With 54 countries and island nations, there’s never a shortage of things to do in Africa. Here are some its best festivals.
With 54 countries and island nations, there’s never a shortage of things to do on the African continent. Festivals provide a great opportunity to experience the diverse culture, music and food, while also benefiting the local economies. Here are some of the best ones you should consider attending.
The Equatorial Guinea Bodypainting Festival ~ Equatorial Guinea
The Equatorial Guinea Bodypainting Festival is one of the newest festivals on the continent, having only been launched in 2019. But it’s already gaining fans and spurring tourism to the only Spanish-speaking country in Africa. The festival includes tours, eco-adventures, and art workshops on mask making, pole dancing, and creative drawing, among others. Of course, the festival highlight is the amazing body paint presentations.
Timkat Festival ~ Ethiopia
Timkat is Ethiopian Epiphany Day, a celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ, occurring across the country, but mainly in Lalibela, Gondar, and Addis Ababa. The festival happens every year on January 19 (January 20 in leap years), with preparations the day before (ketera) and three days of colorful processions, dance, music, prayer and a ritual baptismal re-enactment. This is one of the major religious festivals in Ethiopia and an excellent way to immerse oneself in Ethiopian history and culture.
The Voodoo Festival ~ Benin
The Voodoo Festival is a celebration of the voodoo religion that takes place every year on January 10th in Ouidah, Benin. This popular festival draws fetish priests, adepts, traditional chiefs and onlookers from across the globe. There are ritual sacrifices, dancing, drinking and drumming. Devotees assume the identity of gods, dressing up and transforming into that god as they do, with the realm of the magical close at hand.
Abu Simbel Sun Festival ~ Egypt
The Abu Simbel temples are two massive rock temples built as a monument to Pharaoh Ramesses II and his queen Nefertari and to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh. The temples remain in darkness all year, except for two occasions on February 22 and October 22, when a stream of natural sunlight illuminates the entire complex. Tourists come from around the globe to see this solar phenomenon and architectural marvel, and to enjoy music, dance, food, drinking, market shopping and more.
Carnival ~ Cape Verde
Carnival is celebrated on all 10 islands, but the biggest and liveliest celebrations happen in Mindelo on Sao Vicente island. The dates change each year, but the week leading up to Shrove Tuesday (February 25 in 2020) is filled with street parties and other events, culminating with the main parade complete with samba dancing, singing, live music, elaborate floats, and colorful costumes. Come ready to have fun because the celebrations start early in the morning and go on all day.
Sauti za Busara ~ Zanzibar, Tanzania
This 4-day music festival is held every February and showcases African music from across the continent. Highlights of Sauti za Busara include 400+ live musicians, a carnival parade, impromptu jam sessions and after parties, with a backdrop of the beautiful beach views and island breezes of Stone Town.
Bouake Carnival ~ Cote d’Ivoire
Bouake Carnival is the Ivorian version of Mardi Gras. This
weeklong celebration of life and friendship is held in late March in Bouake, the
second largest city in Cote d’ivoire. Tourists and locals join together to enjoy
great music, eat traditional foods, explore cultural markets, attend lively street
parties and parades, and hear music from local artists and musicians from all
over the continent of Africa.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival ~ South Africa
Touted as Africa’s Grandest Gathering, Cape Town Jazz Festival is one of the biggest jazz festivals on the continent. This 2-day festival is hosted in the beautiful Cape Town and known for its all-star lineup of local and international acts.
Festival of Urban Music of Anoumabo (FEMUA) ~ Cote
This annual music festival is a party with a purpose – the proceeds are used to build schools and hospitals across the country. Started by Salif “Asalfo” Traoré, singer of the Ivorian band, Magic System, as a way to give back to the Anoumabo neighborhood, this celebration has morphed from a neighborhood party to a major festival, drawing crowds of more than 100,000 people to Abidjan. FEMUA features a variety of Ivorian and Pan African music and has an annual theme aimed at spurring social awareness and change. Be warned — the festival starts late and typically runs until 5:00 am.
Harare International Festival of the Arts ~ Zimbabwe
The Harare International Festival of the Arts is one of Africa’s largest art and cultural festivals, held in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare. The 6-day festival and workshop program showcases Zimbabwean, regional and international arts and culture with dance, music, circus, street performances, fashion, spoken word, theater and visual arts.
Azgo Festival ~ Mozambique
The Azgo Festival is a contemporary celebration of arts and culture, with a strong focus on artists from Mozambique and the entire African continent. The four-day festival includes live music, films, dance, artistic and cultural development workshops and gourmet street food vendors.
