Curated travel experiences

How to enjoy an African safari with kids

Insider tips: How to enjoy an African safari with kids

I love nothing more than taking my children on safari. To me, going on safari and seeing my children in awe of the natural world is a magical experience. The time I spend with my loved ones in the bush is where we have the most fun and the best bonding experiences.

I’ve taken my children to our national parks and on safari since they were little. When they were toddlers it was more difficult for them to spend hours in the car without a break. Now they’re now five and eight years old, and much more able to sit patiently while also enjoying the challenge of spotting animals and learning about them.

While I frequently take my children to our national parks on a self drive safari, I don’t recommend this for first time visitors. You will gain much more from the experience if you go with a qualified guide. 

Here are my top tips for planning a safari adventure with very young children:

  • Choose a family-friendly lodge. Look for a lodge with a kid’s club or swimming pool, a junior ranger programme, a child-friendly menu, and the availability of family suites or tents.
  • Check whether malaria is present in the area you will visit. If it is, take the appropriate precautions. 
  • Find out if the lodge is fenced. If it’s unfenced your children won’t be able to walk around the lodge or between tents unaccompanied by an adult.
  • Understand the room size and layout, and whether you can all stay together in one room. If your family can’t be accommodated in one room or cottage, and has to be split over two rooms, some lodges may require one adult to sleep in each room with the children for their own safety. 
  • Check if there are any age restrictions for game drives at the lodge. Even if there are no age restrictions, assess whether your young children are able to sit calmly in a car for three to four hours at a time. 
  • Consider the safety of your children at Big Five sightings. They should be able to sit very still and quietly in the presence of animals such as lion and leopard.
  • If budget allows, consider hiring a private vehicle. This will give you complete flexibility to adjust the start time and duration of your drives, and the number of stops you make along the way.
  • Capture memories. Encourage your children to document their experiences through drawing, journaling, or taking photographs. 
  • Embrace the magic of nature. Safaris are not only about spotting animals but also about appreciating the beauty of nature. Encourage your children to observe and marvel at the landscapes, unique plants, and other aspects of the environment. Teach them about the importance of conservation and the need to protect these natural habitats.

Daphnée (who liaises with our French clientele) and I love planning exceptional family holidays for our clients using our extensive local expertise as well as our experience as parents. Please get in touch if you, or someone you know, would like to experience an African safari holiday. 

Happy Travelling,

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The Whale Issue

Whale Season in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar

Earlier this month I witnessed the mesmerising spectacle of whale season along the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa. I was visiting Scottburgh and was treated to an awe-inspiring display of breaching and lobtailing by the many humpback whales off the coast, right from my hotel window. Their acrobatic displays were truly impressive and surprisingly graceful for such gigantic creatures. 

Annual migration
Each year humpback and southern right whales embark on an epic migration, from their feeding grounds in the frigid Antarctic waters to the warmer Indian Ocean where they mate and give birth. The nutrient-rich currents and diverse marine life along the South African, Mozambican and Madagascan coasts provide a vital food source.

When to go
The prime months for whale watching are July to November. However, the peak whale activity is often during August and September when the whales are most active close to the shore.

Best whale watching locations
Scottburgh is very much an off-the-beaten-track destination for whale watching and I wasn’t able to find a tour operator doing boat-based whale watching tours.

The most well-known places to do whale watching in South Africa are Hermanus, De Hoop and St Lucia. Inhambane and Vilanculos in Mozambique, while Nosy Be, Fort Dauphin and Bay d’Antongil in Madagascar are all excellent locations too. 

Hermanus and De Hoop are renowned for being prime locations for land-based whale watching. 

You can experience this annual spectacle for yourself, in a few different ways.

1. Boat Tours: Join a guided boat tour led by experienced marine guides to venture into the ocean and witness the whales in their natural habitat. These tours often offer insights into the whales’ behaviour and ecology. Make sure to book with a reputable operator. 

2. Land-Based Viewing: Many coastal towns have designated viewpoints along their cliffs, offering an opportunity to spot whales from the shore. Bring binoculars for a closer look.

3. Whale Walks: Some regions, like De Hoop Nature Reserve, offer guided coastal walks that provide not only whale-watching opportunities but also a chance to explore the diverse coastal ecosystems.

