Top Travel Destinations
Embarking on a safari to Botswana requires a good deal of planning and preparation. You will be going to remote areas, accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, where water, petrol or food may not be readily available. You will often be driving on rough terrain, and through heavy sand, in conditions very different from those you are used to.
With the right 4×4 vehicle and preparation, however, Botswana is arguably the best safari destination in Southern Africa. Although the roads and climate can be challenging, the rewards for visiting this wonderful, friendly and undoubtedly wild country are undeniable. From vast, open pans to narrow, snaking waterways, Botswana offers breath-taking variety and incredible wildlife.
Namibia boasts remarkable natural attractions such as the Namib desert, the Fish River Canyon, Etosha National Park and the Kalahari Desert. Its people speak nine different languages, including some of the Khoisan languages which include a variety of ‘clicks’ which are not found anywhere else in the world.
Namibia is a very diverse country with an array of habitats and vegetation. It is also one of the few countries where animals still roam freely, for the most part unrestricted by fences and human influence. To explore Namibia to its fullest, it is essential to have a 4×4 vehicle that can mange the sandy riverbeds and rocky tracks that crisscross the remotest, most remarkable and most beautiful parts of the country.
South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. It is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho (which is completely surrounded by South Africa). It is a vast country with widely varying landscapes, 11 official languages, and an equally diverse population.
If you want to travel in Southern Africa then South Africa is a great place to start. While you can fly into any country in Southern Africa, most flights will route through South Africa anyway. South Africa is also a good place to get used to travelling in the region although of course it is not only a jumping off point, it is itself a superb destination, rich in culture, fauna, flora and history.
Must See Places In Southern Africa
Victoria Falls is the widest curtain of falling water on earth, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the planet’s natural wonders. Mist from the waterfall can be seen more than 20km away and the thundering roar can be heard long before the falls can be seen, which explains their local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning the “Smoke that Thunders”.
Fish River Canyon
At 160km long and in places over 500m deep, the Fish River Canyon is the largest of its kind in Africa and one of Namibia’s must-see attractions. The main viewpoint at Hobas is easily accessible by a good gravel road, but you will need a high clearance vehicle to drive the 20km track along the canyon’s edge. Buy a permit at Hobas Gate before entering the canyon.
Botswana’s Okavango Delta has been called the ‘Last Eden of Africa’ and for many it’s the best wildlife destination on the continent. 4×4 self-drivers can visit the Delta along the northern Panhandle or through the eastern Moremi Game Reserve, with it’s maze of rutted 4×4 tracks and some beautiful remote campsites, famous for their predator sightings.
Chobe National Park
The most accessible and frequently visited of Botswana’s big game country, the Chobe Riverfront is most famous for its large herds of elephants and Cape buffalo, which during the dry winter months converge upon the river to drink.
During this season, on an afternoon game drive, you may see hundreds of elephants at one time, as the main Serondella road becomes impassable and scores of family herds cross to make their way to the river to drink.
Moremi Game Reserve
Moremi Game Reserve is situated in the central and eastern areas of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and includes the Moremi Tongue and Chief’s Island, boasting one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent.
This makes for spectacular game viewing and bird watching, including all major naturally occurring herbivore and carnivore species in the region, and over 400 species of birds, many migratory and some endangered.
Truly at the interior of Botswana’s Chobe National Park, Savuti boasts most of the main species of the region, except for water-loving antelope. It is best known for its predators, particularly lion, cheetah and hyena, of which there are large resident populations.
When the Savuti Channel is flowing, huge herds of buffalo and plains antelope gather and the region has been called the ‘Serengeti of Southern Africa’.
Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia, a huge, untamed, ruggedly beautiful region that offers travellers a more adventurous challenge. Here there are prehistoric water courses with open plains and grassland, massive granite koppies and deep gorges.
Towards the west, the geography changes dramatically with endless sandy wastes that, incredibly, are able to sustain small, but wide-ranging, populations of desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok. These animals have adapted their lifestyles to survive the harshness of the sun-blistered, almost waterless desert spaces.
Kaokoland is one of the last remaining true wilderness areas in Southern Africa. It is a world of incredible mountain scenery, a refuge for the rare desert dwelling elephant, black rhino and giraffe and the home of the Himba people.
The topography in the south of the area is characterised by rugged mountains which are dissected by numerous watercourses, but north of the Hoarusib River the scenery is dominated by table-top koppies. Still further north, the Otjihipa Mountains rise abruptly above the Namib floor to form the eastern boundary of the Marienfluss, while the west of the valley is defined by the Hartmann Mountains.
Van Zyl’s Pass
Van Zyl’s Pass is the most notorious pass in Namibia. Located between two very steep mountain ranges in Namibia’s northwest Marienfluss region, it gets its name from the Dutch explorer who found the way across in the 1920s with a few hundred Himba and a Model T Ford.
