Solo travel might be trending, but research suggests bringing your friends along for the ride is one of the key ingredients for boosting the power of happy memories. In short, travel is better shared and the experts claim, what you share is equally important.
Dr. Max Tookey Senior, Senior Psychology Lecturer at Brighton Business School comments, “While sharing the road together and reliving the moment with friends boosts our inner joy, the more adventurous and engaging (we’re talking all five senses) your travel encounters, the greater the effect, and the more powerful those memories become in helping us to attain happiness. If you’re celebrating a milestone and engaging in an activity that requires a team effort, then you’ve hit the happiness jackpot as all these elements combined are the recipe for creating happy memories that will last a lifetime.”
Of course, Africa is home to an endless number of bucket list locations with stratospheric sensory appeal, so to help you decide on your journey we’ve picked out 10 thrilling sites that are better shared, from the roaring Victoria Falls to the Serengeti National Park – the endless plains delivering its herds of wildebeest complete with surround sound during the annual migration.
1. DUNE 45 : In Sossusvlei, nothing, not even a truly inspired #instagood shot of Namibia’s dunes, will allow you to appreciate just how vast and otherworldly this landscape is – mind-blowing views from the top of Dune 45 awaiting the more adventurous. If you’re climbing with your mates, you’ll be glad of the motivation as this activity is not for the faint-hearted.
2. OKAVANGO DELTA : Does lolling about on the river sound like fun? Then you’re in for a real treat in the Okavango Delta, as you can have a punt at polling your own mokoro. A feast for the senses, walking safaris and some truly wild atmospheric bush camping make this brush with Mother Nature all the more edge-of-your-sleeping mat satisfying.
Africa’s last remaining wetland wilderness, the delta stretches over between 6,000 and 15,000 square kilometres of the Kalahari Desert, the UNESCO World Heritage site ebbing and flowing with the seasons, the water flowing down from the Angola Highlands. From the Big Five to unique aquatic species to some incredible birdlife, the Okavango is rich in flora and fauna, and its nightly chorus is almost spiritual, frogs, nightjars, Cape Turtle Doves and more serenading you to sleep.
3. VICTORIA FALLS : Search for #VictoriaFalls on Instagram and you’ll bring up over 200,000 posts, but no picture (and we’ve seen a few) could do justice to this watery beast – the 354-foot force of nature, one of the seven wonders of the world.
The largest falling curtain of water on the planet roars like a lion when it’s at full throttle, the smoke that thunders (its Zambian title, the falls stretching from Zimbabwe to Zambia) gushing between the rocks, while enormous plumes of spray shoot up into the air above the falls themselves. Named after Queen Victoria by British Explorer, David Livingstone, the falls mark the site of Southern Africa’s adventure capital (Livingstone, Zambia) – white water rafting and tandem gorge swinging (both ideal if you want to max out on those happiness vibes with a friend) just some of the areas adrenaline-charged activities on offer.
4. SERENGETI : Visit the Serengeti during the annual migration and your ability to see might well be taking a back seat as your primary reference point. Photographer Claudia Hodkinson said it best in Getaway magazine, “The Serengeti delivers big herds of wildebeest with surround sound. I heard the migration before I saw it. The air was abuzz with bleating and grunting so thick it was almost palpable.”
5. BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK : There could be few sensory experiences to top gorilla trekking, as you will be hiking through densely forested undergrowth in search of one of the 17 remaining gorilla families in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. You should be moderately fit, the two to six-hour trek involving hiking across some fairly steep slopes.
6. KRUGER NATIONAL PARK : A Big 5 haunt, South Africa’s Kruger National Park is home to the greatest diversity of wild animals in Southern Africa. Once an overland guide and now Acacia’s marketing manager, Arno Delport tells us why the park is a must-see. “This is where I spotted my first ever leopard. I was there on my initial training trip as a tour leader, and the rush of excitement I felt in that one instant will stay with me forever. Being on safari is an incredibly addictive experience, and with the wildlife on show year-round, the Kruger packs some punch.”
7. VILANCULOS : A coastal town on the subtropical province of Inhambane in Mozambique, Vilanculos isn’t tourist territory just yet, so now is a great time to go. The gateway to the magnificent Bazaruto Islands, the tipped-to-be scuba Mecca is also known as the country’s capital of watersports. Life is best lived in the slow lane here so take your time and savour everything from the culture to the colours. Visit the street markets and one-of-a-kind restaurants, sample sublime seafood and Portuguese specialities, head to Club 360 to enjoy their trademark rum and raspberries, and while you’re here DO dive into the blue.
8. CAPE TOWN : South Africa is definitely a feast for the senses, “Love Cape Town” recently sharing a round-up of locals’ ultimate favourite go-to activities according to taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell. Of course, the list includes sampling its famous wines from nearby farms, but you might also want to catch a wave in the cool ocean, appreciate local art at First Thursdays, watch the sunrise from the top of Lion’s Head, hear the birds chirping at one of the many nature reserves and browse and shop spices in the Bo-Kaap.
9. NGORONGORO CRATER : Nearly three million years old and the largest intact caldera in the world, Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is around 20 kilometres across and 600 metres deep. Even descending to the crater floor for your safari is a thrilling adventure, and you can expect some record-breaking wildlife viewing, the crater home to 25,000 wild animals and more lions per square metre than anywhere else in the world.
10. MASAI MARA : The annual migration is the ultimate bucket list safari experience and one of the main reasons for the Masai Mara’s popularity. Nature in action, 1.5 million wildebeest are joined by zebras, topi and eland, the herd thundering across the Kenyan game reserve’s 1,510 square kilometres of open rolling grasslands. Sure to heighten your senses, one of the most thrilling moments, is when the animals try their luck in the crocodile-infested Mara River.