Your questions answered by those who really know
I have young children and need to travel in the school holidays. Is there anywhere that you would recommend for around Easter time?
Wouter Vergeer, SafariBookings
South Africa is an excellent safari destination for families, but you should book ahead. If you choose an organised safari, remember to tell your operator your kids’ ages. Kruger National Park, with its outstanding wildlife density, is ideal for children, who shouldn’t have to wait long to see an elephant lumber across the road. Accommodation caters for all budgets, too: Olifants Rest Camp, teetering on the brink of a spectacular bluff, is very affordable. Singita Ebony Lodge, just outside Kruger, runs a Mini Rangers programme for children. Pilanesberg Game Reserve, in the crater of an extinct volcano, is another option and has swimming pools and playgrounds.
I have been to Africa many times but never to Zimbabwe. What, would you say, are the country’s unmissable highlights?
Gwen Wawn, Safaris 4 Africa
Zim is the perfect country for an experienced traveller to visit because, even though it is a small country, it has a great diversity, which allows travellers to focus on a particular area of interest. Birding enthusiasts, for example, have the opportunity to enjoy an average of 300-400 avian species in national parks such as Hwange, Mana Pools and Gonarezhou. Archeological buffs should visit the Khami ruins and Great Zimbabwe. The traveller captivated by African cultures can visit and meet the Shangaan tribe who live around Gonarezhou, or the Matabele people situated in and around the Matobo Hills. For the wildlife fanatic, Hwange boasts some of the greatest animal diversity in southern Africa; and at Mana Pools you can expect incredible sightings in the most beautiful river scenery. Matobo, Hwange and Mana also offer the chance to see endangered creatures such as white rhino or wild dog.
I am a keen amateur photographer. Would I need to go on a course to get the most out of the experience, and what would you recommend for the best shots?
Lou Coetzer, CNP Safaris
If you are not 100 per cent comfortable with your camera, go out of your way to find somebody to give you button for button and menu for menu training on your specific camera. Secondly, attend a dedicated wildlife photography course; generic courses often lead to bad wildlife photography habits. Investigate which specialist tour operators cover your preferred destination and what the different tours have to offer. To have a true professional at hand who can advise you on camera settings and who knows the local area and animal behaviour back to front will make all the difference and help avoid disappointing safari photos.
I want to volunteer abroad — how do I ensure that I am being a responsible tourist?
Rachel Northover, African Adventures
As a voluntourist, you have huge potential to play a part in improving and developing the lives and lands of destination communities, while also enriching your own life. But, as you rightly mention, it is essential that you ensure that you are being a responsible traveller. How do you do this? Responsible tourism is really quite simple. It is largely about common sense. It is about respecting others; about choosing the right company to go with (do they care about responsible tourism?); and about making informed decisions on your travels, so learn about what you will be doing and the difference it will make. Voluntourism, when done right, is naturally a form of responsible tourism because you go with the intention of giving more than you gain, in the hope of benefiting your host community. The key point here is to ensure that you are approaching the experience in the right way so you can have the intended positive impact.
Do I need a 4WD vehicle to travel around Namibia?
Rachael Harlech-Jones, Cardboard Box
If your budget is not too limited, then renting a 4WD is always the best option in Namibia. However, depending on where you are travelling to, for most itineraries you do not need one unless you are going to more remote areas such as Kaokoland or travelling during the wet season (chance of rain October to December and main rains from January till April). If budget is a concern, a higher clearance vehicle such as an SUV is a good alternative. A lot of gravel tracks are corrugated and travelling on these in a sedan car is unpleasant, and therefore inadvisable, unless most of your trip is using tarred roads.
I’ve been advised that it is better to go to a private conservancy rather than a national park. Can you please explain the difference between them and give me a recommendation of where to go in Kenya?
Riccardo Orizio, Saruni
In Kenya, national parks are owned and managed by the government, while private conservancies are owned and managed by the communities who own the land. In the past 10 years, the ecologically more responsible and conservation-oriented segment of the Kenyan tourism industry has moved away from the parks and has identified itself with the conservancies. Why? Not only because it is a well-known fact that most of the animals are on private land, but also because the future of Kenya’s wildlife relies on the incentives given to the locals. If they deem the wildlife valuable, they will protect it. So, often a guest has a better experience in a conservancy where community, investors and conservationists work together in harmony, conserving not only the land and the fauna, but also the unique culture of the people.