Africa is one of the most unexplored and least traveled to destinations on the map. It reputation for disaster and negative portrayal in the media can make it seem far, far away -- almost untouchable. The media fails to show, however, the beauty and richness of the continent and its people, and how accessible travel can be. (Pictured below: Large bull elephant with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, Amboseli national park, Kenya)
Africa is home to some of the most colorful and oldest cultures in the world that are as diverse as the terrain. Unfortunately, the people suffered gravely from colonization and internal wars, and these conflicts left their mark on present day society. Despite their history, the people carry a life and strength that thrives in even the harshest environment.
From the pyramids of Egypt to Mount Kilimanjaro to Victoria Falls, Africa boasts some of the most stunning wonders in the world. It may not have the fancy architecture of other tourist attractions, but even the most rural villages have character. Colorful handicrafts, fabrics, and jewelry make memorable souvenirs.
Africa is not famous for city travel. Despite clean-up efforts, cities are still crowded and dirty, and foreigners must be aware of scams and pickpockets. Keeping your valuables to a minimum and dressing conservatively helps reduce this risk, but you must always stay aware of your surroundings. It is not advisable to walk the city at night or to visit the slums without purpose. Trustworthy locals will give the best advice about safety in their city.
The most popular way to travel in Africa is on a safari. This multi-day ride through some of the continents beautiful national parks is an exhilarating way to get out of the cities and see the land. Traveling with a tour company is the only way to do this without your own vehicle. Try to spot all of Africa's big five -- a lion, rhino, leopard, buffalo, and elephant.
Volunteer opportunities in Africa abound and offer an alternative to touristic travel. If you want a more cultural immersion and you want to get your hands dirty, then this is the route for you. Some programs require you to pay to participate, while contacting your preferred initiative directly may offer a more authentic feeling alternative.
Warnings and misconceptions
Africa is often labeled a dangerous continent, but it can be safe when traveled appropriately. Before traveling, check your government's restricted travel list and be aware of any recent conflict areas. City streets have the most potential for danger. Aside from that, Africa is home to some of the friendliest and most generous people, who will give you a luxurious meal even when they can't afford it. The hospitality and kindness will astound you.