Bush Fire Festival ~ eSwatini (formerly Swaziland)
One of Africa’s most popular events, Bush Fire is an annual 3-day festival which showcases music, art and culture from all over the African continent. Through its mantra “Bring Your Fire”, Bushfire encourages creative expression and social change, and invites everyone to contribute and engage through a program of creative workshops, discussions, art exhibitions and guest speakers.
La Biennale de L’Art Africain Contemporain/Dak’Art ~ Senegal
La Biennale de L’Art Africain Contemporain, commonly known as Dak’Art, is a month-long contemporary arts festival held every two years in Senegal’s capital of Dakar. The festival features art exhibitions with a variety of national and international artists, as well as in situ mural and sculpture creations, lectures, films, live performances, African culinary presentations, and more. The next edition of Dak’Art is in 2020.
Saint-Louis Jazz Festival ~ Senegal
Held in the former French capital of Saint-Louis, the renowned Saint-Louis Jazz Festival happens annually in May and attracts local and international jazz greats. The 5-day festival is in its 28th year and attracts close to 100,000 music lovers from around the world.
Windhoek Annual Cultural Festival ~ Namibia
The Windhoek Annual Cultural Festival is a new festival, which seeks to promote Namibian cultural diversity and provide a platform for upcoming artists and entrepreneurs to exhibit and promote their businesses. Participants celebrate their cultural backgrounds through traditional dress, dance performances and food. Additional activities include a battle of DJs, choir competition, battle of chefs, eating competition and talent show.
Fes Festival of World Sacred Music ~ Morocco
The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is 10-day celebration held in Fes, in northern Morocco. The festival advocates music as a means of promoting dialogue and harmony between civilizations and is a combination of concerts, workshops and discussions on climate change, human and civil rights, social justice and other important issues.
Jazzablanca ~ Morocco
Jazzablanca is an international jazz festival held yearly in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city. The 9-day festival features local and international artists with a mix of famous and up-and-coming jazz, pop, rock, blues and funk. Food and fashion workshops are also held.
Zanzibar International Film Festival ~ Zanzibar, Tanzania
The Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), also known as Festival of the Dhow Countries, is an annual 10-day film festival held on Zanzibar island. ZIFF includes workshops and screenings of African films in various genres, including African Animation, TV series and Web series.
Panafest ~ Ghana
The Pan African Historical Theatre Festival, commonly known as Panafest, is a cultural festival held every two years for Africans and people of African descent. The festival is intended to bring together Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora around the issues raised by the transatlantic slave trade. The two-week festival includes a variety of cultural events, performance arts, dance and music workshops, speaking colloquiums, and tributes to the ancestors. The next Panafest is in 2021.
Chale Wote Street Art Festival ~ Ghana
Chale Wote has quickly become one of West Africa’s biggest and most popular events, with more than 100,000 attendees and 200 Ghanaian and international artists participating. The 10-day street festival includes street painting, graffiti murals, photo exhibitions, live street performances, extreme sports, African cinema, street boxing, a fashion parade, a music block party, design labs and more.
Gaborone International Music and Culture Week (GIMC) ~ Botswana
GIMC is a weeklong annual festival that celebrates the city of Gaborone through music, theatre, comedy, poetry, fashion and other cultural activities. Performers include local, regional and international artists.
Lake of Stars Festival ~ Malawi
Lake of Stars is an annual 3-day international music festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The activities include music, talks, poetry, theater, film, art and wellness activities from Malawi and across the globe. On-site camping is available and encouraged. The festival is on hiatus for 2020, but is expected to return in 2021.
Nyege Nyege Festival ~ Uganda
Held on the shores of the Nile River, the 4-day Nyege Nyege festival is one of the biggest underground music festivals in East Africa. Nyege Nyege is a Swahili word meaning an uncontrollable urge to move, shake, or dance and you’ll do just that at this non-stop party and celebration of Ugandan and African culture. Nyege Nyege showcases an eclectic mix of music genres from Africans and the diaspora, including electronic music, Ugandan dancehall, Balani (Mali), Kweito (South Africa), Kuduro (Angola), Cumbia (South America) and more.
Felabration ~ Nigeria
Felabration is an annual music and arts festival commemorating the life of Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician and human rights activist known for pioneering the afrobeat music genre. The weeklong celebration includes a wide range of activities, including debates, symposiums, afrobics dance competitions, art exhibitions and competitions, and music concerts.
