Africa is a traveler’s absolute delight not just because the continent permits an enjoyment of complete anonymity but also because of its very many unfamiliar territories and cultures. A vast and highly diverse continent full of fascinating cultures, dramatic scenery and extraordinary wildlife, Africa offers incredible travel experiences that can’t be found elsewhere in the world. Here, there’s an endless supply of nature at its peak and what’s more, vacationing in any part of the continent is affordable, so you can expect to enjoy delicious meals and local shopping without worrying about unreasonable bills.
There are so many destinations for the eco-conscious traveler to visit in Africa that choosing just 10 vacation spots was difficult. Africa is a huge continent and with some of its countries (such as South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana) already passing for eco destinations in their entirety, so we chose specific locations, paying closer attention to regions where the government has taken measures to ensure that the welfare of the environment is prioritised over revenue from tourism.
That being said, here are 10 must-visit destinations in Africa for the eco-conscious traveller to pop on their travel bucket list:
1. Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango Delta is one of the most beautiful wilderness destinations in the world. The existence of the Okavango Delta in itself is a wonder because the region is a whole ecosystem boasting its own islands, water, beaches, woodland forests and a most peculiar brilliance of the sun. To top it all, the Delta is nestled within one of the driest places in the world; the Kalahari basin and this earned it the name “Jewel of the Kalahari”.
The experiences available in the Okavango Delta are as varied as the ecosystem itself. For instance, you can embark on wilderness camping trips or go for a mokoro Safari on a river piloted by natives. You can go hiking in the teak woodlands and behold the lush vegetation or perhaps try to see the rich wildlife that inhabit the Delta. You can go swimming in any of the beaches that fringe the islands or you can simply stay in your resort and bask in the sounds made by nature.
Various forms of accommodation are available in the Delta. You can pitch your tent in any of the concessions or you can stay at one of the luxurious eco-resorts scattered in the area. I am told that the luxury resorts and reserves offer top tier tourism experiences including, but not limited to, gourmet kitchens and spa houses.
2. Lamu, Kenya
Lamu is a small island off the coast of Mombasa, one of Kenya’s biggest cities, and is so beautiful that I have heard it described as ‘a slice of heaven’. The kicker though is that Lamu does not just offer the beauty associated with the island. What makes Lamu most interesting is its history; the town has remained much the same dating back to the 12th century and is in fact a United Nations world heritage site.
If you’re seeking a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern living, then Lamu is your destination. The air is incredibly clear because no motorized vehicles are allowed in Lamu. Transportation is usually done with the assistance of donkeys. While there, the best thing to do is take off your shoes and walk around the town. Or take a tour of the islands from the water on one of the traditional dhows. And when tired, to head to the nearest beach for a swim.
3. KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
South Africa is one of the best tourism destinations in Africa but within the country, KwaZulu-Natal is proving to be on a class of its own. For starters, KwaZulu-Natal boasts travel staples of blue waters and sandy beaches. It also has dramatic peaks and landscapes. Hygiene standards are high, hardly any medications need to be taken and most campsites or accommodations will cater for families with children.
The region has put in place tourism initiatives that put the planet first while leaving room for activities, varied and fun-filled. You could go on a yoga hike and retreat at the origin gorge nature reserve to enjoy some of the sunshine. Or you could embark on some agro-tourism traveling through the lush vegetation of the coastal areas to enjoy the foods and fruits grown organically by locals.
You could also go hiking in the Petrified Forest, opt for the enjoyment of some adrenaline-pumping mountain experiences or explore caves found in the area such as the KwaXolo Caves. Most of the tour organisations employ local guides which benefit the local economy. Accommodation here includes eco-lodges and resorts which provide top-notch tourism experiences. Indeed, some of these lodges have come to the spotlight recently for their initiative of enlisting the help of guests to fight poaching.
4. Alphonse and Desroche Islands, Seychelles
The Seychelles are a collection of beautiful islands off the coast of Africa that offer some of the best sun, sand and sea experiences in the whole world. In Seychelles, the best experience can be found in the Alphonse atolls. The group of atolls offer some of the most pure and pristine island ecosystems in the world.
Think of thick forests filled with beautiful flora and fauna, beautiful birds and coconut groves. These forests are ringed by beautiful white beaches with the bluest waters. This combination offers tropical paradise the kind only seen in movies. On the other side is the Desroches Islands where 18 kilometres of coast offers an unrivalled sand and sea experience. On Desroches Island you can go windsurfing, sea kayaking and pedal boating. The surrounding reefs provide beautiful diving and snorkeling experiences as well.
5. NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia
Namibia is one of Africa’s leaders in eco-tourism. It is the country with the oldest inclusions for conservation of environment in its constitution.
Located in the southern part of Namibia the NamibRand Nature Reserve is a private nature reserve situated in the mummy desert, set up in 1984 to help protect and conserve the unique ecology and wildlife of the namib desert.
A visit to the reserve offers a unique desert experience and the chance to see some of the world’s rarest animals in their natural habitat roaming the tangerine and orange plains of the desert. Accomodations can be found in a collection of luxury camps and lodges, scattered around the reserve.
6. Sal, Cape Verde
Island of Sal is one of the most beautiful places in Cape Verde which is saying a lot since Cape Verde is one of the most beautiful places in Africa and arguably, the world.
If you have lived in a big city with little to no sunshine for all year round (I see you London) then Sal is the destination for you. Often regarded as the sunniest Island, is a golden pearl of sand in the middle of the ocean. The island is very flat with the highest point being Monte Grand, a small Monte Grande with a height of just 403 metres. This explains why there are no clouds, little rain and blessed sun.
Sal is filled with sand; deserts and dry valleys are everywhere. But within them lie the most beautiful oases. The strong winds off the coast has proven to be a paradise for surfers.
7. Zanzibar, Tanzania
If you have ever dreamed of making a getaway to sunny islands and beaches then chances are that you have heard of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean made up of the Pemba Islands and other smaller islets.
Zanzibar is small, being only 60 miles long and 20 miles wide and approximately 650 square miles. However, this whole area is almost completely surrounded by the most beautiful sandy beaches. The beaches in turn are surrounded by coral reefs and it makes for beautiful diving experiences.
Zanzibar is also the home of the magical ‘Stone Town’ which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stone town is a historical ancient town regarded to be one of the few functioning ancient towns in East Africa. Accommodation options abound with the finest most luxurious eco-resorts and lodges scattered across the Islands.
8. Livingstone, Zambia
Livingstone is a quaint colonial city in the Southern Province of Zambia. Named after English explorer David Livingstone, the city is a mix of unbridled nature and English architecture. The uniqueness of Livingstone as an ecotourism destination lies in its position; it lies close to the mighty Zambezi River and the magnificent Victoria Falls.
On a trip to Livingstone, you can enjoy a life-changing scenic tour of the Victoria Falls, boat cruises where you can enjoy elephant, giraffe and hippo sightings along the Mosi-oa-tunya National Park. Other activities include kayaking, lion walks, riverboarding, horse riding, abseiling among others. Accommodation ranges from bed and breakfast all the way to luxury resorts right at the banks of the Zambezi River and the Victoria Falls.
9. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti National Park is one of the oldest ecosystems in the world. It is also one of the few places that can boast two World Heritage sites. It stretches all the way to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, so far that the Masa who are native to the Serengeti call it “the place where the land moves on forever”
The Serengeti is most popular for the Great Migration; the longest and largest land migration where over 200,000 zebras and wildebeests migrate. Think Lion King but in real life. Activities like the land itself are endless. There are hikes, safaris and camping. You can visit the hippo pool, watch cheetahs or just lie back and enjoy nature at its most primal.
10. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
The Volcanoes National Park is one of Rwanda’s most wonderful sites because it is the home of the mountain gorillas which are a popular drawcard for nature-loving tourists. You might have heard about the gorillas; they were made very popular by Dian Fossey, the late primatologist. There are ten gorilla families that you can visit and for the welfare of the animals, only 80 tourists are allowed daily.
Aside from the mountain gorillas, the park is home to other wildlife, including golden monkeys, antelopes (such as bushbucks, black-fronted duikers); over 200 bird species including the dusky crimson wing, red-faced woodland warblers, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, and archer’s ground robin to mention but a few. It has been said that spending a day with the giant silverback gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park is something that a tourist will never forget.
This list is by no means an exhaustive or conclusive guide to eco-travel destinations in the African continent. This guide is merely to provide you with a starting point of the adventures and experiences possible. When you decide where exactly you would love to visit and start doing more research, you’ll soon discover far more people travel to Africa each year than you realized.
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Cover image of a beach in Seychelles. Photo via Unsplash.