Picture of San bushmen around a fire in the Kalahari in Botswana

Photograph by Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

By Margaret Loftus

Benin, Togo, Ghana: Voodoo Central

Soak up West Africa’s cultural heritage: Join a voodoo ritual in Ouidah, boat around the village of Ganvié built on stilts in Lake Nokoué, and check out Lomé’s fetish market. GeoEx: “Mystical West Africa,” 13 days; $5,550; http://www.geoex.com/

Botswana: Africa for Kids

This adventure kicks off in the Makgadikgadi Pans, where travelers spend two nights under the stars on Kubu Island. It winds up in the Okavango Delta, where kids are schooled in bush survival and tracking skills. Audley Travel: “Ultimate Botswana Adventure,” 10 days; $8,585; http://www.audleytravel.com/

Kenya: Community Conservation

Longtime naturalist Wayne Sentman offers a behind-the-scenes look at conservation on this safari, from community health initiatives in Laikipia to a nonprofit that makes art from marine debris in the town of Watamu. Oceanic Society: “Hyenas to Humpbacks,” 15 days; $6,280 (plus park fees); www.oceanicsociety.org

Republic of the Congo: Channeling Fossey

The Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is home to 16 families of lowland gorillas and 10 solitary silverbacks. Travel via riverboat, 4x4 vehicle, and foot to track them in this untouched corner of a vast tropical rain forest that spans three countries. Your escorts are Baka Pygmies, whose ancestors lived here. Extraordinary Journeys: “Untouched Africa: Gorillas of the Congo Basin,” 10 days; from $7,468; http://www.extraordinaryjourneys.net/english/

Namibia: Desert Dreams

With veteran guides, visit San and Himba settlements and track endangered black rhinos and desert-adapted elephants in this remote wonderland of otherworldly landscapes. Tack on a three-day extension (extra fee) to visit Sossusvlei’s swath of epic sand dunes. Africa Adventure Consultants: “Namibia: Secrets Revealed,” 10 days; from $4,995; www.adventuresinafrica.com

South Africa: Madiba’s Way

The outfitter digs into South Africa’s history to spin a unique itinerary around the life of Nelson Mandela. Trace Madiba’s journey from boyhood in the village of Qunu to his alma mater at Fort Hare. Red Savannah: “Mandela Landscapes,” 7 days; $4,335; www.redsavannah.com

Uganda, Tanzania: Safari Plus

Tag along for a morning with Tanzania’s Hadza people—one of the last of Africa’s hunter-gatherer societies—on this custom journey that weaves cultural encounters with the region’s iconic experiences, such as gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and game drives in the Serengeti. Global Basecamps: “Beyond the Big Five: Uganda, Tanzania, & the Spice Island,” 17 days; $7,198; www.globalbasecamps.com

Madagascar, Tanzania, Comoros, Réunion, Mauritius: Indian Ocean Odyssey

Madagascar and its wonders—dozens of species of lemurs, virgin coral reefs, prolific birdlife—are best reached by sea. Join a team that includes marine biologists and ornithologists on the 100-passenger Island Sky from Zanzibar’s picturesque Stone Town, around the island’s northern tip, to Chamarel’s “seven-colored earths,” a geological formation in Mauritius. Zegrahm Expeditions: “Voyage to Madagascar,” 19 days; $13,980; www.zegrahm.com

Morocco: Sahara Overland

Ever dreamed of chucking it all and setting off on the sort of months-long, rugged, truck adventure made popular by this U.K.-based company? Here’s your chance to sample overland travel without quitting your job, while soaking up the sensory overload that is Morocco, from the souks of Marrakech to a camel expedition in the Sahara. Dragoman: “South Morocco Discovery,” 10 days; from $1,100; www.dragoman.com

Ethiopia: The Other Jerusalem

Dating back to the early fourth century, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the world’s oldest Christian denominations. The centerpiece of this exploration of northern Ethiopia is the town of Lalibela, whose 11 churches—still in use—were hewn from three rocks some 800 years ago. Rothschild Safaris: “Heart of African Civilization,” 16 days; $4,411; http://www.rothschildsafaris.com/

Tanzania: Beyond the Safari

Trek alongside Maasai tribesmen in the Serengeti Plain, descend into Ngorongoro Crater, and forage with Hadza bushmen, one of the last surviving hunter-gatherer tribes. National Geographic Adventures: “Walking Safari With the Maasai,” 11 days; from $5,095; www.nationalgeographicadventures.com

Contributing editor Margaret Loftus has reported and written “Tours of a Lifetime” for the past eight years.


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