Every Day is Earth Day

At Iconic Africa, we believe that we all have an obligation to make each and every day Earth Day in our own worlds. Environmental consciousness should not be limited to one day a year, and it is the continuation of a mindset that will make the lasting differences to our planet.

According to the Earth Day Network, April 22nd marks the anniversary of what many people would consider to be the “birth of the modern environmental movement” that began in 1970.

The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Today, Earth Day is observed in 192 different countries and is considered to be the largest secular holiday in the world, bringing together more than a billion people each year. From the very start, Earth Day has served as a powerful platform for citizens of the world to send a loud message to world leaders that they care about the environment and that we must make protecting our planet a priority.

The beauty of Earth Day is that the theme changes every year.

“Healthy Environments for Children”, “Trees for Earth” and “Water for Life” have been some for the campaigns over the course of the Day’s history, as organisers recognise a rapidly changing world and the environmental threats that accompany it.
Ultimately, although the difference a single day of action can make may be negligible, the greater result that Earth Day aims to achieve is awareness. A subtle shift in the zeitgeist, with new buzzwords entering mainstream consciousness.

This year’s theme is “Planet vs Plastics”, with Earthday.org calling for a 60% production in plastics by 2040. By and large, the safari industry has already been embracing this approach for some time now. Lodges are providing glass bottles for their guests, or refillable multi-use versions; food that comes in packaged in cling-wrap is no longer acceptable; anything single-use is on the way out…
We are very much in favour of lodges that have a strong sustainability approach.
The use of solar, electric vehicles, and paraffin lanterns in the rooms all call for our approbation. Using local produce and co-opting farmers in the area to encourage a micro-economy gets two thumbs up.
As much as we can, we try to do business with lodges and companies that reflect the same values that Earth Day promotes each year. In short: sustainability and a drastic reduction of environmental impact.

Is it too late? Have we damaged the planet irrevocably?

We don’t believe so, although we’re teetering on the brink.

But one day a year is not enough. We need to live and breath Earth Day every day in order to save Mother Earth. She is an organism too. And it’s us that are slowly pushing her towards needing life support.
A focus on the outcome isn’t the way to go. We need to focus on the behaviours; the small changes in behaviour that over time become habit, which, also compounded over time, is where the real change lies…

Serra Cafema: Wild Silence

The north-western corner of Namibia is one of the harshest environments imaginable.
Rolling dune fields, harsh gravel plains and mountains with barely any vegetation growing on them characterise the landscape.
Yet amidst all this, in an area that at least superficially seems unable to sustain life, is one of the most remarkable and enchanting ecosystems on our planet.

The Kunene River forms the northern border of this region. Across the river lies Angola, and to the south lies the Marienfluss;a large valley which provides grazing for the cattle and goats of the indigenous Himba population. The Marienfluss conservancy was registered in 2001 and covers 3,304 km2. There are a mere 340 people in the area – around one person per square kilometre. Grasslands dominate the broad, central Marienfluss and Hartmann’s Valleys, with dunes covering the western section. Wildlife includes leopard, cheetah, giraffe, duiker, steenbok, gemsbok, springbok, ostrich, mountain zebra, crocodile, kudu.

And the overwhelming impression that forms as you sit and take in all this grandeur… is silence.

Maybe the slight sussuration of the wind in the grass, or the far off cry of a Fish Eagle soaring over the Kunene river, but essentially there is silence. And peace. No traffic, no helicopters overhead, no police sirens.
This part of the world truly lets you appreciate stillness, and how much noise we as a species make.

And perfectly positioned for to experience the magic of this quiet wilderness is Serra Cafema.

Set amongst shady trees on the banks of the Kunene River, Serra Cafema is one of the most remote camps in southern Africa.

Its Portuguese name originates from the mountains that dominate the northern skyline. Guests fall alseep to the sound of rushing water, while by day they explore one of the driest deserts in the world. The camp’s eight unique canvas and thatched chalets, each with its own en-suite bathroom, show great attnetion to detail; the elevated decks and simple structures of wood, canvas and thatch create a camp that is at one with its surroundings.

The dining room and pool look out over the Kunene River. Activities here are varied, including boating (seasonal), walking, viewing breathtaking landscapes,as well as carefully guided quad-bike excursions that tread lightly on the dunes. In this isolated region, the Himba people continue their nomadic, traditional way of life and when in the area, offer guests the opportunity to learn about their lifestyle and traditions.

Serra Cafema is not a typical safari destination.
It is not about encountering an enormous volume of wildlife or watching predators interact or having a breeding herd of elephants stroll sedately past you.
It is about switching off, listening and soaking it all in. It is about fully appreciating the minutiae of a place, and the
It is about stillness, solitude, and realising that there are few places on earth when you can feel as remote yet so comfortable at the same time.

It is about connecting fully with what the real definition of wilderness is…

If this sounds like the kind of experience you are after, drop us a mail on info@iconicafrica.com, and let’s start planning your trip…

Iconic Africa’s 3 Bucket List Safaris

From the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia to the roaring Atlantic Beaches of Cape Town… Africa has an almost endless variety of experiences on offer. It would take multiple lifetimes to do them all.
Yet if we were absolutely pushed to choose only THREE – an almost impossible task – we know which way we’d go.

After much internal deliberation, we settled on one safari to get you blood absolutely racing, one to make you feel an unbelievable connection to nature, and one to bring you utter peace…

Here then is Iconic Africa’s Bucket List Selection of 3 (at least for now):

1. The Great Migration

It’s one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.

1.5 million wildebeest sweeping majestically over the great African plains is a sight that you won’t soon be forgetting. The annual circuit of this megaherd between the southern Serengeti of Tanzania and the Maasai Mara of Kenya is a sheer wonder to behold. The wildebeest – accompanied by half a million zebra – follow the seasonal rains and the good grazing they bring, moving in an never-ending clockwise ring.

