May, 23 2013


South Africa

(Reference: Travel Africa Magazine 2009)

If you could choose one experience – one special moment – in Africa, what would it be? Tricky question, isn't it? And if that wasn't enough of a challenge, we have graded them from No. 50 to No. 1. to No.50. What's on your African dream list?

1. Experience the Great Migration - Tanzania and Kenya
The Serengeti is quintessential Africa: big skies, rolling plains, prolific wildlife. Out here in this vast wilderness, roughly the size of Ireland, you can see for miles in any direction. But what really elevates the Serengeti above any other African highlight is the annual migration.

Between May and June, over one million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra trek north towards Kenya. It is a breathtaking spectacle - a free-spirited celebration of a bygone Africa; a place and time devoid of human barriers. Driven by deep-rooted instinct, the herds darken the boundless plains of the Serengeti, spreading across the savannah like shadows of passing clouds.

2. Feel the Earth Move at Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe and Zambia
The small boat moved swiftly downstream, threading between rocky islets where crocodiles basked in the sun. Mini-rapids chuckled beneath the hull, jostling the boat, goading it onwards. I felt the cool kiss of spray and watched, transfixed, as we hurried across a channel that slid into misty oblivion a stone's throw ahead. As soon as I felt the crunch of the bow on land, I leapt ashore.

But like me, Livingstone Island trembled. Perched on the very lip of Victoria Falls, this tiny island marks the spot where, in 1853, Dr David Livingstone first set eyes on The Smoke that Thunders. Deafened by the roaring cataracts and oblivious even to the sightseeing helicopters overhead, I shuffled to the very brink of the abyss. Dr Livingstone probably struck an epic pose when he stood here 150 years ago. But as I peered through rainbows that seemed close enough to touch, and saw the great plumes of white water cascading from my feet to explode in the gorge 100m below, I felt intrepid enough. - William Gray.

3. Make Eye Contact with a Gorilla - Rwanda
Our eyes met. This is a mammal thing, the direct stare. With predators such as lions it sends a chill down your spine, with prey animals you feel protective, but with a gorilla you are dealing with an equal; intelligence meets intelligence. There is no wildlife experience like it - believe me.

Evolution has enabled us to read faces as well as words. We look into a stranger's eyes to judge whether he is friendly or hostile. And what do we read in a gorilla's eyes? Trust, mainly; curiosity and sometimes nonchalance, but not hostility. - Hilary Bradt.

4. Stand on the Roof of Africa - Tanzania
The sound of crystalline snow crunching beneath your boots seems slightly surreal when you consider you are just a short distance south of the Equator. Lean forward, make that final effort and drag your weary body up the final slope to the Roof of Africa.

Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is a slog by anyone's standards, but the panorama from Uhuru Peak, at 5896m, the highest point in Africa, justifies every effort. You are standing on the rim of a volcanic crater; peering over the edge of a precipice. A thousand feet below, the crater floor is coated in rime ice. Behind this great white plain, stepped tiers of ice cascade towards the inner cone of the Reusch Crater. Looking outwards, you can see to infinity. Many thousands of feet below on the African plains, safari-goers will be framing photographs of elephant and giraffe against the huge domed mountain on whose summit you are standing.

The ascent from arid plains through humid forest and alpine meadows to this icy wasteland takes you on an extraordinary journey: fascinating flora, arduous trekking, extravagant scenery - utterly rewarding. - John Warburton-Lee.

5. Take a Walk on the Wild Side - Throughout Africa
A walking safari makes you feel alive, every sense alert, aware of the smell of wild thyme as you brush past and the crack of twigs underfoot, watchful for buffalo, wary of lions. You have the time to wonder at spiders' webs, watch the hysterical antics of dung beetles and unravel the fascinating interrelationships of species in the company of one of Africa's great guides.

Nothing is more thrilling than being close to big game. The most exciting safari I have ever experienced was tracking rhino on foot through the thick Jesse bush of Zimbabwe's Matusadona, with John Stevens as my guide. For hour upon hour, I reveled in a master class of bush craft as he followed the faint trail of clues (the hint of spoor in the sand, a scuffed mark on a rock, tiny broken mopane stems) until we were heart-stoppingly close to the rhino. - John Warburton-Lee.

6. Take a Ferry Trip to Robben Island - South Africa
Few places are more evocative of Africa's recent history than the once notorious prison on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and other ANC members were incarcerated during the years of apartheid. Robben Island prison provides a poignant reminder of the past - blended with admiration for people like Mandela. With its rich past of daring escapes and great minds, Robben Island has almost become a place of pilgrimage.

And as if peering into Mandela's old prison cell wasn't emotional enough, the return crossing by ferry to the mainland takes you into one of the world's most spectacular harbors. There can be few sights in Africa more uplifting and inspiring than Table Mountain rearing above Cape Town's waterfront. - William Gray & Charlene Smith.

7. Star Gaze in the Kalahari - Botswana
'Walk out there, lie on your back and watch the stars come out,' It seemed a simple enough instruction, but there was nowhere to reach or aim for, so I simply paced a hundred steps across Botswana's Makgakgadi Pans, stopped, then stretched out on the salt crust.

First to emerge were the pointers, so-called because they point to the Southern Cross. The bright brief life of a shooting star flared overhead as Scorpio dipped its curling tail to the east. Then a satellite drifted from the west, voyaging across the glittering arch of the Milky Way until it disappeared, snuffed out by the moon's glow.

An hour passed, perhaps two. The only sound was the gentle pulsing of blood in my ears. People have walked out here in a trance. One person even dropped his watch because the ticking was too distracting. I could understand why. There can be few places left in the world so totally removed from the noise, pollution and clutter of modern life. The Makgakgadi Pans is a rare wilderness, somewhere where nothing means everything. - William Gray.

8. Canoe down the Zambezi - Zambia
The Zambezi Valley is a slice of African heaven. The broad river meanders between papyrus-fringed islands, overlooked by the Zambian Escarpment. As you paddle gently along, carmine bee-eaters rise up in brilliant clouds from their colonies in the steep sandy riverbank.

Malachite kingfishers fizz past in a blur of tiny wings. Herds of buffalo graze the flood plain close to the river's edge, surrounded by a halo of egrets. Low and quiet in a canoe, you can glide right up to bathing elephants without disturbing them. At the end of the day they make their way back to the shore, crossing the river in line with their trunks raised. And as the sun slides down the sky, the river turns the color of molten gold. The perfect end to another perfect day. - John Warburton-Lee.

9. Experience Ngorongoro - Tanzania
The magic begins the moment you pass through the Lodoare Gate and the pristine cloud forests of the crater highlands close in around you. But as the red dirt road winds steeply skywards, nothing prepares you for the moment when you reach the rim and look down for the first time into the lost world below.

Once, Ngorongoro stood taller than Kilimanjaro. Now all that remains is a giant caldera, 23km wide, whose 600m-high walls encircle an East African microcosm of plains, swamps, flamingo lakes and fever trees, complete with its own resident lion prides, rare black rhinos and some of the biggest tuskers you will ever see. To spend a day here in their company is just about as close to paradise as you can get. - Brian Jackman.

10. Watch the sun rise over the pyramids - Egypt
When I first saw the pyramids, I thought they were overrated. Trying to avoid groups of sunburned tourists, I found myself surrounded by hawkers hoping to sell me postcards, put me on a camel or act as a guide. It was impossible to separate this tawdry reality from the majesty of the monuments themselves - until, at the end of a long Cairo night, a friend and I roared off into the Giza desert on a motorbike.

From the saddle, I watched as the first light brought those iconic shapes to life, turning them grey, then pink, then deep orange. As I sat contemplating mortality and history, a camel loped into view, adding to the picture-perfect scene. As it came closer, its turbaned rider yelled: 'Hey lady, you want papyrus?' - Siona Jenkins.

11. Climb the World’s Tallest Dunes - Namibia
Arrive at Namibia's Sossusvlei in the early evening, as I first did, and they look like low hills. Driving towards them, it was almost a shock to find sand dunes. I started climbing at dawn when the sand was cool and compacted, but still it was tiring. For every three steps you take up, you slide down two. After a while you stop and look behind, to catch a breath and be reminded of the reason for all your exertion. You've climbed far above the silvery-white pan. Distance lends perspective: the foliage of knurled old camel thorn acacias seems soft and feathery and the spiky, leafless stems of nara bushes appear like bright green icing on low dunes. All around, dominating the view, are sinuous sand sculptures: terracotta dunes forming perfect curves - each partly iridescent, partly in shadow. Sossusvlei is perhaps Africa's most beautiful sight - but visit early before the sun gets high, the light flattens and the temperatures rocket. - Chris Mcintyre

