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My Favourite Places in East and Southern Africa (So Far)

Often I’m asked for my recommendations where to go in Africa. But this is a tough question because there are so many places I love and so many I’ve still yet to visit!

I haven’t travelled to West Africa (yet) and I’ve only been to Morocco in North Africa, but I want to share a few of my favourite places in East and Southern Africa with you. Whether you have 2 weeks, or 6 months, whether you just want to visit a couple of places or you’re planning a road trip, try and get a few of these places onto your itinerary – you won’t be disappointed!

So in no particular order…

Here are my favourite places in East and Southern Africa!

Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

In the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, you’ll find the Parc National des Volcans also known as, the Volcanoes National Park. There’s generally one reason that most people venture to this part of the world, and that’s to see the mountain gorillas that live deep within the rain forest.

Seeing the mountain gorillas was one of the most magical experiences of my life, and words can’t really express just how amazing it is to sit just metres away from these beautiful creatures. I promise you, your heart will skip a beat when they look you in the eye.

Not to mention, Rwanda is one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever visited. So, so green and hilly!

READ MORE: Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda 

Rafting on Rafting the White Nile in Jinga,Uganda

Bujagali and Jinja, Uganda

The village of Bujagali lies on the White Nile, just a few miles outside of Jinja town.

I visited for a few days on my overland trip, staying at Nile River Explorers, but loved it so much, I vowed to go back. So a couple of years later, me and a couple of my friends from that first trip returned and spent a two weeks volunteering with a local charity called Soft Power Education.

There are loads of things to do like white water rafting, bungee jumping and river cruises, and the place is a popular spot for professional kayakers, so there’s always a fun atmosphere. But it’s also very tranquil and a great place to recharge your batteries too.

READ MORE: White Water Rafting the Nile in Uganda

Baboon on a ledge in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya

Lake Nakuru, Kenya

If you want to see a real display from the animal kingdom, then head to Lake Nakuru. There are many different animals who live around the lake, however the flamingos are the star attraction. They gather in their thousands and it’s a spectacular sight to watch them dancing as flamingos do.

Nairobi Giraffe Centre

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a pretty great city – except for the traffic, the traffic sucks, in fact it’s the worst traffic I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Besides the traffic, there are loads of really cool things to see and do. I loved visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and getting up close with the elephants, and the Giraffe Centre. Look how happy I am! There’s also some great restaurants and bars to try!

Nairobi is also pretty progressive and there are lots of social enterprises springing up all over the city, many of which you can visit and support the local community.

READ MORE: Highlights and Lowlights of My 2016 ‘This is Kenya’ Tour

 Masai Mara Hot Balloon Safari

Masai Mara, Kenya

Probably the most famous safari destination in the world, and with great reason. The Masai Mara is spectacular and the wildlife will not disappoint, especially when the great migration passes through.

And the sunsets… oh the sunsets.

READ MORE: How to Experience the Masai Mara on a Budget

Kenya and Tanzania Itinerary

Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Amboseli is a little bit off the regular safari trail and one of the lesser known parks, but it’s probably one of the most iconic, due to it’s position in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. A photographers dream. Especially if the animals make a timely appearance like the elephant in my cover photo! I didn’t see any lions or other big cats, but there were hundreds of elephants!

READ MORE: The Elephants of Amboseli 

Standing on the Top of Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing Kilimanjaro is without a doubt one of the best and most difficult things I’ve ever done. Such an adventure. It’s also incredibly beautiful as you pass through the different landscapes on the mountain.

After day 2 you’re above the clouds and it’s a surreal and unbelievably liberating feeling to be so far above the world below.

READ MORE: How to Prepare for Kilimanjaro – Everything You Need to Know!

Serengeti

The Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Being on safari in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater is like stepping straight into The Lion King and the likelihood of seeing the Big 5 is pretty high! This is the only place in Africa where I’ve seen a leopard – and I saw one both times I’ve been here. You might even get the chance to spend time with the Maasai tribe.

