By Ogova Ondego
Published January 22, 2014
Travelling can be one of the most exiting experiences in life, especially when touring a continent like Africa that is endowed with intriguing cultures, stunning waterfalls and majestic sun rises and sun sets. So how do you ensure that you experience it all (well, almost!)?
This could refer to the region or country of the continent you are interested in: southern Africa, eastern Africa, central Africa, western Africa or northern Africa. Each region has its own unique attractions. For example, Pyramids of Giza in Egypt; Table Mountain in South Africa; Serengeti-Mara Wildebeest Migration in Kenya and Tanzania; and the Grand Mosque in Mali.
Though most people associate Africa with bush and beach tourism, the continent’s travel market is getting diversified. Like destination, each region of the continent may also have its own unique set of activities for tourists.
While eastern Africa’s Tanzania is branching into beach tourism, Kenya is diversifying into eco-tourism, conference tourism and luxury golfing safari that offer the tourist the chance to tee off at one of country’s 40 golf courses.
The oldest course in Kenya is the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, founded in 1906. Others may include Vipingo Baobab Golf Club and Mount Kenya Safari Club. Chalets, fine dining, spas, swimming pools and tennis courts are also available.
Choose How to Get There
This refers to the mode of transport and it depends on where you are travelling from, for instance South America, South-East Asia, Western Europe or the Arabian Gulf. Are there direct flights to your destination or do you have to keep on disembarking and boarding planes to reach your destination? How much time do you have to wait at airports?
Travelling across the vast African continent that has fewer direct flights linking countries is costly. Here, you consider not just the cost of the air tickets but also what you spend along the way, for example while waiting at airports or on transit visas. Direct flights not only save you on cost but are also convenient.
Generally, almost every African currency is relatively weaker than the US dollar, the Euro and the Sterling Pound. This ensures your purchasing power is stronger with your convertible currencies.
Consider Post-9/11 Effect
This refers to visas and border security.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attack on USA, governments around the world, including Africa, transformed the security of air transport for both passengers and freight and heightened their visa regulations. This has resulted in high costs and lengthy procedures for obtaining visas, bans on liquids in hand baggage, and intrusive body scanners. You have to factor these into your travel plans.
While some countries may issue visas upon arrival, this is not a common procedure; it is advisable to obtain your visa before leaving your country. In Kenya, visas can be purchased at the point of entry for tourists from United Kingdom, Germany and France, countries from which Kenya traditionally drawn tourists. East African Community member states—Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda—have since January 1, 2014 introduced a common tourist visa to all the three countries; Tanzania and Burundi are yet to embrace the visa.
The single visa for the East African Community-member countries is a step forward to making this region a number one destination. A single US$100 visa is all an international visitor needs to access Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. No additional charges are imposed on the travellers. The move is said to be aimed at increasing the number of visitors, services, goods and revenue circulation in the three countries.
Where you are unsure, it is advisable to consult your travel agent on the latest visa information, though.
Consider Safety and Security
Under the specter of international crime and terror, no place can be considered as completely safe or secure. Countries like USA and United Kingdom usually issue travel advisories to various destinations to their citizens. While some of these warnings may be merely alarmist, it makes sense to pay attention, nevertheless. You do well to consult your travel agent, to do some research on the destination you intend to visit besides seeking advice from knowledgeable friends.
Concerned about the well-being of travellers, countries like Kenya whose economies are driven by travel and tourism have set up special tourism police units with officers deployed in all major towns and travel attractions, complete with around the clock call centres in all tourist vehicles that keep them in touch with Kenya Police headquarters in Nairobi for rapid response.
Consider Status of Banking/currency regime
In most tourism centres across Africa—Kenya, South Africa—all major world currencies like the US dollar, the Euro, and the British Pound are easily exchanged. Credit cards like Visa and Master Card and traveller’s cheques are accepted in most tourist hotels, banks and major retail outlets. Foreign Exchange (forex) bureaus are also open during working hours, i.e. 8am-5pm in Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam in East Africa.
Many tourist attractions in Africa are served by the internet, mobile phones and radio calls. Of course there are places without any modern telecommunication; this may be preferred by a tourist who wants to be away from the rest of the world. Once again, consult your travel agent on what you want before embarking on the safari.
Consider Dominant Cultures
Many parts of Africa may look modern but the local people are guided by conservative traditional rural values that are influenced by religions like Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religions in terms of gender relations, dress code and communication. It is important to find out what is considered normal or rude beforehand. While eastern African (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) speak Kiswahili and English, western Africa (Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso) speaks mainly French, for instance.
Consider Direct Flights
Many international airlines fly to Africa. East Africa, for instance, has direct flights from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. They include British Airways from Britain, Air France from Paris, KLM from Amsterdam, Qatar Airways from Doha, Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, Emirates Airline from Dubai, Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi and Kenya airways that serves more than 60 destinations across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe from its Nairobi hub. Gulf Air of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s Air Arabia of and Saudi Arabian Airlines fly to Kenya, the entry point into East Africa, from the Middle East.
Passengers from South Korea, Japan and China are now using direct flights by Korean Air between Seoul and Nairobi. This has reportedly reduced flight time between North-East Asia and East Africa by 8-15 hours; it takes just 13 hours instead of 30 hours that one had to spend while connecting through China, Hong Kong or Thailand to get to Kenya.
So, you have considered all the above 10 Things and are rearing to go; what are some of the attractions you should look forward to on your African safari holidays in the eastern part of the continent?
One of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, Maasai Mara is the home of the Big Five that hosts one of the most spectacular sights every July -October when more than a million wildebeest embark on their annual migratory ritual across the Serengeti-Mara eco-system in search of pastures and water. It is a sight that captures the imagination of the world and tourists can savour it all in from an air balloon.
Originally located in Kenya in the 19th century before the British Queen gave it to a German ruler under whose sphere of influence Tanzania was as a gift before World War I, Mount Kilimanjarois the world’s tallest tropical mountain.
You can see half of the world’s 700 mountain mountain gorillas in thir natural habitat, the Virunga volcanic mountain range on the borders of Uganda, Congo-Kinshasa and Rwanda.
Zanzibar, also known as the Spice Island, has fascinating history, incredible beaches and is a melting pot of eastern, African and western cultures.