Its famous snows might not survive another generation, but reaching Africa's roof is still this continent's quintessential adventure. More than 20,000 visitors tackle Kilimanjaro every year, though not all make it to the snow-crowned summit. The challenging ascent climbs through five separate ecosystems—from forest to grassland to sprawling moors—so it's worth stopping now and then to take in the views (or to just catch your breath). Pat yourself on the back when you reach the top, but don't be surprised if the triumph is short-lived: Brutal cold and punishing winds have most people scrambling back down once they've taken their snapshot.
For more information: Alpine Ascents
In the 19th century, the elusive source of the Nile was the great white whale of African exploration; today a booming tourist industry has sprouted around the leafy town of Jinja, the newly crowned kingdom of East African adventure. The fierce rapids around the Nile's source are on a short list of the world's wildest, with class IVs and Vs churning in white-frothed fury (and devouring any raft in their wake). Timid tourists can opt for a "mild" trip, coasting along the river to admire the pretty views.
For more information: Nile River Explorers
Just crossing the border into the turbulent Congo is adventure enough for most travelers, but Nyiragongo's lava-filled caldera is a captivating reason for thrill-seekers to take the plunge. There are dozens of volcano climbs on the planet—most offering a few puffs of smoke and the distant glow of a lava flow—but temperamental Nyiragongo is still an active threat, most recently blowing her top in 2002 and devastating the nearby town of Goma. The pulse-pounding perils are all too real, but this could be Africa's last great adventure.
For more information: Volcano Discovery
War, poaching and widespread deforestation have taken a heavy toll on Africa's population of mountain gorillas. Fewer than 700 remain, with half of those living on the misty slopes of the Virungas, the volcanic range shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tracking the gorillas has become East Africa's hottest adventure trip, with travelers tramping through thick forest and scrambling up steep slopes as they pursue the primates' trail. It's a lot of work for a short pay-off—visits with the groups are limited to an hour—but few come back disappointed by the memorable meeting.
For more information: Abercrombie & Kent
The ancient ramparts and labyrinthine medina make laid-back Essaouira a boho favorite, but Morocco's "Windy City" appeals to artists and adventurers alike. Fierce Atlantic winds gust across its long, curling coast, offering world-class conditions for kitesurfers keen on catching some good air. The sport has boomed in the region in recent years, with reliable wave spots peppering the coast, and plenty of places to ride the tide in blissful isolation. Afterwards, take a break to browse the town's famous fish market for fresh catches—the perfect way to unwind after a hard day's work.
For more information: Skyriders
Just getting to Mozambique's north coast—an isolated area of tiny fishing villages and desolate beaches—requires an adventurous streak. Hundreds of miles of rough roads separate the region from the rest of the country, making this remote archipelago a place where time stands still. Created in 2002, as Mozambique was sluggishly emerging from decades of war, Quirimbas National Park spreads across nearly 3,000 square miles of azure ocean. Kayak expeditions wind through the stunning seascape, past untouched reefs, coral cays and the occasional humpback whale. By night you can camp on isolated beaches with nothing but the starry sky to keep you company.
For more information: Adventure Kayaking
Not long ago, Zimbabwe was the gem of southern Africa, with a stunning collection of game parks and the world's biggest waterfall to its credit. While the country's troubles under President Robert Mugabe have devastated the tourism industry, high-flying adventurers (and bargain-hunters) are still making the trip. Zimbabwe boasts one of Africa's oldest paragliding pedigrees, with the aerial ascent over the rocky Eastern Highlands taking in some of the continent's most impressive views. Locals have long believed that the faces of their ancestral guardians were carved into the region's rock faces; death-defying tourists are just as grateful to have someone watching over (or rather under) them.
For more information: Zimbabwe Association of Paragliding
The towering dunes of the Namib are among the planet's oldest, with the desert's barren beauty inspiring generations of intrepid travelers. While the sun's scorching rays might send you scurrying for the nearest oasis, the thrill of hurtling down the world's tallest dunes draws plenty of adventurers. Experienced snowboarders can carve tracks and show off their alpine expertise, but first-timers shouldn't fret: This is a sport you're welcome to take lying down. Belly boarders can find the same adrenaline jolt racing down the dunes head-first, often reaching speeds of 50 mph—and getting a mouthful of the Namib to take home as a keepsake.
For more information: Overland Africa
The crashing cascades of Victoria Falls might be one of the continent's top tourist attractions, but kayaking the legendary Zambezi packs a bit more of a pulse-pounding punch… As long as you don't mind getting your feet (and clothes) wet. Beginners need not apply on these roiling rapids, which have churned up enough kayaks to earn names like "Oblivion" and "Stairway to Heaven." The roller-coaster ride is one of kayaking's toughest tests, and the thunderous roar of Vic Falls provides an unforgettable score. While the wildlife sighting is worth watching out for, you might be more tempted to keep your eyes shut.
For more information: Water By Nature
Casual tourists head to Cape Town for fine dining and eye-popping scenery, but adrenaline junkies drive just up the coast to rub snouts with the fearsome Great White. Between the mainland town of Gansbaai and Dyer Island is a temperate channel so teeming with saw-toothed savages, it's been dubbed "Shark Alley"—boasting the densest population of the predators on the planet. There's a sturdy cage standing between you and the buffet line, but it might seem like little consolation (or protection) as the sharks chomp on their lunch. Many get within fin's reach; you'll probably be happy to keep a safe distance.
For more information: Incredible Adventures