It's 6pm on a Friday. You're halfway through your second sundowner, watching a giraffe lazily munch leaves. A monkey dashes past the game vehicle and you instinctively pull the bag of biltong closer to your chest. The exhilaration is palpable. But this is no ordinary sunset game drive … this is a virtual safari á la maison.
People the world over are experiencing their own form of lockdown, or social distancing, as a result of Covid-19, and roaming the outdoors is not an option right now – physically at least. These five luxury safari camps are adapting to the call of Mother Nature by offering virtual game drives for armchair explorers to enjoy.
You can go on a morning bush walk with a friendly guide, enjoy a sunrise game drive in your fluffy pyjamas or reflect on your wellbeing as you watch an elephant quench its thirst or lion cubs scuffle in the dirt. All you need is a decent wi-fi connection and a cup of coffee – or cocktail.
Pro tip: For a truly authentic experience, put your coffee in a flask and decant it into an enamel coffee mug – emblematic of game drives.
Luxury travel group &Beyond has collaborated with wildlife broadcasting experts Wild Earth to bring you the Wild Watch stream of live tours. The virtual game drives take place in the Ngala Private Reserve in the Timbavati and the Djuma Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, both adjacent to the Kruger National Park. Expect to see elephants, giraffes, wild dogs – and even white lion cubs. Wild Watch Live manages to create the feeling that you're in a vehicle too. Send questions via social media and the rangers will answer them there and then.
When: 6am – 9am and 3.30pm – 6.30pm daily (first 45 minutes is children-focused)
2. TINTSWALO SAFARI LODGE
The luxurious Tintswalo Safari Lodge is located in the private Manyeleti Game Reserve in Mpumalanga. Head guide Neil Jennings and regional manager Alistair Leuner film their daily drive, then edit the footage into a six- to eight-minute video and post it on social media. Expect to see lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants and more.
Where to stream: Tintswalo Safari Lodge YouTube channel
When: New videos are added daily
3. MOTSWARI PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
This family-owned luxury safari lodge in the Timbavati has two guides patrolling daily who film their drives and post highlights on Instagram. Motswari is home to the big five, as well as other creatures.
Where to stream: @motswari_private
4. SINGITA SABI SAND
Adjacent to the Kruger National Park, this pristine game reserve is live-streaming game drives by resident photographer and former guide Ross Couper twice daily on Facebook and Instagram. Their Instagram feed is also worth scrolling through for its phenomenal collection of photos from several lodges in Africa. You can expect to see wild dogs, rhinos, leopards and more.
When: Twice a day, lasting 24 hours after original viewing
Situated in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Ulusaba forms part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition collection. There are two lodges, Rock Lodge and Safari Lodge – both equally luxurious. Join the Ulusaba conservation team on a virtual game drive, where sightings of not only the big five but also the little five can be expected.
Where to stream: @virginlimitededition #SofaSafari
When: Every Monday at 4.30pm