Ultimate Southern Africa Journey

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Overview

Set off on a once-in-a-lifetime journey that combines southern Africa’s most incredible attractions—from vibrant cities and iconic landscapes to multitudes of magnificent creatures. Experience the colourful culture of Cape Town, then continue to Kruger National Park to seek out lions, giraffes, and stealthy leopards. Explore the dramatic desertscapes of Namibia and witness the thunderous roar of Victoria Falls before delving into the rich wildlife reserves of Zimbabwe and Botswana, capping off your adventure with a night of traditional storytelling around a campfire.

Itinerary

Day 1: Cape Town

Arrive at any time. Arrival transfer is included.

Day 2: Cape Town

Begin the day with an exploration of vibrant Cape Town, wandering through the multicultural Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Then enjoy an exclusive guided tour of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, named by National Geographic Travel as one of the world’s 10 most magnificent gardens. Later, stop by Boulders Beach to see the resident population of African penguins, and continue to the Cape Point lighthouse and the Cape of Good Hope, the southwesternmost point in Africa.

Includes: Breakfast

Day 3: Cape Town

Enjoy a day of leisure in Cape Town, choosing from a variety of optional activities. Hike up iconic Table Mountain or hop on a cable car to the summit, taking in extraordinary views of the city and the Atlantic seaboard. Or explore the Cape Winelands, visiting the historical city of Stellenbosch, touring wine estates with expert guides, and indulging in a variety of tastings and pairings.

There is something for everyone in Cape Town. Visit Table Mountain, walk the V&A Waterfront or embark on a wine tour in and around Stellenbosch. For the adventurous, opt to go skydiving, abseiling, or, if you're really brave, cage diving for a close encounter with a great white shark. Wander through the city centre, which has some of the oldest buildings and gardens in South Africa. Check out the Cultural Historical Museum, Planetarium, and many other museums and theatres.

Includes: Breakfast

Day 4: Cape Town/Johannesburg

Fly to Johannesburg, then take a guided tour of Soweto township. Soweto was an important center of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement and home to its leader, Nelson Mandela. Visit the Mandela House Museum and learn about this painful chapter in the country’s history. In the evening, enjoy a traditional South African braai (barbecue) with your fellow travellers.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 5: Johannesburg/Greater Kruger Area

Set out towards Kruger National Park via the magnificent Panorama Route, one of the world’s most picturesque drives. Make stops at the dramatic Blyde River Canyon and Bourke's Luck Potholes, and take in panoramic views of the forest-covered valley from the God's Window viewpoint. Continue to our tented camp near Kruger National Park and savour a delicious South African dinner in a boma.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Kruger National Park

Rise early and climb aboard an open jeep for a full-day safari in Kruger National Park—home to an extraordinary array of large mammals. Spot elephants, lions, giraffes, and perhaps elusive leopards as we explore this breathtaking wilderness of savanna and scrubland. Return to our lodge in the evening, where you can take some time to relax on the deck and enjoy the nocturnal sounds of the bush.

At over 19,000 sq km (7,500 sq mi), South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most impressive animal reserves in the world. With 147 species, Kruger has more species of large mammals than any other park on the continent.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Greater Kruger Area/Karongwe Private Game Reserve

Travel to the Karongwe Private Game Reserve, a pristine wildlife sanctuary located in the Greater Kruger area. Meet with a researcher from the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project—a program funded in part by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative—and learn about efforts to protect the region’s cheetahs and other carnivores. The researcher then joins us for a wildlife-viewing excursion through the reserve.

For the next two days, enjoy ranger-led morning and evening wildlife safari drives in an open safari vehicle in Karongwe Nature Reserve. Search for buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos – Africa's famed Big Five. With over 9,000 hectares (22,240 acres) of supreme African bushveld, Karongwe Private Game Reserve is home to many creatures, and our safari drives provide several opportunities for wildlife viewing.

