The Great Tours: African Safari

In partnership with
James Currie, Safari Guide
National Geographic
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Course No. 3106
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What Will You Learn?

  • Discover everything you need to know to plan your ideal African safari.
  • Learn about the different types of safaris, including water safaris, desert safaris, and night safaris.
  • Look beyond the animals and get introduced to the people and cultures of Africa.

Course Overview

Africa is a beautiful continent, home to some of the world’s most extraordinary scenery and wildlife. Astonishing animals, untamed wilderness, diverse ecosystems: A safari into this great land is an unforgettable experience. From the savannahs of Kenya and Tanzania to the jungles of Uganda and Rwanda to the coasts of Madagascar, an African safari will truly ignite your sense of adventure.

Discover the safari adventure for yourself in The Great Tours: African Safari, an extraordinary course brought to you in partnership with National Geographic. Taught by the highly experienced safari guide James Currie, these 24 exciting lectures take you onto the plains and into the jungles of Africa. Captivating details and gorgeous imagery bring the safari experience to your living room.

The word “safari” may conjure up specific images: waking up at a rugged campsite at dawn to take a 4x4 truck into the African bush to witness lions or hyenas hunting a herd of antelopes. While this is certainly one type of safari, today there are limitless ways to see all the breathtaking wonders Africa has to offer—and a wealth of convenient, comfortable lodges and transportation options to help you enjoy the trip. For instance:

  • Take a night voyage into the savannahs of eastern Africa to discover an entirely unseen world of wildlife, including aardvarks and owls;
  • Paddle a canoe through the wetlands of Botswana to get closer to nature than ever before—hippos surfacing with a large exhale, or elephants parading across a channel;
  • Pull out the binoculars or the DSLR camera to spot birds in the Honde Valley between Zimbabwe and Mozambique;
  • Pick up a snorkel to explore the stunning reefs of the Seychelles or go diving off KwaZulu-Natal’s coast; and
  • Shut off your phone and listen to the strange outbursts from jungle trees, or the eerie call of predators at night.

Whether you are planning your first trip or just want to enjoy the sights and sounds of this magnificent continent from the comfort of your own home, The Great Tours: African Safari transports you to one of the world’s most spectacular environments.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Africa is a whopping 12 million square miles in size, and the vast continent hosts many ecosystems and biomes. Although there are limitless ways to explore Africa’s many terrains—the flat deserts, the rugged trails, the lush forests, the fertile wetlands—safaris generally fall into five categories, which Mr. Currie examines in detail:

  • East African Safaris: Kenya and Tanzania are the birthplace of the safari experience and continue to offer thrills for visitors: lions on the Serengeti, gazelle grazing in grasslands, the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, and the hair-raising sounds of predators at night.
  • Southern African Safaris: Southern Africa is an awe-inspiring mix of desert and wetland safari activities, from the big-game sightings in Zimbabwe to the wetland adventures of Zambia and the Zambezi River. Ideal for adventure-seekers who are also interested in luxury lodges or unconventional hot-air balloon trips.
  • Water Safaris: Whether by boat or in a dugout canoe—known locally as a “mokoro”—seeing the spectacular birds and wildlife of Botswana’s wetlands is unbeatable. The Okavango Delta is a biodiverse oasis and the crown jewel of the African safari experience.
  • Desert Safaris: The desert country of Namibia holds some of the continent’s greatest surprises. The beautiful red dunes are teeming with life and home to some of the planet’s rarest desert-adapted species.
  • Primate Safaris: The great apes are human’s closest relatives, and trekking into the tropical mountains and valleys of Uganda, Rwanda, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo offers up-close encounters with gorillas, chimpanzees, and other primates.

