Africa, oh. The land of the oldest literate civilizations, of the Great Migration, of undamaged grandeur of nature and ancient cities; the Mother Continent. It gave us the dream of white sand beaches, the adventures of game parks, a wild love for its wildlife and a fascination of its myriad cultures. It boasts of the world’s longest river, the world’s largest hot desert and the world’s tallest and largest land animals.
This vastly resourceful and much unexplored region is home to some truly beautiful sites, and not on the usual tourist map. African tourism industries do not rake in the billions they very much deserve, as would be vouched for by the travelers whose souls have been touched by the billion-year-old continent. The only geographical knowledge that most (Indian) tourists have about Africa is South Africa, Egypt and Kenya (usually it’s only the former!).
Hidden under vast political systems and stereotypical results of world surveys, there lie cities that are an explosion of culture, colour and a wonder that is unique to them, bonus points added for some of the world’s gems of nature that are found there.
Looking to go off the map this time? These little-visited countries are just the way to head to!
This small land-bound country, completely surrounded by South Africa, has a lot of bounty to its name. High passes and mountains, landscapes typical of the continent and a warm and friendly people make Lesotho a delight to visit. Africa’s second largest dam and an engineering marvel, the Katse Dam is situated in the beautiful Maloti Mountains, and winter sports lovers will find their adventures in the latter. The road to Katse makes through the highest pass in the country, the whizzing, dizzying and breathtaking Mafika Lisiu Pass, a must drive for all road trip junkies (novices, this one isn’t for you!).
Another must-see is the Maletsunyane Falls, a 192-metre high, single drop waterfall, reachable from the Semonkong Lake by a picturesque trek. And, to have a truly African experience, the Gates of Paradise Pass offers a view of a stunning landscape surrounded by valleys and mountains.
Zambia, on the Southern side, is a lesser known gem of the continent. It is home to bountiful national parks, great hotspots of nature, stunning views – and it shares the grand Victoria Falls with neighbouring Zimbabwe. The plunging waters of the Zambezi River are an unmissable sight, and national parks on both sides of the border prove to be great destinations. The Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side offers great views of fauna moving through the different channels of the river through safari rides and camping trips. Animal lovers will enjoy the Mosi oa Tunya National Park and Mukuni Safaris, as the former has a Rhino Walk bringing you up close to the docile giant, and the latter gives you a chance to play with cute little cheetah and lion cubs.
Adventure enthusiasts will love a gorgeous swim up to the Victoria Falls, to a place called the Devil’s Pool. A good hike, a scenic walk and some beautiful views are promised! And those just looking for a relaxing holiday, head to the Kapishya Hot Springs for great food, great camping sites and soothing hot springs to cool off in.
Land of mountains and mystery, Ethiopia, found on the horn of Africa, is a beauty to see. Its gorgeous mountain range can be gazed upon from the Simien Mountains National Park. A must-have on the list, it offers a scenic trek, stunning views and a vast and breathtaking landscape. To a contrast is the Danakil Depression, a great hot desert that houses salt fields, an active volcano with a boiling, spitting lava lake named Erta Ale, and a colourful hot spring crater at Dallol, which is the northern most extension of the Great Rift Valley. They are an unimaginable sight that must be seen to be believed beautiful.
Lovers of unique architecture will enjoy a trip to the site of the rock-hewn churches in Lalibela. Carved into the side of a cliff by hand, it has great historic value and promises a magnificent view. And, for a culture lesson, make for the Omo National Park. Remote, beautiful and wild, the time spent with the tribes and camping under the night sky will certainly be unforgettable.
Mozambique, South Africa
This beautiful country along the South-eastern coast of Africa packs in a whole lot of nature’s endowments. The Bazaruto National Park covers the six islands off its coast and the huge expanse of ocean they are present in, giving visitors some gorgeous views. The wildlife sightings and fun activities like diving and snorkeling at the Two Mile Reef give off an adventurous feel. In a different direction goes the Gorongosa National Park, offering game rides into the bush, walking trips and camps. Bringing you closer to nature, it makes for a hospitable and much memorable safari.
Fort Sao Sebastiao is great for history buffs. It gives a nice insight into Portuguese architecture and its ways of the military, with the top of the fort being a good viewing place of the beautiful coastline.
Ghana of Western Africa is a peaceful country hiding a great many pieces of beauty, culture and history. The Kakum National Park is the perfect place for anyone wanting to feel the beautiful proximity of nature. A long canopy walk on narrow wooden bridges offers a great view of a chunk of the great biodiversity of the country. The Wli Waterfalls is a beautiful, relaxing must-do. The lower falls are easy to hike to, while the upper falls are for the fitter of the folk. The view is of the surrounding mountains, and one can even take a dip in the waters.
Two places are should not be missed are the castles of Elmina and Cape Coast. The invading Britishers held their slaves captive here, which tell an honest and heart-rending story of human brutality. These old, beautiful castles overlook the ocean and are surrounded by fishing villages.
For a typical, local African experience, the Makola Market is a fun visit. It bustles with activity and is a good way to interact with the Ghanians, while also shopping for some beautifully colourful local handloom crafts!
Africa is an old soul, and the time for new explorations has come. It’s time to book your Diwali vacations, travelers!