Where to stay
Grootbos has the most incredible views of Walker Bay and provides an excellent vantage point for whale watching, albeit at a fair distance. I love Grootbos for its conservation ethos, its excellent staff, gorgeous suites and pristine landscapes. 

Coot Club is another exceptional place to stay, especially for families looking for a laid-back vibe, excellent food and comfortable accommodations. You won’t be able to do land-based whale watching from the hotel itself, but Gansbaai harbour, where you can do boat tours, is a short drive away.

In De Hoop Nature Reserve, you can choose between the 5-star Morukuru Beach Lodge or the simpler self-catering cottages at De Hoop Collection. Morukuru Beach Lodge has an incredible location right on the sand dunes with magnificent vistas out to sea, with whale watching possible from the hotel itself. De Hoop Collection is situated inland from the sea and to view the whales from the shore, you will need to drive to the parking spot and walk along the dunes. 

The Marine is perfectly situated for whale watching from the Hermanus Cliff Path just in front of the hotel, or even from your sea-view bedroom! 

Seeing these impressively large mammals in their ocean playground makes any vacation all that more special. Reply to this email if you’d like to know more about whale-watching holiday in South Africa, Mozambique or Madagascar. 

Happy Travelling,

P.S. This month, we’ve been celebrating Women’s Month in South Africa. We remember and honour the courageous women marchers who protested against apartheid-era pass laws in 1956. These women advocated for equality and for women’s rights in 1956 and paved the way for a more equal society.

Leopard is proud to be a woman-owned business that supports female entrepreneurs. Find out more about the team here

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The Flower Issue

From Barren To Breathtaking: The Best Places To See The Cape’s Spring Flowers

A remarkable natural spectacle unfurls across South Africa’s Western Cape and Northern Cape Namaqualand regions as winter’s grip gradually loosens and the sun’s warmth coaxes the landscape. Spring brings an explosion of vibrant colours, as the once-barren terrain transforms into a canvas of blooming wildflowers.

“On the West Coast, the flowers are appearing early this year. There’s already a fantastic display of flowers. The Postberg area is full of beautiful blooms, as are other sections of the park, like Mooimaak and the Seeberg Lookout Point,” said Pierre Nel, Senior Ranger at West Coast National Park, during our chat on 11 August. He recommends August as the prime time for those planning to visit this season. “The flowers will likely reach their peak by the first week of September and then gradually taper off,” Nel explained.

The Best Spots to Marvel at Cape’s Spring Wildflowers
The West Coast National Park becomes carpeted with white rain daisies, golden gousblom, fuchsia elandsvy and the dainty blue sporrie among other endemic species. The Postberg section of the reserve is a prime spot to witness wildflower display and is only open to visitors during August and September, while the rest of the reserve is also resplendent with flowers during this time.

The barren Namaqua National Park is known for its annual wildflower bloom which brings this landscape to life. The rainfall has been far better this year than the previous three years resulting in an excellent flower season. “Right now it’s a woman’s world in the Namaqua National Park, ” laughs Park Manager Pheladi Chuene. “I started working here in 2020 and I haven’t seen such an amazing display of flowers as we have this year. The Groenriver section is covered in flowers. Whatever colours you can think of, they’re here!”

Chuene anticipates an extended flower season this year in Namaqualand, stretching well into September due to abundant rainfall and predicted rains. She reminded visitors that you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle to visit the Groenrivier section of the park. Typically, the Skilpad section of the park is known for its vibrant carpet of flowers. “Yesterday, I took a drive and in addition to Skilpad some of the areas that were previously degraded and without vegetation are covered with flowers.”

The Cederberg’s Biedouw Valley also comes alive with spring blooms, usually around mid-August, before it’s officially spring. Following substantial winter rains (like this year’s) the typically arid agter-Pakhuis region can metamorphose into a tapestry of blossoms, abundant with yellow-and-white nemesias, blue heliophilia, mauve senecios and yellow lachenalias.

Restful Retreats Amidst the Blooms:
You can stay in Cape Town at any one of a number of gorgeous hotels, like the One & Only, Ellerman House or the Cape Grace and drive just over an hour to reach the West Coast National Park. Alternatively, unwind in an exquisite beach house like Whaler’s Way or Kalie’s Cottage in Churchhaven, overlooking the lagoon within the West Coast National Park.

