Africa Round-Up: Step away from the binoculars
This continent isn't all about safari. Rhiannon Batten rounds up a selection of alternative holidays
Sunday 26 September 2010
Think Africa, think safari – spotting the Big Five can seem like the only way to holiday on the continent.
Yet, there's so much more to African adventuring than walking with lions. If you're curious to explore a different side, put down those binoculars and take your pick from this diverse selection of the best new cultural trips around Africa.
Visual art fans will be tempted by Wide Open Walls. Organised by Gambia's Mandina Lodges, this eco street-art project runs from 12 to 26 October. Eight international street artists will stay at the lodges while they paint the nearby village of Kubuneh. Guests can see their handiwork – and meet the villagers involved – on day excursions to the village. Packages cost from £1,130 per person, including return flights, transfers, and seven nights' half-board (0845 330 2087; gambia.co.uk).
Book early for Tanzania Odyssey's new Zanzibar trip, timed to coincide with the Zanzibar Film Festival, from 2 to 10 July 2011. The company's 11-day itinerary includes three days of screenings in Stone Town followed by six days of beachside luxury. Prices start at £1,999 per person, including full-board, but not flights or festival tickets (020-7471 8780; tanzania odyssey.com).
Malawi's Lake of the Stars Festival runs from 15 to 17 October this year, with the Noisettes and Tinashé on the bill. Festival tickets (£75) and London to Blantyre flights (from £549) are being sold through STA Travel (0871 230 8581; lakeofstars@ statravel.co.uk).
Excursions into the Africa's rich musical seams are also promised on Dragoman's new Music & Magic of Mali tour. The 14-day itinerary takes in traditional Malian music, homestays in Dogon villages, a visit to Djenne's mud mosque and a tour of Bamako's nightclubs. Trips cost from £827 per person, including transport, camping and meals, but not flights (01728 861133; dragoman.com).
Songlines is launching a tour along less travelled musical paths next March with its Sounds of Addis trips. Taking in the Ethiopian Music Festival, as well as more general sightseeing, these 10-day itineraries cost from £1,995 per person, including B&B, entry to selected music events and sightseeing, but not flights (020-8505 2582; songlines.co.uk).
If your feet are itching to walk rather than dance, Village Ways is launching new trips in Ethiopia's remote Tigray province next month. Prices haven't been set, but its existing Ethiopian trips start at about £860 per person for 10 nights, with guiding and full-board, but not flights (01223 750049; villageways.com).
Similarly co-operative gatherings are promised on Undiscovered Destinations' new Nuba People and Villages tour through central Sudan. The 15 days encompass nights in wild camps and insights into local customs. Full-board prices start at £2,850 per person, without flights (0191-296 2674; undiscovered-destinations.com).
To Escape To's eight-night Northern Namibia – Himba Culture trips include two nights at Okahirongo River Camp, which opened last month. Guests are encouraged to visit a local Himba village to discover cultural traditions at first hand. Trips start at £2,450 per person, including flights, car hire and accommodation (020-7060 6747; toescapeto.com).
Responsible trips at more affordable prices are the stock in trade of Down to Earth Holidays, a new initiative from Tribes Travel launching in October. Highlights of its new seven-day Cape Town & Winelands tours include lunch in a traditional township restaurant, a homestay in Stellenbosch, a "wine, cheese and chocolate" tour and an optional evening jazz safari in Cape Town. Prices start from £720 per person, including accommodation and some meals, but not flights (01728 685971; down-to-earth-holidays.com).
Also in South Africa, Travel by Design is running new Flavours of the Cape trips. These start in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town, where you can learn how to make a traditional Cape Malay lunch, before heading up the coast for seafood, vineyard tours and traditional South African braais (barbecue). Seven-day trips cost from £2,460 per person, including flights, transfers, B&B and some meals (01932 844644; travelbydesign.co.uk).
More specialist skills are on offer in Mozambique. Here, Bridge & Wickers' new Ibo Island Jewellery Experience combines silversmithing lessons with snorkelling and boat trips. Five-night stays cost from £780 per person, including transfers, activities and full-board, but not flights (020-7483 6555; bridgeadwickers .co.uk). Or you could sign up to Audley Travel's Learning How to Be a Samburu Warrior trip in Kenya and try everything from using a bow and arrow to foraging for medicinal plants. New this year is the chance to walk with Kalama warriors, who sing while they walk. Rates start at £3,850 per person for a six-day holiday, including flights, activities and full-board (01993 838500; audleytravel.com).
Other active options include Sports Development Expeditions with Camps International. Volunteers spend a month coaching schools football, netball, athletics and (new for next year) hockey, as well as constructing school and community sports facilities. Prices start at £1,675 per person, including full-board but not flights (0844 800 1127; camps international.com).
Rainbow Tours offers a visit the new TribeWanted project in Sierra Leone, a partnership project where visitors can live alongside the locals, helping to develop a sustainable village. Seven-night trips cost from £1,495 per person, including flights, accommodation and most meals (020-7226 1004; rainbowtours.co.uk).
Finally, if you're short of time, try Fleewinter's Souks and Skiing minibreaks, which launch in February 2011 and combine two nights in Marrakech with a day in the Atlas mountains. Trips cost from £295 per person, including flights, transfers and B&B (020-7112 019; fleewinter.com).
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