Already, the name “Africa” is synonymous with adventure.
One can’t embark on a true safari without an adventurous heart; a keenness to explore and experience new worlds, and to head out of your comfort zone to find something that really gets your heart-rate up.
With so many places to explore, and so many adrenaline-inflating experiences to be enjoyed in Africa, it might seem impossible to find the best ones. But we’ve travelled the continent far and wide (and with a serious degree of spirit), and come up with the top 10 African adventures that will undoubtedly add some spice to your next safari.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Close your eyes and picture yourself cantering alongside a loping herd of giraffe while the reddening sun sinks behind the palms, casting a reflection across the flooded plains of the Okavango Delta. On jeep safaris, the engine’s hum creates an inevitable disconnect from the wildlife. However, approach by horse and you become part of the scenery, giving you an unrivalled insight into habits of the animals. Sit back in your saddle and allow the bathing elephants and nonchalantly grazing antelope to mesmerise you.
South Luangwa, Zambia
Tread carefully as you progress across the plains, with thrilling uncertainty at what may be lurking behind each and every bush. A walking safari in the South Luangwa is the best way to get up close and personal with the wildlife, and expert guides will reveal the often-overlooked smaller details: a dung beetle skilfully rolling its vast burden, a praying mantis poised patiently on a twig, or how to discern a big cat’s age from the size and spread of their tracks. Many operators provide mobile tented camps so you can eat and sleep in the heart of the park too, serenaded by nature’s varied night song.
Africa’s highest mountain is certainly no walk in the park and is high up on the African adventures list. With its equatorial position and permanent snow-cap, summiting the dormant volcano is not for the faint of heart. Several days of hard-fought hiking carries you away from the plains below, landing you at 5,895 metres above sea level – just in time to take in the most spectacular sunrise you’re ever likely to witness. Hundreds of kilometres of flat savannah, shimmering silver in the slanting morning light, stretch away from your feet and add to the dizzying high of having conquered perhaps the most handsome of the ‘Seven Summits.’
Skeleton Coast, Namibia
There’s nowhere on Earth quite like the Skeleton Coast: a ghostly stretch of deserted beach backed by wind-rippled dunes, the listing hulks of ancient whaling ships decaying forlornly in the sand and the sun-bleached bones of their prey semi-buried beside them. The best way to grasp the true scale of the landscape is undoubtedly with a bird’s-eye view. After flying over the coast, a jeep ride inland is an unmissable opportunity to visit the impossibly photogenic Himba tribe, track herds of desert elephant, and perhaps even spot an endangered black rhino.
Take Africa’s largest lake, pull the plug, and watch as millions of tonnes of water sluice through… That plughole is Jinja in Uganda where Lake Victoria’s contents spill out, forming the Nile and some of the world’s most spectacular rapids. Hurtle down a broiling field of spray, being flung from side to side at the mercy of age old currents, and cling on, heart in mouth, as the raft’s nose rides abruptly over a curling crest – and all this with only helmet and paddle for protection. Rafting may seem frankly ludicrous to some. However, if you’re going to do it, do it in style!
Clipping over white-crested waves on a traditional dhow boat is a novel and thrilling way to travel. But even more so when that journey includes kayak trips in pristine mangrove forests and snorkelling in ethereal turquoise waters. After a long day exploring the uninhabited islands and sun-bleached beaches, lie back and gaze at peerless starscapes, drink in hand, whilst a crew member cooks freshly-caught fish on an open fire. Home to rare bird- and marine-life, Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago is one of the last undeveloped jewels on Africa’s coast.
On the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, the Mahale Mountains National Park resonates with the evocative sounds of its residents: the 900-plus chimpanzee. A whoop from the treetops, followed by another and then a deeper, throatier shout, taken up by several more increasingly excited voices; then comes a crashing in the branches as the troupe starts moving. Ranked amongst Africa’s foremost wildlife destinations, a trip to the Mahale Mountains to see the chimps and trek through the rainforest is a true once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
South Luangwa, Zambia
There’s something about sleeping under the stars that’s utterly magical. And a sleep-out safari in the South Luangwa isn’t any old camping safari! You’ll be spoilt with dinner cooked over the campfire, soak up safari tales told by some of the greatest guides on the continent, then curl up under your mosquito net and nod off to the sounds of the Zambian night. The following morning, it’s bacon and eggs with the sunrise and a walking safari back to camp.
Mana Pools, Zimbabwe
After the rains come, the lower stretch of the Zambezi branches out onto the flood plains of Northern Zimbabwe creating a series of pools and meandering oxbow lakes. This natural waterpark is a haven and a canoe safari is the best way to explore this seasonal gathering, bringing you much closer to the animals than possible on the land. Sit safely just a few yards from an unhurried pride of lions lapping at the water’s edge, and revel in the circus tricks of the Mana Pools elephants who stand up on their hind legs to reach the juicier leaves on the higher branches.
Mount Nyiragongo, DRC
It seems justified that the world’s largest lava lake is not easily accessible. However, with the re-opening of Virunga National Park it can now be reached by those determined to make the journey. Standing at 3,470 metres in rarely-visited DRC, Mount Nyiragongo looks out across the Rwandan border to Lake Kivu. The hike to the rim takes six hours and there are huts for overnight stays at the top, where outside temperatures regularly drop below freezing. The tropical forests on the lower slopes are home to chimpanzees, various monkeys and bushbuck.