Are you looking for an inspirational list of hands-on travel experiences in Africa? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Over the past years, there has been a big trend in tourism where travellers no longer want to participate in just the standard sightseeing tours and attend so-called ‘cultural shows’, but really feel the need to get involved in experiences that are characteristic to the destination that they are visiting. This is called Creative Travel.
In this article, you can find some of the best creative travel experiences in Africa. Keep coming back, because this list will keep growing!
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN AFRICA
Creative Travel Definition
According to the Creative Tourism Network, creative travel is considered “a new generation of tourism”, that offers visitors the opportunity to “develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences, which are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are taken”.
From volunteer travel programs and language immersion programs to cultural immersion travel experiences and real community immersion, Creative Tourism is a way of travel that really is for everyone.
Whether you travel alone, as a couple or with a family or group of friends, there are many activities around the world where that offer educational courses and workshops, creative experiences where you get to learn different art forms or even adventure activities where you interact with the local nature and people in a fun, yet authentic way.
Complete Hands-on Travel in Africa List
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN BOTSWANA
Learn how to pole a Mokoro canoe in the Okavango Delta
One of the best things to do in Botswana is riding through the Okavango Delta in a ‘mokoro’. This is a hollowed-out canoe that is traditionally used in the delta when it floods each March until late June. It glides along the shallow waters of the flood plain and is propelled by standing in the stern of the boat and pushing the ground with a pole.
TIP BY: Derek Hartman & Mike Walsh, robe-trotting.com (< read all about their Botswana tour)
“For our night camping in the delta, we were carried to our site in a mokoro by a local guide who navigated the maze of shallow waterways. Once our campsite was set up, a few of the guides asked if we wanted to learn how to pole the mokoro. Of course, we did!
We walked to the waterfront and received a crash-course on poling. Somehow, we were both successful despite being nervous. We were just happy to be dry after the lesson. Steering was the most difficult aspect and we were shocked how fast they are without passengers or gear inside. It was a great afternoon learning first-hand about the ways of the locals.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Maun: Okavanga Delta Canoeing Day Trip (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Okavango Delta: Mokoro Day Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN EGYPT
Go on a food tour in Cairo
Egypt has a rich culture, with history and traditions dating back thousands of years. It is among the earliest of civilisations that has been affected by a multitude of forces through the years, resulting in a melting pot of cultures that is worth taking the time and effort to discover. A food tour is a hands-on way to get an authentic taste of the country and its people.
TIP BY: Rai, araioflight.com (< read all about Egypt food & drinks)
“I had a good knowledge of the temples and ancient civilisations, but not a lot about the food of Egypt. So I decided to take a walking food tour in the bustling city of Cairo. During the 4-hour tour with ‘Bellies en Route’ I got to experience an insider’s perspective into the city, the best local dishes to try and the tourist traps to avoid.
Our guide brought a whole lot of knowledge to the tour that included at least 8 stops, highlighting the best of Egyptian food and drinks. In true Egyptian fashion, the dishes were fairly large, with some of my favorites being the koshary, ful, and hawawshi. The day ended with a drink on a rooftop bar.
The city can be overwhelming, especially on a first-time visit, and I was glad to have been given a great introduction during this tour, while at the same time having all my cultural questions answered and connecting with the community making the food.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Bellies en Route Food Tour (See their website >>)
- Cairo Food Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN MALAWI
Take a taekwondo lesson in Mzuzu
Ever thought of trying your hand (and feet) at martial arts? What about learning Korean taekwondo… in Malawi, Southern Africa? Malawi, and most of Africa indeed, have a surprisingly intense martial art scene, with many trained masters available to teach you. Africans won a lot of Olympic medals in this sport in recent years, if only there would be more financial resources they might rule this sport.
TIP BY: Daniele and Elena, cycloscope.net (< read all about things to do in Malawi)
“Like most oriental martial arts, taekwondo is not just about fighting, it is a discipline whose practice raises your awareness of yourself and the control of your body, while of course teaching you how to defend yourself.
We recommend getting to the mountain city of Mzuzu in Malawi, and contact the local master (Hassan) through Macondo Camp and Lodge. His lessons are incredibly cheap and thorough, and suitable for everyone: kids, adults, and even elderly people.