READ MORE: Finding the Lion King in the Serengeti

Bagamoyo

Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Bagamoyo is around an hour and a half north of Dar es Salaam. It is a bit off the beaten path, but is definitely somewhere I think everyone should visit. You don’t find many tourists there and the only foreigners are volunteers and NGO workers.

Bagamoyo is full of history. Today it is mostly a fishing town, but it was once a major slave trading hub. The history is evident in the buildings all over town. If you’re looking for a taste of the non-touristic side of Africa, this is a great place to get it.

Sunset Stone Town Zanzibar Tanzania

Stone Town, Zanzibar

One of my favourite places in the world is Stone Town, Zanzibar. Literally one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been, a cultural melting pot – yeah, totally cliche, but it is very true. Spend your days getting lost in the alleys and just soaking up the Stone Town vibe.

Where to stay: I absolutely loved staying at the Emerson Spice Hotel. A real treat.

READ MORE: Things to Do in Stone Town (when you only have two days)

Kendwa, Zanzibar

Kendwa & Nungwi, Tanzania

In the north east of Zanzibar you’ll find the neighbouring beach villages of Nungwi and Kendwa. The Indian Ocean is always welcoming, especially if you’ve just come off a safari or down from Kili.

Nungwi is a little bit busier than Kendwa and has more hotels, bars and restaurants. But Kendwa has the bigger beach. To be honest, they’re not far, so either is good! You can organise all kinds of trips from here and there’s always a party somewhere. On Saturday night the big party is at Kendwa Rocks.

READ MORE: 40 Amazing Things to Do in Zanzibar

Malawi

Cape Maclear, Malawi

Cape Maclear lies at the southern end of Lake Malawi, also known as the ‘Lake of Stars’. I got to visit this beautiful part of the world when I was working as a tour guide. We spent a couple of days on the mainland, and a couple of days on a private, Robinson Crusoe-esq island in the middle of the lake. We kayaked over and set up camp. Hello paradise.

The town has a laidback, relaxed vibe. The perfect spot to chill for a few days, and you can try out some of the activities on offer. Lake Malawi is one of the best places for freshwater scuba diving in the world.

READ MORE: Top 10 Unmissable Malawi Experiences

On safari at Liwonde National Park, Malawi

Liwonde National Park, Malawi

Another amazing, yet little known safari park. Taking a boat trip down the Shire River was probably the highlight of my stay there. We got really close to the elephants! And one night, there was an elephant just outside my tent. Very exciting, but slightly annoying as I was desperate for the loo and I had to wait until he’d moved along.

READ MORE: The Hazy Beauty of Liwonde National Park

Elephants Crash Pool Party

South Luangwa, Zambia

Zambia is my favourite country out of them all. Maybe it’s because it’s because it was the first African country I visited, maybe because it’s just awesome or maybe it’s because so many random things happened when I was there – like the time we met the president in our pyjamas. And it was here that elephants crashed our pool. In fact, I think that may have been the best day ever.

Either way, South Luangwa is a great place for safari. Many of the camps and lodges lie along the Luangwa River, so wildlife viewing is amazing.

READ MORE: South Luangwa – Where Elephants Crash Your Pool Party

Lake Kariba

Lake Kariba, Zambia

If you get chance to stay on a houseboat on this man made lake, do it. Usually this is an additional extra on an overland trip.

Staying on a houseboat is a lot of fun. It’s a good break from truck life  when you are overalnding and the lake is very serene and the sunsets are stunning. At night, everything is dark around you, except for the twinkling lights on the kapenta fishing boats in the distance.

Victoria Falls Dry Season

Livingstone, Zambia

I used to live in Livingstone and it still is to this day, probably my favourite place in the whole of Africa.

Livingstone is the adventure capital of the continent and is only a few minutes drive from the one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. Livingstone is the type of place where anything could happen. Perhaps a zebra will show up whist you’re enjoying a spot of afternoon tea!

Cooking lesson at Bovu Island

Bovu Island, Zambia

To be honest, I can’t even believe I’m telling you about this amazing place – as I’d love it to stay a secret!

