Africa – Endless horizons

Africa’s natural history alone makes a dozen visits worthwhile – where else on earth can you fall asleep to the sound of lions roaring, or watch a million flamingos take off from the waters of a remote soda lake? Parts of Africa boast spectacular scenery, but the essence of this incredible continent is not in any desert, mountain or lake. It is the spirit of the people.

Debate with venerable merchants among the cool, narrow streets of an Arabic medina, dance to the thumping reggae beats coming from a West African market stall, or shoot the breeze with fishermen under Indian Ocean palm trees, and you will be struck more than anything else by the honesty, warm-heartedness and vitality of the African people. Africa is a fantastic, enlightening, surprising and intriguing continent. Here are the best places to visit:

Congo: Rich in natural resources, the Republic of the Congo is banking on sustainable tourism to keep its vast swaths of forest—prime habitat for western lowland gorillas—from being exploited. Lodgings in the three million- acre Odzala-Kokoua National Park are solar-powered tents on platforms nine feet off the ground to allow wildlife to roam. Keep your eyes peeled for forest elephants, elusive antelopes, and 13 primate species.

Madagascar: Lemurs, found nowhere else in the wild, are the star attraction here. But the 1,000-milelong island off southeast Africa teems with flora and fauna—80 percent of its species are endemic, leading some to dub it the eighth continent—and is host to idyllic beaches and hospitable Madagascans. Travellers start off at Sakatia Island, where they snorkel or take it slow to the markets of Antananarivo.

Mozambique: The southern African nation beckons with its coastline and swaying palms, its traditions, its cultures, its vibe and its opportunities for adventure. This enigmatic southeast African country is well off most travellers’ maps, but it has much to offer those who venture here: long, dune-fringed beaches, turquoise waters abounding in shoals of colourful fish, well-preserved corals, remote archipelagos in the north, pounding surf in the south and graceful dhows with billowing sails. Add to this colonial-style architecture, pulsating nightlife, a fascinating cultural mix and vast tracts of bush. Discovering these attractions is not always easy, but it is unfailingly rewarding.

Namibia: Towering dunescapes have long been this southern African country’s calling card; this epic adventure brings you there— trekking safaris take you through NamibRand Nature Reserve, where travellers can sleep on dune cots. In addition, track leopards and cheetahs with Africat Foundation researchers at Okonjima; scout rhinos in Etosha National Park’s newly opened western reaches; hike amid the prehistoric rock art of Twyfelfontein, a World Heritage site; visit a remote Himba village; and kayak among seals and dolphins in Walvis Bay.

Zambia: Blessed with awe-inspiring natural wonders, an abundance of wildlife, huge water bodies and vast open spaces, Zambia offers unforgettable holidays exploring the real Africa. Acknowledged as one of the safest countries in the world to visit, Zambia’s welcoming people live in peace and harmony. And here, in the warm heart of Africa, you will find some of the finest Safari experiences on the planet, including face to face encounters with Nature at its most wild.

Spectacular waterways provide adrenaline-thrills or a leisurely playground of activities for all ages. Seventeen magnificent waterfalls, apart from the spectacular Victoria Falls, provide ‘cascade followers’ an adventure into the remote undeveloped rural areas where a taste of village life can be experienced.

Uganda: Featuring an incredible array of landscapes that range from snowcapped Mountains of the Moon and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to the semi-desert northeast and water-spangled lake district. Queen Elizabeth National Park nurtures healthy populations of elephant, lion, hippo and other large mammals, and is a major stop on the migratory bird route up the Great Rift Valley. Home to 13 different primate species, Kibale National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see chimpanzees in the wild. Murchison Falls National Park is flush with hippo, crocodile and other animals that live in or near the water. However, the holy grail of Uganda wildlife watching is Bwindi Forest, where roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas reside.

Urban Uganda has its own attractions. Entebbe is renowned for its popular weekend beach clubs, like a little slice of the Caribbean on the shores of Lake Victoria. Kampala’s sights range from the recently rebuilt royal tombs to a humungous mosque built by Libyan strongman Moammer Gadhafi and the ghoulish torture chamber of Idi Amin on the grounds of Lubiri Palace.

Uganda has also become an adventure sports hub where tourists can board surf down rapids, whoosh down rivers on jetboats and organize sports fishing trips to catch the river monster of central Africa – Nile perch that can grow up to 200 kilograms.

Senegal: Perched on the tip of a peninsula, Dakar, the capital, is a dizzying, street-hustler-rich introduction to the country: elegance meets chaos, snarling traffic, vibrant markets and glittering nightlife, while nearby Île de Gorée and the beaches of Yoff and N’Gor tap to slow, lazy beats.

In northern Senegal, the enigmatic capital of Saint-Louis, a Unesco World Heritage Site, tempts with colonial architecture and proximity to scenic national parks. Along the Petite Côte and Cap Skirring, wide strips of beaches beckon and the wide deltas of the Casamance invite mesmerizing boat journeys amid astounding biodiversity, including hundreds of bird species.

The country is famed for its deep-sea fishing, blue marlin, sailfish, and swordfish are found in abundance off the country’s 700km coastline lined with golden beaches and scores of hotels and luxury residences.