North Africa covers the most northern parts of the Africa continent. Many of the countries have Mediterranean coastline. Many borders in North Africa are difficult to cross and visas need to be obtained. The foreign office can provide further information if you intend to travel in North Africa. The majority language is Arabic, and Islam is the predominant religion.
Countries in the region:
"Marhaba" ("Hello" - Arabic)
Algeria is Africa's second-largest country, after Sudan, and 85% of it consists of the Sahara desert. The Tell region in the north is made up of two mountain ranges, the Tell Atlas and the Saharan Atlas. 99% of the population of Algeria are Sunni Muslims. Major ethnicities are Arab, Berber and Tuareg. The weekend is Thursday and Friday.
The two sides of Algeria, the barren landscape of the Sahara and the stunning Mediterranean coast, contrast and draw most visitors to the country. The capital city, Algiers, is a major urban centre with an exciting mix of traditional Islam and modern French influence. The official languages are Arabic, French and Berber, the latter of which was finally recognised as an official language in 2002 after many protests.
"Em Hetep" ("In Peace", in ancient Egyptian language)
Egypt does not need an introduction; it was the introduction to human civilization itself, and has all the evidence to show for it.
Tour Egypt from the lively Nile Valley to the solitary deserts, from the diversity of the Sinai desert to the lush oases, from the exotic underwater life of the Red Sea to the Mediterranean beaches. "Now, let me talk more of Egypt for it has a lot of admirable things and what one sees there is superior to any other country." - Herodotus, 500 BCE
"...In Egypt all the operations of the powers which rule and work in heaven have been transferred to earth below...It should rather be said that the whole cosmos dwells in [Egypt] as in its sanctuary..."
"There will come a time when ... the gods will return from earth to heaven; Egypt will be forsaken, and the land which was once the home of religion will be left desolate, bereft of the presence of its deities."
- Ascleptus III (25 BCE), Hermetic Texts
Even though much of what Herodotus witnessed has been ruined by the cruelty of later generations, his statement is still valid to this day. Today's Egyptians have abandoned their ancient heritage for a mostly Moslem Arabic-speaking nation. Happily, they have maintained their friendly, hospitable, and warm characteristics.
Cairo , the capital is the place to start. It has the Pyramids, the Sphinxs, the Egyptian Museum, many more sights and more than ten million cairenes to share the experience. Alexandria , the second city of the country has its fair share of historic sights as well and with its location on the Mediterranean it is an ideal spot for your holidays.
The south of Egypt has many impressive temples and graves from Pharaonic times. Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel should all be on your to do list. The Red Sea has great scuba diving: Hurghada is world famous for its underwater world. The official language is Arabic.
"Ahlaan wasahlaan ("welcome" - Arabic)
Libya is one of the last unspoilt places on the Mediterranean coast: a striking landscape dominated by the Sahara. Hidden for 30 years from Western eyes by the world's fourth longest-serving head of state, dictator Colonel al-Gaddafi, Libya has much to offer in way of natural beauty and fascinating culture. The oil industry has secured Libya's status as the richest country per-capita in Africa.
Essential experiences include Leptis Magna, the best-preserved Roman city in Africa, and Cyrene, the best-preserved Greek city. The capital, Tripoli, is considered one of the pretties cities in North Africa. 12,00 year-old rock art sits undisturbed in Jebel Acacus and one of World War II's most famous battle sites, Tobruk, is in the far north east. The official language is Arabic.
"A'salam a'laykum" ("Peace be upon you" - Arabic)
Morocco is a safe place to visit. For any traveller, even post September 11th, Morocco is still a fascinating country filled with mysterious beauty and extreme contrasts. Even though it is only one hour by ferry from Spain, it seems worlds apart with a deeply traditional culture based on Islam, that might be quite unknown to some of you. In one day, you will see young ladies in short skirts, women totally covered and only revealing their eyes, old men in 'jellabas' (long robes with a hood) and water sellers in traditional costume. You can explore thousand years' old medinas, where you may feel as if you are walking in medieval times. Feel the modern rush of cosmopolitan cities, the quiet beauty and solitude of sand dunes in the desert near Merzouga or see snowcapped mountains dotted with Berber villages and beautiful beaches.
Travel in Morocco is intense and rewarding but not without complications. Young men will present themselves as guides, women may get more attention than they are use to and simply ignoring these complexities of daily Moroccan life doesn't always do the trick. But don't let this stop you. Like many contrasts in Morocco, there is another side of the coin: Moroccan’s generosity and hospitality. Once you have adapted to their way of life, there is a universe of intriguing travel opportunities and many hands to shake less then 50 miles from Europe.
