If you’re reading this, you’re likely a traveller keen on breaking away from the regular tourist paths and delving deep into the heart of a destination. Africa is a diverse and expansive continent offering some of the most rewarding offbeat experiences if you know where to look. Here, I want to share my go-to ways to get more off the beaten track while travelling across this incredible continent.
1. Do Your Homework
Before you set foot in Africa, take the time to do some in-depth research about the specific regions you will visit. Read travelogues, blogs, forums, and local news outlets. This can give you insights into local customs, hidden gems, and community-led initiatives.
Use interactive maps and satellite views to identify areas that look intriguing. Then dig deeper by contacting local communities or social media travel groups for suggestions and insights.
2. Learn the Local Language
Speaking even a few phrases of the local language can do wonders in opening up new experiences. While English, French, Portuguese, or Arabic can get you quite far in many parts of Africa, knowing some local language words can help you connect more personally with the locals. Use language learning apps or take up local language courses if available.
3. Tap into the Local Network
Once on the ground, make friends with locals. They are your best source for authentic and off-the-beaten-track experiences. Attend local events, mingle at markets, or participate in a local cooking class. Stay in locally owned guesthouses or homestays and converse with your hosts about their recommendations for the area.
4. Hire a Local Guide
Consider hiring local guides rather than international tour companies. They are often more familiar with hidden locations and customs, contributing directly to local economies, and can offer more intimate, tailor-made experiences. Look for guides highly recommended by the local community or previous travellers.
5. Embrace Public Transport
Although it may seem daunting, public transport is an excellent way to travel like a local and get to places less frequented by tourists. Africa’s transport system is diverse, from the iconic Matatus in Kenya, Boda-bodas in Uganda and Dala Dalas in Tanzania. So embrace the adventure and hop on board!
6. Travel Slow
Slow travel allows you to delve deeper into a place. Rather than ticking off a list of popular tourist sites, spend more time in fewer places. This way, you get to know the rhythm of local life, stumble upon hidden gems, and have more authentic interactions with the community.
7. Respect the Environment and Local Cultures
Getting off the beaten track doesn’t mean intruding on natural habitats or disrespecting local traditions. Always be respectful of the environments you’re exploring. Stick to paths, don’t litter, and observe local wildlife from a distance. Learn about local customs and respect them.
8. Leverage Technology but Don’t Over Rely
Useful apps and online resources can help find offbeat experiences or navigate public transport. However, don’t let technology dictate your travels. It’s okay to get lost sometimes; you might find your best adventures when things don’t go as planned.
9. Trust your instincts
Often your gut can guide you to some of the most rewarding experiences. Follow that instinct if you get a good feeling about a restaurant tucked away in an alley, a path leading off into the bush, or a village not marked on your map.
Africa is teeming with undiscovered experiences, hidden destinations, and warm-hearted people. Getting off the beaten
track here isn’t just about finding less-visited places; it’s about immersing yourself in diverse cultures, traditions, and landscapes that make Africa unique. With these strategies, I hope you can enhance your journey and form unforgettable memories while contributing to the local communities respectfully and meaningfully. Safe travels, fellow wanderers!