You have the freedom to explore exactly where you wish, and in most cases you can plan your itinerary each day with your captain as you go! When you charter a private vessel, the options are endless. You can also, space allowing, have your own private specialist guide to accompany you throughout. If you are interested in marine life, why not have a marine biologist on board? Or a private photographic guide to teach you how to get the best images and to record your holiday for you as you go?
There are many places that you can explore this way, and for each there is a range of vessels that you can opt for. I have pulled together my own preferences and recommendations below to provide you with some inspiration for truly exciting water-borne adventures in and around Africa:
There are 115 islands which make up the Seychelles, lying right in the middle of the Indian Ocean, nurturing unique species of flora and fauna including the giant tortoises of Aldabra atoll, unique species of birds and hundreds of different fish and aquatic life. Take your private yacht or catamaran around the far-flung islands and land on deserted beaches with amazing granite structures mostly protected in nature reserves in this pristine "Garden of Eden".
Sensational Madagascar’s 5,000km of coastline offers unspoiled waters perfect for a yacht charter. Nosy Be is the ideal starting point with soft, white sandy beaches and coral islets. The island’s diversity is one of its biggest attractions with contrasting environments of rich vegetation and beautiful beaches. Visit some of the island’s national parks and reserves and you will definitely want to see some of their unique lemur species.
My favourite private yacht charter for Madagascar is Yacht Adiva which offers the ultimate luxury in live-aboard experience. While away the days visiting the different islands, stopping at the small uninhabited island of Antshoa which offers the best lemur experience, and then relaxing under the shady trees with refreshments whilst watching the world go by.
For marine life, visit Nosy Kalakojoro where leopard sharks swim through the pass. The sheltered anchorages of Baie des Russes (Russian Bay) host humpback whales at the right time of year, as well as manta rays and dolphins.
The islands of Mauritius and Réunion are largely volcanic, are almost entirely surrounded by one of the largest unbroken coral reefs in the world. Réunion’s jagged scenery is striking and you can hike to see the almost permanently-active volcano Piton de la Fournaise, marvelling at the bright red magma flowing under the laval crust. You can search for wildlife in the primary forests too, walking through luscious green vegetation and occasionally coming across waterfalls too.
On Mauritius, immerse yourself in the island’s Creole heritage and colonial buildings. There are glorious white-sand beaches to spend the days on, and every kind of water sport in existence can be sampled here!
This is one of my favourite spots along the east coast of Africa, with colonial architecture and the magic, warm waters around the island of Zanzibar and Pemba. The best way to explore this heavenly slice of Tanzania is to take a six- to seven-night cruising charter on a luxury catamaran.
Live-aboard, spacious ‘Walkabout’ is a fast 50-foot catamaran with modern interiors and sleek design features. There are four cabins each with queen bed and en suite shower, along with ample storage space, ideal for a family sailing holiday or groups of friends travelling together.
There are sheltered islets and coral reefs to explore, powdery white beaches all to yourself, with dolphins and (at the right time of year) whales to watch. There are kayaks, fishing rods and snorkelling equipment aboard and for those who like to dive, a dive master can be arranged.
For a bit of ‘TLC’ at the end, I would highly recommend staying for a few nights at Fundu Lagoon on Pemba Island before your flight home - there are international flights into Zanzibar or Dar Es Salaam daily.
Travel along the Swahili coast of Kenya and cruise out to tropical islands where you can soak up the sun and sea culture. Moored off Kiwayu Island, Tusitiri is a unique and extremely luxurious 50ft traditional wooden dhow - the only one of its kind.
Fully staffed, it can take you anywhere and provides a comfortable base for exploring the area and enjoying a myriad of activities, from walking on the pristine sand-dune lined beaches; fishing; snorkelling off the coral reefs; water skiing or wakeboarding in the creeks; picnics, ‘sun-downers’ or ‘moon-risers’; and dropping in to charming fishing villages on the nearby islands.
Life on the vessel, which is traditionally rigged with a single lateen sail, revolves around the main deck with its awnings and massive solid-timbered mast. Here you can laze through the days, dining surrounded by lanterns at night, and sleeping on the comfortable beds which are laid out on deck by the crew after dinner.
One is lulled to sleep by the rustle of the monsoon breezes in the rigging and the gentle slap of wavelets on the wooden hull. October and March have the most favourable weather conditions at sea so this is perfect for a Spring or Autumn break.
Being landlocked, this isn’t a country you would expect to see on a list of the best locations for private yachting and sailing holidays! However this is exactly why I love Zimbabwe for its river cruising and lake houseboats, which are extremely comfortable and relaxing.
Famous for its overwhelming sunsets, extraordinary wildlife viewing and tiger fishing, Lake Kariba is surrounded by the Matusadona National Park and a number of wildlife areas on the Zimbabwean side of the lake.
Take a cruise around the shores of one of Africa’s last remaining true wilderness areas and enjoy awaking to the gentle lapping of waves, the grunting of hippos, and the fish eagle’s eerie cry… you may even hear the distant roar of lion!
Matusadona is one of the best houseboats on the lake with just three spacious, air conditioned cabins with en suite bathrooms. Finished in African hardwood timbers and furnished with rich fabrics, leather and Egyptian cottons, Matusadona has been described as “an intimate luxury lodge on the water. There is a speed boat for exploring activities, and a game viewing pontoon. In the evenings, lie in the Jacuzzi under the stars, glass of wine in hand…
For exploring the mighty Zambezi River, I recently came across a fantastic, five-night excursion downstream ending just after the Kanyemba Gorge. Drift for 210 kilometres past some of the most breath-taking vistas on custom-made, well equipped, eight-berth ‘Challenger’ with three crew members to look after your every wish.
Game view directly from your boat, fish for the elusive tiger fish, observe the plentiful bird species of the region, walk amongst elephants and lions, or simply relax with a book whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the beautiful nature surrounding you.
On the upper deck, there are four custom-built sleeping pods each containing a king size bed, 12V electric fans, as well as solar power charging facilities for 12V and 240V accessories. The lower deck is carpeted with spacious and comfortable seating. They also have an outdoor hot water shower and bio flush toilet on the main deck which offer the guests some of the luxuries of modern living, all whilst maintaining a minimal footprint on the environment.
So if you are seeking a holiday or vacation where you can relax, unwind and explore in complete privacy, away from crowds or other tourists, I thoroughly recommend you consider privately chartering a vessel. Whether that be a high-luxury motor yacht, sailing boat, dhow, catamaran, houseboat or river cruiser, the point is that you are on the water, drifting along serenely and have exclusivity and flexibility. What more could you want from a luxury holiday or safari to Africa?
If you would like any further inspiration for private safaris and holidays to Africa, please do read our top recommendations for private villas, private mobile camping safaris, and private islands. I would be delighted to talk to you in person and if you have anything specific in mind we could create a bespoke itinerary just for you. Alternatively if you would just like to dream for now, you can do so at our video library.
Images used by kind courtesy of Tusitiri luxury dhow, Matusadona lake cruiser, Walkabout catamaran, Challenger river cruiser, Ocean Island yacht charters.