June 14

35 African Experiences You Need to Have Before You Die

June 14, 2016

There is something mystical about Africa. Its grand scale, epic landscapes, and magnificent animals are the usual catalysts for this feeling. But there is something more, something intangible which can spark this intoxicating feeling. As Karen Blixen wrote, “There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”

Africa is the continent which makes you feel most alive. And these are its most exhilarating experiences…

  1. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

    Memorable experiences await at Kilimanjaro
    Image credit: Bednarek

    It will take you between five and nine days to scale the 5,895 metres of Kilimanjaro. If you would like to see the famous snows of Kilimanjaro, go sooner rather than later as they are slowly disappearing.

  2. Chill out with a chimpanzee in Mahale National Park
    Chimpanzee experiences in Mahale National Park in Tanzania
    Image credit: Mahale National Park

    Chimpanzees share 98 percent of our genetic blueprint. Spend time with these incredible animals in Tanzania’s Mahale National Park and marvel at their facial expressions, gestures and use of tools.

  3. Ride in a mokoro through the Okavango Delta Mokoro trip experiences through reeds in the Okavango Delta

    On a mokoro, there is no noisy engine to disturb the peace. Instead, you’ll glide silently through the world’s most beautiful wetland in the midst of elephants, crocodiles, hippos and more.

  4. Climb some of the world’s tallest dunes at SossusvleiSossusvlei Dunes await

    Sossusvlei is the top destination in Namibia with monumental dunes up to 325 metres when measured from the base. These star-shaped dunes are a sought-after subject for artists and photographers.

  5. Get in Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls

    Devils Pool in Victoria Falls
    Image credit: Joe Pyrek

    This seasonal pool on the cusp of Victoria Falls is goose-bump-inducing just by looking at it. Swim out to this pool between August and September.

  6. Visit the gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable ForestMother gorilla with her tiny baby

    Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is home to the endangered mountain gorillas, and is considered one of the best places in the world to come face-to-face with these magnificent animals.

  7. Spend a day in the Ngorongoro CraterPanoramic view of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

    Africa’s real life Garden of Eden, the Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact caldera and the closest thing you can get to the real-life version of the Lion King.

  8. Spend a night on a sleep out platform

    Sleep out deck experiences with lanterns in Africa
    Image credit: Makanyane Sanctuary

    Sleeping under the stars on a deck above prowling predators is one Africa’s greatest thrills.

  9. Leopard spotting in the Kruger National Park

    Leopard walks across path in front of safari vehicle
    Image credit: andBeyond Kirkman’s Camp

    Nocturnal, stealthy and famously elusive, leopards are a real challenge to find in the wild. Visit the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park to increase your odds.

  10. Whale watching in HermanusWatching a whale breaching

    Hermanus is a town near Cape Town in South Africa that is considered one of the best places in the world to see whales. Between June and November, whales frolic just offshore while visitors sip coffees and admire them from the cliff tops above.

  11. Have a glass of pinotage in Stellenbosch

    View of Stellenbosch wine region and Simonsberg Mountain
    Image credit: Delaire Graff

    Pinotage is a red wine grape that is South Africa’s signature variety. Visit Stellenbosch, the spiritual home of wine in South Africa, to taste the best.

  12. Explore the deserted town of KolmanskopSand in buried house in Kolmanskop, Namibia

    Kolmanskop in Namibia is a deserted mining town that has slowly been reclaimed by sand. This is a popular stop due to the haunting scenes that can be captured.

  13. Go in search of the lemurs of Madagascar
    A group of ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar
    Image credit: Glenn Weston

    The oldest island in the world is like nowhere else, and its animals are like nothing else too. Lemurs are the perfect example of this, unique and charming, these furry creatures are one of Africa’s most enthralling animals.

  14. Track wild dogs in Northern BotswanaWild dogs on the hunt in Botswana

    Packs of wild dogs can run distances of 50km a day, so it will be tough to keep up with this ‘ultimate predator’ in Botswana, but to find these social creatures in their natural habitat is a true delight.

