Looking into Africa

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So, you want to visit Africa? Knowing how to start the planning process can be seriously daunting. Why? The continent simply offers so much choice. In this practical guide to planning your holiday Matt Phillips uses his extensive African experience to help you ask the right questions that will narrow the search for your ideal destination

While choosing the right destination may seem like the most pressing issue to anyone planning an African holiday or adventure, “Where should I go?” is invariably the last thing you want to ask. There are several questions which you should consider first, which will help you get a clear idea of what you hope to derive from your trip.

The continent is vast, and the range of experiences and opportunities is limitless, so understanding your hopes will help immensely with your planning. At the very least it will give you a head start on your research and let you give your tour operator a more focused and appropriate brief, allowing them to use their considerable experience to your benefit.

In this feature we’ve put together a series of questions and suggestions to help you decide on the most appropriate destination – or combination of destinations – that will maximise the success of your journey, or safari, as they say in Swahili. Whether you’re new to African travel or an experienced safari-goer, we hope you’ll find it useful. There’s a lot of fun to be had planning safaris, so get out a piece of paper and start plotting, beginning with the following questions…

1 How long do I want to go for?
The answer to this question has an immediate impact on the choice of your eventual destination. Because Africa is so immense, the length of your trip will either limit or extend the range of activities and sights available to you. For instance, a short trip will mean that you’ll have to focus on a destination that has a high density of attractions and good transportation links. With more time, you’ll be able to consider a combination of destinations further apart, or enjoy the opportunity to move at a slower pace. This could mean altering your mode of transport, whether that is by taking public transport or travelling between sites in a private 4WD.

2 When do I want to go?
For travel in Europe, the answer to this question determines simply what clothes you’ll pack. In Africa, it affects what you are able to see and do – and in many cases, if you can even make it there.

Wildlife populations migrate, congregate and mate according to the seasons. Parks can burst with animals at certain times of the year, and be eerily quiet at others. Some reserves may be inaccessible during the rains. The good thing is that there is always great wildlife somewhere; you just need to match the right region to your travel dates. If dealing with travel agents or tour operators, always be clear on what is more important: the destination or the wildlife. If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t start off with “I’d like to go on safari in Kenya this March.” Rather, you’d be better off saying: “I’d like to go on safari this March, where is wildlife best in Africa during that period?”

Having said that, there may be a good cause to see a park or reserve in the ‘off-season’, when a different experience is on offer, such as the lush green season in Zambia. You need to ensure you are well informed and know what to expect.

Even if wildlife isn’t your priority, always enquire about the seasonal weather patterns of a destination before booking. Being in the Sahara during the Harmattan winds or in the Ethiopian lowlands during the rainy season could be a recipe for disappointment.

3 Who am I travelling with?
Are you intending to travel alone, with your partner, your children or a group of friends? Some regions offer great value accommodation for larger groups and families, like the Kenyan coast where you can rent entire beach houses. Others have more luxurious and romantic options for couples on honeymoon. If you’re travelling with someone who has mobility issues, such as being in a wheelchair, there are plenty of options but you’ll need to consider the provision available at the facilities that will host you.

The personalities and fitness levels of  your group can also help pin down certain aspects of your holiday. If one of you would be terrified by the thought of sleeping in a tent inside a wildlife reserve, with nothing but canvas separating you from lions, you may want to opt for sturdy-walled lodge accommodation instead. If your stairs at home leave you short of breath, climbing Kilimanjaro or trekking to see gorillas may be out of the question (or a motivation for you to raise your fitness levels first!).

Who you travel with can also affect how you get around while in Africa. If your companions are elderly or have mobility issues, you may need more comfortable ground transportation or you may be better off taking internal flights (something not available everywhere).

Travelling with children is a viable option in Africa and actually limits your choice of destination less than you might believe. Yes, some safari lodges won’t take kids, but there are oodles of others, and national parks, that welcome them with open arms – some even have special children’s programmes. Seek them out. If you’re ever turned away by one operator, just ask another and you will soon find joy. There are also some amazing wildlife areas to visit that are malaria free; others are safe to visit if you follow health advice from your travel clinic.

