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3 African adventures I wish I had done

By: Clarice Henry + Save to a List

1. Backpacking in South Africa/Namibia

    Four people with large backpacks hiking up large green mountains in the background.
    Photo by Dannii Coughlan

    As I previously said in my story of 4 Outdoorsy activities to do in Africa, there are some magnificent mountains within the African continent. While I did get to do some hiking while in South Africa and Namibia, I did not do any multi-day trips. South Africa has mountains that stand at over 11,000 feet. Namibia has the second-largest canyon in the world. There are some great backpacking trips to see these extreme highs and lows of southern Africa and magnificent backcountry that cannot be seen from a safari vehicle. (Note: Make sure to book backpacking permits well in advance.)

    South Africa is wild, and not just for wild animals, but the scenic, natural landscapes as well. Along the coast, you can backpack the Otter Trail, stretching 27 miles from the Storms River Mouth to Nature’s Valley. This coastal area is part of the Garden Route. It is a 5-day trip and the permit includes cabin accommodations each night. If you want to backpack in some glorious, spacious mountains, head to the Eastern Cape to visit Drakensberg. While there are many trails, I wish I had hiked the Mnweni Circuit, featuring 25 miles of hiking and wild camping, or the Giant’s Cup Trail, which is a 36-mile hutted trail system with panoramic views.

    Namibia has two well-known, multi-day backpacking trips, Fish River Canyon and Namib-Naukluft. Fish River Canyon, located in southern Namibia, is the second-largest canyon in the world. The almost-53-mile trip takes you down into the canyon and along the river until you reach Ai-Ais where you can soak in hot springs - the perfect way to end a backpacking trip. Along the way, you’ll follow the Fish River and may spot some of the wild horses of southern Namibia.

    In Namib-Naukluft Nature Reserve you can do an 8-day, 74-mile trip or a shortened 4-day trip. The trail takes you through the oldest desert in the world and among unique landscapes. This is known to be a very hard trail with steep ascents, and chained portions to aid in traversing boulders on the trail.

    Aside from the mentioned, there are many other multi-day hiking trails that can be found online. While backpacking is not as common as in North America, it can be done on the African continent.

    2. Exploring forests of Madagascar

    a grey, black and white lemur stares at you from its perch on a tree branch.
    Photo by Cat Ekkelboom-White

    While I did have the opportunity to see the mountain gorillas of Uganda and baboons in Zambia and Tanzania, I did not get to move it, move it with the lemurs of Madagascar. Madagascar can be a bit hard to get to, but it has unique landscapes from barren to densely forested. Among many other species of animals, it is home to over 110 species of lemurs today. Visitors can partake in guided tours of the rainforest in search of lemurs in their natural habitat.

    3. White water rafting in Namibia/Uganda

    Three people in large green raft with white water splashing up around them.
    Photo by Julie Thornton on Unsplash

    I kayaked in Malawi and Uganda, but I did not get the chance to be a bit more adventurous and try white water rafting. There are a few locations where you can float rivers and raft rapids throughout the continent.

    The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa, flowing from Lesotho to the Atlantic Ocean. The river serves as the border between Namibia and South Africa. Tour companies offer trips from half-a-day on the rapids to multi-day stretches with camping along the riverbank.

    Lake Victoria in Jinja, Uganda is the source of the Nile River. This waterway offers some of the best white water in the world, with class one (smallest/least challenging) to class five (fastest, most technically challenging) rapids perfect for kayaking and rafting. Tour companies provide half-day and full-day trips on the river. Enjoy floating or go for some class three to five rapids to get more adrenaline-pumping white water action.

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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