You want the full “Out of Africa” experience, you’re hungry for adventure, for excitement or simply quality time-out under big skies, but God forbid you should forgo your plump pillows and power showers.
Roughing it is not everyone’s idea of fun. And who says it has to be?
You can experience Africa, shining a spotlight on Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, without sacrificing style.
1. Walk with indigenous warriors, Kenya
Looking for an excuse to dust off those chic, branded safari boots?
Try a walking safari from Kenya’s stylish Kitich Camp, the only one in all of the Matthews Mountain Range.
You’ll hike through forest that’s a playground for leopards, lions, elephants and hyenas.
All that greenery makes for great camouflage and means lots of thrilling encounters with the wildlife.
You’ll also learn the traditional methods of tracking game. The walks are led by indigenous Samburu and Ndorobo warriors as well as professional guides.
The seclusion, the attentive service, superb food and just six ensuite tents add to the five-star safari experience.
Rates start at US$400 per person per night (sharing), and includes drinks, guided bush walks, game tracking, river swimming, bush picnics, airstrip transfers and laundry and can be booked via Cheli & Peacock; www.thecpportfolio.com
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2. Paddle the Selinda Canoe Trail, Botswana
If you’re a water baby you’ll adore this jaunt.
It’s a new four-day canoe trip along the (once dry) Selinda Spillway which links the Okavango Delta to the Linyanti and Kwando river systems, in the north of Botswana.
You travel with a chef, dine on gourmet three-course meals, freshly baked bread and savor fine wines — sometimes while sitting in a river in your swimsuit — and learn about the flora and fauna.
The mobile camps are as luxurious as you can imagine with “proper” showers, toilets, tents with cosy bed rolls and fur-lined hot water bottles.
Oh, and if that’s not inducement enough your meander will be led by expert guide and “hippo whisperer” Josh Iremonger, an “Out of Africa” pin-up.
Rainbow Tours (www.rainbowtours.co.uk; +44 20 7666 1250) run a four-day/three-night trip on the Selinda Canoe Trail, with Wilderness Safaris from US$1,826 per person.
3. Discover ancient rock art on a four-wheel drive expedition, Namibia
Namibia is home to an ancient tradition of rock art with thousands of figures carved into cliffs and daubed in ochre on desert boulders.
On this trip, you’ll join an archaeologist and expert guide lecturer in prehistoric art for an unusual Indiana Jones style expedition that’ll take you off-road in a four-wheel drive across the desert and up steep mountains to explore remote sites.
It’s not all about the art though — there’ll be time to track desert elephants, explore the Okonjima Africat reserve and the eerie Skeleton Coast too.
Throughout you’ll stay in remote and beautiful lodges — many with viewing platforms out over the bush, ideal for taking in Namibia’s extraordinary wildlife and scenery while enjoying a well-earned sundowner.
From US$6,344, exclusive of flights, for the 16-day trip; www.andantetravels.co.uk
4. Meet gorillas at the Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Uganda
The camp is set in the eerily named “Bwindi Impenetrable Forest,” a rainforest in southwest Uganda and UNESCO World Heritage site.
It’s home to half the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas and more than 200 species of birds, butterflies and trees.
Dotted with waterfalls and lakes, the forest is dominated by the dramatic Virunga mountain range.
The Camp lies on a flat ridge high in the forest, and it’s not unusual for the gorillas to come into the camp itself; good to know if you don’t fancy tracking them.
There’s a cottage and eight tents complete with wooden floors, decks and a bathtub with a view of the jungle canopy.
You’ll have a tent attendant and spa treatments are available — there’s even a sedan chair specially built for guests who might find walking difficult.
Gorillas and flora aside, you can also visit the Batwa Pygmy community, the oldest inhabitants of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.
Prices from US$295 per person per night, based on two people sharing and including all meals, drinks, laundry but excluding gorilla permits, transfers to/from airstrips, schedule or charter flights to/from camp and international flights to Entebbe; www.sanctuaryretreats.com
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5. The ‘old-school’ classic camp tour, Zimbabwe
For old-school luxury why not try a 10-night safari around beautiful, vibrant, land-locked Zimbabwe?
The trip begins and ends at the iconic Victoria Falls and features stays in small independent safari operations in riverfront or forest settings that few venture to. There’s the luxurious Elephant Camp, a private concession within Victoria Falls National Park, Little Makalolo camp in Hwange National Park and then two nights each in Ruckomechi and Kanga Bush camps, both in the Mana Pools National Park.
You can go on game drives, canoeing, walks and more.
Prices for from US$5,271 (based on two persons sharing), include all road and flight transfers in Zimbabwe, all meals and most drinks at each lodge, and activities;www.expertafrica.com/zimbabwe
6. Bond with rescued elephants at Abu Camp, Botswana
Abu Camp, in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and is an exceptional property: chic and sumptuous, with opulent suites, gym, pool, extensive library of books and wildlife DVDs and al fresco meals overlooking a lagoon.
But it is also a lodge with heart — where staff run a pioneering elephant rescue and rehabilitation program and give guests a chance to bond with the seven-strong herd.
How does it feel to walk with an elephant? In a word, therapeutic. Walking tusk to shoulder through the bush requires a certain level of trust, empathy and openness between elephant, handler and guest.
Costs from US$1,985 per person per night sharing, all meals, local drinks and scheduled activities included; www.rainbowtours.co.uk
7. Ride on a thoroughbred and spot the ‘Big Five’, Kenya
If you have the urge to saddle up, a mobile horse safari on Ride Kenya’s thoroughbreds will scratch that itch.
You’ll travel with a team of grooms, chefs, waiters and camp hands and speed over South Eastern Kenya’s savannah plains, swamplands, thick acacia forests, or the Chyulu Hills.
If you’re lucky you’ll spot elephant, buffalo, lion, hyena and other wildlife. You’ll sleep in luxurious tents with double or twin beds and en-suite hot showers.
If a mobile safari sounds too strenuous, try their day safaris, based at ol Donyo, one of the most luxurious lodges in East Africa — we’re talking iron-ore chandeliers, indoor gardens, bronze sculptures and Victorian furniture.
Ride Kenya offer seven-day, six-night set departures, for riders of intermediate level upwards, from US$3,900, plus US$600 conservation fees per person. Stays at ol Donyo start at US$510;www.greatplainsconservation.com.
8. Fly high on an aerial safari, Namibia
Fancy flying around Namibia in small aircraft and enjoying aerial views of the wildlife? Yep, thought so.
You can do it on a stunning eight-day Namibia Luxury Wing Safari with Wilderness Safaris, taking in the iconic areas of Namibia, from the red dunes of Sossusvlei, rugged landscape of Damaraland and the game-rich Etosha National Park, with stays in small luxury camps throughout.