4 Do I want to travel independently or on an organised tour?
Travelling independently gives you tremendous flexibility, though it also means doing everything yourself. If you’re out to see the culture of Mali in West Africa, this may involve many hours riding local bush taxis (a rewarding, albeit slow, experience) and cruising up the Niger River on a traditional pirogue, beneath the blazing sun, to reach Timbuktu. For a self-drive camping safari, you could hire a 4WD and head into Namibia’s Etosha National Park, or test your mettle in the heart of the Kalahari. Some regions, especially southern Africa, are better suited for self-drive holidays, so if your goal is to get behind the wheel you should be able to hone in on your destination fairly quickly.

Organised tours and safaris put control in the hands of experienced professional planners and operators, so – assuming you have briefed them well –there should be less chance of your expectations not being met. You can sit back, relax and not have to worry about all the logistics involved. Cultural tours with experienced guides are undoubtedly also more rewarding and educational than they would be with a guidebook alone.

5 What is my budget?
The size of your budget won’t really preclude you from visiting most areas – it will change simply how you experience them. Your budget will determine the range of accommodation and transportation you are open to, and – depending how you allocate it – what combination of activities you can allow yourself.

If you’re prepared to use public transport and stay in basic accommodation, a backpacker’s funds can take you almost anywhere. However, there are some costs you are not going to be able to avoid, such as park fees.

Be aware that money buys you more than just a soft bed on safari: it can also land you a top-notch guide and a comfy open-topped 4WD instead of a converted minibus. Quality wildlife guides not only increase your chances of seeing a good range of wildlife, their knowledge greatly enhances your enjoyment of the encounters, often providing stimulating insights into species you had previously known little about. We believe a quality guide is one of the most important investments you will make, and would suggest you compromise on other aspects of the trip if your budget is restrictive.

For those on a larger budget, private reserves can offer a more exclusive experience. Often flanking national parks and reserves, they possess rich populations of wildlife, often providing a degree of comfort and luxury that can be extraordinary.

A good idea if you’re on a medium budget and want premium wildlife experiences is to mix and match, spending top-end money on an organised safari in the middle of your trip, while travelling independently before and after it.

6 What do I want to see & do?
It’s likely you’ll have a sense of why you want to visit Africa; probably your motivation will focus on a combination of six categories: wildlife, culture, history, landscapes, activities and beaches. One may dominate  – you may be interested purely in a classic safari, for example – or you’ll give equal priority to two or more.

The remainder of this article will delve into each of these categories, suggesting destinations to suit both your desires and schedule. If you’d like your trip to include a combination of factors (wildlife and beaches, for example), you’ll need to select a destination which can offer both, within the framework set out by your answers to questions 1-5 above.

Be aware that this list is far from exhaustive; it’s impossible to cover that sort of ground in one article. Our goal is merely to point you in the right direction. Enjoy your journey.

WILDLIFE
Africa offers an astounding wealth of flora and fauna, and there is no other continent that is so closely associated to its enviroment. After all, it’s home to some of the planet’s most identifiable and majestic species, and a multitude of smaller and lesser-known creatures you may have never even heard of. Considering the continent is home to over 1100 mammal and almost 2400 bird species, there will certainly be plenty for you to seek! Knowing what you might specifically want to see will help narrow down your target destination. To help get the ball rolling, we thought we’d start by looking at four of Africa’s best wildlife experiences. Decisions, decisions…

The Big Five
The first thing you should realise about African wildlife is that while you’ll see a great many animals, you shouldn’t count on seeing everything. Africa’s parks are epic tracts of wilderness – often larger than some European countries – with plenty of places to hide, even for the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo). Strangely, it’s the uncertainty that I enjoy most about the safari experience – it makes my eyes work harder, trying not to miss anything in the long grass or thick brush, and only adds to the reward and satisfaction when I do spot something special. Keep your eyes peeled and the rewards will be endless.

Previous travel experience also shapes some of your decisions. If you are relatively new to wildlife-watching, you may want to choose a reserve that gives you a better than average likelihood of seeing big game – the Masai Mara, Ngorongoro Crater and Kruger come to mind. More experienced safari-goers may prefer to venture further afield after rarer species they have yet to see.
• Perfect timing You have plenty of options in East Africa during December, January and February. If you choose to visit Kenya, you can take in a few of its outstanding parks and reserves: Masai Mara, Aberdare, Amboseli, Samburu, Meru and Lake Nakuru to name but a few. During this period, the northern safari circuit of Tanzania, which includes the Serengeti, Tarangire and Lake Manyara national parks and Ngorongoro Crater, is also outstanding.

