When it comes to Bucket List destinations, it doesn’t come much bigger than Africa.
For Shaun Miller, Travel Specialist with Gate 1 Travel Australia, this was an ultimate adventure that had been years in the making, but even with all the preparation and anticipation, there were still highlights that took him by surprise!
Q: How did you feel when you first saw Victoria Falls?
A: “When I got to Victoria FalIs I was not expecting to be blown away, as I have seen many amazing waterfalls in Switzerland and around Australia. At the entrance there are a number of shop keepers all keen to hire you a bright yellow raincoat. I was a bit sceptical about paying US$2 to borrow their raincoat for a few hours, but it was money well spent! After you pay the entrance fee there is a walking path that you can take. At first all I could see was mist as there is so much water coming over the falls. The waterfall is absolutely amazing. There are a number of different viewpoints along the 1km walk and each one is just as spectacular as the last. There is also the option of taking a helicopter ride over the falls. From the chopper you can admire the amazing gorges and surrounding landscape as well as the breathtaking view of the falls from above.”
Q: What was the most surprising thing you saw in the Serengeti?
A: “When we arrived in the Serengeti we were amazed to see a cheetah up the top of a hill with its cubs hidden in a small bush. She gracefully climbed down the hill with one of her cubs in her mouth and started walking into the vast wilderness trying to find a place to sleep for the night with her children. She dropped the cub off and returned for the other two she had left behind. However, much to the mother’s annoyance, the cub continued to follow its mum back through the grass towards the hill. At times all we could hear was a birdlike chirping sound and we could see the grass moving as the cubs scrambled through the grass. This was a rare but amazing experience as cheetahs are very shy creatures. At one stage the cheetah appeared to be anxious about the truck, so we had to move around the corner to witness the cheetah’s full movement – this was a once in a lifetime sighting!”
Q: What surprised you the most about the Ngorongoro Crater?
A: “The drive down into the Ngorongoro Crater was amazing just by itself. Leaving our campsite before dawn meant that the weather outside was still very misty. At first we were worried that we wouldn’t see any wildlife due to the heavy fog, but as we descended into the crater the haze cleared and the view was spectacular. There was an abundance of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo down there. All of the ‘Big Five’ were witnessed, but the highlight was when we saw four lions sitting in a hunting position preparing for an attack on a defenceless wildebeest. It was amazing to see the natural hunting instinct of the lion.”
Q: When is the best time to visit South Africa and Tanzania?
A: “For people travelling to Africa, I advise June/July as a great time to travel. This time of year is the start of the dry season and the weather is lovely. During this time the wildebeest migrate through the Serengeti in Tanzania up to the Masai Mara in Kenya. If you are lucky you might witness this amazing occurrence.
Year-round you can enjoy fantastic experiences in Africa, but the winter months of June to August are also a particularly good time for game viewing in South Africa. A shortage of water around this time means more animals gather at watering holes and there’s less foliage on the trees, which can make wildlife spotting easier.
Not only will you be amazed with the wildlife you see in Africa you will be blown away by the unique colours of the traditional costume worn by the Masai people and other tribes of Africa. Even though many of the local people have grown up in poverty they are so open and friendly and really make the experience unique. There are opportunities to visit local villages and observe the everyday way of life of the local people.”