Tags Posts tagged with "Africa"

Africa

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With welcoming cultures, natural and urban wonders, and innumerable experiences to be had, Africa is an inviting, underrated place to visit. Possessing 54 independent countries, each with a complex political, social, and economic history, most places on the continent—in fairness—require US citizens to obtain a visa in advance of any trip. Still, some countries have extended a visa-free* welcome mat that lets Americans simply book and go with passport in-hand, and maybe a pre-trip vaccination or two (after all, in some places, it’s literally a jungle out there). And they’re all no more than one flight connection away from most major American air hubs. It’s time for Africa.

Leopard in Botswana by Gregory Slobirdr Smith via Flickr

Botswana
A nature-lover’s paradise where the river meets the desert, Botswana hosts some of the planet’s oldest landforms and lifeforms. The largest group of Bushmen—who, incidentally, constitute the world’s oldest human civilization—call the country home, roaming the vast Kalahari Desert into which the ancient Okavango River flows. The fertile soils of the resulting delta sustain one of the world’s largest concentrations of game animals, protected by several natural preserves that can be visited by safari.
Fly to Gaborone (GBE) from the USA via Addis Ababa and Johannesburg.

 

Sunset Near Bangui by Afrika Force via Flickr

Central African Republic
Located literally at the heart of the continent, the Central African Republic offers visitors a modest, low-rise capital city with bright marketplace and bustling riverfront, safaris with an immense array of wildlife—including elephants and lowland gorillas—and the lovely, 165-foot-high Boali Waterfalls. Be aware, however, that the country has had more than a few security issues over the past couple of years, leading the State Department to issue a travel warning that has been in effect since April 2016.
Fly to Bangui (BGF) from the USA via Casablanca and Paris.

 

Malabo Harbour by Wapster via Flickr

Equatorial Guinea
Tiny and tropical, this former Spanish colonial enclave has got oil money to spare and gleaming new high-rises and shopping malls to prove it. The capital city, Malabo, is a mix of colonial and modern architectural styles, reflecting its history as a strategic outpost for during the Triangular Trade; Malabo was also a haven for freed slaves during the 19th century. Outside the city, pristine beaches, jungle treks, and the lush Monte Alen National Park on the mainland pack a big punch within a small area.
Fly to Malabo (SSG) from the USA via Casablanca, Frankfurt, and Madrid.

 

Snow in Lesotho by Di Malealea via Flickr

Lesotho
Landlocked and entirely surrounded by the country of South Africa, mountainous Lesotho is called the “Kingdom in the Sky” for good reason. Living in one of the few places on the continent with regular snowfall every winter, the citizens of the kingdom wrap themselves in warm blankets and wear a distinctive conical hat, almost like a crown. Aside from spectacular trekking and horseback riding in dramatic valleys and gorges, Lesotho welcomes visitors with a friendly local culture and a flavor and atmosphere utterly distinct from its more renowned neighbor.
Fly to Maseru (MSU) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Essaouira by Caroline Granycome via Flickr

Morocco
One of Africa’s most easily-accessible destinations by virtue of its proximity to the air hubs of Europe, Morocco melds the cultures of Africa and Europe in an exotic, dream-like haze. Buzzing markets, striking architecture, and scrumptious food define cities such as Marrakech, Fez, and Casablanca, while the endless coastline and cool Atlas Mountains provide plenty of opportunity for outdoor diversion. And despite being at one of the world’s oldest crossroads, Moroccans still welcome visitors warmly.
Fly nonstop to Casablanca (CMN) from New York and Washington.

 

Ostriches in Namib Desert by Greg Willis via Flickr

Namibia
Sprawling along the remote, sun-drenched southwestern coast of Africa, Namibia’s ancient landscapes appear more out-of-this-world than down-to-earth. Indeed, the Namib Desert is the oldest on the planet and the country’s Bushmen are among the world’s oldest civilizations. Natural and manmade wonders collide on the Skeleton Coast, littered with the remains of innumerable shipwrecks along the beaches, while Etosha National Park shelters plenty of mammals and reptiles, including the endangered black rhino.
Fly to Windhoek (WDH) from the USA via Addis Ababa, Amsterdam, Doha, Frankfurt, and Johannesburg.