Between June and October, the destinations in East Africa mentioned above are still excellent, as are the numerous parks and reserves in southern Tanzania such as Selous and Ruaha. Zambia’s national parks of South Luangwa, Kafue and Lower Zambezi (great for canoe safaris) are also good bets at this time, though the best viewing runs from September to mid-November.

Namibia’s premier wildlife destination, Etosha National Park, is a blinding choice between May and September. Zimbabwe’s parks like Mana Pools, Matusadona and Hwange also offer fantastic game viewing throughout this period.

Botswana is an option all year round, with the Chobe National Park’s Linyanti/Kasane and Savuti regions coming alive between May and October, with the Savuti area booming from November to May. Though the wildlife is less dense, poling through the Okavango Delta in a mokoro (traditional dugout canoe) is an enchanting option between July and September.
If you’re flying south between April and September, South Africa’s Kruger National Park is a prime destination. The lesser-known reserves and parks in the northern frontier – Welgevonden, Marakele, Madikwe and Pilanesberg – are also home to the Big Five (and are malaria free).

The wildebeest migration
Few people will disagree that this annual migration, which sees hundreds of thousands of wildebeest crossing the East African savannah and fording its rivers, is an unbelievably spectacular natural phenomenom.
• Perfect timing Although the animals can be seen all year, there are two popular windows of opportunity in which to see it at its most dramatic:  during January and February in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park or from late-July to September in Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve.

Gorillas
It is undoubtedly one of the world’s most rewarding animal encounters – it certainly tops my lengthy list. While sitting next to these massive creatures, it’s impossible not to see yourself in their piercing eyes. And you can’t help but wonder if they are seeing themselves in yours…

There are really only two reliable options for you to visit mountain gorillas in the wild: Uganda’s Bwindi National Park and Rwanda’s Parc Nacional des Volcans, made famous by Dian Fossey’s Gorillas in the Mist.

Another possibility is lowland gorillas in Gabon, though none of them in Parc National du Petit Loango and Parc National de l’Ivindo have been habituated, which means gorilla action is less likely than in Uganda and Rwanda.
• Perfect timing It’s possible to visit the gorillas at any time of year in Rwanda or Uganda, though the best (read drier) months are December, January and June through September. Sightings are most likely in Gabon during April, June and July.
• Budget crunch Permits at Bwindi cost US$375 per person per day, while those in Rwanda are US$500. Lodge fees in Gabon’s parks make these options no less expensive than their East African counterparts.
• Child’s play Gorilla permits are not granted to anyone younger than 15 years old.

Chimpanzees
Interactions with chimpanzees are a smidgeon less emotive than with gorillas, but they can also be much more fun, especially if they’re in a playful mood (you may have to dodge fruit falling from the trees!).

East Africa has some phenomenal sites that allow you the chance to track chimps in their natural environment: Tanzania’s national parks of Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream, which are both set near Lake Tanganyika; and Uganda’s Kibale Forest National Park and Semliki reserve.
• Perfect timing Uganda’s options are great between May and September. These dates coincide with Mahale’s dry season, which is perfect for tracking (the light rains of October and November are also fine). Chimps are easiest to find at Gombe Stream during the wet season (November to mid-December and February through June), though photo opportunities are better between July and October.
• Budget crunch Tracking chimps is much easier on the wallet than searching out gorillas (about US$100 per day per person).
• Child’s play Children aged seven or above can visit Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream, while only those above the age of 11 can view the chimps in Kibale Forest National Park.

CULTURE
Wherever you travel across Africa, you will encounter the continent’s rich cultural warmth. And with documentaries such as Bruce Parry’s Tribe filling our television screens, it is unsurprising that increasing numbers of travellers are wanting to experience Africa’s unique and powerful cultures close-up. The fact that there are almost 1800 spoken languages on the continent alone gives you an idea of its diversity. Below is a small sampling of experiences that warrant a visit.

Remote Rift Valley tribes
If you’re yearning for a truly tribal encounter, venture into Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley. The journey here will shake you and your vehicle to the breaking point, but it’s worth the effort. For such a small area, it is one of the most culturally diverse areas of Africa. You may witness the Hamer people’s Jumping of the Bulls coming of age ceremony or the Mursi tribe’s stick fighting. Traditional attire, ranging from the Karo people’s body painting and the Mursi’s lip plates to the Hamer’s colourful and coiffed hairstyles are still commonplace. The nearby Omo, Mago and Nechisar national parks are being rejuvenated to add big game experiences to this cultural wonderland.
• Perfect timing Roads are impassable due to rain in October and between mid-March and early June.

