During my African safaris, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy some really exhilarating wildlife encounters. There’s an element of luck involved, but a much more important factor is the skill and knowledge of your guide.
Game drives are only one way of getting up close and personal with mesmerising megafauna, but they do give you the necessary speed and range to go hunting with wild dog in Madikwe or keep up with the ceaseless shifting of the dazzling Makgadikgadi zebra migration.
And some species are best approached on four wheels, to ensure that your encounter doesn’t become too adrenaline-fuelled. A good guide can get you close without disturbing or pressurising the animal – even the regal black-maned lion of the Central Kalahari tolerate the presence of game viewers. So too do the leopard and other big cats of Kruger, allowing you get close enough to see the world through their eyes.
I always enjoy animals en masse, whether it’s experiencing elephant encounters in Samburu, sashaying across the savannah to see Zimbabwe’s vast herds or visiting the ‘other’ wildebeest migration at Liuwa Plains.
Some of Africa’s best safari destinations are known for specific wildlife encounters, such as watching elephant in Addo in South Africa, or in the shadow of Kilimanjaro at Amboseli.
Being on foot has a wonderfully levelling effect, and guided walking safaris let you more actively find some of Africa’s most iconic animals. Rhino are one of my favourites – you can track them on foot in Phinda, or find their desert-adapted cousins in Namibia.
For an altogether noisier experience, finding chimpanzee at Greystoke Mahale lets you channel your inner Tarzan (or Jane).
There are moments when the wildlife comes to you: making friends with Kalahari meerkats which then use you as a watchtower, or losing a breakfast croissant to a Nairobi giraffe.
My personal favourites? Letting my soul take wing as I dance with Tanzania’s flamingos, and beholding the bat migration of Kasanka.