We use various accommodations within the reserve (the location is based on availability). During your time here, you will either stay in lodge rooms or very comfortable permanent tents (both of equal quality and with similar amenities).

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Karongwe Private Game Reserve

Spend the day exploring Karongwe on morning and afternoon safaris with our local guides. Search for buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos—Africa's famed "big five"—as we drive through the shrublands of the bushveld. Back at camp, relax on deck or take a walk around the grounds.

Wake up before the sun (around 5am) and sip your morning coffee before heading out on a morning wildlife safari drive. Return to the lodge for brunch and some leisure time. Converse on the deck, walk the grounds and gardens, and enjoy high tea. Following tea, it's time for a late afternoon safari drive. After spotting tons of wildlife, it’s time to return to camp and freshen up before dinner.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Karongwe Private Game Reserve/Johannesburg

Embark on one last safari this morning, keeping a lookout for Karongwe’s iconic inhabitants. Then head back to the city, where you’ll enjoy dinner in our local guest house.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 10: Johannesburg/Windhoek

Fly to Windhoek and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy free time to explore the Namibian capital this afternoon.

Includes: Breakfast

Day 11: Windhoek/Sesriem

Set off from the Namibian capital towards Sesriem, the gateway to jaw-dropping Namib-Naukluft National Park. Drive past red-hued desertscapes, stark camel thorn trees, and dramatic curved dunes while keeping an eye out for the astonishing creatures that call these arid lands home—the oryx, springbok, jackal, hyena, and more. Settle in to our lodge and relax poolside, watching a fiery crimson sunset over the desert.

Enjoy postcard perfect desert scenery around Sesriem and Sossusvlei - vast desertscapes of reds and orange, stark camel thorn trees and towering dunes with dramatic curved ridges. Also keep an eye out for the surprising amount of wildlife that call this area home such as oryx, springbok, jackal, ground squirrel and hyena.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12: Sesriem

Embark on a thrilling excursion into one of Africa’s largest national parks aboard a 4x4. Explore the Namib desert, the oldest desert in the world; and venture to the massive dunes at Sossusvlei and the white clay pan of Deadvlei. Capture dramatic images of dead camel thorn trees against a backdrop of orange dunes and a crisp blue sky. Then visit the Sesriem Canyon, a natural gorge carved out by the Tsauchab River over millions of years.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 13: Sesriem/Swakopmund

Continue by road through changing desert landscapes towards the coastal city of Swakopmund. Look out for roaming zebra, kudu, springbok, and oryx on the way, and take a break in the quirky town of Solitaire before heading into the countryside. Here, we meet a local for a 4x4 drive through the desert, learning about the survival strategies of bushmen who lived in this inhospitable area thousands of years ago. We also search for the smaller wildlife that has managed to survive here, such as snakes, geckos, spiders, and an array of insects.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 14: Swakopmund

Enjoy a free morning in Swakopmund, getting a taste of the town’s unique Afro-German culture; or opt to go sandboarding in the Namib desert. This afternoon, take a tour of Mondesa township with a local guide, learning about its people and history. Visit the local market for an introduction to traditional foods such as wild spinach, mopane worms, and dried sardines or kapenta. Stop by an arts and crafts shop; chat with the locals; and round off the day with dinner and a performance at a cozy family-run establishment.

Explore the town's unique mix of German and African culture and opt to visit curio shops, the museum and restaurants. Optional activities include sandboarding, or if you're feeling brave, skydiving.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 15: Swakopmund/Palmwag

Make your way to Twyfelfontein—Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site—to see some of Africa’s largest concentrations of petroglyphs. Marvel at these remarkable engravings, carved by prehistoric hunter-gatherers and depicting rhinos, elephants, and ostriches, as well as human and animal footprints. Then continue to our lodge on the Palmwag nature reserve in northwest Damaraland.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 16: Palmwag/Etosha National Park Area

