Africa’s safari areas have made great strides in recent years to combat poaching and promote conservation. Tour operators on the ground, led by some of our favorite preferred partners, have done admirable work not only in fostering wildlife preserves but also in making sure the communities they operate within benefit from the tourism dollars flowing in. From jobs to schools to health initiatives, safari-goers and safari companies have been supporting the communities that support them. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened that, as a lack of business leads to less funding for animal sanctuaries, fewer jobs for locals and more poaching as opportunities to earn money dwindle.
There are, however, now several countries in Africa’s safari areas that are accepting American travelers. With that comes the opportunity to glimpse some of the world’s most stunning wildlife and stay in some of the world’s best lodges and have the places practically to yourself.
The vast grasslands of Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa are open to travelers. Kenya requires a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours of arrival, along with a health screening upon landing. Tanzania might test you on arrival depending on your screening. Once there, you have open to you the majesty of Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Olduvai Gorge open to you, along with cultural visits with the Maasai people and oh so many beautiful creatures.
Neighboring Rwanda is also open to visitors with a negative test within five days of arrival in addition to a negative test on arrival (you’ll have to spend a day in quarantine at your lodging to await results). Once cleared, travelers can go gorilla trekking and birding in the country’s verdant national parks. Uganda is also open, with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival required.
Moving south, Zambia allows visitors in with a negative PCR test taken within two weeks of arrival. You will also need to inform officials of where you will be staying for potential follow-up screening. You can still go on safari there and visit Victoria Falls, though anyone crossing to Zimbabwe not only needs a negative test taken within 48 hours, there is a 14-day quarantine.
Namibia’s dunes, wildlife and birds are open to you if you have a negative test taken at least 72 hours but no more than seven days before your departure. Going to South Africa is more complicated but possible as part of a longer itinerary as you’ll need to spend at least 10 days in a low-risk country (the U.S. is high-risk) first. You’ll also need a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure, a government contact tracing app, mandatory travel insurance and a health screening on arrival.
In the wide open spaces of Africa’s safari areas, you’ll be able to go on private or small group tours with a feeling of safety and security, see amazing animals and cultures up close and help spur the local economies. And you’ll easily avoid the crowds.
Do you wish to see animals in their own natural habitat amongst vast landscapes? Are you longing to feel a sense of peace in nature? If so, Africa is an ideal spot for you.
This video shows the highlights of Stefany’s trips to Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Morocco. Seeing animals in their natural habitat is so magical. Africa is a place that does change you. Stefany experienced her first safari in the Ngorongoro Crater where she saw a plethora of animals including zebra, wildebeest, hippopotamuses, elephants, lions, flamingos and other bird species and more. Stefany met and bonded with a family in Zimbabwe who took her with them “zebra chasing” on their mission to relocate 200 zebras to Harare. She took part in a zebra capture and also had the opportunity to be part of a mission to capture a male roan in the Bush to bring him to a camp to breed with female roans! Talk about once-in-a-lifetime experiences! In Namibia, she sipped on a happy hour cocktail while admiring a mother hippopotamus with her baby. In Botswana she took a boat ride to Boro Village in the Okavango Delta to see how the locals lived. In Marrakesh, she enjoyed fun meals and the market where she bargained to buy 2 lamps she now has on her patio. In Casablanca, she was amazed by the architecture, ornate detail and beauty of Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in Africa. She had a lovely lunch at Rick’s Cafe there.
From her first trip there, she fell in love with the continent. Everytime she goes back, she falls more in love with Africa. Do you want to see the Big 5? Contact Stefany at firstname.lastname@example.org and or email@example.com to start planning your African dream trip.
Ask anyone who’s been on safari, and you’ll hear all about the transcendent beauty of sunsets, the majesty of the vast open spaces, the thrill of getting up close and personal with exotic animals. It’ll leave you with only one conclusion: You have to go see for yourself. As Richard Mullin said, “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” Now that’s it decided you’re going, the question is which area you should choose for your safari.
Kenya / Tanzania
When most people picture a safari, they’re thinking of East Africa. The great migration of wildebeest and zebras takes place annually across Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain and Kenya’s Masai Mara. Hundreds of thousands of animals make the trek in search of grass to graze on. The Maasai people provide an enriching cultural exchange. Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is rich in wildlife, while Olduvai Gorge is a goldmine for the study of human evolution. Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are the tallest mountains in Africa and make for excellent, if challenging, climbing.
