Africa, known for safaris, wild animals, and the extreme poverty, is the second largest continent of the 7 continents in the world. It is rich in history, language, culture, and geographic diversity. Africa plays host to some of the most incredible deserts, mountains, animals, reptiles, birds, insects on planet earth. Currently, there are between 47 and 55 countries on the continent of Africa. The most accurate count of countries for the continent of Africa is 54. This includes all internationally recognized territories and states on the continent. The variation is a result of disputed territories and inconsistencies around the inclusion of island nations off the coast of Africa. The African Union recognizes 54 countries while the United Nations recognizes 54 as well. They do not recognize the same 54 nations. Both the United Nations and the African Union have slight variations in their inclusions of countries. For example, Morocco is part of the United Nations but not a member of the African Union. The recently created region of Western Sahara is recognized by the African Union but not by the United Nations. Africa is comprised of desert, tropical, savanna grasslands, jungle and even subarctic climates. The top half of the continent is comprised of desert, and the Sahara Desert, the world’s hottest desert, is located in Northern Africa, and is approximately the size of the United States or China. The Nile River, which runs through 11 different countries in Africa, is the longest in the world. The world’s second largest lake and largest tropical lake is Lake Victoria, located in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. The highest point in Africa is Mt. Kilimanjaro, located in Tanzania and is a popular mountain climbing destination. Africa is known for its many magnificent animal species, and many people come to Africa for the very purpose of catching a glimpse of these amazing animals in their native habitat. Among the most popular animals native to Africa are the African Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Vervet Monkey, Hippopotamus, Cheetah, Hyena, Lion, Gazelle, and Rhinoceros. There are several species of fish native to Africa, and Lake Malawi has more species of fish recorded than any other lake in the world.
Travel Tips for Africa
Step 1: Decide Where to Go: The first step is to decide on the kind of vacation you want, or the specific things that you’d like to see.
Step 2: Decide When to Go: Most destinations have an optimum season. Usually, the dry season is better for game-viewing, because the lack of rain attracts local wildlife to the waterholes. Winter is often the best time for visiting the desert – but winter in the Kalahari Desert occurs during June/ July while winter in the Sahara Desert occurs in November/ December.
Step 3: Book Your Tours and Lodging: Decide whether you’re going to explore independently or with the help of a travel agent or tour guide. If you opt for the latter, they should be able to organize details like accommodation and tours for you. Get in touch with your preferred agent as much as a year in advance. Even if you decide to book everything yourself, you’ll probably have to arrange treks and safaris through a specialized company (unless you’re headed to a self-drive safari destination like Namibia). It’s a good idea to book your first night’s accommodation ahead of time, as well as accommodation in towns or game reserves with limited space.
Step 4: Book Your Flights: For the best rates, book as far in advance as possible. If you have air miles, make sure to check whether the corresponding airline flies to your destination of choice; if not, use a flight comparison website to guarantee the lowest fare. Try to organize international flights with domestic connections on a single booking, so that the airline will be responsible for arranging alternative transport for you if a delay means that you end up missing your second flight. Depending on your budget, flexible tickets are best.
Step 5: Buy Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is essential, especially in Africa where airlines cancel flights without warning on a regular basis, and state hospitals are not places that you want to end up after an emergency. As well as medical costs, your insurance should cover trip cancellation (because you can’t predict what might happen before your time of departure), loss of valuables and baggage loss or theft. If you’re headed to a particularly remote spot, make that your insurance covers medical evacuation as well.
Step 6: Check Your Visa Requirements: Several months before your departure date, make sure to check whether you need a visa. This will be determined on your nationality, not on your country of residence. Visa rules change all the time in Africa, so it’s important to check with an official government source rather than relying on advice given by outdated travel websites. Some countries allow you to purchase a visa upon arrival, while others require that you apply in advance from your home country. Even if you don’t need a visa, some countries have special requirements for your passport – including the amount of validity left at time of travel, and the amount of blank pages available inside.
Step 7: Organize Travel Medication: At least two months before you depart for Africa, you need to visit a travel clinic and find out what vaccinations are recommended for your destination. The recommendations vary greatly from country to country. Some countries require proof of yellow fever vaccination as a condition of entry, while malaria is prevalent throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa. Be sure to consult your doctor before deciding on which anti-malaria prophylactic to take, as all of them have different side effects. Pregnant women should be aware that Zika virus is also a problem in some areas.
Step 8: Buy Your Travel Equipment: Your shopping list depends on where you’re going, with potential items ranging from portable mosquito nets to a good set of binoculars or a pair of durable hiking shoes. Be prepared for all kinds of weather, because even in the desert, nights can be incredibly cold. Think about preserving your memories, whether that means investing in a decent camera, or buying a scrapbook and a spare set of pens. One essential purchase is a first aid kit, complete with all of the items you may need to treat minor injuries as well as supplies of any personal medication you require.
Step 9: Decide What to Do About Money: In many countries, carrying large amounts of cash around isn’t safe – however, ATMs are not necessarily available on every street corner. Avoid traveler’s cheques – they’re rarely accepted as viable currency in Africa. Generally, your best bet is to draw enough cash upon arrival to get you to the next big town, where you should be able to draw more money with your credit or debit card. For safety, divide your cash and keep it in several different locations. Make sure that your card has a Visa or MasterCard logo, and alert your bank so that they don’t cancel your card on suspicion of fraud the first time you use it abroad.
Don’t stop traveling!