“If I bungee off the Victoria Falls bridge, will you jump, too?”
It was not a question I had anticipated asking my husband, Frank, on our southern Africa safari with luxury outfitter Abercrombie & Kent (A&K), a brand known for its high-end excursions and white-glove service.
Yet there we were, just minutes into our first French-press javas, debating whether to spontaneously leap 400 feet from the Victoria Falls bridge toward the Zambezi River. Yes, a snapped cord could send me straight into crocodile-filled waters. And yes, I am terribly, terribly afraid of heights.
But I’m also a bit of an adrenaline junkie, as is my husband. Turns out, this luxe A&K Botswana Safari in Style trip suited our adventure needs well. We had the choice to make the 10-day safari as action-packed — or as low-key — as we liked (within reason, of course). This build-your-own safari vibe offered the group trip a welcome sense of customization, and ensured every client could admire the local flora and fauna in a way that worked for them.
For me, that meant 10 days of southern Africa’s extremes: adventures and eye-popping wildlife by day, bookended by posh, relaxing lodges each night.
Botswana Safari in Style is a small-group excursion limited to 16 guests, and it runs for 10 days through South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Experiences include sundowner cruises, waterfall tours, river safaris, game drives and off-the-beaten-path wildlife viewing. And, as noted, a chance to jump off the Victoria Falls bridge.
A few must-knows to relay for clients before booking this trip: Botswana Safari in Style is a true group trip; guests spend most waking hours together, from dining and safari drives to cultural experiences. Travelers seeking a more intimate experience — say, honeymooners — may be better off with A&K’s private safari option, Signature Botswana.
Also, clients should adjust their safari expectations. Unlike, say, a Serengeti safari, where wildlife sightings commence the second that prop plane lands in the park, this trip is more of a slow build.
It starts with a few wildlife sightings in Zambia, but the bulk of time here centers on Victoria Falls. As we went deeper into Botswana, from Chobe River safaris with numerous elephant crossings to the Okavango Delta’s surreal big-cat sightings, it felt more like the wildlife-packed Serengeti trips I’ve experienced (with one big advantage: river cruises, which provide unique wildlife viewing).
A&K’s Luxurious Accommodations
Our trip began with an overnight in Johannesburg’s legendary and recently renovated Saxon Hotel, where former president and icon Nelson Mandela finished his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.”
Beyond this regal stay, we spent every night in a Sanctuary Retreats luxury lodge. Each haunt had its own flair and character. Zambia’s Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma lodge, for example, hosts travelers in treehouses with views of the Zambezi River. The property’s greatest perk: consistently hearing — and potentially spotting — hippos from your treehouse deck.
The trip doesn’t include a night in Zimbabwe — just a short lunch at the country’s oldest and most luxurious accommodation: Victoria Falls Hotel. From the falls, it’s on to Botswana’s Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero lodge, just minutes from wildlife-rich Chobe National Park.
Botswana’s two Okavango Delta properties are the true showstoppers. Canvas tents at Sanctuary Stanley’s Camp immerse guests in the action: The property overlooks a watering hole where hyenas roam, warthogs and antelope race, and elephants march on their daily migration from water source to feeding ground.
The uber-posh Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, meanwhile, is the perfect Botswana send-off, with spacious luxury bungalows, private plunge pools and a steady view of wildlife right from the suite deck or community fire pit.
Adventures in Southern Africa
Luxury mosquito-net beds and fresh, inventive fare — including consistent vegan and vegetarian options — were the perfect way to rest and fuel up for my favorite part of the trip: adventures.
While traditional game drives remain the bread and butter of this A&K journey, guests can tack on a handful of heart-pumping and immersive excursions. Stanley’s Camp, located on a private reserve, offers two surreal Okavango Delta experiences: night drives and walking safaris.
On the walking safari, I honed my pawprint-identification skills while learning about the smaller elements of this vast ecosystem that you simply cannot experience via a Jeep drive — think: tiny-yet-critical insects, or the key role that animal dung plays in planting seeds.
The night safari took the game-drive adrenaline up a notch, as we patiently tracked a hyena clan preparing to fight a lone male lion. The moonlit outing put a visual to those piercing hyena howls and lion roars we had heard the previous night.
Then, at long last, there was the bungee jump.
The thrill had topped our shared bucket list for many years, but my husband and I hadn’t been prepared to cross it off so soon — which, in retrospect, was for the best. We couldn’t overthink it. Instead, we signed up, made the leap (with me screaming), then celebrated our brazenness with tasty sundowners.