Top African Safari Activities

If you could choose one experience - one special moment - in Africa, what would it be? Tricky question, isn't it? So imagine the head-scratching, floor-pacing and heated debate that went into selecting these top African safari activities.

Glide in a Mokoro through the Delta

There is nothing on earth as restful as setting out into a bright Okavango dawn in the bows of a mokoro (dugout canoe). Soundlessly you glide forward. A lazy twist of the boatman's pole, then nothing but birdsong, water lilies, reflections and ripples. Coucals bubble in the reed beds. Red lechwe splash across the flood plains; and all you have to do is sit back and go with the flow. It's by far the most intimate way of seeing Botswana's Okavango — and the most eco-friendly.

Once, the finest of these traditional Delta canoes were hewn from the trunks of sausage trees. Now they come in fibreglass, which saves the trees but in no way detracts from the simple pleasures of seeing Africa's most beautiful oasis from the water. - Brian Jackman.

Raft the Rapids on the Zambezi

The rafts were tied to the riverbank, fretting their mooring ropes like restless horses eager to stampede through the concertina of gorges below Victoria Falls. We'd barely cast off before I heard the first rapid, a steady thunder, like ocean surf.

Suddenly the raft 50m ahead slid from view, its crew paddling furiously, the skipper barking orders. A second later, there were bodies and paddles spinning away like wayward fireworks. We were next. Our raft slid down a tongue of green water into the foaming maw of Morning Glory. There was a sickening lurch, then a crash as the raft careered into the rapid's perpetual breaker.

Morning Glory had a good chew, then spat us out, like pips from a grape, into a calm stretch downstream. Stairway to Heaven was next, then Devil's Toilet Bowl and Mighty Muncher. It was a fast track to adrenaline addiction. At this rate I'd be bungee jumping off Victoria Falls Bridge before I came to my senses. - William Gray

Stake Out a Waterhole

All day long the elephants march in to drink their fill and then disperse again to forage where they can in the drought-stricken bush. In their regular comings and goings, their giant feet have trodden down a network of trails - and all of them lead to the waterhole. In the dry season, water is life, and to this place among the stricken camelthorns comes all the wildlife for miles around.

From dawn to dusk it is a theatre in the round, a natural arena for moments of high drama and unforgettable beauty. Sit here long enough and you'll see it all. Flights of sandgrouse, flocks of doves, nervous impala, skittish zebra. And, with luck, the local lion pride, waiting in ambush or slaking their thirst after a kill. - Brian Jackman

Take a Bush Shower

ball's Safari Camp. Botswana Safari is a dirty business. Some trips coat you in fine powdered earth; on others, desert grit scours every inch of your skin. So I savour a G&T in the sunset, doze while a spring hare proves to be the star of the night drive and finally, with relief, reach camp.

Dinner looms, but I escape for the most invigorating elixir of the day. I peel off my khaki and step outside into the shower. Hot water steams in the cool evening air. Warming rivulets soap away the remains of the day, layer by layer. This is bliss. It's very cathartic.

Moonlit bats flit between clear stars and leafy outlines of nearby trees. I don't want to leave. Nothing can tempt me out. Then, without warning, the torrent wanes. It splutters, reducing to a dribble. My skin prickles in the cool night air as reality dawns: the bucket is empty. - Chris McIntyre

Get Lost in Stone Town

Unpainted and un-repaired since the Portuguese left 200years ago, the historical port and former slaving centre of Zanzibar Island's Stone Town is renowned for its labyrinthine street plan - perfect for losing yourself in. As you dodge donkeys, market traders, craftsmen and robed Muslim women, look out for Stone Town's rich architectural blend of African, Arabic, Indian and European influences.

Beautifully-carved wooden doors are a speciality - some are studded with brass spikes, a throwback to an Indian tradition when doors needed protection from elephants. Elsewhere, you'll double-take at unexpected disparities - the internet café next to the traditional spice store or the minaret of a mosque rising above rooftops studded with satellite dishes. - William Gray

Take a Classic Mobile Safari

Nothing beats the sense of freedom you get from a traditional mobile safari. Waking to the dawn chorus and the sound of hot water being poured by unseen hands into the canvas wash stand on the verandah of your tent. Steaming mugs of coffee round the fire, which has kicked back into life from the previous night's embers.

The fresh smell of dawn in the bush. Out in the vehicle for a day full of adventures and wildlife encounters; exploring new areas. At the end of the journey, arriving to find camp set up in a new location, welcoming staff waiting (with your whisky already prepared) to show you to your tent.

Water being emptied into a bush shower suspended from the branch of a tree and the exotic thrill of showering under a starlit African sky. Eating dinner in good company, beside the flickering light of the campfire. And later lying in bed, listening to the chorus of crickets and frogs and a lion roaring in the distance.  - John Warburton-Lee.

Island hop through the Seychelles

Decisions, decisions. Will you be tempted by Praslin's 'Garden of Eden' or a castaway beach on La Digue? Or will you opt for escapism on the desert island hideaway of Alphonse? Perhaps Bird Island's avian spectacle of a million sooty terns is your idea of paradise? Or will you simply island-hop and do all four? The truth is, that with over 100 irresistible tropical islands, the Seychelles are almost too much of a good thing.

But spare a thought (and a gap in your itinerary) for Mahé. Although it's the largest, most populated and developed of the islands, it still has everything you'd expect from one of the world's most exotic and desirable holiday destinations. And, what's more, it has a depth of culture, history and diversity that is unmatched in the Indian Ocean archipelago. - William Gray
 

Taste a Dozen Chardonnays

©Claire Gunn

Nothing beats the sybaritic pleasures of the Cape winelands. Arm yourself with John Platter's essential South African Wines, the quaffer's bible, and head first to Constantia with its grand Cape Dutch homestead, Groot Constantia.

On to Stellenbosch and Thelema Mountain Vineyards, reputedly the Cape's best winery with vintages that leave your taste buds tingling with delight. Then weave through Paarl, via the gardens at Morgenhof. Take time to enjoy a little home-made cheese with the 'benchmark chardonnay' at Glan Carlou.

In the Franschoek Valley (a glorious landscape of rolling vineyards and Cape Dutch farmhouses overlooked by glowering mountains) relish quiet lunches among lemon groves at Moreson Matin-Soleil. Feast on springbok at the Haute Cabriere Restaurant and sleep in an exquisite chalet among the vines at La Petite Ferme. Life doesn't get any better. - John Warburton-Lee

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