Alice Gully has been arranging tailored safari holidays to Africa since the late 1990s. She’s an expert on a horse, has a keen eye for a blissful beach and knows a remote but fabulous getaway when she sees it. Alice runs the Scotland office of Aardvark Safaris and here shares her insider tips on this year’s hottest safari experiences.
1) Improve your riding in South Africa’s Big 5 game country. If you’ve ever dreamed of galloping on horseback across an African plain but not been quite brave enough to take the plunge, then the new ‘Fit to Ride Safari’ from Wait a Little in South Africa could be the answer. The safari combines confidence-building lessons in the school from an FEI qualified dressage coach with exhilarating out-rides in the bush. By the end of the trip you’ll have improved your riding and had some fabulous game viewing on horseback.
2) We’ve been fans of mobile safaris for a long time. Great game, tremendous guides, rarely any other visitors, and we’ve added a Zambian option to those we offer in Kenya and Botswana. Up to six guests can explore Kafue, South Luangwa and North Luangwa parks in the company of owner and expert guide Dave Bowden. His intimate knowledge of the area and its wildlife makes this a must for visitors looking for a truly remote and wild experience.
My packing tip The Travel Photo Album
, £18.95 for my return to record the adventure (and so that friends believe where I’ve been), Dave always hosts unbelievable adventures.
3) Enjoying the height of luxury in Kenya’s Masai Mara’s Cottar’s Private House. Cottars Mara Homestead is run by the same team as the famous Cottars 1920s camp and opened its doors in December. With award-winning guides, luxurious accommodation and an abundance of wildlife, it’s a stunning property for anyone looking for a private setting with all mod cons.
4) Relax and recharge at The Residence Zanzibar. This gorgeous property has 66 rooms set in beautiful gardens culminating in a mile-long powdery white sand beach and is the latest addition to The Residence group of hotels. Bicycles make it easy to explore the local area, and then there’s tennis, kayaking, snorkelling and a wonderful spa. Trips to vibrant Stone Town and tours of local spice plantations are on offer for those wanting to explore further afield.
4) Private islands never go out of fashion and in northern Mozambique Azura at Quilálea is back on the map as one of Mozambique’s top island getaways (I know, I spent my honeymoon here). Gorgeous villas are complemented by a swimming pool and sun deck, an open-sided indoor/outdoor bar, chill-out area, and a cliff-top spa. With at least 12 stunning dive sites to thrill both novice and advanced divers, it’s possible to spend hours marvelling at the multi-coloured underwater wonderland.
My packing tip: Grab a Hammamas Towel
, £21.95, and your swimmers and that’s just about your packing done!
5) Want to sleep under the stars? Mvuu starbeds Mvuu Camp in Malawi’s Liwonde National Park provides excellent game viewing and a back-to-nature experience. Star Camp is the latest addition at Sarara in northern Kenya. You’ll enjoy romantic star-lit dinners before settling down to sleep under the African sky. You’re so far from anywhere else that you can’t help but be captured by the absolute peace and serenity of these two remarkable wilderness areas.
My packing tip: Toes can get chilly on those crisp African mornings, so you’ll want to have Cashmere Socks
6) This Congo, not that Congo. Most of us have a vague knowledge of the Democratic Republic of Congo and what we know is probably rather alarming. However there is another, smaller Congo, completely separate from DRC, somewhat confusingly called the Republic of Congo or Congo-Brazzaville. It’s here that Wilderness Safaris is opening two new camps for intrepid Africa fans seeking exciting wildlife watching. The biggest draw is undoubtedly to track the six habituated Western Lowland Gorilla families. This is a sub-species of the Mountain Gorilla with which it can interbreed, and from which it is externally indistinguishable apart from its shorter hair. Other wildlife includes colobus and mangabey monkeys, forest elephants, forest buffalo, bongo, sitatunga and duiker. The two new camps are due to Open in May 2012: Ngaga Camp outside the Odzala – Kokoua National Park; and Lango Camp inside it. They are approximately two hours apart and are offered in three- or six-night packages. Activities include guided walks, game drives, boat cruises, canoeing, park and forest visits, and trekking gorillas. December, January and February, together with the dry season months May – September are the best time for visiting.
7) Be a high flying explorer and join the African skies trip. This 29-day journey through Africa takes in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. There has never been a trip like this, covering all the highlights of this vast continent in a month.
Aardvark Safaris is offering Handpicked Collection customers a cool 5% discount on any holiday. Simply declare that you’re a HANDPICKER when you call Aardvark to discuss your bespoke safari, honeymoon, Indian Ocean beach retreat or once-in-a-lifetime tour through Africa.