Southern Africa Country Guide | Brownell Travel

Southern Africa Country Guide

Southern Africa has a little bit of everything. Each country features unique experiences, from wildlife viewing to cultural activities to magnificent landscapes. So whether it is your first or fifth trip to the region, it is hard to decide where to go. Our partners at Africa Inscribed break down what to do in each destinations in this Southern Africa Country Guide.

Botswana

Botswana is a beautiful country where you can see animals in their natural habitat. 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.

Highlights:

  • The Okavango Delta: 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 and has the highest game density and diversity outside the Serengeti.
  • The Central Kalahari Game Reserve: The second largest wildlife game reserve in the world, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, is a stark contrast to the lush Okavango Delta. It is famous for the black-maned lions, cheetah, springbok, gemsbok, ostrich, and wildebeest as well as herds of oryx, springbuck, red hartebeest, and the widest horizons.
  • The Makgadikgadi Pans: This salt pan is one of the largest salt flats in the world – it has an area of 1500 square miles. The pans are a salty desert, but after the rains they become 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. When you go here, expect big skies, expansive space, stars, and meerkats (aka Timone)!
  • Chobe National Park: Chobe is renowned for its massive herds of elephants and buffalo, specifically on the Chobe River. Go on a boat cruises for the best wildlife experiences on water.
  • Linyanti ecosystem: This northern waterway is unspoiled, beautiful, and starting to become known as one of the best game viewing areas in Africa. It offers prolific elephant sightings in the dry season and some of the best predator encounters.
  • Savuti: Savuti is rugged area filled with abundant wildlife and great scenic beauty. It is a good spot for seeing predators and general wildlife.

Good for:

  • Families
  • Second time safari goers

Country Pairings:

  • South Africa
  • Namibia

Did You Know?

The Botswana government has always paid great attention to its wildlife and conservation areas and has made it a priority to protect the integrity of the wilderness areas while respecting the communities to ensure sustainable tourism for all.


Virtuoso-Madagascar

Madagascar

If you enjoyed the movie Madagascar, you’ll love experiencing the actual country even more! This island is a biodiversity heaven – 70% of its fauna and 90% of its flora are native. Beyond the wildlife, Madagascar is also culturally rich with 18 different tribes. So though the island may be small in size, Madagascar is big in character and will leave you full of wonder and awe.

Highlights:

  • 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
  • Antanarivo

Good for:

The adventure lover! Madagascar is slightly less accessible and more remote than the other Southern African countries, but it is well worth the effort.

Country Pairings:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Zimbabwe

Insider Tip:

Madagascar isn’t just about wildlife; the country also has several beach resorts.


Namibia-Goat_Virtuoso

Namibia

The name Namibia means “vast and empty”, and while this country is vast, it is far from empty. Namibia features stunning landscapes and a plethora of endemic fauna and flora that are unlike any other country on the continent. From the unspoiled wildlife areas to the shipwrecks dotting the barren coastline to the deserts in the south, there is so much to experience in Namibia – and no two days will be the same!

Highlights:

  • Etosha National Park is the main national park, built around an extinct lakebed that covers over 100,000 acres. It offers superb game viewing, vast open spaces, starry skies at night, and striking vistas.
  • Sossusvlei, where red dunes meet rugged rock mountains, is a must see for photographers. These ever-changing dunes were formed 55 million years ago and are 4th tallest dunes in Africa.
  • Swakopmund is a quaint Dutch-African coastal town renowned for adventure activities (perfect for families with teenagers), lovely restaurants, old architecture, deep sea fishing, and flights over the Namib that give you a bird’s eye view of where dunes meet the Atlantic.
  • Kaokoveld is a beautiful area that is home to the Himba people. It is also known for the much sought after desert elephant and lion as well as desert rhino, oryx, springbuck, and other game.
  • Kunene region is in the far northwest corner of Namibia and is one of the country’s wildest and most remote areas. In particular, the desolate, rugged Hartmann Valley is a must see because of the desert-adapted wildlife.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
    • Twylfelfontein: Has one of the largest concentrations of petroglyphs
    • Namib Sand Sea: The only coastal desert in the world that includes extensive dune fields influenced by fog.

Good for:

  • Second or third trips to Africa
  • Adventure lovers

Country Pairings:

  • Botswana
  • South Africa

Insider Tip:

The northwest area of Namibia is inhabited by prehistoric plants, desert elephants, and nomadic tribes – an idea spot to experience the Namibian wildlife and people.


South Africa

South Africa truly has something for everyone. Travelers can experience a vibrant city, see the Big 5 on safari, relax by the beach, and explore different vineyards – all in one country! And while South Africa may be perfect for a first-time visit to Africa, it’s no surprise that people are eager to return again and again.

