Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world and Africa in particular. Africa has both natural and cultural heritage resources that have the potential to attract many tourists from around the globe. This puts some African countries at the edge of competing with other regions rich in tourism resources. Africa boasts a rich selection of attractions including man-made monuments, pyramids and other stunning natural landscapes that have been inscribed by the UNESCO. Africa has it all – from the wildlife to ancient wonders that features authentic African history and cultural heritage traditions. So here’s my top 10 list of the best places to go in Africa this year. Where will you go?
Pyramids of Giza in Egypt
The Giza pyramids and sphinx are found in Egypt situated on the Giza plateau. The pyramids are one of the oldest and largest man made archeological sites in Africa and the last remaining of the 7 surviving natural wonders of the world. There are three major large pyramids that are said to have been built during between 2589 BC and 2504 BC by the three ancient Egyptian rulers Khufu, Kafre and Mankaure. These pyramids are essentially massive tombs where kings and their descendants were buried. In front of the pyramids sits the great sphinx, carved out of stone and appear in a cat like sculptures. High on everyone’s bucket list, the pyramids of Egypt are a must for any traveller.
The Omo River Region in Ethiopia
The Omo River region is found in southern Ethiopia and it’s popularly known for the cultural diversity, with more than 50 unique tribes living in the river valley. With traditional African customs its become one of the best tourist destinations in Ethiopia. Due to the unique tribes and traditions that still exist in modern society; the Omo River was declared a world heritage site by the UNESCO in 1980. The tribes include the pastoralists, cultivators, hunters who are still practicing their old customs, traditions and lifestyles, having survived for centuries in the harsh desert like climatic conditions.
The ways of life of the Omo tribes plus the diverse beautiful landscapes with volcanic rocks, grasslands, riverine forests together make the region an interesting destination to visit. Some of the traditions include horn blowing, body paintings as a sign of identification; women appear more beautiful and photogenic with their lower lips pierced, decorated and dotted clay plates and jewelry. Above all these the tribes of the omo river region are friendly and welcoming to all who visit.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest volcano in Africa rising to an elevation of 5,896 meters above sea level. The mountain is a popular destination for climbing as its located in northern Tanzania on the border with Kenya. Adventure travellers visiting Tanzania often climb the mountain to witness the 5 distinctive vegetation zones that features unique wildlife. The peaks of Uhuru, kibo, Mawezi and shira can all be climbed by foot.
The lower slopes of the mountain are a home to the big five mammals and other species of primates, the wide range of plants and animals make the mountain a great attraction worth visiting, however the climb is very challenging and climbers must be physically fit and well equipped with climbing gears. The reward is worth the effort.
Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
The Volcanoes national parks Rwanda is one of the most popular Gorilla trekking destinations in Africa. Part of the great Virunga conservation region which borders Uganda with Mgahinga national park and the Virunga national park in Democratic Republic of Congo. Home to endangered mountain gorillas and the famous base of Dian fossey the American zoologist who built her research Karisoke base between volcanoes Bisoke and Karisimbi. Aiming to protect and conserve mountain gorillas which were massively threatened and on the verge of extinction.
An encounter with the rare mountain Gorillas is one of the most memorable adventures you’ll ever experience. Situated just 2 hours from Kigali international airport, its quite easy and convenient for travellers to reach Kinigi park head offices without persevering long distance drives as it is in Bwindi or Virunga gorilla parks.
With the main principle of mountain gorilla conservation, Rwanda gorilla trekking is conducted in a very organized manner guided by professional staff that have been trained and well informed about gorilla tourism. Volcanoes national park comprises of 10 mountain gorilla groups available to be visited by 8 tourists each day for one hour and hence 80 gorilla permits are available everyday. The park also offers a number of other attractions including golden monkey tracking, mountain hiking as well as treks on Mount Karisimbi and mount Bisoke.
Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is the jewel of South Africa and is located on the southwest coast in the shadow of the ragged table mountains. It is the second largest city in south Africa featuring the most cultural diverse heritage sites, south African parliament, several art galleries and museums, beautiful architectural buildings, wine manufacturing industries, botanical gardens and the infamous Roben islands where the former south African president and first black president of the country was imprisoned for three decades. Strategically located beneath the Table Mountains and overlooking the two great oceans of the Atlantic on the west side and the Indian ocean on the east side.
