Experience Africa History Through Travel

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Heritage & Cultural Travel in Africa

The brave new frontier of venture travel in the rapidly expanding heritage/history market. This is perfectly configured for the Baby Boomer age group who have the money, a wider world view than their parents and a cerebral view of travel. The heritage market has some obvious and evergreen candidates that will always be at the top of the world culture and heritage listings. Europe, with such notable destinations as Italy, France, Spain and Britain, offer a unique view of the Old World that will never diminish in popularity. Other key destinations are India, with a cultural legacy second to none, various destinations in South East Asia and of course North Africa which offers a richer heritage of classic monuments and history than perhaps anywhere else.

Sub-Saharan Africa might not seem an obvious competitor for the growing heritage travel dollar, but it may surprise readers to know that the region offers enormous scope for those interested in Heritage or History Travel as an alternative to the mainstream. The mainstream in Africa is, of course, wildlife or eco travel, and while this is an evergreen and not-to-be-missed aspect of African travel, there is so much more besides. Consider These:

South African Wine Travel

While I am not including North Africa in my exploration of African Heritage Travel, Tunisia is a known producer of excellent wines, as is the Cape. In a nutshell the Cape Wine Region is concentrated in the Western Cape, the hinterland of the beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town. This is in fact the historic wine country of South Africa, a region which was first settled by Dutch and Huguenot immigrant in the 17th, and which first felt the till of a vintners hand soon afterwards. The history of wine production here is as rich and varied as can be imagined, and enough literature is available on South African wines to make it unnecessary to go into much detail here.  As a travel destination, however, the region benefits from the wider travel infrastructure of South Africa which is in general highly developed, extremely sophisticated and affordable. Mark South Africa on your wine travel calendar, you will not be disappointing.

Ancient Monuments in Africa

Probably the defining African ancient monument is the Great Zimbabwe Ruins that speaks of an unexpectedly deep and sophisticated social and economic history on the Central Plateau, but across the region there are many other examples. Many are not particularly well developed, and a certain amount of rough travel is necessary to access them, but in many ways this makes for an intriguing African journey unto itself. Another and connected African Heritage site is the Mapungubwe ruins situated in the Limpopo province of South Africa

African Forts and Battlefields

South Africa is arguably the richest area of developed battlefield in Africa, with key sites pertaining to the Anglo/Zulu and Anglo/Boer Wars probably the best known. Much effort is currently being put into the unearthing and preservation of battle sites in Namibia and Tanzania in relation to the World War I campaigns in both of those regions. Travel here to visit battlefields is a little less predictable than in South Africa but the hope is that this will improve as more interest is generated.

African Music and Festivals

The South African music festival circuit, as with just about everything else, is diverse, highly developed and sophisticated, and a great many cultural and music travelers make their way here. South Africa, for example, offers a version of the Burning Man festival, as well as many classic, modern and afro-beat events.

To penetrate the African music scene elsewhere in Africa requires varying degrees of rough travel, but some, such as the Festival in the Desert, held annually in Mali, are easier to get to. Across the board, however, this is a brilliantly vital and colorful aspect of African travel waiting to be more fully exploited.

The African Slave Trade

This is a darker legacy of African history, and the monuments and museums related to it attract many Africans of the diaspora to examine and explore this aspect of their own history. Features of the African slave trade, in particular along the west coast of Africa, are well preserved and revered. Along the east coast this less so, but still there is much to see, and much of interest in the legacy of the East and West African slave trades.

Combining Heritage with Eco Travel

It would not be possible to visit Africa without spending at least some time exploring the extraordinary natural heritage of the continent. African wildlife destinations are widely dispersed with each having its own unique characteristics. Fortunately a visit to east and southern Africa offers an incredible diversity of options, although west and central Africa somewhat less. In many regions, such as Tanzania, it is possible, in fact essential, to combine a bit of both in a perfectly balanced itinerary.

Get in touch with Peter Baxter for advice and booking services in any of the key heritage travel destinations in southern and east Africa

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