Africa is one of those places that conjures up so many images in one’s mind, whether you’ve had the luck to travel there or not. The continent is just quite simply vast, with huge breath-taking landscapes of incredible natural beauty, and of course, its spectacular wildlife.
I imagine that perhaps some of you are reading this and thinking safari, yes! Where do I sign up? …. But the thought of doing a trip like this as a vegan makes you have second thoughts. Eating is an important part of any travel experience, whether you’re or vegan or not, and I’m here to tell you that vegan safaris are not only possible but a robust reality.
I count myself as being very lucky to have travelled to Africa quite a few times, and people often ask me how difficult is it to travel there as a vegan. For sure, talking in very general terms, the consumption of meat is big and it features heavily on menus in restaurants across the continent. But veganism is also on the rise, especially as awareness of health and environmental challenges gain traction. Indeed, more and more voices are citing the fact that plant-based diets were once the “norm” on the continent. Many argue that veganism is not a new trend – it is simply a return to traditional African cuisines.
The Happy Cow app – fantastic for finding both vegetarian and vegan places to eat around the world – currently lists more than 1040 restaurants with vegan options across Africa. More than half of these were added in the last couple of years or so.
I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully led fully vegan trips to Rwanda, and the food was outstanding. I also have have vegan trips on the books to South Africa and Botswana – check out upcoming trips to Africa here. So put safari back on your bucket list where it belongs.
My favorite facts on all things “big” in Africa
You are probably aware that Africa is the second biggest continent in the world, but did you realize just how jam-packed it is with some of the world’s biggest things? This is my favorite list of facts:
1. Kilimanjaro is not only the highest mountain in Africa, but also the highest freestanding mountain in the world.
2. The Sahara Desert is the largest desert in the world, bigger than continental USA.
3. The Okavango Delta, the centerpiece of any trip to Botswana, is the world’s biggest inland delta.
4. The world’s largest wildlife migration on Earth takes place, with up to 2 million wildebeest, and hundreds of thousands of zebra travelling from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara.
5. It’s the home of the largest living land animal, the African elephant, which can weigh up to seven tons.
6. The longest river in the world is the Nile, which runs for over 4,250 miles.
7. The Namib desert in Namibia is the world’s oldest desert.
8. You’ll also find four of the five fastest land animals in the world here – the cheetah (70 mph), wildebeest, lion, and Thomson’s gazelle (all about 50 mph).
9. The Ngorongoro Crater is the site of the world’s largest unbroken and unflooded volcanic crater.
The above actually reads like an off-the-charts bucket list! Such is the wealth of this continent, in terms of dramatic scenery and outstanding safari options, that it draws many people back time and again, myself included.
Literary adventures in Africa
Understandably perhaps, these jaw-dropping landscapes and extraordinary wildlife often eclipse the equally fascinating cultures and histories that make up this continent. So how about exploring the wonders of Africa through the pages of a book, and experience it through the eyes of locals, and also outsiders who have come to call these lands their home. Swap your binoculars for reading glasses and discover literary treasures that may well inspire your next adventure!
10 books to get you started
The following is a short, introductory list of 10 books, in the country alphabetical order. We’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible and include writers from as many different backgrounds as possible. Please let us know if you have any great reads you’d like to share.
Disclaimer: we have not read all of these books but they are definitely on our reading list!
“I write chiefly for outsiders, those who have not been to Africa but would like to know more about it.” Documentary filmmaker, journalist and teacher, Richard Dowden has lived and worked in Africa since the 1970s. With this book he attempts to find out why Africa is the way it is, he takes his readers on a journey throughout the African nations and their challenging yet inspiring pasts. This is both a fascinating and thought-provoking travel book.
Peter Allison used to work as a safari guide in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. This book is a humorous account of living in the bush and the inherent hazards posed by the terrain and its inhabitants, and how he often found himself wanting to flee the gawking tourists he accompanied who would often be as dangerous as any pack, herd or pride of wild animals.
This is the extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman whose life spanned 95 years in a quite remarkable period in Ethiopia’s history. The woman in question is Aida’s grandmother, Yetemegnu, a resilient character whose life-changing moments – starting with her marriage aged 8 – sometimes intersect with the tumultuous history of her nation. A truly captivating story.
This fast-moving story spans continents and generations of one family. The death of the head of the family in the opening chapters brings his children back home to Ghana from Boston, New York, and London. The book is a fascinating look at migration, family, and what it means to be home.
Kenyan conservationist, Brian Connell, pens his frank observations about life with his Zulu friend in a time and place of racial tension as he documents a wonderful story of two men from different worlds united by the spirit of Africa. This memoir about friendship intertwined with tales of the animal kingdom is both wonderfully entertaining and informative.
Malawi is a country battling drought, famine and AIDS, and then in 2002, floods followed by the worst famine in 50 years. William Kamkwamba is just 14 years old when his family tells him that he must leave school because they could no longer afford his fees. This is William’s incredible story of how he found a way to make a difference, how he brought light to his family and village, and hope to a country. This inspiring story has now been made into a film and can be seen on Netflix.
Noo Saro-Wiwa grew up in the UK. This book is about her return to her place of birth and the five months she spent travelling across Nigeria. It manages to be both funny and heartrending, but most of all it provides a fascinating insight into the vibrancy, chaos, cultures, and natural beauty of the country.
The notebooks refer to Nguirane Faye’s attempts to communicate with his grandson before he dies. He lost his only son, and his grandson, Badou, has migrated to somewhere not known. He speaks to Badou through his seven notebooks, detailing the life the grandson is missing out on in Senegal, from politics, to Senegalese literature, to the treatment of women, and traditional customs, it’s an amazing account that manages to sum up much about Senegal.
South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was a South African conservationist. He founded the Thula Thula game reserve, and this book chronicles the challenges he faced when he reluctantly accepted a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants. He took them because he was literally the herd’s last chance of survival. As he gets to know the herd he comes to realise that they have much to teach him about life, loyalty and freedom. This wonderful story is set against the background of life on a reserve, and will appeal to animal lovers everywhere.
This story is an entertaining tale of rivalry between 2 hairdressers in modern-day Zimbabwe. The witty, conversational tone is what makes the book along with the strength of the characters. When national events come crashing into the narrative they do so through everyday encounters between people and become all the more powerful for it.
What are you waiting for? Start reading and get inspired
Obviously, we have barely scratched the surface here of what the world of African literature has to offer. We do hope though that it serves as a launching pad to pastures new, and of course, that this post has reaffirmed your desire to explore a truly amazing continent. Click on the link here to explore our vegan safari holidays and see where we’re travelling to next – we run worldwide adventures for vegans and vegan-friendly travelers.
Now, we’d love to hear from you! Have you been anywhere in Africa? Considering a visit? Have you read any of the books we’ve listed? Let’s have a discussion in the comments below!