After experiencing a 12-day small group tour through Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, here are all the reasons Africa should be at the top of your must-do list.
Swap the Leaning Tower of Piza For Walking with Elephants
One of the biggest highlights of Botswana is the Walking with Elephants experience, available to guests of Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp (and other lodges nearby in the Okavango Delta). There you’ll meet two orphaned elephants, Jabu, a 32-year-old male bull, and Morula, a 42-year-old female, who live with their adopted parents, Doug and Sandi Groves. Saved from culling operations by the pair nearly 30 years ago, the Groves provide specialist care to Jabu and Morula who, due to their traumatic pasts and chronic injuries, are not yet ready to be released into the wild. Spend half a day learning about the history of the African Savannah Elephant while interacting with the animals up close (ample Instagram opportunities thankfully provided, see example below), before sitting down for lunch and drinks with, literally, an elephant in the room. Despite being an additional cost (if travelling by group tour), the experience couldn’t be more worth it. Trust me (after I trusted all of the guests at Stanley’s who came back raving about the day being the best of their entire trip).
Swap Spritzs in Italy for sleeping under the stars
Another unmissable experience is a night sleeping under the stars in Madikwe Game Reserve,South Africa, which is available when you're staying at Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge and included in the Luxury Escapes package (it would typically be an added extra with other companies). Despite initial terror that lions may somehow learn how to climb up and eat you (spoiler: they won't), watching the sun rise over the African landscape with a cup of tea in hand is breathtaking. Your home for the night includes sunloungers to watch the stars with and alcoholic beverages of your choice. Hot tip: Amarula, a South African cream liqueur, is delicious with two ice cubes or in coffee for an instant Espresso Martini.
Swap a picnic under the Eiffel Tower for a helicopter ride over the Victoria Falls
The only way to see the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and often described as the world’s largest falls, in all its glory is by helicopter. Both 15-minute and half an hour trips are available, during which you’ll fly over the Zambezi River - keep an eye out for elephant herds grazing - and be given historical information about the area by the pilot. Afterwards, do a walk of the falls where you’ll be joined by local baboons and have ample photo opportunities.
Swap reading on the beach in Greece for an infinity pool that drops off to the desert
While the beaches of Europe may be enticing, you can get just as much tanning and reading time in Africa - if an infinity pool overlooking the desert with monkeys popping by for an afternoon visit will suffice, that is.
Swap Sail Croatia for cruising the Chobe River with 100s of elephants
Every afternoon, hundreds of elephants (at last count there were around 120,000 living in the area) head down to the Chobe River to quench their thirst and take a dip. River cruises are the best way to get up close and personal with the herds - plus, see hippos and crocodiles - and watch the sunset with a gin and tonic in hand.
Swap Pinot Noirs over pasta for night safaris
The big cats move around the most at night, so this is when you're most likely to see the lionesses hunting and their cubs killing time playing together. Spoiler: you can drink pinot noirs over candlelight afterwards!