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Game drives, khaki clothing, and sundowners overlooking the savannah: these elements of a safari are essential, but they aren’t unique. That’s not a bad thing — after all, that’s what makes it a safari! — but for travellers who like thinking outside the box, it’s a starting point rather than the entire experience. Here are our suggestions for ways to have a really unique safari in different places all over Africa, and keep an element of the unexpected in your travel.

1. Walking safari in northern Kenya

Far from the safety of a game vehicle, the bush comes alive. Walking through the savannah is an immersive experience that brings you face-to-face with the smells, sounds, and textures of the wild. With an experienced guide who can point out the minutiae of the wildlife, you’ll learn more about the entire ecosystem of the area, and come to a new appreciation of its diversity. A walking safari is a good idea anywhere in Africa — but in the northern region of Kenya, you have the added benefit of getting away from the crowds.

2. Horse riding safari in Botswana

Most people think of Kenya or Tanzania when they hear the word “safari,” but that doesn’t have to be the case. Botswana is host to the big five, the Okavango Delta, and some of the most beautiful landscapes in Africa, including baobabs and the magnificent Makgadikgadi salt pans. And when you explore from horseback, you have something of a disguise — you can usually get much closer to the hartebeest, springbok, zebra, and other animals without spooking them. After five days in the saddle, you won’t just look like a grizzled explorer; you’ll feel like one, too.

3. Photographic safari

It’s no wonder that most people’s first brush with photography is through travel. Exploring an exciting new place can be intoxicating, and it’s only natural to want to keep some evidence of the moment forever. But if you want to take your snapping to the next level, being in the field is the only way to go. By spending time with an experienced professional photographer, you’ll learn the practical skills that aren’t communicable via Youtube tutorial. That means that in addition to having a wild adventure, you’ll also have the tools to get the best photos of your life.

Photo: Solly Levi Photo Safari Expert Kenya and Namibia.
Photo: Trevor Cole. TribalTourist Photo Safari expert Ethiopia.

4. Birding in Zambia

While many people chase the big five, birders have their eyes on much smaller prizes and Zambia is one of the best places in the world to do so. Dedicated twitchers can concentrate on the incredibly rich and diverse bird species. There are over 750 bird species in Zambia, across a range of environments. Wetland and swamp areas attract a variety of waterfowl, from herons, storks and ibises to the stately crowned and wattled cranes. Zambia’s most sought-after wetland species, the shoebill stork, is the highlight of any birdwatching break to Zambia’s Bangweulu wetlands.

The best time for birding in Zambia, the wet season, sees many birds nesting and displaying full breeding plumage; but many camps and lodges close their doors. The good news is, the few that remain open often offer heavily reduced rates so this is usually the cheapest time to visit.

5. Gorilla-tracking in Uganda

You can call a trip to see Uganda’s gorillas’ many things—intense, life-changing, bucket-list—but you can’t really call it a “safari.” The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where half the world’s population of wild mountain gorillas are found, is just a few hours away from Queen Elizabeth National Park and its abundance of wildlife. So if you plan your cards right, you don’t have to choose: you can hike with gorillas, spot tree-climbing lions, and watch thousands of acid-pink flamingoes in the crater lakes, all in one unique trip.

Photo: Robin Kutesa
Photo: Keith Connelly.

Change your perspective

No matter what your destination, there’s one tip you can always apply to add a unique angle on your safari — change your perspective. That could mean seeing the Great Migration from above, in a hot air balloon, or looking at the mainland of Tanzania from the shores of Zanzibar on a beach adventure after your safari. Wherever you’re heading, even when it’s a well-known destination, there’s always an opportunity for adding something new.

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