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Top Ten African Countries For Novice Travellers

One of my many goals in 2020 is to encourage people to travel to the African continent. There are 54 countries, choose one! Of the world’s seven continents Africa is by far my favorite. I don’t think I’m biased, as a Ugandan, it’s just that I love the culture, the food, the people, the weather, most of the beaches, the mountains and, well, everything! To be fair I have not yet been to Antarctica but I’m pretty sure Africa will remain in first place.

Below I have compiled a list of countries (in alphabetical order) that, in my opinion, are easy to navigate for first time visitors, who may not know someone locally. These countries have tons to offer in terms of culture and adventure, and they have very good or at least decent tourism infrastructure.

1. Egypt

Egypt is an easy country to navigate because they have had so much tourism for so long. There are plenty of companies that you can travel with or you can figure things out once you are on the ground, which is what my friends and I did when we went. The highlights are, of course, the pyramids of Giza, everything in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and Queens, including a sunset boat ride on the Nile. For those that want to explore more of the country you can visit Sharm El Sheikh which is perched on the Red Sea and the incredible colorful city of Aswan, which is the home of the Nubian people.

Check out #catchmeinEgypt to find my past posts from Egypt.

2. Ghana

Accra is one of my favorite cities in Africa with a huge creative scene and a lot of cool people to hang out with. The best time to visit is definitely December when the diaspora comes home and the parties are unmatched. There are several amazing beaches in the city as well. Accra has a brand new airport terminal that is ultra-modern and immigration is very efficient. Outside of the capital you should pay a visit to Cape Coast that holds a lot of history and Kumasi  – I haven’t been there yet but heard nothing but good things. And of course we can’t talk about Ghana without mentioning their amazing food.

Check out #catchmeinGhana to find my past posts from Ghana.

3. Kenya

Kenya is a country with so much to offer. Nairobi is one of my favorite African cities and because of its extensive coastline on the Indian Ocean, there are great coastal cities to visit such as Diani and Lamu. You can go on what I consider to be the best safari in Africa, the Maasai Mara, or go on a multi-day hike on Mount Kenya which is a World Heritage Site. Some of my favorite markets in the world are in Kenya, including the Masai Market in Nairobi. For those who want to get up close and personal with the wildlife I suggest visiting the Giraffe Centre where you can kiss giraffes on the mouth and David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, also known as the Elephant Orphanage, where they rescue baby elephants who were orphaned due to poacher’s attacks.

Check out #catchmeinKenya to find my past posts from Kenya.

Shop The Kenya collection on The Catch!

4. Morocco

Similar to Cuba, Morocco is super Instagrammable which has largely contributed to the rise of tourism in the last few years. Whether you are hanging out in the souks of Marrakech or the famous Jardin Majorelle you will definitely get many Instagram-worthy shots. But the country has much more to offer beyond Marrakech and the illusive image to post on your feed. Head to Fez for its labyrinth of alleyways, or visit Chefchaouen, the blue city, eat all of the tagine that you can stand, my favorite is lamb with apricots. Moroccon architecture is some of my favorite in the world. Stay in style by choosing from the large selection of beautiful riads and hotels.

Check out #catchmeinMorocco to find my past posts from Morocco.

Jessica at a market in Marrakech, Morocco smelling the spices sold at a stall

5. Namibia

Namibia is such a great country to visit because it offers a variety of landscapes and adventures. Not to be missed are the tall red dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert, and Deadvlei with trees that are estimated to be over 700 years old, making it one of the most unique landscapes in the world. The vibrant colours are simply stunning. It almost looks fake when I look at my photos. Once the night falls, Namibia has excellent stargazing conditions thanks to the climate and little to no air and light pollution. For a safari experience, head to the Etosha National Park where you can see lions, giraffes and elephants amongst other animals.

Check out #catchmeinNamibia to find my past posts from Namibia.

SossosvleiNamibia_Credit Wes Walker2 (2)

6. Rwanda

Small but mighty, Rwanda’s tourism is booming thanks to popular activities such as gorilla trekking. Lake Kivu, the country’s largest lake, has beautiful vistas of surrounding mountains and is the perfect spot for water sports. It is also one of the cleanest countries in the world thanks to a complete ban on single-use plastic bags and plastic packaging. There’s a lot to learn about ancient and modern history alike and Rwanda’s museums and galleries make for an interesting insight into their culture and heritage. With a thriving art scene it is also a great place to shop for paintings to add a unique touch to your interior back home.

Check out #catchmeinRwanda to find my past posts from Rwanda.

7. Senegal

One of my favorite countries ever, Senegal has a beautiful energy. The surfing culture in Dakar is very unique, and it offers great conditions for beginners and experts alike. Make sure you add surf lessons to your itinerary. Another unique attribute of the city is the fitness culture, I have never seen that many human beings working out together ever anywhere else in the world.  An easy day trip from Dakar, Goree Island is where thousands of enslaved Africans were taken before being shipped off to the Americas. It is a very humbling experience that all people in the world should aim to visit to understand first hand the pure horror and inhumanity of slavery.

Senegal has one of the best cuisines on the continent. Head to Pointe des Almadies, the westernmost point of Africa, to eat seafood such as fresh clams, mussels and prawns until you explode. The local fish thiof (typically served whole) and yassa poisson or poulet (a fish or chicken dish, covered in onions), are my favorite of their cuisine.  

