On a planet filled with so many interesting and exotic places to visit, you might ask, "Why southern Africa? What draws people to this part of the world?" The truth is, many travelers don't really know that much about southern Africa at all. This region encompasses a number of countries including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and more. Many travelers who visit this area are amazed at the diversity and beauty that is to be found here. They are often surprised at the contrasts ranging from wild and untamed landscapes to beautiful modern cities filled with every possible type of experience. Southern Africa is such a captivating region that often travelers return year after year both in search of new adventures in new destinations as well as in search of comfort in old favorites. This part of Africa, statistically speaking, has a very high return rate - and for good reason. It is an invigorating place that recharges the body and soul. So, for those planning their first trip to this splendid set of countries, or for those who are looking to return, here are what I would consider to be eight of the best destinations in southern Africa, in no particular order.
Located near the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Town is a true vacation paradise. It has been ranked as one of the world's ten best cities, as well as the best destination in Africa and the Middle East by Travel & Leisure on numerous occasions. Surrounded by the Indian and Atlantic Oceans on either side, the city is nestled between a series of different mountains, which includes the famous flat-topped Table Mountain. Cape Town is a modern vibrant city that has an authentic African flavor where the mood is relaxed, people are friendly, and there is always something to do. White sandy beaches, breath-taking mountains, winelands, a unique and interesting main city area, African markets, old Dutch colonial houses, one of the most diverse plant kingdoms on the planet, seals, penguins, and great white sharks are just a few of the attractions that make Cape Town a drawing card for people from all over the world. Combine this with world-class hotels and accommodations, delectable cuisine, and service second-to-none and Cape Town is one of those places you simply must visit.
The Caprivi Strip
In the northeast corner of Namibia, stretching out between Angola and Botswana and on to Victoria Falls, is the Caprivi Strip, a tropical region where remote, exquisite game parks are interspersed by three major rivers: the Kwando, the Okavango, and the Zambezi. These parks, located just north of Botswana, are adjacent to the famous Okavango Delta and share its beauty and abundance of wildlife. One such park is the Mamili Game Park, one of Namibia's most remote and beautiful wildlife reserves. This wetland area with its water channels, reed beds and wide assortment of flora and fauna is simply breathtaking.
Kruger National Park
Located in the northeast region of South Africa, Kruger National Park has some of the most spectacular game viewing in the world. With safari lodges scattered in and around the park, one thing is for sure, this is a once in a lifetime experience. Finding yourself face to face with a pride of lions (from a safe vantage point, of course) or seeing a herd of elephants cooling down at the local watering hole is something everyone should experience. In Kruger the animals are in their natural habitats and are free to roam the nearly five million acres that makes up the park. Kruger has one of the greatest varieties of wildlife species on the continent and is a world leader in environmental management techniques and policies. It is a well-managed park with incredible animal viewing and wonderful accommodations.
A visit to Africa would not be complete if you did not see Victoria Falls. Known to the locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya (which means "the smoke that thunders"), Victoria Falls is classified as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Located between Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, the Falls are a breathtaking and spectacular sight that have been known to leave viewers with a bit of moisture in their eyes - whether from the mist of the Falls or tears welling up is yet to be determined. When David Livingstone first discovered the Falls he stated "Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight." The number of possible activities here are endless, ranging from short safaris on elephant back to lazy evening sundowners aboard a boat on the Zambezi to bungee jumping in the gorge to helicopter flights over the falls. Victoria Falls is surely one of Africa's must-see wonders.
For the more adventurous at heart the Okavango Delta, located in northern Botswana, is a veritable oasis of wildlife and natural wonder. This area is the world's largest inland delta, formed by the Okavango River, which begins in Angola and flows the Kalahari Desert, where it attracts wildlife from all over Africa. Described as "the river that never finds the sea," the Okavango disappears into a 6,000 square mile maze of channels and islands. With numerous lodges in this region, there is plenty to do. While in the Okavango a mokoro boat trip is a must. A mokoro is the local version of a flat-bottomed canoe and is operated by a "poler" who uses a pole to push the boat forward and steer it accordingly. On a mokoro trip experienced guides lead you through the Delta as you silently glide down the channels and backwaters to places that are totally unreachable by any other mode of transport. Coming face to face with elephants crossing the waterways or herds of buffalos drinking from the Delta is nothing unusual. For those who enjoy bird life, the Delta has an incredible diversity of bird species. If you would prefer not to brave the water, there are a number of different safari options, either on foot or in four-wheel drive vehicles. With the game being so plentiful visitors to the area are often surprised at how close you can actually get to the animals. The Okavango Delta is a magnificent wonder of nature, perhaps one of our planet's greatest, and is still largely unspoiled making it the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
With a rich and vibrant blend of African, Portuguese and Arab influences, Mozambique offers a distinct contrast to the rest of southern Africa. Lined with tropical beaches, coral reefs and small isolated islands, Mozambique is a coastal paradise. The Bazaruto Archipelago, located just north of Maputo near Vilanculos, is one of Mozambique's most beautiful tropical destinations. The five islands - Bazaruto, Benguerra, Magaruque, Santa Carolina, and Bengue - that make up this archipelago are a haven for scuba and snorkel divers, as well as for sun worshippers, and to this day are a paradise largely undiscovered by the tourism industry. The beaches are unspoiled, the islands are largely undeveloped, and the surrounding tropical waters host an incredible display of marine life. Mozambique is a newcomer to the world of tourism and as such offers some unique opportunities that will not be available forever. It is a country that has not yet experienced its full potential and still has many unexplored and adventure laden opportunities in tropical havens, such as in the Bazaruto islands.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route of South Africa lies on the southern coast just east of Cape Town and extends from Mossel Bay to the Storms River mouth. The Garden Route is bordered by the Outeniqua, Tsitsikamma, and Langekloof Mountain ranges to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south. Here you will find Tsitsikamma National Park, the Knysna and Wilderness wetlands, relaxing beaches, hiking trails, and activities such as whale watching, sailing, and golf. This scenic coastal route is interspersed with a series of quaint and charming towns along the way. The climate is mild and the views are spectacular. The Cango Caves, one of South Africa's top ten most visited places, are located just north of the Garden Route. The Cango Caves are located close to Oudtshoorn, which is also the center of the South Africa ostrich farming industry. Many of the farms are open to visitors where you can tour the facilities, meet the birds up close, and even ride one! The Garden Route is a serene and beautiful part of South Africa, filled with astounding sights and plenty to do for both young and old.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Parks is located in Namibia, one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Etosha is the third largest game reserve in Africa and has been recognized as one of the finer game viewing areas on the continent. Its main attraction is the so-called "Etosha Pan," an 80-mile saltpan that represents the remains of a large lake that used to fill the area. Here there are scattered waterholes that attract congregations of wildlife, particularly in the dry season from May to September. It is here that elephants, rare Black Rhinoceroses, prides of lions, cheetahs, and much more all roam in search of water. For one of Africa's most enthralling safari opportunities, you must visit Etosha.
These are just a few of the many exciting places to visit in southern Africa. If you are looking for a unique and exotic vacation, something different from the ordinary, then you should consider southern Africa. For vacation ideas and more information, be sure to check out ourtrips.
This article was written by Lark Tours staff members. We reserve all rights to this article.