Southern Africa Explorer: Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia Safari

A 16 day trip to Botswana, Namibia & Zimbabwe 
5 out of 5 stars
3 reviews

Southern Africa abounds with heavenly landscapes that dance with color and contrast. Bright red sand dunes, hippo-filled wetlands, and elephant-covered plains are all yours to take in. This 16-day tour explores the region’s astonishing natural highlights as you enjoy the best of Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. You will go deep into the wilderness with Bushmen guides to uncover untamed Africa from the ground, the water, and the air. As you consider your destinations, be sure to look through other itineraries and safaris in Zimbabwe to perfect your African safari vacation.

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General Information

Springbok (antelope) in Botwana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
A sand dune in Namibia.
Victoria Falls at sunset.
An elephant at Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.
Leopard cubs in Botswana.
Two black-backed jackal puppies in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.
A cheetah cub.
Two oryx (antelope) in Botswana's Etosha National Park.
A landscape in Namibia.
Giraffes at a waterhole in Namibia.
A view of Lekhubu Island in Botswana.
An aerial view of the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe.
An elephant in Botswana.
A lioness and her cubs in Botswana.
An aerial view of the Zambezi river.
A spotted Hyena in Chobe National Park, Botswana.
Zebras in Botswana's Great Salt Pans.
A white rhino and calf in Botswana.
Deadvlei and Sossusvlei in Namibia.
A wandering hippo in Zimbabwe.
A view of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
Flamingos in Namibia.
Sossusvlei in Namibia.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, Mana Pools National Park, Hwange National Park, Makgadikgadi Pans, Kalahari Desert, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Fish River Canyon, Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, Deadvlei, Swakopmund, Skeleton Coast

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Victoria Falls – Helicopter Flight Above the Falls

More water tips over the edge of Victoria Falls than any other waterfall on the planet. Over a mile wide and over 100 meters deep, these falls are a symbol of Southern Africa’s natural extravagance. After an early-morning arrival and some relaxed time at the lodge, you confront the falls from the air, a helicopter flight creating the ultimate view of this remarkable spectacle. The Zambezi River thunders into a chasm, the water returning as the spray and the sun create 360-degree rainbows in the mist. Touch down after the flight and the rest of the afternoon is at your leisure, the baboons, and hippos of Victoria Falls providing continual excitement around the lodge. 

What’s Included: accommodation, airport transfer, tour, dinner

Day 2: Victoria Falls – Zambezi River Cruise and a Walk Alongside the Falls

Today brings a different perspective on the falls as the narrow walking trail takes you across the opposite side of the chasm. At some points, the views are exquisite and allow you the full width of Victoria Falls. At other points, the spray is engulfing, a raw insight into the power of these cascades. Visit Victoria Falls at your leisure as the trails are self-guided. You can spend the rest of the day relaxing at the lodge, before a sunset dinner cruise on the Zambezi River for time to spot hippos out in the water with your wine glass in hand. While Victoria Falls provides a spectacle, the surrounding atmosphere is very relaxed here, making it an ideal starting point for a long Southern Africa adventure.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Mana Pools National Park – Game Drive Introductions and Elephants Swimming Across the River

This morning you fly east, following the Zambezi River to Mana Pools National Park, where elephants and buffalos swim past your lodge verandah. Exquisite safari sightings are found here, the giants of Africa complemented by large herds of zebra, kudu, duiker, and impala. Touch down and spend the day exploring on a game drive, taking a picnic to a viewpoint overlooking a lagoon. Permanent water makes Mana Pools a haven for all manner of species, both the cute wanderers and the snarling predators. Other than rhinos, this park has a complete collection of the famous mammals and today’s game drive brings a wonderful introduction to the safari experience.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Mana Pools National Park – Canoe and Walking Safari in the Wetlands

