It’s hard to nail down a Southern Africa bucket list. Between Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Zambia there are so many must do things. Visitors can choose from wildlife safaris in the bush to diving with whale sharks in Mozambique. There is just so much to do and see in the massive area. It can feel a bit daunting when you first start coming up with your Southern Africa bucket list.
This isn’t some generic list of places someone’s pulled off of Google with creative commons images. We’ve been there, done it, and checked it off our personal list. From that list, we’ve pulled out the highlights of our Southern Africa bucket list adventures.
Southern Africa Bucket List
Take A Safari in Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is the perfect park for a first-time safari. It’s not the first time “The Kruger” has already made a few bucket list on our site and it won’t be the last time we write about this legendary park in Southern Africa.
The roads are paved, the prices are affordable, the park is easily accessible from Hoedspruit, and there is even a freaking Mugg & Bean coffee shop in the park. It’s an easy park to self-drive to get a feel for safari life and it has plenty to offer for those looking to dig a little deeper.
Plus Kruger is home to the big five (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino). We saw four out of the five on our second day in South Africa! It’s an easy park to navigate and anyone can rent a car, book a lodge, and put on the safari duds for a great time on their own accord.
See Victoria Falls From Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls can be seen from both Zimbabwe and Zambia. However, the best place to get a great photo is from Zimbabwe. The “Smoke that Thunders” is in full effect in Zimbabwe, meaning you’ll have to be in the country to get a photo like the one above.
Victoria Falls isn’t just one of the top tourist destinations in Southern Africa but in all of Africa. It’s little wonder why every tour of Southern Africa add it to the list of stops. Just outside of Livingstone (Zambian side), one can go into a pool on the edge of Victoria Falls and take in the views. It’s been mentioned as a highlight by a number of travelers we have run into and can easily be organized and run by
It’s been mentioned as a highlight by a number of travelers we have run into and can easily be organized and run by Tongabezi Lodge. The good news is that Vic Falls is easily accessible from Kasane, a meeting point between Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Looking for more info? Check out the Victoria Falls accommodation we stayed at!
Swim with Whale Sharks at Tofo Beach
One of our best days in Southern Africa still remains as the day we swam one meter away from a giant whale shark in Mozambique. Yes, one meter.
The ocean safari’s offered off the coast of Mozambique are nothing short of spectacular. We spent just several hours on one with a dozen whale sharks, four giant manta rays, and even a hammerhead. Cameron narrowly missed being clobbered by one of the giant manta rays a fight he surely would have lost. Have I told you about how much I love Mozambique?
Climb To The Top of Drakensberg Amphitheatre
The Drakensberg Amphitheatre is one of the most photographed locations in Southern Africa and it’s a sight to be seen. The amphitheater occupies a tiny portion of the Drakensberg mountain range. Its sheer cliff faces in the form of amphitheater are commonly referred to as the most beautiful cliff faces on earth – and for good reason! With that being said very few make the dizzying hike up to its summit, Mont Aux Sources.
The day we climbed to the top I thought would be my last. At the final ascent, we were confronted with a 60-meter tall chain ladder that dangles off of a cliff face at 3000 meters above sea level. It is a terrifying task and surely deserves to make our Southern Africa bucket list.
The views from the top of the mountain are overwhelming. There is no doubt that tackling this famous stretch of mountains is more rewarding than standing at their base.
We Swear the Drakensberg are amazing!
Soak in The Tranquility of Lake Kariba
Lake Kariba is another body of water that can be seen in both Zambia and Zimbabwe and is well worth the effort to get there. The lake is breathtaking and one of the largest man-made lakes on the planet. The massive lake was created as a joint hydroelectric project between Zambia and Zimbabwe by building a dam on the mighty Zambezi River.
The impressive dam can be seen in Kariba Town, Zimbabwe, but to get into the heart of the lake we recommend traveling around the north of Zimbabwe for one awesome Southern Africa bucket list experience. Make sure be prepared with a solid overland vehicle and some camping equipment.
Jump Off The Bloukrans Bridge
Bungee jumping is cool. Bungee Jumping off the highest bungee bridge in the world is downright awesome. The Bloukrans Bridge is located along South Africa’s famous garden route. It also happens to be home to the tallest bungee bridge in the world and one of the best adventures in South Africa.
