The Outside Trip-Finder: Africa

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, February 1996

The Outside Trip-Finder: Africa
By Kathy Martin

BURKINA FASO/ TOGO/BENIN: Cycling West African Villages

    The Route: A 14-day, 510-mile pedal along the back roads of rural West Africa, with visits to villages, markets, and Atlantic beaches, far from congested capitals and noisy game drives

    When To Go: November

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory: BYO bike--mountain bikes or hybrids are recommended. You can check your machine as your second piece of luggage on most international flights.

    High/Low Points:

  • Feasting on rice and Malian peanut sauce in the clifftop Dogon village of Niongono
  • Pushing your bike through a mile of deep sand on the international road between Mali and Burkina Faso

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Bicycle Africa / 1 / $1,200

CAMEROON: Conserving the Rainforest

    The Route: A 15-day botanical survey of Cameroon's low-altitude rainforest, in which you help villagers gather and identify rare and endemic plants and stay in the homes of local families

    When To Go: April-June

    Difficulty: Easy

    Travel Advisory: Living conditions are primitive: After full days of working in the rainforest, you'll sleep in forest villages without electricity and running water.

    High/Low Points:

  • Identifying Aucistrocladus kupensis, a vine that may be effective in treating AIDS
  • Wondering how far the surrounding banana and rubber plantations will encroach on the rainforest .

    Luxe Factor: Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Earthwatch / 6 / $1,095

EGYPT: Riding Horseback Along the Nile

    The Route: A swift, 11-day gallop on Arabian stallions along Egypt's main artery, with the desert on one side and the green Nile Valley on the other, including visits to pyramids, oases, and archaeological digs

    When To Go: January-March, September-December

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory: The horses are magnificent: Your Arabian stallion or mare is the product of thousands of years of breeding--developed for stamina in ancient battles and to travel far and fast across the harsh landscape.

    High/Low Points:

  • Leaving the queued-up tourists in the dust as you ride off into the desert from Cheops Pyramid
  • Craving a shower after a sweaty week in 90-degree weather .

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Tourist hotel

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Equitour / 6 / $1,900
    FITS Equestrian / 5 / $1,780

KENYA/TANZANIA: Photographing the Wildebeest Migration and Calving Season

    The Route: An 11- to 20-day photo safari coinciding with the big-game migration or calving season in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park or Kenya's Masai Mara Reserve, including visits to Ngorongoro Crater and other reserves and parks

    When To Go: June-November, January, February

    Difficulty: Easy

    Travel Advisory: The herds migrate out of the northwest Serengeti in June and spend July to October in the Masai Mara, December to May in the southeast Serengeti. Most calves are born in late January and February and draw hordes of predators.

    High/Low Points:

  • Panning your camera across thousands of wildebeests and zebras racing across the plains
  • Finding your camera lens repeatedly caked with dust kicked up by the herds

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    International Ventures Ltd. / 4 / $3,095-$3,795
    Ker & Downey / on demand / $6,000*
    Thomson Safaris / 7 / $3,990*
    Tusker Trail & Safari Co. / 1 / $2,370
    Voyagers International / 6 / $2,495-$3,590
    Wilderness Travel / 7 / $3,895

MADAGASCAR: Hiking the High Plateau Villages

    The Route: A ten- to 19-day tour, including extended hikes into the mountain reserves to see Madagascar's famous lemurs, chameleons, and crocodile caves and experience Afro-Indonesian rainforest culture in native villages and burial grounds

    When To Go: April-October

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory: Bring light-colored long pants to ward off leeches, a strong headlamp for night hiking and exploring the crocodile caves at Ankarana, and sandals for river crossings.

    High/Low Points:

  • Hearing the shrill cry of the indri lemur, which sounds like a cross between a police siren and a humpback whale
  • Stumbling upon a disinterred body waiting to be wrapped in a new shroud at the Merina tombs

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Above the Clouds Trekking / 3 / $3,550
    Adventure Center / 8 / $1,750-$1,840
    Journeys International / 7 / $2,200
    Lemur Tours / on demand / $1,680

MOROCCO: Kayaking and Rafting Whitewater Rivers

    The Route: A nine-day exploratory trip out of Marrakech into the limestone gorges and red-rock canyons of the High Atlas range to run the class III-IV rapids of four or more snowmelt-fed rivers

    When To Go: April

    Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

    Travel Advisory: If you plan to kayak, you'll need strong intermediate to advanced skills and a reliable roll on serious whitewater; otherwise, book a seat on a raft.

