Posted by on 16 Mar 2021
Considered one of the top vacation destinations of a lifetime, the region of Southern Africa features the world-renowned safari experience along with breathtaking scenery. Marvel at the impressive Victoria falls, admire the stunning beach-lined coast of Mozambique, navigate the impressive Okavango Delta, or take an urban safari through multifaceted South Africa.
Top places to visit:
Situated at the tip of the African continent, South Africa is the top vacation destination of a lifetime. A South African safari offers experiences ranging from exquisite landscapes, captivating wildlife, and amazing culture. Offering five-star luxury accommodations – ranging from top game lodges to bespoke boutique hotels – it’s a world-class destination and a true “Rainbow Nation”.
South Africa caters for first-time safari experiences as well as repeat safaris for enthusiasts – the Greater Kruger National Park, Timbavati Reserve, Manyeleti Reserve and the renowned Sabi Sands Reserve are all situated in the north-east of the country. If you prefer to embark on a malaria-free Big Five safari, South Africa is the only region in the world where this is possible in these areas: Eastern Cape, Madikwe, and The Waterberg.
Despite its politics, Zimbabwe is a safe and friendly country. While Victoria Falls is the country’s biggest drawcard, Zimbabwe is also one of Southern Africa’s most rewarding big game safari destinations. It borders Zambia and South Africa, so it’s easily accessible, and an all-year-round destination with short, mild winters and long, warm summers.
Besides the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is home to green gems like Lake Kariba, Hwange National Park, Matopos and Mana Pools National Park. A journey here will show you wide expanses, dramatic landscapes, and diverse wildlife – each different depending on what park you visit. Not only is Zimbabwe a great place to spot the Big Five, it’s also got a rich culture, World Heritage-listed archaeological spots, and natural wonders.
he Jewel of Africa, Botswana is one of the best wildlife destinations in the world. The country is renowned for its large, inland river delta, the Okavango Delta. Botswana is also home to the earth’s most impressive salt pan, The Makgadikgadi, and the largest continuous desert, The Kalahari. As a forerunner in conservation efforts on the African continent, nearly a fifth of Botswana’s territory is protected in national parks. In northern Botswana lies Chobe National Park with its prolific elephant population.
Stretched along Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline is Mozambique, the country affectionately referred to as the “Land of Smiles” because of its friendly people. Most of Mozambique’s attractions are located along its beach-lined coast, or the scatterings of islands in the Bazaruto and Quirimbas archipelagos.
Over 1 200 species of fish have been identified in the coastal waters off Mozambique, and the snorkelling and diving are world renowned. Stay in upmarket lodges set on pristine beaches, explore vibrant coral reefs, and generally spoil yourself with fantastic food, wine and spa treatments.
When to visit
South Africa has a lovely temperate climate with hot summers and mild winters.
- Winter (May to August) - Across South Africa’s reserves, winter signals the dry season and the best time to go on safari. Days are mild with plenty of sunshine, however, temperatures often drop in the early mornings and late afternoons – so pack a warm jacket. If you’re spending time in Cape Town, you may see some rain in between the crisp, cool winter days.
- Summer (October to March) - Cape Town is best in the summer months of October to March. Temperatures can get well into the 30° Celsius range (perfect beach weather!). Summer is the dry season in Cape Town, however, it is the wet season in South Africa’s reserves. Summer rains usually come down in short afternoon thunderstorms, and the landscapes turn lush and green.
Zimbabwe is an all-year destination with its warm, mild weather.
- Winter (May – September) - Winter in Zimbabwe is warm with sunshine in the day, and cold, clear nights. It’s a great time to visit Zimbabwe as there’s little rain and animals congregate around waterholes, making it easier to spot wildlife. Note: September can already be very hot and dry.
- Summer/ Rainy Season (October – April) - Zimbabwe’s summer is the rainy season, which is beautiful with sporadic rain and dramatic thunderstorms. Many animals give birth in the rainy season so it’s a good time to see newborns. It’s also the low season, so you will see fewer tourists.
Botswana is a year-round destination.
- During the dry winter season months between May and October, the bush is at its thinnest and the animals head towards the rivers and the Okavango Delta. The dry winter months are also the most comfortable time to visit as the days are warm and nights are cool, the rains have passed and there are less mosquitos.
- Winter (May to November) - Mozambique has a tropical climate, so temperatures are high for much of the year. The best time to visit is during the cooler winter months, when days are still warm (but not too hot) and you have the least chance of rain.
- The country has summer rainfall (November to March), and cyclone season is in January and February.
Health & Safety
If you’re heading to South Africa you can rest assured that the country has a very well structured healthcare system with a number of public and private hospitals throughout the country. However, it always pays to be cautious. Like in many countries around the world, you’ll probably receive quicker care at a private hospital than a public one. As a precaution, make sure your medical insurance payment is always up to date before you travel. Qualified doctors, dentists, and other specialists can be found in main centres but you’ll have to schedule an appointment prior, unless it’s an emergency.
- While most of South Africa is malaria-free, this mosquito-borne disease is prevalent throughout the year in the Kruger National Park and the low-lying areas of northern KwaZulu-Natal.
- If you’re heading to the above-mentioned areas then you should consult a healthcare professional about the ideal prophylactic. The type of prophylactic will be determined by your personal health, how long you are visiting the malarial area and the time of year.
- Like they always say “prevention is the best cure” so you should try by all means to prevent being bitten by a mosquito. Use a repellent lotion and then cover up with clothes. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks to ensure that you give them no chance at all.
- There are many malaria-free game reserves like Madikwe or Pilanesberg in the North West province, the Waterberg in Limpopo, or private reserves in the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape, where you can also experience the untouched wild of South Africa risk-free. These are worth considering, particularly if you’re travelling with children aged six and under, or if you are pregnant.
- Always remember, if you develop a bad headache, have aching joints, and recurring fevers and chills after your trip, advise your doctor that you have been to a malarial area. Malaria symptoms can sometimes be confused with flu symptoms, which can lead to fatal consequences.
- While Southern Africa has a high prevalence of HIV/Aids, your only real risk of contracting it is if you have unprotected sex with an infected individual. There should be no reason for unprotected sex as condoms are freely available in pharmacies and convenience stores everywhere you go.
- Antiretrovirals are issued free to rape victims at South African hospitals. Should you be the victim of a sexual assault, it’s essential that you get prophylactic treatment for HIV/Aids within 72 hours.
- There are pharmacies throughout South Africa, and many everyday medications, such as painkillers, are available over the counter. Some large chain stores also have in-store pharmacies that offer good value for money.
- If you have a specific medical condition, it’s wise to carry the relevant doctor’s prescription with you. In the event of you losing your medication, a qualified pharmacist should be able to source a replacement, even if the trade name differs in South Africa.
Botswana is one of the healthiest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with good primary health care facilities available throughout the country. However, the following health precautions are advised.
- It is essential for visitors to remote areas of Botswana to have a comprehensive medical insurance policy, to provide coverage for the treatment of serious illnesses/accidents, and if required, medical evacuation. Personal effects insurance is also advisable.
- Check that your insurance policy will be accepted by service providers in Botswana. Ensure that you are treated by licensed medical personnel to enable you to provide your insurance company with appropriate documentation and receipts.
- Reasonably priced medical services are available at government clinics and hospitals throughout the country. Private medical practitioners are available in the cities and major towns, such as Gaborone, Francistown and Maun.
- Gaborone Private Hospital is the largest private hospital in Botswana. The hospital requires medical coverage, or cash payment in advance where medical coverage is not available.
- Tap water throughout the country is safe to drink. Bottled mineral water is readily available in most shops and supermarkets, and at camps and lodges.
- Tourists travelling by road are advised to carry sufficient water at all times.
- Visitors are advised to take the necessary precautions against HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
- Malaria, including cerebral malaria, is common in northern Botswana, in the Okavango and Chobe areas, particularly during and immediately following the rainy season, from November to April.
- As the strains of malaria, and the drugs used to combat them, frequently change, and as certain strains can become drug resistant, it is best to seek medical advice before your departure and take any medication prescribed. Pregnant or very young children are not advised to travel to malarial areas.
- Other precautions are: to wear long sleeves, socks, closed shoes, and generally keep the body covered, to sleep with a mosquito net and to use mosquito coils and repellent.
Sun And Heat-Related Problems
- Always take preventive measures that include wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and sunglasses, liberally applying sunscreen every three or four hours, regularly taking rehydration mixes, drinking plenty of water and fruit juices (at least three litres of liquid daily), avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, and avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, which causes dehydration.
Don’t underestimate the sun
- Sunstroke and heatstroke are common conditions for new, over-ambitious visitors to Africa. As Zimbabwe does not have a very humid climate, the temperature is much more tolerable than in other tropical countries, so it can be easy to forget how long you’ve been out in the direct sunlight. Avoid getting ill by staying well hydrated throughout the day (with water, not G&Ts!) and by sitting in the shade where possible.
Drink water from boreholes or bottles
- Municipal tap water is treated and theoretically safe to drink, but it’s better to drink from borehole-sourced tap water or bottled water in Zimbabwe. Your accommodation will let you know whether their tap water comes from a municipal supply or borehole. Bottled water is widely available in supermarkets. If you’re going outside a city on safari as part of a tour, your lodge or tour company will provide drinking water for you. If you’re self-driving independently and staying in a government-run lodge, take lots of bottled drinking water with you in your car as there is unlikely to be drinking water in the state facilities.
Take precautions against malaria
- Malaria is present in certain areas of Zimbabwe at certain times of the year, so visit your doctor or travel clinic to discuss prophylactics (prevention), ideally 2 months before you go. Tell the doctor/nurse that you are going to Zimbabwe – this is important because Zimbabwe has a species of mosquito (Plasmodium falciparum) that is resistant to certain antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine and pyrimethamine/sulfadoxine, so you will need to ensure you take the correct type of medication.
- Antimalarial medication for Zimbabwe: Malarone (atovaquone-proguanil) is the most widely recommended anti-malarial medication for Zimbabwe because it doesn’t have many side-effects, and it has a simple dosing regimen. It is also effective against the drug-resistant species P. falciparum. There are adult and paediatric doses for children over 11kg.
- Some pharmacies in Zimbabwe’s main cities (Harare, Victoria Falls and Bulawayo) will have the generic version of Malarone for a reasonable price, but it’s more reliable to buy your antimalarials before your trip. You can read more about antimalarial medications on the NHS website.
- One of the most important aspects of malaria prevention is remembering to take the full course of pills, so why not download an app such as Pill Monitor to remind you about the schedule, or just set up an alarm on your phone.
- Malaria safety tips: Use a mosquito net when you sleep (this is usually provided by your accommodation) because mosquitoes predominantly bite between dawn and dusk. Apply DEET-based mosquito repellent (for adults) in the evenings, and wear long sleeves & trousers after sundown. You can read more malaria information on the NHS website.
- Malaria transmission areas and seasons: Central regions of Zimbabwe such as Harare and Bulawayo have extremely low malaria transmission rates, as shown in the map below. This means that if you are only visiting Harare or Bulawayo, the likelihood of contracting malaria is very low. In Victoria Falls, Nyanga, Kariba, Gonarezhou and Mana Pools, malaria transmission rates are higher.
- The malaria transmission season lasts for about 4 months each year. As shown in the image below, the normal Zimbabwe malaria transmission months are between December (purple) and April (green) each year. Most tourists to Zimbabwe visit between June and August.
- Zimbabwe is not a yellow fever zone. This means you do not need a yellow fever vaccination to visit Zimbabwe.
