Safari Truck/Motor Boat in Delta/4WD game-viewing vehicles/Ferry.
Approx 12 -
Explore Tour Leader plus driver(s), cook, some local guides and boat crew.
Overland Tour Through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe
Details may vary depending on departure date. Please choose
This exploratory journey is packed full of contrasting landscapes: we travel in a safari truck from Table Mountain in South Africa to the towering sand dunes in Namibia and the thundering Victoria Falls in Zambia. Camping on the way, we cross the Kalahari Desert to the Okavango Delta, where we find some of the continent’s most magnificent wildlife.
Cape Town -Table Mountain, Cape Peninsula.
Fish River Canyon - Exploring the landscapes of the world’s second largest canyon from the upper rim.
Namib Desert - The world’s highest dunes and the remarkable landscapes of the Namib-Naukluft N.P.
Swakopmund - Atlantic coastal town with German colonial influence.
Damaraland - Petrified forest and the fabulous rock paintings of Twyfelfontein.
Cape Cross Seal Colony - Atlantic habitat of Cape fur seals.
Etosha National Park - Game viewing in one of Africa’s most unique wildlife settings.
Okavango Delta - Explore its natural majesty by motor boat and vehicle.
Moremi Game Reserve - One of Africa’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries.
Victoria Falls - See one of the continent’s most spectacular natural wonders.
Zambezi River - Optional activities in Africa’s ‘Adventure Capital’.
One of the most vibrant and beautifully located cities on the planet, Cape Town, set before the iconic backdrop of Table Mountain, has grown to embody the true feelings of energy and hope that South Africans feel for the future of their country. Founded by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 as a refuelling point along the trading routes between Europe and the spice rich lands to the east, Cape Town grew over the next century to become a thriving town. Over the intervening years it has absorbed the cultural influences of the Dutch, French and British settlers, as well as the freed Muslim slaves, and all have left their mark on this city in one form or another. Today it is a rich fusion of spectacular natural assets, modern high-tech city centre and a mixed population that lives relatively peaceably together, whilst still retaining the unique diversity of their own customs and traditions. During your free time this afternoon there may be an opportunity to ascend Table Mountain by the Aerial Cableway (optional). This is our first encounter with some of the unique and colourful flowers from the Cape Floral Kingdom – which has more indigenous plant species per square metre than anywhere else on earth! Views from the top are simply stunning and a network of trails crisscross the plateau, providing a variety of vantage points.
Overnight Standard Hotel
Full day’s sightseeing around Cape Town
We spend the whole day enjoying a comprehensive sightseeing tour of some of the many highlights that the Cape Peninsula has to offer. One of the highlights of today’s tour is a visit to the Cape of Good Hope, first seen by a European in 1488 when Diaz sailed round it on his search for a sea route to the East Indies. A century later Sir Francis Drake described it as ‘the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth’. But it was another century before the Dutch East Indies Trading Company established a permanent settlement to supply ships with the cattle and water traded from the indigenous Khoi herders. We will also visit the African Penguin colony at Boulders Beach, just on the outskirts of Simon's Town. This is one of only two mainland colonies anywhere in the world for these amazing, and sadly endangered creatures, commonly known as Jackass Penguins because of their donkey like braying. We will then return to Cape Town via Hout Bay, an attractive fishing port once flanked by dense forest and in sight of nearby Seal Island, home to some 1000 Cape fur seals and guarded by the impressive ‘Sentinel’, a towering mountain that dominates the harbour.
Overnight Standard HotelIncluded meals: Breakfast
Drive to Cederberg
If not done already there may be another opportunity this morning to enjoy an early ascent of Table Mountain by cable car, before we leave Cape Town behind and head for our camp lying in the shadow of the imposing Cederberg Mountains.
Note: Departures in September and October (Spring) may well coincide with the blossoming of wild flowers, though this cannot be guaranteed as it is quite unpredictable.
Drive to Gariep River (Namibia) via Springbok and Okiep
Continuing north through Namaqualand this morning we pass through the small mining settlements of Okiep and Springbok en route to the Namibian border. Seemingly barren and desolate though this landscape might appear, the traditional heartland of the Nama people is actually home to the greatest diversity of succulent flora on the planet. The day sees us traversing this unique desert landscape of granite rocks and sweeping dunes as we head for the Gariep River (Orange River), which forms Namibia’s southern boundary with South Africa. Beginning in the highlands of the Drakensberg Mountains, the river flows for some 1800km, finally ending its epic journey amongst the waters of the Atlantic and this evening we will camp close to its meandering course, as we enter our second country in this remarkable odyssey.
