AFRICA, June 6, 2013 – In so many ways, a Southern African winged safari provides the ultimate travel adventure. Chauffeuring its clients by air, the journey travels to four of the most uniquely fascinating countries the continent has to offer: Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
All four nations link together to form a chain across the continent’s South Land. Each country differs from the other in its wildlife and habitat to provide a spectacular spectrum for game viewing and environmental discovery.
For nearly two weeks, guests fly in their own charter plane. The aircraft and personal pilot remain with his passengers throughout the journey, giving them a “seamless” safari experience.
Why four countries? And why travel by air? Because, no single country in Africa (or on earth) could contain this safari’s spectacular diversity: ranging from the world’s tallest sand dunes to the world’s greatest rainbow waterfall, Victoria Falls plus the Southern Hemisphere’s richest wildlife diversity.
In all, the winged safari’s itinerary covers more than 3,000 miles that are effortlessly broken up in short commuter hops ranging from ten minutes to several hours every third day during the daylight hours.
Two nights are spent in each safari lodge or at a permanently tented camp located in national parks or on private game reserves. Once their plane touches down in the bush at a new destination, the travelers are virtually in camp. And some of the best game viewing is often en route between the airstrip and nearby safari camp itself.
Flying out of Johannesburg, South Africa in a 12 passenger Beechcraft Baron, our pilot Deon Kruger headed northwest to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean along Namibia’s legendary Skeleton Coast. Here the spectacular ochre-colored sand dunes rise to a height of twenty stories and stretch nearly 1,000 miles along the coast and 100 miles inland affording a desert perspective like no other.
After landing at our destination we soon were airborne again. This time, however, drifting silently in a hot air balloon just above the spectacular sands. Later, we would descend, land and begin a steep, breathtaking sandy trek to a dune’s summit.
Following our descent, the exploration continues across the “dry pans” or saltwater flats in the surrounding wilderness where only the hearty wild ostrich and indigenous long-horned Oryx survive.
By day’s end, there’s always the reward of returning to camp; to the exclusivity and privacy of the permanently tented camp or game lodge.
At Soussusvlei behind the dunes, there are but nine luxurious guest units, typical of the cozy lodgings throughout the trip. Each of the private villas affords panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness and each has its own private plunge pool as well as an en suite bathroom featuring hot and cold running water and shower.
Just two hours removed from the Soussusvlei, the Beechcraft Baron touches down amid the forests of the Ongava Game Reserve. Accommodations are a classic bedded tented camp with all the comforts of home in six units accommodating just 12 safari guests.
Game rides in 4X4s each morning and afternoon afford close encounters with black and white rhino, zebra and giraffe. Dining out under the stars just 30 yards from the camp’s much visited, floodlit water hole is an added game spotting bonus while enjoying the gourmet cuisine.
An entirely different world awaits the safari adventurers on another short flight into neighboring Botswana. It is the watery, wonder world of the Okavango Delta covering over 6,000 square miles of waterways, palm-filled islands and lagoons. This is the greatest natural wildlife sanctuary in all of Africa, home to the greatest number of animal, bird and plant species in the Southern Hemisphere.
In two separate luxurious lodges, each with private thatched chalets and raised walkways elevated ten feet above ground, guests actually share the camp with the local wildlife. So it is not at all uncommon to have a noisy Cape Water Buffalo hunker down for the night just eight feet below where a weary safari couple asleep in their mosquito-curtained bed.
Besides the daily game drives by 4X4s, guests also explore by water in native mekoro dugouts propelled by expert pole men through the shallow lily and papyrus studded ponds in search of elephant and lion wildlife.
Victoria Falls, called “The Smoke that Thunders,” by the native populace is arguably one of the world’s great natural wonders and is just minutes away in neighboring Zambia. Here travelers are pampered at the renowned River Club.
Very British still, it has private Edwardian chalets and lush lawns high on the banks of the Zambezi River, just before it plunges over the downstream escarpment creating rainbow-laced waterfalls first seen in European eyes by explorer-missionary David Livingston in the 1800s.
The safari’s final destination is eastward into neighboring Zimbabwe to Mana Pools National Park in the lower Zambezi Valley. At Rukomechi Camp, canoeing the mighty Zambezi through herds of semi-submerged hippos and crocodiles is a final safari challenge. Trekking on foot into the bush with an armed escort is another adventure experience.
At safari’s end, one guest, a chic Australian model who kept a daily wildlife log, tallied her scorecard: 53 different animal species spotted and confirmed plus 154 kinds of birds. “Mind boggling!,” she exclaimed.
“But when I get home, will they ever believe me?”
NOTES: For more than half a century, Premier Tours of Philadelphia, PA has operated individually tailored, world-class luxury safari adventure tours. Managed by born-and-bred South Africans, it is “A-Listed” by top travel publications including Fodor and Frommer travel guides and Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler magazines.
My itinerary, like those of all Premier Tours travelers, was specially designed and customized for my individual interests, calendar and budget.
Peak South African safari season: July through October. Its annual “Green Season” December-February brings some rain, but brightens up the landscape to enhance the environment for photography.
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