The great imperial cities of Rabat, Fez, Meknes and Marrakesh have medieval rhythms about them with their dynastic monuments, medinas and squares filled with snake charmers and story-tellers.
Three mountain ranges present diverse landscapes and three different ways of life: the Rif in the north, with my favorite mountain village, Chefchaouen, the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas, that remains mostly undiscovered. Azrou is a quiet Berber town only 2 hours drive from Rabat, worth visiting for its forest and calm atmosphere. Three different Berber groups inhabit these mountains and, on the whole, these areas are more relaxing than the large cities. You should consider trekking, even if you are a beginner, so you'll catch a glimpse of one of the many aspects of authentic Moroccan life.
If you only have one week and you would like to see amazing geological landscapes, palm oasis, painted rocks, and the Berber way of life, Tafraoute is not to be missed. Only two hours drive from Agadir , the drive is almost as stunning as the destination.
The oases of the pre-Sahara present yet another timeless image of the Arab world with immense palm groves in the desert. Not to be missed are the fabulous mud kasbahs and ksours (palaces and family houses) which you can find near Stara zagora, Tineghir, and Erfoud . There is so much to see in this country, you may decide to stay for awhile. The official language is Arabic.
"Bari kelorfik" ("Thank you" - Arabic)
Tunisia is more than an excellent place to play golf in the winter: on a small surface you can find real deserts with beuatiful oasis, old cities, lots of carpets and fine beaches. Combined with the good climate, warm people and good opportunities for a relaxed holiday makes Tunisia a popular destination.
One of the more striking features of a visit to Tunisia is that every single city you visit seems really old. Tunisia has been a part of Phoenician, Carthagenian, Byzantic, Roman, Arab, Turkish and French empires and they all left their beautiful traces here. Tunis and Carthage date back to pre-roman times, El jem has its own Coliseum. Kairouan is considered a young city; it was founded in the 6th century by the Arabs.
The coast of Tunisia is beuatiful. Towns like Mahdia , Sousse , Sfax and Monastir are worth a visit. The beaches are quite nice. You might try to avoid staying in the big tourist traps on the coast, however, there it is quite hard to appreciate real Tunisian life. The west is rugged mountain land. One of the coolest things to do here is take the 'lezard rouge' in Metlaoui . The lezard is a train from 1920 that winds its way through mountain gorges. The south of Tunisia is mostly desert. A striking sight in this region are the cave dwellings in Matmata. This is where Star Wars was filmed! The island of Jerba is also a great place to go in the south. As William Shakespeare said it "Sir, This Tunis is Carthage!"
The official languages are Arabic and French.
Western Sahara is a territory of north-western Africa, which has, since a UN-sponsored ceasefire in 1991, been mostly controlled by Morocco with the remainder controlled by the Polisario movement (a group campaigning for independence). Over half the territory's population live in the capital city, El Aaiún. The climate is some of the most inhospitable in the world, and the majority of the country's income comes from phosphate mining and nomadic herding.
The indigenous population are known as Sahrawis, speak Hassaniya and are of Arab and Berber heritage. Conflict has lead to major displacement of the population. In April 2007 the government of Morocco suggested that Western Sahara could become a self-governing entity. Watch this space.
East Africa stretches down the African coastline on the Indian Ocean and includes areas on the main land and island groups near to Africa
Countries and territories include:
- Comoros and Mayotte
"Bwa" ("Hello" - Kirundi)
The north of Burundi is dominated by peaks and hills but the south hosts the idyllic shores of Lake Tanganyika. Civil war raged in Burundi from 1993 until 2005, between the Tutsi-dominated government and the Hutu rebel groups (as happened in Rwanda), and now Burundi is at peace for the first time in a generation. However, 200,000 Burundians have been displaced during the civil war, and are still trickling back from Tanzania and the DRC.
The new government consists of a delicate balance of Hutus and Tutsis, and the new-established peace is likely to continue. Coffee and tea are the country's major exports. The capital city, Bujumbura, is located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and since its 34-year curfew has been lifted, it has blossomed into an exciting urban centre with restaurants and nightclubs that wouldn't feel out of place in Brussels. The official languages are Kirundi and French.
Comoros and Mayotte
"Habari" ("Hello" - Comoran)
Located in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and the Africa mainland, the islands of Comoros and Mayotte host a wealth of diversity. Over 20 political coups and many civilian riots have left their mark on these islands. High unemployment, few natural resources and the need to import staple foods such as rice have kept the Comorian economy at a near-standstill. Mayotte would be in the same situation if it did not recieve financial aid from France.