After breaking camp this morning we head for the world-renowned Fish River Canyon, one of the great natural wonders of Africa and the second largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. Measuring some 161km in length, up to 27km in width in some places and over 500m in depth it is one of the world’s most spectacular natural creations. On arrival we will have some time to explore the canyon, with a walk this afternoon around the upper rim that will afford us an opportunity to better appreciate this stunning landscape. San legend has it that the canyon was carved by a great serpent, Kouteign Kooru, however less romantic theories put its creation down to the action of erosion and glaciers. We will be camping tonight at Hobas, whose plains are sometimes dotted with steenbok and springbok, whilst the rocky slopes above tend to be a favoured haunt of Chacma baboons and klipspringer. The richer vegetation close to the river also attracts a number of birds, including raptors such as rock kestrels and lanner falcons.
Today’s journey brings us into the magnificent setting of the Namib Desert and the Namib- Nakluft National Park. As we head north, crossing the Namib gravel flats and the aweinspiring landscapes of some of the oldest desert on the planet, we have our first opportunity to watch the sun cast its shadows over the red dunes of some of the most spectacular vistas on earth. Covering some 50,000 sq km this is one of the largest national parks on the continent, encompassing an area of truly magnificent desert scenery that is credited with being home to some of the strangest flora and fauna on the planet.
We spend the day exploring this majestic landscape in all its glory, firstly with a morning visit to the towering dunes of Sossusvlei, some of the highest on earth. The area itself is a vast depression or clay pan, dominated by sand dunes that can reach up to 300m in height. In the early morning the first rays of the rising sun turn these towering sand giants a deep orange, presenting us with a landscape of overwhelming grandeur that is truly a photographer’s dream. It is a wild, beautiful and romantic spot, with sparse vegetation edging the few watercourses that flow in from the Tsauchab River. Here springbok and ostrich are often seen and the occasional acacia tree stands out in stark contrast against the golden sands. Lying amidst this harsh and barren world we come across the surreal landscapes of the Dead Vlei, an ancient salt pan of dazzling white, filled with the skeletons of long dead acacia trees, their gnarled and twisted carcasses presenting an incredible spectacle against the softer tones of the surrounding desert. This afternoon our tour takes in the cooler confines of the Sesriem Canyon, which we will explore on foot. Small, but very picturesque, the canyon presents a marked contrast from this morning, with numerous plants growing in the shade and shelter offered by the canyon walls and water pools attracting several species of birds and animals. Sesriem translates as ‘six thongs’, referring to the six lengths of rawhide rope (from a wagon) needed to haul a bucket of water up to the canyon rim from the stream below. It may also be possible later to climb the Elim Dune for sunset this evening, presenting the stunning spectacle of the Naukluft Mountains in the distance.
Drive to Swakopmund via Kuiseb Canyon and Walvis Bay
An optional early morning balloon ride is an excellent way of gaining a unique perspective of the vast desert landscapes of this stunning region of Namibia. Drifting silently over the dunes, keep your eyes open for desert wildlife foraging for food. Travelling via Solitaire and through the spectacular Kuiseb Canyon, we then pass more incredible landscapes as we head to Walvis Bay. Here a large spit forms a natural deep-sea harbour, which attracted the first navigators in the late 1400’s. Today the shallows located where the spit joins the mainland are home to a diverse collection of birds, the most spectacular being the flamingos and pelicans that feed here seasonally (May to November usually). From here it is just a short drive to our final destination for the day, the coastal town of Swakopmund.
Initially founded by German settlers at the end of the 19th century, Swarkopmund was intended to serve as the main harbour for German Southwest Africa. Over the next few years it saw a steady increase in maritime traffic, eventually handling all the export and import traffic for the entire territory and this importance is reflected in the incredible array of German architecture that still makes up a large percentage of the old town. Swarkopmund is a fascinating mix of Bavarian grandeur, Herero traditional and African colour, all set between the pounding waters of the Atlantic and the vast expanses of one of the largest areas of unspoilt wilderness on the planet. Today has been left free to enjoy this eclectic hotchpotch of cultural mores. You may like to pay a visit to the town’s excellent museum, or take a wander through the stately grandeur of its colonial architecture. The town is also a popular resort area and there are a number of optional activities available to make the most of its natural delight. There may also be an opportunity to take a half-day cruise in Walvis Bay in search of dolphins and seals, or perhaps enjoy a scenic flight over the desert and coast. This evening you may like to round off the day watching the sunset across the coastal dunes.
