What To Do While in Africa
Africa is a continent of infinite variety. You will hardly scratch the surface on a single visit. Even today, there are remote regions where man has rarely ventured. When you first look at the activities the Continent can offer, you will find difficulty in deciding how to start. That said, if you are up for an adventure, love remote regions, enjoy the natural environment and are passionate about wildlife, you have a treat in store. Here are some ideas of the best activities that you can pick from on your trip, and they are certain to result in your coming back for more.
2. Get your adrenaline going with real adventure
3. Experience Africa’s vibrant cities
4. Meet locals and enjoy the nightlife
5. Swim, Relax, and Beach Bum
6. Visit famous Movie-settings
7. Immerse in the culture and Join Local Festivals
8. Get sporty and go hiking
9. Learn about some of Africa’s religion
10. Volunteer to a good cause
11. Meet Africa’s famous tribes
12. Dive and sea the life under
13. Get in-depth with the history of mankind
See Africa’s wildlife with a game drive safari
Safaris are big business with Game Parks in East and Southern Africa offering an unforgettable experience. Some Private Parks, primarily in land bordering Kruger Park in South Africa can virtually guarantee that their guests will see the famous ‘’Big Five’’; lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo because their parks have boundaries and homes plenty of these animals.
You can enjoy a self-drive safari in both Namibia (Etosha) and South Africa (Kruger Park) but one safari venue to look at closely is Botswana. It is a country where there is minimal pressure on land because of the relatively small population. You will not see any fences to date though that may change in the future. Tourist numbers are limited in luxury lodges but why not book a camping safari? You will have a guide, put up your own tent, and hang a bucket from the branch of a tree for your shower.
Kenya | Tanzania
Both Kenya and Tanzania have well-established safari options. In Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti are popular destinations with the Serengeti linking to the Masai Mara in Kenya where you will also enjoy Naivasha, Nakuru and Samburu. If you come around August and don’t mind the cons of peak season, you can possibly see the great wildebeest migration, the largest animal migration on earth. Read more about the top wildlife spectacles in Africa.
Get your adrenaline going with real adventure
Zimbabwe | Zambia
White Water Rafting on the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls is not for the faint-hearted. You can bungee jump off the railway bridge connecting Zimbabwe with Zambia to hurtle down towards the Zambezi then take to a raft later in the day to navigate that same stretch of river. You will have an experienced guide who knows the best route to take to avoid any dangerous rocks.
Anyone with an average fitness level, a good measure of stamina, and a full load of determination can climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain in Tanzania. There are several routes to the summit, and none involve any rock-climbing experience. You are not far from the Equator and the temperature down on the plains below may be in the 30s. The temperature falls as you proceed from grassland through varying terrain until reaching the snow line.
There are adventure even in cities. Every visitor to Cape Town in South Africa takes the cable car up to Table Mountain. There is another way to get down. Look for the board with a cartoon character and the words ‘’Dope on a Rope.’’ That is your invitation to abseil down.
Experience Africa’s vibrant cities
Throughout Africa, rural populations have often been attracted to the major cities in search of work and a better life. However, some of the Continent’s cities have not outgrown their infrastructures and offer an insight into a range of aspects of life. The vibrant colours in the markets of North Africa in places such as Fez or Marrakech in Morocco are stunning. The skill of their artisans goes back many centuries and you will find it difficult not to buy some souvenirs but remember to haggle.
South Africa’s cities seem much more organised; Cape Town in the very south of Africa offers fine wine and cuisine, sporting excellence and the Cape, close to which the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.
Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is arguably the diplomatic capital of Africa. The Organisation of African Unity is based here as well as the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The Ethiopian civilisation is truly old, and its museums are there to tell the story.
The Government moved Nigeria’s capital from Lagos to the centre of the Country in the 80s; Abuja is a planned city without the seeming chaos of Lagos. Lagos can certainly be described as vibrant with music central to the social lives of locals.
Meet locals and enjoy the nightlife
Typical temperatures in many parts of Africa allow locals to enjoy open-air nightlife well after the sun goes down. Musicians regularly perform outdoors in front of huge crowds where the beer and other alcoholic drinks flow. Try to meet some locals to double the fun. If there’s any party in town, you might just get yourself invited.
Kenya’s Capital, Nairobi, is an African city where there seems to be as much life by night as day. Even the fact that there is work in the morning does not stop the locals wanting to party until late at night; tourists are welcome to join in. You will find modern clubs that have the standard of dress rules that are common within Europe while other places have a real local feel without any sign of formality.