From July through to September, the herds have been hitting the northern extent of their movements and have entered the Mara Triangle; a thin wedge of land between the Mara River in the east and the Oloololo Escarpment in the west. It is the Mara river and the crossing thereof that presents them with their greatest challenge on their already arduous journey.
Monster crocodiles lie in wait in the brown waters, and prides of lions line the banks, knowing how the herds will be funneled through very specific gulleys and exit points.
It is carnage as tens of thousands of wildebeest ford the river at once, and it is a glut for the predators.
A particularly wild crossing will leave you completely out of breath.

It seems almost impossible that there can be such an aggregation of wild animals in one place – or at least one area – yet the Great Migration as it is simply known will redefine what you previously imagined as abundance.
Seeing it first hand would be THE safari we would recommend, if you could only choose one…

2. Gorilla Trekking

Another safari to take your breath away, but in a total different manner…

Staring into the eyes of a great ape that but for its shaggy black coat and enormous size could be… you… will bridge the gap between human and nature in a profound way than any other experience you’ve ever had.
You will know – not suspect, but know – that this creature is working you out in exactly the same manner that you are working him or her out, and once you’ve encountered a sentient being like that in the wild, your whole perception of the word “wild” will change. As will your understanding of our human place in this world, and our responsibility to protect it.

The mountain gorillas of east/central Africa are confined to a very small area between Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC.
Uganda and Rwanda are where the infrastructure lies for gorilla trekking, and there are a number of excellent lodges to choose from, like Wilderness Bisate or Singita Kwitonda.
In reality, the lodge you stay in is secondary to the gorilla experience itself, but you do tend to find that the higher-end establishments prepare their guests far better for the treks on the mountain by providing things like gaiters, gloves and other handy equipment.

3. Boatride in the Okavango

Botswana’s Okavango Delta is a true eden. Plate tectonics under the Kalahari Basin have meant that the Okavango River never reaches the sea. Instead it flows out into the Kalahari sands, forming an unbelievably lush inland delta covering 16 000 square kilometres that are simply brimming with wildlife.

The Okavango is seasonal, in that the floodwaters are only around between the end of May and September, when the rain that has fallen far away in the Angolan highlands has flowed down through the catchment area and spread out into the myriad waterways of the Delta.

This is the time to go boating.

There are essentially two options; mokoro or motorboat.

A mokoro (plural mekoro) is the traditional dugout canoe of these parts and is still used extensively bby local fisherman to pole their way through the winding channels. A mokoro ride (multi-day trips are possible) is slow and serene, and allows one real intimacy with nature. You approach silently round corners so have every chance of hearing what’s up ahead of you, like a stately elephant bull crossing a channel.

You get to see the Delta at eye-level, and can appreciate its finer details like frogs and waterlillies and wading birds. It is one of the most tranquil experiences you can find on Safari.

The second option is to head out on a motorboat. You can still find the serenity in droves once you’ve cut the engine, and the beauty of this mode of transport is that you get to cover a whole lot more ground in a short space of time, so if you want to maximise your experience but only have a couple of days in the area, this is the option we’d recommend.

The Okavango is such an incredible body of water (during the flood) that it is a shame not to get the full potential out of your time there, and a boat excursion is definitely the way to do this!

Africa is vast and so is the diversity of safari offerings. No two experiences are the same, which is really the beauty of safari in the first place. Even the same activities in the same area will always differ.

The above three options we are supremely confident will move you in a profound way. If you want the safari bug to bite – and you are unlikely to have much control over the matter – then the Great Migration, a gorilla trek, and exploring the Okavango’s waterways are a sure way to let Africa into your soul…

Get in touch through info@iconicafrica.com to find out more about these and other experiences that are out there, just waiting for you…

 

 

Mombo: The Heart of the Delta

It’s not often that a lodge can categorically claim top spot when it comes to the wildlife viewing in 16 000 square kilometres of wilderness. And it certainly shouldn’t be the case that the same lodge can be renowned for the best viewing for the better part of two decades.
Yet time and again, when you ask around the industry where are you going to experience the craziest sightings in the Okavango Delta, it is Mombo Camp that is mentioned.

If you look at the map below, you’ll see Chief’s Island sitting slightly to the right of centre in the Okavango. Mombo camp is found at the top-left of that island. In an ecosystem that is inundated most years, this landmass remains dry, yet still with access to water, and it is the consistency of habitat that has allowed the local wildlife population to establish itself permanently, and thrive.

According to Sean van der Merwe, a former GM of Mombo camp:

“When the waters rise, the rich nutrients flowing down with the stream are deposited into the soil around Mombo, making it idyllic for lush grasses to grow in the peat matter – which in turn attract large numbers of wildlife to graze on the happy green grass.

Wildlife around Mombo has always been nothing short of spectacular. Leopards are seen daily within the camp’s footprint and a glimpse of the rare pangolin is always possible. Another Mombo wildlife highlight is the abundant predator activity in this area.”

One doesn’t have to go far from camp to encounter wildlife. More often than not one doesn’t have to leave the camp at all, so prolific have the sightings become in the area.

Mombo’s design blends elegant ultra-luxury with the local surrounds. From the design of the connecting walkways to the enormous copper bathtub in each room, every design element has been carefully considered. The spacious rooms give you a sense of contemporary sumptuousness while maintaining the cherished sense of remoteness; of truly being in the bush. The designers used a lot of materials from the old camps (Mombo’s position was moved in 2000 to get better views of the floodplains, and the camp was refurbished in 2018), and redesigned in a way that takes nothing away from what the ‘Mombo feel’ is and has been.

