Everything You Need To Know About A Gap Year In Africa
Famous for the pyramids in the north, the jungle at the central and the beaches in the south - Africa is a land that is full of surprises. A land which has nurtured one of the earliest civilizations of the world, Africa is the home of an incredible variety of people, animals, climates, and spectacular places.
Know the reasons why you should plan to take a gap year in Africa!
'Coz it's Africa!
Well, oh yeah, you don't really need reasons to travel to a gorgeous continent that has so much to offer to travelers & explorers! Whether it's the richness of the culture or the diversity of the ethnic groups, the history of humankind to the thriving wildlife of the region, the call of philanthropy or the zeal to learn new things - Africa can offer you all that you've been seeking, and all that they never taught you in school.
Opportunity to volunteer & make an impact.
A gap year isn't just about traveling, but it's also the phase where you can spend adequate time, serving the society and doing something meaningful for the underprivileged people. In many African nations, there are a huge number of people dwelling below the poverty line, and often don't have access to the basic of life. Being a volunteer, you can make a difference in their lives and spread happiness.
Immerse in the local culture & soak in the richness.
Each of the African nations has something unique to offer to the travelers and there's always a scope to discover something new, something unique! Whether it's the Berber culture of Morocco or the Maasai culture in Kenya - you'll be mesmerized at every place. The people are warm and they'll make you feel it with their hospitality, you'll get to spend ample time with them, live in homestays, help in community development work and experience their way of life, during your gap year.
It's a chance to pursue your passion and learn some new skills.
If you've always wanted to start a travel blog or thought of learning wildlife photography, then now is the time! Create a blog and start writing about your journey & experiences. Join a wildlife photography program and gain first-hand learning experience from professionals. Not just that, but your gap year in Africa will give you several opportunities to follow your dreams. You can also learn snorkeling or scuba diving. If you wish to learn cookery, then go for it and try cooking some authentic delicacies of the region from the locals. This is the time to do what your heart calls for, so let loose and go for it!
Meet some fun loving travelers from different parts of the world and create memories!
While you may set out for this journey all by yourself, you'll soon meet some amazing like-minded people on the roads. These are the people who speak different languages, have diverse cultural backgrounds and maybe they're very unlike you - but what will connect you all is the urge to explore the unexplored and live a life out of the box! You'll get to learn more about their lands, and share your stories with them - and eventually, you'll know how to make friends out of strangers! These are the ones who'll add that extra spark to your travel tales.
So, what's stopping you now?
Here are some useful tips (& hacks) for you, which we think are important before you set out for that amazing trip in Africa!
Know which vaccinations are needed, and also consult your doctor.
Of course, you're setting out for a long journey and therefore, it's essential to check with your doctor. Most African countries will require proof that you've had a Yellow Fever vaccination, so make sure you get that in time. Malaria prophylaxis like Malarone is another must-have, and if you're planning on trekking at altitude, speak with your doctor about the dosage of Diamox or similar. Make sure to carry other necessary medicines like painkillers, ointments for cuts & burns, etc.
Do proper research regarding the weather conditions.
We all have a misconception that Africa is hot, right? Well, not always. Depending on which places you choose to travel, there can be varying temperatures. Yes, there are even parts of Africa that see snow. Make sure that you check the climate of the part of Africa you are visiting, and also verify the seasonal changes you may experience. Even in the desert, it can be extremely cold at night. It's advisable not to pack too much, but surely, pack sensibly so that you don't overburden yourself and at the same time, you don't miss out on anything that's necessary.
Be prepared for a culture shock!
The African culture is immensely diverse than that of the West, and it's quite common to face a culture shock. But nonetheless, it'll be a beautiful experience to add to your journey. You'll find people strangely dressed, celebrating festivals you've never heard of, and eating things that aren't quite popular! When you're in Kenya or Tanzania, you’ll probably encounter the phrase ‘Mzungu’ being thrown your way – often by locals smiling as they wave out of car windows or pass you on the street. The literal translation from Swahili is ‘person who wanders without purpose’, though these days it’s used to describe any white-skinned foreigner. No matter what, the people in Africa are super friendly, and you'll surely have a great time out there, once you sync in.
Be flexible with your itinerary!
You're out for a gap year trip and unlike the tourists, who have a stipulated time in hand, you're the master of your plans (and time!). So don't cramp it up while planned your itinerary, rather keep it open for changes and add ons! There's a popular phrase - "Africa time", which you'll come across several times, and while you may love it at occasions, you'll also hate it at times, during your travels here, but the sooner you can embrace it - the better! If you plan to meet a local at 11 AM, be prepared to wait for half-an-hour or so, because the person can turn up late! Similarly, buses and trains would rarely reach on time, giving you ample scope to think and rethink your plans!
