A cool guide to Africa
Art meets music at Morocco’s hottest festival. Held at Villa Janna Eco-Lodge, a beautiful palm-dotted oasis among the foothills of the Atlas Mountains near Marrakesh, this intimate four-day earth-friendly event – it's held at the end of August each year – immerses festival-goers in a melting pot of Western and African beats, art and culture. Make a splash at the swimming pool, party as the ancients did in the amphitheatre or hang out beneath the shade of the olive fields. One thing’s for sure, this festival won’t stay secret for long.
Become one with nature with a stay at the NAY PALAD Bird Nest. A stunning architectural feat designed to emulate the experience of sleeping like a bird, this magical abode is situated among the pristine savannah of Laikipia in Kenya, one of the most wildlife-rich destinations in Africa. It’s 360-degree views offer vistas stretching from Mount Kenya in the east to the Great Rift Valley in the west. After a day exploring the wilderness or spotting wildlife on a game drive you'll arrive to find the lanterns lit, the linen prepared and a picnic-dinner laid out as the sun sets on the horizon. Cosy up inside on the first floor or slumber on the rooftop beneath a blanket of stars. The following morning you’ll wake with the sun, tucking into your breakfast while watching the local elephants and giraffes make for their morning drink in the river below.
When it comes to the ultimate nightlife in Marrakech, Comptoir Darna ticks all the right boxes. The two-storey venue is a glamorous fusion of traditional and cosmopolitan vibes, awash in dark, bold reds, cushy seating and all aglow with hundreds of candles. Settle in with a tasty variety of Moroccan and international cuisine, before the show kicks off at 10pm and the party begins. Lute players strum feverishly, their oriental folk music melding with DJ-spun beats while waiters twirl through the venue with platters of candles atop their heads and sultry belly dancers shimmy between tables, their flowing costumes taking on an almost ethereal glow in the candlelight. But the show doesn’t end there. Once you’ve dined, head to club on the second floor and boogie the night away or, if you’re ready for a more relaxed vibe, make for the outdoor patio where you can enjoy the fresh air, a smoke of the shisha pipe, and admire the stars. uk.comptoirmarrakech.com
Mention Egypt and the first thing that springs to mind are the great monuments of ancient times. But Egyptian cuisine is just as worthy of your attention – you simply need to know where to look. That’s where Bellies En-Route can help. Over four hours, you’ll explore downtown Cairo, weaving through busy streets and skinny alleyways into both unmarked and family-run restaurants, and tucking into local flavours far from the exhausted tourist trail while learning about Egyptian culture and history from your guide. Flatbreads, pastries, ice cream and kushari (macaroni with green lentils and rice), Egypt’s national dish, all feature throughout the tour, plus a few more unusual options you may not expect like macarona bechamel (Egyptian lasagne). We have two pieces of advice for you before you set out: don’t eat beforehand and pace yourself – you’re going to want to leave room for all the deliciousness you’re about to encounter.
South Africa is known for its stunning coastline, and to experience it in luxury, look to Birkenhead House. Located in the seaside town of Hermanus between two white sandy beach coves, the small boutique hotel is perched rather majestically on the precipice of a rocky outcrop, with front-row views of the Indian Ocean that feel both private and wild. There are just 11 rooms, each spacious, elegant and with their own individual flair – think four-poster beds, French gold antique chairs, ruby-red silk couches, free-standing bathtubs and wrap-around balconies. Despite its opulence, the house still exudes a homey feel. There’s an on-site spa, two plunge pools and delectable dining paired with local wines – the perks of being just a 45-minute drive from the Cape Winelands – but the icing on the cake is experiencing some of the best whale watching in the country from the comfort of your terrace lounger.
