Africa remains one of the last leading edge of travel.
- Africa can be very cold indeed
It might straddle the equator but not everywhere in Africa is scorching. Mt Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and Mt Kenya, for example, both have glaciers and nights can be dangerously chilly in the desert, with temperatures dropping to as low as -10C. It snows in places, too.
You can go skiing in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the Maloti Mountains, and Lesotho and in the Eastern Cape Highlands, South Africa.
- Alongside desert, there are mountains and rainforests
Africa does have vast swathes of desert and flat savanna but also mountainous and exceptionally green parts. There are the sprawling rainforests of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) and the soft green hill country of Senegal, Guinea and Tanzania. For more cultivated greenness, South Africa’s garden route, on the south-east coast, is so-named because of its lush vegetation and lakes. There are wonderful waterfalls in Zimbabwe.
Not every desert is a stretch of barren wilderness. The Kalahari is known for its spring flowers, while the Namib, the oldest desert in the world, is home to desert-adapted elephant, rhino, giraffe and lion.
- Hippos are the big killers
You should worry less about lions and Nile crocodiles and instead keep an eye out for hippos. They are the biggest people-killers on the continent. Found in sub-Saharan Africa, the animal is aggressive, unpredictable and can charge at 28kph. If you are in a boat (where many people will encounter them) hit the sides to signal your position. If on foot, keep your distance and never get between a mother and her calf. Hippos are most aggressive in the dry season when water levels are low and food supplies limited.
- You won’t need every vaccine
Your childhood vaccines should be up to date for an Africa trip but you don’t need prevention against every disease going. A rabies shot is advisable – but plan it in advance as it’s a series of jabs – along with injections against hepatitis A, meningococcal meningitis and typhoid. You may need yellow fever vaccination, too. For some countries, such as South Africa, it’s an entry requirement.
- French is useful
Former colonial languages – English, French and Portuguese – are common, but English may not be as widely spoken as you think. French is almost essential in West or Central Africa and will probably come in useful in Algeria, Burundi, Djibouti, Rwanda and Tunisia.
African French, however, is very different from what you were probably taught at school – while you should be able to make yourself understood, you might find it harder understanding others.
- You don’t need countless visas
If you are traveling in West Africa, consider getting a Visa Touristique Entente (VTE) which covers Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire all in the one document. It costs around $50, is valid for up to two consecutive months and should save you time and money.
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro