Southern Africa spans a diverse range of topography with a wide variety of habitats, from grassy savannahs and bushy woodlands, to the thundering waters of the Zambezi River at Victoria Falls, the sweeping dunes and clear night skies of the Namib desert, and the idyllic beaches of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Game viewing very much depends on season, water and food availability. The best time for safaris in Africa is generally May through October, although off-season safaris in the rainy season can yield some great game viewing. Weather in Cape Town is best from December to March, their summer months.
The safari experience in Southern Africa is characterized by smaller camps and lodges on private concessions (instead of national parks), creating a more exclusive and personalized safari experience, generally with a more wilderness feel and at a higher cost. Walking safaris originated in Southern Africa more than a century ago and have helped set the standards and practices throughout the continent including guide training, interpretation and conservation. Safaris in Zimbabwe are reputed to have the best guides on the continent because of their high standards. Game viewing on many private concessions provides opportunities to drive off-road and at night.
Wildlife viewing in Southern Africa is generally in smaller groups of animals and there are more opportunities to join walking safaris following native trackers to locate wildlife in tall grasses and acacia woodlands. In the unique wetland habitat of the Okavango Delta and along the Zambezi River, dugout mokoro canoe safaris are also available with some of the most charming and remote African camps. Cultural experiences among indigenous peoples are more limited compared to safaris in East Africa, although visits with the Himba in Namibia, the Zulu community in Kwa-Zulu Natal and special township tours outside of Cape Town can be arranged and are popular highlights.
Key Characteristics of Safaris in Southern Africa
· Varied and distinctive topography and habitats from deserts to wetlands and uniquely adapted wildlife.
· Smaller herds, more concentrated in smaller private concessions.
· Dry season: May-October.
· Open 4WD vehicles; small aircraft flights between destinations are common.
· Many small private camps are limited to 8-12 guests.
· Wildlife viewing on private concessions with few other tourists
· Some cultural opportunities although indigenous communities are more isolated
· Wider variety of safaris activities: extensive walking opportunities, mokoro, motor boat and canoe, hot air ballooning, kayaking and mountain biking.
Must see and do
· Victoria Falls
· Cape Town and the winelands
· Dunes of Sossusvlei
· Mokoro canoe safari
Top Picks for a Southern Africa Safari Adventure:
· Wild Zimbabwe– Vic Falls, elephants galore and a railcar safari create a unique adventure.
· Wild Botswana- Mokoro canoe safari in the Okavango Delta and game drives in the Khwai Concession make this the quintessential Southern Africa itinerary
· Diverse Namibia Adventure– Sossusvlei, the Skeleton Coast, desert-adapted wildlife, game drives in Etosha National Park – a great first African trip or for the seasoned African expert.
· Cape Town to Kruger Safari– Cosmopolitan Cape Town to up-close wildlife encounters in Kruger ational Park. This highly customizable itinerary allows you to truly do it all.
· Wild Zambia Safari– Explore the wilds of South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi National Parks on foot, by canoe, and in 4x4 safari vehicles in remote African habitats teeming with wildlife.
Interested in East Africa? Check out Where to go on Safari in Africa Part 1: East Africa
Considering a Family Safari? Check out Where to go on Safari in Africa Part 3: Special notes on guides, family travel and other African Adventures
Have questions about safaris in Africa? Ask me!
Your friendly Africa safari expert,