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With 54 countries calling it home, Africa’s topography, landscape and activities vary drastically by region. I’ve been to the continent 26 times, yet each time I go I’m surprised at just how many new things there are to see and do.

To make it easier for you to plan a trip, I’ve highlighted some of the most popular countries and best places to go in Africa, as well as what to see and do there, when to go and where to stay. Hopefully this primer will get you motivated to hop on a plane — it’s worth the long flight to get there.

Uganda

Why go: One of only three countries in the world where you can trek to see mountain gorillas in the wild (there are only 900 mountain gorillas left in the world), the experience in Uganda is truly amazing.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda is home to the Nyakagezi gorilla family with its five silverbacks (adult males). It holds a certain allure, since it boasts one of the highest concentrations of silverbacks within a family. Tours are small, no more than eight people, and once the gorillas are spotted, you have 60 minutes with them — and believe me, it goes really fast.

I was surprised to see how playful the juveniles are, not unlike my own little kids. One even came up and gave me a light fist bump to the leg (the animals can do what they want, but we were instructed to stay 7 meters away from them; they came much, much closer).

For me, witnessing the adult silverback males in action was the most moving experience. Pounding their chests, making conversation with guttural sounds, climbing effortlessly up the bamboo trees to build a nest — they seem so human-like, which isn’t surprising given that these mammals share 98% of our DNA. Seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat was one of my favorite experiences in Africa.

When to go: Since it’s a rainforest, there’s a chance you’ll get wet anytime, so there’s no really bad time to go. Just be sure to pack…