Creative experiences offer more than standard Safari fare

An African safari doesn’t always mean bouncing around in the back of a 4x4 while scouring the horizon for big game. Today’s safaris include everything from elephant-back and helicopter experiences — even biplane adventures.

We took a look at seven far-out safaris. 


Safari Par Excellence bills its three-hour Elephant Encounter an “experience” rather than just a ride. Based at the company’s own elephant camp near Victoria Falls, this mini-safari stresses interaction with the majestic, well-treated elephants (currently including two playful babies, which accompany each trip) rather than simply sitting atop them. Escorted by knowledgeable handlers and an armed guide, prior riders have reported seeing lions, crocodiles, hippos, warthogs, baboons and buffalo — all of which are apparently unfazed by the elephants, their natural neighbors — amidst spectacular scenery.


Zambezi Safari & Travel Company creates adventurous canoe safaris on the Zimbabwean and Zambian shores of the lower Zambezi River — just how adventurous depends on which format you choose. “Full participation” trips aren’t for the fainthearted, involving overnight stops in two-man tents, with participants expected to assist with camp chores. A “backed-up” safari features more creature comforts, with both tented and lodge accommodations and a back-up crew that supports the canoeists (vehicles are also available for game-viewing opportunities away from the river). The company’s tailor-made walking and canoeing safaris are among Africa’s most thrilling experiences for intrepid travelers. 


Nairobi-based Natural Habitat Safaris — the worldwide travel partner of the World Wildlife Fund — offers biplane trips and serene hot air balloon flights above expansive East African savannahs teeming with wildlife. Retro-styled two-passenger biplanes with expert pilots recapture the romance of early 20th century African exploration, with open cockpits enabling 360-degree views and an exhilarating connection with the beauty below. For early risers, Natural Habitat’s dawn balloon flights float silently above exotic landscapes, offering a rare chance to observe undisturbed animals and a steady, slow-moving platform for aerial photography. Upon landing, a hearty bush breakfast is served in the shade of an acacia tree. 


– Paul Rogers, Tribune Content Solutions Writer

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