First steps are tentative on the open plains, your heart pumping quickly as you walk into this big game paradise. Zebra sees you coming and do not run away while buffalos stare right back at you. The size of kudu and eland can be properly appreciated as skilled trackers lead you away from the spoor of lions and leopards, but take you close to all manner of ungulates. You will take a three to four-hour walk for a unique way to feel fully enveloped by the world of wild mammals. After lunch, you will find a new perspective as you paddle across the lagoons and channels in your canoe. This activity encounters the biggest and most dangerous of animals, including elephants and lions. With ten meters of water as your safety zone, you can look directly across at these mammals, their manes flowing and trunks swirling. A canoe safari epitomizes the experience in Mana Pools, where the memories are dominated by feelings of intimacy.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Hwange National Park – Track the Predators in Zimbabwe’s Flagship Park

Manes ruffle on the breeze of the Hwange plains, the lions’ dark brown color blending into the dust. Hyenas roam, snarling and snapping at herds of blue wildebeest, seeking to separate young calfs. Leopards are harder to spot, lurking in the trees, blue eyes shining beneath the canopy. This is one of the best parks in Africa for following the predators and today’s game drives do exactly that, getting you close to pride of lions and solitary hunters. In Hwange, you will not just glimpse these carnivores as rather you will watch them on a hunt and find them chomping through bloodied carcasses, and hear them shouting a warning to rivals. Fly to the park on a scheduled light aircraft flight and the rest of the day will be all about your encounters with these famous carnivores. To give an indication onto the authenticity of the safari here, sometimes the lionesses decide to sleep in the shade of your safari vehicle.

What’s Included: accommodation, domestic flight, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 6 – 7: Hwange National Park – Iconic Big Game Safari

Hwange dazzles with diversity and dances with originality. Over 100 mammals can be seen here, and your days spent here will bring you close to many of them. This is Zimbabwe’s largest national park, and it is the mix of habitats that creates the breadth of safari encounters. Black-backed jackals scavenge with the vultures that swirl above the woodland while packs of African wild dogs cross dusty plains beneath the gaze of the giraffe. Elephants congregate in the hundreds, their nomadic footsteps taking the herds to a series of permanent waterholes. Leopards and cheetahs are regularly spotted, perhaps even the lesser-known predators like serval and caracal.

Over these two days, the safari program is flexible, although most Hwange safaris are dominated by game drives. The drives enable you to tour the waterholes, where scenes of drama continue at all hours of the day. Predators lay ambush as baby elephants chase off impala, hippos barge about as hartebeest tentatively drink. This is iconic big game safari, amongst the very best of Africa, with the option to also incorporate nighttime drives and game walks into your itinerary. The atmosphere is wild and enchanting with so much happening every time you venture out. When you return to the lodge, your safari experience continues from your private verandah with so many animals wandering on the plains below.

What’s Included: accommodation, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Makgadikgadi Pans – Meerkats and Brown Hyenas on the Shimmering Salt Pans

Begin the day with an early start to game drive west through Hwange, exiting the park and crossing into Botswana, where the Kalahari Desert gets harsher and drier. Out of nowhere will come a landscape of white as you will be on the edge of the world’s largest salt pans, a landscape too fragile for a vehicle. Allow the heat of the day to pass at a legendary camp that is enveloped by the solitude of the pans and then explore on a quad bike, crossing the endless mirage of white to watch the odd elephant cross the horizon.

These pans are so flat, and the views are so limitless that they reveal the planet to be round. As you are taking in that perspective, some unique animals will emerge. Meerkats thrive here, and a whole mob has been habituated to human presence, so you can expect them to cuddle up to you on a cold desert day. Brown hyenas are one of Africa’s most endangered carnivores, a shy forager that gathers in groups of ten or more, much more endearing than the more common spotted hyena. Return to the camp and spend the night marveling at the sky, horizon to horizon of stars shining from above.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Makgadikgadi Pans – A Day With the Bushmen of the Kalahari

Zu/’hoasi Bushmen have forged their survival on this remote landscape for thousands of years, and they are rich in culture and knowledge. Their understanding of the desert will be passed over to you on this day of exploration as you follow the barefooted laconic guides to walk across the Kalahari, learning how to track particular animals and discovering traditional hunting techniques (note that you will not go on a hunt as this is a multi-day activity). Spend time in a small village and discover their unique social structure, going with some of the locals to forage for food and building equipment. A day with these remarkable people shows that these ancient tribes have much more to teach the world than the Western world has to show them.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 10 – 11: Central Kalahari Game Reserve – Remote and Resplendent Safari Through the Heart of Big-Game Africa

