Discover more about the Queen's many trips to Africa.
25 May 2022
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As we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking the monarch’s 70-year reign, we take a look at some of Her Majesty’s most memorable moments in Africa and how you can follow in her – and other royals’ – footsteps.
On Her Majesty’s 21st birthday in 1947, the then Princess Elizabeth was in Cape Town, South Africa, on a Royal Tour with her parents and sister Princess Margaret when she made an oath to the Commonwealth, which was delivered over the radio.
‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’
The tour was a three-month trip, travelling 10,000 miles through South Africa and Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) by boat, train and aeroplane.
Not long after this visit, in 1948, a Nationalist Party was elected and the Apartheid Regime began, during which time members of the Royal Family avoided South Africa, despite the Queen being Sovereign of the country until 1961. Apartheid came to an end in the early-1990s with the formation of a democratic government in 1994. The following year, in support of reconciliation with the new South African government, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh made a State Visit to South Africa on the Royal Yacht Britannia, hosted by President Nelson Mandela.
More recently, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent time in South Africa in 2019, visiting District Six Museum in Cape Town, which honours a community that was forcibly relocated during the apartheid era.
In February 1952, Princess Elizabeth left her ailing father, King George VI, and set off for Kenya.
The princess and her husband, Prince Philip, were visiting the Treetop in Aberdare National Park – a popular spot back then for viewing animals from a high vantage point. It was there on the slopes of Mount Kenya that Prince Philip gave Princess Elizabeth the news of her father’s death and that she was to become Queen at the age of 25.
Fancy your own treetop experience? Stay at Loisaba in their star beds - a four-poster bed which sits on a raised wooden platforms so that guests can sleep under the endless African night sky, or stay at Nay Palad Bird Nest which offers a unique concept of nesting and sleeping like a bird. Set above the ground, with a 360-degree birds-eye-view of this beautiful wilderness, both of these lodges located in Laikipia offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Kenya has long remained close to the hearts of the Royal Family, and it was in Lewa here that Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010.
Fancy visiting Lewa? Go camel trekking or horse riding, explore Kenya’s largest rhino sanctuary and try to spot the Big Five. Find out more.
Do it yourself:Kenya wildlife and white sands from £5,225pp for 12 days. Visit the Masai Mara, track rhino in Samburu and relax on the white sands of Diani beach.
Although the Queen ascended the throne during a visit to Kenya, it was a trip to Uganda in 1952 that marked her first Africa visit since her coronation.
The Queen was greeted warmly, with thousands of cheering Ugandans lining the streets. During her time here, she visited Kazinga National Park, which was later named Queen Elizabeth National Park in her honour.
Queen Elizabeth National Park remains Uganda’s most popular park, known for its tree-climbing lions and its vast array of vegetation – there are more than 57 types – which make it especially scenic.
Do it yourself: Gorillas and Game. Getting up close and personal with gorillas is a real draw for Uganda. This experience allows you to trek these animals and visit Queen Elizabeth National Park from £5,990pp for 11 days. Find out more.
In 1965, the Queen and Prince Philip visited Ethiopia, the birthplace of Haile Selassie – Ethiopia’s charismatic emperor who had forged a close connection with Britain during the Second World War, living in exile in Bath for five years while his home country was under Italian occupation.
The Queen was pulled through the capital Addis Ababa by a carriage with six white horses and was the guest of honour at a state banquet in the old palace, where in the gardens the emperor kept his ‘pet’ lions.
The royal couple were in Ethiopia for one week and during their visit they went to the new cathedral at Axum and Tississat Falls at Lake Tana.
In 1974, Selassie was deposed in a military coup and questions remain about whether his death in 1975 was truly from natural causes. Initially, his bones were discarded under a paving slab in the palace grounds, but in 2000 were placed in a tomb in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.
Do it yourself: Visit the rock churches of Ethiopia and the Simien Mountains during this 10-day trip from £3,195pp.
The Queen visited the Seychelles in 1972 and officially opened the country’s international airport. During her tour of Mahe, the Seychelles’ largest island, she met a giant turtle that was 75 years old.
In 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took their honeymoon in the Seychelles, staying in plush, barefoot luxury at North Island – one of the most exclusive retreats in the world.
Queen Elizabeth II visited Tanzania in 1979 at the start of her Africa tour. Although Her Majesty’s itinerary did not allow for much exploring, when Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles visited in 2011, they undertook a walking safari in Arusha National Park, famed for its large number of elephants.
In 2018, the Duke of Cambridge visited Tanzania as part of his capacity as president of United for Wildlife and patron of Tusk Trust, ahead of the Illegal Wildlife Trade conference being hosted that year by the UK Government. During his visit, the Duke when to Dar es Salaam port, where he learnt about the challenges faced and the work that Tanzania is doing to combat illegal wildlife trade with support from the UK Government.
On the same 1979 tour, Queen Elizabeth II visited Malawi, about 15 years after it gained its independence from Britain. Her Majesty’s visit was a formal affair, with her and Prince Philip attending multiple receptions alongside the country's president, Hastings Banda, and with the Queen wearing some of her finest jewels for the occasion, including a diamond tiara.
