Africa as a continent has the potential to compete with other continents given the range of natural and cultural attractions that can attract millions of tourist to choose Africa as their safari destination. Africa’s savannahs, tropical rain forests, highest mountain ranges, longest rivers of the word, largest fresh water lakes, cultural festivals, music, dance and drama make Africa on the top of most travelers bucket list destinations worth visiting.
Africa has emerged as an important safari destination despite the political uncertainties in some regions. Africa’s international tourist arrivals grew form 37 million in 2003 to 63.6 million tourists in 2012 achieving the strongest growth globally and hit a new record of about 5% of the world’s tourism share. Tourists came to Africa for different purposes but not limited to business meetings and conference, leisure and recreation, culture, sporting events, visiting friends & relatives, and adventure activities. Tourism is one of the fastest and largest growing economic sectors in Africa generating employment opportunities in terms of jobs created. Income generated from tourism with receipts from tours, airlines, Hotel chains and cruise ships. International tourism receipts in Africa reached USD 43.6 billion in 2012 while direct and indirect employment generated about 8.2 million jobs in 2012 across the continent according to the Africa Tourism Monitor Report published in 2013.
This boost in tourism development across Africa has partly strengthened conservation of wild life protected areas, natural and cultural sites have increased standards of tourism service due to emerging expertise skills in the hospitality industry which further motivates repeated visits by some tourists with specific interest in Africa’s top safari regions of East Africa and Southern Africa.
Without forgetting the diversity of wild life and culture as the main reason why tourists come to different regions in Africa, with these natural attributes Eat Africa, Southern Africa and central regions have been the most visited. This is because these 3 regions have well established tourism sectors and diversified tourism activities including big game safaris, adventures such as gorilla trekking, mountain climbing and world’s strongest water fall rafting services. Particularly countries such as Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa have been frequently listed among the most visited countries in Africa.
The East African Region
Five countries make up the east African region; these include Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The region is diverse given the strategic locations of countries in the Great East African Rift Valley area giving it an array of natural attractions including Africa’s oldest equatorial rain forests, highest mountain ranges of Mount Kilimanjaro at 5,896 meters above sea level in Tanzania and the Ruwenzori in Uganda at 5,109 meters above sea level. The world’s Wildlife spectacle between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara wildlife reserves of Tanzania and Kenya is the Great Wildebeest migrations consisting of over 1.5 million Wildebeests and thousands of hoofed mammals between December and March. The big five African mammals are well represented in big numbers within Kenya and Tanzania which attracts many wildlife lovers. The rare engendered mountain gorillas situated Uganda Rwanda and Congo – safaris to see gorillas in Africa is the only strategy established to protect these endangered species which were at the verge of extinction.
As the region of friendly and hospitable people, the tourism industry has successfully been established putting visitor satisfaction at the top of every step taken. The joint East African community states work together to maximize benefits from tourism, wildlife and marketing, east Africa is now being marketed as a single tourist destination. Recently the single visa was introduced and is working across the countries in an attempt to increase visitor stays in the region. The visa can be obtained at a cost of USD 100 per visitor.
The dedicated government tourism development strategies has created an enabling environment for successful private sector driven investments in hotels, campsites, transportation, digital marketing , product development and diversification. Other efforts have achieved the standard criteria grading hotels resulting into world class hotel chains setting up in the region such as Serena and Sheraton chain of hotels. As a result expertise and excellent tourist service delivery has seen numbers of tourists visiting the region increase from 3 million to 4.9 million tourists from 2006 to 2011 according to the east African community travel.
Central African Region
Central Africa is far from the big game safaris of Kenya and Tanzania, the region features the Virunga mountains regions that spans across the democratic republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda which are the dominant countries regarding tourism. Since the 1990’s Central Africa has been characterized by civil wars in DRC, Central African Republic escalating into violence and crime rates something that did make headlines across the worlds popular travel Medias scaring tourists to come to the region. However, over the last decade tourism has significantly developed with well-established activities like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking and other wildlife especially birding.
Due to the fact that mountain gorillas are critically endangered and being the main tourist attraction, joint trans-boundary collaboration between Uganda, DRC and Rwanda has established conservation management mechanisms aimed at protecting wildlife and reaping from the revenues generated to boost economic development. This kind of enfranchisement has benefited from increasing gorilla numbers and other wildlife due to community awareness.
The Southern Africa Region
Southern Africa has 14 countries but not all offer the best opportunities for wildlife viewing. The most popular visited nations include South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi and Zambia. These have an amazing landscapes and wildlife loved by many travelers who come to Africa. They include African acacia woodlands, desert and semi-desert areas, savannah grasslands, coastal and temperate areas with marshes and swamps, snow capped mountains.
Wildlife in southern Africa is abundant with big five mammals such as white rhinos, lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos and other hoofed mammals such as zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, antelopes.
Wildlife specialists have specific interest in wildlife areas such as central Karoo region of South Africa where the critically endangered Riverine rabbit dwells along seasonal rivers, with less than 200 Riverine rabbits remaining the ecosystems are under strong conservation and management to avoid extinction of such species. Along the Western Cape coast of South Africa are the wetlands and swamps that habits the critically endangered Reedfrog. South Africa’s Kruger National Park is a top safari destination in Africa for big game viewing, the big five mammals, diverse landscapes ranging from deserts, woodlands, savannahs to tropical forests cover an area of about 19,485 sq km. several species of birds live in the park making it a birders paradise in South Africa.
In Botswana 17 % of the county’s land is dedicated to national parks making it a great game destination. Among the most visited is central Kalahari game reserve the second largest wildlife reserve in the world with many African predators, Chobe national park is famous for the largest concentrations of elephants in the world about 45,000 elephants recorded although estimates vary. Nata bird sanctuary is a home to over 160 species of birds and a premier destination for birders in Botswana.
Zimbabwe and Zambia share the great Victoria water falls offering rafting opportunities. In Zimbabwe Hwange national park has big five mammals and the critically endangered African Hunting Dog.
Malawi is a natural paradise with diverse wildlife including big five, over 600 species of birds making a birding spot and the amazing Lake Malawi protecting Africa’s tropical fish concentrations and safe boat canoeing opportunities on the surface of the deepest rift valley lake.