WATCH THIS SHORT VIDEO FOR A TASTE OF WHERE PHIL WEST SAFARIS CAN TAKE YOU…
East african safari vs southern african safari
One of the first things we will have to establish is whether a safari in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda) or Southern Africa (Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe) is right for you. This may come down to the time of year you are aiming to travel and your budget. East Africa is great all year long, with the exceptions of April, May, and November, when the rains usually come. Southern Africa is particularly good in the summer season between May and September, although certain areas can also be rewarding December to May in the “green season.
We generally don’t recommend combining Eastern and Southern Africa in one trip because the distances between them and the often expensive intra-Africa flights can make it impractical. That said, it is possible to combine a traditional safari in East Africa with an extension to Mozambique, Cape Town, or Vic Falls.”
Tanzania has a lot to offer – from the Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti, to the wildlife dense Ngorongoro Crater, trekking chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains, the big elephant herds of Tarangire, the more remote southern reserves, or visiting the romantic island of Zanzibar. We can customize your safari to include a variety of landscapes, wildlife experiences, and activities. It is also possible to combine a trip to Tanzania with some time in Kenya, as it’s fairly easy to move between the two countries.
Kenya is one of the most diverse countries to experience safari, with an incredible variety of landscapes from expansive savannah plains to primary forests, hidden deserts to white sand beaches, and of course the iconic snow-capped peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. In addition to the diversity of habitat, there is also a wide variety of accommodation types from traditional tented camps to bush homes to luxurious permanent lodges, as well as opportunities to interact with local tribespeople in authentic ways. Activities on offer include bush walks, day and night game drives, quad bike riding, hot air balloons, horse and camel riding, and water sports
The Maasai Mara is the most famous of Kenya’s game reserves – a true photographer’s paradise and rightly believed to be one of the world’s best wildlife destinations. During the months of July through October, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope flood the plains of the Mara during the Great Wildebeest Migration, and bring with them a plethora of predators. The Migration is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and is truly a bucket list experience. Outside of migration season can also be particularly rewarding in the Maasai Mara, as in other reserves, as there is excellent resident game without the crowds of peak season; this would be between December and March.
Along with Kenya, South Africa has the most diversity of safari and non-safari experiences. Spanning the breadth of the continent, South Africa is particularly known for productive lowveld game reserves in the east, the historic Zulu battlefields of Natal, the wild coasts of the Eastern Cape, the expansive Karoo and Kalahari in the northwest, the ‘Garden Route’ and the Western Cape with its Mediterranean feel. These areas provide excellent game viewing, wild spaces, botanical wonderlands, breathtaking deserts, beautiful winelands, and historical relevance. Cape Town is one of our favorite cities, with an amazing culinary scene, a fresh and exciting vibe, beautiful Cape Dutch architecture, a thriving art community, successful sports teams – all set within the backdrop of the iconic Table Mountain and surrounding turbulent waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It is no wonder it is called “The Mother City!”
Botswana has some of the most famous wildlife destinations in Africa, from one of the world’s biggest inland deltas, the Okavango, to the vast expanse of the Makgadikgadi, right up to the diverse Selinda-Linyanti and Chobe River. At the center of the Okavango is the game rich Chief’s Island and the Moremi Game Reserve which offer exclusive wildlife viewing with some spectacular lodges and camps. When visiting the Delta we suggest combining camps that offer activities on land as well as by boat or traditional style mokoro canoes. Some areas have excellent predator numbers and interactions and even the African Hunting Dogs are making a return to healthy populations and den sites. In the Selinda-Linyanti there are again areas with great predator action, dog den sites and also large herds of buffalo and elephant. In fact there are larger densities of elephant in northern Botswana than anywhere else in Africa. The Chobe River becomes an elephant playground in the dry season and we believe it to be one of the best places in Africa to watch elephant behavior.
Botswana’s great wildlife is complemented by a variety of great activities on offer, such as helicopter rides over the stunning wetlands, quad biking through the Makgadikgadi pans, sleep outs, visiting habituated Meerkat colonies and spending time with the fascinating Khoisan hunter gatherers. The San/Khoisan hunter gatherers are remnants of the earliest peoples and have retained a lot of their traditional ways, with a great sense of humor and a want for nothing; they are the best trackers and bush savvy people, possibly in the world, and spending time with them is always a highlight on any trip.
