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ARUSHA, TANZANIA — It was close to sunset in southern Tanzania when the impalas started talking. My husband and I knew we’d come to some place special, but this was unlike anywhere we'd encountered before.

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BETHLEHEM, SOUTH AFRICA — An African safari is something I’ve wanted to do ever since watching Out of Africa with my mom as a teen. The high cost of a fully guided, catered safari, however, was something I wanted to avoid.

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HARAR, ETHIOPIA — In this land of extremes, you can stand in the hottest place on Earth — The Danakil Depression in the country’s northeast sector — and watch as the thermometer rise to over 50C, as my travelling partner did. Or, as I experienced, you can freeze in its higher elevations when the mercury dips below 0C.

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MAHÉ ISLAND, SEYCHELLES – While standing in a 21st-century Garden of Eden, not far from what was believed to be the original – if you believe in such things – I was being tempted to taste a small, bright red, pear-shaped apple by a beautiful Seychellois named Annette.

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LAIKIPIA PLATEAU, KENYA - Camels and giraffes munch on crunchy acacia leaves by a grass-fringed watering hole, oblivious to the stranger admiring them from a distance. From my balcony in the Ol Malo House, I gaze across a vast, rugged and wilderness-rich sanctuary. The house is built on a craggy cliff on the edge of the Great Rift Valley amid the foothills of Mount Kenya.

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CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - On the outskirts of this South African beauty is one of its oldest suburbs — Woodstock — where the run-down buildings have mostly been gentrified by creatives. Their workshops border crumbling houses that for generations have been inhabited by fishermen and factory workers. Now, its hip urban coffee shops sell antique motorbikes alongside freshly roasted beans … market stalls hawking toy cars conjured from Coke cans … restaurants that out of the blue join the ranks ...

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Swaziland was not on my bucket list. I didn’t even know where it was when I first heard about a volunteer position with the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse. But, during my stint as communications officer with the organization, my eyes were opened to the jaw-dropping beauty of this tiny kingdom of 1.2 million, tucked between Mozambique and South Africa.

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DAR ES SALLAM, TANZANIA - If this city’s notorious traffic jams are feeling forgiving, it takes just 45 minutes to travel from the bustle of Tanzania’s largest city to tropical island paradise. It’s called Mbudya Island, and it’s a destination most travellers see for only the briefest of moments as they take the requisite ferry trip from Dar to Zanzibar.

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ACCRA, GHANA - Last year,I found myself living in dusty, dirty Accra. I was volunteering with Crossroads International and working with a local partner called Pro-Link, doing communications for their projects in maternal health and HIV/AIDS education. Our office was in a bleak industrial zone and I was ready for a break.

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OKAVANGO DELTA, BOTSWANA - I love elephants. I have ridden them in India and played with them at sanctuaries in Thailand. So I was thrilled when on a journey through Botswana our small plane began its descent to the Okavango Delta airstrip and I could see clusters of the gentle giants munching contentedly on tender shoots growing in the marshy waters.