I haven’t talked that much about my earlier travels. I only have a list of my previous trips here, feel free to check it out. Now it’s time to tell more about my African travels, as I’m back in the continent. About two years ago I did a backpacking trip in Africa, using only public transportation. I started in Nairobi, Kenya, and ended up in Cape Town. I traveled through Kenya, Tanzania (and Zanzibar), Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Because at that time I didn’t have a blog, and my camera also decided to die (or not completely die, but most of the time it wasn’t working) already in Mombasa, I don’t have that many pictures.
So I decided to ask other travel bloggers what are their favorite places in Africa. All the pictures belong to the bloggers unless stated otherwise. This is a four part series including Southern, Eastern, North, and West Africa. However, you may have to wait a bit longer for the West Africa part because I still haven’t found anyone who has traveled around there (I might have to write that part myself after a few years). But now, let’s start with Southern Africa!
ANGOLA: Kalandula Falls
By Jorge of Couple RTW
You probably haven’t heard of this one before, but they are considered the second biggest waterfalls in Africa. Kalandula Falls are more than 100 meters high, 400 meters long, in a horseshoe shape and with a huge flow in the wet season. Kalandula is located in Angola, in the town of Kalandula, province of Malanje, about 300 km to the east of Luanda, the capital.
One incredible thing about Kalandula is how unspoiled they are. There’s no tourism, or tourist facilities, just a lookout, a few kids wanting to be your guide (and taking to the base – do it!) and sometimes a few locals and Luanda expats. If you get to come here, take your time and enjoy – there aren’t many places like this left anymore…
From Gabriela: Angola is one those mysterious places no one really knows about, so I was very excited to find out Jorge has been there. I’ve heard Angola is a very expensive country and that’s why I haven’t still traveled there.
BOTSWANA: Okavango Delta
By Vicki of MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld
The Okavango Delta is somewhere you just HAVE to visit when you’re in Botswana. It’s a huge inland delta that can cover anywhere between 6 and 15,000 square km dependent on the rains of the season and subsequent water levels. This ever-changing water level means that to explore the Delta you have to travel by Mokoro (a traditional wooden dug out canoe), which is propelled/driven by a ‘Poler’ from the local community, who uses a large stick to punt through the water. It’s hard work and requires a lot of balance – particularly when they have passengers on board! Two people can sit in each mokoro, and they remain under instruction to ‘sit like a sack of potatoes’ (i.e. very still!) when the boat is moving so that you don’t capsize! As you glide along you pass all manner of wildlife – from the hippos in the water to the elephants and giraffes on the banks – it’s an incredible experience and one which everyone should have if visiting beautiful Botswana. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the sunsets!
To get here, you can drive overland or fly into the international airport of Maun, and from there it is around a 30min – 1hour drive to where the mokoro’s dock.
BOTSWANA: Chobe National Park
By Nicole of Travelgal Nicole
Last year I spent six months in Africa travelling from Cairo to Cape Town. As an animal lover, I went on as many safaris as I could, and one of my favourite safaris was in Chobe National Park. Chobe is known for its elephants as there are approximately 120,000 elephants in the park. You can actually visit Chobe as a day trip from Livingstone, Zambia as it is about an hour drive to the ferry which takes 10 minutes and then the safari trucks pick you up on the other side.
We started our day with a morning cruise down the river where we watched elephants swimming in the river. This was such a highlight as we watched them play and completely submerge themselves except for their trunk which was above water. After lunch, we took the open top safari trucks further into the park and saw lions, impalas, giraffes and more elephants. This photo is of a two-week old baby elephant. Isn’t he cute? You won’t be disappointed by all the wildlife in Chobe National Park.
From Gabriela: I also visited Botswana and did a couple of game drives there. It’s absolutely beautiful!
