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Bay of Plenty Times - - Travel - Emi­rates.com

If your dream of an African sa­fari re­tired when you did, don’t ditch the zip-off pants just yet. A real sil­ver sa­fari is not only do-able, it is read­ily avail­able and won’t break your body or the bank.

By real, I mean hear­ing lions out­side your camp at night, walk­ing the veld with African guides, ca­noe­ing past graz­ing ele­phants, and scal­ing vast sand dunes. I’m 60, he’s 70-plus, and we’re still dust­ing our­selves off from a three-week Sun­way South­ern Cir­cle sa­fari of Namibia and Botswana fea­tur­ing all of th­ese.

Sil­ver ad­ven­tur­ers gen­er­ally have the dream, the time, funds and health to travel. Ad­ven­ture Travel Trade As­so­ci­a­tion sta­tis­tics for 2018 state 41 per cent of ad­ven­ture tourism clients are now in the 50-70 age group, in­creas­ing num­bers of them solo women. The as­so­ci­a­tion also re­ports south­ern African coun­tries trend­ing as a sil­ver des­ti­na­tion and group sa­faris their most pop­u­lar way to ex­plore them. Tour com­pa­nies are rush­ing to ac­com­mo­date this growth mar­ket, which doesn’t mean the risks in­her­ent in Africa travel have dis­ap­peared. By its very na­ture, this can be a sav­age place, so I have a few tips to en­sure your ven­ture into the African wilds is a safe sa­fari of the sil­ver kind.

FLIGHTS

Firstly, fly safe. We learned the hard way on a pre­vi­ous Africa trip that flights are of­ten de­layed or can­celled, ev­ery zip on your in-hold lug­gage must be locked, and that con­nect­ing flights into and through­out Africa are best taken with the same air­line.

With its im­pres­sive seat spac­ing, ser­vice and de­pend­abil­ity, we were mighty pleased South African Air­ways (SAA) was the only air­line fly­ing both Africa legs of our jour­ney — Perth to Jo­han­nes­burg, then Jo’burg to Liv­ing­stone. By us­ing SAA’s Al­liance part­ner, Air New Zealand, for the Auck­land/Perth sec­tion, we could also check our lug­gage through from the first air­port to the last, be con­fi­dent of re­ceiv­ing it, and have helpdesk sup­port.

CHOOS­ING YOUR TOUR

How to travel Botswana and Namibia once we got there in­volved greater re­search. Even­tu­ally we fig­ured a group tour was eas­ier, cheaper and safer than ● DE­TAILS ●

go­ing it alone. We opted for Sun­way Sa­faris as an ex­pe­ri­enced op­er­a­tor with a New Zealand-based rep­re­sen­ta­tive — again, in case of prob­lems — and its 12-per­son max­i­mum South­ern Cir­cle sa­fari tour, which met our list of must-dos and seemed a com­fort­able size.

A well-es­tab­lished sa­fari com­pany can keep costs down. Our 21-day, ac­com­mo­dated sa­fari with most meals pro­vided is priced at $5795 per per­son. A small group max­imises per­sonal as­sis­tance from the tour guide. When two tour com­pan­ions ar­rived at Liv­ing­stone air­port nearly two weeks be­fore their lug­gage our Sil­ver Safe-ari guide’s su­pe­rior

Two-thirds of us fell into the sil­ver trav­eller cat­e­gory, and at no point did age com­pro­mise our ex­pe­ri­ence. We coped well with the sa­fari walks, climb­ing into the sa­fari ve­hi­cles or mokoro (ca­noes) and scal­ing gi­gan­tic sand dunes, none of which were com­pul­sory, any­way.

At the Oka­vango Delta camp we em­braced the chal­lenges of a chem­i­cal toi­let en suite and open-air shower, both prov­ing the most wel­come of the trip. How­ever, the lions, hyena and ele­phants vis­it­ing camp at night did stretch some com­fort zones, de­spite our African guides’ as­sur­ances we were safe in­side our tents.

Turns out we were, and we came to trust the lo­cal guides im­plic­itly. They knew the places and an­i­mals, so when they told us not to move as ele­phants ap­proached, we didn’t, and when they said to walk in sin­gle file at a steady pace as lions were about, we did.

EAT­ING AND SLEEP­ING

Ex­cit­ing did de­scribe some of our ac­com­mo­da­tion. At my age, the qual­ity of nightly rest is a ma­jor fac­tor in tour choice, so my favourite sur­prised me. Over­look­ing Namibia’s Oka­vango River and con­sist­ing of roll-up bam­boo walls and an out­door bath­room, I even­tu­ally man­aged to set­tle to sleep here while 100-plus ele­phants so­cialised on the op­po­site river bank.

Our ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions, as did the food. As on many African sa­faris, our driver and guide cooked most meals, which were healthy and hearty. How­ever, we did as­sist with the wash­ing up and sani­tis­ing of plates and cut­lery, one of the mea­sures I credit with the ab­sence of Africa tummy through­out our tour.

PACK­ING

Many din­ners were held around the sa­fari truck at night, and I was glad of the head torch in­cluded in Sun­way’s pre-tour pack­ing list. I also brought plen­ti­ful med­i­cal sup­plies, but learned the hard way to con­sult a travel doc­tor about pills, vac­ci­na­tions and the med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate some­times re­quired for over-70s, at least two months be­fore de­part­ing.

We took only the nec­es­sary cam­era and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment, keep­ing it out of view when not in use. Th­ese are sen­si­ble pre­cau­tions that gave us the se­cu­rity to have fun and be brave, a sa­fari at­ti­tude for which there is no age limit.

Pho­tos / John Gard­ner

Top: Ac­com­mo­da­tion in the Namib Desert.

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