African Owned and Operated, Africa Today TV Travel
assures you of an inspirational African experience unlike any other
INTRODUCTION TO AFRICA
With more than 50 countries to consider visiting in Africa, making a decision about where to go can be quite daunting. The continent is incredibly diverse and you can experience different cultures, languages, vegetation and topography in every individual country.
Deciding what you would like to see and do whilst on vacation in Africa is probably the best way to decide where to go. This is particularly helpful if your vacation time is limited to one to two weeks.
If you have longer time to spend then it is probably better to consider an overland tour or safari so that you get to experience several African destinations for a taste of authentic Africa.
WHY TRAVELERS VISIT AFRICA
SAFARI is the primary lure to Africa. The best countries to visit if you yearn to see the ‘Big 5’ are Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. There are Great Annual Migrations in both Botswana and Tanzania/Kenya – Botswana being the more spectacular of the two options.
Botswana is at the luxury end of the scale but there are excellent deals available and very little else tops a Botswana game safari experience.
Zambia is pristine, undiscovered, plentiful with game and an uncrowded safari destination making it one of our favorite safari spots.
South Africa is great for its wide variety of wildlife especially in the Kruger National Park area. There are luxurious game lodges throughout the country and this destination is particularly attractive for family safaris because it offers some excellent malaria free options.
Tanzania offers an authentic safari experience with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park and the other great parks of the north-western circuit. In the south, you’ll find the isolated Selous and Ruaha National Parks which in a word, are ‘magnificent’.
Both Rwanda and Uganda are the best destinations of you are interested in tracking Mountain Gorillas. Finally, Kenya offers some of the cheaper safari options. This is not our preferred safari destination simply because it is the most crowded destination which can become terribly irritating.
BEACHES have been a lure for European travelers for many years. Finally, Americans are discovering the joys of combining a beach vacation with a safari. One of the most popular combinations are Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco have an abundance of beach resorts with packages to suit all budgets and length of stay.
South Africa unquestionably boasts some of the best beaches in the world for sunbathing and surfing. On the Cape Peninsula, you can even share your beach towel with penguins, and you can easily blend a South African beach vacation with a traditional game safari. If diving with Great White Sharks gets you going, South Africa is the destination for that high action adventure.
Malawi oddly enough also offers great beach vacations despite the fact that it is a land-locked country. Lake Malawi is like an inland sea with great resorts bordering the shoreline and an abundance of snorkeling activities.
In the west, Ghana has wonderful beaches to explore. You can enjoy friendly fishing villages, the opportunity to play some drums and share an ice cold beer with local people. The same applies to Senegal and The Gambia with a plethora of exotic Health & Wellness Spas dotting the shoreline south of Dakar. Off of the continent, Madagascar, Mauritius, the Seychelles, and the Maldives offer some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. These are generally stand-alone destinations to visit unless you have time enough to combine an African safari. Kenya’s coastline has some good beaches on the Indian Ocean.
AFRICA’S NATURAL WONDERS
The scenic beauty in almost every African country is breathtaking but there are specific spots that truly stand out and are worth a trip in themselves.
The Smoke That Thunders, the Victoria Falls which straddles the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia is incredible. You have to be careful as to when you visit for in the dry season, the ‘impressive factor’ can be a complete let down. Generally, the spray (the Smoke That Thunders) is so impressive from all of the look-out points that is feels as if you are in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. The Victoria Falls is named one of the Natural Wonders of the world, with reason.
In Namibia, the Fish River Canyon which is not very well known internationally is second in size only to the Grand Canyon in the United States of America. There, you can enjoy a five-day hike in season which will leave you tired and worn out but elated. Fortunately, the natural thermal springs and spa of Ai-Ais greet you at the end of your hike.
There are many spectacular mountain ranges in Africa but the most famous is without question, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Rising 19,336 feet from the savannah with a permanent show capped peak, it is worth a trip to see it even if you have no intention climbing it. For lush green vegetation, you should not miss the rainforests in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda and Uganda, home to the last of the remaining Mountain gorillas.