The main bedrooms offers king-sized beds, a study and ottomans, private vanity desk, and en suite bathroom. Each bathroom features his-and-her’s marble basins, twin rain showers, and dressing area.

The outside private sala area boasts a double day bed, sunken couch, private plunge pool, and wrap-around veranda. Both the camp’s main areas and guest rooms are constructed of wood and canvas, creating a natural feel and leaving a light footprint on the environment.

Mombo’s world-class dining experience is an earth-to-table concept, where all produce is locally sourced, either from Maun and vicinity, or, in the case of certain specifics, from South Africa. The menu leans towards plant-based/mindful offerings, our executive chef is there to cater for your dietary needs.

But in the end it all comes back to the wildlife.

Lions, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas, buffalo, elephants everywhere… the photographic opportunities are endless, and with exceptional guides, stunning topography and vegetation, and a wildlife population that is habituated to the presence of vehicles, Mombo offers a safari experience which is hard to match anywhere on the African continent.

With a number of other Wilderness camps in Northern Botswana, a circuit safari taking in a number of offerings is the style we recommend; Vumbura Plains, Tubu Tree, Duma Tau… lodges that have become household names are just a short charter flight away from Mombo.

To start planning your circuit safari, or to find out more about rats and availability at Mombo itself, get in touch through info@iconicafrica.com…

Lodges of Legacy

Dotted amongst the myriad of safari offerings out there are a few camps who have truly stood the test of time.
Tracing their roots back to the early days of safari in their particular areas of operation, these gems have refined their offerings to the utmost degree, understanding their environments and their guests’ needs superbly. Some offer luxury, some offer a quaint rustic charm, but all of them are steeped in history and have already left a legacy within their chosen corner.

Here are three of our favourites, from South Africa, Kenya and Botswana…

Londolozi

Family-run Londolozi has been around since 1926, although technically only as a commercial safari operation since the early 70’s.

Bought by the Varty family as a bankrupt cattle farm almost 100 years ago, the land was slowly regenerated and rewilded, until it turned into the thriving ecosystem guests enjoy today, with some of the best wildlife viewing on the planet, the highest density of leopards yet recorded in Africa, and a percentage of repeat guests that most lodges only dream about, so loyal to this unique brand do its visitors become.

With its progressive approach to the safari space, Londolozi has been at the forefront of many innovations in the industry, setting the tone for how the bush can – and should – be so much more than simply a place to view animals. Instead, they have recognized it as a place of healing and connection, and this ethos has tailored their whole safari and lodge offering to reflect that.

Londolozi was the training ground for many big names across the industry. The head of Kruger Park anti-poaching, a world authority on the Okavango Delta, CEOs of big lodge portfolios, award-winning wildlife cameramen, internationally-renowned public speakers… all former rangers at Londolozi who have gone on and continue to go on to shape the industry across the continent.

The legacy of Londolozi has not only been the mark it has left on the many guests who have passed through its gates, but the ripple effect out across African safaris in general…

Cottar’s 1920 Camp

The award-winning Cottar’s 1920s Camp is situated in the 7608-acre private Olderkesi Conservancy bordering the famous ‘seventh’ natural wonder of the world, the Maasai Mara in Kenya and the Tanzania Serengeti game reserve. Owned and managed by the oldest established and continuing safari family in Africa it extends an era of luxury and quality and returns to the original spirit and essence of ‘safari’.

Cottar’s Safari Service was founded in 1919, which means over 100 years of experience in the industry.

The Cottar family was renowned amongst the British administration for being rebellious and anti-establishment, preferring long stints with African tribes in wildest Africa. The Cottars’ were the first to import American vehicles for safaris, the first to reach new areas such as Lake Paradise, the first to obtain never before seen wildlife footage. In this family it was normal to have lions, leopards, wild dogs and chimpanzees as family pets. Mike’s son Glen, with his wife Pat, continued the family business and pioneered hunting and explorations expeditions into remote parts of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Zaire and Botswana.

Having established and run photographic safari camps since their first one erected in Tsavo National Park in the 60s, the Cottars’ legacy has long been established, only furthered by the building of Cottar’s 1920 Lodge in the 1990s by Calvin Cottar, the great-grandson of Charles Cottar, who founded the business all those years ago.

The camp itself provides the romance of safari under cream canvas tents, the style of the bygone era of the twenties, while at the same time supplying the amenities required by today’s modern world travellers. It has two main mess tent areas for fine dining, drinking, reading and relaxing, and an amazing pool and spa where guests can relax after a game drive. Guests can also enjoy a traditional canvas safari bath, a genuinely unique way of bathing specifically set up on the tent’s verandah, with views out over the plains. The location of the camp provides easy access for day and night wildlife drives in the Maasai Mara National Reserve and the Olderkesi Conservancy, wildlife walks, and cultural interactions with the Maasai community.

The professional guiding team that will handle your safari rank among the most qualified in Africa.

Nxamaseri Island Lodge

Nxamaseri Island Lodge is one of the oldest camps in the Okavango Delta. It was established in the early 1980s by PJ and Barney Bestelink. PJ, an experienced guide, spent months exploring the permanent water channels of the delta in search of a perfect location for his home and camp. He favoured the Nxamaseri Channel for its beauty and seclusion, and eventually elected to build his lodge on a large shady island hidden in the Nxamaseri waterways.

The lodge is best summed up in the video below:


These are just three of our favourite picks, each offering their own unique insight into the wild ways of Africa.

Get in touch with us through info@iconicafrica.com to find out about some other gems who have left their indelible mark on the industry…

Celebrating 10 Years of Iconic Africa

When Londolozi Ranger John Holley picked up guest Terri Abadi from the Londolozi airstrip to host her and her family for their safari, little did he know that over a decade later they would be business partners in a venture revolving around the ruling passion in both their lives; safari.

