Reasons why Africa should be on your bucket list

Early this year, I came across an article about the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism adding “curvy and sexy women” to the list of tourism products.

As someone has been to Uganda multiple times, I don’t deny that there are beautiful and well-endowed women in the East African country. However, should they be used to market the tourism industry of the East African nation? Isn’t that outright objectification of women?

‘Miss Curvy Uganda’

To give the initiative further impetus, the country’s tourism minister said a beauty pageant dubbed ‘Miss Curvy Uganda’ had been launched as part of his promotion to attract foreign visitors.

The contest’s organizer says the initiative was “designed to promote an appreciation of beauty in diversity.”

As would have been expected, there was outrage amongst the public and the political class, including cabinet ministers. There were calls for the pageant to be canceled. The president has said he will not allow young girls to expose their bodies.

Uganda’s Tourism Board distanced itself from the pageant, saying it will concentrate instead on promoting the country’s current attractions.

So, what are the real (and exciting) tourists’ attractions that can be found in Africa? I’ve rounded up some amazing attractions and activities in Africa that every tourist should have on their bucket list.

1. Amazing wildlife

Africa bucket list
Wildebeests can be found in the plains and acacia savannas of eastern Africa

One thing that probably pops up in people’s minds when they think of Africa is its remarkable wildlife. It is the home to the Big Five – the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo.

The term ‘Big Five’ refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. It was coined by big-game hunters. These animals can be found in 13 sub-Saharan African countries.

All the big five animals can be found in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (at 147 species).

Chobe National Park in Botswana is renowned for its large elephant population in Africa, estimated to be around 50,000.

If you’ve never seen the African penguin, then South Africa and Namibia are the places you’ll want to include in your itinerary. 

Wildebeest migration

This spectacle takes place between the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

The wildebeest migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” and also known as “The World Cup of Wildlife”, according to the  Maasai Mara reserve.

Gorilla trekking

Tourists have a chance to come close to one of man’s closest relatives – the mountain gorillas. These gentle giants are found in some of the remotest places in the beautiful continent of Africa. They can be found in the Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks in Uganda, as well as the Virunga National Park in DR Congo.

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is another favorite tourist destination for gorilla trekking.

Dining in the wild

Imagine having breakfast, lunch or dinner at the park? It has become a key component of many tour-package offers where you get to dine and wine in the wild.

Maasai Mara, Kruger, Serengeti and Aberdares (Kenya) are some of the many locations that will allow you have a meal in the wild.  

Feeding the animals

You can also feed the animals in a park setting in places like the Giraffe Manor and David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (both in Kenya), the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage in Zimbabwe, among other places.

2. Magnificent beaches

Africa bucket list

If you love relaxing by the ocean or under the shade of palm trees, then Africa is the go-to place that isn’t talked about enough. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea, the continent is a favorite for tourists who enjoy coastal settings.

One notable feature about the beaches is that they are very expansive and experience good weather most of the year. Africa is generally a tropical region and receives heavy rain only twice a year. March-May, and October-November. You’ll, therefore, enjoy the good weather.

Sailing

Other than basking on the beach, you can also enjoy sailing. You can go the traditional way using dhows, dugout canoes, rafts or simple wooden boats. Alternatively, you can go modern and enjoy yacht sailing, windsurfing, speedboats or travel by ferry from one region to another.

For instance, super-fast ferries ply between Zanzibar and Tanzania. During the trip, you may be lucky to see sharks, dolphins and other marine creatures.  

3. Remarkable physical features

When it comes to some of the outstanding physical features, Africa, without a doubt, is a force to reckon with. The continent has some of the largest and longest rivers in the world.

Water bodies

The Nile River and the Congo River pass through several countries. Africa is also home to the world’s second largest freshwater lake – Lake Victoria – which is shared amongst the East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The River Nile

Mountains

Mt Kilimanjaro, which stands at about 5900 meters above sea level, is the tallest ice-capped mountain in Africa, located in Tanzania.

Other mountains include Mt Kenya (5,199), the Ruwenzori ranges in Uganda, Table Mountain in South Africa, Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Besides viewing the mountains, you can also climb them if you are physically fit. 

4. Take safari walks (or marathons!)

Forget taking walks or jogging in the well-paved streets of New York. In Africa, you can run, jog or trek in the wild. Besides enjoying the cool fresh air and the beautiful scenery, you can spot many animals.

