Diversity is the spice of life, they say, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Africa. Escape from the world on a tropical island, in quaint country towns or at untamed game reserves. Or, head to vibrant cities like Cape Town and Dar es Salaam and immerse yourself in restaurants, shopping and sightseeing.
How to choose? Simple – do both! Here are our fave city vs serenity destinations (we can combine any of these for the ultimate Diverse Africa tour).
Where to go to get away from it all
Grande Soeur and Petite Soeur, Seychelles
These sister islands are two of the most unspoilt and preserved islands in the Seychelles. Both are home to nesting sea turtle populations. Petite Soeur can only be accessed during calm seas as it is surrounded by reef, while Grande Soeur is a private island permitting only a small number of visitors per day. Relax your body and mind with pristine beaches, wild and secluded interior jungles and large granite boulders. Laze beneath palm trees, enjoy a bbq lunch on the beach or dive into the ocean’s wealth of colour.
Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans
Some places cannot be explained but need to be experienced. The sun-scorched earth of the Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans is one of these places. These shimmering salt pans offer up barren beauty, mostly appearing as glaring, white, endless plains. During the rains they come alive with greenery. Walk with the indigenous San Bushmen, sleep beneath starry night sky and meet the cutest residents of region, the meerkats.
We recommend a stay at Jack’s Camp, an oasis of old-world glamour on the edge of the Pans that contrasts starkly with the savage and desolate beauty of the landscape. Jack’s Camp is one of just three in a one million-acre private wildlife reserve – let that sink in. If you’ve ever had ‘only people left on earth’ fantasies, this is where they will come to life. It’s also the only camp in Africa with a swimming pool tent! Expect game drives, quad biking, horseback riding, bushman walks and meerkat encounters with some of the best guides in Botswana. If you visit between January and April, you’ll encounter the second largest migration of zebra in the world – after the better known Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania.
South Africa’s Great Karoo is fondly called the middle of nowhere and spans over 40% of the country’s land surface. The best way to explore is on a self-drive, discovering little oasis towns dotted across this arid semi-desert area. Experience the blazing summers and frigid winters of the Koue Bokkeveld or frolic in spring’s kaleidoscope of wildflowers in Namaqualand.
When it comes to peace and quiet, Tankwa Karoo National Park feels like the end of the earth. Camdeboo National Park has the most spectacular sunsets, best enjoyed from the rocky outcrops in the Valley of Desolation. The starry Karoo sky can be seen from anywhere, but it is especially clear on the route between Sutherland and Calvinia where there are no city lights to interfere with the twinkling display. You can stop off in Sutherland to visit the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) centre for a night tour.
Journey to the streetlights and people
It’s not for nothing that this city is constantly rated among the top few in the world – it’s repetitive, but it never gets old. With a great combination of outdoor adventures and indoor experiences, the Mother City has the beaches, the restaurants, the views and the people. Take a boat ride to Robben Island, hike up Table Mountain, shop at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, visit Boulders Beach to the see penguins or party the night way in Bree Street.
Stone Town, Zanzibar
Stone Town is the one place in Zanzibar where you’ll always find an open restaurant or a rooftop hotel with panoramic views and a courtyard where you can sip on some spicy tea. Unlike Stone Town, the rest of Zanzibar is mostly rural with little pockets of residential areas outside of the resorts where you’ll be staying. Stone Town is the cultural centre. Visit ancient city ruins, see Freddy Mercury’s original home, visit a spice market and bargain for beautiful works of art, jewellery and bags in the alleyways of Stone Town.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s most prominent and populous city, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. It’s a delightfully chaotic mix of arts, fashion, markets, attractions and traditional culture. Congestion on the roads can get pretty hairy, so we recommend a local rickshaw or a bajaj (mototaxi) to get around as they can move more easily through traffic. Visit one of the city’s incredible markets; Tingatinga for art, Mwenge for wood carvings, crafts, baskets and manga cloths or Kariakoo for virtually anything. The National Museum and House of Culture as well as the Makumbusho Village Museum offer insight into the 20 different housing styles in Tanzania as well as local art and historical artifacts.
Need some help choosing? Our consultants know these places like the back of their hands and can help you put together a trip that takes in both the city lights and scenic escapes. Get in touch for free, no obligations advice.