Maybe it’s the fact that guests fly from lodge to lodge by Emirates private jet or it could be its billing as “The greatest safari on earth”. Whatever the reason, Roar Africa’s wildlife-spotting trip (which costs almost £10,000 a day) is sold out for its first departure in 2023 – although those quick enough can still book seats for a second trip the following week.
Departing from Dubai, up to 10 guests will each receive a suite on a personalized Emirates A319, an aircraft more commonly used by companies like easyJet to embark up to 156 passengers on low-cost getaways. Limited legroom and questionable croque-monsieur meal deals are available on this flight; in their place are flat beds swathed in the finest linens, personal minibars, and a luxury spa shower with separate wet room. Adam Rikys, a content creator who documented a 2021 trip following the same route, broke roses left on pillows and puffed up TVs above toilets.
Next year’s itinerary is a list of all the must-sees of the safari world in one go. First, two nights on the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls, then a stint in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, followed by three nights in the Maasai Mara in Kenya and a final stay to see gorillas and golden monkeys in the forests of Rwanda.
The biggest safari on earth was originally designed for American clients who kept pestering Roar Africa founder Deborah Calmeyer for a once-in-a-lifetime safari, but this year’s departure also saw Brits, Singaporeans, Canadians, Australians and South Africans fly away. A Danish lady who made her maiden departure has booked the same trip for the next three years.
These people are not looking for extreme trips. “It’s not my market,” says Calmeyer. “They are looking for someone who can make them efficient, float them through airports and take care of luggage. When there’s a headache, they don’t want to know about it.
Many guests spend their life savings on this trip of a lifetime, so it’s imperative that they return with happy memories. Among the incidents she dealt with covertly were the lack of a truck to unload luggage from the plane in Nairobi and the lack of ice in Zimbabwe to chill the Dom Pérignon vintage. What does she do in such situations? “Serve red wine with a smile,” she says.
Calmeyer’s connections make it easy to transit through international airports – a necessity when tackling five in 12 days. On this safari, the plane lands in Zimbabwe before the airport even opens, allowing guests to have it all to themselves. “They love me there and they love the plane,” she says.
In Nairobi, an airport not known for its serenity, she takes guests to a government lounge while their passports are processed. “The Minister of Tourism is a friend of mine,” she explains. On the ground, too, his connections allow guests to meet people other safari goers wouldn’t, including famed drummer and percussionist Kasiva Mutua.
If a shared jet suggests that the entire safari experience might be shared, guests need not worry. In-country transfers are by helicopter, while guests get their own Land Rover for game drives, cruises, and canoeing along the private stretches of the Zambezi.
As you’d expect, there’s also a huge amount of grip. In the past, Roar Africa has sent standby doctors to struggling children’s lodges and secured last-minute slots to pet baby elephants at an orphanage booked months in advance.
“The responsibility of leading something labeled The Greatest Safari on Earth is overwhelming,” says Calmeyer. “The day I arrive in Dubai I have ten faces looking at me saying ‘OK ma’am, let’s see what you got’. It’s terrible! I got the plane captain from Emirates who begged me to go on a world tour and I was like, “Are you kidding me? Do you know how hard it is to run something at this level?”
For more information about Roar Africa, visit roarafrica.com