Mombasa Carnival ~ Kenya
The Mombasa Carnival is one of Kenya’s biggest and most
popular festivals, held every year in November. This lively street party revolves
around two parades, which converge on Moi Avenue and display Mombasa’s diverse cultures
with an array of floats, traditional dress, music concerts, and dance. A mix of
traditional and contemporary artists join the celebration.
Afrochella ~ Ghana
Afrochella is Africa’s answer to America’s Coachella. This annual one-day festival seeks to highlight the thriving talent from and within Africa and features African music, culture, art, fashion and food. Related happenings, including panel discussions, charity events, and parties, are held the week of the festival.
Afropunk ~ South Africa
Afropunk is an annual alternative arts festival that includes live music, film, fashion, and art produced by black artists. The festival debuted in Brooklyn, New York and has since expanded to locations across the globe, including Johannesburg, South Africa. The two-day Afropunk Joburg features live concerts, panel conversations, battle of the bands, and food and craft markets.
Calabar Carnival ~ Nigeria
Called Africa’s biggest street party, the Calabar Carnival takes place the entire month of December in the city of Calabar in southeastern Nigeria. It attracts more than 2 million revelers and has participants from 25 countries. The festivities include street parades, battle of the bands, concerts, art shows, street parties, food competitions, fashion shows, sporting events and non-stop parties. Carnival week, the final week between Christmas and New Year, is when most of the highlights occur.
Victoria Falls Carnival ~ Zimbabwe
The Victoria Falls Carnival is a 3-day blowout party held annually at the end of December. The party starts on Day One with a Carnival train ride and secret bush party. Day Two features an electric safari concert with the best live house, African, indie and electro-pop music. The party culminates on New Year’s Eve, with a concert and year-end countdown complete with fire breathers, traditional dancers, and a host of African music artists. All of the fun is held in the backdrop of Victoria Falls, one of the biggest and most famous waterfalls in the world.
With its stunning views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town regularly graces the lists of the world’s best places to visit. Indeed, most visitors to South Africa will spend time in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and maybe even Durban. But while each of those places offers its own unique attractions, “those in the know” know that Mpumalanga is not to be missed.
Mpumalanga (a Zulu word meaning “the place where the sun rises”) is a province in eastern South Africa, bordering the nations of Swaziland and Mozambique. Just a one hour plane ride or four hour drive from Johannesburg, Mpumalanga is a nature lover’s dream with big game animals, a bounty of flora and fauna, mountains, canyons, caves, rivers, and waterfalls. Aptly known as “Paradise Country”, Mpumalanga will treat you to some of the most breathtaking scenery you’ve ever seen. Here are my top 8 things to do there:
1. Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is South Africa’s premier safari destination. Covering more than 7,523 square miles and extending over two provinces, it’s one of the largest game reserves in Africa. All of the Big Five game animals are found at Kruger, as well as 336 species of trees, 49 species of fish, 34 species of amphibians, 114 species of reptiles, 507 species of birds and 147 species of mammals. Most visitors to Kruger self-drive, but park rangers also offer morning, sunset and evening game drives. Guided nature walks (with armed field guides) are also available. Kruger has numerous rest camps, private lodges, and several restaurants, allowing visitors with reservations to stay overnight inside the park. Park accommodations should be booked well in advance to ensure availability.
2. Private Game Reserves
Set alongside Kruger’s unfenced western boundary, Kruger’s Private Game Reserves – Thornybush, Sabi Sand, Kapama, Timbavati, Manyeleti, Klaserie, and Balule – offer some of the most exclusive safari experiences in South Africa. These luxury accommodations don’t come cheap, but the expense is well worth it. Most offer morning and evening game drives with experienced rangers and trackers in private 4-wheel drive vehicles. Their ability to engage in safari activities not permitted in Kruger, such as off-road driving and spot lit night drives, increase the likelihood of closer and more frequent animal sightings. And after long mornings and evenings of game viewing, you’ll be treated to gourmet meals and other amenities, like private butler service, spa treatments and private suites with magnificent bush views. Everyone should have the experience at least once.
Infinity pool in the bush, Kirkman’s Kamp, Sabi Sand private reserve
3.Blyde River Canyon/Panorama Route
Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth and considered by many to be the largest “green canyon” due to its lush sub-tropical foliage. Also known as Motlatse River Canyon, it is part of the Panorama Route, a scenic road covering nearly 240 miles and connecting several waterfalls, mountain passes and natural vantage points. Some of the popular natural landmarks include God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck potholes, the Pinnacle, the Three Rondavels, the Lisbon Falls, the Berlin Falls and the Mac Mac Falls. There also several historic and tourist towns along the route, including Pilgrim’s Rest, a restored gold mining town, and Graskop, reportedly home of the best pancakes in the southern hemisphere.
