Planet Earth III – Our Favourite Desert and Grassland Destinations
If you haven’t seen Planet Earth III yet – no fear. It’s on BBC iPlayer, and David Attenborough’s offerings, as we all know, never fail to be perfect family Christmas watching. With awe-inspiring scenes from the depths of the ocean to the harshest in-land extremes, Attenborough has done it again. Watching the grassland and desert episodes gave us a hankering for Africa – as always – and so we thought we’d round up our favorite spots for just this across the continent.
The Namib desert – thought to be the world’s oldest – is one of the most atmospheric places on the planet. At day, the heat waves beat over the silky dunes as fascinating desert-adapted species skulk across the sand. If you thought you’d seen all Africa’s wildlife has to offer, it soon becomes apparent here how wrong you were. At night, the Namib is like another planet. Silence here is loaded, and the stars puncture the deep, dark sky everywhere you look. If the depths of the ocean exhibit our world as its most alien, Namibia, and specifically this region, shows off heaven.
Botswana is best-known perhaps for its magical Okavango Delta. But many don’t realise it is also home to this huge desert expanse, which boasts an array of unusual species including the Kalahari black-maned lion and brown hyena. It also just happens to offer some of the continent’s best cheetah viewing. Seeing their athletic bodies kicking up sand as the sun goes down is an image of safari dreams. Rather than the mighty dunes you find in Namibia, here, the deserts are a vast flat expanse of scrub-covered fossil dunes. The wildlife is phenomenal, and utterly unique.
The Serengeti offers a quintessential safari experience, and those scenes of endless plains into a wildebeest and acacia tree-dotted horizon that the very word safari seems to conjure into the mind. The reality does not fall short of this image; quite the contrary, it exceeds it. Standing in the middle of this vast grassland surrounded by wilderness and life – a huge density of predators; the eerie nighttime howl of a hyena, or the sure rumble of the Great Wildebeest Migration – is humbling. It also might just take your breath away.
The South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is not on many people’s radar. It doesn’t have the glitzy reputation of the Okavango Delta, or the knowing nod of those classic African hotspots like the Masai Mara, or the Kruger National Park. But it has everything else.
The undulating Luangwa River breaks up some of the most interesting grassland scenery on the planet. From thick bush to lazy mahogany forest, to open plains, always peppered with towering baobab trees, the South Luangwa’s inhabitants are as diverse as its home. The best leopard sightings on the continent happen here, and you will see many, many hippos. That is a promise.