The best way to choose your ideal African safari is to spend some time on research and on careful consideration of what you want from your safari experience. Some people want more of an element of adventure and will opt for camping and walking, while others long for luxury camps with that special “Out of Africa” ambiance. Each of the following safari tour companies is special in their own way – it’s up to you to choose the one that you believe will best fulfill your expectations. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
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Scott Dunn is a well-respected international safari tour operator who offers exciting bucket-list safaris to all parts of Africa. In East Africa you can choose to visit the famous Serengeti and Maasai Mara National Parks to see the Great Migration (one of the most popular safari tours in Africa), trek through the rainforest to meet giant silverback gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda, or meet the Big Five in Ngorongoro Crater National Park. Further south, Scott-Dunn offers varied itineraries to the unforgettable Okavango Delta in Botswana – a must for elephant lovers. In South Africa, the Sabi Sands Reserve adjacent to famous Kruger National Park offers unsurpassed Big Five safaris, leopard encounters, and sophisticated luxury lodges. Next read: weekend getaways for couples
2.Yellow Zebra Safaris
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The name tells part of the story – Yellow Zebra Safaris are determined to stand out from the rest of the herd when it comes to planning perfect African safaris. The way they do this is by taking the time and effort to ensure that each and every safari they craft is a stand-out experience that will create lifelong memories. The company has a thorough personal knowledge of the safari industry in Africa and ensures that their consultants all have personal experience of the lodges and camps they suggest. Yellow Zebra offer guided safaris in all corners of East and southern Africa together with wind-down extensions on the tropical islands of Mauritius and Seychelles.
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With nearly 40 years of experience under their belt, Row Adventures are true experts in combining adventure and wildlife tourism in Africa. You can choose from a wide variety of itineraries, which include Big Five viewing in Kenya and Tanzania, gorilla tracking in Rwanda and Uganda, and wonderful adventure safaris on foot and on water in Zimbabwe. The company specializes in unforgettable private adventures through Namibia, where you get the unique opportunity of tracking the desert-adapted elephants and rhino on foot and get to meet the friendly Himba people. Wherever possible you will have the chance to enjoy adventure sports alongside wildlife watching – including the chance to go sea-kayaking off the Namibian coast to see abundant birdlife.
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The name says it all – Mahlatini is a Zulu word that means “lover of the bush” and all the specialists at Mahlatini have a deep and abiding love for Africa and its astounding wildlife. The company has 10 years of experience in orchestrating tailor-made luxury safari itineraries for discerning clients from all over the world, and you can rest assured that all your special requirements will be carefully considered when they plan your safari. Some of their special itineraries in Southern Africa include the ultimate back-to-nature walking safari in Zambia, a fly-in safari to Botswana to visit Chobe and the Okavango Delta (Elephants, elephants, and more elephants), and wonderfully relaxing itineraries that combine wildlife watching in prime locations with post-safari relaxation on tropical islands.
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5.My Odyssey Tours
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The profession team at My Odyssey Tours is standing by to design the perfect individualized safari tour itinerary for you in Egypt, Kenya, and Tanzania. All tour itineraries can be tailored to suit your particular tastes and interests and multi-park or multi-country tours are easily arranged. A few of their most popular itineraries include a 10-day pure wildlife adventure in Kenya and Tanzania, visiting the Serengeti, the Maasai Mara, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Nakuru, or the chance to combine highlights of Egypt (the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and a Nile cruise) with stunning Big Five viewing in Kenya. Tours can be customized to suit families, seniors, newly-weds, and adventure seekers.
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It always pays to choose a safari operator who has an in-depth knowledge of the area you are planning to visit. Nomad Tanzania has over 20 years experience in showcasing the abundant wildlife on offer in Tanzania and is one of the leading safari companies in this country. Nomad operates small safari camps in some of the remotest and wildest parts of the country, where you can indulge your dream of watching the sensational annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, getting up-close and personal with the Big Five in the amazing Ngorongoro Crater, or meeting the fascinating Mahale chimpanzees. All safari itineraries can be tailored to suit your interests and budget.
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Owned and operated by a mother and daughter team who have lived in Africa for many years and possess an incredible depth of knowledge about African travel and wildlife, Extraordinary Journeys (EJ’s for short) is your one-stop resource for all things safari. The team tailor-makes each and every safari itinerary to suit the customer (you will be asked many questions before you sign up to ensure that all your expectations are met) and have personal first-hand knowledge of all the camps and lodges where you will be staying. EJ’s pride themselves on giving visitors more than their money’s worth by providing an in-depth and personal experience for every single customer.
