Do you remember the first time you rode a bike without stabilisers, or freewheeled down a very long hill? That joy of cycling really is second to none, and whether you’re a casual, fair weather cyclist, or hop on the bike committedly for your daily commute, it’s something which can always be rediscovered.
One of the best ways to see a new destination is on a bike: you’ll cover far more ground than walking, and it is more eco friendly than a car. Africa is one of the most scenic continents on Earth, and what better way to explore it than under your own pedal power?
The Garden Route, South Africa
The Garden Route is the 300 km stretch of coastline around the Cape from Mossel Bay in the west to Storms River in the east. It gets its name from the huge number of vineyards, orchards, and farms which thrive in this lush, green part of South Africa, and it’s without doubt one of the most scenic parts of the country.
The landscapes and views along the Garden Route are particularly varied, and you an also hop from town to town, sightseeing along the way. Cycling is the perfect way to get between the local vineyards as you can enjoy the cellar tours and tastings, then put a bottle or two away for later in your saddle bags.
You may not immediately think about cycling in a capital city, but Windhoek has a large number of designated cycle routes which enable you to see its attractions from multiple angles. There is very little traffic here, which makes cycling a pleasure, and the cycle trails take in everything from museums and historic sites to beautiful nature reserves.
Windhoek is on a plateau, so although the altitude is approximately 1,700m above sea level, it tends to be pretty flat. A short ride in Parliament Gardens, a former olive plantations, is perfect if you don’t fancy something strenuous but want to cycle for an hour or two.
Highlands to the Coast, Madagascar
If you’re fairly fit and want a more challenging and want a more demanding mountain biking trail, Madagascar is a prime destination. You can bike from the highlands down to the coast (and yes we recommend going in that direction, not the other!).
The bike route starts from Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo, which boasts palaces, royal tombs, wooden palaces, and a strong French colonial flair. You can test out your biking legs with some short, preparatory rides in the surrounding hills before you set off in earnest.
From Antananarivo you will cycle through the photogenic Ranomafana National Park, which is named after its hot, natural springs. Taking a dip in one of these is a great way to soothe tired muscles. Ranomafana has plenty of wildlife, including endemic lemurs, but nothing which would prove dangerous to cyclists.
The final part of your Madagascan ride will brings you down to the pretty coastal town of Mahavelona. We suggest you reward your efforts with a few days relaxing on the beach!
Laura Burdett-Munns is Managing Director at Africa Exclusive. Africa Exclusive has been creating the finest tailor-made safaris since 1990, specialising in luxurious accommodation in beautiful remote places.