Four African destinations have been listed in the National Geographic Travelers’ Cool List for 2019.
Africa, the world’s second largest and second most-populous continent is rich in cultural heritage and diversity, a wealth of natural resources and offers breathtaking tourist attractions.
According to National Geographic Traveller (UK) – the Cool List features everything from futuristic cityscapes and modernist architecture to pristine rainforest and rehabilitated wildlife.
The four must-see African destinations set to hit the headlines in 2019 include; Uganda, Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Kwazulu-Natal.
Uganda, Marvel at mountain gorillas in the wild
Why now? When Rwanda doubled the price of its gorilla trek permits from $750 to $1,500 (£572 to £1,144) in 2017, neighbouring Uganda responded by freezing its own rates at $600 (£458) until mid-2019.
Main attractions: If you’re longing to see mountain gorillas in the wild, but Rwanda’s ultra-luxe lodges and high permit fees don’t suit your budget, head for Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest instead. The steady growth of its gorilla population is one of Africa’s great conservation success stories, with tourists playing an important role. Almost 20 families can now be visited by guided groups of up to eight. Trekking fees raise funds not only for gorillas and their habitat, but also for Uganda’s other national assets including Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks, home to chimps, giraffes and hippos.
Don’t miss: Exploring Bwindi’s birdwatching trails, cycle routes and craft scene after your gorilla trek.
Zimbabwe, Tours are on the rise, post-Mugabe
Why now? With Mugabe gone, Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, seems keen to invest in tourism. And while there’s been economic and political turbulence, the safety of tourists hasn’t come into question.
Main attractions: Victoria Falls and the surrounding area have always enjoyed the lion’s share of the attention, and for good reason. As well as the beautiful falls themselves, the Zambezi flows through gorges and over rapids that are perfect for those after an adrenalin rush. And don’t miss Zambezi National Park, three miles away. Just 10 years ago, you’d have been lucky to see anything but a few impala here, but the local anti-poaching unit has made enormous strides and the species list now includes four of the Big Five (only the rhino is missing). Yet, there’s plenty more to see if you head to the two primary wildlife hotspots: Hwange National Park and Mana National Park.
Don’t miss: Gonarezhou National Park, for wildlife-viewing and semi-luxury camping.
Eritrea, The African country is firmly back on the travel map
Why now? Having struck new peace agreements with neighbouring Ethiopia and Djibouti, this little-visited African country is opening up to adventurous travellers as well as those with an eye for architecture.
Main attractions: Eritrea is a former colony of Mussolini’s Italy and its capital, Asmara, is a treasure trove of mid-century modernist architecture, where espressos, mopeds and vintage Fiats are as common as mojitos and Cadillacs are in Havana. In 2017, UNESCO declared the entire city centre a World Heritage Site. Beyond Asmara, Eritrea has intriguing towns and wilderness regions to discover. The Red Sea is barely two hours away; from the port of Massawa you can visit the Dahlak Archipelago for superb diving. In July 2018, Ethiopian Airlines resumed its flights from Addis Ababa to Asmara for the first time in 20 years, meaning it’s now easy to visit both capitals in one trip. Various travel companies are also getting in on the action: Undiscovered Destinations, Lupine Travel and Kibran Tours all offer Eritrean itineraries.
Don’t miss: The fabulous cuisine; dine out on injera, a sour, spongy flatbread served with spicy, colourful stews.
KwaZulu-Natal, New flights and lodges in South Africa’s safari hotspot
Why now? British Airways recently launched direct flights from Heathrow to Durban, plus two new lodges are opening in the Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park.
Main attractions: The beaches stretching for miles either side of Durban make KZN a viable winter sun hotspot, but the real appeal is in the wildlife. Magical encounters with elephant herds and rescued rhinos in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park can be combined with nature cruises from St Lucia — the coastal town where wild hippos roam the streets.
Don’t miss: KwaMuhle in Durban provides a thought-provoking insight into the origins of the apartheid system.
Other destinations around the globe that will drive tourist numbers in the coming year as per National Geographic Traveler rating are;
06 San Miguel de Allende
07 West Yorkshire
08 Hong Kong