The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to - Richard Mullin
Dubbed as the cradle of mankind, Africa is a continent like no other with diversity and richness in culture that will have any curious traveler turn into an excited storyteller as if seeing something beyond this planet. In fact, despite being the oldest inhabited continent on Earth today, Africa is still home to less-travelled and exotic destinations, with majestic wildlife, crystal blue lakes with pearly white sands, amazing flora, and unyielding mountains within its borders.
Africa is a large continent in every sense — it has the second largest continental surface area, the longest river in the world (River Nile), the largest hot desert (Sahara), and it houses 54 sovereign countries within its boundaries. It will take several lifetimes to be able to experience all she has to offer. That’s why as a potential traveler, categorizing each unique experience and their respective locations will come in handy to help you make an informed decision:
Kenya, Tanzania & South Africa
One thing that sets Africa apart from any other continent is the abundance of wildlife, and heading out into the savannah or jungle to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat is a once in a lifetime experience. In addition to being able to watch them up close, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and get immersed in the various fascinating cultures. For an unforgettable safari experience, here are the top places to visit:
This beautiful East African country is home to a wide variety of wildlife reserves and national parks, the most famous being the Masai Mara. Together with Tanzania’s Serengeti region, this park plays host to the annual wildebeest migration – the largest migration of land animals in the world. This spectacular event sees over 1.5 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles searching for food and water between Kenya and Tanzania. Kenya is also home to “The Big 5” – Lion, African Elephant, Leopard, Rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo.
Sitting just below Kenya, this small country is one of the best safari locations in the world thanks to its heavily populated national parks and wildlife conservation areas. The Serengeti plains and the Ngorongoro Crater are the most popular destinations for seeing wildlife and simply being at one with the natural surroundings. In addition to the animals of the Great Migration, Tanzania has hyenas, hippos, giraffes, over 1000 bird species, and 25 reptile species. As an added feature to the safari experience, the tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, is also here in Tanzania and is a world-famous hiking destination.
By far the most developed country of the three, South Africa is one of most popular travel destinations for its game reserves, stunning climate, and amazing scenery. Its most famous safari locations is the mighty Kruger national park. In terms of its wildlife, the Big 5 is one of the main attractions, along with the around 175 endemic bird species and marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales.
South Africa, Namibia, and Zambia
With its epic terrains and uncharted rugged landscapes, Africa pushes adventure-seekers to the limit, offering extreme activities that test their mettle and earn them newfound respect. Whether it’s tackling the highest climbs or braving the deepest dives, or anything in between, adrenaline junkies are sure to get their money’s worth in Africa.
This beautiful country is a melting pot of cultures, such that locals and visitors are often spoilt for choice when it comes to extreme adventures. The most popular ones include:
A trip to Namibia is usually about enjoying the vast landscapes and the incredible nature. But who says you have to take in the magnificent scenery thru long drives and relaxing walks alone? Here are some action-packed and fun-filled activities to create new awesome memories and feel closer the nature:
In addition to its breathtaking scenery and incredible wildlife, Zambia is fast becoming one of Africa’s most acclaimed extreme adventure capitals. With so many unforgettable things to do here, there is bound to be something that gets the adrenaline pumping.
Morocco, Botswana & Namibia
A trip to the desert easily conjures images of dusty camel rides along barren dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. But this is Africa and here, there’s a whole lot more to desert tourism than you might think. Offering spectacular views, unparalleled stargazing, photogenic sunsets, and some of the most resilient wildlife on the planet, Africa’s deserts do not disappoint. There are three major deserts in this continent, namely the Sahara, Namib, and Kalahari, with the Sahara being the largest hot desert in the world!
The Sahara desert cuts across eleven different countries – Morocco, Libya, Sudan, Egypt, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania, Tunisia, and the Western Sahara. The most user-friendly parts of the Sahara desert are can be accessed through Morocco and Egypt, Here, travelers can begin their journey on camels, sleep under the stars, and enjoy a refreshing cup of tea with nomadic Berbers. With a staggering landmass that is bigger than the United States, you will explore to your heart’s content.
The Kalahari basin engulfs Botswana in its sandy semi-arid salt pans, which transform into lush plains and vast lakes in the rainy season. These expansive pans are a result of the ancient inland lakes, which have long since dried up and fossilized, making them world-renowned natural attractions. There are some camps here in the desert that offer quad biking across the pans and dining out under the stars with no borders or boundaries in sight. During the rainy season, Kalahari Desert hosts the annual migration of zebra and other wildlife across the grass-filled pans.