Though it’s nearly 1,000 miles long, the Okavango River never does quite find its way to the sea, instead of crashing into the sands of the Kalahari Desert to form the sublime Okavango Delta, a maze of swamp, salt and lakes that provides a staging area for a dramatic interplay of animals large and small. Botswana attracts colorful birds, a huge migration of zebra and large numbers of elephants. The San people, the famed Bushmen of the Kalahari, share insights on their culture and its relationship to the natural world.
South Africa / Namibia
A safari in South Africa offers loads of advantages. First, you can pair it with time in the spectacular city of Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Winelands. Second, malaria-free reserves make it an ideal choice for families with young children. Private game reserves are packed with lions, leopards, elephants, impalas, and zebra. To the northwest, Namibia is a vast wilderness of sand dunes where elephants, lions, and endangered black rhinos manage to eke out a living and thousands of birds, including flamingos and pelicans, flock to the infamous Skeleton Coast.
Zambia / Zimbabwe
Separated by the Zambezi River, these two countries are more or less defined by water, making them excellent venues for abundant wildlife. The main attraction is Victoria Falls, “The Smoke That Thunders,” but each country also offers national parks filled with Cape buffalo, impalas, zebras and elephants, among many more diverse species. Zambia’s Kafue National Park is a great place for leopard-spotting, while Zimbabwe boasts splendid game-viewing along the shores of Lake Kariba.
Uganda / Rwanda
In the highlands of the Virunga Mountains that straddle these two countries, you’ll find an entirely different and rare game: gorillas. Only a few hundred mountain gorillas are left in their natural habitat, and they offer a fascinating study in primate behavior. It is in Uganda that Lake Victoria drains into the Nile River, and Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to traditional safari species. Rwanda is renowned for its wide variety of bird and plant species, including more than 100 varieties of orchids.
I recently returned from an 18 day work trip that started and ended in Europe, but we spent most of our time bopping around different countries in Africa. Our third stop was Zimbabwe. At first, I felt a bit hesitant about this stop, solely because the camp we were staying at, Kwali, had communal bathrooms and I was concerned with walking to and from the bathroom in the middle of the night by myself for safety reasons. My feelings of concern quickly dissolved as we pulled up to the camp and met James, the manager, who was professional and provided us with top-notch service. He assured us these grounds were very secure and I felt very safe, which is always a great feeling to have on the road. There was a family of baboons greeted us hanging out on the gray stone outside of my hut and a buffalo that roamed the grounds at night! On our way to Kwali, we spotted a giraffe just hanging out. It was so cool to see a giraffe just driving to our accommodations and not being on a safari. It was back to basics, back to nature and it felt refreshing and very peaceful.
Our first evening there we met Josh Mostert playing pool outside the dining room hut. He and his wife, Jackie, capture wild game for a living for many different causes, some of which include; breeding and relocating animals to different conservation camps. He explained to us that they were on a mission to capture 200 zebras and relocate them to another camp about 12 hours away. The game drives were all booked up, so we offered up our services to give them a hand if they needed it to see wild animals. He took us up on the offer and invited us to come along with them the next day.
Next morning, I was up bright and early at 5:30am to meet the gang in the lobby. We had a quick breakfast and then headed out to the helicopter. Jackie’s brother, NJ, was the helicopter pilot. They grew up in this business with their father who used to do this for a living. I thought it was special they were working together as a family on these missions. They were all so warm and inviting. I couldn’t believe they were letting me tag along on their work day! I didn’t know what to expect, only knew that this would be an adventure! When we got to the helicopter, they told me to get out with NJ and Mark, the helicopter mechanic to go for a ride to find zebras. I asked them if they were sure and they laughed and said they do it all the time and for me to go. I gladly accepted and was so excited to have a helicopter ride in Zimbabwe! We were up in the air for about of hour. I was taking in the view, the brown and green terrain with brown leafless trees, a lot of them baobab . I spotted rhinos running, elephants, impalas, spring bucks and giraffes! This vantage point gave me a different perspective of seeing all these animals. NJ saw a couple of zebras, but they were looking for a bigger group of them. I saw all the animals, but the zebras, which was kind of funny! He explained to me that from up here with the lighting, the zebras look grey and are harder to spot.
Josh and I swapped after we landed. They were going to find zebras. I stayed with Jackie, her two adorable children, Shiyloh and Corban, Mark, Kelvin and Drew. We drove to the boma, which is the point of enclosure where the capture happens. We waited for a bit as they were trying to find the zebras to bring to the boma. Kelvin, who was home visiting his parents for a few days, came as a volunteer to be part of this zebra capture experience. He took me to his position, at the third gate, which is where he was helping out. NJ would first find the zebras. He would then chase them with the helicopter leading them to the boma. When they all were close, he would put on his siren and the zebras would run into the boma. When they were past the third and first point of entrance, we would run with the green curtain to close it to keep the zebras in the boma. Kelvin explained the process to me. I watched him on the first try and snapped this video of my first capture experience:
It was amazing to see a group of 6 beautifully striped black and white zebras run by so fast as I was tucked away, hiding myself from their view behind the green curtain. Talk about being in nature! It doesn’t get any closer than this! I felt like pinching myself to see if this all was actually really happening!
