At Tribes our consultants have experienced lots of different safaris. Here we have selected our top 5 remote African safari destinations.
Katavi National Park is the least visited of Tanzania’s reserves because of its remoteness. It lies southwest within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley and is the third largest park in Tanzania. The main focus of game viewing is around the seasonal Katuma River and the floodplains, Ngolema, Katisunga and Chada. During the dry season the groundwater rapidly disappears, drawing all kinds of animals to the river. You’ll find hundreds of hippo’s, buffalo and elephants as well as lions, hyenas and other predators. After the rains from mid November until beginning of June, Katavi is a birders’ paradise as all the migratory birds return to the region.
Katavi National Park
When to go
The dry season (June-October) is the best time to go. Roads within the park are often flooded during the rainy season but may be passable from mid-December to February.
Best place to stay – Chada Katavi Camp
Chada Katavi camp is small and intimate with just six African safari tents. Each of them are spacious and comfortable with wide-open fronts giving you panoramic views of the plain and animal life that constantly comes and goes.
NNorth Luangwa National Park is one of Africa’s finest safari destinations but is little visited due to the remoteness and accessibility. It offers one of the finest wilderness experiences in Zambia, if not Africa itself. There are no permanent camps in North Luangwa National Park. Buffalo, elephants and lions abound, and it is also home to endangered species such as rhino (which have been re-introduced) and wild dogs.
When to go
The dry season start in June so the best time to go is early July through to October. Most of the small and intimate bush camps close at the end of October.
Best place to stay – Mwaleshi Camp
Mwaleshi Camp is one of the most remote and secluded camps in Zambia. There are four chalets constructed afresh each year from local material, with en suite facilities and each of them have scenic views of the Mwaleshi river. Mwaleshi Camp is open annually from mid June to the end of October. Game viewing is conducted on foot, accompanied by a highly skilled and experienced guide and an armed escort scout.
Ruaha National Park is the second largest national park in Tanzania. It boasts a spectacular array of animals and birds including elephants, zebra, impalas and giraffes. Both the greater and lesser kudu occur, as do the magnificent eland, sable and roan antelope. The Ruaha River provides an ecosystem on its own with huge crocodiles and hippos. Ruaha has an abundance of predators, lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyena. The African wild dog also occurs in the park although their huge ranges make them more difficult to find.
Ruaha National Park
When to go
Best time to see predators and large mammals is during the dry season (June-December). January to April (including the wet season) is best for bird watching, lush scenery and wildflowers. The male greater kudu is most visible in June which is their breeding season.
Best place to stay – Kigelia Camp
Kigelia Camp is set in a secluded grove of Kigelia Africana or ‘sausage’ trees, high on the banks of the Ifuguru Sand River. Kigelia is an exclusive and totally secluded camp, with six spacious tents all with private verandas. The camp provides daily game drives, both in early morning and again in late afternoon. All day game drives can be arranged. Guided walks with national parks rangers are also available.
4. Namunyak Conservancy, Mathews Range – Kenya
The Namunyak Conservancy lies next to the beautiful and remote Mathews Mountain range of northern Kenya. This series of mountains runs for 150km and reaches a maximum height of over 2,500 metres. The mountain slopes and valleys are covered in a rich ecosystem of cycad and juniper forest. The varied landscape means that you are likely to see elephants, dik-dik, impala, kudu, giraffe and predators like hyenas, cheetaha, and wild dogs. It’s also a great place for leopard sightings.
The Namunyak Conservancy is home to the proud Samburu tribespeople, a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists. They live in groups of up to 10 families, setting up camp in one location for a month or so before taking their animals onto fresh pasture. The Namunyak Conservancy Trust was set up in 1995 specifically to promote wildlife conservation and to assist the local community to benefit from tourism, in return for protecting the wildlife species living on their land.
When to go
Sarara Camp is closed during May and November, and the best times to go would be from July to October.