Set on Bovu Island on the Zambezi, Jungle Junction is around 1.5 hours drive from Livingstone. It’s a tiny island and eco camp that supports the local community.  To get across to the island you must take a mokoro (traditional canoe) and you can stay in wooden huts or camp.

If you want a tranquil stay, visit in the week. For more of a party atmosphere, head there at the weekend when local NGO’s and travellers alike head to the island to relax and unwind. They do once daily transfers from Livingstone. Activities include a sunset mokoro ride, fishing, church and school visits or a Zambian cooking lesson on the mainland. I had one of my best ever weekends here.

Ookavango Delta Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is famous for the wildlife. Whilst I was there, we actually saw very little, but it was still a really enjoyable place to visit. We took mokoro rides through the shallow waters, before camping wild on an island.

I hear that taking a ride in a small plane over the Delta is an incredible experience!

READ MORE: Into the Wild – The Okavango Delta

Elephants

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Best place to see elephants in Africa? It has to be Chobe National Park in Botswana! This is an amazing place and you can also take flights and see the park from the air!

Ngepi Camp

Ngepi Camp, Namibia

Just across the border in Namibia is Ngepi Camp. This isn’t a thing to see or do as such, but this camp is just, well, awesome, so I had to give it a mention.

The camp has great facilities, and the toilets and showers are amazing! One of the toilets is like a throne and overlooks the river. Not like any other camp I’ve stayed at! It’s quirky and you get the chance to swim in the safety of a caged pool in the river, with crocs and hippos only a few metres away.

We only stayed for one night, but I could have happily stayed longer.

Swakopmund Namibia

Swakopmund, Namibia

Another place for adventure is Swakopmund, Namibia. On one side you have the Atlantic Ocean, and then the Namib Desert on the other. It’s an excellent spot for sky diving and sandboarding.

If you get chance, head over to the township and have an afternoon drink and a boogie at one of the shebeens.

Dune 45, Namibia

Sossusvlei Dunes and Deadvlei, Namibia

Visiting Namibia feels like visiting another planet or maybe a post-apocalyptic Earth. Seriously, Namibia will blow your mind in terms of scenery, just for being like nowhere you’ve ever seen before.

And visiting the sand dunes of Sossusvlei at sunset is one of those experiences that everyone should have. I love this photo below taken by my friend Ali. That’s me, second from last! Exhausting but worth i

Nearby is Deadvlei, where you can find ancient trees and which many people will recognise as the default picture on the Snapseed photo app.

Fish River Canyon in Namibia

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Fish River Canyon in  Namibia is trhe largest canyon in Africa. We arrived just in time to watch the sunset. So pretty!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stellenboch, South Africa

If you like wine, which I most certainly do, then a trip to Stellenbosch and the surrounding wineries is definitely worth it.

We spent a great day touring the region and it is a beautiful part of the world, as wine regions tend to be.

Unfortunately I was pretty ill at the time and unable to really eat or drink, so even though I still went, I didn’t get to experience it in all its glory, but I loved watching everyone else get smashed have a great time. South African hospitality really is second to none!

Have a braai whilst you’re there too! That’s a barbeque to the rest of us, but in South Africa, they just seemed to have nailed it!

Hermanus

Hermanus

The main draw of Hermanus for me, was watching southern right whales frolicking in the water, just metres off the coast. The town is nice and there are lots of nice restaurants to choose from.

South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is probably the most beautiful city I’ve ever been too. I ended up spending a lot more time here than I was supposed to. I’d fallen ill somewhere in Namibia and by the time I got to South Africa I was really suffering. So my trip down the Garden Route was cut short and we ended up turning around and heading back to Cape Town so I could get some industrial strength antibiotics and recover.

But if you’re going to be stuck anywhere, then Cape Town is a great place for it. And all the more reason I need to go back and see South Africa properly.

As well as having the beautiful backdrop of Table Mountain, there’s a million and one things to do both in the city and the surrounding areas, like visiting Camps Bay or the Cape of Good Hope.

Sunrise over the Masai Mara.

So there you go, my favourite places in Africa… so far. Hopefully this will help you with your trip planning!  I love helping people plan their travels, so give me a shout if you have any questions!

