by Christina Hlusko, President and CEO, CAA North & East Ontario
Just like that, summer is drawing to a close and the back-to-school season is once again upon us. Students across Ontario are already back in the classroom, ready to tackle a brand-new year.
I’ve always believed that the real world makes the best classroom. There’s nothing quite like traveling to a foreign land to stimulate your brain. Whether it’s learning a new language, becoming familiar with a different culture, or just meeting new people; travelling is a wonderful way to broaden your horizons.
Over the years, our travels as a family have taken us far and wide – across six continents, from beach holidays down south to as far away as Antarctica.
While we’ve enjoyed the quick getaways, it’s the farthest-flung destinations that have proven the most satisfying; those off-the-beaten-track trips are the ones we reminisce about the most.
Recently, we got to cross the seventh and last continent off our list – Africa, and it’s safe to say that we saved the best continent for last! Our adventure took us to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe; and no matter where we looked, we were mesmerized by magnificent landscapes and majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
On the Kapama game reserve in South Africa, our open safari vehicles would set off in the early morning (5:30 AM) and again in the late afternoon (4 PM), in search of the “Big Five.” Our experienced ranger and tracker team ensured that we didn’t miss a thing and shared with us many important facts about the game we would be seeing, as well as the flowers, bushes and trees along the way.
Our first day on safari, we saw two lionesses playing with their cubs trailing alongside them. Our guide told us they were sisters, and that you could see from their shrunken bellies that they were hungry. That evening, we saw them again – this time without their cubs, as they were on the hunt for food. The changes we saw in their behaviour, from playful to lethal, was stark – and it resonated with me that we were truly on their territory.
We did end up seeing all of the Big Five before we left Kapama, including the elusive leopard – twice! What was most startling to us was just how close we were to these magnificent beasts. But not once did we ever feel unsafe, our skilled guides ensured this while we made sure to keep in mind that we were but visitors to the animal kingdom.
Even as visitors, we weren’t without our creature comforts. Over the past several years, African countries have leapt to the forefront of international gastronomy and wine culture – especially South Africa. Our trip underscored just how far the destination has grown on the culinary scene. We enjoyed exceptional food and wine, and luxurious accommodations – both on- and off-safari…and all at a surprisingly reasonable price!
Indeed, a trip this exotic doesn’t have to be too difficult to plan or too expensive to afford – it just takes the experience of a skilled travel agent. Which is part of the destination’s appeal: often, what you think about Africa is wholly different from what you find once there. And that’s the value of travel – it’s a real-world education that can be every bit as exciting as it is eye-opening.
Visiting Africa won’t just leave you with hundreds of stunning photos. You’ll also come home with a better understanding of the countries you’ve seen – and the kaleidoscope of landscapes and cultures within them!
For many, a trip to Africa is once in a lifetime. As such, I always recommend speaking with a travel agent who has expertise in the region, as a necessary first step in the planning process. They can help with planning for things like visas, travel vaccines, currency, electrical adaptors, and advice on what season you are visiting and where the animals will be in their migration cycle.
I also recommend that you do as much research as possible before the trip. Talk to friends who’ve been, read the news and travel magazines, attend seminars, and keep current with Global Affairs Canada’s travel advisories to your destination.
Staying well-informed ensures that your vacation meets your expectations. And a good travel agent ensures that it exceeds them!
Lastly, don’t forget to protect your travel investment. A trip this special should be properly insured to give you the peace of mind to venture forth, in full confidence.
If you’re interested in seeing Africa for yourself, go with CAA’s Solo Traveller Club (STC)! This group of like-minded adventurers will be journeying to the beautiful continent on the upcoming Spectacular South Africa departure, December 2-13, 2018.
STC tours are designed for travellers who may be going solo, but don’t want to be alone. With the company of a group of fun and fearless travel companions, STC tours provide travellers with exciting opportunities abroad, in a relaxing and enriching environment. Call to learn more about this exciting departure: 1-855-402-4636 or email: email@example.com. Or save your seat, it’s as easy as clicking here.
Photo credit: Christina Hlusko.