Although having moved to Atlanta from Johannesburg in the 90’s, Terri’s love for her home continent of Africa led her to begin her own boutique travel agency in 2013. John, having a solid business pedigree and loving the safari industry himself, was looking to get involved in his own way too, largely with the aim of using travel to help promote and fund conservation initiatives.

John Holley as a young ranger at Londolozi in 2011.

And so in December of 2014, Terri and John joined forces to turn a traditional travel agency into a world-beating online travel platform that showcases the African destinations which best represent Iconic Africa’s values of opulent luxury, world-beating African hospitality, delectable contemporary cuisine and most importantly an authentic commitment to wilderness conservation.

 

Fast forward ten years, and Iconic Africa has introduced hundreds of guests from across the world to the wonders of Africa.
From the Okavango Delta to Cape Town’s foreshore to the majestic plains of the Serengeti, Iconic has left no stone unturned in their continued search for the best options for their bespoke safaris.
Each guest has a highly experienced travel specialist work through their whole itinerary with them from beginning to end, answering any questions no matter what time of day. Although Iconic works with hundreds of lodges, the preference is and always will be for those that have a heavy focus on community upliftment and conservation initiatives, whilst reducing their environmental impact at the same time through a shift to green energy and systems that reduce their carbon footprint.

Now with an office in the safari town of Hoedspruit, bordering South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Iconic Africa keep their pulse on the latest safari trends, new lodges, flight specials, and anything else that might contribute towards making a guest’s trip that much more memorable.

It’s been an amazing decade of fun, adventure, learning and making safari dreams come true.

Here’s to the next 10…

 

 

Victoria Falls Special

Victoria Falls isn’t just a destination—it’s an experience. From the powerful allure of the Falls to sundowners on the Zambezi, there’s an adventure for every taste. Stanley & Livingstone brings a touch of luxury to the Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, home of the Big Five. Set amidst this incredible natural beauty, and just a 15-minute drive from the Falls and the vibrant town, our 16 Suite Boutique Hotel offers a seamless blend of comfort and adventure.
And with a current Iconic Africa special running at up to 55% off until the end of May, there has never been a better time to visit!

Enjoy culinary excellence with wildlife as your backdrop in our 1871 restaurant or watch game from your luxuriously large suite. Our attention to detail ensures you’re not just comfortable, you’ll genuinely feel at home whether in our welcoming lounges or the pool area that extends an invitation to relax and merges effortlessly with our thoughtfully designed gardens. As evening sets, our terrace presents the perfect spot to reflect on the day under the vast African sky.

The team of Africa Travel Specialists are on standby to curate unique experiences, be it a helicopter tour, game drives, a black rhino conservation outing, or even an exhilarating canopy swing. At Stanley & Livingstone, it’s all about creating a personalised African adventure.

At Stanley & Livingstone, the backyard is the vast 4,000ha (9 900ac) Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, the only one of its kind so close to the Falls. There, the Big Five roam freely, side by side with rare creatures and birds aplenty. From open grasslands to dense forests and winding rivers, it is nature’s playground waiting for you to join – and yes, that includes spotting the elusive and critically endangered black rhino.
Enjoy authentic Africa safari adventures with game drives, bush walks and a rhino conservation experience. Your safari starts right at the lodge with a view over an active waterhole.

Victoria Falls is a sight to behold, and the team at S&L know all the best view spots. Their expert guide will lead you on a personalised journey through this UNESCO World Heritage Site, tailoring the experience to your preferences and interests. Whether you wish to admire the breath-taking vistas or learn about the fascinating history and geology of the Falls, the 3-hour tour promises heaps of fantastic photo opportunities.

When you stay at Stanley & Livingstone Boutique Hotel, Victoria Falls is yours to explore. Between adventures, you get to enjoy comfort, privacy and natural wonder on your doorstep. Every luxurious Suite, distinct yet uniformly elegant, offers a contemporary take on colonial style, inviting you to feel completely at ease. For families, they feature two sets of interconnected Suites, ensuring everyone has enough room.

Book now to take advantage of the special currently running. Bookings are only available until the end of May, so don’t wait.

Get in touch through info@iconicafrica.com to find out more…

Where to Safari This Winter

(Note: Winter in this post refers to the Southern Hemisphere winter; roughly May through to September)

The word “winter” doesn’t always conjour up exciting images of travel. More like pictures of cold, overcast days, likely some rain, not much happening, everyone sitting indoors reading a book.
Yet for those who know safari, winter sends ripples of excitement up and down their skin. It’s a time of clear skies in the southern hemisphere safari circuit, jackets and beanies at night, and action, action, action from the wildlife!

Ultimately winter is about water.

It’s the dry season over most of the African safari circuit, so any surface water becomes of prime importance in wildlife movement, be it in the form of a river, a pan left over from the rains or even an artificially pumped damn.

Almost all wildlife needs to drink every day, and so understanding what ecosystems have what water availability at different times of the year will certainly aid you in planning a world-class safari.

Here are three areas we absolutely love when the winter months settle in…

The Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango can seem quite topsy-turvy when it comes to water, in that when the rains have stopped, the water levels rise. This is because the rain that feeds the Delta’s annual inundation don’t fall locally, but far away in the Angolan highlands. It takes these rains a good few months to flow downstream, so it is only in May that they are properly reaching the Delta itself, and the channels start to spill over into the floodplains.

The rains are quite variable which means the inundation itself is variable, but for those who are interested in water-based activities like dugout canoe excursions, fishing trips or water transfers between camps, winter is the time for you.

It’s also a fascinating time to see how the local wildlife adapts to very different conditions.
Elephants swim across channels to reach better grazing, lions use the waterways to hunt buffalo, chasing the big bovines into the deeper water to slow them down, then moving in en masse to finish the job, and everywhere you look you see shimmering signs of life-sustaining water.
There is magic to be found in the Okavango all year round, but to truly understand the ecosystem, the months of flood are our favourite.

