Africa, an outdoor enthusiasts dream. An entire continent of open space filled with five ecosystems each offering a unique aspect to the landscape. Deserts, mountains, savanna’s, rain forests and coastline. One of the few places on earth where despite being the second most populated continent still contains many locations that look just as they did hundreds or maybe even thousands of years ago.
Visiting Africa for its amazing scenery, landscapes and its most endearing feature it’s biodiversity. Containing the most flora and fauna still in existence Africa is one of the most desired locations for travelers looking to step into a world completely different then their own.
Excited passengers whisking off in 4 x 4 vehicles on protectedwildlife Safarisled by a local guide to search for the Big 5 (Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros) among others. But there is another experience, one less considered and yet an amazing more intimate way to see wildlife in a natural and sustainable way.
The one source that all animals need for existence is water. Which is what makes very important to the existence of Africa’s wildlife, the rivers.
Africa has dry and wet seasons that occur annually interacting with the animal behavior driving them to and from the rivers, their main source for water. On average Africa’s wettest season is from April to early June and they see some rain October – December. However June through September is the dry period when animals begin migration to and along the rivers for sustainability.
Like the animals, traveling along the rivers can offer explorers a unique experience for up-close wildlife sightings and viewing of wildlife in their natural habitats as they play, socialize, feed, bathe and rest.
*Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways River Cruises
Traveling the Chobe and Zambezi rivers into the Chobe National Park in Botswana, brings guests to the source that attracts wildlife from hundreds of miles to the only water available during the African dry winter months. Offering unobstructed views of herds of elephant, giraffe, hooved animals and hundreds of birds all visiting for the season.
In addition to the wildlife experience, the scenery along the river offers many opportunities for unexpected views of the river and the African landscape. Don’t be surprised if you also come across some other unexpected surprises like the breathtaking sunsets that you can see from your cabin balcony.
The best part of an African river cruise is you don’t miss out on the land safari’s. Time is also spent exploring on safari in the Chobe National Park among other areas within Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
Visit national parks, iconic locations like Victoria Falls and private game reserves all while enjoying the best available five star accommodations that are arranged for you based on the itinerary that you choose.
Enjoying an African river cruise can offer many opportunities for immersing in the local culture, exploring the best sites and experiencing the bucket list adventures that most interest you.
Despite the negative press that South Africa is receiving right now from the Covid-19 variant, when travel is safe, Africa is one of the most fabulous travel destinations for both the casual tourist and the adventurous.
Both awe-inspiring and the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls happens to be located on one of the most alluring continents in the world, Africa. One of the seven natural wonders of the world is located along the Zambezi River at the border of the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe where lies the majestic site that many aspire to visiting on their travel bucket lists.
Named by Scottish explorer David Livingstone in 1855 after Queen Victoria, the almost 1 ½ mile basalt cliffs form the falls where water from the Zambezi river plummet over the edge and into the gorge some 300 feet below. The power of the falls can be seen from 30 miles away, heard from 25 miles away and the mists can be felt as high as 430 yards from the falling water.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, on average 500,000,000 liters of water flow when the water levels peak at the end of the rainy season in late March or early April. Alternatively the falls will reach their lowest points in the fall during the dry period when it is even possible to walk through specific points of the falls.
Surrounded by rainforest, another basalt cliff faces the Main falls with a path through heavy spray offering exceptional views of the falls. Another option for viewing, is from the Knife-Edge Bridge for panoramic views of the Main falls and the Boiling Pot area where the river switches down the Batoka Gorge. For the more weary, views from Livingstone Island during the dry season or the Falls Bridge that crosses over the Zambezia provide panoramic views.
Depending on the time of year that you visit, after seeing the beauty and power of Victoria Falls, there are many options for immersing yourself with the area finding adventure at and around Victoria Falls. We recommend that you hire a local guide as some of these experiences can be dangerous for those not familiar with the area. Not all adventures require physical activity, but each offers the opportunity for an adventure you will remember forever:
Flight of Angels
Regardless if it is during the peak flood period when the falls are at their highest or dry season when it’s at its lowest, flying over Victoria Falls is one of the most astounding and most personal ways for seeing the falls from an angle most do not have the opportunity to.