Mzuzu is the biggest “city” in North Malawi, just 40 kilometers away from the beach town of Nkhata Bay, surrounded by pristine forest and nice hills, definitely one great place to visit while backpacking Malawi.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Macondo Camp and Lodge (See their website >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN MAURITIUS
Go on a quad bike adventure at Domaine De L’Etoile
On the East Coast of Mauritius, near the village of Sebastopol, you can find Domaine De L’Etoile, a 1200 hectare natural and private nature reserve – the biggest of the country! The estate opened its doors to the general public in 2002 and nowadays you can participate in adventure activities such as hiking, horseback riding, buggy rides or zip lining and they also have activities geared to children. But, one of the most popular experiences here is riding a quad bike!
TIP BY: me! (Read more about this experience in my blog about Quad biking in Mauritius >>)
“Riding through native forests, lush valleys, sugarcane fields and stretched-out dust roads, quad biking on this former sugar domain is not just exciting, but also a feast for the eye. Driving up the mountain through the changing landscape, you are being treated with some incredible views once you reach the top.
Prices go from MUR 3500, which is bout 95 USD, 86 EUR or 74 GBP and this tour runs 3 times a day. Includes is a welcome drink, test drive & security briefing and sanitary cap for your helmet. There are photo packages, or you can take your own photos if you’re sitting on the back (on your own risk, of course). I had the best time ever, even just sitting on the back of the quad, while my friend drove us around.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- 2-Hour Quad Bike Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Half-Day Quad Bike Tour with Lunch (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Full-Day Quad Bike Tour with Lunch (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- South Mauritius Quad Bike Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN MOROCCO
Visit the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca
Casablanca is a destination that travellers often skip, but it is a great starting point for your ongoing travels through Morocco. And if there is one thing you should’t miss in this city, it’s visiting the incredible Hassan II Mosque, one of the few mosques around te world that you can actually see from the inside as a tourist.
TIP BY: me! (Read our guide to one day in Casablanca if you want more details and see more photos >>)
“The Hassan II Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world (there is space for about 20.000 people inside and about 80.000 on the square surrounding the mosque) and outside of prayer hours, you’re allowed to go inside as a visitor on a tour, for which there are limited tickets. Make sure to cover shoulders and knees (both men and women), and wear decent socks as there is carpet inside and no shoes are allowed!
The mosque is quite impressing and the tours are divided into language groups (Arabic, French, English, Spanish, I think there were a few more). You get to see the main hall, as well as the bathing area for the men.
It was great to see all the details of the building, especially since the materials are all local, really quite some craftsmanship went into it! Even the roof of the mosque is designed to be openend, which seems very smart when there are so many people inside. If you have the time, definitely make sure to plan a visit to the mosque.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Casablanca Guided Sightseeing Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Private Half-Day Guided Tour of Casablanca (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Casablanca: 4-Hour City Discovery Tour with a Local (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
Make your own Moroccan slippers in Marrakech
There are a lot of creative inspirations in Marrakech, but it can be a little difficult to be able to do things hands on. One great option is to try making your own babouche slippers in the medina of the city.
TIP BY: Amanda, marocmama.com (< read all about things to see and do in Marocco)
“Youssef is a fantastic and friendly man who welcomes you into his shop as you learn how to make these very Moroccan souvenirs. You can buy these types of slippers just about anywhere but being able to learn the process and work that goes into each pair is truly worth the experience.”
Babouche slippers are a type of footwear that originally hail from the Middle East where they were worn by both women and men. The French word “babouche” is derived from the Arabic “babush” or Persian “papush”.
The slippers are traditionally made from goatskin, sheepskin, cowhide, and camel hide. They can be left like that or embroidered, hand loomed, tasseled, sequined, or bejeweled. Modern babouches don’t have a curl at the toe as they originally have, and they have a more practical stiff sole and, as you can see on the photo below, they come in a wide-variety of colours!
