YOLO. You only live once. Though the phrase itself has been attributed to Mae West, the acronym has become a fashionable modern mantra for those who want to enjoy their life to the fullest, to do everything and anything, whatever the risks. It’s essentially the digital generation’s equivalent of carpe diem, seize the day.
Unlike their predecessors, the digital generation are fortunate enough to have a vast range of sources of information that can help them decide how and where they plan to do their ‘YOLOing’. Type in “things to do before you die” on Google and you’ll see what I mean.
However, type in “things to do in Africa before you die” and you’ll see a comparative dearth of results, despite all that the continent has to offer. So here’s my attempt to even out the scales a little, with my cream of the crop of African YOLO experiences.
The majestic Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, the highest free-standing mountain in the world and one of the world’s “Great 7 summits”. Found in Tanzania just south of the Kenyan border, this dormant volcano towers over the surrounding landscapes, its snow-capped peak in stark contrast to the lush green vegetation below. A large part of Kilimanjaro’s popularity stems from the fact that it can be summited without technical gear or extreme fitness, though that’s certainly not to say it’s for the faint-hearted. Kilimanjaro Experience offers the broadest range of different routes and allows you to choose either a scheduled climb or, if you really want to take YOLO to a whole new level, you can book a private climb for you and your partner and get down on one knee on the roof of Africa.
Witness the Great Migration
Often referred to as “The Greatest Show on Earth”, the annual migration of two million animals from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the northern plains of Kenya’s Masaai Mara is unlike anything else you’ll see. Anywhere. Ever. Comprising predominantly wildebeest but also including zebra and buffalo, the Great Migration is one of the Seven New Wonders of the World and draws tens of thousands of visitors from all over the globe. It’s an awe-inspiring, action-packed and sometimes tragic affair, with many of the migrating animals becoming prey for the numerous Nile crocodiles as they cross the Mara River. To get the most out of this special experience, book with Expert Africa and your luxury tented camp will move daily according to the position of the migration.
Visit Victoria Falls
Over the years this incredible natural wonder has exhausted all the superlatives in the dictionary in attempts to describe it, but none manage to do it justice. You have to see it for yourself. Known to locals as “Mosi Oa Tunya” – The Smoke That Thunders, you can see the spray from the falls rising high above the deep gorge from literally miles away. Once your jaw has returned to its usual position and your eyes have stopped popping out of your head, sign up for some of the unprecedented number of adrenaline activities on offer in and around the falls, and then enjoy a drink on the banks of the Zambezi at the decadent colonial-themed Royal Livingstone, whilst zebra and giraffe graze on the perfectly manicured lawns behind you.
Trek with gorillas in the DRC
The sudden eruptions of violence and general instability that have sadly so-long been the norm in the eastern Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo have meant that it hasn’t often been on the radar for even the most adventurous of YOLOers. But peace has returned to the region and there is no better time to visit the pristine jungle wilderness of Virunga National Park, home to more wildlife species than almost anywhere on earth, including about a third of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. There can’t be many more exhilarating feelings than encountering one of these majestic animals on foot whilst trekking through the park. And if you book your trek as part of Africa Geographic Travel’s tailor-made package, you can also look into the lava-filled crater of an active volcano while you’re there.
Experience the ‘Mother City’
Cape Town and its surrounds are where the long, fascinating and often brutal history of Europeans in southern Africa began. Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck established the first small settlement in 1652. From those humble beginnings, Cape Town has grown into a vibrant, colourful and cosmopolitan city with a thriving arts scene and a number of the best restaurants, bars and coffee shops to be found anywhere on the African continent. With sea on all sides and Table Mountain presiding regally over the city, you’d also be hard-pushed to find a more naturally beautiful city anywhere in the world. For easy access to all of Cape Town’s best offerings, not to mention a first rate high tea, stay at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
Robert Bernatzeder is Managing Director at Biggestleaf Travel.