Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and the continent’s main gateway to Europe and Asia. As East Africa’s primary hub, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport sees around six million passengers flow through its doors each year. Connecting flights ferry passengers to all the major attractions: from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Masai Mara and Lamu Island. In peak periods this busy airport greets around 16,000 travellers each day.
There's no escaping them: Table Mountain hugs Cape Town in a warm, motherly embrace while Kilimanjaro is the snow-capped backdrop for Amboseli's ambling elephant herds. Most often photographed from afar, the best views are from their summits: Table Mountain promises dazzling ocean and mountain panoramas, Kili has much of the Rift Valley's turbulent topography under its gaze.
Taking a road trip through Kenya is a great way to explore this iconic destination. My safari begins in the lush rainforest of Mount Kenya National Park where I discover that a good guide can turn an uneventful stroll into a magical experience. What more could you ask for: the haunting skull of a forest buffalo, monkeys whooshing through the canopy, and mid-morning tea served in a woodland clearing?
It’s just after dawn, a time rarely seen on traditional beach holidays. Yet a group of guests has already gathered in front of the Rocktail Beach Dive Centre. I wander up - weight belt in one hand, cup of coffee in the other - and listen to the excited chatter about what lies ahead (or rather below): “There have been fantastic whale shark sightings recently!”; “Massive mantas circled us yesterday!”; “I hear the coral is incredible!”
Floating down a papyrus-lined channel with only a mokoro canoe between me and the water lilies, I’m awestruck by this wild place. Bird song follows us, punctuating the soft rhythm of the pole as it dips in and out the clear water, its cool freshness enveloping my fingers as they trail in the wake. I am in the heart of the magical Okavango Delta, undoubtedly one of Africa’s most inspirational destinations.
The full bodied pinotage swirled in my glass, its luscious plum colour staining the edges. Aromas of raspberries and black cherries floated through the air and I offered up my glass for a refill. Wine tasting at Spier means three things: generous helpings, numerous samplings and expert advice.
Africa offers travellers the chance to witness some of nature's grandest spectacles. The continent is famous for its vast herds of wildebeest that cross the Serengeti, rumbling families of elephants in the Chobe, and the stylishly blasé leopards of the Kruger National Park. But by far the most transformative and up-close wildlife experience in Africa is a face-to-face encounter with the great apes of Uganda and Rwanda.
You've cracked the Kruger and witnessed the Mara: now it's time for something entirely different. Tanzania's unbeaten paths lead to extraordinary destinations, perfect for seasoned safari-goers or intrepid first-timers who want an unorthodox introduction to Africa.
If I close my eyes and think about my past trips to Namibia, my mind floods with memories so vivid I can smell the dry fragrance of the desert and feel gritty sand crunching under my shoes. I remember when I stood on a camel thorn, stifling a gasp less I threaten the silence of the game-packed Okaukeujo waterhole, and when we climbed a Spitzkoppe peak at dawn, my rubber shoes gripping the granite, as the sun bathed the campsite below us in a soft pink light...
There are many wonderful places to photograph birds in Africa. The Chobe River in Botswana offers out-of-this-world birding from the vantage of a customised photographic boat, creating minimal disturbance and putting you in prime position to capture fantastic images. Close by, the Okavango Delta has several birding highlights throughout the year. Falling water levels in October expose sandbanks that attract nesting African Skimmers, huge noisy heronries rise and fall, and the summer rains bring exotic migrant species into the area. Further south, the bird list at South Africa's Phinda Reserve is so large that some say it offers the best birding in Africa!