So much to see, so little time! To give you a helping hand, here is our list of places you MUST VISIT in Southern Africa.
The Okavango Delta, Botswana
Obviously, my favorite first!
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a swampy inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. All the water reaching the Delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired and does not flow into any sea or ocean. Each year, about 11 cubic kilometers (2.6 cubic mi) of water spread over the 6,000–15,000 km2 (2,300–5,800 sq mi) area. Some floodwaters drain into Lake Ngami. The area was once part of Lake Makgadikgadi, an ancient lake that had mostly dried up by the early Holocene.
The Moremi Game Reserve, a National Park, is on the eastern side of the Delta. The Delta was named as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, which were officially declared on February 11, 2013 in Arusha, Tanzania. On June 22, 2014, the Okavango Delta became the 1000th site to be officially inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Okavango is produced by seasonal flooding. The Okavango River drains the summer (January–February) rainfall from the Angola highlands, and the surge flows 1,200 km (750 mi) in around one month. The waters then spread over the 250 by 150 km (155 by 93 mi) area of the delta over the next four months (March–June). The high temperature of the delta causes rapid transpiration and evaporation, resulting in a cycle of rising and falling water level that was not fully understood until the early 20th century. The flood peaks between June and August, during Botswana‘s dry winter months, when the delta swells to three times its permanent size, attracting animals from kilometers around and creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
Inside scoop: Experience EVERYTHING! Go on every game drive, boat ride and mokoro ride—go tiger fishing and enjoy every sunrise and sunset. No words can actually describe this magical experience.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800s as “Mosi-oa-Tunya”—”The Smoke that Thunders.” In more modern terms, Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world. Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two kilometers, into a gorge over one hundred meters below.
The wide, basalt cliff over which the falls thunder transforms the Zambezi from a placid river into a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges.
Facing the Falls is another sheer wall of basalt rising to the same height and capped by mist-soaked rainforest. A path along the edge of the forest provides the visitor, prepared to brave the tremendous spray, with an unparalleled series of views of the Falls.
One special vantage point is across the Knife-edge Bridge, where visitors can have the finest view of the Eastern Cataract and the Main Falls as well as the Boiling Pot, where the river turns and heads down the Batoka Gorge. Other vantage points include Livingstone Island, the Falls Bridge, Devils Pool and the Lookout Tree, both of which command panoramic views across the Main Falls.
Inside scoop: Picnic on Livingstone Island and swim in the pools above the waterfall!
Table Mountain, Cape Town
Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark of South Africa.
It is also the country’s most photographed attraction, and its famous cable car took millions of people to its top.
Table Mountain has become the single most welcoming icon to not only our people but travelers from all over the world.
But this mountain hides many surprises that wait to be discovered.
It is much more than a scenic photograph background or a place from where you can take a breathtaking photo of Cape Town. There are about 2,200 species of plants found on Table Mountain and 1,470 floral species. Many of these plants and flowers are endemic to this mountain.
Inside scoop: Sunset on top of Table Mountain! Watch the breathtaking African sunset and watch Cape Town’s lights under your feet.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park, in northeastern South Africa, is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. It covers an area of 19,485 km2 (7,523 sq mi)—the size of Israel—and has a high density of wild animals, including the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. Hundreds of other mammals make their home here, as do diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles and storks. Mountains, bush plains and tropical forests are all part of the landscape.
Inside scoop: Amazing safari destination and game viewing!
Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterized by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round. The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light.
Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh,” as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert, the river seldom flows this far, and the pan remains bone-dry most years. During an exceptional rainy season, the Tsauchab fills the pan, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this spectacular site.
Photographic enthusiasts are spoilt with a glassy “lake” holding reflections of the surrounding dunes. When the pan fills, it can hold water for as long as a year.
Despite the harsh desert conditions in the area, one can find a wide variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive.
Inside scoop: Climb Big Daddy! Big Daddy is the tallest dune in the Sossusvlei area. This magnificent dune is situated between Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, and at 325 meters it dwarfs the other dunes. Should you want the ultimate bragging rights, take a lot of water and trek to the top of Big Daddy where you can look down onto Deadvlei.
Emily Lockard-Furry began selling travel in 2014. She specializes in destination weddings and honeymoons, but also plans itineraries for multi-generational families and incentive reward travel.