Things to do in Africa

The stunning natural attributes of Africa are a major drawcard for visitors from active volcanos and the cloud-shrouded Table Mountain to the mighty Victoria Falls and historic Nile River. Not to mention the lava lakes of Mount Nyiragongo, the highlands of the South African and Ethiopian plains, beautiful islands and beaches of the Seychelles, Madeira, Canaries, Madagascar and Mauritius, as well as Lake Malawi and the Congo. Africa is also home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world where Ethiopian ruins and ancient structures in Mali, Nigeria and Kenya are just as significant as the Egyptian pyramids and pharaohs.

The opportunity to spy African wildlife in its native habitat is also a big lure for Westerners who have grown up with stories of elephants, lions, hippos and the like. Where else in the world can you see flamingos standing en masse on a lake, or see a cheetah in action in the wild? Popular spots for safaris include Kruger National Park in South Africa, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve where you can watch the migration of zebra and wildebeest, or the ‘big 5’ of lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards.

Time your African holiday just right and you can also experience the colour and spectacle of the continent’s amazing religious and cultural festivals. Festival in the Desert sees travellers join around 3,000 Tuareg nomads to camp on the sand dunes of northern Mali for music, dance and camel racing every January, then head to Cape Verde for the annual Mardi Gras parade and carnival in Mindelo. Niger’s Cure Salée is where you can see the male beauty pageants as locals compete to show off their marriageability, and the end of Ramadan means much revelry and feasting in Muslim countries.

For our take on where to go and what to do in Africa, read on.

Cairo

Ancient treasures abound in Cairo from the amazing pyramids and pharaonic burial grounds of Giza and Saqqara to the beautiful mosques of Al-Azhar, Ibn Tulun and Amr in Islamic Cairo. There’s no shortage of other historic buildings to admire including Abdeen Palace, the Egyptian Museum, and Saladin Citadel, a medieval Islamic fort on Mottadam Hill in the centre of the city.

Johannesburg

With the largest and busiest airport in Africa, O.R.Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg is often used as the gateway to Southern Africa and other areas such as Kruger National Park, Cape Town and Durban. The city is now a tourist destination in its own right and, like South Africa as a whole, contains a number of historic and nature-themed attractions.

Cape Town

Like the rest of South Africa, Cape Town’s attractions are either natural or historic with the former being the main drawcard. Bound by Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, the City Bowl is the entertainment hub of Cape Town with cutting-edge arts alongside dining and clubbing options. 

Mauritius

First things first: the beach. Mauritius has over 160 kilometres of shoreline where you’re guaranteed powdery, white sand and clear, blue water wherever you go. If you can tear yourself away from the beach towel, adrenaline-fuelled activities and outdoor pursuits are all the go. 

Mount Kilimanjaro

Part of Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania, Africa’s highest peak is also one of the world’s highest inactive volcanoes as well as one of its highest freestanding mountains. It's a popular spot for climbers without the need of full-on technical experience.

Victoria Falls

Also known as the evocative Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’ in the Tokaleya Tonga tongue, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest single drop waterfall that's located between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Apartheid Museum

A must-see sight in Johannesburg, the Apartheid Museum illustrates the rise and fall of the enforced racial discrimination and segregation that characterised the majority of the 20th century in South Africa. 

Robben Island Museum

Historically a leper colony, prison, defense station, mental institution and most famously the site as part of Nelson Mandela's 27-year jail term, Robben Island Museum near Cape Town puts the spotlight on the injustices of apartheid to highlight the way forward.  

Africa's Beaches

When classic imagery of Africa deals with shifting sands and exotic animals, it’s easy to forget this vast continent has a massive coastline to boot. Here are some of Africa's best-known beach destinations to sun yourself and see the sights.

Go On Safari

One of Africa’s biggest attractions is its abundant and unique wildlife. Travellers come in search of what’s known as the ‘big 5’ game animals – lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and the black rhinoceros, plus much, much more.

Pyramids of Egypt

No matter how many times you’ve watched ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ or ‘The Mummy’, nothing can prepare you for the mystical sight of Egypt’s pyramids. The size and scope of these ancient structures is astounding and the engineering and manpower behind their construction is just mindboggling.