  15. Catch a ride on the world’s most luxurious train, Rovos Rail

    Train going over mountain pass
    Image credit: Rovos Rail

    Recapture the romance and atmosphere of a bygone era while you sip on fine wines, dine on excellent cuisine and travel through the African wilderness. Popular stops are Namibia, Cape Town and Victoria Falls.

  16. Visit the historic Robben IslandRobben Island from an aerial view with Table Mountain

    One of the world’s great icons, Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in jail on Robben Island. Visit the cell where he would write the beginnings of his memoir, Long Walk To Freedom.

  17. Go on a micro-light flight above Victoria Falls

    Microlight flight above Victoria Falls
    Image credit: Batoka Sky

    David Livingstone described Victoria Falls as, ‘scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.’ Find out what he was talking about with a micro-light flight.

  18. Explore Lake MalawiKayak on Lake Malawi

    This African Great Lake is home to more species of fish than any other lake in the world – about 1,000. Snorkeling and kayaking here are two of the most popular activities.

  19. Go island-hopping in SeychellesGirl floating in water in Indian Ocean

    The Seychelles, with its archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, is perfect for island-hopping. Seychelles is known for its beaches, coral reefs, diving, nature reserves and rare wildlife.

  20. Walk down the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar

    Avenue of baobabs at sunset
    Image credit: Dennis Van De Water

    The Avenue of the Baobabs is a collection of baobab trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar. Its striking landscape draws travellers from around the world.

  21. Go hiking in Reunion IslandAerial view over landscape of Reunion Island

    With its dramatic landscape of pristine beaches, emerald forests, cascading waterfalls, soaring mountains and deep ravines, Reunion has been dubbed ‘Little Hawaii’. Hikes exploring the volcanoes and calderas are the most popular activity.

  22. Dive with great white sharks 

    Cage diving with a great white shark in South Africa
    Image credit: Alban

    Gansbaai, near Cape Town, is considered the best place in the world to dive with great white sharks. In a cage, that is.

  23. Watch the sunset over the savannah

    Amazing sunset with zebras
    Image credit: Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

    Africa has a startling array of attractions and activities, but at the end of the day, it’s best to just stop what you’re doing and admire the show.

  24. Go on a walking safari in South Luangwa

    Walking safari in South Luangwa, Zambia
    Image credit: Puku Ridge

    The South Luangwa National Park is said to be the birthplace of walking safaris and you’ll find the widest choice of reliably excellent walking safaris here.

  25. Go hot air ballooning in the Serengeti
    Hot air balloon rides over savannahs? Yes, please!
    Image credit: Saulius Peckaitis

    Considered the most beautiful place in the world for a balloon flight, the Serengeti offers sunrise rides where you can float over herds of animals as you sip your morning tea.

  26. Go diving in MauritiusTurtle in shallow coral reefMauritius is home to some of the world’s finest coral reefs and marine life. Teeming with hundreds of vibrantly-colored fish, the underwater world of Mauritius can be deemed a natural wonder in its own right.
  27. Go whitewater rafting down the Zambezi

    Whitewater rafting in Zambezi rapids
    Image credit: Wild Horizons

    The Zambezi is acclaimed to be the ‘wildest one-day whitewater run in the world’ and is recognised by rafting enthusiasts as one of the top ten paddling rivers on the planet. The only difference is there are crocodiles in this river.

  28. Stargaze in the Kalahari

    Wonderfully isolated and so far-removed from any form of pollution, crystal clear Kalahari skies provide the perfect conditions for desert stargazing.

  29. Stake out a waterhole

    A young boy peers out of a hide to see a baby elephant
    Image Credit: Jozibanini Camp

    There is nothing like that sense of anticipation at a hide. Sitting quietly, you wait patiently and scan the bush and then you see it, a lumbering elephant sidles into view and it’s all worth it.

  30. See the tree-climbing lions of Queen Elizabeth National Park

    Adolescent male lion in a tree
    Image credit: Queen Elizabeth National Park

    Or in the Serengeti or Lake Manyara National Park. No one can quite explain why some prides climb trees but it’s not common and is one of Africa’s strangest sights.

  31. Swim with whale sharks in Mozambique

    Experience swimming with whale sharks
    Image credit: Fiona Ayerst

    Swim with the largest fish in the sea at Tofo Beach in Mozambique, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of whale sharks in Africa thanks to a seemingly never-ending supply of plankton.

