Whether you’re spending some time on the African continent now or planning a trip in the future, tagging one of these nine Southern Africa adventures onto a trip to the country of South Africa will add some culture, wildlife experiences and outdoor wonder to an already incredible journey, making a trip to the Mother Land all the more memorable.
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A Makoro Trip on the Okavango Delta – Botswana
It’s easy to get caught up in the energy and excitement the cities, but vacations are supposed to be about catching a little R & R too. Few Southern African experiences prove as rejuvenating as a traditional makoro trip on the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is near Botswana’s modern city of Maun, and easily accessible from the country’s main tarred road between Kasane and Gaborone.
“The smooth waters, brilliant sunshine and sense of silence make it one of Southern Africa’s most peaceful natural encounters”
Visiting a Himba Village – Namibia
For a taste of true African culture, visit a Himba village in the Kunene Region of Namibia. Opuwo, near Namibia’s border with Angola, is the home of the Himba tribe, though most families live outside the town limits. This tiny population of cattle and goat herders is one of the last traditional tribes on the continent and arguably one of the most interesting, too, as families live in mud and dung huts alongside their animals.
“This tiny population of cattle and goat herders is one of the last traditional tribes on the continent …”
Travelers can hitchhike from Windhoek or take an organized combi from the capital, but traditional village tours need to be arranged with area hotels or with Queen Elizabeth, a Himba woman who often sells her crafts at the local petrol station and will take visitors to the village where she was raised, for a small fee.
White-Water Rafting on the Zambezi – Zambia
Travelers can opt for a full-day or half-day adventure on these stage four and five rapids, which are not for the faint of heart. Land-loving travelers can instead opt to stay on shore, or combine the trip with a visit to Victoria Falls, which can be seen from the river.
Going on Elephant Safari in Chobe – Botswana
“Some 50,000 elephants roam Chobe’s plains…”
Some 50,000 elephants roam Chobe’s plains, along with lions, leopards, giraffes and other African game, and the area offers one of the most spectacular opportunities to spot these giant creatures in their natural habitat. There are plenty of luxury options for travelers willing to drop a dime—from extravagant luxury cottages to multi-day safaris in the reserve. But those on a budget can sleep on the cheap in campsites beyond park borders and explore the wonders of Chobe on self-guided tours.
Viewing Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe
The Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe is located just 18km away from Victoria Falls, but if you’re flying in, be warned: some travelers have reported having to bribe attendants with US dollars to receive luggage upon landing.
Taking a Cape Peninsula tour – South Africa
South Africa’s Cape Peninsula offers up a truly extraordinary experience that’s still close to the action and easy on the wallet. An easy drive from Cape Town, a tour of the Cape Peninsula offers travelers a chance to see African penguins, do some light hiking and experience one of the most beautiful views in the country. Situated within Table Mountain National Park, Cape Point is best known as the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans (even though that’s not exactly true; the actual meeting point is farther east), while Cape of Good Hope is an unspoiled bird sanctuary where ornithology enthusiasts can check off rarities on their life lists.
“…Cape Peninsula offers travelers a chance to see African penguins…”
Kayaking in Swakopmund – Namibia
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were on to something when they opted to deliver their daughter Shilo in Namibia’s coastal town of Swakopmund. German influence lends this outdoor wonderland an international flair, in terms of both architecture and cuisine, but what makes Swakopmund an ideal add-on to a South Africa holiday is its outdoor adventures.
“…kayaking along the bay is a less popular, but amazing experience.”
Swakopmund is 175 miles west of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. It’s easy to hitchhike from Cape Town north, otherwise, travelers can take the Intercape bus to Windhoek and hitchhike from there. (More often than not, for free.)
Pony Trekking – Lesotho
Treks take both novice and experienced riders on sure-footed Lesotho ponies through steep mountain passes and into villages of the Bosotho people, making the trip not just a breathtaking encounter with Lesotho’s natural beauty, but a memorable experience interacting with locals as well.
Maseru, the country’s capital and largest city, is 350 kms from Johannesburg. Travelers will need to take local transport, but will likely have an easy time finding others with cars traveling that way. If you’re in a time crunch, you can fly from Johannesburg to Moshoeshoe Airport, drive a rental car into the country (though be aware you will need written permission from the rental company), or take a bus from Johannesburg.
Snorkeling in Lake Malawi – Malawi
Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa and the seventh largest lake in the world, contains over 11,500 square miles of fresh water. It’s home to several hundred species of fish found nowhere else on earth, which makes it a great stop for a truly unique underwater experience. Travelers looking to splash out can organize luxe day-long excursions into the open waters with local guides, but those on a budget can still get in on the action for cheap since most hostels and hotels offer guests free fins and masks for breathtaking swims closer to shore.
“It’s home to several hundred species of fish found nowhere else on earth…”
Located on the eastern side of Southern Africa, Malawi is landlocked by Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. By far the easiest way to get there is to fly from Johannesburg to Lilongwe, though those planning extended overland travel can also get there (slowly) from South Africa by bus.
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