Dreaming of an African holiday but unsure of where to travel to? Here are three countries that we think deserve to be at the top of your travel list, along with some suggestions for what you can do when there.
A breathtaking melting pot of wild animals, captivating beaches and glorious mountain scenery, South Africa is truly an escape to another world.
Go on safari
Safaris are the centrepiece of African holidays. At almost 2 million hectares, Kruger National Park is one of the biggest nature reserves in Africa and draws thousands of tourists each year. It is home to hundreds of different animal and plant species, including lions, elephants, rhinos, zebras, giraffes, leopards and buffalo, all of which you can see on a safari. Tours can be easily organised before you depart and guided camping expeditions are also available.
Explore the beaches
South Africa’s premier beaches are in Cape Town. Clifton Beach, Mnandi Beach and Bikini Beach are all blue flag beaches, signifying the all-round high standard of each location. Situated on the beaches are kiosks to buy refreshments and stores to rent deckchairs and other beach apparel. Boulders Beach is another great beach in Cape Town and gets its name from the many large rocks in which the local African penguin population takes shelter.
Try local and exotic cuisine
African holidays must involve trying the local cuisine. Many South African dishes - or ‘rainbow cuisine’ - are a rich blend of nuts, fruits and meats. There are many restaurants in South Africa, such as the Troyeville Hotel in Johannesburg and the Rickety Bridge Restaurant in Franschhoek, where you can try authentic South African recipes, and both Cape Town and Durban are home to plenty of world-class restaurants which you can try.
Get out of the city
Natural beauty is one of the main attractions of South Africa and all holidays should involve at least one trip into the surrounding mountains and countryside. On the Otter Trail, you’ll walk through forests, over mountain streams and through hidden waterfalls. Table Mountain, Cape Town’s famous flat-topped mountain, is the most popular mountain destinations and both guided tours and cables cars are available to take you to and from the summit, where the view is perhaps the best in all of South Africa. Just a half hour drive from Durban, the Valley of a Thousand Hills is a must-see. Created by lush, unspoiled mountains flowing down towards the Umgeni River, the gorgeous landscapes here are dotted with many cultural village. The steam train is also a great way to discover the region, as is a boat cruise or a horse ride.
Discover the wine regions
South Africa’s leading wine regions attract enthusiasts from all over the world. Stellenbosch, east of Cape Town, is the hub and day tours are easily available and will take you along a well-established route that visits several estates, giving you a taste of South Africa’s many wines, ports and champagnes. Around Cape Town there are no less than eight wine regions, so wine connoisseurs planning a South African holiday are sure to be well entertained!
Swim with whales or sharks
Whale and shark swimming is a key attraction in South Africa and for the thrill seeker on a South African holiday, Cape Town offers cage dives. You can choose to come face to face with either great white sharks or a pod of humpback whales. If neither sound appealing, try swimming with seals instead!
Madagascar is fast becoming a popular holiday destination. The island boasts some of the friendliest people in Africa, the most luxurious accommodation, and an almost endless list of highlights.
Hit the beach
Madagascar is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches and with over 5,000km of coastline and more than 250 islands, there are dozens of great beaches to explore, almost all of which consist of dazzling crystal clear waters and fine white sand. While any Madagascan beach is sure to impress, a treat is to be discovered on the island of Nosy Be off the north-west coast, where you’ll find some of the most magical swimming beaches in all of Africa. For divers and snorkellers, turtles, sting-rays and sharks are all easily spotted, too.
There are over 100 species of lemur in Madagascar and they range in size from just 30g to 9kg, with the vast majority making their homes in the Madagascan national parks. While lemurs are generally easy to find and are well worth seeing, the native Indri lemurs are particularly stunning. Apart from being the largest of the lemurs, their haunting “singing” calls are both magical and unforgettable, and one of the best places to see the Indri lemur is within the Andasibe National Park, which is located midway up the eastern coast of Madagascar.
Soak up the culture
The culture in Madagascar is unlike anywhere else on earth, it’s a mix of Asian, African, European and Middle Eastern influences and this makes Madagascar an absolute tapestry of diversity and colour. The best way to experience Madagascan culture is to partake in one of the local village tours - there are several to choose from. It may be a good idea to learn some basic Malagasy or French before you visit Madagascar. Even though you can get by with English, your ability to communicate with the locals will ensure that you receive an even warmer welcome.
Whether you are an experienced hiker or an occasional bushwalker, exploring the rainforests is a fantastic way to add a touch of magic to your holiday. There are countless trails that meander through the many national parks scattered across the island country. Apart from the variety of lemurs living in the rainforest, you will also get an intimate look at a diverse range of other wildlife, including chameleons, more than 300 species of frogs and a wonderful array of birdlife.
The island of Ile Sainte-Marie off the north-east coast of Madagascar features some of the best whale watching spots in all of Africa. Once a popular spot for local pirates, this picturesque island looks like something out of a dream, and amazingly remains a relatively undiscovered tourist destination. The best time to whale watch is between July and September, when large groups of humpback whales come to breed in Antongil Bay.
Mozambique is a beautiful coastal country boasting gorgeous beaches, marine life and exciting cities.
Get lost in Maputo
Maputo is Mozambique’s charming capital city and it is widely regarded as one of Africa’s most beautiful urban centres. The influence of former ruler, Portugal, can be clearly seen throughout the architecture across the city, and the tree lined avenues, bustling markets and colourfully dressed locals lend a dreamlike look and feel to this stunning waterfront location. If you like travelling in style, Maputo offers luxurious accommodation, delicious restaurants and extremely friendly locals, making it a great place to either start or end your African holiday.
Explore Bazaruto Archipelago National Park
There is no better way to experience the natural beauty of Mozambique than by taking the short flight north from Maputo to this spectacular National Park. Consisting of five main islands, the Bazaruto Archipelago is home to white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and a brilliant array of birdlife. The Bazaruto Archipelago is also a much-loved destination for those keen on snorkelling or scuba diving and underwater, you’ll be able to see manta rays, dolphins and the occasional whale shark.
Go wild in Niassa National Reserve
Niassa National Reserve in north western Mozambique is the place to be to catch a glimpse of Africa’s native animals. Spread over 42,000 square kilometres, this incredible conservation area is home to a large population of elephants, sable, buffalo, eland and zebra. Guided wildlife safaris are available and unlike many other safaris, you will have the area almost entirely to yourself, since the Niassa Reserve remains one of east Africa’s best kept secrets.
Escape to Mozambique Island
There is no better place to get a taste of Mozambican culture than on this UNESCO World Heritage listed island, where Muslim, Hindu, Christian and traditional Makua communities live together in what was once the capital of Portuguese East Africa. Formerly a bustling trade centre, Mozambique Island is a fantastic mix of colour and culture in an absolute paradise setting, and the many comfortable accommodation options here make this the perfect place to truly unwind.
The best time to visit
The weather in Mozambique is always warm and tropical, however, if you want to avoid the rainy season it is best to visit between May and November, as this is when the rainfall is lowest and the daytime highs hover around a pleasant 27 degrees Celsius. If the purpose of your visit is to head out on Safari, the ideal time to visit Mozambique is August and September.
Contact your local Travellers Choice agent for help planning and booking an African adventure.