Southern Africa is diverse in landscape and wilderness experiences, people, culture and highlights, giving travellers a plethora of choice, which can make choosing where to go and what to see quite daunting.
In this blog we look at 7 Southern African countries and their highlights. Each of these countries offer exclusive, authentic and immersive safari, cultural and travel experiences with luxury hotels/lodges/camps and transport. Some countries are more easily accessible with modern infrastructure and easy connections and others are more remote. Each has their own appeal and character; each has their own heartbeat.
This politically stable country is the role model for the continent. The government has always paid great attention to its wildlife and conservation areas, making them a priority and protecting the integrity of the wilderness areas while respecting the communities and ensuring sustainable tourism for all. The proximity to South Africa, diverse and scenic habitats, modern infrastructure and pristine wilderness areas means Botswana remains a must on any wildlife eco-tourism safari. A safari in Botswana is the epitome of an immersive travelling experience. The Okavango Delta is an oasis of Eden, whilst the Kalahari and Makgadikgadi are endearing contrasts with an equal number of characters that inspire and intrigue travellers.
- The Okavango Delta: is a World Heritage site, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the largest inland delta in the world and worthy of the acclaim and recognition it receives. It is one of the world’s last remaining truly pristine wilderness areas. It has the highest game densities and diversity outside the Serengeti making it a must-see for all eco-travellers and offers world class exclusive lodges and camps while keeping the core focus on the environment, wildlife and communities.
- The Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the second largest wildlife game reserve in the world, is a stark contrast to the lush Okavango Delta. It is famous for the black-maned lions, as well as cheetah, springbok, gemsbok, ostrich and wildebeest not to mention herds of oryx, springbuck, red hartebeest and the widest horizons.
- The Makgadikgadi Pans: a salt pan– with an area of 3 900 sq. kms is one of the largest salt flats in the world. The pans are a salty dessert but after the rains are an important habitat for migrating animals including wildebeest and one of Africa’s biggest zebra populations, as well as the large predators that prey on them. The wet season also brings migratory birds such as ducks, geese and Great White Pelicans. Bigs skies, expansive space, stars and meerkats (Timone)!
- Chobe National Park is renowned for its massive herds of elephants and buffalo, specificall on the Chobe river. The boat cruises offer the best experiences on water with wildlife.
- Linyanti ecosystem: this northern waterway is unspoiled, beautiful and starting to become known as one of the best game viewing areas in Africa offering prolific elephant sightings in the dry season and some of the best predator encounters.
- Savuti is rugged and offers abundant wildlife in an area of great scenic beauty. Good predators, general wildlife viewing and lodges.
This island is biodiversity heaven with 70% of its fauna and 90% of its flora endemic. 5% of all know fauna and flora known to man are endemic to this wonderous island. It is the upside down world of baobab trees and home to lemurs. You will find the worlds largest and smallest chameleon, 258 bird species of which 115 of those are endemic. It is an outdoor travellers dream. Slightly more difficult to travel around, more remote than other Southern African countries and islands, an adventurous spirit is needed but any effort is rewarded tenfold.
Madagascar is not only about the unique wildlife though. It is culturally rich with 18 different tribes, the landscapes contrast from forests, to mangroves, pristine beaches, grasslands and canyons. See dusty villages, the bustling Antanarivo and Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, considered sacred by the Malagasy for 500 years, this historical village was once home to Malagascar Royalty.
Madagascar may be small in size but it is big in character. It is unique and startling, different from anything else and will give you an extraordinary experience and leave you full of wonder and awe.
- Andasibe-Mantadia National Park
- Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park
- Isalo National Park
- Avenue of the Baobabs
- Ranomafana National Park
- Amber Mountain National Park
- Ankarana Reserve
Photo credit: Canva
Zimbabwe has a feeling, an atmosphere and a beat that is hard to capture in words. It just has that special something that you can’t quite put your finger on. The people are warm and welcoming. The safari experiences may possibly be some of the most rewarding Southern Africa has to offer. This incredible country has a wealth of wildlife destinations despite years of political unrest and instability and, when done right undoubtably leaves the traveller with an attachment to the country that will last forever. A number of outstanding national parks like Hwange, Mana Pools, Matusadona and Ghonarezhou, are accessible and the wildlife is prolific. Safari camps are excellent quality and vary from mobile camps to permanent lodges. The great Zambezi River has Victoria Falls and the famous lake Kariba both of which are major wildlife arenas for travellers to this wonderful country. Travel through the country to wildlife areas is safe and rewarding.
- Victoria Falls, the falls and the town. This town is full of life and vibrance and adventure. A unique town set on edge of the Zambezi River and Zambezi National Park is a quick flight from Johannesburg or Kasane. Don’t be surprised if you see a warthog or baboon in town, even bigger game take a gander through town sometimes. The Victoria Falls themselves are a World Heritage site of immense size and intensity from December to August with the Zambezi river stretching 2km wide making it not only the widest waterfall in the world, but one of the most spectacular with the spray of the falls seen up to 20km away.
- Zimbabwe has 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
- Mana Pools (Natural) “The Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas World Heritage Site is an area of dramatic landscape and ecological processes” protecting high concentrations of wildlife and in particular the Nile crocodile
- Khami Ruins National Monument (Cultural): It is of great archeological interest and the discovery of objects from Europe and China shows that Khami was a major trade centre over a long period of time – UNESCO
- Great Zimbabwe Ruins (Cultural) “the capital of the Queen of Sheba, according to an age-old legend – are a unique testimony to the Bantu civilization of the Shona between the 11th and 15th centuries. The city, which covers an area of nearly 80 ha, was an important trading centre and was renowned from the Middle Ages onwards”
- Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls (Natural)
- Matobo Hills (Cultural) “The area exhibits a profusion of distinctive rock landforms rising above the granite shield that covers much of Zimbabwe. The large boulders provide abundant natural shelters and have been associated with human occupation from the early Stone Age right through to early historical times, and intermittently since. They also feature an outstanding collection of rock paintings.” – UNESCO
- All of the national parks offer excellent walking safaris, game drives, wildlife, birding and exclusive accommodation.
- Pamushana. An exclusive lodge in the 130 000 acre Malilangwe Reserve, SE Zimbabwe boasts high concentrations of the endangered black rhino, abundant wildlife and private access to this untouched wilderness where guests can immerse themselves in nature.
- Lake Kariba: is the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume but it’s main attraction is its sheer beauty and wildlife. A photographers paradise and fisherman’s nirvana, the lake offers a multitude of activities.
Photo credit: Gavin Ford (top); Canva (bottom)