7 SUPERB SAFARIS FOR AFRICA’S ICONIC ENDANGERED SPECIES
More and more of Africa’s most iconic species are becoming vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. But the good news is that there are numerous ongoing conservation projects across the continent – many of which rely on revenue generated from eco-tourism!
So here are some of our favorite destinations that are inhabited by some of Africa’s most iconic endangered species, as well as the camps that are making a difference in their conservation.
Lewa Conservancy, Kenya
Nestled in Kenya’s north, Lewa is one of several conservancies within the province of Laikipia. Lewa Conservancy is best known for two things: stunning views of Mt. Kenya and a well-protected population of black rhinos. Not to mention that, with very few camps spread over more than 68,000 acres, Lewa offers one of the most exclusive safari experiences on the continent.
But it’s also home to several endangered species that are hard to find anywhere else, including the world-renowned Maasai Mara. Two notable examples are the Reticulated Giraffe and Grevy’s Zebra (Lewa has the largest population in Africa). If you want to learn more about Lewa Conservancy, read about Alison and Miles Nolting’s safari there last November.
Where To Stay In Lewa Conservancy: Sirikoi
A big reason AAC enjoys Sirikoi so much is that it possesses such a luxurious, “classic Africa” atmosphere. With only 4 Meru-style tents, it is also one of Africa’s most intimate. What’s more, in 2019 the readers of Condé Nast Traveler voted it as the #1 Safari Property in Africa.
And thanks to the collaborate efforts of Sirikoi and the other camps in Lewa Conservancy, their black rhino population has not only grown, but they’ve been able to relocate some elsewhere in Africa.
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
There are places in Africa were you’re likely to see more Bush Elephants and more Wild Dogs (Painted Wolves) than at Mana Pools. But there are very few that compare with how you see them. Mana Pools (and Zimbabwe as a whole) arguably have the best guides in all of Africa.
This qualifies many of the guides in Mana Pools to take safariers on more than just game drives. For instance, you can watch an elephant herd cross the Zambezi River as you paddle along in a canoe. Or you could crawl up to a den of Wild Dogs and their playful pups.
Where To Stay In Mana Pools: Vundu Camp
For years, Nick and Dez Murray of Bushlife Safaris have been one of the AAC’s most important partners. The incredible safari experience they offer at Vundu Camp is not the only reason. Another reason: the conservation work they’ve accomplished with Bushlife Conservancy.
From putting GPS collars on elephants to track their movement, conducting research that has increased African Wild Dogs’ profile, and employing numerous nearby villagers in their anti-poaching unit, Mana Pools, and her endangered species, is better off thanks to Vundu Camp.
Odzala-Kokoua National Park, Republic Of The Congo
Trekking through rainforest and wading through rivers to find the elusive Western Lowland Gorilla. Watching a herd of the critically endangered forest elephant dig up salt in a baï (forest clearing). These are merely two of the many activities for safariers at Odzala-Kokoua.
If anything, a safari to Odzala-Kokoua exudes an ambiance of discovery. In one of Africa’s least explored wildernesses, the safari experience combines adventure and the discovery of species not seen in the safari hotspots of East and Southern Africa.
Where To Stay In Odzala: Mboko Camp
Mboko Camp is your best chance to see forest elephants, and if you’re lucky, chimpanzees in Odzala-Kokoua. But this camp isn’t just a point of departure for your baï treks and boat cruises – the level of comfort is on par with many of luxury camps in East and Southern Africa. Plus, according to AAC President Mark Nolting, it has some of the best food he’s had on safari!
Where To Stay In Odzala: Ngaga Camp
The entirety of Ngaga Camp is built on platforms atop elevated stilts, providing a heightened view of the rainforest that surrounds the camp. And as Szilvia Hegyi can attest, this is where you trek for the Lowland Gorillas.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Because the Okavango Delta water levels are highest during the driest time of year, it has arguably the highest wildlife concentration in all of Africa. For bush elephants, these wetlands are a paradise of abundant vegetation and readily available drinking water.
