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Cloud creeping over Table mountain in Cape Town, South Africa | © orangecrush/Shutterstock
Cloud creeping over Table mountain in Cape Town, South Africa | © orangecrush/Shutterstock
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15 Life-Changing Things You Have to Do in Africa

Picture of Andrew Thompson
Updated: 15 November 2017
Africa is a remarkable continent. Though it is as vast as it is diverse, many countries and regions have several things in common, starting with some truly spectacular scenery and wildlife. Each country has unique charms and beauty that are worth seeking out, but there are some experiences and activities that stand out more than others. Here are some of the most life-changing things you have to do in Africa.

Climb Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is one of the world’s great peaks. The trek to the summit may be accessible to anyone with a good level of fitness and a solid sense of adventure, but it’s still a grueling expedition. The peak is at 6,000 meters, and the altitude alone will push your body to the maximum. But the views from the top make it worthwhile, and one of the most life-changing experiences you can have on the continent.

Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro | © Sergey Pesterev / Unsplash

Witness the Migration in the Serengeti

The Serengeti in Tanzania is one of the few remaining natural regions of the world where man has not left a permanent impact on the wildlife. Animals are free to roam through this vast expanse of land, free from hazards like fences and highways. The reserve is remarkable at all times of the year, but it’s during the annual migration, when hundreds of thousands of zebras and wildebeest move through the plains, that is truly incredible to witness.

Wildebeest migrating
Wildebeest migrating | © Shripal Daphtary / Unsplash

Trek to the Gorillas

Visiting gorillas in their natural habitat—the forest of equatorial Africa—is at the top of many peoples’ bucket lists. Though human encroachment has threatened the population of these beautiful creatures, it’s still possible to visit them ethically and unobtrusively. The gorillas are now confined to the Virunga Mountains, which border Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mountain gorilla family | © Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock
Mountain gorilla family | © Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock

Stand At the Base of the Pyramids

Nothing can quite prepare you for your first sighting of the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. This may be because this is the last of the Seven Wonders still in tact, and they form a fundamental part of many school history lessons. Though the surrounding region may have lost its true charm and appeal in recent years, the sheer history and scale of these incredible features make them an unmissable addition to any Africa bucket list.

The Sphinx and a pyramid of Giza | © Nort/Shutterstock
The Sphinx and a pyramid of Giza | © Nort/Shutterstock

Hike the Atlas Mountains

Morocco’s Atlas Mountains are barren, windswept, and incredibly beautiful. It’s possible to reach the summit of Toubkal, the summit of this incredible range, which sits at 4,167 meters. With enough time to explore the gentle foothills, dramatic crags, and isolated lakes, a multi-day trek through the region to this peak will leave an indelible impression.

Village in the Atlas mountains, Morrocco | © Ermakova Nadezhda/Shutterstock
Village in the Atlas mountains, Morrocco | © Ermakova Nadezhda/Shutterstock

Test Your Nerve at the Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is the adrenaline capital of the continent, and the activities that take place around this thunderous waterfall in Zimbabwe will test the nerve of even the boldest junkies. Though some choose to leap from the bridge attached to a bungee cord, or take to the skies in an epic helicopter flip, the number one bucket list activity in the area must surely be the white water rafting that takes place on the mighty Zambezi below.

Victoria Falls at sunset | © Amacphoto7/Shutterstock
Victoria Falls at sunset | © Amacphoto7/Shutterstock

Explore Ethiopia’s Highlands

Ethiopia is a remarkable country to visit, and a visit to the highlands is an essential addition to any trip to the region. Though the rock churches at Lalibela are perhaps the best-known feature, the surrounding highlands are home to incredible wildlife and stunning fertile land and soaring peaks. You can visit the area as part of an organized tour, but many choose to embark on lengthy treks.

Ibex in The Simien Mountains of Ethiopia | © Michael De Plaen/Shutterstock
Ibex in The Simien Mountains of Ethiopia | © Michael De Plaen/Shutterstock

Snorkel the Waters of Zanzibar

The waters of Zanzibar are some of the most populated on the continent. Though the small island is easily accessible and somewhat touristy, there are quiet corners perfect for the ultimate island escape. It’s quite possible to rent a cheap dhow for a day and head out to the calm waters near the reef to peer down into a world you otherwise had no idea existed.

Dhow sailing in Zanzibar
Dhow sailing in Zanzibar | © 4758892 / Pixabay

Take in the View of Cape Town From Table Mountain

Table Mountain is an unusual natural feature that rises high above the picturesque city of Cape Town in South Africa. The land mass’s unique flat top may be its most notable feature, but the views from the summit are truly incredible as well. There are several popular hiking trails for varying levels of skill and fitness, as well as a cable car, and the constantly changing mix of urban and natural sights on the way up are thoroughly rewarding.

Cape Town's stunning aerial views | © Jacob Lund/Shutterstock
Cape Town’s stunning aerial views | © Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Climb a Namibian Sand Dune

Namibia’s stark deserts are high on many Africa bucket lists, and for good reason. It’s possible to explore this incredible natural feature in several ways, but most choose to wander one of the country’s national parks. The most famous of these is Namib-Naukluft National Park, where visitors snap away at the petrified trees before summiting the massive Dune 45.

Namib Desert Dune
Namib Desert Dune | © Keith Hardy / Unsplash

Marvel at the Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorogoro Crater is a wildlife wonderland. This fertile volcanic crater is home to abundant wildlife, vast green plains, and fascinating pink-rimmed lakes. It’s a staggering 20 kilometers across and 600 meters deep. Even without the animals that roam this 300 square kilometers, it would be a fascinating natural wonder, but combined it makes it an unmissable sight.

Wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater | © Travel Stock/Shutterstock
Wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater | © Travel Stock/Shutterstock

Visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg

South Africa’s political history is sordid and complex, but its transition to democracy was a truly incredible event. The best place to reflect on the country’s past, present, and future is at the highly impactful Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The expertly curated museum will walk you through this divisive and oppressive political system, the legacy of which the country is still grappling with to this day.

Entrance to the Apartheid museum | © Dendenal/Shutterstock
Entrance to the Apartheid museum | © Dendenal/Shutterstock

Learn About the Rwandan Genocide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial

As South Africa was celebrating a transition to democracy, Rwanda was in the grips of one of the most horrendous human atrocities. The Rwandan Genocide resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of people. Estimates suggest that up to 800,000 people died due to systematic mass murder. Though a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial is a harrowing experience, it is an important and life-changing one that few will ever forget.

Paddle the Okavango Delta

There can be few better experiences in the world than navigating the waterways of the Okavango Delta in a thin mokoro, or canoe. The cacophony of frogs, insects, and birds lay the soundtrack to this remarkable experience, while the blue skies and thick reeds set the backdrop. Couple that with the possibility of spotting wildlife-like hippos, crocodiles, and other predators from the somewhat unsteady canoe, and you have a recipe for an ultimate African experience.

View over the Okavango Delta, Botswana | © Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock
View over the Okavango Delta, Botswana | © Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock

Spend Time With Madagascar’s Fascinating Wildlife

Though access to Madagascar is somewhat difficult, given that it’s an island some way from the mainland, it’s a journey well worth making. The country is home to some of the world’s most unusual wildlife, from lemurs to cat-like fossa and hundreds of bird species. The plant life and scenery is also unlike anything you’ve ever seen, making for a memorable adventure.

Lemur in their natural habitat, Madagascar | © danm12/Shutterstock
Lemur in their natural habitat, Madagascar | © danm12/Shutterstock