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Active safaris around the world

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Going on safari is a truly visceral experience. The thunder of the wildebeest, the trumpeting of an elephant, the languid loping of a lion. Seeing, hearing and feeling the power of these moments brings an indescribable thrill. Not to mention the epic landscapes.

Yes, a safari is indisputably exciting in its own right. The thing is that the vast majority are sit-down affairs. You’ll track and view the animals from an open-top jeep, spending a good part of the day as a passenger or relaxing during the midday heat (when most wildlife down tools too). While there’s nothing wrong with making like a big cat and snoozing in the shade, there are alternatives.

For some people, a little more action and physical adventure wouldn’t go amiss. Perhaps you’d like to head out on safari on foot, power a mountain bike across the savannah, or combine a jeep safari with scaling a mountain, river rafting, or getting in a round of golf under African skies. To help get things moving, we’ve put together a range of more active safari ideas from around the world. Use these as a springboard, then chat with our local experts to make it happen.

Uganda & Rwanda

Seeing the mountain gorillas of Uganda and Rwanda is an absolute privilege and one you generally have to work for. Deep in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda or the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, a handful of chimp and gorilla families are habituated to human observers. These awesome animals will happily go about their daily lives under the gaze of a respectful audience, but you’ll have to find them first.

Traversing these dense jungles can be physically intense, and there’s no knowing how long it will take you and your guides to track the wild gorilla families. You could be hiking hard all day without luck, then finally glimpse them through the trees. A gorilla-tracking safari will be both strenuous and rewarding, with much to see and learn along the way.

As a thrilling add-on, consider white-water rafting or kayaking on the White Nile rapids. Trips set off from the friendly town of Jinja on the banks of Lake Victoria, about a day’s drive from the gorilla forests.

Gorilla standing on a pathway

Sri Lanka

Relatively small but with a great diversity of habitats and wildlife, Sri Lanka is perfect for a multi-stop and multi-faceted safari adventure. Mix up rustic safari camp stays with hiking, rafting the Kelani River, exploring by bike or surfing the Indian Ocean waves.

The remote Wilpattu National Park on the northwest coast is a mass of dry zone jungle interspersed with lakes. See water buffalo, elephants, sloth bears, crocs and a dazzling array of colourful birdlife. Stay in a camp under the stars and set off early to explore on foot. For elephants, head to Uda Walawe for a cycling safari or Gal Oya, where you can take a boat or kayak alongside swimming elephants.

The Sinharaja Rainforest Reserve protects Sri Lanka’s precious tropical rainforest, alive with endemic species such as purple-faced leaf monkeys, mongoose and macaque, as well as more enthralling birdlife. The coastal forests of Yala National Park are the place for leopard-spotting. Base yourself here for a few days of big wave surfing and big cats.

Elephants in Sri Lanka

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a classic safari destination with vast national parks that stretch across borders into neighbouring countries. Travelling here involves long distances, so combining several destinations takes time and money. However, there’s no disputing that it is one of the best places in the world for a safari, with excellent infrastructure, rigorously trained guides, and nature on a grand scale.

The Hwange National Park boasts the Big Five – elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo, and is reasonably close to Victoria Falls. Combine your safari with kayaking the rapids of the Zambezi River and experiencing the majesty of Victoria Falls. In the gorgeous Mana Pools National Park, you can take canoe safaris along the Zambezi to see elephants, hippos and crocodiles at eye level.

Many Zimbabwe safari camps offer alternatives to the classic game drive, such as guided walking, mountain biking or horseback trek safaris combined with bush camping. Our local experts are happy to help you plan a Zimbabwe safari to suit your group.

Lioness with five of her cubs

India

India is vast, diverse and impactful on many levels. Beyond its booming mega-cities, there are vast tracts of land dotted with national parks and reserves, many of them set up to protect the cherished Bengal tiger. The central national parks are some of the best for tiger-spotting, especially the open meadows of Kanha National Park. The safaris here are done by jeep, but there are guided walks and cycling to be enjoyed around the park’s perimetre.

