Southern Africa is blessed with captivating natural wonders, and on this epic trip—covering South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe—you’ll get to check off much of your adventure bucket list. Get up close to the famed "big five" on thrilling safaris, feel the spray of one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, and explore the oldest desert on Earth by 4x4. Along the way, meet with researchers from National Geographic sponsored–organizations for insights on wildlife conservation, and spend time in townships and villages to learn about daily life.
Arrive at any time and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy a traditional South African braai (barbecue) for dinner tonight.
Johannesburg/Greater Kruger Area
Set out towards Kruger National Park via the magnificent Panorama Route, one of the world’s most picturesque drives. Make stops at the dramatic Blyde River Canyon and Bourke's Luck Potholes, and take in panoramic views of the forest-covered valley from the God's Window viewpoint. Continue to our tented camp near Kruger National Park and savour a delicious South African dinner in a boma.
Kruger National Park
Rise early and climb aboard an open jeep for a full-day safari in Kruger National Park—home to an extraordinary array of large mammals. Spot elephants, lions, giraffes, and perhaps elusive leopards as we explore this breathtaking wilderness of savanna and scrubland. Return to our lodge in the evening, where you can take some time to relax on the deck and enjoy the nocturnal sounds of the bush.
Greater Kruger Area/Karongwe Private Game Reserve
Travel to the Karongwe Private Game Reserve, a pristine wildlife sanctuary located in the Greater Kruger area. Meet with a researcher from the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project—a program funded in part by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative—and learn about efforts to protect the region’s cheetahs and other carnivores. The researcher then joins us for a wildlife-viewing excursion through the reserve.
Karongwe Private Game Reserve
Spend the day exploring Karongwe on morning and afternoon safaris with our local guides. Search for Africa's famed "big five" as we drive through the shrublands of the bushveld. Back at camp, relax on deck or take a walk around the grounds.
Karongwe Private Game Reserve/Johannesburg
Embark on one last safari this morning, keeping a lookout for Karongwe’s iconic inhabitants. Then head back to the city, where you’ll enjoy dinner in our local guest house.
Fly to Windhoek and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy free time to explore the Namibian capital this afternoon.
Set off from the Namibian capital towards Sesriem, the gateway to jaw-dropping Namib-Naukluft National Park. Drive past red-hued desertscapes, stark camel thorn trees, and dramatic curved dunes while keeping an eye out for the astonishing creatures that call these arid lands home—the oryx, springbok, jackal, hyena, and more. Settle in to our lodge and relax poolside, watching a fiery crimson sunset over the desert.
Embark on a thrilling excursion into one of Africa’s largest national parks. Explore the Namib desert, the oldest desert in the world; and venture to the massive dunes at Sossusvlei and the white clay pan of Deadvlei. Capture dramatic images of dead camel thorn trees against a backdrop of orange dunes and a crisp blue sky. Then visit the Sesriem Canyon, a natural gorge carved out by the Tsauchab River over millions of years.
Continue by road through changing desert landscapes towards the coastal city of Swakopmund. Look out for roaming zebra, kudu, springbok, and oryx on the way, and take a break in the quirky town of Solitaire before heading into the countryside. Here, we meet a local for a 4x4 drive through the desert, learning about the survival strategies of bushmen who lived in this inhospitable area thousands of years ago. We also search for the smaller wildlife that has managed to survive here, such as snakes, geckos, spiders, and an array of insects.
Enjoy a free morning in Swakopmund, getting a taste of the town’s unique Afro-German culture; or opt for a scenic flight over the Namib desert. This afternoon, take a tour of Mondesa township with a local guide, learning about its people and history. Visit the local market for an introduction to traditional foods such as wild spinach, mopane worms, and dried sardines or kapenta. Stop by an arts and crafts shop; chat with the locals; and round off the day with dinner and a performance at a cozy family-run establishment.
Make your way to Twyfelfontein—Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site—to see some of Africa’s largest concentrations of petroglyphs. Marvel at these remarkable engravings, carved by prehistoric hunter-gatherers and depicting rhinos, elephants, and ostriches, as well as human and animal footprints. Then continue to our lodge on the Palmwag nature reserve in northwest Damaraland.
Palmwag/Etosha National Park Area
Enjoy a relaxed morning at our lodge or opt for a guided walk in the Palmwag reserve, home to many rare, desert-adapted species. In the afternoon, travel towards Etosha National Park, arguably Namibia’s most spectacular wildlife sanctuary. Settle into our lodge, located outside of the park.
Etosha National Park Area
Spend a full day on safari in Etosha National Park, where open grasslands converge on a massive salt pan. Etosha harbours some of the largest populations of lions, elephants, and other endangered species, so keep your camera on the ready as you explore in your open vehicle. Enjoy lunch at one of the park’s rest areas, where you can also take a swim; and sit back and watch all manner of creatures—including hundreds of species of birds—flock to the nearby watering hole.
Etosha National Park Area/Windhoek
After breakfast, visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a global research and education center founded by National Geographic Grantee Dr Laurie Marker. Tour the facility to learn about the important conservation and community outreach work they do to protect the world’s fastest land animal, and enjoy a talk by one of the researchers. Then head out on a drive through the grounds to meet some of the center’s rescued and rehabilitated cheetahs. Continue to Windhoek for our final evening.
Catch a flight to the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, named after one of the most powerful waterfalls on Earth. Visit a nearby village and go grocery shopping in the bustling market. Then sit down with a local family for dinner, helping your hosts prepare a traditional Zimbabwean meal using the ingredients you picked out, and hear stories about local life and culture.
Set out for a tour of magnificent Victoria Falls. Scottish explorer David Livingstone named them after Britain’s Queen Victoria, while their older, indigenous name is Mosi-oa-Tunya—“the smoke that thunders.” Opt for a scenic sunset cruise on the Zambezi River; soar above the roaring falls in a helicopter; or take a day trip to wildlife-rich Chobe National Park.
Depart at any time.