Best place to stay – Sarara camp
Situated at the edge of the Mathews range you’ll find Sarara Camp. There are six luxury tents, each positioned to maximise the stunning views of the Mathews mountain range and the watering holes.
Sarara Camp offers morning and night time game drives, early morning walking safari’s with a experienced guide, fly camping and day trips to a Samburu village along with the magic and mystical trip to the
The Linyanti Reserve is a private concession north of the Okavango Delta, lying between the Chobe and Linyanti rivers. It is a picturesque place and has a dense wildlife population. The marshes subdivide into lagoons and fast flowing rivers, with forest of sausage and jackalberry trees that lead to open grassland and dry inland wooded areas. During the dry winter months the wildlife will congregate along the banks of the Linyanti river. Most prominent among the wildlife are elephants, zebra, buffalo, sable and roan antelope. The main predators are lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas. Linyanti is a great bird watching destination as well.
When to go
The rainy season tends to last from November to March and the dry months are May to October.
Best place to stay – Linyanti bush camp
Linyanti Bush Camp is an intimate tented camp with just six furnished rooms under canvas with en-suite facilities. The camp offers an exclusive safari experience away from the main tourist routes of Chobe. Activities consist of game drives, night drives and walking safaris. Also there are hides for birdwatching and you can take a mokoro out through the marshes.
Linyanti bush camp
Jaguars are the largest cats in the Western hemisphere, the third biggest of the cats after tigers and lions, and can be found across a range of habitats in South and Central America. It is possible to encounter them when staying in rainforest lodges in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil; Manu Wildlife Centre in Peru is regarded as one of the best rainforest lodges for seeing jaguars, but the chance of seeing them in the rainforest is always slim. Jaguars are usually very shy around humans, and are well camouflaged with their dark spots blending into the dappled shadows of the forest. If you are lucky you can sometimes see jaguars on the river banks when travelling along the Amazon and its tributaries, but they usually retreat back into the forest before you can get a good look.
The Pantanal of Brazil offers a much better chance of seeing jaguars, as the landscape here is much more open than the rainforest. The big cats can occasionally be seen in the grassland, but because they hunt cattle they suffer from illegal poaching from the ranchers and so tend to shy away from people. By far the best place to see jaguars in the wild is on the Cuiaba River in the Northern Pantanal. At the end of a dirt road, a long drive from the nearest airport, the Cuiaba River is a remote spot that has attracted fishermen for year. Brazilians are keen sport fishers, and during the fishing season fishing boats use the Cuiaba River and its tributaries, paying scant attention to the jaguars that come to the river banks to hunt for their favorite prey, caiman and capybara.
Jaguar Pantanal – © Kelvin Brown
A generation of jaguars has grown up living close to the river, becoming used to seeing fishing boats pass them by without disturbing them, and they no longer flee the approach of boats as jaguars everywhere else in South America do.
Travelling in a small boat along the Cuiaba River with an experienced boatman and guide, it is possible to observe jaguars for long periods on the banks of the river, undisturbed by your presence. This is a unique experience; professional cameramen spend years trying to get a few minutes of footage of jaguars in the wild, but on the banks of the Cuiaba River you can watch them for hours at a time, seeing a range of natural behaviors such as hunting, playing with their cubs and even mating as well as their favourite pastime, sleeping.
The best time to see jaguars in the Pantanal is from July to October, but you can still see them in June and November. Although jaguars are one of the only cats that like swimming, they are sensible enough to retreat into the shelter of the forest when the rains start in December, and their territory is largely inaccessible until the floodwater recedes in May. There are several lodges close to the Cuiaba River, and even a floating hotel moored in the centre of the jaguar spotting area which have well trained boatmen and guides and offer an excellent chance of spotting jaguars.
