At a Glance
When to Go
Direct flights are available from the United States to Johannesburg. Direct flights are also available from Istanbul, Doha, and Frankfurt to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Harare, and Windhoek. Within Southern Africa, commercial airlines like Air Namibia, Air Botswana, South African Airways’s Airlink, and several low-cost carriers connect you to cities and bigger bush airports, like Hoedspruit. Charter flights can be arranged for travel to and from luxury lodges with small airstrips.
Visitors travel around Southern Africa by car, overland tour, or a mix of commercial and charter flights. You can travel the whole of Southern Africa by paved national highway, though the vast majority of routes are gravel and dirt roads. Distances are vast, so self-drivers should be aware of gas tank capacity, use a GPS or map, and carry extra water. Most car rental agencies will let you take your vehicle across international borders, except Botswana. Ask for the country fee(s) and permit information when renting a vehicle. Make sure to eat or leave behind any fresh meat or produce when crossing borders as it could be confiscated. Within major cities, taxis are often the safest form of public transportation.
Food and Drink
Trace the footsteps of former president and human rights activist Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Sit with a tribe of Himba women and learn why they rub red ochre over their hair and skin. Venture into Botswana’s Kalahari desert, where San bushmen will share natural plant remedies for common malaises. In Harare, witness a vibrant arts scene flourishing in a nation governed by a longstanding dictator.
There’s always something happening in Southern Africa. Oenophiles will enjoy the March harvest season festivals which take place across the wine farms in South Africa’s Western Cape. Burning Man fans won’t want to miss April’s Afrikaburn, held in South Africa’s Karoo desert. San tribes from around Botswana gather in D’Kar each August for the Kuru Dance Festival. In Harare, celebrate Southern Africa’s best musicians and artists during the six-day HIFA Festival each May. End the year on a high note and attend the Victoria Falls Carnival in Zimbabwe.
What the Locals Know
Although Marie Frei hails from Connecticut, she feels most at home while on safari in the African bush. With her background in the travel industry and experience living abroad, she is most interested in how the right balance of conservation and tourism can benefit both the people and wildlife of Africa. She is an avid photographer and writer, and shares her experiences and inspiration on her website, One Carry-On Travel.