Would you like to go to Africa? Have you been? Where is your favourite place?

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Bec Papworth
    April 12, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Helen your posts are amazing and make me want to return to see more and visit the places I’ve been before what a continent!

    • Reply
      Helen
      April 12, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Thank you Bec! Loved sharing so many of these adventures with you. Wish we could do it again!

      I agree – what a continent!!! xx

  • Reply
    Mica
    April 12, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Love this post! Living vicariously through you until we can finally get there! So many great photos!!
    Mica recently posted…Why you need to visit Mauna Kea on Hawaii IslandMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      April 13, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      Thanks Mica! Glad you like it and thanks for reading! Hope you’ll find lots of tips on here once you do go! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lizzie
    April 13, 2015 at 9:36 am

    All of them! I want to go to all of them! But in particular: Masai Mara, Okavango Delta, EVERYWHERE in Namibia, and Stone Town. I’ve only been to South Africa so far, but there are some amazing places there – I love the Free Town area near the Lesotho border. I’m hoping to get to explore more of Africa soon as it’s the continent that interest me the most 🙂
    Lizzie recently posted…From Yaks and Yurts to Rock Art And Rhinos: An Animal and Art Infused BucketlistMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      April 13, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      Africa is such an interesting continent! I’d love to explore more of South Africa, I was so sick there. It didn’t stop me doing anything, but if I ate or drank anything other than water… well it wasn’t good! So I envy your travels there!

      Hope you get to explore more of Africa soon!

      Thanks Lizzie! 🙂

  • Reply
    Marcus Eriksson
    April 13, 2015 at 11:06 am

    I’m going down to South Africa in about 2 weeks. Might go to Namibia as well. Great tips! Thanks!
    Marcus Eriksson recently posted…Two weeks in MyanmarMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      April 13, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      Ah great! You’ll have such a great time! Definitely get to Namibia if you can! Namibia is really different to the rest of Africa. If you’re coming from East Africa, it’s really weird. From East Africa where there are people EVERYWHERE, Namibia seems so empty and post -apocalyptic almost! Have fun!

      • Reply
        Marcus Eriksson
        April 13, 2015 at 7:30 pm

        That sounds very cool! 🙂 I forgot to recommend Ethiopia, if you haven’t been there! My favorite destination all over – until now!
        Marcus Eriksson recently posted…Two weeks in MyanmarMy Profile

        • Reply
          Helen
          April 13, 2015 at 9:18 pm

          I’ve never been to Ethiopia but I would LOVE to go! One day!!! I think Zambia is my favourite so far. But Uganda is close…

          • Marcus Eriksson
            April 14, 2015 at 10:14 am

            Oh, Zambia and Uganda is way up on my list too! Have some stories from Ethiopia on my site, if you are interested. 😉
            Marcus Eriksson recently posted…Two weeks in MyanmarMy Profile

          • Helen
            April 14, 2015 at 6:28 pm

            They are good countries! :)I just had a read of some of your posts. Ethiopia does look amazing!! I would love to get there someday!!

  • Reply
    Traveling Rockhopper
    April 17, 2015 at 4:48 am

    great places and great ideas!
    I hope to hike Kilimanjaro one day…
    Traveling Rockhopper recently posted…Falkland Islands – AlbatrossMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      April 17, 2015 at 10:58 am

      Kili is great, such an adventure and a real challenge! 🙂

      Thanks for reading!!!

  • Reply
    Murissa
    April 17, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Fantastic photos Helen!
    Africa is such an expensive venture for me as a Canadian but it is definitely on my list and yours definitely helps me narrow down where I want to go!
    Murissa recently posted…Postcards from BostonMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      April 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks Murissa! You need to go! You’d love Stellenbosch! x

  • Reply
    hassan
    April 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Your photo of standing beside Sea is extraordinary.I like to travel with you . What a beautiful landscapes.
    hassan recently posted…دهلرانMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      April 20, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      I am always very happy when I am by the sea! 🙂 It calms me and fills me with peace. Africa is full of so many beautiful landscapes, I love it so much for so many reasons!

      Thank you for your kind comment Hassan!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    May 12, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Waking up being near some elephants must have been a great experience! also when those elephants crashed your party in Zambia! that sounds so hilarious! I love your shots of the elephants, and the lions, and the sunsets.. ooh, and of the sand dunes, that shot looks so amazing!
    You’ve accomplished so much in Africa, I’m so jealous! These trips of yours are in my list, thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Helen
      May 17, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Thanks Rachel! Yeah staying near wild animals is always exhilarating! When they came in to the pool area, that was so much fun! Literally one of the best things that ever happened to me!

      I’ve spent a year travelling around there, but there’s still so much to see and do! I just got back from Morocco, a whole new part of Africa for me! Hope you get to go to all the places on your list soon! You won’t regret it! I think Africa has an impact on the soul of everyone who travels there! 🙂

  • Reply
    Chantae
    May 13, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Bookmarking this for when I finally make it to Africa! Love that you visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife center. Did you read the book by his wife (Live, Love, and Elephants) — such an incredible story that details how it used to be there. He is a pretty amazing guy!

    Swooning over the gorillas 🙂

    • Reply
      Helen
      May 17, 2015 at 12:09 pm

      Hi Chantae,

      Aw, great, glad you liked it! I read Love, Life and Elephants when I was there! Such an amazing book about amazing people. That book got me through some awful bus journeys and I had me crying somewhere between Dar es Salaam and Arusha! He does sound like the most amazing man, an Daphne, such an extraordinary woman! The life they led! Wow!

      The gorillas were amazing! 🙂 I hope you get to go!

      x

  • Reply
    Katie @ Katie Wanders
    June 11, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Gorgeous photos! Africa is on the top of my travel list! I will have to save this post for when I save up the funds!

    Katie @ http://www.KatieWanders.com

    • Reply
      Helen
      June 11, 2015 at 11:04 pm

      Thank you Katie! Africa is usually on the top of my travel list too! 🙂

      Speaking of funds, I’ve just written a post on how much 6 months in Africa cost me if you are interested!

      Hope you get to go soon!

      x

  • Reply
    Elliott
    August 1, 2015 at 8:54 am

    It’s an absolute dream of mine to travel East Africa. Thanks for sharing these destinations 🙂 Love your posts on Africa. Super inspiring for me!
    Elliott recently posted…Why Everyone Should Do a Working Holiday AbroadMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      August 1, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Thanks Elliot! Glad you love the posts!

  • Reply
    rebecca
    October 19, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Where have you NOT been! What an incredible list! You are so lucky to have had so many expereinces!
    rebecca recently posted…Everything ends, that is what gives it meaningMy Profile

    • Reply
      Helen
      October 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      I am lucky to have had these incredible experiences and I am thankful for that every day. 🙂

  • Reply
    monika
    November 21, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Africa is my favourite!

  • Reply
    Marthe
    December 16, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    Aaah, Bovu Island <3 I love that place! I was there at easter last year – and I think it was the best weekend of my life. I don't have to explain why becouse you know why.

    • Reply
      Helen
      December 26, 2015 at 6:23 pm

      Yes, it’s soooo good! Totally relaxing and just beautiful!!!

  • Reply
    Cassie Defillipo
    October 17, 2016 at 3:08 am

    Helen, Thank you for this article! I am just starting to plan a long overland East Africa trip that is two years away, but reading on your blog has made the trip feel so exciting and real. I have worked in Ghana and South Sudan previously, so I feel I know a lot about Africa as a continent, but living someplace and traveling and crossing borders are two different things, and it was so valuable for me to hear your experiences traveling overland as a woman on your own. It has made me more willing to consider doing it on my own rather than using a tour company. And now thanks to you my biggest dream is for elephants to crash my pool party =)

    • Reply
      Helen
      October 17, 2016 at 11:52 am

      Hi Cassie,

      That’s awesome!!! Travelling alone in Africa is generally fine. It’s tough at times, but mostly amazing!!!! Happy trip planning and glad to have been of help!! Hope I can help some more in the future!

      Helen

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