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Last updated: 26 May 2022

Journey above the clouds and beneath the waves in Africa

While many are obsessed with ticking off the ‘big five’, the joy of safari lies in the journey – how you travel, not always what you see. After all, safari translates as ‘journey’ in Swahili. These five wild and wonderful experiences break out of the classic four-wheel drive to give you a fresh view of Africa, its soul-stirring landscapes and adventurous spirit. Desert treks, balloon rides, and deep sea voyages… dive in.


While most go south for safari, few think of Morocco. On this spellbinding side of Africa, palm trees pepper the ochre and rose gold landscape, and centuries-old villages are carved into the mountains. One of the best ways to see it all is from above, with hot air balloon safaris giving you a bird’s eye view of this mesmerising country. From La Sultana Marrakech, launch into the clouds (if there are any in the blue skies) and drift over the Atlas Mountains.

Or stay closer to the ground and feel the sand on your skin with a buggy tour in the Agafay Desert. The pure light and as-far-as-the-eye-can-see vistas create a unique setting for desert exploring at the foothills of the mountains. Pack your hiking boots and you can embark on a Valley of the Roses trek from Dar Ahlam. As you walk, the pink tinted gorges rise either side of you and the air takes on the heady scent of the Damask Rose, which blooms alongside the M’Goun River between April and May – ready for the festival. It’s beautiful year-round however, as trees lining the valley are heavy with figs and pomegranate.

“As you walk, the pink tinted gorges rise either side of you and the air takes on the heady scent of the Damask Rose.”

Then again, hot desert days may call you to the water. For a fresh and mellow take on safari, kayak into Oualidia‘s placid lagoon on a birdwatching expedition. Though serene, this area becomes filled with the songs of migrating birds and you’re likely to see (and hear) warblers, storks, flamingos and avocets as you float. Take a guide to show you nesting places and enjoy lunch in the salt marshes.


Think safari and it’s likely you’re picturing Kenya. When wildebeest tear across its valleys and giraffes amble through the savannahs, it’s a sight that lives long in the memory. But if you’ve already experienced the classic Serengeti or Maasai Mara game drive, there are other ways to see this wildlife rich jewel.

To travel in sky-high luxury, nothing quite beats a helicopter. From close to Hemingways Nairobi, soar above the city before swapping skyscrapers for sweeping views of Lake Magadi and Lake Natron in Tanzania. The pink blush you’ll see are crowds of resident flamingos. Speak to the pilot about travelling back via Nairobi National Park for the best view of the animals living in these amber plains: the endangered black rhino, cheetahs and shy giraffes are easier to spot from on high.

Or, for a more gentle flight above Nairobi, go hot air ballooning. Setting off before dawn means you’ll see the sun rise from the skies – the moment of a lifetime. This is also when many animals wake and stretch to welcome the morning. At the other end of the day, drive out from Diamonds Dream of Africa into Marafa Kanyon, known locally as ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. As the sun sets over the rocks it’s as if they’re flaming – a breath-taking moment.

“Setting off before dawn means you’ll see the sun rise from the skies – the moment of a lifetime.”

There are gentle giants in Kenya’s seas, too. From Hemingways Watamu board a boat for a whale watching expedition. Or explore the Arabuko Sokoko Forest, where boldly coloured butterflies flit between the saltwater mangroves, and the nearby sound of rustling may just be a family of elephants.


Zanzibar’s proximity to the mainland means you can easily combine pure relaxation on the ‘Spice Island’ with off-road safaris and bush walks in Tanzania‘s game reserves. But underwater is where many of Zanzibar’s most beautiful and intriguing creatures live. Dive into a scuba safari in the coral reefs to swim alongside seahorses, green turtles, and even dolphins if you’re lucky. If you’re very, very lucky, you could see migrating humpback whales or reef sharks in the clear waters of the Mnemba Island Marine Conservation area.

If you prefer to stay (mostly) dry, sea canoeing safaris let you float on top of the sparkling seas – and look down at the creatures swimming just below the surface. Across on the mainland, in Tanzania, you can paddle across Lake Manyara in a glass-bottomed canoe for a unique perspective on the water. Keep an eye on the banks too – buffalo, giraffe and elephants are known to pop down to the shoreline for a drink.

Or stick to the island and stand-up paddleboard through mangrove forests, listening and looking out for the vast variety of birds that flock here. Don’t be surprised if your guide asks you to collect plastic as you go, to help preserve this precious eco-system.