With its wealth of wildlife and safari experiences, rich diversity of destinations, landscapes and scenery, and proud cultural traditions, Africa inspires at every turn.
Southern Africa is home to some of Africa’s greatest safari destinations, including the Kruger Park, Chobe, Etosha, and the Okavango Delta. Add on Table Mountain, the Cape Winelands and the Garden Route, not to mention Victoria Falls, the Bazaruto Archipelago and Sossusvlei, and you have the makings of an epic bucket list journey, no matter where you go.
If you’re one for the romance and nostalgia of the African safaris of old, head to East Africa where the luxury tented camps of the Serengeti and Masai Mara harken back to the heydays of African expeditions. Besides the stirring scenes of the Great Migration and the fascinating Swahili culture, East Africa is also your launchpad to the exotic island of Zanzibar.
Where do you want to travel in Africa? We’ll take you there. Discover Africa with Explorer.
Our Top Destinations in Africa
South Africa is a world in one country. Beaches, bushveld, mountains, semi-deserts, high rise cities, and sprawling neighbourhoods… Mzansi (as the locals call it) has something for everyone. You can go from a Big Five safari to seaside cocktails within just a few hours; from a traditional meal at a local shebeen to shopping on the high street in only a matter of minutes.
Consistently voted as one of the top destinations around the world, South Africa is home to three tourism juggernauts: Cape Town, the country’s Mother City melting pot and wine capital nestled in the shadow of Table Mountain; the Garden Route, a road-trip stretch of forested coastline; and the Kruger National Park, the gem in South Africa’s wildlife crown.
In between these popular destinations is a patchwork of lesser-known treasures. Explore the unspoiled Whale Coast, experience the wild Eastern Cape and discover the quirky heart of the country in the semi-desert flatlands of the Karoo.
And then there are the people. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was spot on when he nicknamed South Africa “the Rainbow Nation.” Indeed, it is a colourful country of diversity and contrast – in its cultures, landscapes, and languages. A visit here would not be complete without delving into South Africa’s history. Whether it’s a private tour of Robben Island or a Cape Malay food safari, you’ll discover that despite its heart-wrenching past, South Africa’s pride and positivity are forces of nature.
Best Time to Visit South Africa:
Most visitors arrive during summer (November to March) when the weather ranges from warm to hot. The ideal season for wildlife viewing is between May and September when the weather is dry, and there’s a higher likelihood of seeing big game.
Travelers the world over consistently vote Cape Town as one of the globe’s top travel destinations, and with good reason. South Africa’s Mother City is a hotspot of culture, color, cuisine, and wine. And all of this set at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain.
Cape Town’s abundant offerings are encircled by some of the most breathtaking scenery you could imagine. Here, fynbos-covered mountains meet not one, but two oceans in a clash of dramatic beauty while sun-ripened vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. In the city itself, cafes and trendy eateries line the streets between boutiques, curio shops, and galleries.
Then there are the beaches. Along the Atlantic Seaboard, powder-white shores attract sun worshippers and people-watchers in droves, while the warmer Indian Ocean waters of False Bay are the preferred choice for families, surfers and swimmers.
Naturally, Table Mountain takes center stage, flanked by Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak. You can’t come to Cape Town without visiting the summit of this flat-topped icon, whether by cable car or following one of the many hiking trails. Cape Town also has its very own wine route – the Constantia Wine Route in the heart of the city. The oldest wine farm on this wine route, Groot Constantia, was built in 1685.
Best Time to Visit Cape Town:
The Western Cape enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Most visitors vacation in Cape Town during the warm and dry summer months, with December to April a particularly busy season for travel. Winter, especially during July and August, is partial to being cold and wet. However, there are still plenty of activities to do in Cape Town during these cooler months.
Sprawled between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, the Garden Route in South Africa is a holiday paradise. Here, you can explore ancient forests, secluded beaches, hidden wine estates, and unique wildlife sanctuaries. It’s also one of the world’s greatest road trips, following 200 kilometres of winding tarmac from one picturesque town to the next.
Things to do in the Garden Route are varied. From bungee-jumping in Plettenberg Bay to treetop canopy tours in Tsitsikamma and lagoon cruises in the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Most visitors base themselves in Knysna, a foodie destination which languishes on a scenic lagoon. Plettenberg Bay, which is famous for its beaches, is another ideal base from which to launch your explorations.
The nearby town of Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo is also worth visiting. While not officially part of the Garden Route, this quirky town is where to go to see incredible caves and geological formations plus some of the world’s biggest ostrich farms.
Best Time to Visit the Garden Route:
Garden Route holidays are rewarding any time of the year. Temperatures peak in the summer between November and April, but as this is a coastal climate, it can rain at any time, especially during June and July.
The Kruger National Park takes center stage as South Africa’s most famous and best-loved wildlife destination. With animals in the hundreds of thousands, from the Big Five to over 600 bird species, reptiles and even fish, a Kruger safari should be on everybody’s travel bucket list.
There’s something for every kind of traveler on a Kruger safari, whether it’s your first time or you’re a return visitor. Choose from luxury tented camps in private concessions or stylish safari lodges in adjacent reserves. In the park itself, the popular southern region is famous for its large rhino and lion populations. Central Kruger is the most game-rich area, abundant in plains game like giraffe and wildebeest. Naturally, these bring with them a healthy predator population. To the south, the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve shares a fence-free border with the Kruger. This park is famous for its variety of luxury lodge-style safari accommodation.
With a year-round sunny climate, you can enjoy a Kruger safari any time of the year. Popular activities include guided game drives and bush walks. No matter how you choose to experience the Kruger, it’s a destination you’ll want to return to again and again.
Best Time to Visit Kruger National Park:
Summer and winter offer different Kruger safari experiences. The dry winter season between May and October is best for game-viewing. November through February, known as the “Green Season,” is the hottest and wettest time of the year. As a result, this is the best time to visit the Kruger for bird watching. However, the humid summer climate doesn’t suit everyone.
On departing Cape Town and heading just 40 minutes into the Cape Winelands, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’ve arrived in the scenic Bordeaux region of France. Vineyards stretch in all directions, the leaves either a crisp green or red tinged with yellow (depending on the season); and purple-tinged mountains frame the valleys.
But the Cape Winelands are distinctly South African. Century-old Cape Dutch manor houses form part of many the estates, each bringing with them a heritage stretching back to the early 1600s when settlers first arrived in the Cape, plus unique experiences (wine-tasting cycling expeditions and leisurely tram tours anyone?) add to the ambience.
The Winelands are pegged by three main towns… Stellenbosch, famously a university-town and filled with pretty oak-lined avenues. Paarl, situated under the Paarl Rock mountain and well known for its robust, hearty red wines. And Franschhoek, the upmarket Huguenot village dotted with gorgeous vineyards, food and wine-tasting opportunities and a town square.
The Cape Winelands are filled to the brim with internationally award-winning estates and wines. They are also well known for their excellent restaurants, spas, markets and gardens. Come and visit!
Best Time to Visit the Cape Winelands:
The Cape Winelands are worth a visit all year round. While the look of the vines may differ (green leaves in the height of summer, and red and yellow-tinged ones at the turn of the season), the wine-tasting, cuisine and spa treatments remain incredible. December through February is particularly hot though and can reach temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius.View
On a Botswana safari, bigger really is better. The elephants are super-sized, the landscapes vast, and the magnitude of the experiences beyond measure. Home to the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park, Botswana truly is one of the greatest safari destinations in Africa.
The Okavango Delta defines the country’s landscape, cutting through the stark red hues of the Kalahari Desert in a flood of emerald green. During the seasonal rains, the Delta becomes a lush animal habitat. Here, you can explore meandering channels and papyrus-fringed islands by mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe). However, horseback rides, speedboat trips, and guided island walks are available too, and no less exciting! Expect to see an abundance of birdlife, hippos, and crocodiles. And don’t miss the sunsets. Bookend your days with sunset cocktails and marvel at the colours of the Delta as it turns molten gold.
On dry land, Chobe National Park is famous for its herds of elephant and buffalo. During the winter months, the animals converge on the Chobe River. As a result, wildlife sightings are particularly rewarding at this time. Furthermore, on a Botswana safari, you can enjoy almost guaranteed encounters with Africa’s star players: the Big Five.
With its wealth of world-class accommodation, Botswana is renowned as one of Africa’s top luxury travel destinations. Sumptuous safari lodges and intimate tented camps give you a front-row seat to the fabulous wildlife spectacles. With unlimited elbow room and the wildlife pretty much all to yourself, you can expect an utterly exclusive safari experience, unmatched anywhere else in Africa.
Best Time to Visit Botswana:
In Botswana as in most African safari destinations, animals will converge at water sources during the dry season to slake their thirst. As a result, Botswana game viewing at the Okavango Delta and in the reserves of Chobe and Moremi is at its peak between May and October.
Zimbabwe offers some of the most spectacular wildlife experiences in Southern Africa. See elephants standing on their hind legs searching for marula fruit in Hwange National Park. Watch hippos lolling on the banks of the Zambezi River as you paddle down in a canoe. Feel the sudden spray 100 metres high into the air as another million megalitres of water plunge over Victoria Falls.
Without a doubt, the Falls, affectionately known as the ‘Smoke that Thunders’, provide some of the most iconic Zimbabwean experiences. However, it is engaging with the locals that you gain insight into the warmth of this landlocked Southern Africa destination. Bartering at markets, enjoying a Zambezi Lager around a fire and chatting to your ranger while on safari is all part of the experience.
Zimbabwe offers true off-the-beaten-track safari experiences, with off-the-grid tented camps providing the wildest of encounters with Africa’s big game. Far-flung spots like Matusadona, Malilangwe and Gonarezhou take your safari experience up a notch. And Mana Pools National Park, a World Heritage Site, offers multi-day canoe trips. Lunch on the river anyone?
From the incredible aerial vistas of Victoria Falls in full flood to the dawn marches of elephant herds making their way to the river in Hwange, Zimbabwe is the ultimate Southern Africa safari destination.
Best Time to Visit Zimbabwe:
Like Botswana and Zambia, the best time to visit Zimbabwe for game viewing is during the dry season (between May and October). Birders often prefer to visit in the Green Season (December to February). However, be aware: it is hot and humid at that time. Victoria Falls, however, is at full flood between March and April and is rather spectacular from the air. If you are keen to hit the rapids on a white water rafting trip, instead go in low-season (September through December).
“Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
It’s no wonder David Livingstone was struck poetic when he first laid eyes on Victoria Falls in 1855. Certainly, every traveler since then who has peered through the rainbow-smudged mist for their first gasping view of the Falls has experienced the same sense of wonder.
Known locally as Mosi-oa-tunya (‘the smoke that thunders’), Victoria Falls, at 1,708 meters wide, is earth’s largest single sheet of falling water. It’s officially one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and unofficially Mother Nature’s party trick. Every minute during the rainy season, 5 million cubic meters of water plunge 108 meters into the gorge below in something of a dramatic stage bow. And as an encore, in the dry season, the Devil’s Pool – a natural rock pool precariously nudged up against the lip of the falls – attracts its own audience of thrill-seekers. Only the brave dare to jump in for a swim… and a selfie. Above the Falls the Zambezi River meanders, teeming with life. You’ll find crocodile, hippos and tigerfish in its waters and on the lush green banks you’ll find some of Africa’s most romantic luxury safari lodges.
But when you’re standing in the thick of it; when the spray of the Falls speckles your skin, when your heart skips a beat at the might and roar of it all, and your adrenaline rears its head at the sniff of adventure, nothing else matters than the moment, now. It’s epic. And it’s yours.
Best Time to Visit Victoria Falls:
The best time to visit the spectacular Victoria Falls is from February to May, directly after the region’s summer rains, when you’ll see the world’s largest sheet of falling water flowing at its greatest volume. If you’re keen on taking a dip in the Devil’s Pool, late August to early January.
For the quintessential African experience, it doesn’t get much better than a Tanzania safari. The broad sweeping savannah, ancient heritage sites, incredible beaches, and coral reefs dominate this landscape. Indeed, Tanzania is an exciting destination featuring remote reserves and off-the-beaten-track encounters.
Arusha, the gateway to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro ecosystem, is for many the starting point to a Tanzania safari. Daily, small airplanes soar off into the wilderness, the purveyors of wildlife experiences unmatched anywhere else in the world. One of the highlights of a Tanzania safari is undoubtedly witnessing the Great Migration. This is when millions of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle make their way northwards into the Masai Mara to graze.
Your Tanzania safari doesn’t end with the Serengeti. The vast Ngorongoro Crater is a worthy addition to your itinerary. This ancient caldera, filled to the brim with a diverse array of wildlife, is also home to Tarangire, which boasts the largest elephant population in Tanzania. Many choose to include a beach holiday on exotic Zanzibar island, or delve into a more remote experience with chimp trekking in Gombe or fly camping in the Selous Game Reserve.
A trip to Tanzania is not measured in the miles covered, but in the moments enjoyed. A quiet morning in a private concession watching birds flutter above a pool; the sudden appearance of a manatee on an underwater dive; the flurried movements of a group of zebras as a tawny streak upsets their waterhole visit, the lion left empty-jawed as the black and white herd disperses into the sunset.
From north to south and east to west, a Tanzania safari never disappoints.
Best Time to Visit Tanzania:
The best time to visit Tanzania for a safari is typically within the dry season (June through October). It is during this period that the Great Migration reaches the Grumeti River. However, game viewing is generally superb throughout the year, with calving season just after the summer rains between December and February. If you’re interested in a beach trip or diving off the coasts of Zanzibar, then the clearer waters between February and March or between July and August are recommended.
The original safari destination in Africa, Kenya is a classic. There’s a nostalgia here that recalls luxury camps, canvas tents, and gin and tonic sundowners. On a Kenya safari, it’s easy to believe you’re in a scene straight from “Out of Africa.”
A Kenya safari promises the thrill of the wild against a backdrop of savannah plains, acacia forests, and the snow-capped peak of Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro. Then there’s the Masai Mara and its annual showstopping wildlife spectacle, the Great Migration. Add on the Great Rift Valley and Indian Ocean coastline, and Kenya is a country that indeed has it all.
Kenya’s legendary national parks and game reserves, from the Masai Mara National Reserve to the Lake Nakuru National Park, boast almost guaranteed sightings of Africa’s Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant). Expect generous sightings of large herds of antelope and hundreds of colourful birds. Don’t be surprised, however, if the tall and dignified red-robed Maasai steal the show. These semi-nomadic people are one of the world’s last great warrior cultures and an enduring symbol of traditional Kenyan culture.
And when you’ve had your fill of the wild, there are miles of white sandy beaches inviting you to go diving, snorkelling, windsurfing, or just to put your feet up, kick back and adjust your body clock to Kenya time.
When to Go:
Game viewing is at its best during the dry seasons (May to September, and January through February). The safari high season runs from July through November, when the annual wildebeest migration is in full swing. If you’re a birder, visit Kenya between October and April when the migrant species have arrived.
Zambia is wild in the way the wild ought to be done. As the original home of the guided walking safari, this is safari country at its best. Travelling in Zambia will take you into a remote wilderness where animals wander through unfenced camps and where the human footprint is almost non-existent.
Zambia will reward you with some of the most exceptional safari experiences on the planet at its many National Parks. The Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is home to giraffes, zebras, impalas, and abundant birdlife. Zambia’s other national parks include massive Kafue, whose woodlands, plains and wetlands sustain lions, elephants, and hippos. Another exciting Zambia safari destination is South Luangwa, where leopards, giraffes, buffalo, and other animals are viewable by walking safari.
Although landlocked, Zambia has more natural water resources than any other destination in Southern Africa. The Kafue, Luangwa and Zambezi rivers flow through Zambia to feed seventeen magnificent waterfalls, defining the country’s geography and providing adrenaline-fueled thrills or a leisurely playground of activities for all ages. Above all, Zambia is famous for sharing “the smoke that thunders” with neighboring Zimbabwe. So your Zambia safari will undoubtedly include Victoria Falls.
Blessed with natural wonders, wildlife, impressive bodies of water and vast open spaces, Zambia offers unforgettable holidays exploring Africa at her most authentic.
Best Time to visit Zambia:
The best time for a safari in Zambia is during the dry season, from May to October. This is when animals congregate around the rivers and waterholes. Similarly, the best time to see Victoria Falls is from June through September.
Some travelers say that the moment you realize Namibia has changed you is when you’re standing atop Big Daddy, the world’s largest sand dune, at sunrise, witnessing new dawn colors shift over ancient sands. Others will tell you the transformative moment takes place in the ghost town of Kolmanskop. Here, the desert sands all but swallowed a once thriving community, together with the abandoned hopes and dreams of its long-ago citizens.
The fact remains: if you are the type of traveler who wants more, a Namibia safari will give you a new perspective. It is culturally-rich and kaleidoscopically diverse, and whether you’re travelling to the country for authentic encounters with its local people or to capture its countless photographic opportunities, Namibia will leave you changed.
Namibia is the very definition of the great outdoors; only greater. It’s a country of soul and scale, drama and serenity. Here, the sky seems bigger and the horizons wider. Indeed, a Namibia safari promises a larger-than-life experience.
A journey through Namibia will take you through a land of contrasts. Sprawling dune seas, mist-shrouded spectral shores and hauntingly timeless horizons. Etosha National Park takes centre stage for its extraordinary wildlife sightings, which are practically guaranteed around its namesake, the Etosha Pan. Swakopmund scores top marks as Namibia’s most charming coastal destination and launchpad for adventure experiences. Sossusvlei boasts the world’s tallest dunes, and Damaraland is home to Namibia’s elusive desert-adapted elephants.
Best Time to Visit Namibia:
The best time to visit Namibia for wildlife sightings is during the dry season between June and October. May and November are mild in climate, but November can experience the occasional shower as the rainy season approaches. During the rainy season from December to April, expect high humidity and soaring temperatures. However, this is the best time to visit Namibia for birdwatching.