Highlights include 400 million year-old fossils and the beaches of Mayotte. Over 98% of the population are Sunni Muslim. Most of the population are of mixed Bantu, Arab, Malay and Malagasy heritage. The most commonly spoken language in the Comoros islands is Shikomoro (a creole of Swahili and Arabic) and on Mayotte is Mahorian (a Swahili dialect). The official languages are French and Arabic.
"Sabah al khair" ("Good morning" - Arabic)
Although mountains grace the north of Djibouti and white-sand beaches border it, the landscape is dominated by a geologically-active volcanic desert. The country has been stable since the end of its civil war (1991-1994). The vast majority of the country's population (which consists of 60% Somalis - who can be further split into the Issa and Issaq groups - and 35% Afar) live in urban areas, with over two thirds living in the capital, Djibouti City.
Almost 95% of Djibouti's population are Sunni Muslim. The economy is almost entirely dependent on Djibouti City's port which is an international transhipment and refuelling centre. The Ethiopian-Eritrean civil war has fed the economy greatly, as the closed border means that all Ethiopian foreign trade must go through the port. Unemployment is around 50%. Essential experiences include the great salt lake of Lac Assal, and the Forêt du Day national park. The official languages are French and Arabic.
"Selam" ("Hello" - Arabic/Tigre)
A colony of Italy for more than 50 years, Eritrea is a small country with a strong identity. Ravaged by a civil war with Ethiopia, Eritrea is currently facing the worst economic and political outlook since its independence. Dankalia, in the far east, is the far north of Africa's famous Rift Valley and the thinning of the earth's crust at this point causes extreme temperatures and geologically fascinating landscapes.
Nationalisation of all Eritrea's private companies has contributed to the economic problems, and power cuts, food shortages and extreme inflation are common occurences. However, despite these problems, the capital Asmara is an anomaly - the beautiful architecture framing tree-lined boulevards and vintage coffee machines ring of southern Italy many decades ago. The government's designated "working languages" are Arabic and Tigrinya, and English is the language of instruction in all post-5th grade education.
"Denkenesh" ("You are wonderful" - Amharic)
Through the intense media coverage of the 1980s, Ethiopia has gained a reputation of famine and war, a land in which, according to Band Aid, "No rain nor rivers flow". In reality, Ethiopia is one of the most naturally beautiful countries in Africa, with the Rift Valley (bisecting the south of the country) leaving active volcanoes and major lakes, and lush forests dominating much of the landscape. The Simien and Bale mountains are over 4000m in height. The capital, Addis Ababa, is central.
The world's oldest human remains, estimated at 3.5 million years old, was found in Ethiopia, suggesting that Ethiopia could truly be the cradle of mankind. Ethopia is approximately 55% Christian, 35% Muslim and 10% traditional religions. Essential experiences include the ancient rock-hewn churches of Lalibela (Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian civilisations in the world), and visiting the isolated monasteries on the islands in Lake Tana.
The official languages are Amharic, Tigrinya, Somali, Arabic, Oromiga and Guaragigna, and Amharic is the most widely spoken of these, especially in urban areas. English is also common among educated people.
The food takes some getting used to, but the beer is good.
"Jambo" ("Hello" - Swahili)
Kenya, sitting right on the equator, has a wealth of natural beauty, from the peaks of Mt Kenya to the depths of the Rift Valley, from the arid deserts to the shores of Lake Victoria, Kenya's landscape draws travellers and tourists from all over. Since independence in 1963 Kenya has been mostly peaceful and stable, but with undertones of corruption. 80% of Kenyans are Christian with the remainder split between Islam and animist beliefs.
Many travellers come to Kenya to view the diverse wildlife and go on safaris: the "big five" (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalo) are in no shortage. Recently the government promised free primary education to all citizens, a pledge that has attracted much international approval. The official languages are Swahili and English with many other minority languages trying to make their presence felt.
On 28 February 2008 a power-sharing agreement was signed between President Kibaki and opposition leader Odinga. The reaction across Kenya to the proposed coalition government has been largely positive and peaceful. However the situation in Kenya remains fragile and tense in the aftermath of two months of violence and widespread displacement of communities, following the disputed election on 27 December 2007.
"Manao ahoana ianao?" ("How are you?" - Malagasy)
The island of Madagascar, situated off the east coast of Africa, is often considered to be the world’s eighth continent. With a diversity of wildlife not found anywhere else on the planet, and a varied climate, each area of the island nation has something different to offer. From the tropical rain forests of the north east to the spiny deserts of the south, and with mountains in between, Madagascar has something to offer everyone. Madagascar hosts a massive diversity of ethnic groups.
