Share this!

African Bucket List: Travel Here Before Kicking the Bucket

If you were to take away Texas and put the United States on the African map, you’ll just have covered the Sahara. At more than 30 million square kilometers (over 18.6 square miles), the African continent has a staggering wealth of sights and experiences to offer that it’s unfair to cast off the rest in favor of a few.

But then again, without whittling down your African bucket list to a reasonable length, can you really cover an area three times the size of China? If you have nine lives, probably yes. But otherwise, get these places crossed out first and figure out how to cram the rest into your life list.


African Bucket List wildlife

Africa has always been associated with big game, and nowhere can you see this played out on a grand scale than in Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania. Every year, during the annual Great Migration from Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park, more than a million wildebeest are accompanied by hundreds of thousands of gazelles and herds of zebras, eland and impala as they journey southward in search of fresh grazing ground and water. A few hours’ south is an African Eden for the Big Five – leopard, lion, black rhino, elephant and African buffalo. The Ngorongoro Crater marks the remains of an ancient megavolcano that collapsed under its own weight. Today, it’s home to the densest known population of lions in Tanzania as well as other mammalian predators and ungulates. From here, the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro is a day trip away, and most travelers do the trek pre- or post-safari.

Read more about Tanzania here!

Pyramids at Giza, Egypt

African Bucket List pyramids of giza

At 4,500 years old, the pyramids at Giza seem to have been built to endure an eternity. That alone is worth your plane ticket to Egypt. Of course, the pyramids have earned a reputation as one of the last remaining wonders of the ancient world, and that’s no hype. But what makes the Giza pyramids retain their mystery is the sheer scale of the building project that even our high-tech understanding of engineering principles couldn’t comprehend. One theory even suggests that maybe Egypt didn’t create the Giza pyramids, but that the Pyramids built Egypt.

Read more about visiting Egypt here!

Sahara Desert

African Bucket List Desert

Not counting the Antarctica and the Arctic, Sahara is the largest (hot) desert in the world. Sand temperatures can reach the upper 50°C; there’s obviously no water (unless you’re a native Berber then you know where to look); and one misstep without a guide could bury you in the sands forever. So why go? Silence. In a wired society where someone has always something to say all the time, quietude is fast becoming endangered, if not altogether extinct in a few places. But in the Sahara, with stillness comes introspection and appreciation of all things simple and beautiful: watching the sunrise with nary an obstacle in sight, seeing the sands glow red at sunset, sitting around a crackling campfire, and sleeping beneath a canopy of stars.

Marrakech, Morocco

African Bucket List marrakech

If you want to be within striking distance of souks and the Sahara, then Marrakech is where you want to be. But there’s more to this contrast between the silence of the desert and the mayhem of the souks. As Morocco’s old imperial capital, Marrakech teems with fine examples of Islamic architecture and ancient artistry – tile work, carpet-making, wood carving – kept alive by modern craftsmen. With abundant artistic inspirations, Marrakech makes a fantastic escape to fuel your imagination.


Madagascar Nature 2

Off the southeast coast of Africa is a little piece of jigsaw puzzle that seemed to have been chipped away from Mozambique. That renegade island is none other than Madagascar, otherwise famous as the “island of lemurs.” To scientists, Madagascar is heaven on earth, a treasure house of biodiversity, as the flora and fauna here have evolved in isolation for millions of years resulting to an explosion of species seen nowhere else in the world.  Madagascar is also blessed with 5,000km of coastline harboring beaches that are rugged and windswept in some places and tranquil and dreamy in others. And there’s more. Watch out for the humpback whales as they journey from the Antarctic to breed, calve and cavort in the welcoming waters of Isle Sainte-Marie.

Read more about Madagascar here!

Okavango Delta, Botswana

African Bucket List Delta

Rivers are meant to flow all the way to the sea, but the Okavango River that begins from the highlands of Angola clearly got stuck in the parched sands of the Kalahari, all of its force spent before reaching the distant Indian Ocean. Instead, rains surging from Angola snake down the river and spread deep within the thirst land of Botswana, creating a fan-shaped inland delta that revitalizes plant and animal life after Botswana’s summer rains disappear.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe-Zambia Border


African Waterfalls Victoria rainbow

It’s not called the “smoke that thunders” for nothing. Victoria Falls is where the otherwise placid Zambezi River tumbles over the basalt precipice and transforms into an impressive curtain of falls that plunges straight down into a 100m gorge. To feel the full thundering power of the falls, visit during the peak flood season around March and April.

Read more about visiting Victoria Falls here!

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

African Bucket List fish river canyon

One and a half billion years of geologic history is on full display at Fish River Canyon, the largest in Africa. Measuring 160km long, 27km wide, and 550m deep, Fish River Canyon is (allegedly) surpassed in size only by the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  Marvel at the vertical walls in Palm Springs where twisted rock formations tell the tale of a supercontinent torn in three parts – Gondwana splitting into Africa, Antarctica and South America. The sheer scale and stark beauty of the place is best appreciated on a multi-day hike from May to mid-September when temperatures are tolerable for a 85km trek.

Read more about visiting Namibia here!

Cape Town, South Africa

African Bucket List cape town

A coastal city in South Africa, Cape Town is where cultures, cuisine and landscape create an alluring concoction of offerings found nowhere else in the continent. In the shadow of the flat-topped Table Mountain, the city brims with so many activities that it’s possible to surf, hike, see African penguins, enjoy gourmet lunch, sample wines, sip sundowner cocktails and bar-hop all in one day.

Omo River Valley, Ethiopia


African Bucket List mursi

It’s not unusual in the digital age to spot a Maasai tribesman in the fringes of the Serengeti with a spear in one hand – and a cellphone in the other. But there are still a few places in Africa where you can meet indigenous tribes in their full battle gear minus the smartphones. The earliest examples of primitive man were unearthed from southern Ethiopia so it’s no surprise that the Lower Omo River Valley teems with ethnic origins worthy of a National Geographic documentary. You can still see the beehive-like bamboo homes of the Gurage, Sidama and Dorze tribes, the intricate face paints of Arbore children, the massive lip plates of Mursi women, the extreme body tattoos of Surma, and the amazing headdresses of the Karo tribesmen. But don’t just point and shoot. Aim for an authentic cultural exchange, take it slow, and when the time is right, take out your shiny smartphone and ask for a photo.