Top 5 destinations to visit in Africa this season

Cast your minds back to every Christmas holiday / vacation you have spent in Africa!!!  Is there a place that stands out from the rest? Is there a destination or specific holiday /vacation attraction that takes its place as your number 1 “Best Travel Destination”? If so, whether it be an awe inspiring historical monument, place of immense excitement, the most beautiful place you have ever experienced or simply a place that just ‘did it for you’, here is another opportunity for you to have a shot at it again.

Below is a list of top five destinations in Africa to check out this Christmas;

CAPE TOWN (SOUTH AFRICA)

Overview

Cape Town is the most popular international tourist destination in South Africa due to its good climate, natural setting, and relatively well-developed infrastructure.

The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl.

Cape Town

Cape Town

Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway. Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. Many tourists also drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain.

Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany and France, and is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street.

The Arts cape Theatre Centre is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.

Things to do

Cape Town offers a dozen or so beaches which are popular with local residents. Due to the city’s unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water from the Benguela current which originates from the Southern Ocean. The water at False Bay beaches is often warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F). Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars accessible to the beach at Camps Bay. Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town is known for its colony of African penguins. Surfing is popular and the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every year.

The city has several notable tourist attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is one of the city’s most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the charm of the V&A, as it is locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave. The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon’s Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. Several companies offer tours of the Cape Flats, a mostly Coloured township, and Khayelitsha, a mostly black township. An option is to sleep overnight in Cape Town’s townships. There are several B&Bs where you can spend a safe and real African night. Other popular tourist spots include the Table Bay harbour, museums and galleries, castle, Parliament building, Tuynhuis (State President’s mansion) and Groote Kerk church (oldest in SA); Table Mountain cable car; brewery tours; Robben Island, the maximum-security prison where Nelson Mandela was held; cricket and rugby at Newlands Stadium.

The nightlife offers bars, discos and nightclubs which congregate around the Sea Point area.

For food there is plenty of choice, from local cuisine to European and Malay, and of universally good quality; many restaurants are in hotels. Prices are generally reasonable. Fish and shellfish are specialties.

GIZA (EGYPT)

Overview

Egypt

Egypt

Giza is home to one of the most awe inspiring landmarks in the world, the ‘Great Pyramid’. The last remaining of the seven wonders of the world, the great pyramid and other pyramids of Giza are a must see for tourists in Egypt. Aside from the pyramids, Giza also is home to the ‘Great Sphinx’, whilst looking it’s age at 6000 years old, it is still another of Giza’s fantastic tourist attractions and is only a short walk away from the pyramids.

Contrary to the common belief, only the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), not all three Great Pyramids, is on top of the list of Wonders. The monument was built by the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu of the Fourth Dynasty around the year 2560 BC to serve as a tomb when he dies.

The tradition of pyramid building started in Ancient Egypt as a sophistication of the idea of a mastaba or “platform” covering the royal tomb. Later, several stacked mastabas were used. Early pyramids, such as the Step Pyramid of King Zoser (Djoser) at Saqqara by the famous Egyptian architect, Imhotep, illustrate this connection.

The great pyramid is believed to have been built over a 20 year period. The site was first prepared, and blocks of stone were transported and placed. An outer casing (which disappeared over the years) was then used to smooth the surface. Although it is not known how the blocks were put in place, several theories have been proposed.

One theory involves the construction of a straight or spiral ramp that was raised as the construction proceeded. This ramp, coated with mud and water, eased the displacement of the blocks which were pushed (or pulled) into place. A second theory suggests that the blocks were placed using long levers with a short angled foot.

Those visiting the pyramids have an option for an extra fee of being taken inside the pyramids. Photography and camcorders are strictly forbidden but the memory snap shots that will be gained from this experience will last you forever. However, it is important to note that those who suffer from claustrophobic environments and heat exhaustion need to think twice as each pyramid takes you deep into the ground where a stuffy atmosphere and small chambers will be upon you.

Camel ride touts, knick-knack souvenirs, and beggars are in abundance in this area and unfortunately the downside to the Giza experience is a distinct lack of law that controls the number of salesmen in the area and lack of respect that these entrepreneurs show when trying to sell their gifts to tourists.

Try and put these out of your mind and Giza will leave you with a fantastic day trip experience…

Things to do

The Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren) – slightly smaller than the Great Pyramid, though appearing from some angles to appear larger owing to a better position on the desert plateau

The Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus) – the smallest of the Giza Pyramids at 62 m (203 ft) high (originally 66.5 m)

The Sphinx and the Temple of the Sphinx –

Sphinx of Giza

Sphinx of Giza

the colossal, recumbent human-headed lion was conceived of by the ancient Egyptians as the sun god Re-Horakhty – “Horus of the horizon”. The Egyptians call it Abu el-Hol, the “Father of Terror”, and even the Greek name Sphinx is the less than pleasant “Strangler”. 45 meters long, 22 meters wide, and carved from a single giant block of sandstone, the Sphinx is considerably smaller than the Pyramids around it. The missing nose is blamed on target practice by bored troops, commonly blamed variously on British soldiers in World War I or Napoleon’s troops in 1798, but 18th-century drawings showing the nose already missing, pointing the finger towards the occupying Turks.

Various Queens’ Pyramids and Nobles’ Tombs, located in regimented cemeteries surrounding the royal pyramids.

Consider attending the nightly Sound and Light Show (Son-et-Lumière) – a bit kitsch, but a worthwhile evening activity.

Avoid succumbing to the temptation of taking a camel ride around the Pyramids – not only is it a bit naff, but the practice is noisy, smelly and overrated – the camel drivers are also frequent targets for accusations of harassment and petty crime. Most also do one way trips (without telling you) on a camel, after leaving you half a mile into the desert, you’re either expected to either walk back or book a return journey.

