Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Where Are You Going in 2013?

I do a lot of traveling, I read a lot of travel publications, and probably most notably, I continually listen to the interests and curiosities of clients and fellow travelers. It is through a combination of these experiences that I have come up with my own “up and coming” list for destinations. You will no doubt see similar lists elsewhere if you scan through popular travel magazines or other travel-related blogs. While it’s likely that there will be some cross over, it’s almost certain that there will be some destinations that make one list and not another. There’s really no “wrong or right” here, it’s just a matter of perspective, as well as of the audience towards which the blog is geared.

It’s important to note here that because of the type of travel I plan, it tends to be more mid-level to upscale budget wise. Therefore, some of these destinations might not fit for “budget travelers”, as the entry/visa fees, accommodation options, need for a private guide, or airfare alone might put this over their comfort level budget wise. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just means it might not be as ideal as another destination if budget is your primary criteria. Because there are plenty that I’d like to suggest, I’m going to go continent by continent in a series of blogs. For organization’s sake, we’ll start at the beginning of the alphabet for today’s, featuring Africa.

1. Namibia: While there are certainly opportunities for wildlife viewing in Etosha National Park, Namibia’s “must see” features also include supurb non-wildlife features. The Namib dessert, Sossusvlei sand dunes (arguably the highest in the world), and the Skeleton Coast – named for the scores of shipwrecks whose “bones” still remain viewable there today, are among the top. For animal lovers, the Skeleton Coast is also a very welcoming environment for fur seals. Namibia is easy to combine with South Africa and/or Botswana. US citizens traveling on a US passport for leisure can generally obtain a visa on arrival in Namibia.

2. Zambia: Zambia is probably not for the first time traveler to Africa, but it is definitely a destination to keep your eye on. It’s most obvious (and popular) feature is Victoria Falls (also viewable from Zimbabwe), and certainly if you’re in Zambia, visit the falls! The country also boasts game reserves and safari opportunities, elephant back safaris, white water rafting on the Zambezi – said to be some of the best rafting in the world and not for the faint of heart, lion and cheetah walks, to name a few highlights. US citizens traveling with a US passport for leisure for can generally obtain a visa on arrival in Zambia.

3. Mozambique: Mozambique lies on the east coast of southern Africa, and thus much of it’s appeal revolves around the water. Most notably, its splendid, un-touristy beaches draw honeymooners and those looking for an unconventional getaway. In addition to its beaches, snorkeling and diving in the Bazaruto and Quirimbas Archipelagos, and whale and dolphin watching in the north of the country all point to Mozambique as a haven for ocean-lovers. But the country is also home to six National Parks, among which visitors can see the wide variety of animals as they would expect to find in more “traditional” wildlife-viewing countries, including the Big Five animals. Travelers to Mozambique must have a passport that is valid for at least six months after their stay is completed. While visas are provided at international airports, it’s suggested that visitors obtain a visa prior to entering the country.

Surprising Cities – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Ok, I’ll admit it, I cheated a bit on this one as well. It was really the whole area that amazed me. The town itself wasn’t spectacular, but the whole experience was. Victoria Falls is the final (at least for now) in my surprising cities series.

Why I went: As part of a trip to Southern Africa. We wanted to see Victoria Falls and decided to go from the Zimbabwe side. It wasn’t in the orignal itinerary, but we added it in before we went.

What I expected: To be amazed by the falls and to enjoy the elephant back safari, but pretty much nothing else. I’ll admit some apprehension. There were travel warnings, and the week before I went the former Prime Minister’s wife was killed in a car accident, in which he was also injured. This was a bit of a scandal at the time, and didn’t help with the warnings to stay clear of the country.

What I found: A people who were so friendly and welcoming that it was hard to believe anyone could be that nice in the face of so much poverty that they can no longer accept their own currency; a country filled with landscape, adventure, wildlife, and a culture they manage to maintain despite such hardship; a sadness that underlies this culture when they tell you that it?s ok if you tip them in old shoes instead of money, because they?d be so thrilled to be able to put shoes on their family?s feet; the framework for a country that could be even more incredible given the opportunity, and that already offers an amazing experience for those tourists who are willing to give it a chance.

How long to spend there: You can easily spend three nights here. Depending on where you’re heading in from, it can be a bit of a journey so take the rest of the first day/evening to relax. I can’t recommend enough that you stay at the historic Victoria Falls hotel. You can actually see and hear the falls from the back dining patio. You could spend part of a day just exploring the hotel and its grounds. In addition to the falls, activities available in the area an elephant back safaris (highly recommended), Lion walks, game drives – both day and night options, river safaris, white water rafting – considered some of the best rapids in the world, and more . Given all of these options, anyone looking a decent amount of adventure could really spend numerous days here. If you want to get in the falls and an additional activity or two, I suggest three nights. I spent two nights and it was not enough time.

*Note: two cameras, luckily not expensive ones, got sacrificed due to the spray from the falls. (It was like a downpour – take the rain coats when the guides offer them to you.) Therefore, some photos are blurry. I used the best ones I could find.