Africa | Classic Journeys Blog
  • View of Cape Point in South Africa

    South Africa Safari... and Far, Far More

    As you may have heard, penguins are nowhere on or even near the list of the Big Five animals that make up the Holy Grail of an <a href="" target="_blank">African safari</a>. Elephants, rhinos and Cape buffalo would trample them. Any lion or leopard would see a beach full of black-and-white appetizers. But if you’re ready to make your bucket-list safari happen, it’s worth remembering that there’s much more to Africa than the alpha animals of the veldt. Travelers who invest all of their time in the deep wilds only scratch the surface of what the continent has to offer.<br><br>The country of <a href="" target="_blank">South Africa</a> is the perfect place to realize your Big Five safari fantasies and to counter-balance them with sightings that are just as amazing: Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope, vineyard trails that lead to world-class wine tastings, the teeming townships that have risen in the wake of apartheid and—yes—penguins. You can have it all on this new <a href="" target="_blank">Classic Journeys</a> trip without committing to the weeks of travel time that many safaris entail.<br><br><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Group of penguins going into the water" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T0000026SeP&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000012DKv" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>Of course, the <a href="" target="_blank">safari days</a> are just what you hoped they would be. You’ll be in the Phinda Private Game Preserve, native habitat for lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalo and rhinos... as well as other species such as cheetahs. What’s unique about Phinda is how the Indian Ocean has influenced the climate, creating seven distinct ecosystems in closer proximity than almost anywhere else. The animals you came to see live naturally within easy range. From <a href="" target="_blank">your luxury lodge</a> within the preserve—complete with spectacular chalets, swimming pools and fine cuisine—you go for drives and walks with the highest chance of success that you’ll witness the animal behavior and get the photos you hoped for. (The big regret of many safari veterans is the endless hours they spent in Land Rovers without ever spotting a leopard.)<br><br><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="Leopard on a termite mound" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T0000026SeP&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000012DL5" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>The <a href="" target="_blank">safari </a>is the climax of this carefully curated trip, but it’s hardly the only high point. You start in Cape Town, rightly known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, as you’ll see for yourself on the cable car ride to the top of <a href="" target="_blank">Table Mountain</a>. Some of the most important chapters in the history of apartheid were written here. You’ll visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for nearly 20 years. Your expert local guide will be candid about the social impacts of the policy and take you for a revealing visit to Langa, the oldest of the cultural townships erected after apartheid. In the spirit of ubuntu—humanity towards others—you’ll deliver soup ingredients to the kitchen of a small school and meet the children.<br><br><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="View from Table Mountain at sunset" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y1T0000026SeP&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM1T0000012DL0" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br>One of the most momentous geographic spots on earth is the Cape of Good Hope where 15th-century Portuguese navigators first reached the turning point around <a href="" target="_blank">Africa’s southern tip</a>. You’ll see it from high above from a walking trail at Cape Point. Nearby on Boulder Beach, you’ll come face-to-face with the flock of African penguins that nest there. You’ll also settle into Stellenbosch, the town at the heart of the Cape Winelands. World-class vineyards sweep across scenic hills in an endless patchwork. You’ll take a lovely walk on a wine estate in the Franschhoek Valley and enjoy tastings in boutique wineries. How perfect is it that one of the wine trails just happens to intersect with an artisanal bakery, a wine bar and a sweet shop full of traditional Cape desserts?<br><br>From your first glimpse of Cape Town to the ultimate thrill of spotting a leopard draped across the limb of a tree, <a href="" target="_blank">South Africa</a> will exceed your expectations. By all means, go for the Big Five... but plan on returning home with a thousand other great memories.

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  • Berber Encampment in Morocco

    5 Things You Don't Know About Staying in a Berber Encampment

    <p>Long before the Arabs arrived, <a href="" target="_blank">North Africa was home to the Berbers, a nomadic and farming culture</a> that dates back more than 4,000 years. Most Berbers live in Moroccan Berber camps, but you can also find them scattered throughout Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.</p> <p>Although the Berbers integrated into modern life long ago, their traditional homesteads remain nestled around the rolling Sahara sand dunes. And unlike some tribes, they welcome guests.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Crossing the golden Sahara by camel and sleeping in a communal Moroccan Berber camp is a rare and unforgettable experience. </a>Prospective travelers expect sand and sun at a Berber camp; they may not expect the following:</p> <p>1. These aren’t your everyday tents. Today’s Berber camps feature modern amenities such as air-conditioning, mattresses and flush toilets. <a href="" target="_blank">The encampment chosen for our Morocco Cultural Walking Adventure features spacious tents </a>decorated with hand-made fabrics and kilims (tapestries). Tents encircle a common area that’s often covered in thick carpet. Lanterns serve as a beacon in the cool, dark night.</p> <p>2. You will eat well. The Berbers do wonders with a campfire. As you approach the desert encampment, the smell of simmering, cumin-scented stew drifts through the air. Your host greets you with a steaming cup of Moroccan mint tea. A typical dinner includes bread, Moroccan salad, goat tagine (stew) and fruit. Breakfast may be more tagine, bread or pastries and tea.<br><br><img alt="Guest&#39;s eating at Berber encampment" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lQ&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lmv" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>3. You will be entertained. Music, drumming and songs are integral to Berber culture. Most Moroccan music incorporates large drums, lutes and sometimes flutes and tambourines. In a Berber camp, you may hear either village music, which is made for dancing, or music from professional musicians. The pros, which often perform in groups of four, belt out traditional tunes for dancing, singing and drumming along. <a href="" target="_blank">In Morocco, you just go with flow, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised throughout your stay.</a><br><br><img alt="Drummers in berber encampment" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lQ&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lnA" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>4. You will never see stars like this again. You’ve never seen the night sky the way you’ll see it in the middle of the Sahara. Imagine lying on a blanket and gazing up into a black sky lit by millions of bright, twinkling stars. You feel the cool, night breeze and hear — wondrously — nothing. Wake up to an expansive, fiery sunrise over the Sahara dunes.</p> <p>5. It’s a great place for kids. <a href="" target="_blank">What teen wouldn’t love riding a camel over mountain-high sand dunes?</a> Discovering that an oasis is a real thing — lush and verdant, too? And winding down the night dancing fireside to drumming? None that we know of!<br><br><img alt="Kid riding a camel" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lQ&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002lnF" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br><a href="" target="_blank">Let a Berber tribe welcome you into their community. Your camel awaits.</a></p>

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  • Herd of elephants in South Luangwa Park, Zambia

    "It's blend."

    <p>When I told my wife we were going to spend a month in Africa on safari, tacking on a walking tour of <a href="" target="_blank">Provence</a>, 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 <i>blend</i>.” To wit: she packed base colors of black and khaki, with lots and lots of scarves.</p> <p>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 <a href="" target="_blank">Classic Journeys Cultural Walking Adventure </a>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 <i>our</i> guests at Classic Journeys.<br><br>So we settled in to create and operate trips in other parts of the world, content to develop our <a href="" target="_blank">Cultural Walking Adventures</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Culinary Tours</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Family Journeys</a> 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.</p> <p>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.<br><br><img alt="Group on a safari" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7pE&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002tWI" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br>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.<br> </p> <p>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 &amp; Wildlife <a href="" target="_blank">Cultural Walking Adventure</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Family Journey</a> 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.</p> <p>“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.”</p> <p>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 <i>Conde Nast Traveler</i>).</p> <p>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 <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. And if you’d like more information about our Cultural Walking Adventure or Family Journey to Zambia, please <a href="" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p> <br> 

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