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Combine a traditional safari with a barefoot holiday for the perfect African adventure

Thursday, 22 December 2022

The traditional combination of a bush and beach holiday is one of the most popular approaches to any trip to Africa – for good reason. Spending time on safari is undoubtedly the perfect balm for the soul. Yet the early mornings and exciting activities of a frenetic safari are best complemented by a few days of relaxing on one of Africa’s magnificent beaches.

But how to choose the best locations? Have a look at our list of the best bush and beach combos.

Greater Kruger, South Africa & the beaches of Mozambique

The Greater Kruger offers some of the best safari experiences on the continent, especially when it comes to seeing the Big 5. With a couple of spectacular sightings under one’s belt, the renowned beaches and azure waters of Mozambique are just a short flight away.

Here visitors can recline on white sands (cocktail in hand) or take to the waters to enjoy the cornucopia of oceanic creatures in the Mozambique Channel. The beaches of Ponta Mamoli remain one of Mozambique’s best-kept secrets, despite their proximity to the South African border, while further afield, the islands of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park protect some of the country’s rare marine mammals.

bushveld and beach
(Top) The extensive white beaches of the Bazaruto Archipelago; (bottom) Greater Kruger offers some of the best safari experiences on the continent

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

KwaZulu-Natal province is one of South Africa’s most diverse regions, home to myriad habitats and animal life.

KZN offers many wild opportunities for experiencing the bushveld and wild animals, from verdant forests and wetlands to rolling savannas and grasslands. A number of wildlife reserves – including Big 5 parks such as Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park – offer a plethora of wildlife experiences. As an added bonus, its long stretch of coastline is lined by characterful and picturesque beaches with stunning year-round weather. The beaches of iSimangaliso Wetland Park are as wild and private as they come, neighbouring Mkuze Game Reserve offers ample wildlife viewing, and just further south, the Dolphin Coast lines the vibrant beach town of Ballito (with magnificent Salt Rock well worth a visit).

bushveld and beach
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is a Big-5 game reserve; Isimangaliso Wetland Park offers wild experiences; Thompsons Bay Beach in Ballito; Diving with an oceanic blacktip shark off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal (Aliwal Shoal)

South Luangwa, Zambia & Lake Malawi, Malawi

Not so keen on the salty residues of the ocean? How better to wash away the dust and ease tired feet at the end of an invigorating walking safari in South Luangwa than in the crystalline waters of a freshwater lake surrounded by palm-tree fringed beaches?

bushveld and beach
An idyllic beach on the shores of Lake Malawi

Walking safaris in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park offer the opportunity to experience enormous herds of elephants and buffaloes, as well as dazzling leopard sightings. After exploring the park, head to the extensive shoreline of Lake Malawi, with its tiny beach villages, resorts and lodges. The lake offers the adventurous tourist a plethora of opportunities to explore the waters – above or below the azure ripples.

bushveld and beach
The lengthy white beaches of Lake Malawi (pictures 1-2) are lined with tiny beach villages, resorts and lodges; South Luangwa is a vast wilderness and playground for tourists seeking an authentic safari experience (View more pics from Mandeem Mistry at @tinytrunkphotography)

Serengeti National Park & Mafia Island

The Serengeti ecosystem, the ‘place where the land runs forever’, is an essential destination for any avid safari-goer.

bushveld and beach
A cheetah surveys the plains of the Serengeti

Not for nothing is this one of Tanzania’s most popular attractions, and electrifying wildlife experiences are all but guaranteed. So, why not dive into the embrace of the Indian Ocean, soak up the resplendent marine scenery and take a few days to reflect on a life-changing vacation in the privacy of intimate Mafia Island? And why not tick an experience with endangered sea turtles off your list while you’re at it?

