An astonishingly diverse region fused by its prolific wildlife, breathtaking landscapes and remnants of ancient culture, Southern Africa is Africa at its most memorable. Southern Africa has some of Africa’s greatest safari destinations: Kruger, Chobe, Etosha, South Luangwa and the Okavango Delta. The sheer number of elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, rhinos, buffaloes, antelope and myriad other species will quickly overwhelm your camera. Spot them on self-drives, guided wildlife drives or charter flights...and if that’s not up close and personal enough, what about the chance to track highly endangered black rhino...on foot? Or the chance to see the fabled black-maned lions of the Kalahari, or the desert elephants of Namibia? Or explore the Caprivi Strip, one of Africa's emerging wildlife destinations, before the rest of the world catches on. There's famous Table Mountain rising high above Cape Town, that mighty gash hacked out of the earth’s surface at Fish River Canyon, and the desertscapes of the Kalahari, but the lonely rural tracks that take you out into an otherwise trackless wilderness are just as memorable. In Namibia, huge slabs of flat-topped granite rise from mists of wind-blown sand and swirling dust. And Zambian floodplains are dotted with acacia trees and flanked by escarpments of dense woodland. Want to see all the landscapes the region has to offer? Put aside a lifetime.
Black-maned lions framed against Kalahari dunes; powdery beaches lapped by two oceans; star-studded desert skies; jagged, lush mountains – this truly is a country of astounding diversity. South Africa is one of the continent's best safari destinations, offering the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) and more in accessible parks and reserves. You can drive right into the epic wilderness at Kruger, Kgalagadi and other parks, or join khaki-clad rangers on guided drives and walks. But it's not all about big-game sightings – wildlife watching here also teaches you to enjoy the little things: a leopard tortoise ambling alongside the road, a go-away bird chirping its distinctive chant in the trees, or an encounter with seals, whales or a great white shark along the coast. South Africa's landscapes are stunning, from the burning Karoo and Kalahari semideserts to the misty heights of the Drakensberg range and the massive Blyde River Canyon. Even in urban Cape Town, you need only look up to see the beautiful fynbos (indigenous flora) climbing the slopes of Table Mountain, while nearby, two of the world's most dramatic coastal roads lead to Cape Point and Hermanus. Add the vineyards carpeting the Cape Winelands, old-growth forests along the Garden Route, wrinkly mountain ranges from the Cederberg to the Swartberg, and Indian Ocean beaches, and there's a staggering variety to enjoy.
If Namibia is 'Africa for beginners', as is often said, what a wonderful place to start. Few countries in Africa can match Namibia's sheer natural beauty. The country's name derives from its (and the world's) oldest desert, the Namib, and there are few more stirring desert realms on the planet, from the sand sea and perfect dead-tree valleys at Sossusvlei to the otherworldliness of sand dunes plunging down to the sea at Sandwich Harbour and the Skeleton Coast. Inland, running through the heart of the country, a spine of mountains creates glorious scenery – the Naukluft Mountains, the Brandberg, Spitzkoppe, Damaraland and the jaw-dropping Fish River Canyon. With rivers and wetlands in the Caprivi Strip and the endless gold-grass plains of the Kalahari, it's difficult to think of an iconic African landscape that Namibia doesn't possess. Make no mistake: Namibia is one of Southern Africa's best places to watch wildlife, at least in the country's north. Etosha National Park belongs in the elite wildlife-watching destinations – big cats, elephants, black rhinos and plains game in abundance. Two other areas are emerging as complements to Etosha. Damaraland is a wonderful place to see desert-adapted elephants and lions, and also happens to host Africa's largest population of free-ranging rhinos – rhino tracking is a real highlight here. Over in the Caprivi Strip, the wildlife is returning, with Bwabwata and Nkasa Rupara becoming wonderfully rich parks to explore. This being Namibia, there are private reserves (Okonjima and Erindi premier among them) as well as game farms that serve as havens for rescued wildlife.