Madagascar's economy is slowly-but-steadily growing. Music is a big part of Malagasy life and the fusion style represents the fusion of cultures on the island, from mainland Africa, to Indian raga, to Malaysian and Polynesian. Expect outstanding wildlife and lots of rice. The official languages are French and Malagasy.
"Tapeta!" ("Cheers!" - Creole)
This small island nation is closed in its culture and philosophy to India than to Africa. A popular tourist destination, its economy is fuelled by sugar cane and tourism, and has the second-largest per-capita GDP in Africa. Two thirds of the population are descended from Indian workers and the other third from African slaves who were employed by the French to work on the sugar cane plantations.
Points of interest include the long beaches of Belle Mare and the diving experiences it offers, and the Black River Gorges National Park. Hindu festivals are celebrated with vigour and are definitely worth seeing. Mauritius was the dodo'ss final resting place, and according to Mark Twain, was "modelled on Paradise". The official languages are French and English, and most often spoken is a creole.
"Bonjour"' ("Hello" - French)
This tiny, volcanic overseas département, west of Madagascar, has one foot in France and the other in Africa. Its economy relies mostly on France, and it attracts many immigrants from the nearby Comoros and Mayotte. French culture dominates the island from the croissants in the morning to the red wine on the dining table. The vast majority of inhabitants are of Afro-French (creole) ancestry and Hindu Indians.
Réunion is an outermost region of the European Union, and thus the currency used is the euro. In fact, due to its location in a time zone to the east of Europe, Réunion was the first region in the world to use the euro, and the first ever purchase using the euro occurred at 12.01 a.m., when the mayor of Saint-Denis René-Paul Victoria bought a bag of lychees at a market. The official language is French.
"Muraho" ("Hello" - Kinyarwanda)
Rwanda is known to the western world for all the wrong reasons - but in the years since the horrific well-publicised genocides in 1994, Rwanda has made giant strides towards stability and recovery. President Kagame has promoted a new sense of Rwandan identity - no Hutus, no Tutsis, just Rwandans. Visitors are always amazed by the natural beauty (it is known as "Le Pays des Milles Collines" - the Land of a Thousand Hills) and its mountain gorillas are stuff of legend - the largest primates in the world.
Rwanda is one of the most densley-populated countries in Africa. The capital, Kigali, comes alive at night, with an excellent array of bars and nightclubs. Other attractions include the Virunga volcanoes, the Nyungwe forest and the coast of Lake Kivu - Costa del Kivu - with unspoilt beaches and clear waters. The official languages are French, English and Kinyrwanda.
"Bonzour. Comman sava?" ("Hello. How are you?" - Creole)
The Seychelles are right in the heart of the Indian Ocean between the African East Coast and India. Geographically, they are closer to Africa but the culture and geology is very Indian. The Seychelles are the only granitic islands in the world (all the others are volcanic or biological in origin) which accounts for its unusual rock formations. The Seychelles consist of 115 islands, all of the type "tropical paradise used in Bounty commercial". Mahe is the biggest island. It is dominated by a mountain range that forms the backbone of the island. The highest peak, Morne Seychellois, reaches a height of 905m and provides a perfect backdrop to the capital city, Victoria. Nearby is the beautiful Ste Anne Marine National Park.
Praslin is the second biggest island. But La Digue is probably the most beautiful island. An aura of charm and tranquillity surrounds La Digue. This island is accessible by boat and helicopter; about two and a half hours from Mahé and thirty minutes from Praslin. For years the way of life on La Digue has remained unchanged, transport is mainly by ox-cart or bicycle. On La Digue, time seems to stand still. The official languages are English, French and Creole.
"Ma nabad baa?" (Greeting, literally "Is it peace?" - Somali)
Somalia has been ravaged by civil war - there is no legal system to speak of - the only (reasonably) safe place is the self-proclaimed "Republic of Somaliland": the north of the country which broke away and declared its own independence in 1991. The remainder of the country continues to deteriorate, with the civil war preventing economic growth. All Somalis are Muslim.
With thousands of miles of coastline, Somalia has some of the longest beaches in the world. However, until peace is declared - many UN peacekeeping missions have failed - Somalia and Somaliland will remain all but hidden from the western world. The official language is Somali.
Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa. A land of spectacular game reserves and the dusty savannah grasslands of the Serengeti, wide expansive palm fringed beaches and the snowcapped peaks of Kilimanjaro. Its also home to the colourful, fragrant and mystical spice islands of Zanzibar, across the Indian Ocean from the ancient kingdoms of the coastal region.
Climbing the peaks of Mount Meru or Kilimanjaro, exploring the crater of the Ngorongoro, driving through the grasslands of the Serengeti, or exploring the side streets of mystical Zanzibar, Tanzania has something to offer for everyone, be it climber, explorer or animal fanatic.
