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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Situated in the southern reaches of Africa, Botswana is renowned for its pristine wilderness areas characterised by deep lagoons, wetlands, lush palms, rugged hills and desert plains scattered with scrubland. The country’s primary tourist drawcard is undoubtedly the vast red expanse of the Kalahari Desert and its remarkably beautiful Okavango Delta, the largest inland delta in the world. These natural wonders provide a tranquil haven for an abundance of African wildlife to thrive.
Other highlights include the impressive Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, where visitors are privy to massive zebra migrations during the flood season; the Savuti plains, which host large prides of lions; and the Tsodilo Hills, where 4500 rock paintings form a unique record of human settlement over many millennia.
Situated on the east coast of Africa, this tropical paradise is blessed with 2500 kilometres of spectacular coastline. With its idyllic beaches fringed with palm trees and lapped by crystal-clear waters brimming with a dazzling array of marine life, this enchanting African nation is an ideal adventure holiday destination, with an abundance of activities on offer such as snorkelling, sunset cruises, horse-riding, dolphin tours and world-renowned scuba diving.
Mozambique’s two major centres, Maputo and Inhambane, offer an exotic kaleidoscope of art, music, and delicious local food as well as a lively nightlife scene. Spend your days immersing yourself in the fascinating local culture, marvelling at the impressive colonial architecture and interacting with the fabulously friendly local inhabitants.
Those seeking a more remote getaway can head for the isolated beaches of Benguerra Island; the historic Portuguese and Muslim architecture of a Mozambique Island; or the outstanding wildlife of Gorongosa National Park. However, you choose to spend your time in this exceptionally scenic destination you are likely to leave with a heavy heart and a burning desire to return time and time again.
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