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

The south-eastern corner of this, one of Africa’s oldest national parks, is particularly productive. The Wilderness-run Linkwasha concession boasts four stunning camps – Makololo, Little Makololo, Davison’s and Linkwasha Camp itself – all of which offer exclusive access to some of the best game-viewing the dry season can offer south of the Zambezi.
The closest permanent water is the Zambezi River, over 100 kilometres to the north, so Hwange choose to maintain some surface water through a series of pumped waterholes, evenly spaced across the reserve.

This prevents the wildlife – most notably elephants – dispersing outside of the park and into neighbouring community lands. Prime game viewing is therefore maintained for visitors and human-wildlife conflict in buffer zones is mitigated against.

The dry season also means shorter grass, so spotting animals is easier, and there is far less vegetation to get in the way of a potentially award-winning photo.

Things can get chilly though, here in what is essentially still part of the Kalahari basin, so make sure to bring a warm jacket to protect against the chill of the evening. Upon return to camp you’ll be greeted by a warm drink or a crisp glass of wine, and can gather round the fireside as the hyenas start to call.
Then it’ll be back out again before sunrise, checking the waterholes to see what has happened during the evening.

Hwange in the dry season is not to be missed!

North-west Namibia

The rolling gravel plains, stark mountains and seemingly barren wilderness of north-west Namibia may appear to be lifeless, but in fact is one of the most fascinating ecosystems on the planet.

Desert-adapted black-rhino, desert elephants, lions who almost never drink, giraffes that stand alone in an area that looks somewhat like the surface of Mars… all these and much, much more are to be found here, somehow eking out an existence where it hardly ever rains.

Given that water is still necessary for life, animals must still drink, and secreted in this vast wilderness are secret springs and seepages that the animals know of. Visit any one of them and you will find a myriad of tracks showing all kind of visitors; hyenas and kudus and mongoose and jackals and the elephants themselves.
Ancient pathways lead many kilometres between these hidden lifesprings, but the ancient knowledge the wildlife possesses leads them unfailingly to these points.

A number of stunning camps are tucked away in remote valleys in the wildlife concessions here, which allow unfettered access to this, one of the most remarkable ecosystems in the world. The winter months mean cooler temperatures in an area that can be scorchingly hot in summer, and clear skies and a panoply of stars come standard.

   

Both the Damaraland region and Kaokaveld to the north are cut through by ephemeral rivers that wind their sandy way down to the harsh but appropriately named Skeleton Coast, and theses river systems serve almost as oases, harbouring subterranean water for much of the year, which the elephants know to dig for, and the giant pachyderms can often be found along the watercourses as a result.
Seeing a herd emerge from a riverbed onto the gravel plains in a landscape that you would never imagine could support such creatures, is a sight you will never forget.

The southern hemisphere Winter is a magical time to be on safari, and we feel strongly that the three areas above will offer some of the most spectacular experiences out there.

If you want to know more about what’s available, reach out on info@iconicafrica.com, and let’s start planning your winter journey to Africa…

Disconnect to Reconnect

An African sunset makes you feel at peace.

There are few things on earth that can bring such a level of contentment into your life in one moment. It doesn’t matter what other stresses might be going on back home; mortgage, bills, business deals, impending board meetings… in that brief period of time, surrounded by beauty, likely with gin and tonic in hand and the sound of the African Bush shifting from day mode to night, everything seems right with the world…

Look around at who you’re with…

Wife, kids, friends… The ranger who you have bonded with so quickly over the course of your safari, he or she almost feels like an extension of your family…
The company is stellar, the view amazing. The fact that you haven’t read an email in hours, even better.

The feeling you have is one that may have been missing for a good long while. It’s the feeling of you as you were meant to be.
The authentic self can most easily be found in nature, far from any screens, wifi, advertising or media of any sort. This is where you can rekindle relationships, be at your most vulnerable and honest, and realise things about yourself that it took removing yourself completely from your normal environment to discover…

At Iconic Africa, we pride ourselves in the experiences we craft for our guests. We tailor-make itineraries that we know will reconnect people with the versions of themselves that they were meant to be. Through immersions in other cultures, deep dives into the ways of the wild and journeys into wildernesses most can only dream of, we seek to reawaken parts of peoples souls that have long lain dormant.
And through disconnecting from the fast-paced world that most of us inhabit, by switching off phones and leaving an ‘out-of-office’ response on our email, we get that much closer to true authenticity.

To quote J.R.R. Tolkein –

The world isn’t in your books or maps… It’s out there…

We’ve been out there in Africa and we’ve seen it. We encourage you with all our hearts to do the same…

 

‘Phones in the Bush: Dos and Don’ts

(Disclaimer: We know not everyone is on an iPhone specifically, so if we use the term iPhone we are meaning it generically – it can be both iPhone or Android)

Phones rule our lives these days.
From communication to social media to direction finding to taking photographs – you name it, they’ve got it.
But whilst these seemingly indispensable little gadgets can be exceptionally convenient in an urban environment, they have the potential to distract you from the real beauty of your safari, so we thought we’d run through a couple of Do’s and Don’ts that might help you know when or when not to pull your phone out of your pocket..

Do: Have your phone with you

We are torn when it comes to the above, since we are very much in favour of the fully disconnected bush immersion, but given that not everyone will have a mirrorless camera and big lens with them, a phone is a fantastic way of capturing images of your safari, and with camera technology improving almost daily, one can have some stunning photos to take home, but…

Don’t: Have it connected to the network

Rid yourself of messages, emails, newsfeeds or anything that might cause you to be looking needlessly at your screen, at least until you’re back at the lodge. Who knows; that split-second when you glance down to check your inbox might have been when the leopard appeared briefly in your peripheral, but you missed it. Have your phone with you, but leave the signal for after drive.

