what attracts tourists to africa

What Attracts Tourists to Africa? A Deep Dive into the Continent’s Wonders

Ah, mother Africa. The continent has it all if you ask me. And you should ask me because I have been there a LOT! I backpacked through 14 countries in West Africa, hitchhiked through the Sahara, and drove a truck from Germany to Niger. I lived in Ghana for nearly 4 years and have been travelling many times a year to southern Africa.

So the question of why people visit Africa is an unnecessary one for me to answer, but I figured I’d give you lucky souls yet to travel there a few reasons. Here we go!

Key Takeaways – What attracts tourists to Africa?

Landscapes Culture Wildlife Safaris
Diverse landscapes and adventures Rich cultural heritage sites Serengeti Great Migration Big Five game tracking
Mount Kilimanjaro climbs Egypt’s pyramids Mountain gorillas Variety of safari options
Zanzibar’s beaches Morocco’s markets Kruger National Park Family bonding adventures

The pulse of djembe drums reverberates through the air as you watch the spectacular golden sunrise over the savanna. A herd of elephants gracefully ambles by your open-air jeep, dust swirling around their feet. The faint hiss and crackle of the campfire accompany quiet conversations under an endless sky of glittering stars.

Africa has an unmatched ability to ignite all the senses and immerse visitors in the profound beauty of nature and community. This magnetic pull inspires over 67 million tourists annually to embark on African adventures. So what attracts tourists to Africa in such great numbers? Read on for a deep dive into the diverse landscapes, vibrant culture, captivating wildlife, and more that make Africa an unparalleled travel destination.

The Majesty of Africa’s Diverse Landscapes

From Serengeti Safaris to Zanzibar Shores

One of Africa’s biggest draws is the sheer diversity of its stunning natural landscapes, from wildlife-filled savannas to snow-capped mountains. Adventurous travelers can embark on a safari in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in pursuit of the iconic Big Five animals – the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Others prefer conquering the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak and the world’s largest free-standing mountain, on a dizzying 7-day trek. For picture-perfect beaches and underwater delights, the island paradise of Zanzibar entices with its powder-white shores and turquoise waters brimming with marine life.

From arid deserts to lush rainforests, thundering rivers and glassy lakes, soaring peaks and endless savannas, Africa’s incredibly varied natural landscapes offer every type of adventure travel and outdoor experience imaginable.

The Tapestry of Africa’s Rich Cultural Heritage

Timeless Echoes of Ancient Civilizations

Alongside majestic landscapes, Africa boasts a rich cultural heritage spanning over 3,000 ethnic groups and some of humanity’s earliest civilizations. This long history and diverse traditionsmake for endless opportunities to immerse in authentic local cultures. In Egypt, visitors marvel at enduring wonders like the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx while cruising down the Nile River, bringing ancient times to life. The colorful and chaotic Jemaa el-Fnaa bazaar in Morocco’s Marrakech immerses you in heady North African spice scents, snaking alleys, and vibrant performances by street storytellers, musicians, and snake charmers. For glimpses into Ethiopia’s unique heritage, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lalibela is renowned for its rock-cut churches dating back 800 years.

From the ancient stone cities of Zimbabwe to the adobe mosques of Mali, the nomadic tribes of the Sahara to urban street art scenes, Africa offers unparalleled depth and diversity of cultural experiences perfect for the culturally curious traveler.

The Call of the Wild: Africa’s Unique Wildlife

Encounters with Nature’s Majestic Beings

One of the biggest draws of African travel is the unrivaled opportunities for wildlife encounters. Safaris through Kruger National Park in South Africa put you face-to-face with the Big Five as well as giraffes, zebras, and hundreds of other mesmerizing creatures in their natural habitat.

Near the misty Virunga Mountains spanning the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, visitors can trek through dense jungle and observe families of rare mountain gorillas.

Perhaps most spectacular is the annual Great Migration in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, witnessing millions of wildebeest, gazelles, and zebras undertaking the relentless trek for greener grazing pastures.

From dancing ostriches and massive elephant herds to mischievous monkeys and massive flocks of neon pink flamingos, Africa overflows with diverse wildlife sightings to dazzle nature lovers. For many, connecting with these majestic creatures inspires a powerful sense of our shared planet and kindles a passion for ecotourism and conservation.

The Adventure of Safari: Serengeti and Beyond

In Pursuit of the Big Five

Mention African travel and safaris immediately come to mind. Safaris deliver bucket-list experiences like spotting all Big Five game up close or watching millions migrate across the Serengeti plains. Most safaris center around sunrise and sunset game drives in open-roof 4×4 vehicles with expert guides leading the quest to track wildlife based on recent sightings and insider tips.

Night drives and walking safaris provide different perspectives on animal behavior. Beyond the renowned Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara National Reserve, safari-goers can explore ecosystems from the Okavango Delta wetlands to the Namib Desert, and over 50 national parks across Africa.

For many families and groups of friends, multi-day lodge-based safaris offer the chance to disconnect from digital distractions and bond while embarking on thrilling adventures tracking wildlife across incredible landscapes. From budget camping options to ultra-luxury lodges, there are safaris suited to every style and budget.

