By Ibukun Akinnawo
It's funny (and sad) that Africans head abroad in droves for vacations every year when some of the most amazing holiday destinations are here on the continent. Shake your head in disbelief all you want, here are ten of the most picturesque places in the world, right around your corner. You'll be booking flights.
1. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
A majestic curtain of falling water, Victoria Falls is snug furniture on the Zambezi River. Forming the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, it plummets into a narrow 100-meter deep chasm. Bungee jumping from the Victoria Bridge is a popular activity among tourists. For the brave, there's a natural pool located right next to the cliff. Devil's Pool, as it is called, is closed during the high-water season as swimmers can be swept over the precipice by strong currents. When in Victoria, be sure to visit the grand Victoria Falls Hotel for high tea and a magnificent view of the Victoria Falls gorge, take a helicopter ride over the falls, or a cruise on the Zambezi River at sunset.
2. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Kilimanjaro stands 19,341 feet above sea level making it the tallest mountain in Africa. January, February and September are considered the best months to climb the dormant volcanic mountain as the weather is perfect (for climbing) in those months. Of the six routes sanctioned for climbing Kilimanjaro, Marangu Route (commonly called the Coca-Cola Route because vendors sell Coca-Cola at some of the huts) is by far the easiest and most popular route to the summit of Kilimanjaro. To avoid acute mountain sickness while hiking, it is important to drink at least 3 litres of water and oral hydration salts. Apart from the usual adventure climbing, tourists can opt to take a day-trip wildlife tour, see Materuni and Kinukamori waterfalls or get familiar with the local Chagga tribe at slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
3. Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo
Africa's oldest national park, Virunga, is home to half of the world's seven hundred or so mountain gorillas. In order to fully experience Virunga, visitors are advised to stay in one of the park's camps and lodges. A perfect place to spend a first night would be Bukima Patrol Post, a small tented camp at the base of the mountain gorilla treks. Another amazing spot is the Mikeno Lodge where tourists can visit the only four captive (and orphaned) mountain gorillas in the world. Any trip up the volcano should include a brief stop at the Nyiragongo crater cabanas where a brilliant view of the lava lake can be seen at any point during the night.
4. Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco. When in Marrakech be sure to delight a henna tattoo artist by getting a tattoo before dancing along with musicians and storytellers in Djemaa El-Fna. Buy spices, shoes, kaftans and jellabas at The Souks, then take pictures of the beautifully lit Koutoubia Mosque at night. If you don't eat anything at all in Marrakech, you simply must try harira (soup of lamb/beef, red lentils and vegetables) and the fried aubergines!
5. Giza, Egypt
Giza is home to Egypt's Great Sphinx, pyramids and ancient Egyptian nobles' tombs. When in Giza, be sure to take camel rides around the city, go horse riding, see the sun colour the pyramids beautiful at dawn then gawk at The Great Sphinx of Giza, a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, believed to be the most immense sculpture ever made by man.
6. Omo River Region, Ethiopia
With more than fifty unique tribes, the Omo River region of South Western Ethiopia is a fascinating destination for those interested in African culture. Home to about 200,000 people, the Lower Omo Valley is a spectacularly beautiful area with diverse ecosystems including grasslands, volcanic outcrops, and one of the few remaining pristine riverine forests in semi-arid Africa. Most tours include spending nights at the Mursi, Karo, Hamer, Bodi, Bumi and Ari villages which are not luxury camps by any means. The Omo River is perfect for white water rafting.
7. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is the second largest city in Africa and one of the most iconic cities in the world. Cape Town has a lot of tourist attractions including the idyllic Cliffton beaches, an old Biscuit Mill, Cape Twon Museum, the African Dance Theatre, the Silvermine Nature Reserve, the South African Jewish Museum and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Visitors can go scuba diving at Cape Point Route, sea kayak with penguins at Simon's Town, deep sea fish at Hout Bay or learn to surf at Muizenberg.
8. Ikogosi Springs, Nigeria
There are a few legends surrounding the origin and discovery of the Ikogosi Springs in Ekiti State, Nigeria. One such myth says that the warm and cold springs were the two wives of a great hunter. Another has it that a powerful hunter found the springs had miraculously curative powers and worshipped them. Experts have claimed these warm and cold springs running from the same rock formation are a geological wonder, and perhaps the only one of its kind in the world. At its source the warm spring is 70°C, and as three springs flow they come to a meeting point where the temperature is 37°C. The environment around the spring has been left relatively untouched in line with the appeal of eco-tourism. Visitors are advised to lodge at the Ikogosi Resort where they can experience the small, quiet town with rich local customs.
9. Mombasa, Kenya
A regional cultural and economic hub, Mombasa's beachfront hotels appeal to travellers in search of sun, sand and surf. While its Arab, Indian and colonial European heritage makes for a wide variety of sights to see. Lovers of sea food may dine at La Marina where dishes are carefully made from fresh catches in Indian Ocean.
10. Swakopmund, Namibia
Swakopmund is a huge draw for vacationers around the world who enjoy sandboarding, quad biking and diving! Be sure to stop at The Tug Restuarant, famous for its mouth-watering Kabeljou, and bond with locals and other tourists over good coffee and free Wi-Fi.