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8.Backroads Active Travel Company
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A walking safari is the ultimate way to see creatures great and small and immerse yourself in Africa and all its splendor. Backroads Active Travel Company offers a variety of fully escorted (vehicle back-up is always available) active safaris in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana. Your active safari adventure will include guided walks, rafting, and kayaking (in Zimbabwe and Botswana) as well as biking and possibly camping. If you prefer, you can combine comfortable luxury lodges and still do your exploring mainly on foot or by bike, and you will transfer from one fascinating destination to the next by private charter plane. Backroads offers visitors a unique opportunity to get up-close and personal with a wide variety of wildlife in their natural environment.
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Based in the heart of Nairobi, Kenya, Gamewatchers Safaris has been escorting nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts on thrilling wildlife adventures for over 25 years. The company places great emphasis on responsible tourism and you can rest assured that your African safari with Gamewatchers will leave the smallest possible footprint and will also enrich the lives of the local people. Gamewatchers Safaris offer tailor-made safaris to all corners of East and Southern Africa, giving visitors the unique opportunity to see the Big Five and a wealth of other wildlife in their natural environment. You will be accommodated in intimate luxury camps that have been chosen for providing comfort and excellent access to wildlife.
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10.Abercrombie and Kent
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Abercrombie and Kent have been making safari dreams come true for over 50 years and have earned a solid reputation for tailor-making perfect luxury safari itineraries in Africa. The company is proud to offer travelers fully personalized itineraries to suit their particular interests and can take you to some of the most remote and delightful corners of Africa while still ensuring you have a luxurious comfortable bed, fresh sheets, and wonderful cuisine at the end of every exciting day. Where you go is entirely up to you – if you want to combine gorillas in the mist in Rwanda with elephant tracking in Namibia and whitewater rafting at Victoria Falls, just say the word and it can be arranged.
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More than just another luxury African safari lodge, a visit to Angama Mara is an experience that everyone should chalk up on their bucket-list. This remarkable and unique safari lodge encompasses two camps strung along the very edge of the sensationally scenic African Rift Valley in Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya. Whichever of the stunningly decorated modern/African suites you are assigned to will delight all the senses with dramatic 180-degree views out over the Maasai Mara and a large open wooden deck for alfresco breakfasts. The lodge lies on the path of the sensational annual wildebeest migration and guests never have far to travel to reach the heart of the Big Five action.
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12.Cox and Kings
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You know your travel arrangements are in good hands when you entrust your African safari to the world’s oldest travel company, the multi-award winning Cox and Kings. The company offers some really different safari itineraries in southern Africa, including the chance to combine a night or two of luxury train travel on the famous Blue Train or Rovos Rail with a Big Five or adventure safari in South Africa and/or Zimbabwe. If you are travelling with young children or have specific interests such as photography or birding, a tailor-made itinerary can be structured to suit your requirements, and if you would like to travel with a group of friends and family, a private tour can be arranged.
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Based in Arusha Tanzania, Earthlife Expeditions offers fully guided, customized safaris to some of Africa’s most famous national parks and game reserves. All of Earthlife’s team members are Tanzanian natives, who know their country like the back of their hands and embrace the opportunity to showcase the wonders of the Tanzanian landscape, wildlife, and culture to visitors. Although the company offers a variety of basic safari itineraries to whet your appetite, these are just the beginning and each and every private safari will be tailored to suit your interests, needs, and budget. Arusha is ideally placed for visiting wonderful Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, and Lake Manyara (for the flamingos).
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UK-based Exodus Travels has over 40 years experience of turning safari dreams into reality. The company offers a wide variety of unique safari experiences all over Africa and there is no doubt that you will find one to suit you. (If not, they will customize the perfect safari for your group or family.) An example of what you can expect from Exodus Travels is their Cape Town to Victoria Falls camping safari, which includes visits to the Sossusvlei sand dunes and Etosha National Park in Namibia, the amazing Okavango Delta/Chobe National Park adventure, and the stunning Victoria Falls. If camping isn’t your thing, the same itinerary can include lodge accommodation. Check their website for many other wonderful safari options.