Get to Know the Flora & Fauna

There’s nothing like the roar of a lion, or spying hyenas skulking across the plains, or getting eye to eye with gorillas in the jungle. As a wilderness adventure, any of these safaris will give you an up-close view of the animal kingdom! From the megafauna rock stars (elephants, rhinos, giraffes) to the vicious predators (lions, leopards, crocodiles) to beautiful birds (eagles, flamingos, storks), this course brings Africa’s stunning biodiversity to life.

Among other creatures, you will learn about:

  • Big Cats and Wild Dogs: Lions, leopards, cheetahs, and jackals hunt the grassy plains and enjoy life at the top of the food chain;
  • Grazing Herbivores: Antelopes, zebras, and buffalo are the “hunted” in the law of the jungle, but they certainly hold their own when it comes to survival;
  • Reptiles and Amphibians: Crocodiles and snakes may send a chill up your spine, but these cold-blooded animals play a lively role in the safari; and
  • Birds: The astounding avians of Africa can be seen up close through a variety of ways, from viewing parks to special equipment—find out how.

Animals may be the main attraction, but the local plant life is crucial for the local ecosystems. With Mr. Currie’s expert guidance, you will also get to know the botanical wonders you may encounter.

Experience the Whole of Africa

The word safari comes from the Swahili word for journey. The classic safari experience involves driving into the wilderness, but as you will learn in this course, today there are boundless ways to journey through Africa. For instance, a walking safari takes us into a world where we are not in charge, and, thus, forces us to pay attention to small details that we may miss from the relative safety of a vehicle.

Or how about a night safari? Not only will you encounter nocturnal animals such as the elusive aardvark, but you will also see how predators, herbivores, rodents, and birds all behave differently under the cover of darkness. A night drive into the wilderness can open up a whole new world of wildlife viewing.

Mr. Currie also takes you on less traditional safari experiences—to the beaches of Madagascar and the surf breakers off the coast of South Africa. You’ll encounter the warm hospitality of Senegal, meet the people of Ethiopia, and journey through the cities of Cape Town and Nairobi.

Finally, you will consider the issues of sustainability and ethics of ecotourism. How can you plan a responsible safari? Should you hire a guide or self-drive? How do you engage with Africa’s remarkable communities in a respectful way? What can you do to encourage conservation?

From UNESCO World Heritage sites to stunning bird sanctuaries, and from national parks to hidden-gem wilderness areas, The Great Tours: African Safari takes you on a journey—a virtual safari—across Africa. Experienced travelers and armchair enthusiasts alike will enjoy the way Mr. Currie brings his years of professional safari guidance to bear as he invites you on an exhilarating tour of a destination like no other. Do you hear the call of the wild yet? Your safari adventure awaits!

