Travel Goals Master Checklist: Part III – Africa

Narrowing down the most wondrous places in the world to just 72 was hard enough. Picking which of the numerous incredible sites to be found in Africa to include was even harder. To date, I’ve covered the backstory of the selection and inspiration for the destinations from North America and the Caribbean, and South America and Antarctica in previous articles. Here I will explain the rationale and artistic motivation behind the ten African destinations featured in my new Travel Goals Master Checklist.

Cape Town, South Africa

While my own travels in South Africa were confined to the northeast, and few people come to Africa to experience the cities, Cape Town is by all accounts the exception to the rule. Dominating this pivotal location on the continent is world-famous Table Mountain, which I felt would make the proper backdrop for any artistic representation. The result is a spot on the Travel Goals Master Checklist and a peaceful view of the city’s “skyline”.

Game Parks, South Africa

The aforementioned northeastern corner of South Africa is full of game parks and natural reserves where visitors can get up close with Africa’s signature wildlife. My first safaris in the Klaserie and Timbavati Reserves, where I got to see lions in the wild, were a highlight for me, and therefore a natural subject for the artwork depicting this exciting corner of the world.

Sossusvlei, Namibia

I only visited Namibia by the barest of margins, when our motorized canoe pulled alongside a small island in the Caprivi Strip bordering Chobe National Park, Botswana. But I would love to get back to experience the mighty dunes and desert panoramas such as Sossusvlei and the surrounding area for a unique landscape that draws visitors despite its desolate nature.

Victoria Falls, Zambia

I cannot imagine a more impressive sheet of falling water than what I witnessed at Victoria Falls. And while I recommend seeing it from both the Zimbabwe and Zambia sides, it was from the Zambian side that the pervasive spray caught the sun at just the right angle to provide me the muse for the image I chose to feature. This world wonder was never in doubt to make the top 72 world class travel destinations. In fact, it would make the top 10.

Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Madagascar is a fascinating place that I’m determined to see one day. The island itself has a wealth of interesting features, but what comes to my mind when I hear the name Madagascar mentioned (Besides a dancing lemur singing “I like to move it, move it”) is the Avenue of the Baobabs – a collection of towering baobab trees that encapsulates the unique nature of this African island.

Masai Mara, Kenya

I’ve yet to get to East Africa, but if I do, the Masai Mara is just the kind of place that safari dreams are made of. In my mind I envision the oft-repeated trope of a lone acacia tree standing above the savannah during sunset, while the silhouette of – insert your favorite wild animal here – grazes beside it. So I went with giraffes, not only because I like them, but because nothing says you’re in Africa more than a giraffe (except maybe a sign saying “Welcome to Africa” but that’s not quite as impressive”).

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

The idea of a snowcapped mountain that sits on the equator is cool in its own rite. Add to that the surrounding national parks for which it serves as a backdrop, and Mt. Kilimanjaro – straddling the border of Tanzania and Kenya – was certain to land a spot on the top 72 checklist destinations. I may be too old and fat to climb it, but I definitely have it on my radar to visit someday.

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

As the world’s oldest tourist attraction, how could the pyramids of Giza not make it onto the list? I can still recall the first time I saw them and the sense of wonder and awe they provoked within me. Few world monuments if any are more recognizable than these sentinels of the desert, and I’m proud to have marked this destination off on my own Master Checklist.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

I went back and forth before choosing this quaint town in northern Morocco for the list. It’s only become mainstream in recent years, while more famous destinations like Marrakesh and Tangiers have been well known for centuries. But tiny Chefchaouen, with its blue palette of maze-like alleys just seemed to better encapsulate the North African vibe that I felt deserved to be represented among the world’s best. Plus, I really like blue, so there’s that . . .

La Digue, Seychelles

As the star of calendars and screensavers the world over, tiny La Digue in the upscale Seychelles archipelago hosts Anse Source D’argent – a sandy cove strewn with erosion-worn boulders that typify these tropical islands. This ubiquitous image was a natural choice both for its recognizability, but also because it was one of my favorite spots as well.

So far I’ve covered 34 out of the 72 destinations on the master checklist. How many can you check off? Even if that number is zero, the beauty of the checklist is that it inspires a person to new adventures and specific travel goals. If you’ve enjoyed the artwork and want a Travel Goals Master Checklist to display in your home or office, please visit my Etsy store to order a copy for yourself or the traveler in your life.

Stay tuned for Part IV . . .

Have you been to any of these destinations? Or do you have a favorite in Africa that you feel should have made the list? Share it with your fellow travel lovers by leaving a comment!

The Seychelles Islands: Vacationing Inside Your Screensaver

Bonus Beach Time! Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue, Seychelles
Bonus Beach Time! Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles

Another lifetime ago, back when I worked as a graphic artist for a local newspaper, my supervisor had a screensaver depicting a beach of limpid blue water lapping against white sands perfectly framed by enormous grayish-brown boulders worn smooth from millennia of erosion. Always a sucker for the power of an intriguing image, I felt inspired to find out where it was and then how I was going to get there. The image in question is that of Anse Source D’Argent – consistently voted among the world’s best beaches, and a frequent subject of wall calendars and screensavers everywhere. As for how to actually get inside that screensaver, allow me to explain.

