Mandela statue, Cape Town; © South Africa Tourism
There are plenty of travel lists out there with insight on where to go in 2018, but if you’re planning to come to Africa, Acacia Africa’s top 10 is one you won’t want to miss. The tour operator compiled predictions from over 20 expert sources, including bloggers, travel publications and online media, to discover the best destinations to visit in southern and east Africa, and asked Instagram to give the final word.
Mozambique is home to some of Africa’s best dive locations, Tofo’s hippy, laid-back ambiance appeals to both the backpacker crowd and Instagrammers. Kristin Addis, CEO of Be My Travel Muse, said in a recent CNN Travel article (20 Holiday Destinations The Experts Say Not To Miss), "There was very little online about this coastal country in southern Africa,” which proves Mozambique is still one of the regions best kept secrets. Acacia Africa’s 14 day Mozambique & Zimbabwe Explorer visits Tofo, Vilanculos and Xai-Xai.
A great time to go, this year, Bazaruto National Park will be getting an eco-overhaul, the conservation NGO African Parks (which manages more than a dozen protected areas in eight other countries on the continent) recently signied an agreement to take over the management of the park for 25 years. Their emphasis will be on creating a conservation-led economy where eco-initiatives benefit local communities.
Right now interest in gorilla viewing is at an all time high. Nat Geo’s three part documentary Secrets In The Mist, which aired in December, was made honour of the 50th anniversary of Dian Fossey’s work, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of Gorillas In The Mist, the 1988 biopic narrated by Sigourney Weaver. With permits in short supply, booking early is a must, as places for this activity are limited for reasons of conservation and if you're looking to travel to Bwindi impenetrable Park (above), the race is already on - permits for Uganda currently half the price of those in neighbouring Rwanda. Book yourself on the NEW nine-day trip to The gorillas overland itinerary, the tour including gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, chimp trekking in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, and optional white water rafting and volunteering at Jinja.
If you want to feel the full force of “The Smoke That Thunders,” travel in May and June. In Acacia’s Instagram poll, the natural wonder was pipped at the post by South Luangwa, the Zambian national park said to be the birthplace of the original walking safari.
Zimbabwe secured seventh place, but in the post-Mugabe era, Acacia claims it could well climb even further up the popularity polls. Hwange National Park is home to an estimated 50,000 elephants, many of which are in breeding herds as large as 300. Add in 100 different kinds of mammals (including endangered wild dogs, above) and around 500 bird species, plus little competition for vantage points, and it’s a no=brainer for Africa fans. Obviously, no trip here would be complete without seeing the largest falling curtain of water in the world. Starting and ending at the Victoria Falls, the seven day Southern Africa Safari includes two game drives in the Hwange National Park.
Iconic Africa, the Serengeti is home to the greatest wildlife show on Earth - Tanzania’s premier national park playing host to the migratory herds in the early part of the year. Ideal if your Africa bucket list is on a budget, skip Africa’s dry season and catch the wildebeests in the Serengeti from January through March. In calving season the chance of witnessing a wildebeest birth is high and you can be assured of plenty of predator interaction.
This is a country where overland overcomes the solo challenges of getting around. The ninth largest lake in the world, Lake Malawi (above) is a diver’s paradise, but the time to go is now. If you’re looking for crowd-free beaches ,its golden sands won’t stay that way for long - the popular Lake of Stars festival celebrating its 15th birthday in 2018. Rachel of The Taylor Made Travels says "It might not boast any bucket list-worthy attractions, but that doesn’t mean Malawi isn't magical,”- and according to Acacia, being relatively undiscovered is all part of its allure. Dive into Malawi on our 22-day Zanzibar, Victoria Falls & Kruger Park.
Want to visit places where time stands still? Then you’re one of the world’s new timeless travellers. Yes, going to places where you can feel the absence of progress is now a thing. Namibia does vast expanses of stunning, untouched landscapes like no other African country, which also makes it one of the most popular overland destinations for solo travellers. Sossusvlei (above) is an Insta-hit - climbing dunes, which are amongst the highest in the world, a bucket list photo op. Etosha National Park came a close second, and with eight months of wildlife viewing, you can still get your game on before the year is out. Visit both on our 11-day Cape Desert Safari.
Botswana’s got green travel going on, and with 2018 being tipped as the year sustainable travel goes big, the "Gem of Africa" will be a stellar safari choice. The Okavango Delta (above) and Chobe National Park took Acacia's coveted hotspots, and since the now engaged, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, are firm fans of Africa’s last wetland wilderness, a possible honeymoon could see the delta’s popularity sky rocket. More of a real steal than royal, Acacia Africa’s prices make Botswana a bargain. Visit Chobe and the delta on the nine-day Best of Botswana.
The UK currently tops the list of international arrivals to Kenya, the world-renowned Masai Mara and the chance to book front row seats to the Annual Migration, a major drawcard for first time safari-goers. The game reserve is clearly still a top contender in the insta-stakes, and combined with Diani Beach - journeys to Kenya’s coastline made even easier by the new Standard Gauge Railway - Kenya secured the number two spot on Acacia’s “best of” list.
With the Obamas rumoured to be heading to Nairobi next year, Acacia claim interest in Africa’s Wildlife Capital could also surge in 2018. Sources say the former president might be planning a June trip, his proposed itinerary including a visit to the African Heritage House, the Pan-African art museum home to American designer and architect Alan Donovan. Once described as “the most photographed house in Africa," Donovan’s residence is only a 20-minute drive from the centre of Nairobi. Combine a four-day, small-group safari in the Mara, with Acacia Africa’s new three-day Nairobi Park Stay, the itinerary including a game drive in Nairobi National Park, Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage visit (above), return airport transfers, all food and drink and twin-share, ensuite accommodation at a tented camp (inside Nairobi National Park).
1. SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa has been busting the bucket lists recently, the Rainbow Nation landing a much coveted spot on Lonely Planet’s top 10 Best Countries To Visit In 2018. Its diverse landscape and favourable exchange rate were just some of the reasons to go, South Africa’s many attractions likely to be bolstered by Nelson Mandela Centenary 2018: Be the Legacy, a programme of events aimed at honouring the legendary leader. Cape Town and Kruger National Park were hotspots, with the Mother City the jumping off point for Robben Island (where Mandela served 18 years of his 27 year sentence) and the perfect place to feel the Madiba buzz post your Big 5 safari.