Only 13? Given your complete and never-ending addiction to the continent, I would have expected more, to be quite frank…
Well I had to keep it down or I would never have got this article published, would I? Clearly I could go on all day and all of the night about why Africa should be on everyone’s list, but this is at least a start. Also, I have another 13 coming in the next post…
Okay, fair enough. So what is so great about Africa then?
In a nutshell, there is nowhere on earth like it. Given its vast size and the sheer number of countries found on the world’s most exciting continent – at least 54, the exact number depends on who you ask – there is something for every traveller. The fact that we cannot even agree on how many countries there are in Africa is pretty cool in itself, I reckon.
Sure, there are adventures to be had on every continent on this planet, but nothing ever really matches what Africa can offer. It’s not always easy, it is often chaotic and you will likely learn to ditch timetables and detailed plans and go with the flow – but isn’t that a better way to travel anyway? The quiet life can wait – bring on the laughter, the colour, the dynamism, the spontaneity and the sheer fun!
There are some downsides, but this is not the place to dwell on them. The biggest problem most visitors face is the fact that they get incurably smitten by the Africa bug and any other holiday destination will inevitably be slightly disappointing by comparison. This article will go some way to explaining why this is the case, but will never be a substitute for actually experiencing it yourself.
Here then, in no particular order, are a mere 13 reasons why you owe it to yourself to visit Africa (more are, as mentioned, on the way):
1. You’ll enjoy sunsets you will have trouble believing are real
To be honest, picking out a single photo to illustrate this point was not easy – my hard disk is bursting with stunning shots. But in the end there was something about this one taken in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
2. Sunrise is pretty staggering too, as it happens
You’ll have to get up early to see the sun rise in Africa – earlier still the further from the equator you travel. But you will do so willingly after a couple of days, and those dawn starts are required for the best wildlife sightings on safari. I had no regrets at being up at 5.30 a.m. to catch this eagle flying past my balcony at Gorges Lodge in Zimbabwe…
3. And then there’s the night sky
Now I don’t have any good photos myself (my camera equipment/skills are not really good enough) but I found this one – although most cloudless nights will be way more spectacular than this. With zero light pollution in Africa’s wilderness areas, you will be blown away by the night sky.
4. Wildlife encounters
This is another theme for which I have hundreds of photographs, but managed to settle on one. We came upon this lion with four others right by the side of the track as we were leaving Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana. Africa is the home of the safari and home to an incredible range of animals. You will never tire of encounters with her wildlife – you never know what to expect and each experience is unique.
5. Human encounters
I said this list was in no particular order and this proves it, because the best reason to visit Africa is to meet the people. Their friendliness, openness and generosity put us to shame and travellers soon realise that Africans really understand the importance of human interactions in life.
It always irritates me when people refer to African countries as “developing”. In many ways Africa is developed, and we in the so-called modern world have strayed too far – we are over-developed. Come down and see for yourself. This pic is of the staff seeing us off after a wonderful stay at Hyena Pan in Botswana, in case you were wondering.
6. Adventure is waiting for you
Adventure is everywhere in Africa, whether you are on safari, visiting ancient ruins or diving in the Indian Ocean – but there plenty of additional ways to boost your adrenaline. Why not follow the example of our daughter Rebecca (marginally to the right) and her friend Helene (on the left) and jump off a cliff near the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe?
This is the terrifying “Gorge Swing”, which is a sheer drop down until the rope tightens and swings you like a pendulum above the raging waters of the Zambezi River, and is apparently amazing fun.
You may prefer the more sedate “Bridge Slide” like me (above), or to just watch…
7. Africans don’t give up – they “make a plan”
I first heard this in Zimbabwe, but later in several other countries in the region and it is hands-down my favourite expression from Africa. It is also one that I try to live by wherever I find myself. When something goes wrong, we are far too quick to find someone to blame, lodge a complaint and/or call someone to get it fixed.
