Africa, almost bisected by the equator, is home to a great variety of habitats, landscapes and cultures. Little or no time difference from the UK means that many destinations are closer than you might think.
From the mountains of Morocco and the archaeological splendours of Egypt, to the wildlife and beaches of South Africa, this vast continent is waiting to be explored!
South Africa is a year round destination. Game reserves in the Kruger National Park, and malaria free reserves to the north of Johannesburg and on the southern coast are excellent for safaris and spotting the Big 5. Away from the parks other gorgeous scenery includes the Garden Route between Mossel Bay and the Storms River which has a spectacular coastline of dramatic headlands and sandy beaches, the Drakensberg Mountains, the Winelands, and the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town is a fascinating city, with the fantastic back drop of Table Mountain.
The Kingdom of Morocco is the most westerly of the North African countries and is known as the Maghreb. Marrakech is an enchanting city of honeycombed alleys and minarets. The main square Djemaa el Fna, is a lively hub of activity where you will find snake charmers, acrobats, dancers and storytellers. Discover the history of the Imperial Cities, trek in the Atlas Mountains or relax at the coastal resorts of Agadir and Essaouira whilst sipping mint tea.
Oman, with an extraordinary 5000 year history, is known as the jewel in the crown of Arabia. Located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman has long sandy beaches, groves of citrus trees and dramatic mountainsides. Muscat, the capital, is the centre of the strong traditional culture, and there are many cultural interests here including the Al Alam Palace and Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.
The clear deep blue waters off the coastline of Oman are also one of the best diving grounds in world. Salalah in the south west has retained great charm and character and is steeped in the ancient myths and antiquities that surround the frankincense trade. The marsh khawrs along the coast line are sanctuaries to a broad variety of migrating birds.
Turkey has a long history and is a fascinating country to explore. Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans two continents, and over the years was capital to the East Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. The Aegean coast has many beach resorts and also some of the most extensive and best preserved Roman and Greek ruins anywhere, including the ruins at Pergamon and Ephesus.
Separating Europe and Asia, the Dardanelle Straits are a natural wonder: to the south stand the remains of ancient Troy, the city of Homer’s fables and of Helen who launched a thousand ships, and to the north of the Straits is the Gallipoli Peninsula. In the centre of the country, Konya (the home of the whirling Dervishes) is surrounded by a vast fertile plain, which gives out to the deep valleys and the rock formations of Cappadocia.
The 115 Seychelles islands lie in the Western Indian Ocean, and are known for their pristine natural beauty: here you will find white sand beaches, coral reefs, nature reserves and rare wildlife such as the giant Aldabra tortoises. The smallest capital in the world, Victoria, is on the main island of Mahé. Praslin is the perfect base for island hopping and is also where the famous Coco de Mer grows in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vallée de Mai – believed to be the true Garden of Eden. La Digue, has remained untouched by the passage of time – transport is by bicycle and ox-cart and its beaches are amongst the most photographed in the world.
For many Kenya is quintessential Africa. It encompasses savannah, lakelands, the dramatic Great Rift Valley, mountain highlands and abundant wildlife such as lions, elephants and rhinos. Most visitors come here to go on safari, but Kenya is also known as the Cradle of Civilisation. It was here that the most ancient remains of early man were found in the 1920s, near to Lake Nakuru.
Famous as the original safari country, within Kenya there are over 40 national parks and wildlife reserves which have been set aside for the conservation of wildlife and natural habitat. The Masai Mara is the best known game reserves, and is the northern tip of the Greater Serengeti ecosystem: the entire area of the park is nestled within the Great Rift Valley that extends almost the length of Africa. Other parks include Amboseli National Park, offering views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Samburu, Tsavo and Meru.
Tanzania is known for Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and its vast wilderness areas including the plains of Serengeti National Park – one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries. The annual migration involves more than 1.5 million wildebeest as well as hundreds of thousands of zebra and gazelle in search of greener pastures and water, and is one of nature’s most breathtaking sights.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the remains of a once massive volcano, nearly three million years old, and is a fertile bowl with permanent water sources and steep sides ensuring that the wildlife thrives here. Offshore, Zanzibar is an archipelago made up of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, and several islets. It is characterised by beautiful sandy beaches with fringing coral reefs, and historic Stone Town- said to be the only functioning ancient town in East Africa.
Zambia, in the heart of southern Africa, is unspoiled by mass tourism and is rich in wildlife. About a third of this vast country is set aside as national park or game management land. The swamplands of Bangweulu are a bird watchers paradise while South Luangwa with its unique combination of wilderness, isolation and large concentrations of animals makes it one of the best parks to visit anywhere in Africa: here are some 60 animal species and over 400 bird species. Zambia shares with Zimbabwe the great natural attraction of Victoria Falls. In to the man-made Lake Kariba flows the mighty Zambezi, one of Africa’s great rivers.
Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island lying about 250 miles off the East African coast, and has one of the richest eco-systems on earth. It offers the visitor a wealth of beautiful places to explore from the rainforests to the underwater world of tropical fish and coral. It is largely renowned for its many species of lemurs, but there is also a huge variety of endemic birds. Scenery ranges from a volcanic mountain range near Diego covered with thick forest, concealing several small crater -lakes, to white sandy beaches and blue, blue seas.