The word "Africa" conjures images of wild animals roaming across open savannahs and through dense jungles; of camel caravans crossing desolate desert wastelands, and of mysterious tribes of nomadic people. Africa is very much all of these things—and so much more. For tourists, the continent's 54 countries offer a cornucopia of geographical, cultural, and historical treasures.
Africa boasts the longest river the world: the Nile. It also contains the largest desert in the world: the Sahara, which covers most of northern Africa, about one third of the continent. Africa has several thousand ethnic groups, who collectively speak over 2,000 languages. And this is the continent where Ancient Egypt comes to life through some of the most impressive architectural structures ever built. All of this makes travelling in Africa an exciting, totally stimulating eye-opener.
To many Canadians, the continent is a bit of a mystery. It's likely that you haven't even heard of—or know anything about—some African countries, like Chad, Burkina Faso and Benin. You may not know that when George Lucas was looking for the perfect location for those first Star Wars movies, he settled on Tunisia, with its immense desert vistas and the unusual structures (homes) of its inhabitants. (You can, by the way, still visit many of the locations where the movies were filmed.) Perhaps it's time for you to take the mystery out of Africa—by going.
Flying to Africa is almost as much of an adventure as travelling in Africa. For Canadians, a flight will typically involve a connection-and often a layover—in either Europe or Asia, because the journey is so long, often including legs on a few different airlines. You can also go via the United States, as there are direct flights to several African destinations from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
A few of the largest and most important airport hubs in Africa are Johannesburg, Cairo and Nairobi, so you may have to fly to one of these major centres and take a continental flight to your final destination. Because flying to Africa is all about connections, you must book as far in advance as you can. Also, there may be only one flight scheduled per day to your particular destination.
There really is no high or low tourist season in Africa. The best time to go depends on the activities you're planning on engaging in while you're there. For example, the game viewing is particularly good in the austral winter (July and August). If your dream is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, you'll want to avoid the rainy fall months of April through June. To enjoy the best weather in South Africa, go in the summer (October through March).
As you've likely gathered, the seasons in Africa are the reverse of Canada's. So, when it's summer in Canada, it's winter in Africa, and vice versa. The four seasons of winter, spring, summer, and fall are not particularly pronounced in most African countries. In tropical and subtropical countries such as Guinea, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, it's more a case of there being a wet (rainy) season and a dry season. This is also the case in the desert countries, but a desert's wet season, despite the fact that it's called "wet", of course receives very little rain.
You can expect heat whenever you travel to Africa. Even in the winter, the temperature seldom drops below 20°C. In the summer, you can expect temperatures to climb to 30°C and slightly above. In the interior desert areas, summer temperatures will typically reach 40°C or more.