When considering Africa as a holiday destination, it’s easy not think much further than ‘safari’. However, the continent is about even more than lions and elephants. There are many different cultures to explore and new customs to experience. With the Mediterranean Sea in the north, the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Indian Ocean in the east, Africa also has a rich maritime history with fascinating ports to visit on a cruise.
Visiting the ports of North Africa involves a cruise on the beautiful and calm Mediterranean Sea. Many cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises, offer Mediterranean packages that include visits to North African ports, including Tunis in Tunisia, Casablanca in Morocco and Alexandria in Egypt. Shore excursions give travelers the opportunity to visit ancient ruins, shop in colorful souks and experience the unique Arab-influenced cultures of this part of the continent. Some packages also include a voyage through the Suez Canal.
The ports of West Africa, including Dakar in Senegal, Banjul in The Gambia, Lome in Togo and Cotonou in Benin reveal an Africa that often boasts a French influence in a tropical climate. Traditional belief systems such as voodoo are common, yet cities such as Dakar are also surprisingly modern. Nature lovers will find several natural sights close to these ports of call, with the stunning pink Lac Rose-Retba near Dakar a particular highlight. West Africa is also a must for anybody with an interest in the history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, with sights such as the House of the Slaves on Senegal’s Gorée Island.
Southern Africa provides a host of different experiences, depending on the port of call. Shore excursions from Namibia’s Walvis Bay include German-colonial architecture and trips to the dunes of the Namib Desert. In South Africa’s Cape Town, visitors can enjoy excellent wine, the views from Table Mountain as well as two World Heritage Sites – Robben Island and the Cape Floral Region – in a multicultural setting with a Mediterranean climate. Durban, another major South African port, has a subtropical climate, Zulu culture and the largest expat Indian community in the world. Beach lovers will enjoy the clear waters and diving opportunities of Mauritius, Madagascar and Mozambique.
The ports of East Africa, especially those of Zanzibar in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya, have a history of trade that goes back long before the Europeans arrived. Arab influences can be seen in the ancient architecture but these bustling ports are also clearly African. Diving and snorkeling are popular pastimes and shore excursions may also include that quintessentially African experience, the safari, complete with lions and elephants.
A cruise around Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will open your eyes to a whole new world.
Image by Gary Bembridge, used under the Creative Commons license.