Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024
Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Zanzibar, Tanzania - A Tropical Paradise
With its pristine white sand beaches,turquoise waters, and rich cultural heritage, Zanzibar has become one of Africa’s most alluring island destinations. Located off the coast of Tanzania, this tropical paradise epitomizes an idyllic beach vacation.
As you arrive by dhow, Zanzibar’s alluring coastline comes into full view. Dotted with palm trees, the beaches appear endless. Paje Beach, on the southeast coast, is famed for its excellent kite surfing and windsurfing conditions. Meanwhile, Nungwi Beach on the northern tip seduces with its soft, powdery sand and lively beach bars.
Meander through Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to uncover Zanzibar’s storied past as an important trading hub. Wander the narrow, winding alleyways and take in the unique architecture, with carved wooden doors and coral stone buildings. Visit the former slave market site and Anglican Cathedral built on the site of a former slave market. Stop by the House of Wonders, the grandest structure when it opened in 1883.
Jozani Forest, home to rare red colobus monkeys, offers a respite from the beach. Walk along mangrove boardwalks and take a swim in a natural limestone cave pool. The lush Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park also protects diverse wildlife.
Seafood lovers will delight in Zanzibar’s ultra-fresh catches like snapper, grouper, and lobster. Be sure to try the spice-laden local staple, pilau rice. Savor a tropical fruit smoothie or coconut water straight from the shell.
Accommodations run the gamut from intimate guesthouses to luxurious resorts. For a memorable experience, spend the night in a traditionally built thatched bungalow, known as a beit al sahel, on the beach. Fall asleep to the sound of waves gently lapping the shore.
What else is in this post?
- Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Zanzibar, Tanzania - A Tropical Paradise
- Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Last Chance to See Gorillas in Rwanda
- Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Luxurious Safaris in Namibia
- Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Surfing in Sierra Leone
- Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Swim with Whale Sharks in Mozambique
- Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Island Life in São Tomé and Príncipe
- Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Camping in Botswana's Okavango Delta
Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Last Chance to See Gorillas in Rwanda
As pressures from climate change, poaching, and human encroachment intensify, the chance to see gorillas in their natural habitat is rapidly dwindling. Rwanda offers what may be one of the last opportunities to observe these magnificent primates up-close before it's too late.
Situated along the Virunga Massif, Volcanoes National Park protects around 480 mountain gorillas, more than half the world's remaining population. Only 10 gorilla families are habituated for tourism. Stringent rules limit groups to 8 visitors, who must maintain a 7 meter distance. The exclusive experience comes with a steep $1500 permit price, but the privilege of spending an hour with humanity's closest living relatives is priceless.
Trekkers are assigned one of the families to track each morning. The guide cuts through dense vegetation, following the gorillas' trail of broken branches and flattened bushes. Suddenly, a black back emerges from the undergrowth, then more begin to appear, from tiny babies to huge silverback males.
Visitors watch in awe as the gorillas go about their daily activities - foraging, playing, and resting. The juveniles may scamper by close enough to touch. Silverbacks survey their domain with an air of quiet dignity. There are moments of incredible tenderness, like when a mother cradles her infant. Photographs fail to capture the experience’s raw intensity.
While Rwanda's volcanoes host less than 1% of Africa’s gorillas, these subspecies have an undeniable charisma. Their expressive faces and social dynamics mirror our own in many ways. Looking into their intelligent eyes creates an instant connection that touches one’s soul. There is a recognition of how very similar we are.
The chance for these magical encounters is rapidly fading. Due to climate change, deforestation, agriculture, and disease, gorilla numbers fell by 60% during the last century. Intensive conservation efforts have helped stabilize populations, but threats persist. Experts estimate mountain gorillas could be extinct in just decades.
Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Luxurious Safaris in Namibia
With its endless desert landscapes, staggering sand dunes, and abundant wildlife, Namibia is a dream destination for an indulgent African safari. While more budget-friendly safari options exist, to truly experience Namibia in style, a luxury lodge stay is a must. From stargazing in the desert to tracking elusive creatures across the savanna, a high-end safari in Namibia offers adventure in total comfort.
Many luxe lodges boast sprawling private concessions inside top national parks like Etosha, home to lions, elephants, rhinos and more. At places like Ongava Game Reserve you'll stay in lavish thatched chalets with plush king beds, soaking tubs, and private plunge pools. Local art adorns the walls and meticulous service caters to your every need. Head out on guided drives to get dangerously close to rhinos or relax by the pool gazing out at the waterhole where wildlife comes to drink. Meals are crafted from fresh local ingredients by world-class chefs. Return from the day's adventures to candlelit dinners under the stars and fireside port tastings. This is glamping at its finest.
In the jawdropping Namib Desert, extravagant desert camps place you right inside this spectacular geological wonder. One standout is Sonop, near iconic red sand dunes and the fossilized remains of a petrified forest. Guests stay in lavish tents with four-poster beds and copper spa baths. During thrilling guided quad bike excursions, stop for brunch under centuries-old dead trees. Visit a remote Himba village for cultural exchange. At night, stargaze blanketed in a sky glittering with the Milky Way’s full glory.
For the ultimate in exclusivity, opt to stay at a private villa like those by Natural Selection. Guests have an entire luxury lodge exclusively to themselves, with private butlers, chef, and guides. The Villas at Hoanib Valley camp offer stunning suites with individual plunge pools and fireplaces, in one of the world's last true pristine wildernesses. Track desert-adapted elephants and lions, then unwind in the spa and jacuzzi. With a private plane transfer between camps, your every desire is catered to.
Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Surfing in Sierra Leone
Hang ten in West Africa? While known more for safaris and beaches, the wave-riding potential along the hidden coves dotting Sierra Leone’s palm-fringed Atlantic coastline is beginning to attract intrepid surfers from across the globe.
Swells pounding these shores offer thrilling beach breaks and reef breaks perfect for both beginners and experienced wave catchers. The warm aquamarine waters, stunning sandy coves, and welcoming coastal communities provide the ingredients for an idyllic surf escape well off the beaten path.
Around the peninsular capital of Freetown, River Number 2 dishes out forgiving beach breaks and smaller reef waves ideal for getting up on your first few rides. Down the coast at Bureh Beach, slopes create hollow waves up to two meters, requiring some skill but delivering long fun tube rides.
To the south, Tokeh Beach’s sandy bottom dishes out consistent beach breaks up to three meters. As the most popular surf spot, you can take lessons and rent boards locally. Nearby Sulima village delivers shorter right and left beach breaks with offshore winds for smooth rides.
Off the radar Tacugama village in the Turtle Islands is only accessible by local boat, keeping crowds at bay. Shallow reef breaks deliver consistent uncrowded waves. This sleepy fishing village offers the chance to immerse in local culture.
For more seclusion, head down the peninsula to Bel Air Wall near River Moa. Shallow reef breaks produce fast hollow waves for experienced riders seeking thrills. Stay at beach bungalows and surf with only locals.
Surf season runs year-round with swells over 2 meters from April to October. Beginners fare best in the summer when swells soften. Rains from May to September bring lush landscapes but choppier surf.
Past unrest kept waves hidden here a secret far longer than nearby Senegal or Ghana. Now stability is bringing surfers intrigued by uncrowded barrels and glassy walls without the hype.
Those making the trek are rewarded with warm welcoming vibes. Sierra Leoneans are excited to share their undiscovered coast with travelers seeking perfect waves, sunshine, seafood BBQs on the beach, and dancing late into the night.
Pristine beaches, friendly fishing villages, rich wildlife, hiking trails, and cultural immersion opportunities add to the allure. Surfers tired of crowded Indonesian reefs and cold California swells are stoked to find this tropical paradise still off the radar.
Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Swim with Whale Sharks in Mozambique
Dwarfed by gentle giants in the warm Indian Ocean, encounter one of the marvels of the underwater world off Mozambique’s remote coastline. While scuba diving stunning coral reefs rewards with schools of rainbow-hued fish, the main attraction for many divers here is the unforgettable experience of swimming beside Earth’s largest fish. From May through October, these spotted behemoths migrate through the protected waters of the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. Most divers feel it’s well worth the trek to fulfill the bucket list dream of getting up close with these mesmerizing creatures.
Found in tropical waters globally, whale sharks migrate immense distances and can dive to great depths. Yet during portions of the year, they gather to feed in locations like Mozambique’s productive coastal waters. Their docile nature provided local fishermen with centuries of harmonious co-existence. Safeguarding these migratory routes protects an iconic species while supporting eco-tourism.
Slipping off the dive boat into blue water, the anticipation builds. Suddenly a spotted pattern emerges from the depths and an enormous shape materializes out of the blue. Their immense size becomes apparent as they approach, often larger than the small dive boats. Many freeze in awe during their first encounter. But whale sharks pay little notice to bubbles, going about the steady business of skimming the sea for plankton.
The code of conduct requires maintaining a respectful three meter distance, but the sharks’ casual indifference lets divers freely observe their gentle majesty. Cruising alongside those gaping jaws, most feel only elation and wonder, not fear. Escorting these placid giants as they traverse the sea is a memory that remains etched in the mind forever.
