When I told my wife we were going to spend a month in Africa on safari, tacking on a walking tour of Provence, bookended by visits to Paris and London, I braced for the luggage estimate. It turns out she’s quite the accomplished packer. How do I know? One bag…and a carry-on no less! Curious to know how she would fit outfits for all of these disparate locales in such a small bag, she paraphrased Marisa Tomei from the film “My Cousin Vinny” with the comment, “It’s easy…you blend.” To wit: she packed base colors of black and khaki, with lots and lots of scarves.
That was back in the spring of 1995, and the trip was one of our most unforgettable ever. In fact, the African portion was so awe-inspiring that it made us want to create our own safari. As Classic Journeys began to grow and we added more destinations around the world, we longed to add Africa. There was only one problem: we couldn’t figure out a way to operate a true Classic Journeys Cultural Walking Adventure there. At the time, safaris were conducted from a Land Cruiser or other vehicle, meaning that travelers did not get out on foot near the animals. (In fact, our guide then, Rashid, prohibited it.) Our cultural interaction on that first safari was limited to the staffs at the lodges and a very packaged visit with some Masai natives. Memorable? Yes, but neither experience was what we wanted for our guests at Classic Journeys.
So we settled in to create and operate trips in other parts of the world, content to develop our Cultural Walking Adventures, Culinary Tours and Family Journeys in regions where we could put our signature stamp: a mixture of easy-going daily walks in scenic settings, personal visits with interesting local people, and unique ways to experience historic and cultural sites. And to complement this new approach, the promise of great meals (we’re foodies, after all) and extraordinary accommodations to welcome us at the end of the day.
Our patience was tested, even as we developed a strong foothold into Africa in 1999 with our Morocco tour (still one of our most popular destinations). Yet we repeated to ourselves that we would not create the trip until we could truly make it a Classic Journeys’-style safari.
Finally, in 2007, a new colleague, Natalie, joined our team at the head office here in La Jolla. A fellow American, she had been stationed in Africa for seven years, coordinating U.S. Ambassadorial outreach programs for the U.S. embassies in Gabon, Senegal and Zambia. As a right-hand person to the U.S. Ambassador in Zambia, Natalie came to know this amazing country on an intimate basis. With the hundreds of deep and personal contacts she made there, she’s even close with the family of Norman Carr, literally the father of the walking safari in Africa.
As Tour Operations Coordinator for Africa and our in-house expert on Zambia, Natalie went back this spring to scout and dry-run our new 10-day Zambia – Victoria Falls, Villages & Wildlife Cultural Walking Adventure and Family Journey itineraries. Both take full advantage of Zambia’s highly acclaimed national park system. Within the boundaries of Mosi-O-Tunya, South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks, guests on our daily walking safaris share the right of way with everything from elephants and hippos to impalas and lions, learning firsthand from our expert guides how to track, observe and conserve big game.
“In Zambia, the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries don’t have fences,” Natalie tells us. “The animals are free to roam, which makes them even more accessible…sometimes when we least expect it.”
During the day, we pay visits to village schools and colorful markets for a behind-the-scenes look at Zambian culture. Our luxury accommodations reflect the best the region has to offer, including five-star lodges and tent encampments like Chiawa Camp on the banks of the Lower Zambezi (voted one of Africa’s Top 10 Safari Camps by Conde Nast Traveler).
I’ve been told (sometimes ruefully by friends and colleagues) that I have a story for how we created every one of our trips. If you have an interesting anecdote of how you came to travel to a special place, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’d like more information about our Cultural Walking Adventure or Family Journey to Zambia, please click here.