LESOTHO: Sani Pass
By Shara of SKJ Travel
Sani Pass is a unique area in that it’s kind of a no man’s land between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. The Lesotho border post is at the top of the pass, and South Africa’s is at the bottom. For the steep stretch of dizzyingly twisty road between the mountain top and the plains, you are in neither Lesotho nor South Africa. The pub at the top of Sani Pass, situated just over the border inside Lesotho, lays claim to being the highest pub in Africa, and it’s hard to have a more scenic beer or glass of Amarula than from its patio looking across the valley. You can also spend the night there in cozy, private rondavels. My husband and I arrived in the middle of a blizzard, which was quite an adventure. The next morning we woke up to beautiful snow-covered mountain tops and descended the pass into warm, verdant plains … spanning two seasons in a short amount of time. It’s a notoriously dangerous road, and only 4×4 vehicles are officially allowed on it. If you drive it, make sure you have good tires, and you’ll be fine, as well as enchanted!
From Gabriela: This is so interesting because I’m soon starting my overland trip across Africa, and Lesotho will be my first new country. I have to make it to the highest pub in Africa!
NAMIBIA: Caprivi Strip
By Natasha of The World Pursuit
Many people think Namibia is all desert, but the further north east you go you will see differently. Making your way into the Caprivi Strip will make you feel as if you have left Namibia and are in a whole new country altogether. Green comes alive, cattle roams the roads, and the whole feeling is much more “African.” Many towns in the Caprivi Strip are dotted along the Okavango River. We camped out for a few days outside of Rundu and stayed along the river overlooking neighboring Angola.
If you are getting a little tired of the sand and desert heat, I would highly recommend traveling north into this area. It is the gateway to entering Botswana and seeing the great Chobe National Park as well. The best way to travel along the Caprivi Strip is with your own car. A 4×4 is recommended, but you can get by fine with a two wheel drive.
From Gabriela: This is so funny because for me Caprivi Strip was a shithole, and I desperately wanted to get out of there. I hitchhiked there from Botswana and ended up in a town called Katima Mulilo. It’s an ugly town, and there’s absolutely nothing to do. I stayed in the cheapest hotel which also happened double as a brothel. I spent two days trying to find out how to get out of there and finally managed to find a minibus going to Windhoek. Of course, like everywhere in Africa, I had to wait until the bus was full and that ended up taking nine hours!
By James of Nomadic Notes
Swakopmund is a coastal city in Namibia where the Namib Desert meets the Atlantic Ocean. The city was established by German colonialists in the late 19th century, and there are some architectural remnants which give the city its nickname of Little Bavaria.
Namibia is sparsely populated, so the chances are you will arrive here after many days in the desert. It’s a great place to base yourself for travels in the area and just relax before moving on to your next adventure.
Swakopmund is accessible by flights via Wallis Bay from the capital of Windhoek, and Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa. If you are overlanding, then most itineraries in Namibia include a stop.
From Gabriela: Swakopmund has so far been the most surreal place I’ve been in Africa. It really felt just like a German town, but was located in the desert in Africa!
By Mark and Mim of The Common Wanderer
One of the most impressive sights we’ve seen in southern Africa has to be the iconic orange sand dunes of Sossusvlei. The skyscraper-sized dunes grow out of the desert, and in the valleys, where a river artery once flowed hundreds of years ago lies Deadvlei, a large clay pan filled in by drought and blowing sand from the dunes now stands.
Most famous for the haunting 900-year-old fossils of long-dead Acacia trees that stand in the basin, it’s a forest frozen in time forever. The white clay, blackened trees, tangerine sands, and bright blue skies make for the most vivid contrast.
How do you convey the true scale of the perfectly sculpted sand mountains of Sossusvlei? By climbing them! A crucial lesson we learnt here: desert sand dunes always look smaller, easier to climb, and nowhere near as scalding hot than they really are. But once you do scale them, you’ll be struck by a sense of overwhelming breathlessness, and remoteness.
Sossusvlei is super remote, so be prepared to drive, or join a tour from Windhoek. We also recommend booking accommodation in advance as there are not many options (or it is REALLY expensive) or taking camping gear. But it’s all worth it; a visit to Sossusvlei is one of the best things you can do in Southern Africa!
