"If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?"
These words must have burst forth from Karen Blixen’s tumescent soul in the wake of her experience of Africa. For no amount of profound poetry or elegant prose could ever capture the true enchantment of my beloved continent. But I can try by suggesting 15 must-do adventures in 2016 (in no particular order):
1. A Walk on the Wild Side
Zambia - South Luangwa Valley
The 9059-square-km South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is high-octane safari country. We saw elephant, lion, hippo, crocodiles, leopard and buffalo many times over during our short stay. Plus the second most endangered dog specie in the world, the Wild Dog. The thrill of watching a pride of lions stalk and kill an unsuspecting antelope is heart-stopping. Indulge in the luxurious lodges of Norman Carr, delight in their fine cuisine and be awed by the knowledge of their rangers. You will not come away from the Zambia the same...
When to go:May to October.
2. Where Two Oceans Meet
South Africa - Cape Point
Well, it doesn’t really but standing at the most south-westerly tip of Africa, watching the furious currents hundreds of meters below is a spectacular sight. Cape Point is home to breath-taking bays, beaches and rolling green hills and valleys, just 60km outside of Cape Town. If you actually want to see the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, you have to travel about 100km east of Cape Point to Cape Agulhas.
When to go: November to May
3. The Angel’s View
Zimbabwe - Helicopter ride over Victoria Falls
No Africa bucket list is complete without a heart-stopping helicopter flip over the Vic Falls. Once I overcame most of my panic attacks, I allowed the awe of the falls from this vantage point to envelop me. The sense of Man’s insignificance rushes at one with visceral and raw ferocity in the face of one of the magnificent Wonders of the World beneath. The thundering falling waters go on for miles and it looked to me like a place where the earth broke.
When to go:February to May
Stay at: http://www.victoria-falls-safari-lodge.com/ , the best lodge at the Victoria Falls in my opinion
4. Gently Down the Stream - Or Not!
South Africa - river rafting on the Orange River
Want to scream in exhilaration like a little girl? Well, Africa offers many occasions for such reactions but none more so than the sheer elation involved in negotiating rapids on the mighty Orange River near the Augrabies Falls in the Northern Cape, South Africa. It induced in me an unbridled adrenaline rush. Situated in the so-called "green" Kalahari, the pristine and very un-touristy area offers many other activities besides like fishing, trails and safaris.
When to go: March to May
Stay at Tutwa Lodge http://internalbmwp.com/ for superb and very isolated 5-star accommodation
5. Je t'aime Rodrigues
The island of Rodrigues
About 650 km off the coast of Mauritius lies a tiny Photoshopped island called Rodrigues. It was this place that almost induced in me a condition called Stendhal syndrome. It causes dizziness and even hallucinations when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world. The island is revealed from the air like a floating green planet, with its surrounding coral reef tenderly hugging it like its very own atmosphere. It is stuck in time - you won’t find any gargantuan resorts or shopping malls here, only natural coral reefs, tropical forests and peace. Get there before the world wakes up to this secret.
When to go: Year-round
6. The Great Esc-ape
Rwanda - Silverback Mountain Gorillas
Stretchers. That’s what enough money can buy you should you not be up to one of the most arduous two-hour treks up a volcanic mountain I have ever done. But it’s worth the blood, sweat and tears as well as every cent of the $750 per person to see some of the last remaining Silverback mountain gorillas in the world in Rwanda. The experience is truly visceral. When you see your ancient self in their eyes and vice versa, it’s as our guide said: "Who’s actually looking at whom?"
When to go: mid-December to early February or June to September.
Stay at: http://www.serenahotels.com/serenalakekivu/default-en.html. They will also arrange the gorilla excursion for you.
7. A Touch Above
South Africa - a treehouse stay in the Kruger National Park
Situated in the Kruger National Park, Narina Lodge offers guests a night at their Tinyeleti wooden treehouse. It's complete with a four-poster bed with mosquito netting. We had a set table with real linen and 5-star food and wine. Overlooking the river on stilts with a huge telescope and vanity and toilet beneath, you are left on your own. I woke up during the night from the bark of a hyena right underneath me. And watching dawn break all around from a bed in a tree is an indescribable sensation.
