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10 Non-Traditional Safari Adventures

Courtesy of of Great Plains Conservation

The classic safari is never a one-size-fits-all experience, but it tends to involve romantic lodges, dawn and dusk game drives in a 4×4, and high tea served in the middle of the bush. Once you’ve been on safari, you’ll want to return to Africa, but you may want to do things a little differently. There are plenty of ways to tweak your safari experience and still see plenty of game. Consider swapping the Land Rover for a quad bike, the back of a horse—or your own two feet. Read on for our take on 10 safaris with a twist.—Christina Valhouli

Courtesy of Kathy Richardson and Robin Pope Safaris
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Migration of the Bats Safari

WHERE: Zambia

Mention that you’re heading to Africa to see the migration, and most people will assume you’re talking about wildebeests. But Robin Pope Safaris offers an insider’s look at a very different creature on the move: the bat. Each fall, around 10 million fruit bats descend on Kasanka National Park in Zambia, as the fruit on local trees ripens. It is the largest mammal migration in the world: There are so many bats that their flapping wings can darken the Zambian sky.

Insider Tip: Checked off bats and wildebeests from your bucket list? Another impressive migration is the annual Monarch butterfly migration in Mexico’s central highlands. Each year, around 60 million butterflies fly to this area.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Zambia Guide

Courtesy of Great Safaris
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Golfer’s Safari

WHERE: South Africa

Golf fanatics don’t have to worry about leaving their irons behind when they go on safari. South Africa is a great destination for a game of golf with the added bonus of wildlife sightings. Great Safaris can help organize a game at Leopard Creek Country Club, near the Crocodile River on the southern border of Kruger National Park. Another option is the Skukuza Golf Course, the only golf course located inside Kruger. A lion once killed a buffalo here on the first green.

Insider Tip: Be wary of baboons on the course, as they have been known to pick up golf balls on the fairway and ruin scores. Also look out for indentations on the greens left by wandering giraffes.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s South Africa Guide

Courtesy of Cheli & Peacock Safaris
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Safari on a Quad Bike

WHERE: Kenya

Most people assume the only way to get around on a safari is by open-top Land Rover. But for a more hands-on approach, consider a quad bike safari. Cheli & Peacock Safaris offers bike trips into the unexplored territories of the Northern Frontier in Kenya. Travelers might spot Grévy’s zebra, reticulated giraffes as well as elephants, buffalo, and Somali ostriches.

Insider Tip: No need to worry about tearing up the land. The quad bikes follow old game trails, so your wheel marks won’t disturb the natural environment.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Kenya Guide

© Taco Gooiker |
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Gorilla Lover’s Safari

WHERE: Uganda and Rwanda

A safari doesn’t have to be limited to the big five: Luxury tour company Cox & Kings can organize gorilla viewing safaris in Rwanda as well as Uganda. Intrepid travelers can see endangered mountain gorillas in southern Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which is home to a dense jungle. Or head to Rwanda to catch a glimpse of mountain gorillas on the volcanic slopes of the Virungas.

Insider Tip: Want to look for more apes? Cox & Kings safaris also offers chimpanzees searches in Rwanda near Lake Kivu orin Uganda’s Kibale Forest.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Tourism Uganda and Rwanda Tourism for more information

Courtesy of Norman Carr Safaris
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Safari on Foot

WHERE: Zambia

If the thought of sitting in a safari vehicle for hours at a time gives you restless legs, consider a walking safari. UK-based safari specialists Sally and Alice can organize a Zambian walking safari with Norman Carr Safaris. Carr was a pioneer of the walking safari, and the “week on the wild side” itinerary allows guests to move between three of  the company’s traditional bush camps, which are located near the game-rich wilderness areas of the South Luangwa National Park. With the help of your guide, you can track big game on foot and take in all the sights of the bush, all with the added bonus of burning more calories than you would sitting in a 4×4.

Insider Tip: Finish your safari by spending a few nights in Zambia’s newest luxury lodge, Chinzombo, which was designed by the South African architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, who were also behind the plan for the iconic North Island in the Seychelles.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Zambia Guide

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
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Safari from the Sky

WHERE: Tanzania

One of the best ways to take in the scenery while on safari is from above. At the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti Tanzania, guests can sign up for a sunrise hot-air balloon flight over the Serengeti. The flight lasts about an hour, and once it’s over, guests can enjoy a Champagne breakfast in the bush.

Insider Tip: Don’t miss the hotel’s Discovery Centre. It’s a combination museum and lecture hall, where guests can learn about the wildlife, people and history of the Serengeti.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Tanzania Guide

Courtesy of Belmond
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Self-Drive Safari

WHERE: Botswana

Travelers looking for an independent safari experience—but with a little help on hand—can try Belmond’s self-drive safari in Botswana. Here’s how it works: Guests drive themselves in a Toyota Land Cruiser through the wilderness and deserts of Northern Botswana to reach the Belmond Khwai River Lodge in Chobe National Park. Two experts, a safari guide and an animal finder, accompany travelers in the vehicle to offer assistance when needed.

Insider Tip: Guests receive maps with different routes to reach their destination. They can wind their way to Baobab Hill to see the bushman paintings near the Savute Marsh, or opt for a game drive through the twilit evening.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Botswana Guide

Courtesy of Belinda Mucklow & Infinite Safari Adventures
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Safari in a Kayak

WHERE: Tanzania

Most people don’t think of Africa as a kayaking destination, but it can be thanks to Infinite Safari Adventures. (This boutique safari company is the only one in Tanzania that offers kayaking as a safari extension.) Guests will travel to the remote Fish Eagle Point, which has only one lodge located on a private bay, and base themselves there for several days of kayaking in the coastal waters of the Indian Ocean. Itineraries are flexible, but guests can kayak to local villages, down quiet mangrove tributaries, or to sand islands that appear only at low tide.

Insider Tip: The kayaking tour is added on to a safari, so the best times to go depend on the season and what you want to see. September–October is a prime time for the great wildebeest migration.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Tanzania Guide

Courtesy of Martin Benadie/Wilderness Safaris
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Conservationist’s Safari

WHERE: Namibia

One of most valuable things that travelers can do on safari is roll up their sleeves and give back, especially when it comes to conservation. For one of the best experiences, Sally & Alice can organize a stay at Namibia’s recently renovated Desert Rhino Camp, where guests work alongside the Save the Rhino Trust team who are based at the camp. Travelers venture out with the team on daily research expeditions, and can even help them track rhinoceros on foot.

Insider Tip: Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) is almost single-handedly responsible for the preservation of the desert-adapted black rhinoceros in the area.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Namibia Guide

Courtesy of of Great Plains Conservation
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Safari on Horseback

WHERE: Kenya and Botswana

Imagine galloping alongside zebra over the plains of Africa, with sun in your face and wind in your hair. Luxury tour operator Asia to Africa can make it happen. The company offers half-day and full-day horseback safaris in Kenya and Botswana. A typical day includes four to seven hours in the saddle. In Botswana, guests travel on horseback through the Okavango Delta. In Kenya, they ride from the dry lakebeds of Amboseli in the east to the Chyulu Hills in the west—with a view of Mount Kilimanjaroin the distance.

Insider Tip: Horses aren’t the only animals of choice for a safari. Asia to Africa also offers guests the chance to ride atop elephants through the bush in Botswana, or journey through Kenya on the backs of camels.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Kenya Guide and Fodor’s Botswana Guide