From Gabriela: I met another backpacker in Swakopmund who was also keen to hitchhiking, so we decided to hitchhike to Sossusvlei together. It turned out to be nearly impossible. We got a few rides and ended up on a desert road where a car passed every half and hour, and all of the cars were either tour groups or tourists who didn’t want to pick up hitchhikers. So we ended up hitchhiking to the nearest car rental place! Luckily, it didn’t turn out too expensive, and because we had camping gear, we saved a lot of money by sleeping in a tent.
SOUTH AFRICA: Cape Town
By Matt & Alana of Great Big Globe
Cape Town is must visit when in South Africa. From iconic Table Mountain to the colorful and historical Bo-Kaap neighborhood, there is something to interest every traveler. A great way to kick off your visit to Cape Town is by visiting the top of Table Mountain. From there you will be able to understand the layout of the city better and take in some of the most gorgeous views. Afterward, make your way to one of the numerous vineyards to get a taste of world famous South Africa wine. Visitors will also want to make time to visit one of the popular markets. We recommend the Neighbor Goods Market, which offers local food, drink, and handmade goods. It’s also a great place to soak in the culture of the city as many local families visit every week. A trip to Cape Town isn’t complete without spending an afternoon at Camps Bay. Put your toes in the sand and enjoy a lazy afternoon in the sun. Cape Town is accessible by direct flight from many international airports.
From Gabriela: Cape Town is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I’m actually staying there right now. I based myself here for a couple of months because after my first visit I fell in love with this city.
SOUTH AFRICA: Stellenbosch Wine Region
By Laura of Savored Journeys
One of my favorite wine regions in the world is Stellenbosch, located about an hour outside of Cape Town, South Africa. What makes it so outstanding is the lush vineyards that seem to spread out for miles all around, the surrounding granite mountains, and the palatial wine estates that are more welcoming than any others we’ve encountered around the world.
Within Stellenbosch there are over 150 wine farms and estates, and many of them welcome visitors to try their wine, dine at their restaurants, and picnic on their vast and incredible property. Wine tasting in Stellenbosch is not your typical day of wine tasting. Each estate offers different experiences that rarely include standing at a tasting bar, quickly sipping through a lineup of wines. Instead, you are offered a seat on the couch or lovely outdoor patio, and the wine is brought to you and explained by a guide. Some estates are so large, you could spend an entire day participating in activities, eating, sipping wine and enjoying yourself. There’s just nothing like it anywhere else.
Besides wine tasting, Stellenbosch has plenty more to offer, like world-class restaurants, shopping, and even hiking. It’s an easy escape from the city and enjoys sunshine year-round.
From Gabriela: When I was traveling in Cape Town two years ago, I also did a wine tour to Stellenbosch. It’s a beautiful region, and the wine tour was well-organized and really worth the money.
SOUTH AFRICA: Mpumalanga
By Sara of In Africa And Beyond
Mpumalanga is one of South Africa’s most beautiful provinces. Meaning “the place where the sun rises” it is a haven for nature-lovers. The Panorama Route in Mpumalanga is one of the most spectacular routes on the African continent. It boasts breath-taking scenery, abundant waterfalls, historic caves and striking natural geographical formations. The views from the viewpoints along this route are incredible. Some of the best wildlife reserves in South Africa are in this area. You can see hundreds of animals and birds on a safari here, whether you’re on a guided game drive or self-driving. You can even play golf in a wildlife reserve or go gold-panning like the miners of yesteryear. Mpumalanga is a must-visit destination in Africa. The best way to get there is to fly to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg then either drive to Mpumalanga or fly to Nelspruit airport.
From Gabriela: This sounds such a beautiful place, and it’s a pity that I don’t have time to visit this place. I’ll travel overland to Johannesburg and I’m pretty sure that at the time I reach it, my visa is about to expire.
SOUTH AFRICA: Phinda Reserve
By Inma of A World to Travel
Want to spot the Big 5 (African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White/Black rhinoceros) and all the other animals that populate the vast savannas of the South African reserves?
Whether you choose a public reserve (such as Kruger, the country’s most famous National Park) or a private one, you cannot leave the country without jumping on a safari.