 

Dakar From Ngor by Jeff Attaway via Flickr

Senegal
With a capital city that is one of the most exhilarating and underrated in the world, Senegal serves up a hefty side of sophisticated urban culture along with its beaches and national parks. Dakar’s nightlife, markets, and art scenes are legendary, while historical sites like the “Door of No Return” at Gorée Island and the colonial capital of Saint-Louis harken back to Senegal’s importance during the transatlantic slave trade. Not only are the Senegal’s sites sublime, sunsets from along its 330-mile coastline are spectacular.
Fly nonstop to Dakar (DKR) from New York.

 

The Orbit Jazz Club Johannesburg by South Africa Tourism via Flickr

South Africa
One of the most beautiful countries in the world, South Africa offers up an array of experiences unmatched by any other part of the continent: the urbane pulse of Johannesburg, the natural splendor of Cape Town, the cultural gumbo of Durban, big-game safaris, coastal drives, affordable luxury, and a home-grown house music scene that rivals Baltimore’s and Berlin’s. No wonder one of ZA’s catch phrases is “Better, Together.”
Fly nonstop to Johannesburg (JNB) from Atlanta and New York; fly direct (same-plane w/stop) from Washington.

 

Elder Swazi Warriors by Robert Staudhammer via Flickr

Swaziland
The tiniest country in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the last absolute monarchies in the world, Swaziland packs plenty of experiences within its 6,700 square miles. Traditional Swazi ceremonies and celebrations are held proudly and prominently year-round, culminating in the Umhlanga Festival each August, where young women honor the Queen Mother in full regalia. Safaris and adventure sports also feature high on the country’s to-do list, rendering little Swaziland a memorable place to visit.
Fly to Manzini (SHO) from the USA via Johannesburg.

 

Tunis Sunset by Mashhour Halawani via Flickr

Tunisia
Struggling to recover from two tragic attacks against foreign tourists in 2015, Tunisia still offers broad beaches, thriving marketplaces, and affordable luxury experiences. Many Europeans still book packages to surf and sun destinations, including Monastir and Nabeul, both built on the ruins of settlements from the Roman Empire. The country’s millennia-old history is showcased at the museums and cultural centers of the capital, Tunis, once known as the ancient city of Carthage. Tunisia has indeed been around.
Fly to Tunis (TUN) from the USA via Amsterdam, Barcelona, Casablanca, Frankfurt, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, and Rome.

 

*Visa requirements are always subject to change. Check the US Department of State website for the most current requirements for US citizens.

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If you’re anything like me, you prefer the freedom and ease of traveling solo. When you’re alone, there’s no one else’s agenda to consider but yours. But, no (wo)man is an island, and sometimes, it’s nice to hit the islands, or wherever else strikes your fancy, with a group of like-minded individuals. Here are a few reasons why:

Connecting with Cool People
While traveling solo is indeed a great way to meet new people, so is traveling on a group tour. And if you choose the tour according to your level of interest in the destinations or experiences offered, you are likely to meet at least one other person who you can vibe with. You never know, your new friend might turn into a regular travel buddy, business partner, or significant other. Group trips create incredible opportunities for networking and, yes, matchmaking! And if you do get annoyed with the group, you can always opt out of larger group activities and do your own thing.

Minimal Dull Moments
Traveling alone often means solitude, even if you’re amid the hustle of New York or the bustle of London. Friends have to work during the day and while it’s sometimes nice to keep certain experiences and discoveries to yourself, there’s also the more mundane aspects of solo travel that would be exponentially better if you weren’t alone. If anything, traveling with a group ensures that you’ve always got someone to wait in line, sit around the airport, or do those other banal endeavors with you.

Expanded Experiences
Cost and time are factors that always affect travel plans, but when you’re traveling by yourself, these parameters can be quite challenging to optimize. While a solo traveler to Paris might have to schlep out to the Palace of Versailles on the train and wander the grounds alone, a group can more easily arrange nonstop transportation, a private tour of the palace, and lunch at a nearby winery. Likewise, a Nile River Cruise in Egypt, calling at some of the world’s oldest and most striking temples and monuments, would be an otherwise prohibitively expensive proposition. Excursions to localities a bit farther afield are always easier, or at least cheaper, in groups.

Group Discounts
One constant in the travel industry is that traveling in a group lowers the individual cost of the trip, if only because tour operators, airlines, and other service providers offer discounts when multiple participants purchase their service. You can sometimes get discounts of up to half-off when you travel with a group.