Enjoy a relaxed morning at our lodge or opt for a guided walk in the Palmwag reserve, home to many rare, desert-adapted species. In the afternoon, travel towards Etosha National Park, arguably Namibia’s most spectacular wildlife sanctuary. Settle into our lodge, located outside of the park.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 17: Etosha National Park Area

Spend a full day on safari in Etosha National Park, where open grasslands converge on a massive salt pan. Etosha harbours some of the largest populations of lions, elephants, and endangered black rhinos in the world, so keep your camera on the ready as you explore in your open vehicle. Enjoy lunch at one of the park’s rest areas, where you can also take a swim; and sit back and watch all manner of creatures—including hundreds of species of birds—flock to the nearby watering hole.

After the vast desert, Etosha National Park, offers a contrast of wide open grasslands, a massive salt pan that covers 4731km² and tall camel thorn trees intermixed with Mopani trees. With a combination of natural waterholes, and diverse vegetation, wildlife flock to the park. Some of the largest elephants in Africa can be found in areas of thicker vegetation, as well as leopard and the critically endangered black rhino. Lions, giraffe, ostrich and many antelope species can be found in the grasslands, while birders will love the salt pans which attract flamingos in the rainy season. More than 340 bird species have been counted in Etosha National Park including the European bee-eater, the kori bustard and numerous migratory birds.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 18: Etosha National Park Area/Windhoek

After breakfast, visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a global research and education center founded by National Geographic Grantee Dr. Laurie Marker. Tour the facility to learn about the important conservation and community outreach work they do to protect the world’s fastest land animal, and enjoy a talk by one of the researchers. Then head out on a drive through the grounds to meet some of the center’s rescued and rehabilitated cheetahs. Continue to Windhoek for our final evening.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 19: Windhoek/Victoria Falls

Catch a flight to the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, named after one of the most powerful waterfalls on Earth. Visit a nearby village and go grocery shopping in the bustling market. Then sit down with a local family for dinner, helping your hosts prepare a traditional Zimbabwean meal using the ingredients you picked out, and hear stories about local life and culture.

The mist off Victoria Falls can rise to a height of more than 400m (1312 ft). Local tribes used to call the falls Mosi-o-Tunya or “the smoke that thunders.” Explorer and missionary David Livingstone renamed the falls after Queen Victoria when he first saw them in 1855.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 20: Victoria Falls

Set out for a tour of magnificent Victoria Falls. Scottish explorer David Livingstone named them after Britain’s Queen Victoria, while their older, indigenous name is Mosi-oa-Tunya—“the smoke that thunders.” Opt to embark on a thrilling white-water excursion on the Zambezi River; soar above the roaring falls in a helicopter; or take a day trip to wildlife-rich Chobe National Park.

Includes: Breakfast

Day 21: Victoria Falls

Continue your exploration of majestic Victoria Falls on a variety of optional excursions. Go whizzing over the Zambezi River on a zip line, glide down the river on a sunset cruise, or feel the spray of the falls on your face as you explore the surrounding paths.

The town of Victoria Falls is a great base to see both natural wonders and take part in some exciting activities. Get up close (and wet from the spray) while awing at the immense Victoria Falls, raft the whitewater of the mighty Zambezi, and for the more adventurous, bungee jump with Victoria Falls in view.

Today, new travellers may join you for the rest of your adventure. You are welcome to join them at a group meeting this evening, followed by an optional dinner.

Includes: Breakfast

Day 22: Victoria Falls/Hwange National Park

Explore Victoria Falls at leisure this morning, and opt to take a guided tour of this thundering natural wonder and UNESCO World Heritage site. Later, transfer to the headquarters of Painted Dog Conservation. Learn about this non-profit organization’s work to protect and rehabilitate injured painted dogs (also known as African wild dogs), and hear from a conservationist about the threats to these endangered animals. Afterward, venture out on safari in Hwange National Park, one of Zimbabwe’s largest wildlife reserves and an important elephant sanctuary.