Highlights:

  • World Heritage Sites: South Africa boasts 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: four cultural sites, three natural sites, and one both cultural and natural.
  • The Cape: Cape Town, voted one of the top cities in the world, is fun-filled and culturally diverse. Set against Table Mountain, you can explore the city, visit the neighboring Winelands, try some of the world’s top restaurants, learn about the rich history, and more.
  • The Garden Route features magnificent scenery where rugged mountains meet the ocean. One of four national parks along the route, Addo Elephant Park has five of South Africa’s biomes (more than any other National Park), is malaria free (perfect for families!), and offers a wonderful wildlife experience.
  • Wildlife: Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal offer exclusive, immersive wildlife experiences at both private and national park areas. If you are looking for malaria-free zones, Madikwe and the Waterberg are just few hours out of Johannesburg, ideal for families with limited time.
  • Johannesburg and Pretoria:These two scenic cities should not be overlooked. They have abundant historical and cultural activities, world-class hotels, and fine-dining. Plus, Oliver Tambo International Airport is your gateway to the rest of Southern and East Africa.

Good for:

  • First time trips to Africa
  • Foodies
  • Wine enthusiasts

Country Pairings:

  • Botswana
  • Namibia
  • Madagascar
  • Zimbabwe
  • Zambia

Insider Tip:

South Africa has some of the best restaurants in the world, but make sure you get a reservation in advance.


Zambia-Zebras_Virtuoso

Zambia

Zambia is one of Southern Africa’s best kept secrets. It is an incredible destination for unspoiled wildlife viewing. Some of the parks have rare species and migrations (and don’t have the crowds of other countries). The Zambezi River is the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, so travelers can also experience Victoria Falls at Linvingstone.

Highlights:Zambia-Waterfall_Virtuoso

  • Livingstone and Victoria Falls.  Livingstone, much like Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, is the adventure capital of Zambia. You can see incredible views of the Falls and gorge, enjoy other land-based activities, and even take a helicopter across the bridge to visit Zimbabwe.
  • Kafue National Park: This national park is only two hours from Livingstone and offers genuine, pristine wilderness. At Kafue, travelers can spot roan antelope, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, lion, cheetah, and over 500 bird species.
  • Lower Zambezi National Park: Perched on the opposite side of the Zambezi River from Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, Lower Zambezi National Park has terrific camps, very good game, boating, canoeing, fishing in season, game walks and game drives.
  • South Luangwa National Park: You can’t go wrong with a visit to South Luangwa National Park! This expansive park on the Luangwa River made walking safaris famous and is a wildlife sanctuary, with 60 species of animal and 400 species of bird. Plus, it is one of very few parks around Southern and East Africa that offer night drives.
  • Kasanka National Park: Between October and December, you can see 10 million fruit bats arrive in Kasanka National Park from their migration. But not only that, you can also see Sitatungas, a highly elusive, semi-aquatic antelope.

Good for:

The seasoned traveler

Country Pairings:

  • South Africa
  • Zimbabwe
  • Botswana
  • Mozambique

Did You Know?

Zambia is a little bigger than Texas.


Zimbabwe

With stunning scenery, a wealth of wildlife, and warm and welcoming people, Zimbabwe has a way of mesmerizing travelers and leaving them with memories that will last a lifetime.

Highlights:

  • Zambia-Waterfall_VirtuosoVictoria Falls: Both the town and the falls are must-sees in Zimbabwe. The town is set on the edge of the Zambezi River and Zambezi National Park, and it is a quick flight from Johannesburg or Kasane. The Victoria Falls themselves are immense in size and intensity from December to August.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
  • All of the national parks offer excellent walking safaris, game drives, wildlife, birding and exclusive accommodation.
  • Pamushana: This exclusive lodge in the 130,000 acre Malilangwe Reserve boasts high concentrations of the endangered black rhino, abundant wildlife, and private access to untouched wilderness where guests can immerse themselves in nature.
  • Lake Kariba: Lake Kariba is the world’s largest man-made lake and reservoir by volume, and the main attraction is its sheer beauty and wildlife. A photographer’s paradise and fisherman’s nirvana, the lake offers a multitude of activities.

Good for:

An extension to a South Africa trip

Country Pairings:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana

Did You Know?

The Zambezi River stretches over a mile wide, making Victoria Falls not only the widest waterfall in the world but also one of the most spectacular. You can see the spray from Victoria Falls more than 12 miles away!

 

Now that you’ve learned about these incredible countries in our Southern Africa Country Guide, it’s time to experience them in person! Click here to start planning your trip to Southern Africa.