Though going on an African safari and spotting the “Big Five” is on the bucket lists of many travelers, Africa—particularly the Southeast region—has so much more to offer. So, think bigger! Once you touch down in Africa, cosmopolitan cities, sprawling wine regions, and one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls are all within your reach.
Visitors to the Southeast Africa nearly always arrive and depart via South Africa, so, in order to hit the country’s two most impressive cities, start your trip in Johannesburg, take a side trip to Pretoria, and end it in Cape Town.
To experience a piece of history in Johannesburg, pay a visit to Nelson Mandela’s home prior to his arrest. This is an emotional experience for many due to the leader’s profound impact on race relations. Next, take a short trip north to Pretoria to see the imposing yet magnificent government buildings.
Or you can head down south to the temperate shores where Cape Town beckons. Despite being a city, this metropolitan center has remarkable natural beauty. Hike or take a cable car to the top of the famous Table Mountain, which offers expansive views over the city and coastline. Cape Point, a narrow stone outcrop extending into the water where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, is also an incredible sight to see. If you are interested in learning more about Mandela, take a tour with a former inmate at Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. Another can’t-miss stop is the Penguin Reserve at Boulders Beach, where you can watch hundreds of the adorable birds waddle around.
Go Wild on an African Safari
At the heart of any trip to Africa is an African safari. Kruger National Park is South Africa’s richest wildlife reserve and one of the most coveted safari destinations on the continent. A big part of its popularity lies in having the “Big Five” on hand: lions, leopards, elephants, Cape buffalo, and rhinos.
Snap pictures of lazy lions stretching out in the sun between hunting excursions and leopards in their favorite spots—trees! Feel the ground shake as hulking elephants, rhinos, and buffalo migrate in herds. Although the “Big Five” originally referred to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, seeing all of these animals is now a badge of honor for African safari-goers. If you don’t get the chance to see all five, though, don’t fret! This area is home to enough monkeys, zebras, antelope, hyenas, giraffes, wildebeests, and meerkats to keep you feeling like you’ve stepped into a scene from The Lion King.
Chobe National Park, located in neighboring Botswana, is best known for its enormous elephant population that travels in small packs through the rich foliage along the river. These, along with the other wildlife, are an exceptional sight—and sound!
Days and days of game watching can get tiring, so break up your African safari with a trip to Victoria Falls, Africa’s most impressive waterfall. More than 5,000 feet wide, the falls stretch from Zambia to Zimbabwe, although the best views are from the Zimbabwe side. The roaring water is a reminder of the mighty force descending from the rocky cliffs, and if you’re lucky, you may just spot a rainbow through the mist. Hike through the subtropical rain forest in Victoria Falls National Park for views on foot before hopping into a helicopter for an aerial experience.
Taste of Africa
If you are a wine lover, don’t leave Cape Town without taking a jaunt around the Cape Winelands. The Stellenbosch region is famous not only for its excellent wines but also for its exceptionally beautiful wineries set against a backdrop of mountains. While South African wines have picked up in popularity in the United States, the vast majority are still consumed domestically, so you’ll be able to try many wines that are not available in America. Pinotage, an exclusively South African hybrid grape, has a unique flavor that tends to spark a love or hate response from those who try it.
Fully taking advantage of the best of Southeast Africa requires a lot of planning and travel coordination, so it’s highly recommended to let an experienced company handle the details. After you’ve handed off the reins, get ready for a travel adventure that will create lifelong memories.