Africa: Turns Out, It’s Really There

On safari with And Beyond in Botswana's Okavango Delta

So, you know how some places in the world just seem theoretical — even imaginary — until you actually go there?

Well, that’s how I felt about Africa for much of my life. Until now.

Having now seen a few corners of the continent for ourselves — largely in Botswana and Tanzania — we’re happy to report that while Africa is truly vast, it’s far from unknowable.

In fact, we’ve fallen so much in love that I dare say we’ve left a bit of our hearts behind.

Hope to go get ’em back someday.

Okay, first picture most of the animals you’ve ever seen in a zoo. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

Now remove the cages, pens and faux rock habitats and watch as the freed fauna stretch, scratch, nuzzle and roam. Unfurl a sprawling carpet of golden grasses. Drape some low, gentle hills in emerald green and dot them with strange and stony termite mounds. Set out a few million water lilies on the mirrored surface of a lagoon that flows to a snaking, hundred-mile river. Here and there, roll out some unfathomably huge boulders and park them just…so. Fill up a lake with cracked, bone-white earth and pale blue saltwater, then cue lavender-gray mountains in the gauzy, smoky distance. Scorch the ground in places, leaving lines of ash where once there were thorny trees.

Cue a poignant, howling cry, the flutter of wings and the pounding of 5,000 wild hoofbeats…and welcome to an African safari.

In the weeks to come, I’m really looking forward to sharing more of our African adventures with you, as well as singing the praises of &Beyond, the safari company we used in Botswana and Tanzania. & Beyond has just won Travel + Leisure‘s 2010 Global Vision Award for Wildlife Protection, and frankly, the news doesn’t surprise me at all; they introduced us to some of the most ecologically valuable places and creatures on the planet, with passion, care and joy.

For now, here are some of our favorite photos from Africa — just to assure you it’s really there.

Flying low over Botswana's Okavango Delta

Up close and personal with elephants and water lilies in the Okavango

Between Arusha, Tanzania and Lake Manyara, the land looks...wrinkled

On the Shifting Sands in Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge, we found a Maasai boy alone, tending his goats

In Tanzania's Serengeti, near the Kenya border, a rare animal-free moment

During the Great Migration, millions of wildebeest will criss-cross the Serengeti

In the northwestern Serengeti, you'll find hundreds of huge, mushroom-like boulders

During the northwestern Serengeti migration, lions bound from boulder to boulder to get the best view

In the Okavango, a baby giraffe takes a breather from near-constant walking

Cranes fly in pairs across Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater (pronounced Goron-GOR-o)

Thousands of carmine bee-eaters perched in an Okavango baobab tree

In the Serengeti, a near-prehistoric, 3-ft. tall secretary bird perches on its nest

In the Okavango, a lechwe, or semi-aquatic antelope, is faster on water than land

Stragglers from a "dazzle" of zebra stroll across Ngorongoro

An enormous, wary hippo came up from the Serengeti's Mara River to challenge our safari vehicle

On safari, as long as humans stay inside the truck, animals (like these cheetah brothers in the Serengeti) think the vehicle is just another animal

The leader of an Okavango baboon troop perches atop a tall termite mound to survey his territory

A female kudu gets the lay of the land, while a lapwing get the lay of a kudu's back

In Ngorongoro Crater, a pride of lions (including these cubs) feasts on a freshly killed cape buffalo

At golden hour in the Okavango, a young leopard waits for his mother to bring dinner home

Sunset on the Okavango River, and all is perfectly quiet


See also

Off to a (Birthday) Safari in Africa
TWT Travel Binder: Botswana
TWT Travel Binder: Tanzania


  1. I’ve done an interview with James Currie, brand ambassador for &Beyond, who also once worked with &Beyond Foundation. See the interview here. Their Foundation does a lot of work with local communities.

    I’ve been dreaming of going to Africa for a long time now, but unfortunately, I may have to go the cheap, overland way (via Gap or Intrepid or similar companies). &Beyond’s price tag is just waaaayy beyond my reach / our budget (sob, sob, sob).

  2. Haven’t been yet to East Africa, but I’ve been lucky enough to have visited and worked several times the Okavango Delta. I am truly glad that you didn’t mention Maun’s “frontier town” feeling… otherwise I would be in the airport by now!

    Great article, I look forward to the rest!

  3. Wow nice shots! I wish I can go to Africa..

  4. Judy Guffey says:

    Just back from 2 weeks in Botswana and South Africa. Neither my brain nor my body know what day it is. Home is Hawai’i and it’s the antipode of Botswana….so 35+ hours of travel each way. Worth it? Absolutely. This was a return trip after living in SA from 1981 to 1985. Much has changed. The airports in Cape Town and Jo’burg were stunning. But, ah, the animals. I’ve never tired of being close up with nature. Now my chore is to cull the more than 1500 photos and 3 hours of video.

    The photos in your blog are magnificent. Thanks for posting.

  5. Talk about an incredible photo essay here! It seems like you hit the mother lod with your safari – cheetahs & lions?! What a fabulous way to celebrate a birthday.

    But seriously, now I’m even more excited to go to East Africa next year – I hope we can make it in the spring sometime.

  6. Bingo!! What a wonderful picture you paint and so accurate. I live in Africa and have the great fortune of escaping from the throbbing 8-million strong city of Jo’burg quite often to experience the wild landscapes. And do you know what? Each time it’s a KNOCKOUT. An African safari truly takes the breath away. Companies like &Beyond really get it right – stunning lodges, heartlifting ethics and the most thrilling wildlife experience imaginable. Worth every penny!

  7. Wow! Amazing! Spectacular! Surreal, can it be real?? Your pictures tell an amazing story and almost feel like I am there. Thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to hear more about your awesome journey 🙂

  8. Beautiful photos! Wish I had your photographing skills!

  9. You made me jealous! Amazing photos! One day I will make it out there!

  10. I’ve avoided these posts for all this time because I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN. Melanie, these pictures make me want to cry. In fact, I just might do that. They are so breathtaking – even from here in my suburban blah, I’m moved.

  11. Wow, those photos are stunning — they really make me want to visit now — even though I’m trying to keep Africa off my “list” as being too expensive at the moment.


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