The meaning of the word safari is “to take a journey” and that got us thinking about mobile safaris; expeditions that are true adventures across hidden corners and forgotten lands and those that allow you to experience a different place almost every day. Then we thought a little bit harder about the mode of transport involved in an epic journey. 4×4 game drives might be the most iconic way to travel the continent, but they are by no means the only option. With a little bit of digging, we came up with a list of alternative ways to experience Africa – and there’s not a Land Rover in sight…
1. Journey like a true explorer through Botswana’s waterways
How better to kick off our alternative ways to experience Africa than with a journey by canoe down Botswana’s iconic Selinda Spillway? Bone dry for almost 30 years, the spillway is now a watery channel that attracts hordes of wildlife from across the Okavango Delta and this three-day expedition will have you canoeing past big game on the banks and exploring long-forgotten islands and lagoons. Walking is a large part of the experience and if you hear a snuffle in the bushes, you’ll simply tie up your canoe and follow the tracks to investigate…
If you can, book a spot on one of guide Kane Motswana’s trails; a river bushman who grew up in the Okavango Delta, his knowledge of the area is legendary.
2. Trek through awe-inspiring scenery of the Great Rift Valley
Empakai to Lake Natron Trek, Tanzania
A walking safari might not seem like an alternative way to experience Africa, but when it’s an expedition across the wilds of northern Tanzania, it certainly is. This is the Africa that time (and the tourists) forgot and the hike is one of the most dramatic on the continent. Starting at Empakai Crater, you’ll follow in the footsteps of the Maasai and their tinkling cattle and traverse the gorges and crevices of the Great Rift Valley down to Lake Natron. The beauty of the area isn’t in the wildlife but in the landscapes so over the four days, take a moment to marvel at what you see before you; from dusty gorges and rugged mountains to grassy plains and sparkling pools.
Combine a trek from Empakaai to Lake Natron with nights in both Ngorongoro and the Serengeti for a taste of big game – and a spot of luxury! This route here will get you off to a good start.
3. Sail the seven seas on a Mozambican dhow safari
The Quirimbas, Mozambique
We’re back in the water for our next epic journey, this time in the azure Indian Ocean. The waterborne expedition takes place aboard a beautiful dhow, a traditional sailing boat with a distinctive triangular sail, and time is spent floating around the most far-flung islands of Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago. During the day, let the crew and captain take care of the details – your only decision is whether to swim in the gin-clear waters, discover the underwater world through a snorkel mask, or head to shore for a lazy afternoon on the sand. When darkness falls, choose any one of the palm-fringed idylls and set up camp for the night, mere metres away from the lapping waves.
Take a peek at the details of the mobile dhow expedition here, and start designing your own seafaring adventure in Mozambique.
4. Chug across South Africa in 1920’s splendour
Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa
Train travel is undeniably romantic. Evocative of a time when people enjoyed the journey itself and not just the destination, it’s the ultimate luxury in our fast-paced, flurried world. Step up, then, South Africa’s Blue Train that will take you on a fabulously over-the-top journey from Pretoria to Cape Town. In 72 hours, you’ll roll through some of South Africa’s most spectacular countryside and when you’re not gazing out the window, there are Afternoon Teas to indulge in, three-course meals to be savoured and plenty of Champagne to sip on. Dating back to the 1920s, the trains are the definition of luxury, so surrender to the cathartic rhythm and enjoy this alternative way to experience Africa.
5. Walk across remotest Zambia
South Luangwa, Zambia
In the birthplace of the walking safari, Zambia’s South Luangwa, it should come as no surprise that the walking expeditions are as marvellous as they come. One of our favourites is Robin Pope’s five-night mobile safari that follows the glittering Mupamadzi River as it snakes through the northernmost section of the park. Up here, there’s no romping through the bush after big game; instead, the journey is about uncovering the secrets of the bush and the enjoyment of being enveloped in one of the greatest wilderness areas on the continent. Saying that, the camp has the ability to move at the drop of a hat, so if there are big beasties nearby, you’ll be right where the action is.
The Robin Pope Mobile Walking Safari is a five-night expedition that can be sandwiched with nights at sister camps Nkwali and Tena Tena at the beginning and end to make the most of everything the South Luangwa has to offer.
6. Take to the saddle in the Masai Mara
Masai Mara, Kenya
You’ve undoubtedly heard of the Masai Mara, but what you might not know is that the Greater Mara area is also home to some of the most incredible riding safaris on the continent. Adventurous with a capital A, horseback expeditions are run by safari veterans, Offbeat, and can last anything from seven to 10 days, with a spot of walking and game driving in between to rest saddle-weary bottoms. During the day, you’ll ride alongside lolloping giraffe and wildebeest and forge across raging rivers and into deep valleys, and by night, you’ll set up camp in the wildest of spots and settle down to a feast cooked over the fire. Magical.
7. Soar above Namibia’s Skeleton Coast
Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, fondly known as ‘the land God made in anger’ by the San bushmen, is one of the most wild and desolate places on earth, but also one of the most geographically stunning. Golden dunes roll as far as the eye can see, beaten by harsh Atlantic currents and punctuated by jagged mountains and rocky ridges. The perfect territory, then, for one of the Schoeman brothers’ legendary flying safaris. A teeny-tiny Cessna is the mode of transport and the safari involves low-level flights over the magnificent landscapes, complemented by beach picnics, fishing and walking safaris amongst the famous shipwrecks. Accommodation-wise, three basic but comfortable camps are positioned in intervals up the coastline, creating the framework for a truly exceptional journey.
Our Namibian flying safari route is perfectly-designed for an airborne discovery of the Skeleton Coast. Stops in both Sossusvlei and Etosha at the beginning and end complete your iconic Namibian journey.
8. Float along the mighty Zambezi
Lower Zambezi, Zambia
Traditionally, mobile safaris have always been Botswana’s domain, but that looks set to change with the advent of the fantastic Tusk & Mane Mobile Safaris. Based in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia, these are mobile safaris done just right – old-school canvas tents, adventurous canoe and walking safaris, fabulous guides and a real focus on the wilderness. Tusk & Mane currently have three camps in and around the park – choose from remote, forested islands, or tuck yourself away below the towering escarpment – and most guests will spend a night or two at base before venturing out, Hemingway-style, to the remote fly camp.
If you’re still hankering after an adventure, check out our ‘mobile safari’ filtered lodge page to see all the epic journeys we have on offer…