As the world slowly starts to return to a new kind of normal, our experts reveal the places they'd love to visit post-lockdown.
I am longing to get back out to Africa to experience the ultimate in social distancing - being steered gently through the calm, lily-filled waters of Botswana’s extraordinary Okavango Delta in a dug-out mokoro canoe. Covering over 6,000 square kilometres, and with an estimated population of under 85,000 people and over 130,000 elephants, this really is the place to come to escape the hordes.
My perfect day would be an early morning wake-up call with a cup of coffee before heading off on a morning game drive. A lazy lunch would be followed by a short bush walk and then a late-afternoon wizz through the Delta’s waters by motorised boat or mokoro, stopping for a little light refreshment as the sun starts to set. Dinner under the stars rounds off the perfect day.
The remarkable Mombo Camp would be my preferred base, because if I didn’t fancy heading out into the bush, I could just sit and watch the extraordinary animal show from the luxury of my own private viewing deck.
Like many people during lockdown I have been dreaming of the things I would like to do when normality returns, not least the chance to travel again. For many, lockdown has meant finding a connection or a reconnection with nature, and where better to do this than on an African safari. I would love to return to the Masai Mara in Kenya which has amazing game viewing and has never failed to deliver on my many previous visits. This gem of a wildlife haven is home to an enormous variety of wildlife with numerous species including the big cats, wildebeest, elephant, black rhino, zebra and varied antelope, while the wide open plains make sightings easy and plentiful.
On safari I like a certain amount of comfort but I also want to feel close to nature, so an authentic tented camp such as Elewana Elephant Pepper Camp would be top of my list. Here you can get away from the crowds and have the chance to really engage with your surroundings during a guided walk with a Maasai guide. It is not just the excitement of seeing big game that I miss but the simple pleasures of bird watching around camp or savouring a sundowner G&T while looking out over the plains that have me itching to get back to Africa.
When things finally get back to normal, I am looking forward to returning to Biyela Lodge in the uMfolozi Big 5 Game Reserve. Nestled just above a bend in the uMfolozi River, this luxury lodge meets all of my getaway requirements from private plunge pools at every villa to the most amazing beds on which to enjoy an afternoon siesta, whilst a thunderstorm passes overhead. The lodge staff are very attentive and there is always a G&T waiting for you when you get back from a game drive.
Most important of all though is the game experience, and Biyela has some of the most experienced and passionate rangers and guides that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. From encounters with elephants on a morning game drive, to afternoons spent with a small pride of lions and a myriad of plains game, including the ever-elusive Black Rhino, no two days are the same, and this doesn’t even take into account the spectacular views that will take your breath away. Memorable experiences, and ones that I look forward to repeating whenever I next get the opportunity to travel.
When travel restrictions are lifted I would love to visit Zambia again. Having walked around my local common daily for the past few months, I’m dreaming of being able to explore a different area, and where better than a walking safari in the South Luangwa. I believe there is no better place to go for a walking safari, having been lucky enough to experience one there a few years ago.
A trip to Zambia wouldn’t be complete without visiting Victoria Falls again. Having seen the Zambian side, next time I would love to walk across the border to the Zimbabwean side for a different perspective. My perfect place to stay in Livingstone would be the beautiful Tongabezi Lodge – on my last visit I fell in love with the location and the feel of the place straightaway. This would definitely be my go-to accommodation choice, as I love how you are not far from the Victoria Falls for a visit, but you are away from the hustle and bustle of the town and the sounds of the helicopters and microlight flights. They also offer a wonderful range of activities; my favourite being canoeing down the Zambezi River.
During lockdown, I have spent many an hour reflecting on my favourite travel destinations and where I would like to travel to once circumstances allow. One of the destinations at the very top of my list is Namibia, a magnificent, magical and mysterious country boasting diverse scenery, colourful tribes and fantastic wildlife. It truly is an extraordinary place and unlike anywhere else that I have travelled to before.
When it comes to where to stay, one of my favourites is the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, which is located in the remote Kaokoveld region. With only 7 luxurious tents and a family suite, it has an ultra-exclusive feel to it, but the real draw is the area’s large concentration of desert-adapted wildlife like elephant, leopard and lion, which can explored on game drives or on nature walks.
Once the new normal kicks in, I would happily travel anywhere in South Africa. This is a country that has it all - beauty, culture, wildlife, adventure, open spaces. I live in Cape Town and I still appreciate driving past Table Mountain on my way to work or looking out at Robben Island in the distance - you can never get tired of these views - but if I had to choose I would get away from the city, get closer to nature, and go on a safari. We have many games lodges in South Africa, actually in every corner of the country, and my choice would be the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve - it is close to Cape Town, just a three hour drive away, so there is no need to fly. It is in the heart of the Little Karoo and offers 58,000 hectares of wide open plains and mountains. Big 5 game lodges with 5-star service!
There is nothing like taking a game drive at sunrise in the bush - it is all about taking in the beauty of the surroundings, the scent of the bushes, the sight of a magnificent animal at close range, and I feel so privileged to live in this amazing country.
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