Choose to be a responsible traveler.
It's essential that you travel responsibly during your gap year in Africa, and touch the lives of the people you come across. You can opt to volunteer for wildlife conservation programs in South Africa, or teach in a rural school in Tanzania, or maybe work at a healthcare center in Malawi. Not only will this give you an opportunity to serve the people, but it'll also enhance your experience, and enrich your journey, adding some brownie points to your Resume. Avoid using plastic bottles and other products that are non-biodegradable, try to buy local items (as souvenirs, etc) which would add to their economy and do your bit like a global citizen.
Get a Travel Insurance before you set out.
Uncertainties are a part of every journey, and no matter how much you've planned, things might not always go as per your plans! You might miss a flight or lose your luggage, there can be an accident (God forbid!) or you may fall sick - and as they say, it's better to be safe than sorry! And we believe that if you can afford to take a gap year trip, you can't miss out on buying an appropriate Travel Insurance that would serve you during your journey. Make sure that you know why & how travel insurance can protect you during your trip, and purchase the one that suits you best!
While there are several amazing things to do in Africa, Go Discover Abroad has curated some incredible gap year programs across 8 countries namely - South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco & Swaziland.
Take a quick look at the best gap year Destinations in Africa that are there in store for you!
A land that never fails to amaze a traveler with its rugged beauty, breathtaking sunsets, gorgeous beaches, and thrilling game drives - Kenya surely deserves to be explored! You can choose to opt for 2 Weeks Special Voluntour in Kenya, being a part of which you can volunteer with children in the outskirts of Nairobi, and go for exploring Maasai Mara over the weekend, to spot the Big 5. And if you're looking for something more intense and adventurous, then opt for the Big Cat Wildlife Research Project in Maasai Mara, and spend your days amidst the wilderness, working with professional conservationists.
Whether it's about discovering the hidden trails of Tanzania or volunteering with children, or maybe going for a trek to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro - adventures in Tanzania never tends to end! Hit the roads and experience the thrilling game drives at Serengeti & Ngorongoro, binge on local delicacies, chill on the beaches of Zanzibar and create memories during your gap year! Make sure you learn a word or two in Swahili - it'll help you during your stay!
The 'Rainbow Nation', as it is popularly called, this country is too good to be missed and you must stop looking for reasons to travel to South Africa! Whether it's about hiking up the Table Mountain in Cape Town or strolling around the beaches to spot the penguins or take a road trip from the capital city to Kruger - there's nothing in South Africa that you wouldn't enjoy! Go Discover Abroad has more than 10 gap year programs in South Africa to choose from, which includes Kruger & Volunteering Adventure Tour, Teaching & Backpacking Adventure in Cape Town, Rural Healthcare & HIV/AIDS Awareness Project in Zululand and much more!
Once you wrap up your journey in South Africa, you can travel to Swaziland and spend a few days exploring the stunning mountains and gorgeous valleys, gusty waterfalls, dense forests, and exotic wildlife roaming around the swamps and bushes. It's true that South Africa gains more attention being a larger country, Swaziland has off late become quite popular among gap year students since it's more affordable than the former and it has some incredible hidden gems waiting to explored by enthusiastic travelers who are seeking to satiate their wanderlust.
Whether you wish to experience the goodness of living a rural life or want to indulge in adventure sports for some extra adrenaline rush, we can let you experience all that Zambia has in store. Spend your days as a volunteer for the Sports and Community Development Project in Zambia and help the youth in polishing their athletic skills. Explore the trails along the Victoria Falls and Zambezi River, soak in the beauty of nature, apart from walking through the National Parks in Zambia.
A quick trip to Madagascar during your gap year in Africa will be nothing short of a magical experience! Set out for an adventure tour in this pristine island nation and live the life you've always dreamt of. Explore Bekopaka’s famed Baobab Alley, the stunning weathered rock formations of the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, a canoe ride to caves along the Manambolo River and much more! The best thing is that you'll get to travel with a bunch of amazing people from different parts of the world!
Tucked between Zambia on one side and Mozambique on the other, Malawi is one of the least developed and most impoverished countries on earth. Nearly 53 percent of its 15 million inhabitants live below the poverty line, and surely, it's not one of those countries which are there on every traveler's bucket list. However, you can choose to be a tad bit different from others, and spend a few days, soaking in the authentic vibes of Malawi. Medical students can work at the local healthcare centers, where the number of doctors is fairly low compared to the number of patients. Other than that, you can also choose to volunteer as a teacher, spreading the lights of education and some hope as well.