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International travel company Expert Africa has been planning African safaris and tours for discerning visitors since 1991 and pride themselves on exceeding visitors’ expectations time and again. Most of the Expert Africa specialists have an intimate knowledge and love of the African continent and many of them have lived in Africa themselves and are well acquainted with the safari destinations on offer as well as the realities of travel in Africa. After discussing your particular interests and budget, Expert Africa will suggest the ideal safari destination and then plan every last detail so that you can relax and look forward to a memorable African safari. They offer both fully guided tours and self-drive options.
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16.Felleng Day Tours
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Established in 2001, Felleng Day Tours is a South African company that specializes in showcasing the stunning landscape, wildlife, and culture of South Africa and its neighbors Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, and Lesotho. Felleng Day Tours can take you on a multi-day guided scenic journey through some of the best game-viewing national parks and game reserves, stopping here and there to learn about the culture and amazing topography of vibrant South Africa and Zimbabwe. Day tours are conducted from Johannesburg and include visits to several cultural highlights as well as day safaris in Pilanesburg National Park (Big Five country), a cheetah rehabilitation center, and the fascinating Cradle of Humankind at the Sterkfontein Caves.
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If you dream of experiencing an authentic “Out of Africa” experience but are loathe to give up your home comforts, the wonderful Elephant Pepper Camp, part of the Suján stable of luxury lodges, is the ideal destination for your African safari in Kenya. Adhering to the pioneering tradition of movable “fly” camps, Elephant Pepper Camp has no permanent structures, yet it provides one of the most luxurious retreats at the end of a busy day of exceptional wildlife viewing in Kenya’s remarkable Maasai Mara National Park. The camp lies along the path of the annual wildebeest migration and visitors are guaranteed a front-row seat to the action from the comfort of your luxury en suite safari tent.
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18.KhakiWeed Photographic Safaris
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Avid photographers will know that snapping an award-winning photo of wildlife is incompatible with travel on regular large tour buses. If you have a particular interest in photography, you owe it to yourself to book a dedicated KhakiWeed Photographic Safari, where you will be able to set the pace and have plenty of space for all your equipment. KhakiWeed offers several photo safaris around the Johannesburg area, including multi-day trips to world-renowned Kruger National Park and Pilanesburg National Park – both of which offer excellent Big Five game viewing and photography. If you are really short of time, a quick half-day tour to Rhino and Lion Park or the Elephant Sanctuary outside Johannesburg offer some great scope for excellent photo opportunities.
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Micato Safaris was owner-founded in 1966 by the Pinto family in Kenya and has been voted as the “World’s Best Safari Outfitter” a record nine times by Travel and Leisure Magazine. With such a long history in the luxury safari industry, you can rest assured that your African safari with Micato Safaris will be an unforgettable experience. Micato offers a variety of safaris through East and Southern Africa, lasting from 10 to 17 days, as well as a selection of bespoke and custom safari tours that include accommodation in some of the most luxurious establishments on the continent. In addition to your basic safari, you can request add-ons like hot air ballooning excursions, gorilla or chimpanzee trekking, conservation volunteering, or simply a relaxing island extension.
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Nhongo Safaris is based in Nelspruit (South Africa), which is just on the doorstep of world-famous Kruger National Park, the largest protected wildlife wilderness in Africa. The company conducts most of their safaris in the southern part of Kruger National Park, where you have an above-average chance of seeing the Big Five and a wealth of other wildlife as you enjoy twice-daily (or all-day) game drives in open 4X4 safari vehicles. Your safari accommodation varies from comfortable chalets to five-star luxury lodges, depending on which option you choose. If you would like to extend your safari to include Botswana (Chobe Marina) or Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls Adventure Sports), Nhongo Safaris can arrange it all.
21.Scenic Air Safaris
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Scenic Air Safaris offers visitors the unparalleled thrill of experiencing the wonder and splendor of the African continent from the air. Not only will you get a bird’s eye view of the stunning African Rift Valley, thundering Victoria Falls, and the vast open plains of the majestic Serengeti, you will also have a great deal more time on the ground to spend amongst the wildlife. Saving you hours of travel time on hot bumpy roads, a Scenic Air Safari can whisk you from one magical national park to the next in a matter of hours so that you can pack as much game viewing as possible into your precious time in Africa. The company offers several regular itineraries and you also have the option of arranging a private chartered air safari.