Boulders Beach looks like your average stretch of sea-meets-land, but this haven is worth more than just a fleeting look. Located in Simon’s Town on the Cape Peninsular, just a 45-minute drive south from Cape Town, and protected from large waves thanks to the ancient granite boulders surrounding it, this beach is a great spot for a refreshing dip. But what makes it exciting is the colony of African penguins who call it home, making a trip to this beach in the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area a truly unforgettable experience. Relax on the shore or explore the rock pools as penguins dart around you. If you’re lucky, you might even get a little penguin perching itself onto your towel to bathe in the warm sun with you. Although the full colony lives down the road at Foxy’s Beach, Boulders is the best chance for you to get up close and personal with these sea-loving creatures. But be warned, the penguins may be friendly and used to humans, but feeding and touching them is not allowed.
As if having up-close encounters with Africa’s Big Five wasn’t already cool enough, Linyanti Ebony goes one better, taking guests to the next level – literally. Buckle up for the game experience of your life and take to the skies like the local bird life by flying in a door-less helicopter across the flood plains of Linyanti. During the dry months, the reservoirs in the northern reaches of Botswana – situated on the western boundary of the Chobe Enclave – are the only water sources to be found for miles, and animals swarm from the surrounding areas to enjoy a drink and a dip in the watering holes, transforming this area into a wildlife wonderland. Clamber aboard your flight and let the spinning blades propel you into the golden skies where you’ll feel the wind whip through your hair as you spot elephants and hippos splashing about while giraffes and impalas roam wild in the rugged marshes below. It’s a unique perspective of the land and one that will leave you on a high long after you’ve touched down.
Established as West Africa’s first French settlement in 1659, Saint-Louis was once the capital of Senegal but lost that title to the city of Dakar in the early 1900s. That hasn’t stopped Saint-Louis from evolving, though. Over the last nearly four centuries, the city’s striking colonial architecture, thriving and colourful fishing ports, horse-drawn carts and, in recent years, world-renowned annual jazz festival have left many enamoured by its charm, and it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2000. Visitors will find the old town on a stretch of land situated on the Senegal River, accessible only by crossing the Pont Faidherbe, a 507-metre-long bridge that connects to the mainland where the rest of the city runs trails across the land. Spend your days sampling the local cuisine, dancing to local beats or catching some rays on the golden beaches.
In the decades since their civil war, Liberia has built a name for itself in the surfing community. With pristine, untouched beaches and clear blue waters, surfers of all abilities can hit the waves with confidence. To experience the best that this coastline has to offer, surfers can stay at Kwepunha Surf Retreat, which aims to become the leading surf lodge in Liberia and create a solid foundation for surf tourism in West Africa. Step outside the hotel and you’ll be moments from Fisherman’s Point, a strip that's ideal for beginners on an average day, but recommended for intermediate to experienced surfers on a good day. Other ideal locations not far away include Robertsport, Cotton Tree Point and Shipwrecks. Whether you’re looking for a new activity to learn or pushing the limits of your surfboard, Liberia’s surf has got you covered.
In the outer isles of the picturesque Seychelles, standing tall with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, you’ll find the Lighthouse Lounge. Newly constructed as part of the Four Seasons Hotel on Desroches Island, the Lighthouse offers fine dining in a relaxed environment. Cobbled floors and walls bring timeless charm to modern dining elegance. With the option of 16 outdoor lounge chairs on the upper terrace or indoor dining on the lower level, you’ll be able to feast on a menu of organic meats and fresh seafood while the sun sets beyond the horizon and you bask in the glow of the 180-degree views.
If you have ever wanted to journey beyond the earth’s surface to see what lies beneath, this might be your best chance. On the south-east coast of Réunion Island you can delve deep into the bowels of the earth below some of the most active volcanoes in the world. Uncover the metallic shapes moulded from hardened lava and see the roots of trees and plants that bring life to the surface above. Navigate the lava tunnels and caves with a local guide who will teach you all there is to know about the island’s volcanic activity. Be sure to bring a change of clothes and big water bottle though because temperatures below ground are hot and humid. While you won’t have to do any crawling or squeeze yourself into tight spaces, you may want to sit this one out if you have an unfriendly relationship with claustrophobia.
