Many Americans can't wait to embark on their first African safari! However, visiting Africa does mean setting off into the unknown - which can be a bit intimidating.
But don't worry! Here are some top tips to bring first-time travelers to Africa up to speed so you can safely and confidently set off on your exciting new adventure!
What can I expect in Africa
Here’s a quick rundown in terms of safety, people, climate, and money.
African summers are mostly hot and wet, and the winters drier and often very cold. However, climates vary significantly from country to country.
For instance, South Africa’s Cape Province has a Mediterranean climate with cold and wet winters and dry, hot summers.
As regards clothing, don't overpack. By American standards, clothes are not expensive should you need to buy something. Instead leave lots of room in your bags for trinkets, gifts, and souvenirs!
Crime does occur in some areas in Africa, so you must be careful. The tourist areas are mostly safe, but wandering around on your own, especially at night, is not advisable.
Credit cards like Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. However, having cash on hand in the local currency is advisable, particularly in outlying areas. American Express is less commonly accepted, and traveler’s cheques are almost never accepted anymore.
However, ATM machines are widely available, and several African countries will take US dollars, but don’t leave this as your only option.
People and places
On the whole, Africa’s people are friendly, welcoming, and helpful, its scenery is beautiful and the animals amazing. And you don’t even have to pump your own gas, (or petrol, as you’ll find it called here)!
Many Americans are taken aback by the marked contrast between the upscale tourist areas and the poorer conditions many of the local peoples live in.
Deciding where to go
With so many marvelous destinations to choose from, this is tricky! To help you decide, we've listed some wonderful examples below of destinations offering you wildlife, culture, cuisine, and adventure.
1. Best African destinations for wildlife
Most Americans visit South Africa to see wildlife. The world-renowned Kruger Park sits high on the list of choice wildlife destinations. You are assured of a memorable vacation at one of the luxury Kruger National Park lodges visited by Americans.
Thanks to Jane Goodall's groundbreaking research, seeing the wild chimpanzees of Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park has featured on many wildlife bucket lists. It will be a wildlife experience you will treasure for the rest of your life.
2. Best African destinations for food
Justly famous, Morocco's world-class cuisine teems with subtly spiced flavors. You must try a savory lamb tagine served with couscous. Enjoy some zaalouk, a mouthwatering dish made with tomatoes, eggplants, garlic, spices and olive oil. Brave enough to try a steamed sheep’s head, seasoned with chili, cumin and salt? It is delicious!
Mozambique is world-famous for its wonderful food, particularly seafood. Try some grilled crayfish or prawns, or their iconic frango peri-peri chicken. Made from coconut milk, ground peanuts, garlic, and stewed cassava leaves, matapa is uniquely Mozambican. And you must try a delicious mafurra desert!
3. Best African destinations for adventure
Adventure seekers dare not miss out on Victoria Falls! Apart from the breathtaking beauty of the majestic Falls themselves, white water rafting, helicopter rides, and bungee jumping are on offer. And, if you dare, you can cage-dive with … CROCODILES!
Lake Malawi is really like an inland sea! It has the greatest diversity of freshwater fish anywhere in the world, and is a paradise for water enthusiasts. Snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, kitesurfing, and waterskiing are all available. Don't miss the Sunday party at Chikale beach!
4. Best African destinations for cultural experiences
Steeped in ancient history and culture, Egypt’s timeless pyramids, mastabas and the ancient ruins of Memphis, are a must for culture vultures. The Great Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza are among the Seven Wonders of the World.
Kenya has several World Heritage sites, including the ruins of a 13th-century Swahili town, and Fort Jesus, a 16th-century Portuguese fort on Mombasa Island. Koobi Fora is a 4.2-million-year-old paleontological site in Sibiloi National Park.
Check these off your travel prep list before setting off:
- To make better-informed decisions, invest in a good travel book about Africa.
- You can’t see all of Africa in one trip! Pick a few destinations off your bucket list to ensure you get the most out of them.
- Choose a reputable tour operator to advise you and make arrangements.
- Work out an itinerary that suits your budget and time schedule.
- Be sure to take out good travel insurance.
- Make sure if any of your destinations require Yellow Fever vaccinations or anti-malaria medications.
- Check out all visa requirements for destinations you intend to visit.
- Research the climate in the areas you intend visiting. Africa is a hot continent, but there are cold places as well.
In the mists of human history, Africa was home to us all! No wonder it calls so strongly to so many of us, and offers us such wonderful enrichment, adventures, and beauty.