As the second-largest continent on the planet, harboring more than 50 different countries as well as an amazing variety of cultures, landscapes and wildlife, Africa is full of surprises.
Africa is huge. The continent stretches from the Mediterranean in the north, narrows at the equator and tapers down in the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere. The often spectacular scenery includes the Sahara Desert, soaring sand dunes in Namibia, mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, and the rainforests of the Congo river basin.
Don’t forget Madagascar, the Seychelles and Mauritius either, three jewels in the crown of the Indian Ocean.
Mixed in among these landscapes are animal species and peoples as varied as the terrain.
In Northern Africa, the idyllic Mediterranean beaches of Tunisia and Algeria, along with the Red Sea in Egypt, entice sunbathers and scuba divers. The Atlas Mountains in Morocco attract avid hikers, while history lovers flock to the Egyptian pyramids and museums.
Although Africa is the birthplace of civilization, it’s still a wild continent at heart. Visitors from all over the globe flock here for wildlife safaris to see “the Big 5” in their natural habitat.
Good places to start are South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. For cultural experiences with local tribes, opt for the Masai Mara and Serengeti regions of Kenya and Tanzania. Here, massive nature reserves allow for the free movement and protection of an incredible array of wild animals. As lions hunt zebra and wildebeest and leopards chase gazelles, elephants and giraffes can be seen grazing nearby. Cape buffalos roam and hippos wallow as crocodiles lie in wait for an unsuspecting meal.
If it’s your dream to spot a gorilla in the jungle, then Uganda is the place to be. Or, get off the beaten path to visit the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali and the rock-carved churches in Ethiopia.
Looking for some creature comforts? In South Africa the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town with its surfing beaches and its nearby verdant wine region serves up a modern and easy-going slice of African life.
It’s true that the rest of Africa doesn’t share its charms as easily. Touring this continent can be slow, challenging and a shock to your senses. But what you see and experience, what you will feel and remember, is something that can be found nowhere else on Earth, but in Africa.