Each year, a great wildebeest migration takes place in East Africa's vast plains, as millions of ungulates trek more than 600 miles in search of fresh grass. Thomson's gazelles, zebras, and other prey animals join with the wildebeests en masse, and predatory lions, hyenas, and jackals follow the herd as a promising food supply. Safari Ventures, named one of the World's Best Adventure Travel Companies by National Geographic in 2009, sends tour groups in four-by-four vehicles on a circular trek across the Serengeti plains in search of migrating wildebeests and other big game. The itinerary includes the following and is available on select dates:Days 1–2: Flights on Ethiopian Airlines depart from Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) and arrive at Tanzania's Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) the next day (after a stopover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). Upon arrival, visitors are transferred to the nearby Kia Lodge for an overnight stay. Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa at more than 19,000 feet, is visible in the distance on a clear day. Days 3–4: After breakfast, tour groups head to Lake Manyara National Park for the first of many game drives. There, zebras and buffalo rove the plains, and more than 400 bird species fly above. Blue monkeys, bushbucks, mongooses, and flamingos also comprise the area's native population. Visitors retreat for the night to Migunga Tented Camp. Days 5–7: After breakfast, tour groups enter Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site they'll explore for the next three days. On the way to Serengeti, the caravan stops at a Masai village to learn about the local tribe's culture and heritage. Most of the time in the park is spent on game drives, searching for the wildebeest, elephants, giraffes, lions, and jackals. Guests stay overnight in Ikoma Tented Camp.Days 8–9: After a breakfast and one last morning game drive in Serengeti National Park, the safari heads toward the Ngorongoro Crater. Along the way, the tour makes a pit stop in Olduvai Gorge, an archaeological site where paleontologists discovered fossils that date back nearly two million years. Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, safari drivers seek out the big four animals: lions, elephants, leopards, and rhinoceros. Nightly accommodations are at Crater Forest Lodge. Days 10–11: On the final leg of the safari, the caravan makes the return trip, passing through the town of Mto wa Mbu. Here, safari-goers can stretch their legs and browse local markets. Later that evening, guests take a homeward-bound flight on Ethiopian Airlines from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). View the FAQ page for more information. Pre-trip excursions to Mount Kilimanjaro and the beaches of Zanzibar are also available for an additional fee.
About 90 minutes from Washington, DC, Historic Rosemont Manor is nestled atop a picturesque knoll looking eastward over the Shenandoah Valley. Gardens, trails, and walking paths crisscross the manor’s expansive grounds, but nature lovers venturing off property can visit the nearby State Arboretum of Virginia, which offers free admission every day of the year to visitors drawn by its 300-tree ginkgo grove, sinuous trails, and other attractions. At Cedar Creek Battlefield, an attached museum details one of the Civil War's most crucial battles, and walking trails lead pedestrians through the battlefield’s earthworks. Local ranches lure equestrians with the clip-clop of horseback rides, and hot-air balloons allow travelers to fly like a majestic eagle or a mutant birdman as they soar over the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering pristine views of the landscape.
A 30-acre swath of lush, Red Oak Mountain terrain surrounds Capitol Vineyards' historic facilities, where owners Lauren Shrem and Matthew Noland forge an eclectic collection of French-style wines from Virginia grapes. With help from a resident French winemaker and vintners across the state, they press an array of vintages, dispensing the elixirs during events inside the facility's historic, rustic tasting room. Constructed as a post office in the 1800s and used as a general store in the early 1900s, the site still bears its original wooden bar, floors, and grizzled prospector.
Vintage Piedmont unites a grandiose group of family wineries, each cozily sprawled within a 15-mile distance of the others. Ernest oenophiles can mosey among them at their own pace, ensuring no one exhausts their seeing-eye elephant. Barrel Oak Winery boasts a pastoral setting, 20 acres of vines, and a BowHaus white that blends vidal blanc, sauvignon, viognier, and more for a bright flavor ($24). At Philip Carter Winery, the 2009 chardonnay intermixes lemon zest, a vanilla bouquet, and pear notes ($24). Desert Rose Ranch & Winery sustains an unpretentious atmosphere, unlike snobbish grape groups for third cousins of royalty. Varietals include the Hitch Hollow chardonnay aged in French oak barrels, or the Sparky, a European-style rosé. Rappahannock Cellars and Hume Vineyards regale taste buds with delectable drinks from locally grown grapes. At each libation station, take home two commemorative wine glasses and receive 10% off bottles of wine.
For Little Washington Winery, location is key. Their perch sits on the edge of Shenandoah National Park, where the mountains scatter the spring winds to fend off frost and other vine-killing maladies. The open air catches ample light for the vineyard's growing fruits, and, perhaps just as importantly, grants a panoramic view of the forests ahead. It is on this lush land that Little Washington Winery cultivates the majority of its ingredients, sourcing others as necessary from their Virginian neighbors.
Virginia Wine Lover recently crowned the vintners with top rankings for their red and white wines, as well as naming the vineyard a premiere destination for picnics due to its surrounding scenery and bounty of naturally occurring checker-print blankets. Inside the tasting room, which is equal parts cabin and art gallery, guests listen attentively as experts walk them through enjoying a curated selection of wines. If guests wish to explore the world of vino even further, they can join the dirt road wine club, which offers tastes from boutique vintners around the globe.
Rolling hills and meadows cascade toward the organic-farming grounds that surround Paris Barns, where red-roofed buildings and metallic grain silos stand as pleasant punctuations against the lush landscape. The Virginian soil hosts more than 10,500 tomato plants, as well as other seasonal vegetables and herbs. The grounds also act as a certified wildlife habitat for goats, lambs, and alpacas, as well as more exotic animals such as flightless emus, which entertain visitors with their aggressive posturing and spot-on Groucho Marx impersonations.
In addition to harvesting their crops, the zen-minded farmers share their passion for sustainable living with the community at events and workshop that dish the ins and outs of organic farming. When the weather turns warm, the staffers shear wool from the resident sheep and alpacas, demonstrate crafts, and sell fiber-based arts. Meanwhile, beekeepers raid rows upon rows of hives for pure, organic honey.