These days we are getting an increasing number of requests to recommend destinations that are either ‘off the beaten track’ or ‘up and coming’. As more and more people embrace travel around the world, there is a greater thirst from individuals to travel to more remote and undiscovered destinations. For a variety of reasons (war, poverty, bad infrastructure or religion to name a few) there are a large number of countries in Africa that are still off the usual tourist route.
However, every year we see new countries that are wisely trying to capitalise on the worlds desire to travel, and every year it gets easier and easier to find tours to new and exciting destinations.
Below are my current ‘top 3’ place to consider for 2018.
Malawi Tourism has done a great job over the last 18 months of promoting this fabulous destination, with a well funded and well thought out campaign. It focusses around the incredibly friendly and welcoming people, safari experiences and the natural beauty of Lake Malawi. Malawi has been visited by overland trucks and volunteer tourists for years, but until recently it has been much more difficult for short-stay tourists to find tours that let them experience this fascinating country on either an affordable private tour, or small group tour. This is starting to change as more and more locals look to tourism as an income, and more reasonably priced lodges are becoming accessible. In addition, in 2012 the culmination of a multi-year mass relocation of animals had proven successful with Malawi now able to boast ‘Big 5’ game reserves again. This was further improved in 2017 when cheetah were successfully integrated back into the wild at Liwonde National Park, for the first time in decades. All of this combined with more frequent flights in and around Malawi mean that 2018 is the perfect year to experience everything this vibrant, colourful country has to offer.
I first visited in 2015, and I was genuinely surprised at how beautiful and green this country is. I had grown up with negative images of a dry and barren country in the media, but the reality could not be more different. Every area we visited offered something new to explore. Lalibela is one of the most popular destinations and is a beautiful mountainous region, with most mid-range hotels having spectacular views. In fact Ethiopia alone contains more than 70% of the mountains in Africa. The only thing to note here is that it is over 4000m high in some areas. We couldn’t work out why we felt so lethargic…..until we remembered about altitude sickness! As well as spectacular views, Lalibela has fascinating architecture and accompanying history with the distinctive rock-hewn churches; which form just part of Ethiopia’s 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. My personal favourite was the Yemrehana Krestos Church, which is a church in a cave. The beauty of Ethiopia doesn’t stop there. There is the stunning Lake Tana and the Blue Nile River, fascinating National Parks at Arba Minch, Lake Wenchi and the local horses and of course one of the only lava lakes in the world at the Erta Ale Volcano. If culture is more your interest there are over 80 different ethnic groups across the country, all with different dress, traditions and language. Finally, if you like places with diverse wildlife, then Ethiopia also offers 279 species of mammal, 924 species of bird and 175 species of fish. This truly is a country with something for everyone.
West Africa is not really a destination on the tourist map. Which is a shame as many destinations are only 7 hours flight from London, with almost no time difference….making it a great place to visit for a week or two. Ghana is one of the most thriving democracies on the continent, and the capital of Accra is a key destination for business and diplomats. However, few people take the opportunity to explore more of what the country has to offer. This is a shame as there, there are great experiences on offer to visitors. Not far outside of Accra it is possible to visit Mole National Park in the hope of seeing some of the nest wildlife in Ghana, including buffalo, warthogs, hippos and several antelope species. If you prefer history/culture over nature then Cape Coast Castle and Elmina’s fishing port offer a great opportunity to learn more of the atrocities of the slave trade era, and get a greater understanding of trade today. Further afield then it is possible to visit the highest hilltop settlement at Amedzofe, walk up Afadjato the highest mountain in Ghana (885m), visit the Tongo hills or sit and take in the beauty of Kintampo Falls. It is unlikely that you will encounter many visitors on any tour of Ghana, and tours are usually arranged on a private basis. However, this shouldn’t pout you off. It is a beautiful country, just waiting to be explored.