THE AMAZON & PANTANAL
Amazonia spans 2.7m square miles and one in ten of every living species is found in its neo-tropical rain forest! Brazil alone has 1,837 different types of birds – one in five of the world’s bird species. Needless to say, there is a lot of exploring to do!
It has taken many years to find the right kind of Amazon experience – one that has enough luxury but doesn’t compromise the wilderness experience, easily accessible, and also can be visited at a time of year when the insects aren’t so prominent (it is the jungle after all!). We have found some beautiful lodges from which to base out of, with dedicated conservationist owners, superb culinary teams, excellent wine lists and stunning positions within primary Amazonian forest.
There are some great walks as well as kayaks down the stunning black water tributaries of the Amazon – both wonderful afternoon activities. Apart from the beautiful trees, rivers and bird life, there have been sightings of Sloths, Jaguars and Panthers as well as all manner of jungle mammals, however, unlike African safaris – sightings of these more glamorous beasts should be seen as a rare highlight rather than the norm. When one thinks of the megafauna of South America, one is actually imagining the Panatanal.
The Pantanal is an inland swamp, not too dissimilar to the Okavango, that plays host to the Hyacinth Macaw, Toco Toucan, Giant waterlilies, Caimans, Capybaras, Giant River otters, and of course Jaguars. The Pantanal is new to tourism and the accommodation options are more simplistic. Depending on how your itinerary is designed, you will likely spend time both on boats and in vehicles looking for the iconic Brazilian wildlife.
Phil has now guided trips to the “Enchanted isles” fifteen times and it never ceases to deliver on amazing sightings and experiences. Our favorite time to visit is at the onset of the “garua” season whereby the weather is drier than earlier in the year and there is a peak in bird behavior, turtle nesting and the arrival of the pelagic species. The islands can nevertheless be experienced all year round there will always be interesting things going on, however we don’t recommend August and September when the seas get very rough and cold.
The best way to experience the islands is to take a small yacht and visit the outermost islands which are too far for day trips out of Santa Cruz and have fewer visitors. The yachts tend to accommodate between 16-35 people and so allow for a more exclusive experience than on the bigger yachts available in the islands. Because of the uniqueness of the many islands the visitor sites are strictly regulated by the park officials and we always try to include different “out of the box” experiences.
Colorful land iguanas, “the imps of darkness” – Marine iguanas, iconic blue footed boobies, beautiful red and white beaches – the whole experience is very kid friendly, with no dangerous animals and swimming with Galapagos seals and Pacific green turtles is always an amazing experience. In fact, the water experiences are particularly rewarding – where else in the world can you safely snorkel with seals, penguins, sea stars, coral fish and reef sharks in and amongst lava tubes and cacti! It is of course a ornithologist and botanist’s dream, learning how species evolve and adapt in ever changing conditions. The islands were, after all, famously the foundations for the Origin of Species and Charles Darwin’s work on natural selection.
Patagonia is one of the most spectacular places on the planet. The iconic peaks of Torres del Paine and Fitzroy grace the wallpaper of millions of screensavers worldwide. The area can experience very quick changes in weather patterns and you can literally get four seasons in a day. Having said that, by March the fall colors take hold, winds die down, and the peak of the local holiday season subsides.
Much the same as Galapagos there are no dangerous animals to be wary of – even the hike to see pumas is very safe and controlled. Many of the activities revolve around enjoying the wide open spaces. Guanacos roam the Patagonian steppe, condors and caracaras soar above as you experience the vistas from custom made jeeps, by foot, horseback, boat, and even kayaks. The fly fishing is fantastic and we love the hikes around El Chalten as well as Torres del Paine and the Big Ice hike on Perito Moreno glacier. Days can be as full or as relaxed as you like, and of course there is the incomparable Patagonian Parilla with local lamb and specialties washed down with a good Malbec!
Because Argentina and Chile are a fair way to travel, we like to combine a Patagonian adventure with a stay in Buenos Aires or Santiago, maybe a stay in the winelands and there are a number of other combinations with scenery, wildlife or simply R&R to add on.