Wrestling my holdall in to the back of the Cessna as I breathed in the dusty dry air in Nairobi, I knew I was in for experiences that would leave their own branding in my memory. I had read about African sunsets, yet failed to absorb this element of my trip as anything other than another tick on the list alongside seeing the Big 5. Experiencing an African Sunset was going to be a first, but I didn’t realise the power it would hold.
Etched in Red, Orange, Pink and Purple
The majesty of your first African sunset is going to leave you breathless. Understanding the science of colour won’t account for the speechless effect of colours created from being so close to the equator. Your vocabulary stumbles as you realise you simply don’t have the terms to describe the shades and hues happening in front of you. And that’s before you realise that your senses are being assaulted with not just sights, but smells and sounds.
Then there’s the dramatic speed at which it all happens. One minute there’s a bubbling of conversation in the dusky light and the promising glint of baby pink on the horizon. Then, within moments, you are sped on a journey through a dazzling array of colours that is bright, mesmerising, and ever-changing, but is over so quickly. Fiddle around with your camera and you’ve missed this moment.
Finally, you realise you underestimated the power of seeing an African sunset for one key reason: you failed to understand the location will have wound its way in to your very soul. This first sunset has been elevated to magical proportions because today was the day you saw a family of warthog trotting along the road towards a baobab tree, or you had ascended Table Mountain and looked in the eyes of a cheeky Rock Hyrax, or took steps in to the harrowing history of Apartheid with a trip to Robben Island. The location lends power to each and every African Sunset.
The Best Places for African Sunsets
‘Lion King’-worthy Savannah Sunsets
If you’re looking for the quintessential African Sunset with black silhouettes of giraffe against an ochre-painted sky, then an evening in a game reserve is the place to be. Consider the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania, or the Maasai Mara in Kenya. For a Sunset vision not to be missed, take a hot air balloon ride.
Where the Sky Meets the Sea
During the day the ocean vista blends sky and sea, but when sunset comes, being able to see the sun drop below the horizon reflecting off the crystal waters makes for a shimmering sunset that finds its place in your heart. Consider viewing an African sunset punctuated only by a local dhow boat off the East Kenyan coast around Mombasa, or over the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Town, for the meeting of two worlds.
The African Sundowner
You haven’t experienced an African Sunset if you haven’t watched the sun bid goodnight whilst enjoying a sundowner with companions. Head up in to the Stellenbosch region of South Africa to make sunset memories with the finest South African white wines. For Sundowners that will cast their spell – enjoy the sunset with drink in hand from a boat on the Rufiji River in Selous, south Tanzania, or on the Zambezi above the Victoria Falls. Watch the crocs take to the water as you enjoy the sun setting across this mighty river.
For Vast Natural Beauty Out of This World
Whilst the trees, shrubs, rockery and landscape of many African sunset spots make for a diverse and traditional sunset feel, for sheer majesty head to the expanse that is the Makgadikgadi ancient salt pans in Botswana. The sparse vista where the white salt reflects and dazzles, making pink the sunset artist’s colour of choice, is matched only by the intense silence that provides a moving backdrop to these African Sunsets.
African Sunsets aren’t only impressive when viewed in remote corners and isolated unpopulated areas. Cape Town is a city blessed with witnessing spectacular African Sunsets. Whether you choose to sit atop Table Mountain watching the sun set over the city and the Atlantic beyond, or whether you lie on a beach such as Blouberg and cast Table Mountain a role in the panorama, you won’t be disappointed.
Desert Majestic Moments
For rich vibrant oranges that will blend earth and sky, enjoy an African Sunset at Sossusvlei in Namibia. The depth of colour of the dunes becomes matched only by the sky and your eye line is punctuated only by ghostly skeletons.
Watch Day Turn to Night
African Sunsets are memorable for their fleeting twist as day becomes night, but the experience needn’t end there. Whilst African Sunsets are a sight to behold, so are African night skies. Take your time to enjoy both sunset and an opportunity to stare up at the Southern Cross with open-air camping, for example in Luangwa, Zambia.
Every African Sunset is a first. It was the first time this particular pattern of colour played out, in this particular setting, in this particular way, on this particular day.