Choose a Safari - Part 5 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Yes, you really can take a ride into the bush on top of an elephant. African elephants are livelier than their Asian brethren, but in some spots, the animals have been trained, so you can climb aboard for a truly unique safari. Typically two guests will sit in a large, padded harness which is accessed via a ramp, with a handler ‘driving’.
You can do this at Abu Camp, in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, which was first to offer elephant-back trips. Several other lodges now do the same. South Africa’s Addo Lodge offers day safaris to non-guests and Camp Jabulani also in South Africa, offers night time trips. This type of trip offers an unprecedented closeness to African elephants while giving you an excellent vantage point and a sense of connection with the bush. The downside is the very limited opportunities. Also, the extra cost as most elephant back safaris are only offered by higher-end lodges. Excursions usually last around three hours and may include walking alongside and feeding your elephant as well.
This is the relatively new option of exploring the bush by bike. It’s an increasingly popular option as more safari-goers crave active options. Typically, a small group on tough mountain bikes will be guided across the bush, often tracing dusty migration tracks. Excursions might last a few hours and end with a view of the sun going down. Multi-day cycles with camping out under the stars each night are also possible.
Gentle rides are on offer at Zambia’s Tafika. Cycle Mashatu has been running multi-day mountain biking safaris in Botswana and South Africa for a while so are the most experienced. More serious cyclists might want to join the Tour de Tuli, a four-day charity fundraiser ride from Botswana’s Tuli Game Reserve to South Africa’s Mapungubwe NP, passing plenty of wildlife on the route. Hardcore riders can even contemplate the Cairo to Cape Town Tour d’Afrique, either one of its eight legs or the full 12, 000km.
On the plus side you feel more connected to the bush as there’s no vehicle noise and you can keep pace with zebra. However, it’s potentially hard work. Some of the trails will require biking experience and they’re not widely available either. The terrain can be rocky and uneven so take padded cycle shorts for comfort.
What better way to finish then with the luxury option of a cruise, seeing wildlife from deck level. If you have a safari lodge by the water, there might be morning or afternoon boat excursions in small motor craft. However, a multi-day cruise, where you sleep on board, allows you to relax to the rhythm of the water.
The 14-suite Zambezi Queen, which sails down the Chobe River in Botswana, offers an exclusive and luxurious two or three-night cruise experience. Short boat excursions are also possible in Selous in Tanzania, where you can negotiate the Rufiji River’s maze of streams and channels or pretty, palm-fringed Liwonde in Malawi.
You can reach areas that are inaccessible by land and get close to swimming, drinking, wading wildlife. It’s also a relaxing way to travel especially when you can enjoy all the comforts on deck. This is an expensive option as a two night low season trip on the Zambezi Queen starts at about £650pp. Timing is key to taking a trip like this as wildlife is increasingly drawn to rivers as the dry season progresses, but if you leave it to late the water levels drop too low and boat safaris may not be possible.
Well now you know all the options the only thing to decide is which one is right for you.
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