A long way from everywhere, between dodging hippos, spotting elephants and absorbing ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ at Victoria Falls, Southern Africa has so much to offer the intrepid traveler.
Whilst travel is largely off the table for Australian’s right now, when it comes to incredible scenery, Southern Africa has it all. Boasting stunning beaches, vast savannas and dramatic waterways, this continent is up there with the best.
Africa has always been a location celebrity has gravitated towards. Richard Branson is no stranger to a South African safari and Will Smith, “feels like God visits everywhere else, but lives in Africa.”
Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger are among those who were impressed by Victoria falls and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt chose Namibia as the birthplace of their first child, falling in love with the country after filming Beyond Borders.
When most Australians think of South Africa, they think of Cape Town and safaris, but outside of South Africa, the Namibian desert, Etosha National Park, the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls offer a road much less traveled and some insights into cultures and lifestyles a long way from ours.
With destinations across 5 countries, allow at least three weeks to see all of these magnificent sites.
This is one part of the world that even the most intrepid tourists book in advance before they go, as there are so many uncertainties including weather, flight reliability and availability and even safety.
Australian’s do not require a visa to travel to South Africa, Namibia or Botswana. Visa’s to Zambia and Zimbabwe can be purchased on entry at the airport and cost between $40-50 each.
The KAZA UNIVISA costs $65 and allows tourists to obtain one visa to visit Zambia and Zimbabwe multiple times- perfect for visiting Victoria Falls which is on the border.
With no direct flights from Australia to South Africa, there are 37 airports around the world that provide direct flights to Cape Town including Singapore, Dubai and London. Alternatively fly into Johannesburg, a city that has even more global connections before flying another 2 hours to Cape Town.
Note that South Africa requires visitors to have proof of the yellow fever vaccination before entry which can easily be obtained in Australia.
Explore Cape Town
Cape Town has so much to offer from Wine tasting in the esteemed fields of Stellenbosch, to the scenic Aerial Cableway to Table Mountain and the colourful suburb of Bo-Kaap just 5 minutes from the city centre.
Embark on your tour from Cape Town to explore Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia, although 3 weeks could easily be spent exploring cape town and the surrounding coastline alone.
Experience Deadvlei & Sossusvlei
Dubbed the 8th wonder of the world, Deadvlei is a white clay pan that once supported the growth of camel thorn trees. Folklore says 900 years ago the climate dried up, and a once lush area of land was left as a desert when water access was blocked by the surrounding dunes.
What has been left is an artist’s paradise.
Surrounded by 400 meters of rust-red sand dunes, these now dead trees are thought to be 900 years old but have been preserved due to the dry climate. The blackened trees, red sand, white clay and blue sky have made Deadvlei famous among photographers and tourists alike.
Stay at Sossusvlei Lodge for $350 a night and enjoy magnificent views of the floodlit waterhole, soaking in the sparkling pool and relaxing on the sundowner deck between day trips.
Windhoek, the capital of Namibia is a 2-hour flight from Capetown. Take a charter flight from Windhoek to Deadvlei which is located nearby the salt pan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia.
Spot Elephants in Etosha National Park
Located in the northern region of Namibia, Etosha National Park is famous for its wildlife. Spot lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, cheetah, hyena, springbok, two kinds of zebra, eland and more from the safety of a vehicle.
Home to a staggering 114 mammal species and 340 bird species, Etosha is home to almost half the world’s population of black rhinos.
Featuring a large salt pan that can be seen from space, wildlife at Etosha congregate around the waterholes, allowing for almost guaranteed game sightings.
With a handful of luxury lodges to stay in, consider Etosha Mountain Lodge which has 180-degree views over the waterholes for $600 per night in the peak season (July to October).
Fly to Eros Airport from Windhoek and drive 2.5 hours to Etosha National Park in the North of Namibia.
Dodge Hippo’s in the Okavango Delta
The Okavango delta is a vast inland river delta in northern Botswana and one of the most famous locations to see spectacular wildlife, allowing travelers to experience a once-in-a-lifetime water-based safari.
Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2014, travel by boat with an experienced tour guide. Navigate past hippos, elephants and crocodiles in the water and spot lions, giraffes and maybe even a leopard on dry land.
Stay at the Belmond Eagle Island Lodge with rooms from $4000 per night which brings timeless luxury to the Botswana wetlands.
Travel to the Okavango Delta in Botswana by charter flight from Etosha National Park.
Absorb ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ at Victoria Falls
Deservingly one of the seven greatest natural wonders of the world, the next stop is Victoria Falls.
Located on the Zambezi River which defines the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls is the biggest and most spectacular waterfall in the world.
With a length of more than 1 kilometer and a height of more than 100 meters, the best time to see Victoria Falls is from February to May when water is flowing at its greatest volume. When full, Victoria Falls creates giant plumes of mist that fill the air and gently douse onlookers.
The noise of Victoria Falls can be heard from a distance of 40 kilometers whilst the mist generated by the falls can be seen from 50 kilometers.
Stay at the nearby Royal Livingstone Hotel by Ananatara on the Zambian side, with luxury rooms for $1600 per night. Compare the falls from both the Zimbabwe and the Zambian sides with an easy border crossing at the Victoria Falls Bridge.
Fly 1.5 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa from Victoria Falls to end your tour. Johannesburg to Sydney is a 14-hour direct flight.
Consider a midyear trip to Southern Africa, at the start of the dry season when the animals are easy to spot, gathering by water holes and when Victoria Falls is still flowing from the wet season.