From Morocco to Namibia we've found relaxation, culture and adventure in Africa
Namibia For wildlife, southern Africa reigns supreme. Namibia is wonderful for spotting lions, cheetahs, rhinos and leopards, and has the world’s highest dunes and second deepest canyon. It’s a country with huge geographical variety, containing a large part of the Kalahari Desert in the east of the country. In the north is the Etosha Pan, a verdant, game-rich area with a huge range of species. The Namib Desert and Skeleton Coast lie along the western seaboard, while the Caprivi Strip is a dramatic, 450km-long sliver of Namibia between Botswana on the south and Angola and Zambia to the north that provides access to the Zambezi and the habitat of the endangered Wild African Dog. Fly to Windhoek via Johannesburg with South African Airways from Dhs4,700 return, www.flysaa.com.
Fes, Morocco Fes has a wonderful, labyrinthine medieval souk and, being far less touristy than Marrakech, is sometimes described as the ‘real Morocco’. The city is famous for its Arabesque architecture, and the city’s medina of Old Fes (Fes el Bali), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is thought to be the world’s largest contiguous car-free urban area. You’ll probably want to get behind those glorious Arabesque façades: the recent conversion of many of the smarter traditional houses (riads) into hotels means you can recharge your batteries in luxurious comfort before heading out into the whirl of people, goods and overburdened donkeys thronging the centre. Fly to Casablanca with Emirates from Dhs4,100 return and from Casablanca to Fez with Royal Air Maroc from Dhs2,000 return. www.emirates.com; www.royalairmaroc.com.
South Africa South Africa offers the opportunity to see the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) across most of the country, as well as the chance to sample excellent grape in the Cape regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Constantia. The beautiful city of Cape Town, with its lively nightlife and breathtaking mountains, is definitely not to be missed. In terms of accommodation, the B&Bs in the country are second to none, and the cuisine is fresh and vibrant. Fly direct to Cape Town with South African Airways from Dhs4,700 return. www.flysaa.com.
Cabo Verde The archipelago of Cabo Verde is the thinking traveller’s Canary Islands. The bone-white, empty beaches, soaring volcanoes and lush tropical vegetation on these 10 islands were kept a secret for years (although Cabo Verde always attracted a few Portuguese holidaymakers, thanks to the colonial connection), but now the year-round sun and blend of African, Portuguese and Brazilian cultures is even attracting package tourists.
The archipelago – 10 islands and eight islets – is located 604 km off the coast of West Africa. Visit Sal, famous for its 350 days of sunshine, one of the most popular resort hubs thanks to the lovely beaches of Santa Maria; on Boa Vista you can climb stunning dunes and dive to see marine turtles, and explore the ‘tropical Lisbon’ of Sal Rei, with its cobbled streets. Santo Antão is developing rural tourism – great if you want to meet locals and get away from the beaches. Santiago, in the leeward island chain to the south, is best known as the island where Darwin made landfall during his Beagle voyage. Flights from Dhs9,500 return with British Airways and TACV via Heathrow and Lisbon, returning with Deccan and Emirates Airlines via Dakar. www.britishairways.com; www.flytacv.com; www.deccanairlines.in; www.emirates.com.
Gabon You can see gorillas in the mist, hippos surfing the waves and whales in the same day on a holiday to Gabon. This small West African country on the Gulf of Guinea is blessed with some of the most diverse tropical forest in the world – ancient jungles straddling the equator that are believed to contain more than 8,000 plant species, 600 different types of bird and 20 species of primate. Outsiders and locals hope Gabon will become the ‘Costa Rica of Africa’, attracting wildlife and adventure tourists to its 13 new national parks: some 85 per cent of the country is covered in tropical forest, and away from the few small population hubs are savannahs, mangroves, lagoons and beaches. There are thought to be about 20,000 western lowland gorillas and 60,000 forest elephants – the largest population in Africa. Fly to Libreville via Addis Ababa with Ethiopian Airlines from Dhs5,000 return. www.flyethiopian.com.
Ghana US president Barack Obama chose Ghana in July 2009 as the first African country to host of a presidential visit, praising its democratic traditions since independence in 1957. Accra, the capital, is vibrant, swinging to the music of Highlife and the more recent hip-hop fusion Hiplife; it’s more modern than many people expect (Time Out even publishes a visitors’ guide there). The interior is varied and ideal for adventure travellers: visit Ho and its game park to see kobs, duikers and baboons, go mountain biking to the villages of Biakpa and Amedzofe, and hike through the Kulugu canyons to the Mountain Paradise ecolodge (www.mountainparadise-biakpa.com). Fly direct to Accra with Emirates from Dhs5,500 return, www.emirates.com. Or fly with Ethiopian Airways via Addis Ababa for Dhs3,300 return, www.flyethiopian.com.
Sahara World music fans are already flocking to Mali for the annual Festival au Desert (www.festival-au-desert.org), a three-day celebration of song and dance that takes place in Essakane. If you’re after a real out-there experience, travel along the Niger River to Timbuktu and visit Dogon villages that have remained unchanged for centuries. Fly to Bokingo via Nairobi with Kenya Airways from Dhs6,100 return. www.kenya-airways.com.
Senegal Between Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania, Senegal is Africa’s most westerly point. It boasts three mighty rivers, which provide fertile land and some shimmering coastal lagoons, and support a variety of waders and birds of prey as well as hyenas, monkeys, baboons, manatees and dolphins. Fly direct to Dakar with Emirates from Dhs7,000 return. www.emirates.com.