While traveling to Africa, I glanced out the window of the Airbus 380 at the exact moment we crossed over from the Mediterranean Sea into Africa. Algeria was 39,000 feet below and the only thing to see was miles and miles of desert. For the next several hours, the view below changed from sand, to jungle, to plains. Africa is huge which the graphic below puts into perspective. I saw and experienced so much, but in reality we barely scratched the surface.
Africa had been on my bucket list and when a phenomenal opportunity to visit presented itself, I jumped at the chance. The trip was arranged by Hills of Africa, an outstanding African travel partner. The group was composed of several of my travel advisor colleagues from Gifted Travel Network and a few spouses. My husband, Peter came along.
Starting in South Africa, our first stop was Cape Town, a great place to begin our two week trip. The flights from the US are long and we arrived a couple of days before the rest of the group to chill and recover at the gorgeous 5 star Twelve Apostles Hotel. No, it’s not a religious property…it sits at the base of mountain range of the same name and is located about 20 minutes outside of city center Cape Town. (Side note – I’ve never planned “recovery time” on a trip before, but for this one I’m glad I did.)
Cape Town is the perfect base from where to explore. Comparisons with San Francisco are accurate, from the hills to the food culture to the Winelands within an hours drive. With history, culture, fab food scene and the majestic Table Mountain in the background there’s plenty to see and experience.
A day was spent on a walking culinary tour of Cape Town. Another, traveling along the Cape Peninsula to the Cape of Good Hope, seeing the African penguins and driving along all 144 curves of Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the world’s most scenic drives. The Winelands is less than an hour journey by car and a visit to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek for wine tasting, vineyard tour and lunch was a perfect way to spend a day.
Airplanes, either commercial or smaller bush planes are the only way to travel long distances in Africa. From Cape Town, we flew to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. On the map, it’s about an inch. In reality, it’s 1600 miles – the distance from Portland, Maine to Miami, Florida. Again, Africa. Is. Huge.
Victoria Falls is home to one of the seven wonders of the world – the world’s biggest waterfall! This spectacle is amazing and worthy of the day trip. From there we embarked on our first game drive of the trip. We started from our camp along the Zambezi River which feeds the falls. We toured on land and saw elephants, baboons, impalas and wart hogs. We toured on water and saw hippos and crocodiles. Water Buffalo roamed the river shore, exotic birds were flying and the scenery was unlike any other.
Our next stop was Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, a wild area the size of Connecticut. We stayed at two camps in different areas of the park that were a 3 ½ hour drive apart and saw no one other than our group the whole time. Again, Africa is huge! Our camps were in different terrains and environments, so the animals were similar but different. More elephants and baboons but now zebra and giraffe, wildebeests and cape buffalo. And the cats! Lions and cheetah and leopards. You really have to keep your eyes focused on the bushes and trees because you never know what may be lurking and lying in wait for their next meal to appear. The guides have amazing eyes to see what’s hiding and once they point out an animal, they are walking wiki-naturalists about the animals and birds and habitat.
The days are long with 5:00 am wakeups. You need to get out early to see the animals as they begin to feed and migrate towards water holes. Siestas during the heat of day are perfectly timed (we were hot and tired) and then a few more hours in the field in the late afternoon. Days’ end for humans always includes a “sundowner”, or cocktail in the bush. Gin and Tonic is the beverage of choice on safari – there’s a whole botanical story here but the bottom line is they’re really good! Just sit back, relax and enjoy the view.
I wouldn’t say going on safari is a restful holiday. But it is an amazing life experience to be immersed in the animal’s habitat observing and learning about wildlife, nature and the environment. What a wonderful world!
Thinking of a trip to Africa? I’d love to work with you to plan the perfect experience for your travel to Africa!
I’m not just enthusiastic about travel—I live travel, each and every day. From plotting out my clients’ next great escape, to logging airmiles on my own adventures (I always have a suitcase packed and at the ready!), travel drives me in everything I do.
I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I’d love to share them with you. Learn a bit more about my journey to founding my own travel agency—it involves quite a few glasses of Italian wine!
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