Keep driving west to continue your adventure in the Kalahari. In the heart of the desert is one of Africa’s largest game reserves, a place of surprise and unpredictable encounters. Harsh environments like these cannot support the same quantity of animals as somewhere like Mana Pools or Hwange. Instead, the game reserve is a place of the specialists, desert-adapted species that are always on their nomadic journeys. Finding them is relatively simple as the game drives follow the path of water. This is a landscape where you could go an hour without seeing anything, just the resplendent desert extending in every direction. But then you will cross a ridge and nature’s theater will play out before your eyes.

Zebra slurp from a waterhole, watched by hyenas from afar as lone elephant bulls clear a waterhole of impala, the antelope not wanting to challenge the aggression of the cast-out pachyderms. Black-maned lions move menacingly in the open, causing herds to scatter, yet sometimes they move craftily, solemnly crawling along, seeking to get close enough to prey on a buffalo herd. Safari scenes are vibrant and dramatic on these desert plains, the lack of food and water putting everything in competition. So even after watching the kill, the experience continues as hyenas harass and jackals scavenge. Two days is a fabulous insight into this landscape and a final chance to get lost amidst the four-legged giants of Africa.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Fish River Canyon to Sossusvlei – Exclusive Aerial Safari to Namibia’s Icons

Namibia’s landscapes defy the imagination and today’s unique aerial safari connects some of them. Fly out of the Central Kalahari and feast your eyes on the dusty desert, the plane low enough to spot wandering elephants. Cruise over the world’s second largest canyon and then touch down beside it, a jagged mile-deep scar that cuts a fierce path through a desolate landscape. After a brief walk on the edge of Fish River Canyon, you will fly over the Namib Desert and admire how the red dunes collide with the blue Atlantic waves, such a feast of impossible color beneath the wingtips. These are the world’s longest barrier of dunes and thousands of miles of kaleidoscopic red that nobody has even crossed, never mind conquered. You will touch down amidst the dunes and spend a night at a lodge in the Namib Desert, the scale of the dunes more visible now that you are down at ground level.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 13: Sossusvlei – Alone With the Enormous Red Sand Dunes

Sossusvlei is Namibia’s iconic image, a parched clay bed surrounded by the flowing red of the dunes and hidden in the heart of the desert. Less than a mile away is Deadvlei, where even taller dunes look down on the blackened frames of lonely dead trees. Today you will leave before dawn, arriving at Deadvlei before sunrise, which is magnificently witnessed by climbing the ridge above the pan. Visit Sossusvlei then return to the lodge towards late morning, getting out of the sun before midday. The rest of the day is at your leisure, a relaxed afternoon ensuring that you are energized for the final stages of this Southern African adventure.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 14 – 15: Swakopmund – Beach, Desert, Atlantic Waves and Namibia’s Skeleton Coast

Landscapes collide along the coast of Namibia and the contrasts are spectacular. Today you will drive through the desert and beneath the rugged peaks found towards the Atlantic beaches. Your base for the final two nights is Swakopmund, an intriguing colonial town that feels a little like Germany with palm trees. The setting is otherworldly, and the excursions take you along the Skeleton Coast, where the world’s largest colony of Cape fur seals congregates at Cape Cross. Further along the coast are shipwrecks half buried in the sand, the hulls rusted as they poke above the unstoppable desert. Soon they will be completely buried and the legacy of those who called Namibia the Skeleton Coast will disappear. These two days are relaxed, and there will also be plenty of time to enjoy the beach as you dip your feet into the cool waters of the Atlantic.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 16: Swakopmund to Walvis Bay – Departure

Walvis Bay is just an hour from Swakopmund and offers international flights to Germany and South Africa. The city is the most convenient place to exit Namibia after this 16-day safari across Southern Africa to bring you home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.