San Bushmen
As Mike Main wrote in Travel Africa Ed 38, “to share time with a Bushman is to peer through a window into our past and be humbled both by what we have gained and what we have lost.” With the help of companies like Uncharted Africa and Footsteps in Africa, it’s possible to spend time with Bushmen in Botswana and learn some of their traditional ways. Local leaders believe these non-intrusive visits, as part of sustainable eco-tourism, will help preserve the ancient Bushman culture for future generations. This cultural experience can be linked with safaris in the Okavango Delta or Chobe National Park.
• Perfect timing As these experiences are typically run in conjunction with Okavango trips, the best time is between July and September.

Saharan nomads
Do desert nomads, who survive the Sahara’s wrath wrapped from head to toe in vivid fabrics, intrigue you? Head to Erg Chigaga in southern Morocco to find traditional Berber villages (and dramatic dunes), or if the security situation permits, visit the legendary Tuareg in the astounding Aïr Mountains of northern Niger.
• Perfect timing Saharan exploration is best avoided between May and September.

Township tours
If you’d like a stimulating insight into one of Africa’s modern urban existences, take a visit to the townships near some of the major cities. In South Africa, tours to Soweto or Khayaletsha, on the fringes of Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively, are popular, but if you’re on safari in Kenya, try to set up a visit to Kabira on the outskirts of Nairobi. Your experience will be vivid, encountering a mix of wealth and pessimism and poverty and optimism. It must be seen and tours support local enterprise.
• Perfect timing There’s no particularly bad time to visit, but if you want to mix in some nearby wildlife at Kruger aim for April through September.

Moroccan Medina
Fès al-Bali, the old city section of Fez, is a mainstay of Moroccan tradition and is the world’s most extensive surviving medieval Islamic city. Wander through the medina’s winding alleys, reflect on the architectural gems and let your nose lead you to the pungent, and amazingly vivid, tanneries. As expected the area is laden with relics and stories for lovers of history; it’s also not far from the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Treks in the nearby Middle Atlas or Rif Mountains can be included to make this an well-rounded adventure.
• Perfect timing Fez is best in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November).

HISTORY
Africa resonates with its heritage. Yet, although its riches have long lured lovers of history, many people would struggle to name treasures beyond those found in Egypt. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Africa is laden with jewels. Choose to base your trip around them, or combine them with other priorities.

Roman ruins
North Africa is a treasure trove of Roman architectural remains – ancient cities dot the map from Morocco to Egypt. Whether you visit the stunning open-air mosaics of Volubilis in Morocco, the extraordinary underground villas of Bulla Regia in Tunisia or the theatres, forums and bath complexes of Leptis Magna (one of the world’s best-preserved Roman cities) in Libya, you’ll be captivated. Libya offers the best option if you want to mix in some desert exploration as well.
• Perfect timing North Africa is most comfortable in November, February, March and April.

Ethiopian empires
Ethiopia has more UNESCO World Heritage listed sites than Egypt. Wander amongst its 16th-century castles, towering 1800-year-old obelisks, unexplored tombs and medieval rock-hewn churches that would make Jordan’s Petra blush with envy. Add ancient Christian monasteries dotting islands on Lake Tana and the fortified Muslim city of Harar and you have a historical trip of a lifetime. The mountainous setting of Ethiopia’s historical route is compelling in its own right. For those wanting to mix in some wildlife, there are slowly improving parks in the country’s south.
• Perfect timing While it’s possible to visit all year, you’ll find it most pleasant and dry between October and February.

Swahili coast
The Swahili culture, which used to dominate large swathes of the Indian Ocean coast, is on full display in Lamu, Kenya, or Zanzibar. With the sea air in your lungs, navigate through narrow alleys, examine the carved wooden doors of traditional homes and soak up the palpable atmosphere. With internal flights, both could be tied in quite nicely to safaris in their respective countries.
• Perfect timing September to March is best for Lamu, while January, February and June through October are better for Zanzibar.

