Discover Africa's Natural Wonders with Scenic Tour Director Rikus Visser

Africa – the name alone evokes a sense of discovery and wonder. From South Africa to Zimbabwe, this is a land of wild and untamed beauty, and experiencing its iconic wildlife and natural splendour is one of life’s great adventures.

‘The trip of a lifetime’ isn’t a phrase we use lightly at Scenic, but is something you can expect from our unforgettable escorted tours through Africa. We’ve sought excursions and events that bring you an authentic experience of this timeless destination, so you can discover the wild wonders of Africa in complete safety and luxury, and share in its grandeur with a group of like-minded adventurers.

To bring you a taste of what awaits on our African tours, we’ve enlisted the help of Scenic’s International Tour Director, Rikus Visser. Having worked with us for several seasons in Africa, Rikus is the ultimate travel companion, bringing in-depth local knowledge and expertise to your African journey.

Here, Rikus shares some of the highlights and experiences guests can expect on a Scenic tour of Africa – from tracking the legendary ‘Big Five’ to drinking in the pristine beauty of the Zambezi River. Rikus was also kind enough to share some of his own exceptional photography, taken during unforgettable tours of Africa. 

Thornybush Game Reserve and the Famous ‘Big Five’

Africa conjures images of wild savannah lands teeming with life, and your first encounter of its legendary wildlife comes at the Thornybush Game Reserve, during our exceptional Grand African Safari itinerary.

This sprawling open savannah forms part of South Africa’s prestigious Kruger National Park, and is considered one of the finest destinations in which to see all of Africa’s legendary Big Five animals – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. Here, Rikus reflects on his experience of Thornybush, and the likelihood of guests witnessing all five of these amazing animals during a visit.

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“On the 26-day Grand African Safari itinerary, I would say the chances of seeing all of the Big Five is about 95%. I can barely remember a tour when all five haven’t made an appearance. With this itinerary, there’s a three-day segment when guests will stay in Thornybush Game Reserve, in luxury lodge surroundings, and the Big Five animals will venture in and out – going about their day in a natural manner.

“During the same itinerary, guests will also go to Chobe National Park, which is arguably better for nature lovers. Although not as famous for the Big Five, there’s an amazing array of wildlife here. Herds of elephants and buffalo call this national park home, and it’s great to see them in their natural habitat.”

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Panorama Route and the Blyde River Canyon

As you’d expect, your journey through Africa will throw up near endless opportunities for photographs, with the natural splendour of South Africa and Zimbabwe encouraging you to take pictures at every turn. Africa’s extraordinary natural landscapes have been the focus of countless nature documentaries, but seeing them for yourself is certain to have you reaching for your camera.

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As a keen photographer, Rikus has spent many hours capturing the wild beauty of Africa, and can offer expert knowledge and tips on how best to photograph the continent’s remarkable wildlife and landscapes. We asked Rikus for his favourite regions in Africa in which to take photographs – and here’s what he said:

“There are a few which really stand out for me, but perhaps the best in terms of sheer natural beauty is the Panorama Route – a scenic road connecting some of South Africa’s most revered landscapes and cultural sites. Travelling this route will give guests the chance to enjoy unique natural landmarks, from God’s Window to the Bourke’s Luck Potholes.

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“The Panorama Route is also where you’ll find the stunning Blyde River Canyon. This is the third deepest canyon in the world, and its vast size and scale make it easily one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in Africa. Even in photographs, it’s difficult to capture perfectly the beauty of Blyde Canyon, but the fun is in the trying.”

Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River

Located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s great natural triumphs – an awe-inspiring wall of water whose size and power have earned it the Bantu name, Tokaleya Tonga, meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’. A visit to Victoria Falls and the adjoining Zambezi River promises to be one of the highlights of your African adventure – an extraordinary experience that you’ll treasure for a lifetime.

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Rikus has experienced first-hand the majesty of Victoria Falls and the serene natural beauty of the Zambezi River, and lists it among the must-see highlights of our Grand African Safari.

