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Where are the Remotest Safaris to Africa?

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I am personally very excited about what is happening around Africa, not least the incredible input by the not for profit organisation, African Parks. Whilst we hear the very worst tales of poaching in Africa and wonder how on earth we can win against this plight of ill education – a ray of sunshine and some very good news comes along.

And that is this – with all the parks that African Parks manage, the poaching has declined considerably and the quantity of animals are now on the increase. African Parks take total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. They happily operate in some of the most stunningly beautiful and remotest areas, too.

From the Bangweulu Swamps and the Liuwa Plains in Zambia, to Majete and Nkhotakota in Malawi, to Zakouma in Chad, Odzala in the Congo and Akagera in Rwanda. Not only do they restock these wonderful regions with wildlife that used to freely roam these vast tracts of land, but they also supervise and monitor the game movements.

Each park employs between 80 and 250 local staff in permanent positions and many others benefit from temporary employment opportunities. Currently they employ nearly 1000 people in remote rural regions of Africa, directly contributing to the support of some 8 000 dependents. The total area under management covers 5.9 million hectares, an area larger than The Netherlands.

The Bangweulu Swamps is one of Africa’s greatest wetland systems. It is renowned for species not found elsewhere in the country or in southern Africa, such as the black lechwe antelope and the Shoebill stork.

Black lechwe in particular, can be found in huge numbers and it is always thrilling to see wildlife that you have simply never encountered on any other safari before! Elephant, buffalo, hippo, the beautiful and elusive sitatunga antelope, roan and sable as well as blue throated bee eaters and wattled crane all occur here.

One of the most exciting aspects is that not only do you not share the space with anyone else – but that these are all species that are so hard to find anywhere else. I discovered that you can explore this gorgeous, pristine region on foot and by boat as I did, staying overnight at a wonderful, private, luxury mobile tented camp, with my own private guide.

Chatting with your guide around the fire at night, discussing the following day’s planned adventures,  going to sleep to the sound of the spotted hyena whooping and starting the day with the side striped jackal calling, is one of the most profound and memorable experiences I can ever remember. You can smell the dew through the gauze windows in the morning as the sun throws its gentle rays across your bed and it’s the start of another beautiful day in Africa!

One of my other favourite was the Liuwa Plains. I cannot recall seeing another area of such extreme beauty! On this particular adventure I was there during the green season when the entire area turns a bright yellow with a mass flowers and to witness the blue wildebeest migration is a superb sight while the sound of their grunting carrying across the plains is something I will remember forever.

This is the second largest wildebeest migration in Africa, after the Masai Mara in Kenya. The best time to see Liuwa Plains is from May through to December when the park opens, with probably my favourite month being November. The plains teem with wildlife and your migrant birds return. It’s a time of regeneration! Butterflies are out and the wildlife is relaxed as the pans all fill with water again. 

From January to April, during the rainy season, the pans are filled and birdlife such as huge flocks of pelicans amongst many other birds, together with the wildebeest. There’s a fabulous little camp here and again, game viewing is surprisingly good! On my last visit, I saw lion, hyena as well as the extraordinary, prehistoric looking Shoebill Stork.

I also saw Africa’s most efficient predator, the wild dog, which was spectacular! But it’s the emptiness – the space – the feeling that this entire region is yours – that makes it oh, so special – quite aside from the wonderful game viewing. It isn’t smart – it doesn’t pretend to be – but it’s down to earth and beautiful in its simplicity.

There is a luxury camp in the process of being built here, too. Again, I was lucky enough to go with one of Africa’s finest guides, who takes great joy in revealing the splendours of this magical region. For a truly different safari, where you share the plains with wildlife and not tourists, then to me, the finest remote safaris in Africa must lie here.

With still a little while to go in terms of both animal numbers and habituation, is Nkhotakota and Majete in Malawi. Here there are two truly beautiful lodges serving amazing food. Majete was stocked with wildlife – 2500 of 12 different species and it’s good to see that it is gradually coming along, with both lion and elephant numbers on the increase.

Malawi is such a wonderful country, beautiful, diverse, with incredible people – it’s not for nothing that it has earned the reputation of the warm heart of Africa. The joy with both Zambia and Malawi is that for a bit of rest and relaxation, one can end your journey on Lake Malawi where there is a plethora of truly gorgeous places to stay.