There is no other cruise destination perfect for a rugged safari experience than Africa. This is where you can explore the native cultures from the Middle East to Madagascar.
By jumping in a jeep, you can easily witness the beauty of its flora and fauna. Its wildlife, in particular, is something to look forward to. From giraffes to lions to other wildlife species, a cruise to Africa is worthwhile.
Whether you choose to spend the cruise with a partner or family, there is no stopping you from immersing yourself into Africa’s native cultures. And, of course, you get to enjoy the Kenyan Coast and everything about this journey.
By now you should have known that Africa is a vast continent. It is the type that is packed with lots of amazing landscapes and, in one way or another, is still a largely untouched place.
It gives you the chance to travel from the desert all the way to the mountains, or even take pleasure in embarking to the plains of the Serengeti. Experience Africa’s rich cultural traditions that are tied to the land and those who live there.
Highlighted below are some of our most recommended experiences for cruising to Africa:
African history may not be as widely known as that of Europe or Asia, but when visiting you will enjoy several stops to help you understand significant moments in Africa’s past, including castles in Ghana or Robben Island in South Africa.
Double the size of Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls is an incredibly breathtaking spot. You can discover this spot and the rainforest that surrounds it or even get a bird’s eye view on a helicopter ride above the falls.
Explore the great Egyptian civilization with a visit to the pyramids in Giza and follow in the footsteps of Cleopatra on a cruise along the Nile. There is no better way to discover the treasures of the Nile for yourself.
Spend a day on an unforgettable African Safari. Game reserves all over the continent offer you a chance to get up close and personal with lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, zebras, and more.
Surf or just get some sun along the coastline of Africa. Throughout the continent, you will find stunning beaches along the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. If you are a daredevil, you might want to try the shark cage diving in South Africa.
Tour the vineyards that lie west of Capetown in towns like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek where you will find never-ending vineyards. Do not leave without trying the award-winning wines produced in this region.
A Great Safari Escapade
There is no doubt that an African safari is the ultimate adventure and is even deemed an incomparable bucket list trip. The journey will take you across vast, ever-changing landscapes, and give you an up-close look at some of the world’s most beautiful animals in their natural environment.
You will probably want to pack your bags as soon as you start imagining the awesome journey, but a little planning ahead of time can make your trip that little bit more magical.
Here are some of the best countries to visit, when to go, and the perfect trips for you.
Safari in January to February
Tanzania – The Great Migration of wildebeests from Tanzania’s Serengeti to Kenya’s Masai Mara is awe-inspiring, to say the least.
The precise timing of it is dependent upon rainfall patterns each year, meaning you can see different aspects of it at different times: the mass birthing of calves between January and March in the southern Serengeti, and river crossings between July and August.
In addition to wildebeests, safari-goers will also have the chance to spot Africa’s most famous predator, lions. Prides of lions will follow the herds for the prime hunting opportunity they present.
Cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas also make appearances as they try to take down vulnerable members of the herd. If you are lucky, you might even see a wildebeest or zebra giving birth.
Safari in March to April
South Africa – South Africa is pretty much your one-stop shop for everything a good African holiday is made of. It is also incredibly good value. Consider heading there in March and April for pleasant weather and fewer crowds.
These two summer months fall in the country’s wet season, but the rains really do open the door to some of the best wildlife-spotting opportunities.
Kruger National Park, the region’s most famous National Park, not only has the big five (and more!), but is also close to the vibrant, underrated city of Johannesburg. But any time is a good time to visit South Africa.
Cape Town offers food, wine, shopping, dreamy views, and activities for all ages. Just outside it lies the popular wine region, located on the Western Cape. You simply cannot go wrong here!
Ethiopia – The weather is fairly temperate throughout the entire year here, so visiting in any season is an option, but it is a little rainier from June to September. A few months before this time is hot, but not too hot. The Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the best places to go on a safari adventure.
The park’s sweeping mountains and deep valleys, the result of erosive activity, are covered in the deep green of alpine forests. Animals living in the park include caracals, leopards, jackals, hyenas, bushbucks, klipspringers, and hundreds of species of birds. Safari-goers might also glimpse the rate Simien fox or Walia ibex.