12. Spot a Leopard at Night - Throughout Africa
Night drives in search of nocturnal creatures are always exciting, but if there's one animal that sets my pulse racing, it's the leopard. The golden, spotted cats are the most beautiful of Africa's animals, and to see them on the move, hunting by the moon when they are so obviously at their most lethal and effective, is simply awesome. I've been fortunate to track leopards in many corners of Africa, though the Sabi Sand Game Reserve reigns supreme. Both of my "best leopard days" - seven different leopards in a drive - have been here. - Daryl Balfour

13. Hear the Call of the Chimpanzee - Throughout Africa
It's the most exciting animal call I've heard. An agitated hoot erupts from the forest interior, just one voice at first, then two, then maybe a dozen, rising in volume, tempo and pitch to a frenzied crescendo that fades, without warning, into silence. The chimpanzee's communal "pant-hoot" vocalization - through which individuals within mutual earshot identify each other - always stops me dead in my tracks. And in Tanzania's Mahale Mountains the explosive hooting also brings with it the anticipation of an imminent chimp sighting. Thirty minutes later, I sit watching these fascinating apes, so recognizably human in manner and behavior, and they start up again; one hoot, then two, then a dozen, oblivious to my presence but all around me, coming from every direction, only meters away. It is genuinely spine tingling. - Philip Briggs

14. Fly Low over the Skeleton Coast - Namibia
It is midday and the desert is bleached by harsh sunlight. The Namib-Naukluft dune field looks more like a mountain range of soft-whip butterscotch ice cream as we fly west across the heart of the desert. After an hour or so, I become aware that the Cessna is losing altitude. A harsh white line wavers in the heat haze far ahead while, below, the dunes are flattening as if someone has tugged the folds from the edge of the Namib. It happens so abruptly, in a matter of seconds. First, the scattered salt pans, blinding white and so flat I can see a crisp shadow of the Cessna 50m below. Then a row of small dunes, a beach, waves breaking, water churned to foam, and seals! Seals in their hundreds, leaping and twisting, somersaulting from the curling green walls of ocean breakers. Now on a wing tip. Below, nothing but deep cobalt sea, streaked with creamy froth. Glistening brown stems of kelp loop above the surface like the arms of a sea monster. The Cessna levels out and we are flying north, low and fast above the waves of Namibia's fabled Skeleton Coast. - William Gray

15. Glide in a Mokoro through the Delta - Botswana
There is nothing on earth as restful as setting out into a bright Okavango dawn in the bows of a mokoro (dugout canoe). Soundlessly you glide forward. A lazy twist of the boatman's pole, then nothing but birdsong, water lilies, reflections and ripples. Coucals bubble in the reed beds. Red lechwe splash across the flood plains; and all you have to do is sit back and go with the flow. It's by far the most intimate way of seeing Botswana's Okavango - and the most eco-friendly. Once, the finest of these traditional Delta canoes were hewn from the trunks of sausage trees. Now they come in fiberglass, which saves the trees but in no way detracts from the simple pleasures of seeing Africa's most beautiful oasis from the water. - Brian Jackman

16. Relax on a Felucca Down the Nile - Egypt
The Nile has a distinctive, earthy scent that I like to think of as the smell of Ethiopian soil, deposited in Egypt over millennia. Sailing from Aswan to Edfu on a felucca, there's plenty of time to think about the river and its scent. I watched mud-brick villages slip past and waved at women washing pots on the river's shore. As our ra'is, Ahmed, kept his hand loosely on the tiller, the wind and the current pushed our little boat northwards, past Kom Ombo temple and other monuments to Egypt's ancient past. I tried to name another river that has five thousand years of history visible on its banks, but failed. The cliché is true: Egypt is the gift of the Nile, and sitting on a felucca is one of the best ways to enjoy it. - Siona Jenkins

17. Take a Classic Mobile Safari - Throughout Africa
Nothing beats the sense of freedom you get from a traditional mobile safari. Waking to the dawn chorus and the sound of hot water being poured by unseen hands into the canvas wash stand on the verandah of your tent. Steaming mugs of coffee round the fire, which has kicked back into life from the previous night's embers. The fresh smell of dawn in the bush. Out in the vehicle for a day full of adventures and wildlife encounters; exploring new areas. At the end of the journey, arriving to find camp set up in a new location, welcoming staff waiting (with your whisky already prepared) to show you to your tent. Water being emptied into a bush shower suspended from the branch of a tree and the exotic thrill of showering under a starlit African sky. Eating dinner in good company, beside the flickering light of the campfire. And later lying in bed, listening to the chorus of crickets and frogs and a lion roaring in the distance. - John Warburton-Lee