VICTORIA FALLS (ZIMBABWE/ZAMBIA)

The Victoria Falls constitutes one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. The Local people call it “Mosi-oa-Tunya” — the smoke that thunders and the fall are remarkable.

It is a waterfall located in southern Africa on the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls is 1708 meters wide, making it the largest curtain of water in the world. It drops between 90m and 107m into the Zambezi Gorge and an average of 550,000 cubic meters of water plummet over the edge every minute.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

Remarkably preserved in its natural state, Victoria Falls inspires visitors as much today as it did David Livingstone in the 1860’s. The falls and the surrounding area have been declared National Parks and a World Heritage Site, thus preserving the area from excessive commercialization. The Falls are spectacular throughout the year, but February onwards, after the rain season, has the heaviest flow and volume of spray.

There is nothing quite like getting a thorough soaking from the roaring, powerful Victoria Falls. The spray is so impressive from the look-out point; it feels like you are in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.

Things to do

A number of activities can be undertaken such as the ‘Flight of Angels’ which provides a fabulous view of the falls, the upstream river and its many islands. For the more adventurous, there is micro lighting with stunning views of the fall.

Rafting the wild rapids below the fall is a very popular adventure. Visitors can also kayak, canoe, fish, go on guided walking safaris, and ride on horseback and lunch on Livingstone’s Island.

MASAI MARA (KENYA)

Masai Mara is “The” park of parks in Kenya. Its grass-carpeted smooth hills, the chocolate Mara river waters with frolicking hippos, as well as the rich faunal diversity, fulfil the expectations of any visitor searching the African landscapes portrayed in motion pictures such as “Out of Africa” or “Mogambo”.

Save particular tastes or special requirements, this is the park on top of the “must” list in the country: no trip to Kenya would be complete without a visit to Masai Mara.

Masai Mara

Masai Mara

True that it’s not the best park for bird watching, and true that some species are not easily found. However, leopards and rhinos abound, and with more than 450 bird species, the reserve should not be envious of Samburu or the great Kenyan bird sanctuaries. Albeit, in an area only slightly smaller than the State of Rhode Island and with a diverse and complex geography, getting lost is far easier than finding a leopard or sighting a given bird species in its multiple woods.

The reserve, gazetted in 1961, is located west of the Rift Valley and is a natural extension of the Serengeti plains, in Tanzania. The Mara River, the reserve’s backbone, traverses north to south heading for its westbound way unto Lake Victoria, through the Tanzanian park. This course is the natural barrier crossed every year by the large migratory herds of wildebeests and zebras which march across the two parks.

Things to do

Masai Mara’s location and altitude, above 1,500 m, yield a climate which is milder and damper than in other regions. The grassy landscape and the nutrient wealth for the great herds are maintained by the abundant rains, which here last from November through June, as a fusion of the two rain seasons (long and short) typical in other Kenya areas. Night storms are frequent. In the hills and plains, grasslands are scattered with acacia woods and bush. The riverbanks of the Mara and of the multiple tributary streams are bordered by dense riverine forests with a good chance to find some of the reserve’s bird species.

The long distance to the country’s main urban centres poses a difference that allows this reserve to keep one of the features which is becoming today an oddity in African parks: wildlife roams in complete freedom, without fences or other obstacles around. Animals make no notice of the borders drawn on the papers, not only those which split Kenya from Tanzania but the limits of the protected area as well. The reserve is surrounded north and east by the so-called dispersal area, inhabited by the Masai but otherwise similar to the territory within the limits, with equal or even higher opportunities to spot wildlife than at the reserve itself, frequently overcrowded by tourists arriving and wandering around by car, minibus, airplane, balloon or micro light.

LA DIGUE (SEYCHELLES)

The Seychelles is an unspoilt tropical paradise thousands of miles from anywhere. Here you will find magnificent palm-fringed beaches, superb snorkelling and diving, and plenty of forested wildernesses filled with wildlife.

La Digue is situated a short distance from Praslin, but is unreachable by plane, instead a short boat ride from Praslin to La Digue is required, lasting only 20 minutes or so.

La Digue is the fourth largest and third most populated of the islands within the Seychelles, with over 2,000 inhabitants. Several hotels exist on the island, providing comfortable accommodation, the most popular being La Digue Island Lodge.

La Digue Seychelles

La Digue Seychelles

In addition there are several guesthouses offering simpler accommodation. It is also possible to visit the island on a day trip from Praslin.
La Digue is perfect for nature-lovers seeking total relaxation and an away-from-it-all holiday. A haven for romantically inclined couples and a popular honeymoon destination.

La Digue is off the east coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean and the fourth largest of the Seychelles group.

Things to do

La Digue is surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches, spectacular coves where one can find deserted beaches with no other tourists beside yourself. The simple beauty and charm has made the island into a favourite for film producers and photographers.

For the more adventurous, who don’t want to spend the whole holiday on the beach, climb to the top of the mountain at the heart of the island, it offers a wonderful view of the island. At the ends of the roads, the follower is left with just a footpath to follow.

There are some small tourist shops and a couple of art galleries along the main road from the jetty. A few other shops at the jetty offer groceries and other convenience items. La Digue Island Lodge has 2 boutiques well stocked with souvenirs and other necessities.

This is not the place for nightlife, some hotels provide evening entertainment. The local community hall holds dances/discos at weekends, but these are mostly for locals.

This is the time to have that outdoor adventure, that family excursion, or that romantic sunset cruise you’ve been clamouring for all year.

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Posted on December 21, 2012, in General Reading. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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