I’ve always wanted to go to Africa, ever since I was a little girl. It’s been a constant ambition, something that was rarely very far from my mind. Let’s just say that many a high school calculus class was spent daydreaming of horseback safaris across the Serengeti, instead of dwelling on derivatives.
Now I’m following my professional ambitions, pursuing a degree in CS, and things are looking great. But I still haven’t put much time into pursuing my travelling ambitions. I’m thinking after graduating, I may be presented with the perfect opportunity to fulfill this dream – go on safari, then go into the workforce.
This may all be a pipe dream for now, though I know I’ll make it to Africa someday. In the meantime, here are my top 5 ideal safari destinations in Africa:
Kilimanjaro – the king of peaks! Not only is it the highest point in Africa (that’d be Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak, sitting at 5,895 m), it’s also the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, period. A free-standing mountain, for those out of the loop, is a mountain that is not part of a mountain range – it’s its own thing. So Everest, for example, is not freestanding because it’s a part of the Himalayas – Everest’s base, therefore, is already about 3,000 meters above sea level.
I feel like there are few feelings as exhilarating and primal in this world as summiting a HUGE mountain. I’ve done my fair share of hiking, but it all looks like child’s play compared to this behemoth. Luckily, Kilimanjaro hikes can move at whatever pace is most comfortable for you. With proper planning and training, and a very open schedule, reaching Kilimanjaro’s peak is attainable to nearly everyone.
Of course, this is still a vigorous journey for anyone. That’s why I’d want to go with an experienced company who can help me prepare, stay with me the whole way, and if need be, carry me up the rest of the way! Just kidding. Probably.
This Kilimanjaro climb has all the excitement and rigor of the hike, but also includes prepared meals and top-of-the-line gear, so I won’t have to do all that first-timer guesswork. They also offer “VIP services” like a personal bathroom tent, in case you’re too good for the long-drop “toilets” that dot the mountain path - but c’mon. Who doesn’t love using a true, au naturale long drop?
I’m not the world’s biggest horseback rider, but I’ve seen a lot of cowboy movies, and Lawrence of Arabia. And I gotta say, horseback riding across scenic and exotic locales seems totally exhilarating. Add up-close-and-personal animal sightings to the mix, and you have a truly exciting trip.
I think most people think of Jeeps and binoculars when they think of safaris. But that just seems a little… vanilla, to me. Why stay so far away from all the action, in a big gas-guzzling truck, when you can ride with experienced guides right in the middle of the action? Can you imagine sidling right up next to a grazing giraffe or a herd of zebra or wildebeest, trotting among them, getting closer than any 4WD vehicle ever could? It sounds totally breathtaking to me. And where would I go to experience this horseback adventure?
Why, none other than the famous Masai Mara, of course! This sprawling national park is home to some of Africa’s densest concentrations of animals, as well as some of Africa’s most stunning scenery. This company offers an 11-day horseback tour of the Masai Mara including tent accommodations (sleeping under the stars, as Nature intended), private guides, thrilling game drives, and more. There’s even the potential to traverse the Mara River, infamous crossing point for the massive annual Wildebeest migration. Though I don’t know if I’d be up for that part… there be crocodiles in them waters!
If I’m visiting Africa, you can bet I’m going to get my “Jane Goodall” on. And what better way to spot gorillas in the mist, than to go on a primate safari in the misty mountaintops of Uganda?
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to some of the world’s densest populations of gorillas, as well as the world’s most experienced gorilla-tracking guides. There are 9 families, or troops, of gorilla here – comprised of about 150 individual gorillas. Bwindi is also home to tons of chimpanzees, and other apes and monkeys.
The terrain is allegedly quite demanding, covering miles of thickly-vegetated mountain forest. But if I’m training for Kilimanjaro anyway, this will be nothing. And at Bwindi, they boast a 90% success rate, meaning 90% of all gorilla tracking expeditions result in at least a full hour of watching gorilla troops interact.
Rwanda, supposedly, has a higher success rate for seeing gorilla… but Uganda holds the crown for seeing gorillas at their most comfortable, in their own natural homes. Uganda is also home to some of the world’s highest concentrations of endangered chimpanzee – a once in a lifetime chance to see these amazing apes on their own home turf. The combination of uniquely beautiful scenery and awesome animal sighting is one I can’t afford to miss on my dream safari. I found some pretty good packages on this site.
It’s home to elephants, gazelle, rhino, cheetah, crocodile, hippo, and much more. And I think, for my money, the best way to see all these amazing creatures (and have the adventure of a lifetime while I’m at it) is to be right in the thick of them – paddling gently up the river in a canoe.
I think this would be the best way to cap off an amazing trip to Africa: a gentle, yet still thrilling and active safari-going experience. It’s not uncommon for canoe safaris to get very close to elephants and wildebeest. The experience just sounds like something I wouldn’t want to miss! I was looking at these Botswana canoe safaris.
So there you have it, my ideal safari! This would definitely be the adventure and the opportunity of a lifetime for me. I can’t imagine anything more exciting than traveling across this pristine continent, seeing animals and scenic vistas across multiple countries, from summiting the highest peak to canoeing the lowest river deltas, swimming and hiking and riding and canoeing the whole way. What a trip, huh?
It’ll happen someday, and I can’t wait!