Adventure Blog

Where should I go on safari? Southern Africa

Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia

Southern Africa is magnificent and we’ve spent years exploring this vast region. The varied topography is the stage on which dense wildlife populations have each carved out their niche. From the sprawling Okavango Delta to the rushing waters of the mighty Zambezi River cascading over Victoria Falls, the towering ochre dunes and bejeweled night skies of the Namib desert, the fog-wrapped coastline of the Atlantic and the idyllic white-sand beaches of the tropical Indian Ocean. Wildlife is everywhere here. Desert adapted lions, rhino, giraffes and elephants roam the arid Namib, elusive sitatunga, lechwe and puku are always on alert for packs of hunting wild dogs in the Okavango, hippos and crocodiles stake out territory in the ephemeral waterways and grand rivers while lions, leopards and cheetah remain vigilant for their next chance at catching prey. Wildlife viewing depends on the season, water and food availability. The very best time for safaris in Southern Africa is generally May through October, although safaris in the rainy season can also yield fewer visitors and some great viewing opportunities too (especially birds). 

The safari experience we prefer in Southern Africa is characterized by smaller and more exclusive camps and lodges on private concessions and reserves instead of in national parks where overcrowding and on-road restrictions are issues. This means a more personalized safari experience, fewer visitors, a wilder feel and more opportunities for walking, night drives and off-road up-close wildlife encounters like tracking leopard through the bush. Walking safaris originated in Zambia more than a century ago and set an exceedingly high standard for guide training, interpretation and conservation that continues today. The more adventurous can explore by dugout canoe (mokoro) and mountain bike or even sleep out under the stars in a fly-camp.

Cultural interactions with indigenous people are more limited compared to safaris in East Africa; visits with the Himba in Namibia and the San in Botswana are most recommended. Vibrant and cosmopolitan Cape Town offers a chance to experience modern African art, music, wine and cuisine (and penguins!). 

 

Key Characteristics of Safaris in Southern Africa

  • Varied and distinctive topography and habitats from deserts to wetlands and uniquely adapted wildlife
  • Smaller herds, but dense concentrations
  • Best season: May-October; South Africa is best February - November
  • Open 4x4 vehicles for game drives
  • Light aircraft flights between remote camps and lodges are common
  • Smaller and more isolated camps
  • Wildlife viewing on private concessions with few other visitors
  • Some cultural opportunities although indigenous communities are more isolated
  • Wide variety of safari activities: walking safari, mokoro, motor boat and canoe, and mountain biking

 

Must see and do

  • Cape Town, the winelands and greater Kruger National Park area
  • Victoria Falls
  • Hike the dunes of Sossusvlei and trek for desert rhino in Namibia
  • Mokoro canoe safari in the Okavango Delta
  • Experience elephants on foot in Zimbabwe
  • Walk with your naturalist guide between remote camps in Zambia

 

Top Picks for a Southern Africa Safari Adventure:

Wilds of Zimbabwe – Hwange National Park is an elephant lover’s paradise with remote camps, some of the best guides on the continent, a railcar safari and culminating at Victoria Falls. 

Ultimate Namibia Safari – The dunes of Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast, desert-adapted wildlife, game drives in Etosha National Park – an epic safari on the edge of the continent.

Cape Town and Kruger– Explore and enjoy the most charming city on the continent before delving into the up-close wildlife encounters of the greater Kruger National Park area. 

South Luangwa Walking – Walk between remote, luxury bushcamps with only your expert naturalist guide and armed ranger. The combination of walks and drives in a stunning national park renowned for wildlife is incomparable. 

Botswana Camping Safari - This mobile camping safari takes guests through the wildest parts of the Okavango Delta. Mokoro canoeing, game drives and dinner cooked over a fire! 

 

Interested in East Africa? Check out Where should I go on safari? East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda 

Considering a Family Safari? Check out Where should I go on safari? Special notes on guides, and family travel

Ready to plan your adventure or have any questions? Ask me - I’ve been there!

Your friendly Africa safari expert, 

Chris Moriarty

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