“In Africa, you can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the Hand of God. You watch the slope lope of a lioness and forget to breathe. You marvel at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water. In Africa, there are iridescent blues on the wings of birds that you do not see anywhere else in nature,” writes best-selling American novelist Jodi Picoult. “When you are in Africa, you feel primordial, rocked in the cradle of the world.”
That’s a pretty apt description. Picoult is just one of the many writers who have tried to sum up the magic of Africa in a few words. But the only way to truly understand is to experience it firsthand, from wildlife truly unparalleled on earth to cultures whose roots run millennia deep. Every day here creates a kaleidoscope of colorful memories you’ll carry for the rest of your life.
On the Prowl in Kenya’s Parks
After 18 years living in Kenya, Karen Blixen, aka Isak Dinesen and author of Out of Africa wrote, “If there were one more thing I could do, it would be to go on safari once again.” Anyone who has explored Masai Mara National Reserve, which served as a backdrop in the film of the same novel, will know exactly what she meant.
Masai Mara falls in the Great Rift Valley, a 3,500-mile fault line where wildlife by the hundreds of thousands roam free. This is “Big Cat Central,” known for its lions, leopards, and cheetahs. And during the annual Great Migration, it’s a teeming sea of wildebeest on the move by the millions. The landscape varies dramatically: sweeping savannahs where fleet-of-foot impala and gazelle try to outleap predators…lush hills which hide elusive black rhino…and sloping river banks where thirsty zebra cool off.
Comparatively, Soysambu Conservancy is intimate in scope at 48,000 acres (roughly 75 square miles). But oh, the spectacle it puts on! With 15,000 wild animals (the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe among them) and more than 450 bird species, its natural diversity outpaces its size. What makes it so singular is that, amid all the wildlife, there still remains a family farm at its heart, as was true in 1908 when Winston Churchill picnicked here and in the 1930’s when Evelyn Waugh came in search of the fabled views.
Explore South Africa’s Diverse Reserves
It’s not only Kenya that lures those seeking big game and bigger memories. More than 4,000 miles away, South Africa offers up its own rich rewards for nature lovers, and
Kruger National Park might just be the most epic of them all. Sprawling across more than 7,000 square miles, the park alone is larger than the entire state of Connecticut, and—quite unlike the New England state—this landscape is chock full of wildlife: 147 mammal species, more than 500 bird species, and a combined 150 varieties of amphibians and reptiles. And that’s just the fauna. The flora is stunning as well, with 336 different types of trees. Whether you’re spying leopards in the bushveld or sipping sundowners by a water hole as night falls, finding the next scene of wonder is as simple as keeping your eyes open.
Less famous but no less memorable is the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. The oldest nature reserve in Africa, it is home to the world’s largest population of white rhino, thanks to years of efforts by conservationists. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi boasts the complete “Big Five”: elephant, Cape buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino. The same can be said of the private Mabula Game Reserve, where the Big Five are joined in the rolling hills and plains by red hartebeests and elegant blesbok.
A completely different sort of wildlife experience awaits at St. Lucia Estuary. With Lake Lucia to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east, the estuary is home to hippopotamus, sea turtles, Nile crocodiles, and even sharks. In 1999, its precious marine environment earned it a designation as UNESCO’s first South African World Heritage Site, part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. No matter where you’re exploring, from big-name game parks to small less-known reserves, you’ll be quick to agree with Rudyard Kipling’s assertion that “One cannot resist the lure of Africa.”
In & Around Cape Town: Incredible History, Culture and Beauty
Natural splendor and human culture are inextricably linked in Cape Town. When Sir Francis Drake first saw land here, he described it as, “the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.” Cape Town is a city where gleaming high-rises still feel small in the shadow of Table Mountain, and where a single afternoon might easily encompass verdant botanical gardens, a chilly penguin colony, and a stroll among chic boutiques.
From this diverse city, one can see Robben Island, the prison home of Nelson Mandela. South Africa’s national hero changed the course of his nation as he transformed from prisoner to democratically elected statesman and insisted on cultural reconciliation. Once released, one of Mandela’s favorite things was spending time in the Winelands, a mountainous region encompassing 300 vineyards. In fact, at his Nobel Peace Prize dinner, he had the guests served a red wine from Stellenbosch, hoping to spread his love of country beyond its borders.
Of course, there’s more to this lush region of South Africa than its sloping vineyards. The Garden Route – a breathtaking coastal drive that skirts green mountains, tranquil lagoons, sandy beaches and all manner of flora (including the vibrant, low-lying fynbos, native to the Western Cape) – is a nature lover’s dream. The pretty town of Knysna along the route is home to a marine reserve, which protects the habitats of magical seahorses, 200 species of fish and frolicking dolphins. Nearby, the area’s forests harbor their own menagerie of magnificent creatures such as the only forest elephant in South Africa, the elusive Knysna Loerie with its stunning green and blue plumage, and countless other birds.
Enhance Your Experience with More Destinations, or Explore in a Small Group!
Mandela’s homeland is perfectly positioned for those who wish to discover more of Africa in one visit. That’s why we’ve added options for experiencing its neighbors. In the
Kingdom of Swaziland, ancient customs still shine brightly, from traditional song and dance to handicrafts like glass making and stone carving. Centuries-old rituals, including elaborate celebrations honoring the King and the Queen mother, are still kept alive today.
The torrential power of nature is the focus in Zimbabwe, site of the mile-wide Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This UNESCO World Heritage site dazzles visitors today as surely as it did David Livingston, who wrote of the tumult as being “the most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa.”
Heading west, Botswana stakes its own claim as one of the best safari locations on the continent. The country’s spectacular Okavango Delta takes center stage in this area’s safari circuit. The inland delta floods each year to three times its size as waters from the Okavango River swell, attracting one of the continent’s largest gatherings of wildlife. A bit farther north, Chobe National Park boasts the largest population of elephants in Africa, their herds ambling about on land and bathing in the Chobe River. They are a fantastic sight to behold.
Perhaps the most singular of lands in southern Africa, Namibia encompasses rocky mountain peaks, vividly colored desert dunes and a shoreline so foreboding that sailors called it the Skeleton Coast. Namibia is a fascinating blend of rich German-influenced cities and staggering beauty. In Etosha National Park, big game thrives amidst massive plains of salt. This is the third largest game reserve in the world, a semi-arid savannah grassland that supports some 144 mammal species and more than 300 bird species. A magnificent dry salt lakebed dominates the landscape, stretching 75 miles and luring unique wildlife that’s adapted to its hyper-saline conditions. When it rains, thousands of flamingoes descend on its waters. Perhaps Namibia’s most spellbinding region is Sossusvlei, a vast stretch of undulating red-hued dunes shaped over millennia by ocean winds. Remarkably, some dunes soar to 1,000 feet, the highest in the world. Their fiery deep-orange colors are explained by their age. In this 55-million-year-old ecosystem, iron in the sand has oxidized, much like rusted metal. The brightest colors in this magnificent topography signify the oldest dunes.
For those who long for a more up-close and intimate experience, Gate 1’s sister company Discovery Tours offers its own selection of Africa journeys that encompass Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. These thrilling small group itineraries allow for the most access and insight into the Africa you’ve always dreamed of.
Feel the Inspiration of Africa with Gate 1 Travel
Experience Africa with Gate 1 Travel, and you’ll not only experience one of the most soul-stirring adventures on Earth; you’ll revel in quality accommodations, expert Tour Managers, and personal attention worth writing home about. And no matter which journey you choose, you’re sure to discover as Pliny the Elder did nearly 2,000 years ago, “There is always something new out of Africa…”