Clients will often overnight in African gateways before heading on to the beach, a safari or other destinations on onward itineraries. Exploring these vast urban expanses can be a daunting prospect for some visitors unfamiliar with the destination. However, with pre-planning they can offer an exciting experience as well as a great insight into authentic local culture. We outline where to stay and what to do in four African urban hubs.
For first-time visitors to South Africa – and even Africa as a continent – Cape Town is often the first stop.
John Parker, southern Africa product manager at Premier Holidays, recommends a short city break, spending a couple of nights in Cape Town followed by a visit to the South African winelands region and ending the trip at a game reserve in the Eastern Cape.
He says: “I’d suggest spending two or three nights in the city staying at the four-star Cape Town Hollow, which is centrally located for clients to visit the V&A Waterfront – a must for any itinerary – and Table Mountain, where they can take a cable car to the top. To get a feel for the area’s history, suggest a hop over to Robben Island for a tour of the jail buildings where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned – but book in advance. Clients can also do a Walk to Freedom tour, following in the footsteps of local communities to see where and how past and present generations lived or existed during the days of apartheid and today.
“The city combines perfectly with the winelands region; the best way to explore the area is a self-drive as it is only 30-45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, and from here clients can drive back to the city to fly on to the beautiful Eastern Cape for several nights at a malaria-free game reserve, around an hour and a half drive from Port Elizabeth airport.”
Book it: Premier Holidays has three nights in Cape Town, two nights in Stellenbosch and two nights at Kariega Game Reserve, for £1,999pp. Based on travel between July 1 and August 24.
With Ethiopian Airlines’ extensive and growing network across Africa, Addis Ababa makes a natural stopover destination for travellers heading onwards either within Ethiopia itself or further afield.
Louise Stanion, Africa product manager at Cox & Kings, says: “Addis is a great place to break a journey and experience some real African culture; the Merkato is a fantastic open-air market and the National Museum is definitely worth visiting with the Lucy skeleton – a 3.2 million-year-old fossilised collection of bones – on display.
Stanion says clients travelling with Cox & Kings have the added reassurance that all of its tours are in a private car with a guide and driver. She adds that while they would always advise taking the precautions that you would in any big city, Addis feels “very safe”.
She highlights that it’s worth thinking outside the box in the wider context of African itineraries too. “Ethiopian Airlines has just launched a new route from Addis to Victoria Falls, so this could make a very interesting – although not very obvious – twin-centre trip.”
Book it: Cox & Kings has three nights in Addis Ababa from £1,245pp including London flights with Ethiopian Airlines, transfers, a city tour and B&B accommodation.
Visitors to Kenya’s capital can enjoy a taste of indigenous culture on even a very short stay in the city. Intrepid’s Urban Adventures has the In Focus: A Day with the Maasai tour, run in partnership with non-profit organisation One Horizon Africa.
Departing Monday to Saturday at 9am, clients travel to the Ngong Hills to learn about the culture of the Maasai tribe. Tribeswomen will show them how to make traditional jewellery and they can join in with singing and dancing festivities.
Andrew Turner, head of industry sales, Europe, Middle East and Africa at The Intrepid Group, says: “It’s a great option for clients looking to immerse themselves in the traditional culture of the country with only a short period
of time to do so. For clients looking to spend more than one day in the city, Urban Adventures also offers a Nairobi Experience, which visits the city’s most iconic sights and the chance to sample some of the best local cuisine.”
Turner says onward itineraries most popular with Intrepid’s customers include Madagascar, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro.
“Our 14-day Active Madagascar trip explores the incredible scenery and wildlife of the island by foot, bicycle and canoe whilst our four-day Zanzibar Beach Break takes in the idyllic beaches of the North Coast and explores the streets of Stone Town.”
Book it: The In Focus: A Day with the Maasai tour starts from £109pp departing Monday-Saturday at 9am. Active Madagascar is from £1,732pp and the Zanzibar Beach Break costs from £395pp.
Joburg is one of the largest 50 urban areas in the world, so navigating it may seem daunting to some customers. However, if you help them break it down into manageable chunks, there’s a wealth of cultural experiences to be had.
Jon Danks, head of marketing and communications for South African Airlines, which has its hub at the city’s OR Tambo International airport, says: “I regularly stay in Sandton, a cosmopolitan and lively area of Johannesburg. It’s located in the central business district and is home to many restaurants and bars. Sandton is a 20-minute ride on the Gautrain from OR Tambo International airport.
“I strongly recommend doing a trip out to Soweto. You can do a tour of the township that gives visitors a great understanding of the freedom struggle and the city’s emerging vibrant, urban culture. I’d also recommend a
trip to Vilakazi Street, home to both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.”
Visitors travelling into Johannesburg will often be heading on to a game reserve and Danks recommends Pilanesberg National Park.
“I’ve had some fabulous wildlife experiences in Pilanesberg. It’s non-malarial and very easy to access by car from Johannesburg with a great choice of accommodation.”
Book it: Rainbow Tours offers a six-night trip from £2,475pp including three nights’ B&B at The Peech, three nights’ full board at Garonga Safari Camp with transfers, and South African Airways flights.