Climb Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of CongoTowering above Goma, a city in eastern DRC, is Mount Nyiragongo. Every evening as darkness descends, this active volcano emits an eerie red glow that can be seen from miles around. Hiking to the summit is no mean feat – it’s a six-hour ascent starting in a warm tropical forest before climbing over smooth lava rock and crumbling scree at the peak. Reaching the top of the volcano brings you face to face with the smouldering orange lava lake, the largest of its kind in the world.
Take the Lunatic Express, Kenya
So called because of the monstrous cost of building the line (not to mention the man-eating lions that picked off a number of workers building it), this rickety old train connecting Nairobi to Mombasa is soon to be consigned to history. Kenya’s new Standard Gauge Railway will take its place in December 2017, the estimated date of completion. This may be the last year to take this legendary journey to the coast. While you can expect long delays and grubby tablecloths, there’s a shabby-chic charm to this journey that has to be experienced.
Sample street food in Stone Town, Zanzibar
At sunset every evening in ancient, crumbling Stone Town, Forodhani Gardens fills with local street food vendors selling Swahili seafood cuisine. Delicacies include freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice, deep-fried balls of sweet potato called kachori, and fresh coconut curries. The Gardens are situated at the edge of Stone Town overlooking the water. From here, the lights from night fishermen’s boats can be seen twinkling in the darkness.
Trek the Simien mountains, Ethiopia
Part of the Ethiopian Highlands, the Simien Mountains are a World Heritage Site that were formed by a series of volcanic eruptions some 30 million years ago. Famed for the dramatic scenery, here you’ll see steep cliffs, gentle grass-covered ridges, waterfalls, canyons, gorges and wisps of cloud gently settling on mountain tops. The best views come from the observation points at Gidir Got and Imet Gogo in the centre of the park, and a number of trekking routes are available, taking between 4-10 days.
Drive to Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
Kidepo, straddling the Ugandan-South Sudanese border, has to be among the most remote of East Africa’s game parks. Years of conflict and heavy poaching have left the elephant and buffalo herds scarred and wary, and poor infrastructure means that only a handful of visitors make the rough 12-hour journey by road from Kampala. Half the fun is in getting there (although you can fly in), and the park itself is a place of wild and spectacular beauty. Its almost mythical seclusion means that you are likely to have the place more or less to yourself.
Chill in Gisenyi, Rwanda
A three-hour drive west from Kigali through the land of a thousand hills brings you to Gisenyi, a tranquil little spot on the shores of Lake Kivu. There’s a golden lakeside beach to lounge on, as well as a couple of decent eateries. Try Calafia Café, a quirky coffee shop with colourful patterned cushions and a lovely garden in which to read and relax. A number of the lakeside hotels have kayaks to hire if you fancy an outing on the lake, or you can stay at Paradis Malahide and swim over to the nearby island for lunch during the day.
Dance on the shores of the Jade Sea, Kenya
In May every year, tourists and locals gather on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya to celebrate at the Lake Turkana Festival. A colourful cultural event, it is here that the 10 local ethnic groups – El Molo, Rendille, Samburu, Turkana, Dassanach, Ghabra, Borana, Konso, Wata and Burji – meet to perform their unique song and dance traditions for the crowds, and to promote peace in the region. The festival takes place from 4th to 6th May 2017, but take a few days either side to make the most of the journey, travelling up through the dramatic Matthews Range.
Raft the waters in Jinja, Uganda
Thrill-seekers need look no further than Jinja, East Africa’s adventure heartland and home to some of the finest white water rafting in the world. Both river rafting and kayaking are available in this city at the source of the Nile (which is also famed for its party scene, and as the producer of Nile Special beer – go figure). Although the city itself is a little worse for wear, with crumbling architecture, the banks of the Nile are luscious and green, making for a picturesque day out on the water.