• Colorful beach huts, Cape Town, South Africa Colorful beach huts, Cape Town, South Africa
  • View of Mt Kilimanjaro from Amboseli, Kenya View of Mt Kilimanjaro from Amboseli, Kenya
  • Stalking African Leopard, Kenya Stalking African Leopard, Kenya
  • Elephant drinking, Okavango Delta, Botswana Elephant drinking, Okavango Delta, Botswana
  • The island of Zanzibar, Tanzania The island of Zanzibar, Tanzania

Travel Guide to Sub-Saharan Africa

While most people associate Sub-Saharan Africa with safaris, there are endless other possibilities for adventure. You can explore the Sahara with a Tuareg caravan, visit pygmy villages, hike through the jungle to track gorillas, relax on tropical islands, snack on monkey or python, and much more.

Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

The West generally assumes the region is an isolated centre of war, poverty and famine. But Sub-Saharan Africa is a vast region with many bustling metropolises. Its people are friendly, the vistas are stunning, and the wildlife is abundant. 

A region of challenges

There is some truth to the West's assumptions and there's no denying the region encompasses most of the world's poorest nations. This certainly isn't helped by rampant corruption, tribal warfare and persistent health issues.

Sub-Saharan Africa

However, despite the hardship, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the brightest smiles and happiest faces. First-time travellers will wonder why the developed world is so gloomy and sterile in comparison. But that's the beauty of travelling anywhere in Africa, it's an exercise in adding colour and perspective to life.

Sub-Saharan Africa | Must See

There's always so much to see, but so little time. Here are a few must-see cities to add to your next itinerary.

Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos is a port city with an urban population of contentious size. A recent census quoted a total of just over 7 million people, while other sources suggest a figure closer to 17 million. If you get the chance to visit, you'll likely side with the latter figure.

Lagos

Lagos city is known for its marketplaces, music and nightlife. Crime is rife, but intrepid travellers using commonsense are unlikely to run into trouble. If anything, they will probably leave the city strangely in love and ready to return.

Cape Town, South Africa

The Mother City of South Africa is easily recognised in pictures by her stunning location. She has sand, water, cityscape, and even a table-topped mountain. But you don't need to be in this city for long to realise that the scars of apartheid run deep. 

Cape Town

There are many single- and multi-day tours that introduce visitors to the real Cape Town. And you better be prepared. The city has a shocking crime rate, which is somewhat explained by the obvious division of wealth. Nonetheless, it's a place of rewarding experiences, profound lessons, and warm people.

Nairobi, Kenya

The city of Nairobi is chaotic, dangerous and unfettered. And for many who use it is as hub to seemingly more exotic locales, that's the impression that lasts. But for those with a sense of adventure, Nairobi can be supremely rewarding.

Nairobi

As far as African cities go, Nairobi is an economic powerhouse. And somewhat surprisingly, if you put aside its haunting underbelly, you get wafts of cosmo-chic. It has culture, it has cafes, and it has an amazing nightlife. If you manage to keep your guard up, your wherewithal will pay handsome dividends.

Sub-Saharan Africa | Must Do

The road less travelled is rarely in plain sight. But these must-do activities are sure to get you on the right track.

Safari

Sub-Saharan Africa is known for its safaris for good reason; many of its game parks are larger than entire European nations. The Masai Mara, Serengeti and Kruger National Parks are all popular for spotting the "big five": Lions, Elephants, Buffalo, Rhinos and Leopards. 

Safari

However, the Ngorongoro Crater is worth a special mention because it's a concentrated microcosm of the vast Serengeti. Its 600m high walls create a natural amphitheatre for the densest population of large animals anywhere on Earth.

Gorilla Tracking

There are few wildlife experiences that compare to tracking a family of mountain gorillas through the thick, tropical rainforests of Central Africa. With about 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, seeing them in the wild is something only a few people will ever have the chance to experience.

Gorilla Tracking

The trek to where the gorilla groups live takes you through very dense vegetation, up steep slopes and can last several hours. Even though the gorillas you'll meet are habituated to humans, the experience can get pretty hairy. Many groups report gorillas charging, stomping and sometimes biting.

City Hopping

You may think the road-less-travelled doesn't go through large cities, and normally, you'd be right. But African cities aren't your average cities. They're unbridled, menacing and perilous. And while they may prove hard to crack, the reward is worth it.

City Hopping

Working your way around Sub-Saharan Africa, visiting city centres, and making friends with locals, is an epic adventure in itself. We suggest Cape Town, Nairobi, Lagos, Dakar, Kinshasa, Abuja and Dar es Salam. Just remember to pack your street smarts.

Sub-Saharan Africa | Must Try

If you want more than sights, sounds and smells, give the place a good taste test. Check out these must-try local favourites.

The Gatsby

Imagine a metre-long sandwich stuffed with curried meat, potato chips, gravy, lettuce, tomato and cucumber. That's the Gatsby, a cardiac arrest personified. 

Gatsby

You may be wondering, what's the purpose of such an artery-clogging foodstuff. Well, it's Cape Town's answer to the donor kebab or chicken hero, only much more sinister. If you manage to finish one, expect a "food coma" for the rest of the day.

Pineapple

There are many forces that make pineapple taste better in Africa. It all starts with the heat, humidity and processed Western food. It's not too long in these conditions that your body starts craving some fresh and wholesome goodness.

Pineapple

The bonus is that street vendors sell big succulent pineapples for an absolute pittance. Which doesn't make sense since it tastes so much better than everything else. The real challenge is finding a knife big enough for the job of peeling, cutting and devouring the flesh of this delicious fruit.

Kilimanjaro Beer

After seven long and arduous days climbing to almost 6000m (sans shower, sans soap and sans civilisation), you know you've earned a cold one. But never fear: what the mountain taketh away, the mountain giveth back. And on Mt Kili, the reward is Kilimanjaro Premium Lager.

Kilimanjaro

Apparently this mountain amber has "apple fruitiness up front, followed by a scent of boiled vegetables and some harsh, undefined adjuncts." But, forget the undefined adjuncts, as long as it's icy cold, you'll be reaching for many more. 

Vital Stats

Region Info Sub-Saharan Africa
Population 664.2 million
Highest Altitude 5,892 m
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania 19,331 ft
Lowest Altitude -0 m
Lagos Island, Nigeria -1 ft
Lowest Temperature -18.6 °C
Buffelsfontein, South Africa (2005) -1.5 °F
Highest Temperature 51.7 °C
Kalahari Desert (1948) 125.1 °F

Travel Trivia

The Carstensz Pyramid, or Puncak Jaya, is the shortest of the Seven Summits. It also has the highest...

Trivia: The Carstensz Pyramid, or Puncak Jaya, is the shortest of the Seven Summits. It also has the highest...

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