Namib stretches almost 2000 km along Africa’s South Atlantic coast and is one of the most surreal terrains on Earth. A trip to this stunning destination is to feast your eyes on endless cumin-colored sand dunes and rising desert hills dotted by oasis. The Namib Desert scene is dramatic, especially since there’s no shortage of wildlife roaming the sweeping dunes, including hyenas, black rhinos, ostriches and even desert-adapted elephants.
Kenya, Zanzibar, Egypt, South Africa
Africa is renowned for its safari destinations, but did you know that it also holds some of the most exquisite beaches in the world? Whether on the Atlantic or Indian Oceans, or even near freshwater lakes, paradisiacal stretches of sand and water abound, each one with its unique and captivating history and sights of interest, The pace of life in these exotic locations is usually slow, so travelers can truly indulge in the delights that each beach has to offer for a couple of days.
Accentuating all that Kenya has to offer and filling the landscape with soul and color are what its beach areas are about. They consist of more than just powdery white sand that merges into a sea of clear blue waters wrapping around Kenya’s coastline. In fact, one of Kenya’s beach destinations, Lamu, is a UNESCO heritage site. The feeling is like being in a completely different world to that of the safari savannahs, with their sandy landscape fringed by coconut trees, wild mangroves, and colorful coral reefs. The most popular beaches include:
This semi-autonomous archipelago is a mere 23-mile hop from Tanzania’s mainland, and is home to pristine white sand, underwater treasures, calm waters, and dazzling sunsets. Like most islands, the pace on Zanzibar’s beaches is pole pole – Swahili for slowly, and offers a peaceful relaxed atmosphere as you mingle with fellow beach lovers. The beaches of Zanzibar tend to change about twice a day, as the water retreats several hundred meters during low tide and washes up the shoreline in high tide. Top spots include:
From postcard-perfect scenery and fantastic weather, to crystal waters and romantic islands, the best beaches in Egypt come in all shapes and sizes. In recent years, these burgeoning beach resorts have been the top primary tourist attraction, offering holiday experiences that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. The stunning coastline bordering the wild Red Sea is a natural magnet for divers, sun bathers, and all those looking to redefine the term, Mediterranean relaxation.
With more than 2500 kilometers of coastline, surging surf, exotic wildlife, and breathtaking settings, South Africa’s beaches hold their place among the top shoreline experiences in the world. The white sands seem to stretch forever and chances are, you’ll spot dolphins and turtles along the way. Whether you’re here to tackle extreme water sports or to simply unwind, you’ll feel right at home. And for those looking for something a little different, South Africa also has a small collection of nude beaches to those wanting bare it all. Top beach destinations include:
Ethiopia, Rwanda, Egypt, Mali, Gambia
Considered the birthplace of humankind, Africa consists of a mixture of countries with numerous tribes that have their own uniquely rich culture, languages and way of life. Their hospitality is also legendary, while their cuisine is exotic and some of the best you will ever taste.