A trip to the Serengeti – an essential destination for any avid safari-goer – is well complemented by a beach break to Mafia Island (Check out @daniellamborn for more images)

The Tanzania tour: quieter safari circuits and an island paradise

Serengeti and Ngorongoro are spectacular for wildlife viewing, but they are not Tanzania’s only safari fare. Some of the less well-known national parks are equally exhilarating, and they are quieter and kinder on the pocket.

Tanzania offers a robust safari circuit: Ruaha National Park; spotting chimps in Mahale National Park; Katavi hosts robust populations of lions; Selous Game Reserve is one of the continent’s most enormous undisturbed ecosystems

Think Gombe and Mahale National Parks for chimpanzees, dry-season Katavi National Park, the predator extravaganza of Ruaha National Park or the wildlife smorgasbord in Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve). From there, a short trip off the mainland will deposit fortunate travellers on the vibrant island of Zanzibar – an eclectic melting pot of cultures offering a beach holiday unlike any other.

The crystalline waters of Zanzibar beautifully round off a Tanzania safari
Africa Geographic Travel

Take your pick, Kenya

Ah, Kenya, a country blessed with beauty and wildlife in abundance. Safari options abound in this land of plenty. Take in the iconic scenes framed by Mount Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park, search for black leopards in Laikipia County, or revere the giant red tuskers of arid Tsavo East and West National Parks. As if these wildlife delights were not enough, the Kenyan coastline is equally bestowed with impressive holiday destinations, from lively Watamu and Malindi to the more peaceful and reserved Diani and Lamu.

Kenya has much to offer the visitor seeking a diverse array of experiences, including: the majestic elephants of Amboseli; the sandy white stretches of Diani Beach; the otherworldly coastlines of Malindi; the dust-stained wildlife of Tsavo; epic sightings of Laikipia; and the tropical paradise of Watamu

Maasai Mara, Kenya & Seychelles

No visit to Kenya is complete without a stop to appreciate the rolling vistas of the celebrated Maasai Mara at least once. Pack in over a million wildebeest and zebra trundling their way through during the Great Migration, and the scene is set for a once-in-a-lifetime experience deserving of a separate mention. And afterwards, why not travel a little further afield to the glorious islands of the breath-taking tropical paradise of Seychelles?

Combine the romance of the Seychelles (and peaceful Mahé Island as pictured) with the wide plains and epic wildlife sightings of the Maasai Mara

Keep it in the family

Travelling to Africa is an absolute privilege, and many industry and hospitality professionals are dedicated to ensuring that their guests get the most out of the experience. With that in mind, some have opted to run lodges for both bush and beach locations, ensuring high standards for both.

Combine a visit to Thonga Beach Lodge in iSimangaliso Wetland Park with a stay at Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park
Africa Geographic Travel

One example is the Isibindi Africa Lodges, including Thonga Beach Lodge on the azure shores of iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge deep in the heart of Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. Alternatively, check out Kambaku Safari Lodge in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger and Kambaku at Sea on the Garden Route of the Eastern Cape coastline.

Visit both Kambaku at Sea and Kambaku Safari Lodge to split your time between the Garden Route and Timbavati

Or for a truly classic combo, combine Cape Town with Greater Kruger. Tintswalo Atlantic is perched on the ocean’s edge below the famed Chapman’s Peak drive within the Table Mountain National Park. Its sister lodges, Tintswalo Safari Lodge and Tintswalo Manor House, are based in the pristine Manyeleti Game Reserve, offering 24,000ha of Big 5 Greater Kruger bushveld.

Tintswalo Atlantic, and Tintswalo’s lodges in Manyeleti Game Reserve offer the classic combo between Cape Town and Greater Kruger

It is said that the average person spends around a third of their life working so making the most of holiday time is essential! What are your favourite bush and beach combinations? Share them with us and others by downloading our app and commenting below.

Want to find your perfect bush-beach combo safari? Get in touch with our travel team to start the discussion.

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We're the Africa Geographic editorial team – a diverse set of writers, editors, designers and social media natives, all united by our passion for this addictive continent.

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