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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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Image credit: Makanyane Sanctuary
Sleeping under the stars on a deck above prowling predators is one Africa’s greatest thrills.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wonderfully isolated and so far-removed from any form of pollution, crystal clear Kalahari skies provide the perfect conditions for desert stargazing.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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There seems to be a mistake in the photo attributed to the Cederberg Mountains. The photo is really from Twyfelfontein in Namibia.
Hi Wolfgang, well spotted! Thanks for letting us know. We’ve now changed it to the correct image 🙂
Might I suggest Horse back riding with the big 5? Limpopo Horse Safaris in Botswana (www.limpopohorsesafaris.com) is an experience of a lifetime!
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. Great article. I have added Madagascar to my bucket list. Have you done all of these??
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
Hi Matthew! Nice list! Although, how come West africa is under represented in the list? 🙂
I have been Camel riding in Kenya. That’s not on the list.
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