For over a decade now, we have been travelling to the major – and lesser known – Southern Africa safari hotspots, taking guests on a journey of a lifetime in this celebrated region of the continent.
Each country has its own inimitable beauty, wilderness experience and wildlife diversity so choosing just three out of about five is in no way an easy task. If we had to choose, these would be our top recommendations, based largely on what we and our guests love about them.
Zimbabwe is well-known as a stronghold of the Big 5 and for its excellent dry season safaris where wildlife gathers around reliable water sources and sparse vegetation, heightening the possibility of dramatic predator-prey interactions.
The playground for large herds of African elephants – up to 120 000 during the dry season – and year-round residence of a variety of water birds, Mana Pools National Park is a Big 5 safari experience on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. Its remoteness allows you to take in the beautiful scenery and encounter its wildlife without the crowds. The floodplains, baobab trees and forests of Mana Pools can be explored by foot or canoe from one of the unfenced campsites, such as Nyamatusi Camp by African Bush Camps.
Zimbabwe’s other Big 5 national park, Hwange, is the country’s largest reserve and home to special animal species like bat-eared foxes, African wild dog, cheetah, sable and roan antelopes as well as up to 400 species of birds. Despite its easy accessibility, like Mana Pools, a safari in Hwange is generally never disrupted by crowds. Luxury camps like Somalisa Expeditions offer traditional game drives as well as adventurous two-hour guided walking safaris.
The Botswanan landscape is characterised by its contrasts. From the vast Okavango Delta that is flooded annually with water originating in the Angolan Highlands to the brilliant white landscape of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
The Okavango Delta consists of multiple concessions and the Khwai Private Reserve is one such gem, found deep in the heart of the Delta. It provides refuge to four of Africa’s Big 5 (rhino is missing), sable antelope, lechwe, hippo anda colourful collection of birdlife. The mokoro (dugout canoe) is used for water safaris, while game drives and guided walks offer the traditional safari adventure. An exciting activity by Natural Selection is the skybeds experience in the Okavango Delta where you sleep on a raised platform under the stars surrounded only by nocturnal nature.
On the opposite end of Botswana’s safari spectrum are the dry Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. When the rains reach the pans, they become an important habitat for migrating animals like wildebeest, zebra and aquatic bird species, most notably Great White Pelicans and Greater Flamingos. Quad-biking the various Makgadikgadi Salt Pans will make thrill-seekers fall in love with this part of Botswana. Walks with members of the San Bushmen community and interaction with habituated meerkats also make this a unique safari destination.
A wide range of experiences make up a holiday in Zambia, which is why it is an excellent choice for those wanting to see and do as much as possible in just one country in Southern Africa.
One of Africa’s most iconic destinations, Victoria Falls can be accessed from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi River. Known locally as ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ and described by British explorer David Livingstone as “so lovely, it must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”, Victoria Falls is a must-see when visiting Zambia. Livingstone Island tours and seasonal swimming in Devil’s Pool are unforgettable activities, which can be easily arranged by lodges like Tongabezi.
Despite Kafue being Zambia’s oldest and largest national park, it remains the country’s secret wilderness in the west. This makes it an exciting destination for intrepid explorers keen on delving into untouched nature, where the wildlife can be shy but is also incredibly diverse. The expansive Busanga Plains are located in the park’s northern reaches and can only be visited during the dry season, with elegant lodgings like Shumba Camp offering game drives, boating and sky safaris by hot air balloon.
Contact us to explore what safari destination in Africa will best match your particular travelling style, interests, budget and time-frame.
Feature image courtesy of African Bush Camps at Nyamatusi Camp, Mana Pools National Park.