22.The Luxury Safari Company
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If you can picture your dream African safari, you can rest assured that the Luxury Safari Company can turn that dream into a reality. The company maintains close ties will all their preferred lodges and camps to ensure that they can get the very best deals for their customers that would not normally be available online. Regardless of which corner of East or southern Africa you want to explore, you will be able to find a perfect itinerary to suit your demographic. Imagine watching the amazing Great Migration in the Serengeti and Maasai Mara, getting within meters of a hunting leopard in the Sabi Sands, or embarking on a private mobile tented safari in Kenya – the Luxury Safari Company can put it all together.
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23.The Other Animals Safaris
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In the vast wilderness of Kruger National Park humans are also animals and, in acknowledgement of the fact that we are the intruders and wildlife rules, The Other Animals Safaris will endeavor to ensure that your African safari in Kruger National Park is a thrilling and unforgettable adventure. Your knowledgeable, hand-picked guides have an intimate knowledge of the park and its inhabitants and know where to take you to find the shyer and more elusive animals. You have a great chance of seeing all of the Big Five as well as a multitude of other fascinating animals and birds. The company offers both day trips and extended overnight safaris tailored to your tastes and budget.
24.Wild Wings Safaris
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Based in South Africa and the UK, Wild Wings Safaris have a solid reputation for putting together thrilling and cost-effective southern African safaris in Kruger National Park and beyond. The company will be happy to completely personalize your safari experience based on your particular preferences for accommodation, duration, and special interests such as photography or birding. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a returning fan, Wild Wings Safaris can arrange a selection of safari add-ons to give you an in-depth look at the remarkable landscape and culture of the country – spend a few days in Cape Town and the Winelands, visit majestic Victoria Falls for some adventure sports, or winddown on a tropical island.
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When it comes to choosing the tour company to which you are going to entrust your African safari, Wilderness Safaris are hard to beat. The company has had over 30 years of experience in planning immersive African experiences in some of the top wildlife destinations on the continent. When you choose a Wilderness Safari, you will gain access to some of Africa’s most exclusive private wildlife concessions, where you and your group have exclusive rights to the wildlife action – no jostling for a view or a photo. To make travel between camps and lodges quicker and more efficient, Wilderness Safaris have their own “bush airline” and you will stay at some of the most stunning wilderness camps and lodges.
25 Best African Safari Trips
- Scott-Dunn, Photo: Courtesy of Iuliia Sokolovska - Fotolia.com
- Yellow Zebra Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of bennymarty - Fotolia.com
- Row Adventures, Photo: Courtesy of vaclav - Fotolia.com
- Mahlatini Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of Rees Photography - Fotolia.com
- My Odyssey Tours, Photo: Courtesy of evenfh - Fotolia.com
- Nomad Tanzania, Photo: Courtesy of delbars - Fotolia.com
- Extraordinary Journeys, Photo: Courtesy of Janelle - Fotolia.com
- Backroads Active Travel Company, Photo: Courtesy of bennymarty - Fotolia.com
- Gamewatchers Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of PUTSADA - Fotolia.com
- Abercrombie and Kent, Photo: Courtesy of simoneemanphoto - Fotolia.com
- Angama Mara, Photo: Courtesy of Therina Groenewald - Fotolia.com
- Cox and Kings, Photo: Courtesy of LUMO - Fotolia.com
- Earthlife Expeditions, Photo: Courtesy of Betty Sederquist - Fotolia.com
- Exodus Travels, Photo: Courtesy of Erich - Fotolia.com
- Expert Africa, Photo: Courtesy of FireSwan - Fotolia.com
- Felleng Day Tours, Photo: Courtesy of PeekCC - Fotolia.com
- Sujan, Photo: Courtesy of javarman - Fotolia.com
- KhakiWeed Photographic Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of kasto - Fotolia.com
- Micato Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of ferh® - Fotolia.com
- Nhongo Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of Alex Samaras - Fotolia.com
- Scenic Air Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of simoneemanphoto - Fotolia.com
- The Luxury Safari Company, Photo: Courtesy of brunelma - Fotolia.com
- The Other Animals Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of evenfh - Fotolia.com
- Wild Wings Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of lindacaldwell - Fotolia.com
- Wilderness Safaris, Photo: Courtesy of bennymarty - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of PeekCC - Fotolia.com
More Ideas: Famous Safari Animals and Where to Find Them
When you hear the word Africa, you think of breathtaking views of a savannah landscape filled with all sorts of safari wildlife. Many of the people who visit Africa from all over the world come to this continent for a close encounter with some of nature’s most magnificent creatures, often seen only on TV. In fact, many of these species can only be found in Africa. So, if you’re on an African tour, make sure you don’t miss out on any of these iconic animals. To help you out, here’s a quick list of them and the best places for spotting them.
