You’ve Land Rovered the Okavango Delta in search of the Big Five with your zoom lens extended, watched a lion kill an antelope from 100 yards. You’re not done yet. Now it’s time to navigate Africa’s raging whitewater, cycle Senegal, dive with sea turtles in the Indian Ocean—in other words, explore the lesser-known jewels of the greatest continent.
The Total Eclipse Package
Think of this as a 15-day astronomical quest. Your destination? The grassy hills in northwest Mozambique, near Changara—one of the few places on Earth where the first total solar eclipse of the new millennium will be completely visible. From Johannesburg, you’ll head north, camping on the sandy white beaches of Mozambique before heading west, deeper into the country than any commercial expedition has gone before. You’ll spot lions, cheetahs, and elephants from the rooftop deck of your converted Mercedes-Benz jeep (plush!) as you traverse the savanna, stopping to watch the sun completely disappear on June 21. After the eclipse, you’ll loop down through Zambia and Botswana, with a stop in the Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve—where hyenas, zebras, and antelope roam—on your way back to South Africa.
Outfitter: Journeys International, 800-255-8735, www.journeys-intl.com
When to Go: June
Do it Differently
Ethiopia: Blue Nile Trekking and Rafting
The Blue Nile Gorge’s spectacular mile-high basalt walls (it’s been dubbed the Grand Canyon of Africa) are the highlight of this 22-day trip. Start out by learning the country’s history and exploring the 400-year-old stone architecture of the Ethiopian highlands en route to Lake Tana, the headwaters of the Blue Nile. There, you’ll begin a seven-day, 60-mile trek downstream, camping on the river’s rocky eastern banks amidst hippos and colobus monkeys. At the Blue Nile Gorge, put in for a seven-day, 120-mile, Class II-III raft, stopping to meet the Borano, Welo, and Shewa people, many of whom have had little contact with foreigners.
Outfitter: Mountain Travel–Sobek, 888-687-6235, www.mtsobek.com
When to Go: September
Tanzania: Walking Safari in the Selous and the Serengeti
Slip into some gaiters and hiking boots, and spend nine days camping and bushwhacking along thorny paths trampled by giraffes, zebras, and large-tusked elephants in one of the world’s largest animal parks, the little-visited, 22,000-square-mile Selous Game Reserve. After the trek, take a side trip to the 100-square-mile Ngorongoro Crater, a three-million-year-old caldera with a high concentration of East African animal species—including lions, wildebeests, pink flamingos, and rare black rhinos—living beneath its 2,000-foot walls.
Outfitter: Geographic Expeditions, 800-777-8183, www.geoex.com
When to Go: February–March, July–August, October
Aldabra: Snorkeling, Diving, and Wildlife Watching
The Aldabra Atoll, a speck in the Indian Ocean 260 miles north of Madagascar, has ten times more nesting green turtles (2,000) than annual visitors (200). With its narrow channels and lagoons, the 19-by-8-mile raised coral atoll is also one of Africa’s—and the world’s—best drift-diving sites. You’ll spend nine sunbaked days on the Indian Explorer, a 14-passenger live-aboard, diving and snorkeling among the parrotfish, grouper, and yes, turtles, of Aldabra and the nearby Cosmoledo and Assumption Islands.
The Outfitter: Explore, Inc., 970-871-0065, www.exploreafrica.net
When to Go: March–April, November
Senegal: Cycling the Saloum River Valley
This 13-day, 350-mile loop on mostly flat, paved roads and jeep trails is as authentic-western-Africa as it gets. You’ll carry your own gear as you pedal a hybrid bicycle through the mango orchards, cashew groves, and savannas of the Saloum River valley, bunking in small hotels and local villagers’ homes along the way. Refuel with yassa, a mixture of meat, onions, and spices, and mafe, a peanut sauce served over rice, prepared by local Wolof, Serra, Dioula, and Peul ethnic groups.
Outfitter: Bicycle Africa, 206-767-0848, www.ibike.org
When to Go: October