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Be honest...Has Africa really been the best holiday destination you have ever visited?

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Apr 19th, 2004, 10:25 PM
  #1
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Be honest...Has Africa really been the best holiday destination you have ever visited?

I do not wish to influence this post with my own thoughts, at least not until a fair amount of Fodorites have had a chance to contribute. I would like to know where has been your favorite destination/holiday and what was most memorable about it, whether it is Africa or elsewhere.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 06:04 AM
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Favorite Destinations (not in order of preference):

Wildlife Viewing:

1. Botswana (Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park -- incredible wildlife viewing)

2. Kenya and Tanzania -- wildebeast migration in Masai Mara and visit to Ngorongoro Crater

3. Uganda and Rwanda -- gorilla treks in Bwindi and PNV

4. Indonesia -- Komodo Island

5. Galapagos -- stunning!!

6. Nepal -- rhino viewing from elephants in Royal Chitwan

Cities

1. Havana -- go before it becomes too popular

2. Cairo

3. Sydney

4. Cambodia (Angkor Wat)

5. Beijing

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Apr 20th, 2004, 06:31 AM
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Thit Cho,

Thanks for the response. I would never have imagined that Havana and Cairo would top your list, but it does make me very curious to visit these places in the future.

Best route to Havana? Through Cancun? Through Canada?

How was the lodging in Havana and what were your activities like? Did you also visit the ritzy beaches elsewhere on the island?

I am looking for a good place to spend 7-9 night in late December/early January, and with airfares the way they are right now, I wouldn't mind keeping it local. Plus, in my younger more rebellious days I used to promise scaredtodeath that we were going to Cuba, and every now and then it gets thrown in my face, so that would be a great way to get that monkey off my back.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 06:46 AM
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I visited in July 1997, and at that time, an easy route was via Nassau, Bahamas. But you have to clear US customs in Nassau on the return, and they were very suspicious. Fortunately, I had fedexed my purchases from the Fedex down the block from the Nassau Airport, so they didn't find anything. If I were to visit again, I'd go via Cancun (you can enter Mexico using a birth certificate and photo ID so Mexico won't stamp your passport -- the problem with using a passport is that you have an entry, exit and another entry stamp so US customs, if they really look, can tell you went someplace when you got to Cancun). The Cuban gov't won't stamp your passport.

We only went to Havana and we stayed in an older hotel (the Sevilla which was where Graham Greene stayed when he wrote "Our Man in Havana"). There are now better hotels.

Its worth considering, and its a very inexpensive trip. But bring cash -- no US travelers checks or credit cards, so if you have a problem, you can really be f**ked.

Those were just some of my favorite cities, aside from the European capitals (I think I've been to almost all of them and they are great, but everyone has visited some of them).

Some off-the-beaten path cities in Europe that I really enjoyed:

1. Krakow, Poland
2. Oporto, Portugal
3. Valleta, Malta
4. Vilnius, Riga and Tallin (Baltic capitals)
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Apr 20th, 2004, 06:58 AM
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I can't say Africa has been the best holiday destination I've ever visited since "best" implies that it's better in all respects than all other destinations.

I can say it's the only place that's created such an intense pull in my heart to return - the withdrawal symptoms are very different to the normal post-holiday blues. Even coming back from Kenya knowing I'm about to leave for two months in Southern Africa I felt such a pang on leaving and the trip is still on my mind a great deal.

I love France, absolutely love it, but I don't get those pangs because it's so easy to just jump in the car and drive there for a weekend. I know I can return and return easily.

But there are many destinations I have enjoyed very very much.

India - both because of the family ties and because I truly think it's one of the most fascinating and incredible travel destinations in the world. India assaults all 5 senses like few places can.

France - I love the people, the language, the food, the values of the society... I really do enjoy visiting very much.

Tallinn - a city I'd wanted to visit for 10 years, finally got there a year or two back. Really enjoyed it. Some have dismissed it as a disneyesque jewel within a concrete jungle. To me it's a fascinating insight into a complex history - I love the contrast between the preserved Old Town and the communist era suburbs surrounding it.

Barcelona - a city that invites tourists in a way that some tourist hot spots such as Paris don't bother to do anymore. Paris KNOWs she will get visitors - individuals can still be welcoming but Paris as a whole is not so friendly. Barcelona is the opposite -dynamic, exciting, fresh.

Alaska - astounding natural beauty and low population density. Also found British Columbia appealing in a similar way. It's been a long time since I visited Vancouver so don't know whether it's improved or lost charm since my visit.

