Looking to get ahead of the travel trends in 2019? Well, we asked some of the world's top influencers, bloggers, and vloggers to judge 2019's hottest emerging travel destinations around the world.
Check out all 5 winning destinations on the African continent and be sure to scroll to the end to cast your vote for your favourite - which will determine our annual Readers' Award winner!
Special thanks to our all-star judges (read more about them here): Maroc Mama, The Only Way is Ghana, Roamaroo, German Backpacker, and Jessie on a Journey.
This is the fourth article in our annual series of the top emerging destinations by continent. Want more? Go see all the 2019 winners here. Or browse last year's list of winners.
Now on to the winners:
Diani Beach, Kenya
Winner of Our 2019 Judges' Award
Once a secret hidden gem is known only to locals, Kenya's Diani Beach has burst onto the tourism scene in recent years. And, no wonder why: it offers kilometres of powdery white sand, cerulean and aquamarine water, and the opportunity to swim with whale sharks from February to April each year. Plus, it's one of the best places on earth to take up kite-surfing! If you get bored of the beach (and when they are these beautiful, we don't think you will), you can easily venture out for a safari trip nearby. And at the end of the night, you'll be spoiled with the first-class cuisine, including a restaurant located inside a cave! Look out Zanzibar: there's a new beach in town!
The future of African tourism?
West Africa hasn't yet developed a major traveller hub in the same way that some other regions of the continent have. But there is one place that's ready and eager to assume that mantle: Ghana. A culturally rich country with idyllic beaches and abundant wildlife, Ghana also has the political and economic stability required to scale a tourism industry. Plus, there are so many things to do here: grab your board and catch some waves, visit the highly-Instagramable Cape Coast Castle, head north to hang with elephants at Mole National Park, or just soak in the rich flavours of Accra. You heard it here first: everyone who is anyone is going to be going to Ghana in the 2020s. The only question is: will you get there before them?
A conservation - and tourism - comeback in the making
There's a new kid (back) on the block in the safari world. Malawi's once-decimated wildlife populations have recently re-emerged, owing to concerted conservation efforts by African Parks and other organizations. That makes 2019 the perfect year to explore the Majete and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserves, where you'll get to experience the animals up close without having to endure the overstuffed caravans of jeeps and vans at more popular safari destinations. Or check out Liwonde National Park, where the recently opened luxury Kuthengo Camp may soon have Instagrammers asking to change their flights from Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi to Lilongwe. Oh, and if you think Malawi is only a safari destination, the pristine waters and colourful fish of Lake Malawi are here to attest that there are many more reasons to explore Malawi in 2019.
Exile yourself to somewhere magical
This remote volcanic tropical island is so far off the coast of Africa that we could almost include it in our South America awards instead. But that isolated location has made for some fascinating history, including Napoleon's exile here by the British government (the island remains an Overseas Territory to this day). And it's hard to feel too sorry for Mr Bonaparte considering he enjoyed the same striking rugged coastlines, breath-taking natural wonders, and the lush interior that await visitors to this day. Getting here is part of the adventure, of course: unless you've got a boat, you're going to need to snag a spot on the only weekly flight from Johannesburg.
A sensory experience like no other
Prepare your senses to be overwhelmed. Lagos is chaotic and colourful, hectic and high-energy. But it's also a much more accessible city than many tourists probably realize - and the reward for venturing here is a unique and authentic travel experience, the sort of which are increasingly rare these days. The city's three main islands are undeniably affluent yet multi-dimensional: check out the incredible Nike Art Gallery in Lekki during the day, dine at high-end restaurants like Nok in Victoria Island, or just relax at the Jazzhole bookstore and cafe in Iyoki. If you want beaches, Lagos has those too: and nearly every weekend they come alive with a party! Or for the more adventurous, check out a performance at the New Afrika Shrine, host of the annual Felabration festival honouring the legendary musical and political icon Fela. Trust us, Lagos is an experience you won't soon forget.