The Top Ten Travel Sights of Africa

It is difficult to list a top ten African travel wonders list without leaving out a number of other superb sights. Here is my list. How many have you seen?

1. Mountain Gorillas of Central Africa

It is an indescribable experience to spend an hour visiting an habituated gorilla family in the rain forests of Central Africa. With over 98% commonality of DNA with human beings, you can sense and feel their emotions and familial ties. A family group which varies from 8 to 20 is led by an alpha male – the silverback – with a silvery blanket of hair down his back. Seriously endangered, tourism is their only chance of survival.

2. Wildlife Safari in East Africa

The African rift valley offers the most remarkable variety of wildlife to view anywhere on Earth. Across the protected game parks in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, seeing the great African wildlife is a special experience to savor. Way beyond reading National Geographic, seeing in real life a pride of lions stalking and hunting down its prey gets your heart racing. Vultures and jackals hover nearby for their share of the feast. Many plan to see the so-called Big Five, the buffalo, elephant, lion, rhinoceros and leopard, along with the familiar antelope, giraffes, zebras and wildebeest, along with a wide variety of colorful birds.

3. Pyramids and Sphinx of Egypt

The Great Pyramids of Giza, just outside Cairo, have stood and overseen over 5000 years of Egyptian history. These giants structures stand in a stark sandy desert expanse while local touts sell camel rides or their various crafts, souvenirs and knick-knacks. The nightly light and sound show describes the rich history with colorful lights and lasers.

4. Victoria Falls

The locals describe it as the “The Smoke that Thunders” in their native language, where plumes of spray from the thunderous water can be seen for miles around as the calm waters of the mile-wide Zambezi River plunges well over 100 yards into the deep gorge below. These famous waterfalls change mood across the year from the dry to the wet seasons and often appear with dazzling rainbows in the misty spray.

5. Nile River and Egyptian Temples

Small armies of river boats travel the famed Nile River between Luxor and Aswan in central Egypt. From the cool of the boat, you can enjoy the narrow fertile strip of land being intensively farmed in much the same manner as it has sustained the population for centuries. This thin strip of greenery is the only break from the desolate Saharan sands which seem to extend forever. Luxor’s Temple of Karnak is an ancient construction on an unequaled scale with pillars, carvings, ceremonial lakes and temples extending over an area beyond a mile by half a mile. The pharaohs’ final resting places sit on the opposite bank of the Nile in the Valley of the Kings – a stark, empty ravine.

6. Sahara Desert

Incredibly hot by day and surprisingly cool by night, the dry vastness of the Sahara Desert is striking in its beauty. Eroded over the centuries by wind, jagged mountains, rocky escarpments and sweeping sand dunes detail a harsh terrain. The small oasis towns reveal a battle for survival over the many centuries, the refreshing patches of green highlighting the invaluable resource of water.

7. Moroccan Cities of Marrakesh and Fes

With their souks woven like ancient mazes, Marrakesh and Fes both boast remarkable medinas (walled-in areas of the town) which ignite every human sense. Rich in craft shops (tanners, textile makers, dressmakers, jewelers and carpet weavers), food stalls and teashops (with their enchanting sweet mint tea), the alluring aroma of spices clash with the nasty odors of the dye pits. Every night, Marrakesh’s immense Djemaa el Fna square becomes a virtual circus of snake charmers, fortune tellers, jugglers, comedians, spruikers and magicians as you enjoy the tasty delights from the variety of fresh food stalls and juice bars.

8. Dogon Villages of Mali

The Dogon people live in simple villages along the imposing 120 mile Bandiagara Cliff. Their strange adobe (mud-brick) houses are built along the cliff edge providing areas to sleep and relax, common areas for village meetings and for storage of grain. The houses are remarkably cool in this hot arid area.

9. Leptis Magna

Africa’s most significant Roman ruin overlooks the dazzling Mediterranean Sea. Being a major Roman city in its time, Leptis Magna includes the ruins of athletic arenas, theaters, markets and temples, along with the traditional central Roman Forum.

10. Zanzibar

The Spice Islands are a haven, providing a chance for a relaxing break from African travel and game parks. It has a number of sights with its Arabic heritage, the old Stone Town and tropical palm-fringed sandy beaches. The maze of ancient alleyways and narrow lanes are lined with whitewashed houses with superbly carved wooden doors. Culturally separate from the African mainland, small bazaars and gleaming tiled mosques provide mouthwatering cultural walks, between relaxing sun-baking sessions on the beach.

Africa has a wide variety of attractions and travel wonders to experience from the Arabic north through the jungles of central Africa to the rich jungles of southern Africa. Travel with a spirit of discovery and enjoyment to experience this wonderful and diverse continent.

Travel Cost Sinkhole

You won the contract, and it looks great… until you realize travel costs are going to eat you alive. It really hurts if you’re a small business, and it’s worse when times are hard and margins are thin.

