City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Safari Dreams

Plan A Bucket List Adventure with Hidden Gem Travel

Article by Susan Wilson

Photography by provided by Hills of Africa

Originally published in Fairfield Lifestyle

If you’ve been dreaming about your next bucket list vacation, you’re not alone.  We’re experiencing a travel boom coined ‘revenge travel’ since the end of the pandemic.  I should know as I feel this boom every day as a professional travel advisor. I specialize in premium to luxury global travel and design custom vacation itineraries that elevate the travel experience.   

In the age of AI, a wealth of information is at your fingertips but how much of what you read is accurate and honest?  Yes, you can spend hours researching, but ultimately, you don’t know what you don’t know.  What do you do when the unexpected happens, like a strike?  Or your Airbnb cancels your booking at the last minute?  Or even the gorgeous boutique hotel you found online isn’t in a location where you feel comfortable?  While we don’t have control over everything that happens, travel advisors know how to respond when the unexpected happens to our clients.  We have valuable relationships with our local partners who not only take care of our clients but can also VIP them because of the strong relationships we invest in.  The internet can’t do that for you. 

People come to me with a wide variety of bucket list vacation requests, from Europe to South America to Asia to New Zealand; it spans the globe. One of the most popular requests is an African safari. I’m fortunate to have a top-notch partner with deep roots across Africa. We create once-in-a-lifetime experiences for clients. I know personally, as I traveled to Tanzania to see the Great Migration, which far exceeded even my expectations!

If you have safari dreams, maybe with a side of wine tasting or relaxing beach time, read on for travel inspiration that will motivate you to take the next step to make your dream a reality!

A safari isn’t something you see or do; it’s truly something you feel… an immersive experience.  You get up close and personal with animals that you have only ever dreamed about, be in the middle of their natural environment, watch the circle of life in action, hear the stories from your guides, and immerse yourself in a world that cannot be found anywhere else, it’s truly indescribable.  

If it’s your first time to Africa, one of my favorite itineraries takes you to Cape Town and Victoria Falls and ends with a safari in Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, or Zimbabwe. This type of itinerary allows you to combine the most dreamed-about wildlife game viewing on safari with an adventure that also includes culture, food, history, and activities – the best of both worlds.

If your primary motive is a classic wildlife safari, then several places automatically come to mind. Kenya, Northern Tanzania, and the eastern side of South Africa boast some of the planet’s best game parks—Kruger National Park in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe for amazing elephants, and Zambia for great cats. 

Kenya & Tanzania are famous for the Great Migration, and the beautiful, colorful Maasai & Samburu people. 

South Africa is known for Kruger National Park for great Big Five wildlife sightings. You also have Cape Town for gorgeous coastal scenery, penguins, amazing food & wine in a bustling city. 

Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia offer exceptional game viewing, in some respects just as good (if not better) than the more famous areas.  For instance, Chobe National Park in northern Botswana and Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, are probably the continent’s best place for elephants, sometimes more than a hundred in a single herd. 

Botswana’s legendary Okavango Delta is another place where boats are the primary means of getting around and viewing the unique animals (both large and small) that dwell in one of the world’s great wetlands, such as hippos and elephants.

Namibia is best for amazing scenery – with shipwrecks, ocean, deserts, huge orange dunes, saltpans, mountains, grassy plains full of wildlife, and rivers in addition to its cities and villages, Namibia boasts a variety of super-scenic destinations no matter your taste. 

Uganda and Rwanda are the best places for gorilla trekking. Chimpanzees and golden monkeys too! 

Madagascar is the only destination where you can see lemurs in the wild. Depending on who’s counting, the huge island is home to more than 100 lemur species as well as copious chameleons, fabulous bird life, and marine mammals offshore in the Indian Ocean.

Of course, Africa has a lot more than just wildlife. The best blends of beasts and beach are found in Kenya, Tanzania (specifically Zanzibar Island), Mozambique, and South Africa where tropical beach resorts glimmer along white-sand strands. And no matter which country you are visiting, get ready for the best food you’ve ever tasted. 

Foodie alert! Breakfasts often include coffee, teas, freshly squeezed fruit juices, made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, pastries, and rusks. Dinners are served under the stars, in the boma, or inside depending on the weather. Guests will find Western dishes, such as herb-roasted chicken, beef filet, grilled vegetables, and tasty vegetable soups, as well as more traditional African dishes such as lamb curry, prawn skewers, spicy stews, often accompanied by a glass of South Africa wine or local beers.  And there’s nothing better than a ‘sundowner,’ a cocktail while watching the sunset at the end of a long safari day. 

If you are visiting a bustling city, such as Cape Town, you will have the opportunity to explore a wide variety of world-renowned restaurants, cafes, and bistros. Cape Town and its neighboring Cape Winelands are both internationally celebrated as being foodie meccas. Food lovers flock to these regions to try dishes from some of the world’s most spectacular and talented chefs.

As surreal as the safari experience is, the experience back at camp is sometimes equally surreal! Choose from a variety of camp activities depending on your location, such as game drives or walking safaris, fishing, bird watching, sleepouts under the stars, cooking classes, and more. Want an afternoon of absolute relaxation? Spend an afternoon lounging in your cool room, watching the wildlife out the window, or napping on the patio. Is there anywhere else in the world that you can eat your dinner while a herd of elephants walks by, or be greeted by a giraffe on your walk back to your room, or hear the roar of a lion in the distance as you lay down for the night?  

All these experiences fall under the broad category of African Safari.  I can design the perfect itinerary for you and make your dream a reality! Now is the time to get started planning for 2025.

About Susan Wilson, Owner of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting:

After years of traveling the world and working for Fortune 50 companies and global nonprofits, Susan opened a boutique travel business affiliated with Virtuoso, the leading global network of agencies specializing in luxury and experiential travel. Through her deep network and signature consultative process, she designs customized travel itineraries that allow clients to feel the full vibrancy of the destination while giving them access to perks, amenities, and special experiences.  In working with Susan, you will have access to a trusted travel advisor.   For Africa itineraries, Susan partners with Hills of Africa, leveraging their extensive knowledge and local network of top guides and property managers. The service level is high-touch and meets the high expectations of Hidden Gem Travel clients.

Is there anywhere else in the world that you can eat your dinner while a herd of elephants walks by, or be greeted by a giraffe on your walk back to your room, or hear the roar of a lion in the distance as you lay down for the night?