This natural wonder is a site to behold. At around 125 metres below sea level, the salt pools of Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression are one of the lowest points on earth. These hot springs glow iridescent yellows and greens, the neon colours created by the hot magma that simmers below the surface, dissolving thick layers of sulphur and other minerals that linger in the earth. This mostly inhospitable land is one of the harshest environments known and mostly sustains micro-organisms. If you’re brave enough to make the trip, be sure to wear light layers because temperatures here average 41°C daily and can reach heights of 55°C, making the Danakil Depression the hottest inhabited place on earth.
Sometimes it’s more fun to watch than participate. That is definitely the case when it comes to Senegalese wrestling. The origins of this national sport date back to the traditions of the Sérères tribe, whose men would fight to determine the village champion. Traditionally called lutte in French or laamb in Wolof, opponents face each other in a combination of boxing, wrestling and hand-to-hand combat. The objective is for one wrestler to throw his opponent to the ground outside of the designated wrestling ring. If he can achieve this, he will be dubbed the champion. This rough and tumble sport has become one of the most popular sports in Senegal and is not to be missed if you want to see some hardcore competition.
When we think of African safaris, a beach safari on horseback isn’t exactly what crosses our mind. But along the glistening coasts of Mozambique, Pat and Mandy Retzlaff and their horses offer trail rides and safaris along the untouched white sands and over towering cliffs of the Vilancuios Coast and Benguerra Island. The history of Mozambique Horse Safari started with Zimbabwe’s redistribution program, which left the owners with just a few hours to flee the intensifying land invasion. With the collection of 104 horses, gathered from neighbours and farmers along the journey, the duo eventually settled in the coastal town of Vilankulo and offered horseriding trails along the beach. Now, with 30 horses in the stable, Mozambique Horse Safari offers a personalised experience for each of its guests with two- to five-hour itineraries. Canter along the glistening waters of Mozambique’s coast, cross sandy dunes and see expansive hilltop views from the back of a valiant steed.
Stay in the heart of the African jungle at andBeyond’s luxury Manyara Tree Lodge. Check in to one of the 10 boutique treehouse suites, each looking out onto a lush green canopy and the Lake Manyara National Park from your own private deck. In a remote section of the park, these private stilted treehouses have been constructed so you can have a more intimate encounter with the local wildlife. During daily safari rides, you’ll see the famed tree-climbing lions as well as some of Africa’s other most iconic animals. Communal dining and a swimming pool lets you kick back and watch the life of the mahogany forest unfold around you. This isn’t quite like the rustic treehouse from your childhood though, with accommodation sporting a more luxurious touch.
Picture this: you're out on a game drive. It’s a hot day and, as beads of sweat blossom on your brow, you find yourself wishing you could splash about in the watering hole alongside the four-legged locals. Eventually you pull up to Jabali Ridge, a secluded retreat perched atop a rocky hilltop, and find your very own watering hole in the form of a gleaming infinity pool. Here you can laze away the rest of the afternoon, luxuriating in the cool waters while looking out across the arid plains sprinkled with baobab trees and palms of Ruaha National Park that stretch all the way out to Mwagusi River. The park is renowned for hosting lions, elephants, leopards and buffalo, and with views this good you might consider abandoning the 4x4 altogether and watch the wildlife from the pool.
Mnemba Island is a 20-minute boat ride from Zanzibar and is the epitome of paradise. Atop its white sands and surrounded by the azure ocean is the island’s exclusive andBeyond Mnemba Island Resort. Just 24 guests can stay at any one time, making it a dream island getaway for those wanting to escape. From your beachside bungalow, watch the waves lap against the pristine shore before wandering around the island to mingle with the local wildlife or dive into the clear waters to discover what’s lurking beneath. Snorkelling, birdwatching, fishing and a variety of water sports are all on offer or, if you prefer, you can take advantage of the rare serenity and do absolutely nothing at all.