In contrast to this, in 2016 Prince Harry spent three weeks in Malawi with African Parks (of which he is now president) working on their 500 Elephants project. This ambitious project aims to safely translocate elephant herds from Majete and Liwonde, where numbers are thriving, to help replenish stocks in NkhotakotaWildlife Reserve, which is now under the control of African Parks, and will allow elephants to live safely. It is one of the largest elephant relocation programmes to date moving over 500 elephants.
Go yourself: Visit Liwonde National Park – where Prince Harry was based on his trip – with our scuba, safari and tea trip to Malawi. 12 days from £3549 pp. Find out more.
Continuing her 1979 Africa tour, Queen Elizabeth II made her only state visit to Botswana and was welcomed by tribal dancers and a 21-gun salute. The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and her second son, Prince Andrew. Although little is reported about this visit, multiple members of the Royal family have visited Botswana more recently.
Prince Charles made headlines on his 1984 visit to Botswana, when at the end of his official duties he stayed on for a holiday and was the pilot of a twin-engine aircraft, which he flew to Chobe Game Lodge, the only safari lodge in Chobe National Park.
In 2010, Princes William and Harry visited Botswana together on behalf of Tusk Trust. Photos of the tour show the brothers sitting beside a cheetah and with a snake draped around their shoulders. Prince Harry returned in 2016 where as patron of Rhino Conservation Botswana, he worked with the team to help track black rhinos.
Botswana is also where Prince Harry and his now wife Meghan Markle famously had their third date – meeting in secret for five nights. They stayed at the romantic Meno a Kwena camp on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Visit yourself: Our Botswana explorer safari is 10 nights from £6,935pp visiting Chobe National Park, Khwai and Makgadikgadi Pans. Find out more.
The final stop on the Queen’s 1979 tour of Africa to Zambia was almost cancelled, as it was deemed too risky due to the presence of guerrilla forces – luckily it proved a safe and successful trip.
Her Majesty’s flight from Botswana flew over Livingstone where the infamous Victoria Falls are located. Livingstone is named after the Victorian explorer and missionary David Livingstone, the first European to see the mighty Victoria Falls in 1855.
Despite danger concerns, security on the ground was light and the cheering Zambians chanting ‘K-K-Queenie’ in honour of their then-president Kenneth Kaunda and the royal visitor broke through security and surrounded the Queen and President, singing and chanting.
Go yourself: From helicopter flights to white water rafting, there is plenty to do at Victoria Falls. Take a look at our Victoria Falls holidays.
Visit Victoria Falls and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and Lake Malawi in this 14-day luxury trip. From £9,395pp. Find out more.
In 1991, Queen Elizabeth II visited Zimbabwe for the Commonwealth Heads of Government, but it was not her first visit to the country. She first set foot there in 1947 with her father King George VI, her mother Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.
It is said that then-President Robert Mugabe had the streets of the capital, Harare, cleared of prostitutes to ensure that Zimbabwe made a good impression.
This was a drought year in Zimbabwe, which brought with it much suffering. Thousands of Zimbabweans pleaded with the Queen to stay after her visit coincided with heavy rainfall. Showers began just as the Queen said: ‘I pray that the drought may end soon and that you have ample rain in the coming year.’ Sadly, the drought continued into 1992.
Although the Queen visited for the Commonwealth meeting, it is worth noting that Zimbabwe is no longer part of the Commonwealth family, after Harare was expelled in 2002 over human rights abuses.
Also in 1991, the Queen and Prince Philip visited Namibia – the monarch’s first-ever trip to the youngest member of the Commonwealth, the only one of 50 ex-colonies that Her Majesty had never visited.
They were greeted in Windhoek by Namibia's new president, Sam Nujoma, and his wife, Kovambo, and by children performing traditional dances. Afterwards, they travelled to Ondangwa near Etosha National Park to learn about conservation.
More recently, in 2018, Prince William visited Namibia for a week, spending time working with wildlife conservation organisations. It was here that he was inspired by the community conservation he witnessed, where locals take an interest in the management of the wildlife and environment surrounding them, and this ultimately led him to establish the Earthshot Prize. This award is centred around five ‘Earthshots’ – simple but ambitious goals for our planet which, if achieved by 2030, will improve life for us all, for generations to come. Five £1m prizes will be awarded each year, providing at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems by 2030.
Stay at Hoanib Valley Camp on the Skeleton Coast where is it rumoured Prince Harry and Meghan stayed as part of their honeymoon.
The Queen’s visit to Mozambique in 1999 was the final leg of her tour and the final country she officially visited in the 20th century. It was a whistle-stop 12 hours and although she was welcomed by President Joaquim Chissano, the response to Her Majesty’s visit was underwhelming, with only 14 people from the country’s capital Maputo turning up to see her at city hall!
In 2010, Prince Harry visited Mozambique with The Halo Trust to continue the work of his mother. Princess Diana was famously pictured walking through a minefield when she visited The Halo Trust in Angola; Prince Harry also walked through minefields and met locals who had been injured by mines in Mozambique.
Mozambique is renowned for its pristine, soft sanded beaches and incredible diving. Stay at Azura Benguerra in the Bazaruto Marine National Park for your own slice of paradise.
Fun fact: Did you know that the Queen has travelled to all these countries without a passport? As a British passport is issued in the name of Her Majesty, it is unnecessary for the Queen to possess one. All other members of the Royal Family have passports, however.
To find out more about any of the above countries and to arrange a holiday, please call us on 01768 603 715.