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Marrakech: Babouch Making Workshop in the Medina (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
Take a medina food tour with locals in Marrakech
Marrakech Food Tours is run by husband and wife Youssef en Amanda (from the blog marocmama.com) and their evening food your takes you around all their personal favourite spots in the Medina of Marrakech. The tour is about 3,5 hours and make sure to arrive hungry, because you will taste a LOT of different dishes!
TIP BY: me! (Make sure to read our full Marrakesh food tour review on the blog >>)
“Youssef grew up in Marrakech, so for every stop added to this tour, the important question is asked: “Would Youssef’s mother eat here?”. Followed by the question “Would Amanda’s mother be scared to go inside on her own?”. If so, the spot is perfect. And they sure were! All spots on this tour offered incredible food, but aren’t always places that are easy for tourists to find on their own.
We tasted Tangia and Mechoui (slowed cooked sheepshead in clay pots, tasted way better than it sounded), fresh olives, warm Harira and Msemmen (soup and Morocco’s take on the French crêpe / Indian flatbread), Hout Quari (Sardines Sandwich), Sfenj (Moroccan Donuts), Babbouche (Boiled Snails), Cous Cous and Moroccan Cookies & Milkshakes.
What we didn’t expect on this tour is that we’d see a lot behind the scenes of the city as well, which was great! From the bakery to the spice market, we really saw where all the locals buy and prepare their food and learned a lot during the walk. I would 100% recommend this tour! They also offer several day trips, home meal experiences, desert lunches and private (shopping) tours.”
BOOK THIS TOUR:
- Marrakesh Food Tours (See their website >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN MOZAMBIQUE
Learn how to kitesurf in Maputo or Praia do Bilene
Kitesurfing is thrilling sport mixing elements of snowboarding, windsurfing, sailing, paragliding, and even more action disciplines, combining them into something that really has it all: speed, acrobatics, balance, jumps. Kitesurfing is all about control of body and mind, and blending them with the elements – it’s both an action sport and a meditative activity.
TIP BY: Daniele and Elena, cycloscope.net (< read all about things to do in Mozambique )
“Kitesurfing can be learned by anyone with a bit of bravery – that’s the only limit: not to be scared by it – everything else, like age or weight, don’t really matter… well, it would be better if
you know how to swim though.
Mozambique has some world-class locations for learning to kitesurf, among those my favorites are Praia do Bilene and the capital Maputo. Both are in the south of the country, not far from each other and you should definitely visit both when backpacking Mozambique. They have licensed schools with affordable rates and great instructors, weather conditions are best in the Austral summer.”
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN RWANDA
Take a weaving class in Kigali
A great hands-on experience in Kigali, Rwanda, is taking a weaving course through the Nyamirambo Women’s Center.
TIP BY: Sarah Swank, suitcasesix.com (< read all about her Africa travels)
“You start with an intro about the center, the instructors, and Rwandan basket weaving in general. Did you know it take several days for expert weavers to complete one basket?! So, instead of attempting a basket, we had the choice of making a necklace or a set of earrings with any color of thread.
I chose single color, but you could use as many as you want. Our teachers started our jewelry for us and then showed us how to continue. For the next two hours, we sat with needle and thread weaving away, stopping only when a thread broke, a color switch was desired, or we finished our work of art. The experts stepped in to help with the more technical aspects of our weaving endeavor.
My final product was a set of two beautiful earrings, made with love and sisal thread, made from the agave plant. It was a wonderful experience with a long-lasting souvenir to remember our lesson and friends. Plus, the fees go directly to the center which provides education opportunities for women in Nyamirambo. I recommend this to anyone in Kigali!”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Nyamirambo Women’s Center (See their website >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN SOUTH AFRICA
Help picking wine grapes in Cape Town
South Africa’s wine industry is huge, in fact it’s the ninth largest producer in the world. There are a total of five wine regions separated into 24 districts and 82 smaller wards. So you can imagine that some of the best things to do in the country are wine focused!
TIP BY: Mar Pages, onceinalifetimejourney.com (< read all about the best wineries near Cape Town)
“Most of the wine production and growing happens in the Western Cape, where the terroir changes immensely from arid Swartland to the ocean-facing Golden Triangle. Come summer and the harvest season, you can join the oenologists and viticulturists in picking and even stomping of the grapes. Each major district has their own take on this hands-on travel experience.
