Africa can be an extremely active destination for those eager to get beyond their safari vehicle. There's world-class hiking, surfing, adrenaline activities and diving and snorkelling; you can even go skiing!
If you want to get the blood pumping, you'll find white-water rafting, bungee jumping, jet boating, microlighting (a cross between a hang glider and an ultralight aircraft) and abseiling at Victoria Falls – billed as the adventure hub of Africa. All these and more can be arranged on both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides.
Swakopmund in Namibia is coming to rival Victoria Falls as Southern Africa's adventure-sports capital. South Africa also offers a broad range of extreme activities.
In East Africa, head for Jinja in Uganda, the 'Vic Falls of East Africa', with adrenaline activities galore at nearby Bujagali Falls.
You can also raft and kayak on white water, or canoe on more gentle stuff, in Ethiopia and Swaziland.
Best Adrenaline Activities
- Victoria Falls, Zambia and Zimbabwe
- Swakopmund, Namibia
- Jinja, Uganda
Long-distance travel by bike is a great way to see Africa, but it's only for a hardy few. For shorter trips, you can often hire bikes by the day or week, and tour some wonderful areas. Our favourites for relaxed peddling include Malawi, Uganda and the Cape region of South Africa. If you've got your own wheels, legs of steel and a sense of adventure, mountain bikers will love the ancient trails through Morocco's Atlas Mountains and the mountain tracks of Ethiopia, while the Fouta Djalon plateau in Guinea and rural Madagascar are for serious adventurers only.
For inspiration, see the excellent website of the International Bicycle Fund (www.ibike.org).
Diving & Snorkelling
Egypt's Red Sea is one of the world's premier diving destinations, while Sudan, Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania, especially Zanzibar, have some of the finest reefs in the Indian Ocean. And then there's Lake Malawi, with idyllic diving and dive schools. In West Africa the waters close to Dakar are a possibility, while São Tomé & Príncipe are brilliant underwater destinations.
Best Diving & Snorkelling
- Red Sea, Egypt
- Malindi Marine National Park, Kenya
- Pemba, Tanzania
- São Tomé & Príncipe
- Bazaruto Archipelago and Vilankulo, Mozambique
- Lake Malawi, Malawi
South Africa has a huge network of well-organised hiking trails, with Table Mountain National Park, Tsitsikamma National Park and the Drakensberg area especially appealing options. Namibia has some desert specials, including the classic Fish River Canyon. Tiny Lesotho also has some terrific hiking trails.
In East Africa, a classic African hike is to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, the 'roof of Africa'. Less frequented are the hikes in Tanzania's Usambara Mountains. Across the border, Mt Kenya is lower than Kilimanjaro but more pleasing to the eye. In Uganda the remote Rwenzori Mountains are a more serious proposition, while Mt Elgon is beautiful and the trails rarely busy.
West Africa is home to some of the continent's best hiking. Terrific hikes include: climbing Mt Cameroon or through the Mandara Mountains; Burkina Faso's Sindou Peaks; Guinea's Fouta Djalon; and Togo's Kpalimé area.
At the top of the continent, you could hike for months through the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, while the Rif Mountains near Chefchaouen are also terrific.
- Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
- Fish River Canyon, Namibia
- Usambara Mountains, Tanzania
- Sindou Peaks, Burkina Faso
- Atlas Mountains, Morocco
- Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
Skiing & Sandboarding
Skiing and snowboarding in Africa? Surely not. But yes, this activity is available during winter in the high mountains of South Africa and Morocco. For a new take on the experience, head for the dunes of Swakopmund in Namibia and go sandboarding – it's just what it says, and easier than the alpine variety. The landing is softer too. Make sure, however, that your operator follows basic environmental guidelines before signing up. Boarding over vegetation, using chemicals or disturbing nesting birds are all no-nos.
- Oukaïmeden and Mischliffen, Atlas Mountains, Morocco
- Afriski, Lesotho
- Tiffindell, Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa
- Swakopmund, Namibia (sand-dune skiing)
Get off the bus in South Africa and get your baggy shorts on. Jeffrey's Bay is classic Surfville RSA, but there are other options on the south and east coasts, with some of the best and least-crowded waves in the world. Neighbouring Mozambique and southern Madagascar are also pretty good, while at the other end of Africa, the Atlantic swell produces good breaks on the coast of Morocco.
West Africa's Atlantic coastline is also an increasingly popular destination for surfers, partly for its waves and because you may just have the breaks to yourself. In general terms, the waves off Senegal and Gambia are best during the European winter, while the coast from Sierra Leone to Cameroon offers the best conditions during the European summer. Some of the possibilities include Dakar in Senegal, Busua in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire. Sliding Liberia, an award-winning documentary on surfing in Liberia, is definitely worth tracking down.
For wider coverage of surfing in Africa, check out Low Pressure (www.lowpressure.co.uk).
- Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
- Eastern Cape Coast, South Africa
- Tofinho, Mozambique
- Busua and Cape Three Points, Ghana
- Robertsport, Liberia
- Taghazout, Morocco
Africa's many national parks, reserves and conservation areas are some of the most beautiful places on the planet, and home to a bewildering variety of wild animals – watch lions stalk their prey, see wildebeest and zebras migrating, or track gorillas through rainforest. Wherever you go, a safari to see Africa's wildlife will undoubtedly be a major highlight of your trip.
Best Wildlife Safaris
- Masai Mara, Kenya
- Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
- Okavango Delta, Botswana
- Chobe National Park, Botswana
- Etosha National Park, Namibia
- Kruger National Park, South Africa