Lions in Zimbabwe, Courtesy Melissa Biggs Bradley
After years of political turmoil, Zimbabwe is back on the international travel circuit and posed to become a real player in the luxury safari industry. Despite an economy and an employment rate that have been on the rise since 2009, visitors should be prepared to see more widespread poverty than in other popular safari countries. But Zimbabwe offers plenty of sights and experiences to make a visit here life-changing — including the entire Big Five and Victoria Falls (which is nearly twice as tall as Niagara Falls)—at a fraction of what one pays in South Africa, Botswana or Tanzania.
- What Makes It Unique: Victoria Falls and less expensive luxury camps
- Top Activities: Game drives, white-water rafting, bungee jumping
- Who Should Go: Travelers who have already been to the more famous safari destinations or those looking for a more budget-friendly safari
- Add-Ons: Cape Town, Mozambique, Botswana
Courtesy Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia
Often described as southern Africa’s final frontier, Namibia is mostly desert, complete with sand dunes, huge open spaces and great swaths of silence. Twice the size of California, the country has a population of only 2.2 million (about half that of Los Angeles). With rainfall scarce, plants get their water from fog, and most take decades to grow. As a safari destination, Namibia is famed for its intimate lodges set in remote, starkly beautiful places filled with fascinating desert-adapted wildlife.
- What Makes It Unique: The Skeleton Coast (so named for the wrecked ships and beached whales that sadly fell victim to the coastline’s currents), the otherworldly landscapes and the animals that have evolved to survive in extremely arid conditions
- Top Activities: Sand dune surfing, stargazing, visiting the Himba communities, exploring shipwrecks along the Skeleton Coast
- Who Should Go: Nature enthusiasts and those looking for spectacular scenery rather than a safari filled with animal encounters
- Add-Ons: Cape Town, Botswana
A baby gorilla in Rwanda, Courtesy Porco Rosso
Mountain gorillas have been conservation icons since the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist. Today, Rwanda is one of only two countries (in addition to Uganda) in which visitors can safely view these majestic creatures. Commonly known as the “land of a thousand hills,” Rwanda is divided into a western region dominated by mountains and an eastern section of savanna and swamps. Volcanoes National Park, in the west, is home to several human-habituated gorilla groups for trekkers to visit, as well as golden monkeys, spotted hyenas, buffalo, elephants, black-fronted duiker and bushbuck. And no trip to the country is complete without a visit to the powerful Genocide Memorial in Kigali, commemorating the thousands of lives lost during the 1994 war.
- What Makes It Unique: Gorilla trekking
- Top Activities: Tracking the endangered golden monkey, gorilla trekking, visiting the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, hiking
- Who Should Go: Outdoor enthusiasts and animal lovers who want to see gorillas in their natural habitat
- Add-Ons: Tanzania, Uganda
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