Namibia – The wildlife viewing opportunities in the desert-filled country of Namibia might surprise (and delight) you. Many different African animals have adapted to live in the harsh-but-beautiful Namib, a coastal desert.
Herds of elephants traverse the desert, as do different types of antelope, zebra and even lions. Outside the desert, March can be humid and rainy, but April tends to be drier. The rains that fall early in the year make much of the country verdant in April.
Safari in May to June
Madagascar – May and June are winter months in Madagascar, but the island’s proximity to the equator means pleasant temperatures during the coolest months of the year. You will also see particularly lush landscapes in May and June, and these two months are considered part of the low season; there will not be throngs of tourists.
For the daring traveler who craves unique experiences, Madagascar is an essential destination. The island is rich in wildlife with hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
The majority of the flora and fauna in Madagascar are endemic – they live naturally nowhere else in the entire world. Take a safari to glimpse lemurs swinging through the trees and the masters of disguise, chameleons.
Zimbabwe – In Zimbabwe, May is a transitional month with elements of both wet and dry seasons. The recent rains leave the land looking lush and green, but as the month progresses the weather becomes drier and the nighttime temperatures begin to drop.
Come June, the days are warm and pleasant, while the nights are chilly. This time of year is the peak season for safaris. The drier weather draws animals to the country’s rivers and watering holes. Keep a lookout for lions, leopards, rhinos, zebras, elephants, and more.
Safari in July to August
Rwanda – July and August are right in the midst of Rwanda’s dry season (which takes place from June through to September). These two months are very popular for booking gorilla trekking adventures because of the clear skies and sunny conditions.
The gorillas live in Rwanda’s rainforests, mainly within the bounds of Volcanoes National Park. Here, you can also see chimpanzees and colobus monkeys living among the trees. Keep in mind that gorilla habitat is, by default, very wet and you cannot avoid rain completely.
However, after heavy rain, the skies often open up to bright sunshine. The permits are a flat price year round and just last week got hiked up from $750USD to $1500USD effective immediately. So, when is the best time to go? Now, before it gets too expensive!
Botswana – The Okavango Delta, Moremi, and Chobe are among Botswana’s most popular parks and animal-spotting destinations. The best time to visit them is from May to September, during the dry season and winter, which results in more moderate temperatures.
There is also less vegetation during these months, so animals tend to concentrate around waterholes and rivers, making wildlife easier to spot. The Okavango Delta is also in full flood then. The skies are clear, rain is rare, and there are fewer mosquitoes.
It does get cold at night and in the mornings, so packing warm winter clothing during June, July and August for the cold morning game drives are advisable.
Safari in September to October
Ghana – There is some light rainfall in September and October, but these two months is still part of the dry season in Ghana. You will not have to worry about heavy rains causing flooding or travel delays. Birdwatchers will love taking a canopy tour through Kakum National Park – you can spot guinea fowl, African grey parrots and many other types of birds flitting through the trees.
The national park is also home to forest elephants, civets, leopards, pangolins, a variety of monkeys and more. Other wildlife hotspots include the Ankasa Rain Forest, the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary, and the Mole National Park.
Kenya – With more than 40 national parks and reserves, Kenya is a dream destination for safaris. This country draws tourists year-round, but September and October have certain advantages.
These months are part of the dry season and the weather is also cooler. During these months, you can also catch the iconic Masai Mara migration. The mass movement of these animals will attract larger predators, including lions.
Swaziland – September heralds the beginning of springtime in Swaziland, a fairly dry time of year. Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve are ideal destinations for safari-goers who want to get close to animals like elephants, rhinos, buffalo, leopards and lions.
In addition to these big mammals, Swaziland is also home to zebras, a variety of antelope, giraffes, hundreds of bird species, and more.
Safari in November to December
Ivory Coast – November and December are the first two months of the warm and dry season in Ivory Coast. The temperate weather and minimal rainfall are ideal for travelers.
And Taï National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is perfect for wildlife seekers. The park protects a tropical rainforest and its inhabitants include chimpanzees, pygmy hippos, leopards, colobus monkeys, flying squirrels, two species of bat, a variety of birds, and much more.
Uganda – Let’s face it, who does not want to go mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda? If you do, it is probably worth heading to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a rainforest that nearly half of the world’s mountain gorilla population call home.
