As an independent tour operator focussing purely on travel Africa there is one question that I get asked a lot, and that is ‘which country should I visit?’ Now this is not an easy question to answer! Africa is the second largest continent in the world, comprises 55 different countries and is around 11.7 million square miles in size.
That’s a lot of places to go and places to see.. …that said there are some standard pieces of information that I often give to help guide people to the destination most suited to them.
South Africa continues to be one of our most requested destinations, and is certainly a favourite with first time and return travellers to Africa. It is easy to see why as this country has so much to offer. It really makes things easy for visitors with excellent transport options throughout the country, a wide standard of accommodations, great cuisine and activities to suit all tastes. If it is your first time to Africa, you know you want to do a Safari but apart from that you are a bit unsure about what to expect, then this is definitely the place for you. There is a fascinating history, rich cultures to explore, safaris to suit all budgets, world class cities, great beaches, stunning natural scenery, AMAZING wines, unique flora and fauna and they are not bad at rugby either! To top it off, despite losing value over the last year, the £ is still strong against the ZAR (rand) meaning value for money in SA is still very good. In terms of when to travel, South Africa really is a year round destination, although we recommend travelling between mid-September through til early May to ensure the better weather, or in June-Sept if Kruger sightings are top of your agenda.
When most people in the U.K. think of Africa they traditionally think first of Safari, and there are literally thousands of places offering Safari. Therefore, its always tough to answer which location is the best as every safari is dependent on a little bit of luck, and there is never a guarantee that you will see specific animals. However, after much deliberation I have to go with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. They are a classic destination for a reason and every time I visit I see amazing animals up-close, the guides are of a great standard, the people are incredibly friendly and the whole overall experience is relaxing and enthralling all at the same time. The first time I visited Tanzania I opted for a very basic camping tour for 3 nights. I was a bit dubious and in all honesty not a great fan of only 5 squat toilets between (literally) hundreds of people overnight, but I am glad I experienced it this way for my first visit. There is nothing quite like hearing a lions roar in darkness from the ‘safety’ of your canvas dome tent, or peering out of said tent at night with your torch to find several pairs of eyes shining back at you……then swiftly retreating back inside never really knowing what you just saw!! These days I am more of a mid-range lodge/permanent tent kinda girl, and there are a number to choose from depending on your budget. I just find a swim in the pool and a comfortable bed after a long day out animal spotting, makes for an all-round more pleasant trip.
Malawi is a hidden gem in Africa. It is still establishing itself as a major player in the tourism industry, but there is a lot on offer in this beautiful country. Lake Malawi is simply stunning, and offers visitors the opportunity for a safari and beach combo holiday, where the waters are crystal clear but the tourist numbers are low. The accommodation is rustic and and focuses on relaxation, allowing the opportunity to simply get away from it all. In recent years Malawi has also been making huge strides in their wildlife conservation efforts.There have been 3 key activities of importance. In 2017 four cheetahs were reintroduced to Liwonde National Park, making in the first time in nearly a century that they have roamed these plains. In November 2018 thirteen giraffe were famously released into Majete Wildlife Reserve in southern Malawi after a 2,500 km road-journey from South Africa! Finally in 2018 the Apex predator – was returned to Liwonde National Park. Nine magnificent breeding lions were successfully released with the aim of them developing into two separate prides.
Namibia really is one of those countries that again has something for everyone, and I feel should be on everyone’s bucket list. My first time here I spent just over 2 weeks in country and experienced more than I thought possible. Watching sunrise over the dunes at Sossusvlei, walking round the rim gasping at the views of Fish River Canyon, meeting a traditional Himba Tribe, getting an adrenaline rush in Swakopmund with multiple extreme sports to try, learning about bushmen and cave paintings at Spitzkoppe, taking in a unique Safari across the salt plains of Etosha, and simply looking up at night to some of the most unrivalled views of the stars anywhere in the world. Plus you can always practice your German language skills in some towns…..or perhaps your Bantu!! If not all of the above takes your fancy you can generally pick and choose the places to visit and vary the length of stay on personal preference, because private tours/safaris are typically affordable in Namibia – especially if you opt for a fantastic self-drive. Driving in Namibia is incredibly easy and enjoyable to do, and it allows you to pick and choose your own pace and route, whilst maintaining good value. I have done a couple of self-drives now, and even took my mum so can definitely confirm it’s the best way to travel!
Hands down for me the best wildlife encounter has to be Gorilla Trekking. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life sat crouching mere feet from a powerful Silverback, then quietly hacking our way further into the jungle to see a pregnant mother and young playful mountain gorilla causing havoc! It is such a privilege to be able to view these beautiful but unfortunately endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat, making their beds, eating their lunch and generally going about their day. You can do gorilla trekking in Uganda, Rwanda and DRC, but I wholeheartedly recommend Uganda because there is so much more to do in this beautiful green country, that is full of smiling locals, and you can easily make a 2 week holiday out of this destination. You can go hippo spotting on a Kazinga Channel Cruise, look out for the elusive tree climbing lions, go Chimpanzee or golden monkey trekking, take in a variety of game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park, relax in the outstanding surroundings of Lake Bunyoni or spend time exploring the bustling streets of a Kampala. If you choose to you can easily combine gorilla trekking with a beach stay in Zanzibar, or with a safari in the Masai Mara or Tanzania, as the East Africa visa that is now available makes multi-country trips much more viable. Up until recently I would have always recommended Rwanda as well where you can combine trekking with a fascinating tour of Kigali, learning about the genocide that took place in 1994 against the Tutsi people, or witnessing the amazing way the country has rebuilt itself in little over 20 years. However, I am now a bit sceptical of recommending tours to Rwanda. Right after opening up direct flights from Europe (London) to Kigali in 2017 the Rwandan government doubled the price of gorilla permits to $1500. The country effectively made the decision to focus on high end tourism, that attracts lower overall visitor numbers.