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Africa Stays on Our Travel List

Jun 1 – Jun 14, 2023

gregory and eimily simpkins

Summer in America is prime vacation season. The United States has numerous attractive travel destinations – from Hawaii to Puerto Rico, from Los Angeles to New York. We have mountains and beaches and forests and lakes. But in selecting desirable vacation destinations, how many of us seriously plan for trips to Africa?

Africa Stays on Our Travel List For example, I have visited the pyramids in Giza, Egypt, twice and was thoroughly impressed both times. Las Vegas may have a pyramid replica, but there’s nothing like the real thing that has stood for thousands of years alongside the Sphynx. It is regrettable that Sudan cannot get its act together since it has impressive pyramids at Meroë.

Safari Experience

I just read an article entitled: “Best Places to Visit in Africa in 2023-2024.” It lists Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park as the #1 tourist attraction out of the top 15. The article touted safaris that would allow you to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, and wildebeests in their natural habitats. While somewhat expensive, there are few places on earth to see such animals in the wild. Another such place in Tanzania is the Ngorongoro Crater, which also has diverse wildlife and is mentioned within the general listing of Tanzania (#3), along with red Lake Natron, and of course Mount Kilimanjaro – the tallest mountain in Africa.

Other sites for wildlife attractions in the top 15 list were Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve (#5) and South Africa’s Kruger National Park (#11). Both offer a variety of animals to view that one doesn’t see outside of zoos – lions, cheetahs, hippos, rhinos, and buffaloes.

To get the most out of your safari experience, you must engage licensed, certified tour guides who understand not only where to take you but also when the best times are for safe animal viewing. Some wildlife sites allow you to stay overnight in protected locations in the wild. Hearing the calls of animals as you go to sleep is a unique experience.

Although we have beautiful beaches in the United States, only a precious few (including perhaps in Hawaii) could rival those such as on Tanzania’s island of Zanzibar (#6). I visited there with my wife several years ago for a conference in Arusha, and afterward, the group we were with went onto Zanzibar before returning to the United States. We found it to be so lovely that my wife and I ditched the group to spend time alone on and near its magnificent beach and pledged to return one day for another visit.

Natural Opportunities

Another conference I attended and managed 20 years ago was in Mauritius (#4). It was so beautiful that even at the airport for the flight home, I was considering faking an illness to stay behind and enjoy it more. In the end, I didn’t because my wife was not there to enjoy it with me. The same thing happened when I went to Mombasa several years earlier to do training; I didn’t stay on because I didn’t want to enjoy it alone. It was not on the top 15 list, but it was lovely, nonetheless.

I have also been to Madagascar (#12), famous for its 100+ variety of lemurs, but it also has various other natural wonders that have yet been unspoiled by development. Isalo National Park and Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve are prime places to visit, and don’t forget to do some island hopping to Nosy Be, for example, for its world-class beaches.

There are natural opportunities to observe wildlife that are missed because countries limit their tourism to preserve the natural environment and safeguard the wildlife or just escape the notice of travelers. An example of the former is Botswana (#14), which has a strong conservation focus. Protected areas such as Chobe National Park, Khama Rhino Sanctuary and Moremi Game Reserve, the oldest reserve of the Okavango Delta, allow limited visitors. Adventurous tourists can enjoy mokoro (canoe) safaris quad biking or helicopter tours.

Malawi (#13), because of its small size and its landlocked location, might not seem to be a likely location for beaches and water sports, but Lake Malawi is one of the world’s deepest lakes and offers visitors ample opportunity for water sports such as kayaking, sailing or just lounging on a white sand beach. The country also boasts nine national parks that are less crowded than in other African tourist destinations, and the diverse wildlife can be accessed by either self-drive or guided tour options.

Vacation Spots

Honeymooners in North America often flock to Niagara Falls in Canada, but Victoria Falls (#2) is a United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. It straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and is approximately twice as deep and wide as Niagara Falls. Popular vantage points include Knife-Edge Bridge, Livingstone Island and Devil’s Pool. You can admire the falls from a different angle by whitewater rafting on the Zambesi River.

Seychelles (#7) may not be well-known in the United States, but Europeans are quite aware of this paradise comprising 115 islands. In fact, celebrities the world over visit Seychelles due not only to its natural beauty but also because it is an off-the-beaten-path site where they can relax without being swarmed by autograph seekers or paparazzi hunting them down for photographs. Its lack of notoriety among vacation destinations and high cost keep it that way. Visitors of all kinds are attracted to the pristine beaches such as Anse Lazio and Anse Source D’Argent, considered one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The Vallée de Mai nature reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring unique animal and plant life.

Lest you think that African vacation spots are only about viewing animals or other natural wonders, there are four cities on this list. Cape Town (#8) is one of the most beautiful and modern cities I have visited in Africa. Its Table Mountain is quite impressive. The Cape of Good Hope, 64 kilometers (40 miles) south of this city, lies on the southern tip of the African continent. I recall looking out from the beach, which seemed to be the end of the world. Beaches here are stunning, and offerings are cultural and adventure oriented. This is one of the few places in Africa where you can see penguins. You can visit Nelson Mandela’s jail cell on Robben Island or visit the nearby Constantia Valley wine region.

In contrast, Cairo (#9) is an ancient city with so much to experience. It is a gateway to history – from the Giza suburbs where the great pyramids lie or the nearby step pyramids or a Nile river cruise, which can be for a dinner experience with entertainment or for a trip to the Valley of the Kings where you will see further monuments from Egypt’s ancient history. Its hotels are elegant, and its markets, such as the Khan El-Khalili bazaar, offer myriad enticements. Be prepared to bring home many gifts and keepsakes. One of mine was a stone that had fallen from the Great Pyramid long ago and lay in the dust. The guards laughed when I picked it up and put it in my pocket, but it is a piece of ancient history that I now display in my home.

Marrakech (#10) is one of the most exotic cities you will ever visit. Jemaa El Fna (an open-air square in the heart of the Medina of Marrakech) can overwhelm you with the sight of competing performers and vendors, the smell of aromatic spices or the feel of homemade textiles. For a less sensory overload experience, you can retreat to a hammam (a traditional Turkish bath) where you can soothe your body and mind or you can visit the Jardin Majorelle, a picturesque garden, to enjoy its tranquility and beauty or retreat to a rooftop bar to relax and oversee the expanse of this ancient city.

Finally, Nairobi (#15) is one of my favorite places to visit in Africa. In fact, there was a period in my life when I visited this city more than New York City, which my wife and I used to visit annually. This city combines bustling street markets with museums and exciting nightlife. The city has its own national park with 100+ mammal species, including black rhinos. I recall coming in from the airport and seeing giraffes in fields on the side of the road. Adventurers can visit the urban Karura Forest or hike the surrounding Ngong Hills.

Africa has much to offer tourists. It may be a bit expensive to get there, but once there, your currency will go a long way and you will experience wonders you cannot have on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. You may need to put some money away for an Africa trip, but your experience will be well worth it, and it will be a vacation to remember.
Note: Port of Harlem Advertisers Offer Unique Trips to Africa

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