As it turns out, there are limits to what you can say in 140 characters. So here’s the longer version…
When it comes to talking about Africa, many people still think about this:
Or maybe even this:
And while there’s no doubt that catching the Big Five on safari (in a philosophical way) really is a stand-out, once in a lifetime event, there’s really more, so much more to be said about the continent of Africa.
For a start, it’s big. Really big, with over 20% of the world’s land mass, population of over one billion and growing. It has over 2000 languages, more than 50 nations, and as many different races and religions as you can probably think of.
So why am I telling you this? Surely you already know that Africa refers to more than just a few lions, hippos and cheetahs. You don’t need me to tell you that the cultural legacy extends beyond the Pyramids, Cape Town and Nelson Mandela (even if the man himself was one of the most impressive we’ve seen.)
No, I’m not here to patronise you.
I’m just here to maybe make you reconsider your ideas about travel to and within Africa.
Tourism reports suggest that when foreign travellers visit Africa, they go on safari. Or they stop, as well they might, in the world-class city at the tip of the teardrop in Cape Town.
But that’s often about it.
So, it got me thinking.
That and a Twitter campaign a while back that encouraged me to share more stories about Africa to try to break down some stereotypes and “move the online conversation” beyond war, famine and the Lion King.
Yes, I’m sure you know this already.
But indulge me for a minute, won’t you?
Here are 7 of the Best Places to visit in Africa, bearing in mind that in a place this big, it’s pretty hard to only come up with seven.
And, of course, I long to see more. To return to update this list, with luck, at least ten times over.
But in the meantime? Share your own ideas about the best places to visit in Africa!
Bye for now,
Eight hundred miles from the Atlantic and a thousand from the Indian Ocean, the Okavango Delta looks like a miniature version of the earth from the air, an expanded jigsaw of land swirls amid deep and spreading blue. Its water seeps up through the soil, having landed as monsoon rain a thousand miles north in Angola. It’s long been protected, both by government intervention and because its soggy, swampy nature makes building roads here impossible.
Now, modern Egypt offers plenty to see and do. But drifting down the Nile… Stepping in the shadows and hot sand of the pyramids. Exploring the Valley of the Kings… It’s hard to know where to start – or stop – with this ancient civilisation that influenced us all.
Sometimes I dream that I am falling. Apparently, everyone does. But more often than that, I dream that I am flying, rising, really as the walls of the room grow smaller, the stars sandpaper the sky and I drift up and up, along, beyond. Weightless until caught by the clouds or the distant haze that cloaks the mountains.
Right now, life matches that the crescendo of that dream. The moment where my feet find land and my eyes blink awake. There is snow, I can smell it. There are ripe vines and low hedgerows that stretch across scorched, rust-coloured hills. I see the aged silver of twisting olive groves and hold in my hand more herbs and spices than I can remember or understand.
I’m in the blue sky of the Atlas mountains – and I’m feeling slightly faint.
Fifty-five million years. It’s a long time, no matter how you look at it. For 55 million years, particles of sand, in shades of blood red, caramelised orange and an exhausted, jaded rust have sifted one over the other in this part of the world.
I stand clasping a few of them, gasping for breath.
I’m in the middle of the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world. It’s the desert whose very name means wide open space and whose powerful two syllables, sands and scorched shadows almost define the country it lives in.
Namibia. The land of wide open space.
From the hot and dusty streets of Moshi, the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro overlooks the town. The hike takes several days, through lush green plantations, scraggy bare rock and finally snow and ice before reaching 5895 metres, a point higher than the base camp on Everest.
This photo is small, because I was small when I went there – well, younger in any case. No digital cameras. Certainly no iPhones. Not even a degree, I travelled to Moshi as part of my medical student placement.
Tanzania offers incredible safari experiences and soft white beaches ripe with cinnamon and vanilla in Zanzibar.
But it is the sight of snow in the centre of Africa and the mysterious lure of the mountain that stood out in my heart the most.
Madagascar excels in striking, mesmerising wildlife and landscapes, from the rust-red sharp-toothed rocky tsingy to the curious chameleons and the lemurs that leap through the air.
However, it’s those bulbous baobab trees that really captured my heart. These magnificent works of art from nature can grow up to 30 metres tall and 11 metres wide. They store thousands of gallons of water within their trunks to allow them to survive through the dry periods.
Sure, the shores of the Seychelles have a reputation for luxurious beach holidays, not that there’s anything wrong with that (and try saying the start of that sentence three times as fast as you can…)
However, these volcanic islands also form a wildlife hub both above and below the water. Think Coco de Mer, casuarina leaves, granite boulders and more…