The Ultimate Africa Bucket List: Things to Do in your Lifetime

Table Mountain
 photo by Ghillebert

by The Daily Telegraph, March 09, 2016

The mighty African continent runs from the Sahara and Atlas mountains in the north, to the verdant Garden Route along South Africa's coastline, via the great savannahs of the Maasai Mara, endless peaks and bone-dry desert, untamed jungle and coarsing rivers. Here we pick its best travel experiences. 

1. Climb Table Mountain

You haven’t truly understood the scope of Cape Town until you’ve ascended Table Mountain and admired the city sprawled below, dwarfed as much by the steep mountain slopes as the huge expanse of ocean and sky, writes Pippa de Bruyn, our Cape Town expert. She recommends Skeleton Gorge, from Kirstenbosch Gardens, as the most scenic route, but advises a good level of fitness and setting aside 5-6 hours for the trip.

2. Among the only remaining seven wonders of the ancient world, the pyramids of Giza are truly startling in their scale and grandeur, which photographs cannot quite capture. The largest of them, the Pyramid of Khufu (also known as the Pyramid of Cheops), was built around 4,500 years ago and now stands 138.8 metres tall. Walk around its base, and if not claustrophobic, climb inside (despite the high cost of the ticket at 200 Egyptian pounds - around £18). Do not, however, follow the example of one German teenager, who received a life ban from Egypt after climbing to the top of the pyramid, which is illegal. 

3. Baffle at the Great Migration

Lisa Grainger, who has written extensively about Africa for Telegraph Travel, recommends fly-camping in the Great Migration: “Seeing hundreds of thousands of creatures on the move is an incredible sight – but even better is camping in their midst, so you wake up to the sound, all around, of wildebeest and zebra, chomping and harrumphing.”

Read more about how best to see one of the greatest wildlife shows on Earth in our "trip of a lifetime" guide to the Great Migration

4. Trek Morocco's Atlas Mountains

The highest point in North Africa is the 4,167m Jebel Toubkal, the mighty summit of the Atlas Mountains that stretch across Morocco . It is possible to reach on a four-day trip from the UK - but such limited time allows for little acclimatisation, and even less for enjoying the foothills, where orange soils cede to dramatic barren crags and mountain lakes. A longer route takes in lower peaks including Mount M’Goun and Ouanoukrim, overnighting in mountain refuges and Berber villages. See operators such as Explore ( ), Exodus ( ) and KE Adventure ( ) for itineraries. 

5. Drive the Garden Route in South Africa

From Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape, the Garden Route is so called because of the astonishing array of flora that grows there. Explore the Tsitsikamma National Park, Plettenberg Bay and Nature's Valley, and revel in the glorious coastal climate, which stays mild year-round – indeed, the area is believed to have the second mildest climate in the world after Hawaii.

6. Trail mountain gorillas in Rwanda

"As the gorillas rolled and tumbled past me, it was possible to imagine the species as it was before its rogue of a distant cousin, man-with-a-gun, discovered it in 1902 – populous and free-flowing in the high green heart of Africa." That was how Nigel Richardson described seeing mountain gorillas when he travelled to Rwand a for Telegraph Travel in 2015. Conservation efforts mean these mighty creatures are strengthening in numbers after decades of poaching. An encounter - time-limited for the animals' welfare - is unforgettable. See our trip of a lifetime guide for more details on how to plan a trip - or read more about the Telegraph Tour to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda that sees visitors joined by Tim Butcher, the Telegraph’s former Africa correspondent and award-winning author.

7. Marvel at the Victoria Falls

Swim in the pool atop Victoria Falls, take a micro-light flight over them – and then take a helicopter trip into the gorge," recommends Lisa Grainger. “It is all rather terrifying but if you like adrenalin pumping through your veins, one of the most heart-pumpingly thrilling ways to experience the real power of millions of gallons of water churning into the earth.”

8. Ride South Africa's Blue Train

The original wooden coaches on this line between Cape Town, Jo'Burg and Pretoria were replaced in 1937 with steel ones built in Birmingham and painted a dashing shade of dark blue. Its name was formally changed to the " Blue Train " some time after, and now those on the 994 mile stretch can enjoy meals, drinks, and Montecristo Havana cigars included in the fare. There is an extensive list of South African wines available, wrote Mark Smith for Telegraph Travel - "You probably won’t be able to drink £800-worth before you reach Pretoria, but you can have a damn good try..."

