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The crown jewel of southern Africa’s natural wonders, Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls awes visitors with the world’s largest curtain of falling water. At roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls lives up to its African name, Mosi-oa-Tunya: “smoke that thunders.” And thunder it does. More than 100 million gallons of water rush into the gorge below each minute, sending up a constant spray, tinted in hues of pink and gold at sunrise and shimmering with pastel rainbows in the daytime. Don a raincoat for a hike through the lush rain forest surrounding the falls, or for a bird’s-eye view, helicopter rides reveal the falls’ grand scale.
For a 360° view of Victoria Falls, drag over the image in any direction.
For travelers who want to take the experience of safari a step farther, Zimbabwe delivers. Among Zimbabwe’s well-known reserves are Hwange National Park, famed for its elephant population numbering upwards of 40,000; Mana Pools on the Zambezi, renowned for having perhaps the highest concentrations of wildlife of any park in Africa; and the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, where it’s possible to see sable antelope and black and white rhinos.
Long rumored to hide the cache of treasures of mystical King Solomon’s mines, Zimbabwe’s ancient civilizations come to life in the hunter-gatherer rock art of the San Bushmen, the indigenous natives of southern Africa, and are found in caves and rock faces all across the Zimbabwean plains. From Big Five safaris to authentic village life experiences to the jacaranda-lined streets of the modern-day capital of Harare, a range of experiences await.
Alongside its famed safaris and vibrant, varying cultures, there are opportunities to make your trip to Kenya mean something more. On the Adventure to Kenya Tour offered by Me to We, you will not simply be a visitor in this beautiful region—you can make an impact in a vivid community, connecting with local families in their daily lives.
As your life is enriched by the people of Maasai Mara, you can give back through Me to We activities such as helping to build a school for local children and participating in the community water walk. Take a sunrise hike led by Maasai guides, visit the Sheldrick elephant orphanage and learn the art of traditional Maasai beading.
Some of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles are in Botswana—home to more elephants than any other African country. The Chobe River, a blue ribbon winding through sandy terrain, is where the elephants reign supreme. During the dry winter months, hundreds gravitate to the river to drink—to the delight of travelers. Safaris often make use of a mekoro, or traditional dug-out canoe; a multi-night stay aboard a luxury ship also provides eye-to-snout glimpses of not only elephants but also Cape buffalo, hippos and crocodiles. To the south, the Okavango River feeds the vast and verdant Okavango Delta. Game viewing from the waterway reveals more than 100 species of mammals, from gentle giraffes to fierce rhinos.
A land of extremes awaits in this less-visited—but no less thrilling—country. Namibia is home to the highest sand dunes in the world, the deepest canyon in Africa and the oldest desert on Earth. Along the Atlantic coastline, dunes towering up to 1,000 feet create an otherworldly scene in shades of apricot, orange, red and maroon. Cross the sea of sand on an off-road adventure or float silently above in a hot-air balloon. In northern Namibia, Etosha National Park encompasses a vast, flat pan where zebra and springbok gather along the horizon. After heavy rains, water holes attract endangered black rhinos, lions, elephants and antelope.
Wedged between the Drakensberg Mountains and neighboring Mozambique in the Lowveld of South Africa, Kruger National Park is massive. At roughly the size of Massachusetts, Kruger offers an amazing array of wildlife and birdlife viewing options equal to none in all of South Africa.
On any given day in Kruger, visitors might come face-to-face with elephants, giraffes, lions, leopards and more. The most vibrant of sunrises and sunsets tint the skies golden and carmine, and African birds—bee-eaters, rollers, starlings, and parrots—flit about the park. And after a day on the savanna, come back to your comfortable suite, cool off with a dip in the pool or pamper yourself in the spa and gym facilities.
In addition to all the creatures that inhabit Kruger, the historically rich Lowveld, the seemingly endless savannas that stretch from South Africa to Zambia, contains more than a hundred Bushman rock paintings, thousands of years old—Africa’s heritage literally cast in stone.
More than 850 miles northeast of Cape Town, Johannesburg buzzes with life. South Africa’s largest city is enveloped in history—from its humble start as a gold-mining settlement in 1886 to its inescapable links to apartheid.
Gold Reef City offers something for everyone 24 hours a day, including live shows at the stunning Lyric Theatre, gambling at the Gold Reef City Gaming casino, family fun at the amusement park and fine dining at restaurants plating a variety of cuisines, including Portuguese, Indian curry, wood-fired pizza and traditional South African dishes.
One of Johannesburg’s most fascinating sites is the Apartheid Museum, which provides a moving look at the rise and fall of the state-sanctioned system of segregation and oppression. To more deeply experience the soul of South Africa, a tour of Johannesburg’s history-rich, often gritty townships is revealing. The largest and best known is Soweto, short for South-Western Townships, where you can see the small, red-brick home of the late anti-apartheid leader and politicial, Nelson Mandela.
Johannesburg and its townships are lasting reminders of apartheid, but in recent years, much of the bleakness that was once the hallmark of this extraordinary city is diminished. In its place lies an up-and-coming city that’s always on the move and in energetic transition.
In contrast to the urban appeal of cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg, the Shamwari Game Reserve offers first class luxury amongst expansive natural beauty and majestic wildlife. At Shamwari, you can expect to see an ark’s worth of animals, including the “big five” of African game: elephants, lions, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros (both white and black).
After a day spent encountering some of the world’s most impressive wildlife, return to one of the reserve’s lodges for a relaxing massage followed by a gourmet meal. If you’re still hungry for more animal experiences, visit the reserve’s education facilities, including the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary, the Rhino Awareness Centre and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, where you can learn how Shamwari helps preserve and protect the local environment. A portion of your trip cost will go to Shamwari to help provide a safe haven for rhinos.
If ever there were a postcard-perfect city, it is Cape Town, where many trips to South Africa begin. Poised near the intersection of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, the city lies in the shadow of 3,500-foot-tall Table Mountain, its dramatic summit accessible by foot or cable car (a Table Mountain favorite since 1929).
Back on the ground, the striking architecture of Cape Town, with the sun-drenched Victoria & Alfred Waterfront as its centerpiece, evokes Old World ambiance. As you connect with its people, take an opportunity to give back with the Amy Foundation, where you can spend time with children in a musically focused afterschool program. You can further help the people of Cape Town by conserving water during your visit, as the area is regularly troubled by water shortages.
Outside the city, the Cape Peninsula beckons nature lovers with its rocky seascapes and irresistible animals. Farther south is the Cape of Good Hope, and to the east, the land rises to the Cape Winelands. To the north, history buffs will appreciate Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years for his anti-apartheid protests.