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51 Things to Do in 51 African Countries

Insider Guides
by Bernard Pollack Jan 11, 2015

IN OCTOBER OF 2009, we began our attempt to visit nearly every country in Africa. At each stop, we met with farmers, community organizers, labor activists/leaders, unions, NGOs, funding and donor communities, and local press, and we blogged the experience.

Having visited more than 17 African countries so far, and spoken with hundreds of travelers, we’ve accumulated the following list. If you’re looking for something to do in any of the countries on the continent, here are some ideas to get you started.

And if you know of a cool or interesting activity that you don’t see here, please add it in the comments.

1. Algeria: Spend a day walking in Algiers to see Turkish palaces and the Martyrs Monument. The Dar Hassan Pacha Palace is a good one.

2. Angola: Head to Luanda in February for their annual carnival and join other expats for live shows and movies at Karl Marx. Claudio Silva has more in 5 Reasons to Go to Angola in 2009 (And Beyond).

3. Benin: See lions, leopards, hippos, and more at the Parc National de la Penjari. In Contonou, we hear the bar Le Costa Rica is a lot of fun.

4. Botswana: The best-value walking safari in Southern Africa is right next to Gaborone at a place called Mokolodi Nature Reserve. We love their permaculture projects, and they offer rhino tracking and safaris by horseback.

5. Burkina Faso: Explore Ouagadougou, one of our favorite capitals in Western Africa, then head to “Bobo” — Bob-Diolasso — the country’s second city.

6. Burundi: Check out the the craft market or relax at Saga beach.

7. Cameroon: Spend three days hiking Mount Cameroon (the highest peak in Western Africa) and visit rescued wildlife at the Limbe Wildlife Center.

8. Central African Republic: You can try for Dzanga-Sangha National Park — very tough to reach without a chartered plane, but an incredible place to spot wildlife.

9. Chad: We’ve read about a Sunday afternoon music and dance party at a place called Plantation right outside N’Djamena.

10. Congo: We’ve been told that tours to the Parc National d’Odzala are worth the hefty cost. You can go trekking with the chance of spotting elephants, monkeys, and gorillas.

11. Cote d’Ivoire: Spend a few days in Abidjan for excellent food, drinks, and nightlife.

12. Democratic Republic of the Congo: We’ve heard about the Chutes de Lukia, where you can swim in natural lakes and then pay a visit to botanical gardens.

13. Djibouti: Walk Djibouti City for a day, and then head to the Bay of Ghoubet to snorkel with whale sharks.

14. Equatorial Guinea: See forest elephants and other wildlife on day hikes in Monte Alen National Park, and on your way back through Malabo check out the Marcado Suma market.

15. Egypt: Nick Rowlands tells you what you need to know in What NOT to Do in Egypt.

16. Eritrea: Another place that few travelers visit, Eritrea retains strong Italian influence in its espresso, cappuccino, gelato, pasta, and pizza, found everywhere in the capital city of Asmara.

17. Ethiopia: We ended our most recent trip in Addis Ababa, one of our favorite cities in Africa. Within the bumper-to-bumper traffic, people herd sheep and vendors hawk everything from Mentos to vacuum cleaners. The country is also famous for the rock churches of Lalibela.

18. Gabon: Lonely Planet recommends connecting with the Ebando Association to learn traditional arts and dance.

19. Gambia: Head to Serekunda to visit the Katchikali Crocodile Pool, take traditional drumming and dance lessons, and trek the Bijilo Forest Park.

20. Ghana: We visited the Cape Coast Castle, where slaves from all over Africa were imprisoned before being shipped to the U.S. and Europe.

21. Guinea: Join up with the Environmental Research Institute in Bossou to see chimpanzees, or hike the rainforests of Foret Classee De Ziama.

22. Guinea-Bissau: Hippos at Ilha de Orange, beach at Poilao Marine Park. If you’re there in February, catch Bissau’s carnival.

23. Kenya: Head North to Samburu to meet with pastoralists and see wildlife; while in Nairobi make sure you try the Indian restaurant Haandi. Check in with a Matador destination expert for more.

24. Lesotho: In the south, walk from Semonkong to the 200m Maletsunyane Falls.

25. Liberia: Explore the markets of Monrovia, followed by a drink at Mamba Point Hotel.

26. Libya: Visit the 800-year-old World Heritage old town of Ghadames.

27. Madagascar: Four hours east of Antananarivo, trek the rainforest in search of lemurs. Save a few days for the capital (don’t miss the lunch buffet at Hotel Sakamanga).

28. Malawi: Before heading to Lake Malawi, spend a few days in Lilongwe and visit the Lilongwe Wildlife Center, a sanctuary space for rescued, confiscated, orphaned, and injured wild animals.

29. Mali: Timbuktu might be too dangerous at the moment, so spend a couple days enjoying Bamako’s live music and nightlife, and make sure to grab dinner at Soukhothai.

30. Mauritania: After a visit to the fish market in Nouakchott, try a camel ride in Atar, or bird watch at the Parc National du Banc d’Arguin.

31. Mauritius: Swim the ocean and hike the rainforest in the same long afternoon at Grand Bay.

32. Morocco: Get lost in the traditional markets of Marrakesh, where you can see everything from a dentist pulling teeth, to snake charmers, to unidentifiable dried fruits. When you’re ready to head out, try 5 Views of a Lesser-Known Morocco.

33. Mozambique: Enjoy coffee and wifi at Nautilus in Maputo, then hit the white-sand beaches of Tofo.

34. Namibia: Travel to Namib-Naukluft park and trek through the dunes of Sossusvlei to watch the sunrise.

35. Niger: Lonely Planet says there’s a giraffe herd 60km east of Niamey around Koure.

36. Nigeria: In Lagos, see live jazz at New Afrika Shrine, shop the fabric markets, and grab some Indian grub at Sherlaton restaurant. Matador Goods editor Lola Akinmade will be happy to add to this.

37. Rwanda: Spend a day at the Kigali Memorial Center to learn about the Rwandan genocide. For us, it was another reminder of how easily we turn our backs on events in Africa and our apathy towards a continent we know so little about.

38. Sao Tome & Principe: See exotic flowers at the Flora Speciosa, visit the Corallo Chocolate Factory, and see a local coffee plantation.

39. Senegal: Catch a live performance at the Institut Francais, go dancing at Youssou N’Dour’s nightclub Thiossane, and pay a visit to the photogenic town of Saint Louis.

40. Sierra Leone: Once you’ve hit all of Freetown’s bars, try a canoe trek in Outamba-Kilimi National Park.

41. South Africa: So much to do here, but make sure to fit in a walking tour of Soweto and a visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

42. South Sudan: Africa’s newest country suffered through years of Civil War before it gained its independence. Now, as it gets back on its feet, it’s making a name for itself thanks to its incredible wildlife. So if you’re thinking of doing an African safari, why not try it in South Sudan?

43. Sudan: We suggest visitors find an organization to volunteer with. There’s no better way to get to know this beautiful yet turbulent country.

44. Somaliland: Definitely a road less traveled. I’ve read that the beaches of Las Geel are beautiful, that the country is relatively safe for Westerners, and that Hargeisa is worth a wander.

45. Swaziland: There’s whitewater rafting on the Usutu River — along with crocodiles and 10m waterfalls.

46. Togo: Spend a few days in Lome for markets, restaurants, coffee shops, nightlife, and dancing.

47. Tunisia: Take a tour of the desert and visit Douz, where you can go camel trekking.

48. Uganda: First, go whitewater rafting at the source of the Nile (near Kampala) and visit Lake Victoria. Then, if you can afford it, go gorilla trekking or hiking in Mgahinga National Park.

49. Tanzania: Spend four days hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, then head south to Zanzibar Island for a spice tour and beautiful beaches.

50. Zambia: Start in Lusaka, and then head to the Copperbelt to visit the chimpanzee sanctuary (animals rescued from poachers) at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage.

51. Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls is huge, but we liked Harare better. Time your visit to enjoy the Harare International Festival of the Arts (April).

This article was originally published on July 7, 2010.

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