Delheim in Stellenbosch has live entertainment, the entire Robertson Wine Valley has family activities like picnicking, world renowned Nederburg in Paarl has some interesting pairings and the 300-year-old Grande Provence estate in Franschhoek will take you on a tour with the cellar master. You can even combine your grape picking with a mountain bike tour at Muratie or pet a cheetah at Eikendal.
While it can be scorching hot in the day, the picking is usually done at dusk or sunrise, when the grapes are cooler. No matter where you are in Cape Town during the harvest season, it’s sure to be a blast with activities, music, food and of course, wine.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Winelands Full Day Tour and Wine Tasting (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Full-Day Winelands Tour with Tasting (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Full-Day Shared Wine Tasting Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- South African Winelands Half Day Tour and Tasting (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Stellenbosch: Five Estate Full-Day Wine Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Franschhoek & Stellenbosch: Full-Day Wine Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Franschhoek Wine Tram Hop-on Hop-off (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Constantia Wine Tasting Tour from Cape Town (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
Sketch your way around downtown Johannesburg
Because art is so uniquely valuable to South Africa, experiencing it first hand is a great way to connect to the people, the history, and the culture of this incredible city just south of
the Kalahari Desert.
TIP BY: Lydia, africawanderlust.com (< read more about the Kalahari Desert in Africa)
“One of the first things you will notice when you get to Johannesburg is that the city has an attitude. Politically-charged artwork can be found throughout the streets and has been a way for people to express their feelings about a troubled past.
Sketch Your Way Around Downtown Joburg is an excellent opportunity to do just that by touring around various areas of the city center. No sketching or drawing talent is required; you only have to immerse yourself in the experience.
You will move from old to new developments and then finish at the “Rooftop Deck” with panoramic views of the city. The art class is a creative travel experience that is hands-on while
getting a truly unique experience with a rich culture and history.”
BOOK THIS ACTIVITY:
- Sketch Your Way Around Downtown Joburg (See best prices on Airbnb >>)
HANDS-ON TRAVEL IN TANZANIA
Make Chagga coffee in Materuni
When most people think of Tanzania, they probably think of safaris in the Serengeti or summiting Mount Kilimanjaro. But one of the more interesting experiences in the country takes place away from these famous places, in a little village called Materuni.
TIP BY: Amanda Williams, dangerous-business.com (< read all her travel tips from around the world!)
“Back in the late 1800s, missionaries introduced Arabica coffee cultivation to this part of Tanzania. The people of the local Chagga tribe have become very adept growers of coffee, and their product easily rivals what you can get from other famous coffee-growing regions around the world. You can learn all about the coffee-making process by going on a Chagga coffee tour from the town of Moshi, and you can get hands-on by helping with every step.
Making coffee requires several steps and some manual work. First, you remove the husk-like outer skin from dried coffee beans by pounding them in a giant mortar (usually accompanied by working songs and lots of laughter). Then the beans are roasted over an open fire, and then go through a hand-grinding process (again in a giant mortar) twice. After the beans are ground, you’ll brew up a big pot of coffee to drink along with lunch. The whole process takes about half an hour, and I think the coffee tasted even better after spending the time to make it ourselves.
If you’re looking for something interesting and hands-on to do in Tanzania, I would definitely recommend one of these tours. They’re usually paired up with a hike through banana groves and local farmers’ fields to Materuni Waterfall.”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Kilimanjaro National Park: Waterfalls and Coffee Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Chagga Coffee Tours (See their website >>)
Visit a traditional Maasai village in Northern Tanzania
The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations internationally due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress.
TIP BY: Shara Johnson, skjtravel.net (< read all about her Tanzania travels)
“I’d heard mixed opinions from other travelers about visiting a traditional Maasai village in Tanzania, and I was a little dubious myself. However, I found it an enjoyable way to learn how the Maasai people live, as they are visible along the roadsides everywhere you go, in their bright-colored cloth and copious beaded jewelry, herding cows or walking to markets.
