Three African adventures
From alien-looking igloos in Tanzania to exploring Ethiopia's Lake Tana, Chris Carter looks at three unusual places to visit in Africa.
The "alien igloos" that make up the new lodge from respected South Africa-based safari company Asilia, in the highlands of northern Tanzania, aren't to everybody's taste. They are "a little too at odds with the ancient land rising up around them", says Kate Eshelby in The Independent. But once you get used to the contemporary design, "there is much to love" such as the relative peace and quiet, for instance, compared with the "tourist hullabaloo that concentrates around the country's famous Ngorongoro Crater", 22km away to the southwest.
The Highlands lodge sits within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a Unesco World Heritage Site and home to the wildlife that wanders freely among the Maasai, who number 50,000 here and make up a large percentage of the lodge's staff. "The majesty of these highlands is made all the more beautiful by this distinct and colourful culture."
Tanzania Odyssey (020-8704 1216) organises trips to the Highlands camp from US$760 per person per night.
The Hwange National Park in northern Zimbabwe is "real Africa", guide Nyengedzai Kazangizi tells the FT's Lisa Grainger. If anything, says Grainger, Kazangizi underplays just how wild it is. On our first morning, our tent exit is blocked by five elephants with calves. Later, "canoeing on the Zambezi, a large male hippo swims aggressively towards us, forcing us to paddle hurriedly into the shallows, into which two large crocodiles have just slithered".
"If the Manhattan honeymooners with whom we're sharing the camp were thrilled at seeing a giraffe, zebra and buffalo on their first day, their adrenalin is flowing by bedtime." Matetsi River Lodge is "the first truly contemporary lodge in Zimbabwe", located just 38 km from Victoria Falls. Beyond the 18 rooms, there are comforts aplenty, including a gym and spa. And tourism is a desperately needed part of Zimbabwe's troubled economy. "We don't need tourists today, we need them yesterday," one guide told Grainger.
Expert Africa has a nine-day trip to Zimbabwe from £5,099 per person, including three nights each at Matetsi River Lodge.
"I never expected anything like Lake Tana," says Ginanne Brownell Mitic in The Wall Street Journal. It is Ethiopia's largest lake, and within its "copper-coloured" waters are 37 islands, "many of which shelter centuries-old churches and monasteries filled with brilliantly coloured frescoes and paintings". It's no wonder Unesco declared it a biosphere reserve last year. Arriving at Bahir Dar, the largest city on the lake, I was champing at the bit to see the Blue Nile waterfall, says Mitic. The cascading water, known as Tis Abay ("Smoke on the Nile") in the local Amharic language, pours down a 147-foot rock face to the waiting hippos below.
Also on the banks of the lake is Kuriftu Resort and Spa, "the finest hotel of my trip". It has a "large pool and stone-and-wood cottages decorated with locally made furniture", while the wood-panelled dining room overlooks the water and serves "excellent" food. Just be sure to stick around for thelocal coffee.
A tour of South Africa's street art
Gummie is a South African app that allows users to pick from dozens of unique experiences from foodie tours to township visits, to swimming with sharks, says the BBC's Gabriella Mulligan. It's just one of a number of tech-led businesses that are transforming tourism in South Africa.
Two of the most popular offerings are a walking tour of the graffiti in Cape Town, and a bicycle ride around Johannesburg. "Africa in general, and South Africa in particular, has an incredibly diverse tourism market", notes founder Ksenia Mardina. The app's popularity, she says, "reflects a trend of growing interest for African urban culture and street art".