When it comes to natural beauty, unique wildlife and stunning vistas, Africa has it all. There’s nowhere else quite like it on the planet. Once hooked, you may never want to travel anywhere else. Sub-Saharan Africa (all of the countries that lie south of the Sahara desert) is particularly rich in flora and fauna, archaeological wonders and cultural diversity.
We've put together a list of the 5 best African destinations to pay a visit in the sub-Sahara:
Ethiopia has so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites it’s impossible to do them all justice here. First there are the archaeological gems. Fascinating rock-hewn churches in Lalibela created as a New Jerusalem; ancient secrets in Axum which may or may not be where the lost Ark of the Covenant resided; impressive castles at Gonder where emperors claimed direct descent from King Solomon.
The landscape is equally astounding and worthy of exploring. The Simien Mountains National Park is home to Ethiopia’s highest mountain (Ras Dejen at 4,533 metres) and some of Africa’s rarest wildlife. Large groups of Gelada baboons can appear to make your acquaintance, a memorable experience. You may also glimpse the rare walia ibex bounding amongst the boulders or the Lammergeyer vulture soaring overhead.
From the heights to the depths of the country, the Danakil Depression is over 100 metres below sea level where you can visit astonishing lakes of salt and bubbling volcanoes.
Madagascar is often ignored in favour of mainland African countries, but to do so is a mistake. This incredibly diverse island off the south-east coast of Africa will beguile and astonish at every turn. Travellers searching for off the beaten track destinations will love the island for its raw honesty.
There are national parks that only see a few hundred visitors a year, remote resorts only accessed by private boat or plane, and gorgeous unspoiled white sand beaches with crystal clear waters, such as Nosy Tanikely where you can snorkel and swim over colourful coral reefs.
A popular drawcard of Madagascar for travellers is sighting lemurs. There are over 100 species of these cute mammals and they are only native to the island. Amber Mountain is one of the best places to spot crowned lemurs but you can also see 11 species of lemur in Andasibe National Park including grey bamboo lemurs, common brown lemurs, the woolly lemur and the largest, the indiri.
Tanzania is known as the land of safaris and what an incredible diversity of wildlife you’ll witness. From stampeding wildebeest and snorting hippos in Katavi, to wandering elephant herds and swinging chimpanzees. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The grandest spectacle Tanzania offers is the Great Migration, where if timed right, you’ll have a first hand seat to an astonishing sight. Two million herbivores, including antelopes, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles crossing the Mara River in search of new pastures.
Apart from wildlife, Tanzania has numerous drawcards for the discerning traveller. Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is a popular activity, as is hiking the Ngorongoro Crater rim. The pristine beaches all along the Indian Ocean coastline will give you a chance to relax and unwind, as well as offering amazing dive sites. The accommodation options offered in Tanzania are also fabulous, from luxury eco lodges, to wild bush camps.
Malawi may not have the size or drama of some of the other countries but it can still punch above its weight in terms of cultural heritage and hospitality. The country is dominated by Africa’s third largest lake, Lake Malawi, whose clear waters is home to many species of colourful darting fish.
Many of the activities Malawi offers centre around the lake, such as kayaking, snorkelling and diving. Intimate experiences, such as alfresco sunset dining on sandy beaches, and the lack of other tourists in general, makes it a popular place for honeymooning couples. However, it’s not to be written off as a safari destination, Majete Wildlife Reserve is home to rare antelope, lions, and other nocturnal predators which you can see on a night game drive.
The friendliness of the Malawian people is legendary, which you’ll discover when visiting local markets or staying at their private lodges.
Namibia is the opposite extreme to Malawi. For starters, it’s one of the largest countries of the sub-Sahara and boasts every iconic African landscape you can think of. For this reason it’s often called ‘Africa for beginners’.
Highlights include the other-worldly shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast, the plunging gorges and sheer cliffs of Fish River Canyon, the shifting orange sand dunes of the Kalahari Desert and the rolling hills of the Central Highlands.
Etosha National Park is a natural draw for first time safari visitors as you can see pretty much see all of Africa’s Big 5: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalo; along with zebra, giraffe and plains game.
Are you ready for a Sub-Saharan Tour?
If Africa is in your sights then any one of these sub-Saharan countries will scratch your itch for adventure when you pay a visit. But don’t just take our word for it, we urge you to discover these African wonders for yourself on a Wild Frontiers tour.