Africa & The Middle East Wild Things
Safaris awaken something within travelers. The heart races upon hearing a lion’s roar, seeing the ornamental plumage of a tropical bird, touching the contours of a termite mound, or smelling a cup of Kenyan coffee during a savannah tour. When you grasp this visceral experience within the comfort, intimacy and amenities of a luxurious resort, you attain memories more vivid than anything possible with a digital camera … though it doesn’t hurt to take those pics.
With its Big Five — elephants, leopards, cape buffalo, lions and rhinos – Africa’s the quintessential crowd pleaser, but it’s worth considering other locales too. Eighty-seven percent of Australia’s mammals are found nowhere else, opening exploration possibilities. In Peru, alpacas and llamas roam the forests of the Andes, while deep in the Amazon, alligator-like caimans lurk in dark waters. A variety of wild things are there for luxury travelers to behold.
This continent has inspired vacationers, with fauna and cultures renowned worldwide. With an awareness of the lands, animals and people, safari operators have linked travel luxury with an authentic wilderness experience. This is exemplified in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, 580 square-miles of savannah where you’ll observe lions, elephants and hippos among the watering holes and acacia trees.
For those seeking an itinerant African experience, Abercrombie & Kent, an Andrew Harper Travel partner, provides luxurious mobile camping, in the tradition of Ernest Hemmingway. A&K provide tents with private verandas, multi-course meals at elegantly set tables, 4×4 vehicle safaris and visits to Samburu villages.
In South Africa lies a private game reserve encompassing 28,555 hectares of protected wildlife land. Within this location is &Beyond’s Phinda Vlei Lodge. With six air-conditioned suites housing baths and wi-fi, private pools and personalized butler service, &Beyond Phinda centers each suite within prime view of wildlife, including the entire Big Five, in panoramic vistas. The lodge also has game drives and walking safaris.
For a more aquatic perspective of wildlife, climb aboard the elegant 14-suite Zambezi Queen, where you’ll cruise along 15 miles of the Chobe River in the company of hippos, elephants, crocodiles and many of Africa’s unique waterfowl. Other activities include water safaris on private tenders, fishing for tiger fish or exploring the Namibian villages that line the shore.
This island continent is diverse, with marsupials, reptiles and marine species; each demonstrating life’s adaptability in a unique world of solitary mountains and vast shores.
Southern Ocean Lodge has its own version of the Big Five. Built upon the green plateaus of Kangaroo Island, just nine miles off the mainland coast of Southern Australia, this resort offers 21 luxury suites with outdoor terraces, lavish king-sized beds and sunken lounges. After enjoying the amenities, you’ll observe kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, sea lions and the prickly-spiked echidnas. Expert guides will lead you in safaris and hikes near this lodge adjoined to several local national parks.
Set atop dunes in the Australian Outback, Longitude 131 showcases the Northern Territory’s beautiful solitude from the context of a luxurious basecamp. Considered a “living cultural landscape” by Dual World Heritage, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is the home of this resort. Red kangaroos, dingoes, wallabies and wedge-tailed eagles thrive in this arid environment. Longitude 131’s 15-tented pavilions bring lavish comfort to the landscape with rain showers in the bathrooms and a glass wall that display from your room the monolithic Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) formations.
Just a three-hour drive from Sydney, Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort is a world unto itself sitting between the Gardens of Stone and Wollemi National Parks. Animals like kangaroos, kookaburras and wombats roam the pristine resort; guided explorations on foot, horseback, by bike or in jeeps make it nearly impossible not to have a wildlife experience. The heritage villas containing amenities such as fireplaces, expansive verandas and private pools.
Home to three wildlife havens—the Andes Mountains, Amazon River and Pacific Ocean—as well as spectacular Incan ruins and pre-Columbian history, Peru is as defined by its indigenous heritage as it is by its ecosystems.
Perched on the banks of the Urubamba River and surrounded by grasslands enjoyed by grazing alpacas, the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado offers activities like river rafting, and horseback riding; look for otters, dwarf brocket deer and the region’s Andean Condors as you traverse the landscape. In the hotel, rooms radiate classic Peruvian style with local art and woven tapestries, sip a pisco-sour at the bar before dining on ceviche or other Peruvian specialties in El Huerto, the hotel’s main restaurant.
Tucked into a mountain valley 10,000 feet above sea level, the town of Cusco served as the Incan capital. Along its streets is a former monastery that offers a different kind of sanctuary today. Built in 1592, the Belmond Monasterio Hotel still carries many of its original elements, including a baroque chapel and cloistered courtyard. Visitors can enjoy rich wood furnishings, antique paintings and spacious suites. Cusco is also a popular departure point for trekkers beginning the trip to Machu Picchu, the famous 14th-century Incan citadel. Hiking the Inca Trail is also the opportunity to spot spectacled bears, long-tailed weasels, ocelots, pampas cats and llamas.
Overall, Africa has much to offer in terms of wildlife; but if you feel so inclined, consider other areas across the globe for a wild time.