IT’S AFRICA, THOUGH NOT AS you’d imagine it. Lush valleys fringed by mountains. Scenic towns and villages of white, Dutch-style houses. A Mediterranean climate of hot, dry summers and cool, damp winters. And vineyards, lots of vineyards. Welcome to the Boland — the Highland — of South Africa’s Western Cape.
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IN MAASAI MARA, KENYA’S most storied game preserve, the animals have been playing hide and seek all morning. But it isn’t long before we spy silhouettes amid the expanse, an awe-inspiring landscape of tall grass which unfurls like bolts of amber-colored cloth in every direction. A terrain of golden plains, graceful acacia trees and granite boulders beneath immense skies, the Mara plays second fiddle to its best-known residents, a diverse group of protected wildlife which includes not just the Big Five (lion, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhino) but an array of birds, reptiles and tiny mammals, too. Shared with its other official inhabitants, the ancient Maasai people, the park spreads out for some 580 square miles in Kenya, stretching eventually into neighboring Tanzania. Legendary warriors, nomads and cattle herders, the colorful Maasai named this land Mara — which in their language means “mottled.”