So don’t let it happen to you. Make sure you and your client agree beforehand, formally, about such details as:

  • Will travel expenses be direct billed to the client, or must you submit them on invoices for later reimbursement by your client? Direct billing to the client is great for you. It nearly eliminates your financial risk on travel costs because you have hardly any travel cost to absorb for a billing cycle. Smart clients make it work to their benefit, too. I have seen a client do it to maximize their discounts as a high volume source of travel business.
  • What counts as travel time? Will it be billed only as actual time at a client site, or portal-to-portal? “Portal-to-portal” means billing begins when the worker departs to go to a client site and ends when the worker returns.
  • Is time spent traveling billable at the regular rate or a reduced rate? Is it subject to a daily ceiling?
  • Will you drive your own car, how will the cost of using your car be reimbursed? Or must you drive a rental car? In either case, is any special insurance required, and if so who pays for it?
  • Will you make your own travel arrangements, or does the client want you to use their favorite agency and discount programs?
  • Will air travel be first class, business class or coach? Does this apply to long international flights too? Does it apply to train travel? If your client demands that you use discount tickets, who picks up extra costs for any necessary changes that cause financial penalties?
  • Will lodging and meal expenses be on a reimbursement basis, or a per diem basis? Per diem is easier in terms of paperwork, but may not be feasible in some countries.
  • Who pays and arranges for special requirements such as visas, vaccinations, traveler’s medical kit, and insurance that is valid in a foreign country? One company sent a consultant and his family abroad for a six month assignment. He assumed his client was arranging visas. The client didn’t. His entire family found itself in Immigration Hell. Remarks: Health insurance is not the only kind to consider. For example, in some regions, kidnap insurance is recommended.
  • For foreign travel, must you hold reimbursement requests until a credit card bill arrives, or is a standard formula used to estimate reimbursement based on currency conversion from receipts? If the latter, which currency exchange rate table will be applied? Remarks: For a fixed price contract, either stipulate that the price is in the currency you prefer, or make provisions to cope with a rapid fall in the exchange rate for your currency. One of my clients recently paid another vendor about 28% extra for a fixed price job because this was missing from their contract.
  • Can the client terminate your contract while you are in the middle of travel to perform it? If so, who is responsible for your travel costs to return home? While abroad on business, my login accounts for that contract suddenly terminated. I belatedly realized nothing in my contract would make the client pay my way home if my contract was severed in mid-trip. Fortunately, a manager had only forgotten to file a routine renewal form.

Spell out the details up front to save your profit margin–and as a bonus, your relationship with the client will be smoother because you have done away with a potential source of friction.

How to Use Technology to Plan a Remarkable Vacation

If you can still remember the Flintstone’s, chances are you are not quite as savvy with some of the newest travel technology as the current generation, but it’s never too late to learn.

Tweet a Twacation

Twitter is a powerful tool for friends and family to help keep track of each other, but it also happens to be a nifty search tool in planning some pretty remarkable vacations. Twitter feeds enable various companies, such as Travelocity and American Airlines, to keep their followers up to the minute on the very latest deals and savings going on.

If you thought that registering for a daily travel newsletter was up to the minute, you’re actually missing out on some of the best “last minute” deals available each day. Many of these bargains are only offered on Twitter (United Airlines calls them, “Twares”), so if your not already Tweeting, it might be a good idea to set up an account. An account is not necessary for the search function, but it will allow you to follow other vacationers and ask questions.

The search feature on Twitter allows visitors the opportunity to type keywords, find great deals (type-in “travel deals”), and locate fun things to do (“Christmas festival”, “water park”, etc). A nifty trick is to use a minus sign in front of your initial keywords, followed by another keyword which expresses content you’d like to extract from your search. For instance, if you type, “ski colorado – durango”, it will eliminate all ski related subjects in Colorado associated with Durango, and so forth.

While you’re at your destination, you can also use Twitter to keep abreast of any special events in the area, such as festivals or new exhibits, while also gathering quick consumer reviews on restaurants and attractions. The easiest way to follow this type of “on the road” update, is through a compatible cell, such as an iPhone.

Traveling Via iPhone

Computers are great, but what limits their practicality while on vacation, is their pure cumbersome size and design. This is where an iPhone makes perfect sense. Using one of the many travel applications available (for various fees), you can literally place the entire world at your fingertips, including packing reminders (your toothbrush), and proof to your friends (via GPS) that you are actually where you say you are.

A few popular, “free”, applications to keep in mind for your next trip are Wikitude, Citysearch, GasFoodLodging.mobi, and OpenTable. Wikitude is a useful travel guide holding over 300,000 points of interest. Citysearch locates your favorite shops, restaurants, and night venues. If you like to take roadtrips, GasFoodLodging.mobi helps locate lodging, food, and gas; while the application, OpenTable, helps discern which restaurants are worth your while. OpenTable works by offering consumer ratings along with a sample menus of the types of food served.

Fred Flintstone only wishes he had this kind of practical, technological convenience!