Backpacking Africa

Africa is part of the large landmass of Afro-Eurasia adjoined by the Isthmus of Suez. Its geo-political borders are more clear-cut than Europe and Asia’s. This is the 2nd largest continent in the world measuring 30.2 million km² in area. Africa covers 6% of the earth’s surface that 1 billion people inhabit, therefore, making it the world’s 2nd most populous continent at the same time. That is 14.72% of the world’s total population as of the latest 2009 statistics. Africa is essentially associated with the Afri, the name of the dwellers of North Africa near Carthage, although its name is also etymologically linked to Phoenician “afar” which means dust,Berber “ifri” for cave, and so on.

Africa, as the world knows, is one of the earliest and longest-lasting civilizations as the coiled “origin of humans”. With the discovery of the earliest hominids that date to approximately 7 years ago, Africa is significantly venerated within the scientific community as the key to understanding the past and origins of the human race. It is rich in natural resources but remains the world’s poorest and most undeveloped continent due to corrupt governance, unstructured economy, poor health, deadly disease (AIDS and malaria), illiteracy, and human rights violations. There are 54 sovereign states, 61 territories, and 25 countries at the bottom of United Nation’s Human Development Report.


If that is scarcely detailed yet, Africa has among, if not the worst living conditions in the world. Corruption is thick and heavy in the air especially when Zimbabwe’s new First Lady (or First Shopper as some address) is in a Milano shopping spree. While not all of Africa is blighted with the horrendous fate of poverty, disease, and death, the majority do. Surely, that Africa is the worst continent for water security, the government may have been capable of acting on this impediment or the rest of its crises. But as regional response by the state leaders seems inadequate, Africa responds by forming a Union. The African Union is a federation that represents 53 member states of the continent, except Morocco. The union was formed in response to the requisite cooperation and peace between its states that it apparently lacks.


On the contrary, Africa is not always at the bottom, particularly as regards climate zones. The continent stretches from the northern to the southern temperate zones – the only continent to do so. Thus, Africa’s climate encompasses vastly diverse climate zones from tropical at the coasts to subarctic in the crests, and anything in between. The northern half of the continent is mainly desert climate. As the worst continent for water source, droughts impact extremely, directly resulting to famine. To inflict further injury, the corrupt govern has no immediate resolutions on the problem. Strangely enough, flooding is also a terrible natural disaster in these parts. Given that the land is dry and the weather hot, wetlands are sites of dense rural settlements therefore increasing their propensity for casualties and infrastructure damage when flood hits, like the Mozambican floods of 2001.


Nonetheless, African culture is undaunted by any tragedy or mishap. Characterized by whites, yellows and blues in the brightest, most vivid hues during festivities, African garb is a physical aspect of the diverse culture of Africa. Symbolism is big in African culture that History 101 can be taken in a minute by a simple understanding of what their national flags express, Egypt for example. Red for bloodshed or authority and blue for love – a grasp for symbolism zones the traveller in on the important principles, beliefs, and ideals that are entrenched in the history of Africa as a whole.

Wherever in Africa, the traditional cultures are at a constant battle with neglect and suppression, but in many aspects of the culture, the traveller will not fail to notice how powerful indigenous ethos affects the modern-day population. From religion to language, the African aspect of things controls and moderates the amount of western influence. In some degrees, traditional culture retention is good. In some, it isn’t so, especially when practices violate human rights such as breast ironing, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse, and genocide of albinos to which Africa is seriously infamous for, albeit this isn’t ubiquitous.

And this is the classic tragedy of media representation of African countries to the rest of the world. The media hype on the countries’ disadvantages, in contrast to its advancements. As a result, outsiders perceive the continent as being homogenously “backwards”. When news of famine in Somalia breaks out to the international media, for instance, Somalia becomes representative of Africa. Perhaps, the slavery tag has been latched too long to simply shrug of the bad publicity. Nevertheless, this is the continent of the origins of humans, and of ancient civilizations, making this more than worthy to explore, and one you can’t live without.


African languages are also an interesting cultural aspect. Approximately, UNESCO has estimated around two thousand languages are still spoken in Africa. These languages are of four major families that are indigenous to Africa: Afro-Asiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, and Khoisan. A multitude of countries in Africa uses English as their official language which, in turn, eases communication concerns for the traveller. There are a few hundred millions of speakers in the continent. So besides the ease of getting around for English-speakers, greater accessibility to Anglo-African information and culture are ensured. Heading-off to the more isolated rural areas, word of the wise is to research what language is used and learn the language basics like “hello”, “please”, “thank you” and “do you speak English?”


