Safaris have become synonymous with Africa, and for great reason. You can see the Big Five at Kruger National Park, go on a gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and watch the great migration in Serengeti National Park. While going on safari is a must when you visit Africa, there’s much more to do than just camping, glamping, and observing wild animals.
With a continent so large and varied, it might be difficult for new visitors to narrow down where to begin. Focusing in on Africa’s southern countries is a good starting point, especially if you’re interested in adrenaline-pumping activities and unique experiences. There are plenty of options within a short distance of each other that are well worth the trans-Atlantic flight. You can hang over the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia, cage dive with great white sharks in South Africa, and drive an ATV over sand dunes in Namibia. The best part is that you can easily fit multiple countries and activities into a single two-week vacation thanks to myriad overland tours and short-haul flight options. (Tip: To fit this itinerary into a two-week vacation, opt for one-way flights instead of long drives.)
Let’s take a look at creative storyteller and travel nomad Laura’s breathtaking footage from her trip to South Africa.
Check out more of Laura’s videos and captivating stories on her travel blog, What About Her
To make the most out of your international adventure, start in Johannesburg, South Africa. Its O. R. Tambo International Airport is a major international airport, which means you’ll be able to find plenty of reasonable flight options and fares. From there, you can go on safari in Kruger National Park and then hop on a short flight to Cape Town. This city will be your base for cage diving with great white sharks in Gansbaai, which is 2.5-hour drive south. There are plenty of tour companies to choose from. Search online for consumer reviews and their safety record. Before you book a spot, be sure to ask about transfer options from your hotel in Cape Town so you don’t need to rent a car.
Before you leave town, make time to hike to the top of Table Mountain. At 3,558 feet above Cape Town, you’ll enjoy a stunning view of the city and coastline. After your descent, you can head to any number of nearby vineyards for a winery tour and tasting.
From Cape Town, you have a number of options for your next destination. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll head north to Swakopmund, Namibia, which will be your base in Namibia. Just a little over an hour away is Namib-Naukluft National Park, home of towering orange sand dunes that are hundreds of feet high. Dune 45 is the most popular to hike up, especially in the early morning hours when you can watch sunrise over the Namib Desert. Local tour companies offer skydiving and hot air balloon rides above the dunes or, if you’d rather stay on land, you can join ATV and sandboarding excursions as well.
After exploring the desert, it’s time to cool off by visiting the 355-foot-high Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River below, which are both on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. You can grab a paddle and go rafting, kayaking, or canoeing on the river. If you want to stay dry but experience the falls in a unique way, you can get a birds-eye view of the whole area on a microlight tour (pictured below), which is typically 15 or 30 minutes long.
For a just-above-the-river experience, there are a few adrenaline-pumping options. Bungee jumping is a popular activity here, and you can do it in “no man’s land” off the center of a bridge that straddles Zambia and Zimbabwe. Another thrilling experience is the gorge swing, which can be done solo or tandem. You’ll wear a body harness that’s attached to an overhead cable, and then you walk (or jump) off the edge of the cliff. Just like in bungee jumping, you’ll free-fall for a few hundred feet, but then the cable above will allow you to swing over the wide gorge instead of bouncing back up. The view from the bottom of the gorge is just as spectacular as from the top!
If free-falling isn’t on your bucket list, you can opt for a not-so-intense (but still cool) aerial option like the flying fox or zip line. These activities will allow you to enjoy the view as you glide across the gorge.
The best way to end your trip is to jump into the famous Devil’s Pool on the Zambia side of the falls. Never heard of it? It’s a natural rock barrier on the edge of Victoria Falls. To get there, you’ll have to join a tour group. Your guides will take the group on a motorboat to Livingstone Island, and then everyone will swim to a patch of land that is adjacent to Devil’s Pool. From there you’ll have an unimpeded view of the top of the falls and be able to wave to visitors over on the Zimbabwe side. Then it’s time to do what you came for: cannonball into the pool! Your guides will use your camera to take pictures of your experience, so you can leave your selfie stick at the hotel. After your group is safely inside the pool, the guides will instruct you to do the most hair-raising but exhilarating thing: hang over the edge of the falls. They’ll make sure that two people securely hold your ankles while you pose for pictures and take in the incredible view.
If Devil’s Pool is on your bucket list, you’ll need to visit when the water level is low, which is typically mid-August through mid-January. Otherwise the water level makes the pool dangerous to be in, and it’s not open for visitors.
When your action-packed trip is over, you can catch a 90-minute flight back to Johannesburg from either the Zambia or Zimbabwe side of the falls to complete your journey.
This itinerary barely scratches the surface of all the cool things you can do in southern Africa. But if you are limited to only two weeks off, it at least gives you the ability to explore a few countries on land, in the air, and under water. Plus, getting a taste of this great continent will only make you want to return to explore more.