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How to Have a Healthy(ish) Safari Vacation

How to Have a Healthy(ish) Safari Vacation

No one tells you about the other Big Five on safari: Breakfast. Brunch. Lunch. Afternoon Tea. Dinner. From the moment you wake up (coffee with biscuits in bed) to the moment you go to bed (post-dinner wine and cheese), the indulgence doesn’t stop. Turning down crème brûlée after dinner or a cucumber sandwich at afternoon tea is hard, but working out is even harder. Few lodges offer fitness centers, and guests can’t walk off their meals, because trekking through open bush is forbidden unless you want to be something else’s dinner. Short of packing a jump rope and bouncing around your room, exercising on safari is not easy. That’s why some safari lodges have started catering to a more modern market, where practicing daily yoga or eating lighter meals are as crucial as spotting wild animals.

Taking a walking safari is the savviest way of getting your legs moving while absorbing the landscape and wildlife. In Zambia, a country known for its walking safaris and expert guides, hiking through the bush is a quintessential part of the experience. Time + Tides’ Norman Carr Safaris offers a selection of trails, where guests can walk from camp to camp. On the Luwi River Trail, guests spend seven nights trekking through Zambia’s game-dense South Luangwa National Park, sleeping at different lodges along the way. At the Bushcamp Company, which owns a string of lodges also located in South Luangwa and specialize in walking safaris, guests can expect to walk between two to four hours per day to get to the next camp. The treks aren’t particularly high impact, but you still move a lot more than you would on a game drive–filled day(note: if guides say you’re going through a zone known for ticks, take them seriously.)

Working out in your room is also becoming more attainable, as some lodges are starting to stock suites with workout gear. At Singita’s Mara River Tented Camp in Tanzania, guests are given a yoga mat to practice poses on their deck; andBeyond’s Nxabega Okavango Delta Tented Camp in Botswana offers guests a “gym-in-a-bag,” and all Sanctuary Retreats provide guests with yoga kits that include mats, jump ropes, resistance bands, and mini contour weights. Programs and group classes are also becoming more readily available. AndBeyond Phinda Rock Lodge in South Africa offers sunrise yoga sessions on the deck overlooking the bush and Mhondoro Safari Lodge and Villa in South Africa offers a no-joke, five-night yoga and wellness program—with three intense days of fasting.

Some safari outfitters, like ROAR Africa, have curated bush experiences that focus on all-around wellbeing. The newly launched ROAR Restore at Segera is a five-day program that incorporates healthy eating (fresh dishes like pineapple gazpacho and green salads are served), relaxation (in the form of spa treatments and yoga), and a number of activities (including guests speakers Laura Turner Seydel, an environmental advocate and eco-living expert, and Dr. Ian McCallum, a medical doctor and specialist wilderness guide) designed to help you get in back in touch with yourself and nature.

Segera Retreat serves up organic food in the middle of the bush.

When it comes to food, many lodges are turning to lighter, fresher meals. At Segera Retreat in the Laikipia Plateau in Kenya, all the food is organic (heavy meals are replaced with selections like light, fresh pineapple gazpacho and fresh green salads) and served in a farm-to-table style. Singita has brought in culinary king Liam Tomlin (chef and owner of Chef’s Warehouse in Cape Town) to curate a lighter healthier menu that focuses on small, sharing-style plates. At Singita Sasakwa, the vegetables and herbs are grown in the nearby garden. Most lodges, no matter how remote, can cater to various dietary restrictions. (Gluten intolerant? Natural Selection’s Jacks Camp in the remote Makgadikgadi National Park of Botswana makes gluten-free cornbread that seriously rivals the original).

If the lodge you’re staying at doesn’t offer any wellness or health-focused options, the best strategy is to focus on mindfulness on your trip: Forget about the resolutions for a week or two and worry about it when you get home. Going to the bush is about leaving all your concerns behind and immersing yourself in the surrounding nature and wildlife—your energy is better spent searching for the real Big Five than counting calories. That’s a health and wellness exercise in itself.

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