South Africa’s Cape Town is a place unlike any other. Perched along the waters of the continent’s southwest coast, this port city is a multicultural metropolis with a wealth of biodiversity that extends eastward, from its flat-topped Table Mountain to natural areas like the Cape of Good Hope — where the mountains meet the sea.

Along with a wealth of endemic flora like various fine-leaved fynbos and flowering proteas (aka sugarbushes), the region is home to an array of wildlife, including ostriches, bonteboks, baboons and even penguins. Centuries-old vineyards proliferate the hillsides of nearby towns like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, while great white sharks and southern right whales reside in the Cape’s coastal waters. The entire region is, quite simply, stunning, and is just one of the possible safari extensions to enhance your custom Africa adventure

While Nat Hab offers a wide selection of scheduled group trips to Africa, ranging from a riverboat safari along Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba to a Madagascar wildlife adventure, the reasons for a custom trip tailored to your schedule, travel style and preferences are plenty. I spoke with Nat Hab’s Director of Custom Africa Travel, Megan Bryant, to get the full scoop on the perks of custom travel to Africa, and why a tailor-made itinerary may be the perfect way to go.

The Perks of a Custom Africa Trip 

“Custom safaris are considered independent adventures,” says Bryant. “You can select your own travel dates, go to the locations and stay at the lodgings that best suit you, and travel free of a larger group.” Perhaps you want to add several days to an East Africa safari to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda, or spend time among some of the world’s last chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains — it’s as easy as arranging an extension with one of Nat Hab’s Adventure Specialists, who are Africa experts. 

Woman traveler prepares her DSLR camera to photograph wild mountain gorillas in Uganda Rwanda in east Africa safari

Smaller group sizes mean sharing quiet moments in nature among endangered primates! © Richard de Gouveia

Wider Date Selection 

Choosing your own travel dates isn’t just the difference between leaving on a weekday or adding an extension, it’s also about having a wider variety of seasons to choose from. “Our group safaris are designed around the best times to travel to each location,” Bryant says, “but there are ‘secret’ seasons that can be really special as well.” You can customize a trip to, say, Namibia or Botswana, at a time when the parks are less busy and the lodgings more affordable. 

Hot air balloon Sossusvlei Dunes Namibia wildlife safari aerial photography

This special Photo Pro departure enjoys an aerial view of the Sossusvlei Dunes in Namibia © Richard de Gouveia


Along with selecting your preferred dates rather than traveling on a set group departure, you can pre-arrange the camps and lodgings that most appeal to you. For instance: a luxury camp overlooking the hippo- and croc-filled waters of the Zambezi River, or a desert lodge at the foot of Namibia’s massive Sossusvlei sand dunes. 

“There are also what we call, ‘private bush homes,’ says Bryant, “where your party has exclusive use of the entire camp or lodge, complete with your own housekeeping staff, private chef and safari guide.” Especially good for smaller parties (anywhere from four to 16 people), “it’s like having a private home in the bush,” she says.

Some of Bryant’s favorite ‘bush homes’ include Samara Manor House, a historic homestead that sleeps eight, tucked within a 173,000-acre South Africa private game reserve, and the eight-bedroom Laragai House, located in Kenya’s Borana Conservancy at the foot of Mount Kenya. 

For larger groups, another option is buying out what Bryant calls a “normal” safari camp. “Say you have 10 people and it’s a camp with five or six rooms,” she says. “At that point, it becomes affordable to have the entire camp to yourself.” 

A couple enjoying the sunset on a Nat Hab and WWF Ultimate East Africa trip

A couple enjoying the sunset on our Ultimate East Africa trip © Richard de Gouveia


Some people (like myself) prefer traveling independently, but independent travel doesn’t always mean going at it alone. It could mean going on a honeymoon or maybe even a multi-generational family trip in which you’d like a little more privacy.

And something else to remember: independent travel doesn’t have to mean booking lodgings and excursions yourself and/or traveling without planning assistance. A custom Africa trip might include nighttime safari rides with other guests from your camp, or horseback riding with that couple you’ve run into at breakfast — all booked ahead of time for ease and comfort. 

If preferred, many places do provide the option of reserving a private safari vehicle and/or guide, at a surcharge. The choice is yours. “It’s like booking a hotel room on your own,” says Bryant. “At each location, there will be other like-minded travelers embarking on boat safaris or nature walks,” she says, so even when you’re traveling independently, you can — if you like — be sharing the experience with others.

Nat Hab & WWF guests can experience unique opportunities, such as visiting this elephant sanctuary in Kenya! Elephant wildlife rehabilitation local man feeding baby elephant

Nat Hab & WWF guests can experience unique opportunities, such as visiting this elephant sanctuary in Kenya! © Megan Bryant

Tailoring to Individual Preferences 

With custom safaris, you have the opportunity to visit areas and have experiences that may not be on any Nat Hab group trip itineraries. “For travelers returning to Africa for a second, third, or maybe even fifth(!) trip,” says Bryant, “we can get really creative.” For example, along with East Africa’s annual Serengeti migration, why not spend time among northern Kenya’s Samburu villagers or visit Tanzania’s lesser-known Ruaha National Park to search for hornbills and wild dogs? 

“We may have travelers who are deeply interested in elephants,” says Bryant, “so we’ll send them to areas with excellent elephant viewing and possibly elephant research, while still incorporating the other wildlife that the area has to offer. Or if we know that someone can’t take malaria medication, we can include malaria-free areas in their itinerary.”

Nat Hab travelers are treated to private wildlife viewing from the comfort of their accommodations. Photographer captures up-close photos of elephants on a wildlife safari in Africa

Nat Hab travelers are treated to private wildlife viewing from the comfort of their safari accommodations © Richard de Gouveia

Crafting the Best Experiences for Individual Travelers

When putting together a custom trip, Nat Hab’s Adventure Specialists and Custom Africa team work directly with you to determine your preferred dates, budget, number of travelers, etc. “Then we delve into what each particular traveler or group might want to experience,” says Bryant.

This could include a desire to see lions or crocodiles, deciding between bedding down in a tent beneath the stars or a colonial-style mansion, prioritizing wine and gourmet food, and being extra active or low-key. Is reliable wifi important? How about having a private guide and vehicle?

“We have preferred camps that we might recommend for photographers,” says Bryant. “While for young families, we may send them to camps that cater better to children. We ask a lot of questions and then use our knowledge of the wildlife of different areas, as well as camp amenities and offerings, to give our guests the best experience that’s specific to them.”

After a transfer by private helicopter to the eastern side of the Kalahari, this family set out on quad bikes to explore Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans.

After a transfer by private helicopter to the eastern side of the Kalahari, this family set out on quad bikes to explore Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans.

When to Start Planning

Bryant says the typical time to start planning your custom Africa adventure is between eight months to a year beforehand. “Africa’s best camps are small with an average of 6 to 12 rooms or suites,” she says, “and they book up quickly.” This especially goes for peak travel season, which is generally June through September across most of the continent. 


“Custom is not always more expensive, as some might think,” says Bryant. Really, it all depends on what you’re after: would you prefer a private guide, or are the knowledgeable camp-based guides just as suitable? How do you feel about excursions alongside other travelers? Are you OK with a hotel room outside a park, or would you rather stay at an exclusive camp smack dab among wildlife? “Apple to apples,” she says, “it doesn’t necessarily vary that much.”

Lion walks toward camera during sunset safari drive

Taken by our Nat Hab Expedition Leader while on a secluded safari in South Africa © Richard de Gouveia