In Zimbabwe, where god knows the people have been subjected to more problems that we can even begin to imagine, their response is “we’ll make a plan.” What a great attitude. At first glance the photo above from a completely flooded road between Maun and Nata in Botswana may not seem to demonstrate the principle. But allow me to elaborate. The truck in front of ours was put into service as a makeshift “ferry”, transporting vehicles across the waterlogged plain for a fee.
Not only did its owner make a plan, he made good money too providing an ingenious service to other drivers for whom the metre-deep water was impassable. This picture was taken on our Wild Botswana and the Victoria Falls – Small Group tour, which is highly recommended.
8. Music and dance are everywhere
As I wrote all those years ago when I returned to Africa for the first time since 1994, it was dancing (and smiles) that gave me the feeling of being back home again. Africa has a rhythm all of its own, and music is a huge part of daily life throughout the continent.
Whether in the form of impromptu performances by airport cleaners or more formal shows like the one put on by the dance troupe above in eSwatini (the country formally known as Swaziland), you will find entertainment everywhere. eSwatini features on our Walking South Africa – Small Group tour.
9. You may be surprised just how good the food is
From roadside chop bars to fine dining restaurants and everything in between, Africa is a food lover’s paradise. Prepare to be amazed at the delicious and varied food somehow conjured forth at a wildly remote lodge in the bush where the nearest shops are a day’s journey away.
Marvel at the preparation process as maize is pounded for hours on end to produce nzema or its local equivalent, then served with a tasty stew and eaten with bare hands in friendly company.
And be sure to visit extraordinary places like 4Roomed eKasi Culture above, a lifestyle concept based on the four roomed homes found in the township of Khayelitsha outside Cape Town in South Africa which brings tourists to areas previously considered off-limits. Eating here will be the most memorable part of your time in the Mother City.
10. Culture and traditions are strong – and treated with pride
Traditional medicine (as illustrated here with a snap of the Muti store in downtown Johannesburg) is alive and well across Africa, as are traditional beliefs and culture. All of these co-exist with their modern versions and offer visitors fascinating insight into ways and practices with which we are unfamiliar.
Explore Johannesburg in combination with our Walking South Africa – Small Group or our Wild Botswana and the Victoria Falls – Small Group
11. You will learn the valuable art of patience
Shit does, indeed, happen. You haven’t really been on safari until you get stuck in the mud like we did here in Botswana. And when it does, you make a plan. And you learn to be patient – not only while plans are carried out and problems resolved, but also when waiting.
African time is different; you may not go as far as I do and simply not wear a watch in Africa, but you will learn not to be so hung up about having to sit and wait. And that is a good thing, no?
12. You can detox from modern life
That leads us nicely on to the next point. After all, modern life is indeed rubbish, to slightly misquote Blur. And you can really get away from it all in Africa. Put that damn phone away, forget the emails, the commute and all the other crap.
You will adapt quickly and feel a lot better for it – personally the only thing better than not having internet access is not having a mobile signal either, and while this is increasingly rare it still happens.
Cruising on Lake Malawi and watching fish eagles being fed is about as far as you can get from the 7.15 to London Bridge, too…
Experience Malawi on our Malawi – Tea estates, Mountains, Wildlife and the Lake tour or for the real Africa experts, The Ultimate Zambia and Malawi Experience
13. And you can retox with G&T
Sundowners are an integral part of the safari experience, and equally enjoyable at sunset anywhere else in Africa. There is really only one drink to sip at, too – Gin and Tonic. End of story.
Are you convinced yet?
My main motivation in starting our travel and tours company was to help people like you to experience the wonders of Africa. After many years of preparation, research and travel we have now opened for business. Let us arrange the holiday of a lifetime – whether you wish to travel alone, with friends, family or part of a group. Whether you are a first-timer or an old Africa hand, we will work together to create the ultimate trip during which you will rediscover your spirit of adventure!
Check out The Grown-up Travel Company website and contact me directly to discuss your ideal vacation.