The one I am most fond of after visiting it last year is Phinda Private Game Reserve, one of the most luxurious in the country.
On addition to getting the royal treatment, you will be contributing to the preservation of the species that live there, always threatened by the poachers that, for instance, decimated the population of one-horned rhinoceros recently. What’s not to love?
From Gabriela: I also have to leave safaris in South Africa for the next time because I’m running out of time. Would love to see that cheetah, though! I’ve only done safaris in countries where they don’t have cheetahs.
By Elaine & Dave of The Whole World is a Playground
You’d be forgiven for not recognizing a country called the Kingdom of Swaziland. Bordering South Africa and Mozambique, it’s the smallest country in the southern hemisphere, and we were lucky enough to spend some time in the largely undiscovered African gem on a road trip across South Africa.
Swaziland is as beautiful as it is intriguing with its rich mix of nature, game viewing and, as one of the last remaining countries with a King reigning supreme over the population, culture, and tradition which are deeply embedded in Swazi life.
Things to see in Swaziland
Safari is a highlight of a Swaziland adventure with the Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve offering the opportunity to spot the Big 5. For culture, the Mantenga Village in Ezulwini is home to a traditional village and a Swazi dance display or, if nature peaks your interest, Sibebe Rock is the second largest freestanding rock in the world after Ayers Rock in Australia. A visit during its annual Umhlanga Reed dance ceremony, when tens of thousands of Swazis girls participate in the 8-day festival, is a feast for the eyes and ears.
How to get there
Fly from Johannesburg to Manzini also known as the ‘hub of Swaziland.’ Swaziland is also a great road trip destination and easily accessible en route from Johannesburg to Mozambique or as a stopover pre or post safari in Kruger National Park.
From Gabriela: Thank you, Elaine and Dave, for this comprehensive guide! Swaziland is going to be my second new country after Lesotho, and I’m so excited to visit. Maybe I’ll do a safari there because apparently, you can even see cheetahs!
ZAMBIA/ZIMBABWE: Victoria Falls
By Dan of Honeymoon Always
Victory Falls creates the largest curtain of falling water in the world and is by far the most visited attraction in Zimbabwe or Zambia. The waterfall can be seen from either country and which side is best to see it from is up for debate. Either way, the falls are an amazing site and are know as one of the seven natural world wonders. Victory Falls can be reached by flying from Johannesburg, South Africa to either Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
From Gabriela: I visited the falls from both Zambian and Zimbabwean sides, and that time (November) Zimbabwe was so much better. Zambian side was very dry, and it didn’t look nearly as impressive. But Zambian side is better for activities like bungee jumping, white water rafting, and the Devil’s Pool where you are swimming at the edge of the falls!
ZIMBABWE: Great Zimbabwe Ruins
By Erika of Erika’s Travel
Great Zimbabwe is one of the largest and best preserved archeological sites in Sub-Saharan Africa. The ancient city was founded in the early 1000s by the Bantu-speaking Shona population and is evidence of the skilled masonry and engineering that existed on the continent prior to the arrival of European settlers.
As one of Africa’s greatest archeological treasures, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins are not to be missed when visiting Southern Africa. The ruins lie among the picturesque hills of Zimbabwe’s Masvingo Province and are comprised of three main sections—the Hill Complex, the Great Enclosure and the Valley Ruins.
The Hill Complex is the oldest area of Great Zimbabwe and was once the spiritual and religious center of the city. It sits perched on a rocky outcrop and overlooks the verdant valleys of the surrounding highlands, as well as the sprawling Great Enclosure Complex. The Great Enclosure is the largest single ancient structure South of the Pyramids and has stood the test of time despite the fact that every slab of stone has been stacked without mortar.
The easiest way to reach Great Zimbabwe, is to take a bus to the archeological site’s gateway city, Masvingo, and then hire a taxi for the remaining 17-mile journey to the ruins.
From Gabriela: My visit to Zimbabwe was very brief and I only saw the west side of the country. So I didn’t see these ruins but will definitely check them out if I end up in Zimbabwe again!
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