Below are some of the major travel highlights for Southern Africa Overland. For more in-depth attractions of each country on this route, click on the country names below or select a route to see the highlights on this section of the journey. Click on the icons below to focus on specific types of features (click again to return to all).
|In-depth highlights: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe|
Highlights of Joburg - Cape Town (via Vic Falls)
|Kruger National Park|
Kruger National Park is one of the most famous and oldest wildlife parks in Africa. It stretches for 350 kilometres along South Africa's eastern border with Mozambique and comprises mainly savannah bushveld. The park has excellent infrastructure with campsites and lodges that allow you to sleep listening to the sounds of the animals outside. Kruger is one of the best parks for Big 5 spotting and in total boasts 147 mammal species as well as over 500 bird species and over 100 reptile species. Night game drives in Kruger gives a different perspective to the safari experience and the chance to spot nocturnal animals rarely seen in daylight.
|Blyde River Canyon|
The area around Blyde River Canyon offers some of the most spectacular natural scenery in South Africa. The canyon itself is the third largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere with a number of lookout points including at the Three Rondavels. God's Window provides a dramatic vista over the vast lowveld below. And Bourke's Luck Potholes, where the Blyde and Treur Rivers meet, has unusual and fascinating cylindrical holes carved into the rock by the force of the water.
|Khama Rhino Sanctuary|
The Khama Rhino Sanctuary is a community-based wildlife project set up in 1992 with the aim of restoring the population of white rhinos and other species in the area of Kalahari sandveld around the Serowe Pan. Guided walking safaris afford the opportunity to view rhino, giraffe and a variety of other species that have settled or been relocated here.
The Makgadikgadi salt pans form the bed of an ancient dried up lake. Covering 16,000 km² it remains dry for most of the year but the rains in November attract vast flocks of flamingos and other migratory birds. Known for its spectacular sunsets, the Makgadikgadi is also the only place in southern Africa where you can witness the migration of tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra.
The Great Zimbabwe National Monument, located near the city of Masvingo, is the remains of the medieval city of the Shona Bantu civilisation that gave the country its name (it means "great stone houses" in Shona). The city was occupied between the 11th and 15th centuries and was once the greatest medieval city in sub-Saharan Africa, evidence of a highly skilled civilisation.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Great Zimbabwe National Monument
Antelope Park is located just outside the city of Gweru in central Zimbabwe. It is home to a lion breeding project and offers some truly unique wildlife experiences. Here you can walk with lion cubs (usually aged 6-12 months) and go on a night drive with older cubs in an attempt to see a kill. There are also options to view the game in the park (including various antelope species, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest) on foot, horseback, elephant back or in a vehicle as well as the opportunity to swim with elephants. You can camp or lodge in a beautiful setting with elephants regularly walking through the campsite on their way to the water.
Matobo Hills is characterised by huge granite boulders that have been shaped over time into all manner of bizarre shapes. These have provided shelter to people for millennia and contain very impressive collections of rock paintings. Many of these depict black and white rhinos which still live in the national park in great numbers. Expert guides can take you on walking safaris that allow you to get within metres of groups of black rhino, an exhilarating experience. The park also contains populations of leopards and cheetahs and more than 300 bird species including the black eagle, hawks and owls.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Matobo Hills
|Hwange National Park|
Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe's premier wildlife park covering almost 15,000 km². Hwange's landscape ranges from open grassland to sandy areas and hilly woodlands. It is home to over 400 bird species and 100 animal species, including large herds of elephants and buffalo, giraffes and numerous antelope species whilst being an excellent location for viewing predators, including lion, leopard, cheetah, packs of wild dogs, African wildcat, serval and hyena.
|Victoria Falls Town|
The town of Victoria Falls is the Zimbabwean base for exploring Falls of the same name and is located just over a kilometre from the Falls. It was built as a tourist town and caters to every need of the traveller with some excellent souvenir shopping available at the craft markets. Aside from exploring the Falls themselves from the ground and the air, there are a range of adventure activities available including world class white water rafting on the Zambezi, bungee jumping from the bridge over the Zambezi connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe, gorge swings over Batoka Gorge, and river boarding. After all that activity you can wind down on a sunset booze cruise. You can also have up close and personal wildlife experiences with elephant riding and walks with lion cubs.
|Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls|
Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders") are one of the natural wonders of the world. Spanning the entire breadth of the Zambezi River, they are 1700 metres wide and drop over 100 metres to the gorge below, creating a thunderous noise and a mist that can be seen, and felt, at great distances. The Falls transform a wide, calm river into a ferocious torrent that flows through a series of narrow gauges below. On the Zambian side in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park you can stand right next to the eastern cataract of the Falls and feel the full force of the water. In Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwe side, you're further from the Falls but have a greater perspective. The best perspective is perhaps obtained from above though, on flights on either fixed wing aircraft, helicopters or microlights. The flow over the Falls is very dependent on the time of year - there can be a 20 fold difference between the rainy season (March to May) and the dry season (September to December), though the sheer scale of the Falls can be easier to appreciate with less volume.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls
The town of Livingstone is the Zambian base for exploring Victoria Falls and is located 11km from the Falls. It has experienced a renaissance in popularity with the recent political troubles in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Aside from exploring the Falls themselves from the ground and the air, there are a range of adventure activities available including world class white water rafting on the Zambezi, bungee jumping from the bridge over the Zambezi connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe, gorge swings over Batoka Gorge, and river boarding. After all that activity you can wind down on a sunset booze cruise.
|Chobe National Park|
Chobe National Park is Botswana's third largest park at 11,700 km², named for the Chobe River, a tributary of the Zambezi, which forms the park's northern edge. The river forms a permanent water supply, giving Chobe the largest population of elephants in Africa, with some 100,000 individuals. River cruises here allow you to spot large elephant herds drinking from the river in addition to hippos and a myriad of birdlife. The park's other animal species include buffalo, kudu, zebra, puku, Chobe bushbuck and the big cats. The south-western corner of Chobe is known as the Savuti Marsh, a grassland that has been dried up for years. Three pumped water points provide excellent opportunities to view herds of elephant, buffalo and antelopes as well as the predators that pursue them.
The Okavango Delta is the world's largest inland delta as the Okavango River, a tributary of the Zambezi, spills into the Kalahari Desert, creating a vast oasis over 15,000 km². The Delta comprises numerous water channels, lagoons and small islands. The region is rich in animal life, including elephant, giraffe, buffalo, lion, hyena, hippos and many antelope species, as well as a myriad of migratory birds. The Delta is best explored in traditional mokoro, the traditional dugout canoe, poled by skilled local guides. They navigate through a maze of narrow creeks and channels, cutting through beds of reeds, in one of the most relaxing and unique experiences Africa has to offer. This is African wilderness at its best - wildlife and a stunning natural setting in pristine, untouched land. The Okavango has numerous lodges or small islands to bush-camp (depending on your budget) which allows you to take a walking or horse-riding safari to spot the rich animal and bird life, swim in the waters (though beware crocodiles) and take mokoro trips to view the beautiful sunsets over the Delta.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Okavango Delta
|Moremi Game Reserve|
Moremi Game Reserve is located in the north-eastern sector of the Okavango Delta and occupies almost one-third of the Delta's area. It was the first wildlife reserve to be founded by an African tribe, established by the Batswana tribe in 1963. It comprises swamps, wetlands, forests and dryland and contains an enormous diversity of animal and bird life, including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, a variety of antelope and predators such as leopard, lion and hyena in addition to over 500 bird species. Safaris can be taken on foot or by mokoro, offering a unique and authentic wildlife experience in unspoilt wilderness.
|Etosha National Park|
Etosha National Park is Namibia's premier wildlife sanctuary and one of the best game reserves in Africa, covering a huge 22,000 km². Its terrain is a mixture of bush and grassland centred around the huge, flat, dazzling white expanse of the Etosha Pan, a dried up former lake. Over 340 bird species and 100 mammal species are present in the park including all the major game and predators, as well as the rare and endangered black rhinoceros, black-faced impala, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and the tiny damara dik-dik. Etosha is renowned for its floodlit waterholes that allow you to view herds of animals drinking at night.
|Cheetah Park / Otjiwarongwe|
Cheetah Park at Otjiwarongwe is a private farm dedicated to the conservation of the cheetah. Here you can see the cheetahs on the private reserve being fed on a game drive and also get up close and personal to the "domesticated" cheetahs for a great photo opportunity.
