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Africa Uncovered: 6 African Myths You Probably Thought Were True

by Elaine Clara Mah

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When I mentioned traveling to Africa to a good friend, she stared at me in surprise for a moment and then asked, “Are you sure? Isn’t it dangerous?” Through popular culture and news of recent attacks and unrests in parts of Africa, many have cultivated the belief that Africa is dangerous. 

This is one of the many myths that surround Africa. In reality, Africa is safe to travel to if one exercises the same kinds of precautions that we might when traveling to generally anywhere in the world. Another myth is that you only travel to Africa to see animals; and though Africa is famed for its big five safaris, the continent is not all about safari. Its food is spectacular, its people welcoming and its beaches stunning.

What are the common misconceptions about Africa? Here are the top 6 myths debunked!


Africa is Full of Diseases


Sure, lack of proper health resources is a problem in many parts of Africa, and many of its citizens have fallen ill or have lost their lives battling many diseases and viruses. Much of this is due to a poor access to childhood immunization programs and lack of basic necessities such as mosquito nettings.

Global attention that is focused on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and Ebola virus have further propelled the image of Africa being a country ridden with disease. However, the situation is much less dire and much less dangerous for visiting tourists. As of April 2015, Ebola is known to affect three African countries – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. There have been no new reported cases since. While HIV/AIDS is prevalent, taking the same precautions you would take at home would protect you from the disease.

As for other diseases prevalent in Africa such as yellow fever and malaria, there are vaccinations and anti-malarial medication that you can take prior to your travels. To protect yourself from diseases, find out the kind of vaccines that you may need from your doctor beforehand and you should be well covered! If you are going on a safari trip, be sure to dress accordingly to protect your body from mosquitoes carrying the diseases.


Africa is a Country

If someone asked you today how many countries is Africa made up of, what would you say off the top of your head?

It may be surprising, but many people around the world think that Africa is a country in and of itself, or that it is made up of only a few countries. Some only refer to Africa as South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, as these countries are well-known safari destinations. In actual fact, Africa is made up of 54 countries and is the second largest continent in the world! Africa is not only large, but it is also the oldest population on Earth. There are over 3000 distinct ethnic groups and 2000 languages native to Africa.


Africa is Always Hot


A common misconception about Africa is the heat. While some countries are hot year round, it is not true for all of Africa. Other than deserts and savannahs, Africa is also made up of rainforests, high-altitude mountains as temperate woodlands. In Uganda, where rainforests make up much of the country, rainfall during the wet season can make the temperature slightly chilly.

The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania can range between -7 to -29 degrees Celsius at night (20 to -20 degrees Farenheit), so if you’re looking to trek the mountain while in Africa, be sure to pack on the layers!


Africa is Dangerous and Not for Solo Travel

Africa children

When we watch the news about Africa, it is largely about political instability, war, child soldiers and so on. As a result, the image that has been painted for Africa is a dangerous one.

It is firstly important to remember that Africa is made up of 54 countries, and unrest and political instability occur in only a few of those countries. The majority of African countries are safe for travel, be it in a group or alone. That said, traveling anywhere in the world requires one to take common safety measures such as bringing a phone, being wary of strangers and avoiding known danger zones.

If you’re planning your first trip to Africa and are unsure of which countries to visit, here’s a great list to start with. They are by no means the only countries in Africa that you should visit, but they do provide a great stepping-stone!

Kenya – Kenya is best known for the Masai Mara, the reserve that hosts the annual Wildebeest migration. Home to over 1,000 species of birds, Kenya makes up an incredible ecosystem with an extremely dense animal population.
South Africa – South Africa is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most popular countries. It is home to 21 national parks and seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with its most well known park being the Kruger National Park.
Botswana – One-third of this landlocked country is made up of national parks and reserves, making it any safari-goers dream! Botswana is known for its luxury safaris that ooze exclusivity and impeccably high standards.
Zanzibar – If you thought Africa is made up of only desert and savannah, you are in for a surprise! The island of Zanzibar has among the best beaches in the world. A surfer’s paradise for sure!
Namibia – Namibia is an adventurer’s paradise, with uninhabitable lands spanning miles on end making for an unrivalled natural beauty. This large country with a small population has much to offer in terms of nature and the great outdoors.


Africa is Full of Animals

African wildlife

It is no doubt that Africa is home to many large and exotic animals. After all, tourists flock over in the millions just to catch a glimpse of a pride of lions hunting prey in the savannah. Many camp at the Okavango Delta in Botswana to witness this magical place that is teeming with a wide variety of bird species and land animals.

Whilst it is also true that some of these animals can be found on the streets of urban Africa – rhinos can be seen grazing just a few miles away from Nairobi – it is not to say that the place is congested with wildlife. In general, Africa’s wildlife is confined to national parks and reserves (of which there are many). Competition for resources as well as threats of poaching has kept wildlife within the boundaries of the reserve, as they can no longer survive outside of it.


Africa is Technologically Behind

Africa wildlife

With technology moving fast and expanding to all corners of the globe, it would be somewhat strange to think that Africa is left behind. The truth is not only is Africa on par with the rest of world in terms of technology, it is also at the forefront. Cell phones usages are as common in Nigeria and South Africa as they are in the US. Developers in South Africa designed the award-winning app – Africa: Live which allows users to view and share wildlife sighting not only as a way to help others spot wildlife but to also collect important date that can be used for conservation.

Ready for your adventure of a lifetime in Africa? Start with Kenya!

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