18. Forage with the Bushman – Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland
Go walking with Bushmen in the Kalahari: their amazing bush skills surpass those of the most famous safari guides. They're born in the bush and grow up with it. It's their nursery and classroom; no wonder they know so much. I set off with Kgao and Nqeisi briskly walking ahead, a little apart, as they chatted in the melodious clicks of the Ju/'honasi language. Berries were collected and eaten, and exploding seed heads found for entertainment, before Kgao spotted a small, green shoot at thirty paces. Minutes later he'd dug up a water-filled tuber the size of a basketball. Shortly Nqeisi found a springhare's hole and eventually fished the unlucky creature out with a long, flexible pole. Occasionally I stopped to ask about plants, only to be told more than I could possibly remember. If you want to find Africa's best guides, look no further. - Chris Mcintyre

19. Ride on the Back of an Elephant - Throughout Africa
From the back of an elephant you can see more of Africa. You can feel its spine dip and flex, smell its tangy bovine scent and run your fingers across the wrinkled maze of its skin. You can hear the vacuum rush of air in its probing trunk, the deep resonating rumble of its cavernous stomach and the rhythmic grinding of fist-sized molars. They say this is the ultimate safari - roaming the African bush on elephant back; gliding through the tree tops, regal as a maharaja, exploring game trails and lagoons where even the most determined 4x4 vehicle would flounder. The elephants walk at a slow, but ground-swallowing gait, pacing along as if they had an appointment at the end of the world,' as Karen Blixen once put it. Their spongy soles deaden the sound of each gargantuan footfall - if desired, a herd can move in virtual silence. - William Gray

20. Take a Helicopter Flight into the Rift - East Africa
The Great Rift Valley, the world's largest fault, is 800m deep, 30 kilometers wide and a staggering 2500 kilometers long. It is home to some of East Africa's most remote and inhospitable terrain, some of which is accessible only to hardy native tribesmen and a few privileged westerners with helicopters. One such pilot and helicopter operator, Humphrey Carter, has made the remote northern Rift Valley of Kenya his home. Each day, at dawn, he departs from the Laikipia plateau, delving into the Rift through the spectacular Mukutan Gorge. Continuing north along the course of the Baragoi River and into the Suguta Valley, there are opportunities to touch down next to lakes teeming with hundreds of thousands of flamingos or to visit the remote lands of the Samburu and Turkana tribes. This expedition is a wonderful opportunity to fly with the birds and walk with the nomads. It offers a unique insight into one of the most incredible geological features on the planet and the people and wildlife that make it their home. - Steve Turner

21. Stake out a waterhole - Throughout Africa
All day long the elephants march in to drink their fill and then disperse again to forage where they can in the drought-stricken bush. In their regular comings and goings, their giant feet have trodden down a network of trails - and all of them lead to the waterhole. In the dry season, water is life, and to this place among the stricken camel thorns comes all the wildlife for miles around.

From dawn to dusk it is a theatre in the round, a natural arena for moments of high drama and unforgettable beauty. Sit here long enough and you'll see it all. Flights of sand grouse, flocks of doves, nervous impala, skittish zebra. And, with luck, the local lion pride, waiting in ambush or slaking their thirst after a kill. - Brian Jackman

22. Raft the rapids on the Zambezi - Zambia, Zimbabwe
The rafts were tied to the riverbank, fretting their mooring ropes like restless horses eager to stampede through the concertina of gorges below Victoria Falls. We'd barely cast off before I heard the first rapid, a steady thunder, like ocean surf.

Suddenly the raft 50m ahead slid from view, its crew paddling furiously, the skipper barking orders. A second later, there were bodies and paddles spinning away like wayward fireworks. We were next. Our raft slid down a tongue of green water into the foaming maw of Morning Glory. There was a sickening lurch, then a crash as the raft careered into the rapid's perpetual breaker.