We had to put Africa’s coolest country to a vote. The diverse continent offers so much variety, it was hard to choose just one. But for a small country that totals 236,040 square kilometres in size (about the same size as Victoria, Australia), it sure covers a lot of ground in terms of things to do and see. Its landscape weaves between terrain like an art form, patterning between the Rwenzori Mountains (Africa’s tallest), the River Nile, national parks, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries. And with such diversity, Uganda is also known for its abundant wildlife, including the Big Five and its famed gorilla and chimpanzee populations. There’s a reason Winston Churchill called it “the Pearl of Africa” after all, writing in his book, “For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life – bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale...” But away from the rawness of the Ugandan landscape also lies the engaging attractions of its capital, Kampala. Here, you’ll see the country’s rich and dark history meld with modern-day Africa, where shopping, hawkers, and nightlife rule the roost. And if that’s not enough to get you there, then throw in the shining Ugandan hospitality where you’ll be welcomed by the warm and friendly nature of the people, and you have yourself the coolest country in Africa.
As the sun sets over Zanzibar City, the spirit of Stone Town comes alive. This vibrant transformation sees this neighbourhood turn into the dream of every foodie. The open-air Night Market sees chefs in bright white toques stream in to prepare and showcase their masterful dishes. Stroll through the Forodhani Gardens and munch on the endless blend of cultures and cuisines. Arab and Persian flavours mixed with Indian spices and Swahili culture to form local delicacies like no other. The influence of the spice trade through Zanzibar has left its mark, still seen in the food you can buy at the market. Sweet or salty, spicy or mild, seafood or meat; anything you’re in the mood for you’ll be able to find in one of the makeshift kitchens set up at each store. And be prepared to barter – it’s all part of the fun here.
Thought to be 120,000 to 180,000 years old, this Kenyan cave-turned-restaurant on the country’s southern shores is a must for food-loving geologists. Aside from the addition of the kitchen and bathrooms, the interconnected chambers of the cave restaurant have been mostly untouched by the current occupants, left to exist in its organic beauty. Using the cave's natural crevices, Ali Barbour’s has created an intimate atmosphere with soft lighting giving way to the view of the heavens above. With a diverse menu and options to suit the fussiest of eaters, their speciality lies in creating delectable seafood dishes. Choose from the prawns bathed in garlic, lobster in a creamy white sauce or a pan grilled barracuda – your tastebuds will not be disappointed. This is a delight for the senses – as your mouth waters at the toothsome food and your eyes dart around the dazzling surroundings.
Many perceive Sudan as an unsafe travel destination – its reputation for civil war in the south is well known – but that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to travel everywhere. Its northern reaches are safer. In fact, the Sudanese are some of the most hospitable people you’ll meet. And what few know is that about 48 kilometres off the coast of Port Sudan, below the surface, is some of the best diving in the Red Sea (and Africa). Here, the lagoon is teeming with hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks, barracudas, pods of dolphins and corals. Before you reach this spot, though, you’ll encounter the famous Precontinent II, a underwater station of capsules built by famed oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1963, where he and five other researchers lived 10 metres below the ocean’s surface for 30 days to study the effects of living underwater. Captured on film with hand-held cameras, their movie World Without Sun won an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
The rugged peaks of the Simien Mountains are often blanketed in misty forest and are home to endemic animals like Gelada baboons, Walia ibex, mountain goats and Ethiopian wolves. It’s one of the most epic landscapes on the African continent. Upon touring Addis Ababa and a spectacular flight to Gondar, you’ll begin your trek from Debarq, where you traverse lush valleys with grazing horses and past villages and thundering waterfalls, admiring the stunning views of gorges and mountains along the way, before climbing through lobelia forests and making the ascent over rocky outcrops to the summit of Ras Dashen, Ethiopia’s highest mountain. Once at the top, it becomes clear why this place was dubbed the ‘roof of Africa’. The trek down, while challenging, is no less beautiful, with more opportunities to spot wildlife and experience the stunning views. Exodus Travels offer 13-day treks through the Simien Mountains from AU$4911, including accommodation, transport, activities, tour guide, porters and most meals.
