Making the most exciting holidays even more thrilling: The weird and wonderful world of “alternative” safaris

Sometimes seeing lion in its natural habitat just isn’t enough
You don’t need to augment Africa’s resplendent natural beauty – its incredible wildlife, its stunning scenery, its famous sunsets. You don’t need to – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. Competition between eco-lodges and safari-operators is fierce, and many now offer a wealth of “optional extras”. So if seeing a majestic lion in its natural habitat isn’t enough for you, take a look at some of these fantastical, extravagant and just plain weird alternative safari holidays.


Take to a helicopter to spot elephants or blast your quad-bike riding friends with a paintball gun

ADRENALINE SAFARI

Helicopter. Paintball. Safari. Bet it never occurred to you to combine the three, right? Well, that’s exactly what you can try at Leobo Private Reserve – and you’ll be glad to know it doesn’t involve colouring in any animals with high-velocity paint bullets. Instead, you take aim at your quad-bike riding mates as you man a helicopter-mounted paintball gun. Taking in the vast beauty of the rolling African plains through the scope of a paint-rifle may be unorthodox, but it does sound like a lot of fun. There are also, of course, more traditional safari excursions on offer – located three hours north of Johannesburg in 12,000 acres of wilderness, Leobo is one of the most stunning lodges in the world, and well worth considering, whether or not you have an urge to fire paint out of a helicopter.
For more information visit exceptional-travel.com, email info@exceptional-travel.com or call 01608 638 777

PHOTOGRAPHY SAFARI

When it comes to A-list wildlife photographers, Paul Goldstein is right up there. Enrol on his regular Kenyan photographic safari and you’ll discover he’s a charmer and a disciplinarian. With his strict time-keeping and authoritative voice, he manages his camps as if they were exotic outposts of a 1950s boarding school. The carrot and the stick are both integral to his teaching method but if you follow his guidance and try hard you’ll be rewarded with invaluable advice, both technical and artistic. Exodus won't provide you with a camera but the good people at Lenses For Hire (lensesforhire.co.uk; 01628 639941) are able to loan a huge variety of cameras, lenses and kit for competitive prices, ensuring you’ll have some decent snaps to show the folks back home.
9 days including flights costs from £3,979; exodus.co.uk


Photography with Paul Goldstein

FOODIE SAFARI

The streets of Mayfair may seem a world away from the remote South African bush, but for discerning gourmet travellers the distance between the two recently became a lot smaller. A new initiative at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve invites some of the world’s top chefs into the kitchen at the area’s renowned Earth Lodge. The partnership was launched in February, with Michelin-starred Eric Chavot making the inaugural visit, taking a week-long break from his eponymous Mayfair brasserie (at The Westbury on Conduit Street) to share his experience. Rumour has it Australian chef Neil Perry may be hosting the trip next year.
The area is impressive, too: Sabi Sabi is a beautiful swath of savannah; a 4,000-hectare reserve situated within the Sand Wildtuin wilderness area at the southwest corner of Kruger National Park. Teeming with wildlife, you stand a good chance of spotting the “big five” on your trip here.
Prices from £2,498 per person sharing (July-December 2015). Earth Lodge package price for three nights from £2,995 per person. Log on to africacollection.co.uk for more information

Try an alternative scuba-diving safari

SCUBA SAFARI

If seeing the biggest, baddest land creatures in the world isn’t enough for you, then why not combine your safari with some scuba-diving, where you can add sharks, whales and turtles to the list of animals you’ve spotted. The 13 day dive safari by Nomad Africa will take you from the breathtaking scenery of Blyde River Canyon to the world-famous Kruger National Park. Then you’ll head north to the tropical waters of Praia Do Tofo in Mozambique, home to one of the only permanent populations of Whale Sharks. Here you’re guaranteed to see manta rays and more tropical fish than you can shake a snorkel at. The trip will also take in a land-based safari at Hlane Royal National Park and more diving in Sodwana before ending up in Durban.
For more information log onto nomadtours.co.za or call +27 (0)21 426 5445


Try horse-trekking

ETHICAL HUNTING SAFARI

If sitting safely in a expertly-driven vehicle does nothing for you, get stuck in with the Uncharted Africa Safari Co. Set up by Ralph Bousfield, son of legendary African explorer Jack Bousfield, it’s an opportunity to spend eight nights hunting and foraging for wild quarry – antelope, rats and poison grub beetles – with local bushmen who will share their history and customs during the traditional hunting season, which runs from 5 April to 5 September. Learn how to make up a hunting kit, shoot a bow and arrow and gather herbal medicine, all while living next to big game. It aims to be an authentic and educational experience that’s intimately connected to the landscape.
For rates and booking, visit unchartedafrica.com


Tours led by local bushmen

SELF DRIVE 4X4 SAFARI

The majestic African rhino has been through a lot over the past 40 years. They have no natural predators but large scale poaching has dramatically reduced numbers. There were only 2,300 black rhino left in 1993, but a huge conservation effort means it’s closer to 5,000 these days.
And there’s no better place to catch a rare glimpse of these giants than Etosha National Park in Namibia. Translated as “great white place”, it’s an enormous bowl of silvery white sand the size of Holland, where shimmering mirages blur the horizon in the midday heat. It’s home to all your usual big game, but there are also wandering herds of both black and white rhinos to spot.
And you can take your time searching, too, because Expert Africa offers a 13-day Impala Self-Drive safari. Simply pick up your keys from the airport, meet up with their knowledgeable guides and take your time exploring the national park in your own time.
Prices from £2,218 per person based on two sharing, with flights from London, accommodation for 10 nights and car hire. Expertafrica.com

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