In spite of being one of the most exotic, beautiful, and adventurous continents on the planet, Africa is still the least visited, with, for example, ten times the number of people traveling to a considerably smaller area in Europe than the whole of Africa combined. With perhaps one or two exceptions such as Morocco, Kenya, and South Africa (generally regarded as decidedly more travel-friendly than any other countries on the continent) Africa is nowhere near reaching its full tourism potential.
Description: Africa – more than just safaris
So, why is that? What exactly is stopping people from flocking to this richly diverse, cultural, environmental, and historical powerhouse filled with 54 recognized countries for you to possibly explore? World traveler and adventurer Lydia Yang of Lydiascapes takes a look at six reasons why you’ve not visited Africa (yet), while hopefully even dispelling some of the myths keeping you from doing so along the way!
It’s Far Too Dangerous
First thing’s first – when talking about Africa as a backpacking destination, you’re likely to be met with a few raised eyebrows. To many, it’s still a dangerous place, ravaged by civil wars and corruption, in certain locales run by armed militias and generally people who wouldn’t exactly invite you to tea if they happened to catch you in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Description: The beauty of Africa will remain in photographs for those afraid to go
However, what you need to remember is that Africa is not one country. People often have a tendency to just lump it all together, and what’s happening in Guinea isn’t necessarily what’s happening in Mozambique for example. At the time of writing, there are fifteen countries currently in conflict, so, that’s 39 left for you to explore!
It’s Disease Ridden
We’ve all looked on in horror at the AIDS and HIV epidemic in Africa – which does continue to be a significant problem in certain parts of the continent – but once again – it is only in certain regions. Rates of infection are falling. Mosquitos are a worldwide pain in the butt, but improved protection and drug administration have seen a drop in fatalities across the continent here. You’ve got similar risks to face in South America and South East Asia too – yet they are two of the backpacking capitals of the world!
Description: Education and medical supplies are key to improving the mortality rates in Africa
Just like when you go anywhere with the dangers of tropical infection or disease, you take the proper precautions. Make sure you’ve had all your jabs in plenty of time and use a bit of common sense when traveling through any at-risk areas. But don’t let the scaremongering stop you from going at all! Do your research, plan well and the worst you’re likely to deal with is a brief dodgy tum as you acclimatize to a continent you’re not used to.
It’s Not for Solo Travel
Many backpackers these days have decided to fly solo because it affords you the freedom you will never have in big groups. Now, that’s all very well and good when interrailing around Europe – but what of “scary” Africa? Most solo travelers are extremely apprehensive about setting foot alone down there and thus miss out on incredible, life-affirming opportunities.
It’s just like going anywhere else! You’ll face the same risks, you’ll meet amazing people and you might meet some not-so-amazing ones. You can get run over by a bus walking out of your own front door in the safest town in the world. Just use that all-important common sense and you’ll have a ball.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, yes, Africa doesn’t have the finest reputation when it comes to facilities and creature comforts. It is, after all, a developing continent– and that can certainly put a lot of people off. But if all you’re looking for is a five-star resort in about as challenging a locale as the Costa del Sol, then perhaps Africa isn’t for you anyway!
Description: The central business district of Nairobi
It’s true it’s not the richest continent on the planet, but there are still plenty of higher-end options in the more affluent countries. But if you’re looking for real adventure, dirt roads, stepping outside your comfort zone, and a stunningly beautiful wilderness – you’ve come to the right place.
It’ll Cost a Small Fortune
Africa is synonymous with safaris, and you’ll probably have heard that you’ve not been to Africa unless you’ve been on a safari. What they won’t tell you is, you don’t need to pay through the nose for it, and in certain locations, you can even do it yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Description: You’ll see a lot of these guys wandering about!
Tourism companies jack up their prices for the super-rich market, but you can easily bypass that and still see what you want to see. Likewise, for accommodation, which also doesn’t have to cost the earth. There are plenty of budget options for exploring this behemoth of a continent, without having to sell a kidney!
Different strokes for different folks, right? Everyone will have their own reasons for not visiting Africa, but hopefully, they can overcome them. From being apprehensive about the people to being terrified of the jaws of a hippo. As Mark Twain said – “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many people need it sorely on these accounts.” How right he was!
We can all appreciate that not everyone will ever fancy the journey to explore Africa, but those that do are richly rewarded for their efforts. And nobody was eaten by a lion in the process!
Have you been anywhere in Africa? Tell us about your experiences!