Africa gets under your skin.

You’ve probably heard a lot of people say this. I certainly did. My brother lived in South Africa for 2 years and never stopped saying it.

After spending so much time in South East Asia, I was a little unsure if Africa could top this. But, after only 5 months backpacking from Kenya down to Cape Town, I discovered the simple truth- Africa gets under your skin. There is no place on Earth like it.

Here are ten experiences that will steal your heart and bury it forever on African soil.

Sunset in Zanzibar
Sunset in Zanzibar

Sunsets on Zanzibar Island

Speak to anyone who has been to Zanzibar and they will reply, “Ahh, Yes Zanzibar!”

Their eyes will glaze over as their mind takes them to a place of paradise, where the sun fires up the night sky as it dips below the horizon and bids farewell to the traditional dhow that passes before it, and the passing travelers sipping their beers from the hammocks between two palm trees above the powdery white sand.

Once darkness becomes the dominant light source, they make their way to the beachside restaurants to sit on plastic chairs and gorge themselves on inexpensive and fresh seafood barbecued in the spices this island has always been famous for.

And if you want more than just sunsets, then take a look at the pristine beaches you get to play at all day long.

Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi

Easy Lakeside Living in Malawi

There’s always going to be places on your travels where you will overstay. Lake Malawi, the warm heart of Africa, is a place that could entrap you for decades.

The rugged mountain landscape that sits at the edge of the Great Rift Valley borders the lakes, leaving you with plenty of hiking explorations during the day.

Or if you just want to relax Malawi style then Africa’s third-largest Lake lends itself to that. You can hire a few local fisherman boys to take you out deep lake fishing with their 80-meter hand reels and makeshift catamarans i.e a plank of flat wood sitting on top of two dugout canoes.

Then there are the beach boys who for a small price will barbecue a chicken feast on the beach for you to eat at night.

Or you can lazily swim, snorkel, rock jump, or canoe around the shores of your lakeside hostel, stopping only to eat, drink, and laugh with the warm and friendly Malawian people.

Simons Bay at Cape Town
Simons Bay at Cape Town

Captivating Cape Town

A week suffering from tick bite fever still did not stop me from falling in love with Cape Town. It is my favorite city and from the moment I saw Table Mountain I was captivated by her spell.

From the colorful neon buildings of Bo Kaap, to the bustling Victoria Harbour, and the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Atlantic Beaches, Table Mountain, and her surrounding peaks rise above you like a faithful guardian angel.

You can’t help but stare up at her in open-mouthed wonder and delight at having such a grandiose friend.

Walk the streets of this historical and cultural city, climb Table Mountain for sunset views, drink wine in the vineyards, visit cultural and historical sites, and swim with penguins at Simons Bay. Yes. The water is that cold. And Yes Cape Town is that captivating.

Ugandan gorillas
Ugandan Gorillas

Gorilla treks, and Whitewater rafting in Uganda

There is a whole lot more to Uganda then just gorilla treks. The people of this nation are so warm and friendly, and the mountainous countryside scenery is just spectacular to explore.

If you want an adventurous African experience then go on a trek through the Bwindi National Forest to sit and play with the gorillas for an hour.

Bwindi means impenetrable and you can certainly understand why as your guide hacks his way through the undergrowth with his machete; a machete that certainly comes in handy as a scare tactic when the gigantic silverback decides to charge you in an effort to mark his territory. What a story that makes to tell!

Wash away the dirt of the trek on the white water rapids of the Nile River at Jinja, the source of the world’s longest river. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether the charging silverback or the final grade 5 rapid “The Bad Place” gets your heart racing more.

Sossusvlei, Namibia
Caz and Craig at Sossusvlei, Namibia

Sunrises in Sossusvlei, Namibia

Often referred to as the highest sand dunes in the world, Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert is definitely a place worth exploring on your Africa adventure.

Start the day with an early morning climb 85m up Dune 45 for a panoramic view of a spectacular sunrise that changes the color of the shifting sands through varying shades of red.

After the sunrise, explore the surreal Deadvlei, a favorite for photographers for its white baked clay pan, dead camel thorn trees, and surrounding red dunes. An eerie oppressive heat sets in here by mid-morning, which has you racing for the nearest exit.

If you have enough energy you can attempt the climb up the ridge of the 390m Big Daddy, reported being the highest dune in the world. Why not roll all the way down its face into Deadvlei as we witnessed some people doing?

Stay tuned for the next 5 experiences of Caz and Craig’s backpacking trail through Africa on Highlights of a Kenya to Cape Town Backpacking Trail – Part Two.

About the Author:

Caz Makepeace has been living and traveling the globe since 97, both solo and as a couple and now with a three-year-old. They believe life is all about the memories and their travel tips and stories at yTravel blog and their fan page aim to inspire and teach others how to make their life a story to tell.

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  1. Oh you make me so jealous! I really want to go to Africa but I know I’ll get their eventually I just have to wait for ‘my’ time.

    I really love that last photo of the two of you.

    1. I second you on that… jealous too!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so looking forward to experiment the variety of cultures in Africa. For me this post was a great insight on all the places they went.

        1. forths then I guess. I went to india a couple of years ago, and it only made my travel itch stronger. I want so much to do more travelling, africa next hopefully.

    2. Thanks Ayngelina!
      You will get there and it will be totally worth the wait. I can’t wait to get back and writing this post made me so itchy for it again. There really is nothing like it.