You’ll find a wide range of tourist activities and festivals taking place annually including deep ocean diving, wind surfing, wine tasting and much more. All of these combine to make cape town a great destination for all travellers from around the world.
The Maasai-Mara National Reserve
The Maasai-Mara national reserve is found in south west Kenya, popularly known for the great Wildebeest migration and other thousands of hoofed mammals. They migrate annually from Kenya to Tanzania in search of greener pastures. The reserve is found in the great rift valley of open grasslands and African acacia woodlands that are home to a variety of animals including the big five mammals. There’s all sorts of wildlife to see here including 95 species of mammal and over 400 species of birds. Its no wonder they call this the “the jewel of Kenya’s wildlife”.
Safaris to Kenya nearly always include the Maasai-reserve because it gives you the best chance of seeing the all important big five mammals . You’ll see prides of lions, herds of buffalos, African elephants, black rhinos and leopards too. Other predators include cheetahs, spotted hyenas, jackals and foxes.
During July to November visitors flock to the grasslands to view the migration of over 1.5 millions wildebeests mixed with thousands of zebras too. During the migration you’ll also see Gazelles, buffalos, elephants and many species of antelopes such as waterbucks, Oribi and the eland ,Africa’s largest antelope. You’ll also get a chance to meet the Maasai people who are nomads and survive on farming and livestock rearing. They are easily identified by their red cloth and are famous for their dancing and traditions.
The Victoria Waterfalls
The Victoria waterfalls are located between Zimbabwe and Zambia on the Zambezi River that separates the two countries. Its one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is also the largest waterfall in the world with a width of 1,708 meters. There are two islands that divide the waters to create the strongest falls, the Livingstone Island and the Boaruka Island on the western bank of the river, forming great view points of the cascading water. The area experiences a rainy season and the river floods between February to July when water sprays form mists that is quite a beautiful sight and can be seen from a distance of about 20 km.
Tourists either visit from Zimbabwe or Zambia where various tourist centers have been established. Visitors enjoy the hiking and walking on the rocky platforms with beautiful views and refreshing mists. You can walk across two bridges with clear views of various gorges. The natural wonders of the world are not to be missed and this is definitely one of the most dramatic. Highly recommended!
Zanzibar is a popular honeymoon destination consisting of several islands located in Tanzania at the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean. It is the biggest of the 50 islands and it features a rich history and heritage as a centre of world trade between Europe, Asia and Africa. Today Zanzibar is loved for its pristine white sand beaches, lush green spice gardens and a chance to see coral reefs too. Several islands offer unique attractions like the stone town where you’ll find shops, mosques and palaces of the former sultan.
Zanzibar has been regarded as a tropical paradise with some pretty merchant towns including the UNESCO heritage town of Stone. This town can be easily explored on foot to see markets, mosques, old Arab houses. A very different African experience not to be missed.
Marrakech is found in western Morocco and is a major economic center in the north Africa region. A former imperial city, Marrakech is where the former Moroccan Berber empire dominated the region. The city is culturally diverse with several building constructed in red sandstones giving the city its nickname as “The Red City“. Today Marrakech is a popular cultural, religious and trading center for sub-Saharan Africa and a major tourist destination too.
The city is a designated heritage site by UNESCO following the rising concern about cultural heritage loss. Situated at the foothills of Atlas Mountains, expect beautiful views of snow capped peaks. The main features of the city include the ancient Saadian tombs, museums and art galleries, handicraft shops and restaurants with traditional Moroccan menus. There’s also some wonderful national festivals and some beautiful green gardens with walk ways, pretty flowers and a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
Djenne is found in central Mali in the Niger Delta region about 570 km from the capital city Bamako and believed to be the oldest continually inhabited town in Africa since 250 BC. The town later became a market center for the gold traders of sub-Saharan Africa with traditional houses that have survived the ages and the weather!
The old town has a sacred ancient building made from fabrics of mud red bricks as well as terracotta artifacts that were used to build the mosque that dominates the market square. You’ll find evidence of pre-Islamic civilisation too which attracts various pilgrimages including students from across West Africa and various traders who come for sell their goods in the city.