In May 2011, I stepped foot on African soil for the first time as my friend Sarah and I geared up to spend the summer teaching English in the remote village of Bagamoyo, Tanzania. In April 2019, nearly eight years later, I arrived in Ndjamena, Chad marking African country number 54 of 54!

Traveling in Africa requires more planning than most other places in the world. However, I’ve found it to almost always be worth the effort. Although Africa’s wide-ranging diversity makes it impossible and even illogical to consider it one ‘item,’ I enjoyed compiling these experiences anyway and am excited to share the top 10.

The criteria for this countdown is simple – It must be an experience I had in Africa. Primary determining factors were how unique, exciting and overall memorable the ‘episode’ was. The below entries are a purely personal opinion and I did not receive any financial compensation from the organizations or individuals mentioned below. As with virtually every one of my posts, I took all of the displayed photos and videos. Let’s get to it!

10.) Swimming to the edge of Victoria Falls | Livingstone, Zambia | March 2019

The Livingstone Island Tour is a staple attraction when visiting Victoria Falls. Swimming to the edge of the 108-meter (355-foot) falls was every bit as exciting as you can imagine.

Travel Tip: I suggest obtaining a Kaza Visa if you plan to hop back and forth between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The visa costs US$50 and provides 30-day multiple-entry access to both countries (as well as day trips to Botswana). It can be obtained at four different points of entry

9.) Witnessing a traditional Whirling Dervish | Khartoum, Sudan | December 2018

A whirling dervish (or sufi whirling) has many styles and meanings. In addition to a form of religious meditation, the Sudanese are known for having used the ritual to energize military troops before battle.

Travel Tip: The Whirling Dervish can be observed every Friday evening near Khartoum’s Hamed al-Nil Tomb in Omdurman. George, the manager/owner of Acropole Hotel, is able to help with arrangements. He can be reached by email – acropolekhartoum@gmail.com.

 8.) Exploring the Giza Pyramids | Cairo, Egypt | July 2015

The Egyptian Pyramids are among the world’s most iconic attractions. Despite visiting in the heart of summer and it being over 50°C (122°F) in the surrounding desert, that day remains one of my favorites.

Travel Tip: When visiting Cairo, I suggest taking a city tour with Walid from Egypt Tailor Made. You can email him at travel@egypttailormade.net. Tell him Sam sent you.

7.) Safari on the Chobe River | Kasane, Botswana | March 2019

A safari by boat allows for a unique perspective on wildlife – an experience that comfortably rests within my top 10 list. Also, is there anything better than an African sunset? #nofilter

Travel Tip: My sister and I enjoyed staying two nights at the Zovu Elephant Lodge. Peter, the manager/owner, was hospitable and arranged our entire visit. You can contact him via WhatsApp (+264 811282116) or email (bookings@zovuelephantlodge.com.na). I suggest booking a two or three-day all-inclusive package.  

6.) Swimming with wild dolphins | Zanzibar Island, Tanzania | June 2011

After spending several weeks in a remote Tanzanian village, Zanzibar Island provided an ideal balance. The wild dolphins off the southwestern coast were surprisingly playful.

Travel Tip: Zanzibar Island is easily accessible from Dar es Salaam by ferry or from dozens of destinations by air. The tropical Island nicely compliments a visit to mainland Tanzania.

5.) Visiting Leptis Magna | Al Khuyms, Libya | April 2019

Leptis Magna is an ancient Roman city on the Mediterranean coast. Libya’s ongoing political instability has significantly undercut their tourism industry making attractions like these unknown to many. My guide, Yousef, and I had the spectacular ruins all to ourselves.

Travel Tip: If traveling to Libya, I suggest making your arrangements through Sherwes Travel. You can contact Ibrahim via WhatsApp (+46 70-845 43 61) or email (info@sherwestravel.com). They have decades of tourism experience, which is particularly useful when obtaining your visa and navigating Libya’s unpredictability on the ground.

4.) Hiking Lions Head Mountain | Cape Town, South Africa | November 2013

A Top 10 Africa list would be incomplete without South Africa. Although I have dozens of terrific memories from the country, hiking to the top of Lions Head Mountain is probably #1. The ladders and chains near the summit make for a unique climbing adventure.

Travel Tip: The Lions Head hike takes approximately 90 minutes at a moderate pace. Save it for a clear day (although nearly every day in Cape Town is clear).  

3.) Walking a Cheetah | Livingstone, Zambia | March 2019

Livingstone’s Mukuni Big 5 Reserve allows adventurous visitors to intimately interact with their big cats. Walking next to the world’s fastest land animal will unquestionably get your adrenaline pumping.

Travel Tip: I arranged this through Wild Side Tours for US$120/person. Try to book an empty slot in order to hopefully have the entire experience to yourself.

2.) Four-wheeling in the Sahara Desert | Merzouga, Morocco | January 2017

My week-long visit to Morocco is one my favorite trips I’ve ever taken. It was highlighted by two days in the Sahara Desert, and more specifically racing across the dunes on a four-wheeler. Tons of fun.

Travel Tip: When visiting Merzouga, stay for two nights. This will allow you to have a full day in the desert. You can read about several ways to spend this day in my Morocco post.

1.) Tracking white rhinos on foot | Hlane National Park, Swaziland | February 2018

Given that this list is counting down ‘unique,’ ‘exciting,’ and ‘memorable’ experiences, tracking white rhinos on foot in the heart of Swaziland takes the cake. It was as unforgettable as anything I’ve done. A more detailed recap can be found in my Swaziland post.

Travel Tip: Hlane National Park is easily accessible from Maputo. Consider flying into Maputo and then driving to Hlane. Most western passport holders can obtain a 30-day single-entry Swaziland visa at the land border for SZL460 ( US$34)

What do you think of my choices? What am I missing? Have you experienced any of these?

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4 Comments

  1. Stephanie Copeland

    Hello from Kentucky. I hope you are well after your Syrian ordeal. I stumbled on your page in the news reports and have very much enjoyed your travels and the information you give for others wanting to travel. Almost like being there.

    Reply
    • Sam

      Hey Stephanie, thanks so much for the nice words!

      Reply
  2. Moses

    Hi there Sam. First, glory be to Jesus for getting you out of Syria safe. You have to know that was divine intervention considering the many others left behind. Second, you want to tell me that out of the 54 countries you visited in Africa, my country Kenya didn’t break into your top 10 best? You got to be kidding Sam! I need to take you back there bro.

    Reply
    • Sam

      Thanks Moses! I’ve had some incredible experiences in Kenya and would love to go back!

      Reply

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