Spend any amount of time with a traveler and you’ll discover two truths: first, travelers love storytelling and expounding upon their adventures. Ask them a question, and be prepared to bunker down as they bombard you with must-sees and life-changing moments. Next, travelers are never satisfied. When they are not traveling, they are scheming and thinking about traveling. It’s a never-ending carousel of boarding tickets, complimentary desserts, and Instagram photos.
The following is my bucket list for Africa. It’s a collection of places and and events that I missed out on during my last visit to the continent. Use this list to get inspired, collect travel ideas, or simply drown out the cacophony coming from your wanderlust friend across the table.
The Bucket List
1. Climb Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro
The first item on my bucket list for Africa is to trek to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. You don’t need to be a mountaineer or a seasoned climber to get up this mountain — just a little elbow grease and competent knees.
Photo By M. Disdero – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=764570
Mount Kilimanjaro is perhaps more alluring to the eyes because it seems like an accident. The juxtaposition of snow-capped mountain next to Serengeti flatlands seem oddly coupled, and the sheer magnitude of the mountain doesn’t sink in until it’s sitting right on top of you.
A few years ago, during a different trip, and perhaps a different life, I was standing at the base of the mountain. It held court and dominated the sky, and I desperately wanted to conquer it, one footstep at a time. But it didn’t happen, and I left feeling defeated, yet motivated. Someday I will reach the summit; maybe I’ll see you there.
Of course, a decision to trek Mount Kilimanjaro shouldn’t be taken casually. It is a commitment that requires great effort, time, and can potentially cost a pretty penny.
Click here for more information about finding a reputable tour company that will assist you on the climb.
2. Rwanda Gorilla Trekking
Remember that one animated Disney movie from the ’90s where this long-haired chap swings through the jungle and shares life with an assortment of well-spoken and amiable gorillas? I’ve wanted to see gorillas ever since my tenure with the playpens. Rwanda has just the opportunity to get up-close with the incredible Silverback gorilla in its natural habitat.
Photo By Charlesjsharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52847884
Unlike the animated creatures, real-life gorillas don’t want anything to do with you. A trek into the jungle to see these creatures will require a hefty fee. The high cost, in part, is required to help make certain that these endangered animals stick around for generations to come.
Click here if you’re interested in organizing a trek!
3. Comrades Marathon
Want to test your mettle? If you’re searching for a destination-race, then South Africa has just the answer. The Comrades Marathon is more than a marathon. In fact, it’s not a marathon at all — at approximately 56 miles in length, Comrades is the world’s oldest ultra marathon and caps out each year at 20,000 participants.
Photo By JMK – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27188033
What should you keep in mind if you’re also interested in putting shoe to pavement? Comrades requires you to “qualify” for the race. You can do this simply by showing proof of a prior marathon completion. If you complete this race, you’ll have plenty of bragging rights at your next community fun run.
Here is the official Comrades Marathon website.
4. Desert Tour in Morocco
Take out a sheet of paper and scribble the following: My next vacation will not be to the beach. It’s easy to do if your diet is already saturated with sun and waves, and harder if you’re currently shoveling two feet of snow. Africa is home to amazing desert landscapes, and it’s no surprise that more and more people are wanting to trade in their swim trunks to have an opportunity of trekking on top of a camel while breathing in the vastness and awe-inspiring enormity of untouched scenery. This bucket list item isn’t reserved for the wealthy, and isn’t a Rubik’s Cube of difficulty to organize. Even bumpkins like me are capable of this trip — one of Africa’s up-and-coming must-do items.
By © Sergey Pesterev / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57358791
Tour companies of this mold know that this is a once-in-a-life opportunity for you. They will help you navigate your way through the seemingly uncharted sand, while providing professional and friendly service. Note: lengthy camel rides will make you sore. Don’t forget to stretch!
Interested in a tour through the desert? Click here!
5. Egyptian Pyramids
For me, the pyramids of Egypt are one of those yeah, I’ll get around to it destinations — that is, a place that I know I’ll get to, but I keep putting it off. I’ve strategically placed the pyramids on my Africa bucket list in hopes that I force my boots to the fire and get this incredible opportunity checked off the list. And of course, what would be sweeter than pyramids in the desert? Answer: Pyramids in the desert while on a camel.
By Ricardo Liberato – All Gizah Pyramids, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2258048
Getting to Egypt will make your sixth-grade-history-class-self proud. Remember building the pyramids out of sugar cubes? You can knock those over when you book your trip to Egypt and cross it off, like me, from the bucket list.
There are many tour companies to choose from. Ramasside offers plenty of options that will surely make your trip an adventure of a lifetime.
6. Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
When I think of this bucket list item I think of my childhood Sundays. Parishioners dressed in their tucked-in best, singing the last hymnal of the day. Upon the completion of service, fathers transform into airport ground control — marshaling their families into shiny vans before flooring it out of the parking lot, back home to Sunday football.
The great wildebeest migration in Africa is similar, at least in part.
An immense volume of animals all seeking to cross the same pin-point of river at the same time. This chaotic moment is paramount if not chilling for the animals as they cross to find better grazing land. It all takes place in the Serengeti plains of Tanzania: cue “Circle of Life” from The Lion King.
Photo By Daniel Rosengren (Daniel Rosengren) [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The migration isn’t an amusement park ride. There’s no magical switch that caters to our whims. However, experts can be fairly certain when the migration will happen, based on seasonal changes and what migration history tells them. Perhaps ask the boss to add a few days to your next scheduled vacation, just in case.
Here you will find more information about the wildebeest migration — a truly remarkable wonder of nature.
7. Cairo to Cape Town on Land
The first honest to goodness travel book I read was Dark Star Safari written by Paul Theroux. This book is a treasure chest of prose and recollections about a journey Mr. Theroux took starting in Cairo and meandering south towards Cape Town.
Photo By https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Atlas_of_Africa
It’s not a jaunt. It takes months to complete, not weeks. And there’s no guarantee of everything going as planned.
This is no relaxing honeymoon to Europe. There’s no set route or well-trodden footpath to heavily rely on. But every step is worth it.
As the author Paul Theroux said in Dark Star Safari:
“You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.”
The desired route takes you through many of Africa’s eastern countries. And when you’re finished? You’ll be beachside in Cape Town and looking north at the continent you just crossed.
Of course I would love to pencil the itinerary out myself. But here is a company that will do all the planning for you!
Conclusion? Better Get to Africa ASAP
There’s a bucket list for every traveler, and this just happens to be mine. This Africa edition doesn’t include the past experiences already accomplished, such as: Victory Falls, Zanzibar island, Table Mountain, cage-diving, and many more.
So what did I miss? What’s on your African bucket list? What are your must-sees?
Remember, travel isn’t a competition.
However, it doesn’t hurt to have a good story in the barrel for when your travel friends come up for air. Happy traveling!