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Evolution of the Modern Safari
    Begin your journey with a look at the origins and evolution of the safari, from its African roots as a trading journey to the hunting expeditions of the early 1900s to a form of popular tourism. Consider how Africa changed over the 20th century, and witness the rise of ecotourism. Survey the nature of safaris today. x
  • 2
    Comparing Self-Drive and Guided Safaris
    Before you embark on your safari, you have a critical decision to make. Do you want to rent a car and manage your own safari-which offers the most freedom, privacy, and affordability-or do you want to hire a guide to plan your itinerary, outfit your trip, and educate you along the way? Consider the pros and cons of each. x
  • 3
    Safaris in East Africa
    Get an introduction to the five major safari categories. After reviewing them in total, this lecture delves into safaris in East Africa-namely, in Kenya and Tanzania. Explore the wildlife on the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara. Experience the hair-raising sounds of predators. And learn about the major threat that may exist for an East African safari. x
  • 4
    Safaris in Southern Africa
    Continue your study of safari categories. Here, tour the astounding wealth of Southern Africa, from the enormous Kruger National Park to Zimbabwe's big-game landscape and to the wild wetlands of Zambia. Southern Africa is an awe-inspiring mix of desert and wetland safari activities. Find out what to expect and how to plan a trip to this magnificent region. x
  • 5
    Water Safaris
    Shift your attention to the rivers and wetlands of Botswana, where the opportunity to view wildlife from the water is like nothing else. Whether from a boat or a dugout canoe (or mokoro"), and whether you are birdwatching or big-game viewing, a water safari is without a doubt the crown jewel of the African safari experience." x
  • 6
    Desert Safaris
    The majority of safari experiences concentrate in the continent's fertile savannahs and wetlands, but the arid regions of Namibia and the Atlantic coast of Africa hold countless treasures. Here, journey into the oldest desert in the world, view the magnificent red sand dunes, and learn about survival in a seemingly inhospitable climate. x
  • 7
    Primate Safaris
    Trek into the tropical mountains and valleys of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to get a first-hand look at our closest living relatives. From studying gorillas to chimpanzees, there is nothing more enchanting than sitting on the damp forest floor and gazing into the eyes of a great ape. x
  • 8
    Night Safaris
    A night drive into the African bush offers a glimpse into a completely different world, from nocturnal animals to the breathtaking sky. This lecture covers the basics of a night safari: what animals you might see, how they might behave, and what tools you need for successful and responsible viewing of animals at night. x
  • 9
    Photographic Safaris
    Thus far, this course has covered where to go. Here, consider how to experience the safari. Should you soak it all up with the naked eye, or should you bring along your camera equipment to document it all? Whether you're using an iPhone or the latest and greatest DSLR, learn a few strategies for capturing your trip on film. x
  • 10
    Walking Safaris
    While the most common image of a safari is one of riding into the bush in a 4x4 truck to get an up-close view of big mammals, a walking safari can be one of the most stunning ways to experience Africa. Step away from the bustle of the modern world, slow down, and pay attention to the many wondrous details you can see by foot. x
  • 11
    African Predators
    Now that you have surveyed the range of geographies and types of safaris, shift gears to begin a multi-lecture unit on the flora and fauna you might see on your safari. Here, start with the predators-the crowd-pleasing carnivorous animals at the top of the food chain. Meet the killer" cats and dogs." x
  • 12
    African Herbivores and Antelopes
    Continue your study of safari animals with this lecture on the hunted"-grazing herbivores that have evolved to thrive in the dangerous jungles and savannahs. From buffalo and antelopes to zebras and impalas, examine an array of herbivores and their astonishing adaptations for survival." x
  • 13
    Giants of the African Bush
    Meet the giant mammals of the African landscape: the elephant, the rhinoceros, the giraffe, and the hippopotamus. Each of these mega-herbivores is truly captivating, but they are also threatened by poaching. As you get to know each species, reflect on the illegal wildlife trade for some of the largest animals in the world. x
  • 14
    Africa's Great Apes and Other Primates
    In Lecture 7, you learned some ins and outs of a primate safari." Now, take a closer look at the great apes you might meet. Study the differences between lowland and mountain gorillas, consider the baboons and monkeys of the open plains, and learn about the much-adored nocturnal primates." x
  • 15
    Africa's Small Mammals
    The giant animals might be the immediate crowd-pleasers, but the smaller mammals of Africa can be equally fascinating, and they play a critical role in the ecosystem. From mongooses and rabbits to the strange-looking pangolin, get an up-close look at an abundance of small mammals. x
  • 16
    Africa's Reptiles and Amphibians
    Snakes, lizards, toads, and frogs have a nasty reputation. They're creepy, crawly, slithery, and cold-blooded. Yet reptiles and amphibians are an important part of Africa's ecosystem, and, as you will learn in this lecture, there is much more to these fascinating creatures than their nasty reputation. Learn about crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and more. x
  • 17
    Key Birds of Africa
    What would a safari be without the avian delights you are sure to encounter in Africa? Ostriches, eagles, flamingos, herons: Africa is home to countless species of truly amazing birds. Examine the stunning world of Africa's birdlife, and see what equipment you need to make the most of your birding safari. x
  • 18
    Top Birding Spots of Southern and East Africa
    Africa is home to roughly a quarter of the world's bird species, so anyone interested in avian diversity should make it a point to visit the continent. In this lecture, you will travel to some of the top birding destinations in Southern Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. Gain indispensable guidance for encountering things that fly. x
  • 19
    Africa's Trees, Plants, and Flowers
    Spotting the notable animals or identifying bird species might be a primary goal of your African safari, but getting to know the common botanical species is an integral part of the experience. Learn about Africa's different biomes and the plants best suited for each region, and reflect on the intricate connections among the roots, branches, and flowers of life. x
  • 20
    Island and Beach Safaris
    Did you know Africa is home to world-class beaches, wildlife-rich islands, exceptional scuba diving, and some of our planet's best surfing breaks? Here, you will tour the tropical islands and beaches that offer an experience like no other. Travel to Madagascar, surf the coast of Cape Town, snorkel the reefs of the Seychelles, and more. x
  • 21
    The Sounds of an African Safari
    Listen: When you go on an African safari, you step away from the hum of household electronics, the wails of car horns and sirens, and experience the call of the wild. The chattering of crickets and frogs, the late-night howls of jackals, the iconic roar of the lions. Learn to observe not just with your eyes, but with your ears. x
  • 22
    Safari Destinations off the Beaten Path
    This course, so far, has traversed all the popular geographies and methods for taking a safari. Now, follow some of the less-traveled roads. Get to know the hospitality of Senegal, the deserts of Morocco, and the cultural melting pot of Ethiopia. See some of the hidden gems" sprinkled across the continent." x
  • 23
    Cities and Other Safari Additions
    The word safari" comes from the Swahili word for "journey." While safaris typically involve journeys into the wilderness, the cities and cultures of Africa offer a different kind of journey. From Cape Town to Nairobi and from the Zulus to the Maasai, experience the thriving cultures and communities across Africa." x
  • 24
    Tips for a Sustainable Safari
    The safari experience has changed mightily over the last century, and today, sustainability is one of the most important considerations for tourism. This course closes with a look at responsibility and conservation and what some of the leaders in the safari industry are doing to support local communities and to protect endangered species. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 224-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 224-page printed course guidebook
  • Photographs
  • Suggested reading
  • Activities

