By Bird Story Agency
AS the world emerges from the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of African nations are not just rebounding but are surpassing their pre-pandemic visitor numbers and revenue benchmarks, heralding a golden era of tourism and cultural exploration on the continent, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Africa’s premier tourist destination with an impressive influx of nearly 12 million globetrotters in 2022, Morocco is a treasure trove of experiences. Wanderers can meander through the serpentine passages of Marrakech or indulge in the quintessential Sahara Desert escapade. Fes merits applause for its venerable medieval cityscape, a UNESCO World Heritage marvel, with its Medina bursting with slender lanes, venerable mosques, and scholarly madrasas. The Atlas Mountains serenade adventurers with their awe-inspiring vistas, beckoning those eager for a hike or a mountainous pilgrimage.
Welcoming 1,303,000 souls to its idyllic shores in 2022, Mauritius is celebrated for its postcard-perfect beaches, crystalline aquamarine waters, and verdant panoramas. The island’s highlights include the pristine Flic en Flac Beach, the bustling Grand Baie, and the picturesque tableau of Black River Gorges National Park. A nugget of wisdom for the curious traveller: Mauritius’ embrace extends to its sister isles – Rodrigues, Agalega, and St. Brandon, with two more islets also in the extended family.
3. South Africa
Earning its moniker as the “Rainbow Nation” with a cornucopia of attractions, South Africa played host to 8,972,000 visitors in 2022. Beyond its unique winter wonderland status in Africa, it flaunts stunning landscapes and dynamic cultures. Table Mountain offers a stunning backdrop for visitors to Cape Town’s Waterfront, while oenophiles and gourmands can revel in a sumptuous selection of vineyards and eateries. Relatively cheap and easy car rentals make South Africa a road-tripper’s paradise.
With 8,653,000 tourists gracing its sands in 2022, Tunisia’s allure lies in its golden beaches like Hammamet’s and Monastir, set against a dramatic Mediterranean backdrop. A cultural crossroads with its history etched across millennia, Tunisia’s trilingual mix of Arabic, French, and English makes it a tourism diversity hotspot and the growth of ‘show travel’ has ensured the country’s Star Wars filming locations are a galactic drawcard.
From thriving startup magnet, Nairobi, to its parks, highlands and lengthy coastline, Kenya captivated 7,197,000 travellers in 2022 with a spectrum of wildlife safaris, sublime panoramas, and rich culture. Nairobi National Park is an urban sanctuary, while Lamu is an authentic Swahili trading town full of the aromas and colours of a region once romantically referred to as the Swahili Coast.
Adjacent to Kenya, Tanzania greeted 1,464,000 visitors in 2022. Its crown jewel, the Serengeti National Park, stages the epic Wildebeest Migration, a spectacle for the ages. The Zanzibar Archipelago melds repose with discovery, boasting pristine beaches and pulsating culture. Here, one can dive into the Swahili traditions and swim with turtles in the picturesque waters of Nungwi Beach.
Custodian of the planet’s largest artificial lake, Kariba, Zimbabwe is a symphony of historical richness and dramatic landscapes. Proudly presenting five UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the cultural bastions of the Khami Ruins, Great Zimbabwe, and Matobo Hills, alongside natural wonders Victoria Falls and Mana Pools, Zimbabwe welcomed 1,045,000 travellers in 2022.
Botswana, in the eighth berth with 769,000 visitors, boasts the Okavango Delta, a wildlife utopia, teeming with a rich tapestry of mammalian, reptile and avian species. Voyagers can glide through the delta’s arteries in traditional mokoros, immersed in nature’s embrace. The Makgadikgadi Pans extend enjoyment to the intrepid with biking adventures and cultural exchanges amidst the vast salt flats.
Namibia offers a kaleidoscope of adventures from the grandeur of Sossusvlei’s dunes to Etosha National Park’s fauna-filled plains. Home to the colossal Fish River Canyon, it offers hikers and geology enthusiasts spectacular trails and rock formations. Swakopmund, with its melding of German colonial design and oceanic vistas, is a sanctuary for adrenaline-seekers, with activities ranging fr
om sandboarding to quad-biking. Namibia’s call was answered by 485,000 visitors in 2022.
Rwanda, East Africa’s emerging gem, drew in 599,000 explorers and is poised for ascent. Lauded for its conservation triumphs, Rwanda presents bucket-list gorilla trekking odysseys. The Kigali Genocide Memorial, while a poignant landmark, offers a profound lens into Rwanda’s narrative and its path to reconciliation. As the burgeoning tech nucleus of the region, Rwanda also pulls investors and innovators into its orbit.