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I have had the pleasure to visit six of Goway’s wonderful Africa destinations. There are too many great experiences to describe in just one article, so let me start by talking about the first three, South Africa, Egypt, and Namibia.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the first to call post-apartheid South Africa the Rainbow Nation, after its first fully democratic election in 1994. The phrase was elaborated upon by President Nelson Mandela in his first month of office, when he proclaimed “Each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
Our group visited several of the country’s major highlights: Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, the Garden Route, and Cape Town. A safari is what generally comes to mind when thinking of Africa, and sure enough, the safari was the highlight on our South Africa itinerary. We stayed at MalaMala in the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, flanking the western border of Kruger National Park. While on our last afternoon game drive, we came upon the resident male lion, sitting among three lionesses, with whom he had three cubs each. It was a spectacular sight to see the nine cubs all gathered in the one place, playing and climbing over each other, yipping and meowing, all the while under the watchful eye of their respective mothers. We then headed back to the lodge for dinner, and during the meal from miles away, we heard the roars of the same male lion reverberate and echo throughout the reserve. He really was the king of this jungle.
Out of all the Africa destinations we offer, South Africa is by far the most popular country in terms of sales. It is an excellent choice for those visiting Africa for the first time, and for repeat visitors, given the size of the country and all that it has to offer. The current exchange rate offers great value to North American travellers, who can enjoy excellent tourism infrastructure and relatively easy travel in this popular destination.
I visited Egypt in September of 2011, just months after the great 18-day revolution in January and February that ended the three-decade long presidency of Hosni Mubarak. Mohamed Morsi was ultimately elected as Egypt’s new president in June 2012, but during the transition period, there was political instability, lack of security, labour strikes, demonstrations, violent incidents, a fuel crisis, and arson attacks on Christian churches. All these events negatively impacted the tourism industry not only in Cairo, where Tahrir Square was the focal point of demonstrators and protests, but across the country.
Our itinerary consisted of a stay in Cairo and four nights onboard a Nile River cruise ship sailing southbound from Luxor to Aswan, an itinerary not unlike Goway’s 9-Day Classic Egypt.
Prior to the revolution, Egypt was one of the most popular destinations in Africa, not just for Goway, but for the tourism industry as a whole. This trip would sear into memory the sight of countless ships docked side by side, all empty of the passengers that had once taken this same journey on the Nile River into Aswan while on our Nile cruise ship. Egypt’s tourism tragedy however, held some undeniable benefits for those of us making the trip. Just as those ships lay empty, so too did Egypt’s marvelous temples, all ripe for exploration.
The highlight in my opinion, was Karnak Temple, which is second only to the Great Pyramids in popularity. The Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple was simply unbelievable, showcasing the finest examples of ancient Egyptian design and architecture. It occupies an area of over 50,000 sq ft (5,000 m2), holding 134 massive stone columns arranged in 16 rows. 122 of these columns measure 10 meters tall, while the other 12 reach a massive 21 meters into the air with diameters up to three meters. We were mere dwarves in this maze of columns, surrounded by informative and animated hieroglyphics inscribed on each column and on the outer walls.
In my opinion, now is the perfect time to visit Egypt. The queues for the major attractions and sites are short to non-existent, and hotels and Nile cruise ships are heavily discounted, offering specials in an effort to regenerate demand.
Namibia might just be Africa’s most underrated country when it comes to natural wonders. Boasting the highest sand dunes and the lowest canyon in the world, it has been called a destination made up of four countries, meaning four contrasting landscapes.
A common misconception about Africa is that it is always sweltering hot. I visited Namibia in the month of June, in time for the Southern Hemisphere’s winter. My arrival into the capital city of Windhoek was met with the temperature sitting around -4 C.
Our itinerary included visits to Windhoek, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland, and Etosha National Park. Transportation between the areas visited was done by road. Not for the faint hearted, these daily 5-6 hours drives took us along dusty and bumpy gravel roads, so for those guest with a slightly higher budget, I would suggest flying between these major stops.
My personal Namibia highlight was our trip to Deadvlei in the Sossusvlei Dunes in Namib-Naukluft Park. Literally meaning “dead marsh”, Deadvlei is a clay pan characterized by dark, dead camelthorn trees, contrasted against the white pan floor. The pan was formed when the Tsauchab River flooded and the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. However, the climate changed and the surrounding sand dunes encroached on the pan, blocking the river from reaching the area. The trees are thought to be approximately 900 years old, preserved by the dry climate. Deadvlei is a paradise for photographers as the contrast between the pitch-black trees, bleached-white pans, rusty-red dunes, and deep blue sky make for incredible images.
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