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Top 10 Things to Do in Africa

Best Activites in Africa

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What are the best things to do on vacation in Africa? From going on safari, trekking, or lazing on the beach, there are many great activities on offer in Africa. Find out about culinary tours, volunteering, backpacking, extreme adventure, and more when traveling to Africa. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you travel responsibly. Find out what my top 10 list of things to do in Africa are, by scrolling down.

Click on the headings below for more in depth information on each activity you can enjoy when visiting Africa.

1. Go on Safari

Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania
© Anouk Zijlma

"Safari" means "to journey" in Swahili, and indeed going on a wildlife safari is one of the main reasons people travel to Africa. East and Southern Africa are the most popular safari destinations. In East Africa you can see the "Big Five", witness the great annual migration of millions of wildebeest in a hot-air balloon, and also track gorillas. In Southern Africa you have the opportunity to see the "Big Five" and much more, on foot and from the water.

More about safaris in Africa:

2. Relax on a Beach

Best Beach in Africa
Getty Images

North Africa's beach resorts have attracted European sun seekers to their shores for decades. But if you want to escape the crowds, head further south. Africa's East coast offers the beach lover everything from budget huts on the idyllic Indian ocean in Zanzibar, to ultra-luxurious private islands in the Seychelles. Africa's west coast is lined with thousands of miles of palm-fringed beaches. The currents make swimming a little challenging at times, but the surfing is fantastic. In South Africa you can even bump into penguins on the beach and dive with sharks. Africa's many lakes are also fringed with golden sands, check out Lake Malawi, a paradise for beach lovers.

Check out: Africa's Best Beaches l Budget Beach Destinations in Africa

3. Hike a Mountain

Uhuru Peak from Shira Camp 1, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
© Erika Bloom

Africa offers wonderful hiking and trekking opportunities, the obvious targets for mountain lovers are Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and the Atlas Mountains. But South Africa's Drakensberg Mountains are an absolute delight for a half day hike, or a 5 day trek. Uganda's Rwenzori Mountains and Ethiopia's Simien Mountains are lesser known, but offer up several of Africa's highest peaks. If you don't feel the urge to conquer a mountain top but love to walk, excellent hikes include Zambia's famous walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park, and a multi-day hike along South Africa's breathtaking Wild Coast.

Check out: Top 10 Treks in Africa l How to Climb Kilimanjaro l Trekking in the Atlas Mountains

4. Explore on Two Wheels

Cycling in Tanzania
Amaya Williams and Eric Schambion

Cycling vacations in Africa are becoming very poular. Of course its eco-friendly, and a great way to immerse yourself in rural Africa. Riding a bike does not put up the same economic and social barriers as driving around in a car. Biking also lets you see, hear, and experience Africa at its own pace. Whether you want the thrill of a cross-continent cycling adventure, or you just want to spend half a day exploring Cape Town, there's an African bike tour that's perfect for you. More About: Cycling tours in Africa

Motorcycle Tours -- Whether you're interested in riding through the Sahara Desert, a motorcycle safari in Tanzania, or enjoying South African coastline on a Triumph -- it's all possible. More About: Motorcycle Tours in Africa.

5. Volunteer and Make a Difference

Volunteering in Africa What to Expect
© Lauren Himiak

Volunteering in Africa lets you scratch below the surface and gain an appreciation of a culture very different from your own. Spending time teaching, working and living alongside a community also leads to a deeper understanding about yourself, what you take for granted and what you should appreciate back home. It's a great way to experience Africa at a level beyond a consumer or voyeur. There are lots of options to volunteer for a few days, a week, or 6 months in Africa, that can all be added on to your vacation. Africa does not lack labor, and unemployment is extremely high, so expect to pay a program fee for your experience.

More about: Volunteering in Africa l Family Volunteer Vacations l First Time in Africa? What to Expect

6. Get Historical

Image of Pyramids in Egypt
© David Hutchinson

The evolution of man starts in Africa and Oldupai (Olduvai) Gorge in Tanzania is a great destination for anyone interested in our bi-pedal ancestors. A few million years later, the San in southern Africa were adorning caves with magnificent paintings. The Egyptians were already terribly civilized 5,000 years ago, and busy building monuments and tombs which still stand today. During medieval times, the great cities of Fez, Marrakech and Timbuktu were in their prime, and can still be enjoyed today. The slave-trade left its mark on the coast of both East and West Africa, while Coptic Christians were carving churches out of mountains in Ethiopia. Africa has a fascinating history.

More About: Africa's Ancient Sights l African History

7. Be Wildly Adventurous

Swimming in Devil's Pool, Victoria Falls
© Zambia Tourism

You could argue that any trip to Africa is an adventure, but there's plenty more where that came from. Victoria Falls prides itself on being the extreme adventure capital of Africa. Where else can you bungee off a bridge, swim up to the edge of the world's largest waterfall, micro-light over the Falls, white-water raft down some of the wildest rapids on earth, and then call it a day by having a beer and lifting your glass to a pod of hippos and crocs living in the Zambezi river? Elsewhere, the Sahara desert offers fabulous motorcycle adventures, as well as sand-boarding. Surfing is legendary along South Africa's many bays, just watch out for those diving with Great Whites below you.

More about: Extreme Adventures in Africa

8. Shop in Local Markets and Bazaars

On the Edge of the Central Market, Arusha
© Anouk Zijlma
Visiting markets and bazaars in Africa, is a wonderful way to see local artisans at work and get a good insight into a country's culture, food, smells and sounds. Markets and bazaars also provide fantastic photo opportunities. Get your bargaining skills on and you'll discover how much fun it is to buy your tourist trinkets. By shopping in markets and stores around town you also help the local economy. Whether you're immersing yourself in the medina of Fes in Morocco, checking out the latest high-life CD's in Accra's Makola market, or getting sandals made at a Maasai cattle auction in Tanzania, you'll love the experience.

More About: Africa's Markets l Souvenir Shopping in Africa l Shopping locally

9. Take a Culinary Tour

Culinary Tours to Africa, Moroccan lady making bread in Fes
© Anouk Zijlma

Culinary tours to Africa offer up a tasty combination of culture and history. In Africa most culinary tours concentrate on Morocco and South Africa. Unfortunately I can't find any offers of a culinary tours to Ethiopia, or I would be there right now.  Culinary tours usually involve some hands on cooking, dining at fine restaurants, wine tasting and shopping for ingredients at local markets. Sounds great doesn't it?

Whatever country you are visiting in Africa do try the local food. Even street food is safe as long as you stick to the cooked items, just avoid the salad! In rural areas, ask if you can help pound and prepare for a basic meal, it will be a great experience.

More About: Culinary Tours to Africa l Moroccan Food l Culinary Travel

10. Attend a Festival

Masked Dancers, Dogon Region, Mali
© Getty Images/Peter Adams

With thousands of ethnic groups in Africa, each celebrating their own rites of passage, religious festivals, and local harvests there's generally music and food being shared on any given night of any given week. But as a tourist (and outsider), it's not always easy to gain access, or even know about what's happening where. Luckily, there are several large festivals and cultural events that happen annually, where you can enjoy film, poetry, drama, and of course music, in an organized setting. If sports is more your "thing", then definitely try and watch a local soccer match.

Check Out: Africa's best festivals l African Festival Guide Per Month

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