Authenticity: a perennially peddled promise which is rarely truly fulfilled. Yet authenticity is increasingly what we look for in our holiday experiences; the desire to feel like we've seen the real destination; that we've got beneath its skin and seen into its soul. Well, authenticity just so happens to be our specialist subject (we're coming for you, John Humphrys) and never more so than in Africa. In the last year alone we've been on no fewer than 14 trips to the wonder-continent and even caught and tamed our very own ex-safari guide to join the team. So if you're interested in going off the beaten track to experience the real Africa, step this way, and here's just a flavour of what we can do...
Kuene River, Namibia
The Kunene River flows from the Angolan highlands through north west Namibia and out into the Atlantic, bringing vibrant life to an area otherwise dominated by towering sand dunes and mountains. This juxtaposition of lush river oasis and desolate desert makes it one of the most unique safari regions in Africa. Stay at Serra Cafema, arguably Africa's most remote camp, and explore the dramatic scenery in specially adapted 4x4s, quad bikes and boats from which you can spot gemsbok, springbok, Nile crocodile and smaller species like the desert plated lizard and the Namaqua chameleon.
Katavi National Park, Tanzania
Katavi National Park in western Tanzania is often referred to as Africa's best kept secret. The park receives fewer visitors in a year than the Serengeti does in a single day and yet has greater mammal concentrations than any other park in Tanzania. It is home to the largest herds of buffalo on the African continent and its waterways teem with hippopotamus and crocodile. Go in the dry season (June - October) when all the wildlife congregates around the remaining water, creating some of the most spectacular game viewing opportunities you're ever likely to experience.
Samburu National Reserve, Kenya
While the crowds flock to the Masai Mara, Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya goes relatively under the radar. The reserve is famed for having an abundance of rarer species, known as its 'Special Five' - the Grevy's zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and beisa oryx - although the big names are all there too, including the elusive leopard. However, Samburu is as much about cultural interaction as it is safari experiences and we can arrange visits to local Samburu villages and markets which offer a fascinating insight into those who call this region home.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest sounds (and looks) very Lord of the Rings (there has to be a joke in here somewhere about Uganda-lf) but it is in fact home to half of the planet's population of mountain gorillas, and is one of only three places where you can see them in the wild. What's more, park permits are less than half the price of those in neighbouring Rwanda, so you get more silverback for your greenback. Seeing these majestic beasties in situ does entail trekking through steep, unforgiving forest so it's not for the fainthearted but the feeling of awe that comes with spending a few hours in their company cannot be overstated.
Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
If you're old hat at the safari gig and want to get to grips with some of Africa's rarer species, like aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin and meerkat, the Tswalu Kalahari private reserve in northern South Africa is the perfect place. And you can rest assured you'll be doing it without the crowds; only 30 guests are allowed in to this 110,000 hectare reserve at any one time. The safari experiences are also more diverse than in a national park so guests can ride, walk and head out at night, which offers the best opportunity to see aardvark in particular.