How to visit Africa from your couch!

Tue, 21/07/2020 - 10:49am
Read Time: 3.7 mins

Even though we can’t travel right now, we can still dream of our next overseas holiday and if southern Africa is on your bucket list, here is how to start discovering this amazing continent from the comfort of your house!

Films & streaming

Is anyone better suited to presenting wildlife documentaries than the authoritative Sir David Attenborough? Head to Netflix to watch the ‘From Deserts to Grasslands’ episode of Our Planet. Highlights – captured with the superb cinematography for which Our Planet is renowned – include the endangered desert-adapted elephants of Namibia, and cheetahs hunting wildebeest amid the grassy expanses of the Serengeti.

Lion cubs in the TV series Serengeti (Photo: supplied)

Stretching across 30,000 sq km in Tanzania, the acacia tree-studded plains are also showcased on Serengeti, available on TVNZ On Demand and a good choice for younger viewers. Individual extended families of animals are focused on across the series' six episodes, often against the challenges of the region's changing seasons.

If seeing mountain gorillas in the wild is on your travel wish list, watch Virunga on Netflix, an award-winning documentary on the challenges to protect the giant primates in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Winner of eleven Academy Awards in 1986, including Best Picture and Best Director, Out of Africa is the epic adaptation of the Kenyan memoirs of Danish author Karen Blixen. Running time is almost three hours, so perhaps equip yourself with a safari sundowner gin and tonic and settle into it. Available on YouTube and iTunes.

Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen in Out of Africa (Photo: Supplied)


Karen Blixen's story of her time in Kenya in the early part of the 20th century is also a great read, and the Penguin Classics edition of Out of Africa is available at most libraries. 

If you've ever hankered to go on safari, Don't Run, Whatever You Do: My Adventures as a Safari Guide (2016) by Peter Allison is packed with very funny stories of working with a mixed menagerie of travellers and wildlife in Botswana's Okavango Delta. More than 20 years working in Africa has given the author plenty of anecdotes, and they're all told in a breezy and entertaining style.

More serious, but also warm and touching, The Elephant Whisperer (2009) by South African wildlife conservationist Lawrence Anthony is about his successful efforts to integrate a herd of wildlife elephants into the Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand. Published after his death in 2012, The Last Rhinos covers his campaign to protect endangered wildlife from armed conflict and poaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both are fine tributes to the man once described as 'the Indiana Jones of conservation'.

On safari in southern Africa (Photo: Getty Images)

Online experiences

The website andBeyond has been very active in bringing the African wildlife experience to travellers around the world during lockdown. Check out the Connect section for a 'virtual care package' including safari-inspired podcasts, an online magazine – including classic African recipes – and a regular schedule of live online game viewing from South Africa's Ngala Private Game Reserve and Djuma Private Game Reserve. Past episodes and selected game encounters are all archived online, and it's the closest you'll come to experiencing a safari without actually being there.

For more live online safari viewing see WildEarth's dedicated channel on YouTube, or follow Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy on Facebook or Instagram (@olpejeta) for their regular Sofa Safaris.

Boerewors sausage on the grill (Photo: Getty Images)

Eating African food in New Zealand

The flavours of southern Africa are not widely represented in New Zealand, but there are a few options around the country. In the Auckland suburb of Howick, The South African Shop is a good source of braai (barbecue) essentials like traditional boerewors sausages. Nearby in Panmure, the Indian-influenced flavours of the South African city of Durban are available at the Klasiq Kitchen. Try the traditional bunny chow, pillowy soft bread overflowing with a chicken or lamb curry.

Tucked away in Havelock North in Hawkes Bay, The Saffa Shack sells authentic snacks and takeaway meals. Try a bag of koeksisters, South African-style doughnuts with a ginger, lemon and cinnamon syrup, or the bobotie, a Cape Malay dish of curry-spiced mince topped with a savoury egg custard. The Saffa Shack also has a branch in Napier. In the South Island, Taste of Africa in the Christchurch suburb of Strowan sells more delicious boerewors and tasty biltong (dried spiced meat).

Brett Atkinson

Brett Atkinson is a full-time travel and food writer who specialises in adventure travel, unusual destinations, and surprising angles on more well-known destinations. He's based in Auckland but frequently on the road for Lonely Planet and other publishers in New Zealand and abroad. @travelwriterNZ