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If Africa's regions were travellers this is who they would be


I have spent the whole of Covid drooling over Africa. In all seriousness. I was tasked by the African Union to map and profile tourism product across the entire continent. So I embarked on such a deep dive, that many a night I had to be rescued by my partner from drowning in the brilliant kaleidoscopic richness of what our continent has to offer.

One of the things that really stood out for me when I mapped tourism on the continent at a regional level was the quite distinct personalities that each region had. Personalities that went far beyond how the regions are marketed. And I think you will agree after reading this that perhaps the way our regions are marketed actually diminishes their attractions, and does a disservice to the abundance they have to offer.

East Africa

While you may assume I am going to describe Eastern African as a giant zoom lens wielding khaki-clad bush-lover. This description would be an injustice. The Big 5 is but a smidgen of what the region has to offer as the "Womb of Africa." It is this region that gave birth to humankind (fellow South Africans don't kill me for saying that). It is the birthplace of that essential elixir that gets us through each day - coffee. It is the wellspring of Christianity on the continent. And a breeding ground for those giant breathtaking whale sharks that are on every diver's bucketlist. Not to mention the extraordinary birthplace of a new sea.

This region of wonders is far more like that ultimate explorer travel show host who never ceases to make you envious with wanderlust.

Southern Africa

Often those thinking about Southern Africa confuse it as being the same type of khaki-clad Big 5 seeking traveller as East Africa. This region is so much more than its Big 5, its iconic Table Mountain, or extravagant wine farms. Of all the regions in Africa, Southern Africa is most certainly the "Adventure Heart of Africa." Replete with gorge swings over the largest waterfall in the entire world. The second highest bungee jump in the world. White river rafting that will leave you breathless with excitement. Not to mention some of the best shark diving in the world. A full list of adventures on offer would fill a book.

Which is why Southern Africa is far better compared to that super friendly and happy-go lucky adventurer you find on your travels who leaves you breathless with tales of their heart-thumping experiences.

West Africa

West Africa is often merely considered to be that business traveller looking to cinch that next deal. But this vibrant region is so much more than that. It is without doubt the "Cultural Heart of Africa," with its hundreds of tribal cultures and traditional belief systems. Visible in a myriad of masked dances, festivals, celebrations, totems, talismans, and tapestry of languages. Not to mention the gastronomic, fashion and music extravaganza on offer in cities that will make your head spin. And that is without even mentioning its forests, protected areas, pristine tropical beaches and idyllic islands.

West Africa reminds me of that Instagram travel influencer you love to hate because each colourful experience captured makes you drool with envy.

Central Africa

Although the media may have you believe that Central Africa is that dodgy hoodie-wearing traveller friend of yours that always seems to get into trouble. This deepest darkest Africa you have in your mind is actually the thrumming "Green Heart of Africa." Home to the world's second largest rainforest after the Amazon. A sheer melting pot of colourful cultures. Not to mention one of the origins of the musical heartbeat of Africa that has vibrated across the world.

This diamond-in-the-rough is far more that immersive traveller friend of yours who wants it all: nature, culture, music, nightlife, and adventure.

North Africa

Some may think of North Africa as that cookie-cutter Mediterranean brochure traveller ticking off their "must sees." However there is far more to this region that pyramids and paradise beaches. Northern Africa is the "Storybook of Africa" with its multi-layered history and heritage that spans from the Stone Age through to the Egyptians, Nubians, Berbers, Phoenicians, Byzantines, Romans, Greeks, Ottomans, and Barbary Pirates and slave trade, through to the colonial and post colonial era. With each chapter leaving an indelible mark on the region's creative expression in architecture, craft, design, food, religious sites and music.

North Africa is most surely that Wikipedia-obsessed traveller friend of yours who constantly wows you by unveiling the unexpected depths beneath the surface.

Indian Ocean Islands

While you might quite rightfully assume that I am going to compare the Indian Ocean Island region to a bikini-clad cocktail drinking beach-bunny. The truth is the product offered by this region goes far beyond just the sun, sand, sea postcard image we all have in our minds. In actual fact the Indian Ocean Islands are the "Spice of Africa." They are blessed with such a smorgasbord of megadiversity that they will truly astound you. And I am not talking about the types of bikinis on offer. Nor actually am I only referring to the ridiculous amount of endemic plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The diversity of religions, of people, of culture, of history, of landscapes and experiences is far more than one could dream mere islands would have to offer.

Which is why this region reminds me far more of that camera-wielding backpacker nature-lover friend, that somehow packs for any eventuality and returns with experiences that could fill a coffee-table book.

Want to more about the fantastical experiences our continent has to offer? Follow me here

And take a read of these:

  • 5 Places in Africa to Blow your Mind

  • Are these Africa's Top Bucketlist Cities?

  • 5 Epic Things I Learned Mapping Tourism across the Continent