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Top Africa Travel Destinations for 2016

By Bidvest Bank
2015 was a volatile one in terms of the Rand exchange rate as well as South Africa’s economy in general. Does that mean that foreign leisure travel is now an unattainable luxury for South Africans? While it is true that many traditionally popular European and American destinations are now out of reach due to the expense involved, there are still plenty of other more affordable countries to explore – many of them right on our very own continent. In the spirit of a frugal year to come for South African consumers, here are our picks for the top African travel destinations for 2016: 

1. Madagascar 

A recently stabilised political climate means that tourism in Madagascar is growing – and it’s no wonder why. Compared to many other island destinations, Madagascar is relatively undeveloped and unspoilt, not to mention unique: the island has 8000 species of animals not found anywhere else in the world, including nearly 60 species of lemur. The country is a nature lover’s paradise, from mountainous landscapes, lush tropical rainforests, desert canyons, unpopulated beaches and pristine coral reefs – Madagascar has it all, along with plenty of luxury resorts where you can relax in style. Also, the bonus is that you’re unlikely to bump into hordes of fellow tourists who frequent better-known island destinations.

2. Uganda

Uganda is no stranger to the international tourism scene, largely due to the endangered silverback mountain gorillas found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in South Western Uganda. Another top attraction is chimpanzee trekking in the Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest and Kyambura Gorge. But Uganda is becoming known for much more than just these two endangered primate species: its natural beauty is an attraction in its own right. Its network of rivers and lakes – including Africa’s biggest, Lake Victoria – mean that there’s plenty to do and explore.  Trek the Rwenzori mountain range, go white water rafting on the Nile, or relax on a secluded beach on one of Lake Victoria’s islands.  As a bonus, Uganda is not as popular as Kenya and Tanzania – so it’s a more low-key African travel destination that gives you better value for your Rand. 

3. Gabon

A relatively small African country found on the West coast, Gabon lies across the equator, which means you’ll enjoy favourable weather no matter when you go. As opposed to its more volatile neighbours like Cameroon and the DRC, Gabon is relatively stable and peaceful politically, which makes it an attractive option as far as African travel destinations go. The Gabon government is invested in building tourism here, which has resulted in protected marine reserves and national parks that are perfectly unspoilt. With over 85% of the country covered in tropical forests, you’ll encounter lagoons, rivers, beaches and more – as well as wildlife with the western lowland gorillas and forest elephants a definite highlight. If you’re looking for a taste of city life, make a stop in Libreville, Gabon’s capital city with its museums, palaces, and restaurants serving its signature French-influenced cuisine. 

4. Botswana

Lonely Planet voted Botswana the top place to travel to in 2016, and National Geographic Traveller included the Okavango Delta on their list of best trips this year, making this one of the must-see African destinations of 2016. The Delta is a complex network of waterways that’s home to a huge ecosystem including the Big Five, and was recently recognised as Unesco’s 1000th World Heritage Site. Botswana has a progressive stance on conservation: besides the fact that hunting is banned in the country, there’s been a significant investment in ecotourism, which means you’ll encounter huge stretches of savannah landscape teeming with bird, plant and animal life. You can go on the trip of a lifetime at many luxury camps or choose something a bit friendlier on your wallet if you’re on a budget. 

5. Gambia

The Gambia offers great value for money and is still relatively undiscovered as an African travel destination. It’s a small country relative to most others on the continent, but that doesn’t mean it’s got any less to offer. It’s perfect for a relaxed holiday doing almost nothing on one of its many beaches, but you can also venture away from your beach resort to quaint fishing villages, nature reserves and historic slave stations. For an extra dose of West African culture and history, pass through the capital of Banjul, a port city known for its well-worn colonial architecture and vibrant markets selling anything and everything. 

Planning a trip to one of these Africa travel destinations in 2016?  Bidvest Bank offers a range of cash notes in over 60 different currencies. Find out more.