Southern Africa is one of the last places of accessible wilderness, it has an astonishing variety and density of wildlife, amazing landscapes and world-class natural features. Especially the establishment of transfrontier parks that link the wildlife migration routes across borders is a very positive development.
If you are wondering where to start your Southern Africa journey, South Africa makes a great kickoff for the region. You can also tour Botswana’s wildlife-rich savannah grassland, trek around Namibia’s deserts and vast open landscape, experience the beautiful and untouristed sites in Zimbabwe, ….or just enjoy the multitude of African pleasures and treasures in South Africa.
One of the main highlights of South Africa is the Krugerpark
of course, it is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and offers an astonishing variety and number of animals.
You can also go and enjoy animals at close range in one of the game parks around the Kruger Park. In Marloth Park for instance you will get close encounters with zebra, kudu, monkeys, warthogs, ….
From there you head for the Blyde River Canyon : here you can admire the deeply carved canyons along the Panorama Route and the Waterfalls Route, hike through the ravines, go trout fishing or just enjoy the charming gold mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest. If you have to go back via Johannesburg, go first for a few days to the Magaliesberg mountain range or to the Hartbeespoort dam area and go visit some of the animal sanctuaries where you can interact with white lion, cheetah, elephant, bushbabies/monkeys, reptiles and snakes, … before going back home.
Cape Town or ‘The Mother City’ is another one of SA’s trump cards, you can easily spend one week or more here. There is so much to do and even more to see. Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Chapman’s Peak, Saldanha Bay, Cedarberg and the Ceres area are just a few of the sites well worth a visit.
Cape Town can also be the starting point of an exploration of the Southern Cape, through Hermanus - where between June and November you can be woken by the whales blowing at night or see them while having a coffee in one of the restaurants or even better, while walking along the 12 km long cliff paths. You can make a stop at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa before venturing to Oudtshoorn – known for the Cango Caves, the crocodile and ostrich farms. From there on you get to Mossel Bay, the westgate to the Garden Route. All along this magnificent stretch of coastline and mountains, you will find rivers, lakes and lagoons, beaches and forests, all the way to the Storms River Mouth in the east. Don’t forget to stop in Knysna or Wilderness, go look for elephants in the Addo Elephant NP or try and spot whales, dolphins, seals and otters in the Tsitsikamma National Park. And if your trip is nearing the end you can take a flight back home from Port Elizabeth, also referred to as ‘The Friendly City’.
If you have enough time for a mega trip (3 to 4 weeks) you can get to Cape Town, enjoy the many exciting highlights there for a few days, discover the winelands and head then north for Namakwa to see the fabulous flower display in spring (August/September). Cross into Namibia and head to Fish River Canyon. Keep going direction Keetmanshoop, Lüderitz, Mariental - if you have time make a stopover at Sossusvlei - and head north again to Windhoek to enjoy the last few days of your trip.
Watch out if you go to Namibia : if you have been there once, it is likely you will want to go back again (and again) !!!
If you are stuck for time you can start with a short exploratory trip of 10 to 12 days to Namibia but you will need at least 2 to 3 weeks to even start discovering the extraordinary landscape and enjoy some unique wildlife experience to the full.
You can start your holiday in Windhoek, drive to Swakopmund where you can discover this charming coastal town on foot, go for nature drives in the Namib dunes with an experienced guide and learn all about the secret desert life, explore Walvis Bay and the lagoon, go on one of the many boat tours and watch pelicans, dolphins and hundreds of seals. Then you can track north to the Skeleton Coast (magnificent coastline, shipwrecks, desert wilderness, ..), travel west to Damaraland with its wild open spaces, make a stopover in Twijfelfontein (one of the most extensive galleries of rock art in Africa), continue towards Etosha NP with its great wildlife-viewing sites. After a few days you can head back to Windhoek or if you have enough time venture out into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in the southeast in Botswana.
Another exciting tour takes you to Botswana and Zimbabwe (one to two weeks). If you get to Maun you can go for one day or several days on a mokoro (dugout canoe) trip in the eastern part of the Okavango Delta, drive with a 4WD in the Moremi Game Reserve or let a local guide show you around, you can join a fly-in safari to the Inner Delta (mainly top-end luxury lodges available). The Okavango Panhandle has several 2WD accessible campsites and offers more affordable safari and mokoro trips and fishing expeditions.
When you get to Victoria Falls you can easily spend a week there. Close to the Falls is a beautiful game park with many animals migrating freely to and from Hwange. Nearby Victoria Fall you can also enjoy an elephant back safari or get a close look at a crocodile at one of the crocodile farms. Excursions to Hwange NP or Matos NP can also be organised from Victoria Falls (self drive or guided tours).