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  • Writer's pictureSandrine Sienche

5 unexpected delights about visiting Africa

Are you as excited as I am about the slow but steady lifting of travel restrictions? The last time I had to catch a flight somewhere, I faced the likelihood of being quarantined at a hotel for 14 days, and everyone at the airport seemed so tense that the thought of letting an unexpected cough rip in the queue to passport control scared me to no end. Now, while we’re not completely in the clear, it makes my heart sing to see a small but consistent light at the end of the travel tunnel we’ve been stuck in these last eighteen months. I am just about to venture out on my first international trip in ages (wish me luck), but as I hunt for the best flight deal I can find to Valencia in Spain (yes we allllwaaays need to do that), thoughts of travel take my mind back to the some of the many trips I made across Africa and some of the crazy experiences I had meeting people, trying new things and well, living my best life really..! So for anyone who’s thinking of dipping their pool into an adventure that’s unlike any other, or for anyone who has ben to Africa before and is thinking of paying the continent a visit one more time, allow me to reminisce about some of those journeys by sharing with you five unexpected delights about travelling in Africa. Your state of mind If you’re looking to free your mind from thoughts of 9-5, bills to pay, or chores to run you need to go someplace where you can really switch off. The moment you set foot in Africa you know you’ve arrived somewhere truly different. This teases your senses to no end and pulls you into the present. There is a lesser need to rush, and after a while the low pace starts to feel... well, normal. You’ll truly get the chance to experience this by booking with intention. Choose a location like Bushman’s Kloof, or a retreat in Namibia Kenya or Tanzania for instance For me I had this experience in Ghana. I found it so much easier to let my mind take a break from overthinking by spending my days doing every little. By spending my time being in the moment with those I was with. This is such a different experience that it refreshes the senses and makes you concentrate on the here and now. If you find yourself going on holiday and returning just as tired, or feeling bored, or uninspired, then you're minds telling you it's ready for a change. It’s time to go something with a different pace.

Feeling relaxed in Morocco

The casual banter Another amazing thing is how easy it is to make new connections. On my last trip to Malawi fondly called ‘the warm heart of Africa’ for - you guessed it, it’s friendliness - I found it so easy to strike conversations with everyone; from the porter who carried my luggage to the room, the chauffeur who dropped me off where I needed to be, and the colleagues I met at business meetings. I got invited to partners’ family lunches, parties and almost missed my flight back simply for having too much fun. I also had a lovely person who showed me around and went out of his way to secure the best rates on safaris trips we went on together. I can’t wait to visit that lovely place again to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. The great deals Calling all bargain hunters! No more watching Auction Hunter shows on TV thinking you could have gotten a better deal, travel to Africa and live the dream yourself . Except it gets better because rather than guess what the lucky auction items might be, you’ll get to inspect before you buy so there are no nasty surprises, and you can bargain on price until the final number hits your sweet spot. Bargaining is a fun sport which tests your ability to negotiate using the carrot and stick approach; one minute you’ll find yourself complimenting the seller ridiculously - and threatening to walk away the next. Good thing is, it's expected! Your seller would be disappointed if you didn’t even try. Not only will you thoroughly enjoy this, you’ll get to leave with some fantastic finds that your friends and family will squabble over when you return home. Culture As a child I grew up in a household with 2 traditional languages; Bakossi (on my mom's side) and Bamileke on my dads. Each language belongs to a tribe with different histories, likes and dislikes and whole unique ways of being. Infact my parents' tribes had a history of going to war so often that strangers would often laugh when they met them and ask ‘ how on earth did you guys meet?’ That is a but a tiny reflection of Africa; the continent has over 3000 tribes, each with their own languages and rich in art and culture. You’ll see this wherever you go; from the Himba tribe in Namibia with their thick red locks of hair, to the karo in Ethiopia with their intricate face and body painting, the powerful maasai warriors, the driven igbos and many many more. And don’t get me started on the art, the dancing and the music! Culture is so spiritual and poignant, that you can just about taste it.

I love these tomatoes!

Expand your taste buds Now this cannot be a complete list without mentioning something we all love…. Food! African food is known to be rich in flavour, textures and varieties. Pounded yams, stewed meats, rich soups … and did I mention how tasty the fruits and veggies are ? Nothing is as succulent as fruits that are allowed to ripen until they fall from the trees, signalling they are ready to be eaten. After eating fully ripened organic tomatoes in Ghana, I could never look at a tomato from my supermarket in Edinburgh in the same way again. Just be prepared; if visiting anyone you will be overfed, and leaving food on a plate when served is often seen as a sign that you did not enjoy the meal (to the detriment of your host’s feelings) so if invited for lunch, make sure you arrive hungry! So hopefully these gave you an idea of some of the little pleasures your next trip to Africa holds. And a trip like this is so much easier if you have someone local showing around - in fact that’s what made my Malawi experience so special. We are launching our network of local guides in 2022, so please sign up for our updates, so you know when this gets launched!

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