This tiny tropical paradise of the east coast of Africa is the birthplace of Queen's Freddie Mercury. The island's capital - Stone Town - is a crowded, jumbled town with narrow, winding streets. Small shops sell locally made arts and crafts - batik, brightly coloured cloths, bongos and carved wood are popular and typically African.
Zanzibar is accustomed to tourists and travelers. One disadvantage of this are the 'boys' in Stone Town who will try to sell you wares, or follow you where ever you are going and then try to charge you for 'showing you the way'. Be firm with your refusals and try to avoid hostilities, although they can be annoyingly persistent.
The outdoor food market in Stone Town is not to be missed - amazing meats and seafood cooked in front of you in the open air and Indian foods representing the large Asian presence in this area of Africa. An all you can eat meal for about 80p!!
The nicest and most popular beaches are on the north coast - rows of hostels along the beach, interspersed with bars that overspill onto the beaches in busier times. There is a significant price difference between low and peak seasons.
Other island attractions include dolphin watching, snorkeling trips and sunset cruises on traditional dhow boats - which despite looking barely watertight are surprisingly robust! Zanzibar is affectionately known as the Spice Island, and you can take tours to find out the fascinating history behind spice use for cooking, scenting and medicinal purposes.
If all this is a little too much effort as the sun beats down on you - this is the perfect place for kicking back, relaxing and watching the world drift by…
A country with a chequered history, more tourists are now venturing to this lush green land. Those that do, experience amazing mountain forests home to Uganda's most popular attraction - Mountain Gorillas. Straddle the equator in this beautiful country and experience what Queen Victoria described as the 'jewel of Africa'.
Visit the Source of the Nile at Lake Victoria and challenge yourself to traverse the white water rapids. The lush forests and adrenaline inducing rapids hide a country with a deadly threat. Some estimates state that up to 50 percent of the population are HIV positive or suffering from AIDS related illnesses. This is having a drastic impact on the population. Be aware of Uganda's problems before you travel there and you will have a much more rewarding experience.
These countires form the very tip of the continent. They are:
Botswana is a very dry country - though surprisingly enough one of the major attractions are the wetlands of the Okavango delta. It has a population of only one and a half million people. Most people live in the south-east. Major cities are the capital Gaborone and Francistown. However, Botswana offers great wildlife and nature. Most travellers come to this country for two reasons: the Kalahari desert, which covers about 85% of the country and the Okavango delta, a huge wetland system of up to 15,000 square kilometers. The Delta is one of the most prolific wildlife areas in Africa; Its diverse and pristine habitats, together with unmatched scenic beauty, make it one of Africa's most important wilderness destinations. A highlight of a visit to this area is the incredible profusion of birdlife - Pel's Fishing Owl, Wattled Cranes, Slaty Egrets, Rufous-Bellied Heron, Swamp Boubous, and a host of eagles, vultures and other raptors will keep the bird lover in heaven.
The Savuti Channel area, which borders the Delta to the west and Chobe national park to the east, is one of Africa's most famous big game areas. Only 38 kilometers northwest of Savuti and off the main tourist track lies Botswana's best kept secret: Linyanti and the western reaches of the Savuti Channel. The Linyanti and upper Savuti areas rank among the most beautiful in Botswana.
Chobe National Park has a wonderful concentration of animals but has become very crowded due to the number of camps and lodges in the area.
South of Maun and the Okavango delta, lies the huge open expanse of the Kalahari desert. In March and April the Kalahari blossoms with life and huge open spaces of the Makgadikgadi pans fill with water, attracting huge migrating herds. There is no doubt that every visitor to the natural beauties will not regret his trip.
Malawi, "the warm heart of Africa" is a small country with a diverse eco-systems, beautiful scenery, a variety of wildlife and an interesting culture. Geographically the country is dominated by Lake Malawi, the third largest freshwater lake in Africa, a trough 360 miles long and 50 miles wide formed where the western arm of the Great Rift Valley cuts into southern Africa. Major cities are the capital Lilongwe and the commercial center Blantyre . Most tourists head for Lake Malawi with its crystal clear waters surrounded by mountains has one of the greatest selections of freshwater fish in the world (between 600 and 1,000 species of which 350 are endemic). Scuba and snorkeling are excellent, there are good sandy beaches and many activities including water sports, nature walks and drives and visits to local villages. You can also go on a ferry and go to the north of the country and travel back by bus - a popular trip for the independent traveller. There are some amazing hiking and trekking oppurtunities on the Mulanje Massif, the highest peak being Mount Mulanje at 3002m and also on the Zomba Plateau, which has amazing views and points of interest within short distances from the several campsites. Liwonde national park is also a must-see when visiting Malawi. There are many oppurtunities to see the animals even within the camps. The white rhino sanctuary is also a good place to visit within the park, but the possibility of seeing one of the Rhino is limited.
