There are many places that I’ve loved during my travels around the world but Africa is the one place that I fell completely and utterly head over heels in love with. Nowhere else on Earth has captured my heart quite like Africa. Aside from the bright jubilant culture, the friendly locals and smiling children, the stunning diverse landscapes from sandy deserts to misty green jungles and vibrant cities, the wildlife is one of the continent’s biggest draws. No matter how many national parks and animal reserves we visited, and no matter how many dusty roads we bumped over on safari, I never got bored of seeing yet another springbok leaping past or another giraffe poking its head out of the leaves of a tree. Every single piece of nature and wildlife was simply awe-inspiring. Despite it being ridiculously hard to narrow it down, these are my top African wildlife experiences.
Gorilla trekking in Uganda
Some people trek for hours and hours to catch a glimpse of gorillas in the wild but we struck lucky when, after only an hour and a half of trekking through the deep green jungle of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, we came across a huge family nestled in the foliage at the bottom of a steep incline. I really don’t have the words to describe just how breathtaking it was to get so close to these awesome creatures in their natural habitat.
Whilst munching on their leaves the huge silverbacks watched us out of the corner of their eyes to make sure we kept our distance and a cheeky little baby wandered over curious of us humans.
Getting up close to elephants
During our 4 months in Africa we spotted plenty of elephants every time we went on safari but they are one animal that you can never tire of seeing. In Kenya we visited the Nairobi Elephant Orphanage where we met the baby elephants and cooed as the staff bottle fed them. In Zambia we stumbled across an elephant wandering along the road right next to our vehicle. In Botswana we sat in a small boat as a family of elephants crossed the river in front of us. And in Kruger National Park in South Africa we held our breath as a giant bull came so close to our truck we were terrified it would tip us over!
Witnessing the start of the Great Migration
Although we weren’t visiting during the main part of the migration, we got to witness the very beginning of it when thousands of zebra and wildebeest had started to congregate a few miles away from the crocodile infested river that they would soon be crossing from the Maasai Mara into the Serengeti. We quietly watched from our safari jeep as most of the animals kept to themselves chewing on the grass, babies sticking close by to their parents. We drove alongside as the zebra ran through the long grass, barking like dogs as they went, possibly fleeing from a predator that we couldn’t see.
Safari in Etosha National Park, Namibia
Namibia was one of those places that I hadn’t been expecting to be wowed by but it ended up becoming one of my favourite places in Africa. We had already been on plenty of safaris but Etosha National Park was completely different to anywhere else we had been with its miles and miles of sandy plains and salt flats. The animals were pretty easy to spot here as they all gathered together around the watering holes – elephants, zebra, giraffe and gazelle all coming together with lions lazing in the sun nearby without a care in the world.
We camped at a lodge inside the national park where we sat in the dark and watched in silence as the animals came alive at night around the dimly floodlit watering hole.
Horse riding in Malawi
I’m really not a fan of horse riding; after a few minutes of trying to keep my balance, my little feet always seem to fall out of the stirrups and I get bounced and flung around, the horse racing off with me hanging on for dear life. Every single time. But in Malawi we had the opportunity of riding into the huge lake and I didn’t want to miss out on this. Sitting bareback on a horse with the lapping waves swirling around us was a pretty magical moment. That is, until a big wave came along and the horse bucked throwing me straight off into the water!
Volunteering with lions in South Africa
This is, and will always be, the most incredible thing I have ever done in my whole life. We spent a few weeks volunteering at a lion reserve in South Africa where we fell asleep to the sound of the lions roaring and woke up to a whole load of mewing cubs waiting outside our door for breakfast and attention every morning. We spent our days bottle feeding the young cubs, playing with and stimulating them, as well as the messier jobs such as helping them go to the toilet and feeding and cleaning out the enclosures of the bigger cats. I completely fell in love with these majestic animals and I wish I could do this job every single day of my life.