Lillian has started the new week hitting the ground running with her latest travel feature: The Five Under-Explored Must Visit African Destinations This Year.
Enjoy reading but better, enjoy travelling there ..
Whether for a luxurious dip in Africa’s pristine beaches, an “only-in-Africa” Game Safari or an out-of-the-world star-gazing night in the darkness of the desert; we all agree Africa is high ranked on the list of the most desired destinations. It’s an experience that offers both snow and dust, industrialization and undying traditions; above all Africa is a cocktail of cultures, fascinating and intriguing in equal measure.
But like a seasoned traveler, you must start by choosing one out of the many tempting options and decide where your rugged traveler series should premier.Lillian Gaitho compiled a list with Africa’s best off-the-beaten-path adventures for 2015!
Star Gazing in the Namib Desert
The stars above and whatever else that seems to thrive beyond human access has piqued our curiosity since the times of our ancestors. Since then, stargazing has become a universal and intriguing human pastime; not just for those wishing to demystify the Milky Way but for the romantics and the palm readers
Joining Chile and Hawaii, Africa’s Namibia is one of the top three global destinations for stargazing. With a generally cloudless night sky that records the least percentages in light and air pollution, the skies over the vast Namib Desert offer an excellent view of the Southern Constellation. According to Euromonitor, astro-tourism (a term for this emerging trend) in the Namib is on a steady growth, attracting both professional astronomers as well as tourist-amateurs. Hotels and lodges not too far from the area keep recording more numbers as tourists park their telescopes, anchoring for a nightly excursion into space and time, and to explore yet a new attraction in Africa.
Feeding Hyenas in Harar, and Melting Down in Dunhill – Ethiopia
While it sounds creepy, the people of Harar- a World Heritage site made of an old walled city in Northern Ethiopia – attach a prophetic message to the same! Every year on the Day of Ashura, folks gather around to feed this comical creatures with porridge purely made from butter.
If the park leader displays a good appetite and licks the bowl past half, the people can be assured of a bounty year ahead. A reaction in the opposite, and the natives seek ways in which to appease the god’s for a better year. If your interaction between you and this fearful, gawky creature is limited to Lion King, then you may also not know that the hyena possesses the second strongest bite of land animals. Tourists can take part in this cultural celebration as well as take part in the evening feeding usually under the watch of, well, hyena-guides considered as experts in the sector.
If still not convinced to believe the tales of tame hyenas, then keep moving to the north until the earth becomes too hot to step on! The district of Dallol in Northern Ethiopia is said to be the hottest place on earth. But that’s no attraction, the bewitching colors of the salt encrusted lakes are to behold, and so are the salt canyons stemming from the grounds. Nicknamed, Gateway to Hell, Dallol is a cruel place; from the scolding sun to the hot volcanic splurges from the valley and the hot geysers all around. You shall need to hire armed guards against possible attack by the Afar people (natives of Dallol) or any militants lurking around the route. Still, it’s about what wins for you; the beauty or the danger, pun intended, Dallol is dangerously beautiful, as is evident from this photo!
With tags such as most cruel place on earth, hottest place on earth and gateway to hell, Dallol gives a rare, spectacular landscape of changing hues as the sun changes positions. It’s no trip for the faint hearted, but then; faint heart never won a fair lady!
Desert and Delta, and the only Zebra Migration in Botswana
Following the rains, massive herds of grazers including wildebeest and zebras migrate from the Okavango Deltaand the river banks of Chobe to the greening stretches of the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi Pans. The latter is a histrionic and isolated expanse where you can actually mark out the curvature of the earth; this just forms a fraction of the Botswana experience!
Situated deep within the Kalahari and the world’s only inland delta, Okavango. The landscape alternates between wetland and dry land, papyrus fringed watercourses as well as palm paved isles with lush greenery in wet weather and molds of dust in the dry months. The wildlife is bounteous; covering both land and marine. Such are the many facets of this exceptional ecology fondly referred to as “the jewel of the Kalahari” Apart from quenching an explorer’s dreams, Okavango offers an extensive line up of leisure activities and excursions.
Gorilla Trekking Rwanda/Uganda
The Virunga Mountains span the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo; setting great heights for the Ugandan Bwindi impenetrable forest – home to man’s closest primate, the Gorilla. Across the border to Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park offers tourists the thrilling and chilling adventure of gazing eye to eye with members of any of the ten families hosted in the park. A Ugandan gorilla trekking trip will usually take three- days, while you can have the same exhilarating experience in a day if departing from Kigali. The major difference in duration is not in the real tracking of the primates, but rather the distance from the main airports to the habitat.
Whichever the choice of departure, gorilla trekking is something each of us should have something to report in their second life once they depart the planet!
Big Five Safari in Kenya
We all agree this is popular, and well explored, but changing ecosystems and habitats have forced this chilling and earth-shaking wildlife to adapt to various aspects of the wild. Making it the ideal time to spot The Big Five before various campaigns force them into protected and unnatural living for survival.
This term was coined by hunters in reference to the danger involved in gunning down the five. Later adopted by tour operators and guides as a sale line for Africa’s wildlife, The Big Five became a popular attraction to tourists and thus grew the interest in spotting the African Lion, Cape Buffalo, Rhinoceros, African Leopard and Elephant all in the same natural habitat and element. You can spot the phenomena in most of the national parks including Amboseli, Maasai Mara, Nairobi National Park (sadly no elephant there) as well as Tsavo National Park.
However, you will need to cross over to Tanzania’ Lake Manyara National Park, the Ishasha Sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda or even the Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda to see the very popular tree-climbing lion.