View from God’s Window, Blyde River Canyon
4. Shangana Cultural Village
Located midway between Kruger National Park and the Blyde River Canyon, the Shangana Village gives visitors a firsthand view of the way of life of the Shangaan people. The Village offers a variety of daytime and evening tours, some of which include traditional meals and/or performances by local dancers and drummers. The Marula Market allows craftspeople from all over the region to showcase and sell their traditional handcrafted art. The market is open daily from 9am to 5pm and entrance is free.
5. The Sudwala Caves
The Sudwala Caves are said to be the oldest caves in the world, formed about 240 million years ago. The Caves are open daily for tours from 8:30am to 4:30pm and the standard tour lasts one hour. Visitors will observe a variety of interesting stalagmite and stalactite formations, as well as primitive plant fossils and stone age tools from early inhabitants. Visitors will also be surprised to see a functioning amphitheater inside the Caves. For the truly adventurous, the 4-hour Crystal Tour takes visitors more than 6,500 feet inside in the Caves, on an excursion that involves wading through water, climbing up and down rocks, and crawling through small tunnels to see the amazing array of aragonite crystals. The Crystal Tour is offered on the first Saturday of each month or by arrangement for groups of 5 or more. Advance booking is required.
Stalagmite formation inside Sudwala caves
6. The Jane Goodall Institute South Africa Chimp Eden Sanctuary
If you ever watched the Animal Planet television series “Escape to Chimp Eden”, then you’ve seen the amazing work of Chimp Eden, the first and only chimpanzee sanctuary in South Africa. The sanctuary rescues chimps that have survived the bush meat trade, been orphaned, traded in the illegal pet market, or traumatized to provide entertainment in circuses, beach resorts or night clubs. Chimp Eden is open daily from 8:00am to 4:00pm and offers guided tours three times per day at 10:00am, 12:00pm and 2:00pm. The chimps are quite fascinating to watch in their semi-wild enclosures and their varied personalities and temperaments are readily seen. One chimp in particular, Cozi, is sure to entertain with his playful antics.
Chimp playing with tube, Chimp Eden Sanctuary
7. Elephant Sanctuary – Hazyview
The Elephant Sanctuary provides a safe haven for young African elephants in need of a temporary home. Visitors are able to touch, feed and get to know the animals while learning all aspects of elephants and elephant husbandry. The sanctuary offers a variety of elephant interaction programs, including hand-in-trunk walks, elephant brush downs, elephant rides and elephant keeper for a day.
8. Extreme and Adventure Sports
Those hooked on extreme and adventure sports and activities can certainly get their fix in Mpumalanga. Mpumalanga provides both beautiful surroundings and a myriad of activities to spike your adrenalin levels. The gorge swing, white water rafting, tubing, hang gliding, sky diving, zip lining, hot air ballooning, quad biking, mountain biking, hiking, abseiling, and rock climbing are among the many activities offered in the region. And as an added plus, many tour operators focus on eco-adventure, which involves minimizing impact on the land and increasing environmental and cultural awareness.
South Africa is among the top 10 wine producers in the world, producing more than 1,000,000 liters of wine per year. But while black and coloured* South Africans represent nearly 90% of the population, they remain woefully underrepresented in the $3 billion wine industry, at less than three percent. This great imbalance is a legacy of colonialism and South Africa’s apartheid past, when non-whites were prohibited from drinking or making wine and black ownership of land was limited.
Government land redistribution efforts and an affirmative action program known as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) have been largely unsuccessful in increasing black ownership and participation in South Africa’s wine industry. Lack of collateral makes it near impossible for blacks to secure business loans from banks or funding from the government. Non-ownership of land, grapes or wineries and consumer reluctance to purchase wine brands with “African sounding” names have been additional obstacles. But despite these barriers, blacks are making inroads. Listed below are 10 black vineyards, winemakers and wine brands seeking to excel in South Africa’s competitive wine business.
