It’s been more than a decade since I’ve taken an African safari. But the mental picture of the hauntingly beautiful scenery sticks with me as though I had gazed out on the rugged landscapes and met Africa’s amazing people just yesterday. Even today, the colors and hues, sounds and smells, and the aura of Africa’s heart and soul remain vividly etched in my memory.
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe is an add-on trip on several cruise lines' itineraries
Most travelers who journey on a vacation to Africa say it’s an emotional awakening. If you’ve sent clients to Africa, you’ve likely heard that. People come back and say they’ve “changed.” After all, having a latte at Starbucks or heading to the mall may seem trite when compared to the life-and-death situations nature delivers in the wild African bush.
Certainly, you may have clients who relish the idea of a full-blown African safari experience of 10 to 21 days. But you also may have others not sure that type of vacation is quite right for them. For those people who just want a taste of safari, you might recommend the concept of what I call the “Cruise to Safari.”
On African port calls, clients will view lions, antelopes, giraffes and other exotic creatures, but they won’t spend their entire vacation doing that—a big plus for travelers seeking a snapshot experience in central and southern Africa’s game parks, but also seeking other things from their trip.
In addition, clients who don’t relish packing and unpacking every few days as they move between various lodges on land may view a cruise with safari day trips as the perfect ticket to a happy vacation.
A Taste of Safari
There are plenty of cruising options to suit every taste. On January 19, your clients might depart on Holland America Line’s 131-day Grand World Cruise from Los Angeles to New York on the Rotterdam. Port calls include Mombasa, Kenya; Mamoudzou, French Comoros; Nosy Be and Maputo, Mozambique; Richards Bay, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa; and Luderitz and Walvis Bay, Namibia. Prices on the full World Cruise begin at $21,499 per person, double.
Holland America says most of its African port calls are lengthy, averaging 16 hours a day. Plus, the voyage boasts a two-and-a-half-day port call in Cape Town, offering several safari tour options. The most popular shore excursions on previous voyages were “Lion Sands Game Reserve, Sabi Sand & Mpumalanga Overland Adventure”; “Aquila Game Reserve”; and “Victoria Falls Overland Adventure.” Holland America was still fine-tuning shore trip pricing at press time.
When the ship calls at Mombasa, Holland America also offers a “Taita Hills Game Sanctuary Overnight Tour” and the “Masai Mara Game Reserve Overland Adventure.” On a Walvis Bay, Namibia, port call, the truly adventurous can take a 4x4 adventure through the Namib Desert Reserve.
Clients may also book a 22- to 25-day “Africa to the Americas” segment of that same Holland America World Cruise; this segment departs from Cape Town and ends in New York. The voyage is priced from $4,459 per person, double. Clients may arrive early for an optional pre-cruise safari package.
Your clients can also get a taste of Africa on Regent Seven Seas’ 20-night voyage from Mumbai, India, to Cape Town, South Africa, departing November 1 on Seven Seas Navigator. Rates begin at $9,450 per person, double.
Regent’s shore options on this voyage include “Motion and Safari,” an optional Circles of Interest safari program that’s priced at $395 per person. Award-winning photographer and guide Ken Haas will provide Circles of Interest guests with personalized instruction on safari photography. He’ll also accompany Circles of Interest guests on a trip from Mombasa to Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park. Famed for its large population of elephants, Tsavo is also home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, elands, klipspringers, gerenuks and myriad birds. With Haas’ help, your clients won’t just view the animals, they’ll capture memories of the wildlife in stunning photography to last a lifetime.
If your clients prefer a combination western and southern Africa option, consider Silver Wind’s 18-day Las Palmas-to-Cape Town cruise. Departing December 2, this Silversea Cruises voyage features calls at the Cape Verde Islands; Dakar, Senegal; Banjul, The Gambia; and Bom Bom Island in Sao Tome and Principe with an overnight stay in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Early booking incentive fares start at $8,046 per person, double occupancy.
One of the highlights of this itinerary is a 3.5-hour complimentary Silversea Experience in the Namib Desert on a call at Walvis Bay. Arriving at the desert locale on 4x4 shuttles, guests will enjoy stunning landscapes, African music, a welcome drink and a buffet dinner in the desert.
Silversea also offers two post-cruise safari options from Cape Town. A four-night “Wildlife of Londolozi” trip includes a stay at South Africa’s Londolozi Tree Camp and ends in Johannesburg. It’s priced at $4,855 for cruise-only guests and $4,285 per person for cruise guests who have booked Silversea’s air/hotel arrangements. Another five-night “Victoria Falls & Chobe Chilwero” trip is priced from $4,740 for cruise-only guests and from $4,155 for Silversea air/hotel program guests.
Tahitian Princess will make a 32-day Africa, India and Southeast Asia cruise before being renamed Ocean Princess
Guests who want a taste of Africa and also to be a part of maritime history might opt for the last official cruise of Tahitian Princess before she is renamed Ocean Princess. The Princess Cruises’ vessel will operate a 32-day Africa, India and Southeast Asia cruise. It embarks at Cape Town, South Africa, on October 18, 2009, and disembarks in Singapore. Cruise fares start at $5,188 per person, double.
During that cruise, guests might book an optional “Overnight Safari to Phinda Private Game Reserve” on October 22 when the ship is in East London, South Africa. This reserve’s beaches are breeding grounds for endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles. Its river flood plain is home to hippos, flamingos and crocodiles. And its classic African veldt is the hunting ground of the great cats, including lions, leopards and cheetahs.
Your clients don’t have to book a luxury or premium product to cruise to safari action, though. Contemporary Costa Cruises offers six 14-day roundtrip voyages on Costa Europa from Port Louis, Mauritius; they’re offered from December through February. All include a lengthy port call in Mombasa, Kenya. There are also repositioning voyages between Savona, Italy and Port Louis available.
For $209 for adults and $157 for children ages 4-14, guests may book Costa’s “Shimba Nature Reserve and Beach Relaxation” shore excursion. Clients will travel to the hills of Shimba to explore diverse ecosystems including a large coastal rainforest. Clients may spot monkeys, buffalo, giraffes, zebras, antelope, ostrich or even elephants.
The trip also includes a buffet spread at the Baobab Beach Resort and an afternoon of sun and relaxation on the beach. Another safari shore trip option, at $241 for adults, $180 for children, is “Safari in Tsavo East National Park.” Game spotting is the prime activity with a stop at a park lodge included.
The above voyages are just some of the major options. European lines may also offer voyages that include Africa.
So if your clients are intrigued by an African safari, but don’t want to fully commit to a multiweek tour or other lengthy land trip, you might consider suggesting a cruise with a port call or embarkation in a South or East African locale. It’s a great way to combine exotic travel—and a taste of the African bush—with the comforts of home onboard a modern ship.
And with the unforgettable sights of Africa as a draw, those who enjoy a cruise-focused vacation to this region may wish to return for a full-blown land tour at a later date. I often picture the sun setting over Tsavo’s rugged red landscapes and yearn to return some day. Thus, an African voyage that gives clients a taste of safari may be the perfect ticket to repeat business.