It’s a classic extreme road, but not really a road, just a route made over the mountain by travellers over time. The outrageously steep pass itself is a pure adrenaline rush, but the lead-up route is 10-15km of tough driving, dodging its way through boulders, rocks, ravines and badlands. The descent from the top of the pass covers a distance of ten kilometres – but it will take you three to six hours to negotiate.
The small port town of Lüderitz lies on Namibia’s southern coast, accessible only via the paved B4 highway that stretches inland to Aus. To the north, the red Namib dunes march unending to Walvis Bay, while to the south the Sperrgebiet diamond area is off-limits to self-drivers. Guided tours are available into both the Namib and Sperrgebiet, but it’s best to book these in advance, especially the multi-day tours to Walvis Bay.
Lüderitz itself is known for its interesting church and German-colonial architecture and there are some beautiful beaches (although with very cold water!) just north of the town.
There’s an overlander-friendly campsite on Shark Island peninsular or a hotel and a few hostels if you prefer a bed for the night. Just outside of town don’t miss the abandoned diamond mining settlement of Kolmanskop – once a jewel of Southern Africa, now half buried under sand.
The ‘ghost town’ of Kolmanskop lies just outside of Lüderitz, between the rolling dunes of the Namib Desert and the diamond-rich Sperrgebiet region in southwestern Namibia. When diamonds were first discovered here in 1908, the town sprang up quickly and was soon incredibly rich. It had its own power station, theatre, casino and ice factory and in the first 6 years over a ton of diamonds were extracted! For a short while, the town boasted the highest wealth per capita in the world. But the diamond deposits were not to last and many moved on when new discoveries were made further south. In 1956 the town was abandoned completely and with nobody left to sweep the streets, the sand inevitably returned.
Nowadays the remaining buildings are half buried in thick sand and visitors can get a permit on arrival to walk through the eery ruins. If you’re a keen photographer then don’t miss the chance to explore. There are some wonderful opportunities for unusual, evocative images.
Etosha National Park
Unique in Africa, the Etosha’s main characteristic is a salt pan so large it can be seen from space. Yet there is abundant wildlife that congregates around the waterholes, giving you almost guaranteed game sightings. At the same time, Etosha National Park is one of the most accessible game reserves in Namibia and Southern Africa. The park is malaria free, accessible by car and the rest camps provide a range of accommodation as well as restaurants, viewing decks, shops and petrol stations. Luxurious camps in Etosha’s remote areas have now added top end accommodation to the park’s offerings. The abundance of game in the park is somewhat unexpected, showcasing some of the most common and rarest wildlife species. The areas with thicker vegetation are home to elephant (some of the largest in Africa due to the vitamins and nutrients found in the ground), he endangered black rhino and even leopard. Lions are camouflaged in the pale- golden colour of the grasslands, while giraffes rise high above most of the dry vegetation.
Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa and is the capital of the Western Cape Province, as well as being the legislative capital of South Africa (the Houses of Parliament are here). It is located in the south-west corner of the country near the Cape of Good Hope, and is the southern-most city in Africa. It is a stone’s throw from South Africa’s world-famous Cape Winelands in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.
The Cape Town metropol covers a large area, from Durbanville and Somerset West in the east to Cape Point in the south and Atlantis in the north. The city centre is located in a relatively small area between Table Mountain and Table Bay.
Cape Town is also known as Kaapstad (in Afrikaans) or the Mother City/ Moederstad in South Africa. It is also one of the most iconic cities in the world.
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is situated in the northeast of South Africa and borders Mozambique to the east, Zimbabwe to the north, and the Crocodile River to the south. The park covers 20000 square kilometres, with 14 separate eco-zones, each supporting different wildlife. It is one of the main attractions of South Africa and it is considered the flagship of South African National Parks (SANParks).
The park was established in 1898 by then South African President Paul Kruger as a protected area for wildlife. It opened its gates to the general public in 1927 for the first time. Currently, the park is run by South African National Parks and is probably the best managed African national park. Wildlife conservation, education and tourism are the main objectives of Kruger National Park and measures to prevent poaching include regular searches of cars entering and leaving the park.
The Garden Route is a stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa which extends from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The name comes from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation found here and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast. It includes towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley, along with George, the Garden Route’s largest city and main administrative centre.
The Garden Route has an oceanic climate, with mild to warm summers, and mild to cool winters, sandwiched between the Tsitsikamma Mountains and the Indian Ocean. The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma indigenous forests are a unique mixture of Cape fynbos and temperate forest and offer numerous beautiful hiking trails and eco-tourism activities. Nearly 300 bird species can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from fynbos to forest to wetlands.
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