Explore. Excite the senses. Exult in the exotic. For the energetic and soul searching 20-something year old, Southern Africa offers the kind of experiences travelers dream about and then brag about. Expert Africa, one of the leading designers and operators of personalized tours to Southern Africa, has centered in on the top ten places and activities in Southern Africa a Generation Y individual would traverse the Atlantic Ocean for:
1 Devil’s Pool: Zambia
Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. For a real thrill, jump in Devil’s Pool, which is literally on the lip of the falls. From September to December, this natural rock pool is shallow enough for adults to safely swim in. You can even peer over the edge as the waterfall drops more than 300 feet. Nearby is luxurious Tongabezi Lodge, that offers ‘houses’ with one side completely open to the river and tours to the island where Devil’s Pool is located.
2 Mana Pools National Park: Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is being re-discovered. Mana Pools National Park is perhaps Africa’s best park for really close encounters with relaxed big game. This is the place where old-Africa guides, like Stretch Ferreira and Nick Murray, can walk you within a few meters of wild bull elephants, or crawl with you up to a pack of wild dogs (Africa’s rarest large predators thrive here!). Of course, there’s also magical scenery– open areas and long curving pools – with great plains game.
3 Biking safari: Zambia
Yes, there are game drives, walking safaris and river safaris – but bike safaris? Amid the lush rift valley enclosed by steep escarpment walls in South Luangwa is Tafika Camp, which offers one of the more adventurous safari options: mountain-bike safaris. A small group - no more than four - is led by a highly experienced cyclist and accompanied by an armed National Park scout.
4 Saltpans: Botswana
Take the leap and leave behind your cell phone; it won’t work in the vast open expanse of the Northern Kalahari. Take out a quad-bike across the vast, silvery-white Makgadikgadi Pans – where it’s said that the silence is so complete that you can hear your own blood flowing. Then stop to pick up pre-historic flint tools, arrow-heads and axe-heads which litter the ground. Use San Camp as your base - a small, tented camp with a real sense of place.
Big game canoeing: Zambia
For a sense of involvement as well as some adrenaline, head out on a canoeing trip beside the Lower Zambezi National Park. The current will gently press you along as your guide in the lead canoe helps you navigate around hippo pods and browsing elephants – you can be sure to spot monster crocodiles on the great Zambezi River. Base yourself for this at Chiawa Camp; it’s not just a premier safari camp – some of the best guides on the river can be found here.
6 Trek with Bushmen: Namibia
Culture is a huge reason to travel, and it’s a true education to visit the Bushmen – the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa. Nhoma offers one of the most authentic cultural immersions with the Bushmen. Here they are able to share their traditions, teaching guests how to gather food, track game and make arrows and snares. Energetic guests are able to head off on a hunt that will often last most of the day and requires a good level of fitness. Time can also be spent with the villagers where evening celebrations will sometimes include trance-dances.
7 Diving: Mozambique
The 2,000km coastline of Mozambique not only has fine white sand, turquoise waters and vibrant coral … but also many largely unexplored islands, and thousands of unknown dive sites. Much of the diving that has been done is excellent with outstanding marine life. And, many of the good lodges here are remote and have their own fully-equipped dive centers with qualified instructors – like the tiny coral island of Quilalea where you can dive from the beach.
8 Gorillas: Rwanda
Though on the pricier side, sitting with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda is an experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Set out on a gorilla safari, and trek to one of the ‘habituated’ groups where you can spend an hour in the midst of a group of wild mountain gorillas – often you will be sitting within a few feet of these amazing primates.
9 Seeing the great migration… on foot: Tanzania
The great Serengeti wildebeest migration circles the Serengeti ecosystem in an annual pattern, and many will try to see it from a vehicle. Now there are several places within Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park where Expert Africa can arrange a private walking safari. You need an expert guide to make the most of this – but to stand and look down over the vast herds is a very sobering moment.
Camp out from a dug-out canoe: Botswana
Another offbeat take on a conventional safari is to venture out on a ‘mokoro trail’ in the Okavango Delta. On the Kanana Mokoro Trail, you’ll leave a remote safari camp with just a few mokoros (dug-out canoes), and poles for power. Your expert guides will then paddle you around the delta’s waterways, camping on islands (with the tents set up for you!) and observing the area’s prolific game at close-quarters.