Seven Sisters wine brand launched in 2007 and is owned and managed by coloured South African Vivian Kleynhans and her six sisters. The Seven Sisters wines are named after each sibling and the range consists of a Bukettraube (Odelia), Pinotage-Rose (Twena), Chenin Blanc (Yolanda), Sauvignon Blanc (Vivian), Pinotage/Shiraz (Dawn), Merlot (June) and Cabernet (Carol). The Seven Sisters vineyard, located in the Stellenbosch region of the Cape Winelands, is open to the public for tours and tastings by appointment. Seven Sisters can be contacted by phone at +27 710494109 or by email at [email protected] Seven Sisters wines are sold in the United States and South Africa.
M’Hudi is a family enterprise owned and operated by the Rangakas, a black family who moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town in 2003 to realize their dream of owning a wine farm. With no prior winemaking experience, mother Malmsey, father Diale, and their three children, Tseliso, Lebogang, and Senyane have created a successful brand. M’hudi produces a “Premium” range (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Merlot) and an “On the Move” range (Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon). M’hudi’s Stellenbosch vineyard is currently closed to the public, but expected to re-open in April 2017. M’Hudi wines are sold in South Africa.
Thandi was South Africa’s first agricultural BEE project and is owned by 147 farm worker families who hold 62% shares in the company. Thandi produces five ranges of wine: Reserve Range (Cabernet Sauvignon), Premium Range (Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz), Pioneer Range (Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc, Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz/Rose, Sparkling Rose, Sparkling Red, and Sparking White), Rossouw Private Collection (Merlot/Cabernet and Pinotage) and JAC Range (Pinotage, Red Blend and Shiraz). Thandi’s Stellenbosch vineyard is open to the public for tastings, Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Thandi wines are sold in Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Russia, Sweden, South Korea, Sweden and South Africa.
Ntsiki Biyela holds the distinction of being South Africa’s first black female winemaker. Biyela started her career in 2004 at the Stellenbosch vineyard of Stellekaya, where she is head winemaker. Biyela recently started her own Aslina wine brand, which is currently sold in the United States, Denmark and Germany. The Aslina brand will be sold in South Africa in 2017. Biyela has three Stellekaya varietals available at Wine for the World.
Carmen Stevens is South Africa’s first coloured female winemaker and she has been the winemaker at Amani’s Stellenbosch vineyard since 2005. At Amani, Stevens makes a range of wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet Franc and a wine named I Am One, a Bordeaux/Shiraz blend. Stevens recently started her own wine brand, Angels Reserve, with the help of angel investors. Her wine can be purchased online at Naked Wines.
Heinrich Devon Keenen Kulsen
Heinrich Devon Keenen Kulsen is winemaker at Earthbound Wines, an organic and Fairtrade-certified range made from grapes supplied by Papkuilsfontein Vineyards in the Darling region of the Western Cape. The range consists of five varietals, four of which are organic: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir (non-organic). Earthbound wines are sold in South Africa at Tops @ Spar and Darling Wine Shop, and online at Cyber Cellar.
Black Wine Brands
House of La RicMal
Malcolm and Ricardo Green are the father and son team behind the House of La RicMal, which has been in operation since 2008. Sourcing grapes from Darling, House of La RicMal produces two brands, La RicMal Supreme (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, and Sauvignon Blanc) and Lerato (Classic Red, Sweet Red, and Classic White). House of RicMal brands are sold in South Africa at Pick and Pay, Checkers, Tops @ Spar, Liquor City and Agrimark and also exported to Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Malawi, and Angola.
House of Mandela
Dr. Makaziwe Mandela and Tukwini Mandela (the daughter and granddaughter of late South African president and freedom fighter Nelson Mandela) are the mother and daughter team behind the House of Mandela. The House of Mandela produces varietals under five labels: Deep River (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay blends), Royal Reserve (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Shriaz), Thembu Collection (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc), Vusani (Chenin Blanc and Pinotage) and Brut (Sparkling Wine). House of Mandela wines are sold in South Africa, the United States, Canada, Turks and Caicos, Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Taiwan and Japan.
Ses’fikile is 100% owned and controlled by black women. Ses’fikile sources grapes from the Wellington area of the Western Cape and produces six wines: Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend. Private tastings can be arranged by phone at +27 83 431 0254 or by email at [email protected] Ses’fikile wines are carried in select South African restaurants and hotels.
Women in Wine
Founded in 2006 by a group of 20 women, Women in Wine partners with existing cellars and bottling companies to produce its wine. The Women in Wine label produces six wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz, Pinotage Rose, and Chardonnay Chenin Blanc. The Women in Wine brand is sold in the USA, China, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Denmark, and in South Africa at Makro stores.
