Who said you can’t have the best of both worlds…of course you can…don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! In terms of designing a magical holiday, here is one of my favourite options. I love to laze and sunbathe on a gorgeous beach, for a few days, but then go on an adventure, like out on safari. I find nature and wildlife absolutely fascinating, and so exhilarating. I guess in a way it brings us back to our roots on some level. There’s no doubt that variety is the spice of life, so with that in mind here are three amazing safari and beach holiday combinations.
Costa Rica beaches and jungle
Think tropical beauty and rainforests, picture the Land of the Turtles, with pristine beaches and hugely bio diverse areas…including what is described as “the most biologically intense place on earth” by National Geographic – the Osa Peninsula.
Tortuguero National Park
Travel through banana plantations and by boat through canals, which will take you to the Tortuguero National Park. This is one of Costa Rica’s most famous natural parks, as well as being one of the most important nesting grounds for green turtles, during the season, which is from July to September. If on safari at this time, you may be given the option to go on a night tour to observe them nesting.
The protected area also includes around 22 miles of idyllic beach, and the area is surrounded by a network of canals in rainforests, which is a true wildlife haven. This area is home to jaguars, crocodiles, monkeys, manatees, sloths and more. In the Mawamba Park not far away, you can visit an iguana farm, a frog farm and a butterfly farm.
Manuel Antonio National Park
As part of this itinerary, you can also spend time at another of the country’s top parks – the Manuel Antonio National Park. The area has a beautiful, pristine coastline, which is embraced by evergreen forests. This is an especially magical place, where you can spot all four endemic species of primates. The current species count in the park is 109 mammals species and 184 bird species. Off the coast there are 12 little isles, which tend to get a number of dolphins visiting. Depending on the time you’re there, migrating whales may also be observed. Options in this park also include horseriding, whale watching and early morning birdwatching.
This is the place considered to be “the most biologically intense place on earth” by National Geographic. Locals know and respect the fact that nature is in charge, and that the Osa Peninsula is a wild place. It’s a primitive paradise in the middle of the rainforest, way off the grid. It’s challenging to reach, and there’s no doubt that this is Costa Rica’s most exciting and picturesque area. The extent of wildlife to be found there surpasses all other areas in the country.
This is an example of one of the possible itineraries from Natural World Safaris, which can also be tailor-made to suit your own requirements.
Zanzibar and the Serengeti
Think exotic and mystical, spices and beautiful expansive beaches, traditional fishing villages and wonderful wildlife – enjoy the best of both worlds between Zanzibar and the Serengeti…
The Zanzibar archipelago is made up of around 50 islands, with the main island being Unguja, which is what most people call Zanibar. The old part of Zanzibar town, Stone Town, has actually been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. It’s a wonderful example of an East African Swahili coastal trading town, with an outstanding cultural harmonisation and fusion. David Livingstone said of it that it is…”An illusive place where nothing is as it seems. I am mesmerised…”
Head north out of Stone Town, to the lovely fishing village of Nungwi, where you can witness fishing boats setting out to sea and returning – these fishing boats have been built in the same way for hundreds of years. The north east coast is an amazing 20 miles or so of palm fringed, glorious sandy beaches.
Down on the south coast you can view dolphins from the village of Kizimkazi, and this area is characterised by coves and smaller bays, rather than long, expansive beaches. The south-eastern coast is rather similar to the north-eastern coast, with lovely long stretches of sandy, palm fringed beaches, and typical fishing villages. You can see the women harvesting seaweed, and the men coming back to shore with their catches of the day. If you wish to learn more about their traditions and village life, there is a good range of cultural tours on offer in Jambiani.
For the serious snorkellers and scuba divers amongst you, Pemba Island is the place to go, around a half an hour flight north. Currently there’s a limited amount of accommodation on the island, but of course this makes it even more special for those who want to enjoy these activities. To the south, also around a half an hour’s flight, is Mafia Island, which has pristine protected coral gardens, good scuba diving and snorkelling, and also some worthwhile land excursions.
The Serengeti National Park and more
I’ve mentioned the Serengeti, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Actually a popular 5 to 6 night safari is a combination of the Serengeti with Lake Manyara National Park, and the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. The Serengeti National Park has been made familiar to us by a number of TV documentaries, featuring different animals species searching for the best feeding grounds. Its landscape is a vast, beautiful savanna.
The Lake Manyara National Park is an area of about 130 miles sq., which is especially well known for its flamingos, but is, in fact, home to approximately 400 different bird species. Throughout the year you can also see gazelle, giraffes, hippos, elephants, lions, impala and leopards. The Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2010. It was established in 1959, as an area of multiple land-use, where semi-nomadic Maasai co-existed side-by-side with the wildlife. It’s made up of a combination of savanna, savanna woodlands, forests and highland plains. The conservation area has a good selection of many different species of wildlife.
The above combination is just one of a range of itineraries which can be personalised for you by the father and daughter team at Zanzibar Travel. The father, Michael Sweeney, spent the majority of his childhood on Zanzibar and in East Africa.
Wild coast horse safari in the Eastern Cape province
An absolutely magical way to connect with the land, coast, nature and wildlife, is on horseback. Imagine spending a week exploring Indian Ocean beaches, typical coastal villages, open savanna and game farms in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. This is just one example of a horse safari itinerary. The trails that make up the itinerary are suitable for all levels of experience.
The Eastern Cape boasts an immensity of untouched natural beauty. It is drama at its best; with rugged cliffs, dense green bush, unspoilt sandy beaches and secluded lagoons. There’s plenty of wildlife to discover and you can see the Big 7.
Indian Ocean beaches
You start your safari holiday on Indian Ocean beaches, meandering from beach to beach, looking out at the surf, spotting dolphins and whales, and even shipwrecks. Cross over the Kei River with your horse, on a pontoon and absorb the essence of this rural part of South Africa on horseback.
Meander through some of the tribal villages, where you can understand some of the customs of the Xhosa, and learn about their legends. There’s time as well just to kick back and relax, sometimes in a jacuzzi, sometimes exploring or fishing, or getting a massage or some other treatment.
During the safari, you’ll have the chance to enjoy lots of South African cooking, and accommodation has been chosen in a variety of lodges and inns. There’s also plenty of great pub lunches to break up the day pleasantly.
This is just one suggestion of a beautiful horse safari experience, which can be customised for you by Farside Africa. Vicky Stirling of Farside Africa set up this luxury safari specialist company in 1998, having lived and travelled in Africa for nine years previously.
Jackie de Burca is Co-owner of Catalonia Valencia.
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