Fly Photographs
Need I say more?

Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

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As it flows northward from Aswan to Edfu to Luxor, the Nile River remains quiet and unbothered by little more than the small vessels zipping across the glassy surface. Over the course of the Nile’s various ages, it is the sturdy, wind-powered felucca that remains the most evocative and romantic of the river’s watercraft.

The name felucca, Italian in origin, is said to have come from a Greek word for “boat”—epholkion—via the Arabic fulk and Spanish faluca. Constructed mainly of wood, with three triangular-shaped sails made of Egyptian cotton and called lateens, feluccas rely on the brisk desert winds to sail upriver and the steady current of the Nile to float downriver. Plying the 300 km stretch of the river between Aswan and Luxor, feluccas are more often rented out, these days, for social events and tourist excursions, leaving the freight traffic to barges and the passenger traffic to cruise liners.

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While the average felucca ferries the average tourist up and down the Nile, when Up in the Air Life takes to the river, the feluccas play host to some of the flyest adventurers on the planet. Champagne pours as a mix of live, traditional Egyptian music and modern-day jams keep the atmosphere lit and live. As other feluccas pass by, the less-energetic passengers crane their necks to see what’s happening over on the hypest boats, and the pair of young guys who paddle up to the side to serenade unsuspecting foreigners with Euro-pop get a surprise themselves when our intrepid explorers launch into an impromptu rendition of “Rapper’s Delight.”
And as the lingering sun sets to the west, the energy of the river remains, constant and unchanged, as the feluccas carry history and culture with them to every port.

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Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

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“For, as Mr. Ferguson was saying at that minute in Luxor, it is not the past that matters but the future.”
–Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile

Ah, but the past informs the future, and with a past extending back four millennia, the lands and peoples and monuments of Nubia and Upper Egypt prove themselves as resilient as the very river that sustains them.
Exploring the shadowy colonnades and alcoves of the Temple at Luxor means stepping back into that past, when men-gods and women-goddesses commanded multitudes of builders, architects, artisans, and designers—many enslaved—and absorbing the energy of the ages, both light and dark. It is believed that many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned here, a monument to monarchy, unlike nearby temples dedicated to deities or deified rulers, and that even Alexander the Great claimed against all observable evidence, to be legitimized at what is now Luxor. Indeed, the French snagged a piece of Egyptian regalia, the obelisk at Place de la Concorde in Paris, leaving its companion to stand sole sentry over the entrance to the temple.

But to marvel at the intricate hieroglyphics—each symbol a story in itself—and the absolute size of a structure completed with ancient building technology only inspires the mind to wonder: what pasts, presents, and futures walk among the shadows and the sun of the Temple at Luxor on their way to greatness?

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Luxury tour designers Up in the Air Life made this trip possible. FLY with them, won’t you?

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Timeless: the only word that can adequately describe the Nile River as it courses smoothly through the ancient lands of Upper Egypt and storied Nubia. The boats that ply the great river like ants across stone are made from reed and wood and metal, their compositions mirroring the technological advances that seem to have only made it up the Nile in intermittent spurts—a satellite dish here, 3G wireless there.

It is on one of these boats—the Sun Boat IV, operated by Sanctuary Retreats—that I spent several days luxuriating in timelessness, exploring Egyptian temples to half-remembered gods built millennia ago and trading smiles and furtive conversation with the curious and friendly boat staff between ports of call. I can’t exactly remember how many days we journeyed through our stretch of the river, as the sun rose a golden disc in the east and set a golden disc in the west, the exact same sun every day without alteration, and every day one of relaxation and discovery.

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Thirty-six cabins, well-appointed and comfortable, provide guests a modern, Art Deco-inspired refuge from the desert heat and riverine humidity. Many of the cabins feature vistas of the fabled papyrus reeds along the river bank, earnest little feluccas with full sail raised, and the settlements and cities squeezed as close to the water’s edge as the river allows. Views from the spacious dining room and lounge reveal the true vastness of the river and the breezy rooftop terrace café and swimming pool attract guests in search of a more intimate relationship with the Nile.