From the windows of a small prop plane, follow the Zambezi river to the gorges that form into the massive magnificent Victoria Falls offering panoramic instagram worthy photos and an unforgettable experience. Other flight options are by helicopter to get you even closer to the action, also flying over the Batoka Gorge and Mosi-oa-Tunya National park.
Your flight experience usually ends with a DVD of your 15 – 30 minute flight as a souvenir to take home and share your experience with others.
Swim in the Devil’s Pool
Close to Victoria Falls, rock pools have formed and the most popular for its location is Devil’s Pool. Located near Livingstone Island at the edge of the falls with a sheer 325 foot drop, the site provides the heart-pumping exhilaration of a natural infinity pool looking over the side of the falls.
The most active part of this experience is the climb down to the Zambezi river and swim across the pool. Unless you are the fearless type who jumps full throttle into the raging waters of the pool from above. Regardless, the thrill that you will get from the view at the edge and feeling the force of the river flowing over the falls providing an invigoration and energy that you will not soon forget.
Devil’s pool is seasonally accessible depending on the water levels. Access to the pool can be dangerous and it is highly recommended that a guide be hired for the safest experience.
Swim below the Falls
Another unique experience is to swim the rock pools located below the falls to view the basalt cliffs as the water cascades above you.
A more active experience involves walking the Batoka Gorge to the river where inflatable rafts and a guide await you to paddle to a location near Victoria Falls for some unique and amazing views. Once your rafts arrive at the rock pools below the falls, you can enjoy some downtime swimming and enjoying the waters that surround you.
Although more physically demanding, this 3 hour or so guided experience allows you to immerse with the geology of the region as you walk over the rocks and interact directly with the river before walking back up the gorge at the end of your tour.
Kayak or White Water raft the rapids of the Zambezi River
From the top of Batoka Gorge, an experienced white water guide will fit you with a paddle, helmet and life jacket before leading you down the 450 – 800 feet to the river to board your kayak or raft boat. Your guide will then steer you through the rapids and direct you for safety with the ultimate enjoyment.
Although no previous experience is required, this is an encounter for those who are both physically able and mentally prepared for this type of adventure. Other requirements may exist as determined by your tour provider.
Kayaking is usually a full day experience offering breakfast at the top of the gorge and picnic lunch as a final reward for your day’s activities. White water rafting offers a half or full day or for the active adventurous type, enjoy the “float of angels” taking a full day on the Zambezi followed by an overnight in a camp deep within the Batoka Gorge to wake up and take on another full day of a roller coaster of rapids.
The best time for rafting all 23 rapids is during the drier season from early summer through early winter.
Victoria Falls is but one of the many Africa experiences that adventurists venture to the farest regions of the earth for. Other exciting journeys await you with safaris within Tanzania and Botswana and spending time at the beautiful beaches and winelands of South Africa’s Cape’s rugged coast.
With so much to see, how do you explore these regions seamlessly and enjoyably? Imagine an experience that combines all of the experiences in a 10 – 21 day African experience. Start your journey on land combined with four nights on a small private luxury African boat drifting along the river all the while having an up-close wildlife experience before heading back on land for more time to explore Victoria Falls, the villages and unique highlights of the region.
Plan now for travel in 2022 and beyond. For more information on the safest and most intimate ways to explore Africa with river cruising visit our webpage.
One of the tops on many bucket lists is visiting Africa. Getting close up encounters with animals in their natural environment is an experience that will be different for every guest based on time of year and how they choose to visit. The best way to experience wildlife in Africa is by safari but with many regions within Africa with wildlife, how do you narrow down your options of where and when to visit.
Two of the best countries within the continent of Africa to visit for a safari experience are Tanzania and Botswana:
The United Republic of Tanzania is an African country in East Africa that has coastline on the Indian Ocean, Bordering Uganda in the north, Kenya in the northeast, Mozambique in the east, Zambia to the southwest; and Rwanda to the west. Tanzania is most known for Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa.
The best time to visit Tanzania to enjoy the wildlife is based around the rainfall. While the summer period is November to February and the cooler winter period is May to August, the rainiest periods are October – December. The ideal time is during the drier shoulder periods of March, April, August and September.
