to Victoria Falls and Charter Flight to Royal Chundu
Your time in Botswana comes to an end but more adventure lies ahead. After breakfast you will set off for your next bucket-list destination in Southern Africa – Victoria Falls. A charter flight will take you from Zarafa Camp to Kasane Airport, where a private transfer will escort you to Royal Chundu Zambezi Island Lodge, an “essential” stop according to Robb Report. This next-level lodge is located on a remote island in the Zambezi that can only be reached by boat and has just four spacious villas on the entire island. It’s difficult to get closer to the raw nature of the Zambezi, and very difficult to find a more comfortable stay in Zambia. Each villa hosts a private deck overlooking river rapids, a private swimming pool and the iconic riverfront bath.
Day 8 – Victoria Falls
After breakfast you can choose from a list of activities such as birding safaris, tiger fishing, canoeing, a village tour, and a tour of Victoria Falls, the largest sheet of falling water in the world. However you spend your day, be sure to end it with the daily sundowner river cruise.
Day 9 – Victoria Falls
If you are up for more adventure on your last day in Africa you should consider adding white water rafting on the Zambezi to your itinerary for the day. It’s recognized as the best Grade 5 white water rafting in the world. After plummeting 360 feet from the top of Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River is transformed into a turbulent 44 mile cauldron of exhilarating rapids. To end off your unforgettable trip to Africa, take to the sky on a sunset helicopter flight over Victoria Falls. Depending on the season of your travels you might also consider swimming in Devil’s Pool for sunset high above the falls.
Day 10 – Departure
End your Ker & Downey Africa experience with an effortless check out of Royal Chundu Zambezi Island Lodge. Your trip ends with a helicopter transfer from Royal Chundu to Livingstone Airport for your onwards flight home.