Safaris with a Difference

It can be easy to focus all your expectations on ticking off the ‘Big 5’ when planning a safari holiday but some of the other options offer the chance to experience a different, hidden magic of Africa which can be equally rewarding, if not more so.

Safari means ‘long journey’ in Swahili, the language of East Africa. Africa is synonymous with safari and safari has long been synonymous with the Maasai Mara, the Serengeti and Kruger National Park. This is rightly so with the rich selection of wildlife (including the ‘big 5’) thriving in these parts and the opportunity to bear witness to the natural wonder of the Great Migration. The safari market is very mature in these regions, offering lots of choice at all budgets, animals more used to humans for increased sightings and an all year round season. Inevitably all these positives make them very popular with visitors. 

However, there are also more under the radar alternatives for experiencing life under African skies. You may be reducing the odds of stumbling across a pride of lions, but if the idea of a truly wild bush experience without the risk of crowds appeals, then read on.

We’re getting right off the beaten track, taking in four alternative African safari destinations all with something unique to offer. Walking safaris, impossibly romantic lodges, bush camps, secretly observing life at a waterhole from a hide, traditional dugout canoe trips and nights under canvas all add to the authentic African experience. 


Botswana is considered to be right at the top of the Safari experience. Botswana has set aside 45 per cent of its land for protection, which is one of the reasons why the country has such an abundance of wildlife. It has one of Africa’s healthiest big cat populations and boasts the largest numbers of African elephants anywhere on the continent. 

Dividing neatly into ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ areas you can enjoy large game viewing on the drier Kalahari plains and salt pans and explore the wetlands of the famous Okavango Delta. Here, the reed and papyrus lined waterways and lily covered lagoons complete with wallowing hippo are best explored by the traditional dugout canoe called a mokoro. The fascinating birdlife in both areas is enough to turn anyone into a twitcher! Look out for malachite kingfishers, carmine bee-eaters and the rare Pel’s fishing owl.

Botswana offers an exclusive experience as they adopt a high value, low impact tourism policy. Many of the reserves here are private and the number of camps are limited as well as being generally small and intimate. Here you can do bush life in style. If you’re looking for top quality accommodation, efficient arrangements, excellent service and fine dining to go with a superb wildlife experience, Botswana is where it’s at. You can dine, sleep or even bath under the stars! Watch the video below to get a taste of what you can expect.

Best for:  Luxury; Romance.

Best Months for Game Viewing: End June-October.

Best Area for Large Game: Moremi Game Reserve

Added Bonus: The Makgadikgadi Pans National Park for the animal migrations. Viewing elephants from a Sunset cruise on the Chobe river. 


Zambia is definitely lesser known as a safari destination but for those in the know, this is the real, raw African experience. Vast and wild, Zambia enjoys the benefit of multiple rivers creating ideal conditions for a huge variety of wildlife. Game viewing is good especially for sightings of the often elusive leopard and wild dogs.

Zambia is considered the home of the walking safari and certainly no trip would be complete without venturing out on foot with guides who are renowned in safari circles as being amongst the best. Learning about tracks, trees, shrubs and the smaller gems missed from the confines of a game drive vehicle is to experience bush life proper. 

Integral to the best walking safaris are Zambia’s unique bush camps providing your base. Deliberately set up out in the middle of nowhere and accommodating just a few guests at a time, they range from luxury to more basic affairs. For the hardiest there is the option of a fly camp erected each night after a day’s walking. Enjoying totally unspoiled wilderness that few people ever reach provides a real thrill. Fall asleep to the sound of lions roaring and hippos grunting and awake to the dawn chorus of Africa’s rich birdlife.

Intrigued about a walking safari? Watch the short video below to discover more.

