Just Add Land

Stay longer on sa­fari be­fore or af­ter your cruise from Africa.

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - Porthole - by KAY SHOWKER

WHETHER YOUR AFRICA CRUISE STARTS from Cape Town on a north­bound itin­er­ary or ends there on a south­bound one — as most Africa cruises do — high on your list should be a sa­fari add-on.

Go­ing on sa­fari doesn’t mean rough­ing it, un­less you want to. A pleas­ant sur­prise is the high level of com­fort, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and ser­vices avail­able in the bush. Lodges serve so­phis­ti­cated Euro­pean cui­sine and lo­cal spe­cial­ties as well as fa­mous South African wines. Some­times din­ing is set un­der the stars or amid the wilder­ness, adding that ex­tra touch of ro­mance.

The main sea­son for Africa cruises is south­ern Africa’s sum­mer ( De­cem­ber to March), when ac­com­mo­da­tions and air­fare are most in de­mand, so se­cur­ing fl ights is as im­por­tant as lock­ing in ac­com­mo­da­tions. Wher­ever you stay, game spot­ting is the or­der of the day with at least two runs — early morn­ing and late af­ter­noon — when an­i­mals are most likely to be vis­i­ble. They, too, like to avoid the mid-day sun.

First- timers are wise to make ar­range­ments through one of the many Africa travel com­pa­nies. One place to start is www.go2Africa.com; another, www.im­mer­sion­jour­neys.com. For starters, here are four very dif­fer­ent, but ex­cit­ing, sa­fari sug­ges­tions.

1Vin­tage Train to Vic­to­ria Falls Step back in time and re­lax in what Rovos Rail calls “The Most Lux­u­ri­ous Train in the World.” The un­usual 3-night rail ex­cur­sion runs from Pre­to­ria, South Africa’s cap­i­tal, through Botswana to spec­tac­u­lar Vic­to­ria Falls on the mighty Zam­bezi River at the Zim­babwe/Zam­bia bor­der. Travel in grand style (think Agatha Christie) as you view the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side and en­joy fine din­ing and cock­tails in the turn- of- the- cen­tury lounge as well as el­e­gant ac­com­mo­da­tions.

On the Botswana/Zim­babwe bor­der, the ad­ven­ture of­fers a game drive in the Hwange Na­tional Park, Zim­babwe’s largest re­serve, rich in wildlife. An­i­mals can also be spot­ted from the train. At Vic­to­ria Falls, river cruises, white­wa­ter raft­ing, and su­perb game view­ing in nearby Chobe Na­tional Park, Botswana’s sec­ond-largest re­serve, are avail­able. Kasane, gate­way to the park, is a 45-minute van drive. Kasane ho­tels or­ga­nize sa­faris by Land Rover in the park and by boat on the Chobe River. Kasane’s air­port has ser­vice to Johannesburg.

The rail ex­cur­sion can be taken in re­verse, but tim­ing is es­sen­tial. The train makes only four trips per month — two north­bound from Pre­to­ria and two south­bound from Vic­to­ria Falls. A sim­i­lar train trip runs from Dur­ban, a turn­around port for some cruise ships. Visit rovos.com for de­tails.

2On to Kruger Kruger Na­tional Park is one of the largest and best-known game re­serves in Africa (220 miles, north-south; 40 miles, east-west). Here, you are al­most guar­an­teed to see the Big Five — lion, leop­ard, buf­falo, rhino, and ele­phant — plus other wild and won­der­ful crea­tures such as chee­tah, ze­bra, im­pala, gi­raffe, and much more. Birdlife counts 517 species.

Within the park, choices range from bud­get chalets to tented camps and lux­u­ri­ous lodges, as do pri­vately owned op­tions at the edge of the park. Most lodges op­er­ate their own game runs with wildlife ex­pert driv­ers and guides. Ma­jor towns in South Africa have di­rect flights to air­ports serv­ing Kruger; some fly via Johannesburg.

3Kenya/Tan­za­nia Stopover Rather than fly home di­rectly from South Africa or Botswana, break up the long flight with a stop in Nairobi where tour­ing Kenya and Tan­za­nia is the very def­i­ni­tion of a sa­fari.

A typ­i­cal ex­cur­sion de­parts Nairobi for the fa­mous Ma­sai Mara Game Re­serve with stops along the way for an­i­mal spot­ting. Af­ter lunch at your lodge, you’ll have your first game drive and af­ter din­ner, you might have a lec­ture on Africa or wildlife and a brief­ing on what’s to come.

Af­ter morn­ing and af­ter­noon game runs the next day, you might overnight at the same lodge or carry on through the Ma­sai Mara, per­haps meet­ing up with some col­or­ful Ma­sai Mara tribe peo­ple en route to the Serengeti Plains. The Serengeti, part

of the Great Rift Val­ley and fa­mous for the an­nual wilde­beest mi­gra­tion, is a vast flat, green sa­van­nah strad­dling Kenya and Tan­za­nia and host­ing some of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of wildlife in Africa.

The next Serengeti stop is the won­drous Ngoron­goro, the largest crater in the world at 10 miles in di­am­e­ter with walls al­most 2,000 feet high and a crater floor of salt lakes, lush marshes, forests, and dry sa­van­nah. This re­mark­able wildlife hotspot boasts the com­plete ar­ray of East Africa’s an­i­mal and bird life. Most likely your lodge will sit on the ridge high above the crater floor from where you will be awestruck by mag­nif­i­cent views.

The next day’s drive winds down to the crater floor where hun­dreds of flamin­gos stroll the salt pans munch­ing on crus­taceans, and lions, chee­tahs, hip­pos, buf­falo, leop­ards, ostriches, ele­phants, and other an­i­mals roam.

Con­tin­u­ing south, Lake Man­yara Na­tional Park, one of the most beau­ti­ful set­tings in Tan­za­nia, is known for amaz­ing treeclimb­ing lions and abun­dant birdlife. Fur­ther along, the route turns north to Am­boseli Na­tional Park, 150 miles south­east of Nairobi and one of Kenya’s most pop­u­lar sa­fari parks with snow­capped Mount Kil­i­man­jaro in the dis­tance — a fab­u­lous set­ting to re­mem­ber on your flight home.

4Botswana Op­tion Even if you spend a few days on sa­fari in South Africa, com­bin­ing one in neigh­bor­ing Botswana for a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence is easy to ar­range. In fact, sa­faris are the heart of Botswana’s tourism.

Roughly the size of Texas, land­locked Botswana of­fers such con­trast as the Kala­hari Desert at its cen­ter and the lush Oka­vango Delta, a vast fresh­wa­ter wet­land in the north. A World Her­itage site, the mag­nif­i­cent delta has great num­bers of wildlife and is fa­mous for leop­ard and rare birds. A large area within the delta is pro­tected by the Moremi Game Re­serve, the first such re­serve in south­ern Africa cre­ated by an African com­mu­nity on its own tribal lands.

Sa­fari spe­cial­ists pro­vide game runs, boat trips, and Kala­hari bush walks. There are back-to-na­ture op­tions to some of Africa’s most lux­u­ri­ous (and ex­pen­sive) choices, in­clud­ing re­mote fly-in lodges. You can find in-depth de­scrip­tions of lodges at ex­pertafrica.com/botswana.

Air travel is the eas­i­est way to get around. Air Botswana flies daily from Johannesburg to Gaborone, the mod­ern cap­i­tal. Small char­ter air­lines cover all corners of the coun­try.

Go­ing on sa­fari doesn’t mean rough­ing it, un­less you want to.

THE BIG FIVE

Look for lions, leop­ards, buf­fa­los, rhi­nos, and ele­phants.

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