Unlike the other African countries, Morocco is a lot more European & Arabic, have closer connections to these regions. From the enchanting blue lanes of Chefchaouen to the winding medina maze of Fez and the bustling kasbahs of Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech - this North African country will take you to a wonderland! You can choose to volunteer for an NGO Support Program in Morocco or go for desert safaris and experience the life of 'bedouins'. Soak in the charm of the medinas, shop till your heart's content, binge on couscous & Moroccan Mint Tea, and enjoy the journey to the fullest.
While you can Google about Africa and know more, here are 31 most interesting facts about the continent that are worth knowing.
Scroll down to know about some fascinating facts about Africa, before you make your mind to explore the land during your gap year abroad.
1) The name ‘Africa’ came into Western use through the Romans. The word has its roots in two different languages - in Latin (“Aprica”) it means ‘Sunny’, and in Greek (“Aphrike”) it means ‘Without cold’.
2) The oldest human remains ever discovered were found in Ethiopia, which is approximately 200,000-years-old.
3) Between the period of 1881 and 1914, the entire African continent went through the turmoil of invasion, occupation, division, colonization, and annexation by European powers. This phase was popularly known as “Scramble of Africa”. Only Ethiopia and Liberia were out of this turmoil.
4) The Second Congo War (1998-2006), claimed the second-highest number of casualties (5.4 million lives) since World War II. The conflict involved eight African countries.
5) Between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Africans were kidnaped and sold into slavery in the Americas.
6) Africa has the world’s longest river, the Nile (4,132 miles). The Nile runs through 11 countries in Africa.
7)Africa also has the world’s largest desert, Sahara, which is nearly as big as the USA!
8) Not just that, but the largest waterfalls, the Victoria Falls is also in Africa. Victoria Falls is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.
9) Victoria Lake is the largest lake in Africa, and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world.
10) There are over 3,000 protected areas in Africa, including 198 Marine Protected Areas, 50 Biosphere Reserves, and 129 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
11) The South African Rovos Rail is considered the most luxurious train in the world.
12) Africa has the second-largest population in the world, at about one billion people. The total African population is approximately 14.72% of the world's population (as recorded in 2009).
13) Africa is the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent with a continental GDP that accounts for just 2.4% of global GDP.
14) The national flag of Mozambique has the image of an AK-47 assault rifle embedded into it. It is one of only two national flags of UN member states to feature a firearm. The other is Guatemala.
15) Africa has the largest remaining populations of lion, elephant, rhinoceros, cheetah, hyena, leopard and hundreds of other species.
16) Almost 40% of adults in Africa are illiterate, and two-thirds of them are women.
17) About 41% of children in Africa aged between 5-10 years are actively involved in child labor.
18) It is the hottest continent, with water scarcity impacting the lives of over 300 million Africans.
19) There's a beer brewed from bananas in Africa!
20) While people keep expecting to see tigers in Africa, there aren’t any! Wild tigers are found in Asia, and not in Africa.
21) The Serengeti (Tanzania) hosts the world’s largest wildlife migration on Earth with over 750,000 zebras marching ahead of 1.2 million wildebeest as they cross this amazing landscape.
22) Africa has 85% of the total elephant population of the world and 99% of the total lion population.
23) Africa has more than 25% of the world’s bird species.
24) In spite of extremely poor internet facilities, there are more than 100 million Facebook users in Africa.
25) While Egypt is popular all over the world for its pyramids, the Republic of Sudan actually has nearly 223 pyramids, double the number of pyramids in Egypt.
26) The Palace of the Lost City is the world’s biggest themed resort, located in South Africa.
27) There are more people speaking French in Africa than in France!
28) Most of the world's fastest runners come from a single tribe in Kenya, Africa, called the "Kalenjins."
29) The women of the Mursi and Surma tribes in Africa wear plates on their lips that can be as large as 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter.
30) South Africa is home to the highest commercial bungee jump in the world, called Bloukrans Bridge Bungy (216 meters).
31) The world’s oldest educational institution is still functioning in Africa. The University of Al-Karaouine, located in Morocco, was originally a madrassa, founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri.
Amazing, isn’t it? Well, these are just a few, and you’ll surely get to explore a lot more interesting things when you travel to Africa during your gap year.
Moving ahead, when you start planning your gap year adventures in Africa, there are certain things that you should know before you go! From getting the Yellow Fever Vaccination to dealing with culture shock - there’s a lot that one needs to prepare for.
Now, you can take your time and decide which all countries you’d like to cover (maybe all of them!) and plan your itinerary accordingly! In case you need more assistance, you can write to us at [email protected] and our experts will get back to you!
We hope that you’ll have an incredible experience in Africa!