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The Independent Travel
Half a day south of London, and three hours' drive across the parched, scraggy veldt, there is a zebra crossing. Wait quietly in your rental car and in a moment its stripey friends and relations will trot across the track, too. Sinuous giraffe, stumpy wildebeest and rhinos the size of small houses share South Africa's Pilanesburg National Park with each other and with tourists such as your jet-lagged self.

African wildlife has never been easier to meet. The competition that is growing on flights to South Africa means fares to Johannesburg and Cape Town are falling. This week Virgin Atlantic began flying Heathrow- Johannesburg, next month Britannia begins charters from Gatwick to South Africa's largest city and Cape Town.

The rest of Africa is also opening up to the traveller. Nairobi is pounds 300 away, aboard Sudan Airways via Khartoum, and not very much more on less flamboyant airlines. The Kenyan capital is base camp for more intensive - and expensive - safaris than a day out in Pilanesburg.

Hang on, though: what about the corrosive impact of tourism on the environment and the people? Certainly the treatment of Kenya's Masai Mara, displaced from their homelands in the name of tourism, has been shameful. And the sight of a dozen safari vehicles converging on a family of lions makes you fret about the way that the Travel Empire has conquered the Animal Kingdom. But tourism has been less damaging than some other forms of exploitation, and a positive force for preservation in many parts of Africa.

Moving north, Egypt has enjoyed or endured tourism for centuries. And has the art of prospering from visitors down to a fine piece of theatre. As Jack Barker explains opposite.

Whether you are satisfied with a donkey ride to the Valley of the Kings or crave the sight of a whale to crown the big five land mammals, now is the moment to visit Africa. Just remember to stop if you see a zebra crossing.