Do: Take photos

Don’t: Post them straight away

You want the record of your safari. You want to be able tho show people what you saw, what it did, how quickly the leopard climbed the tree, how close the elephants came to your safari vehicle… But there’s no need to post any of the content you capture until you’re back in your room (many safari lodges only provide wifi in the rooms, and not on deck – this encourages guests to be off their phones and present).
Posting takes time; picking the right filter, cropping, editing, maybe selecting a nice song for a reel.. all this serves to do is distract further from the magic of what’s around you. Take the photo, record the video, but once you’ve got it, put the phone away again. Save the posting for later…

Do: Use reference apps.

Don’t: Forget to ask your ranger first.

There is an untold number of apps out there providing detailed information from anything from tree longevity to frog mating calls. Most places in the world have some sot of reference for that particular area.
The Roberts’ Bird App for Southern Africa is amazingly detailed and provides a wealth of information on bird plumage, calls, distribution, mating habits and everything else that go with their life history.
Star apps can help you identify individual constellations at any time of the year. There are many wonderfully useful tools that are highly applicable in the African bush.

However, too-heavy a reliance on these apps does exactly what we’re constantly trying to discourage when out there: screen-time.

Don’t forget that your ranger (and/or tracker) are highly qualified guides into this world, and they are there for a reason. They will know the answer to most questions you might throw at them.
If the whole vehicle is stuck identifying a specific bird, by all means delve into the app, but see how fun it is trying to work it out with your guide to work it out beforehand…

Do: Keep the phone in your pocket

Don’t: Keep it on the seat next to you

We’ll end here so that we don’t end up sounding like we’re completely against the use of phones in the bush, but the best way to not be distracted by something is to limit your exposure to it. Out of sight, out of mind is very applicable in this case, and by simply keeping the phone in your seat pocket or in the pocket of your pants, you won’t be wondering who tried to call you or how many likes your latest post got. You will be left to bask in the magnificence of nature all around you, soaking in every glorious moment.

More and more phones are becoming a part of being in the bush, whether to photograph, reference or (and hopefully not) find your way home.

We’re simply saying to remember why you journeyed there in the first place; it wasn’t to look at a screen…

The Best Treehouses in Africa

Counting sheep is one way to try and fall asleep.

Why not go one better though? Try to count a billion stars, have a lion roaring in the distance as a lullaby, and feel the cool night breeze of Africa on your face as it sussurates through the mosquito net… That’s the way to do it.

More and more safari lodges across Africa are offering a romantic sleep-out as an option, and their stunning treehouses are as opulent as one could desire.
No simple matress-and-sleeping-bag combinations are to be found here; instead guests are greeted by soft mattresses, expansive duvets, the warm glow of kerosene lanterns, and more than likely the subtle accompaniment of nightbirds trilling nearby.

Although the idea of a sleep-out can be intimidating to the inexperienced safari-goer, treehouse locations are as safe as any luxury lodge, and are an incredible way to experience raw nature. You will never sleep as deeply as you will when the night sounds of Africa are your personal bedtime story.

Here then are three of our favourite safari sleep-out offerings:

Wilderness Linkwasha, Zimbabwe

Tucked in the south-east corner of the Hwange National Park, the Linkwasha Concession plays host to four stunning lodges in the Wilderness portfolio: Linkwasha, Davison’s, Maokolo and Little Makololo. The area boasts a stunning variety of wildlife, and is particularly productive in the dry season when animals are entirely dependent on the few remaining surface water points.

It is next to one of these pans – which is kept topped up by the National Park – that the Linkwasha Sleepout platform is situated.
Tucked up against an ancient Leadwood tree, the treehouse enjoys stunning panoramic views over the surrounding plains, with prime viewing over the waterhole and whatever might be coming down to slake its thirst.
In the dry season one can be assured of a constant parade of elephants doen below, whose splashing and gurgling will be a gentle accompaniment to your snores through the night, and the grasslands will almost certainly reverberate to the call of a big cat during the evening.
Open skies all around mean that the star-gazing will be unsurpassed!

Xigera Lodge, Botswana

In the heart of the Okavango Delta – about as close to a wildlife eden as you can get on earth – Xigera Lodge offers unmatched opulence in the safari industry. Stunning architecture in a remote location with some of the best game viewing on the sub-continent really makes this destination hard to beat.

Throw in a treehouse built to resemble one of Africa’s most iconic trees – the baobab – and you have just about one of the most romantic sleep-out venues on the planet.

The sheer imagination used to design such a stunning creation will take your breath away; something like a treehouse standing by itself could be potentially incongruous, but the Xigera offering just fits.

A night out here will be one you will never forget…

Lion Sands, South Africa

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is one of the best places to view predators in Africa, and Lion Sands ticks this box brilliantly.
Apart from boasting some of the most luxurious lodges and one of the densest leopard populations on the continent, they have three stunning treehouses to choose from if a sleep-out under the stars is what you’re after. Each of the Chalkley, Tinyeleti and Kingston treehouses has their own unique charm, but all have much in common at the same time – comfort, beauty, and a sense of place, almost as if the treehouses were always there.
The feeling you want from an experience like this is one of belonging, as if you are actually part of the environment. And you get that feeling in droves at the Lion Sands treehouses…

As rustic as they may sound, the treehouses on offer at the higher-end lodges are anything but. Bathroom facilities, their own dining experience, 24-hour communication with the lodge via radio, and a whole host of other make them incredibly comfortable, safe, and as user-friendly as one could wish.