The South Luangwa National Park is one of the best places in Africa to see game on foot. At Robin Pope Safaris in the remote far north of the park, on the banks of the Mupamadzi River, in among mature woodland and savannah grasslands, visitors may spot elephant, lion, leopard, giraffe, buffalo, zebra and antelope. See our pick of Africa’s best walking safaris .

The rock-cut churches at Lalibela are perhaps the best-known landmark in Ethiopia's highlands, but they are also home to dramatic mountain sides where wolves roam, and which adventurous trekkers take to. The area is fertile and green, with areas unlike the vast sweeps of desert we often associate with east Africa. 

"Dusk was gathering as I reached Jaws Corner in the heart of Zanzibar’s old Stone Town, and the atmosphere was hotting up. An hour earlier, peace had reigned in this nook buried deep in the labyrinthine old quarter, bar a low-key soundtrack of haggling fruit sellers and bell-pinging cyclists dodging tourist shutterbugs." Paul Bloomfield described alluring scenes on Zanzibar when he visited for Telegraph Travel last year . There is now accommodation from beach huts to luxury hotels, and distractions from superb diving to traditional spice tours. 

“Fly over the sand dunes of Namibia – then camp in their midst, where the stars are dazzling, there's no sound at all at night, and, if you get up at dawn, you can watch hundreds of miles of sand turn orange, then golden,” recommends Lisa Grainger. Read our Namibia Trip of a Lifetime guide to find out more about how to plan a visit. 

13. Stroll with the bushmen of the Kalahari desert

“The Bushmen of the Kalahari have lived as nomads for thousands of years, and still get their sustenance from plants and underwater springs. And make all their medicine from them,” says Lisa Grainger. 

Some of the most visitor-friendly wineries on the famous South African vineyard stretches include Waterford, an Boland Coetzee, Delaire Graff and Tokara, which produce some of the grapes that make the Western Cape "more like a mix of California and the Mediterranean than the southern end of a turbulent continent," according to one recent visitor. 

"As the highest free-standing mountain in the world, at 5,895m, Kilimanjaro is blessed with a spectacular summit," wrote Michelle Jana Chan when she reached the top of Africa's most famous peak in 2011 . "The cloud base is so far below that the view resembles that from a plane window. I could see the distant, seemingly tiny cone of Mount Meru, in Tanzania."

Credit:khanbm52 - Fotolia/khanbm52 - Fotolia16. Raft down the Zambezi

“A canoe safari down the Zambezi brings you as close to wild creatures as you dare”, says Lisa Grainger. ”Float right up to elephants as they drink, and try to avoid giant crocs as they cruise by.”

"A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater, in Tanzania, is top of every wildlife lover's wish-list", wrote Gill Charlton in 2011."Without warning we tip over the rim of the crater and a vast green basin with pink-rimmed soda lakes is spread out 2,000ft below us. Even without binoculars I can see herds of zebra and buffalo and the pink is thousands of flamingoes."

This spectacular wildlife roundabout is in fact a larger conservation area, the Unesco World Heritage Site Ngorongoro Conservation Area in which the eponymous caldera is found. It is believed no Europeans set foot in the area until 1892, when Austrian explorer, cartographer and ethnographer Oscar Baumann came here. 

The World Wildlife Fund recognises Hermanus on the southern coast of the Western Cape of South Africa as one of the 12 best whale watching destinations in the world, with peak season between July and September. See their full list of recommended spots for seeing the mammals at or see our guide to the best coastal hotels at Hermanus .

“Explore the continent's most beautiful coastline by dhow - and take in 17th-century churches and forts en route, as well as some of the best dives on the planet”, by touring the coastline of Mozambique, recommends Lisa Grainger.

Credit:NoraDoa - Fotolia/NoraDoa - Fotolia 20. Play the Legends Golf Couse 

The Extreme 19th hole at this famous course in South Africa's Limpopo Province is accessible only by helicopter, with the tee atop Hanglip Mountain and a 361-metre shot off a cliff to the green below. Golfing aficionados cannot say they have played the world's greatest courses until they have tried their luck here. 

21. Relax on Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail has good reason to claim that its largely wood-panelled train is “the most luxurious in the world”; the Royal Suites are certainly the most generously sized on any tourist train", writes Anthony Lambert in our guide to Rovos Rail's luxurious journeys .

Telegraph Tour reader offer : join Jeremy Paxman on a tour that includes a Rovos Rail charter from the magnificent Victoria Falls into Zimbabwe, which then threads its way across Drakensberg Escarpment into South Africa before journey’s end in Pretoria.

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