One of my all time travel highlights was when I spent 40 days travelling from Cape Town, South Africa to Nairobi, Kenya on a group tour with GAdventures. Having been lucky enough to experience this incredible continent (well the part of Africa commonly known as ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ anyway) and just some of what it has to offer, I want to share with you why it’s so great and why Africa should be on your travel bucket list.
1 – The experience
So why did I choose to go to Africa? Well, mainly I thought that it would be an experience like no other, that would test me and push me out of my comfort zone. I also wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t on your normal travellers route, and I knew that travelling and camping in Africa I could see and experience things that you just can’t in any other continent in the world. From the moment I landed in Cape Town, looked out of the window and saw Table Mountain in all its splendour, it was just one amazing experience after another. Travelling through Africa by land, crossing borders, often camping out under the stars amongst nature, encountering wildlife, meeting different people’s from different cultures, it really evoked that sense of adventure and journey we all long for in travel.
2 – The landscapes
When I travelled trough Africa we drove over 10,000 miles through 7 countries, camping in all sorts of environments. I’ve never been somewhere that has landscapes as grand or impressive… The sheer size of it when you drive long distances through it is unbelievable, and the things you see!
In just 40 days I saw Table Mountain, Victoria Falls, Fish River Canyon (second in size only to the Grand Canyon), the Ngorongoro crater, the Namib Desert, Lake Malawi, the Serengeti (think the exact landscape of the Lion King), the granite formations of Spitzkoppe and the white beaches of Zanzibar. The diversity in this incredible continent really is something to behold.
3 – The wildlife
Now when people visit Africa, it will often be for Safari, and a lot of the experience will be from a vehicle, driving around to try and see wildlife. This is great and we did this for some of our trip, which allowed us to see some breathtaking animals and wildlife. But the real experience with wildlife in Africa, is when we did the ‘wild camping’. This is camping out in national parks with no fences or anything to separate you and nature, just your tent. This might sound terrifying but actually as long as you’re sensible and respect nature, you’ll be fine. Yes you may get elephants and hippos walking through the campsite at night around your tents, but they just see the tents as normal objects and as long as you keep an eye out for animals they won’t bother you.
During my time camping in Africa we: found lions less than 100 metres from our tents, ‘slept’ to the chorus of hyenas in the Serengeti, found a scorpion under my tent, had buffalo blocking the entrance to the toilet block, and chased cheeky monkeys away from our tents and food numerous times (they soon lose their cuteness!). There really is nothing better than being immersed in a national park with wildlife in its natural environment.
4 – The people
From the smiling faces of the villagers we met in Malawi, to the incredible wardens in national parks who are so passionate about sharing their knowledge and preserving the wildlife, to the school teacher voluntarily running her own school in a room not much bigger than most of our bathrooms, just so she can give kids a chance at a better life.
It really puts things in perspective when you see people who have barely anything giving the little they have to help others. Not to mention our South African guides, who have such passion about nature and sharing African culture with us. It’s really inspiring to see people who genuinely care so much about their country and neighbouring countries.
5 – It will test you and you’ll come out better for it
If you’re travelling, it’s always good to try to do some things that push you out of your comfort zone and test you a bit. Africa will do that, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it. I didn’t want to get sick, eaten by a lion, or catch malaria. As we were camping a lot of the time, this means we all had to pitch in cooking, cleaning, loading bags, washing, setting up camp etc etc. Often it’s also very hot (as you might be able to guess above), it is Africa. Some days you’ll have times where it rains… You may camp in storms where there is more rain, thunder and lightning than you’ve ever experienced. Or you’ll camp some places where the only toilet is a hole dug in the ground that day, where you have to go in pairs because of hyenas. Oh and I didn’t mention the amount of jabs you’ll need to get as malaria, cholera, and rabies etc are not to be taken lightly…
I’m not actually trying to put you off here, I’m more saying that Africa is a country that has its challenges for a comfy western traveller. It will test you and push you out of your comfort zone. But that’s part of why you should go, once you’re there you realise it’s not all that bad. You’re with a group of people and being guided by locals and experts who know their stuff and are proud about their country, and it makes you appreciate what you have back home all the more.
Summary – Why Africa should be on your travel bucket list
Without a doubt, the place I’ve travelled where I’ve learnt the most about myself is Africa. I saw and experienced so many incredible things over a very short period of time and feel incredibly lucky to have done so. I only scratched the surface of what this continent has to offer and my mind was blown, so if you’re looking for your next destination that isn’t on most people’s radar, travel through Africa.
If you’re interested in reading more about my time in Africa then check out my other posts on my time there below:
Also thanks and credit to Anna-Katri from Adalmina’s Adventures, one of my fellow travellers on this trip, for taking the picture of me used as the main picture in this post
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