Having been to Africa more than a dozen times I am often asked what the best places in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are to visit. It depends on whether you want to see animals on a safari, natural scenery like the sand dunes in Namibia or Victoria Falls, cities like Cape Town or Johannesburg, or be active in the Drakensberg or on the Garden Route.
Here is a summary of the best places to visit in Southern Africa.
Cape Town - South Africa
Known as The Mother City, Cape Town lies hemmed between beautiful beaches and Table Mountain. A true melting pot of Asian, African and European cultures this is the place you'll find great restaurants and bars, a sprinkling of interesting museums and markets, and a vibe all of its own set within beautiful surroundings.
Chobe - Botswana
Famed for its large herds of massive elephants, the park consists of three distinct areas. Chobe Riverfront supports the highest density of wildlife. It is where most of the lodges are and where you can do river cruises to spot wildlife. Linyanti Marsh is rich in predators and is far away from civilization - flying in to a luxury safari camp is the best option here. Savuti, with the adjacent channel, rivals the riverfront in animal density, but is much more remote.
Damaraland - Namibia
Between the Skeleton Coast and the interior plateau lies this land of seasonal rivers and springs, spectacular cliffs and rocks, home to desert elephant and rhino.
Etosha National Park - Namibia
Centred on a series of salt pans, Etosha is Namibia's premier wildlife viewing area. Watch from the safety of your vehicle, or sit at night by a floodlit waterhole.
Drakensberg - South Africa
Towering cliffs, imposing natural amphitheatres and thundering waterfalls make the Drakensberg a range unique in the world. Ancient Bushmen rock art and some spectucular vistas and hiking trail make this an area not to be missed by anyone with more than a passing interest in South Africa.
Fish River Canyon - Namibia
Also dubbed the Grand Canyon of Africa, this imposing gorge is one of Africa's premier natural wonders.
Garden Route - South Africa
Forest-clad hills rolling down to a spectacular coastline, beautiful lagoons and beaches along with jaw-dropping scenery make this one of the most popular areas in the country.
Greater Kruger Area - South Africa
The density, diversity and sheer numbers of wildlife in Kruger and the adjacent private game reserves are almost beyond belief. Game drives and guided game activities are the order of the day here and best enjoyed at the private game reserves.
Makgadikgadi & Nxai Salt Pans - Botswana
At the north-end of the Kalahari, colours fade to white, brown and burnt orange in this network of empty flat saltpans. Big skies, epic stands of baobab trees and silence are the attractions here.
Moremi Game Reserve - Botswana
The only area of the Okavango that is protected, this reserve has some of the highest density of wildlife in the world. The area is a great mix of marshland and forests, making for great wildlife viewing.
Okavango Delta - Botswana
Lying in the midst of the Kalahari Desert, this giant marshland is a haven for wildlife from lions and elephant to the elusive sitatunga and myriad birds. Tranquility is king in this otherwordly paradise.
Sossusvlei - Namibia
Huge red sand dunes tower above this shallow pan in the Namib Desert. Hike to the top and enjoy the stupendous views.
Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe
Only a 90 minute drive from the Botswana border, Victoria Falls is a must-see for any visitor to this part of Africa. The 2 kms (1.2 miles) wide falls can be seen from paths or from a helicopter. Adrenaline junkies can bungee jump and raft in this, the adventure capital of Africa.
Winelands - South Africa
Well-known for its great wines but less so for its spectacular mountains and vistas, the winelands near Cape Town should be one anyone's itinerary. Pretty towns like Franschhoek and Tulbagh will complement stops at a winery or two.
Read more on the best time to go, not-to-miss places and key experiences in:
Botswana & Zimbabwe