The Blue Train offers luxury modern travel at its finest. At the time of its creation, the dream was to engineer a train that could travel from Cape Town to Cairo. Though that dream was never realised, the Blue Train lives on to traverse the mountains and plains of the South African landscape. Travelling between Cape Town and Pretoria, this luxurious 27-hour journey will give you a taste of some of South Africa’s spectacular scenery, and features off train excursions in Kimberley and Matjiesfontein, award-winning wines and five-star food. If you’d prefer to stay aboard you won’t be left wanting for things to do, with a lavish boutique, observation car, lounge and bar. Make no mistake, this is one of the most luxurious train journeys you’ll ever experience – think butlers, smoking carts, and gold-tinted windows – and you’ll be quite literally dining like royalty (Blue Train notes it has served kings and presidents).
If it’s an island getaway with perfect golden beaches that you’re after, Mauritius might just be the stop for you. Remaining relatively untouched, Mauritius is bathed in natural beauty. This island nation, in the heart of the Indian Ocean, is strewn with waterfalls, lush mountain peaks, hidden lagoons and endless ocean depths to explore. The island’s historical French, Chinese and Indian influences have created a diversity that’ll entice your senses, from the food and drink, to the language and architecture. Several of the island’s sites, including the Le Morne Cultural Landscape, fall under the protection of UNESCO’s World Heritage List in an attempt to preserve the island’s beauty and history. For a sustainable way to travel, check out Mauritius Conscious.
There can be no denying that the most famous pyramids in the world are Egypt’s Great Pyramids of Giza. But did you know that on the banks of the River Nile, in the heart of the Sudanese desert sits a collection of some 200 pyramids. The forgotten pyramids of Meroë were once the centre of the ancient Kingdom of Kush, now modern-day Sudan. Though it was founded around 750BC, Meroë was not named the Kushite capital until 590BC after the fall of Napata. Ruled by the Nubian kings, Meroë thrived along a well-formed trade route that provided resources for the region. This UNESCO World Heritage Site now stands as a reminder this ancient civilisation's history and is a place of burial for the former kings and queens of the lost nation.
There are less than 300 mountains gorillas left on the planet, but on this four-day adventure with Bench Africa you’ll not only be able to see them up close, you’ll learn about the impressive conservation efforts being implemented to protect them. Bisate Lodge, a luxe sustainable conservation retreat, is not only insanely comfortable – situated within an eroded volcano, its six rooms, each with ensuite, feature domed ceilings, plush rugs and open fireplaces – it’s also the ideal launch point for your expedition into the wild thanks to its proximity to park headquarters. Guided by an expert tracker, you’ll wade through the dense scrub of Volcanoes National Park, home to rare golden monkeys, spotted hyena, bushbuck and more than 170 bird species, in search of one of the 12 habituated groups of mountain gorilla and the ultimate meet-and-greet. Time in the company of the mountain gorillas is limited to just one hour each day to prevent impacting their behaviour or potentially passing on disease, but every moment in their presence, up close and in their natural habitat, is a humbling one that will make sixty minutes feel like the blink of an eye.
An unparalleled oasis in the middle of the African jungle is what you’ll find at Mfuwe Lodge’s Bush-Spa. Located inside the South Luangwa National Park, go from a safari in the morning to enjoying the Bush-Spa’s luxurious treatments in the afternoon. You can have the stress massaged away by a professional while hippos wade in the pond next to you. Highly trained staff perform therapeutic treatments with a focus on using naturally sourced local ingredients. Have a facial or a herbal foot bath and look out on the abundance of wildlife that wanders through the park. From elephants to lions, you’ll see it all and leave feeling revitalised and blissfully relaxed.