The beautiful area of Damaraland contains some striking mountain scenery including that of Brandberg, Namibia's highest peak at 2573 metres, and Spitzkoppe, a distinctly shaped granite rock formation, 1728 metres high and referred to as the "Matterhorn of Africa". Both locations contain numerous examples of Bushmen rock art and are wonderful locations for camping under the African stars.
|Cape Cross Seal Colony|
North of Swakopmund on the Namib coast lies a colony of up to 100,000 Cape fur seals (a species of sea lion) in Cape Cross Seal Reserve. These large creatures, up to almost 200kg in weight, bask in the sun and fish and play in the cold Atlantic waters, providing an extraordinary sight (and atrocious smell).
Swakopmund is a delightful town founded by the Germans in 1892 and still retaining its original colonial influence. Surrounded by the desert and Atlantic Ocean, Swakopmund has many attractions including well preserved Art Nouveau buildings, museums detailing its history and marine life, excellent bars and restaurants as well as many shops selling Namibian souvenirs. Swakopmund has also become a centre for adrenaline activities which include sky diving, sand boarding and quad biking on the Namib dunes and horse or camel rides. More relaxing activities include hot air balloon rides or airplane flights over the desert, dolphin cruising and deep sea fishing.
|Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon|
The Namib-Naukluft Park, at almost 50,000 km², is the fourth largest nature conservation area in the world and contains the world's oldest desert, the Namib Desert. The sand dunes at Sossusvlei are its biggest attraction and one of the most evocative and beautiful sites in Africa. The dunes are deep red in colour and up to 300m high and the views of the surrounding desert are spectacular. Climbing up one of these immense dunes, especially at sunrise or sunset to witness the dramatic and changing colours, is one of the quintessential Africa experiences, while running and jumping down the steep sides provides an exhilarating and quick trip back to the bottom. The isolated Dead Vlei, hidden behind sand dunes, is even more dramatic - its 600 year old dead tree trunks lie in a white parched surface and contrast beautifully with the surrounding red dunes and bright blue skies. Nearby are the small but dramatic rock formations of the Sesriem Canyon gorge.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Namib Sand Sea
|Fish River Canyon|
Fish River Canyon is the world's second largest canyon, a spectacular chasm 161km long, 27 km wide and 550 metres deep. The outer canyon was formed by tectonic activity and the inner canyon by erosion from the Fish River. There are breathtaking views from atop the escarpment edge and excellent hiking opportunities along and within the canyon.
The vineyards of Western Cape Province are some of the most famous in the world. The area is characterised by beautiful landscapes and charming, historic towns such as Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. Wine tasting tours of the vineyards will allow you to sample some of the excellent local produce, in particular the Pinotage grape which is unique to South Africa.
Cape Town is one of the most attractive cities in Africa and one of the most beautifully located in the world. Set in the foothills of the distinctive Table Mountain and next to the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is South Africa's "Mother City". The mild climate and cultural diversity make it a wonderful destination, in itself and as a base for exploring the surrounding Cape Province. Ascending Table Mountain is a must, either on foot or via the cablecar, for stunning views over the city and the peninsula. In town, the cultural and entertainment centre is around Long Street, with extensive shopping opportunities along the Waterfront.
Robben Island was used as a prison between the 17th and 20th centuries, most infamously when incarcerating Nelson Mandela and fellow anti-apartheid campaigners. These days, the island acts as a museum offering tours of the island and prison buildings. Visits guided by former prisoners offer a fascinating insight to the brutal regime.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: Robben Island
The Cape Peninsula south of Cape Town is a fascinating area to explore with a wide array of attractions. You can walk right up to the small Cape penguins in Boulder's Beach, visit the fishing port of Hout Bay or the numerous attractive beaches on the peninsula. At the southern end is the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve where you can visit the Cape Point lighthouse and walk to the Cape of Good Hope itself at the south-western tip of Africa.