23 Portraits of Happiness From Around Africa

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”
– Robert Frank –

“Weren’t you scared driving around Africa?”

“Did people try to hurt you?”

“How did you communicate over in Africa?

These are all questions we receive time and time again about our travels. However, the questions were never as intense as they were about Africa. Yes, the roads may have been bad, the poverty rampant, the food occasionally questionable, and the internet virtually nonexistent. One thing is for sure though, the people of Africa are among some of the most warm-hearted people we have come ever across.

My favorite photographic subjects are people. The only thing is, they are the most difficult to shoot. An animal won’t say mean things to you when you take their photo unannounced, and the tall mountains and vast oceans don’t mind when you relish and snap away at their beauty. Humans though, well they have to be asked or else you risk offense, dignity, and you may lose your poise. Asking may ruin the moment, asking may get you a response you weren’t hoping for, but here is what happens when you leap out a short distance.

The Beautiful People of Africa

Mozambique and Zanzibar

These two photos are among my favorites from Africa. The one on the left was taken in a rural village near Morrembane in Mozambique. This little girl was gathering water from a well for her family. We couldn’t communicate with words, but instead settled on smiles and laughter. She followed us through the palm trees and together we had a little photo shoot. When she showed us her home all the women in the home wanted numerous photos taken of them. A couple of months later we were able to send them prints to a nearby lodge.

The photo on the right was taken near Paje Beach in Zanzibar. I asked this Maasai if he was a real Maasai and to show me his teeth, as it is a tradition in the Maasai culture to remove the two bottom teeth. He then smiled as wide as he could revealing his gap!


Bino in Namibia

This is Bino! He was our San Bushman guide at Wolwedans in the Namib Desert. To this day he was the youngest guide we ever have had at 22 years old. We see great things for his future! I loved his youthfulness in real life and in the photo.


We went into a village near Livingstone to get a glimpse into what life was like there. It was interesting for us to see how children were being taught in schools, people going into church, and mothers cooking over open fires for their families. These two boys were riding bicycles and playing together and once they saw my camera they immediately wanted their photo taken. It wasn’t just one though, once they saw themselves on the camera screen they just wanted me to keep taking photos!


Another Zambian treasure. I wish I could remember this woman’s name, but for the life of me I can’t. I met her at the Tongabezi Trust School which started as a small classroom but now teaches 200 students per year! She and her son grew up in a rural Zambian village, and now after going to school he is getting his masters degree in South Africa. She is one proud mama!


Living Culture Museum in Namibia

We went to the Living Museum of the Mbunza near Rundu, Namibia. The Living Culture Foundations goal is to preserve ancient cultures and traditions while providing jobs for rural Namibians and teaching foreigners about ancient life there.  They have them all over the country as there are many different tribes. This one was aimed at preserving the culture of the Kavango people in the Caprivi Strip. We watched them dance for an hour or so and couldn’t get over how much fun they were having at their job!


People of Malawi

Malawi is famed for being the “warm heart of Africa,” as it is said that everyone is friendly. After spending three weeks in the tiny country we can confirm that this is true! Everyone (and I mean everyone) we met in Malawi was so cheerful, eager, and curious despite being some of the poorest people in the world. I snapped this photo at a bar in Nkhata Bay because the staff and local kids were just so darn nice!


friendly faces in Malawi

Sometimes we like to people watch from a vantage point hoping not to get noticed. That’s what happened here when we were grabbing tea in Nkhata Bay. While we sipped our tea we noticed it was shopping time down below. I immediately started taking photos of the action when one guy noticed me. He stopped what he was doing, grabbed the woman next to him (perhaps they knew each other?), and smiled! Two minutes later he was on the balcony having tea with us!


zanzibar cafe

Have you checked out our post about the day we watched life pass us by in Stone Town? Well, this photo is from that day! I sat next to the door at the Zanzibar Coffee House and couldn’t help noticing everyone that walked by. All the different locals, tourists, mothers, and fathers that were just going about their daily lives in the city walls.

What were they thinking and where were they going? Then this sweet little girl walked by with a bag of groceries. I’m not sure if she knew if I was taking a photo or was just genuinely happy, but I love this photograph!


The Zambezi is famed for being extremely dangerous with their hippo and croc population. Despite my fear of hippos and crocodiles, Cameron and I did a three-day overnight canoe trip down Africa’s fourth longest river.

A few days in the hot African sun and we needed a shower very badly, our Zimbabwean guides – Trust, TK, and Manuel convinced us to take a bath in the shallow waters of one of the channels. Surprisingly I enjoyed it more than I thought I would!


Kids in Malawi

More proof to how beautiful the Malawian people are was the day we went kayaking on Lake Malawi. After kayaking against the strong current we decided to take a break and go swimming. We docked along the shores of an undeveloped region on the lake. As we arrived this group of young children were waiting for us. At first they just watched from a distance.

I’m sure wondering what the strange white people were up to. After about ten minutes we couldn’t take them just staring anymore so we decided to play around with them!


