It is true that we all travel for different reasons, and our tastes and likes vary. However, when coming for a holiday in Africa, I think there are some places you just have to visit, and some activities you must undertake to enjoy a complete African safari experience. I have compiled a list of what I consider the top ten holiday activities in Africa. You may not be able to do all of them during one visit, unless of course you have a lot of time. But with proper planning, you can cover aspects of all of them in at least two trips to Africa.
1. Wildlife safaris
An African lion: One of the most popular wild animal in Africa
If you have time for only one safari activity, then wildlife safaris are the obvious choice, especially if the closest you have ever come to an African wild animal is in a zoo. Among all African animals, the big five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and leopard) are the most popular, and perhaps most fascinating to observe. The experience of seeing them and other animals in their natural habitat is indeed very amazing. No wonder the word “African safari” is almost synonymous with wildlife safaris.
There are so many places in Africa that give you a rewarding wildlife experience, top on the list being Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, South Africa’s Kruger national park, and Serengeti national park in Tanzania. You can also have an equally (or even more) satisfying safari experience in other less known wildlife destinations like Etosha national park in Namibia, South Luangwa national park in Zambia, and Chobe national park in Botswana .
For a first-time visit to Africa, I would recommend starting with any of the parks mentioned above. However, during subsequent travels, you can choose wildlife destinations that meet your unique tastes. If for example you are interested in the gorillas, chimpanzees and other apes, you should visit the game reserves in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC eg. Bwindi impenetrable forest national park in Uganda.
2. Sightseeing tours:
Apart from just the animals, you will find a lot more to see in Africa, from awe-inspiring natural land features and beautiful landscapes, to many historical man-made structures. Egypt in North Africa is without doubt the favourite destination for sightseeing. All of Egypt’s great sites reflect the country’s rich history dating back to the days of the Pharaohs. The Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx at Giza, the valley of the kings, the temples at Abu Simbel, the Karnak temple complex, and the valley of the queens, are some of the best-known sites.
It is not just in Egypt that you find pyramids from ancient days. In fact, some reports estimate that there twice as many pyramids in the Nubian region of Sudan (where the ancient Meroe kingdom was situated) than there are in Egypt. There are also many other interesting historical sites worthy seeing in Ethiopia including the Lalibela monolithic churches, the obelisks in Axum, the medieval castles in Gondar, and the walled Gondar city. In Mali in West Africa, the ancient city of Djenne is an equally fascinating site. The city is home to the world’s largest mud brick building, the great mosque of Djenne.
Africa’s natural land features you should see include the mighty Victoria falls (Mosi oa Tunya) at the Zambia – Zimbabwe border, the giant sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namibia, the Okavango delta in Botswana, and Fish river canyon in Namibia.
3. Cultural safaris
It is indisputable that the African culture is rich and very diverse. Among the thousands of African ethnic groups however, there are a few that stand out because of their unique way of life and traditions, the Masai tribe being the top-most. There is arguably no better way to appreciate the Masai culture than visiting a Masai village and possibly spending some nights there. This is not for the faint-hearted though. An easier alternative would be to visit a Masai village during your safari in Kenya.
Other African ethnic groups with interesting cultures and that you may want to visit include the Samburu and Turkana of Kenya, and the Swahili found along the coast of East Africa.
4. Beach luxury vacation
While several African countries have beautiful and clean beaches suited for a luxury holiday, the Seychelles Islands, Mauritius Island, and Zanzibar are perhaps the most renowned and most popular beach destinations. No wonder these three islands, more so the islands of Seychelles, are most favoured by honeymooners. Apart from these three Islands however, you can have an equally enjoyable beach vacation in other places like Kenya’s south coast (Diani, Chale Island etc.), north coast (Malindi, Mtwapa, Lamu Island etc), Mozambique (Bazaruto, Quirimbas etc.), the Comoros Island, among many others.
5. Mountaineering, and adventure expeditions
Mount Kenya: Africa’s second highest mountain after Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro
For quite obvious reasons, Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania ranks high among Africa’s adventure destinations. Though it is the highest mountain in Africa, it is also the most accessible. You do not need any special mountaineering equipment to get to Uhuru peak, the highest peak. Any reasonably healthy person can make it to the top especially if they climb slowly. This is unlike the more rugged Mt Kenya, where the highest you can get without mountain climbing gear is Point Lenana, at 4985 meters above sea level. Only accomplished mountaineers attempt to get to the higher peaks of Batian and Nelion.
Mt Meru in Tanzania, the Rwenzori mountain range and the Virunga mountains in Uganda and neighboring countries are some of the other African mountains suitable for climbing or trekking expeditions.
There are lots of other activities for an adventure safari in Africa. You can fly over the Victoria falls on a microlight helicopter, go for gorilla tracking expeditions in the great Lakes region, canoeing, white water rafting, and kayaking (e.g in Sagana and Nanyuki in Kenya), skydiving (e.g in the annual Diani boogie in Kenya), snorkeling and white shark diving in South Africa, overlanding from Cairo Egypt to Cape Town in South Africa, etc.