Great Zimbabwe
Once the capital of a wealthy Shona society that ruled over an area that straddles present day Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique, Great Zimbabwe contains the largest stone structures in Africa south of Egypt’s Great Pyramids. The Shona traded with the world from ports such as Sofala, until their economy collapsed and the city was abandoned in the 15th century. Zimbabwe’s abundant national parks can be combined with this site to if you’d like to bring world-class wildlife into your itinerary.
• Perfect timing The most pleasant time to visit is between May and October. This period also coincides with the prime safari season in Zimbabwe’s parks and reserves.

LANDSCAPES
The allure of Africa’s landscapes is unquestionable. The sheer scale and beauty of them can stagger the mind. The Sahara Desert’s eight million square kilometres could easily consume Australia whole, while the Great Rift Valley, with its dramatic escarpments, sweeping savannahs and alkaline lakes, runs for thousands of kilometres and crosses 12 African countries. It’s no less impressive vertically – heavenly glaciers top 5000m equatoral summits and lava looms in baking depressions below sea level. Here are three landscapes that may tempt to ensure they are part of your holiday.

Deserts
Although sand only covers about 20 per cent of the world’s deserts, it’s the images of dramatic dunes that justifiably capture the most attention. Some of the Sahara’s finest dunes are within close reach in Morocco, at Erg Chigaga. If an expedition is in order for ultimate solitude, Niger, Libya and Algeria are good options. Although smaller in size, Namibia’s Namib desert may be the planet’s oldest, dating back between 55 and 80 million years. And at up to 325m, its rich orangey-red dunes are also likely the world’s tallest. With desert-adapted rhino and elephant, the Namib is the ultimate desert safari combo.
• Perfect timing Avoid the Sahara between May and September. Luckily, this is a prime time for exploring the Namib.

Mountains
While Kilimanjaro may be king, its solitary rise from the African plains means that you can’t surround yourself in mountain peaks. On the other hand, Ethiopia’s expansive highlands, Morocco’s Atlas and South Africa’s Drakensberg are all outstanding mountain systems that you can seriously sink into and enjoy. Morocco and Ethiopia are great to mix in heavy doses of culture. South Africa is best if you want to add classic African wildlife.
• Perfect timing October to March for the Simiens; March to October for the Atlas; and April to September for the Drakensberg.

Valleys and canyons
The Great Rift Valley possesses some incredible geological formations: lava flows, stratovolcanoes and even a permanent lava lake. While some of the most beautiful of these are spread across Kenya and Tanzania, some of the most extreme are in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, an umatched primordial environment. Namibia’s massive Fish River Canyon and South Africa’s lush Blyde River Canyon are also exciting destinations.
• Perfect timing The best time for most of the Great Rift Valley is June to February, which works well with the wildebeest migration. Extreme heat limits  Danakil expeditions to October through February. Mid-April to mid-September is good for Fish River and Blyde River canyons.

BEACHES
Africa is fringed by some 30,000km of coastline, much of which lies within the tropics, so it possesses some truly transcendent beaches. The fact that the locations of many of these are in close proximity to some of the continent’s greatest other attractions only adds to their appeal. Here are a few of our favourite combinations.

Bush and beach
Kenya and Tanzania possess great beaches that can conveniently be combined with safari destinations. Kenya’s options, which stretch north and south from Mombasa, make a fine pairing with the national parks of Tsavo East and Tsavo West. If metropolitan Mombasa isn’t your style, rent a house on a desolate stretch of beach. Tanzania’s best combinations involve the bleached beaches of the Zanzibar archipelago or Ras Katani with Selous Game Reserve. Internal flights could add Masai Mara to the Kenyan combo and Tanzania’s northern parks to Zanzibar and Ras Katani itineraries. The beaches of Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago work well in combination with Kruger National Park in South Africa.
• Perfect timing January, February and June through October are optimal for East Africa. The Mozambique option is ideal between April and September.

Cosmopolitan sands
If you’d like your beaches with some cosmopolitan flare, Cape Town is for you. Renowned as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, it’s surrounded by dozens of great beaches. And with the cultural scene as vibrant as the grapes from the nearby wineries, you can’t lose. You could even share a beach with a penguin or two.
• Perfect timing October to May.

Cultural mix
Besides beaches dotting East and southern Africa’s shores, there are some historical and cultural hot spots. One area where they all overlap is historic Zanzibar, where gorgeous powdery white sands surround an enchanting fusion of Asian, Middle Eastern and African cultures. Exploring the vestiges of Portugal’s colonial influences on the Mozambican island of Ibo is another charming experience that adds something to a beach holiday.
• Perfect timing Prime time to visit Zanzibar is January, February or June through October. April through September is best for Ibo Island.

