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Africa’s Greatest Hits – by tour leader Joe

In my role as a tour leader with Oasis Overland in East and Southern Africa I am often asked at the start of trips, “What optional activities do you recommend?”. To this I usually answer, “Everything.” It is a very vague answer to what is, in reality, a very broad question. There is so much to see and do in this part of the world that without knowledge of your individual trip, budget and personal preferences it is the only answer I can give. Usually, after a long discussion I am able to help in narrowing down the huge range to what I feel you, the traveller, will get the most from. With this in mind I have put together a shortlist of the activities that in my opinion will help you get the most from your trip with Oasis. Some are cheapies but goodies, others may put a dent in those heard earned savings but are in my experience ‘must do’s’ that your African experience just would not be complete with out. 1. Trekking with Mountain Gorillas, Rwanda. Lets face it, at £495, it will probably be the most expensive hour of your life but it is something that will stay with you for the remainder of your life. You will be awake early and not long after wiping the sleep from your eyes you will be trekking into the lush Rwandan rainforest in search of the amazing creatures. Depending on how lucky you are you may only have a short walk or, if you are fit and up to the task it could be a leg shaking slog. Either way that all becomes inconsequential when the sound of the gorillas slapping their chests and grunting reaches your ears through the forest, a sound that shakes you to your core, and then there they are. Perhaps but a glimpse of a black shape moving through the undergrowth at first until you come across the whole family sitting down to a light lunch of bamboo shoots and leaves. Nothing can describe their presence. You don’t just see gorillas, you feel them. There is nothing quite like a 200kg silverback sitting only meters away surveying your every move. The babies are super playful and very inquisitive as all babies are. They roll and tumble clumsily as they move about the forest. I have even heard of the babies coming right up to humans to get a closer look. Imagine that with a 200kg father watching on… Walking in Hell's Gate National Park, Kenya2. Hell’s Gate National Park, Kenya I would not normally include this one but I am as talk around the campfire suggests that in the not to distant future this park will be closed to make way for geo-thermal electricity production. If it proves true then it is an absolute travesty that this amazing landscape will no longer be there for people to experience. Most folks opt to cycle through the park (don’t worry nothing is there that will eat you). It a pretty cruisy day out as you will be cycling along the flat base of an immense valley. With any luck you will spot the inspiration for Pride Rock from Disney’s ‘Lion King’ not to mention a few giraffe, zebras and warthogs or Pumbas as they are called in Swahili. Once across the park you reach Hells Gate Gorge inspiration for another scene in the Lion King (I will leave you to judge this one). Hells Gate is an important place for the local Masai as it is key to local folklore. A guided day trip including a local lunch should cost around $50. 3. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania There is little I can say about the Serengeti. Due to the cost of going I waited nearly a year before I finally ventured in and my first response was, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Where else in the world might you encounter wildbeest and zebra as far as the eye can see? Not to mention the predators that feed on them. The circle of life is there for all to see some even call it the greatest show on earth. Add to the mix Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara you have a three day experience it will take years to stop telling all your friends about. It doesn’t come cheap though. Depending on the size of your group expect to pay between $550 and $665. Note: When planning your trip bugdet to pay $665 that way you don’t have to miss out. If you get it for $550, great! Thats $115 to spend on something else. 4. Zanzibar Island, Tanzania Your African experience would not be complete without a trip to ZANZIBAR!!!! Perfect white beaches, crystal clear waters a shade of blue only the Indian Ocean can dish up. Don’t forget the sunset cruises, scuba diving, snorkelling, good food and if you are up for it, a boogie late into the night at one of the beachside bars. There is a lot more to this island though, it has a rich history of slavery and spices, a history you can learn all about on the brilliant spice tour. We must not forget the enchanting Stone Town either. Allow your self to get lost in its winding alleys and soak in the sights, sounds and smells to get the full Stone Town experience then find your way to Africa House for a tipple of your choice as the sun sets as only the African sun can. We spend 4 nights on Zanzibar and if you stay at the places we recommend you can expect to pay between $25 and $60 per night depending on the option you choose. Return passage on the ferry is $60. Meals range between $10 to $20 but you can get a great feed most places around the $10 mark. A sunset cruise on a traditional dhow is $25 and snorkelling trips vary between $50 and $30 again depending on the option you choose from. The spice tour is $25 and transfers from the ferry to your beach accommodation are $16. 