Where can we go to feel like we are in another world?
I, like so many of you, have been confined to the place in which I live for the last few months. There is nothing that makes me dream of travel more than being told I cannot do so. To use this time productively and enjoyably, I have been seeking out new and exciting travel experiences and routes for Leopard clients.
While South Africa’s beauty, diversity and excellent travel infrastructure makes it hard to beat in the region, I see that some people are searching for even more remote experiences. Places where they can truly escape their daily reality! Close to South Africa, there is Botswana with the incredible Okavango Delta, a truly unique wildlife destination. And, Mozambique’s islands are an excellent option for an idyllic beach island escape at the end of your holiday.
Since I am already familiar with our neighbouring countries, I have been dreaming of places that are exotic and foreign to me. Places that are off the beaten track and that offer authentic and unique experiences for my clients. Top of my list of places to explore are Rwanda and the Congo Basin, which is also known as west equatorial Africa.
Seeing gorillas in the wild is one of those experiences that can change a person. With Covid-19, new protocols are being developed to ensure the safety of gorilla populations from viruses and diseases humans can pass on to them. Gorilla and human safety are so important and no risks can be taken. There are 3 places to see the highly endangered Mountain Gorillas: Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo. There are around 880 of these magnificent creatures left in the wild. You can see Mountain Gorillas in all 3 countries, but Rwanda has the most developed infrastructure. It is also a very easy, safe and culturally interesting place to visit. Gorilla permits are the most expensive in Rwanda, but it is one of the easiest places to see them if you don’t fancy a very long hike through thick bush. These factors make Rwanda is perfect if you’re looking for an easy and luxury experience. Rwanda is also very simple to add on to a South African holiday which could include a Big 5 safari in Kruger National Park and some time in Cape Town. The very good news is that Rwanda is open to tourists from 1 August.
For something more remote, more adventurous, and definitely off the beaten track, I’ve been researching the Congo and Gabon and I really like what I see. It will not be for everyone, but a circuit between the Republic of Congo, Gabon and ending with a few days on the second smallest country in Africa, São Tomé and Príncipe island, looks amazing. Congo delivers something very different, authentic and life changing. Its remoteness makes it attractive but also challenging. You have to be prepared for less than convenient logistics. If you see this as part of the adventure, you will enjoy it.
Another trend we see is that families want to connect with each other in a less stressful environment. South Africa has some excellent options for this with remote bush lodges that can be hired for exclusive use, meaning that you will not come into contact with people other than staff.
Where are you dreaming of travelling to, when you can?
Happy travel dreaming!
Above, a baby Mountain Gorilla plays in Rwanda. Below, a critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla in the Congo. These gorillas, which are a different species from those visited from Rwanda, can be seen from Odzala Discovery Camp, which is part of the Congo Conservation Company.
Below you can also see Praia Sundy on Príncipe island. South Africa tech entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth, who incidentally was at the University of Cape Town 6 years before me and did the same degree, has funded a massive sustainable tourism venture on Príncipe, which Praia Sundy is part of. Photos of Praia Sundy are courtesy of Scott Ramsay/www.LoveWildAfrica.com.
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