What are some of the best places for first-time international travelers to get a taste of Africa?
Cleveland: We used to recommend Kenya, but there’s been some unrest in some of the neighboring countries. Tanzania is a good starting point. And if they want to experience a big-city feel along with a safari, South Africa is a good choice.
Wolders: South Africa is a good place to start because of the infrastructure. It’s less culturally confronting. The facilities there are a little bit more like what you’re used to in North America. There are some very beautiful and luxurious places to visit there. If you’re ready to make the leap, there’s nothing more enriching than visiting Kenya and Tanzania. They’re very popular, and there’s a dense population of animals in the parks.
Holden: We used to tell people they had to go to east Africa to fulfill the images they saw in “Out of Africa.” That’s no longer the case because now South Africa has the other aspects. We now say that South Africa is the soft entry for the first-timer to Africa. The infrastructure there is more developed than in east Africa.
What is a great African destination for more experienced international travelers?
Cleveland: Do Botswana — it’s the primo safari experience. Everywhere you go, you fly from camp to camp because it’s remote enough that there aren’t roads. You can do safari trips in four-by-four vehicles or dugout canoes.
Wolders: Our emerging destination is Ethiopia. A lot of us have this image of Ethiopia being destitute, but it has been completely transformed since the famine of the ’80s. It is now the fourth-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa. It has nine official World Heritage Sites. There’s a lot to see, and it’s relatively untouched by tourism.
Holden: If you’re a really jaded traveler, and you feel like you’ve done it all, go to Namibia. It’s on the west coast of Africa, just north of South Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean. The surprise there is the desert landscape and the wildlife, the elephants and lions and onyx. And you find ancient people living on their old traditions.
What is one unforgettable experience travelers should seek out in Africa?
Cleveland: Go diving with great white sharks in South Africa. The water is very cold, but once you get in the shark cage, it’s one of the most peaceful, relaxing, calm experiences. I didn’t notice the cold water.
Wolders: Stay in a tent for at least one night. It could be a tent on the ground, a tent with a cot or something that looks more like a hotel on the inside. At night, you will hear the wildlife — you hear the elephants trumpeting and the lions roaring, and it’s a fantastic experience.
Holden: In Zambia, where I’m from, they created the walking safari. You walk from camp to camp with a guide and a game scout. It’s just you in the wild, with no background noise. You can walk within 100 yards of a herd of elephants and then sit down and have tea while the guide explains everything going on in the elephant families. It’s a life-changing experience