Located – quite literally – about a thousand miles from anywhere, the Seychelles Islands are an archipelago of some 115 islands situated in the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. Madagascar would probably be considered its nearest neighbor, but that’s another story with its own screensaver. In terms of neighbors, rather than being a weird recluse in a remote Unabomber-style shack, the Seychelles are more like a secluded retreat for the well-to-do, using their remoteness as a natural barrier against the penniless masses hoping to peek over the fence.

Historically, the island nation was a haven for pirates who made their living raiding the trade routes to India and beyond. Settled by the French in the mid-1700’s, they were named after King Louis XV’s finance minister, viscount Jean Moreau de Sechelles. Had there been computer screens back then, perhaps he would have settled for a screensaver, but technology being what it was, he became the namesake for an exclusive archipelago that is now synonymous with paradise and the good life.

Despite its French beginnings, in the early 1800’s the islands fell under British control all the way up until its independence in 1976. The production of crops such as cotton and vanilla began to decline, being replaced with perhaps the fattest (both literally and figuratively) cash cow of them all – luxury tourism. Here’s where those screensavers earn their keep.

International visitors – aside from those with their own cruise ships or luxury yachts – will arrive via air on the principal island of Mahe. Home to the capital, Victoria, and a few square blocks of ‘urban’ population, the rest of the island offers glimpses of what makes the Seychelles such an amazing destination and screensaver diva: rainforest, beaches, and sunsets.

Not far outside the capital is lovely Beau Vallon – a two mile crescent of white sand beach with a great view of the ultra-exclusive Silhouette Island across the bay. Not surprisingly, water sports abound from Jet Skis to diving to Deep Sea fishing. For anyone with limited time and budget, Mahe will be a satisfying stand-in for the screensaver-worthy scenes you likely came looking for. But since you came all this way, you might as well stretch things a little bit further and see those digital fantasies with your own eyes by either a short flight or ferry ride to the other two ‘main’ islands – Praslin and La Digue.

Praslin, in my opinion is the best place to base your explorations. There’s plenty to do and see, some of the finest places to stay, and one or two locales that have made their way to computer screens the world over. Lodging here is not cheap, but if you’re going to splurge, this would be the place to do it.

Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles
Anse Lazio, Praslin Island, Seychelles

Once again, the beach scenes of lush greenery sloping down to powdery beaches abound, particularly at Anse Lazio, a gorgeous cove tucked away in the northwest corner of the island, and a great place to observe the mind-blowing Seychelles sunsets over the open ocean. This place is no stranger to screensavers and calender shoots, so make sure it isn’t a stranger to your itinerary. Yes, it’s that good.

What makes Praslin so unique though, is actually located in the hilly center of the island – a nature preserve and World Heritage Site called Vallee de Mai. This is the only place in the world where the indigenous coco de mer plant grows in the wild. Since its unlikely you’ve seen many coco de mer fruits on a screensaver or elsewhere, the ‘male’ appendages are shaped as you would likely imagine a male appendage to be shaped, and the ‘female’ nuts are the largest nuts in the world, weighing up to 40 pounds. Besides their hefty weight and size, they are noteworthy for their shape, which strongly resembles the lower half of a woman’s torso, and was known to cause excitement among early (and presumably lonely) sailors who would chance upon them on the open seas. Anatomical similarities aside, this is a virgin rainforest of soaring trees and oversized greenery, with leaves that could double as a car cover. If you ever wanted to imagine yourself as an ant in a terrarium, this would be the place.

Accessible only a short ferry ride away is the third most-visited of the Seychelles Islands, a tiny green gem called La Digue. If Praslin could be considered laid back, then comparatively La Digue would be considered comatose. There are only a handful of vehicles allowed to operate on the island, and you’re far more likely to hire an ox-driven taxi than anything with an engine. The tradeoff is a tranquil, quiet slice of heaven, or at least it would be if it weren’t for the harmless but disturbingly large palm spiders visible every so often.

Anse Source d'Argent, La Digue
Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue

Most opt to get around by foot, and if you don’t mind strolling around in near 100% humidity, less than an hour’s walk will bring you to Pointe Source D’Argent and its namesake beach. Here you’ll find abundant clusters of the signature granite boulders for which the Seychelles are famous. Worn smooth by eons of erosion, they take on unique shapes in surreal formations which no doubt accounts for their prevalence in the screensaver industry. The beach is shallow and the water warm, but as far as scenery goes, I can’t think of anywhere else that can compare–both digitally and in real life.

Getting to the Seychelles is sadly just slightly less difficult than climbing into your computer screen. Air Seychelles is the national carrier, with routes predominantly from Europe and South Africa. Tickets are not cheap, and so are accommodations, which range from ‘expensive’ all the way up to ‘need-to-sell-a-kidney-on-the-black-market-just-to-tip-the-bellboy’. Again, the Seychelles have marketed themselves as an upscale retreat, catering to those who have the means along with the occasional wannabe like myself, so budget well or else it’s a long swim back to the African mainland.

Now that you’ve got an idea of what to expect on a visit to the Seychelles, it’s time to ask yourself the hard questions: Am I willing to travel such a long distance to see it? Can I afford it? Will it be worth the expense to do so? If you said yes to all three then by all means, come visit this archipelago right out of Paradise. If you said no, then that’s OK too. You can always just stare at the screensaver.

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