Africa. A land of deserts, jungles, savannas and mountains bounded by the Atlantic and Indian oceans. It claims the pyramids of Egypt, Victoria Falls, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Sahara and the Nile River. Africa is a land of mystery, beauty and intrigue that once you explore, you'll understand its draw.
There are many things to see and do on the continent and we break up your trip into regions to help you explore all that Africa has to offer.
Just northeast of South Africa, the coastal country of Mozambique offers great opportunities for snorkeling and diving. Its capital, Maputo, is a perfect place to position oneself to experience the city's vibrancy, but still be close enough to the beaches of Macaneta and Island of Inhaca. If scuba diving is your thing, your world will be forever changed as you submerge off the coast of Ponta do Ouro, arguably one of the most spectacular diving spots in the world. There you can stay at Gamboozini Lodge, where you can explore underwater reefs and swim with wild dolphin-just beware of sharks.
Somewhat harder to get to, but definitely worth the money, time and effort, the islands off the Eastern coast of Africa offer an incredible opportunity to escape to natural beauty. Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island, is a bio-diverse wonder and an eco-tourist's dream. The island has many indigenous animals, birds and flowers, including orchids, and 40 species of lemurs, and you can relax at the beaches of Nosy Be and Ile Ste-Marie.
An archipelago made up of 115 islands (16 with accommodations), the Seychelles are a far-away paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean. There's no question this is a beach destination, where you can snorkel, dive, fish and sail in the crystalline waters virtually untouched by man. With stunning accommodations and guest houses, the Seychelles also offer romantic honeymoon escape.
Much like the Seychelles, Mauritius tourism largely centers around the water. With coral reefs and hundreds of fish species, it's a world-class diving destination, with most of the activity centered in Grand Baie, Flic en Flac, Blue Bay and Belle Mare.
Egypt offers visitors much in the way of sightseeing. Fly into Cairo and explore the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Giza. Visit Khan el-Khalili, a massive maze-like bazaar dating back to 1382 where you can find gold, silver, brass, copper, silks, Arabic coffee, street food, hookahs and more. For a true adventure, head to the City of the Dead, one of the world's largest necropolises.
Cruise down the Nile River to the Valley of the Kings to see the pyramids, statues and ruins at Aswan and Luxor. Head north to Alexandria and explore its gorgeous Mediterranean beaches, stroll the Corniche, visit Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque and see Qaitbay Fort—don't forget to stop into the modern glass and aluminum Alexandria Library, opened in 2002. Fly to the Sinai Peninsula and snorkel in the Blue Hole in Dahab, and then go diving off the coast of Sharm el-Sheikh to explore some of the world's most spectacular underwater sites.
Kenya offers any visitor a number of options from photographing big game on safari to snorkeling along coral reefs to getting to know indigenous people. This isn't just a country that produces some of the world's fastest marathoners… it has so much more.
Fly into Nairobi, Kenya's bustling capital. Take in a bit of history at the Nairobi National Museum or theKaren Blixen Museum (author of "Out of Africa"). Care for animals at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage or AFEW Giraffe Centre and travel just 20 minutes from the city center to the Nairobi National Museum, where zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffe, rhino, cheetah and lions roam free. Travel down to the seaside town of Mombassa where impeccable beaches collide with ancient culture in the city's markets. Head deep into the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, where 200 square miles allow many diverse creatures to exist along side the Maasai, a proud and traditional people. Travel to Amboseli National Park to marvel at the vast elephant herds and to get breathtaking vistas of the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro just over the border in Tanzania. To relax, escape to the pristine beaches of Lamu Island.
Morocco is a gorgeous and welcoming country that hugs the northwest coast of Africa, straddling the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Ancient traditions hold strong throughout Morocco, but the people enjoy sharing their customs and cultures. No matter where you visit, you will feel like you've stepped back in time. Tangier is a quick ferry from Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar. Fes is the most magical city, where the numerous streets of Fes el-Bali (the medina, or old city) bustle with constant activity. A site not to miss is one of the medieval tanneries, where locals clean and prepare hides for leather production and dip them into various dye-colored vats. Be sure to get a glimpse inside the doors of the massive Kairaouine Mosque, where 20,000 Muslims can pray together. Head to the beaches of Essaouira. When you want to sample cosmopolitan Morocco, head to Casablanca, but an excursion to Marrakech is where you'll find the country's romance. Visit the Djemma el Fna, the city's main square, where dozens of food vendors set up shop nightly, or the medina to patronize the dyed-wool vendors.
