A remote and expansive slice of East Africa, Tanzania's Selous is larger than Switzerland, dwarfing its Serengeti counterpart yet receiving far fewer visitors. Animals far outnumber tourists here and the reserve’s geographical location means both Southern and Eastern African game roam its grasslands, lured to the peaceful waters of its rivers and lakes where elephants and hippos bathe.
Measuring in at just one square kilometre of eastern Ethiopia, Harar is a walled citadel packed to bursting with colourful mosques and labyrinthine alleyways dating back hundreds of years. Islam’s fourth holiest city, it is an intriguing place of elegant Islamic architecture and ancient markets, which have done very little in the way of changing as time has ticked on.
You don’t instantly pair Africa’s vast terrains with two wheels, but Morocco’s combination of mountains and desert dirt roads make it a playground for mountain bikers and thanks to a better network and tarmacking, road cycling there is on the up. Cycling safaris are now a thing in Kenya too, increasing the chances of an up-close wildlife experience and covering more ground than you can on two feet.
A series of five “museums” across Namibia, these fantastic culture centres are where indigenous San, Mafwe, Kavango and Damara communities recreate traditional villages. You can learn how to hunt, fish, dance and weave with the locals using age-old methods, plus the tours and lessons contribute to local incomes and community projects, so your money is reinvested wisely.
Originating in the highlands of Angola and shaped over thousands of years, the Okavango Delta is a waterhole of epic proportions that floods life into Botswana. Flowing through sands, swamps and forested islands, the Delta is a lifeline for huge herds of elephant, plus 121 other mammals including lions, antelope, buffalo. Over 440 species of bird also flock there to fish, nest and breed.
Synonymous with one of wildlife’s greatest annual spectacles and indigenous Maasai tribes, the Mara stages the most nail-biting section of the Great Migration from Jun-Oct, when some two million wildebeest and zebra each attempt to survive the risky Mara River crossing – packed with Nile crocodiles. The surrounding Maasai conservancies give you the opportunity to bushwalk with the fascinating local people.
The biggest and most powerful of the great apes, when viewing a gorilla you are only granted a one hour sitting with them, certainly In Uganda and Rwanda, where primate permits are like gold dust. During this hour though, you’re able to get very close to this fascinating creature, an experience that will leave you with a profound understanding of what it means to be a part of the primate family.
Whether it’s through hiring a local guide – the people with the most accurate and enthusiastic knowledge about their country; staying at a Maasai-owned camp in Kenya; sampling street food in South Africa; or learning the history and taboos of ‘fady’ in Madagascar, getting under the skin of African culture doesn’t just mean taking a tour; the options are as endless as they are enriching.
A particularly nasty hunting practice, canned hunting is a prevalent problem in South Africa. Organisers breed lions to be sold on to canned hunting farms – tourist facilities where the rich can come in, shoot themselves a lion, and keep the pelt and an offensive picture as a souvenir. It’s an expensive, distasteful and disgusting way to guarantee a dead lion.
As tempting as it may sound to choose your feather count from a comfort menu, by staying in a super luxury lodge in Africa (we’re talking gold taps and grand pianos…), all you’re doing is cutting yourself off from what is really special about your surroundings. You’ll have a far more memorable experience if you swap your flatscreen TV for a spectacular sweeping view across the open wilderness.
There’s no denying Nosy Be is a beautiful tropical island – it’s widely considered the ‘capital’ of Madagascan vacations, but its jumble of all-inclusive resorts, expensive yacht trips and flashy restaurants have little or no local identity. Step away from your sun lounger and branch out and you’ll get to know the landscapes, cuisine and local culture that make this country so enriched.
Off-the-beaten-track Tunisia can be staggeringly beautiful and its reinvented dars and vibrant souks are pretty cool too. However, so much of Tunisia is packed with all-inclusive resorts that many people going wouldn’t know a Berber village or an ancient medina if it jumped up and bit them – the resort beaches are a sea of plastic loungers so thick you can barely lay a beach towel. Not fun.