Over the last few years, Africa has become my favorite continent. I’ve fallen hard for the incredible landscapes, world-class safari experiences, diverse cultures, and my South African boyfriend, Meyer.
With 54 countries on the continent, I still have a long list of things I want to see and do. So I put together a bucket list with some of my favorite Africa travel experiences as well as the ones I’m hoping to cross off in 2019.
From road tripping through Namibia to gorilla trekking in Uganda, gazing upon the Pyramids of Eygpt, glamping in the Sahara desert to cruising along the Okavango Delta in Botswana—Africa is full of incredible adventures!
It has become very fashionable to compile a list of what you absolutely want to see or do before you die. We at Uyaphi.com, perched in the southernmost corner of Africa in Cape Town, have compiled our very own list.
We have thought about this list very carefully. Our consultants have over 200 cumulative years of experience of travelling in Africa and have seen nearly everything which Africa has to offer.
The list is unapologetically subjective, and while some of the suggestions are obvious, some are more quirky. In whatever case, you will not be disappointed.
Migration Balloon Safari
“It was one of those rare moments where you take in the majesty of nature in complete silence, disturbing nothing, saying nothing”. A migration balloon safari over either Kenya’s Masai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti is without question the best way to appreciate the vastness of the land below you. Coupled with witnessing one of the world’s greatest animal migrations of 1,300,000 wildebeest from above; this is one of life’s most memorable events.
Walk the road less travelled and you will come to Ethiopia. Unlike any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, this is home to one of the oldest Christian civilisations in the world. The churches at Lalibela were hewn by hand out of basalt rocks over 700 years ago. Basalt is one of the hardest rock types known to man and the ingenuity, skill and dedication of craftsmen all those years ago have left a permanent legacy of one of the great wonders of the world. Coupled with the kindness of the local people, you will take away with you the benefit of a profound cultural experience.
One of the most iconic of all African destinations; climbing to the top of the world’s tallest freestanding mountain (5,985m) is a must for all adventurers. You will not necessarily need mountaineering experience but a certain standard of fitness is required. There are four routes each offering something unique and different from which you can choose. Hiking up to 10 hours a day with basic camping accommodation and facilities is tough but when you get to the top, you are at the highest point in Africa and the views will simply take your breath away.
Gorilla Trekking in either Uganda or Rwanda is one of the seminal experiences of human existence. Requiring a certain amount of fitness, you will hack a way through steamy, dense, African jungle and meet the tranquil beauty of the mountain gorillas at rest and at play; a sight which will stir the deepest humanity in every human who happens upon it.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
Off the coast of Mozambique and in the Mozambique Channel, a giant of the ocean awaits you. The Bazaruto Archipelago is amongst the best places in the world to see these magnificent mammals. Swimming, diving or snorkelling with whale sharks (and manta rays) is an experience not easily forgotten. October until April each year is generally considered the best time to view the highest concentrations of these giants.
Kasanka Bat Safari
10 million straw-coloured fruit bats converge once a year in Zambia’s Kasanka National Park. This is without question, one of Africa’s great migrations. Particularly at sunset, the sky is thick with bats as far as the eye can see. This once in a lifetime safari occurs in late November and early December.
Devils Pool, Victoria Falls
Africa’s ultimate infinity pool can be found on the edge of the mighty Victoria Falls (on the Zambian side). Devils Pool is itself a natural rock pool which can only be accessed during the dry season (September – end of January). Put your hand on the ledge and look down 108m (355 feet) of one of the greatest water falls in the world. Not for the faint-hearted and equally unforgettable.
Luangwa Walking Safari
Both South and North Luangwa National Parks have been described by wildlife experts and professional photographers as some of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. Whilst we know this to be true, it is walking in this park that offers the best way to experience it. You will witness the exciting prospect of seeing over 60 mammal species and 400 different bird species making this one of the wildest walks you will ever take.
Canoeing the Lower Zambezi
Experience canoeing in a region of Africa that offers one of Africa’s last true wilderness areas, canoeing down one of Africa’s great rivers and canoeing in an area flanked by two renowned wildlife national parks. This adventure is as close to the top of the list as you can get. Whilst wildlife diversity is not as wide as other parks in Africa, there is no other way to get as close to the wildlife wandering in and out of the Zambezi channels.
Skeleton Coast National Park
The remote Skeleton Coast National Park with her ever changing moods and scenic vistas, lies on the North-West coastline of Namibia. One of the most remote areas in the whole of Africa is waiting for you to explore. The Skeleton Coast National Park offers over 16 000 square kilometres of pristine desert habitats.
Sossusvlei Balloon Safari
Experience the worlds oldest desert at sunrise; enter an inflating balloon sounding and breathing like a dragon and lift off in total and utter silence. Drifting over endless dunes offers photographic opportunities like no other with contrasts of shadow and light, ending with a Champagne breakfast. One of the best ways to experience the Namib Desert.
Mokoro The Okavango Delta
Experience the Okavango Delta in the traditional dugout mokoro (canoe). Gliding silently through this oasis is a must when on safari in Botswana. This is your chance to get close to the teeming wildlife, birdlife, and everything which swims in the water from brightly coloured frogs to crocodiles.
The Makgadikgadi Pans of Botswana cover an area of 12 000 square kilometres ( the size of Portugal). They are devoid of human habitation and offer a vast open lifeless land. For those of you who are attracted to the openness and spirituality of desert, you will appreciate these pans. You can stand on a pan and as far as your eye can see, you will observe 360 degrees of nothingness; no trees, no hills, nothing other than the baked earth you are standing on. The silence is actually deafening.
Great White Cage Diving
If you were excited by swimming with whale sharks, then your adrenalin will be raised to a different level with this cage diving experience. You will be safely submerged in a cage off the waters of the Western Cape coast of South Africa. This activity, which is admittedly contentious, will not leave you feeling indifferent about this great predator of the seas and will inform you and calm your fears about this much-maligned animal.