Morning Glory had a good chew, then spat us out, like pips from a grape, into a calm stretch downstream. Stairway to Heaven was next, then Devil's Toilet Bowl and Mighty Muncher. It was a fast track to adrenaline addiction. At this rate I'd be bungee jumping off Victoria Falls Bridge before I came to my senses. - William Gray

23. Hear the morning mass in Lalibela - Ethiopia
Hand-chiseled into solid rock some 800 years ago, the subterranean complex of churches and chapels at Ethiopia’s Lalibela is widely regarded as the unofficial eighth Wonder of the World. On first exposure I was most impressed by the architectural ambition and fine execution of the actual edifices.

But on subsequent visits it has been their human context that most moved me: the recognition that these churches are living, breathing shrines, hosting ceremonies little changed in eight centuries of continual use. My most enduring Lalibela memory is chancing upon morning mass at the 15m-high cruciform monolith dedicated to St George — watching a horde of white-robed worshippers enact a chanting, swaying service so far removed from the rituals of other denominations that it doesn't seem unduly fanciful to think it was transplanted direct from the Israeli desert only decades after the Crucifixion. - Philip Briggs

24. Lose count of Kenya's Flamingos - Kenya
Descending the Rift Valley escarpment to Lake Bogoria, fringed mysteriously with steaming geysers and hot water spouts and wreathed in a million (or more) gorgeous pink and white flamingos, is one of Africa's great wildlife experiences. Both lesser and greater flamingos gather here in vast numbers each year. The colors are sensational, the sounds hardly harmonious and the experience truly wonderful. - Daryl Balfour

25. Island Hop - Seychelles
Decisions, decisions. Will Praslin’s ‘Garden of Eden’ or a castaway beach on La Digue tempt you? Or will you opt for escapism on the desert island hideaway of Alphonse? Perhaps Bird Island's avian spectacle of a million sooty terns is your idea of paradise? Or will you simply island-hop and do all four? The truth is, that with over 100 irresistible tropical islands, the Seychelles is almost too much of a good thing.

But spare a thought (and a gap in your itinerary) for Mahé. Although it's the largest, most populated and developed of the islands, it still has everything you'd expect from one of the world's most exotic and desirable holiday destinations. And, what's more, it has a depth of culture, history and diversity that is unmatched in the Indian Ocean archipelago. - William Gray

26. See Djenne Mosque - Mali
Not even the sweaty confines of a Malian bush taxi could diminish my awed reaction on first arriving in Djenne. I’d seen pictures of the Grand Mosque before, but none that prepared me for the actuality of standing before the world's largest adobe building — a profoundly asymmetric and thrillingly curvaceous sandcastle, set at the heart of a maze of multi-storey dwellings that share its warm mud-and-wood aesthetic.

Djenne is perhaps Africa's most visually harmonious settlement. And on Mondays it gains an extra dimension, as thousands of brightly robed Peul villagers — the women decorated with heavy nose rings, purple lip tattoos and pendulous gold earrings — flock into the market square, at the base of the surreal mosque, to trade kola nuts, camels, cloths, whatever. - Philip Briggs

27. Spend the night in a local village - Throughout Africa
My night at Zambia's Kawaza village took me far beyond the Africa of wildlife parks. As the sun went down, villagers gathered around the fire to sing and dance to an accompaniment of drums. After most had gone to bed, Jackson, the headman, and his wife, Mrs. Headman, stayed by the fire with one of their grandsons. Jackson brought out an old musical instrument made of a gourd and the couple sang some of their favorite songs. Then, with the small boy listening attentively at their feet, Jackson told a string of long stories. Each had a moral, wrapped up in humor. It was a touching sight and a rich human experience. - Guy Marks

28. Stand on top of Table Mountain - South Africa
It's impossible to decide which is better: the imposing profile of Table Mountain cradling South Africa's 'Mother City' or the exquisite wrap-around views from its summit. Throughout Cape Town, the mountain exerts a perpetual pull — regardless of how often you've climbed it (a thigh-crunching two-hour walk) or caught your breath in the vertiginous, rotating cable car.

Beyond the crowded cable station, the Tabletop offers peace and solitude. Rock hyrax hop among the fynbos, while the city glimmers far below. At sunset, the sky blazes crimson behind Robben Island, reddening the magnificent rock buttresses of the Twelve Apostles. - Stephanie Debere

29. Hear the song of the Indri - Madagascar
How often have I done this — stood under a tree in Andasibe National Park, eyes upward, neck aching, clothes damp from the morning mist? Over a dozen times, at least, and yet when the first 'whoooooop!' shatters the silence, I am grinning from ear to ear like the other tourists.