He said: “Victoria Falls is simply phenomenal. The largest waterfall in the world, it’s power and beauty astound and engross in equal measure. I urge every guest to visit Victoria Falls – it never fails to impress, capturing the imagination with its primal force and iconic backdrop. 

“Experiencing Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River is a joy with Scenic. Guests enjoy a three-night Special Stay in the colonial-era Victoria Falls Hotel, an amazing structure filled with paintings of the British Royal Family. Previous guests I have taken there have said they simply walk the halls of this amazing hotel in awe, enjoying its wonderful colonial-era history before setting out towards the imposing rumble of the Falls. What an amazing place from which to enjoy your first ever visit to this enchanting and world-renowned waterfall.

“Not only that, but the cruise down the Zambezi River never fails to make the hairs stand on end. Sailing this untouched passageway upstream of the Falls is simply beautiful, and complemented perfectly by the exclusive Scenic Sundowners experience – giving you the chance to cruise the river towards the sunset, with the wildlife on its banks, and a refreshing cocktail in hand.”

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Africa in Contrast: From Wild Country to Cosmopolitan City

Beautiful natural landscapes and revered wildlife encounters may be synonymous with Africa, but our Grand African Safari reveals the human influence behind South Africa and Zimbabwe, too.

During the itinerary, you’ll savour an unforgettable Scenic Enrich visit to a traditional Zimbabwean village, an experience which promises profound and rare insights into traditional tribal life on the African savannah. And, on the same tour, you’ll also visit South Africa’s momentous city, Johannesburg, and there explore the distinct culture and heritage of southern Africa.

Together, these two experiences showcase the unique contrasts of Africa, framing both traditional and contemporary cultures in some of the world’s harshest environments.

Here, Rikus discusses these memorable excursions, and the impression they’re likely to leave on future travellers:

“The Scenic Enrich experience, which visits a typical Zimbabwean village, is particularly important, as it offers an insight into contemporary life in Zimbabwe. Modern life here is not like the stereotypical tribal impression people have of it, and it is important to spread that message. This visit provides guests the chance to experience the rural and agricultural life of modern Zimbabwe, and understand how contemporary Zimbabweans live. However, it is no less magical or inspiring. Guests often tell me that they leave the Zimbabwean village with a song in their heart.

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“On the opposite end of the scale, Johannesburg reveals the bustling commerce and cosmopolitanism of modern Africa – contrasting perfectly against traditional village life. Some people have a negative impression of Johannesburg, but I believe it is an amazing place. In particular, the Soweto township within Johannesburg. Here you’ll find amazing museums and tours dedicated to the apartheid and segregation in South Africa. Additionally, this is one of the most affluent parts of South Africa, and you’ll see your fair share of extravagance.”

Why Travel to Africa with Scenic?

During our interview with Rikus, we discovered much about Africa’s beautiful landscapes, exhilarating wildlife encounters and cultural highlights – insights which we hope will inspire your journey to this unforgettable destination. As well as this, we also got a sense of just how special our African itineraries are, with Rikus commenting on the accessibility, safety and level of immersion of our tours.

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He said: “Before Scenic started advertising its African itineraries to the UK audience, I would often be approached by British travellers when I was directing tours on the Irrawaddy. They would ask me about tours through Africa, stating it was hard to find African tours with a UK focus.

“With Scenic, you’ll travel through Africa with other guests from the UK, as well as Australia. We find that British and Australian travellers tend to get on well together when travelling in a small group, as they share a sense of humour and a yearning for adventure.

“Additionally, a Scenic Escorted Tour is the perfect starting point for those who have never visited Africa before. You’ll have a dedicated guide and a Tour Director – two English-speaking experts who will offer guidance and insight every step of the way. This ensures that your journey to the greatest sights of Africa is simple, safe and fuss-free.”

So, there you have it – an expert guide to Africa and the many wonders you can experience during a Scenic tour. Click here to browse our collection of escorted tours in Africa or call our team today on 0808 115 3050.

Dominic Keely
Dominic Keely
Dominic is Scenic's Marketing Exec. His favourite river is the Seine, because of the rich history of the region. Dom's a huge football and Manchester United fan, and plays on a team himself.