Approximately one-third of Tanzania’s land is dedicated as a protected conservation area featuring 16 national parks in addition to game and forest reserves. Featuring many biodiverse areas you will find a variety of animal habitats:
Serengeti – The Serengeti plain is where you will find the largest concentration of wildebeest and zebra who are known for their annual massive migrations when the herds move north from breeding locations to the grassy southern plains. For sure a not to miss experience, movement can be seen year round, but the massive movement will occur July – October when they can be seen crossing the Mara river in the Northern Serengeti. You will also find giraffe, gizelle, impala and many species of reptiles in the region like crocodiles who habitat in the Grumeti River.
Ngorongoro – the Manyara National park is where you can experience a game drive of animals including lions, cheetahs, monkeys, baboons and impalas. You will also want to visit the three million year old Ngorongoro crater which is the largest volcano caldera in the world and home to a gorgeous wildlife sanctuary filled with large mammals like hippopotamus who live in the lakes, bush and plains of the caldera. To experience the great migration that occurs here annually, you will want to visit between July and September.
Unlike Tanzania, Botswana is primarily flat with the majority (70%) of it belonging to the Kalahari Desert. Located in central Africa, it borders South Africa in the south, Zimbabwe in the northeast and to the west and north of Botswana is Namibia. Besides the large area of desert, you will find the Okavango Delta, one of the largest in the world in the northwestern portion of the country.
Why Botswana if it is mostly desert? Because of the diversity of the wildlife that you can find here. Besides desert and the delta, there are savannas and grassland regions where you will find wildebeest, antelope, the endangered African wild dog and the biggest concentration of African elephants in Africa which can be found along the rivers during the dry season. September is the peak time for experiencing wildlife as it is the end of the dry season.
Chobe National Park – Botswana’s original national park located in the Okavango Delta is biologically diverse making it a prime destination for experiencing wildlife. Taking a safari through the park has one of the largest concentrations of wildlife to observe when looking for the big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, water buffalo and the rare rhinoceros). Specifically lions can be easily spotted who reside in the area for the presence of the large number of elephants and their young who track them as their primary predator.
The Chobe River – a key location for spotting the “Big Five” game during the dry months. Both sides of the river are protected wildlife management areas. During the dry season the Kalahari elephants, lions and buffalo reside at the river, especially during the end of the dry season when families can be spotted from boats as you travel along the river. A highlight is the daily elephant bathing ritual which offers amazing afternoon photo opportunities.
Safari Lodges are found throughout both Tanzania and Botswana. Unique experiences featuring luxury and modern tented camps that offer immersive wildlife experiences. Seeing nature free from human intervention is the highlight of staying at a safari lodge. You will never know what encounter awaits you as you relax in your tent or while relaxing within the grounds before or after your safari. All inclusive, a stay at a lodge includes meals, guided safari and wildlife spotting, night-time campfires with all the amenities you would expect at a five-star resort but with a rustic charm. With so many to choose from, there is one that fits every budget and travel style.
With so much to see, how do you explore these regions seamlessly and enjoyably? Imagine an experience that combines all of the experiences in a 10 – 21 day African experience. Start your journey on land combined with four nights on a small private luxury African boat drifting along the river all the while having an up-close wildlife experience before heading back on land for more time to explore the villages and highlights of the region.
Learn more about luxurious African river cruise experiences from our website.
A lesser known region of Western Asia is the United Arab Emirates. Made up of 200 exotic but accessible islands off the Arabian Peninsula in the Persian Gulf is an island known as Abu Dhabi.
Historically the region is best known for its connection to the Gulf War of the early 1990’s and the war on terror. But today, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is safe and enticing, offering its visitors luxury and numerous exotic experiences.
The capital of Emirates, Abu Dhabi is a modern city, reflected by skyscrapers throughout the skyline and high end shopping megacenters, but Abu Dhabi also offers parks, traditional gardens and miles and miles of coastline and beaches. Its rise in popularity and attraction to visitors in the past ten years, Abu Dhabi has become a spot for both Hollywood and Bollywood film production as well as a popular destination for the elite.
As a cosmopolitan city you will find a large diversity of cuisine’s. Of course Arab food is popular offering small simple shawarma places and also very luxurious upscale restaurants. What is even more popular is American branding which can now be found throughout the city and Southern Asian cuisine is also very widely available.