  32. Ogle at San rock art in the Cederberg

    Rock art in the Cederberg
    Photo Credit: Bushman’s Kloof

    Bushman tribes have lived in the Cederberg mountains for the past 120,000 years. Some of the ancient art sites go back 10,000 years.

  33. Hike down the Fish River CanyonFish River Canyon in Namibia

    The Fish River Canyon hiking trail is one of the more popular hiking trails in Southern Africa. The five-day route winds its way down Africa’s largest canyon.

  34. Catch the cable car up Table MountainCable car approaching Table Mountain's topThis popular attraction and natural wonder receives almost one million visitors a year. It’s a great place to watch the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean or spend an entire day exploring. The cable car will have you up to the top in five minutes.
  35. Witness the Great MigrationThe Great Migration is one of the most spectacular experiences

    Of course the ‘Greatest show on earth‘ makes our list. Every year, over a million wildebeest, zebra and antelope migrate clockwise around the Serengeti/Masai Mara ecosystem and is one of nature’s most amazing spectacles.

If you’d like to find out how you can see some of these for yourself, to see Africa’s great animals and natural wonders, send us a message and we’ll put you on a path to the best experience of your life. To get started why not visit two of these iconic destinations in one tour?

Header image credit: Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge


africa, hermanus, Victoria Falls, Zambezi

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About the author 

Matthew Sterne

Matt discovered a passion for writing in the six years he spent travelling abroad. He worked for a turtle sanctuary in Nicaragua, in an ice cream factory in Norway and on a camel safari in India. He was a door-to-door lightbulb-exchanger in Australia, a pub crawl guide in Amsterdam and a journalist in Colombia. Now, he writes and travels with us.

  • There seems to be a mistake in the photo attributed to the Cederberg Mountains. The photo is really from Twyfelfontein in Namibia.

  • What a about going inside the Great pyramid’s of Egypt? and following tje greatest “Shoal on Earth” of the East Coast of South Africa”?

    Sadly only done 10 out of your 35
    …where’s that bucket and the list?

    • Rob, 10 is a lot! Oooh you must be talking about the sardine run. I’d love to see that sometime. So much to do!

    • Hi Nicola! I myself haven’t done all of these but our team of travel experts collectively have and they helped craft this list. Which one do you want to do?

  • Africa is an amazing world, have been to maasai Mara since I was born here, raised here and I have experienced every step of life in the seventh wonder of the world. This resource is very important and should be taken good care for future generations

    • Hi Allan, we completely agree. We’re certainly trying to do our part in conservation. Thanks for the comment.

  • Never been to kenya or just don’t like the place? Bit Southern Africa biased. There’s more to the rest of Africa than famine and poverty and war

  • Amazing list however the problem is that the beauty of our world is endless and I think its therefore impossible to make a bucket list.

    I was also wondering if there wax any reason not to include the bigger part of Africa? Ethiopia, S Sudan, Sudan, Egypt, Algeria, DRC, Mali etc?

  • Hi Matthew, after I read your article I have only question. What is your best recommendation for someone who has never visited Africa?
    I plan to visit Africa at the end of this year, I’ll really apreciate your knowlege.

    • Hi Uveli, good to hear from you 🙂 If it’s your first time coming to Africa it all depends on what experience you want to have. Would you like remote camping or a pampered beach holiday or do you want to see the best wildlife? And what kind of wildlife? The best thing is to send a message on our contact page at the top right of this blog and describe the experience you’re interested in having and we can point you in the right direction. We’d love to help you and put you on a path to Africa!

  • Great and exciting article though it’s seems to have dwelt mostly on Southern Africa. There’s also lost of stuff in the the East , West, and the Sahara in the North that’s equally thrilling.

  • Beautiful but when you have time check this places out
    Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique, Nyiragongo Volcano in Eastern congo its in virunga national park, best place to view “the southern cross is in Luangwa Zambia, Draa Valley in morocco, how comes The pyramids of Egypt didn’t feature ….Kerio Valley In kenya, Amboseli Kenya, Lake alice and Lake Michelson up Mt.kenya

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