Hidden Southern Africa: A Luxury Overland Safari Through Zimbabwe

A 14 day trip to South Africa & Zimbabwe 
5 out of 5 stars
9 reviews

Delight in all the intimate details with an overland journey through the heart of Southern Africa. Crossing famous wildernesses and connecting the highlights of Zimbabwe, this private adventure plots a course to the essence of the African experience. Spot rhinos on foot, discover over a hundred mammal species, explore exotic ecosystems and feel the beauty of an untouched land. From Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, this 2-week journey is what Africa is all about.

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General Information

Murals on industrial towers in Soweto.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Johannesburg, Soweto, Apartheid Museum, Hector Pieterson Museum, Vilakazi Street, Waterberg Mountains, Madikwe Private Game Reserve, Kalahari Desert, Matobo Hills, Matobo National Park, Hwange National Park, Hwange, Victoria Falls, Zambezi River

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Johannesburg – Creative Delights in the Revitalized City

Land in Johannesburg and your driver guide greets you at the airport for the short journey across the city to Sandton. Check into a five-star boutique hotel and enjoy lunch with your private driver, who will go through the itinerary in detail. As this is a private overland journey, there's some flexibility, particularly over the timings on each day. Your exploration of Africa then starts in inner-city Johannesburg, where precincts have used art to stimulate their transformation into some of the continent's most talked-about areas. Quirky pop-up shops fill revitalized industrial buildings, galleries, and food markets stand side by side, while the enthusiasm of the Rainbow Nation touches all who visit. These precincts are a great way to view South Africa's present and celebrate the journey into a multicultural future.

What's Included: accommodation, airport transfer, tour

Day 2: Johannesburg – Stories of Mandela and Desmond Tutu on a Soweto Day Tour

Johannesburg's past is very colorful, especially when you head west to the township of Soweto. Stop first at the national Apartheid Museum, which can be informative and heartbreaking in equal measure. Then get guided through the vibrant streets on a bicycle tour. Graffiti covers industrial towers, every house is painted a different shade, and you'll get to sample everyday life in this huge township. The tour ends on Vilakazi Street, where number 8115 was the house of Nelson Mandela. A few doors away is the current residence of Desmond Tutu. Far from being a place of squalor, Soweto township is proud of its history and enthusiastic in its present. After being picked up by your driver guide, there's a chance to visit Hector Pieterson Museum, which commemorates and celebrates the day that the battle against apartheid turned.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 3: Waterberg Mountains – The Escapism of Sandstone Peaks

The overland adventure starts this morning, the city disappearing into the distance as you drive north towards the Waterberg Mountains. Crossing the country's empty plateau, you pass a handful of local villages, and then rise above stark valleys to sandstone peaks that feel millions of miles from anywhere. A remarkable silence fills the atmosphere, and the vistas stretch out towards the Kalahari. A couple of springboks skip past and baboons are regularly sighted on the edges of the region's woodland. Spending a night in the Waterberg Mountains helps you adjust to the tranquility of the wilderness and its subtle charms, like a kudu passing you at sunset or a panorama that can be photographed differently with every passing moment of the sun. Spend the night in a luxury lodge, tucked away in a private game reserve in this astonishingly sensual place.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Madikwe Private Game Reserve – Big Five Introductions

Wake to the distant beat of hooves and spot a small herd of zebra in the valley below. From now until Victoria Falls, you're in an ancient animal-filled landscape, one that's almost completely devoid of human development. So it's not even uncommon to spot elephants along the highway, especially as you travel further north. Today you drive to Madikwe Private Game Reserve, home to the Big Five and an ideal place to start the big-game safari experience. Buffalo herds can be seen from your boutique lodge, giraffes and elephants line the horizon, and you're soon able to distinguish kudu, springbok, impala, gazelle, bushbuck, and eland. Compact and charming, Madikwe makes it easy to uncover the famous four-legged residents of Africa.  After a short introductory game walk, you enjoy lunch and then spend the afternoon on a private game drive, one that's likely to encounter all of the Big Five.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, safari, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Madikwe Private Game Reserve – Delights of a Private African Safari

Follow the leopard at sunrise, watching the fur shine when javelins of light pierce the woodland canopy. Watch him onto the savannah, where antelopes graze fearfully, and two white rhinos are marching with purpose. Drive a little further then turn around, discovering the buffalo keeping a safe distance from the predator. A little later and lions are the ones that entertain, two cubs playing energetically as the rest of the pride takes a snooze. Stop beside a waterhole where three hippos poke their jaws above the water. Then watch the comical interaction between a baby elephant, a small baboon troop, and a large warthog that refuses to be intimidated. After lunch, you take an afternoon game drive and stay out after dark, watching the landscape transform and keeping your eyes open to Madikwe's nocturnal predators.

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

Day 6: Matobo Hills – Enchanting Day Driving Through the Kalahari

A virtually deserted highway runs along the edge of the Kalahari, closely following the divide between Botswana and Zimbabwe. Scorched yellow colors seem to stretch out for eternity. Fables seem to whisper across the land. At first glance, there's a monotony to the desert, but when you inspect the details, you discover that no two angles are ever the same. Noticing the Plumtree border post, you cross into Zimbabwe and have the chance to stop in Bulawayo for lunch, where colonial buildings mix with the modern day ambiance of the country. Or you can continue straight to Matobo Hills, where your luxury suite has a glorious view of wildlife and majestic boulders. In the afternoon, you enjoy a walking safari in Matobo National Park, with local guides helping to provide intimate experiences with a vast array of mammals.

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

Day 7: Matobo Hills – A Morning With Rhinos and Afternoon With Evocative San Rock Art

The rhinos look magnificent in the morning light, their iconic frames dividing the dusty savannah and tinted sky. Scan the landscape, and you can see more than ten, horns rising proudly as they wander slowly. The guide takes you closer. Now you can decipher the emotion in their small eyes, follow the curve of the horns, and watch the cute interaction between a mother and calf. Step from the vehicle and the true size of the white rhinos is revealed, nothing separating the giants from you. The guides' understanding of rhino behavior creates an opportunity to have a short walk amongst this rhino-filled landscape, intensifying the intimacy still further.

Later you see the black rhinos, the critically endangered subspecies that's much smaller than the white rhino. Both are gray in color, and you'll be close enough to see the different lips that distinguish these animals and their feeding habits. Black rhinos are shy and a little harder to capture on camera, although it's extremely rare not to encounter some of them in the Matobo National Park rhino sanctuary. This is one of few places in the world to see the two together. After lunch, you uncover another ancient secret of the land. A local guide leads you to the boulders atop Matobo Hills, where mystical San rock art tells stories through paintings. The sublime art collection helps you visualize the world of the nomadic San and how they communicated in ancient Africa.

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

Day 8: Hwange National Park – Elephants Roaming Past the Camp

Hwange is one of Africa's most revered national parks, a huge wilderness that's home to over 100 mammal species and an inspiring intimacy. Habitats mix together and each of the next three days will explore another part of the wild. Elephants will be a constant sighting, epic herds of migrating giants roaming past your luxury camp at all times of the day. Your driver guide leads the safari, and there's a real flexibility about where to go. A good option today is to loop around the center of the park, where waterholes provide regular encounters with both predator and prey. Soon you've spotted a dozen different antelope and watched cheetah or wild dogs prowling the plains. Like all good safaris, there will time to rest at viewpoints, along with lots of time to really take in the behavior of the animals. Rather than rush, the focus is on spending time at each sighting and really getting to know the wonders of Hwange.

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

Day 9: Hwange National Park – Exploring Zimbabwe's Endless Big-Game Plains

Evocative grass plains stretch out across Hwange and provide an iconic safari experience. In these grasslands, the vistas are seemingly endless, and there's always a nomadic giant on the move. Animals huddle together, and you'll see large numbers of lechwes, wildebeests, and zebras. Elephants and giraffe are a constant in your periphery. Action intensifies around the waterholes, perhaps with lions laying an ambush or animals competing for meager resources. It's a full day of exploring and you'll hardly see another vehicle. It's just you and the wild. And thousands of animals on their own adventurous journeys. This is the Africa from the imagination, a world of untouched wildlife that moves to its own mysterious rhythm.

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

Day 10: Hwange National Park – Discovering the Animals of the Miombo Woodland

Today you drive a different direction, leaving the savannah for the intimacy of the Miombo woodland. Visibility shrinks and animals don't see you coming, which mean a heightened proximity. Elephants bulldoze their own path, herds uprooting trees with unrestrained abandon. Curious antelope hide beneath the canopy, keeping their ears peeled for resident leopards. At two fixed places, you can disembark the vehicle and be guided on short walks, another chance to get closer to the wildlife world of Hwange. Occasionally, the trees rescind, and you get glimpses of savannah, where other animals find their peace. Sometimes you encounter the monkeys and primates, raucous troops providing another memory in Hwange's big-game paradise. Like yesterday, expect a full day out in the vehicle, traveling slowly and taking in all the beauty of the park.

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

Day 11: Victoria Falls – Sunset Cruising Along the Zambezi

This morning, you complete the journey to the north of Zimbabwe, the driver guide leading you to the Zambezi River, just a few miles upriver from Victoria Falls. On the road, you further realize the remoteness and emptiness of Southern Africa, just a handful of villages passed en route to the famous river. Wave farewell to your guide at Victoria Falls and settle into three nights at a boutique waterfront lodge. A sunset Zambezi cruise is included in your package and provides an idyllic way to end every day, wine glass in hand as hippos emerge from the water.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, breakfast, lunch, dinner

Days 12 – 13: Victoria Falls – Immersed in Nature's Wonder

This time at Victoria Falls is at your leisure. Serene and sensual, this northern destination is the ideal place to unwind after the journey. You can easily spend a day basking in nature, without even leaving the lodge grounds. The flowing falls are just a ten-minute transfer away, and this transfer is included in your package. Enter the park, sidestepping the baboons en route, and find a self-guided walking trail that runs parallel with Victoria Falls. It's best to explore at leisure, stopping at the various viewpoints and inching your way closer to the mist that rises from the canyon. As an optional activity, you can also fly above the falls or take a boat trip (water level dependent) to an island close to the precipice. Other options include kayaking on the Zambezi and a famous bungee jump on the bridge to Zambia. Whatever the day's plan, the sunset cruise celebrates the bounty of nature and the serenity of Victoria Falls.

What's Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast, dinner

Day 14: Victoria Falls – Departure

From Victoria Falls Airport, you fly back to O. R. Tambo International in Johannesburg. It took almost two weeks to journey by road, but it takes only two hours to return. You then connect with your intercontinental departure in Johannesburg.

What's Included: airport transfer, breakfast



Your custom trip package will include accommodations, transportation within the country, guided tours and activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24X7 support during your trip. 

Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates!