A Trip of Lifetime: Visiting Africa is Your Birthright

 

Capetown, Table Mountain National Park

Stepping onto African soil is probably one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had. I couldn't help but think how much our people back in America were missing.  I toured Tanzania, Ghana, Capetown and volunteered in Port Elizabeth during my visit last Christmas; a Christmas gift/loan given to me by my fortunate and blessed family. Africa was a place I always wanted to go and if it could have been the first place I visited internationally, it would've been. I was never the one to follow stereo types of what Africa was like; surrounded by jungle, bush people walking around, as well as poor and hungry kids; I knew Africa was more than that.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Did you know that Europe, Asia and even Florida have more Jungle than Africa? In fact, Africa has mostly vast amounts of grassland. When I went on the Safari tours in Tanzania, there were never any jungles or rain forest everywhere, but plenty of bright green grass that stretched miles and miles. And as far as bush people were concerned, sure there are plenty of tribes stretched out all over the African continent, but the only people I met on the land were the Maasai, and they were dressed in elegant cloths of reds and blues. They wore plenty of jewelry and ate very well, and according to all the goats and livestock they owned, they were pretty rich. I found that throughout the cities between Tanzania and Ghana there were just as many suburb areas as poor areas. There were shopping malls, beautiful beaches and places to tour and do group activities. Africa touched every one of my senses in a good way. I have yet to find few places that do this.  It's a shame what American television shows you about Africa compared to what Africa really is. This is why I urge people to experience Africa for themselves. 

Tanzania, Africa- Olduvai Camp

Only I and one other black woman from France was volunteering at the Animal Sanctuary in Port Elizabeth, and even she was leaving after a week. This would leave me with all people I had no relation with and yet I was still the ONLY American. Can you imagine being a black American working at a wildlife Animal Sanctuary? The culture shock was real. You would think there would be more black people volunteering or at least visiting since I was in Africa, but that wasn’t the case. Even while I searched for volunteer programs, there were always groups of white faces in every country I researched. Where were the black volunteers? The volunteers asked me lots of questions that I’m sure they wouldn’t have asked a white American. They tried to relate to me by talking about American Hip Hop music and black celebrities as if that’s all they could compare me to. I honestly didn’t mind and actually felt pretty cool educating them on what they THOUGHT black Americans were like on TV versus who we really are. I also embraced their cultures; learning the French language and Switzerland culture. I even befriended an Afrikaan, which I carefully say, is considered White African and a white African language. He so happened to be born and raised in London, though, and he had a very heavy accent. I must admit it did disturb me to see everyone know at least one other language and I only knew English. To hear more about the black volunteer experience, read my next article, Volunteering in Africa, Black Americans Making an Important Impact.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa- African Dawn Wildlife Sanctuary

Like any other traveler, I posted pictures all over my social media, from a Lion climbing a tree to sharing the beautiful sunset on the hills of the Ngorongoro Conservation. My pictures flooded with comments from all my friends of different backgrounds. 

“How beautiful!”

"I can’t wait to go one day!"

"What’s it like there?!"

“What does it smell like?!”

“Are you in one of those travel groups?”

More and more people became interested and the people that were already interested in visiting Africa were now sure they wanted to visit Africa. Most people didn't even know anyone that had ever even been to Africa before. A lot of people have been to Europe and China, some even more than once, but not Africa. Why not Africa? I realized that it wasn’t that people didn't want to go, but they needed the push. They needed someone to say yes it is worth every penny you save. Yes, it is worth you going now, not in five years. And more importantly, NO, it's not what TV shows us. Yes, go to Africa! The motherland has been waiting for us to come home.

 

Jeffreys Bay, Port Elizabeth

Most black people that you see traveling to Africa are first to second generation Africans, particularly Nigerian, wealthy black Americans or black celebrities. At least before 2019 there was. But after Ghana opened it’s doors to the Year of the Return in 2019, it gave room for black travel groups to focus on the motherland.  Some of these groups are coming together to deliver an experience like no other.

Groups such as, Tastemakers, Africa; Sisters traveling Solo, Bucketlist Beast and Black and Abroad.  All of these groups have their own focus and make the experience and cost worth it.

Most travel groups have payment plans and try to make it as affordable as possible, so people who really want to go can do so without straining their pockets. My issue with big travel groups are the amount of people that may attend. When I was in Ghana, we were always a family of four.  There was a restaurant we visited that happened to be very popular in the community. We were able to get a small table, but the groups of 10 and 15 that were waiting in groups, weren't so lucky.  Also, when we went to visit the longest and highest rope bridge in Cape Coast, there were large groups standing and waiting to climb up, meanwhile we were able to head to the front and move along without the crowd. 

https://moyoafrika.com/6-black-owned-travel-groups-you-should-book-a-trip-with-now/

So, when picking a travel group, be sure you ask the amount of people that are going or ask if you can pick a small group.

How do you take the first step to visiting Africa? How do you know what programs to go with? Where do you even start?

Well, if you are between the ages of 13-30 and want to go to Africa for free, I suggest you check out Birthright Africa. If you want to explore your roots while, vacation with all expenses paid, Birthright Africa offers a way to do it.

There are rules, such as, being of African descent (it's okay if you are not directly from Africa), be between 13 and 30 years old, and be registered with a High School, College or community based organization who operates under Birthright programs (like Tastemakers, Africa). If you are older than 30, they recommend paying through a travel company, however, Birthright Africa will cover the cost if you work with a High School, college or community based organization that serves youth organizations of African descent and want to participate as a facilitator. Birthright Africa is open to working with potential education partners and make it pretty easy to join them to help get as many people to Africa as they can to visit. The cost is about $4,000 per scholar and usually last around 10 days. You spend a few days taking trips to a national city and other days doing local exploring.

The impact this program has on travelers is incredible. 100% say it was a life changing experience, 100% plan to visit Africa again, 97% feel more resourceful and clarity with themselves, and nearly everyone (94%) was their first time going.

Birthright Africa- Twitter

Africa will continue to be a place I visit over my lifetime; maybe even reside. There are secrets that Africa doesn't necessarily want to keep from us. They want us to come home. They want us to find out our birthrights. I guarantee you, when you visit Africa, it's not like a place you visit, leave and come home and plan for another vacation. You feel as if a piece of you was left behind somewhere and maybe there is.  There is still so much more to explore, so many brothers and sisters to meet, and so much to gain from being there. Whether you go with a travel group, a few friends and family, to volunteer, or just a solo getaway, the plan is to put it on your to do list; say yes I'm going to Africa. Make it happen.

Tanzania, Olduvai Camp

 

 

 

*Sources*

https://moyoafrika.com/6-black-owned-travel-groups-you-should-book-a-trip-with-now/

https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Travel/17-friends-photographer-celebrate-birthday-epic-photo-shoot/story?id=54122949

 https://atlantablackstar.com/2018/02/07/built-principles-sankofa-birthright-africa-offers-black-americans-trip-ghana-free-charge/

 https://twitter.com/birthrightafri

https://www.roughguides.com/destinations/africa/south-africa/the-history-of-afrikaans/