Overnight Simple CampingIncluded meals: Breakfast
Drive to Southern Damaraland via Cape Cross and Brandberg Mountain
Today we head along the coast, where we visit the memorable Cape Cross Seal Colony. It is here that between 80,000 and 100,000 Cape fur seals bask in the sun or swim playfully in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The seals are quite big, an average male weighing-in at anything up to 187kg (501lbs). The females give birth to a single pup around late November to early December and are considered pregnant for most of the year! Driving into Southern Damaraland we’ll pass the majestic sight of Brandberg Mountain (2,573m). The Brandberg is Namibia’s highest peak, located in the Damaraland region of the northwestern extremes of the Namib Desert, and its imposing presence on the gravel plains makes it an easy landmark to spot from miles away. The Herero call this majestic peak Omukuruvaro (The Mountain of the Gods) and within its craggy granite folds lie the famous ‘White Lady’ rock paintings. To the ancient San Bushmen this site was sacred and this ancient image has been attributed to these indigenous peoples, although its interpretation has been open to debate for decades since its discovery in 1917 by a German explorer. Harsh as these landscapes are they are also rich in life, and although numbers are small most of Namibia’s desert dwelling wildlife live in the area, including desert elephant and the rare black rhino. Our final destination for today is the Aba-Huab community campsite close to famous area of rock engravings at Twyfelfontein.
Drive to Etosha National Park via Twyfelfontein rock paintings
This morning we pay a visit to the San Bushmen paintings and engravings at Twyfelfontein and view the so-called ‘Petrified Forest’. The massif of Twyfelfontein contains a spectacular record of the rock art of the Khoisan people, painted and incised into the sandstone of the mountain over a thousand years, presenting us with one of the richest areas of rock engravings in Namibia. The barren surroundings and rock-strewn slopes seem a most unlikely place for any human habitation, but there is a small spring near the base of the hill and this has been providing water to animals for millennia. The water and abundance of game also attracted Stone Age people and indications are that they inhabited the area for centuries. The extraordinary Petrified Forest, with its huge fossilised tree trunks, was declared a National Monument in 1950. It is estimated to be about 200 million years old, and both the bark and the tree rings are perfectly preserved, providing a unique insight into a bygone age millions of years ago. From here we continue towards Etosha National Park, The ‘Great White Place’, ranked as one of Africa’s great game parks and offering some of the best game viewing on the continent.
An immense, saline desert, covering over 12,400 square miles, and offering a haven for 114 species of animals and some 340 species of birds, Etosha has been described as the best game reserve in Africa. At the very heart of Etosha is the Etosha Pan, which geologists believe was formed some 12 million years ago from an inland lake about the size of Holland. Shrunk to its present dried-up size, it is now a gigantic depression in the ground – flat, saline and silvery, a mysterious place of mirages and dust-laden images, that after heavy rainfall converts back to a lake again. Today sees us exploring the area along the southern and eastern edge of the Pan, where we should see elephant, rhino and hopefully lion. The terrain ranges from dense bush to large open plains where animals roam freely and we will drive along a network of gravel roads that criss-cross the park, visiting the various viewpoints and the permanent waterholes around which animals congregate. There is something enigmatic about the vast silent grey-white pans that cover this remarkable reserve. Numerous waterholes and underground springs attract large herds of animals including springbok, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe, making for some exceptional encounters. Later we will continue on to our second night’s camp at Namutoni and, after setting up camp, enjoy an afternoon game drive.
From July to October generally produces the best months for game viewing, during Etosha’s dry season.
Our camp for the next 2 nights is in the vicinity of the Kavango River at Ngepi. Departing Etosha this morning we head east, to swap the harsh desert landscapes of the past days for the lush vegetation of the Caprivi Strip. Travelling via Rundu we arrive at our camp, besides the waters of the Kavango later today. The Caprivi Region has a colourful and interesting history. Originally known as Itenge, it fell under the rule of the Lozi kings until the end of the 19th century, but was administered as part of the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, now known as Botswana. As a result of the European superpower political manoeuvring, in 1890 Germany laid claim to the British administered island of Zanzibar, a claim to which Britain strenuously objected. The Germans were keen to link their colonies in German East Africa (now Tanzania) with German South West Africa (now Namibia) and the dispute was finally settled at the Berlin Conference of 1890, where Queen Victoria acquired Zanzibar and Germany got the territory that was to become known as the Caprivi Strip. This strip was named after German Chancellor General Count Georg Leo von Caprivi di Caprara di Montecuccoli! Say that after a beer!
A free day here affords an opportunity to enjoy something of the natural serenity of the area, or enjoy some optional activities. There are chances to try your hand at fishing and boating, or perhaps take an excursion into the Mahango Game Park.
