October 2, 2019

There comes a time in every animal lover’s life when the local zoo no longer cuts it for us. We’re tired of the barricades and the blatant awareness of the creatures’ captivity. Despite their positive efforts in conserving wildlife, it’s hard to ignore the spatial constraints of the animals’ lifelong abodes. To kick it up a notch, sign up for a safari tour, where you’ll witness wild beasts thriving and doing their thing in their natural environment—hordes of each species, playing, mating, eating, and migrating. You don’t have to stick to the usual, done-to-death itineraries either. Here’s a round-up of the top alternative safaris to try for your next holiday. 

For an icy safari

Svalbard Photography Polar Safari, Natural World Safaris

Think safari, and the first thing that springs to mind is the scorching African outback, coupled with rangers in short khakis and campaign hats. These adventures typically take place in the jungle or desert where the lions and gorillas are, but not this Svalbard expedition. What Natural World Safaris is organising requires a different get-up altogether, considering that you’ll be venturing towards the Arctic Ocean. 

Svalbard, an icy archipelago sandwiched between Norway and the North Pole, is known for its population of polar bears. As you sail along the ocean from the town of Longyearbyen, you’ll get to meet and photograph these gentle giants, along with the whales, walruses, and reindeer, while learning more about these wildlife species through lectures by your guide. The 11-day Svalbard Photography Polar Safari trip, which costs a little over $10,000 per person, is no budget holiday, but the once-in-a-lifetime experiences are well worth the hefty price tag.

For a Middle Eastern adventure

Platinum Luxury Desert Safari Dubai, Platinum Heritage

Organised by Platinum Heritage, Platinum Luxury Desert Safari Dubai is a seven-hour day trip that takes you through the diverse fauna residing in the middle of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. It is one of the few safari programmes in the desert region that offers an eco-luxury itinerary. Not only is this safari taking place in a desert, it’s in the Middle East, far from your typical African plains. 

Imagine being surrounded by sand dunes at sunset, gazing upon exotic visitors such as the Arabian oryx and the desert fox. It’ll feel like the most cinematic mirage, topped off with a visit to the bird sanctuary and a falconry show, where part of the profits goes towards local conservation efforts. A camel ride in the evening transports you to a private cabana, where you’re served a six-course gourmet feast with signature favourites such as Australian Angus steak and grilled salmon and prawns.

For a hands-on experience

Big 5 Volunteer Wildlife Conservation South Africa, African Impact

Why observe from the sidelines, when you can get in on the action? African Impact’s volunteer programme allows you to do just that. Make no mistake, you’ll still have to pay a fee to participate. But instead of simply admiring the Big Five in their natural habitat, you’ll be part of the research team as well, monitoring the activity of elephants, lions and leopards, rhinoes and buffaloes, building waterholes, and sweeping the vicinity for snares that could endanger the animals. 

Beyond the wildlife aspect of the itinerary, you’ll be lending a hand to the local community as well, serving as a tutor for the children. Part of the work entails supporting local schools and constructing gardens for them to feed mouths and generate income. You’ll leave the Greater Kruger Area with the most meaningful memories that’ll last lifetimes.

For bat lovers

Kasanka Bat Safari, Robin Pope Safaris

Sick of the big cats? Perhaps a bat safari will stoke your inner macabre. Courtesy of Robin Pope Safaris, the Kasanka Bat Safari features an eight-day itinerary that begins at the Luangwa River, one of the largest rivers in Zambia. Choose between a walking trail and a game drive (or both) to explore its sprawling vicinity. While you’re there, immerse yourself in the local culture with an eye-opening trip to the rural Kawaza Village.

The highlight of the safari comes on the fourth day when you finally reach the Wasa Camp and spend the rest of the expedition witnessing the stunning bat migration. As many as 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats congregate at the Kasanka National Park at this time, and as an observer, you’re offered the best seats from a 60-feet height to catch these eerily lovable critters.

Image Credits: Platinum Heritage, Natural World Safaris, African Impact