Africa & the Middle East

Journey's Beyond the Ordinary

written by | Posted on July 1st, 2011

Africa and the Middle East share that particular je ne sais quoi that immediately grabs the attention of those for whom traveling is more than acquiring a peculiar travel stamp on their passports.

Both are the ultimate destinations for a certain segment of the travel industry made up of adventure-seeking, active travelers whose ideal vacation consists of action, not sightseeing; movement, not observation.

According to travel experts, “extreme travel” is gaining a powerful foothold within the industry, especially among baby boomers, the demographic group that Pew Research says accounts for more than a quarter of the U.S. population, and who—by a large margin—will opt for less traditional and sedentary vacations.

Research also indicates that most baby boomers consider the notion of looking out the window of a tour bus at passing foreign landscapes to be overly tedious and plebeian—that’s why venturing into remote corners of Africa to practice such unconventional activities like off-road treks in the Sahara, paramilitary training in Israel or embarking on horseback safaris in the veldt, consistently rank among the top of baby boomers’ so-called “bucket lists.”

Those who have spent time in Africa have always returned to praise its glories, while the Middle East generally attracts those who like a little history mixed in with their active travel—both powerful elements that make booking the destinations profitable for travel agents promoting tours that highlight the thrills endemic to both Africa and the Middle East.

A study released last year by the George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with the Adventure Travel Association, indicates that adventure travelers—and baby boomers in particular—have ample budgets and crave vacations that offer adventure mixed with cultural experiences. In short, two of the most singular attributes found in Africa and the Middle East.

africa A tour company that has successfully tapped into both adventure and cultural experiences is Deeper Africa.

Karen Zulauf, director of the company, says that before they book a trip, “we need to understand what our guests want and we need to help educate them about what kind of off-the-beaten-track experiences can be woven into their safari. A few hours at the beginning of the process results in significant rewards.”

Its 11-day Deeper Serengeti package is hard to resist by those who long have dreamed of setting off on the perfect African safari. This marvelous trek ventures deep into the Serengeti, a word that means “endless plain” in the language of its native Maasai people.

Deeper Africa’s base camp is in Sayari, on the banks of Tanzania’s Mara River. Newcomers to this remote wonderland will find a breathtaking sense of serenity and remoteness. Here, they feel like they’re the only human intruders within miles—as indeed they are.

“This is not mass tourism,” adds Zulauf, a fact that becomes evident the moment adventurers land at Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Airport where Deeper Africa’s bush planes await to take them to Sayari, their dusty camp on the savannah, with an assortment of tents boasting comfort that belies their location in the middle of a vast and glorious wilderness. In the following days, expert naturalists lead the group into feral territory where wildlife thrives along the riverbanks. The area overflows with large cats, crocodiles, hippos, antelopes and elephants. This is a corner of Tanzania devoid of humans, a place where you can gaze into the eyes of wild creatures and feel nature at its most primitive.

Because of its strict adherence to responsible tourism and its contribution to the value of this wilderness, Deeper Africa has the support of natives who allow its tours to venture deep into tribal lands traditionally closed to outsiders where one can observe a unique system of life. This alone makes the journey worthwhile.

According to Zulauf, traveling in East Africa “can be much more than traditional wildlife viewing. Gorilla or chimpanzee trekking, or climbing Kiliminjaro are, by definition, active [and extreme]. Our safaris may incorporate bicycling, walking safaris, bush camping in the wilderness, horseback riding or canoeing. Guests also tell us that spending time with local people has a profound impact on them; shaking them out of old ways of thinking and opening up new ways of looking at the world.”

The cost for the trip that runs only in March and December is $4,699 pp for a party of four. The rate for two travelers is $5,599 each, and there is a $300 sgl supplement. Prices include all meals, unlimited game drives in private Land Cruisers, all parks and entrance fees and many other amenities. International air travel is not included.