Of course the destination I'm usually most excited about at any given moment is either the one I've just returned from or the one I'm currently planning a trip to!
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Apr 20th, 2004, 07:32 AM
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Who would have thought two votes for Tallin? Kavey, glad you agree. Vilnius is likewise as beautiful, and Riga a bit less so, but Riga is equally interesting. A visit to all three capitals is a great one-week trip, and you can get between them easily by bus, which is how we traveled.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 07:41 AM
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I loved South Africa and loved going on safari..enjoyed touring the diamond mine in Pretoria and the scenic beauty of the Sourth Africa coast lines and standing on the Cape of Good Hope...but my most favorite experience/a life altering memory and top destination..Standing on top of the Aigulle du Midi in the Swiss Alps. That was the ultimate unforgetable holiday experience...
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Apr 20th, 2004, 10:50 AM
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After traveling many times to Africa, Europe, USA, Canada, Central and South Americas I have to admit that ALASKA wins hands down.
I agree with Kavey about Alaska's astounding natural beauty and animals are spectacular. Just go to Katmai National Park and Preserve for a day of secluded bear watching and you will never forget it.
We loved our safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana but Alaska has a very special place in my heart.
Galapagos was amazing for wildlife, Costa Rica for birds and friendly people, Greece for history and scenery, Andalusia for Moorish architecture and hiking oportunities, Dordogne for prehitoric cave art, Crete for scenery, Patagonia for seclusion and beauty, Southeast Arizona for its desert scenery, Poland for great hiking in Tatras Mountains, Paris for being Paris, Corsica for astounding vistas, Maldives for snorkeling, Hawaii for its exotic feel, North Carolina for its flowers and greenery, New Hampshire in October.
There are many more places. I have to admit there are more places to admire and love than Africa. And I love Africa! If I focused only on Africa I would never know how many more amazing places are all over the world. Good question, Rocco
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Apr 20th, 2004, 11:41 AM
  #9
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Thans for all the wonderful responses. I definitely need to add Alaska, Galapagos Islands and Tallin to the top of the list right next to Botswana. I also need to figure out how to take six weeks of holiday per year to allow the timely visit to the many beautiful places this green earth has to offer.

Another curiosity, how many weeks per year does each person that answered above and each future respondent travel per year? So far, I am stuck at about 3-4 per year, allowing only one major trip and a couple smaller ones, or a couple two week trips.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 11:59 AM
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Officially, 4 weeks per year, but I travel often for business (I'm going to Miami in next week and will be in Madrid in May and Warsaw in June and August) and I usually add a few days to each overseas trip to visit someplace new. So, when I visit Warsaw, I am already researching a visit to Ukraine.

And as a partner in a big New York law firm, I can usually take more than my alloted four weeks.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 12:37 PM
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Rocco we spent a whole 5 nights/ days in Tallinn but that's our travelling style - we like to settle in and take it easy.
Others who visit for only 2 or 3 nights/ days might well tear around so fast that they tick off more sights than we do.

As for time off per year - up until two years ago I received 24 days annual leave (on top of the UK's 8 national holidays).

In the UK sick leave is separate and NOT used as extra paid vacation as it is often used in the USA.

I would try and book my trips to include national holidays so that, although prices were higher, my annual leave allowance went further.

We mainly did numerous shorter trips such as 5 day self-drives to France, the 5 nighter to Tallinn, same to Barcelona. We did a few week long trips such as Madeira and India and a very few two weekers such as USA and Africa.

This year is completely screwy as we'll end up taking about 16 weeks leave! Not to mention the unintentional leave I take when I haven't secured work - my job is not one for which I can get nice 5 day/ week contracts - it's much more project based and can be anything from 1 or 2 days for a client to several days to 3 days a week over several months.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 12:40 PM
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I have three weeks vacation. I usually take two holidays each year..one major one, and one smaller trip. However, when we planned the trip to South Africa/Swazi we planned for three weeks. The enormity of just those two places made three weeks seem short.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 01:20 PM
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Roccco - for Cuba, friends on the West Coast have gone thru Mexico; and from here in NY (or between Wash DC, and west to ORD) many go via Toronto or Montreal. I believe you have Flight Center travel offices out there on the west coast. If so check if they have brochures which include Cuba??? Then, maybe not! Otherwise, check this site:

www.airtransat.com

out of Canada,they do travel South for the winter, then off to Europe in the summer (charters), but their site might have information on the various accommodations throughout Cuba. Very nice indeed.

But as thit_cho mentioned, it's USD only, and you've got to watch yourself returning to the States. Big Brother is watching in Mexico, the Caribbean and even Canadian points of entry from Cuba for those passengers who head for a flight into the US - and that's the "gotcha". It's actually better to gather your bags, leave the airport for an overnight, then onto the states the next day; or just leave the airport and recheck yourself in as if it's your initial flight.

As to best holiday destinations:

Egypt
Turkey

- can't visit the two above and have enough history of civilizations, upon civilizations; wherever they dig, they find history; in fact anyplace in the Middle East is fascinating.