Staff, attentive and anticipatory, make polite conversation while serving helpings of Western and Egyptian delectables in the public areas of the cruiser, while the on-board store provides ample opportunity to be decked out in traditional, timeless, Egyptian attire. What makes my particular trip so memorable—and timeless—was the perfect energy of the people who sailed with me, the people who came to Egypt to experience its timeless mysteries and its timeless gifts. The people who ventured to explore Egypt with that curator of timeless experiences, Up In the Air Life.

Find out more about my Egyptian Adventure with Up In the Air Life in the days ahead.

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Today, I joined the good folks at Up In the Air Life, luxury excursion planners extraordinaire, for a four-day cruise along the Upper Nile River from Luxor to Aswan amid some of Ancient Egypt’s most spectacular sites. Aboard the five-star Sun Boat IV, operated by Sanctuary Retreats, a group of 66 adventurous American travelers mix relaxation with exploration, tackling the striking Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the impactful Temple of Horus, while enjoying sumptuous meals, friendly service, and, yes, a DJ imported from New York. After the cruise, we’ll participate in a fabulous last-night all-white affair at Le Meridien Cairo’s elegant Sequoia Restaurant before returning to the States. Full disclosure: Up In the Air Life is covering my participation in the trip, but don’t think I can be easily swayed from writing the truth.

Be sure to follow my dispatches from the road—or rio, rather—here at Fly Brother and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

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This week, I’ll be heading east for an eclectic, exciting three-week sojourn to England, South Africa, and Egypt. The trip is ostensibly for work—I’ve got a media event happening in each place—but there’s obviously a bit of fun to be had as well. Here’s the rundown…

Transit Brunch in NYC with Oneika the Traveller
On Friday, I stop through the Big Apple en route from Miami to London just long enough to catch up with my girl Oneika the Traveller, who, probably against her better judgment, agreed to be a guest on the Fly Brother Radio Show. You can catch the episode this Saturday morning at 10AM Eastern on the Ndustry Entertainment Network.

World Travel Market in London
From Saturday til Tuesday, I’ll be hanging out in Londontowne at the biggest B2B travel fair on the planet, World Travel Market. There will be hobnobbing and schmoozing with tourism bureaus and travel companies from around the world, but also with journalists, bloggers, travelers, and the bartenders and waitstaff, too. It’s a great place for interaction and networking with decision makers in the travel industry, and the event is free.

Victoria Dock by Bill Tyne via Flickr
Victoria Dock from ExCeL London by Bill Tyne via Flickr

Essence Fest in Durban
After WTM and a few afternoons connecting with England-based friends, I’ll head down to the city of the Southern sun, Durban. The first international edition of the Essence Music Festival is happening there next week, which I’ll be covering for the Fly Brother Radio Show. Still, Durbs has other charms, including an intense culinary scene centered around Indian cuisine and a lengthy history as the center of Zulu culture. Quietly, sun-splashed Durban is one of my favorite cities in Africa.

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Central Durban by Ernest White II

Nile River Cruise from Luxor to Aswan
Finally, I head due north to Luxor, site of the historic Egyptian city of Thebes and home to some of the greatest preserved temples and monuments of Ancient Egypt. From there, I’ll sail into Upper Egypt with a group of fly folks on a multiday Nile River cruise organized by travel collective Up in the Air Life, covering the trip in words and images here at FLY, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The cruise ends with a stop in the venerable market town of Aswan before I continue on to chaotic Cairo and home.

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Temple of Luxor by VasenkaPhotography via Flickr

Be sure to follow along on all the social medias! Have you ever been to any of these places?

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Table Mountain, Cape Town

“I live in the most beautiful city in the world,” said my buddy Rob, a long-time expat American living in Cape Town. He’s been saying this, in one way or another, for the past several years. And it only took until this year for me to visit and, sooner rather than later, for me to agree with him.

Cape Town spills around the bottom of Africa, just north of where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, so far away as to be on another planet. Table Mountain and Lion’s Head and Cape Point stand, alternately shrouded and ominous or windswept and proud, testifying to the city’s singular place in the world and daring any other pretenders to make themselves known.

Yet despite this singularity of place, Cape Town recalls at once California and Florida and the Caribbean and the Mediterranean and Rio de Janeiro and Savannah: the arid mountains, the pastel buildings and turquoise waters, the lingering sun and undulating landscape, the laid-back atmosphere, the luxury hotels and marinas full of yachts, the unresolved social inequality and unearned entitlement hard-baked into the South African soil, a Southern soil if there ever was one.