So what draws visitors to Abu Dhabi? There are many experiences that attract visitors but here are five highlight reasons to visit:
1. See the Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The modern and beyond grand (241,000 square ft.) mosque is the largest in the country and one is considered a top global attraction. Its design and construction uses the most precious and expensive stones, marble, gold, crystals, and ceramics. The carpet in the main prayer hall was custom designed and is the largest in the world. The building is large enough to safely welcome approximately 41,000 people.
An active mosque, it is a daily place of worship and closed for tourists during normal worship periods. Guided tours are available, good to know is there are dress codes for both men and women when visiting so review requirements in advance.
2. Visit the “New Louvre”
Yes, you read that correctly, Louvre, like the world’s largest art museum in Paris. But this Louvre is found on Abu Dhabi’s adjacent Saadiyat Island in the Cultural District of the Abu Dhabi region. At 260,000 sq ft. it is the largest museum on the Arabian peninsula.
In 2007, an agreement between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French Parliament granted the Arabian city approval to build a completely unrelated arabic version of the mega museum. Part of the agreement included design of the new museum by a French architect.
The museum’s collection includes important works loaned from popular French museums under agreements from Agence France-Muséums and the Musée du Louvre. These include Leonardo Da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, works by Henri Matisse, a self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh, Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps and Claude Monet’s Gare Saint-Lazare, to name a few.
3. Experience Being a Race Car Driver
Abu Dhabi has been hosting Formula One racing at the Yas Marina Circuit annually in the winter since 2009. So motorsports has become a very popular sport throughout the country.
Home of the Marina Circuit, Yas Island is about 30 minutes from Abu Dhabi. One of the most advanced Formula 1 circuits available, the course races through several long straights and winding tight corners (twenty one to be exact) passing the Yas marina and traveling through the adjacent Yas Hotel.
If racing a Formula 1 vehicle is on your bucket list, you can take on the course for yourself with a driving or passenger experience. Reserve a Ferrari 458 GT, Mercedes AMC GMT, Aston Martin G24 or you can try the real thing in the cockpit of a FormulaYAS 3000. They also offer courses so you can earn your own racing license.
And if you’re more of the racing fan then fanatic, the marina development next to the track has a theme park, a water park, hotels and beaches to enjoy all the area has to offer.
4. Take a Wildlife Safari
Between Abu Dhabi and Qatar on Sir BaniYas Island within a protected nature reserve is almost 3500 acres that is the Arabian Wildlife Park. Reached by car and ferry, boat or plane, this remote island is home to more than 10,000 free roaming animals including giraffes, cheetahs and gazelles.
While on the island there are a number of safari experiences available.
Interact with giraffes from a viewing platform, or take a wildlife drive farther into the park on a desert safari. A five-star luxury hotel and villas on the island allow guests to schedule 4-wheel drive safaris and extended tours to spot Arabian oryx, hyenas and ostriches.
There are also many archaeological religious sites including a Christian monastery. But a highlight of visiting Sir BaniYas island is the desert island geology that meets the coast is the opportunity to take a horseback ride and then rent a kayak to follow one of the shipwreck routes or snorkel among the diverse marine life that surrounds the island.
5. Do an overnight in the Desert
Enjoy the amazing scenery of the inland Al Dhafra region where you will find the largest sand mass in the world. The Rub al Khali or “Empty Quarter” as it is referred to for the amount of desert that it accommodates within the Arabian Peninsula.
Located within the middle of the Empty Quarter desert region is the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort where you can spend the night and set out to explore some of the biggest dunes outside the Sahara.
Take an off-road adventure to enjoy the scenery that makes up two-thirds of the Abu Dhabi region or take advantage of the opportunity for camel trekking which can also be found here.
One of the best sites of the desert region is the historic town, Liwa at the entrance to the Empty Quarter desert. You will be amazed at the colorful dunes amongst an oasis of approximately 100,000 date palm trees. The town and surrounding desert has been the site for production of some top hollywood blockbuster movies.
Besides the highlighted experiences in Abu Dhabi, the region has become a popular vacation spot for its location, number of activities and modern amenities.
Being a desert area, Abu Dhabi sees year-round sunshine and the summer months can get very hot and humid. For the best temperatures, visit between October and May.
A very bucket list experience, we invite you to explore additional bucket list experiences, from our exotic adventures page.