Day Zero has been pushed back, desalination is in full swing, and even though the rains (thankfully) have arrived, two-minute showers are now a way of life in South Africa. Meanwhile, news of Cape Town’s drought seems to have spooked would-be 2018 safari-goers. But according to Deborah Calmeyer, CEO of luxury travel agency Roar Africa, it’s not just Cape Town and South Africa that have seen fewer visitors. “Even places like Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia are bucket-list itineraries that tend to include Cape Town and don’t feel complete without it to most travelers,” says Calmeyer. The good news for those of us who thought we’d missed our safari window this year: You have a chance to book even as soon as this month. “Especially if you’re a couple, or even four people, there is still availability through the end of the year throughout the continent,” she says. “Just not at Christmas time and if you are 10 people hoping to get into Mombo.”
Here are some options you can move on right now:
May to mid-December
Increasingly, travelers are seeing Africa as an opportunity to experience that elusive travel trifecta, which beyond nature (aka, traditional safari) also includes art and food/wine. You might have heard about the new Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town, Africa‘s most celebrated and significant museum opening on the continent in a century. At the very least might have seen pictures of The Silo Hotel next door and its oversized convex honeycomb steel-framed windows all over Instagram. An art-and-Winelands-first, safari-second itinerary ticks all of the boxes and includes a rare behind-the-scenes look at Cape Town’s booming art and design scene. In addition to visits to big and small galleries, Roar can arrange special access to artists’ and designers’ studios. We highly recommend spending a day or so tasting wines and having al fresco meals overlooking vineyards and mountains in the Winelands—a region that’s just under an hour by car outside of Cape Town—before heading to Singita Lebombo camp in Kruger National Park for what is perhaps the most quintessential safari experience. If you’re traveling with kids, ROAR’s specialists will craft bespoke itineraries that focus on storytelling, arts and crafts, and genuinely immersive (versus dutiful) community projects. For second, third, or thirtieth-timers (!), there are less traditional adventure options, including walking safaris in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the much coveted gorilla trekking in Rwanda.
May/June or November/December
As much as we would all love to give over two weeks to a trip of a lifetime in Africa, many of us, especially Americans with tragically few vacation days, can’t take the time. Our feeling is better to go for a handful of days then not at all—or have to wait for retirement. No matter what anybody tells you, you absolutely can do two Zambian Safari Lodges over five days, which includes time at the stunning Chinzombo Safari Camp, where your villa opens onto the view of a shaded deck on the bend of a river—an image that no doubt will resurface in your mind’s eye when you emerge from a mid-afternoon Sunday nap.
A Super Cub flying over the rocky outcrops of Laikipia, in central Kenya.
June to September, and December
A trip from Botswana’s Okavango Delta to Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park along the Mozambique border and the Malilangwe Private Wildlife Reserve—with stays in two of the dreamiest and most iconic lodges on the continent, Mombo and Singita Pamushana—covers the gamut of wildlife and topography. The Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango Delta is well known for its high concentration of wildlife—elephant, African buffalo, hippopotamus, lechwe, topi, blue wildebeest, giraffe, Nile crocodile, lion, cheetah, leopard, brown hyena, spotted hyena, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, plains zebra, warthog, baboon, and even the endangered African wild dog—and low concentration of humans. This trip is notable for its radical shifts in landscape—from the Gonarezhou, which is known for the epic red sandstone Chilojo Cliffs and rock art that dates 2,000 years to the Malilangwe Private Wildlife Reserve, which brims with game and birdlife.
South Africa‘s food and wine scene is booming. In response to a growing demand from food-centric travelers, Roar has created an eat-your-way-through Cape Town and the Winelands with chef Dan Kluger (of Loring Place in NYC) before heading on safari tour. You’ll get the full range—from lunch at a family’s home while touring Bo-Kaap and chef Liam Tomlin’s small inventive plates at the much buzzed about Chef’s Warehouse on Bree Street to Luke Dale-Roberts’ fine dining experience at The Test Kitchen. Then Babylonstoren—a classic 17th-century Dutch cape farm hotel-restaurant in the Winelands set against the backdrop of the Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek mountains with sprawling gardens (both kitchen and botanical)—is every food and design-lover’s dream of a next act.
Though the multi-hop safari through Southern Africa (and three iconic Singita lodges in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and South Africa) and then on to Antarctica via private jet will set you back, it’s essentially three serious trips-of-a-lifetime packed into one. You start at Singita Grumeti at Singita Sabora Tented Camp in Tanzania, which even outside of the Great Migration summer season sees some of the most thrilling concentrations of wildlife on the continent. Then on to Singita‘s Pamushana Lodge, set within the lush Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in southeastern Zimbabwe overlooking a lake. The region is famous for birds and wildlife, including the roan antelope, sable, and the endangered black rhino, as well as the Mopane forests, ‘upside-down’ Baobab trees, and 2,000-year-old rock sites. A couple of days at Singita Ebony in the Sabi Sand Reserve in South Africa, which itself consists of a number of smaller private reserves and is the birthplace of sustainable wildlife tourism in South Africa. Back to Cape Town for a night and then onto the South Pole via a Gulfstream jet. That’s right. Over three days, you’ll cover the Lemaire Channel and Paradise Harbor, passing through iceberg-flanked passageways, and Port Lockroy, a former British research station turned museum here in the last region on earth to be discovered by humans. And then there are the penguins. The super chic—if elemental—Whichaway Camp, which is made up of six state-of-the-art, 20-foot sleeping pods that are designed for two people in each.
Flying between camps on a turboprop.
August to December
An all-Kenya itinerary starts in Nairobi at the Hemingways Hotel with a visit to the original Karen Blixen House and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Elephant Orphanage, where you can watch, pet, and marvel at the community of rescued elephants before heading onto the Maasai Mara. A couple of days in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy at the Ol Seki Hemingways Mara, where in addition to epic game drives and bush walks is a thriving community of Ndorobo people (a sector of the Maasai), with whom the lodge cohabitates. Then onto the Angama Mara, a camp that’s set among treetops at the rim of the Great Rift Valley Escarpment exactly where Out of Africa was filmed, and on to Laikipia and a couple of nights at the inimitably chic Segera Retreat. The trip ends with a couple of days in Nairobi, one of the most sophisticated cities in Africa, with buzzing art and music scenes.