As suspected, my first trip to Africa just a couple of months ago infected me with an overwhelming desire for a return trip. Owing to slightly better than expected financial circumstances, it's looking like that return trip could be a real possibility as early as this year (or sometime next year if this year doesn't pan out). Here's my dilemma: I really loved the parks/conservancies and camps I visited in December (Amboseli, Ol Peteja, Mara; Porini camps at each stop) and would be happy to return to any of them, but I don't want to get tunnel vision and overlook what I have no doubt are breathtaking experiences elsewhere in Africa.
This leads me to the question in the topic heading: what made you fellow travelers fall in love with Africa? I want to know what your favorite experiences were, what surprised you, what you couldn't stop thinking about when you got back. I've read and enjoyed a lot of trip reports, but I thought it would be worthwhile to frame the question here, too. What places would you recommend (among those I've listed and/or anywhere else in Africa) for future travels, primarily with a safari focus? Rave reviews of particular parks, conservancies and/or lodgings are welcome.
A bit more background:
I'm interested in wildlife, particularly leopards, which I didn't see on my last trip. I saw the other four of the Big 5, though, so they don't need to be the focus (i.e. I won't rule anywhere out just because they don't offer all of the Big 5). Also, I was surprised by how impressive the birds were in Kenya, but I'm not a birder. Areas boasting five hundred species aren't necessarily more interesting to me than areas with "only" a hundred.
I loved the privacy/exclusivity of the camps I stayed at and would like similar experiences elsewhere, but I recognize that a lot depends on context (i.e. I wouldn't look for solitude at Ngorongoro, even though I'm sure I'd love it for other reasons). I don't want to do "sleeping bag on the ground" camping, but I don't need a butler in my tent either. I also wouldn't rule out lodges, but Africa's draw for me is its wildlife, so I don't need -- or particularly want -- a resort-type atmosphere.
I'm leaning toward a return trip to East Africa and probably Kenya at this point, primarily because it seems to be less expensive. But I'm asking the question because I'm quite willing to be swayed by experiences that were special to other people. I'd probably travel alone again, so insight into other solo travel experiences would be welcome (but not required). I'm thinking of taking maybe 12-14 days, but that's very tentative. Alternately, I'm giving serious thought to booking something during the migration (Sept. maybe) if there's still availability; it wasn't a priority for me before, but Tanzania's highway lunacy is making me very nervous.
Please tell me what you loved, what you thought overrated, what you'd get back to in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself. Asante sana!
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