Jaguar Pantanal – © Paul Cook
“I went to the Pantanal for a just limited time, and only had time for a couple of short trips to look for jaguars on the Cuiaba River, but I was rewarded with excellent sightings on both trips. On my first trip, the jaguar was difficult to see at first, and I was amazed at the skill of my boatman finding him, struggling to make out the big cat hidden deep in the shadows under the trees away from the midday sun. I was in no hurry to leave, and waited and watched as the jaguar snoozed on the river bank in the shade. My patience paid off, and after an hour or so, I was rewarded by a “catwalk”. The jaguar strolled down to the river bank for a drink of water, coming just a few metres from where I was sitting in my boat, offering me the chance to get some amazing photos and to see the muscles on the big cat working as he prowled up and down the bank before returning back to the shade to sleep, unconcerned that he was being watched and photographed throughout.” Paul Cook – Tribes Travel Co-ordinator for Brazil
One of the greatest wildlife spectacles in east Africa is the annual wildebeest migration.
The wildebeest herds are constantly searching for fresh grass after the rains, it is almost impossible to predict when and where the best places are to stay. Choosing a camp that is located in the right area at the right time of year will certainly increase your chances, but the best way to try and catch the herds is to stay in one of the Serengeti’s mobile camps – which move with the herds.
The migration begins after the short rainy season in early November. The wildebeest herds will start to arrive on the fresh grass plains of the Serengeti, around Lake Ndutu in the Ngorongoro conservation area. There are some good permanent camps in this region of the Serengeti like Ndutu Safari Lodge or Kusini Camp.
There are also a number of seasonal tented camps like Olakira Camp and Lemala Ndutu. These mobile camps move between the north and the south of the Serengeti following the herds during the migration.
From December to March the herds will spread out across the huge grass plains of the southern Serengeti. February the wildebeest calves are born, then from April to May/June the wildebeest migration moves north in the direction of the western corridor following the Mbalageti river and early herds may well have moved up to the Grumeti river. During this time there are Wildebeest herds spread across most of the western corridor and the heart of the Serengeti.
The following places that are we would recommend to stay during April through to July are Grumeti River Camp, Mbalageti Lodge and Kirawira tented camp for the Western corridor, whereas some herds will have pushed up as far as Migration camp in the Northern Lobo area. Sayari Camp normally has good herds and is the place to go towards the end of July onwards, but this depends on the rains.
From August through to October the wildebeest herds are in the northern Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara. There are a number of very good camps within the Masai Mara, where you can stay for the migration from late July onwards, including Governors’ Camp, Rekero Tented Camp, and Little Governors Camp are just a few in the northern region of the Masai Mara.
In late October and November the herds start their second ‘Great Migration’ south back towards the Ndutu plains where the rains will have rejuvenated the grasses. This is a fairly difficult time to catch the huge herds as they can move vast distances on a daily basis. By the beginning of December, Ndutu starts seeing the herds returning, and the whole process will start over again.
What if you want to see leopards in the wild?
Where do you go, and where are the best places to find them?
Leopards are supposedly the most common of the big cats, predominantly nocturnal hunters allowing them to get very close to their prey before they pounce. Leopards are the most elusive cats and can be very hard to spot in the wild. Being the smallest of the big cats, their low centre of gravity allows them to climb well. Along with powerful jaws they have the agility and strength to haul their prey into a nearby tree out of reach from hyenas, lions and other carnivores.
There is however a few top spots where you are almost guaranteed to find them.
- Sabi Sand Game Reserve in Kruger, South Africa – Mala Mala is one of the best camps with the Sabi Sand area. The lodges are all built on the western side of the Sand River. In the week starting the 2nd March, there were 9 leopard sightings within the Mala Mala private game reserve.
- Masai Mara, Kenya – Governors’ Camp is in the heart of the Masai Mara (probably one of the most famous wildlife regions in the world). Between July and October the Masai Mara is teeming with wildebeest, zebra and all of the big cats, including leopards.
- South Luangwa, Zambia (everywhere, but perhaps especially around Kaingo Camp) – The Kaingo Camp overlooks the Luangwa River deep in the South Luangwa National Park. With such diverse areas of forest and grass plains, Kainago Camp claims that 95% of visitors will see the elusive leopard. Tracy (one of the Africa travel co-coordinators), recently stayed at Kaingo and enjoyed numerous sighting of leopards.