Examine the life and struggles faced by the Painted Dog (wild dog) population in and around Hwange national park and the efforts made by the conservancy to prevent poaching and the damage done by snare traps that have endangered the Painted Dog population in Zimbabwe. The ultimate goal of the project is to release rehabilitated animals back into the wild and to work with local children and communities in an effort to educate and shift behaviors away from poaching.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 23: Hwange National Park

Set out on a full-day safari through the sweeping grasslands of Hwange National Park. Track the park’s resident elephant and buffalo herds, as well as giraffes, lions, zebras, and the rare African wild dog. This evening, relax on the deck of your lodge, keeping an eye out for the wild creatures that visit the lodge’s watering hole.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 24: Hwange/Chobe NP

Depart Hwange and head north, crossing the border into Botswana and arriving in Kasane—the gateway to the stunning Chobe National Park. Settle into your lodge and embark on a boat safari on the Chobe River, the lifeline of the park. Look out for submerged hippos, basking crocodiles, bathing elephants, and an abundance of birdlife from the boat’s deck, and witness a spectacular fiery sunset over the river.

Keep an eye out for Chobe bushbuck and puku antelope, which are found only in this part of Botswana. The Chobe River is home to the world’s largest elephant herds; buffalo, hippos, and lions can also be seen here.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 25: Chobe NP

This morning, continue your exploration of Chobe National Park, home to one of Africa’s largest elephant populations. On a safari along the banks of the Chobe River, keep an eye out for elephants, buffalo, lions, zebra, and rare semi-aquatic antelope, as well as an incredible variety of birds. In the afternoon, opt to take a photography river safari on a specialized photography boat.

Opt into the photo wildlife safari on the Chobe River at sunset; you’ll be accompanied by an expert wildlife photographer and guide who will help you get the perfect shot.

Includes: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 26: Kasane/Okavango Delta

Catch a flight to the Okavango Panhandle in Botswana, the narrow arm of the Okavango River that feeds into the famed Okavango Delta. Check in to our remote lodge, and enjoy a boat cruise on the winding waterways. This evening, hear about National Geographic’s Okavango Wilderness Project, a multi-year collaboration between international and local experts to survey the Okavango watershed’s biodiversity and ensure its future protection. Watch the National Geographic documentary “Into the Okavango,” and learn about delta conservation projects in the area.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 27: Okavango Delta

Explore the breathtaking Okavango Panhandle with expert local guides. Navigate the wildlife-rich channels of the Okavango River aboard a mokoro, a traditional dugout canoe, and spot all manner of bird life on bush walks. Settle into your tent in our remote bush camp this evening. Enjoy a three-course meal around a roaring campfire while listening to the night calls of the delta.

Tonight we enjoy a unique and adventurous stay in a remote bush camp (known locally as a fly camp). Accommodation will be in simple dome tents on cots, and facilities are wash basins and out house/long drop toilette (simple but clean) which are shared amongst our group. There is no electricity and lighting in the evenings is by lantern, so please bring a flashlight. While basic, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself into the wilds of Africa. Our local guides and staff add some comfortable touches, excellent food and spin some fantastic campfire stories.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 28: Okavango Delta

Continue exploring the Okavango Delta’s untamed habitat on foot and by mokoro, spotting herons, storks, egrets, and other wading birds. Return to our camp later this afternoon and opt to relax by an open fire, or take a swim.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 29: Okavango Delta/Maun

Fly to the frontier town of Maun for an evening of storytelling and traditional foods with celebrated local author Bonty Botumile. Born in Maun, Bonty’s work is dedicated to preserving Botswana’s literary heritage and providing youth with employment opportunities in the arts. Listen as she shares her in-depth knowledge of the region’s cultural history, and cap off the night with a delicious meal and colourful stories around a warm fire.

Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 30: Maun

Depart at any time.

Includes: Breakfast

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