A treehouse sleep-out is just about as authentic an experience that one can find in the African bush…

If this is the kind of adventurous night you’d be interested in, get in touch through info@iconicafrica.com, and let’s start looking for a treehouse for you…

 

 

Iconic Africa Wins Another Award

For the 5th year in a row, Iconic Africa has scooped top spot in a LuxLife Travel Awards category, this year being declared Best Luxury Africa Travel Agent – USA.

We could not be more proud to once again be recognised for the experiences we keep aspiring to deliver for our guests, and the continent we keep aspiring to promote.

To quote the LuxLife Website:

LUXlife Magazine is a premium lifestyle publication which was founded in 2015. Distributed to a circulation of 94,000 globally, LUXlife focuses on a range of topics within the luxury lifestyle industry, featuring articles on fashion, beauty, fine dining, travel, luxury real estate and much more.
The LUXlife awards honour the extraordinary achievements of those shaping the luxury industry. These prestigious awards are a testament to the relentless pursuit of brilliance, recognizing those who are shining with excellence.

The travel and tourism industries have made a strong comeback! After enduring the effects of previous years, 2023 finally brought back a sense of normalcy. It is predicted that 2024 will continue this upwards trend in travel bookings and build upon it. Economic struggles and doubts about industry recovery are now a thing of the past. The travel industry is operating at full capacity and surpassing expectations!

Iconic Africa has been revelling in this upward trend in travel, and we have never been busier. With new sales agents joining our team and new guests from all over the world travelling with us, we continue to refine our offering, seeking out only the best destinations for our bespoke safaris.

A crucial aspect of Iconic Africa’s philosophy is that the destinations we represent must demonstrate a genuine commitment to the conservation of Africa’s last great wilderness areas and the rural people who live around them. Terri Abadi and John Holley, our founders,  have both personally been extensively involved in education and social upliftment in rural Africa.

When you travel with Iconic Africa,  a portion of the money you spend on your life-changing African vacation will be put to wilderness conservation and social enterprise development. Our destinations contribute to the protection of rhino, innovative green energy, valuable ecological research, education, lion conservation and community involvment.

Iconic Africa creates exclusive luxury African safari and adventure holidays for couples and families in southern and East Africa. Our gorgeous destinations are all hand-picked and visited by Terri and John and are as varied as Africa is large; from Cape Town to Kilimanjaro, along the Zambezi River and through the Kruger Park to Mozambique’s tropical coastline and everything in between…

With five years entering the LuxLife Tourism Awards and 5 awards to our name already, we can’t wait to see what 2024 will bring for Iconic Africa, our guests, and the magnificent continent we call home…

Get in touch with us through info@iconicafrica.com, and let’s start planning your safari…

Leopards of the Lower Zambezi

The Zambezi is truly one of Africa’s great rivers.

The fourth longest in the continent, it rises in the highlands of western Zambia, before cutting down into Angola, back into Zambia and then acting as a natural border with Namibia, then Zimbabwe before it finally flows into Mozambique, wending its way down to the Indian Ocean.

One specific section of it – the aptly named Zambezi Valley – is between Chirundu and the Mpata Gorge, and is absolutely teeming with wildlife! On the northern, Zambian side of the river, lies the Lower Zambezi National Park, and it is here that we shine our spotlight…

Although the park itself is over 4000 square kilometres, the vast majority of that is scrubby hill-land from the escarpment back away from the river; as a result over 95% of the wildlife viewing takes place down on the valley floor, in the few kilometres between the river itself and the escarpment. It is here that the camps of the Lower Zambezi are to be found, and it is here that you will find some of the best leopard viewing in Africa.

Stunning open forested areas made up of imposing Winterthorn trees provide an incredible backdrop through which the sly cats are consistently to be found moving, as they stalk their predominantly impala prey. The bark of a baboon is often the first indication that there is a leopard on the prowl.

Although in recent years it is the large pack of buffalo-hunting wild dogs in the central Jeki area that has truly put the park on the map, the reality is there is far more to it than a single pack of canids. The lion population is as healthy as ever, general game is prolific, and the elephant herds move their stately way under the Winterthorn canopy in such numbers as to almost be uncountable. The height of the dry season in particular is a spectacular time for a visit as there is scant grass cover and lovely soft light, so you are invariably viewing animals in the open and the photographic opportunities are prolific.

Accommodation-wise one is treated to an almost surfeit of spectacular camps. To the west of the park lie two of our favourites – Zambezi Grande and Time & Tide’s Chongwe House.

With our amazing 35% special currently running on Time & Tide’s camps, Chongwe House would be our obvious recommendation for now, although Zambezi Grande is no less stunning.

Moving east along the riverbank one gets to Chiawa Camp, and it’s sister camp Old Mondoro more centrally located in the park. Both are very similar in design and feel and share similar game viewing opportunities, with Old Mondor being a particular favourite with the elephants, and Chiawa being one of the leopard hotspots in the west of the reserve.

Jeki Airstrip (directly above of Old Mondoro camp on the map) is where most flights to Lower Zambezi will arrive, and is unofficially the centre of the park; it is here that the famous wild dog pack renowned for their buffalo hunting prowess have chosen to den over the past two or three years. Although the pack has split slightly, the larger group and their pups still number roughly 30 individuals, and they still hunt the big bovines in the dry season.

Just east of Jeki, down towards Anabezi Lodge, is the leopard area. For some reason the density here seems to be higher than in the rest of the park, and sightings are frequent. A mother and her two daughters have become regular features in the sightings logs, as well as two small cubs born towards the end of 2023 that are now wll on their way to sub-adulthood.

Anabezi is our favourite camp in the east. It provides superb access to the eastern section of the reserve, is as comfortable as one could wish, and best of all, each visiting party receives their own private vehicle, meaning game drives are yours to do with what you please.