The Peaks and Valleys: Mountaineering in Africa

Conquering Kilimanjaro

Spanning across Tanzania and Kenya, the snow-capped peaks and lush rainforests of the Mount Kilimanjaro massif lure over 35,000 trekkers annually. Most aim to check off a major bucket list item by summiting the highest point in Africa, reaching Uhuru Peak at 19,340 feet.

The multi-day climb takes hikers through five diverse ecological zones, starting from tropical forest and progressing to alpine vegetation and eventually arctic-like conditions at the summit. For those seeking the ultimate physical and mental challenge, climbing Kilimanjaro as an extreme solo adventure offers unmatched euphoria upon conquering the peak.

But the lower routes offer dramatic vistas for less experienced alpine hikers. Beyond Kilimanjaro, outdoor enthusiasts can also scale the rocky spires of Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains or the Atlas Mountains blanketing Morocco.

With rugged peaks, valleys carved by ancient glaciers, and panoramic montane landscapes, Africa’s mountains beckon the adventurous to ascend surrounded by raw natural splendor.

The Serenity of the Seas: Coastal Retreats

Zanzibar’s Azure Escapes

For beach bums and water sports junkies, Africa’s coastlines offer heavenly stretches of powder-soft sand lapped by temperate waters, with the Indian Ocean islands taking tropical allure next level. The Zanzibar archipelago enchants visitors with its combination of turquoise waters, white-sand beaches studded with palm trees, and rich cultural heritage mingling African, Arabian, and European influences.

Surrounded by fringing coral reefs, Zanzibar provides fantastic snorkeling and scuba diving amidst diverse marine life like sea turtles and dolphins. Beach resorts catering to every budget make Zanzibar a top honeymoon or luxury retreat destination.

Beyond Zanzibar, travelers seeking beach bliss are spoiled for choice. 

Namibia’s Skeleton Coast delivers remote wilderness and breathtaking sand dunes that descend into the Atlantic. From Seychelles’ granite islands to the palm-fringed shores of Mozambique, the ivory sands of Tunisia, and surf breaks along Morocco’s Atlantic coast, beachgoers and water sports enthusiasts will find their perfect sandy paradise.

Responsible and Sustainable Tourism

Traveling with Purpose and Preservation

With growing awareness of our fragile planet, increasing numbers of African travelers aim for meaningful cultural exchange, nature conservation, and positive local impacts by practicing responsible tourism.

Options span volunteering with community development projects, participating in reforestation or wildlife rehabilitation programs, choosing tour operators who invest in local staff and environmental initiatives, or opting for eco-friendly safari lodges that minimize footprint. Visitors drawn by Africa’s majestic wildlife and environments help protect them for the future through conservation contributions and responsible choices.

Seeking deeper connections with people and the planet transforms tourism from a fleeting experience into a powerful force for sustaining Africa’s vibrant cultures, fragile ecosystems, and the diverse wildlife relying on them.

Accessibility and Inclusivity in African Travel

A Continent Welcoming All

With a growing focus on ensuring equal access and dismantling barriers, African countries increasingly prioritize accessible travel and welcoming diverse groups of travelers regardless of limitations or identity.

An expanding number of hotels, lodges, transportation providers, and attractions offer wheelchair-friendly facilities, captioning services, and other accommodations for travelers with disabilities or impairments.

Tour companies like Access 2 Africa specialize in barrier-free adventures including climbing Kilimanjaro.

Practical Insights for the African Voyager

Visa, Safety, and Insurance Essentials

To maximize time exploring Africa rather than tackling logistics, certain preparation is key. Tourists must ensure passports are valid for at least 6 months, research whether visas are required for entry to each destination, and apply sufficiently in advance.

Booking with reputable, vetted tour operators like The Grown-up Travel Company provides confidence regarding safety. While most urban hubs and tourist areas are very safe, it’s smart to exercise the usual precautions. Comprehensive travel insurance covering medical evacuation, lost baggage, and trip cancellations gives peace of mind from the unexpected.

While individual countries have distinct cultures, languages, infrastructure, risks, and entry requirements, thorough research and common sense go far in navigating the practicalities and immerging in each compelling destination.

Multimedia Inspiration for the African Journey

From Vivid Blogs to Captivating Videos

For travelers considering an African adventure, there are endless resources providing inspiring visuals and insights. Published African authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie transport readers through rich storytelling.

Moving memoirs by Nelson Mandela, devastating narratives of past exploitation, and celebrations of resounding resilience across countries provide cultural context.

Guidebooks by Bradt and Lonely Planet help whittle down options.

Online videos produced by tourism boards showcase the people, music, artistry, and promise that make Africa’s allure timeless and distinctly meaningful.

For the intrepid traveler, Africa inspires endless discovery.

Discover Your Own African Journey

From exploring ancient cultures to tracking lions on the savanna, climbing cloud-ringed peaks to snorkeling pristine reefs, Africa offers countless attractions for travelers with every interest. Begin researching which of Africa’s landscapes, activities, and wonders captivate your imagination and ignite the desire to experience the continent’s magic first-hand.

That dream African safari, island escape, or overland expedition awaits!

How has this overview of Africa’s wonders impacted your own travel wish list? Share your thoughts and Africa travel tips in the comments!


Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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