I learned much by talking with the village guide about everything from their herding practices to their thoughts about schooling, from food to marriage customs. The most surprising thing to me was to see inside their thatched huts. I presumed they were just one big room, but I was wrong! They are far more interesting.
The villagers greet visitors with traditional song and dance, and sure it’s touristy but it’s also beautiful singing to appreciate, and the men’s jumping “competition” is fun to watch. You will be asked to make a donation to the village and perhaps buy some of their crafts.
As a cautionary statement, it appears the friendliness, authenticity and sales pressure vary by village. The one I visited scored well in friendliness and authenticity (verified by other Maasai I spoke with at bush camps), but a little high on the price. Yet I firmly believe it’s much better to support them to maintain their traditional lifestyle and dignity so they don’t try to find work in cities and end up living in deplorable slums. My safari guide arranged my visit, otherwise Maasai employees at the lodges could recommend a village.”
Go on a spice tour in Zanzibar
Cloves spurred the economy of Zanzibar, contributing to the island’s nickname of Spice Island. The Tanzanian island has been a center of trade for centuries, and at one point was the hub of the East African slave trade, before it was formally abolished in 1873. Today you can visit a spice farm and learn about the economics of the island’s famed cloves along with other spices and locals fruits.
TIP BY: Alex Kallimanis, wanderlustmarriage.com
“We booked a Spice Farm Tour during our stay at Tembo House Hotel with their preferred tour operator. We let the front desk know 24 hours in advance. A small van picked us up and we were taken to the farm where we were shown fresh spices like cinnamon, cardamom and fruits like Zanzibar apples and jack fruit; both of which were picked fresh for us to eat!
After exploring the farm, we visited a small village where we could purchase massage oils and dried spices for good prices and low pressure sales.
A traditional family style vegetarian lunch in a family home was also included in the tour. The tour offers a great opportunity to learn about spices along with everyday life in Zanzibar. Consider including it in your Zanzibar itinerary!”
BOOK A SIMILAR ACTIVITY:
- Tembo House Hotel (See best prices on Booking.com >>)
- 3-hour Zanzibar Spice Tour (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Zesty Zanzibar: Food Tour and Cooking Class (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- Spice Farm Tour with Traditional Cooking Lesson (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
- From Stone Town: Spice Tour of Zanzibar (See best prices on Get Your Guide >>)
Do You Travel to Discover Hands-On Experiences?
Let us know in the comments below what your favourite activity in this list is – and if you have any great additions to share with us. We are always adding to this page, so keep your suggestions coming! Look below for more information about creative travel and where else in the world you can have great hands-on experiences:
Creative Tourism Network
If you are looking for more creative tourism examples, then make sure to head over to the website of the Creative Tourism Network, as they are a fantastic source of information and inspiration for your upcoming travels.
The Creative Tourism Network is the international organization for the Creative Tourism development worldwide. They offer consulting and training to tourism professionals and also host the Creative Tourism Awards to reward projects, companies and destinations that foster the new generation of tourism with the active participation of tourists in creative activities.
Map of Africa Creative Travel and Tours
Creative Traveller’s Handbook
My travel blogger friend Elena wrote a wonderful book about creative travel that I can highly recommend reading. In this inspiring handbook, she answers not only the question who creative travel is for, but she gives practical tips on how to be creative on your own travels and how to plan your next creative trip down to all the details.
Read my full review of the Creative Traveller’s Handbook >>
Creative Travel Around the World
Read our other articles:
- Creative Travel: Is This The Best Way To See The World?
- 6 Hands-on Travel Experiences in East Europe You Need to Know About
- 7 Hands-on Travel Experiences In South America You Need To Know About
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences In South Asia You Need To Know About
- 10 Hands-on Travel Experiences In Japan You Need To Know About
- 3 Hands-on Travel Experiences in Central and East Asia You Need to Know About
- 14 Hands-on Travel Experiences in South East Asia You Need to Know About
- 4 Hands-on Travel Experiences in Central America & The Caribbean You Need to Know About
- 8 Hands-on Travel Experiences in The Mediterranean You Need to Know About
- 10 Hands-on Travel Experiences in West Europe You Need to Know About
- 8 Hands-on Travel Experiences in Oceania You Need to Know About