Home » Tourism: Top African Destinations for 2024 Unveiled by CNN Travel, Nat Geo, New York Times, and Forbes, Lonely Planet Amongst others From Wildlife Wonders to Cultural Marvels

Tourism: Top African Destinations for 2024 Unveiled by CNN Travel, Nat Geo, New York Times, and Forbes, Lonely Planet Amongst others From Wildlife Wonders to Cultural Marvels

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CNN TRAVEL

Several African countries have emerged as top travel destinations, garnering acclaim from renowned global media houses such as Forbes India, New York Post, Forbes Advisor, The Telegraph UK, New York Times, CNN Times, National Geographic, Travel+Leisure, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveller, and Time Magazine.

These accolades were bestowed based on a comprehensive set of criteria, including available destinations, National Parks, Wildlife & Safaris, a plethora of activities, and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. The spotlight on African destinations underscores the continent’s diverse and captivating appeal, inviting travelers to explore its rich cultural tapestry and natural wonders.

BOTSWANA
Botswana, hailed by The Telegraph UK as the epitome of a southern African safari, beckons travelers to embark on an unparalleled adventure. Described as a must-visit destination, Botswana reveals its true splendor from May onward, as the Okavango River swells from rainfall in the Angolan highlands.

READ: Africa: Uganda, Zanzibar, and Madagascar Shine Among the Best Places to Travel in 2024 according to Bradt Guides

This natural phenomenon transforms the Kalahari desert into a mesmerizing landscape best observed from the air, making aerial tours the ideal mode of exploration. The ensuing “flooding” during Botswana’s dry winter enhances wildlife visibility, creating a unique spectacle. The unpredictability of water levels adds an element of serendipity to the experience. For those venturing in May, northward exploration is recommended, with recently opened sites like Duke’s East, Sitatunga, and North Island garnering high praise for an unforgettable safari encounter. With camp facilities at their prime, there’s no better time to immerse yourself in the wonders of Botswana’s remarkable wilderness.

This explains why it was recognized by Travel + Leisure, stands out as one of Africa’s premier safari destinations. While the country boasts a range of five-star lodges, including those operated by renowned names like African Bush Camps, and Beyond, and Great Plains Conservation, the most captivating newcomer isn’t defined by luxurious amenities or high thread count sheets.

READ: Tourism: Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Croatia Emerge Most Googled Travel Destinations of 2023

Mokete, a novel safari lodge by Wilderness, promises a unique experience set to last only until 2026, when the operator will dismantle the tents, leaving no trace of the nine-suite retreat. Nestled in the heart of the Mababe Concession, east of the famed Okavango Delta, this temporary enclave spans 124,000 acres and is home to significant populations of lion, elephant, buffalo, and a diverse array of birds.

Mokete focuses on wildlife observation, offering all-day game drives and guided nature walks. The lodge emphasizes an elemental connection with nature, even in its design: each tent features a retractable roof, allowing guests to stargaze from their beds and listen to the calls of hyenas echoing from the surrounding bush. It’s a unique blend of luxury and environmental immersion in this extraordinary corner of Botswana.

MOROCCO
Amidst the enchanting landscapes of Morocco’s Ourika Valley, recently highlighted by The New York Times and Lonely Planet as a top destination, a tragic earthquake unfolded, claiming nearly 3,000 lives and reshaping the picturesque region. The valley, with its silvery-green olive groves and dramatic Atlas Mountain ridges, offers a dreamy escape just an hour from Marrakesh. Despite the devastation, the resilient spirit of the locals, who rely heavily on tourism, prevails.

READ: Tourism: U.S. Travelers Ranks Six African Destinations Among the World’s Top 20 Tourist Attractions

Mud-brick homes may have crumbled, and makeshift tents now shelter those displaced, but the hospitality industry swiftly rekindled, emphasizing the profound dependence on visitors for economic revival. As the valley rebuilds, there is a poignant plea for travelers to see beyond Morocco’s glossy surface and appreciate the resilience and authenticity that lie within, echoing the sentiments of locals like Khalid Ait Abdelkarim, who yearns for a good life amid the challenges faced by the Ourika community.

