African Jour­neys of Dis­cov­ery

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There are roads in Africa that lead to places that are more than just des­ti­na­tions. These are the places that have the same al­lure now as they did when ex­plor­ers first dis­cov­ered them, and to this day beg to be re­dis­cov­ered and ex­pe­ri­enced by mod­ern-day ad­ven­tur­ers. WIT­NESS AN EPIC RUN IN THE SERENGETI

Around 1.5 mil­lion wilde­beest mi­grate across the plains of East Africa ev­ery year, mak­ing the Serengeti Mi­gra­tion one of the 10 Nat­u­ral Travel Won­ders of the World and a bucket-list sa­fari ex­pe­ri­ence.

No spe­cific time of year is ideal for see­ing this nat­u­ral spec­ta­cle, as the mi­gra­tion con­tin­ues through­out the year – it just de­pends which part of the mi­gra­tion you would most like to see. The herds of wilde­beest, in­ter­spersed with ze­bra, stay on the short-grass plains in the south­ern part of Tan­za­nia from Jan­uary to March, and calf births can be seen dur­ing a short win­dow in mid-Fe­bru­ary. The herd then grad­u­ally spreads out as the rains end in May, and their mi­gra­tion be­gins as they head north-west to­wards the Grumeti River. They typ­i­cally linger in this area un­til June be­fore mov­ing north to ar­rive on the Kenyan bor­der in late July and Au­gust. They re­main there for the rest of the dry sea­son. As the short rains be­gin in Novem­ber, the wilde­beest once again start to move south and ar­rive back on the plains in De­cem­ber.

Ex­pert Africa can as­sist with book­ing tours and ac­com­mo­da­tion along the en­tire route of the mi­gra­tion, where vis­i­tors can also ex­pect to see ze­bras, chee­tahs, ele­phants, gi­raffe, as­sorted an­te­lope, hip­pos, a mul­ti­tude of bird species and of course – well-known and feared among wilde­beest – crocodiles. Visit www.ex­pertafrica.com for more info.

PLUNGE OVER THE EDGE IN ZIM­BABWE

Known to lo­cals as “The Smoke that Thun­ders”, Vic­to­ria Falls is one of the most spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral sights in the world. The falls – a UNESCO World Her­itage site – are lo­cated along the bound­ary of Zam­bia and Zim­babwe where the Zam­bezi River falls 128 m to cre­ate the largest curtain of fall­ing wa­ter in the world. The falls are 1.7 km wide and al­most 550 mil­lion litres of wa­ter cas­cade over them ev­ery minute. As a re­sult, the spray is vis­i­ble from up to 30 km away, and vis­i­tors can hear the thrilling rum­ble of the falls long be­fore they reach them.

The town of Vic­to­ria Falls of­fers many ex­pe­di­tions fo­cused around this in­cred­i­ble nat­u­ral won­der. You can don a rain­coat and ex­plore the water­fall’s lush and beau­ti­ful sur­rounds, or you can take a ca­noe trip on the river up­stream from the falls, which is a rel­a­tively placid ex­panse of wa­ter, home to hip­pos and crocodiles. For the more ad­ven­tur­ous, the Vic­to­ria Falls bungee

jump is among the high­est com­mer­cial jumps in the world. Al­ter­na­tively, you can fly a mi­cro-light air­craft over the falls, or go white-wa­ter raft­ing in the Ba­toka Gorge be­low them, brav­ing the most thrilling com­mer­cially runnable rapids in the world.

SEARCH FOR DESERT GOLD IN THE KALA­HARI

Un­der the end­less sands of the Kala­hari lies a hid­den trea­sure – the Kala­hari truf­fle. Known as desert gold, Kala­hari truf­fles are not to be confused with their Euro­pean cousins, which are far denser and more flavoured. The desert va­ri­ety are nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring and can­not be grown or cul­ti­vated. They are named af­ter the Kala­hari re­gion where they were first dis­cov­ered by Euro­pean set­tlers.

Many de­scribe the taste of these truf­fles as be­ing sim­i­lar to a Porcini mush­room. They are very nutri­tious, and ex­tremely high in protein. The truf­fles ap­pear er­rat­i­cally, about once ev­ery four years, be­tween April and May, depend­ing on rain­fall. The truf­fle sea­son is brief, last­ing only un­til the first frost.

A truf­fle sa­fari can be quite an ad­ven­ture, as they grow be­neath the ground, hid­den by sand and long grass, and only be­tray their pres­ence by a small crack on the sur­face. If you are lucky enough to find some, though, there are many de­li­cious recipes for truf­fle-infused dishes.

Head to Uping­ton and its sur­rounds to search for these nuggets of gold. Tswalu Kala­hari (www.tswalu.com) is eas­ily the most luxurious of the ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions on of­fer.

JOURNEY TO THE CEN­TRE OF THE EARTH IN TAN­ZA­NIA

Once a gi­gan­tic vol­cano, the Ngoron­goro Crater in North­ern Tan­za­nia is the largest in­tact caldera in the world, and shel­ters one of the most beau­ti­ful wildlife havens on earth. This lit­eral Gar­den of Eden is noted as one of the 10 Nat­u­ral Travel Won­ders of the World and is the ideal des­ti­na­tion for avid game spot­ters.

An es­ti­mated 25,000 large mam­mals are res­i­dent in this bowl of plenty, in­clud­ing large herds of wilde­beest, en­dan­gered black rhino, and lions. No­madic chee­tah move in and out of the area and leop­ard are of­ten en­coun­tered in the Lerai For­est. Both golden and black-backed jackal are abun­dant, while nor­mally shy and noc­tur­nal ser­val are fre­quently spotted dur­ing day­light hours. Vast num­bers of buf­falo, ze­bra and Thom­son’s gazelle also oc­cur. When the grasses are short in win­ter, it is easy to spot even small preda­tors such as cara­cal.

The Lerai For­est, the per­ma­nent marshes on the crater floor, and the high­land mead­ows pro­vide the best sight­ings of ele­phant in the crater area. The dense forests on the slopes and rim of the crater pro­vide shel­ter for them, as they pass silently through the for­est depths. In a tri­umph of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts, buf­falo, which were once com­pletely ab­sent from the crater floor, have re­turned in large num­bers. The sa­line wa­ters of Lake Ma­gadi at­tract both the lesser and the greater flamingo, with flocks of sev­eral thou­sand form­ing when the lake is low. Other bird species on the crater floor in­clude os­trich and Kori bus­tard, the world’s heav­i­est fly­ing bird.

Beau­ti­ful andBeyond Ngoron­goro Crater Lodge sits right on the edge of the crater, of­fer­ing un­beat­able views over Ngoron­goro. Visit www.andbeyond.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

Text: Ni­cola Weir Images: © iStockphoto.com

Wilde­beest Mi­gra­tion - Serengeti

Vic­to­ria Falls - Zim­babwe

Ngoron­goro Crater - Tan­za­nia

Kala­hari Desert - South Africa

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