    1. The sunrises are amazing. Africa has everything. I’m glad the post has inspired you even more to go there.

  2. Very true, there is no place like Africa. I lived in Africa for 13 years and now when I come back for a visit, I still think it’s true.
    I would love to go to Namibia and attempt to roll down that dune!

    1. I can only imagine how much you love it after living there for all that time. I wouldn’t mind going back to Namibia and attempting that roll. We left it far too late to do it. I saw quite a few people crash and burn while doing it.

  3. Great insights into Africa! Love the penguins! That shot goes against all the stereotypes of penguins on ice! What a fascinating look at this area with so much variety in culture, people, and animals! Look forward to part 2!

    1. I know!! Before reading from Caz’s post and looking at the picture, I would have never imagined there are penguins in the African Continent!

    2. We were really surprised to learn they were in Cape Town, but after we attempted a swim in the ocean we understood why. It is the coldest water I’ve ever felt. Many people swim in this area with the penguins.

  4. Africa keeps calling! Unfortunately it took the hit on our RTW last year when finances needed to be adjusted. Can’t wait to get to Namibia, Botswana and Tanzania! Thanks for sharing guys ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. i’ve never have a chance traveling outside southeast asia yet. perhaps sooner. btw, im a bit jealous as you guys can make this kind of traveling. been there for 6 month then here for 4 months bla..bla.. im trying to make traveling as my lifestyle here in Malaysia. keep Living Life aLive!!

    1. You’ll get there! It is not easy but if you have the dream you’ll find a way. Malaysia is as good a place as any to travel.

      1. Azraiasari, Good to see you around!

        I agree with Caz and Craig. Focus on that dream to make travel part of your lifestyle and you’ll get there. I’ve personally never been to Malaysia, but I’m pretty sure it has a lot of great places to go and see as well as the ease to move around Southeast Asia.

        1. thanks Caz & Norbert. as i just thavel within Malaysia, i’m trying to representing the nature, culture and signature of our own in my blog (in my way). all of you are most welcome. Selamat Datang =)

  6. I agree with everyone—I’m jealous too! There are so many places I want to travel too still, and Africa is one of them. (When I was a kid i wanted to get married on a safari in Kenya!)

    1. Go and get married in Kenya and if you are already married then renew your wedding vows. Why not? Africa is so awesome

    2. Wow!! How cool would be to get married in a Kenyan Safari?!! Although I wasn’t able to attend, I had a friend who got married there. From what I saw, the wedding and the experience were amazing!

  7. Yaaaayyyy An Africa lover!
    Inspiring to read this, and can’t wait to get back…in 4 months time! No where else in the world beats Africa’s scenery, colours,culture and the wildlife. Can you imagine the feeling of seeing a huge tusk poke through a thick bush…and the adrenaline rush of realising that there’s a huge elephant 3 metres away from you…and you never saw it til then?!

    1. I’m so jealous you are going back in 4 months. There is no place like it. We really want to get back soon so Kalyra can see the animals

  8. okay, i want to go to every one of those places…NOW! ๐Ÿ™‚ africa is on my list for my rtw so i’ll be on the edge of my seat waiting for part 2! love the photos and as always, the writing ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks Lorna. I could write hundreds of posts on Africa, there is so much to tell. Most of our photos are on slide film and we are yet to make the huge transition over to digital. Can’t wait till we do. And then we had a CD of photos destroyed on the raod- all of our gorilla trekking, Uganda and Kenya! Devastated

  9. I can only agree. I traveled all over Africa for 6 months 30 years ago and come back for shorter trips again and again. And I lived in Simonstown for a while, so had the pinguins right next door.

    1. That is so cool you lived in Simons Town. Have you noticed much a difference from 30 years ago? What an adventure that must have been back then

  10. I propose we all meet up in Zanzibar this year. Can we organise a TBEX/travel bloggers conference there? With some generous multinational to sponsor our airfares? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

    What a fabulous post. Now I have to move Africa up our list.

  11. Never did the journey to Cape Town or get to Zanzibar but I spent a good bit of time in Kenya and the highlight for me was staying on an island called Lamu off the Kenyan coast – it has a lot in common with Zanzibar albeit on a smaller scale, so I understand the appeal ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. We had heard of Lamu. Didn’t get there because it was a bit unstable at the time and a bit out of the way. Sounds very similar. Would love to make it there.

  12. I have a friend who is South Africa at the moment and I think its fair to say he COMPLETELY agrees with you haha Unfortuanately I’ve never been but is definitely somewhere i’de like to visiti n the future.

    1. South Africa is one of my favourite countries. The country is just spectacular and there is so much to see and do.

  13. Very jealous as well ๐Ÿ™‚ I have yet to be to Africa yet but am not in too much of a hurry to get there. I know once I visit I won’t want to leave until I explore it all, and those types of feelings tend to have big consequences on my life ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. You will be there for years Todd. So much to explore. I think you would really enjoy it. It is a life changing experience.

  14. I feel like I read endless blogs about Asia, don’t get me wrong, it sounds amazing but it is so refreshing to read something new. Africa truly sounds amazing and these photos make me want to visit even more! I look forward to the next installments.

  15. Great pictures! I always wanted to go to Africa but never knew which country I’d to pick. This post really put Kenya for me on the map. How are the people over there?

  16. Am envious as well! I will surely love to visit this part of the globe someday! Till then your pics are my only relief! Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Arti, I’m looking forward to experience these places too! Thankfully I will have the change to go to many of them in the near future, so more inspiration coming your way soon! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. Hi! I was just wondering what your budget was for all those countries in 5 months? I would like to replicate the trail but in 8 months, and would like a ballpark figure ๐Ÿ™‚

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