Venture a bit further (about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Cape Town) to discover Cederberg Ridge. Here, elegantly luxurious rooms adorned with earthy tones and natural textures complement the raw beauty of the surroundings. Alternatively, indulge in the plush offerings of Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Lodge, also in the Cederberg.

In the Northern Cape, Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm near Nieuwoudtville is renowned for its annual wildflower show and it offers a more private and serene experience than some of the busier tourist spots. Accommodation here is comfortable country-style and among the options is a sandstone, thatch-roofed cottage that formed part of the farm’s original homestead.
Within Namaqualand National Park, you’ll find simple yet comfortable accommodation at the Skilpad Flower Camp and the Namaqua Flower Camps. About an hour south of the park, the Agama Tented Camp blends rustic elegance and modern comfort, offering an immersive experience in Namaqualand’s natural surroundings.

While you enjoy the Western Cape and Namaqualand’s spring flower spectacle, it’s important to stay on designated paths, refrain from picking flowers, and respect local rules to protect these delicate ecosystems for generations to come. We also recommend that you consider extending your stay in each area to support sustainable tourism.

We hope that nature’s palette will help revive your soul during this springtime extravaganza!

Happy Travelling,
The Leopard Team

P.S. If you’re unable to witness the flowers this season, we’d be happy to help you plan a bespoke itinerary that includes some of South Africa’s highlights weaving in a spring flower visit for your journey.

P.P.S. Reply to this email and let us know which travel destination in Africa you’d like to know more about. We love hearing from you!

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The Best of Africa Issue

The Best of Africa: Beyond Cape Town’s Charm

Cape Town was recently voted as the world’s best city for the eighth year running, by over 30,000 readers, in the 2023 Telegraph Travel Awards. While it’s undeniably an incredible destination, there’s more to Africa than what the Telegraph described as “the supermodel at the foot of Table Mountain”. At Leopard, we’re passionate about helping you explore the highpoints of this strikingly beautiful continent and crafting tailored itineraries to create unforgettable experiences.

Since our launch in 2019, we have expanded our footprint to cover 15 of Africa’s most sought-after destination countries. Our commitment to extreme care and attention to detail remains unchanged as we cater to each client’s unique needs and travel desires. Whether you’re a returning traveller seeking new adventures or embarking on your very first African experience, we’re here to guide and inspire you.

Below is a taste of some of the exceptional wonders Africa holds:

Pristine beaches and exquisite islands
Dreaming of a tropical paradise? Pockets of Africa’s coastline and islands boast pristine palm-lined beaches, brilliantly white sands, and warm translucent waters. Explore the Seychelles, Mauritius, or Nosy Be, the largest island in an archipelago off the coast of Madagascar. Dive among coral reefs teeming with vibrant marine life in cerulean waters and venture into Madagascar’s lush rainforests to encounter curious lemurs and brightly-coloured chameleons. 

Zanzibar, known for its exotic spices and intricately carved doorways, is another tropical Indian Ocean escape. Mozambique’s islands also offer excellent scuba diving and snorkelling – with opportunities for swimming with gentle whale sharks, curious turtles or even a rare dugong.

The natural wonder of Victoria Falls
Zambia and Zimbabwe are divided by the gushing waters of Victoria Falls, one of the World’s Natural Wonders, which plunge into the Batoka Gorge. Stand beneath the falls  in awe, as mistlike spray ascends in voluminous plumes and enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, where hippos, elephants, and crocodiles revel in the languid waters before they cascade over the gorge’s lip.

Intimate Encounters with nature’s gentle giants
Embark on an extraordinary trek through Rwanda’s, or Uganda’s, mist-shrouded mountains in search of endangered families of mountain gorillas. Alternatively, venture to Congo to look for eastern lowland gorillas. A close encounter with these gentle giants is a profoundly moving experience which will linger in your memory indefinitely.

The stark beauty of the desert
The landscape of Namibia’s Sossusvlei boasts towering sand dunes in fiery hues, which you can climb to watch the sunrise, or drift over in a hot air balloon. Its Skeleton Coast reveals shipwrecks and seals basking on barren shores and the Etosha National Park provides one of many excellent safari destinations.