Mozambique is located in Southern Africa on the coast between South Africa and Tanzania. It also shares a border with the landlocked countries Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Zambia.
For years and years internal struggle & civil war prevented Mozambique to become a serious travel destination. The war is over now, and although travel is still quite adventurous in these parts, Mozambique is back on the map.
The capital Maputo is located in the very south of the country close to the border with South Africa. If you are going to South Africa and are curious to see what's accross the border a weekend trip to Maputo gives you some idea.
Other major towns are Beira and Nampula and the ports of Quelimane and Nacala.
Mozambique has some of the best beaches on the East African coast, offering azure waters, coral reefs and subtropical islands, while her people are known for their openness and friendliness. Mozambique's highlights include the Bazaruto archipelago in the south and in the north of the country.
Namibia, a huge but sparsely populated country, is situated in southwestern Africa. Irt is known for its contrasting landscapes. There is the brooding desolate Gobi desert, said to be the oldest in the world, with its high dunes and awe inspiring sense of space. The central plateau, with its thornbush savanna and rugged mountains, rising abruptly from the plains, gives way to the majestic Fish river canyon national park in the South. In the North of the country, landscapes range from dense bush and open plains of the great Etosha national park pan, to woodland savanna and lush riverine vegetation. The capital city of Windhoek is a great place to start your trip. It is the travel hub of Namibia and offers good nightlife, restaurants and nice sights. Swakopmund is a very German town in Namibia. It is indeed a strange feeling to walk through a German street in the African sun; to drink German beer while enjoying the African sun is a another good option here.
All these facts combine in a country which can justifiably be known as "Africa's Gem"
Most of the African game species are well represented in Namibia, with the largest concentration in the Etosha National Park which is firmly entrenched on the world map of international parks. Etosha provides memorable experiences. Namibia is home to the largest population of cheetah still in existence. A waterhole at dawn with a medley of giraffe, zebra, rhino, graceful antelopes and a solitary hyena is like a finely etched painting of African wildlife.
The Republic of South Africa lies at the very southern tip of Africa, flanked by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and is almost 5 times the size of the UK. The travelling opportunities are immense with borders being shared with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe. It is one of the most visited African countries by travellers and adventure-travel volunteers and with it’s variety of big-game wildlife, extreme sports and breathtaking landscapes it’s not hard to see why.
South Africa is a truly enchanting country both because of its captivating people and variety of culture but also because of its diversity in landscape. You can experience vast combination of forests, savannahs, snow-covered mountains, endless surf beaches, tranquil rivers and bustling modern cities. Not to mention the excitement of going on safari to spot South Africa’s “big five” (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino). Or why not head west to Cape Town and the legendary Table Mountain, or veer north to Namibia, and the deadly skeleton coast?
And if extreme sports are your thing, then South Africa offers you the chance to sky dive, bungee jump and swim with sharks as well as surfing, dune boarding and scuba diving. And this is just a few because the opportunities are literally endless! And if you enjoy cricket, rugby or football, then South Africa is the place for you. The sportsmen are talented and internationally recognised and the fans are passionate, fiery and full of life! South Africa also gives you plenty of time to chill-out and offers a host of vibrant cities, nightlife and history to absorb. From the coastal cities of Capetown and Port Elizabeth to the intriguing gold tales of Johannesburg and Afrikaner monuments of Pretoria, travellers visiting South Africa will not be short of awesome experiences and life-impacting adventures in this friendly and truly magnificent country.
Interesting Fact: South Africa is home to the largest land mammal, the largest fish, the largest bird and the largest reptile (African elephant, whale shark, ostrich and leatherback turtle)!
Swaziland is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is almost completely surrounded by South Africa but it also borders on Mozambique island. Most people visiting Swaziland will come from Johannesburg only about 400 km from Mbabane the capital of Swaziland and connected by good roads. The major attraction of the country is that it has preserved its culture quite well. From the ritual smearing of the bride with red ochre in the traditional marriage ceremony to the mystical rite of Kingship, the Incwala, each ritual is deeply significant and is performed only at the appropriate time and place. The centuries- old ceremonies are as valid today as they were in days of Ngwane, the first King of Swaziland and this balance of ancient and modern, traditional and western gives Swaziland and her people their distinctive character.