*In South Africa, the term Coloured is an ethnic label for people of mixed ethnic origin who possess ancestry from Europe, Asia, and various Khoisan and Bantu ethnic groups of southern Africa. For purposes of this article, the term Black is used to refer to persons who identify as Black or Coloured.
Have you visited any of these vineyards or tasted any of the wine brands? What did you think? Share your comments below.
Swaziland is the smallest country in the Southern hemisphere, with a population of 1.2 million people. It’s also one of the last remaining executive monarchies in Africa. Although it is not a popular tourist destination, it should be due to its stunning landscapes, wildlife reserves, and rich cultural heritage. Its close proximity to South Africa (just a 3.5 to 4-hour drive from Johannesburg), make it an easy add-on trip. Here’s my list of the Top Eight Things to Do there.
Mantenga Nature Reserve and Falls
Though small in size, this protected area is a nature lover’s dream, with hiking trails, wildlife, wooded areas and waterfalls. The Mantenga Falls are Swaziland’s best known falls and the largest by volume of water. Visitors can explore by foot, mountain bike or car, and there is a picnic area adjacent to the river below the falls.
Swazi Cultural Village
Located in the Mantenga Nature Reserve, the Swazi Cultural Village offers a firsthand peak into Swazi culture. The makeshift village, comprised of 16 huts, kraals and other structures, represents a traditional Swazi lifestyle from the 1850’s. A local guide explains local customs and history while guiding visitors through the grounds. The tour ends with a 45-minute, high-energy, action-packed dance and music performance by the men and women of the Mantenga Cultural Group.
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Swaziland has several wildlife sanctuaries for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to explore. Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Ezulwini Valley between Mbabane and Manzini, is Swaziland’s pioneer conservation area. Activities include mountain bike riding, horseback riding, game drives, guided bird walks and walking/hiking trails. Animal species in the area include Hippo, Crocodile, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Kudu, Nyala, Impala, Warthog, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Steenbok, Grey Duiker, Klipspringer, Blesbok. and the elusive Leopard.
Located at the peak of Nyonyane Mountain, inside the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, this historic rock offers amazing views of the Ezulwini Valley. According to ancient legend, it’s aptly named “Execution Rock” because Swazis suspected of witchcraft or criminals were forced to walk off the edge at spear-point, plunging to their death. Hiking remains the most popular way to reach the summit, which can also be reached by mountain bike or horseback.
Despite its small size, Swaziland brings the fun for adrenaline junkies. It offers variety of adventure activities from caving in a subterranean cave system to white water rafting on the Usutu River to zip lining in the Malolotja Nature Reserve.
House on Fire/Malandela’s
House on Fire is best known as the venue for Bush Fire, a popular cultural and music festival held each year in May. But even when it’s not hosting great music, the House on Fire is a destination unto itself. Spectacular mountain views serve as a backdrop for the unique artwork and sculptures that adorn the property. The House on Fire shares the grounds with Malandela’s bed and breakfast and restaurant, which has its own beautiful gardens, and Gone Rural, a women’s coop which sells colorful straw baskets and household accessories.
In operation for more than 20 years, Ngwenya Glass offers visitors the chance to watch local artisans who’ve perfected the art of glass blowing. Visitors can also purchase beautiful blown glass items on site, all made with 100% recycled glass.
Swazi Candles Centre
Since 1982, the Swazi Candles Centre has made decorative paraffin wax and organic soy candles. The colorful, intricately designed candles are created with hard wax and a technique called “millifiore” and are noted for the rich, romantic glow of the exterior shell. The Centre also houses a café and several other craft and souvenir shops.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Swaziland? Please share your comments below.
Mozambique is a country in southeast Africa, bordered by Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and South Africa. Its capital and largest city is Maputo, which is inhabited by nearly 1.2 million people. Like nearly all African countries, Mozambique is a former European colony, which gained independence from Portugal in 1975 after nearly 500 years of colonization. Sadly, its tourism industry sharply declined after independence. It’s unfortunate because the country’s natural beauty, beaches, national parks, wildlife reserves, and cultural heritage provide excellent eco-tourism opportunities.