Many would say that the largest church in the world can be found in Rome, but there’s another blessed-structure that often gets overlooked. Modelled on St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the monolithic structure of the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro not only stretches across a whopping 30,000 square metres, features 24 stained glass windows and can accommodate up to 18,000 worshippers, but it also shoots past its Roman counterpart in height by 70 feet, making it the largest church in the world. Crafted from marble imported from Italy, the church was constructed in the capital of Côte d'Ivoire by president Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who wished to memorialise himself. The basilica garnered much international controversy during its construction between 1985 and 1989 as the country was going through an economic crisis at the time – the opulence juxtaposed with the impoverished town’s lack of running water did not play well. Today, tourists mostly enjoy its grandiosity, while only a couple of hundred parishioners attend its weekly mass. It’s a magnificent site to behold.
In the desert of Namibia, on the grounds of the Solitaire Lodge, is the A Sentence is an Archipelago of Words art installation. The art is just one piece of a larger project called Kcymaerxthaere, a globally intricate storytelling project about a parallel universe also called Kcymaerxthaere created by Eames Demetrios. There are 134 installations (with more on the way) in over 27 countries that help tie this story together. Each of the cement islands placed in the burnt red ground represents a continuing part of the story about this alternate world. Solitaire Lodge represents part of the Parallel Universe in which it’s a culture that believe every word, in every language, is the name of another dimension. Once you visit this Namibia art site, you’ll want to go searching for all the other pieces.
Dress to impress and get ready to party with elite at Cape Town’s hottest club. Injecting an adrenaline-pumping shot of classic cosmopolitan glamour into the heart of the city, Cocoon is set to heat things up. Spread out across 830 square metres, this super club is not only so big it has an east and a west wing, but it takes over the enviable position of the ABSA building’s 31st floor, overlooking the glittering lights of Cape Town and out to Table Mountain, the harbour and the ocean beyond. Inside, marble surfaces, glowing pillars and mirrored walls are illuminated by neon lights and glittering chandeliers while speakers pump house, hip-hop, RnB and the occasional retro mix. For the ultimate high-society night out, book an opulent private glass booth with VIP bottle service.
Soaring above the ground, atop a jagged hilltop you will find a unique structure overlooking the Ethiopian desert. You would be forgiven for thinking this strange sculpture looks as though it has been taken straight from the set of a fantasy movie. But this construction of steel, glass and concrete is a restaurant called Ben Abeba, owned by a former Scottish professor, Susan Aitchison, in partnership with Lalibelian local, Habtamu Baye. The restaurant is set against the breathtaking backdrop of Lalibela, but overlooks many ancient villages, hills and rivers that surround the restaurant situated at an altitude of 2800 metres above sea level. The menu offers a range of traditional Ethiopian cuisine along with western style dishes covering breakfast, lunch and dinner, with all food sourced from local farmers. Ben Abeba’s whacky structure compliments the ancient stone landscape, and its mix of walkways, fire pits and shapes makes this one architectural delight you’ll not forget in a hurry.
Between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers sits a fortified medieval kingdom. Dating back to around the eleventh century, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed site is the largest of its kind on the Zimbabwe plateau. The turrets and towers of this stone kingdom were constructed from granite and create architecture that goes unmatched elsewhere. At the epitome of its time, this landmark is believed to have been a major trading centre, and today, as a testament to the history of this ancient site, artefacts that were left behind now sit on display. You can see Persian pottery, Chinese scrolls and Indian ornaments crafted from brass. Getting to the ruins can be time consuming with the closest town to the site being Masvingo, which is a five-hour bus ride from Harare, the country’s capital. From Masvingo, drive or catch a taxi to the ruins.
When we discovered a spot dubbed Sundowner Rock, perched on a hillside in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve at Sasaab Lodge, we didn’t need telling twice. Looking out over the 9500-square-kilometre Laikipia Plateau, home to vibrant plains dotted with acacia trees, the Samburu Special Five – the Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, Gret’s zebra, Gerenuk antelope and Somali ostrich – and views of the jagged Mount Kenya, the country’s highest peak (second only to Kilimanjaro), this rock promises a sunset tipple you’ll be talking about for years to come. As the golden orb slowly sinks towards the horizon, sip your bevvy, bask in its rays and enjoy the show. The experience is hosted by Sasaab Lodge, which offers Moroccan-styled tents with four-poster beds, open-air bathrooms and private plunge pools overlooking the Ewaso Nyiro River where game thrive, as well as bush walks and cultural experiences with the Samburu people.