Crossing into Botswana today we head along the western edge of the Delta (better known as the ‘Pan Handle’) towards the dusty frontier town of Maun. The Okavango is the third largest river in Africa and its delta area covers 16,000 square kilometres of crystal clear channels, a myriad of ephemeral lakes and ever changing islands surviving at the northern limits of the Kalahari Desert. The river flows south east from the Angolan highlands over 1,000 km away, taking up to 6 months to reach the delta area which floods on a perennial annual cycle. Our journey through this fertile and captivating landscape takes us via Shakawe on the border and then southeast, to the southernmost extremes of the Delta.
We leave our safari truck in Maun and travel on in smaller 4WD safari land cruiser-style vehicles, to arrive at our camp in the Khwai area of Moremi Game Reserve – one of Botswana’s most diversified reserves in terms of scenery and wildlife. Tucked into the north-eastern sector of the Okavango Delta, Moremi is thought to be the country’s most beautiful game land, and is rated as one of Africa’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries. It covers an enormous wilderness area composed of permanent swamps, islands, forest and dry land and is an ornithologist’s paradise. More bird life and larger mammals may be spotted on the flood plain, including elephant, giraffe, zebra and ostrich, as well as predators like lion, leopard and wild dog. Exceptional though the geography of the delta may be, it is the amazing wildlife of the waterways that draws us and we plan to set out game viewing almost immediately to make the most of our time here.
This morning we will head out for another game drive in the Okavango. Here in the Okavango silence reigns, broken only by the roar of a lion or the harsh cry of a fish eagle. Thick beds of papyrus block many of the waterways and make much of the region impenetrable except by motorboat. We’ll spend our time this afternoon exploring the waterways as we cruise slowly through a maze of interconnecting channels, allowing us to get superb close-up pictures of the wildlife. Here, we’ll experience one of Africa’s most natural and unspoiled wonderlands – hippo, crocodile, red lechwe, and a great variety of birds have made their home in the Delta, as well as the elusive Sitatunga antelope, whose elongated hooves allow it to walk on the marshy ground without sinking. Bird lovers may spot fish eagle, jacana, kingfisher, heron, stork, egret, weaver and bee-eater – just some of the magnificent species found here.
This morning we depart early to drive north to the riverside town of Kasane, keeping an eye out for the regularly sighted elephants that are often spotted close to the road. Kasane is located just outside the boundary of Chobe National Park, on the banks of the Chobe River - one of the Zambezi’s main tributaries - and the northern Chobe area of Serondela is the heart of elephant country, with up to 35,000 residing within the park, the largest number in any African park! This afternoon there may be time, for those interested to enjoy a late afternoon game drive or boat safari on the Chobe River (optional). The river is brimming with hippo and crocodile and its waters teem with bream, barbel and tiger fish (freshwater barracuda), making it an angler’s paradise. This area is also famed for its beautiful scenery and magnificent red and gold sunsets, making either choice a special one.
Ferry across the Zambezi and drive to Livingstone (Zambia)
We cross over into Zambia by the Kazungula ferry today, before heading into Livingstone on the banks of the Zambezi. Often referred to as the ‘adventure capital’ of Zambia, Livingstone dates from just after the turn of the previous century and is a pleasant town with a variety of land, air and water-based activities on offer in the surrounding area. Its most famous attraction though are the mighty Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi plummets over a sheer cliff wall spanning more than 1676m, and drops approximately 100m into the abyss below! Like David Livingstone before us, we become aware of the awesome cataract long before seeing it. Plumes of water vapour rise like smoke into the sky accompanied by a deafening roar: a factor that inspired the natives to call the waterfall ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, we will include a visit to the falls this afternoon. This evening there is a chance to enjoy a late cruise along the river (optional).
Today is left free for you to follow your own interests. You may choose to take advantage of some of the many optional activities on offer such as whitewater rafting on the Zambezi, a scenic helicopter flight or perhaps an elephantback safari. You could also take an optional halfday game drive into Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park to search for white rhino. Your leader will be on hand to advise you and to assist with any bookings. Alternatively you may want to take advantage of the more sedate attractions that Livingstone offers, such as the National Museum or the Railway Museum (or to give it its full title, The Zambezi Sawmills Locomotive Sheds National Monument).
Overnight Simple CampingIncluded meals: Breakfast
Tour ends Livingstone
Included meals: Breakfast
Please note that from time to time our itineraries may be amended, either for operational reasons or in response to feedback from customers. Please ensure you have read the latest Tour Notes before booking or travelling on your tour.
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