Mozambique enjoys a lengthy coastline fronting the Indian Ocean and it boasts some of southern Africa’s best beaches, renowned for their coral reefs and great surfing, diving and snorkeling opportunities. It also has some of the freshest seafood, which is abundant and cheap. Though not as popular as neighboring South Africa, more tourists are being lured to see what this Lusophone country has to offer. Here are my top 10 Things to Do in Maputo and beyond:
Visit the FEIMA Arts and Crafts Market. If you’re looking for souvenirs, African art or just somewhere to chill for a few hours, FEIMA is your place. This outdoor market is located inside a relaxing urban park with an abundance of shade trees and tropical plants. Artisans sell batiks, paintings, fabric purses, clothing, shoes, wood carvings and more. There are also two outdoor restaurants on site which serve both western cuisine and traditional Mozambican dishes.
Be inspired by local art and culture. Núcleo de Arte is an art cooperative, home to more than 100 sculptors, painters, and other artists. During daytime hours, you can meet the artists and watch them at work next door at Cafe Camissa. There are frequent exhibitions and many display pieces are for sale, so bring cash with you. Fundação Fernando Leite Couto, is a cultural center which promotes the country’s art, culture and literature. It’s often the site of live concerts, readings and art exhibitions. Centro Cultural Franco-Mocambicano (CCFM) is another cultural center which has frequent music and dance performances. Check their respective websites for event schedules.
Shop at the Mercado Central. This market, located in a picturesque colonial building in the Baixa district, is the main shopping hub in Maputo. You can find fabric, clothing, fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables, and many household staples. Prices are negotiable, so don’t be afraid to bargain. But stay alert and beware of pickpockets.
Visit a museum. Maputo has several modest, albeit unique museums. The Central Train Station is Maputo’s landmark building and a fabulous work of architectural design. It’s an operating train depot, which also houses a museum detailing the history of Mozambique’s railways and communication systems. Inside are several old steamer trains and other historical photos and artifacts. The National Art Museum has a small but respectable collection of Mozambican art, including several large canvases by world-renowned artist, Malangatana. The Natural History Museum (Museu de História Natural) has an interesting collection of stuffed animals and wooden carvings. The National Money Museum (Museu Nacional da Moeda) holds a collection of the many currencies that have circulated in Mozambique’s history; they include barter tokens, gold dust, and current-day bills. Lastly, the Iron House (Casa do Ferro), designed by Gustave Eiffel, architect of Paris’ Eiffel Tower, contains a small display of artifacts from some of Mozambique’s medieval cities and trading posts. The house was originally intended to be the Governor’s home, but because of the all-metal structure it was too hot to live in under Maputo’s tropical conditions. Luckily, now it’s air conditioned.
Go on the Bairro Mafalala Walking Tour. This 2-hour walking tour takes visitors through the Mafalala bairro, Maputo’s oldest township or informal settlement. Mafalala lacks the affluence of other neighborhoods, but is a source of national pride and rich historical, political and cultural roots. The tour includes a stop at the house of the late Samora Machel, the Mozambican revolutionary and its first president post-independence, a visit with a local curandeiro (healer), and a traditional dance performance. This tour is a must for anyone interested in learning about Mozambique’s history and struggle for independence.
Enjoy Mozambican music. Mozambican music has thrived since independence and there is no shortage of venues for music lovers. Each Thursday night, from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, a different local band plays live music at the Associação dos Musicos Moçambicanos. The crowd is young and mostly local (with a few expats and tourists tossed in), the vibe is laidback and fun, and the music a mix of hip hop, Afro beats, and reggae. For the jazz fans, the Africa Bar has live jazz on Thursday nights. Chez Rango, a lounge inside the Central Train Station, is the place to go for live jazz on Saturday nights. Nucleo de Arte has a DJ and live bands performing on Sunday evenings. In fact, most restaurants have DJs or live music performances on weekend nights.
Eat fresh seafood. If you’re a seafood lover, Mozambique will not disappoint. Maputo’s Mercado do Peixe is the place to go for fresh seafood. From fish, prawns, and lobster to crab, clams and calamari plucked straight from the water, this place has it all. The market is housed in a new waterfront building where seafood is sold by the kilogram and cleaned upon request for an additional fee. If you don’t speak Portuguese, it pays to go with a local who can help you negotiate price. And if you don’t feel like cooking, your seafood and a variety of side dishes can be cooked on site for you. The market’s waterfront patio is the perfect place to sit with friends and eat, drink and enjoy the views. Service can be slow, so don’t go there famished, but it’s a fun time, especially on Sundays. If long waits aren’t your thing, several waterfront restaurants can meet your desire for great seafood, including Campo di Mare, Sagres, Docks, and the Maputo Waterfront Restaurant.
Delight in the beaches, water sports, and marine life. Mozambique is known for its beaches, but for the best ones you’ll have to leave Maputo. Xai Xai beach is popular with tourists and closet to Maputo at only two hours away. A coral reef running parallel to the shore offers good snorkeling and protects the beach from strong waves. The nearby Bilene beach also offers calm waters and relaxed vibes. Jet skiing, scuba diving, sports fishing, sailing and canoeing are among the many activities enjoyed there. Ponta d’Ouro is known for its great beach, party atmosphere, dolphins, offshore diving, and deep-sea fishing. Tofo is another popular beach town, located about 4 hours north of Maputo and known for its reefs and excellent diving and snorkeling. It is one of the best places to see manta rays, sea turtles, and whale sharks. Vilanculos, accessible from Maputo by a one-hour flight or eight-hour bus ride, is the Mozambican water sports capital. Kite surfing, horseback riding and traditional dhow boat safaris are also popular there. Vilanculos is the gateway to the Bazaruto Archipelago, known for its fabulous beaches.
Explore the islands. Inhaca island is a beautiful oasis located just 30 miles across the bay from Maputo. It’s suitable for a day trip or weekend getaway. Inhaca’s Santa Maria beach is popular with locals and tourists wanting to enjoy its soft sand and clear waters. Catembe island is located on the southern side of Maputo Bay, about 15 minutes from Maputo by ferry. Though not as nice or as popular as Inhaca, it also offers great views of the Maputo skyline. The ferries to Inhaca and Catembe leave from ferry ports in downtown Maputo. For those willing to explore Mozambique’s northern reaches, numerous islands await you. The Bazaruto Archipelago is comprised of five islands: Bazaruto, Santa Carolina also known as Paradise Island, Benguerra, Margaruque and Bangue. The Bazaruto Archipelago is Mozambique’s only underwater national park and there are several dive sites around the islands. Even further north are the Quirimbas islands, an unspoiled chain of 32 islands, known for its coral reefs, white sandy beaches, and crystal blue waters inhabited by dolphins, whales and endangered dugongs (sea cows).
Search for wildlife on safari. The Maputo Special Reserve is located about 60 miles southeast of Maputo and includes 350 African elephants, birds, zebra, antelope, crocodiles, hippos, small bucks, bushpigs, baboons, and unique plant life. There are also marshes and two rivers inside the reserve, which are home to a variety of fish life. Gorongosa National Park, in central Mozambique, is home to lions, elephants, buffalo, zebras, bucks, hippos and crocodiles, as well as more than 400 species of birds. Its conservation programs are supported with tourist dollars. Niassa Reserve, in northern Mozambique, is home to the endangered African wild dog, elephant, sable antelope, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra and many species of birds. This protected area is twice the size of South Africa’s Kruger Park and boasts stunning natural scenery. Meculas Mountain (4,728 feet high) is located inside the reserve.
I arrived at Durban’s King Shaka airport on a hot and sunny afternoon, fully expecting to check into my hotel and head straight to the beach on the Golden Mile. To my dismay, by the time I settled into my room two hours later, the sky had turned a dark shade of gray, and stayed that way for the next three days. My plans to beach bum and swim in the warm Indian Ocean having been dashed by rainy weather, my next mission was to find an interesting indoor activity. Enter Plan B – the Phansi Museum.
The Phansi Museum opened in 2000, initially located in the basement rooms of Roberts House, a Victorian national monument in Glenwood, Durban. The name ‘Phansi” (which means below in isiZulu and is traditionally known as the realm of the ancestors) was inspired by its location. It has since expanded to three floors and now houses one of the biggest and most spectacular collections of traditional African arts, crafts and artifacts in the world.
Not quite like a traditional museum, all tours are individual and by appointment only. My tour guide, Phumzile Nkosi, escorted me around the museum for an hour and shared information about the history of the various pieces. As a lover of African art, I was completely fascinated and secretly wishing I could have some of the pieces for my personal collection.
The Phansi Museum collection includes Zulu, Xhosa, Shangaan and Ndebele beadwork, telephone-wire baskets, carved wooden meat platters and milk pails, memory cloths, ceramic beer pots, snuff spoons, containers, pipes, walking sticks, and wood carvings, some dating back to the 1800s. The top floor houses the grand finale – 30 life-size marionettes dressed and adorned in full ceremonial attire from various regions and cultures of southern Africa.
If you are in Durban, the Phansi Museum is not to be missed. With an entrance fee of only 40 rand (approximately $3.50 USD at time of writing), it’s one of the best deals in town.