Southern Africa smorgasbord
This exciting trip starts in cosmopolitan Cape Town, but then heads into the wilds of Namibia, finishing on the east coast at Maputo in Mozambique or back in South Africa at Johannesburg. Allow at least two months for this backpacking journey – longer if you get lazy in Malawi!
Start in South Africa’s mother city, vibrant Cape Town, where you can climb Table Mountain, visit townships and slack on Atlantic coast beaches. Board a bus north into Namibia for Hobas, gateway to the superb landscapes of Fish River Canyon National Park, a jaw-dropping natural attraction and Namibia’s premier hiking country. Next head to the expansive sand sea and monster dunes of Sesriem and Sossusvlei in Namib-Naukluft Park, part of the Namib Desert.
If the budget allows, organise a safari through Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s great wildlife experiences, then continue east along the Caprivi Strip to Kasane, gateway to Botswana’s Chobe National Park and its amazing concentration of elephants. You’ll need to swallow your budget if you want to detour south to the magnificent Okavango Delta; from Maun you can organise a mokoro (dugout canoe) to explore the wetlands. Otherwise it’s a short hop from Kasane to Livingstone in Zambia, gateway to spectacular Victoria Falls. Consider white-water rafting or bungee-jumping here.
Take the long bus ride across Zambia via Lusaka into Malawi, where you can relax on the white-sand beaches of Lake Malawi at the legendary backpacker hangout of Cape Maclear.
Further south, Liwonde National Park is Malawi’s premier wildlife-spotting experience, especially for hippos and elephants. From here you can cross the border into Mozambique, taking the train from Cuamba to Nampula, the jumping-off point for unforgettable Mozambique Island. Reed houses and colonial mansions rub shoulders on this palm-studded retreat, former capital of Portuguese East Africa.
After a few days, make your way south via the coastal Bazaruto Archipelago and Tofo to Mozambique’s energetic and attractive capital, Maputo. If you need to finish back in South Africa, there are daily express buses to Johannesburg (nine hours).