Planes, trains and luxury safari transportation

For many people, an African safari brings to mind a series of bumpy drives, racing through the dusty bush in a safari vehicle. While it is true that a large part of many safaris involves game driving, these days there are a number of more comfortable and/or adventurous alternatives for spotting the Big 5 in style. Here’s our list of the most exclusive:

Plane

The majority of safaris include one or more short aerial hops between lodges in a light aircraft, since this is the quickest and most practical way of crossing the vast distances and rough terrain of Africa’s remote bush. This is an added benefit for any safari, as you fly over the Great Migration, the winding blue channels of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, the Zambezi River as it cascades over Victoria Falls, or the snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya or Kilimanjaro. A specialist scenic flight can get you closer to particular landmarks and makes it possible to spot game from above to gain a whole new perspective of the ecosystem and its inhabitants’ daily lives.

botswana-plane

Trains

South Africa is home to Rovos Rail – the most luxurious train in the world! This is the most stylish way to see Africa, with the train’s lavish, wood-panelled carriages, fine cuisine and the romantic atmosphere of a bygone era. The train-hotel offers a number of journeys, from South Africa to Namibia and Tanzania. Traverse the karoo, mountains and vineyards between Pretoria and Cape Town, go on safari in KwaZulu-Natal or Hwange National Park, visit the battlefields or Victoria Falls, or embark on a longer trans-country voyage, all from the comfort of the opulent lounges, dining cars and private suites of this, the ultimate travelling 5-star hotel.

south-africa-rovos-rail

Boats

The Zambezi Queen Collection has a fleet of floating luxury boutique hotels, offering a unique African river safari, gliding along the famous Chobe River. Spot the plentiful game and enjoy panoramic views from the elegant comfort of your private suite, complete with outer deck and en-suite bathroom. With a maximum of 14 suites on board, communal lounges and exquisite food, this is an exceptional way to safari. Each houseboat also has its own smaller ‘tender’ boats, which can take guests on daily excursions on the river, for fishing, birdwatching or a closer view for spectacular photographs.

zambezi-queen

Helicopters

Nothing says luxury like a private helicopter transfer and this makes for the ultimate arrival into your safari lodge or Indian Ocean private island retreat! The speed and manoeuvrability of this mode of transport lends itself to incredible aerial game viewing and the closest view of Africa’s spectacular landmarks, such as the narrow Batoka Gorge at Victoria Falls, as well as the falls themselves, for example. Helicopter safaris are the ultimate way to see all that Africa has to offer – flying between lodges in style and whizzing over the varied landscapes and natural wonders is hard to top.

helicopter-over-victoria-falls

Balloons and microlights

For the more adventurous traveller, a more peaceful, somehow natural, and exclusive option is to search for game from a hot air balloon or a microlight aircraft. These offer a spectacular and unobstructed aerial view of the African bush and make it easier to fly closer to the action for a completely unique perspective.

hot-air-ballooning

Julian Carter-Manning is a Co-founder and MD at Yellow Zebra Safaris.

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Comments (2)

  1. Sara Essop says:

    I’ve traveled on the Rovos Rail and it is a truly amazing experience. The entire train has an ambience of colonial grandeur and the suites are spacious by train standards.

  2. Laura says:

    Ballooning over the African bush is a long held dream of mine. About how much would a tour cost?
    Its interesting to hear they use microlights too. I would have thought they would scare the wildlife.

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