Whilst it is the wild dogs that have taken centre stage over the last few years in the Lower Zambezi, it is the leopards that we believe will keep the park on the map.
Spread throughout the reserve (the wild dogs can disappear into the escarpment), the viewing of them is as consistent and spectacular as one could wish, and with some of the most stunning scenery in Africa on display, there is almost no better place to be viewing these cats in the wild.

The Time & Tide 35% special will be running for the next two months, but there are plenty of options to choose from in this, one of the continent’s most underrated destinations.

Get in touch now through info@iconicafrica.com to find out more…

 

The Luangwa Valley: the Best of Time & Tide

Spoiled for choice is a wonderful term with which to associate with safari, and it is certainly the case when looking into lodge options within the South Luangwa Time & Tide portfolio.
Stunning camps – some of which are set along the banks of the Luangwa River while the others are further west on the seasonal Luwi Riverbed – provide access to a wide diversity of habitats, ensuring maximum game viewing opportunities in one of Africa’s greatest wildlife areas.

Time & Tide camps are currently available at 35% off, but this limited-time offer is set to expire in a couple of months, so this is the time to book!

Essentially what you are looking at is a wonderful spectrum that takes you from the heart of one of the core game viewing areas out into the true wilderness areas of the park where there are far fewer operators; you will work a bit harder for your major sightings in the more remote camps, but whatever you find you will likely have all to yourself.

Our personal recommendation would be to combine two of the camps in your trip; either Chinzombo or Kakuli at which the chances of seeing excellent game are exceptionally high, and then moving on to a Luwi or Nsolo camp where you will get a true sense of wilderness. Apart from dusty roads there will be almost no other evidence of human presence. The stars will be more brilliant than you could imagine and you will feel like you are a part of the community

The beauty of Luangwa is its seasonality. Cool dry winters give way to a hot dusty spring, with the promise of rain threatening more and more each day. Wildlife congregates around the river and permanent waterholes during the dry times, but when the rains unleash during the summer months the entire landscape transforms into one of vibrant greens, with ephemeral pans topped up, frogs calling throughout the night, and the dambos (dry floodplains) turning into boggy ground that is difficult to negotiate with even the hardiest of vehicles. It’s all part of the adventure, and for photographers in particular this is a time of plenty. The migrant birds have returned, baby impalas are all over the place and everything is clean and colourful.

Some of the more remote camps shut down over the rainy season due to the logistical difficulty of getting supplies in during muddy periods, but Chinzombo remains open due to its still-navigable road network.

One of the main reasons to visit South Luangwa is the leopards. There are plenty of them. Plenty. The dry season in particular is an amazing time to visit as the leopards alter their behaviour to suit the terrain. As the grass dies through the winter, cover becomes sparse and the hunting becomes difficult. The leopards then take to the trees, in particular the heavily foliated sausage and mahogany trees. With ample cover up in the branches, they have shady refuges from which to scan for hunting opportunities, often only waiting until darkness has descended before descending to attempt a stalk.
On rare occasions they will even drop straight from a tree onto unsuspecting prey down below.

Zambia, and South Luangwa in particular is swiftly emerging as front-runner in Africa’s wildlife real estate; a place to compete with the Okavango Delta to the south or the East African grasslands.

With the amazing 35% special currently running with Time & Tide, there could be no better time to book, so you can see for yourself…

Get in touch through info@iconicafrica.com to find out more about the special, camp rates and availability…

 

 

A Londolozi of Leopards

The collective noun for multiple leopards is actually a Leap, but the alternate term in this post’s title is more than appropriate, given that Londolozi practically pioneered leopard viewing as we know it today.

In the early 1970’s, thanks to progressive land-management practices and a sensitive approach to viewing wildlife, Londolozi started seeing a single female leopard fairly regularly. Carefully observing her habits and getting her used to the game drive vehicles meant that her cubs picked up her relaxed approach to being viewed, which spawned successive generations of habituated leopards. Londolozi is now viewing its 8th generation of leopards descended from that single female; most likely the most documented leopard lineage in existence.

These days Londolozi remains at the epicentre of Leopard viewing. A camera-trap study conducted by the Panthera Organisation concluded that the Sabi Sand Reserve contains the densest population of these spotted cats yet recorded in Africa, with Londolozi and its neighbours (all of whom sit at the core of the Sabi Sands) containing the highest density of them all; approximately 12 leopards per 100 square kilometres.

A combination of ideal habitat and the resulting prey availability, as well as the fact that the reserve is unfenced and open to the 6 million hectare Greater Kruger National Park, has maintained the population as stable and allowed for unrestricted genetic flow.

Experienced rangers and trackers – among the best in the business – understand the behaviour of the cats intimately and are able to find them on game drives repeatedly.
Although leopards steal the show, and are one of the reasons that guests visit Londolozi from all over the world, they are part of a much wider cast of wildlife, including all the Big 5, as well as cheetahs, wild dogs and a plethora of general game species that will your camera’s memory card up more rapidly than you could dare dream.

The camps themselves offer a wonderful diversity of accommodation options, from the slightly larger family camps – Founders and Varty – to the three-roomed Pioneer Camp, which is generally booked in the exclusive-use villa style, you will almost certainly be able to find what you are looking for.

It is the people of Londolozi that truly set the place apart however.
Since the Varty family rebranded the lodge as a stand-alone, family-run affair in 2007, the vibrant culture that permeates into every nook and cranny of the land has become more and more entrenched, and for many repeat guests, it is the friends they have made amongst the staff that sees them returning time and time again.
Some can boast over 50 visits…

Londolozi delivers time and time again, from the bush experience they offer to the food, hospitality, wellness spa and everything in between.
It may be the place to see leopards but it is also the place to feel more alive than you thought you could. Where you can reconnect with ancient energy and connect to yourself all over again…

Get in touch now through info@iconicafrica.com to enquire about rates and availability…