Land locked
Some of Africa’s finest beaches aren’t on its coast at all… they dot the shores of its many lakes. Lake Malawi is one such example. It’s traditionally been a beach haven for backpackers, but there are now some luxurious lodges on several of its remote shores. The sands of Lake Tanganyika are another great option, particularly around the Mahale Mountains, which means you also have some prime wilderness, and chimpanzees on your doorstep.
• Perfect timing Lake Malawi is best between May and November. Lake Tanganyika’s dry season also starts in May but wraps up in September.

ACTIVITIES
Safaris aside, Africa is ripe with activity options, ranging from the gentle to high-adrenaline. Trek through mountains or along rocky shores, run grade-five rapids on the Zambezi or dive into the deep blues of the Indian Ocean. You may decide to focus your trip on the kind of activities you enjoy, bringing in other elements such as game viewing in around it. Here’s a suggested list of some of the most rewarding activities.

Trekking
Do you like to bag peaks or cover distances along scenic routes? If it is the former, Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are musts. If enjoyment and beauty are key, there are plenty of fantastic and challenging options: the Simien, Drakensberg and Atlas mountains, the Fish River Canyon, the Otter Trail (South Africa) and on and on… The Simiens offer unique endemic wildlife encounters, while the East and southern Africa options more easily link to safari options in their respective countries.
• Perfect timing October to March for the Simiens; March to October for the Atlas; April to September for the Drakensberg and Fish River Canyon; and January, February and September for the lofty peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

Horseback safaris
If you want to put some more activity into your trip but just can’t pull yourself away from the wildlife, you can always have a more active safari while on horseback. This is an option across East and southern Africa (see A continent full of choice, Ed 39).
• Perfect timing Please refer back to the Big Five heading under Wildlife earlier in this feature to find the best times of year for wildlife in each region.

High-adrenaline
The amount of these activities continues to grow across Africa. With bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, abseiling, jet boating and gorge swinging, the adrenaline capital is Victoria Falls. Namibia’s Namib desert is amazing for quadbiking, sandboarding and skydiving. In Uganda Jinja offers while white-knuckle rafting on the White Nile and bungee jumping. A frightening one-off option is available in South Africa’s Western Cape: cage diving with great white sharks (gulp). The newest option? Skydiving over Kilimanjaro.
• Perfect timing October to December is the best time to raft the Zambezi at Victoria Falls; the Nile is consistent year-round. Swakopmund rules the roost between May and September. The chance of swimming with sharks increases from April to July and September to November.

Diving
The Red Sea is renowned for phenomenal aquatic life. Its most visited dive sites are in Egypt, though whispers of Eritrea’s and Djibouti’s underwater riches are growing year by year. Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique have splendid sites, many of which are protected marine reserves, as do Seychelles and Mauritius. East Africa is the easy choice if you want to mix in trekking or wildlife.
• Perfect timing October to March for the East African coast and Mauritius, while May to November is an excellent time for the Red Sea. Seychelles is great between March and May and September and November.

Reap the rewards
Hopefully these ideas and your answers to the all-important six questions will help you narrow down, or perhaps pinpoint, not only the destination of your upcoming African journey, but also how you plan to undertake it. If they’ve only made your head spin with thoughts of Africa’s diversity of destinations, know that you’re still in good shape. After all, you’ve already answered all the questions but one.

The point of this process is to provide you with a framework on which to plan your adventure, to give you a sense of the questions to ask your operator or hosts.

Before my first trip to Africa, I was determined to find solitude in vast open spaces. Despite ticking this box more times that I could have ever dreamed of – taking in serene sunrises over the Namib Desert and Ethiopian highlands – it was often simple moments, like the fading light illuminating the dusty air of a simple market in a remote rural village, which truly took my breath away. And when I returned home after a year travelling, many of my fondest and most passionate recollections revolved around everyday interactions with African citizens. Whether at a bus stop in a bustling city or an oasis in the Sahara, the generosity, sincerity and thoughtfulness of Africans never ceased to amaze me.

Why am I telling you this? Because you have to know that Africa will move you, no matter what the reason is you travelled there for. It’s something different for everyone. It may be that you fall in love with something you didn’t even set out to explore. If you open your mind and push your boundaries, there is only one guarantee – the more you visit, the more you will find to love.

First published in Travel Africa magazine, edition 41

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