Southern Africa boasts some of the most extraordinary wildlife destinations in Africa: Kruger, Chobe, Etosha, South Luangwa and the Okavango Delta. You can spot vast numbers of elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, rhinos, buffaloes, antelope and myriad other species whilst on self-drives, guided wildlife drives, by foot or charter flights.
The landscapes in Southern Africa are like no other. There’s famous Table Mountain in South Africa, rising high above Cape Town, Fish River Canyon in Namibia, the largest canyon in Africa and 350,000 sq miles of semi-arid sandy savannah covering much of Botswana, parts of Namibia and regions of South Africa.
Africa exhibits great and fascinating diversities. That diversity is nowhere more dramatic than in Southern Africa.
According to the United Nations, this subregion of the African continent comprises of five countries –Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.
The truth of the matter is that there are other countries in the southernmost part of the continent that shouldn’t be overlooked when visiting this part of the world. They are great stand-alone destinations and easily combined. They include Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
As well as offering diverse landscapes and wildlife, Southern Africa provides a variety of accommodation options from 5-star luxury to basic camping. No matter your budget, you will find a great place to base yourself for adventure.
In Southern Africa, you arrive at the lodge (by plane, road transfer or even self-drive) and then you are in the care of the camp’s game rangers. They, and their trackers, are your guides for the next few days until you head off to another camp. Your safari drives happen early in the morning and late in the afternoon, with the hot hours of mid-day spent lounging around the lodge or camp (often by the pool). Is there a better way to spend a day!
One of the most notable qualities of the southern safari experience is intimacy. During game drives, you will feel very close to nature as you cruise along the gamelands in an open-top vehicle with, what feels like, nothing between you and the wild.
National Parks require all vehicles to drive along marked roads but in privately owned game reserves lodges are permitted to drive off-road – this is a huge advantage when looking for animals. Reserves keep strict control of the number of vehicles at each sighting, enhancing the intimate experience.
Safari vehicles are not the only means of transport to explore the region. In Botswana, you can wade the Okavango Delta in a mokoro (dug-out canoe) allowing you to get closer to small, shy animals. It makes for incredible elephant sightings too!
A trip to Southern Africa does not begin and end with a safari. Commonly, visitors to Southern Africa will combine their safari with a trip to the coast or a visit to the magnificent Victoria Falls.
When in southern Africa, you must take the opportunity to visit one or more of the incredible destinations in this sub-region of Africa.
Safari-goers to Kruger National Park often combine their trip with a visit to South Africa’s rugged coastal city, Cape Town. Cape Town provides all the ingredients for an unforgettable adventure. With the jaw-dropping scenery to centuries-old architecture mingling with minimalist modern design, this scenic South African beauty encompasses it all.
The aforementioned Victoria Falls is a spectacle not to miss when in this part of the world. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and the largest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls will take your breathe away. With Chobe National Park in Botswana, a couple of hours drive away, the two are commonly combined.
A popular bush and beach combination in Southern Africa is Zambia and Malawi. Although landlocked, Malawi has a beautiful lake spanning 365 miles with beautiful sandy beaches to rival any Indian ocean island! Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is not far from Malawi and homes 4 of the big 5, not to mention gorgeous lodges and safari camps. A winning combination.
South Africa is the proud home of no fewer than 20 national parks. This includes two of the world’s most famous wildlife reserves, the Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. In addition, there are numerous private game reserves that have massive biodiversity and world-class safari opportunities.
The Kruger National Park is possibly the most popular safari spot in South Africa, as well as one of the largest in the world. At nearly two million hectares, the park offers visitors a diverse collection of animal species, including the Big Five.
Botswana is an incredible place for a Safari, featuring some of the most wondrous wilderness locations, from the magnificent Chobe National Park, a refuge for the world’s biggest population of Kalahari elephants to the virtually untouched Okavango Delta, a World Heritage Site and arguably one of Nature’s greatest masterpieces.
Botswana is renowned for its sophisticated and exclusive eco-lodges and camps, providing comfort and service in the heart of the true wilderness. These intimate camps make for an authentic and personalised experience.
Though perhaps overshadowed by neighbouring Botswana and South Africa, Zambia is undeniably one of the continent’s best safari destinations. Kafue National Park & South Luangwa National Park are of particular interest to wildlife enthusiasts, home to an abundance of impressive creatures, from leopards and lions to elephants and pangolins.
Zambia is the birthplace of walking safaris, the place where you leave the vehicle behind and lace up your hiking boots to go in search of game both big and small. Nothing beats the thrill of rounding a bush to see a herd of gently grazing zebra in the distance.
In the heart of southern Africa, land-locked Zimbabwe is a vibrant country with dramatic landscapes, impressive national parks and welcoming people.
A Zimbabwe safari can be extremely varied. You can go on a game drive in Hwange National Park, take a canoe safari or a walking safari in Mana Pools National Park, fly over Victoria Falls or view the granite boulders and rock art in Matobo Hills National Park.
After some difficult years, politically, it is now returning to its rightful place on Africa’s safari circuit.
Malawi’s reputation as a safari destination has elevated in recent years, regularly featuring in travel publications must-visit destination roundups.
This is largely due to the conservation efforts of African Parks, who manage 4 parks in Malawi. The biggest success story so far has to be Liwonde: in 2017 cheetah were added, the population has already doubled. 2018 saw the reintroduction of lions and in 2019 17 black rhinos were translocated from South Africa.
Namibia is completely different from any other African safari destination. Much of its wildlife has adapted to its dry desert landscape, including elephant and lion.
Africa’s largest game park, the Namib-Naukluft Park, is a must-see when on safari in Namibia, with its magnificent sea of rolling red dunes at Sossusvlei.
To make your safari experience even more memorable, you can opt for a fly-in safari! ‘Fly-in safaris’ refer to the fact that transfers to and from your safari destination(s) will be by plane rather than the road.
A fly-in safari to any of Southern Africa’s abundant safari destinations results in game-viewing from a whole new perspective, with aircraft often flying low and allowing passengers to spot wildlife from above. Not to mention, making use of a plane means that you can get to some of the most remote and untouched corners of Africa where crowds are small (if not non-existent) and the game is plentiful.
If you only have a few days to see the wild a fly-in safari could be perfect. Swap hours of tedious travel in a car for a short transfer flight and you’ll be saving all that time up to spend on game drives and at your camp where the real safari adventure lies. With a fly-in option, safari holidays don’t need to be epic 12 or 14-day vacations – you can see and do everything in a short break of three or four days.
However, if you do have plenty of time for a safari, a fly-in trip can also allow you to travel vast distances between different camps for more than one adventure on your holiday. Don’t limit yourself to one national park or even one country! Many fly-in safari packages allow you to cross borders and hundreds of miles for a really complete experience.
Although typically more expensive than a drive-in trip, it can well worth spending the extra cash for such a sensational trip.