Deciding to visit Africa also means deciding how to visit Africa. Needless to say, it’s a huge and diverse place and seeing “it” isn’t really possible. The crux of the matter is, given finite time and resources, deciding which parts of Africa you are going to visit and how you are going visit them. There is a wealth of possibilities, whether you’re looking to take it easy on the beach, push yourself hiking or motorbike touring, or visiting places rich in human history.
Here are some of the best ways to experience Africa and spend your time there as deeply as possible.
The safari is the classic way to see Africa: travelling through epic landscape within close range of untamed wildlife under the guidance of experienced expedition leaders. There are the famous places of grandeur, like Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. With a little research, you can find other safaris that are a little more off the beaten track. Wherever you choose to safari, it’s sure to be an epic experience. Safari isn’t the classic way to see Africa by accident. It offers an up close and unforgettable brush with the landscape and wildlife of the continent.
For an even more rugged and intimate experience, taking a guided motorbike tour offers a more physically demanding — but closer to the ground — way of seeing Africa’s splendors. There are both road bike and dirt bike excursions that will allow you to get up close and personal with miles and miles of Africa. Many tours will take you through some of the glorious nature preserves and parks that are vital not only to the preservation of Africa’s ecosystems but also an important part of the functioning economies of many African nations. If you’re a motorcycle rider, this may be the way take your passion on the road. And if you’re headed over with a group of friends, consider getting some in-helmet Bluetooth headsets so you can communicate with your gang while riding.
Needless to say, the splendid and widely varied landscapes of Africa offer a wealth of hiking opportunities. Whether up mountains, through jungles, or across the savannah, there are limitless possibilities for hiking excursions on the vast continent. There are the famous mountain hikes like Mount Kilimanjaro and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, well-known areas like Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe or the Fish River Canyon in Namibia, or less renown hiking opportunities like Murchison Falls in Uganda or the Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. Whatever kind of hiking you want to do and whatever landscape you want to do it in, you’ll find it somewhere on the continent.
With approximately 24,000 miles of ocean coastline and a myriad of internal lakes, finding a sandy beach in Africa is not hard. From resort areas to isolated getaways, you can find whatever meets your definition of the perfect ocean getaway. Places like Zanzibar Island, Kenya’s Watamu Beach, and Lake Malawi National Park are some of the finest beach experiences in the world. And don’t forget that the surfing scene in Africa is on the rise and there are waves to be caught, with Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, N’Gor Island (off the coast of Dakar), and Skeleton Bay in Namibia all having the attention of serious surfers.
There are hundreds of unique cultures in Africa, all with their own rich traditions and ways of worshiping. This includes a wealth of annual festivals, from traditional events like the Feast of Epiphany in Ethiopia and the Festival-au-Desert in Mali to more modern celebrations like the Cape Town International Jazz Festival or Zanzibar International Film Festival. If you want to come together with others and experience a shared happening, you can find it in Africa.
As befits the place where Homo sapiens first developed, Africa is rich with historical sites, including 129 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are ancient places like the pyramids of Egypt, the rock-cut churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, or the magical urban puzzle of the Medina of Fez in Morocco. And there are more modern places of history, like Elmina Castle in Ghana (the oldest surviving European building south of the Sahara and today a World Heritage Monument memorializing the slave trade) and Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was prisoner for decades due to his anti-apartheid activities, long before his election to the presidency of South Africa). Experiencing these places will give one a sense of the vast sweep of human history and a better understanding of today’s struggles.
However you plan to spend your time in Africa, take the time to plan ahead and do the research, so you have the experience you’re after.