Published: September 2008
All Across Africa
Wild safaris, bushwhacking treks, cultural close encounters—the new trend on the ancient continent is Africa as it was.
Text by Costas Christ
Africa is not generally a place for adventurers to wing it. In fact, in many places, going solo is illegal. Bush travel is a calculated risk, and reputable outfitters (with armed guides) are a given. But that doesn’t mean you’re in for the tourist treatment. Companies are refining trips that reflect a growing retro trend in Africa, offering travelers what feel more like private expeditions: jungle trekking in Guinea, sailing with Swahili seafarers, stalking lions alongside Maasai trackers. If you know where to go, and who to go with, Africa will meet you on its own terms.
1. Senegal
Lend a Hand

Before the term "ecotourism" was coined, Senegal’s Casamance region—with coiled rivers, palm-lined beaches, and rich cultural heritage—was already experimenting with travel that supported local communities. That vision was snuffed in 1982, when war flared between separatist rebels and government forces. For the next 22 years, Casamance dropped off the travel map; its villagers struggled to survive. A peace accord was signed in 2004, and the region has been stirring cautious interest again. Nonprofit outfitter H.E.L.P. Travel runs a signature 15-day pirogue expedition down the mangrove-banked Casamance River that includes wildlife treks into Niokolo-Koba National Park and trips to remote villages for hands-on community development—e.g., building wells, teaching children, working alongside local women in the fields and markets. No plush beds or gourmet meals in this Africa, just full immersion and concrete proof that your visit is helping make a difference in the lives of your hosts ($2,316 per person; helptravel.org).

Next Trip: Tanzania—Stalk a Big Park >>