Kampala, the Capital of Uganda, may not be as large as Nairobi but it has a reputation for its lively bar and club scene. Any night-time tour of the City can take in several venues if you want to compare them and find a favourite. Kampala’s laid-back atmosphere by day belies the atmosphere that builds every night. Bars and clubs open and stay open until the early hours, even sunrise. Centenary Park and Acacia Avenue are just two of the areas that tourists will find plenty of action. Each establishment has good security in place so go and join in the fun.
Lagos in Nigeria is in the heart of the Yoruba music scene but there is much more to its night scene than indigenous music. Western music is also popular in the many clubs and bars in the City.
Swim, Relax, and Beach Bum
Morocco | Tunisia
North Africa’s Mediterranean Coastline and the proximity of Europe have resulted in many tourist resorts developing, especially in Morocco and Tunisia, but it is the Indian Ocean Coastline on the Eastern side of Africa that is the real gem.
Kenya | Tanzania
There are long stretches of sandy beach all the way down from Kenya to Durban in South Africa and beyond. Many tourists relax on the Kenyan and Tanzanian beaches after enjoying a safari. In Kenya, the resorts are found close to Mombasa while Zanzibar off the Tanzanian Coast is another place worthy of attention.
There is one country further south that can claim to be a great destination for those seeking a beach and warm sea. Mozambique has not really been on the tourist trail to date, but it has hundreds of miles of pristine beaches just waiting for the tourist looking for somewhere a little off the beaten track.
Visit famous Movie-settings
In recent centuries, the story of Africa was one of colonisation and struggle, adventure and the search for riches. Here are three examples of films that have reflected that, and the locations involved:
‘’Zulu’’ tells the 19th Century story of Rourke’s Drift, a mission station in what is now Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. A small garrison held out against the attacking Zulus despite overwhelming numbers. Isandlwana, close to Rourke’s Drift and the site of a British defeat the previous day, and Rourke’s Drift itself are popular tourist destinations.
The Oscar-winning ‘’Out of Africa’’ starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford is the true story of a Danish lady, Karen Blixen, who owned a coffee plantation in the Kenyan Highlands around the time of the First World War. Her house is there for anyone to visit close to Nairobi. You can enjoy a walking safari in Crescent Island where the safari shots for the film were made.
‘’Hotel Rwanda’’ made in 2004 tells the story of genocide with almost 1 million Tutsis killed by the majority Hutus in Rwanda ten years before. Visitors in Rwanda can learn more about this history at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Immerse in the culture and Join Local Festivals
Music is a very important part of African life and that is reflected in some of its festivals.
Fez’s Annual Festival of World Sacred Music in a week in mid-June features a host of variety; Moroccan music of course but also Balinese dancing, songs from the Italian Renaissance, Tunisia, Soweto and African Sufism.
Later in the year, in the last days of September, head for Lake Malawi in Malawi where the Lake of Stars Festival includes African arts and music. As well as music, visitors can listen to talks and enjoy cinema, theatre and workshops.
Benin, the small country in West Africa, is the ‘’capital’’ of voodoo. The Ouidah Voodoo Festival kicks off the calendar year in the second week of January with traditional rituals performed around the temples; dancing and trances all play a part and animal sacrifices are made to the gods.
Get sporty and go hiking
Fish River Canyon in Namibia is 160 kilometres long, a beautiful place of ravines and cliff faces with plenty of wildlife to see along the way. It is a trip for winter alone because summer temperatures are high, and even then, take plenty of water.
Known locally as Mongo ma Ndemi, the highest mountain in West Africa is in Cameroon. Mount Cameroon is just over 4,000 metres high, a volcano which last erupted in 2000. Hikers will experience rainforest and desert on the hike to the summit.
The Rwenzoris on the Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo are regularly referred to as ‘’the Mountains of the Moon.’’ The highest of them is Mount Stanley at over 5,000 metres high. The diverse flora includes meadow and forest.
Learn about some of Africa’s religion
David Livingstone was primarily a missionary but his contribution to Africa goes far beyond religion; he found the true source of the Nile among other things. Christianity did spread widely in Africa without his help; it is thought that it was first practised in Ethiopia in the 1st Century AD. Lalibela in Ethiopia is a famous UNESCO World Heritage site.