Thailand
Siem Reap (Angkor)

- if they could only do something about the heat and humidity, I'd be only willing to return again.

France and England are easy trips from he East Coast and I've enjoyed both. Have no interest in Italy; Amsterdam is fun. There are some great islands in the Caribbean and don't forget, lots of great adventures right here in the States (off the tourist route).

For me it's not a matter of "the best" - they're all different and are visited for their differences.

But, as Kavey says, something pulls at you when you leave Africa, it's the one place that takes the longest to get back to yourself once home - the one that really touches your soul.
 
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Apr 20th, 2004, 01:28 PM
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Although I've been to many places, the overall BEST are, not in any particular order:

- Egypt
- The American West, particularly the mountains
- Safari in Africa
- London
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Apr 20th, 2004, 01:45 PM
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Aaw NoFlyZone, nice to see my home town (London) listed in there...
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Apr 20th, 2004, 02:17 PM
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When my father took me to Botswana and Zimbabwe in 2001, I fully expected it to be the "trip of a lifetime," never imagining that I would become so passionate about Africa, needing to return every year. So, yes, Africa is the best vacation place I've ever been. Why?

First and foremost--seeing the animals in their natural habitat. I have had a lifelong love for animals and have refused to set foot in zoos for over 30 years. I can't begin to describe the thrill when first seeing a herd of elephants on the shore of the Gache Gache River in Zimbabwe. Or, getting within five feet of the mountain gorillas in Uganda. For me, NOTHING can compare to those experiences.
I think, for me, Africa provides an experience that is so profoundly different from my day-to-day existence. I live in San Francisco and have lived here, in the heart of the city, for my entire adult life. While I've visited Paris, London, Rome, Florence, Venice, Brussels, New York, which all have their individual charm and beauty and excitement, they are, for me, just variations of all major cities. It was not until I visited Africa that I realized that I am no longer intrigued or even interested in spending my vacations that way--running around a city, going to museums, hanging out in cafes, finding restaurants, shopping, etc. etc. I can do all that home.

Africa allows me to just be....I am forced to relax and just look and listen and smell...No other place on earth provides that type of serenity.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 04:46 PM
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Phernska,

Ditto!
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Apr 20th, 2004, 05:32 PM
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I vote for Alaska as one of the best places to visit. It is largely untouched and unique.

I also vote for London, especially if your traveling with kids. A great, fun place with history that interests the little ones.

Best beaches - St. John USVI

We do two 'big' vacations a year. One usually being beach oriented and the other is usually Europe. We are going on our first safari this year.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 09:31 PM
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The answer to the question for me is absolutely, completely, whole-heartedly, YES. I have been completely around the world over a period of 2 years, this was years ago. Went from east to west (starting in the states and then Hawaii, Japan etc.). Other times I have visited and lived in several countries. Out of all of these, Africa is my favorite. Africa is special.

Outside of Africa, the country that makes the deepest impression is India, however I will never consider it a holiday - it is an experience.

Some favorite cities - Kyoto, London. Crete was a wonderful holiday location. But for me, an animal lover, everything pales compared to Africa. Waking up in the bush and wondering what wonderful animals I'll see today...? Heading out to a new camp and wondering what interesting people I'll meet. Typically when we travel in other places we don't meet a lot of new people, at least not long enough to have a two-hour dinner conversation. In Africa you do. Wonderful, adventurous people that are also traveling and kind gentle people who live in Africa. I just feel that traveling in Africa was like nothing else I had done before and yes, it meant so much to me that I wish everyone I know could experience it. I never felt so alive as I did there.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 09:51 PM
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Clematis,

I also enjoy meeting new people in Africa, and being able to enjoy a two hour dinner in the boma, with torches lit, armed guards sometimes standing by, and wine and good food being passed around.

I have been on a couple cruises where dinners are a shared event, and the same comradery is just not evident.

It is a thrill to see who the other guests in a camp/lodge are going to be. I swear, scaredtodeath and I, laughed for two straight days and nights with the British guests that we shared Kafunta River Lodge with last June.

Of course, it really is the luck of the draw, as during our stay at Djuma Vuyatela, there were two separate groups of seven people, one group made up of two families and the other group made up of (mostly Texan) flight attendants. The only other guests were friends and family of the owners, and that is it. I am sure if there were other couples there, it would have made for a better time. After that experience, I will be hesitant to stay at a place as commercial as Djuma.

Going back to 2002, I will say that I enjoyed the guests, for the most part, at each Singita and Matetsi Water Lodge.

The other guests are a very important component in the whole safari experience, but fortunately I think that mostly people going on safari outside the Sabi Sand are mostly a very well travelled group (as are most of those in the Sabi Sand, just too many children in the Sabi Sand).
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