Photograph by Bob Krist, Corbis

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A dhow catches the breeze off Stone Town on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, part of a tour offered by Africa Adventure Consultants.

Photograph by Bob Krist, Corbis

Best Tours in Africa 2013

From Traveler Magazine's 2013 Tours of a Lifetime

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Tanzania: Tracking Dr. Livingstone

After a series of earlier expeditions on the African continent, David Livingstone returned to Africa in 1866. He got his bearings in Zanzibar, where this tour also starts. You’ll visit the former spice trade capital of Stone Town, as well as the house he stayed in. Next, it’s off to Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s deepest lake, which Livingstone helped map, and Ujiji, where journalist Henry Morton Stanley encountered the ailing explorer in 1871 and famously remarked, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” (At some point on his journey, Livingstone had lost contact with the outside world.) Several game drives are woven into the itinerary. Africa Adventure Consultants: “In Livingstone’s Footsteps: The Final Journey,” 10 days; $3,975;

Kenya: Walk for Elephants

The country’s Laikipia ecosystem is home to one of the largest free-ranging elephant populations in East Africa, but the intensified, illicit hunt for ivory threatens to decimate it by 2020. Raise funds for a local anti-poaching initiative while trekking the stomping grounds of these beloved giants. Led by the company founders, this walkathon and camel-supported camping expedition covers up to 15 miles a day from Laikipia to the Kirisia Hills, led by Samburu guides. Hidden Places Travel: “100 Miles for Elephants,” 9 days; $3,450;

South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe: Giving Safari

Boutique safari specialist Priscilla Macy cherry-picked this five-country tour from the most raved-about components of her customized African itineraries, like the two nights spent aboard Ichobezi safari boats floating down the Chobe River. What makes the trip different are the philanthropic outings; one group took local children to see Victoria Falls—a first for most of them. Global Sojourns: “Safari, Culture, and Philanthropy in Southern Africa,” 14 days; $4,400;

Namibia: Conservation Corps

Live your Wild Kingdom dreams by lending a hand to scientists in the Khomas Hochland—the highlands of central Namibia—as they research ways to minimize conflict between humans and wildlife. Document behavior, set cameras and live traps, and perhaps even help capture and collar a big cat. Biosphere Expeditions: “A Game of Cats and Elephants,” 13 days; $2,780;

Morocco: Surfin’ Sahara

Few know that Morocco is home to some of the world’s sweetest and most reliable surf breaks. This trip is part surf camp, part cultural odyssey. Spend three days riding waves at a locals-mostly beach near Agadir—beginners welcome—then trek through Berber villages in the High Atlas Mountains and wander the souks and ruins of Marrakech. Access Trips: “Morocco Desert Surf Safari,” 8 days; $2,140;

Egypt: New Nile Route

Plying a recently reopened route from Cairo to Aswan (or vice versa), this cruise aboard the luxe 32-cabin Sanctuary Nile Adventurer is a veritable survey of Egyptian history, from Abydos, an ancient city dedicated to Osiris and a burial place for early pharaohs, to the rock tombs of Beni Hassan, cut into the limestone cliffs of the Nile for provincial rulers during the Middle Kingdom. Onboard perks include lectures on Egyptology and classes on hieroglyphics and Egyptian cooking. Sanctuary Retreats: “Nile Adventurer,” 10 days; $3,440;

Ethiopia: Anthropology 101

This trip plumbs the exotic depths of this diverse country mostly on foot. Visit Surma villages, where young men consume cattle’s blood and milk and engage in ritual dances, amd women insert clay discs into their lower lips as a rite of passage. Explore the remote Omo National Park, a tract of wilderness framed by massive cliffs of volcanic basalt and granite. Journeys by Design: “Trekking to Surma, Ethiopia,” 13 days; $3,363;

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