Nature places in Africa
Kissama National Park
80 km from Luanda
Nobody will put Kissama (Quiçama) National Park on the list of the top national parks in Africa, but it's the best in Angola and that's still something. After more than 25 years of civil war with wide-scale poaching there were hardly any wild animals left in Angola, so large game animals have been reintroduced to Kissama National Park - and with good results. Today the park is home for elephants, giraffes, zebras, kudos, wildebeests and many more - but no predators bigger than civet and mongoose. You can stay at the park, but a day trip from Luanda is also possible.
Kwanza River Safari
A trip to Kissama National Park usually includes a river safari up the Kwanza River. From a small motorboat you go looking for crocodiles, blue monkeys, lizards, fish eagles and other birds. Like a safari in Kissama National Park, a Kwanza river safari isn't mindblowing compared to the top river safaris in Africa, like Chobe in Botswana, but still - this is Angola and something entirely different.
Chobe National Park
Close to the border of Namibia, Zimbia and Zimbabwe
In terms of both variety and diversity, Chobe Naitional Park is just ridiculously good. It's divided into four distinct sections, where Chobe riverfront is the most popular - partly because the density of animals is great here and partly because of its proximity to Victoria Falls (in Zimbabwe and Zambia). Chobe is famous for its large elephant herds, which you can get terrifyingly close to. But warthog, hippo, zebra, giraffe and different species of antelopes, including lechwe and sable, are all among the usual game - but there are no rhinos. There is a good chance to see lions and, with a bit of luck, even a hunting leopard or cheetah. Chobe River makes out the park's natural boundary to north and is great for some midday river safari when the animals come down to drink - this is particularly good during dry season (May through October). But for the best chances to see some predators, you can't beat morning and to some extent evening drives - and who wants to miss the wonders of the red African sun setting behind a herd of elephants!
Chobe River safari
On the border between Botswana and Namibia
Normally, a river safari on Chobe River is part of safari trip to Chobe National Park, but we have given it a separate entry because it's a very different type of safari than the usual game drive in jeeps. The animals use Chobe riverfront to drink from, particulary during the dry season (May through October). Shortly before midday, the first elephants usually show up, quickly followed by the rest of the herd. Most will just sip from the water edge, but some might go for swim or even dive. At midday, the riverbank can be packed with elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and various antelopes, all standing side by side cautiously sipping. Big pods of hippos cooling off in the water make river navigation a cautious affair for hippos are extremely protective of their younger ones and get easily agitated - and they are fast.
Makoro ride - Okavango Delta
There are many different ways of viewing wildlife, but none really come close to gliding along silently in a makoro dugout canoe. Makoros are used by local people of the Okavango Delta to fish and traverse channels, although as a tourist you may end up with a fibre-glass version rather than a traditional wooden one. Travelling by makoro is a magical experience. The silence is almost complete, and unlike walking safaris it is possible to get (sometimes disconcertingly) close to wildlife, all of which will appear enormous from half a metre above the water surface. But with or without wildlife, this is without a doubt one of the most memorable and special ways of experiencing the unique environment that is the Okavango Delta. Just watch out for those hippos!
Mokolodi Nature Reserve
23 km from Gaborone
A mandatory thing to do while in Gaborone is a visit to nearby Mokolodi Nature Reserve. This not-for-profit game reserve is run by the Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation. It has two of the Big Five, leopard and (white) rhino, along with giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala, hartebeest, wildebeest and hippo, just to name a few. Bird lovers will also be happy with more than 300 species, including easy-to-spot hornbills. Mokolodi also functions as a wild animal orphanage and is taking care of a few retired predators, like hyena and cheetah. You can do the safari in your own 4WD car or get there by public transport and join a two-hour game drive.
The Okavango Delta is a place of wonder – it is as simple as that. The myriad of waterways that weave their way through the otherwise unforgiving Kalahari provides sanctuary for a plethora of animals, from the Big Five and the rare African wild dogs to countless species of birds. The experience changes depending on your mode of transport – safari vehicle, plane, makoro canoe or on foot – and the seasonal variations are equally significant. The Okavango Delta is home to vast populations of elephants and is a great place to spot predators of all kinds, but it is also a unique habitat, and an Africa that is difficult to find anywhere else. Watch a herd of buffalo make their way across the water from one island to the next, or a clan of hyenas lounging on one of the many small airstrips, as you enjoy the many canals, swamps and islands that make up this stunning inland delta.
Mohéli and Anjouan
There are bats everywhere on the Comoros, but the Livingstone's fruit bats are among the biggest and most endangered. It can only be found on the islands of Mohéli and Anjouan in the Comoros. The wingspan can be up to 1.4 m and the bat itself up to 30 cm. It's black and fury with characteristic round ears and red eyes. There aren't that many Livingstone's fruit bats left in the wild (est. 1200), as their habitat (mountainous jungle) are slowly destroyed and transformed into fields. However, one of the best places to see these giant bats is an hour walk through the jungle and fields outside the village of Ouallah 1 on Mohéli. A local guide can be hired from the village, who are used to show the bats to the few foreigners who get this far.
Itsamia village, Mohéli
The best place to see sea turtles lay their eggs on the Comoros is the beach at Itsamia village. The sea turtles (mostly green sea turtles) come in every night year round to nest. Some nights only one or two turtles come ashore, while other nights there might come twenty or even more. Though the beach is long, the number of nesting turtles is so huge (more than 3,000 per year) that they bump into each other or accidentally dig each other's nests up. The village has a turtle program where they educate both locals and visitors. Apparently the people of Mohéli don't eat turtle meat or eggs, but unfortunately the people of Anjouan do, but the protection program seems to have been fruitful against the poachers from Anjouan. Watching nesting sea turtles is an unmatched experience and it's hard to contain your excitement when spotting a female dragging itself out of the water. Hatching of baby turtles can of course also be watched, if you're a bit lucky. Use a local guide from the turtle program, who knows what to do and not do.
Waterfalls in Ouallah 2
A few kilometres inland from Ouallah 2 is a very pretty and secluded waterfall. The source of this waterfall is a lake much further uphill that is also the source of drinking water for all the villagers. The easy trek to the waterfall brings you through jungle-like forest and is very interesting in itself, but the reward is the view at the foot of the fall, with its abrupt drop and small pond and its foot. Should you be able to withstand the cold water, you can swim in the pond before going back to the village.