In my last post, I explored the state of Africa’s tourism sector, particularly focussing on the need to ease travel restrictions within the continent and the impact of social media on Africa’s ‘PR image.’
By placing destinations within sub-Saharan Africa on our holiday schedules, we could play our part in boosting its travel economy. I got the chance to speak to Sarah Owusu, a British Ghanaian artist based in London about her travel experiences in Africa and to get an insight into the continent as a holiday destination. So far, Sarah has visited Uganda, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea and of course, Ghana.
annette abena: International tourism on the continent is heavily concentrated in it’s most popular destinations: Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia. What African countries have you travelled to and what were your motivations for picking these destinations over more popular ones?
Sarah Owusu: I’m a Ghanaian so Ghana to me is home and not a place I consider to be a “holiday destination” but for people who have never been to Ghana, it is the desired holiday destination indeed!. I visited Equatorial Guinea in 2016 been to Uganda 4 times and chose Zanzibar in Tanzania as the destination to celebrate my 25th birthday. It was definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.
Cape Coast, Ghana
annette abena: Africa is notoriously difficult to navigate due to infrastructure challenges, security concerns as well as onerous visa requirements and lack of clear information. Did you experience any challenges travelling to/ within these countries?
Sarah Owusu: For Uganda, we found that visa prices were very inconsistent and this could have possibly been due to corruption inflating prices.
Sarah Owusu: Equatorial Guinea is an interesting one, and probably the most challenging because the country is very private and do not grant many visas. Aside from this, it is a unique country and a fun fact is that it is the only Spanish speaking country in Africa.
annette abena: Would you recommend the destinations you have visited to others within the diaspora? If so, why?
Sarah Owusu: Ghana – I’m going to be quite biased and say I would 110% recommend. Ghana holds a lot of African history and history in general, if you are interested – even if you are unsure of exactly where you are from! For example, Elmina Castle, located in Cape Coast held most of the slaves during the Trans Atlantic slave trade and it is open for visitors to explore. Or the Independence Square located in Accra stands as a symbol of independence, Kwame Nkrumah and Pan Africanism. There is a chance to explore many different cultures not just Akan – there are 49 different languages spoken in Ghana, various foods, cultures from the North to the South. As everyone knows, Ghanaians are extremely friendly and welcoming people whatever your background so you’ll feel at home. Ghana can get extremely hot depending on the season you visit and there are plenty mosquitos so take the proper precautions!
Fantekwa, Eastern Region – Ghana
Sarah Owusu: Equatorial Guinea – I would recommend EG for anyone looking for a new experience. It’s one of the smallest countries in Africa and the only Spanish speaking country on the continent. If we wanted, we could have driven around the whole country. It’s so small that we met people we were on the same flight as – a few times! The country is very well developed, I did not see one pothole. (I love Ghana but Ghana has a lot of them) Malabo, the capital is very clean and developed. There is nothing like a ‘tro tro’ (street bus), street sellers or anything else typical of an African capital. Consequently, EG is not crowded like many other African capitals (it has a population of about 1 million), which is great for anyone looking for a quiet city getaway.
St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, Malabo – Equatorial Guinea
Sarah Owusu: Zanzibar, Tanzania – I honestly have nothing negative to say and would recommend it highly. I would say though that you would definitely need a driver as a lot of places are far from each other and there so many things to see. Like Stone Town where you can see the big turtles. I saw some of the clearest waters I’ve ever seen in Zanzibar. There was fresh food, friendly people and very affordable prices. But of course, as in any African country, they will know you are foreign and will try to extort prices so haggle! Speak to the locals and try and gauge how much you should be paying for things. There are mosquitos, but not as much as EG or Ghana!
Sarah Owusu: Uganda is absolutely beautiful, it is the greenest country I’ve ever been to. Unlike West Africa the weather is quite cool, I think it averages at about 24 degrees. The food is insane! I saw the biggest avocados and enjoyed fresh food. Uganda is also very cheap. I paid the equivalent of £6/7 for a mani and pedi. £100 could probably last you a week if you really wanted it to. Ugandans are also very friendly and very polite. In the west of Uganda, there is incredible wildlife, safaris and so many different types of animals that are well looked after. The country takes poaching very seriously (but of course there are instances where this will take place due to corruption etc.).
Victoria Nile, Uganda
Sarah Owusu: Overall I loved every single one of these countries but of course no country – African or not – is perfect, but I’d 110% recommend all of them. African countries have a lot in common but yet we are all so different which makes visiting such a unique and fulfilling experience!
Sarah’s top places to visit:
Accra Mall (The largest mall in West Africa)
Sofitel Malabo Sipopo le Golf Hotel – great for relaxing as it’s very quiet. Go for lunch and a swim.
Safari Blue – Take a day tour on a boat and get the chance to snorkel and swim in a lagoon. I was taken to an Island (Kwale Island) in the middle of nowhere which disappears when the tide comes in so you can only stay for an hour! It is literally in the middle of nowhere with just a strip of sand surrounded by water.
Stone Town – See the big tortoises.
Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort – One of the best hotels in Uganda surrounded by greenery, interesting and unique birds, flowers.
Seven Hills Revolving Restaurant – Revolves as you sit, so you get to have different views.
Chobe Lodge – Resort right next to Murchison Falls which is such a beautiful waterfall a must see but insanely far!
Safaris – Get up early to see the animals: elephants, alligators, lions etc. You can come out of the car (at your own risk). Usually, the tour guide will be Ugandan and will be experienced – you’re in safe hands.
Which countries are on your wish list? Can you add to Sarah’s top picks? Comment below!