Adventure Travel in Africa That’s Not Safari

Pierre-Yves Babelon/Getty Images

From scuba diving to hiking to surfing—all at world-class levels—Africa is the ultimate destination for anything and everything adventure.

It was Rudyard Kipling who mused that “one cannot resist the lure of Africa.” He was right, particularly for adventure travelers. The world’s second largest continent is a choose-your-own-adventure destination that has something for every adrenaline-seeker. The safari is perhaps the first blockbuster African activity that comes to mind, but opportunities for wild journeys go far beyond stalking exotic animals.

The continent is geographically diverse beyond belief, home to superlatives galore like having the planet’s largest desert, its tallest freestanding mountain, its largest population of wild animals. Africa boasts white sand beaches, thick rainforests, snowy peaks, ancient cities, and even luxury hotels like the Four Seasons. The possibilities for adventure are varied endless, whether you’re looking to test your physical capabilities or just immerse yourself in the land where humanity began.


Peter Pinnock/Getty Images

Scuba dive in Benguerra Island, Mozambique

Scuba divers are bewitched by the waters of Mozambique’s Benguerra Island, and so, too, will you. Pack your bags and travel to Azura Benguerra, an intimate resort with just 16 thatched roof villas that will serve as your scuba headquarters while in Mozambique. The resort has all of the necessities for you to explore the glory of the Indian Ocean, including Scubapro gear at the Padi 5 star dive center, a training pool for beginners learning the sport, and a DAN-equipped diving catamaran. You'll spot dolphins, eels, rays, coral gardens, and turtles, among other marine creatures.


RapidEye/Getty Images

Surf in South Africa

Visiting the shores of South Africa is a dream for serious surfers. The country is full of incredible surf spots that draw professionals, major competitions, amateurs, and spectators alike. For beginners, head to Durban and get your bearings on the waves just before the Shaka Marine World theme park. On the Eastern Cape of the country is Jeffreys Bay, one of the best surf spots—not only in Africa but the world. Stay right at the Supertubes at J Bay Lodge, where you can get lessons, continental breakfasts, spot dolphins daily, visit the nearby surf museum or take off on one of their 10-day surf tours along the Garden Route.


Philip Lee Harvey/Cultura RM Exclusive/Getty Images

Cruise the Congo River

In the absolute heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo holds the world’s second largest rainforest that awaits your exploration. The Congolese subtropical rainforests span through six countries. To see a wide swath of the Congo, see it by boat. Congo Travel and Tours is one of the operators in the country that will take you on adventures like their Congo River Voyage, a 7-day expedition down the deepest river known to man. You’ll see river cities with palaces and skyscrapers, more remote forest tribes, the tangle of the surrounding rainforests, and more.


Menno Boermans/Getty Images

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Attempting the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is not for the faint of heart. Although the journey is relatively short for climbing a mountain (the world’s highest freestanding mountain, at that), it’s an intense mental and physical challenge. There’s no guarantee that even the fittest traveler will make it to the top, thanks to the effect altitude has on different people at different times. However, the harrowing adventure is worth the struggle, promising otherworldly views of Tanzania. Trekkers travel through five different climate zones, including mystical rain forest and pristine arctic landscape, as they ascend to the “Roof of Africa".


Bartosz Hadyniak/Getty Images

Traverse Ethiopia

Cave monasteries, tribal villages, bustling markets, fossils––Ethiopia is a land of many treasures for the traveler channeling Indiana Jones. On Kensington Tour's Complete Ethiopian Adventure, you'll see it all. With its Orthodox Christian heritage, Ethiopia has fascinating cultural sites like underground churches with cathedrals carved into lava rocks, medieval castles. Legend has it that the Ark of the Covenant, the golden chest containing the Ten Commandments, is here in Axum. Ethiopia’s contemporary culture is captivating as well. Visit terraced coffee farms, see the intricate body art of the Karo people in Murulle, cattle farmers of Yabello, the Mursi women decorated with clay lip plates.


Reinhard Dirscherl/Getty Images

Snorkel with whale sharks in Djibouti

Djibouti is one of Africa’s smaller countries, but don’t let its small size distract you. It has mountains, whale sharks, and lakes. Start your journey in Djibouti City to get an introduction to the country’s diverse ethnic community. The varied backgrounds come through in the food. You can taste the combination of French, Yemeni, Afar, Somali and South Asian influences. Then join a tour, like Intrepid Travel's 11-day trek through Djibouti that covers snorkeling with whale sharks in the Bay of Ghoubbet, hiking to the top of the Ardoukoba Volcano, and sleeping in tents under the stars.


Dave Carr/Getty Images

Trek through Northwest Madagascar

More than 90% of the wildlife found in the Republic of Madagascar is unique to the island nation itself. That means in order to see it, you have to go to Madagascar, giving you just one reason to visit this unique gem in the Indian Ocean. Responsible Travel hosts a two-week expedition through the northwest part of the country, taking you through an epic itinerary that includes caves, tropical dry forest, red highlands, white sand beaches, mountains, and rivers. You’ll be trekking, paddling, trekking some more, and ending the adventure at a beach bungalow in Sakalava. Throughout the journey, you’ll stay in a variety of accommodations like camps, bungalows, hotels and tree huts.


John Seaton Callahan/Getty Images

Kayak, Surf, and SUP in Taghazout, Morocco

For more surfing opportunities in Africa, visit Morocco’s famed southern coast. Taghazout is an up-and-coming destination that will meet all of your surfing needs. Once a fishing village, Taghazout is easy to reach by flying into Agadir and making the easy drive to this surf paradise. Anchor Point boasts barrel waves while Killer Point is the region’s beloved point break. Stay at Tadenga Surf Village where you can supplement your surf adventure with yoga classes and excellent food.


Mark Hannaford/Getty Images

Camp in the Namib Desert

The name Namib means "vast place" in the Khoekhoe language, and you’ll understand why the Namib Desert got its name when you see its endless expanse of red sand. One of the oldest deserts in the world, the Namib is a diverse coastal desert that can promise freezing nights and scorching days. Take in the magic of it all with Nomad Africa Adventure Tours 7-day Desert Explorer that travels through Namibia and South Africa. You’ll climb deep red dunes, traverse quiver tree forests, dip into hot springs, canoe the Orange River, and soak in cultural experiences like visiting a Rooibos tea farm.

American Express Platinum Card® Members receive complimentary Fine Hotels & Resorts® benefits when they book with American Express Travel. Terms Apply.