Off the beaten track experiences in Africa offer an incredible opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, history, and the natural beauty of this vast and diverse continent. From the Sahara Desert to Lake Victoria in east Africa, there are countless lesser known wonders waiting to be explored by adventurous travelers. From the Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda to the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, here is a compiled list of off the beaten track experiences in Africa that merit a spot on your travel bucket list.
The Great Migration, Tanzania
The Great Migration is a truly spectacular phenomenon that takes place annually across the plains of East Africa. Every summer, vast herds of wildebeest and zebra make their way north, following the rains to the rich grasslands of the Serengeti in Tanzania. This 800-kilometer trek is the largest mammal migration on earth.
Serengeti National Park is the ideal place to witness this wildlife spectacle, providing a truly amazing view as millions of animals cross rivers and traverse vast plains on their journey. Observing one of nature’s most stunning phenomena is an incredible sight to behold.
Gorilla Trekking-Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC
Gorilla trekking is another off the beaten path experience in Africa unlike any other and can only be done in very few places throughout the world. Mountain gorillas are only found in 3 countries: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All three countries offer the opportunity to watch these gentle giants in their natural habitat.
As you trek through the lush greenery and encounter these magnificent creatures up close, it’s an experience that will stay with you forever. In addition to gorilla trekking, all three countries offer a wealth of other natural wonders and cultural experiences to discover, making them fantastic destinations for any adventurous traveler.
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya is an incredible wildlife sanctuary that has been a model and catalyst for conservation since 1995. Spanning 65,00 acres of wilderness, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, a world heritage site, is well known for having a large population of white and black rhinos in Kenya.
With dramatic views of snow-capped Mt. Kenya, its vast open landscapes, and abundant wildlife, it’s easy to see why this conservancy is so special. Visitors can explore the wilderness on horseback, by air, or on foot, and learn about the animals and their habitats alongside experienced conservationists. It’s definitely a must-visit destination for anyone interested in an off the beaten track experience in Africa.
Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is an active volcanic wonder, offering an awe-inspiring experience for travelers. The 3,470-meter (11,385-foot)-high stratovolcano, located in the Virunga Mountains of the Albertine region, has been active for centuries and is one of the few places on Earth where lava lakes can be seen.
The most recent eruption of the stratovolcano occurred on May 22, 2021. Trekking around Mount Nyiragongo is a great way to explore its rugged landscape while also taking in some of the spectacular wildlife in the Virunga National Park. There’s plenty to discover around this mysterious mountain, making it a must-visit destination for both adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts.
Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania
Located west of Tanzania, Mahale Mountains National Park is a remote area and one of the least frequented national parks, along with neighboring Katavi National Park. Named after the Mahale Mountains, it is situated on the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika. The park is home to chimpanzees as well as numerous species of birds and reptiles, making it a great spot for wildlife lovers. It is one of two protected areas for chimpanzees in the country.
The best way to get to Mahale Mountains National Park is by air or boat from Kigoma or one of the other northern settlements. The park’s isolation makes car travel difficult as there are no official roads serving the area, but the opportunity to observe these incredible creatures up close makes the trip worthwhile.
The Skeleton Coast National Park, Namibia
The Skeleton Coast National Park in northwest Namibia is a remote and mysterious destination that beckons adventurers from all over the world. It’s an area of stark, rugged beauty and harsh desert conditions, with sand dunes and shipwrecks dotting the coastline. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, jackals, and cheetahs.
The park also provides a haven for endangered species such as the black rhino and desert-adapted elephants. Visitors can enjoy activities such as game viewing and bird watching. With its unique landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the Skeleton Coast National Park is one of Africa’s most intriguing destinations for travelers looking for something off the beaten path.
Rubondo Island National Park, Tanzania
Rubondo Island National Park is one of Tanzania’s two major Islands National Parks, situated in the south-western corner of Lake Victoria. It is the continent’s largest island national park. The park has an astonishing 75 percent coverage of rainforest, making it a paradise for both wildlife and bird lovers alike.
The island is a haven for wild chimpanzees, Sitatunga antelopes, elephants, and giraffes. It’s the perfect destination for travelers seeking an exciting variety of safari activities. Visitors have the opportunity to experience a fishing safari, game drives, and a canoeing safari. Rubondo Island National Park is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed!
The Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
The Danakil Depression in northern Ethiopia is an extraordinary sight of barren desert, sulfur springs, volcanoes, geysers, acidic pools, massive salt pans, and mineral-rich lakes, produced by the separation of three tectonic plates. Located in the Afar region and extending into Djibouti and Eritrea, it is one of the most unique places on the African continent.
Danakil is approximately 410 feet (125 meters) below sea level and is one of the hottest and most inhospitable places on Earth, with temperatures averaging 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.5 degrees Celsius). It is famous for its volcanoes, its harsh environment, and its geological structures.
It is often referred to as an “alien landscape” because of the orange, yellow, and green deposits produced as a result of the volcanic activity. The only way to explore the Danakil Depression is on a guided tour. Trekking through the Danakil Depression is a fascinating off the beaten path experience in Africa.
Kafue National Park, Zambia
Kafue National Park in Zambia is an incredible destination for safari-goers who are looking to explore lesser-known wonders. This park is about the same size as Wales and is one of the largest and oldest parks in Zambia. Located in the western part of the country, it covers an area of 22,400 square kilometers. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, cheetahs, antelopes, and a variety of bird species.
The park also serves as an important part of the wildlife conservation effort in Zambia. Visitors to Kafue National Park can explore the diverse landscape on foot or by car and enjoy game drives to see the abundant wildlife. The park also offers activities such as fishing and canoeing on its many rivers and lakes. With its stunning beauty and variety of activities, Kafue National Park is an ideal destination for visitors seeking an unforgettable African safari experience.
Sahara Desert, Tunisia
Lastly, the Sahara desert in Tunisia is also a rewarding off the beaten track experience in Africa. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Sahara desert stretches across 9 other nations, including Western Sahara: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, and Sudan.
One can explore small towns and an amphitheater in El Jem, take a camel ride around the Sahara Desert, or go on a jeep safari through barren landscapes. Also, visitors can see Chott el Djerid, the largest salt pan in the Sahara Desert. In addition to visiting the Sahara desert, visitors can also trek the stunning red rock formations of Sidi Bouhlel, commonly known as Star Wars canyon, where multiple Star Wars movies were filmed.
“Take memories only, leave footprints behind.”