One of the richest, untouched and most well preserved culture in the world with its earliest history dated back to the 8th century BC, Ethiopia which is dominantly an orthodox Christian country with tribes like the Nursi, Hamer, Konso, Karo and Dorze has more than enough historical sites portraying its rich and cultural history. With an immensely diverse form of music influenced slightly by Somalia, wandering musicians in the highlands known as Azmaris play their local and secular tunes which you can listen to while you have a taste of their delicious cuisine and coffee with special flavors and local ingredients. Silver and gold necklaces made locally with hand woven fabrics while their traditional attire includes knee length shirts with a collar and trousers, shawls for women and sweaters for men which are usually worn during special occasions, weddings and religious ceremonies. The most popular historical sites include:
Made up of three major socio economic grouping, the Tutsi, Hutu and the Twa (simply called Rwandans ), Rwanda boasts a wealthy and diverse culture spanning centuries with very few external influence and have maintained a rich culture characterized by the crafts and music which is an important part of both their traditional ceremonies and daily lives with famous musical performances consisting of ballet-like dancing called Intore with highly impressive drumming routines with different regional groups contributing sounds with different instruments while their locally made handicrafts are truly great for decoration and souvenirs. Historical sites which portray their history include:
Amongst the earliest civilization in the Middle East and Africa, Egyptian culture dates back 6000 years of recorded history and has gone ahead to influence cultures in the Middle East, Africa and Europe. With its capital Cairo as the largest in Africa, Egypt is known for one of the first major civilizations to design codified elements in their art and architecture and their wall paintings which followed a strict code of visual rules and meanings and also known for their vast knowledge in mathematics, astrology and biology, and also famous today for its great monuments which celebrated the glory of their land while their cuisine is characterized by dishes such as mashed fava beans, kushari, chopped and cooked bush okra with garlic and coriander. Historical sites which portray their rich history and culture include:
Known as one of Africa’s greatest empire in its triumphant days, the Malian people are proud of their diverse cultures and country’s wealthy history. The Maure and Tuareg tribes’ nomadic desert lifestyle endures and has remained unchanged for centuries with a history dated back to the 4th and 11th century. At that time, camels were domesticated and were able to transport gold, salt and ivory to as far as the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. The largest library was once housed in Djinguereber mosque which is one of Timbuktu’s surviving landmarks of the glory days. With well over 8 ethnic groups that all have their unique individual languages, they still live relatively in peace and have respect for one another. Boubout, a handmade colorful robe made of cotton mud cloth fabric are usually worn by locals while their literature and music has been influenced by telling stories orally by their traditional storytellers called griots who often perform at special events, social gatherings and weddings. Historical sites which portray the rich history and culture of Mali include:
Considered to be the melting pot of West African ethnic groups and a country named after the Gambia River, Gambia is a small country with a population of 1.2million. It is a multiethnic country with major ethnic groups including the Jola, Fula, Serahule, Mandinka and Wolof. Despite the multi-ethnicity, there is a close dwelling amongst the groups sharing various cultural traits. This has led towards a national Gambian culture with English widely spoken by all ethnic groups. Their traditional food includes benachin, basenyebe, chene, domodah, plasas served with fufu, and chura-jerteh. Historical sites which portray the rich history, and culture of Gambia include:
South Africa, Nigeria & Kenya
When it comes to African nationalities, a lot of factors are put into play. Cultures, traditions, and customs, their way of life, languages, perception of foreigners, and how the go about their normal day to day activities. Africa is indeed diversified, but in countries like South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, English is generally accepted by everyone making it a whole lot easier to communicate and do business.
Known for their direct nature when it comes to speaking their mind and airing out their views, they are known to say what’s on their mind regardless of how you feel and when it comes to doing business, personal connections isn’t necessary for anyone planning to start one.
According to IFC and the World Bank, when it comes to foreign investors’ protection, easy credit card access, and infrastructure, South Africa is ranked first for its laws protecting foreign investment in their country. While the challenges faced while starting a business in South Africa includes resolving insolvency, getting electricity, and paying taxes, South Africa is an economic propeller for Africa at large with a soothing environment to kick your feet up and relax after the day’s hard work. With the massive investment made by the South African government in the information technology sector to increase the usage of information and communications technology to improve competitiveness and through its programs, it will embark on an extensive skills development program aimed at millions of youths in robotics, coding, cloud computing, AI, and networking by 2030.
Despite its major security, unemployment, and electricity challenges, Nigeria is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with foreign investors trooping by the number. Known as the most populated nation with well over 180 million people resident in Nigeria, it is indeed large enough to absorb any service or product and the cost of labor is cheap which is one of the reasons china as we all know, has grown to become an industrial hub and it is also a country where small scale investments thrive.
Known as the commercial and logistic hub of eastern and central Africa’s economy, Nairobi is the largest city and home to one of Africa’s biggest stock exchanges with a strategic location and the countries natural assets which is their human resource. Kenya’s manufacturing and financial industries are the most elegant in Eastern Africa and it is also known as a thriving information and communications technology hub, a tradition of entrepreneurism, agribusiness, energy, medical equipment, infrastructure and a recent discovery of oil, gas and titanium. When it comes to technology and technological innovation, Nairobi has been the center of the countries thriving tech ecosystem with most innovation spaces such as Ihub, Mombasa lake hub, Dlab hub, Machakos, and Nyeri. Incubation centers, accelerators, and maker labs are all concentrated in the capital. Its strong connectivity has encouraged investors making Nairobi an attractive spot for technologists and investors alike.