South Africa is one of the world's top tourist destinations and with good reason. Since the fall of apartheid in the early '90s, the country has enjoyed a healthy influx of world travelers to take advantage of all South Africa has to offer. The bustling metropolis Johannesburg is a good jumping off point to head to Sun City, the Vegas of South Africa. There are grandiose hotels, including the Palace and Cascades, offering wonderful dining, elaborate pools, gambling, golf and nightly entertainment. Sun City also borders the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, where you can enjoy a safari.
Don't pass up Kruger National Park, one of the world's premier game reserves with a number of private safari and game lodges. Kruger offers opportunities to get up-close and personal (well, not too personal) with wild animals, including, lions, cheetah, elephants, rhino, cape buffalo, hyena, zebra, giraffes, wildebeest, impala and others. In addition to game drives, you can experience whitewater rafting, hiking, spa sessions, golf, elephant-back safaris and hot air balloon rides.
In Cape Town, visit Table Mountain for breathtaking views of the city, take in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, enjoy the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, take a moment of silence at Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 year sentence), hit the beaches of the Atlantic Seaboard, indulge at wineries in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Constantia, and see the end of the world at Cape Point.
You don't get wilder than the wild plains of the Serengeti, one of the world's most extraordinary and abundant wildlife reserves where millions of animals and birds roam. Plan a visit during June to witness one of the most spectacular sites known to man: the Great Migration. During this dry season, millions of animals, mainly wildebeest, impala and zebra, form a giant herd and set off in search of greener, wetter plains. Formed two million years ago, the Ngorongoro Crater, home to approximately 30,000 wild animals, including black rhino, buffalo, lions, elephants, giraffes and flamingos, is 12 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep. Situate yourself at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, where you can peer down into the crater while enjoying tasty meals from your rustic lodge.
If you have the stamina, an excursion up the mighty slopes to the snow-capped peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro is definitely in order. At nearly 20,000 feet, it is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world and shows the incredible dichotomy between the lush jungles below and the frigid high peak and plateau above.
When you're ready for a historical yet beach-worthy excursion, head to Zanzibar. This mysterious island was once a center for spices. While there, visit the Old Fort, Palace Museum, National Museum… or simply sneak away to one of the many white-sand beaches.
With nearly 750 miles of coastline, Tunisia's big draw is its beaches in the many seaside resorts like Sousse, Monastir, Hammamet and Nabeul. A quick getaway from Europe (it's just 95 miles from Sicily), Tunis, the country's capital, sits along the Mediterranean. While in Tunis, visit the Bardo Museum to marvel at one of the world's finest collections of mosaics, see ruins in Carthage and worship at Zitouna Mosque or Great Synagogue of Tunis.
While Uganda can be somewhat unstable, the main reason to visit the country is to experience the endangered mountain gorilla. These primates, who share 95 percent of their DNA with humans, are a peaceful species, but impose some fear by their sheer mass. If you get to experience time with the gorillas, consider yourself one of the luckiest people on Earth. To see these creatures, plan a trip to Bwindi National Park or the Virunga Mountains.
Zambia has warm, welcoming people and awe-inspiring natural beauty. Of the country's top visited sites, Victoria Falls, is easily No. 1. The rushing waters of the Zambezi River dive down a deep gorge, creating a spectacular mist as it hits the bottom. Seventeen additional waterfalls grace the country, which also claims one of the world's largest freshwater lakes: Lake Tanganyika. Zambia also has incredible safaris, especially in South Luangwa National Park, whitewater rafting in Batoka Gorge, canoeing on the Zambezi and high-energy bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge, the highest-commercial bridge jump in the world.