In 2016, Jake Hoddinott and Donovan Rule set out on a mammoth overland trip through the wildest areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, with the goal of finding Africa’s ultimate safari destination. They visited South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. Their travels took them to many places off the beaten track. This was an unforgettable experience for them, and an inspiration for the rest of us. They were able to acquire a wealth of knowledge, so that we too can find the ultimate safari destination, without the trial and error they faced.
Here are some of the highlights from their unforgettable adventure.
The Okavango Delta remains one of their all-time favourite places, not only in Africa, but in the world. The sheer bird and wildlife concentrations of the region is amazing. Here, one can watch elephants cross a crystal clear channel that’s just a little too deep for the youngest members of the herd, so that all that is visible are their wettened trunks. At the same time, you can enjoy a sundowner while casting a line for an African pike or a tackle-busting nembwe, all to the tune of the omnipresent African fish eagle. A truly unique experience!
Whilst Botswana has adopted a high-value, low-impact model with respect to tourism, making it a relatively expensive trip, the richness of its wildlife biodiversity is unrivalled, and the swamps are a truly special place.
Namibia: Breathtaking landscapes, massive expanses of seeming nothingness… the rust-red sand dunes of the Namib, and oases of wildlife dotted throughout the country. Add in the feeling that, culturally and economically, you haven’t really left home, and Namibia becomes a very appealing option.
Chitake Springs is a truly wonderful Zambian destination. Unfenced camps, a real sense of wilderness, and one of the few wildlife parks that allow unguided walks make it a superb safari destination. And just 50km north, both the Zambezi and the iconic Mana Pools can be found. Jake and Donovan didn’t see any other people during their stay, bar the Anti-Poaching Unit. This was possibly due to the time of the year that they visited, and a real sense of being in the wild pervaded. This made it a very special part of the trip, somewhat reminiscent of their time at Lake Tagalala in the Selous.
Liuwa Plain National Park is unique, with rural communities continuing to exist within the park boundaries. It is a great example of a sustainable solution to Africa’s growing population and the potential human-wildlife conflicts that result. The local communities have a participatory stake in the park, and benefit directly from the tourism associated with the park, creating an ecosystem where people and wildlife co-exist. Liuwa is home to Africa’s second-largest wildebeest migration, and has been the site of many positive changes since African Parks began managing the park in 2003. These include a growing pride of lions, increasing cheetah numbers, and drastically-reduced poaching. Jake and Donovan enjoyed some incredibly special sunsets, observing massive lines of wildebeest, with thousands of black-winged pratincoles landing and taking-off in the ensuing dust cloud, all punctuated by the ubiquitous spotted hyena. The Zambian people were some of the friendliest they encountered, which added a wonderful warmth to the experience.
Ruaha National Park, Katavi National Park, and Selous Game Reserve offered up some truly incredible wildlife sightings, accompanied by a genuine sense of wilderness and solitude. Tanzania has some challenges- the traffic officials can become tiresome, and the park fees (USD denominated) are very high. When Jake and Donovan arrived, the parks had just added 18% VAT to all park fees under the premise that this would see an improvement in facilities. This was not something they could really attest to, as the facilities they encountered were extremely basic, if any were provided at all. However, when it comes to a wilderness experience and wildlife densities, the parks of Tanzania’s southern circuit really are exceptional.
This is just a fraction of what Jake and Donovan experienced on their incredible expedition. The African continent has so much to offer, such wonders to see. Don’t you think it is worth your time to visit some of these spots for yourself?