02 August 2019
Disney’s ‘live-action’ retelling of The Lion King has hit cinemas – and it’s been a mega hit, stampeding to number one and breaking box office records around the world.
If the recent resurfacing of Simba and the great circle of life has sparked aspirations of seeing majestic animals such as lions, elephants, rhinos and zebras first-hand rather than on a cinema screen, then a safari is calling you.
For safari seekers, here’s where you can go and the best time to visit…
South Africa is a land of infinite starry skies, majestic wildlife and landscapes that will take your breath away. Wildlife-viewing opportunities here are second to none, with a chance to spot the captivating Big Five, as well as countless other species from Springbok to Zebra.
Big-game viewing in South Africa - including within the iconic Kruger National Park with its rhinos, leopards, lions and elephants - is great all through the year but peaks between May and October. The Cape is best visited from December to March but visitors are also drawn in April, October and November due to the mild temperatures.
Where to stay: The Shamwari Game Reserve (pictured)
Spending warm nights under canvas on safari can be utterly romantic, but rough-and-ready camping isn’t to everybody’s taste. If you want to experience a safari from a more grandiose perspective, many private game reserves treat their guests to opulent tented accommodation with every luxury on hand.
The Shamwari Game Reserve is one such example, offering a selection of stunning five-star tents and lodges amongst the abundant wildlife of the Eastern Cape province.
From private decks complete with refreshing plunge pools to spa treatments in ‘relaxation retreats’, guests can soak up panoramic views in all-encompassing comfort. Smooth wooden floors, soft lantern light and elegantly draped canopies complete the atmosphere. This is the ideal way to immerse yourself in the thrill of nature without a hint of ‘roughing it’.
January, February and July-October are the best times to head on safari in Tanzania, but March, June, November and December are also great times to start your safari adventure. From December to March, the wildebeest migration is focused on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti, with calving in late January and early February. From August to October, the creatures can be found in the northern Serengeti.
Where to stay: Tent With A View
In Tanzania, you have to be willing to stay mobile to enjoy the best safari experience and Tent With A View makes this possible. Venture into the heart of the great Selous Game Reserve in a hardy Land Rover SUV, towing a trailer containing everything you need - including a tent that sits above your vehicle.
This elevated tent comes with modern comforts such as solar-powered hot water, lights and power sockets to recharge your devices, even a wood-panelled bathroom, while the bedroom walks out to its own balcony looking out to the wilderness.
These ‘Bush Rovers’ aim to be right in the heart of the most inspiring wildlife activity, but away from the crowds, setting up camp in three stunning private sites in the Serengeti, including the Grumeti and Mara rivers before following the wildebeest down to the south east to Kusini.
Thailand’s climate varies so there’s no bad time to go. However, many find that the cool and dry season between November and early April is the most tolerable.
Found in the heart of the Khao Sok National Park, three hours out of Phuket, is Elephant Hills (pictured) – Thailand’s first luxury tented camp.
Take part in the award-winning ‘elephant experience’, where you can get up close and personal with the camp’s gentle Asian elephants in a responsible way. The team at Elephant Hills are deeply committed to elephant conservation, and the experience has been ranked by the Tourism Authority of Thailand as the best elephant camp in Thailand for animal welfare.
With the help of their handlers (‘mahouts’), you’ll get hands-on experience in caring for these majestic creatures and there will be plenty of opportunity for you to engage with them and learn about how Elephant Hills is ensuring their welfare.
Accommodation at Elephant Hills comprises a collection of luxury canvas African-style safari tents, with wooden flooring, private western-style bathrooms and solid roof structures.
Anyone heading to Sri Lanka on safari has to consider Yala National Park, which presents the best leopard-viewing opportunities between March and October.
Situated in Sri Lanka’s south-east hugging the panoramic Indian Ocean, Yala is home to 44 varieties of mammal and 215 bird species, as well as the world’s biggest concentration of leopards, majestic elephants, sloth bears, sambars, jackals, spotted dear, peacocks, and crocodiles.
Another great option is Udawalawe National Park. Despite being one of Sri Lanka’s more understated national parks, Udawalawe boasts an impressive concentration of animals across its open savannah plains, most notably its large and stable elephant population, said to number around 700.
Always wanted to see gentle grey giants in the wild? Head to Botswana’s Chobe National Park. This enormous, 11,700 sq.km park is home to an estimated 120,000 elephants, the largest concentration of elephants in Africa. Herds can number into the hundreds so you should spot a few on a game drive.
Established in 1968, Chobe National Park is Botswana’s most biologically diverse conservation area, so keep your camera ready for giraffes, monkeys, warthogs, hippos, lions and many more wild beasts.
Botswana is best visited from June to October, but May and November are also worth considering. The main safari region is the glorious, game-rich Okavango Delta, explorable by 4x4, motorboat, canoe-like mokoro and even horseback. Alternatively, the rainy season from December to March is optimal for viewing game in the Kalahari ecosystem of the Central Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi Pans with its flamingo and zebra.
East Africa, especially Kenya, is blessed with a wealth of phenomenal national parks and reserves.
There’s Nairobi National Park - home to the world’s densest population of rhino and more than 400 recorded species of birdlife – and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, East Africa’s largest black rhino sanctuary. This not-for-profit facility uses agriculture and tourism to create surpluses to reinvest in conservation and community development.
July to October and January and February are the top months to go on safari in Kenya, but March and June are good too. If you visit between August and October, you can see the wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara National Reserve, one of the world’s greatest safari areas.
National parks make up more than a quarter of Namibia’s surface area and the country has one of the largest protected nature reserves on the African continent. It boasts the world’s largest population of free-roaming cheetahs and is one of two countries with desert elephants.
Offering awe-inspiring desert wilderness, Namibia is best from May to October. The Etosha National Park and the Caprivi region are top for game-viewing, while desert rhinos and desert elephants can be seen in the harsher Damaraland.
Uganda presents the chance to get up close to one of the 650 remaining mountain gorillas at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Guides can lead you through the undergrowth parting thick creepers to track the gorillas - a search that can last between half an hour and seven hours. Once you encounter them, no one is meant to come within seven metres of the gorillas, but some inquisitive gorillas don't respect these rules...
To find out more about when and where you should go on safari, contact your Travel Counsellor today and take advantage of a range of benefits including a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and after your stay.