We made the trip here early in the morning so that we could wake ourselves up without coffee. As soon as we were done we wanted to go again! For adrenaline junkies, this is the thing to do in Africa.
Watch The Sunrise Over Sossusvlei
I’m so happy to have found someone that enjoys sleeping in as much as I do. It’s true – Cameron and I are not morning people. I repeat – not morning people. However, to see the oldest and tallest sand dunes in the world at sunrise we were more than willing to get up at 4 am.
The sun rising over the goliath sand dunes of the desert was perfect. Most people make a mad dash as soon as the Sossusvlei park opens to Dune 45. We pushed on past Dune 45 so that we could have the sunrise all to ourselves and couldn’t have been more satisfied with our decision. Check out our experience driving around Namibia
Drink Cheap Wine In Stellenbosch
Can someone please take us back to Stellenbosch? The South African wine region is located right outside of Cape Town. The region makes some fantastic wines such as sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlots. However, they also have their own variety the of grape the Pinotage that produces the wonderful Cape Blend.
The wines in Stellenbosch are quality at a minimal cost. We were able to have glasses of wine for less than $3 a glass, get filled up on different wine pairings for less than $10, and drink world class wine to our heart’s content. Africa bucket list? Check!
Snowboard In The Mountain Kingdom
Did you know that you can snowboard in Africa? We sure didn’t until we got to Lesotho. Once we found out about Afriski in Lesotho, we knew we just had to go and snowboard down Africa’s tallest slope ourselves. We spent a great day in the Maluti Mountains brushing up on our snowboard skills while wearing t-shirts.
It may not be the greatest ski slopes on the planet, but they are definitely some of the most interesting. Plus you get to tell people you’ve been to a ski resort in Southern Africa.
Take Ride Through The Delta In A Mokoro
A mokoro is a traditional dugout canoe in Botswana and is the transport method of choice in the Okavango Delta. Getting to Botswana and seeing the Okavango Delta was high on our Africa bucket list.
The stunning swath of earth is featured in almost every wildlife documentary ever made. Drifting through the marshy wetlands, one can see elephants, buffalo, baboons, impala, and just about everything you can imagine in Botswana.
The best news? You don’t have to be a millionaire to see the Delta, despite common perceptions.
Walk on Bazaruto Island in Mozambique
Crystal clear turquoise water, pure white sand, and a myriad of parrotfish make up the Bazaruto Archipelago near Vilanculos, Mozambique. A day trip to Bazaruto Island is sure to make your jaw drop.
The natural beauty, the remoteness, and the spectacular marine life are sure to entice any traveler. It’s also home to the largest population of dugongs in the Indian Ocean. Don’t know what dugongs are? Check out how cool they are!
We drove to Vilanculos just to go snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, do cartwheels in the white sand, and watch the dhows bring the day’s fresh catch and we never wanted to leave.
Watch The Lion King Unfold In Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is a highlight of any trip to Namibia. The park is situated on the giant Etosha Pan, a flat salt bed so large that it can be seen from space. The park is very dry but has a countless number of man-made and natural watering holes that almost always yield a great animal sighting.
The game density at the watering holes is can be mind blowing at times as all animals come to take a drink. Visitors can take it easy and sit at a watering hole while the wildlife comes to them. Besides seeing rhino, lion, and hyenas in Etosha I can’t help but mention the price. It only costs visitors 80 Namibian Dollars to enter (that’s about $5 USD), making it one of the most affordable and accessible parks in Africa.
Ride A Horse In The African Bush
A horseback safari is a perfect way to see wild animals in Africa. When you approach animals on horseback, the wildlife does not recognize it as a loud vehicle and allows the horse to enter its space in an unobtrusive way. This grants a more intimate viewing with the animals.
We took this journey up a mountain in South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains and stumbled across a herd of eland. Which, happens to be Cameron’s favorite antelope.
Go For A Walk In Swaziland
Bush walks in Africa require well seasoned and trained guides. However, there are a number of parks that do not have the perils of the larger ones.
For instance, we took to walking around Swaziland’s Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, between Mbabane and Manzini, where there are no large predators. It was a great way to get out of the car, stretch our legs, and get as close we could to the animals.
Wondering where Swaziland is? Don’t worry so is everyone else.
