Africa Holidays – Jungle, desert and beautiful beaches
Trying to summarise Africa is a bit like trying to count the grains of sand on a beach; you could spend a thousand years at it and still never come close. This huge continent is home to a wealth of different peoples, cultures, religions and traditions. Dusty, Arabic northern medinas, chaotic, colourful West African markets, secluded, palm fringed beaches looking out across the Indian Ocean, endless plains where lions roam… the diversity of landscape is only matched by the diversity of its inhabitants.
As such, there is perhaps no other destination on earth that offers the holidaymaker so much choice. Holidays here can mean pampered, all-inclusive luxury in Sharm el Sheikh, exhilarating safaris in the Gambia or laid-back beach holidays in Kenya. The range of sights to see is equally impressive; it’s safe to say Africa has more than its fair share of the world’s wonders, both man-made and natural. From the soaring Table Mountain in South Africa to the majesty of the Pyramids in Egypt, to the vast emptiness of the Sahara Desert… there’s enough to keep you busy on a lifetime of holidays.
Africa is the second largest Continent on earth. As such, it is no surprise that seasons change from country to country. As a general rule, the best time to visit the northern destinations such as Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia will be outside the peak summer months of June - August, as these months are stiflingly hot.
West Africa is generally hot all year round, with a dry season that lasts between the end of October-March. The end of this season gets particularly hot, and the harmattan wind, blowing dust out from the Sahara, is also a factor. The rainy season tends to fall between April-July along the coast, with a second shorter rainy spell between September-October. Inland, there is only one rainy season from July-September.
East Africa sees its hottest temperatures during the dry season between December-March. These are the best months for safaris here. Kenya has two rainy seasons; the longer April-June rains and the shorter November-December rains. The coastal areas can get incredibly wet and humid over this period, so bear this in mind if you’re after a beach holiday here.
Southern Africa’s dry season is over the cooler months of May-August. This is the best time for a safari in this region, particularly at the end of the season when temperatures heat up a bit, as nights can get very cold the further south you go and at higher elevations. The rainy season in southern Africa is the region’s hottest period, generally stretching from November to March. Over this period, the heavy rains can force some of the more remote safari camps to close – particularly in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.
Getting best on a holiday to Africa will of course depend on the country you are visiting. There are a set of general rules for getting the cheapest prices for accommodation and flights that can be applied to any situation. First of all, find out when the high and low seasons are for the destination you intend to visit. These will vary greatly from place to place; for example, in Egypt the peak times to travel are over the Christmas/New Year period, in November and in April. On the other hand, Kenya’s peak season is arguably July-October, when large numbers of wildebeest and gnu migrate across the plains of the Mara. Find out when the peak season’s are, as these will be the most expensive, and opt to book your holiday on the shoulder months either side of these. You will get the benefit of cheaper prices as well as some of the benefits the peak season offers.
For those booking with a UK-based tour operator, travelling outside the UK school holiday periods of Easter, July and the half term dates will see much cheaper prices. Generally, booking as early as possible will also give you more opportunity to nab the best deals before they sell out.
Discover the amazing wildlife of Africa
For most people lucky enough to experience a holiday in Africa, the obvious things to do involve the amazing wildlife here. The southern and eastern regions of Africa are home to big cats, giraffes, wilderbeast and zebras, and on safari here you can see the best that the National Parks and wildlife reserves of Kenya and Tanzania have to offer.
All kinds of safaris
Things to do include camping safaris, often booked as tailor made holidays for groups, families and couples. Try your hand at wildlife photography or even take a balloon ride over the Serengeti. For many the ultimate activity in Africa is spending two or three nights in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve to ensure you have enough time to spot the famous ‘Big Five’ animals: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhinoceros, and learn about how the Masai Mara people live.
A world of outdoor pursuits
The choice of things to do in Africa is endless. You can watch wildebeast in migration in Tanzania, learn to dive in Mozambique, go horse riding in Malawi or stay in a luxury lodge in Botswana to explore the Kalahari Desert. For more wildlife, the remarkable Ugandan and Rwandan rainforests offer visitors to Africa the chance to track and see Mountain Gorillas - a truly memorable experience for nature-lovers. The Victoria Falls is another must do in Africa. This World Heritage-listed site on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and Botswana has a vertical drop of over 100 metres, and is over a mile wide. Typical trips here include guided walking tours of the falls, a chance to see African tribal dancing and, if you time your visit right, a sunset cruise down the Zambezi River. Another popular activity is to view the Victoria Falls from a helicopter.
Ideal for a beach holiday
Why not include a beach break while visiting Africa? Africa offers some spectacular coastal resorts, boasting long white sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise sea. For the ultimate in post-safari relaxation head to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. Another beach holiday destination is the Mombasa coastal area of Kenya. From here enjoy wonderful food, accommodation, the delights of the Indian Ocean, and all the usual beach activities. Of course, Egypt holidays provide some fantastic beaches - particularly those in the area of Sharm El Sheikh.