We asked Sandy Wood of Pulse Africa to help us welcome the new year with some fun tips and inspiration for our African travels
What is the number one safari destination of the moment, and why
South Africa. A weak rand and malaria-free game parks make it great value and very popular, with plenty of attractions: safari, beach, history, wine and food, flowers, desert… I could go on.
Which countries are ones to watch this year, and why?
Kenya has consistently good game viewing, some of the friendliest people on the continent and is great value at the moment. Rwanda is a relatively unknown gem with breathtaking scenery and gorillas. Ethiopia is very up and coming: infrastructure is improving and more and more travellers are discovering its beauty, culture and history, so go soon.
In your opinion, where is the best beach break?
Zanzibar: beautiful beaches, spice plantations, incredibly friendly people, wonderfully warm sea (essential), watersports, colourful markets, delicious food and romance – it has it all.
What is the most authentic wilderness experience?
In my opinion, Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. Norman Carr and Robin Pope – legends of the safari industry – started walking safaris in there, and years later the region is still known as one of the few remaining places offering truly off-the-beaten-track safaris.
Where would you recommend for a jungle adventure?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Just the name sounds like an adventure and this is real jungle, home to all manner of apes, birds, insects and reptiles. Immerse yourself here and you will feel totally removed from the Western world.
Where is Africa’s best dive spot?
Madagascar is worth a peek, particularly off Nosy Mitsio Archipelago.
Which hike (other than Kilimanjaro) would appeal to keen trekkers?
The Drakensberg offers some interesting and challenging trails. The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000 on account of its outstanding natural beauty and cultural significance. There are now some wonderful hikes here, such as the three-day Amphitheatre Heritage Hike, where farms host guests en route.
Describe a great African road trip.
The drive from Tana to Tulear in Madagascar is unusual. You pass through diverse scenery – from the rice paddies and wine-growing region of Antsirabe to the rainforest of Ranomafana National Park and on to the rock formations of Isalo and the coastal town of Tulear.
What would you suggest to those looking for a foodie escape?
Cape Town and the Winelands. There are more award-winning restaurants here than anywhere else in Africa.
Where is a good place to take the kids?
South Africa probably tops it. Madikwe Safari Lodge, for example, is accessible and malaria-free. It offers an educational centre specifically for children as well as a kids’ activities menu to keep them happy while you relax. It’s a win-win situation.
Are there any great new hotels opening this year?
The Silo, part of the Royal Portfolio, is set to open in a historic Cape Town grain silo. The brainchild of Liz and Phil Biden, of Royal Malewane fame, this 28-room boutique hotel will overlook the V&A Waterfront and will have the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art on the top floor. Watch this space…
Do you have any tips on what to pack on safari?
Travel light and take layers. Binoculars, a camera and a sense of humour are all essential.
What’s on your 2016 bucket list?
I’d like to learn more about Ethiopia and spend more time exploring the country I live in: South Africa.