The staggering number of buffalo and lechwe means that the prides of lions, packs of wild dogs and cheetah have ample hunting opportunities. And for the unwary antelope approaching the water’s edge, there likely lies a stalking leopard.
Beyond the customary game drive, many parts of the Okavango Delta offer a bevy of water-based activities. Safariers can go game viewing on a motorized boat, or go on a traditional mekoro.
When you’re picked up from the airstrip by your guide at Chitabe, the first thing you’ll see is the logo of a Wild Dog on the side of your vehicle. Co-owners Dave and Helene Hamman have actively contributed to the filming of Wild Dog documentaries and their research. For this reason, and the outstanding game viewing in its concession, Chitabe Camp has been an AAC favorite.
Duba Plains Camp
If your two priorities are top-tier luxury and water-based game viewing, Duba Plains Camp is your perfect match. Along with the high-profile big game species, this camp’s concession is also one of your best chances to spot the very elusive ground pangolin.
Ongava Game Reserve, Namibia
Formerly a cattle ranch, over the course of 30 years, Ongava Reserve now rivals the Namibian national park it borders: Etosha. Like Etosha, Ongava is known for the incredible animal variety that approach its numerous waterholes, like Black Rhino, Leopard, Lion and Bush Elephant.
But unlike Etosha, Ongava is a private reserve. As a result, safariers are treated to a much more exclusive experience. In addition, there are many more activities available, like walking up to rhino or spending time in a photographic hide. But if you want to see Etosha, day trips can be arranged.
Where To Stay In Ongava: Anderssons At Ongava
Both Ongava properties listed here offer premier access to research and conservation initiatives ongoing in Ongava. For example, safariers can meet with resident scientists at the nearby Ongava Research Center and the reserve’s rhino security personnel. Completely rebuilt in 2019, Anderssons Camp contemporary design and luxurious touches act as extensions of the surrounding landscape.
Where To Stay In Ongava: Ongava Tented Camp
In contrast to the contemporary design at Andersson’s, Ongava Tented Camp‘s design is decidedly “classic Africa.” Meru-styled guest tents and a thatch-covered living area puts the focus on Ongava’s incredible game viewing. With an active waterhole right next to camp, you may not even need to leave camp!
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa
Located on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, this South African Reserve is home to numerous endangered species, both big and small. For instance, because on-site researchers track several of them by GPS, there is arguably no better place to see the elusive ground pangolins in Africa.
There’s a very good chance you’ll see the critically endangered black rhino. The open plains are home to a healthy cheetah population. And in some cases you’ll see some “desert-adapted” species. The most notable example are lions, whose black-manes help keep them warm during cold nights.
Where To Stay In Tswalu: The Motse
In a 110,000 hectare reserve, it is remarkable that there is only one single lodge: The Motse. Each group has their own private guide and vehicle, meaning safariers can customize their time spent as they see fit. The design and materials used was intended to evoke the Kalahari’s soul.
The design and decor of the lodge aren’t its only luxurious aspects. For instance, the cooking staff is partnered with a South African Michelin-starred chef. There is also an award-winning spa on site.
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
One of the most notable conservation success stories is the resurgence of the population of mountain gorillas. In recent years, the IUCN upgraded their status from critically endangered to endangered. The success at Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is a big reason why this happened.
No two gorilla treks are the same. Gorilla troops move around frequently as they forage for roots, leaves and stems, so the time it takes to find them varies. Some troops will have an impressive silverback, while others will have adorable, playful babies. Nevertheless, a dedicated team of trackers virtually guarantees you will see these majestic creatures.
Where To Stay In Volcanoes: Bisate Lodge
The pod-like thatched suites of Bisate Lodge adorn the side of an eroded, forest-covered volcano cone. This luxury lodge is truly one-of-a-kind – from the quintessential Rwandan decor to encouraging guests to plant trees to aid in the area’s reforestation.
Where To Stay In Volcanoes: Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
One of the best ways to make progress in conservation is to have the support of the local population. Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge does that and more: as Rwanda’s first ever community owned lodge, locals directly benefit from safariers who stay at its charming cottages.