#Travel Tuesday: Three African countries to add to your bucket list

Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco.
Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco.
Image: San Hoyano/ 123RF

While South Africa has started the process of gradually opening up its borders to international travellers, the coast is not yet all clear.

Last week the government published a list of countries from where international travellers without business in South Africa will be red listed, meaning they will not be allowed to enter the country. The list of 60 countries includes the United States and large parts of Europe as well as South America.

The good news is that all countries in Africa automatically fall outside the high-risk category and travel from other African countries into South Africa will be allowed regardless of their Covid-19 statistics, offering the perfect opportunity to explore our own continent.

If it’s time to rid yourself of the past few months’ cabin fever, we’ve rounded up our list of the top three picks in Africa to make the decision easier for you and get you started on planning your trip.

The gate to ancient medina of Fez in Morocco.
The gate to ancient medina of Fez in Morocco.
Image: Mikhail Mandrygin/ 123RF

Morocco

Morocco is decidedly different to the rest of the African continent. With its unique position between the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert, it is influenced by a fascinating mix of Arabic and Mediterranean cultures and offers visitors opportunities to explore as diverse as its landscape.

Spend a night marveling at the stars in the desert, brighten up your Insta profile with a visit the magical blue city of Chefchaouen, hike the rugged terrain of the Atlas Mountains, get lost in the ancient Medina of Fez – one of the oldest cities in the world, shop in Marrakech and get your caffeine fix in a historical coffee shop in Tangier. 

Whatever you do, do not forget to sample Moroccan food and a glass of mint tea. While you’re at it, get stuck in and do a cooking class – it’s the best kind of souvenir to be enjoyed time and time again. 

When to visit: You might want to plan your trip according to the part of the country you want to visit but spring (between March and April) and autumn (between September and October) are good times of the year for a country-wide trip across different regions and will offer the most bearable temperatures.

Tanzania

Tanzania has the best of both worlds: dazzling beaches for a seaside holiday and iconic wildlife destinations for adventure or safari escapes.

For those interested in the latter, there is the unmissable Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest in Africa and impressive to behold from the top or the bottom; the famed annual great wildebeest migration in the Serengeti National Park and its seemingly endless list of national parks, from the Tarangire National Park to the Gombe Stream National Park, Arusha National Park and Ngorongoro  Conservation Area, home to the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world and an impressive population of animal species.

Go snorkelling in Tanzania, visit the endangered Giant Aldabra tortoise population on Prison Island, explore the coral garden of Mafia Island or lounge on the beach at sunset on Pemba Island.

Naturally, a visit to Tanzania will be incomplete without a hop across to Zanzibar with its spectacular Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage town once world-renowned for its spice trade and popular today for its unique architecture, old fort and night markets.

When to visit: The best time to visit for the great migration crossings is over June and July (which means you can start planning your visit for next year). The dry season from June to October offers the best wildlife viewing but parks in the north – including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Arusha – generally provide good wildlife viewing year-round. Likewise, if you plan on lounging on the beach or spending time outdoors you might be best advised to avoid the rainy season between March and June.

Rwanda

Rwanda, like so many African countries, is a beautiful place tainted by a dark history. Because this can – and should not – be forgotten, a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is a sobering stop for any visitor to understand the horrors that took place and to reflect on our humanity.

What truly sets Rwanda aside in terms of a travel destination, and the reason we have included it on our list, is its gorilla population in Volcanoes National Park, one of the best places to go gorilla tracking. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to see gorillas in their natural habitat through carefully-monitored encounters guided by experienced rangers.

At the cost of almost R25,000 per person per day for a permit, gorilla tracking is not a cheap expedition but it provides much-needed funds for the conservation efforts carried out in the country, with a portion of the revenue used to uplift local communities.

If the price to go gorilla tracking is too steep, there are other options to explore. Nyungwe National Park, for example, is one of the oldest rainforests in Africa and is home to 1,068 plant species and 140 different kinds of orchids. Don’t miss out on doing the canopy walkway across the rainforest or exercise responsible tourism with a tea or coffee plantation tour.

When to visit: Although a gorilla trekking expedition can be planned year-round, the best time for the easiest hiking conditions is during the shorter dry season from mid-December to beginning February or over the longer dry season between June and September. Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s gorilla naming ceremony in which all the gorilla babies that were born in the past year get named, is celebrated annually on World Gorilla Day on 24 September.

As international borders reopen, the government has warned game reserves around SA to prepare for a possible resurgence in rhino poaching. Because of this threat, hundreds of rhinos in game reserves in the North West have been dehorned to protect them from poachers.

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