We’ve found some unique places to visit in Africa - so much more than safaris
Think Africa, think the wildest of wildlife, sweeping savannah and sipping on fine wine? We don’t blame you, Africa’s incredible game drives and excellent vino are both legendary and incomparable. However, there’s so much more to this captivating continent. Says Victoria Troskie, Head of Africa at Lightfoot Travel, “Away from the obvious attractions there are different sides of Africa just waiting to be discovered, from burgeoning art scenes and aquatic adventures, to secluded islands and alternative styles of safari.” Read on for Lightfoot Travel’s top five alternative African destinations and experiences. Just don’t get us started on the coffee…
For a buzz & culture: Ethiopia
With direct flights from Hong Kong, Ethiopia is easy to get to and unlike anywhere else in the world. The capital, Addis Ababa is at the heart of where it’s at, and life is lived very much outdoors in chaotic and compelling glory. A place of coffee stalls, coffee bars and coffee restaurants, scour the streets for the perfect cup; discover the expanding art scene comprising paintings and local textiles at bustling Mercato market; and spend a night at the city’s old central Piazza neighbourhood where you can join the locals on the dancefloor.
For a stark contrast to Addis Ababa, head up to sacred Lalibela with its mythical churches, or south to Turmi and the Omo River Valley where the dry savannah is home to hundreds of small tribal villages. Meet the lip-stretching Mursi, the bull-jumping Hamer Village people, and the body-painting Karo tribe, who all live untouched by modern life.
For conservation & coastline: Madagascar
Basking in the tropical sunshine of the Indian Ocean, Madagascar is the place for natural beauty and parking yourself on pristine sands for a heavy dose of unadulterated relaxation. With 5000km of coastline, the sea is idyllic for diving and surfing and brimming with marine life – June through to October offer amazing whale sightings.
Make your home the ultra-exclusive villas of Time + Tide Miavana, a super-secluded escape located on the Nosy Ankao archipelago. Having a big eco-heart, this property aims to protect and conserve the island’s natural resources so guests can look forward to diving, snorkelling and turtle watching. Away from the water, enjoy helicopter rides and explore dramatic Spiny Forest with its unique flora and fauna and endemic birds.
For chimps & gorillas: Uganda
Observing chimps and gorillas in their natural habitat is a truly special experience, and to do it in style head to Kibale Forest National Park in southern Uganda. Said to be home to the highest density of primates in Africa, the highlight of the park is the habituated chimpanzees, but the monkey business doesn’t stop there – the treetops are alive with red-tailed monkey, L’Hoest’s monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey, red colobus and black and white colobus monkeys.
A short flight will take you to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and location of 340 mountain gorillas – about half the world’s population. Embark on a Gorilla Habituation experience with professional researchers and conservationists; observe them as they go about their day, learn about gorilla behaviours and join in with activities. A pinch-me kind of travel moment, visiting Bwindi gives you the chance to spend a few hours – rather than just the usual one hour – with these incredible creatures.
For your own private island: Seychelles
The epitome of barefoot luxury, North Island is a private island sanctuary 30 kilometres from Mahé in the Seychelles, and as it can only be reached by helicopter it’s the height of seclusion (no wonder it was the honeymoon choice of Prince William and Kate Middleton). The tropical resort features 11 beautiful villas boasting separate living rooms, indoor and outdoor showers, a plunge pool and views across the Indian Ocean. Four white sand beaches surrounded by coconut palms and takamaka trees promise total privacy and the chance to hide away from real life.
More sociable adventurers can explore on buggies or mountain bikes, go kayaking, deep-sea fishing, snorkelling or diving, and we’re all for ending your day with a sunset cruise and cheeky cocktail in hand.
For a different style of wilderness: Tanzania
Despite being Tanzania’s largest national park with fascinating wildlife and intriguing landscapes, Ruaha sees fewer visitors so a stay here feels special from the start. Here, super-sized animal-spotting is the name of the game: come for sightings of elephants, big predators such as prides of lions and unusual varieties of antelope species such as greater kudu, roan and sable. It’s also one of the best places in East Africa to witness the endangered wild dog – arguably the star of the show.
Away from the park, the Great Ruaha River attracts loads of animals in the dry season (June – October), amongst woodland and baobab trees. Luxury camps are both limited and exclusive in this area, but Lightfoot recommends luxe-wilderness-living at Jabali Ridge with its eight elegant suits, infinity pool and spa treatments.