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Your professor

James Currie

About Your Professor

James Currie, Safari Guide
National Geographic
James Currie is a safari guide with the world-renowned company Wilderness Safaris. As a lifelong wildlife enthusiast and native of South Africa, he has led professional wildlife and birding tours for many years, and his passion for adventure and remote cultures has taken him to nearly every corner of the globe. Mr. Currie is an expert in the fields of sustainable development and environmental management, holding a...
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Reviews

The Great Tours: African Safari is rated 5.0 out of 5 by 5.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THE BEST EVER! I am proud to be the fifth reviewer of African Safari and delighted to be able to award James Currie his fifth Five Star rating. He clearly deserves it. His presentation is mesmerizing, fact-packed, and loaded w/guidance suggestions. This series is ideal for those who are seriously contemplating a safari, as well as those (like me) who simply want the vicarious experience of being on a safari. In my opinion, this series is a Great Courses Award Winner, as is James Currie. The cost of this course is a very wise investment!
Date published: 2019-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging! I just finished watching this show with my family and all I can say is WOW! So engaging and interesting. Please make more! It was like being on actual safari. Such great features.
Date published: 2019-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have been to Africa several times and this was a great review. Particularly the primates. We saw them 10 years ago and they haven’t left our memories. This course is almost as good as actually going there, but at the comfort of your home.
Date published: 2019-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well worth the time was thinking about a trip to africa - this course is incredible - probably better than going - many won't agree with that statement but I don't see how you could ever learn and see as much in one trip as you do with this course - excellent instructor and video
Date published: 2019-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course Watched it all twice and will watch it again in the future!
Date published: 2019-10-30
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