Nothing says safari more than the iconic king of the jungle, the lion. Seeing a lion in its natural habitat feels entirely different from viewing it in a zoo. Here, you’ll see lions socializing with their pride and, if you’re lucky, you might even see some lionesses hunting prey. It’s just sad to know that this proud species is constantly being threatened by human expansion and unregulated hunting practices.
Your best bet for finding lions is Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, just by the South African border. Alternatively, you can check out Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
As the largest land animal in the world, seeing the African elephant can be a very humbling experience. They’re found in a wide selection of sub-Saharan habitats such as deserts, savannahs, and forests. For herbivores their size, it’s no surprise that they consume as much as 990 lbs. of vegetation every day. While elephants are very peaceful in nature, they can be dangerous when provoked. With the continuous poaching of their kind, however, humans are probably more dangerous to them than they are to us.
You’ll find these gentle giants in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe as well as in Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Giraffes are REALLY tall. In fact, they’re the tallest animals on Earth. You’d be surprised, however, at how difficult they are to spot during safaris. This is because their distinct brown and white colorings make them especially good at camouflage. So, don’t be surprised if you suddenly see a giraffe appear from a nearby bush. Most have blue tongues and stubby protrusions that look like horns, and prepare to be amazed at how long their necks can be.
You’re bound to see a whole bunch of Maasai giraffe in the Serengeti. You can also go to Uganda to see the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe in Murchison Falls National Park.
Only found in sub-Saharan Africa, the African leopard is a very elusive subspecies of leopard. While they do live in different kinds of habitats, they’re especially hard to see because they’re nocturnal by nature and they tend to avoid humans. Leopards like to climb trees to scout the area as well as to sleep the day away without being disturbed, so you’re most likely to see them snoozing in the trees. They are classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Go to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa to find leopards. Zambia’s Luangwa National Park is also known for leopard sightings.
Africa has two species of rhino and you can distinguish them by the shape of their bottom lip: White rhinos have square bottom lips while the black ones have pointy bottom lips. Both species, however, are constantly under the threat of rampant poaching activities, with the black rhino having a population count of less than 5,000 left in the wild. They’re also one of the heaviest land mammals, with an adult male weighing about 5,100 pounds. They’re short-sighted and often live solitary lives.
The easiest way to see a rhino is to go to Etosha National Park in Namibia, which is famous for its rhino conservation efforts. You’ll have a chance to spot both black and white rhinos here.
Slender and speedy, these big African cats are known to run as fast as 70 mph, making them the fastest land animal in the world. Unfortunately for them, they often have their kills stolen due to their inability to defend their catch from stronger animals. There are only about 6,600 left in the wild, making them very endangered. Cheetahs prefer to live where there is enough open space to allow them to reach their top speeds and can be found across southern and eastern Africa.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is an ideal environment for cheetahs, so you’ll find them there. There are also some at the Okonjima Game Reserve, located in Namibia.
Buffalo often live in herds, moving around to find grazing spots. Thanks to their robust bodies and horns, they fear very few predators except crocodiles and lions. Unlike the Asian sub-species, the African buffalo has never been tamed by people because they tend to be aggressive and have unpredictable behavior. You’re likely to see a herd of buffalo as you journey the savannah, but try to avoid close contact with them as they have been known to cause lots of human deaths every year. They’re not considered to be one of the continent’s most dangerous animals for nothing.
You can find a lot of buffalo in Tanzania’s Katavi National Park. Another good place to find them is Chobe National Park.
Reminder: When going on a safari, keep in mind that safety comes first. Always be aware of the safety precautions before going out to look for these animals. More importantly, always stick with you guide. As beautiful as these creatures might be, they remain wild animals and should always be respected.
With that being said, also be on the lookout for zebras, crocodiles, and hippos. Africa is home to all manner of beautiful creatures that will make your trip worthwhile.
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