Urban Swazi's in spite of a very 20th century lifestyle still maintain firm links to the rural areas where water is fetched from the river and cooking takes place in a three-legged pot over an open fire. When duty calls, there is no contradiction for the majority of Swazi's in leaving an air-conditioned office in town and shedding a three-piece business suit in favour of the traditional cloths and skins of emahiya and to take their place with the regiments to perform the task or ceremony for which the nation has been summoned. Watching the regiments wearing the traditional dress of their great-grand-fathers, singing the songs of their ancestors and performing the ancient ritual dances, only the glimpse of a wristwatch here or a flashlight there will remind you that this is not the Swaziland of a hundred or two hundred years ago. Remember that no man will gain the respect of a Swazi unless he is married. In Swazi culture, if you are single, you have no experience!
Zambia stretches from the southern shore of Lake Tanganika to the shores of Lake Kariba. It is bordered by Malawi and Mozambique island on the east, Zimbabwe to the south, Namibia and Angola to the west and Congo and Tanzania to the north. A large portion of the country is given over to wildlife with 19 national parks and 31 game management areas. The prime wildlife areas are the Luangwa valley and the South Luangwa National Park, Kafue National Park and the Lower Zambezi National Park.
Zimbabwe could be a fantastic place for tourism. Only 20 years ago, it was the richest country in Africa. However, the present economical and political situation make it not a country you want to visit as a tourist. While the eastern parts of the country are strife torn, the western part is somewhat more safe for the traveller.
The most visited place are the spectacular Victoria Falls. They can be seen on a short trip from Botswana or South Africa but in doing so they are missing some fascinating areas. Visitors to Zimbabwe can gaze upon hundreds of species of tropical wildlife, thrill to the experience of white water rafting, scale chilly mountain peaks and savour the history of a people that goes back tens of thousands of years? Yet these pleasures are but a few of those waiting to be discovered by the traveller who plans to visit this gem in the heart of Africa. More highlights are the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the beautiful Lake Kariba and also the two biggest cities of Zimbabwe are worth a visit: Harare and Bulawayo. Last but not least, to the east are the so-called Eastern Highlands, fine walking and fishing country, so cool that at certain times of the year, the grass in the morning can be trimmed with frost. In the west is the other-worldly jumble of granite rocks that make up the Matopos National Park. Zimbabwe's largest wildlife sanctuary is Hwange National Park, situated on the western border with Botswana. Hwange is home to one of Africa's largest elephant populations and myriad other species. Other excellent game viewing areas are Matusadona, Mana Pools and Zambezi National Parks.
As of July 2004, Zimbabwe once again proved to the world that it is at the very cutting edge of technology and medicine. The country has introduced ox-drawn ambulances, assuring quick and comfortable access to hospitals for all who may need immediate medical care. My advice to you, don't hurt yourself in Zim! Perhaps better still, give the country miss for time being...
These countries include:
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Republic of the Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- São Tomé and Príncipe
"Tamam" ("good" - Arabic)
Resource-rich Sudan was divided by the Victorian Britons, who split the country into the educated, Islamic north, and the undeveloped Christian and Pagan south - a rift that still runs deep today. Civil war has raged in Sudan on and off since independence was granted in 1956, partly triggered by the oil fields, Sudan's major source of income, which lie on the border between north and south. 70% of Sudan is Muslim and about 5% Christian, with the remainder following traditional religions. Islamic law prevails.
The flat emptiness of Sudan's desert is interrupted by the confluence of the Blue and White Niles, which can be viewed spectacularly from the top of the ferris wheel in Khartoum. Other essential experiences include the pyramids, of which Sudan has more than Egypt. The official languages are Arabic and English, and Sudan has over 100 indigenous languages, a tribute to its diverse cultures.
The 21st century began brightly, with a peace treaty bringing hope of a bright future free from civil war. However, war and genocide erupted in the western provinces of Darfur, and this has so far been ineffectively tackled by international powers. The frequently-written peace treaties and ceasefires are often violated before the ink has dried, and Sudan's plight is unlikely to end in the near-future without drastic intervention.
These countries include:
- Burkina Faso
- Côte d'Ivoire
- Cape Verde
- The Gambia
- Sierra Leone
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa, formerly known as Upper Volta. It is a very relaxed place to be and the people are very friendly. It may not have as many sights as Mali but still makes for good traveling with fascinating landscapes and wildlife. Major cities are Bobo-dioulasso and the capital Ouagadougou.
The Cape Verdian Islands are not far from the main land of West-Africa, but they have a very distinct character. The people on the islands speak Portuguese and mainly live of remittances from migrated family members and fisheries. The islands have an enormous touristic potential that is not yet fully exploited. This is a good reason to go now!