A plethora of safari destinations
Tanzania is home to Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, as well as the famous Serengeti National Park where vast herds of wildebeest and zebras traverse the plains in search of the best pasture. Kenya’s Maasai Mara is also home to an abundance of wildlife and both countries offer rich east African safari experiences.

A fly-in safari to Botswana’s Okavango Delta is not only mesmerising from the air but also captivating from below, as you glide through the labyrinth of waterways in a traditional mokoro canoe and encounter elephants, zebras, and an abundance of birdlife. 

South Africa is not only an incredible safari destination but was also crowned “The Greatest Country on Earth” in the prestigious Telegraph Travel Awards. Its natural beauty, world-renowned wine and astonishing wildlife are showcased against the backdrop of landscapes like Table Mountain, the Drakensberg and the Kruger National Park. Explore Cape Town’s Boulders Beach, home to adorable African penguins, discover the laid back, picturesque Garden Route and visit its vibrant cities.

Africa offers an abundance of unforgettable experiences, from exhilarating safaris – where you could view a shaggy-maned lion metres from your open game drive vehicle – to tantalising cuisine, pristine beaches and awe-inspiring encounters with gorillas.

Happy Travelling,
The Leopard Team

P.S. Here is a list of the countries we cover: 1. South Africa 2. Namibia 3. Zimbabwe 4. Zambia 5. Seychelles 6. Mauritius 7.Botswana 8. Mozambique 9. Kenya 10. Rwanda 11. Uganda 12. Madagascar 13. Congo 14. Tanzania 15. Zanzibar (a Tanzanian island)

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The Tanzania Safari Issue

The best way to spend 11 days on safari in Tanzania

It’s not surprising that Tanzania is one of the most well-known safari destinations in Africa. I love the country for its sensational landscapes and its warm, welcoming people. The wildlife viewing is superb, as well as the range of safari activities on offer. Of course, the Serengeti is the star of the show. People flock here to see the great wildebeest migration, as well as an abundant ensemble cast of non-migratory wildlife ensuring a year-round performance that never fails to dazzle.  

Most of the country’s highlights lie in the north of the country, making them easy to access in the circular itinerary described below.   

Tarangire National Park | 2 nights

Tarangire is a very pretty park, known for its large herds of elephants and baobab trees. It’s substantially quieter than the Serengeti and is a great place to begin your safari adventure. Depending on the lodge you stay at, activities such as night drives and walking safaris are possible and highly recommended. At least once on your trip, you should get out of the safari car and walk with a qualified guide. Smell the fresh, wilderness air as you feel the subtle undulations of the ground beneath your feet, listen to the unadulterated sounds of nature and drink in the scenery with your eyes. 

Ngorongoro Crater | 3 nights

While it’s more common to only spend two nights in the crater, I suggest staying three nights if you have the time. The Ngorongoro Crater offers incredible scenic beauty, and its wildlife sightings are plentiful and diverse. This stop also provides the opportunity to visit one of the authentic Masai villages located inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). A highlight for me was a hike down into the Empakaai caldera. The high altitude makes the hike back up challenging, but it’s worth it. The primary forest and soda lake with its pink flamingos are exquisite. An easier hike is one to the caldera rim at Olmoti. However, if you would like to hike Empakaai, you’ll almost certainly need to spend a third night here. I suggest staying at The Highlands which provides easy access to this hike. 

Serengeti | 5 nights

Where you stay will depend on the time of year you travel. The northern Serengeti is particularly beautiful, but I also loved my time in the central and eastern Serengeti. If you are travelling from January to March, you’ll want to be in the southern region to experience the calving season. To see a river crossing you should stay in the Grumeti area around June and the Mara area from around August to October (although these timings are never guaranteed).

Dunia is a particularly good camp in central Serengeti. Besides being entirely run by a team of competent women, it has excellent wildlife sightings and is really visually captivating, with massive boulders which are perfect for big cats to lounge on, photographers to capture and safari-goers to gaze out at over sundowners! 