    High/Low Points:

  • Descending 20 miles of Classs III-IV rapids through three dramatic gorges on the l'Assif Ahansal River
  • Shooing away packs of in-your-face vendors in Marrakech

    Luxe Factor: Camping

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Nantahala Outdoor Center / 1 / $1,775

NAMIBIA: Tracking Game with the Kalahari Bushmen

    The Route: A two- to three-week expedition through Namibia's stark desert, including game tracking with the Bushmen of the Kalahari, elephant-viewing in Etosha National Park, and a visit to the Skeleton Coast or Kaokoveld Thirstlands .

    When To Go: March-October

    Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    Travel Advisory: Gulping down water in the presence of the Bushmen is considered very bad form. Water is so scarce that the Bushmen have traditionally squeezed and strained liquid from the moisture-retentive stomachs of gemsbok antelope.

    High/Low Points:

  • Having a Bushman divine from spoor and bent grass blades exactly what a leopard had been doing
  • Seeing Herero women swelter in long-sleeved, high-necked dresses designed for modesty's sake by nineteenth-century missionaries

    Luxe Factor: Camping; Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Africa Adventure Company / 5 / $3,175
    Baobab Safari Company / 6 / $3,300
    Esplanade Tours / 30 / $2,000
    Mountain Travel-Sobek / 3 / $4,490-$4,790
    Turtle Tours / 3 / $3,450

SOUTH AFRICA: Diving for Great White Sharks or Humpback Whales

    The Route: A nine- to 12-day shore-based dive trip into either the Atlantic off Cape Town in search of great white sharks or Sodwana Bay, north of Durban, to see spectacular Indian Ocean coral reefs, humpbacks, and sea turtles

    When To Go: April-July, September-December

    Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    Travel Advisory: Assess your adrenaline threshold: Lost World's itinerary includes reef dives in Sodwana Bay National Park and an overland safari into Zulu Nyala, while Mad Dog's dive masters take you down in shark cages into chum-baited water.

    High/Low Points:

  • Feeling puny in the magnificent presence of sea creatures six times your size
  • Thinking too hard about what it's like to be a whale at Sea World in Durban

    Luxe Factor: Rustic lodging; Tourist hotels

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Lost World Expeditions / on demand / $3,295*
    Mad Dog Expeditions / on demand / $3,500

Safari in the Selous and Ruaha National Parks

    The Route: A nine- to 17-day classic tented safari in Ruaha and the Selous, where you can float down the Rufiji River and see more big game than any other place in the world, including African buffalo, crocodile, antelope, and elephant

    When To Go: June-November

    Difficulty: Easy to moderate

    Travel Advisory: Because these two parks in southern Tanzania are off the beaten safari circuit, the animals here aren't used to human intrusion. You'll get a more candid look at big-game behavior than you would in more frequented parks..

    High/Low Points:

  • Floating just a couple of raft-lengths away from the gaping maw of a Rufiji River hippo
  • Fighting over the socket in your safari vehicle that charges your video camera

    Luxe Factor: Camping, Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Abercrombie & Kent / on demand / $2,580
    Africa Adventure Company / on demand / $3,700
    Baobab Safari Company / on demand / $2,250
    Borton Overseas / on demand / $2,450
    Overseas Adventure Travel / 2 / $5,590*
    Thomson Safaris / 4 / $4,990*

ZAMBIA: Bushwalking the Luangwa Valley

    The Route: A 12- to 18-day safari on foot between remote bush camps in Zambia's South Luangwa and other parks, where you'll see elephants, leopards, kudus, giraffes, and hippos on game-viewing walks and night game drives

    When To Go: June-October

    Difficulty: Moderate

    Travel Advisory: It's not a bright idea to leave your tent after everyone's gone to sleep. Inquisitive lions and hyenas frequently wander into these quiet bush camps at night.

    High/Low Points:

  • Spying a leopard returning to his kill for an evening snack during a night game drive
  • Catching only spotty glimpses of wildlife in the thickly wooded areas of the park

    Luxe Factor: Camping, Rustic lodging

    Outfitters / Departures / Price
    Africa Adventure Company / weekly / $1,995-$4,250
    Baobab Safari Company / 2 / $3,750
    Borton Overseas / 5 / $3,635
    International Ventures Ltd. / on demand / $225 per day
    Mountain Travel-Sobek / 2 / $4,290
    Safaricentre / on demand / $3,200-$5,525

*Includes airfare from U.S.

See also:

Trip Finder Directory

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