There are a lot of lemurs in Madagascar — at least 50 species — but none has the tingle factor of the indri when it greets the first touch of the sun in its rainforest home. This is a large animal on an island of miniatures and its voice is colossal. Imagine the song of a whale, amplified, and add the urgency of a police siren. All this from a black-and-white teddy bear with funny stuck-on ears and round yellow eyes. - Hilary Bradt.

30. Wonder at San Rock Art - South Africa
Some of the images leap out at me - a hunter with bowstring drawn or a group of prancing zebra. But more often than not, the rock paintings are faint and elusive - a fading legacy of the San artists who created them up to 30,000 years ago. These extraordinary images, daubed on boulders and rocky overhangs along the Sevilla Trail in South Africa's Cederberg Wilderness Area, are not the most famous examples from the continent's treasure-store of rock art. But more often than not, it is what you see beyond these paintings that counts for more than the designs themselves. Along with their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, the southern San have long-vanished. Ironically, some of their last paintings depict sailing ships, people in Dutch costumes and men with rifles - innocent records of the 17th century European invasion that would seal their fate. - William Gray

31. Get lost in Stone Town - Zanzibar
The historical port and former slaving centre of Zanzibar Island’s Stone Town is renowned for its labyrinthine street plan – perfect for losing yourself in. As you dodge donkeys, market traders, craftsmen and robed Muslim women, look out for Stone Town’s rich architectural blend of African, Arabic, Indian and European influences. Beautifully carved wooden doors are a specialty – some are studded with brass spikes, a throwback to an Indian tradition when doors needed protection from elephants. Elsewhere, you’ll double take at unexpected disparities – the Internet café next to the traditional spice store or the minaret of a mosque rising above rooftops studded with satellite dishes. - William Gray

32. Play a part in conservation - Throughout Africa
Wrestling crocodiles is rarely featured in your average Okavango safari. On a conservation holiday, however, the thrill of these activities is enhanced by the fact that, rather than being merely a sightseer, you are playing an active role in crocodile conservation.

We spent balmy afternoons checking baited traps and processing and releasing their inmates, while nights were occupied with crocodile-catching trips. Larger specimens were noosed and wrestled, but it was safe enough just to snatch hatchlings from the water.

Soon we had attuned our vision to the red spots of crocodilian eyes and were able to quickly record vital statistics (sex, length, weight etc) before returning them to the water, unharmed. It was a privilege to help record the nesting habits and distribution of this key predator, so pivotal to life in the Okavango Delta. - Mark Eveleigh

33. Relive history on the Battlefields – South Africa
'It was a misty evening – pitch black.' My guide, Gilbert Torlage, spoke with a quiet, earnest voice as we stalked the fog-bound slopes of Spioenkop in KwaZulu Natal. 'They were given strict orders – no smoking, no talking, no lights. Fix bayonets and move forward.' It was an ill-conceived plan.

When 1700 British troops drove a small Boer force from Spioenkop on the night of 23rd January 1900, they found themselves hopelessly exposed the following dawn. In silence, we roamed the summit of the hill, now studded with crosses and memorials. British mass graves lined the original trenches, while individual graves were scattered across the slopes where Boers fell.

'I must have recounted this battle 500 times,' Gilbert told me as we watched the last shreds of morning fog lift from the Tugela Valley far below. 'But it never fails to move me.' A month after the Battle of Spioenkop, the British severed the Boer line and broke the siege of Ladysmith.

But the war dragged on until the last Boer 'bitter-enders' surrendered in May 1902. More than 65,000 lives were lost. The prophecy of Boer General, Piet Joubert, had come true: 'This gold will cause our country to be soaked in blood.' - William Gray

34. Visit the Ruins - Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe, this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which supported some 20,000 souls in the years 1100–1500, is unequivocally the most impressive indigenous ruin in sub-equatorial Africa. The architectural highlight is the magnificent Great Enclosure. Measuring some 250m in circumference and hemmed in by a 5m-thick granite wall, this intriguing structure (thought to have once housed the king's wives and mother) is dominated by a 10m-high conical tower. The latter is said variously to represent a phallus, a granary, a rainmaking shrine or none of these things.