You will also get to learn about the flora and fauna. For instance, you can get to know how animals get drunk from the fruits of the Amarula tree.

Popular places for walking safaris include the South Laneway National Park in Zambia, the Maasai Mara, Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania and Kruger National Park.

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya hosts an annual marathon where participants run in the wildlife reserve. The unique thing about this marathon is that there are no physical barriers separating the runners from the wildlife. Security patrols of armed experienced rangers guard the course to ensure the safety of the runners.

This event is aimed to raise funds for numerous community development and wildlife conservation efforts; and attracts visitors from all over the world. 

5. Cultural diversity and hospitable people

One thing that makes the Africa holiday experience unique is the diverse cultures. Did you know that there are more than 3,000 tribes? With 1.2 billion people and 54 countries, you can expect to be immersed in an extraordinary experience.

Visiting the region gives you the chance to interact with the locals and also learn and understand their way of life. For instance, a visit to the East African region gives you the opportunity to mingle with the Maasai people who have preserved most of their cultural practices.

The Maasai in their traditional attire

6. Amazing cuisine

To many people, food plays a vital component in creating a memorable and fun experience fun and memorable. You don’t want to eat what you are used to. Instead, you want something completely new. Africa is certainly the destination that will fulfill your wish.

Meat lovers and vegans will find something that appeals to them. You can sample the famous injera dish from Ethiopia, kapenta in Zimbabwe, Matoke in Uganda, acheke from Côte d’Ivoire, chichinga from Ghana, among many others.

What’s a meal without something to down it with? South Africa, more specifically Cape Town, is a center for wines. You can take a tour of the many wineries and vineyards in the regions.

In each culture, you will find a local brew made from normal food ingredients such as pineapples, bananas, sugarcane, honey, and coconut.

7. Unique activities

  • In DR Congo, tourists have the chance to visit a town near Mt Nyiragongo that is fully built on hardened lava.
  • Victoria Falls in Zambia and the Bloukrans Bridge in South Africa have an awesome bungee jumping experience.
  • Shimoni caves in the Kenyan coast give you an opportunity to walk inside bat-filled dark caves that eventfully lead you to the shores of the Indian Ocean. 
  • You can opt to take desert-guided treks on the largest desert in the world, the Sahara desert.
  • Watamu and Malindi waters in Kenya give you a chance to swim with dolphins.

Whatever destination appeals to you, an Africa holiday experience should definitely be on your bucket list.

29 thoughts on “Reasons why Africa should be on your bucket list”

  1. Africa is definitely on my bucket list. Not only to see the Big 5 but to enjoy the wines of South Africa. As time is on my side I am not sure how long I should plan. Maybe 3 months to visit, hopefully, I can cover all that you have mentioned in that time.

    Reply
    • Yes, South African wines are the best! Using a reliable tour company, three months would be enough to cover most of the things I’ve listed here.

      Reply
  2. Great opening. Why would you need a curvy woman to attract people to any African country? Give me a curvy elephant trunk and I ‘d be happy. I have yet to visit this beautiful continent so thank you for your list and tips. It’s on my bucket list!

    Reply
  3. Africa has been on our bucket list for a few years now but it seems so daunting to plan. The experiences you list though are like no other so Africa has to rise to the top of our list soon. I had no idea about the beaches. I should have of course but never even thought of it.

    Reply
    • Hi Joanne. Yes, Africa has some beautiful beaches. The planning isn’t really daunting if you use a well-established tour firm, and plan your vacation preferably months in advance.

      Reply
  4. It’s one massive continent, isn’t it 😉 It’s a pity that I have only visited Zanzibar in Africa and it was gorgeous but there’s so much more I want to see. I definitely want to make it to Kilimanjaro (maybe even climb it) and watching the wildebeest migration in Serengeti or Masaai Mara is a dream! Also, to see the Big 5, maybe in Kruger. Oh, there’s so much I haven’t done and need to!

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  5. I can’t stop thinking about the pageant that you mentioned — Miss Curvy Uganda. I’m very conflicted, like you, about whether that’s a good draw for tourism. For many of the reasons you mentioned — wildlife, cultural diversity and unique activities — these are positive reasons that travelers should venture to Africa. I do not think that having curvy women on display is a good tourism draw. I think if fashion were a growing industry in Africa, this might be a different discussion.

