To those that live outside the continent, Africa is synonymous with safaris. But there is much more to the world’s second largest continent than just safaris. For those that are willing to step out of that Landrover, Africa is rich in history, culture, adventure, and amazing natural wonders. The continent boasts over fifty countries and 129 world heritage sites, some cultural and some natural.
Here are ten more reasons to visit Africa, other than safaris.
One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls is a waterfall in on the Zambezi River bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe. Known by the locals as "Mosi-oa-Tunya", (The smoke that thunders), it was named the Victoria Falls by David Livingstone, the first European to see it, after his Queen. It is regarded as the largest waterfall in the world, based on its combined width and height, and is almost twice the height of the Niagara Falls. Adrenalin junkies can indulge in a wide range of heart-stopping activities in this adventure capital of Africa.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the seven original wonders of the world that is still standing today. Part of a complex of three pyramids in Cairo, it is an intriguing marvel of human engineering and construction. It was built over approximately twenty years and completed around 2560 BC for the Pharaoh Khufu. Shrouded in legends and rumours, many questions about the history, composition and structure of the pyramids still remain unsolved. In front of the pyramids stands the Sphinx, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human.
In its heyday during the 15th and 16th centuries, Mali was one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Its ruler, Mansa Musa was one of the richest men who ever lived while its former capital, Timbuktu was a centre for trade and learning. These days, the name Timbuktu symbolises remoteness, the desert is encroaching upon the city and its three mud and timber mosques are among the only relics of its golden age. However, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is one of those places to see before it disappears completely.
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro (or Kili, as it is affectionately known), is the highest mountain in Africa, and one of the highest in the world. It also holds the title of the world's highest freestanding mountain. The mountain is actually a dormant volcano, with the last volcanic activity taking place 200 years ago. Between twenty and thirty-five thousand people attempt to climb Kilimanjaro each year, with around 66% being successful.
If the idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is too daunting, then Africa has more achievable mountain goals too.
Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
Table Mountain has been recognized as one of the world’s seven wonders of nature. This flat-topped mountain is a prominent landmark overlooking the beautiful city of Cape Town. It is often covered by clouds, making it look as though the mountain is covered with a “table cloth”.
A 360 degree rotating aerial cableway will take you to the top of the mountain or you can choose to hike up. Once on the mountain, you can see indigenous animals and plants, enjoy a picnic high above the city or delight in the panoramic views of scenic Cape Peninsula and the historic Robben Island where political prisoners like Nelson Mandela were imprisoned.
With the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Africa is home to some of the best islands and beaches in the world, many at a fraction of the price of those in other parts of the world. Zanzibar, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius and Reunion are just some of the popular islands. Most have picturesque white beaches and palm trees, warm waters, fascinating histories, friendly people and sufficient activities to entertain you for a while.
Namibia is home to some of the largest and oldest sand dunes in the world. This is quite befitting of the second-least densely populated country in the world. The stunning red dunes lend themselves to surreal landscapes and extreme desert adventures. Climbing them will reward one with spectacular dune panoramas and surreal photo opportunities.
Morocco is a magical, exotic land of mosques, medinas, palaces and mountains, where you can live out your Lawrence of Arabia fantasies. It has four imperial cities, each with its own unique attractions. Culture vultures, history buffs, adventurers, foodies and beach bunnies will all find something to please them. Some of the main attractions include the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the medinas of Fez and Marrakech, the palaces in Rabat and Marrakech, the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains, and the Roman ruins of Volubilis.
Madagascar may have been made famous in the West by the animated movie of the same name, but it is equally well-known for its baobabs. There are eight baobab species in the world. Of those, six are indigenous to Madagascar. The most famous of them can be found at the Avenue of the Baobabs, a group of over 20 trees lining a dirt road. Each one is around 30 meters high, and up to 800 years old. The locals believe that they are sacred and that the spirits of the deceased live within these trees.
Africa has some wonderful multi-day river cruises on luxurious boats where you can see spectacular sights en-route. Explore ancient Egyptian temples on a Nile cruise or see amazing African wildlife on a Chobe or Zambezi cruise in Southern Africa. It's a great way to explore Africa in luxury without the hassle of constantly packing and unpacking.
Africa was home to some of the earliest civilisations in the world. Today, it has an incredibly diverse population, consisting of approximately three thousand vastly different tribes, and people of other social and ethnic groups. Among them, they speak over two thousand languages and follow many different cultures and traditions. The majority of the people in Africa are poor in monetary terms, but they are friendly and welcoming.
With so many options to choose from, what are you waiting for? Live your African adventure.
What are your favourite things to do in Africa?