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Safari Newsletter Dated March 25, 2015

Dear Vacations To Go Customer,

Today's newsletter is filled with tips for anyone gearing up for a safari in Africa for the first time, with a few good reminders for those considering a return trip.

The first step in planning an African safari is to decide where to go. There are organized safaris in three distinct African regions, and each offers a different experience. Some itineraries concentrate on a single country while others combine two, three or more countries into a single trip. Here's a look at the three regions.

East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) has the largest concentrations of animals, world-famous Serengeti National Park and Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain. In Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge, Drs. Louis and Mary Leakey discovered 2 million-year-old bones and tools from what some believe were the earliest humans. My family's first safari was in Tanzania, during the Great Migration.

The world's entire population of mountain gorillas (less than 900) lives in a mountainous region split by Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. A few years ago, we were able to observe these magnificent animals up close in the Rwandan side of the Virunga Conservation Area.

Southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia and Zambia) offers game viewing on foot and in boats (in addition to open-air vehicles), unique species of birds and amazing Victoria Falls. My family and I visited Zambia and Botswana on safari several summers ago, and we were thrilled with the game viewing from dugout canoes in the Okavango Delta and from the backs of lumbering elephants along the Zambezi River.

South Africa (the country) is unique in that safaris are frequently combined with a cosmopolitan segment to form a very diverse vacation. Game reserves feature the continent's most deluxe safari lodges, and it's easy to add time in the beautiful city of Cape Town or the scenic Garden Route stretch of the southern coast. Click here for a complete list of possibilities.

Once you've chosen your destination, it's time to consider safari operators, which can be roughly classified as budget, first class or deluxe -- in ascending order of cost and quality. Factors in classifying a safari include quality and location of accommodations, quality and number of included activities, size of the group and the level of personalized service.

Budget safaris offer price-conscious travelers a way to explore the African continent without breaking the bank. Budget safaris may feature modest accommodations and are offered by G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.

First-class safaris stay at more comfortable, full-service hotels and lodges and have more inclusions than budget trips. They are operated by Gate 1, Globus, and Monograms.

Deluxe safaris are even more upscale and inclusive, and groups are smaller. You'll stay in the finest accommodations and enjoy gourmet dining and personal attention throughout. Deluxe safaris are offered by Abercrombie & Kent, Adventures by Disney, African Travel (the company I chose for my Southern Africa trip), Alexander+Roberts, Alluring Africa, AmaWaterways, Collette, Natural Habitat Adventures, SITA (the company I chose for my Uganda and Rwanda trip -- it also has itineraries categorized as first class), and Tauck (the company I chose for my Tanzania trip).

Once you've decided on your destination and safari operator, you must determine what documentation is required for each of the countries you'll be visiting. Passports valid for at least six months beyond the end of your trip are required for all safari destinations but South Africa, which requires that the passport be valid for at least 30 days after the date of departure.

Travelers should make sure that there are enough pages in their passports for visas and immigration stamps for all countries that will be entered on the itinerary. Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa require that travelers have at least two blank, unstamped pages in their passports (the State Department recommends that all travelers going to or from Namibia via South Africa have at least six blank pages). Visas are required for U.S. citizens for travel to Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Next, it's essential to visit a doctor who specializes in travel medicine or the travel medicine department of a local hospital to learn about health issues in your destination. Certain immunizations are required, and others are highly recommended. It's best to make this visit well in advance of your trip, as some health threats require a series of inoculations over time, all prior to travel.

Now it's time to shop for safari essentials. Some items to consider are the right camera and lens for wildlife photography, binoculars and clothing suitable for safaris. Blue and black clothing attracts insects; earth colors of tan, green and brown are preferable. Clothing coated with Permethrin will discourage most flying and crawling insects, including malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Outdoors outfitters such as REI usually carry shirts and pants that are pretreated; some are sold under the BuzzOff brand. You also can find Permethrin at these types of stores to coat the rest of the clothes you plan to take.

For our gorilla trek in the mountains of Rwanda, we tested our hiking boots to make sure we could wear them blister-free for long hours. We also treated the boots with extra water repellent. A small daypack is good for carrying camera equipment and water, and a light rain jacket may be in order for some safari destinations.

Finally, many African safaris involve one or more flights on small prop planes with strict luggage weight restrictions. I've been known to pack for a big trip in 15 minutes, but the fear of having to leave some of my freshly poisoned safari clothes beside a dirt runway somewhere caused me to do the unthinkable before my first safari -- "practice" packing. Something to consider as you make your final preparations for what is sure to be an unforgettable adventure.

Top 10 Africa vacations

1) Southern Explorer, 10 days with African Travel. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg with visits to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Kruger Private Reserve and Victoria Falls. Save up to $2,900 per couple. Starting at $6,235. Departures from April 9 through December 17, 2015.

2) Culture & Wildlife of Uganda & Rwanda, 10 days with G Adventures. Begins in Kampala and ends in Kigali with visits to Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Volcanoes National Park. Starting at $2,449. Departs July 18, September 19, October 17 and December 19, 2015.

3) Namibia Getaway, 15 days with Intrepid Travel. Begins and ends in Windhoek with visits to Fish River Canyon, Sossusvlei and Etosha National Park. Starting at $2,765. Departures from May 2, 2015 through December 17, 2016.

4) Kruger, Cape Town & Falls, 13 days with G Adventures. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Livingstone with visits to Johannesburg, the Kruger National Park area and Victoria Falls. Starting at $3,499. Departures from April 18 through December 19, 2015.

5) Kenya Private Safari, 10 days with Monograms. Begins and ends in Nairobi with visits to Amboseli National Park, Samburu National Reserve and Masai Mara National Reserve. Save $300 per couple. Starting at $4,049. Departures from May 23 through December 26, 2015.

6) Tanzania: The Serengeti & Beyond, 10 days with Globus. Begins and ends in Arusha with visits to Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park. Starting at $4,159. Departures from September 16, 2015 through March 9, 2016.

7) Wilds of Botswana & Victoria Falls, 11 days with Monograms. Begins and ends in Johannesburg with visits to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Moremi Wildlife Reserve and Chobe National Park. Receive $200 per couple in air credit. Starting at $4,409. Daily departures from May 24 through December 27, 2015.

8) Kenya & Tanzania Wildlife Safari, 12 days with Abercrombie & Kent. Begins and ends in Nairobi with visits to Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara National Reserve. Save up to $3,000 per couple. Starting at $8,495. Departs October 13 & 20, November 3 and December 8, 2015.

9) Uganda & Rwanda in Depth, 11 days with SITA Tours. Begins in Entebbe and ends in Kigali with visits to Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Starting at $8,945. Daily departures from April 9 through December 31, 2015.

10) Stars of South Africa, 16 days with AmaWaterways. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg with visits to Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls and Greater Kruger National Park. Starting at $11,695. Departures from April 24 through November 6, 2015.

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Please e-mail me your comments, suggestions and questions at alanfox@africasafari.com and I will respond the same day.

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Alan Fox
Chairman & CEO
Vacations To Go

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