The peak period to travel tends to be June through to September when skies are clear, there are less rain and more sunshine. ButT traveling in the low season of November is a great opportunity to make the most of competitive prices, including permits which are almost half the price.
It is worth noting that permits in Uganda are seasonal, as opposed to Rwanda’s year-round flat price ones.
This low season also takes place in March and April and the payoff is well worth it. Why? That is because, without the crowds, you could find yourself trekking the gorillas with as little as 2 or 3 other people.
In fact, it is very unlikely to rain all day. You will get a downpour at some stage each day, or even light rain on and off, but there are plenty of blue sky days as well.
Africa’s Rainy Season
Generally distinguished as the low season in Africa, the “green season” is characterized by frequent rains. It has become a great option for travelers who can live with a bit of rain and a bit more of a challenge when it comes to animal spotting.
The vegetation is thick, and the grass high making wildlife harder to spot, and water is plenty so you do not get a lot of animals congregating around waterholes.
What you do get is incredible, lush, green landscapes. Most animals give birth at the beginning of rainy season, so you will see plenty of newborns. It is also a bird lover paradise with flowers in bloom and many migratory birds arriving back in the area from as far as Asia or Europe.
The Serengeti and Masai Mara may be home to the world’s largest annual migration but green season Botswana hosts part of the longest recorded migration! Thousands of Burchell’s zebras cover more than 500km in a straight line across Namibia and Botswana.
It really is a great option for those second-time visitors to Africa who have been there, done that, seen the Big 5 and want to experience something “different.” Some destinations like Botswana, in particular, look like an entirely different place from one season to the other.
More importantly, it is pretty amazing to see both ends of the spectrum, and you can get some incredible savings for traveling at this time of year.
Africa Travel Season
Africa is a massive continent with endless vacation opportunities. The best time to visit depends mainly on your interests. A photographer wishing to capture Botswana’s rich botanical diversity will have different seasonal requirements than the vacationer on safari to witness the annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.
Travel seasons in Africa vary wildly depending on your adventure. For the best African experience, choose your main activity and plan your trip around that.
Botswana – Botswana has something to offer year round. Birders will want to catch the breeding season in the Okavango Delta between November and March. The rainy season, from September through February, offers exceptional opportunities for photographers, with the lushest months beginning in December and ending in May. The best time to see wildlife, however, is during the dry season from May to September.
Kenya – The biggest attraction in Kenya is the annual wildebeest migration between June and September when the animals move between the Serengeti and Tanzania through the Masai Mara Game Reserve.
Africa’s Great Rift Valley offers excellent wildlife viewing from January to March, when animals can be found clustered around seasonal water holes. This is also the time of year with the most comfortable climate.
Rainy seasons between April and June and October and December offer hardier travelers the same spectacular wildlife without the crowds.
Malawi – The dry season, from May until the end of October, is the best time to Safari in Malawi. Birders visiting Lake Malawi will find good viewing year round, but October and November are the best months.
The best weather overall is in August, but that also means resorts and National Parks will be packed with tourists. Photographers prefer May through July for the best scenery.
Visitors to Malawi may want to skip the humid and wet rainy season from January to March, however, as inaccessible roads can put a damper on travel plans.
South Africa – South Africa offers some of the best of everything on the continent. Mild weather makes the winter months from May through September the best for viewing wildlife in the north while summer (October through March) is best in the south. Go from mid-August to mid-September to watch the flowers bloom in the arid Namaqualand region.
Swimmers on South Africa’s east coast can take advantage of the excellent weather all year but plan on sharing your beach towel with lots of other tourists during the summer months.
Tanzania – It is hard to beat Tanzania. From Mt. Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti plains, Tanzania is truly the quintessential African experience. There are ample opportunities to see wildlife all year, but “great migrations” take place between April-June and October-December. These also happen to coincide with the country’s two rainy seasons so there are not as many tourists.
There are more than 1,000 species of birds in Tanzania and birding is excellent year around. If you are planning on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the best times are between August and October and January through March.
Zimbabwe – Photographers in Zimbabwe will want to visit after the first rains between September and February. Birding season happens between November and March when migratory birds breed in the waterways of the Zambezi River.