It’s featured in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters from Gladiator and The Mummy to Jesus of Nazareth and Lawrence of Arabia (the latter which resulted in a large portion of it being rebuilt) but that’s not why you should visit Aït Benhaddou. Situated at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site was once a prominent trading post between Sudan and Marrakech via the Draa Valley and Tizi n' Telouet pass and is made up of numerous Kasbahs dating back to the seventeenth century. You’ll find a mosque, high towers, a fortification, a public square and two cemeteries among various living quarters while wandering among its crumbling walls – all which represent a magnificent example of pre-Saharan earthen clay architecture. The city is a 32-kilometre journey from Ouarzazate, the nearest town, and can be reached by taxi or, if you’re feeling energetic (or bonkers) and have three hours on either side of your visit spare, by bicycle.
The novice sees Botswana’s rainy summer and avoids it. The safari aficionado, however, sees green season, when the wilderness comes to life with new baby animals, and signs up without hesitation. The gang at Natural Habitat Adventures know it too, and their new safari through the Kalahari, the Delta and beyond takes just seven intrepid travellers into its heart as Mother Nature breathes new life across the land. You’ll begin with a sunset cruise along the Zambezi River in Zambia and feel the spray from the thundering Victoria Falls at its most powerful, before making your way into the Okavango Delta. The vast network of floodwaters throughout the Central Okavango and Santawani Reserve are brimming in some parts and receding in others, creating opportunities for adventures by boat, mokoro (dugout canoe), 4x4 and on foot as buffalo, blue wildebeest, giraffe, zebra and hippos frolic in the flourishing vegetation and predators like lions, leopards and wild dogs come out to play. Among the dunes of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, you’ll track red hartebeest, springbok, honey badger and mongoose drawn to the petrified riverbeds flourishing grasses and, if you’re lucky, see black-maned Kalahari lions and cheetahs.
While some hotels focus on what’s inside four walls, Nkwichi has done away with them entirely, using nature as its canvas. Situated beneath sky awash with glittering stars, surrounded by waves washing up on the shore and the symphony of the local wildlife, the Lake of Stars Bed at Nkwichi is one of Africa’s best-kept secrets. Set up on the fringes of Lake Malawi, the bed – a rugged wooden frame draped with fine mosquito nets and lit only by the soft glow of lanterns – sits out among the elements. There’s no light pollution, mobile phone signal or internet here – guests are able to truly disconnect and immerse themselves in nature. You have the option of setting up on the sandy shores of the lake; a rock island, with lapping waters around you; or on a cliff top with spectacular views of the bay. Once you’ve settled in, a three-course dinner and a selection of sundowners are served at your star-bed location. Regardless of the spot you choose, this is the kind of stripped-back, bare-essentials experience that’s as uncommercial and off-grid as it gets. Slipping between the sheets has never been more grounding.
You'll feel like you’ve stepped straight into Star Wars in this desert escape. Located high in the NamibRand Nature Reserve, built on a dune plateau, Wolwedens Dunes Lodge offers wooden chalets from where you can gaze out onto the endless horizon of fiery red sands. With elegant dining and fine wines from the resort’s private cellar, you’ll find yourself disconnecting and getting back to nature in style. If you struggle to sit still, a range of activities are also available. Drift high into the sky in a hot-air balloon, take a walking tour and experience the grand magnitude of the dramatic landscape, or immerse yourself in the culture with a tour of the village. There’s even the opportunity to unwind further with a massage surrounded by the endless skies and vast plains of the reserve.
Tags: africa, botswana, cool guide, egypt, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, morocco, mozambique, Namibia, Reunion Island, Rwanda, senegal, Seychelles, south africa, special section, sudan, tanzania, Uganda, zambia, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe