Southern Africa’s Most Incredible Landscapes

Regardless of where you travel in Southern Africa, you’re never too far from a scenic vista or an interesting natural landmark. The world’s oldest desert, in Namibia, is juxtaposed with the swampy wetlands of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. South Africa home of the unique fynbos botanical kingdom. In northwestern corner of Zimbabwe, majestic Victoria Falls spills millions of gallons of water per minute over the edge of an impressive river gorge. Southern Africa will leave you in awe.

Cape Point, Cape Peninsula, Cape Town, South Africa
While Cape Point is not, in fact, the southernmost tip of Africa—as is often claimed—it is generally accepted that the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet somewhere between here and the real tip, Cape Agulhas. Still, Cape Point is about as dramatic as you can get, with the land falling steeply away on three sides, the wind whipping around the cliffs, and the ocean churning below. The road to the point, at the end of a drive from Cape Town, goes through 20 miles of nature reserve full of baboons and antelopes. For those who don’t want to walk up to the lighthouse, there is a funicular, but to reach the point itself, you’re going to have to hike.
“Zimbabwe” means “the house of stone” and is named after the 11th century kingdom and trading city we now call Great Zimbabwe. This National Monument is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the southeast corner of the country is one place not to miss when driving between Harare and Bulawayo and is only a couple hours from Pamushana Lodge. Walls made of stacked stones balance on top of boulders - the remnants of a Shona king’s fort. Here, look for the shouting cave, designed such that anything yelled into the space will echo down into the valley below. During your guided tour, you’ll also visit the Great Enclosure which is thought to have been a temple. There is not much wildlife in the area (due to poaching), so you’ll want to visit nearby Masvingo National Park to see wildlife while you’re in this part of Zimbabwe.
Don’t let the eerie name fool you. Namibia’s Hoanib Skeleton Coast, a 310-mile stretch of sand scattered with animal bones and shipwrecks, is home to plenty of life: the Himba bushmen, fur seals, and desert-adapted flora whose sole water source is the morning fog that rolls in off the Atlantic. Getting here, however, is tricky. The shoreline, which is a national park, fringes the Namib Desert—where some of the world’s tallest dunes can be found—and is accessible only by tiny plane. Willing to wing it? Stay at Wilderness Safaris’ new eight-tent camp where, when not relaxing on your own deck, you can take to the sky for a tour of the coast. From $565. This appeared in the October 2014 issue.
Sitting on what felt like the wrong side of the car, shifting with the wrong hand, and driving on the wrong side of the road, I was listening to a CD of local marimba music on my way to Etosha National Park in northern Namibia. I was going on a safari for one! Being an animal lover since childhood, going on safari in Africa had been a dream for years. I wanted to see lions and elephants and giraffes and zebras in their native habitat, not in a zoo. But I prefer solo travel and just never could get excited about the idea of a group safari. Namibia was my perfect travel destination. With amazing scenery and wildlife, it is also considered very safe, even for solo women travelers.

Etosha National Park is a gem of wildlife-viewing in Africa, especially in the dry season from June through November when all of the animals must come to waterholes to drink and bathe. But it is relatively unknown, so not crowded with tourists. I could drive for miles without seeing another person, but couldn’t go far without seeing a springbok, oryx or zebra.

Okaukuejo Camp is near the southern entrance of the park and has a permanent waterhole which attracts an amazing variety of wildlife. Though there is definitely a pecking order - with elephants at the top - all of the animals seem to coexist at the waterholes and share the bounty that is life in a parched landscape.
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AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks