Mombasa & the South Coast
From the hypnotic port city of Mombasa south to the border with Tanzania, this stretch of Kenyan coast is anything but ordinary. Where else can you see snow-white beaches framed by kayas (sacred forests), soft-sailed dhows and elephant watering holes, all in one day? Governed by Swahili rhythms and the rise and fall of the tides, life here moves to its own beat.
Some ten years ago, Fez boomed as a tourist destination. Money poured into the city, from foreigners buying up riads in the medina to new parks and fountains in the ville nouvelle. If you believed the travel and style pages of the Western media, Fez had become the new Marrakesh. Then the Arab Spring and similar events in other Muslim countries took their toll on tourism.
The Souss Valley
As you travel along the N10 east of Taroudannt you will see frizzy argan trees, beloved of local goats and international chefs, growing near the road. In a restored 19th-century mansion on the edge of the Berber village of Ouled Berhil, some 45km northeast of Taroudannt, is Hôtel Palais Riad Hida.
Set sail with the Saharan trade winds and rock and roll across stormy Atlantic seas for days. Then, just before you're halfway to Brazil, an island rises into view. You have reached Cape Verde, an arrow-shaped archipelago that is the region’s most Westernised country, where the people are richer and better educated than almost anywhere on the continent.
Northern Mauritius puts on show the best and worst (such as it is) of the country's tourism. Grand Baie, the eye of the storm, has a somewhat over-hyped atmosphere, but it's the sort of place where you can take what you want – Mauritius' best nightlife, some excellent restaurants and numerous excursions, for example – and then head elsewhere.
High on the must-see lists of most visitors to South Africa is the Garden Route, and with good reason: you can’t help but be seduced by the glorious natural beauty. The distance from Mossel Bay in the west to just beyond Plettenberg Bay in the east is under 300km, yet the range of topography, vegetation, wildlife and outdoor activities is remarkable.
With just a million people inhabiting its 373,000 sq km, the Northern Cape is South Africa’s last great frontier. Its scattered towns are hundreds of kilometres apart, connected by empty roads across the wildernesses of Namakwa, the Kalahari and Upper Karoo. In these sublime, surreal expanses, reality disappears faster than a meerkat into its burrow.
The hot and dry Eastern Lowveld is mostly used as a staging post on the way into and out of Kruger National Park. You can learn about the history of the gold rush in the feel-good town of Barberton or get your big-city fix in Nelspruit, and there are plenty of country lodges to whet your appetite for mighty Kruger National Park.