- Mathews Range, Laikipia, Kenya – Sarara Camp seems to have firmly established itself as one of the ‘hot spots’ for quality leopard viewing. Leopard sightings are currently running at around 80% for guests staying two to three nights. Two leopard ‘brothers’ have been seen regularly around the Singing Wells all season and with several other individual leopards regularly around Millenium Hill and near to the camp.
- Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Botswana – Khwai River Lodge overlooks the flood plains of the Moremi Game Reserve. The Moremi Game Reserve is the only region of Botswana where the big five can be found and so is another great place to see leopards.
This is just the Tribes teams “Top Five Places to Spot Leopards in Africa”. Feel free to comment and add your own top recommendations for the best places to go leopard spotting.
As Responsible Tourism Week 2012 draws to a close, I thought I’d share some of Tribes’ favourite 5-Globe Eco-Rated lodges and hotels with you. I hope these will give you some inspiration when looking to travel responsibly. Tribes undertakes both a social and environmental review of its hotels before awarding an eco-rating so travellers can be sure that Tribes’ 5-globe rated accommodations have impeccable eco-credentials.
Mwamba Bush Camp, South Luangwa NP, Zambia
As mentioned in an earlier post, Mwamba Bush Camp, owned and run by Shenton Safaris, comprises 3 reed and thatch en-suite chalets on the banks of the Mwamba River. The chalets are uniquely designed with two large skylights allowing you to experience sleeping under the stars. They also have solar lighting, flush toilets and bucket showers. Mwamba provides back-to-nature simplicity with essential comforts and has been awarded a 5-Globe rating for its care and consideration for both the environment and the social impact of its camp.
Chumbe Island Lodge, South-West Zanzibar
The accommodation on Chumbe Island takes the concept of eco-architecture to unparalleled levels that has seen award winning global recognition for its innovation and conservation principles. Chumbe’s seven eco-bungalows are designed so that they provide both privacy and a sense of freedom of living in the open.
One of Chumbe Island Lodge’s great eco-assets is that all the lodge’s buildings have been ingeniously designed to catch, filter and store their own rainwater.
As far as Tribes is concerned we wish all accommodation was built on the principles found at Chumbe Island, the lodge fully deserves its 5-Globe Eco-rating!!
Feynan Lodge, Jordan
Feynan Lodge has been developed by Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and opened in the summer of 2005. It is set among the arid mountains of Wadi Feynan on the western border of Dana Nature Reserve.
It is an interesting piece of architecture built entirely of local materials and designed by a local architect. The lodge uses solar power by day and candle light at night and the staff are all from the local Bedouin community, making it an important asset to this remote area.
Thoroughly deserving of its 5-Globe rating, It is a great place to stay and can form the base for longer explorations and treks into the area.
Coconut Lagoon, Kerala
Managed by CGH Earth Experience Hotels, the Coconut Lagoon resort is leading the way for sustainable tourism in Kerala. Its organic gardens provide food for the restaurant, with compost produced on site. There is a water treatment and recycling plant and even a biogas plant producing gas for cooking.
The Coconut Lagoon Resort is a great example of environmental sustainability and involvement of the local community and also offers excellent locally produced organic food.
It’s a perfect spot for starting or ending a Kerala backwaters cruise, and is one of our favourite eco-friendly resorts in India.
Sani Lodge, Lake Challuacocha, Ecuador
A typical chalet at Sani Lodge
Sani Lodge is owned and operated by members of the Sani community and is dedicated to environmental conservation and community projects. Sani Lodge is truly a one of a kind ecolodge dedicated to ecotourism, environmental conservation, and community projects in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. With their extensive knowledge of the Amazon wildlife and biodiversity the members of the Sani community can give Sani Lodge guests the true experience of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle.
To find out more about the Tribes Eco-Rating system and what you can expect from a true responsible tourism experience, take a look at the Responsible Travel section of our website.