I suggest splitting your five-night stay into a two-night and a three-night stop in different areas of the Serengeti. The specific choices will depend on your particular interests and your budget (I’d be happy to share the different options with you). If you have the time, why not add an extra night and take a break from days spent on safari to relax at the lodge and enjoy its facilities?

I’m aware that this suggested itinerary is a broad one and your trip should be tailor-made to your interests and style of travel. Curating trips that delight our clients is our speciality and first-time clients are often surprised that it doesn’t cost them any extra to have us design the perfect trip for them.

If you’re considering travelling to Tanzania (or anywhere else in Africa), email us at [email protected] and we’ll weave our magic to bring your dream holiday to life!

Happy Travelling,

P.S. I made this short video of my time in Tanzania. It’s no National Geographic film, but I think it gives a realistic and accessible idea of what you can expect on a Tanzania safari, and covers the above itinerary, visually!

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The Desert Issue

5 reasons not to miss Southern Africa’s desert regions

While tropical beaches, grassy plains and cool lush forests all have their appeal, deserts hold a special allure. Vast blue skies stretch in all directions, uninterrupted by highrises or smog or canopies of vegetation that block the sun. These regions also harbour unique plants, animals and a variety of landscapes from tall sandy dunes to scrub-covered hills or dramatic rock formations.

Here are just a few of the reasons to visit Southern Africa’s magnificent desert regions:

1. Sunshine and hospitality
Big blue skies that stretch for as far as the eye can see are one of the many drawcards of desert and semi-desert regions. You can escape overcast weather, rain and extreme humidity and revel in the dry air, dipping into lodge swimming pools or experiencing the warm breeze wafting over your face on an open-air game drive. There’s freedom from the crush of people and you can get off the grid if you choose.

Some experiences worth trying include a hot air balloon trip over the dramatic red dunes of Sossusvlei, in Namibia (which we highly recommend), or you could even learn to paraglide in the semi-desert region of De Aar, in South Africa’s Northern Cape. “Here, heat rising from the desert creates massive currents of warm air that keep human fliers aloft, and indeed paragliders have established many of the world’s long-distance records here,” according to National Geographic.

While there are cities in deserts, such as Las Vegas and Dubai, Southern Africa’s desert regions are sparsely populated. The towns and small settlements often have quaint eateries and hospitable people, happy to host or lend a hand to a visitor. South Africa’s Karoo region is also famous for its delicious lamb which feeds on the area’s unique fynbos scrub and can be found on menus along with other typically South African cuisine.

2. Stargazing
The desert and semi-desert regions of Southern Africa offer some of the clearest and darkest night skies, making them ideal for stargazing. Roam Private Game Reserve, which lies between the small town of Prince Albert and Beaufort West in South Africa’s Karoo region, is an ideal location to experience breathtaking night views of the Milky Way. About 300 kilometres away, also in the heart of the Karoo, you’ll find Sutherland, one of the world’s primary stargazing destinations. The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) is situated here and the observatory is home to the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). This is among the 10 largest telescopes in the world. Here you can enjoy both informative tours during the day and stargazing tours at night. 

Namibiaʼs NamibRand Nature Reserve is situated in one of the darkest (yet accessible) places on Earth and has been named an International Dark Sky Reserve. However, star gazing opportunities abound in Namibia, which has a low population and little light pollution.  Besides the NamibRand, Damarland and the Gamsberg Nature Reserve provide excellent stargazing.

3. Carpets of wildflowers
Namaqualand, in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, is famous for its annual wildflower blooms during spring. The landscape erupts into a carpet of vibrant colours with the star of the show being the endemic Namaqualand daisies, which have adapted to thrive in the harsh climatic conditions. 

This natural phenomenon takes place during August and September and draws everyone from professional photographers, young Instagram influencers, aspiring botanists, regular tourists, as well as senior citizens. Arguably, the best place to experience the wildflower blooms is in the Namaqua National Park, which has the highest concentration of bulb flora of any arid region on Earth with more than 1,000 types of endemic species and a total of 3,500 plant species. Nieuwoudtville’s Papkuilsfontein Flower Route, Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve and Goegap Nature Reserve are also excellent places to see masses of flowers. Beautiful blooms can also be found further south, along the Western Cape’s coastline, for instance in the West Coast National Park and the Cederberg region.