5. Zimbabwe Ok, ok. So, Zimbabwe is not optional. You will go there if you book the right trip but there is so much to do there it seems unfair to tell you about a few and not the others!!! So I will try to give you a taste for Zim in the next paragraph. Where else can you hike in pristine mountain wilderness, get up close and personal with lions, stalk rhinos on foot, take a chopper ride over the world famous Victoria Falls and throw yourself off a bridge??? Thats right, Zimbabwe. I would list prices but as I said there is just so much and this is only really scratching the surface. Check out the pre-departure information for your respective trip for more info. If your Oasis Overland trip starts in Victoria Falls why not arrive a few days early to get the most from the town. 6. Okavango Delta Mokoro Trip, Botswana At $145 for 2 nights, 3 days this is great value for a truly unique experience. This activity is not about blood-pumping wildlife encounters, it is about you. I say that because the Delta and what people get from it is very much up to them. You can swim, learn to pole a Mokoro (a traditional dug-out canoe), play cards, read a book and just generally relax. You will see very few other people and hear only the wind through the trees, the grunting of a nearby hippo (if you are lucky) and the buzz of the occasional scenic flight. Its all about the serenity. 7. Sandboarding, Swakopmund, Namibia At only $40 this activity falls into the ‘cheapy but a goodie’ category. Hit the dunes just outside Swakopmund and carve up the sand on actual snowboards complete with boots and bindings. Take a break and have a go at lie down sandboarding which will inevitably turn into a battle of the biggest ego to see who can go screaming down the dune the fastest, usually top speeds for the day are approaching 80kph. Worked up a thirst and an appetite? Thats cool, lunch and a few cold drinks are all part of the deal. 8. White Water Rafting Few things compare to the rush of white water rafting and two of the best grade five rivers in the world await. The Nile River in Uganda and the Zambezi River on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia offer very different experiences. The Nile is all about long stretches of tranquil flat water broken up by terrifying drops and big rapids where as the Zambezi is a balls to the wall rollercoaster ride of surging white water. If you are unsure of this whole rafting caper and have the luxury of visiting both places I suggest trying your hand on the Nile and if you like it go for the duo when you hit Victoria Falls. Rafting the Nile costs $150 with a sunset cruise on Lake Bujagali included and if you want to charge the Zambezi it will set you back $165. Note: Rafting the Nile is another African experience that is at threat as the Ugandan Government is in the planning stage of building a new dam for hydro-electricity production. If the dam goes ahead as planned the rapids currently used by the rafters will be lost forever. 9. Cultural Experiences There is a lot more to Africa than the ‘Big 5’. One of the most important and rewarding aspects of travel is exposure to and integration with different cultures and a trip with Oasis Overland is abound with opportunities to interact with local people and experience local customs. From an orphan school visit in Uganda to village walks in Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi to slum or township tours in Uganda and Namibia. In all cases these are run by local people for the benefit of the local people. Cost ranges from a few dollars to $40 but all will leave you with a much truer sense of what life is like for those who call these places home. Alternatively, you could take yourself on your very own village tour. Africa is just outside the campsite waiting to say “Hello”. Regardless of how you spend your time in Africa you will be amazed. The continent is unlike any other place and an Oasis Overland trip the perfect way to see it and the more activities you can manage to do the more memories you can take away. So, when planning your trip take these activities into consideration. Any further information you may require on activities is in the pre-departure information. Just remember you may only get one chance to come to Africa, why not get the most of it? Note: These prices were correct at the time of writing.

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