New Years Eve in Lusaka

I think it’s the blonde hair, but for some reason I always seem to get chosen for audience participation. We spent New Years Eve 2017 in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

Our night out included dinner, drinks, the casino, and listening to a live band. My job in this photo was to try and speak Nyanja, the language most prevalent in Lusaka. As you can probably tell by their faces I failed miserably.


Lesotho People

Numerous travelers told us the Basotho people of Lesotho weren’t friendly towards outsiders. We decided we still couldn’t miss the landlocked country and went anyway. We spent a few days snowboarding on at one of Africa’s only ski resorts, catching the views at Maletsunyane Falls, and exploring the mountain kingdom.

Lesotho can get very cold, and when visiting you will usually see men and women wrapped in warm blankets with face hats on. The look intrigued me so I asked this man if I could take his photo, without a response he looked at me and smiled!


People of Zambia

This photo was taken on another one of our log days in Africa. We had to drive from Zambia to the Malawian border and then we kept pushing on to Nkhata Bay. The drive took about 15 hours in one day. I like to call it the African day from hell. 

The one thing that made it better was the mangos! It was mango season in both Malawi and Zambia and everywhere you looked children were selling mangos on the side of the road. We stopped off at this family because they were dancing and singing with the mangos. We ended up buying 10 Zambian Kwacha worth of mangos ($1), which we were unaware would get us about 25 sweet and juicy pieces of delectable fruit. The family was so ecstatic that we stopped off to buy their mangos!


Giraffe Center in Kenya

This wasn’t taken at the well known Giraffe Manor but instead taken next door at the Giraffe Center. For 1000 Kenyan Shillings visitors can interact, feed, and even kiss Masai Giraffes. The giraffes at the center are being rehabilitated before their re-entry back into the wild. We also loved that the Giraffe Center educates Kenyan children on the importance of wildlife conservation. This Kenyan woman and her children were behind us enjoying giraffe kisses. I love the look on the little boys face in this photo!


The photo on the left was taken at Ijambwe, a local Namibian village on the floodplains of the East Caprivi. I kept making faces at the little kids and they made them back. This little boy was the most charismatic one of the bunch and took his faces to a whole new level by dancing! A few minutes later all the children wanted to join in!


This was taken while we were visiting Swazi Candles, a popular candle making company in Swaziland that employs 45 people and exports products to over 20 countries! We had a friend that did their marketing work so she offered to show us around. No one seemed to mind our presence and were happy to show us the full candle making process.


African People

Lucy was our first and only female safari guide we had in Africa. She is a Maasai woman native to the Masai Mara. She was supposed to be married off to a man she had never met at a young age, but instead fought for education and to go to school. Now she is a guide at one of Kenya’s top lodges! We were able to galavant around with her for three days while we were on safari in Kenya.


in Tanzania

This photo was taken at what was probably one of the strangest guesthouses we’ve ever stayed in. The drive from Arusha to Kigali took 16 hours so we had to stop somewhere in between. Aqua Vitae Resortwas one the cheapest and nicest places we could find. The whole property looked like a giant putt putt course with fake dinosaur, elephant, and monkey statues all over. As we were admiring the beautiful works of art(?) the workers became very curious about us – or Cameron I should say! I’m not sure what it was about him, but these Tanzanian guys really liked his style and wanted a photo with him.

South Africa

Kayamandi Township

This is Thembi, she was our tour guide through Kayamandi Township where she grew up. We met her on Sunday morning in Stellenbosch so she was dressed to the nines and in one of the most beautiful African outfits I had ever seen. After lunch with her we stopped to check out street art and she let me snap this photo. Thank’s for the good vibes Thembi!


Selling our car in Uganda

This was the day we sold our Toyota Land Cruiser in Kampala. We had decided after 25,000 miles we had enough of driving across Africa. Charlie, our car, had to find a new owner. It took us three solid weeks to find a reputable buyer. So finally on a sunny Ugandan day in April we sold the car to a safari operator (not pictured), his wife, safari guide, and assistant. It was a bittersweet day for us, but we were happy that our badass truck found a new owner! Read the full story here.

Plan Your Trip to Africa

  • Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans. 
  • Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
  • Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-4 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
  • Safari Clothes: Lightweight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothing are great for traveling Africa. See our favorite safari clothing here.
  • Safari Hat: A good hat is both stylish and functional.
  • Safari Bag: A durable bag is ideal for traveling around Africa.
  • Safari Pants: We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors.
  • Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are lightweight and keep the bugs away!
  • Boots: While you don’t need to wear sturdy shoes every day, at least one pair of safari boots will make your trip nicer!
  • Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling to Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.
About Natasha Alden

Natasha is the co-founder of The World Pursuit. She is an expert in travel, budgeting, and finding unique experiences. She loves to be outside, hiking in the mountains, playing in the snow on her snowboard, and biking. She has been traveling for over 10 years, across 7 continents, experiencing unique cultures, new food, and meeting fantastic people. She strives to make travel planning and traveling easier for all. Her advice about international travel, outdoor sports, and African safari has been featured on Lonely Planet, Business Insider, and Reader’s Digest.

Learn more about Natasha Alden on The World Pursuit About Us Page.

Leave a Comment