10 Scenic Places Not to Miss in East and Southern Africa

Sossusvlei

Africa was known as the dark continent as it remained a mystery to Europeans in the 19th century.  Harsh terrains such as the Sahara Desert made it difficult for many countries to penetrate into the interior of the continent.  In some ways, Africa still contains that mystery and lure for travelers seeking the unknown territory.

Imagine waking up in the early hours of the morning and watching the sunrise on top of sand dunes. The sun stings your face.  The sand is cold on your naked feet.  There are many exotic experiences in Africa, but based on my 45-day camping tour (which included Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia), here are my top 10 scenic places not to miss in Africa.

10 Scenic Places Not to Miss in East and Southern Africa:

1.    Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti ecosystem is a geographical region located in north-western Tanzania (known as Serengeti) and extends to south-western Kenya (known as Masai Mara).  The Serengeti is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is a world heritage site.  If you want an unforgettable experience, a balloon ride over the Serengeti will paint a picture from above.

The trails and roads in the park are quite dusty.  Luckily, the safari jeeps are quite capable of handling rough trails.  In addition to the abundance of wildlife, the Serengeti is home to the “big five” of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo.

2.    Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania)

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater is a large, volcanic caldera (cauldron-like volcanic feature) in Tanzania.  In addition to the many herds of zebra, gazelle, and wilderbeast, the crater is home to the “big five” of rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo. The crater has many species of wildlife in East Africa, with an estimated 25,000 animals within the crater.

3.   Sossusvlei Sand Dunes (Namibia)

Deadvlei Sand Dunes

Sossusvlei dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, are among the highest dunes in the world.   Many of these dunes are above 200 meters; the highest one is over 400 meters high. A great way to see the desert is to hike to the top of Dune 45 before sun rise. The highest peak on Dune 45 is about 150 meters and is well worth the hike for stunning views of the dunes.

One of the most surreal areas in Sossusvlei is the Deadvlei with the white plains, orange-red sand dunes, and the dead acacia trees over 900 years old.  The trees remain standing as the roots are deep in the ground.  When viewing this area you can image a Salvador Dali painting with the awkwardly shaped trees (Swans Reflecting Elephants painting).

4.    Etosha National Park (Namibia)

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is located in the northwestern region of Namibia.  One of the main attractions that should not be missed is the permanent waterhole in the Okaukuejo campsite inside the national park.  The most amazing experience happens at sunset when you watch various animals quench their thirst under the pink and red hues of the sky.  Better yet, you can spend the night on a bench in the viewing areas in front of the waterhole (which is safely gated from the viewing areas) and watch the animals during the late hours in the night.  Such animals include black rhinoceros, elephants, zebras, giraffes, and gazelles.

5.    Victoria Falls (Zambia, Zimbabwe)

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is located in southern Africa on the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls are some of the largest in the world.  The Victoria Falls are just over 1.7 km and 108 m high. During the wet season over 500 million liters of water plummets over the edge into the Zambezi River.  During the dry season (September to December) the falls are not as high; the falls are more impressive during rainy season (March to May).

Activities that are quite enjoyable are white-water rafting in the Zambezi River and bungy jumping on the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Visiting the falls from the Zimbabwe side is highly recommended as the falls are more thunderous than the Zambian side.   Keep in mind that you will need to pay for an additional visa to Zimbabwe ($30-$50 USD).

6.    Lake Malawi (Malawi)

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi, the third largest in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania.  The largest portion of the lake is in Malawi and the setting is serene from Kande Beach.  Here you can enjoy activities such as horse-back riding, fishing, and other water-related activities.

7.    Zanzibar (Tanzania)

Zanzibar

Zanzibar, which consists of several islands, is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.  The islands were discovered by the Persians and were used as a base for trading.  Various spices are produced in Zanzibar which include nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper.  The Persians settled in an area called Stone Town and you can see their architectural influence today.

Walking through the small corridors of Stone Town and viewing the intricate doors are quite enjoyable.  Zanzibar has many white, silky beaches. Snorkeling is quite nice at the Mnemba Island, a private island in a protected boat-free zone.  It takes over one hour to reach the island, but the views from the boat are worthwhile.

8.    Okavango Delta (Botswana)

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is a large inland delta inside of Botswana. To visit the interior it is best to use a makoro, a small canoe-like boat.   It is propelled through the shallow waters of the delta by standing in the makoro and pushing with a pole.  As you are traveling through the waters, storks, water lilies, and the occasional reed frog may greet you.  Bush camping on Xau island is quite secluded as the island is small and tucked deep within the delta.

9.    Chobe National Park (Botswana)

Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park is in the northwestern part of Botswana and has one of the largest game populations in Africa.  The park is probably best known for its elephant population of over 50,000 elephants today.  The Chobe River, which flows along the Northeast border of the park, is a major watering spot.  A river cruise along Chobe river is highly recommended as it gives you a different perspective from the land-based safaris.

10.  Spitzkoppe (Namibia)

Spitzkoppe

The Spitzkoppe, more than 700 million years old, is a group of granite peaks located near Swakopmund in the Namib desert.  The landscape is quite similar to the southwestern part of the United States, specifically Utah and Colorado.  Sleeping under the stars on the rocks and waking up to the glowing sun are extraordinary experiences.

Share

About Jan

In 2004 and 2010, I set aside time to travel the world in 3 parts. In 2004, I traveled to Thailand, Europe, and Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. In 2010, I traveled to 3 continents: Asia, South America, and Africa. I am not sure if I have a fascination with the number 3, but I seem to be constantly traveling by numbers.
This entry was posted in Africa, Destinations, Top Ten and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to 10 Scenic Places Not to Miss in East and Southern Africa

  1. Travel Deals says:

    Man I love your article and it is so good and I am gonna bookmark it. I Have to say the Superb analysis you have done is trully remarkable.Who goes that extra mile these days? Bravo!!!

  2. Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  3. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  4. braaiseason says:

    I loved the Spitzkoppe & the climb up to view rock art !

  5. AnitaMac says:

    Looks amazing – can’t wait to go to Africa. All the spots you listed are on my list – just need to find enough time to go and do it justice!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *