Top Destinations 2019: South Africa and Botswana
The Big Five safari animals, powdery beaches, lush mountains and the beautiful diversity of the Kalahari Desert await you in the tip of southern Africa.
Botswana offers the best safaris in the world set in incredible landscapes that range from red sand dunes to salt pans and sprawling savannahs. While the settings are sublime, the wildlife will leave you speechless. Its coastal neighbour South Africa vies for the dramatic scenery award, but the cities and tumultuous history of South Africa are crucial to its identity and should not be missed.
CLC World’s 2019 top destinations series continues with a look at these southern African countries.
With Table Mountain as its backdrop and a concoction of cuisines and cultures, South Africa’s legislative capital city is known locally as the Mother City and is wonderfully unique. Christian, Jewish, Hindu and traditional African beliefs live side by side, each bringing their stories and flavours to the Cape Town melting pot.
The colourful neighbourhood of Bo Kaap and equally visual bathing huts at Muizenberg, coupled with the innovative Woodstock are exciting areas of the city to visit. The Neighbourgoods Market at Woodstock’s Biscuit Mill development is a popular Saturday food market where you can munch your way through a variety of foods from biltong to cake, fresh juices and craft beer.
Make your way to the top of the iconic landmark, Table Mountain, by foot or cable car and take in the spectacular views for those Instagram moments. Around 600 million years old, a tablecloth of clouds can cover it very quickly, but unless you’ve made it to the top, you can’t really say you’ve visited Cape Town!
Nelson Mandela and other political detainees spent many of the Apartheid years imprisoned on Robben Island, which sits off the Cape Town coast. It’s now a living museum and you can go on pre-booked tours that are led by former inmates. A sobering experience, nevertheless it’s an important part of South Africa’s history.
Head out of the city to sample the bucolic delights of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in the Winelands. Both towns have innovative chefs, many of whom are based at the wine estates, and are the hotbed of South African cuisine.
Couple great wine and food with historic colonial buildings and verdant landscape, and you’re in for a treat. If you’re travelling with the family, the Roberston’s wineries offer family-friendly places to taste.
KwaZulu-Natal, or KZN for short, is a South African province that will blow you away with its fabulous beaches, the impressive Drakensberg mountain range and incredible safari experiences.
Durban sits on the 600km long beach-lined coast with its own Golden Mile (actually 5kms) of beaches and cool waterfront vibes. Dairy Beach’s reliable breaks are just perfect for surfers while Suncoast Beach is a sunbather’s haven and Laguna Beach is begging water-sport lovers to take to the ocean.
Durban is also home to the largest concentration of people of Indian descent outside of the sub-continent. The streets and marketplaces have an unmistakeably Asian feel with sights, scents and sounds that make you feel as if you’ve changed continent in a flash.
In the west of Durban is an architectural one-off, the Hare Krishna Temple of Understanding that is designed in the shape of a lotus leaf. Within the temple grounds, there’s a great vegetarian restaurant.
KZN is home to the Zulu and you can visit traditional tribal villages to learn about their history, culture and how they have adapted to contemporary South Africa. If you visit in September, your trip may coincide with one of two Zulu festivals – King Shaka Day (24th September) and the Reed Dance. Countless Zulus make the journey to KwaDukuza to honour their Zulu hero while maidens gather before their king at King Enyokeni’s Palace.
KZN is a historic battlefield buff’s dream location with battles fought there shaping the history of South Africa for generations to come. At Blood River, you’ll find two museums which give the opposing sides of the 1838 bottle fought there, while Rorke’s Drift marks the spot where 139 British soldiers fought off 4,000 Zulus, a battle made famous in the Michael Caine film, Zulu.
While the Kruger National Park in the northeast of South Africa is possibly its most famous safari destination, the national parks in northern KZN are have a lot going for them, including the opportunity to combine a safari with a beach holiday.
The game lodges are also great value for money and with the above average chance of seeing a cheetah or two, great bird watching and a variety of different safari experiences on offer, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t head for Phinda, Thanda, AmaZulu or Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserves.
Botswana is all about the wildlife, even with the world’s largest salt pans and the world’s largest unbroken stretch of sand, the Kalahari Desert, calling the country home.
Nothing can prepare you for the magnificence of nature up close as huge elephants suddenly appear out of the scenery, lions can be found relaxing in the shade of a tree or hippos rise out of the water, grunting and roaring. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Botswana has some of the most exclusive safari experiences unmatched in the rest of mainland Africa and you’d be forgiven for decision paralysis, such is choice of safaris on offer. Wet or dry areas? Stay in a permanent lodge or take to the wilderness on a guided mobile safari? Whichever you choose, Botswana tours will not disappoint.
The waterways of the Kwando and Linyanti rivers, and to the south Savuti, are magical spots for safaris with the latter especially great for mobile safaris and with fewer visitors.
The Okavango Delta is breathtakingly beautiful and nature’s abundance – big cats, elephants, birds, and the sheer variety of species roaming and ruling the land makes it a safari dream.
Within the Delta are the Moremi Game Reserve and, towards the western perimeter, the Okavango Panhandle. The latter has less game but nevertheless is of great interest. It’s also close to the Tsodilo Hills with their galleries of ancient rock art.
The Kalahari Desert is more than just sand. In Makgadikgadi you’ll find salt pans, fossil river valleys and the indigenous San people populate the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, while the amusingly shaped baobab trees dot the Nxai Pans.
If you’d like a break from animal spotting in the back of a vehicle, head out on tour with the San bushmen. It’s a unique experience and gives you great insight and perspective into their culture, as your guide translates their ‘clicking’ language. There’s so much to learn from the people who have lived and worked on this land for millennia.
For tailor-made African holidays, CLC World Travel is waiting to make CLC World members’ holiday dreams come true.