The Wilds of Africa
The Wilds of Africa
By Scott Dicken
Debunking the Common Myths of African Travel
As a result of my love for all things Africa, I often get readers of the Take Photos Leave Footprints website asking me questions as they decide whether Africa is the right vacation destination for them. Some of the most common misperceptions prevent would be holiday makers from enjoying the enormous diversity of cultures, wildlife, history, climates and scenery the African continent has to offer.
So, put on your boots and roll out your map – we’re going myth-busting!
The Only Reason to Go to Africa is for the Wildlife, Right?
“Exploring Botswana’s Okavango Delta”
African wildlife is undoubtedly a massive attraction; especially if you’re a first-time visitor, but Africa is about so much more than just its wildlife. For one, the diversity of cultures spanning 54 countries and over 2,000 languages. A trip to Africa could have you exploring everything from North Africa’s souks and spice markets to the Maasai tribal villages of Kenya and the fishermen of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. If you’re planning a trip to West Africa, then you can look forward to an exciting introduction to Voodoo tradition, while in South Africa you’ll get to enjoy the country’s renowned viniculture. Still not enough? Africa is also packed full of sites of historical significance. The little-known El Jem Roman amphitheater in Tunisia rivals Rome’s Colosseum. Giza’s Great Pyramid in Egypt is the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing. The subterranean rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia are a historic site of pilgrimage for Coptic Christians. The list of reasons to visit this great continent are endless!
Wildlife Viewing in Africa is all About the Big-5!
“Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda”
The Big-5 (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Buffalo) represent the most sought-after of Africa’s safari wildlife, but to focus solely on the Big-5 is to ignore some truly once-in-a-lifetime wildlife opportunities. Having had the opportunity to observe gorillas in the wild after hours of carving a path through the jungles of Rwanda with a machete, I can attest to just how life-changing some of Africa’s wildlife experiences are. But not all the continent’s animal encounters are quite so arduous. It can be just as rewarding to picnic alongside the ever-inquisitive penguin colony on Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa or to scuba dive with whale sharks in Mozambique. One thing is certain, the opportunities for unique wildlife experiences will have you coming back for much more than just the Big-5.
Africa is all Open Plains and Savannah as Far as the Eye Can See…Doesn’t That Get Boring?
“The Sand Dunes of Deadvlei, Namibia”
Africa is more geologically and scenically diverse than most people imagine. My travels in Africa have seen me climb the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro; the highest free-standing mountain in the world. I’ve also sand boarded down some of the tallest dunes in the world in Namibia and white-water rafted down the Nile in Uganda. If relaxation is more your scene, then I highly recommend the coastal beach towns of Kenya, which have been consistently rated as some of the most scenic beaches in Africa. Alternatively, you could marvel at the scale of Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe – one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Boredom should be the last thing on your mind when you think about Africa’s scenery!
Is Africa a Dangerous and Unstable Place to Travel?
“Sunset Over Lake Malawi – One of Africa’s Most Peaceful Countries”
As with anywhere as large as the continent of Africa, there is the possibility of instability and the potential for danger. However, on 99.9% of my travels across Africa, I’ve never had a single problem; and I’ve traveled to what could be described as significantly unstable regions. Most tourist destinations in Africa are no more dangerous than Washington, DC and friendly to international visitors. In fact, the only country in Africa where I have, on two occasions, felt unsafe was in South Africa; which is ironically one of the first tourist destinations on most traveler itineraries. Do a little research in advance so you know which areas are safe and which to avoid. Broadly speaking, opportunistic petty theft is more the norm for most tourist destinations. Exercise common sense and don’t flaunt your wealth – much like anywhere else in the world!
If I go to Africa I’m Bound to Catch [Insert Tropical Illness/Disease]!
Africa is indeed home to some gnarly diseases, and the Ebola virus has done little to promote tourism, despite it being confined to a tiny handful of Africa’s 54 countries. However, in over 50 visits to Africa, I have never caught anything (although by making that statement I’ve now tempted fate). My simple advice is to make sure that you visit a travel clinic as far in advance of your trip as possible. That way you can plan your vaccinations and medications schedule and budget – which can be high if it’s your first visit. You should also make sure that you understand the medical facilities and capabilities available to you before you travel, particularly if you suffer from any medical conditions or are travelling with small children. Western style medicine and advanced medications may not always be easily or quickly accessible outside of major cities, and certainly may not be available at the quality level you may be accustomed to. Simply have a contingency plan in place if you have any concerns, and regardless of whether you’re going off the beaten track, ensure you have a good medical evacuation insurance provider as a precaution.
If you’re considering an African vacation and have any questions or are looking for more information, then make sure to check out http://www.takephotosleavefootprints.com.
“Tracking Lions in Zambia”
About the Author: Born in the UK, Scott has lived in the DC area on and off for the last 15 years. He is the writer, photographer, and owner of the travel website, TakePhotosLeaveFootprints.com where he shares his passion for global travel through destination guides, travel hacks and photography tips.