The most important island is Sao Tiago island. The capital of the country Praia, Vila Velha and the beaches around Tarrafal are the main attractions. Sao vicente is smaller but Mindelo, the capital of the island, is the most lively city of the country.
The main reason to go to Fogo is to hike on the volcano. Another good option for hikers is Brava. Beaches, beaches and beaches is what Sal offers. Most flights from Europe go directly to this island.
Gambia is a very small country in West Africa. On three sides it is surrounded by Senegal - in the west it has direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. It is surrounded by a bunch of French speaking countries, but Gambia is very British.
Gambia is pretty popular with package holidays. On the coast there are quite a few holiday villages where white Europeans are flown in by the package every week and red Europeans are flown out one or two weeks later. The Atlantic Coast resorts of Bakau, Fajara, Kotu and Kololi make up the heart of The Gambia's tourist industry. But there is a lot more than just golden beaches...
Banjul is the small capital and a lively city. Good nighlife markets and a very pleasant atmosphere make it a top attraction. Serekunde is the real capital however. It is the primary transport hub and activity centre of the country. It's a crowded place, bustling and 100% African.
Juffure is the main tourist trap of the country. It is a small village on the northern bank of the River Gambia about 25km (15mi) upstream from Banjul. It became world famous in the 1970s following the publication of "Roots", in which African-American author Alex Haley describes how Kunta Kinte, his ancestor, was captured here and taken as a slave to America some 200 years ago.
Abuko nature reserve is Abuko is a great place to go to see wild life. The park is fenced, well-managed and very easy to reach from Banjul.
Ghana is home to some of Africa's friendliest and most welcoming people. The country is renowned for being one of the most peaceful nations in Africa and having been the first black African country to gain independence from the British colonial authorities, back in 1957, Ghana has fast become a beacon in West Africa for political stability and traveller-safety.
The country is layered with colourful landscapes, from the palm-tree-lined Atlantic coastline to the rainforest of Cape Coast. Other unique destinations include the 60-metre-high Wli falls, the elephant watering-holes of Mole National Park, and the Buabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary, where monkeys are preserved as ‘sacred’ creatures.
During a visit, you'll have plenty of time to get to meet both locals and travellers. The capital, Accra, is full of great places to go and you'll get the opportunity to visit many of the bars and restaurants that provide authentic African live music and dancing. There are also a large number of western-style pubs and clubs, including Irish Bars, an American Sports Bar and a series of dance-venues. And if you fancy being absorbed in the fiery passion of Ghanaian football, then prepare yourself for watching Hearts of Oak at the National Stadium where the locals wave flags and dance on the roofs of the terraces!
Beyond Accra, there are countless places to visit. You could take a Sunday pleasure-cruise on Lake Volta - the biggest man-made lake in the world. Or you might want to visit the slave castles of Cape Coast and Elmina. Or take a walk on the wild side with the elephants and hippos of Ghana's National Parks. Or take a stroll 30-metres up in the rainforest canopy at the Kakum National Park. The captivating places, intriguing locals and diverse landscapes will make Ghana one of the most enlightening experiences a traveller could wish for.
Interesting Fact: Although English is the official language, there are over 60 different languages spoken in Ghana (mostly tribal) so be prepared for the smiles and calls of ‘Obruni’ from the locals (a friendly term for ‘white man!’)
Guinee Conakry is one of those countries where traveling means hard work. Roads are in bad shape in the dry season and in no shape during the rainy season. But hard work is often the most rewarding work; the people of Guinee are very friendly and the landscape can be breathtaking
Near Conakry you will find some good beaches especially on the Iles de los just south of the capital. The town itself has a few nice markets.
The North of Guinee and especially the region known as Fouta Djalon offers great hiking possibilities. The Fouta Djalon has green rolling hills with many peeks over 1000 meters. Labe , Pita and Dalaba are the largest cities in the Fouta Djalon and a good starting points for treks. Faranah and Kankan are the biggest city in the north-east. If you are travelling to Mali you will probably be making a stop in both.
Nestling between Ghana and Benin, Togo is possibly one of the least known countries in Africa. At only 30km wide, many by-pass this tiny former French colony. But those that do miss out on the fascinating mix of old French colonialism and tradition African culture. In a country where women on the street sell typical African fare such as yam, cassava and plantain, they can also be found selling more cosmopolitan baguettes, croissant and pain au chocolat. Voodoo finds its roots in the region with washing powder and clothes vying for position with traditional fetish medicines, remedies and offerings for sale in local markets.
Many of the towns and cities have architecture reminiscent of Paris or Nice side streets, yet paths covered in terracotta red dust and the tropical climate remind you that you are in Africa.
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