5 amazing solo travel experiences in Africa


February is typically the month of romance.  However, as I am personally not a big fan of so-called ‘Hallmark Holidays,’ it seems fitting to reflect on embracing solitude – while travelling.  There could be no better continent than African to find oneself (safely) alone amongst wild things.  Here are my reflections on five of the absolute best ways to fly solo in Africa.

1.  Road trip through Namibia

For anyone negotiating the frenetic pace typical of big cities, Namibia is the ideal place to unwind.  Solo travelers would need to be 4×4 savvy, but a road trip through this ancient desert could be one of the most gratifying and serene travel experiences of your life.  Vast tracts of untouched land await, with the warm wind blowing through your hair and your favorite soundtrack playing in the background.  Make stops at Sossusvlei, Spitzkoppe, and Damaraland for jaw-dropping landscapes, then head up to Etosha for incredible wildlife.  For the truly wild at heart, continue to the Caprivi Strip and the lush Kavango River and stay in the unfenced campsites of Mamili.

2.   Group game drives in the Serengeti

Serengeti National Park is an iconic African safari destination.  During the Great Migration, its vast tracts of savannah entice wildebeest to wander north and south in constant search of sustenance. For solo travellers exploring the Serengeti, choosing the right camp will ensure an experience balancing social time with solitude.  When flying in, most of the game drives are led by highly experienced guides in six-person open air game viewers, so the adventure is shared.  Dinners at these small camps are communal, so you also share stories over a drink by the fire and a delicious supper.  For the rest, there is ample leisure time to catch up with a good book and an afternoon nap.  Solitary travel heaven!

3.  Group climbs on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa, and the tallest free-standing single peak in the world.  It’s no wonder that active travellers flock from all corners of the globe to conquer Kili.  The mountain has an incredible diversity of landscapes, starting with a lush lowland are and eventually ascending to a barren and often snowy peak at 5,895 meters.  Kilimanjaro has the unique benefit of offering several routes so climbers can choose according to their level of fitness.  For solo travellers, most of the guiding companies offer group fixed departure dates, so the costs and the experience are shared and perhaps a few new friends can be made from diverse backgrounds.

4.  Railway journey through South Africa

Railway travel has made a serious comeback.  In South Africa, a fleet of luxury steam trains have been repurposed with modern amenities and classic décor.  Several railway routes are offered, either focusing on nature and safari or history and culture.  Solo travellers will love the long days spent watching the world go by, the fascinating curated stops, and the social drinks at the end of the day.

5.  Hiking the Green Mountain Trail

In the Western Cape (South Africa), several slackpacking trails offer unique access to the unbelievably beautiful backcountry.  The Green Mountain Trail adds a dimension of pared down luxury.  Hikers walk 11 to 18 kilometres every day, ending with a delicious gourmet meal and welcomed by a cosy bed in a small guest house.  The groups are small, and the hikes are guided biodiversity experts, promising an enriching and engaging experience for solo travelers.

This top five focuses on mostly active travel, so if you want to know about more serene ways to enjoy Africa, please let me know in the comments!

Willow Constantine is the Founder of Bespoke Safari Co. Bespoke Safari Co. is a boutique travel agency offering cutting edge curated travel experiences in Africa.

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Comments (16)

  1. Darius says:

    A road trip through Namibia sounds like one of those awesome once in a lifetime adventures. Though what exactly do you mean by 4 x 4 savvy? How challenging is it?

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Darius, that really depends on the route you take. If you want to self-drive right up to Sossusvlei dunes, you would need to know how to drive in the sand. But if you stick to the dirt tracks, you would just need to know how to change big tires and for the rest it’s mostly graded gravel roads.

  2. Jen Scott says:

    I’d second how amazing solo travelling is. Some people aren’t used to going for a meal, a drink or a film in the cinema on their own but even these things can be immensely satisfying. Travelling just takes it up a hundred notches because you’re relying on yourself and getting a huge sense of achievement, knowing you can deal with whatever problems crop up (there were quite a few when I’ve done it!) But you learn to trust yourself more and figure things out for yourself. And of course there’s also the time you get to simply switch off from the day to day and reflect. It’s very grounding, it’s like a hard reset on your mental health and it’s a liberating experience. I would say to try to be as prepared as possible because you want a positive experience, especially if it’s your first time going solo.

    I hadn’t thought of Namibia but I like the sound of going wild on a 4×4. A lot of these things, like the game drive or taking on Kilimanjaro, are going to mean you also get to meet new people and there are some I’ve met along the way that I’ve kept in touch with years later, so if you get the chance to do something as a small group then it’s worth trying.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Jen you are so right. Travel can be a wonderful shared experience, but there is something both rejuvenating and challenging about travelling on your own. And you definitely meet more people along the way, which brings a whole new dimension!

  3. Going via Namibia would be the most exciting experience. Thank you for sharing this blog with us.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever decide to go – for driving tips, routes, and so forth. It is an amazing way to restore a sense of inner peace.

  4. John says:

    It had never occurred to me that great railway journeys had ever been out of fashion but you’re right there’s a buzz about luxurious rail travel again. I’ve always wanted to do one and I like the look of the trains running through South Africa.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      John, I just love the refurbished luxury steam trains in South Africa! There are incredible routes through much of Southern Africa, so please feel free to ask if you ever fancy coming to enjoy a luxury train journey through the country.

  5. Ron says:

    As somebody who has been traveling for quite a while, I can testify to the importance of being able to travel solo. However, that doesn’t mean you always have to go it alone – as this article shows. There are group activities to enjoy with others to perhaps make your traveling experiences more memorable. There’s a certain balance to be found when traveling by yourself … and also knowing when to get out into the world and sharing that with others. This type of mindset will open new experiences down the road. And that’s the whole point of traveling!

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Ron, I agree with you! Travelling can help us reconnect both with ourselves, and with the world around us. Perhaps when we are alone we internalize our experiences differently, but when meeting people, we also get to know the local customs and gain a deeper understanding. Or just have a mirror of someone else for your daily reflections.

      In short, pretty much all travel is good travel!

  6. Steve Nicholson says:

    Although you might start out as a solitary traveller I bet that if you did the Kilimanjaro climb or Hiking the Green Mountain trail you’d probably end up making some friends for life. I once did the last 12 miles of a charity walk with someone I happened to be walking at the same pace as. We must have told each other our life stories over the next painful 4 blistered hours and have remained friends ever since. You could make some really good friends whilst climbing Kilimanjaro!

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Steve I agree it’s a brilliant way to forge new friendships. So much of friendship is about shared values and experiences and making the summit at Kilimanjaro definitely qualifies!

  7. Braeden Fowler says:

    I never would have thought of solo travelling through Africa. All the posts I see about Africa are safaris and luxury lodges meant to be shared with that special someone. Though, I’m not a stranger to travelling on my own, I find it hard to imagine going to a far away destination alone. But maybe it’s time to rethink that with so many great options all around the world. Even in Africa, which sounds so exotic to me.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Braedon, I would say that the romance of Africa is very much in the quiet, the wildness, and the feeling of getting away from it all…really and truly. The lodges usually have communal dining, so even if you travel with couples you get ample opportunity to connect with others, and yourself. Its brilliant for solo travel!

  8. Wayne says:

    Solo travel is going to be the way forward for me next year. I’d just love to do something like the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb, and there should be plenty of time between now and next year to get my fitness up the required level. My only worry is I don’t know how I’ll be at altitude. I understand that can be really unpredictable from one person to the next.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Wayne, if your fitness is generally good, you should be okay at altitude. You would just need to accept that the going will be very slow towards the top.

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