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|
Natural attractions of Joburg - Cape Town (via Vic Falls)
|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.
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.
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
|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 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
|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.
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.
|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.
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.