Southern Africa is blessed with captivating natural wonders, and on this epic trip—covering South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe—you’ll get to check off much of your adventure bucket list. Get up close to the famed "big five" on thrilling safaris, feel the spray of one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls, and explore the oldest desert on Earth by 4x4. Along the way, meet with researchers from National Geographic sponsored–organizations for insights on wildlife conservation, and spend time in townships and villages to learn about daily life.

Trip highlights

Carnivore Conservation Experience, A researcher from the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project will conduct a lecture and join us on a wildlife safari drive to share insights into the behaviour of cheetahs and other carnivores – and efforts to protect them. This National Geographic-sponsored project is part of the Big Cats Initiative.

Cheetah Conservation Experience, Visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a global field research facility founded by Dr. Laurie Marker, whose work has been supported by National Geographic. Enjoy a lecture about the centre's work before heading out on a wildlife drive to view cheetahs up close in their natural habitat.

Mondesa Township Walk, Visit Mondesa Township with an expert resident guide to learn about daily life while spending time with this community’s welcoming people. Visit the local market, an arts-and-crafts shop, and a tavern before heading to a nearby home for dinner and entertainment.

Zimbabwean Family Dinner, Visit Flatter Ncube’s home and meet her extended family. On her homestead, you’ll sit down to a traditional Zimbabwean dinner made with produce fresh from the gardens. Hear what daily life is like for Ncube and her family over a delicious meal.

Itinerary - 18 Days

Day 1 Johannesburg

Arrive at any time and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy a traditional South African braai (barbecue) for dinner tonight.

Day 2 Johannesburg/Greater Kruger Area

Set out towards Kruger National Park via the magnificent Panorama Route, one of the world’s most picturesque drives. Make stops at the dramatic Blyde River Canyon and Bourke's Luck Potholes, and take in panoramic views of the forest-covered valley from the God's Window viewpoint. Continue to our tented camp near Kruger National Park and savour a delicious South African dinner in a boma.

Day 3 Kruger National Park

Rise early and climb aboard an open jeep for a full-day safari in Kruger National Park—home to an extraordinary array of large mammals. Spot elephants, lions, giraffes, and perhaps elusive leopards as we explore this breathtaking wilderness of savanna and scrubland. Return to our lodge in the evening, where you can take some time to relax on the deck and enjoy the nocturnal sounds of the bush.

Day 4 Greater Kruger Area/Karongwe Private Game Reserve

Travel to the Karongwe Private Game Reserve, a pristine wildlife sanctuary located in the Greater Kruger area. Meet with a researcher from the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project—a program funded in part by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative—and learn about efforts to protect the region’s cheetahs and other carnivores. The researcher then joins us for a wildlife-viewing excursion through the reserve.

Day 5 Karongwe Private Game Reserve

Spend the day exploring Karongwe on morning and afternoon safaris with our local guides. Search for buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos—Africa's famed "big five"—as we drive through the shrublands of the bushveld. Back at camp, relax on deck or take a walk around the grounds.

Day 6 Karongwe Private Game Reserve/Johannesburg

Embark on one last safari this morning, keeping a lookout for Karongwe’s iconic inhabitants. Then head back to the city, where you’ll enjoy dinner in our local guest house.

Day 7 Johannesburg/Windhoek

Fly to Windhoek and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy free time to explore the Namibian capital this afternoon.

Day 8 Windhoek/Sesriem

Set off from the Namibian capital towards Sesriem, the gateway to jaw-dropping Namib-Naukluft National Park. Drive past red-hued desertscapes, stark camel thorn trees, and dramatic curved dunes while keeping an eye out for the astonishing creatures that call these arid lands home—the oryx, springbok, jackal, hyena, and more. Settle in to our lodge and relax poolside, watching a fiery crimson sunset over the desert.

Day 9 Sesriem

Embark on a thrilling excursion into one of Africa’s largest national parks aboard a 4x4. Explore the Namib desert, the oldest desert in the world; and venture to the massive dunes at Sossusvlei and the white clay pan of Deadvlei. Capture dramatic images of dead camel thorn trees against a backdrop of orange dunes and a crisp blue sky. Then visit the Sesriem Canyon, a natural gorge carved out by the Tsauchab River over millions of years.

Day 10 Sesriem/Swakopmund

Continue by road through changing desert landscapes towards the coastal city of Swakopmund. Look out for roaming zebra, kudu, springbok, and oryx on the way, and take a break in the quirky town of Solitaire before heading into the countryside. Here, we meet a local for a 4x4 drive through the desert, learning about the survival strategies of bushmen who lived in this inhospitable area thousands of years ago. We also search for the smaller wildlife that has managed to survive here, such as snakes, geckos, spiders, and an array of insects.

Day 11 Swakopmund

Enjoy a free morning in Swakopmund, getting a taste of the town’s unique Afro-German culture; or opt to go sandboarding in the Namib desert. This afternoon, take a tour of Mondesa township with a local guide, learning about its people and history. Visit the local market for an introduction to traditional foods such as wild spinach, mopane worms, and dried sardines or kapenta. Stop by an arts and crafts shop; chat with the locals; and round off the day with dinner and a performance at a cozy family-run establishment.

Day 12 Swakopmund/Palmwag

Make your way to Twyfelfontein—Namibia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site—to see some of Africa’s largest concentrations of petroglyphs. Marvel at these remarkable engravings, carved by prehistoric hunter-gatherers and depicting rhinos, elephants, and ostriches, as well as human and animal footprints. Then continue to our lodge on the Palmwag nature reserve in northwest Damaraland.

Day 13 Palmwag/Etosha National Park Area

Enjoy a relaxed morning at our lodge or opt for a guided walk in the Palmwag reserve, home to many rare, desert-adapted species. In the afternoon, travel towards Etosha National Park, arguably Namibia’s most spectacular wildlife sanctuary. Settle into our lodge, located outside of the park.

Day 14 Etosha National Park Area

Spend a full day on safari in Etosha National Park, where open grasslands converge on a massive salt pan. Etosha harbours some of the largest populations of lions, elephants, and endangered black rhinos in the world, so keep your camera on the ready as you explore in your open vehicle. Enjoy lunch at one of the park’s rest areas, where you can also take a swim; and sit back and watch all manner of creatures—including hundreds of species of birds—flock to the nearby watering hole.

Day 15 Etosha National Park Area/Windhoek

After breakfast, visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund, a global research and education center founded by National Geographic Grantee Dr. Laurie Marker. Tour the facility to learn about the important conservation and community outreach work they do to protect the world’s fastest land animal, and enjoy a talk by one of the researchers. Then head out on a drive through the grounds to meet some of the center’s rescued and rehabilitated cheetahs. Continue to Windhoek for our final evening.

Day 16 Windhoek/Victoria Falls

Catch a flight to the town of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, named after one of the most powerful waterfalls on Earth. Visit a nearby village and go grocery shopping in the bustling market. Then sit down with a local family for dinner, helping your hosts prepare a traditional Zimbabwean meal using the ingredients you picked out, and hear stories about local life and culture.

Day 17 Victoria Falls

Set out for a tour of magnificent Victoria Falls. Scottish explorer David Livingstone named them after Britain’s Queen Victoria, while their older, indigenous name is Mosi-oa-Tunya—“the smoke that thunders.” Opt to embark on a thrilling white-water excursion on the Zambezi River; soar above the roaring falls in a helicopter; or take a day trip to wildlife-rich Chobe National Park.

Day 18 Victoria Falls

Depart at any time.

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