Best for: Off the beaten track vibe; Top class walking safaris and night drives

Best months for Large Game Viewing: June-October

Best Area for Large Game: South Luangwa National Park

Added Bonus: The Victoria Falls; Combining with trip to Lake Malawi



Neighbouring Zambia is Malawi,  a small country fondly known as the warm heart of Africa due its famously friendly people. Malawi has few safari areas and these are little known as they are easily trumped by their neighbours on the game viewing front. Thus tourism is not a big industry in this relaxed and green African land.

But Malawi has much to offer anyone looking for an authentic experience of African life so come and be charmed and enjoy the bragging rights of being a real traveller! 

Malawi’s wildlife scene has suffered due to the lack of impetus for conservation, its climate favouring a predominantly agricultural economy (farming and wildlife is often a cause for conflict in these circumstances!). However, recent years have brought in changes with wildlife being successfully reintroduced to the national parks and reserves. 

Majete Reserve is an incredible conservation success story – just ten years ago it had no wildlife in it, but now it is Malawi’s only Big Five park with thriving animal populations and plentiful birdlife. It is truly off-the-beaten-track; a completely unspoilt wilderness destination offering a sense of total serenity, far away from the tourist crowds. Guests have the opportunity to go on guided walks and explore the reserve’s spectacular and diverse landscape on foot, encountering wildlife along the way.

Lions have been reintroduced to Liwonde National Park and hippos and crocs reside in the river. It is not Malawi’s biggest or most spectacular game park but it has a winning ambience and first class bird watching.

In addition to the opportunity to view big game in this low key setting, any trip to Malawi would need to include a trip to Lake Malawi, covering 20% of the country’s area. The waters are clear and great for sailing, windsurfing snorkelling and diving especially at Likoma Island where you can enjoy sandy beaches and secluded coves. 

Mulanje is also a rewarding trip. Home to the tea growing industry, the climate is cooler and perfect for enjoying hikes on Mount Mulanje or sampling life on a tea plantation.

Watch the video below for a sample of the wildlife experiences on offer. 

Best for: A unique African experience in a charming country. Something different. Experiencing wildlife conservation at work first hand. 

Best months for Game viewing: May-September

Best Area for Large Game: Majete Game Reserve, Liwonde National Park

Added Bonus: Hiking on the Nyika Plateau. Combine with Zambia for contrasting safari-beach holiday. Likoma’s unexpectedly vast cathedral.


With its well publicised political turmoil, Zimbabwe had sadly become a bit of a no go area as far as tourists were concerned. But Zimbabwe is being reborn and enjoying a tourism renaissance, ready to reclaim its rightful place as a top Safari destination. Take a trip with Romesh Ranganathan on his recent visit for BBC2 to discover more.

Home to abundant, diverse wildlife, top of the range guides and good lodges, Zimbabwe has all the ingredients for the perfect safari holiday. And then there is the bonus of the scenery! Its landscapes are varied and spectacular including wide, sandy savannahs, mountainous hiking territory, the staggeringly remote Lake Kariba (the world’s largest manmade lake) and the magnificent mile long Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river located on the border with Zambia. 

Hwange National Park has a diverse selection of wildlife to rival the Serengeti and Kruger but with far, far less visitors. The UNESCO world heritage site of Mana Pools on the Zambezi offers exceptional wildlife sightings and diverse experiences including walking and canoeing safaris. Lake Kariba offers a more relaxed safari with boat cruises as well as game drives and fantastic sunsets.

For hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing and horse riding, head to the Eastern Highlands on the Mozambique border. The scenery and climate here are more reminiscent of Scotland than Africa.

The tourism industry is what helps to preserve the future of the wildlife in these countries. Good businesses run by good people in Zimbabwe are leading the way to getting the sector back on its feet.

Best for: Variety of wildlife, Spectacular scenery, Excellent guiding and accommodation

Best months for Game Viewing: May-November

Best Area for Large Game: Hwange National Park, Mana Pools

Added Bonus: Whitewater rafting on the Zambezi. Staying on a houseboat on Lake Kariba.

Start planning your safari holiday now. Get in touch with our knowledgeable and experienced travel experts on 0800 167 0232