4. Unique and interesting wildlife
Despite the arid conditions, deserts are home to a surprising array of wildlife. And while we wouldn’t recommend a desert for a first-time safari goer (who would more likely appreciate experiencing an area like Kruger National Park or Ngorongoro Crater where you will see more animals and have a higher chance of seeing the Big 5), experiencing wildlife in a desert region is special.

There are a variety of species such as the straight-horned gemsbok (oryx) springbuck, giraffe, zebra, ostriches, meerkats, and even the elusive desert-adapted elephants and rhinos in Namibia’s Damaraland. Cheetah, leopard, hyena and desert-adapted lions also roam Namibia’s deserts. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (which straddles South Africa, Namibia and Botswana) is also home to these animals, as well as raptors. 

5. Geological marvels and rock art
The stark, semi-desert regions unveil geological wonderlands. You can discover unique rock formations, ancient fossil sites and impressive canyons, such as Namibia’s Fish River Canyon – the world’s second-largest canyon after the Grand Canyon. There are also lesser-known gorges like Oorlogskloof in the Northern Cape, which is a popular hiking destination. 

South Africa’s dry Northern Cape, the Cederberg mountains in the Western Cape and Namibia’s Damaraland are also renowned for their ancient rock art sites. Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve (part of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection), in the Cederberg, was proclaimed a South African National Heritage Site, protecting more than 130 unique rock art sites. In Namibia, you can book a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Twyvelfontein, famous for its rock paintings and rock engravings (petroglyphs). Rockart can also be found scattered throughout South Africa’s Northern and Western Cape (as well as other parts of the country) and these sites provide a fascinating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and artistic expressions of the indigenous people who once inhabited the area.

Happy travelling,
The Leopard Team

P.S. For more info on visiting the Namaqualand flowers, read our previous newsletter here. Or read one of our most popular newsletters about the ancient Welwitschia mirabilis, found only in the Namib desert.  

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The Cape Peninsula Issue

The best things to do on a Cape Town Peninsula Tour

There is so much to do in Cape Town that  a comprehensive list of all that Cape Town offers could fill a book. We recommend spending at least three- to five-nights in and around the city to allow you to enjoy the highlights of what Travel + Leisure readers voted as ‘the best city to travel to in Africa’.  Below is a taste of what a day trip around the gorgeous Cape Peninsula could look like, either as a guided or self-guided tour. As always, the Leopard planning team will customise your itinerary to suit your needs.

Atlantic Seaboard and Chapman’s Peak
An early start is recommended, depending on how much you would like to see. Start with a drive along the beautiful Atlantic Seaboard in the direction of Hout Bay. You might like to stop at the strikingly beautiful Llandudno beach before arriving at your destination. Once in Hout Bay, stop for coffee or an ice-cream, or take one of the popular boat trips to seal island

Next up is Chapman’s Peak Drive. The views from this coastal drive are sensational, so take your time to enjoy the dramatic coastline with a pass that cuts its way between the mountain and the sea. You might like to stop in Noordhoek for some horseriding on the beach, but you’ll need  to book this in advance. Continue on through the coastal villages of Kommetjie and Scarborough before arriving at Cape Point. 

False  Bay and Constantia 
Cape Point, also known as Cape of Good Hope, is known for its stunning natural beauty, gorgeous beaches (Platboom and Diaz beach to name a couple) and hiking trails along the coast, through the endemic fynbos. After visiting Cape Point, continue with your tour of the peninsula, which would not be complete without a stop at Boulder’s Beach to see the colony of nesting African penguins. These cute little guys are very entertaining with their drunk-looking waddles and they love posing for pictures! It’s important not to touch or disturb the penguins. The African penguin is the only penguin species found along the African coast, from Hollams Bird Island, near the central Namibian coast, to Algoa Bay along South Africa’s Eastern Cape coastline. Don’t leave without learning more about these penguins and why they are at risk of extinction. 

Take a slow meander back to Cape Town through the quaint seaside villages of Kalk Bay, St James and Muizenberg. For something more active, kayak out to see the penguins from Simon’s Town harbour. It’s also worth stopping at Kalk Bay and wandering along the main street to shop or visit the quirky Cape to Cuba restaurant and beach bar. Dig your toes into the sand with a cocktail in hand or enjoy Cuban cuisine in the restaurant with its eclectic decor. The tidal pool and colourful beach huts at St James are not to be missed, or, learn to surf in Muizenberg. 