After the zebras go through 3 gates, they are led by Jackie and Josh to the part where the zebras get sedated before going on a truck for their drive to the other camp. Jackie is a veterinarian and she has to be present while they are administering any medications to the animals. Her and Josh would climb up this latter and take these long huge needles that they would give the zebras the sedation. Once the zebras calm down, they are led to the big truck, which is their ride to the next conservation camp.
We all hung out around Jackie and Josh’s maroon pick up truck, in the “bush” which is what they call it. We waited for NJ and Josh to find more zebras and then this whole process would start again. I was surprised at how organized it all was. This was clearly not an easy operation! Once they found the zebras, we got the word through the walkie talkies to get into our positions. Kelvin asked me if I wanted to run with the curtain this time around. I told him I couldn’t believe they were trusting me with this operation! I accepted and got ready to be a part of this experience! I was a little nervous, hoping I wouldn’t screw anything up. Once we heard the second siren finished, I watched as this group of zebras ran fast into the second gate. After they were all past the gate, I ran as fast as I could, pulling the curtain with me to close the gate! A rush of adrenaline shot through me! I couldn’t believe I was playing a role in this zebra capture! Before coming to Zimbabwe, I had never heard of a capture and today I was actively part of this whole process. I couldn’t help but feel lucky that I had the opportunity to experience this and be a part of it.
In between other captures, I was with Corban and Shiyloh. Corban took a liking to my giraffe and helicopter videos and Shiyloh loved going through all my videos on my I phone. I was keeping the kids entertained. It was great! They were both so sweet. At one point, we heard a stampeding sound and looked up to see a group of zebras running on the side over the curtain they had trampled down. Corban and I watched as the group ran following their stallion back into the wild. Corban pointed to them and said, “zebra” which I replied, “Yes, zebra!” I grew attached to the kids in the few days I spent with them in Zimbabwe. It was tough to say good-bye. They both had so much character and for their ages were so self-sufficient. I guess that’s what happens when kids grow up in the bush. It was awesome to see the way they live and spend time together as a family. NJ is a very intuitive helicopter pilot. He knows the animals well and can really sense and feel their whereabouts and how to handle them. Jackie and I chatted as well in between captures. We shared our love stories about meeting our husbands and talked about jobs, family and life. I love this family! It was so great meeting and spending time with them in their world.
My third experience with the capture I was with Drew, who helps Jackie and Josh out with their captures. I went with him to his post at the 2nd gate. He described what he does and told me to hide in the corner as the zebras come though. I did just that, but I was seeing the zebras weren’t going into the first gate once they were in our gate. I felt a little nervous and scared wondering if they were going to come back and try to get out and if I would get trampled in the process. I started wondering what my move would be if that happened. Can I turn around fast enough to crawl under the gate? The opening was on the other side where Drew had run with the curtain to close it. It was at those moments where I flipped my camera by accident, which you will see in the video! It took a bit, as Drew threw twigs in their direction to keep them looking forward. Then Jackie came in and led them to the first gate yelling, “Hiyah!!!!” It was definitely a lot more action in this gate! I felt relieved as I watched them go into the first gate. Here is the video of my experience at the 2nd gate:
It was close to 12pm after we finished and their work day was coming to an end, as it was getting really hot and the captures are not as successful in extreme temperatures, because then the zebra get more temperamental and are harder to keep from hurting each other as Jackie explained. After they repaired the part of the boma that had been broken down by the one group of zebras that escaped, we headed back to Kwali.
My 4 days in Zimbabwe were truly magical on so many different levels. I felt like someone had picked me up and dropped me on a movie set looking around at the mostly yellow terrain with brown leafless trees spotting animals in their natural habitat. We spotted zebras, giraffes, impalas, baboons, spring bucks, rhinos and hyenas just driving to the airport. As we were leaving Zimbabwe, I was filled with so many feelings of excitement, joy, love, peace, gratitude and sadness to leave this place. It’s funny how the one place I had reservations about in the beginning ended up being the most memorable one! I will never forget my zebra capture experience and my time with this beautiful family in “Zim” as the locals call it. I knew I had just had a once in a lifetime experience and it felt overwhelmingly great. A gigantic thank you to Jackie, Josh and family for that! You are all awesome!