In Satpura National Park, you’ll find more active safari opportunities. Canoe along the Denwa River and its tributaries or take a guided walking safari in search of sloth bears, leopards, wild boar and bison. Ranthambore National Park is another location for on-foot safaristhis time in Rajasthan, making it ideal to combine with hiking in the Aravalli Mountains.

Tiger walking in the grass

South Africa

With pristine greens in outstanding settings, South Africa is the number one destination for golfing safaris. Pick from a proliferation of excellent courses, many of them right on the doorstep of (or even inside) some of South Africa’s national parks. Leopard Creek Golf Course is separated from the Kruger National Park by the Crocodile River, while the Skukuza Golf Course is right there in the thick of it. Yes, there’s every chance you’ll miss your shot because of a passing hippo or be put off by a thundering herd of antelope.

The Kruger National Park is in the far north of South Africa, but with most international flights touching down in Cape Town, spending a few active days in the area is easily done. Hike to Lion’s Head and Table Mountain for outstanding views, scale the heights on a climbing trip, or try abseiling or paragliding. Alternatively, head to the coast for sea kayaking, surfing and diving.

Hippo with its mouth wide open

Thailand

Tropical Thailand is a real crowd-pleaser. With beaches galore, delicious cuisine and welcoming people, no-one can fail to be charmed by this sun-drenched Southeast Asian showstopper. Combine a wildlife safari with diving for the ultimate Thailand experience.

Heading just four hours south of Bangkok, the Khao Sam Roi Yot and Kui Buri National Parks are a dynamic duo offering some of the best wildlife-watching in the country. The first has coastal wetlands and dramatic limestone peaks punctuated by caves. Kui Buri is further inland, close to the Myanmar border, where herds of Indian elephants roam the grassland and wooded trails.

For somewhere wilder, continue south to Khao Sok National Park and stay in remote and rustic eco-huts within one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Spend your days canoeing on the lake or hiking jungle paths in search of elephants and all sorts of jungle flora and fauna, including the giant rafflesia flower.

Monkey in a tree

Bhutan

The mysterious Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is known as one of the happiest countries in the world. Devoutly Buddhist, it has carefully considered tourism and its effects, and has limited visitor numbers to protect its pristine habitats and landscapes. Its soaring mountains are home to snow leopards, while tropical lowland forests and grasslands shelter Bengal tigers, clouded leopards, tree-dwelling binturong and red pandas, one-horned rhinos, and sloth bears.

Going in search of wildlife in Bhutan is generally done on foot and requires good levels of fitness and stamina. Some trails traverse high altitudes, so be ready for a challenge. Some exhilarating mountain bike trails also await keen explorers.

Red panda in a tree

Tanzania

The Serengeti and the Masai Mara are synonymous with the great migration. Seeing thousands-strong herds of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra flowing across the plains and then plunging across the Mara River is pure drama. As well as jeep safaris to track the Big Five, you’ll find chimpanzee-trekking safaris in the Mahale Mountains, and on-foot safaris in the less-visited Arusha National Park and around the stunning Ngorongoro Crater.

Did someone say Mount Kilimanjaro? For a full-on hiking challenge alongside your safari, Tanzania serves up the big daddy. The highest snow-capped peak in Africa tops out just shy of 6,000 m. It’s a challenging hike over ice fields, volcanic cones and rough trails, and takes five to nine days to summit and descend. You’ll need stamina, resilience and good fitness levels, but the elation at elevation will be worth it.

Wildebeest migration

Make it happen

Feeling inspired not to take the backseat on your next safari? Set your sights on one of our active safari ideas and chat through options with a local expert.

  1. Uganda
  2. Rwanda
  3. Sri Lanka
  4. Zimbabwe
  5. India
  6. South Africa
  7. Thailand
  8. Bhutan
  9. Tanzania

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