If you could choose one experience – one special moment – in Africa, what would it be? Tricky question, isn't it? So imagine the head-scratching, floor-pacing and heated debate that went into Travel Africa's ultimate Top 50. From the shores of the Mediterranean to the snows of Kilimanjaro; from mountain gorillas to whale sharks, and from rafting to pony trekking, we've sifted the highlights of this extraordinarily rich and diverse continent to bring you the best of the best.
And if that wasn't enough of a challenge, we've also graded them, from No. 50 to No. 1. Controversial? We hope so. Part of the magic of Africa is that it stirs such strong emotions – so let us know what your No. 1 is. Are we way off the mark? What's on your African dream list?
Here follows the Top 30-21
30. Feel the rhythms of Soweto
Soweto throbs with life. Bright minibus taxis race around; passengers wait at the roadside and use finger symbols to tell the driver their destination; radios blare the latest in music. The township is slowly shaking off its apartheid past. The Hector Pietersen museum commemorates the 1976 student rebellion, while Winnie Mandela runs a controversial museum at the Mandelas' old home in Orlando.
Enterprise is everywhere, from houses advertising bridal services to hawkers selling goats and chickens. The Oppenheimer Park has splendid views over Soweto from a mock Zimbabwe tower. Shebeens (bar-restaurants) and homely B&Bs offer sustenance. Nowadays, Soweto's visitors are waved off with a heartfelt 'Hamba Kahle' (Zulu for 'go well') - Charlene Smith.
29. Hear the song of the Indri
How often have I done this — stood under a tree in Andasibe National Park, eyes upward, neck aching, clothes damp from the morning mist? Over a dozen times, at least, and yet when the first 'whoooooop!' shatters the silence, I am grinning from ear to ear like the other tourists.
There are a lot of lemurs in Madagascar — at least 50 species — but none has the tingle factor of the indri when it greets the first touch of the sun in its rainforest home. This is a large animal on an island of miniatures and its voice is colossal. Imagine the song of a whale, amplified, and add the urgency of a police siren. All this from a black-and-white teddy bear with funny stuck-on ears and round yellow eyes. - Hilary Bradt.
28. Stand on top of Table Mountain
It's impossible to decide which is better: the imposing profile of Table Mountain cradling South Africa's 'Mother City' or the exquisite wrap-around views from its summit. Throughout Cape Town, the mountain exerts a perpetual pull — regardless of how often you've climbed it (a thigh-crunching two-hour walk) or caught your breath in the vertiginous, rotating cable car.
Beyond the crowded cable station, the Tabletop offers peace and solitude. Rock hyrax hop among the fynbos, while the city glimmers far below. At sunset, the sky blazes crimson behind Robben Island, reddening the magnificent rock buttresses of the Twelve Apostles. - Stephanie Debere
27. Spend the night in a local village
My night at Zambia's Kawaza village took me far beyond the Africa of wildlife parks. As the sun went down, villagers gathered around the fire to sing and dance to an accompaniment of drums. After most had gone to bed, Jackson, the headman, and his wife, Mrs Headman, stayed by the fire with one of their grandsons.
Jackson brought out an old musical instrument made of a gourd and the couple sang some of their favourite songs. Then, with the small boy listening attentively at their feet, Jackson told a string of long stories. Each had a moral, wrapped up in humour. It was a touching sight; a rich human experience. - Guy Marks
26. See Djenne Mosque
Not even the sweaty confines of a Malian bush taxi could diminish my awed reaction on first arriving in Djenne. I’d seen pictures of the Grand Mosque before, but none that prepared me for the actuality of standing before the world's largest adobe building — a profoundly asymmetric and thrillingly curvaceous sandcastle, set at the heart of a maze of multi-storey dwellings that share its warm mud-and-wood aesthetic.
Djenne is perhaps Africa's most visually harmonious settlement. And on Mondays it gains an extra dimension, as thousands of brightly robed Peul villagers — the women decorated with heavy nose rings, purple lip tattoos and pendulous gold earrings — flock into the market square, at the base of the surreal mosque, to trade kola nuts, camels, cloths, whatever. - Philip Briggs