Africa is often portrayed in a negative light, depicted as a Continent ridden with corruption, war, and poverty. But in reality, many African countries have been developing in a positive direction for years, offering a wide variety of unique experiences and cultures which keep travelers coming back for more.
Africa is Just One Big Place
Although Africa is often thought of as “one big place” – sometimes even referred to as a single country – it is actually a large continent formed of 54 countries with a staggering 2.000 different languages.
From white sandy beaches in Tanzania, to giant orange dunes in Namibia, to trekking with gorillas in Uganda, it offers so much variety it’s impossible to generalize as a single place.
It’s Only About Safaris
It’s true that a large number of tourists who visit Africa are either there to experience a safari or volunteer and try to do some good. But the African continent offers so much more than expensive safari tours.
It also has a backpackers trail which can be feasible and safe, much like backpacking in Asia or South America, incredible sites such as the Pyramids of Giza and Mount Kilimanjaro, and a variety of activities such as hiking, scuba diving, kitesurfing, and bungee jumping.
Africa is Dangerous
Certainly, some parts of Africa are dangerous. We’re used to seeing reports of terrorist attacks in Kenya, ongoing conflicts in Nigeria, and civil war in South Sudan, which is why most people’s mental image of the continent is a place of conflict and danger.
However, the Institute for Economics and Peace has deemed many African countries to be safer than the USA, such as Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Madagascar, and many others. Ranking factors include violent crime, terrorism, and internal or external conflicts.
Traveling Through Africa is Expensive
Beach hotels with private butlers and luxury safari tours can be very expensive. But there are many other ways to experience Africa which don’t have to cost a lot of money. It’s often possible to drive through national parks yourself at a much lower cost, and you’ll still have the chance to see “The Big Five”.
You can also find great value accommodation, such as beach huts, dorm rooms, or private bungalows for between $10 to $20 a night. Campsites are often unique and funky, with many offering hot showers, beautiful scenery, and even swimming pools.
It’s Full of Diseases
Malaria is still a big concern in Africa, but there are major initiatives in place to eradicate it. The good news is that thanks to the increase in insecticide and mosquito nets, there has been a dramatic drop in Malaria cases and a huge decrease in mortality. It’s still always best to ask your doctor about preventative measures before you travel.
HIV and AIDS can be a concern in Southern Africa, but even here the rate of infection is falling. Other countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, and Madagascar have an infection rate of 0.5%.
The Whole Continent is Underdeveloped
This is a very common misconception. For instance, Rwanda is considered very clean and has pulled an incredible amount of people out of poverty since the mid-90s. And at 64%, it has the highest number of women in politics than any other country. Botswana has also had one of the highest economic growth rates in the world.
There is also good cell phone and 3G coverage and good roads in most of Southern Africa and parts of East Africa. There are certainly development problems that need to be solved in parts of Africa, but it would be incorrect to say that most of the countries are barely developed.
You Shouldn’t Travel Alone
Due to the common myths listed above, the idea of Traveling alone can leave people aghast, especially if you’re female. But traveling solo in Africa is much like traveling alone in other parts of the world, and you should take the same precautions as you would elsewhere. There are usually plenty of other solo travelers around.
The Bottom Line
Africa is an incredibly diverse part of the world which offers experiences you won’t find anywhere else, and many travelers fall in love with the continent thanks to the warmth, friendliness, and adventures it has to offer.
Cal Bailey runs Mountain Leon – a travel blog he started after two years on backpacking around the world. If you want to learn more about life on the road or tips for travelling, you can read his latest post about choosing the right sleeping bag.
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