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Southern Africa

Wetlands Teeming with Wildlife, Tribal Cultures, Scenic Wine lands, Uber-luxury lodges, Vast Deserts, Secluded Beaches, The Cape of Good Hope and Historic Cape Town shape the extraordinary landscapes that make up Southern Africa.

Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe) offers literally a world in one block of countries, so varied is the landscape, even within the different countries that comprise this package.

The most ancient desert in the world, the Namib of Namibia, is unique in that here is the only place where towering sand dunes touch the ocean along the desolate Skeleton Coast; well named, since ships have foundered there over the centuries, and lie like stark skeletons on the lonely sands where the icy Atlantic caused by the cold Benguela current contrasts dramatically with the heat of the abutting desert dunes.

Botswana incorporates the stunning and vast wetland system of the Okavango Swamps, harbouring a rich diversity of life, whilst the lush winelands and sophistication of South Africa with its 300 yearlong historical background offers a particularly rich cultural heritage in a sophisticated first world setting.

The great gold, diamond and mineral deposits of Southern Africa combined with South Africa’s European first world influence has resulted in a sophisticated tourist infrastructure for destinations in this part of Africa, making it a very attractive proposition for all travellers and offering a wide perspective of pleasurable opportunities.

Climate
Southern Africa generally has just one main rainy season a year in the safari regions extending from late November through to mid April. However, the Cape of South Africa enjoys summer conditions at this time of the year, and can be very cold and wet from June until the end of August. Heavy fleeces and a light raincoat are highly recommended.

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South Africa

South Africa could present itself as a truly First World African destination in every respect, its infrastructure comparable to that of the West following 300 years of civilisation that has resulted in a rich and eclectic cultural heritage which includes a kaleidoscope of different religions and lifestyles, interesting architecture to delight the eye and an excellent variation of cuisine to delight the palate. Add to this the fact that the Cape is recognised as one of the most important “Floral Kingdoms” of the world with more than 5,000 unique plant species within its forests and fynbos dominated veld and the Spring Flowers of Namaqualand that offer a never-to-be forgotten spectacle, drawing plant enthusiasts from all corners of the globe.

South Africa’s beautiful cosmopolitan cities offer excellent shopping opportunities, wonderful museums and art galleries and its numerous scenic drives a feast for the eyes. The climate ranges from sub alpine to sub tropical whilst South Africa’s sophisticated National Parks and private Game Reserves, including the most famous Kruger National Park offer both excellent game viewing combined with accommodation varying from cheap to ultra-luxurious.

The Western Cape with the beautiful city of Cape Town, rich in Malay culture nestling beneath picturesque Table Mountain, is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The Cape’s famous wine lands characterised by gracious living and beautiful Cape Dutch architecture are something that no-one should miss. Similarly, the spectacle of Southern Right Whales frolicking in the shallow ocean waters off the South Eastern coastline offer another memorable spectacle at certain times of the year.

The Cape is indeed breath-taking with many scenic routes around a coastline where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, towering mountain ranges cut by passes that exhibit spectacular feats of engineering interspersed by fertile valleys of vineyards and orchards. Here, one can enjoy luxurious living at affordable prices, making the Cape area of South Africa a prime tourist venue. In contrast to the fertile aspect of the Cape, further inland one encounters the stark dry moonscape of the Karoo, with its endless scrubby bush and small Afrikaner farming hamlets that give an insight into the character and culture of the first Afrikaner settlers of Dutch origin that settled in the Cape more than 300 years ago.

The Cape is a good starting point for a tour of the less popular but nonetheless fascinating Western coastline as it winds its way to the Namibian border through picturesque scenery. Along the East Coast lies the famous Garden Route through Port Elizabeth where wonderful accommodation is easily accessible along the way, from Bed and Breakfasts in farmhouse settings to world-class five star hotels. Natal, further up along the Northeast coast, is where the British influence on South Africa’s cultural heritage is most marked, with Durban as its centre in a more tropical setting surrounded by banana plantations and up and down the Coast many small coastal resorts.

Botswana

Botswana is an arid land, with a relatively small population of only one and a half million people concentrated in the southeast, but it is also a wealthy and prosperous African State sheltering the second largest diamond deposits in the world. Two main geographic features dominate the country – the Kalahari desert covering about 85% of the country where the descendants of the early bushmen still eke out a living in a lifestyle little changed over millennia, and the great Okavango Delta, a huge wetland system of up to l5,000 sq. kms that boasts one of the most prolific wildlife spectacles in Africa. The Okavango River rising in Central Africa feeds the delta, which is unique as it is the largest and single wetland system surrounded by desert. Its scenic beauty combined with numerous pristine and diverse habitats to make it one of Africa’s most spectacular and top wilderness destinations.

Visitors can enjoy camping in the heart of the delta on one of the islands surrounded by permanent water, and on the fringe of the swamps where great herds of plains game attract a spectacular array of predators, including African hunting dogs. The Linyanti/Chobe area is famous for hosting the largest concentration of elephants on the continent.

Most camps in the delta offer both water and land based activities, but some are classified as “pure water camps” where visitors can enjoy leisurely dug-out canoe trips along the swamp’s labyrinth of canals past schools of hippo, and fish for the lively African Tiger fish, pausing on the islands for a picnic or sundowner as the sun sets in its African glory. The waterways of the Okavango are home to a profusion of wetland birds such as Pel’s Fishing Owl, Wattled Cranes, Slaty Egrets, Rufous-bellied Herons, Swamp boubous and a host of raptors, as well as a wide variety of wetland mammals such as lechwe and sitatunga. Limited numbers of buffalo and elephant are to be found mainly on the islands.

The Moremi Game Reserve, which includes Chief’s Island and much of the central swamp system, is one of Botswana’s oldest reserves where the animals are better protected and more accustomed to vehicles than in some of the other areas. The main activity offered by most of the shore based camps are game drives in open 4×4 vehicles, night drives and bush walks accompanied by an armed Guide. Activities are more restricted inside the reserve than in the private concession areas on its borders.

The Savuti Channel area, which borders the delta to the West and Chobe National Park to the East, is one of Africa’s most famous big game destinations, where amazing concentrations of game congregate at watering places and which is famous for its resident predators, particularly a sizeable lion and hyena population. North on the western reaches of the Channel lies the Linyanti area, a private game reserve harbouring vast herds of ungulates and elephants. Here vehicle concentrations are low and the game viewing exceptional. In contrast, the Chobe National Park whilst hosting a wonderful spectrum of wildlife, has become somewhat crowded due to the number of camps and lodges in the area, but for those with limited time and a tight budget, it is still a very worthwhile option.

South of Maun and the Okavango delta lies the huge open expanse of the Kalahari desert where in March and April, the desert blooms and comes to life following rainstorms that fill the huge Magadikgadi pans with water. These attract large migratory herds of game and a host of wetland birds. Tailor made tented safaris can be arranged to combine the desert with the delta experience.

Zambia

Zambia, known mainly for its large copper deposits, is also blessed with vast areas of virtually untouched wilderness, making it a prime destination for safari enthusiasts who prefer seeing wildlife in an unspoilt and natural setting. Taking its name from the mighty Zambezi River, which flows along its southern border, Zambia has large tracts of land set aside for wildlife, each with its own character and specific blend of species. The South Luangwa and Kafue National Parks both offer ideal wilderness experiences with both mobile-tented camps and remote bush camps that afford friendly personal service and opportunities for bush walks and night driving. There are also excellent opportunities for game fishing and other water borne activities.

Large tracts of open “miombo” woodland characterise Zambia’s vegetation, where leaves turn different shades of red, yellow and gold before falling at the onset of the dry season, affording a never to be forgotten sight. The country is well watered with floodplains rich in species not common elsewhere, such as the red and black lechwe.

The town of Livingstone, situated on the Zambezi offers a spectacular view of one of the great wonders of the world – the mighty Victoria Falls. Further upstream, on the banks of the Zambezi, the place where David Livingstone died from malaria is marked by a modest monument to this great Explorer who was the first European to set eyes on the Falls and named them after the British Queen. Wherever one goes in Zambia, the warmth and welcome of the Zambian people will never fail to impress, enhancing a traveller’s enjoyment of any safari undertaken in this country.

In short, a safari in Zambia, although perhaps lacking the great scenic spectacles of other African destinations, offers the opportunity of a wonderful wilderness experience, in the tradition of the legendary early explorers.

Namibia

Namibia is a land of dramatic and stark timeless landscapes, situated along one of Africa’s most inhospitable coastlines to the northwest of the Republic of South Africa. It is a land characterised by the towering saffron coloured sand dunes of the ancient Namib Desert, which at 130 million years old, is one of the oldest deserts in the world and from which the name “Namibia” is derived. It is a land of great contrasts with rugged mountains, spectacular gorges and valleys and some of Africa’s most interesting and varied mammal and plant life, including the prehistoric Welwitchia plants sustained by the mists off the cold Atlantic coastline.

Due to the abundance of wildlife and birds, and the diverse fish and seal population along the Skeleton Coast, Namibia offers an exciting and unforgettable destination for the more adventurous traveller. Its sand dunes are amongst the highest in the world, and the great variety of geological formations and ecosystems unique in the way that adaptation has occurred to accommodate the harsh desert conditions. It is a wealthy land rich in minerals, precious and semi-precious stones, with huge diamond deposits simply lying in the sands of the beach and in the sea that laps the Skeleton Coast.

The Skeleton Coast is so named due to the many ocean-going vessels which have floundered there in the past and which still lie like skeletal maritime ghosts along this remote and turbulently inhospitable coastline. Here, the few remaining desert lions scavenge for dead seals along the beach, lying up in the desert dunes along the shoreline, one of the only places on earth where desert dunes merge with an ocean. The cold Antarctic Benguela current makes the Namibian coastline particularly rich in marine resources, pilchards being a major export as is the guano from the many seabirds that rest on specially built platforms along the coast.

Three times larger than Germany, with a total population of only 1.5 million, Namibia was a German Colony known as German South West Africa prior to the First World War, after which it was mandated to South Africa until it became the independent Nation of Namibia in recent times. The German influence is still very strong, visible within the beautiful capital city of Windhoek which boasts German type beer gardens and a very ornamental old graveyard whose beautiful rose-beds and statuettes are in themselves a tourist draw.

The peoples of Namibia are colourful, the Herero tribe still wearing Victorian type attire and the Bastos a mixture of German and local bloodlines. The earliest human inhabitants of Namibia were the San, or Bushmen, whose primitive nomadic ways were well adapted to their harsh desert conditions. Namibia is also home to the famous desert elephants, who are different from their other African elephant cousins in that they do not recycle or “damage” the sparse and fragile vegetation that sustains them. Since the desert is rich in minerals, the desert elephants are generally taller and larger in body than other African elephants, their feet flatter and wider, especially adapted to walking long distances in soft sand. Many routinely cover over 70 miles travelling to watering points from distant feeding grounds. Similarly, the desert rhinos are also amongst the largest and finest specimens in Africa, their bodies blemish free since the arid nature of the harsh desert climate inhibits parasites.

The Etosha National Park is a very famous wildlife experience where large concentrations of animals gather at watering places during the dry season, and where the desert is transformed after rain into a wonderland of wild flowers and shallow lakes that attract flamingoes and myriads of other water birds. The Namib Naukluft Park is another stunning destination, one of the most interesting and varied habitats on earth, with towering sand dunes, shimmering plains, spectacular mountains, deep gorges and picturesque valleys. Good lodge and camping accommodation is available throughout the country, including the old German Fort of Namutoni within the Etosha National Park which has been converted into a modern hotel. Historical and cultural experiences are also varied and numerous, making Namibia an unforgettable and very exciting destination which is like no other in Africa.

Mozambique

Famous for its endless deserted white sandy beaches, snorkeling, diving and fishing, Mozambique is a wonderful destination that is fast recovering from decades of civil war through the 70’s & 80’s.

Whilst a significant percentage of its wildlife population was poached by the various warring factions through the civil war, some of the parks are now making a significant recovery, and one or two very nice safari camps and lodges are now in full operation, with very good results.

However it is the coastline that fringes the balmy Indian Ocean that is the real highlight of Mozambique. Much of the Southern portion of the coastline is being overdeveloped for the nearby South African tourist market, the Northern portion is still largely undeveloped and has one or two fabulous idyllic secluded Island getaways for the ultimate postcard Island experience.

Africa Map - Southern Africa
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