MADAGASCAR
In Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, there’s more to explore than just wildlife and pretty islands, as The New York Times rightly notes. The city is growing into an arts hub, and La Fondation H, a new contemporary arts center, is at the heart of it. Imagine a beautifully restored old French-style building showcasing the talents of local artists. The first exhibit is all about Madame Zo, who was a fantastic weaver inspired by the traditional fabrics and baskets of Madagascar. So, if you’re planning a trip to Madagascar, don’t miss out on the vibrant arts scene in Antananarivo!

In the mesmerizing western part of Madagascar lies a truly extraordinary place, now part of an expanded UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, known for its intricate maze of sharp limestone formations, earned its spot on the World Heritage List in 1990. This year, its boundaries were extended to include the Andrefana Dry Forests. In this unique environment, the rocks are razor-sharp, the trees have a distinctive bulbous shape, and the lemurs have adapted to thrive in this otherworldly region. The expanded site now celebrates the remarkable diversity of the Andrefana Dry Forests, adding another layer of wonder to Madagascar’s natural treasures as highlited by CNN Travel.

KENYA
Kenya’s Tsavo National Park
In Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, elephants are not just thriving; they are a conservation success story highlighted by The New York Times. With a remarkable 21 percent increase in the elephant population since 2014, totaling 36,280, Tsavo is the proud home of Africa’s most successful elephant rehabilitation program—the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

At its core, the trust boasts essential conservation projects, including an elephant orphanage, rehabilitation units, and mobile veterinary clinics that have cared for over 11,000 animals, including 3,500 elephants, since 1977. The trust’s impactful efforts extend to releasing 200 rehabilitated elephant orphans (with 120 still in their care), anti-poaching initiatives, constructing water sources, and safeguarding vulnerable boundaries. Tsavo stands as a testament to the positive strides made in safeguarding the majestic elephants of Kenya.

Amboseli National Park in Kenya, recognized by Travel + Leisure, stands as a haven for nature lovers within its 151-square-mile expanse near the Tanzanian border. Renowned among safari enthusiasts, Amboseli has carved a niche for itself with its abundant wildlife, particularly its well-documented reputation for elephant spotting. The dusty plains of Amboseli host massive herds of elephants, creating a mesmerizing spectacle alongside other charismatic creatures such as cheetahs, giraffes, and zebras.

While the camps and lodges surrounding the park traditionally lean towards simplicity, the upcoming opening of Angama Amboseli in fall 2023 adds an exciting dimension. Promising a richly appointed experience, this new addition is set to elevate the accommodation offerings, providing visitors with a luxurious base to explore the natural wonders of Amboseli National Park. With its breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife, Amboseli continues to captivate and, with the introduction of Angama Amboseli, is poised to offer an enhanced safari experience for travelers seeking both adventure and comfort.

EGYPT
Off the shores of Hurghada, Egypt, lies the impressive Great Fringing Reef, a thriving marine haven housing 40 shark species and a dazzling array of 400 coral varietiesas as highlited by New York Times. The reef owes its resilience to the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association, a non-governmental organization formed by passionate divers in 1992.

Recognized for their conservation efforts, the group has implemented one of the world’s largest mooring systems, reducing the impact of dive-boat anchors. They’ve also initiated a local ban on single-use plastics, turning snorkel tours and beach cleanups into engaging social events for both residents and tourists. Last year, the organization opened three eagerly awaited dive sites, further demonstrating their commitment to preserving and safeguarding the precious marine ecosystems around Hurghada.

ANGOLA
CNN Travel says Angola is a cool place to visit now. They made it easier to go there with a quick online visa. Even though the big tourist stuff isn’t fully ready, Angola is like a hidden treasure waiting to be found. The capital, Luanda, is known for being a bit pricey, but if you explore outside, you’ll find amazing landscapes and interesting things. In the second city, Lubango, there’s old Portuguese-style buildings, a big statue on a hill, and a cool place called Tundavala Gap. Nature lovers will enjoy huge waterfalls called Calendula Falls, and if you like surfing, the Atlantic coast is perfect. So, Angola is like a secret gem according to CNN Travel, and now is a great time to go and see its unique beauty.

RWANDA
Akagera National Park in Rwanda, highlighted by National Geographic, is a stunning mix of swamps, savannah, and woodland bursting with wildlife. This park, one of Rwanda’s oldest, has a remarkable story of recovery. After being severely affected by the civil war in 1994, where returning farmers damaged the land and wiped out the wildlife for cattle grazing, the Akagera Management Company stepped in. Established in 2010, their goal was to restore the park to its original natural beauty.

The efforts have been fruitful, with successful reintroductions of lions and black rhinos in 2015 and 2017, and the arrival of white rhinos in 2021. Today, the park is thriving with giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, leopards, and a vibrant array of birds, showcasing a remarkable tale of conservation and rejuvenation in the heart of Rwanda.

Musanze, the largest city in northern Rwanda, gains recognition from Time Magazine as the gateway to Volcanoes National Park, home to rare mountain gorillas. Recently, the park announced its expansion, aiming to increase from 62 to 76 square miles by 2027, with a goal to reduce human-wildlife conflict by 80%. The limited number of $1,500 daily gorilla-trek entry fees is an innovative approach, allowing farmers and former gorilla poachers to earn a living without harming the animals’ habitats.

This area has received global attention with the opening of the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and Gorilla Doctors campus. Both initiatives invest in the conservation and research of endangered mountain gorillas, showcasing Musanze as a hub for sustainable practices and the coexistence of humans and wildlife. The city, surrounded by the breathtaking landscapes of Volcanoes National Park, stands as a model for responsible tourism and conservation efforts, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.

SIRRA LEONE
Sierra Leone, as highlighted by CNN Travel, is experiencing a tourism revival with enhanced accessibility thanks to upgraded infrastructure. The major facelift given to Freetown’s international airport in 2023 and ongoing road renovations are making this West African gem more reachable than ever.

Nature takes center stage in Sierra Leone, boasting wide sandy beaches kissed by Atlantic waves and a mountainous plateau harboring the country’s national treasure, the chimpanzee. The charm extends beyond scenery, with community-led initiatives showcasing the nation’s natural beauty. Notable projects include the first surfing school at Bureh Beach and the Tasso Ecotourism Project on Tasso Island, championing a rescue program for the endangered Timneh grey parrot.

Sierra Leone’s historical significance is evident at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bunce Island, a poignant reminder of its role in the transatlantic slave trade. As tourism blossoms, more accommodation options are emerging, including the expansion of Freetown’s boutique hideaway, Toma, and the introduction of the country’s first Hilton in 2024, offering luxurious rooms. Additionally, the laid-back Estuary Resort, situated along a scenic inlet, is expanding with new chalets and a pool, inviting travelers to experience the diverse beauty of Sierra Leone.

SOUTH AFRICA
KwaZulu-Natal, affectionately known as KZN and recently acknowledged by Travel + Leisure, is emerging as a captivating destination along South Africa’s eastern coast. This off-the-beaten-path province is gaining attention for its natural wonders, boasting two World Heritage Sites: the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and the majestic uKhahlamba Drakensberg National Park. Renowned for its picturesque beaches, safari parks, lush green hills, and temperate weather, KwaZulu-Natal is capturing the hearts of travelers seeking diverse landscapes.

Safari expert Julian Harrison, a long-time member of T+L’s A-List, highlights the province’s ambitious rewilding project supported by the Emcakwini Community Trust. Beginning in 2018, this initiative has successfully reintroduced once-endemic species, including black rhino, cheetah, elephant, giraffe, and lion, transforming into the Babanango Game Reserve today.

KwaZulu-Natal is also making strides in conservation at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, where efforts are underway to monitor critically endangered Temminck’s ground pangolins. As this province steps into the spotlight, it offers not just scenic beauty but also a commitment to wildlife preservation, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.

BENIN REPUBLIC
Benin Republic, highlighted by Lonely Planet, invites travelers to explore its diverse cultural tapestry and historical richness. Nestled in West Africa, this enchanting destination is steeped in a captivating blend of traditions, from vibrant local markets and ancient voodoo practices to the architectural remnants of the Dahomey Kingdom.

near ouidah, benin.

Benin offers a journey through time with attractions like the Royal Palaces of Abomey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the bustling city of Cotonou, where lively street scenes and lively music create an immersive atmosphere. The country’s palm-fringed beaches along the Atlantic coast add a touch of relaxation to the adventure, making Benin a hidden gem for those seeking a unique and culturally rich travel experience.

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