When to go: April to December
Malawi - Mumbo Island
I can devote an entire book to this pristine and deserted island. Mumbo Island has never been populated, and is still in its natural state with a thick covering of miombo woodland and ancient fig and baobab trees. guests with one family tent. The tents are tastefully furnished with shaded decks, hammocks, hot bucket showers and ‘eco-loos’. When we were there we ate, relaxed and kayaked for hours on the calm crystal blue lake in this secluded slice of heaven.
The tiny island camp can accommodate only 14
When to go: May to October
9. The Beautiful Beople
Namibia - the Himba tribe
A visit to the Himba tribe at Gelbingen Lodge, situated in a mountainous valley in the middle of a Mopani tree savannah in Damaraland is a must. They are a truly beautiful and serene people and their prolific photographs in magazines and galleries all over the world are testament to just how synonymous they are with Namibia. They have settled and continue their lives as they have for thousands of years, untouched by modern day iniquities. Go say hello.
When to go: April to September
10. Beyond the Edge
Tanzania - Mount Kilimanjaro
The Pet Shop Boys had a hit song in the 80s entitled "It’s a Sin". And the fact that I haven’t been to Mount Kilimanjaro, is just that. On this here bucket list, I have to admit it is the only thing I have not done but even though this is a vicarious notion, I can say with almost complete certainty that this particular mount should be on your list. Kili is the highest mountain in Africa and part of the Kilimanjaro National Park, a major climbing destination with simply epic views.
When to go:July to October, then from December to February
11. Battle Cries
South Africa - Islandwana Lodge
I don’t like crowds as a rule, but in the scorching heat of a typical December day in the hills of KwaZulu-Natal I found myself surrounded by thousands of people. Dead people. I couldn’t turn without tripping over another dead or dying, eviscerated body. We were standing on the site of the Battle of Isandlwana and the tortured screams of British soldiers were ear shattering. It is the site of arguably the biggest loss in British military history against King Shaka’s brave Zulu warriors - and it is fascinating...
When to go: Year-round
12. Soaring in Silence
Egypt - hot air balloon over Luxor
To see the sunrise over the Valley of the Kings in a hot air balloon redefines a bucket list adventure. Our day to remember started with a 5:00 am pick up from our hotel. We then sailed to the west bank of Luxor where we "boarded" our balloons. It’s scary at first but once you experience the silent air up there and the spectacular sun starts to rise over the tombs, temples and monuments... Man, oh man! This experience was literally on another level.
When to go: December to March
13. Land of Milk and Blood
Kenya - The Masai Mara
The Masai Mara National Reserve is 1,510 square km and consists mostly of savannah plains and as clichéd as it may seem, "Out of Africa" scenes are everywhere. Here I shared an adventure which I will never forget. To see so many animals together, roaming the plains and migrating is a shock and a spectacle. Elephant, wildebeest, impala, Red hartebeest, topi, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, Thompson Giselle and the occasional lion pride. All these species together on one stage is a sight like no other on earth.
When to go: Year-round but the height of the migration is from July to October
Stay at Basecamp Explorer and Eagle’s View
14. She Sells Seashells...
The Seychelles - Maia
The Maia Luxury Resort and Spa is jaw-droppingly, eye-poppingly out-of-this world unbelievable. It is located on the secluded beachfront of Anse Louis in Mahé and it’s hedonistic heaven, transcending all levels of luxury. My own palatial, Balinese villa looked out over the ocean from the forest high up and I had my very own personal butler. The voluminous menu is merely a suggestion since the chef will make you almost anything you want. The Maia website says it all: Spacious. Secluded. Sublime. It’s pricey but worth every penny.
When to go: March to November
15. Cloud Nine
Mozambique - Snorkeling and diving in the Quirimbas Archipelago
Diving treasures on the remote and tiny island of Medjumbe in the North of Mozambique are in abundance and little explored. These crystal clear waters reach rarely less than 27°C in winter and the almost immaculate marine ecosystem is astonishing. This Anantara resort (the only one on the island) also offers a range of diving courses. Later after our dive, as we laughed and danced and looked up at the brilliant black sky with its millions of stars, I realized this is one of those rare moments in life when time had no meaning and everything was perfect.
When to go: May to September