Islam has roots in Africa. Many of Muhammad’s disciples fled to Africa to avoid persecution and today, almost 50% of African as Muslim. The Friday ‘’Call to Prayer’’ in places like Kano in Northern Nigeria sees huge numbers heading for the mosque.
Traditional religions still exist in pockets in Africa. The Yoruba and Igbo in Nigeria have their traditional religions in a country where the North is largely Muslim, and the South has many Christians.
Volunteer to a good cause
Africa has a huge population and almost half is under the age of 25. As a result, there are many opportunities to help with education, healthcare, conservation and community projects throughout the Continent.
Ghana in West Africa is a friendly democracy with economic issues. If you are looking for satisfying voluntary work, childcare in Ghana is worth serious consideration.
Tanzania | Kenya
On the Indian Ocean Coast, Tanzania has openings for volunteers with healthcare experience to work in its hospitals. Conservation opportunities exist in Kenya where protecting endangered species requires constant vigilance.
Beware of voluntourism because that is not always helpful to Africa. You may find yourself exploited during the short time you are on a project and really get a little experience of the people and the place. There is limited time to make best use of your skills if you make the wrong project choice. Often communities get limited benefit from such ‘’volunteers’’ because they are very short term. That can even impact on self-development of locals, and the job opportunities’ market.
Meet Africa’s famous tribes
South West Africa
The San, the bushmen of the Kalahari in South West Africa straddling a few countries, can survive in what superficially seems to be desolate terrain. They know how to find water and can track and kill game using poisoned arrows with unerring accuracy.
The Hadzabe of Tanzania is Africa’s last hunter-gatherers. They live in groups close to Lake Eyasi and number only about 1,200. Groups usually numbering between 20 and 30 moves with the season. The men gather honey and fruit and try catching wild game by day while women in groups gather berries, tubers, and honey. In the same area, you can also visit the Datoga tribe, known for their skills in making weapons. The most famous tribe in East Africa is the Masai who herd cattle and largely survive on their blood and milk. The days when they were feared lion hunters have gone.
The Omo Valley tribes of Ethiopia number 200,000 in total and their lives have changed little for generations. Typically, they have painted faces, often with a white base then incorporating decoration using natural materials such as clay, flowers and other vegetation.
Herero women in Namibia wear Victorian-style dresses, with several petticoats. The dresses seem totally unsuitable in the hot weather, but the Herero have worn such dresses since the German colonialists and missionaries decided that topless, almost naked women were not acceptable.
Dive and sea the life under
South Africa | Namibia
The Southern Right Whale makes an annual trip to its breeding grounds from the east coast of South Africa to the Western Cape with September the peak time to see the action off the Western Cape.
The Great White Shark lives in these waters as well with plenty of food for them to target including seals and even penguins although they are somewhat small. Penguins are prey to those seals, so they live a perilous life.
The South Atlantic flows past South Africa to Namibia and remains cold until it gets closer to the Equator. The Skeleton Coast is the nickname given to the Namibian stretch and the huge seal colony at Cape Cross, one of several on the coastline, suggests there is plenty of fish to sustain them.
The Game Fishing season off the East African Coast, centred in Kenya, runs from July right around to the following April. The species that anglers search for include marlin and sailfish that frequent the waters from October onwards.
Get in-depth with the history of mankind
The origins of Man are thought to be in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, and several ancient civilisations existed throughout Africa in the centuries that followed.
The Egypt of the Pharaohs is a huge subject in itself. The Pyramids of Giza in Cairo and the Valley of the Kings south down the Nile are just two of the reminders of this great civilisation.
The Battlefields of the Boer Wars which were fought in the last two decades of the 19th Century, largely in the Free State and Natal in South Africa, attract tourists interested in military history.
The Kingdom of Zimbabwe existed before the arrival of the colonials. There is little written history, but the ruins of the civilisation are still in evidence. The name Zimbabwe was restored at independence when the colonial name of Rhodesia was discarded.
Just go and figure it out. You won’t run out of things to do!
These are just initial suggestions to inspire you. For those keen on going, you can also choose your African destination by experience. Anyone interested in travel will have all their eyes opened by Africa whether their interests are historical, cultural, environmental or simply to find somewhere to relax. There are places where life has not changed for generations but also many that are distinctly 21st Century. There is nowhere in the world that can offer such stunning wildlife, few places that have such vast stretches of sand and warm seas. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, for something different and exotic, Africa is the Continent for you.