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Southern Africa is made up of extraordinary countries and extraordinary landscapes. With dense jungles, open plains, white sandy beaches and towering peaks, the wildlife is extraordinary too. The Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) are on everyone’s bucket list.

South Africa

Proudly known as the ‘Rainbow Nation’, South Africa is seductive in its diversity. In terms of terrain, wildlife, culture and history it is one of the richest and most diverse countries on the planet.

With no less than eleven official languages there’s a unique blend of African, Asian and European influences.

There’s cosmopolitan Cape Town, a true international city with its fine restaurants, and world class beaches. Sample a traditional braai (barbecue) in Soweto or stroll through the colourful Indian markets of Durban. Escape the bustle of the city and sip superb wines in the Cape wineries.

History buffs will find the Zulu battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal fascinating, not to mention the Apartheid Museum of Johannesburg and Robben Island, set off the coast of Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.

But of course it’s the incredible natural beauty that captures the imagination. The wild, unspoilt landscapes, the vast unfenced reserves, home to countless varieties of wildlife. Look out for the Big Five on a safari in the Kruger National Park and marvel at everything this richly diverse country has to offer.

Namibia

This is a country like no other. Set in south-west Africa and with a modern infrastructure, good roads and some of Africa’s finest tourist facilities, Namibia is totally different from other African destinations.

The rich wildlife has evolved to inhabit vast tracts of desert terrain, with extraordinary geckos and chameleons at home among the world’s highest sand dunes. There are lions and elephants too, and on the coast you can canoe alongside seals.

Discover the capital of Windhoek, or the pleasant town of Swakopmund with its German heritage including an Oktoberfest and culinary offerings.

But it’s Namibia’s stunning landscapes that most people come for. The mighty Fish River Canyon, the huge Etosha National Park - home to elephants, lions and zebra and the strange salt pans. The atmospheric Kalahari desert and the epic Namib desert which runs 2,000 km along the coast. There’s the rocky red Damaraland and Dead Vlei where ochre coloured dunes contrast with black camelthorn trees and crystal clear azure skies. It’s a photographer’s dream.

Swaziland

This may be a small, landlocked nation but it packs a punch. With an extraordinary range of zones from the magnificent mountains down to the dense rain forests, the river valleys and dry savannah, a diverse wildlife has found its home here.

Must-see sights include the gorgeous Valley of Heaven, the Malkerns Valley famed for its traditional arts and crafts and the Hlane National Park where white rhino, lions and antelope wander free. Activities like rafting, mountain biking and hiking are all available with excellent trails that provide superb views of the mountain vistas all around.

Zambia

This is a country of incredible national parks, with magnificent rivers attracting an astonishing array of wildlife. Elephant, lion, hyena and leopard are common sightings and it’s a great place for the Big Five. The guides are among the best in Africa with an intricate knowledge of the natural surroundings, down to the tiniest flora and fauna.

The majestic Victoria Falls (the largest in the world) need no introduction and are inevitably a highlight for most visitors. After a trip down the Zambezi River, relax and enjoy an evening cocktail as the sunsets over the Falls.

Alternatively take a cruise on Lake Kariba, spotting the elephants at the water’s edge and maybe trying to hook the notorious tiger fish.

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