“If Africa isn’t at the top of the list of popular destinations for Gap Years, then it certainly should be. This is a continent in need and helpers are received with smiling faces and grateful hands”- Julia Anne Creamer (founder of On African Soil).
Out of Africa (the Sydney Pollack’s creation), a romantic epic starring Meryl Steep and Robert Redford, was one of Hollywood’s many portrayals of Africa being a mighty adventurous place. But in a way it almost forgot that Africa is a continent on its own, segmented by multiple countries and regions. Though as romantic as the movie was, times have changed and travelling the planet has become more of a commercial affair rather than one that promises a magical adventure.
However Africa as a destination, big as it may be, is still a huge point of interest for many a passionate traveller or young individual looking for life’s next big adventure.
It is an adventure destination laced with hot subjects ranging from the environment, conservation, wildlife, sport and community development. Points that provide enticing options for overseas adventure seekers but is it really a continent that is still capturing the life changing events that Sydney Pollack was putting forward? We spoke to Julia Anne Creamer the founder of On African Soil, a gap year adventure company that focuses on the conservation aspects of the African continent, about what makes Africa as a continent such an attractive spot in terms of taking a gap year.
Why choose Africa as a gap year destination?
“This has everything to do with the diversity of the continent, with over 50 countries and many times the number of groups of people defined by different dialects, beliefs and origins. Africa is without a doubt the most culturally diverse continent on the planet. If Africa isn’t at the top of the list of popular destinations for gap years, then it certainly should be.”
What does Africa promise ahead of other global regions?
“In Africa, or rather most parts of Africa, you will find the Big Five! You won’t find these guys anywhere else as you find them in Africa - we are talking about big Elephants, Lions, Rhino, Buffalo and the smaller but ferocious Leopard! Along with the Great White Shark and the East African Mountain Gorillas, you now have the big seven. Further there is an enormous diversity of Fauna and Flora in large and widely dispersed reserves, which are fairly well managed.”
So it provides an openness and accessibility that is welcoming to foreigners?
“Communication across Africa isn’t that much of a problem- foreign legacies have provided platforms for English, French or Portuguese (Spanish and Italian will also do), allowing gap year experiences in most African cities to have limited language barriers. Most parts of Africa are easily accessed via international airlines, and the local people are generally very happy to see foreigners, except maybe in the conflict areas, about which most home country intelligence services warn travellers.”
What should an individual expect in general when tackling a gap year in Africa?
“Although Africa boasts some of the most expensive cities in the world, it can be cheap and travelling through Africa is affordable. There is scope for gap year students looking to make a difference, there is so much to do on this continent. From wildlife conservation to community development, this is a continent in need and helpers are received with smiling faces and grateful hands.”
Top Gap Year destinations in Africa: South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.
Most popular Gap Year programs in Africa: volunteering and internships
Most popular Gap Year sectors in Africa: Environment, Wildlife Conservation and Community Development
Check out: On African Soil for options on Gap Year environmental adventures on the continent!
In all Africa is a wonderful destination with a natural adventure feel that leads to so many stories and life changing moments. Even though times have changed and commercialization has grown within its regions, Africa as a continent somehow still manages to have a twinkle of magic that the late Sydney Pollack was illustrating. Africa as a continent has a lot to offer but it really needs the support and attention that gap year adventurers can provide. It’s not so much what an individual can get out of a Gap Year in Africa but what they can do to help contribute to Africa that will make a gap year more rewarding.