Becca Blond, 1:01 am
South Africa has dozens of subterranean treasures. Some of these caves are portals to ancient human life. Visitors can glimpse the inner workings of Earth where the sun don’t shine. Blombos Cave is a coastal archaeological site east of Cape Town famous for 75,000-year-old beads that were found there. They were decorated with abstract designs, making them some of the earliest evidence of human artwork. Excavation of Middle Stone Age sites in Southern Africa resulted in a paradigm shift in understanding the development of modern human behavior.
Becca Blond, 8:05 am
The true history of glamping is up for grabs. In the early 1900s, wealthy American and European travelers demanded luxuries while on safari in Africa. They wanted wild outdoors adventures, but their canvas safari tents usually included beds and a chef to prepare meals. When did this movement become glamping? According to Google Trends, the keyword first started being searched on Google in early 2007. With apologies to the buzzword-averse, here are some tried-and-true travel buzzwords — and some new ones — that apply to travel in Africa.
Becca Blond, 8:08 am
A five-minute drive from Victoria Falls, Lokuthula Lodge — its name means “place of peace” — is a good fit for families. The 31 thatched-roof bungalows are made from natural materials to blend in with the environment. Warthogs, bushbuck and mongoose graze on well-manicured grounds. Guests have views of the unfenced Zambezi National Park with baobab and mopani (balsam trees). If you’re headed to this beautiful southern African country and are looking for a place to sleep – be it in Harare, Bulawayo, Hwange or Victoria Falls — we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 places to stay in Zimbabwe.
Becca Blond, 8:01 am
Until I saw a lemur in the wild, I wasn’t sure what the fuss was about. They look cute in photos, but surely I’d be more excited to see a leopard or a cheetah than spend a day tromping through the bush looking for a small, cat-meets-monkey-type creature. Then I saw my first ring-tailed lemur. Its liquid eyes stared directly into mine before it flipped its tail and bounced away. I was hooked. Lemurs are addictive. Once you see one, you become obsessed with seeing more. Since there are 50 varieties, you can spend an entire trip rambling around the countryside trying to Instagram them all. After all, you’re in Madagascar, and safaris here often mean trekking.
Becca Blond, 8:09 am
The bustling port of Toliara is the region’s entry point and is worlds apart from the rural countryside. Bedecked in bougainvillea and jacaranda, narrow corridors wind through the city smelling of salty ocean water and fresh baguettes. There’s also a hint of ethnic spiciness and the air feels gritty. The wide boulevards are home to Arab and French architecture, with elaborate domed mosques sitting next to crumbling, whitewashed colonial buildings.
Becca Blond, 2:49 pm
No matter how many times I drive South Africa’s most famous road trip, the Garden Route never gets old. The scenery is some of the country’s most stunning, beginning east of Cape Town at Mossel Bay and finishing up around Storm’s River and Tsitsikamma National Park. The route follows the sea past lagoons and some of the largest indigenous forest tracks in SA. Book a township tour in Knysna, home to the country’s largest Rastafarian community. The government turns a blind eye on marijuana cultivation in accordance with residents’ religious beliefs.
Becca Blond, 5:20 pm
Dungeons on the Cape Peninsula is a cold and forbidding stretch facing directly into the Roaring Forties and the great Southern Ocean. Known for its monster waves. this is a spot best surfed in the winter storms, when swells reach 15-to-30 feet on the break. The water is cold, so you’ll need a wet suit. And nerves of steel. This is not for amateurs. Waves break a mile offshore next to a seal colony in some of the most shark-infested waters on Earth. You’re not just dealing with some of the world’s most powerful waves. Great white sharks are common in the area.
Becca Blond, 1:36 pm
The middle of nowhere, Botswana: No one would be crazy enough to build a hotel here. The book says 25 kilometers. We’ve gone 23. Panic sets in. “It’s dead straight in all directions and I don’t see anything that even closely resembles a life form, let alone some desert oasis,” my companion says. “I think we should turn around. You know what the book says about pans.” The book in question is a Lonely Planet guide. We are trying to find a backpacker-style hotel. It said we’d be following a rough cattle track, but this feels more like four-wheeling across the moon.
Becca Blond, 7:00 am
Walking through the breezy, thatched-roof boma lobby at Ivory Lodge in Hwange National Park, I find myself skidding to a stop. My jaw drops in shock and words rush out of my mouth: “Oh my God do you guys see that? Right over there?” I’m pointing furiously at a spot the length of a football field away, separated from the hotel by a fire pit and a green manicured lawn, where dozens of dusty elephants are frolicking in a muddy water hole. Hwange is home to the presidential herd, 40,000 strong, and one of the largest elephant herds anywhere in Africa.
Becca Blond, 7:35 am
When York Pareik started a 64-acre botanical garden in Madagascar in 2002, he planted 5,000 baobab trees. He will never see them grow more than 10 feet high. “Baobabs don’t flower until they are 100 years old,” he tells me as we hike along a dry forest trail past baby baobabs. “They grow so slow. You cut down one … and you’ll have to wait around a thousand years for another to grow to its size.” Parc Botanique des Mille Baobabs is home to chameleons, geckos, hedgehogs and five of Madagascar’s seven baobab species.