The Best Place to visit in Southern Africa
Southern Africa is the southernmost region of the African continent and includes countries like Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Southern Africa’s terrain is incredibly diverse, ranging from forest and grasslands to deserts. The region is also home to both mountains and low-lying coastal areas, as well as a wide variety of ecoregions including grassland, bushveld, semi-desert, savannah, and riparian areas.
These diverse landscapes and terrain, are a result of the distinct climatic conditions throughout the region. It ranges from the Mediterranean in the southwestern corner of the continent to temperate, subtropical, and even desert-like further north. Most of the region enjoys warm, sunny days and cool nights.
The Okavango Delta is the country’s evergreen jewel and at the heart of Botswana’s safari attractions. This vast inland river delta’s meandering waterways are best explored on a mokoro, a traditional dug-out canoe, and the quintessential game drive ‘vehicle’ of the Delta. Considered Africa’s Garden of Eden, the Okavango Delta is home to an astonishing array of birds and big game – especially predators.
Chobe National Park is Africa’s elephant kingdom. Home to around 120 000 individuals grouped in the largest herds on Earth, Chobe delivers some of the best and most close-up sightings of these gentle giants; especially around the Chobe River during Botswana’s dry season (May to October). The park’s remote Savuti region, a.k.a. 'Predator City', is famous for its well-documented rivalries between powerful lion prides and hyena clans.
The Kalahari scrubland is home to unique experiences like quad biking (ATV) safaris and authentic cultural encounters with Africa’s first people, the San. It’s also the setting for Botswana’s dazzling zebra migration, which happens between January and March (depending on seasonal rainfall).
The Kruger National Park is home to South Africa's greatest diversity of animals and exquisite safari lodges on private game reserves. As one of the oldest conservation areas in Africa, it boasts healthy populations of wildlife and highly sought-after sightings of cheetah and wild dogs. But the Kruger’s pièce de résistance is the almost guaranteed encounter with the super-celebrities of the safari circuit: Africa’s iconic Big 5 (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard).
Cape Town is technically not a safari destination per se, but it’s a must-add to any South Africa itinerary. Continuously voted as one of the world’s best cities to visit, Cape Town boasts beautiful mountains and beaches, historical landmarks, and the bottle-green valleys of the renowned Cape Winelands.
Sossusvlei’s mesmerizing sand dunes are often referred to as the highest dunes on the planet. Situated in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, the biggest conservation area in Africa, Sossusvlei is one of the most spectacular sights in Namibia and delivers incredible photographic opportunities. Don’t miss a visit to the eerily beautiful Deadvlei (‘dead marsh’) and a climb up Dune 45 or Big Daddy (about 350m / 1 150ft) for a sunset you’ll never forget.
Etosha National Park is considered by many safari aficionados as one of Africa’s greatest wildlife reserves. It’s a self-drivers paradise – thanks to its great roads – and home to four of the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard), as well as giraffe, cheetah, and an abundance of plains game. During Namibia’s dry season (May to October), the temporary water holes around Etosha Pan (a mineral pan four times the size of Los Angeles) host animal numbers of biblical proportions.
Hwange National Park is almost ten times the size of London and home to between 45 000 and 60 000 elephants. Aptly known as ‘the land of giants’, Hwange delivers some of the best big game safari experiences in Africa, especially during the dry winter months (May to October) when animals congregate around the park’s shallow pans and man-made waterholes.
Mana Pools is rugged and beautiful, boasting an alluring mix of grassy floodplains, woodlands, and riverine forests. The park provided the backdrop to ‘Painted Wolves, one of the stories in BBC Earth’s acclaimed Dynasties series. Visitors can enjoy traditional safari activities like game drives and nature walks, as well as river-based activities like kayaking, boating, and fishing.
Victoria Falls needs no introduction. A visit to our planet’s biggest waterfall is a must-do experience for anyone traveling to Southern Africa for a safari. The high-water season runs from about March to July when the Zambezi River is in full flood and the waterfall is at its most thunderous. The low-water season is from about September to December and is a good time for white-water rafting and swimming in Devil’s Pool – an eddy at the edge of the waterfall.
South Luangwa National Park is a fantastic choice for big game viewing in Zambia. Few parks in Africa can match the phenomenal density of game that gathers around South Luangwa’s lakes and rivers – from elephants, hippos,s, and buffalo to well-fed lions. Africa takes on a whole new meaning when you experience it on foot, as the first explorers did, and nowhere does it better than South Luangwa: birthplace of the walking safari.
Lower Zambezi National Park is a peaceful reserve with wide floodplains and a wild mountain backdrop. It delivers superb game viewing, as well as some of the best water-based safari activities in Africa. A canoe safari is a fantastic way to get close to animals like elephant, buffalo and hippo – it’s from the vantage point of a canoe that you truly understand the meaning of big game!