As winter storms batter the UK and the excesses of the Christmas celebrations give way to hopes and plans for the New Year, we thought we would share a little inspiration with anyone thinking of planning their 2016 holiday over the next few weeks. These are our top 5 destinations in Africa and the Indian Ocean for the coming year:
The Greater Kruger Park
The Greater Kruger Park is our top pick as the place to go in 2016 for a fantastic safari experience and unbeatable value for money. This vast area of 20million hectares in the north-east of South Africa is one of the oldest and largest wildlife reserves on the continent, and a safari here will get you incredibly close to some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet.
A stay of 3 or 4 days will mean that you are almost guaranteed to see the Big 5, as well as seeing countless antelope, giraffe, zebra and maybe some less frequently spotted birds and animals. There are lodges and camps to suit every taste and budget, from self-driving in the park, to private 3* tented camps where all meals and game drives are included, to the most spectacular and luxurious 5* lodges offered by the likes of Londolozi, Singita, and Lion Sands.
Kruger is always one of our favourite places to visit, but the icing on the cake at the moment is that current exchange rates mean that the majority of safari lodges are between 12% and 20% cheaper than in 2015! For example, a 3 night stay at the 3* Shindzela Tented Safari Camp in June 2016 would cost £219 per person if you book now vs £279 for a stay in June 2015 booked last January.
A holiday in Namibia is like visiting another planet: there are spectacular desert landscapes, wide open spaces, amazing plants and wildlife, an other-worldly atmosphere unlike anywhere else.
From the towering red dunes of Sossusvlei and the spectacular rock formations of Damaraland, to the huge herds of Zebra, Springbok, Wildebeest that cross the vast salt pan of Etosha, Namibia is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to get away from it all and see nature at it’s best.
The Seychelles are made up of beautiful and remote group of tropical islands hidden far away in the Indian Ocean. The larger islands of Mahé, Praslin, Silhouette Island and La Digue are rock formations covered with lush tropical forests and fringed with white-sand beaches, whilst the smaller coral islands are tiny specs of paradise dotted in the vast ocean and perfect for anyone with a Robinson Crusoe fantasy to get out of their system.
We would definitely recommend visiting a couple of Islands during your stay if you can: if you are only in the islands for a week you might want to base yourself in one place and make day trips using the excellent ferry services, however for longer stays we would suggest a little island hopping and staying on more than one island to really experience the best of what Seychelles has to offer.
As well as relaxing on the stunning beaches and enjoying the full range of water sports (diving, snorkeling, sailing, jet skis etc are all available in various places), there is plenty to do inland, especially on the larger islands. There are numerous golf courses, nature reserves with giant tortoises, cultural experiences, and Praslin is home to one of only two UNESCO protected forest where you can see the giant coco de mer palm. Foodies will love the local cuisine, which is a mouth-watering fusion of Indian, African and European flavours.
There is plenty enough to do in the islands to make them a perfect holiday destination in their own right, however Seychelles can also be easily combined with a safari in East Africa or Southern Africa for the ultimate safari and beach experience!
The Masai Mara
A visit to the world-famous Masai Mara is something that will be on many travellers’ bucket list, and with it’s wide open spaces, huge herds of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles, and plenty of predators it is easy to see why it attracts many thousands of visitors each year.
Of course, the biggest draw (in just about every sense of the phrase) is the Great Migration which passes through the Mara between August and October of each year as the huge herds cross from the Serengeti in search of fresh grass. There just aren’t words to describe the feeling of seeing this firsthand, and if you should be lucky enough to see a river crossing then we are sure that the memories will stay with you forever .
Of course, the migration is only part of the attraction of this magnificent park: many experienced visitors to Kenya choose to visit the Mara when the migration is not passing through as there is still plenty of resident game, prices and the lodges tend to be lower, and their are fewer other visitors to the park.
Cape Town and Kruger will always remain the main attractions for international visitors to South Africa, however we have always had a tremendous affection for KwaZulu-Natal. This beautiful province is home to the imposing Drakensberg Mountains, some wonderful safari lodges, the historic battlefields of Zululand and miles-upon-miles of sandy beaches.
Given it’s wealth of attractions, we have always felt that this is a vastly underrated and relatively little visited region, but hopefully this is all set to change as Emirates and Turkish Airlines have been among the airlines to start offering flights straight to Durban without the need to go through Johannesburg. This makes the journey far easier, especially for anyone thinking of hiring a car to drive around the province (which we can highly recommend), and this along with the overall affordability of South Africa due to the weak Rand makes KwaZulu-Nata an excellent choice for your holiday in 2016.