December through May is the botanical season, and most of the flowers are in bloom then. It is better to spot wildlife between May and September, however, when the vegetation isn’t as dense. Spectacular Victoria Falls is best after the rains, in April and May.
Reasons To Cruise Africa
Imagine a place that is unspoiled by mass tourism and where the local culture exists as an integral part of the region. Africa, by essence, is for visitors to observe and not influence.
Some types of travelers would consider this an untapped source of exploration or a playground for wanderlusters who wish to immerse themselves in the purest sense of traveling.
The Scenic Landscapes – Explore the waterways of the West Sudanian Savanna that begin from the Atlantic ocean and enter the heart of Africa’s continent.
Cruise the rivers of West Africa and cross a tropical belt of wonderful, untamed landscapes that will make you feel like you are part of a documentary.
Following the paths of two of the water masses of West Africa, the Gambia and the Senegal rivers will reveal incredibly scenic terrains full of green foliage that hide a number of ecosystems either underwater or on land. Trees, bushes and grasses coexist and often grow down to meet the riverbank, creating dense, jungle-like or steppe landscapes full of mystery.
However, as the population grows, these natural environments gradually give way to agricultural expansions that are slowly depleting the natural beauty of the region. All the more reason to visit soon!
The Sensational Wildlife – Harboured in the above mentioned wonderful scenic landscapes are a myriad of creatures that will thrill you at first sight.
Aquatic animals you will come across are manatees, turtles, river dolphins, hippopotamuses as well as crocodiles, while the terrestrial creatures include the West African giraffe, mountain gorilla, bonobo, chimpanzee, elephant, white rhino, forest elephant, bongo, Congo peacock, colobus monkey, lion, buffalo, cheetah, and leopard among others.
Home to a plethora of rainforest species, West Africa is also full of fishing villages since it has an abundance of fish too, and is also a bird watching destination.
The Nikolo-Koba National Park in Senegal has over 300 bird species to observe, and the river Gambia flows straight through it, and other noteworthy parks are the Langue de Barbarie National Park as well as the Djoudj National bird sanctuary.
Other Natural Reserves that are of particular interest are Tendaba, Bajul, Abulko, and Makasutu.
The Diversity of Culture – Africa is a mixture of tribes and diverse populations that express their culture through arts, crafts, folklore, religion, clothing, cuisine, music, dance, and language.
Completely different from the cultures of the western and the eastern world, Africans have subdivided cultural units that differ not only from country to country within the continent, but also from region to region in the same country.
The tribal culture is strong through and manifests itself in the values of even the most westernized human settlements. For example, the respect for elders is a very strong trend throughout many countries.
From region to region, the visitor will soon discover the great tapestry of ethnic cultures that adds to the exotic beauty of this continent.
Happiness exists in its primal form, away from all the noise of western society, and people make the most of their lives although Africa is one of the most impoverished continents there is.
Go-To Destinations in Africa
Giza Plateau’s Legendary Pyramids and Sphinx – Giza sits on the west bank of the Nile, approximately 13 miles southwest of central Cairo. Giza is home to the oldest and only remaining representative of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid of Cheops, that dates back to approximately 2690 BCE. Poke around inside one of the pyramids and wonder what daily life was like for a pharaoh 5,000 years ago.
The pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, completed between 2560 BCE and 2510 BCE, await your exploration, along with the enigmatic Great Sphinx that rests on the eastern side of the plateau a short distance from the pyramids.
Back in Cairo, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities is guaranteed to blow your mind with 107 halls filled with over 160,000 artifacts spanning 5,000 years of history, including Tutankhamun’s treasures.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get up close and personal with multiple mummies.
The Temple of Hathor at Dendera – Protected by a massive mud-brick wall, the Dendera Temple Complex is one of Egypt’s best-preserved and least-visited temples, making it ideal for intimate exploration and rumination.
You will also find the Temple of Isis, a sacred lake, the Coptic Church, and the Ptolemaic Temple in this complex dedicated to Hathor, goddess of love, joy, and beauty. The main temple features exquisite, highly detailed astrological calendars carved and painted on the ceilings.
Intriguing hieroglyphic wall reliefs are everywhere at Dendera, once a sacred pilgrimage site where the goddess was sought for her miraculous cures. Unique to the Dendera temple are the mysterious crypts found underground and enclosed within the massive double walls of the upper temple.