- Malaria occurs year-round, particularly outside Maputo. Consider taking anti-malarial medication. Other insect-borne diseases include filariasis, plague and African sleeping sickness. Ensure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
- The HIV/AIDS risk is high. Take precautions if you're taking part in high-risk activities.
- Foodborne, waterborne and other infectious diseases include cholera, hepatitis, tuberculosis and rabies. Drink only boiled or bottled water. Avoid raw or undercooked food.
- Medical facilities are limited. If you're seriously ill or injured, you may need medical evacuation. Ensure your travel insurance covers this.
- It is always best to consult your doctor on the most recent vaccinations that are necessary to take before you travel.
Getting Around South Africa
- The rules of the road - South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road. Seatbelts are compulsory and you may not talk on your mobile phone while driving. All speed limits in South Africa are in km/h. Generally, the speed limit for urban areas is 60km/h, on secondary roads, its 100km/h and on national highways its 120km/h. Always keep an eye out for the designated speed limit as these may vary depending on road conditions, and law enforcement does take place next to the road.
- Driver’s licence - You may use a valid driver’s licence issued in your own country as long as it has a photograph, the signature of the holder and is in English. Otherwise, it’s best to obtain an international driving licence before you leave home. You should always have your driver’s licence with you when you are driving as you will be asked to produce it if you are pulled over for any reason.
- Finding your way - It’s wise to travel with a current road map or GPS system to help you find your way around. You can hire a GPS with your car or pick up a road atlas at most bookshops and convenience stores located at fuel stations. Our mobile networks offer exceptional coverage even in most out of the way places so you will have signal for your smartphone so you can also utilise your favourite map app.
- Fuelling your journey- When you refuel, be sure to establish what kind of fuel your vehicle uses (diesel or petrol) before filling up, as a mistake could be disastrous. Most fuel stations accept major credit cards. At the fuel station, a petrol attendant will fill your car, check tyres, oil and water, and clean your windows if you ask. It’s customary to give a small tip of around R5 to the petrol attendant.
- Cash - Many of the national roads are tolled however these toll gates accept credit cards and cash. Similarly, when you park in cities or towns, a parking attendant in a luminous bib might approach you in exchange for keeping an eye on your car. Once again, a tip is customary.
Getting Around Botswana
- By Car - Botswana is accessible by tarred road from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia. Vehicles are driven on the left hand side of the road. A valid international driver’s license, along with vehicle registration documents, are required to drive in Botswana, and drivers should always carry them. Most major roads in Botswana are tarred and driving conditions are generally good. The main roads to established areas are regularly graded. Four-wheel drive is required when travelling in the national parks and reserves, as well as in remote areas. Car and four-wheel drive rental services are widely available in major tourist centres, airports and hotels.
- By Bus - There are scheduled bus services across borders between Botswana and South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia, as well as good internal bus services linking major and minor towns and villages across the country.
- By Rail - here are no passenger train services in Botswana. Cargo services run on a daily basis.
- By Taxi - Taxis are normally a convenient way to get around in towns and are reasonably priced. They are easily identified in designated stations or can be contacted by telephone. Taxis to Gaborone are also available from Sir Seretse Khama International Airport.
Getting Around Zimbabwe
- Taxis – can be found at taxi ranks in the main centres or on call from hotels and restaurants.
- Car Hire – cars with or without chauffeurs can be hired in most tourist areas from internationally recognizable operators.
- Buses/Coaches – Zimbabwe has a variety of both mid-range and luxury intercity coach services.
- Trains – A commuter rail link exist between Harare – Mutare, Harare – Bulawayo and Bulawayo – Victoria Falls.
- Air Services – Frequent flights between the main centres and major tourist destinations can also be arranged. Other private scheduled and charter flights are also available on these routes. Feeder services are provided to regional capitals. International flights are also available.
- Boat Hire – At Kariba, Victoria Falls, Mutirikwi and all other water bodies in Zimbabwe, boats are available for hire and lake cruises and charters are offered at reasonable cost.
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