    Reply
    • I was quite perplexed too by that choice of “tourism product”. There are so many tourist attractions in Africa, one can’t even tour half of them all in a single visit!

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  6. I’ve been to South Africa and Namibia and have been longing to go back for all of the reasons you mention. I would love to go to Botswana (and see the elephants), see the migration and visit the Maasai people. I think I could give Miss curvy Uganda a miss!

    Reply
  7. Africa is definitely on my bucket list. It is such a diverse continent, in terms of wildlife, culture and places to visit. The inclusion of women as “tourism products” by the Tourism Ministry was however appalling. I would have had second thoughts about visiting Africa if they went on with this.

    Reply
  8. This is something right on top of my bucket list and one hopefully I will tick off next year. There is so much on offer but the most exciting one without a doubt would be the migration of the wildebeests which you have suggested as well. The wildlife is the main reason for me but not forgetting the beautiful beaches of the Atlantic I must say. After chafing the wildlife relax on the beaches. Thanks fir sharing.

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  9. Am in total agreement , that Africa has way a lot going for it to attract tourists. Sad that they need to use women as tourist bait. Your list is great and completely on point , I was in Durban and managed to see the magnificient beaches. Also enjoyed the safari and last but not least the cuisine! Would love to go back to another part of Africa.

    Reply
    • May be you’d consider visiting East Africa next – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda are also quite popular with tourists. And yes, the cuisine is great!

      Reply
  10. I haven’t been to any regions of Africa that have these beautiful animals (only Morocco and the Canaries). I’m dying to go on a safari to be able to take in these extraordinary creatures in their natural habitats. The Big Five are on my list as well as others. South Africa, Namibia and Zambia are high up there. But there is one not on your list I want to see too (and admittedly, Africa isn’t the only place you can see them) but I want to go cage diving to see a Great White shark!

    Reply
    • How did I miss that! I haven’t done it yet, but I understand cage diving in South Africa is an unforgettable experience. South Africa, Namibia and Zambia are great picks for sighting wildlife in their natural habitat.

      Reply
  11. Thank you for writing this article and taking a stand against the irrational actions of the Ugandan Tourism Ministry at the very start. Additionally, this was a very informative article that will help us plan our visits. Dining in the wild seems like a lovely thing to do after spending a day gorilla trekking. The photographs really bring out the character of the place, absolutely loved the zebras 🙂

    Reply
    • The whole idea of listing women as tourism products doesn’t make any sense to me. Dining and wining in the wild is definitely a great idea. Let us know how your Africa trip goes when you finally cross it off your bucket list.

      Reply
  12. Wildlife followed by its cultural diversity is my two most important reasons to get to Africa. I so so want to get there and try my hand at spotting the big five. I would love to interact with those tribals too, understand their customs, rituals and traditions . I am sure I would find something unusual.

    Reply
    • Learning about the natives’ cultural practices is an interesting experience. With over 3,000 different tribes, Africa is definitely a center of cultural diversity. Spotting the Big 5 is a great experience. South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe are some of the countries where you can find these majestic animals.

      Reply
  13. Have always had a love affair with Africa — Kenya in particular — since spending time traveling and living in the country when I was in college. Therese recently visited Morocco and we are hoping to head back soon to explore the Atlas Mountains. Africa, once you have tasted it, worms its way into your soul in a way few other continents do.

    Reply
  14. Africa is definitely on my bucket list. I have always wanted to go especially to see the wildlife. I also know I would absolutely love the cuisine. I didn’t know there were vineyards there so that’s another huge plus for me!

    Reply
  15. That’s such a compelling set of reasons to return to Africa. There are so many things left to experience: a walking safari, more coastal adventures, understanding more of the culture and customs. I had no idea you could actually build on a solidified lava flow; I would love to see how that is feasible. And penguins. There has to be a trip to spot penguins.

    Reply
  16. Africa has endless wonders, yet many of us just include one or two destinations on our travel lists from this massive continent. For some reason, I never associate beaches with Africa…come to think of it, the coastline is huge.

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  17. You had me at “amazing wild life”. Wildlife photography is my passion, and I got to do a safari in Tanzania in 2016. It was absolutely the best trip I’ve ever taken – and all the wildlife we saw (and that I got to photograph) really made it an unbelievable experience.

    Reply

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