Although its contemporary name goes unrecorded, the city of Great Zimbabwe was of enormous significance as the ultimate source of the gold traded out of the Swahili port of Kilwa to ships from Arabia and Asia. Architectural and historical importance notwithstanding, the most compelling thing about Great Zimbabwe is its abiding aura of mystery. You only have to wander around in the half-light of dusk, when the old stone ruins are free of tourists, and the impassive stones of the abandoned city can feel positively haunted. - Philip Briggs

35. Meet Africa's Ocean Giants - Mozambique, South Africa
There is no greater thrill than a close encounter with some of the world's largest sea creatures. Being able to swim with whale sharks, manta rays and humpback whales all in one day is particularly mind-blowing. Mozambique is one of the very few places worldwide where this opportunity exists. Witnessing the immense power of a humpback whale's rhythmic tail leaves you gasping for breath through your snorkel. Diving with giant manta rays is like being surrounded by graceful magic carpets, while snorkeling with a peaceful, harmless whale shark (the world’s largest fish) is both sobering and emotive. - Andrew Woodburn

36. Feel the rhythms of Soweto - South Africa
Soweto throbs with life. Bright minibus taxis race around; passengers wait at the roadside and use finger symbols to tell the driver their destination; radios blare the latest in music. The township is slowly shaking off its apartheid past. The Hector Pietersen museum commemorates the 1976 student rebellion, while Winnie Mandela runs a controversial museum at the Mandela’s' old home in Orlando. Enterprise is everywhere, from houses advertising bridal services to hawkers selling goats and chickens. The Oppenheimer Park has splendid views over Soweto from a mock Zimbabwe tower. Shebeens (bar-restaurants) and homely B&Bs offer sustenance. Nowadays, Soweto's visitors are waved off with a heartfelt 'Hamba Kahle' (Zulu for 'go well') - Charlene Smith.

37. Take a trip to Timbuktu - Mali
Because it's there? Because of the singular sense of absenteeism its name evokes? I say yes, others would differ - a few years ago, Bob Geldof dropped in, took a quick look around and asked: 'Is that it?' Yet the old town's 13th century mosques retain the organic beauty characteristic of the West Sudanese style. The 15,000 manuscripts collected in the CEDRAB Foundation give tangible form to Timbuktu's medieval status as a remote centre of Islamic scholarship. And a camelback ride with the Tuareg into the surrounding Sahara - which stretches northward like a sandy ocean all the way to the Mediterranean - brings with it the realization that what Timbuktu is figuratively today, so was it literally in medieval times. To the Arabian trade caravans of that era, the phrase 'going to Timbuktu' would have implied crossing the Sahara to the very end of the world, as they knew it. - Philip Briggs

38. Explore the Fish River Canyon - Namibia
I love the Fish River Canyon, but judging by the lack of crowds, few others feel the same way. The road there is intriguing: perpetually climbing and then swiftly dropping, like a fairground roller coaster. Crest by crest, the landscape gradually reveals itself, but the huge gash in the earth, which is the Fish River Canyon, comes as a surprise. One moment there's a rolling, rocky landscape; the next you are gazing down into one of the world's largest canyons. Walk along the rim, savoring the changing view. If you're lucky, you may spot a klipspringer. At the bottom, Ai-Ais is magical: drive down through walls of rock to a pool of naturally hot mineral water amid this deep river valley. Wherever you go, you'll rarely see others; the Canyon is a soulful place to get up-close and personal with mother earth. - Chris Mcintyre

39. Dive - Seychelles, South Africa, Madagascar, Kenya and Tanzania
Ras Mohammed seems like just another bit of desert until I bail off the back of a dive boat into the cobalt blue offshore. The vista before me stretches left and right while I dangle, suspended in hundreds of feet of clear blue nothing. Barracuda circle below while I cruise past coral outcrops, reef walls, the remains of a wreck and an anemone city with hordes of emerging clownfish. In one dive, the smorgasbord of what the underwater world offers is laid out before me in all its glory, from giant Napoleon wrasse to tiny sea slugs. Diving in the Red Sea is like opening a gift: I'm never sure what I'll get but I’m always smiling when I'm done. - Andrew Woodburn

40.. Witness the desert in flower - South Africa
From a pass high in the Kamiesberg Mountains there was a brief, tantalizing view of the Atlantic Ocean – searing blue against the tawny haze of Africa. But I didn’t stop. My sights were set on the road’s edge and beyond, into the fields and arid plains of Namaqualand, where swathes of copper-colored daisies glowed like fresh magma.

