Go Where The Obama’s Couldn’t Go During Their African Tour

So we know the Obama’s trip to Africa was not a vacation, he was of course on official presidential business.

But between state dinners and important bilateral trade meetings, President Barack Obama and his family did get to visit a few historical sites already popular among tourists, including Goree Island in Senegal and Robben Island in South Africa. What a pity they could not see more. Wouldn’t it of been nice if America’s First Family could have experienced the continent as tourists. Let’s imagine they did. We know what you might be thinking, but forget safari’s – there was none of that on their recent trip, reportedly because of reluctance to employ snipers against cheetahs and lions.

The first daughters, Malia and Sasha, were probably not too disappointed; they visited the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa with their mother in 2011 and got to see everything from elephants to giraffe while riding in an open-air 4×4. They were likely hoping for some new adventures on this trip, and if there was time, they’d be in luck because Africa, of course, has more than wildlife on offer. Here are our recommendations for places America’s First Family should of visited:

The West African country was the first stop on Obama’s Africa tour. The First Family made the short trip to Goree Island, visiting the Maison des Esclaves, literally the former house of slaves. The ride across the water is a must, but there’s also lots to do in the capital, Dakar.

The Obama’s couldn’t go to Sandaga Market

There are many street markets across the city, but Sandaga is said to be the largest, and most popular, in the city. Located downtown, it is where you will find everything from clothes to crafts. Hungry when you get there? No problem. You’ll get to sample some local favourites, including the tasty rice and fish dish tchep djeun. Also, don’t mind the pushy vendors – it’s part of the experience! The below image of the vibrant market was captured by expat Charles Thoquenne.

The Obama’s couldn't go to Sandaga Market Senegal
Sandaga Market Senegal, Africa. Photo credit: Flickr

The Obama’s couldn’t go to Lake Retba

Located less than an hour outside outside Dakar, the salt-rich lake is quite a sight to see. Known as Lac Rose by locals – for its tinted colour – the area is pretty much a dead zone with little to see besides the magnificent colour of the water. You’re also likely to spot a fleets of boats and salt collectors extracting the ingredient from the lake. The best time to go is between November to June when the colour is said to be its most vibrant.

The Obama’s couldn't go to Lake Retba Senegal
Lake Retba Senegal, Africa. Photo Credit: Flickr

The First Family made two stops in the country considered as the gateway to Africa. They visited South Africa’s economic hub, Johannesburg, before jetting off to the parliamentary capital, Cape Town. When Michelle Obama visited the country in 2011 – accompanied by Malia and Sasha, they were able to visit some iconic sites, including the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Whilst in Cape Town, a trip to Robben Island was cancelled reportedly due to rough seas, but they did get to visit the historic landmark this time around. They also stopped by the District Six museum – a must if you want to learn about – and casually popped into at a local restaurant for lunch. Cape Town is known to be the foodie capital too.

The Obama’s couldn’t go to Sun City

Sun City is one of the most family-friendly holiday destinations in South Africa. You have casino’s (two! With over 600 slot machines), golf courses and a water-theme park, the last two being especially appealing to a family like the Obama’s. We know President Obama would not turn down a round of golf, and both the Gary Player and Lost City Golf Course ranks as two of the best in the country. For the girls there’s the Valley of the Waves, complete with a mechanically-generated wave pool.

The Obama’s couldn't go to Sun City
Sun City in South Africa. Photo Credit: Flickr

The Obama’s couldn’t go to Cradle of Humankind

Widely recognised as the place where mankind originated, the Cradle of Humankind is worth the short drive from Johannesburg’s main city center. One of eight World Heritage sites in South Africa, there is plenty to see and do here. You can explore the Sterkfontein Caves, where many important archeological discoveries where made, or hop on an interactive underground boat ride that takes you on a virtual journey through the ages.

The Obama’s couldn't go to Cradle of Humankind
Cradle of Humankind in South Africa. Photo credit: Flickr

The east African country is neighbor to Kenya – the birthplace of Obama’s father. The family spent just one day in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam. If time allowed for a ferry ride to Zanzibar, a visit to the capital Stone Town would be a must – it is one of the major tourist attractions in Tanzania, along with the many pristine beaches and lush national parks. This historically rich part of town is were you will find ancient ruins and reminders of its haunting past as a slave trade hub.

The Obama’s couldn’t go to The Old Fort

The below image, (Courtesy: Harvey Barrison / Flickr), shows Stone Town’s oldest buildings – the Old Fort, also known as the Arab Fort. Built in the late 1600s, its used as a defence by the Busaidi group of Omani Arabs against the Portuguese. Part of the rooftop has been turned into an open-air theatre that hosts a number of live performances – a real treat particularly after sunset. There’s also a variety of stalls just outside so you can pick up some souvenirs on your way out.

The Obama’s couldn't go to The Old Fort in Tanzania,
The Old Fort in Tanzania, Africa. Photo Credit: Flickr

The Obama’s couldn’t go to the Spice Tour

Did you know that Tanzania was once one the leading spice exporters in the world? Zanzibar was also formerly called Spice Island, and so naturally you cannot leave the island without a tour of one of its many spice plantations. The photo below (Courtesy: Jonathan Stonehouse / Flickr) shows fresh ginger, one of the many fresh ingredients you’ll get to see during the tour.

The Obama’s couldn't go to Spice Tour in Tanzania,
Spice Tour in Tanzania, Africa. Photo credit: Flickr
Yolaan Begbie
Yolaan is a South African journalist and Content Strategist at Africa.com. She is a former on-air news reporter for eNCA, South Africa's first 24-hour tv news station. Ms Begbie is a masters graduate from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York, and a honours graduate from Stellenbosch University in South Africa.