A visit to the oldest wine farm in South Africa, Groot Constantia and the world-renowned Kirstenbosch Gardens are a highlight for most people visiting Cape Town. You won’t be able to do everything mentioned here in one day (even on a whistlestop tour)! We suggest that you select your favourites, or spread out activities over two or three days.

Reply to this email and we’ll help you tailor your dream holiday to Cape Town.

Happy travelling,

P.S. Let us know your favourite things to do in Cape Town, we love hearing from our readers and augmenting our extensive list of attractions to visit in Cape Town!

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The Adventure Issue

Adventure in Africa: Gorilla trekking and snorkelling the Sardine Run

Incredible wildlife encounters are not limited to traditional safaris. Here are two bucket-list African experiences for the more adventurous soul.

Experience the underwater spectacle of the Sardine Run
Each year, around June and July, an upswelling of cold water creates a corridor and drives masses of sardines north along South Africa’s east coast towards Mozambique and the warmer Indian Ocean. The fish, in turn, draw a host of oceanic predators like sharks, thousands of dolphins and gamefish. Seabirds like Cape gannets also join in the fray and can be seen tucking in their wings and dive bombing from 30m above the water’s surface and submerging themselves up to 10m deep to scoop up sardines in their beaks. This combined with the annual migration of humpback whales causes the sea to come alive.

One of the best places to experience this phenomenon is by boat from Port St Johns, a small coastal village in Pondoland on South Africa’s Wild Coast. While fairly remote it’s also not difficult to reach, with flights between Johannesburg and Mthatha and shuttles from Mthatha to Port St John’s, 90km away. Port St Johns also has its own airstrip on top of Mount Theisger for small aircraft.

While you need to be a confident swimmer and comfortable in the open ocean swimming with dolphins, whales and possibly sharks, you don’t need a scuba qualification to enjoy this underwater extravaganza. In most cases, bait balls of sardines don’t remain intact for long enough to warrant kitting up with scuba gear. The quickest way to be part of the action is to don your mask and fins and slide overboard into a magical world of swirling sardines and dolphin clicks and calls.

Trek to see Congo’s lowland gorillas
Odzala-Kokoua National Park is arguably the best place to view western lowland gorillas. Besides being known for its successful conservation of these apes, Odzala is home to over 440 bird species, forest elephants, the beautiful bongo antelope and offers a sanctuary for spotted hyena  (which are rare in these parts).

Odzala-Kokoua National Park is situated in the small nation of the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo). Here, you’ll trek through thick vegetation under a closed rainforest canopy behind your guide as you search for these large primates. You could get muddy and even wet as you make your way through the jungle but it’ll all be worth it when you happen upon a family of gorillas and watch playful interactions between these gentle yet powerful apes in their forest home. 

While you can trek here all year round, the drier seasons are June to September and December to February.

Photos of the Congo are courtesy of Congo Conservation Company and Classic Portfolio

Happy travelling,
The Leopard Team

P.S. Please feel free to ask us any questions you have around gorilla trekking in Congo or South Africa’s Sardine Run.

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The Leopard Issue

A success story for rhino and Leopard

Leopard launched with one employee and tailor-made holidays to one country, South Africa, in 2019. Today the team has expanded to six and we offer travel to fifteen countries in Africa. This is something to celebrate! Especially given the pause Covid gave to travel for two years. 

In April, the Leopard team travelled from all four corners of the country for a workshop and strategy session. Then we (minus one valued member) headed to one of South Africa’s most beautiful areas – the Waterberg. We stayed at a newly opened lodge, owned by a local businesswoman. As much as we love planning holidays for our clients, it was great to unwind together on safari instead. 