See The Bats In Kasanka National Park
Kasanka National Park in Zambia is true African wilderness. The park is largely wetlands and allows visitors a chance to spot wetland creatures like the sitatunga antelope and storks.
It’s also where ten million bats call home every November and December. Yes, ten million fruit bats come to these swamp lands making it the largest mammal migration on Earth!
We had such a fantastic time driving around Zambia! (sarcasm).
Have A Sundowner At Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon in Southern Namibia is the largest canyon in Africa, and second largest in the world. It’s an awe-inspiring place and will sure to humble all who stare into its deep canyon walls. While the canyon is breathtaking we found it best enjoyed with a cold sundowner in hand and the sun setting over the landscape.
The truly brave can also take on the canyons harsh elements and hike through the base.
Live On A Houseboat In The Chobe River
We didn’t realize how amazing Chobe National Park was until we left. The river and national park now hold a special place in our hearts and we hope to return one day. We were fortunate enough to spend six nights on the Chobe River listening to fish-eagles and watching herds of elephant come to the water to bath. The Zambezi Queen Collection is a group of houseboats that permanently live on the river and invite guests into their well-appointed rooms.
Chobe National Park can be seen on land via a traditional overland safari as well as from a boat on the Chobe River. However, it is a real highlight to view wildlife from a close distance on a boat. The Chobe National Park is easily accessible from Kasane, a gateway town in Botswana that connects Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Explore The Tip Of Africa
We spent two months living in the Western Cape so there was no way we were not going to mention more of it! Besides soaking up the cool vibes and the sunshine in Cape Town, a day trip to Cape Point is more than picture-worthy.
The rugged coastline on the tip of Africa and is an incredible end to a dramatic continent. As the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean collide a spectacle ensues, waves slam into the steep cliffs, seabirds call overhead, and a sea breeze hangs in the air. It is tough to compare the Cape Point to anywhere else in the world.
Cape Point is 60 km South of Cape Town and is easily accessed by car. We would recommend at least a full day taking in the fynbos, enjoying a few hikes, grabbing photos at the lighthouse, and dining at the Two Oceans Restaurant.
Stand in Front Of Maletsunyane Falls
High in the Mountain Kingdom are the Maletsunyane Falls. The falls were once an adventure across some poor roads. However, a new system of roads venturing out to these remote falls is easy than ever. And the drive is simply amazing.
The falls (or fall) are 192 meters high and the highest single-drop waterfall in Africa. We would recommend going in the summertime to see the falls in all their green lush glory, however, we went in the winter and still fell just as much in love.
Cruise Along The Zambezi River
The Zambezi River is the fourth longest river in Africa and certainly deserves to be seen at either sunrise or sunset. The river is famed by African explorers looking for a route across Africa and was explored by David Livingstone himself.
When cruising down the mighty river you feel that you are in the heart of Africa and by some accounts you are. From the river visitors can all manner of African wildlife as they come for a drink of water. Read more about our Canoe safari on the Zambezi!
Have a Sundowner while watching wildlife
“Sundowner” is a well-known term one uses to describe having a drink while the sun goes down. This act can be experienced anywhere in Africa. It is the quintessential thing to do in the African bush. It’s best enjoyed with bush buddies, your significant other, or by yourself.
All you need is a drink, the sun, and Africa.
Plan Your Trip to Africa
We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
Sometimes it’s nice just to have a real book in your hands when traveling. We recommend picking up a Lonely Planet to get you through the wireless nights. Are you going on safari? We always carry our Robert’s Southern Africa Bird Book and a good mammal guide.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun in Africa since you’re near the equator. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling to the around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the African sun and it can be very hard to find outside major cities.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals. They’re mineral based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our oceans. If you’re not going to swim in the ocean just go with a reliable name brand.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Grayl Ultralight Water Bottle
It’s not advisable to drink the tap water in most of Africa. We previously used the Lifestraw Go for all those times during our travels when the water is questionable. However, over time we became annoyed with the water bottle as the filter aged and clogged. Plus the bottle leaks when it is on its side.
We now switched to the Grayl Ultralight Purifier. It’s a more simplistic design than the Lifestraw that is more effective and does not leak. Most importantly it is a purifier, not a filter. The Grayl water bottle system purifies water vs. filters which removes viruses and virtually removes all threat of waterborne illnesses.
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
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