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29 Ultimate Africa Travel Tips

Rocco, a seasoned freak and tour guide, tells you what to do and what not to do under any circumstances.

Things You Should Absolutely Do In Africa

1. Cross the Sahara Desert in Southern Libya or Southern Egypt or Algeria, the best places to feel the great, lonely emptiness of the mighty Sahara and its changing landscapes.

2. Go to the Ethiopian South Omo Valley, home to an incredible number of tribes which belong to the Nylotic, Cushitic and Omotic etno-linguistic families, to meet people who live a lifestyle dating back 5000 years.

3. Cruise on the Congo River from Kisangani to Kinshasa on a baleniere, through the heart of darkness, following Conrad’s footsteps. Be prepared for a tough experience thriugh a forgotten world populated by corrupted officials, hostile tribes and militias.

4. Go hunting with bow and arrow and gather spontaneous fruits, roots and berries with the Hazdabe bushmen in Lake Eyasi area, Tanzania. These guys are the heirs of the very first homo sapiens, the kids of Olduvai Gorge and Koobi Fora who still have a symbiotic relationship with the environment, the purest example of anarchic society with no rules, no chief, no dont’s.

5. Cross the Danakil depression in Ethiopia, where you can really see that Mother Earth is alive and kicking.

6. Visit Southern Serengeti between January and March, where millions of wildebeast gather in the short grass plains to give birth to their calves, followed by an amazing bunch of cats and predators.

7. Trek to see mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda or Eastern Congo and chimps in Uganda.

8. Sail on a dhow from the mainland to Zanzibar, Pemba, Ibo, or, if you’re a real Road Junky, to Comoros or Madagascar or up to Muscat from mainland East Africa, following the swahili and shirazi traders’ routes.

9. Explore Southern Angola, where the desert meets the Ocean and the steep dunes end up in the rough sea, forming the amazing lagoons of Baia dos Tigres.

10. Dive around Mnemba Atoll, Tanzania.

11. Explore the Swahili Coast from Northern Kenya to Ilha de Mozambique to feel the weight of the history.

12. Hike to the summit of Oldonyo Leng’ai (Northern Tanzania) or Erta Ale (Ethiopia) or any other active volcano.

13. Go up to Northern Cameroon following the market days held at different villages by different tribes.

14. Explore the Okawango Delta and Chobe (Botswana) during dry season.

15. Jump on the train from Cuamba to Nampula (Northern Mozambique): 330 kms in 10 to 12 hrs – it’s the most incredible moving market you’ll ever see.

16. Head up to Timbouctou and Chinguetti, ancient economic and cultural capitals now eaten by the sands.

17. Learn about traditional medicine from bush doctors but make sure you’re not being taken for a ride by witch doctors.

18. Travel overland coast to coast at different latitudes (Ilha de Mozambique to Swakopmund – quite easy; Zanzibar to Kinshasa – tough from Burundi to Kin; Port Sudan to Nouakchott; Tripoli to Cotonou, …), trying to keep away from the main roads (even if gravel or dirt) all the time – just go wild and camp out in the bush as much as possible.

Things To Avoid in Africa

1. Skip any African big city: from Jo’burg to Nairobi to Kinshasa to Lagos they’re just dangerous shit holes.

2. Don’t go to Nigeria.

3. Keep away from both official armies and militias, expecially in places like Congo DRC, Southern Sudan or Somalia. If you come accross them, keep calm, be kind but firm, bribe them nicely and remembrer that you have no rights at all.

4. Despite beautiful, the classic Imperial Cities in Morocco are tourist traps, avoid hookers, carpet sellers and guides, there as well as in Egypt. These guys are craftier than the Kashmiri in India and that’s really saying something

5. Do not go to Kiwengwa beach in Zanaibar (the rest of the island is ok, but just skip this stretch of beach): it’s full of Italian package tourists and now the second language after Kiswahili is Italian.

6. Do not go to Malindi, another Italian enclave, nor to the beaches South of Mombasa, a Germans’ favourite.

7. Refuse day trips to the desert organised from Tunisian Coastal resorts: they’re a scam, as well as the “night under a bedouin tent” arranged by agencies in Sharm or Dahab. Go to Algeria, Libya to see the real Sahara and meet the real Touaregs, or to the Egyptian Great Sand Sea and Gilf el Kebir, following the English Patient’s footsteps.

8. Always pay attention to food and drinks: what a local and even a long-stayer can eat and drink is not for the newcomer. Anyway if you’ve been to India Africa is a clean and tidy place in comparison.

9. Avoid malaria, always sleep under a net in endemic areas.

10. Ask for advice when camping in the bush, expecially in and around national parks. Avoid being waken up by the light touch of an elephant trunk, by a hippo roaming around the camp, or, even worse, by a bunch of hyenas attracted by your smelly hiking boots.

11. Never take pictures of any border post, police office, policeman, military, government building and even a bridge or a school if cops are around – you might get arrested for espionage.

12. And lastly, never pay attention to what the Western media say about Africa: dramatic scenes, brutality and war help selling magazines and papers. Also don’t listen too much to Travel Warnings from your government. As these guys are appointed to troubleshoot and/or to evacuate their fellow countrymen in event of problems, they always put their ass on the safe side – the less people around the less work for them.

Rocco Lastella

Rocco runs a small adventure travel agency: "http://www.harmattan.it">www.harmattan.it