Less than an hour drive from Dakar you will find Lac Rose, a naturally pink lake that Instagram dreams are made of. If you have some more time to spend in the country head to Saint Louis, a city known for its colonial architecture and visit the Baobob forest and climb a 6000-year-old tree.

Check out #catchmeinSenegal to find my past posts from Senegal.

Jessica on a boat in Lac Rose in Seegal

8. Tanzania

The biggest draw of Tanzania is the Serengeti, which is the same piece of land as Maasai Mara in Kenya, only in Tanzania it’s called Serengeti – both are the land of the Maasai Tribe. Tanzania is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain of Africa and a popular peak amongst climbers. After doing safari and hiking Kilimanjaro’s peak, Zanzibar is a welcome reprieve with its white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Some of my favorite beaches in the world are in Zanzibar. I have not yet been to Dar es Salaam, but heard so many good things about it that it’s high on my list of places to visit.

Check out #catchmeinTanzania to find my past posts from Tanzania.

9. Uganda

Uganda is my homeland and therefore has a special place in my heart, but it also offers so much variety for travellers. The source of the Nile river is in Jinja, where you can go white water rafting on the choppy waters of this great river, on which your raft is sure to be overturned. Don’t worry, it’s much more fun than it sounds. Uganda has extraordinary biodiversity, with over 1000 bird species and 350 wildlife species. Further, there is a huge variety of landscapes from lush rolling hills, to savannahs, to forests, lakes and snow-capped mountains. To experience the wide variety of landscapes and species you should visit the below, though the list is truly endless:

  • Queen Elizabeth National Park for safaris
  • Bwindi National Park for gorilla trekking
  • Murchison Falls National Park
  • Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world

When visiting Kampala be sure to stop at the National Theater in the city center. It’s my favorite place in East Africa for shopping. Kampala is also home to Africa’s only Baha’i Temple which is open to followers of the faith and visitors alike.

Last but not least, I cannot talk about Uganda without mentioning our cuisine. Our staple food, matoke and binyebwa (mashed bananas with peanut sauce) is unlike anything you have ever tasted and is also suitable for vegans. Freshly roasted pork is usually the first thing I try to get my hands on and the ever popular “rolex” (an omelette wrapped in chapati) is a favorite of tourists and locals alike.

Check out #catchmeinUganda to find my past posts from Uganda.

10. Zambia -Zimbabwe

Zambia and Zimbabwe share a border at the famed Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. When visiting the massive falls, one should take it in from both countries, this is probably one of the easiest border crossings in the world. Those looking for a once in a lifetime experience should visit the Devil’s Pool, nature’s ultimate infinity pool where you can actually swim and even lean over the edge of the Victoria Falls. You access the tour on the Zambia side and it can only be done between August and mid-January so plan your trip accordingly. I highly recommend a sunset river cruise on the Zambezi river that will take your breath away. And for a next level safari experience, take a rhino walking tour where you can get incredibly close to these majestic, but sadly endangered, animals in their natural habitat with an experienced guide.

Check out #catchmeinZambia and #catchmeinZimbabwe to find my past posts from Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. thanks for this great list, i am so looking forward to the times when we can travel again. i also found cabo verde really easy and safe to travel.
    and why no south africa on this list? for many europeans it is the first or even only african country they will ever visit – probably because it’s not too exotic for us :/ still it doesn’t serve as an starter drug for many.
    regards, nina from austria

    1. Hi! Thanks so much for your comment this is my personal list of countries that I think are great for starters! There are so many other countries that I could’ve chosen but these are my top recommendations!

  2. Africa is the one continent we’ve never explored during all our years of travelling together. Although our travel planning is currently curtailed a little bit right now, this gives us inspiration for the next round! Thank you.

  3. Hi Jessica!

    Thanks for sharing this list, it’s so informative and makes me want to go to each and every one of these countries! Having only started traveling recently it’s so good to get other people’s perspectives on different countries, especially which ones are good for novice travellers! Do you have any advice for a novice traveller going to these countries in terms of good tours or if they’re easy enough to travel without a tour? Once Covid-19 has improved I would love to head over, and with all this spare time we have at the moment I’m trying to plan as much as I can! I’m excited to experience different cultures and try new food but my favourite type of travel tends to have a focus on wildlife and nature, so Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda appeal to me the most – any advice on the best times of years to visit these countries and seeing wildlife would be really appreciated!

    Thank you for sharing your experiences of travelling the world, I love your photography and honesty in your posts and look forward to reading more as you continue travelling!

    1. Hi Ellie!

      I mentioned tours or no tours under the country descriptions. I would recommend you do some more research to figure out what works best for you. There’s no single answer for all travelers! Enjoy your adventures!

      Jessica

      1. There are just so many options so I thought I’d see if you have any recommendations for particular tour companies you liked. All good if you don’t though!

  4. This is amazing! Thanks for sharing this, I would really love to travel to all of these places when restrictions from Covid ease. Are there any tips for women traveling solo to these places you mentioned? Did you travel solo?

    1. I do not have any specific tips for women traveling solo. When I travel solo I typically stay at hotels, but that is generally the only consideration I make when traveling solo. I traveled to these countries with friends or met friends there, but these are all very safe countries which is why they made the list!

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