The secret to Cape Town’s beauty isn’t that it is so immediately apparent; it’s the elements of the familiar and the unique that reveal the city’s kaleidoscopic aura. I sensed this aura on the rocky flats atop Table Mountain and in the sapphire surf that plays on the beach at Sea Point. I sensed it on the buzzing commercial strips of Bo-Kaap and Brooklyn, districts containing all the various and new South Africas, where the intrepid shopper could procure any good or service, legal or otherwise. I sensed it in laughter- and light-filled conversations with Xhosa radio DJs and Afrikaner waiters, Coloured publicists and Indian receptionists, French journalists and American models, portending, possibly, nascent lifelong friendships.

Which brings me back to Rob, who I’ve known for a decade. Well-versed in my cultural and intellectual leanings, he’s been championing South Africa to me for years, even as I moved to other continents. But it only took a single fantastical moment, stepping off of Rob’s porch at twilight, Table Mountain looming black and matte against a watercolor sky, for Cape Town to prove him right. He lives in the most beautiful city in the world.

—–

Oh yeah, did I mention that I went to Cape Town Fashion Week, and associated parties?
🙂

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"Meal Time in the Girls' Hostel," South Africa (Image source: https://murraymcgregor.wordpress.com/)

Sixty years ago, the United States Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in American public schools. “[S]eperate educational facilities are inherently unequal” wrote the court. The case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, set the stage for the dismantling of legal segregation, culminating a decade later in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The year before Brown, literally halfway around the world in South Africa, the winds of change were blowing in the opposite direction. According to the mind-blowing biography Mandela by Martin Meredith, which I’m now reading, “natives” (i.e.: blacks) were no longer to be educated in a way that would cause them to have any expectations of life in “Europeanized,” urban environments.

Under the terms of the Bantu Education Act…introduced in 1953…[a]ll schools, whatever their status, would have to be registered by the government. No private schools would be allowed to exist without government approval. Control of schools would pass not to the Department of Education but to the Department of Native Affairs. Introducing the new legislation before parliament, [soon-to-be Prime Minister Hendrik] Verwoerd was forthright about its purpose: ‘Natives will be taught from childhood to realize that equality with Europeans is not for them.’

In fact, Verwoerd proved steadfast in his belief of African inferiority:

There is no place for [the Bantu] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour … What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics when it cannot use it in practice?

The Bantu child is an “it”?! Segregationist education policy, only one part of South Africa’s heinous Apartheid system, remained in place until 1994.

I am rapt by South African history and its relationship to American history. In 1953, my mother was 15 years old and my father, nine. Both of them would have been been educated under the Bantu system. Despite Brown, they both graduated from segregated high schools, as did I.

"Black Schoolroom," United States (Image source: http://readcontra.com/2014/05/why-white-people-matter-the-american-school-system/)
“Black Schoolroom,” United States (Image source: http://readcontra.com/2014/05/why-white-people-matter-the-american-school-system/)

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Next week, I’ll be traveling to Ghana, one of many African countries that requires U.S. citizens to obtain a visa prior to traveling even if the purpose of the trip is leisure. While sometimes challenging and almost always annoying, it’s important to point out that the visa process for Americans traveling overseas is still a thousand times simpler and more straightforward than what much of the world endures just to take their kids to Disney World. Still, for newer travelers especially, the visa process can seem daunting and—coupled with expensive airfares and lengthy flights—can make an African vacation seem much less appealing.

Well, I’ve done some research and found 19 nations in Africa that allow for visa-free travel* for American citizens, or offer tourist visas for a fee upon arrival at the main international airport, all accessible by airlines that offer nonstop or connecting service from major U.S. gateways. In other words, there is no excuse for not visiting these destinations if you’ve got the time and the money—you can just hop on a plane and go!

*Before any trip, always check both the U.S. Department of State travel site for country-specific entry/exit requirements and safety alerts, and the consular website (or better yet, call) for the country you plan on visiting for the most up-to-date information.

African countries requiring no visa for American citizens entering as tourists for a limited amount of time (usually 30, 60, or 90 days):

*Namibia, South Africa, and Swaziland require visitors have at least two blank pages in their passports for entry.

African countries offering tourist visas for a fee upon arrival at the main international airport (fees vary):

So what are you waiting for?

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