Some lucky dives even deliver double shark sightings when pairs are spotted feeding together. While not guaranteed, most divers here thrill to multiple encounters during their stay, some numbering up to twenty separate individuals.
After comparing logs, divers trade stories of special moments back aboard the dive boat. Some recount feeling mesmerized gazing into a whale shark’s dark eye as it passed by. Others speak of an awe inspiring sense of smallness next to the sheer immensity of these creatures, which can reach up to 40 feet in length.
Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Island Life in São Tomé and Príncipe
Far off the typical East African safari trail, the tropical island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe remains one of Africa’s last truly off-the-beaten-path destinations. Encompassing two main islands plus smaller islets, this sleepy Portuguese-speaking country sees just 30,000 visitors annually. Those making the journey discover an equatorial paradise brimming with lush rainforest, secluded beaches, and vibrant Creole traditions, as well as excellent birding, hiking, diving, and fishing. With regular flights from Lisbon and Accra, getting to the islands is easier than ever. Yet, minimal tourism development retains an atmosphere of tropical tranquility where life rolls along at an unhurried pace.
Wandering the crumbling pastel colonial quarters of São Tomé city, visitors are transported back through time. While vestiges of the once lucrative sugar and coffee trade during Portuguese rule linger, today chocolate production is the main industry. Taste locally grown and produced chocolate, ranked among the world's best for its complex flavors. The nearby lush tropical forests also provide excellent birding, hiking, and canopy tours.
Scattered along the coast, sleepy fishing villages offer the chance to dive unspoiled reefs or cast a line from the pier. On Príncipe, fantastic dive sites reward with large fish like grouper, barracuda, and napoleon wrasse along dramatic underwater drop offs. Shore fishing delivers trevally, bonefish, and the occasional marlin or sailfish.
São Tomé’s palm fringed beaches seduce with hammock swaying trade winds, welcoming locals, and excellent swimming. Bliss out at Praia Jalé tucked between jungle covered mountains and captivating rock formations protruding from the sea. Find fantastic snorkeling offshore. Meanwhile on Príncipe, Banana Beach earns raves with its postcard-perfect soft sand backed by palm trees.
Outside the two main islands, tiny roçaominatorate offers exclusive beach escapes at ecolodges like Sundy Praia. Hike the island’s trails through beautiful rainforest to hidden coves and waterfalls. Sleep in romantic chalets cooled by ocean breezes. Deserted sands and world-class snorkeling over untouched reefs fulfill castaway fantasies minus the isolation. With both islands containing large protected areas teeming with endemic plants and birds, the natural beauty astounds.
Undiscovered Gems: The 5 Best Up-and-Coming Places to Visit in Africa in 2024 - Camping in Botswana's Okavango Delta
Slip into the role of intrepid explorer and experience the magic of camping in Botswana's spellbinding Okavango Delta. This renowned wildlife paradise floods annually, transforming the parched Kalahari Desert into a watery wonderland that draws all manner of creatures great and small. By day, track the Big Five on guided game drives and mokoro canoe excursions. After the sun sets, settle into the sounds of the nocturnal bush under infinite stars. Waking to the primeval call of lions or the trumpeting of elephants, you'll feel thrillingly close to nature.
With rich wildlife, stunning scenery, and few visitors, the Okavango offers a true wilderness escape. The best way to soak it all in is sleeping under canvas. Whether you're a camping pro or novice, several fantastic options deliver comfort in the bush. Most operate on exclusive concessions in the Moremi Game Reserve, providing optimal wildlife viewing.
For a luxe experience, Sanctuary Baines' offers lavish ensuite tents with four-poster beds, Victorian clawfoot tubs, and private decks. Between game drives in open-sided Land Rovers, unwind in the outdoor plunge pool while admiring hippos and buffalo at the watering hole. Nearby Belmond Eagle Island's well-appointed safari tents line the Xudum Lagoon, frequented by grazing red lechwe antelope. Dine under the stars on creative bush cuisine.
Seeking a back-to-basics digital detox? Okavango Houseboats' houseboat cruises are ideal for disconnecting from devices and connecting to nature. Drift along the waterways atop a double-decker houseboat observing wildlife along the shores. Fish for bream and tigerfish right from your boat. At night, moor at a remote island and sleep under the boundless night sky.
For budget-friendly camping, choose one of the Okavango's excellent camping safaris. Ker & Downey's fly-in mobile tented camp moves between prime wildlife locations. Hike smaller trails to observe animals up close. Listen to lions roaring in the night from the safety of your cot. After bouncing along dusty tracks in open 4x4s, cool off with a bucket shower at camp.