Rwanda, Congo & Tanzania
To catch a glimpse and experience the thrills of hiking, the best way to enjoy and salvage every moment is undoubtedly to go by foot where you get to mingle with the friendly locals who are ready to hit the road with you as you hike further into the forest as you capture every moment visually creating an unforgettable hiking experience.
Catch a glimpse of the Rwandan rural life, pleasant climate and witness some of the finest scenery from the high views of Rwandan mountains, views of waterfall down to the Nyungwe national park. The volcanoes national park protects the Rwandan sector and is best known for tracking gorillas. The shortest hike is to Lake Ngezi which takes about 3 hours in total with the possibility of coming across wildlife along the way as well as gaze across the Congolese forest.
The highest peak in Rwanda is Mount Karisimbi (white shell) a strenuous yet rewarding hike which takes two days camping along the way. A territory of gorillas, many bird species and other primates. Other hikes include mount Bisoke, Mount Muhubura, and the Buhanda Eco Park where Rwandan old kings were crowned.
The Congo Nile trail, popular with both hikes and cyclists takes 10 days to complete on foot with three tea plantations, twelve coffee washing stations, three cities, lots of beaches, coves, waterfalls, lots of villages, valleys, and vistas, Congo Nile trail offers one of the finest hiking experiences anywhere in east and central Africa.
Other hiking trails include Igishigishigi trail, Karamba trail, Umugote trail, Umuyove trail, Uwinka trail, irebero trail, Mbaraga trail, and Rakuzi trail.
From gorilla trekking, to wine country getaways, music tourism, and lush beach vacations, Congo boasts of a once in a lifetime experience for fun seekers and adventurers alike.
Hikes in Tanzania require good level of fitness and it’s highly advisable, in some places mandatory, for hikes to be done with a guide. Take plenty of water to avoid dehydration due to the hot and dry climate.
Ethiopia, Djibouti, Malawi, Botswana
The sights, the scenery, the rich cultures are all awe inspiring, amazing and breathtaking. There is no doubt that these countries are indeed stunning and beautiful as they have a whole lot of history and various adventures for the thrill and fun seekers.
Home to 9 UNESCO world heritage sites and named the world’s best destination for tourists in 2015 by the European council on tourism and trade, Ethiopia is the ideal exotic destination. From the red rock Gheralta Mountains to the astounding landscapes, from Lake Tana and the Nile to the lush Omo valley. Ethiopia however has faced challenges overtime from the drought and famine that plagued the nation. The lack of fundamental tourism infrastructure with problems ranging from lack of air conditioning to lackluster services are some of the main reasons Ethiopia is less visited by tourists. But over the last few years, the situation has improved.
Djibouti boasts of some of the finest white sand beaches. Other tourist attractions like the land of Abe, pretty islands, and the lake of Assal’s salt formation compares, if not even better, than that of the Dead Sea and its prehistoric rock paintings.
Popularly known as the “warm heart of Africa” with a very pleasant climate, Malawi has a lot of options available ranging from big game viewings in Liwonde National Park, Vwaza Marsh, and Lake Nyasa, which is one of the most popular destinations for Malawi holidays. The challenges faced by the tourism sector which has brought about a decline in the flow of tourists include inadequate skilled labor, lack of sector specific incentives and lack of the legal framework for regulating the tourism industry.
With well over 75% of Botswana’s territory taken up by the Kalahari, one of Africa’s most famous deserts, Botswana is also home to one of the greatest safari at the Chobe national park where lions can be seen roaming freely. There are also so many other thrills that can be enjoyed by tourists who have visited the country. The major reason for the decline of the inflow of tourists over the years is as a result of a mono product offering which is basically the wildlife and the high prices of tourism services especially accommodation.
Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Egypt
Kenya boasts of one of the most spectacular sceneries, a peaceful nature, breathtaking and eccentric combination of wildlife, adventure and romance. There is always something out there for you to do whatever your attraction maybe. From beholding the migration of the wildebeest to and from the Serengeti across the savanna to the coastal treasures with a lot of fun packed activities like snorkeling, dive fishing the coral reefs, relaxing on the beach or having a taste of their mouthwatering cuisine, Kenya is guaranteed to spoil you with thrilling adventures of a lifetime.
Known as the adventure capital of the world, South Africa is known to offer so many different extreme exploits available for the adventurers and thrill seekers, whether its wildlife, an experience discovering the big five, aquatic animals and so many bird species. Lovers of vintage and modern cars can visit the Franschhoek motor museum which is home to a range of antiques, classics, and vintage cars. While lovers of birds could also visit the world of birds, which is the largest bird park in Africa with over 400 species. If you enjoy going underground, you can visit the Cango caves, which is said to be 20 million years old.
Known as the magical land and an unforgettable paradise, Morocco is a top destination with long beaches, fishing ports, lush oasis, mountains, and Islamic architecture. Remarkable places to visit while in Morocco include the natural rock formation at Legzira beach, Agadir beach, Fez, Djema El-fna and a host of others.
A country with a rich culture and history and has always been amongst the top destination on most tourists bucket list. The pyramid of Giza, the beach resorts along the Red sea and the Bazaars of medieval Cairo are some of the few most attractive places to visit. Others include the temples of Luxor, Karnak, Red Sea Reef, the river Nile cruise, Valley of the Kings, Abu Simel and a host of others.
South & East Africa
With 54 sovereign countries within its borders, each with its unique set of life-changing experiences, it’s only natural to want to see and indulge in as much as possible. After all, only in Africa can you go bungee jumping, wine tasting, and mountain trekking in deep dark jungles with gorillas in one trip. The trip can be expensive, but there are ways to travel cheap. Traveling across Africa usually demands a different approach from many other destinations around the globe, especially in terms of air travel where from one country to the next will easily cost a couple hundred dollars. Whereas travel by land will only cost around $30.
The eastern and southern regions of Africa offer the most popular backpacking and budget travel destinations, each offering diverse combinations that will suit anyone, from the shoe-string budget to the more luxurious traveler.
In this region, you can choose to travel to neighboring countries or simply traverse a single country indulging in all it has to offer. For instance, travelers can begin their backpacking adventure from bus to Kenya. From Kenya, you can hop another bus to Uganda. Finally, from Uganda to Rwanda. Bus fare ranges from 20 USD and above each way. There’s lots to see and do along the way, so you can be sure it will be one of your most interesting backpacking experiences.
This is the most popular region for backpackers, thanks to its organized travel infrastructure. It also offers some of the most outrageous fun spots and activities along the way. Most travelers start in South Africa, sampling the extreme adventures, cuisines, and resorts, before heading to Botswana or Namibia for ecotourism and visiting top destinations like the Skeleton Coast Park, Caprivi Strip, and the Etosha Salt Pan. You’re likely to pay a little more when backpacking in this region, but it’s bound to be worth it.
Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia
Most tourists when visiting Africa do so with the mindset of taking lazy strolls on the soft sand or cruising through the safari with a 4×4. Only those with an eye for true adventure dare cross this path.
Colloquially known as the roof of Africa, the Uhuru peak on Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest point on the mountain standing at 5,895 meters with a snow capped pick consisting of volcanic vents namely Shira, Kibo and Mwenzi. There are 7 routes to choose from, each with a different scenery and varying degrees of difficulty.
Lying on the south of the equator, with a spectacular view, diverse wildlife and the mountains glacier valleys, Mount Kenya is Africa’s second highest peak standing at 5,199 meters. It is also said to be the most technical and takes about three to seven days to complete.
Consisting of plateaus separated by valleys while the margins of this plateau consists of precipitous cliffs and deep gorges. Also home to some of the rarest animals.
Seychelles, Rwanda, South Africa
Ideal for honeymooners, travelers celebrating a special occasion or for just about anyone who needs a “break”.
Probably the most popular destination for honeymooners. The luxury hotel selection here is aplenty with activities made specifically for R&R. The prices are well above average but as they say, you can’t put a price in love :p
From relaxing in camp and dining in the bush, to observing nature unfold in Africa, wilderness safari is sure to give you an epic experience in an area of extremely high species diversity to a pleasurable experience in key wilderness areas.
Serengeti is one of the most popular parks in Africa for a reason. You can have topnotch amenities in your lodge while experiencing Africa in the raw. We’re not talking about drinking expensive wines but drinking with a view of the savannah, watching the sun set; Not about savouring the best steak but enjoying a nice barbecue in the bush under a starlit sky.
Africa is a unique continent in several aspects – geography, landscape, culture, people, and traditions. Africa has everything you are looking for and no experience is better than the other. You will not be able to see everything you like at once, so choose what means the most to you and take it from there. One thing is for sure, wherever you decide to go, Africa will not disappoint.