However, not being able to speak their language does not offend Africans so much as this does Europeans. Africans have a distinctive way of life and set of values that only a few too many of us appreciate and understand. These so-called ‘traditional practices” have been subject to criticism, especially when there’s a thin line between what is generally accepted as human rights and what is violation of them. Polygamy, hunting, or eating monkey-brains are definitely not what most modern societies find conventional. But being in Africa means observing and appreciating the cultures and practices of the people, varying depending on state with each state their own set of decorum (so explore).

There are an enlightened demographic of Africans who, upon realization that some practices are not so essential in the present progressing times, are taking part in the awakening towards human rights education. Traditional values, as oppose to practices, include sense of community, of time, of good human relations and hospitality, of the sacredness of life and religion, and of respect to authority and elders. Still, as a country who takes pride on the achievements of its past, Africa is also one to boast first of its advancements. Take Africa as a whole, but regard each African’s uniqueness. Masked by negative sensationalism of cruelty, there is beauty in its culture and traditions amid the atrocities.

Main Attractions

Typically, “Africa as one” takes stereotyping to the max as we’ve never done before. And with safari linked so ominously to the African travel itinerary, the rest of the world knows no better. Albeit, it is true that the African continent has a magnificent landscape that caters to the needs of the ultra-diverse mega-herds of wildlife, just like the Serengeti National Park where a legion of millions of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelles seek the area for sustenance. And this is simply a tiny parcel of African fecund land. Also the Maasai Mara Park, Kruger National Park, and the Kilimanjaro showcase among the finest flora and fauna. Of course Rwanda’s mountain gorillas and Tanzania’s lions have been the inspiration for movies we know and love like Gorillas in the Mist and Lion King respectively.

“Africa, beyond the safari” entails an assortment of fun and wonder to be had here in this grand continent of Africa, although safaris remain the prime reason to be here. But a safari and the beach, that’s raising the beachy bar at the Tanzania National Park, no less. The Seychelles, Madagascar, and Mozambique are other states the traveller can bank on for fun, sun, and sand. Culture is also what Africa flaunts so graciously well with its especially unique lifestyle and traditions that corresponds to the amazing offerings of its land like the ancient civilization of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. Celebrations on anything under the sun are a quintessentially happy aspect of African lifestyle where colour, music, and food never run short, as a celebration of manhood or even of hunger (Homowo), of atrocities and misdeeds, disease and death.

So, the World Cup 2010 was pretty mega-psyched if you can imagine. But, Africa “away from the crowds” is also a fantastic possibility in this colossal tourist paradise. Even in the most crowded of places as the Victoria Falls, there sure to be a lightly trudged path with plenty of elbow room like the Devil’s Pool, knowing how much actually would dare and flail at the edge of the falls. The Busanga Plains in Zambia is one of the untouched locations for wildlife sightseeing. An alternative travel itinerary would thus include some canoeing safari, mountain climbing, sandboarding, diving, surfing, and even banana boating in South Africa. Whatever state, budget, and pleasure, Africa won’t let the traveller out of the continent without a smile and a memory to last for life.


So with this deconstruction of African, one of the travel concerns you’ll itch to get on is costs. Travelling to Africa is no piece of pie. As if visas aren’t hard enough to acquire, the traveller requires a visa for almost every country while a global visa which is called visa de l’entente for Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Tongo, and Niger is even more difficult to come by, though at only €40 or $50. U.S. passport holders require no visas for Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Kenya.When voyage the African continent, visas could become pricey bit. Still, the airfare would have to be one of the most extravagant flight expenses in the world.

Flying to Egypt, Morocco, or Tunisia from the U.S. would set the traveller back some $1,000, and to most other African destinations, $1400 max. Key is to book flights a couple of months prior the intended trip, not only because this may save you some $$$ but, also, flights fill up quicker with less airlines servicing the continent from the U.S. in particular with countries of smaller tourist industries. Flying via Europe can be a strategic saver (save for London), looking at South Africa (etc.) which has extensive and systematic regional connections across Africa. Otherwise, just cruise on land.

Succinctly, travelling to Africa is no ideal backpacker excursion. Unlike in SEA, the more isolated the area is in Africa, more often than not, the more costly the food and lodging. In Africa, the daily costs include room, food, transportation, and extraneous expenses like internet, supplies, and toiletries. Food tags as much as in Europe and is twice as expensive as in the States. So, if the traveller is on the Southeast Asian Budget, there’s no such thing as a “tenner-a-day” in Africa. After all, the African safari is billed as “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.


Backpacking Africa

Backpacking Addictz looks at Backpacking Africa.

Joshua Boorman

Joshua Boorman

Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
Joshua Boorman