"Out of Africa" is creating increased interest in that continent, and as a result tour operators are reporting stepped-up bookings of related travel packages. In fact, some tours are focusing directly on the Academy Award-winning movie by including stops at places from author Karen Blixen's life.
The movie is helping tourism in Africa, says Hagos Legesse, executive director of the African Travel Association, an international organization of tour operators and government travel officials with headquarters in New York. Representatives from more than 30 African governments were among about 300 delegates who attended the association's 11th annual congress last week in Atlanta -- its first meeting in the United States and the largest in its 11-year history. These nations are intensifying their efforts to draw more visitors -- both vacationers and business travelers -- and earn more foreign exchange.
The surge of interest in Africa is confirmed by Mountain Travel, Lindblad Travel and Sobek Expeditions, three major U.S. packagers of trips to Africa, who are featuring tours this year to Kenya and other nearby countries. (Kenya was the adopted land of Danish author Blixen, whose pen name was Isak Dinesen; the screenplay of "Out of Africa" is an adaptation of her book by the same title.)
Legesse also notes that recent terrorism in parts of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East may be causing tourists to seek out alternate destinations, including Africa. Though tourism is Kenya's third most important industry after coffee and tea growing, and its game parks drew a half million visitors last year, the film that won seven Oscars has not been a success in that country. "Out of Africa" was seen by many Kenyans -- including President Daniel arap Moi -- as patronizing and an unwelcome reminder of the period of British colonial rule that ended more than two decades ago.
The film and that same period, however, have become part of the sales promotion for a number of interesting packages prepared by tour operators. Among them:
*"Into Africa" by Mountain Travel. This is a 19-day safari, departing Oct. 4 from Nairobi and offering a look at the Kenya of Karen Blixen, according to the retailer/wholesaler in Albany, Calif.
Tour members will stay at an old colonial homestead just outside Nairobi that is similar to the coffee plantation where Blixen lived. The Kikuyu, farmers who originally occupied the land, still live on the grounds. During the two-day stopover members will visit Kikuyu shambas (homes), then drive to Treetops Lodge in Aberdare National Park, camping for three days at Masai Mara Game Reserve. Then five days will be spent meeting members of the Masai tribe and tracking animals on foot in Tsavo National Park. The trip winds up at Malindi in a villa overlooking the Indian Ocean.
Land cost is $3,290 per person, double occupancy, and includes accommodations, airport transfers, porters, ground transportation, flights within Kenya, sightseeing, entrance fees, visas and all camp and trek meals, but excludes round-trip air fare to Nairobi. More information: Mountain Travel, 1398 Solano Ave., Albany, Calif. 94706, (415) 527-8100.
*"Isak Dinesen's Africa" by Lindblad Travel. Described by the Westport, Conn., tour operator as "Out of Africa, Plus," these four separate ongoing African programs (with varying U.S. departure dates) now include one day in Nairobi.
The safari programs are "Kenya Wing Safari," "Kenya Wonder Safari" and "Kenya & Tanzania," all 18 days long, and "Ten Days to Kenya." All will include visits to Blixen's plantation home, a colonial-style picnic and a stay at Lindblad's newly completed Mara Intrepids Club camp in Masai Mara. Other points of interest -- depending on the safari -- will include Nairobi, the Amboseli game reserve at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Treetops, Samburu and Serengeti/Ngorongoro Crater.
Land costs per person, double occupancy, range from about $1,530 to $3,280, including accommodations in hotels, lodges and safari camps, airport transfers, porters, ground transportation, flights within Africa, all meals (except breakfast only in Nairobi), sightseeing and entrance fees, but excluding round-trip air fare from the United States to Nairobi. More information: Lindblad Travel Inc., P.O. Box 912, Westport, Conn. 06881, (800) 243-5657.
*"Open Up to Africa" by Sobek Expeditions. Sobek, based in Angel's Camp, Calif., takes a lower-keyed approach to Blixen in its continuing series of wildlife and culture tours to Zimbabwe, Kenya and Botswana.
*Centerpiece of the program is "Zambezi Wildlife Safari," a 12-day package from New York or other gateway city to London and Zimbabwe. It includes six days on safari, all nights in lodges or hotels, a visit to Victoria Falls and a white-water rafting trip (seasonal) or float trip on the Zambezi to see wildlife. Departures twice monthly, May through December, with rates starting from $2,199, per person double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from the United States.
Two other safaris are the 12-day "Kenya Wildlife Circuit," featuring game viewing at Tsavo, Amboseli, Treetops and other sites, $795 per person double occupancy, land costs only; and "Parks of Botswana," a 10-day trip with six days in Botswana's Chobe National Park and two days at Victoria Falls, for a per-person land cost of $1,050. A fourth adventure is the "Zambezi River Expedition," seven days of rafting with land costs of $1,150 per person, double occupancy (hotel used at Victoria Falls). More information: Sobek Expeditions Inc., Angels Camp, Calif. 95222, (800) 344-3284.
Four additional African adventures that are also in Kenya but do not emphasize any connection with author Blixen -- three tented safaris and one anthropological expedition -- are among many others scheduled this year.
*"Kenya Family Safari" by Special Expeditions. These are 18- and 23-day tours designed to capture the interest of children and adults. While exploring Tsavo, Amboseli, Aberdare and Masai Mara game parks, families stay in private tented camps. Led by a naturalist, they view animals, go horseback riding, fishing, birdwatching and ballooning, and meet members of nomadic tribes. Departures are from Nairobi, group size limited to 15. Cost, excluding air fare, is $3,800 per person for 18 days and $4,800 per person for 23 days. More information: Special Expeditions, 720 Fifth Ave., Dept. 1, New York, N.Y. 10019, (800) 762-0003.
*"Classic British Safari" by ICTS/Intercontinental Travel Systems. The Royal Geographic Society helped plan these 15-day tours, and lectures will be given to each group during the four-day stopover in London before members fly to Nairobi. Featuring tented camps and deluxe lodges, the tours visit Aberdare, Samburu, Lake Nakuru, and Masai Mara. Cost per person, double occupancy, is $1,981, excluding air fare. More information: ICTS/Intercontinental Travel Systems, 4133 Taylor St., San Diego, Calif. 92110, (800)428-7462.
*"Kenya Under Canvas" by Abercrombie & Kent. Aimed at the budget-minded, food and tent appointments are less luxurious than on its premiere "Hemingway Safari," A&K notes. Maximum group size is 20 (compared to the Hemingway limit of four to eight persons), the limited bar is self-service, and participants share hot showers and toilet facilities with up to six others. But the 16-day tour begins in London, visits five national parks, and stories are swapped around the camp fires at night. Land-only cost is $1,995 per person, double occupancy (hotels used in London and Nairobi). More information: Abercrombie & Kent International Inc., 1420 Kensington Rd., Oak Brook, Ill. 60521, (800) 323-7308.
*"Journey to The Cradle of Mankind" by Mountain Travel. A visit with famed anthropologist Richard E. Leakey at his Koobi Fora site in northern Kenya will be the highlight of this 21-day journey into the desertlands of Kenya's Rift Valley. Leakey is directing investigations of the ancient fossil record near the "jade sea" of Lake Turkana, and as the group's on-site host he will discuss his work there. The tour, escorted by Kenyan anthropologists, also will visit and study the Samburu, Turkana, Rendille and El Molo tribes, and see game at Masai Mara. Departure from New York will be Sept. 21. Cost per person, double occupancy, is $3,850 (excluding air fare) plus a $500 donation to the National Museum of Kenya, of which Leakey is director.
Travel agents can book all tours offered by these and other packagers of Africa safaris.