Travel in the heart of Africa

The adrenaline was kicking in, our bikes racing down the Namibian dunes at full throttle. After a slow ride through Swakopmund (a little bit of local history thrown in) and then a dry river bed: fat biking proved to be one of the most exhilarating ways to get acquainted with the desert. Writes Vivian McCarthy.

Specialist operator, Acacia Africa places fat biking in their annual top ten adventures list as one of the best and most ecological experiences on offer in Africa: the tour is said to be even more impressive if you’re pedalling at sunrise.

And, says Mark de Wet, owner and tour guide at Swakopmund Fat Bike Tours, “with the fat bike’s balloon-like tires allowing for almost effortless floating over pebbles and sand, you don’t have to be a fitness geek to book — if you can climb a dune, you can cycle one.”

Safari experiences in Africa

The safari will always be king in Africa but the continent’s adventure capitals, of which Swakopmund is one (quad biking, sand boarding and sky-diving are alternative adrenelin-inducing pursuits), also whet the appetite of the less risk averse amongst us.

Safaris often come with a hint of danger too, the opportunity to stand eye-to-eye with a two tonne rhino, at a safe distance, on a walking safari in Zimbabwe’s Matobo National Park, another of Acacia’s picks for 2018. Or slightly less perilous saddle up on a mountain bike in Swaziland’s Mlilwane Wildlife Reserve, for “all the wildlife that won’t eat you”.

Worth a trek...mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) living wild on the Virunga Mountain Range in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

Worth a trek…mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) living wild on the Virunga Mountain Range in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

Cultural excursions in Africa

Africa has even turned the adventure up a notch on its cultural excursions, a growing number of travellers joining Lesotho’s Basotho herdsmen for challenging mountain rides — the kingdom rises from 1,400 metres above sea level.  Equally appealing, Lake Malawi’s Kande Beach is best explored on horseback, the excursion intertwined with village visits.

South Africa has many larger than life landscapes. Tsitsikamma National Park is where you will find the highest commercial natural bungee in the world — Jack Osborne and Prince Harry are just two of the big names who have signed up for the daring feat. Located within UNESCO’s Garden Route Biosphere Reserve, the jump is the ultimate way to appreciate one of the most scenic corners of South Africa.

South Africa’s Otter Trail

Making the operator’s top ten for more than one reason, the park is also home to the Otter Trail — the country’s oldest hiking route was established in 1968. Cape Town is best known for the iconic Table Mountain. Abseiling down this natural wonder of the world, a 112-metre controlled descent (the world’s highest commercial abseiling point), is not for the faint-hearted. At the very top you are 1,000 metres above sea level but, says Acacia, it’s worth it for the incredible panoramic vistas viewed from this death-defying vantage point.

Old favourites on the list are Victoria Falls — more travellers exploring Zimbabwe in the post-Mugabe era  — and gorilla viewing in Uganda (where trek permits are half the price of neighbouring Rwanda). Drift diving in the waters off Magaruque is a new entry, the island located in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago. Diving on steroids, get ready to be swept up by the powerful current, your fins acting as breaks.

An Angola black and white colobus monkey feeding in Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda.

An Angola black and white colobus monkey feeding in Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda.

About the author

Vivian McCarthy is a director of Acacia Africa, which was established over 23 years ago and is considered an expert on travel to Africa. Acacia Africa is a  safari specialist offering a range of tours. From its original Acacia Overland tours, to small group, short safari and treks, city stays and tailor-made packages. Each itinerary stays true to the tour operator’s original goal: to provide adventure on exciting, affordable tours for those with a lust for Africa.

Photos illustrating this feature are by Stuart Forster of Why Eye Photography. Stuart is available for photographic commissions and has had work published in a number of the world’s leading magazines.

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