The Luxor Temple – Massive and almost overwhelming in its majesty, the temple of Luxor is a large ancient complex laid out on the east bank of the Nile River that dates back to approximately 1400 BCE.
Once the sight of the most important religious festivals in ancient Egypt, today the remains of colossal statues, a pink granite obelisk, colonnades, courtyards, shrines, and columns give you the feel of a forever stretch.
The West Bank of the city of Luxor holds the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings and offers a chance to step inside the tomb of Tutankhamun.
While the pharaohs of Egypt’s Old Kingdom favored burial in the Giza pyramids on the Nile Delta, New Kingdom pharaohs and their queens preferred to build their tombs in the barren hills west of Luxor.
Abu Simbel: Temples of Ramesses II and Nefertari – Twenty years in the making, the complex at Abu Simbel boasts two of the most remarkable temples commissioned by prolific monument builder, Pharaoh Ramesses II (1303-1213 BCE). The powerful construction is carved into a mountainside on the west bank of the Nile River.
Enter the Great Temple that pays homage to the pharaoh, passing by four enormous 69-feet-high statues of a seated Ramesses II at the entrance. If you happen to be visiting on October 22 or February 22, light shines into the inner sanctuary at the precise angle required to illuminate three statues seated on a bench, including one of Ramesses II.
It is believed that The Small Temple was built for Ramesses‘ favorite wife, Queen Nefertari. You will find two statues of the queen and four of the pharaoh along with intricate artwork and carved hieroglyphs.
Ride the Nile’s Wild Rapids in Uganda – Although watching the sunset over Egypt from the deck chair of your luxury cruise liner is hard to beat, for a truly extraordinary immersive experience, travel further south to Jinja, Uganda where the Nile is thought to originate.
Paddle down the river’s roaring Grade 5 rapids in a raft or kayak. End your wild adventure with a leisurely two-hour sunset riverboat cruise on the Nile, cold beer in hand, as the staff serves you freshly barbecued meats, pâté, and bruschetta. How many people can say they have done that?
Things To Keep In Mind when you are in Africa
Africa is not the first place that comes to a person’s mind after hearing the words “river cruising.” Yet river cruising is alive and well on Botswana’s Chobe River, a sometimes mile-wide waterway forming part of the border between Namibia and Botswana.
Whether you are on the Zambezi Queen or the Pride of the Zambezi, smiling service, superb food and South African wines, abundant wildlife, and dazzling sunsets are all part of the deal. Unfortunately, there are a few caveats associated with travel in Africa, where nothing is predictable.
Borders –There are a LOT of border crossings and some fees that go along with them, depending on your pre- and post-cruise plans. If you spend the night at Victoria Falls, for example, there is a $50 visa fee for Zimbabwe and another $50 if you enter Zambia to visit Livingstone, on the other side of the falls.
Also, every time you go ashore (the game drives and sunset game-viewing cruises are done in Chobe National Park, on the Botswana side, while the boat itself sails on the Namibian side), you will have to exit Namibia and enter Botswana on the opposite bank, repeating the process in reverse to get home. It is not really a hassle – a man in a hut simply stamps your passport – but it takes time, not to mention space in the passport.
Bedtime – A ship such as Zambezi Queen does not have air conditioning, with each of its having sliding shutters and mosquito screens. And oh, it comes with a fan.
The whole upper-deck lounge/dining area has mosquito screens, too, and is open to river breezes from end to end. At 10 p.m., the power switches to backup, the main lights go out and you fall asleep to the whirring of your fan, the noises of the African night and the occasional grunt of a hippo.
Needless to say, with no lights for miles around, the stargazing is spectacular.
Bugs –There are relatively few insects on the river (and the boat ties up to a buoy, rather than mooring ashore), but it is advised to take anti-malaria pills here.
Sailing – Do not expect a typical river cruise, at least on the Chobe. A ship only sails a 15-mile stretch of the Chobe River and putters slowly between the same mid-river moorings all the time.
There are no ports of call and no river traffic; there aren’t even any towns here apart from the nearby gateway of Kasane. Once you are out on the river, it is just vast expanses of open space.