I was driving through one of the world’s greatest wildflower spectacles, where each spring (following good rains), the bleached desert turns Technicolor. Over 4000 species join the floral riot – from ground-hugging, fleshy-leaved succulents to the dramatic, meter-tall flowering spikes of the yellow katsterte, each one glowing like the trail of a firework rocket.

But the show-stealers were the daisies – each one a mini-miracle, enduring summer’s torment as dormant seeds, germinating after winter rains and then flowering and setting seed in spring before wilting and dying. - William Gray

41. Taste a Dozen Chardonnays - South Africa
Nothing beats the sybaritic pleasures of the Cape wine lands. Arm yourself with John Platter's essential South African Wines, the quaffer's bible, and head first to Constantia with its grand Cape Dutch homestead, Groot Constantia. On to Stellenbosch and Thelema Mountain Vineyards, reputedly the Cape's best winery with vintages that leave your taste buds tingling with delight. Then weave through Paarl, via the gardens at Morgenhof. Feast on springbok at the Haute Cabriere Restaurant and sleep in an exquisite chalet among the vines at La Petite Ferme. Life doesn't get any better. - John Warburton-Lee

42. Watch Dawn Break from Mount Sinai - Egypt
Africa is renowned for stunning sunsets, but this is a place for "sun uppers"- not sundowners. It is a place where an African dawn is nothing short of magical. Camel owners wait along the path to offer their services to pilgrims and travelers alike, to help them up the switchback trail to the summit of Mt Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. It is a small mountain, 2285m high, crowned with an unimposing chapel. I have spent many a night atop this mountain. It is cold until the morning sun picks out the range of peaks. The rocks, poking up from a cotton-wool carpet of cloud below, glow with orange and golden hues. Long shadows are cast before me and long spiritual thoughts are cast into the recesses of my mind. - Guy Marks

43. Spot a Rare Shoebill - Uganda
At a small fishing village on the southern shore of Uganda's Lake Albert, a crowd has gathered to watch us launch our skiff. Children run barefoot through drifts of silver fish scales, clambering onto wooden dugouts for a better view. In a few minutes, we are afloat and nosing through rafts of floating hyacinth towards a quiet corner of the lake. In the space of an hour we spot not one, but two shoebills (imagine a cross between a dodo and a heron) - steely blue against a curtain of shoreline papyrus. It's more of a "clog" than a "shoe"; an enormous beak that makes short works of the African lungfish (by no means a tiddler itself). We paddle slowly to within a dozen yards of one of the birds - a beautiful, elegant creature despite its massive conk. Neither of the shoebills do much, but then animals as rare as this don't have to. It's enough just to glimpse them, to savor the memory of a privileged encounter. - William Gray

44. Take a Bush Shower - Whenever on Safari!
Safari is a dirty business. Some trips coat you in fine powdered earth; on others, desert grit scours every inch of your skin. So I savor a G&T in the sunset, doze while a springhare proves to be the star of the night drive and finally, with relief, reach camp. Dinner looms, but I escape for the most invigorating elixir of the day. I peel off my khaki and step outside into the shower. Hot water steams in the cool evening air. Warming rivulets soap away the remains of the day, layer by layer. This is bliss. It's very cathartic. Moonlit bats flit between clear stars and leafy outlines of nearby trees. I don't want to leave. Nothing can tempt me out. Then, without warning, the torrent wanes. It splutters, reducing to a dribble. My skin prickles in the cool night air as reality dawns: the bucket is empty. - Chris McIntyre

45. Eyeball a Great White - South Africa
I hit the cold Cape sea and suck hard on the regulator, searching the water around the cage, feeling like "Andrew and chips" on the lunch menu. Turning around, I suddenly find myself eye-to-black eye with a great white shark. It's studying me. The sheer beauty and power of this apex predator leave me momentarily breathless. When more sharks arrive, I marvel at their social interaction. These misunderstood denizens of the deep seem sensitive and curios around humans - the one species that has been responsible for their demise. So, get to the Cape, get on a boat, pocket your fear, get in the water and you'll emerge feeling like a new person. A little colder, perhaps, but definitely revitalized. - Andrew Woodburn