When you’re traveling in Africa, it’s good to come prepared with more than some hiking boots and sunscreen. With more and more people carrying smartphones and tablets, apps are quickly becoming an indispensable tool for planning and managing travel. Here are eight great apps to download before your next trip.
1. UNESCO World Heritage Sites
If you are looking to visit Africa’s most legendary cultural landmarks and grandest natural wonders, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites app will guide you there. The app functions as a directory of all of the World Heritage sites and includes robust information, hundreds of pictures, and the ability to find the locations on Google Maps. Currently it is available only for iOS, though a similar app is available on Android.
2. Platinum Road
This story-telling app adds a new dimension to road trips between South Africa and Botswana. The app, which was a collaboration between South African author Peter Delmar and digital tour guide Tourism Radio, offers images, maps, and historical stories inspired by Delmar’s book, “The Platinum Road.” The road comes alive as you learn about vanished Tswana cities, the Anglo-Boer War, the Freedom Struggle, and other topics connected to the road, which encompasses the N4 highway between Gauteng and Lobatse in Botswana, and the N1 between Pretoria and Bela Bela. It also has information on geology, wildlife, curious place names, and stories from South Africa’s famous short-storyteller, Herman Charles Bosman. The app is available to download on iOS and Android.
3. Herd Tracker
This web app lets safari travelers track wildebeest herds as they move through the Serengeti. It is based on a Google map overlay that updates points from pilots who fly over the area along with information from safari guides and rangers on the ground. It only updates once a week so as not to give poachers exact coordinates of the animals. The company also discourages people from geo-tagging their pictures.
If you’re a traveler on a budget and want to bunk with like-minded locals, then Couchsurfing offers a nice alternative to a hotel. The new app lets you do from your phone or tablet what the 11-year old website has always done: helps you find couches to crash on, or people to meet up with in the town you are visiting. It also lets travelers find local events, upload pictures, and leave references. The app is available to download on iOS and Android.
5. South African Airports
This app by Airports Company South Africa allows travelers to find shops, restaurants, and airline check-in counters at all of its nine airports. It also provides traffic information, weather reports, and tools to find transport such as taxis, shuttle services, or the current Gautrain timetable. The app is currently available for download on iOS, Android, and select BlackBerry devices.
6. Madiba’s Journey
This app includes 27 Mandela-inspired tourist attractions and “sites of memory” in South Africa, one for each year he spent behind bars as a political prisoner. Users can read a description or hear audio narrative about how each site shaped Mandela’s journey from young boy growing up in Qunu under apartheid, to the leader of a free South Africa. Visitor details for each landmark are included, such as operating hours, tours, ticket prices and contact information. The app lets users locate each site via their phone’s mapping system, and get directions. It also provides a gallery of images, a “check in” feature, and the ability to share thoughts and pictures on social media. Available for free on iTunes and Google Play, for both Apple and Android devices.
The Tracks4Africa guide app combines a map, GPS and guidebook all in one smartphone app. It is intended for those driving long distances overland in Africa (it covers the whole continent), who need reliable, user-generated information on locations that are commonly traveled by self-drive tourists. It offers answers to commonly-asked road-tripper questions such as where to stay, where to get fuel, where to eat, what to do and where to go in case of emergency. It’s got offline capability too, for those times when you can’t get a signal. For iPhone, iPad and iPod touch only.
8. Midlands Meander
This app gives users easy access to over 150 establishments along South Africa’s Midlands Meander. Some of the details about the places include detailed descriptions and opening times which let travelers plan out their trip based around an itinerary. It also features real-time navigation and uses Google Maps to help travelers get to their exact point of interest. It’s available now on Android and will roll out on December 1, 2015 on iOS.Karen Elowitt contributed to this article.