There is stark beauty and romance in the remotest of places. The dunes of the Sahara and the Western Desert certainly do not disappoint. For an exotic experience of a camel trek and a night in a Bedouin tent, Tunisia and Morocco are a must. Further south, inSossusvlei in the Namib Desert, you will experience some of the most spectacular sand dunes in the world.
TREKKING IN AFRICA
The Continent offers wonderful climbing, hiking, and trekking opportunities from north to south. Our favorites are;
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which stands over 19,000 feet tall and is Africa’s highest peak. Generally the climbs take 6 – 7 days but the good news is that you can do it without oxygen or special training.
The second highest peak, Mt. Kenya in Kenya is also a great climb. Trekkers walk to Point Lenana whilst the more adventurous attempt the technical climb to the volcano’s highest peaks.
The High Atlas Mountains of Morocco make up part of the greatest mountain chain in North Africa. The High Atlas range is 400 miles long with peaks reaching over 13,000 feet. Many treks are available for beginners to experienced mountaineers.
In South Africa, the highest mountain range is the Drakensberg Mountains. They are spectacular. The range offers both natural beauty as well as a unique cultural experience in the form of thousands of San Rock paintings. Treks there are well organized and you can join in one day hikes or trips that last a week.
Off the beaten path but so very worthy of your time are the Rwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the Moon) in Uganda and the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia.
HISTORIC SITES AND ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS
Africa is one of the most fascinating destinations for anyone interested in history, anthropology, and ancient civilizations.
Being the ‘birthplace of mankind’, you can visit the ancient hominid sites like Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania and the Sterkfontein Caves inSouth Africa where hominid fossils dating back 3.5 million years have been discovered.
Traveling forward in time, Egypt is of course the primary destination for anyone interested in ancient civilizations. The Pharaohs left behind the great Pyramids of Giza, the step pyramid of Sakkara, and they built many magnificent temples and tombs in Upper Egypt between Luxor and Abu Simbel.
Libya is home to some of the finest examples of ancient Greek and Roman ruins in the world. You can see the Roman ruins at Leptis Magna and Greek ruins at Cyrene along Libya's Mediterranean coast. They are both World Heritage Sites and there's very rarely a crowd, you may even get the whole site to yourself.
If you would like to see Medieval Islamic architecture with Mosques adorned with splendid tiles, buzzing bazaars and warren-like streets then you will love Fes and Marrakech in Morocco.
Ethiopia is filled with living orthodox Christian sites like the churches carved out of rock in Lalibela and the marvelous Aksum Steele.
If more recent African history is of interest to you, Slave-Tours in West Africa offer a fascinating insight into the darker periods of the continent's history. Senegal and Ghana are the best of the west African countries to experience this type of tour. South Africa is not afraid of marketing its political history, there are Battlefields to explore in KwaZulu/Natal and you can also visit Soweto in Johannesburg andRobben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years.
Further off the beaten track there's Djenne in Mali, with its fantastic mosque built of mud, the mysterious thousand-year-old Great Zimbabwe Ruins in Zimbabwe and of course East Africa's slaving towns of Lamu (Kenya) and Stone Town, Zanzibar (Tanzania).
AFRICAN PEOPLE AND CULTURES
One of the most rewarding aspects of a trip to Africa is meeting its people. African culture is incredibly interesting because it is so diverse. Every country has a mix of tribes each with their own unique language and culture. Countries as small as Uganda is home to more than 30 tribes. In Kenya you could be riding a camel in the northern desert with the Samburu one day and go on a walking safari with theMaasai a few days later.
If you’re a fan of African music and film, check out some of Africa's best festivals.
Another great way to explore African culture is by taking a craft tour, culinary vacation, volunteering some of your vacation time, or even just shopping at local markets. Join in a soccer game or learn some traditional African board games, it's fun and you don't have to speak the same language to enjoy yourself. You can also go hunting with San Bushmen in Botswana, herding with the Maasai of East Africa and camel riding in the Sahara with the Touareg of Mali.
The key is to get out there and mingle.
UNDERSTANDING THE WEATHER CONDITIONS
When you're planning your tour or safari to Africa, knowing when the rainy season (or wet season) and the dry season falls, helps determine the best time to go. In general, the best time to go on safari is during the dry season because water is scarce and animals will congregate around existing water holes. The grass is lower affording better visibility and the dirt roads are navigable. All of these factors maximize your safari experience.
