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Where to go in Southern Africa

Visit Southern Africa's Best Destinations

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When deciding where to go in Southern Africa make sure you include a visit to at least a few of its best destinations. Enjoy an enormous variety of wildlife on safari in South Luangwa, Okavango Delta, Kruger, and Chobe. Hike South Africa's Wild Coast and enjoy a gourmet meal in Cape Town. Dive with schools of sharks and relax on the finest beaches on Mozambique's Quirimbas Archipelago. Get sprayed by the world's mightiest waterfall, the Victoria Falls.

Click on each heading for more information about these top 10 Southern African destinations.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

The Victoria Falls, from the Zambian side
Lukonde Mfula
There is nothing quite like getting a thorough soaking from the roaring, powerful Victoria Falls. The spray is so impressive from the look-out points that it feels like you are in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.

The Victoria Falls lie in between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa.

The Victoria Falls are just over 1 mile wide (1.7 km) and 355 feet (108 m) high. During the wet season over 500 million liters (19 million cubic feet) of water plummets over the edge into the Zambezi River. This incredible amount of water generates a huge amount of spray which shoots 1000 feet into the sky and can be seen 30 miles away, hence the name Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that thunders).

More information about the Victoria Falls.

South Luangwa National Park (Zambia)

Hippos, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Getty Images/Ben Cranke

Home of the "walking safari," South Luangwa National Park in Zambia offers a true African experience. There's plenty of wildlife and over 400 species of birds. The Luangwa River is filled to the brim with hippos, and if you're lucky you'll spot prides of over 30 lions at a time. There are 60 different animal species and over 400 different bird species living in the National Park.

South Luangwa offers both budget and luxury safari lodging. The best time to visit is during the dry season from April to October. Near the end of the dry season, the animals really concentrate around the remaining waterholes, which makes for a great safari.

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Cape Town, South Africa

Granger Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa Tourism
Cape Town is a highlight of any trip to Southern Africa. The natural beauty of Cape Town makes it one of the most attractive cities in the world. Cape Town boasts beautiful beaches as well as the impressive Table Mountain right in the heart of the city. The restaurants are world class, and so are the wines. Cape Town is also one of the most culturally diverse cities in Africa and has a reputation for social tolerance.

Top Attractions in Cape Town Include:

More information about Cape Town.

Chobe National Park (Botswana)

Elephants in Chobe National Park, Botswana
Getty Images/Theo Allofs

Chobe National park lies in Botswana's Okavango Delta and covers four distinct ecosystems. The Savuti marsh in particular offers some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Africa year round. Chobe boasts around 120,000 elephants--you're unlikely to miss them when you enjoy a safari here.

The best time to visit Chobe is between May and September, the dry, cooler winter months. Herds of zebra, eland, buffalo, giraffe, and wildebeest congregate around the Savuti marsh this time of year. Chobe is accessible by car, which makes it a little less expensive than some other Botswana parks. There's a wide variety of accommodation available to suit all budgets; you can even rent a houseboat.

More about Chobe National Park.

Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Indian ocean, Archipelago, Mozambique
Getty Images/Martin Harvey
The Quirimbas Archipelago is home to 32 pristine coral islands situated in the Indian Ocean along Mozambique's northern coast. The Quirimbas National Park is comprised of 11 of the southern-most islands.

The islands remain largely uninhabited with just a few spectacular resorts dotted on some of them. Check out Quilalea Island Resort, Medjumbe Private Island or the Matemo Island Resort.

Besides some of the world's best fishing, snorkeling, diving, and beach-bumming opportunities, you have to visit Ibo Island with its old forts and fascinating history. The town of Pemba is the gateway to this unique archipelago and is also worth a look.

More about the Quirimbas Archipelago and Mozambique.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta lion, Botswana
Getty Images/Daryl Balfour
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a magnet for wildlife. The Okavango River cuts through the center of the Kalahari Desert, creating a unique ecosystem that gives life to a huge variety of birds and mammals. The Okavango is a unique safari destination because you can view much of the wildlife from a traditional canoe, a mokoro.

The Okavango Delta is difficult to access by road, so people have to fly in for their safaris and this translates into an exclusive experience. If your idea of a romantic vacation or honeymoon includes a luxury safari, see these accommodations. For a list of camps to suit all budgets, click here.

The best time to visit Okavango is from July - September.

Photos of the Okavango Delta and more about Botswana.

Lake Malawi, Malawi

Dugout Canoe on Lake Malawi, Malawi, East Central Africa
© Michael Daecher
Lake Malawi is a beautiful freshwater lake that takes up about a third of the entire country of Malawi. Most visitors who make it to Malawi head straight for a beach, and they're rarely disappointed. Lake Malawi is the cheapest place in the world to get your diving certification.

Best Places to Stay on Lake Malawi:
Budget travelers will enjoy Mango Drift Lodge on Likomo Island; Kande Beach which is close to Chinteche on the northern shores of Lake Malawi; and Gecko Lounge in Cape Maclear (southern Malawi) is very popular.

More upscale lodges include Club Makokola and Cape Mac Lodge, Pumulani Lodge on the southern shores and Kaya Mawa on Likomo Island.

More about travel to Malawi and photos of Malawi.

The Wild Coast, South Africa

Wildcoast, Eastern Cape, South Africa
© South Africa Tourism

The Wild Coast is a beautiful stretch of coastline in South Africa's Eastern Cape area. Ideal for diving, fishing, hiking, and surfing, this remote area has long attracted visitors looking to get away from it all. The Xhosa culture along this stretch of coast is also a major attraction.

 

More about the Wild Coast and South Africa.

Sossuvlei, Namibia

Dunes in Sossusvlei, Namibia
Michael Daecher
The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert are situated in the Namib-Naukluft Park, the largest conservation area in Africa. The dunes are among the highest in the world and they are spectacular. Clamber up, slide down; gaze in awe at the wildlife that miraculously survives in this sea of sand; and be ready to take many photos as the colors of the dunes change constantly.

When I visited there was water in the pan at the foot of the dunes, which is very rare. But when it happens, it's a perfect (but muddy) way to cool down from the midday sun. You can camp at the Sesriem Campsite, a basic campsite in a beautiful spot, or stay at one of the many beautiful lodges in the Sossusvlei area.

More about Sossusvlei and Namibia.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa
© South Africa Tourism
Kruger National Park is Africa's oldest established wildlife park (1898) and is situated north of Johannesburg, South Africa. Kruger boasts the highest variety of wildlife in Africa, which includes the "Big Five," hippos, crocodiles, giraffe, cheetah, and much more. Kruger is also one of the best-maintained parks in Africa. The roads are all good quality and there's no need to rent a 4x4 vehicle.

Kruger has a range of accommodation options in the main restcamps with chalets, cottages, bungalows tents, caravan, and camp sites or bushveld camps.

On the park's western borders you'll find some excellent private game reserves with outstanding lodges, many of them very luxurious.

More information about Kruger National Park.

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