We enjoyed outstanding hospitality from the staff at Bontle Lodge, spotted birds like the brightly coloured malachite kingfisher, the brilliantly blue glossy starling, the helmeted shrike and red-billed hoopoe, as well as zebra, giraffe, cheetah and buffalo. On our first evening game drive, before we had even stopped for sundowners we had seen very healthy numbers of rhino, which in addition to Leopard’s growth as a company was another really good reason to celebrate! This was particularly exciting for me because I didn’t see a single rhino on a trip to Kruger National Park last year with my parents and children, and had been feeling rather depressed about the survival of the species. As the sun was slipping over the horizon that evening, we stopped about 150m from a rhino and her calf that continued to graze unperturbed. This was a very special experience, sipping sundowners and watching these magnificent creatures. 

Eagle-eyed Helen (in charge of operations at Leopard) spotted an elephant from the lodge pool, one afternoon. We all rushed to the edge of the property and caught a glimpse of a trunk spraying river water and then the enormous beast disappeared into the forest. I love sightings like these, where you are tantalised by the knowledge that an animal is near, but you don’t succeed in seeing it fully. It may be frustrating, but it is part of the safari experience. Success in seeing animals is never guaranteed much like success in life is never guaranteed, but there’s always hope and the adventure of discovery. 

Here’s to seeing many rhinos and enjoying many holidays in your life!

Happy travelling,

P.S. If you’d like to witness rhinos in their natural habitat in the African bush, we’d love to craft a tailored itinerary to suit your needs.

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The Anti Poaching Issue

How Texan-bred dogs in Africa are saving rhinos

If you’ve ever wondered how South Africa’s precious wildlife is kept safe from poachers it may put a smile on your face to know that besides brave, well-trained rangers, man’s best friend is doing an excellent job too.

We chatted with Johan van Straaten, Dog Master and head trainer at the Southern African Wildlife College’s K9 Unit which deploys dogs to sniff out and track the bad guys. The dog unit was established in 2015 and since then the team has arrested around 200 poachers and confiscated 100 rifles. In most cases, the arrests were made before the poachers managed to injure or kill any animals. Johan explained that although on-leash tracker dogs, like Belgian Malinois, are commonly used by counter-poaching teams the SAWC’s K9 team specialises in training free-running pack dogs. Dogs like blue ticks, beagles and bloodhounds are used and in 2018 crosses of black and tan and redbone breeds were brought in from Texas.

Johan and the team use positive reinforcement to train the dogs, who love their work.“When we’re operating in Kruger, we use the SanParks Squirrel chopper which can fit six dogs. All the dogs get really excited when they hear it approaching. After a while, the puppies and hounds that haven’t been operational yet (haven’t been in the chopper) calm down, but the dogs that have been out in the field remain excited. When it’s time to go, they drag us to the chopper.”

Each dog has its own personality and even likes to choose its own place in the chopper. Two of the dogs like to lie down on the floor, one likes to lick the handlers. “Benji, an older boy, likes to sit on the seat near the door.” The flights can take up to 30 minutes to reach the area where rangers on foot have detected poachers and the hounds often fall asleep in the air. But as soon as the rotors start to slow down, the hounds are up, alert and ready for action.

The canines are fitted with GPS collars so that they can be tracked from the air using Garmin devices, as they run through the bush following the scent trail. “Although each dog could do the job on his or her own, like humans, each one has its own strengths and they work together like a rugby team,” says Johan.

In combining well-trained field rangers, aerial assistance and the use of free-running dogs, success rates have increased from 3 – 5 % without hounds, to between 60 – 70% with the use of both on-leash and free-tracking dogs. Dogs on leashes scour the ground to pick up a scent (with armed, tactical rangers) and then they are supported by a free-tracking pack that is put onto the scent. These dogs can track over rough terrain far quicker than humans. Once they have tracked down the poachers, they keep them at bay until ranger support is deployed to arrest them.

There are still challenges in the justice system when it comes to prosecuting poachers, however, the dogs are doing a great job at protecting vulnerable species, such as South Africa’s rhinos.

If you’d like to see rhinos in Africa (or the rest of the Big Five) on an unforgettable safari adventure, chat to us at [email protected]. We’d love to help you tailor a bespoke trip to the bush where you can unwind and connect with nature.

Happy travelling,
The Leopard Team

P.S. If you’d like to support the conservation work of the SAWC’s K9 Unit, which is currently fundraising for a Healthcare Fund towards the K9 unit’s medical cost for 2023, visit

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