However, the heat can be intense depending on where and when you plan to travel. So while cold temperatures are not a huge issue in Africa, intense hot weather with added humidity can make or break your trip. In some regions the heat during the rainy season is worse than during the dry season because of the added discomfort of humidity.
This is especially the case as you get closer to the coast. The weather is unpredictable of course, and rains do fail causing untold hardship to millions of subsistence farmers in Africa. Some years too much rain falls on the parched soil, and floods cause huge damage. In general, the "wet season" means buckets of rain fall from sky for a few hours a day, and then it will go back to being nice and sunny. The upside of the wet season is it's the best time to see birds and baby animals. With the rains come a season of new birth, emerald green foliage and the settling of the ‘ancient dust of Africa’.
The Wet and Dry Seasons in West Africa
It is generally hot year round in West Africa with average temperature hovering around 85 Fahrenheit during the day.
The dry season in West Africa falls around the end of October - March. Closer to the coast it is always a little more humid even in the dry months, but there are less mosquitoes around and unpaved roads are passable. Given that most visitors come to West Africa to enjoy its beaches and cultures, the dry season is a good time visit. But it can get extremely hot, especially at the end of the dry season in March/April. The harmattan is also a factor during the dry season. It's a hot wind that carries Saharan sand, making it dusty and therefore not ideal for photographers looking for clear shots.
The wet season in West Africa ranges between the end of April - July on the coastal areas with a second shorter rainy season in September/October. The rains don't last all day and are much enjoyed when they fall. Water shortages are common in this region, so rain water is a blessing especially in cities on the coast. Further inland toward the desert, there's one rainy season and it tends to fall from July - September. This is the best time to go to countries like Mali, as temperatures cool down a little and rivers become more navigable.
The Wet and Dry Season in East Africa
The hottest time of year in East Africa is during the dry season from December to March. This is generally the best time to go trekking and enjoy a safari.
Northern Tanzania and Kenya experience two rainy seasons, the long rains from March to June (these are not monsoon rains – the term long indicates the length of the period of rain) and a shorter rainy season in November.
Ethiopia's seasons differ a little due to its mountainous nature, the wet season there falls from May - September and dry season from October - April.
The Wet and Dry Season in Southern Africa
The dry season in southern Africa is during the cooler winter months from May - August. This is the best time to go on safari. Nights can get quite chilly and close to freezing the further south you are and at higher elevations. So going on safari toward the end of the dry season, when it warms up a bit, is a good idea.
The wet season is also the hottest time of year in southern Africa, and generally runs from November to March. The rains during this time of year will close down some of the more remote safari camps, this is especially the case in Zambia's Luangwa Valley. But visit the magnificent Victoria Falls during the wet season and you'll be soaked in awe.
Winter and Summer in North Africa
North Africa enjoys mild winters (December - February), perfect for visiting tombs and monuments in hot deserts or taking a camel safari in the Sahara. Egypt's coast remains sunny and warm enough for swimming and diving. In Morocco the skies can get a little dull and rainy during the winter (Mediterranean climate), it's too cold to enjoy the beaches.
The summer months in North Africa (June - September) are blazing hot. Head to the beaches or mountains if you plan to visit during this time, or make sure your hotel has a pool to cool off in the heat of the day. Summers are usually bone dry.
Winter and Summer in South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is far south enough from the equator to enjoy a somewhat traditional summer and winter season (although its geography doesn't make this quite so simple). The summers (November to March) are warm with average temperatures around 77 Fahrenheit. Winters (June to August) can get quite cold especially at night with temperatures averaging around 40 Fahrenheit. In the Western Cape area (Cape Town) they experience a Mediterranean climate and that’s when they have their rainfall comes in the winters whereas in the north (Johannesburg and Kruger National Park) and east (Durban) rainfall is heaviest in the summer months (causing some fantastic thunderstorms). Durban has an almost tropical climate and enjoys warm days even in winter.
If you are traveling to the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius, Madagascar or Reunion, avoid the rainy season January - March because it is also "cyclone" season. Cyclones and hurricanes are extremely rare in The Seychelles.