Southern Africa’s most obvious attraction is its wildlife. And with famous parks including Kruger, South Luangwa and Chobe home to the iconic ‘Big Five’, you can see why. But beyond its lions and rhinos, this diverse region has a variety of other attractions that are just as worthy of your attention.
So whether you’ve finished your safari and have a few days spare or simply want to experience more of what Southern Africa has to offer, here’s our pick of the greatest attractions that don’t feature wildlife.
Fish River Canyon, Namibia
The largest canyon in the southern hemisphere, Fish River Canyon is second only to the USA’s Grand Canyon in terms of size. And the numbers speak for themselves. Measuring 160 kilometres long, 27 kilometres wide and reaching depths of 550 metres, this natural wonder is truly impressive.
But you’ll have to experience this rocky landscape yourself in order to truly appreciate its scale. The best way to do that is on the epic 5-day hike that covers just over half its length. Taking hikers through 1.5 billion years of geological history, the route is as challenging as it is unforgettable.
The Garden Route, South Africa
Covering just over 200 kilometres of glorious coastline, the Garden Route is on most people’s bucket-lists for South Africa. With soaring mountains and indigenous forests on one side and a shoreline dotted with bays and beaches on the other, you can’t help but be seduced by this spectacular scenery.
Alongside road tripping, there’s a whole host of other activities to enjoy along this section of coastline. There are lakes and rivers for boating and fishing, meandering trails for hiking and numerous stops for a refreshing swim. Time your visit in spring and you’ll also see fabulous displays of wildflowers in bloom.
Tsodilo Hills, Botswana
Rising unexpectedly from the dry Kalahari, the Tsodilo Hills consist of four large pieces of rock. Known as the ‘Louvre of the Desert’, the hills contain one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world. The 10-kilometre-square area is home to some 4,500 paintings, which has led to it being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Human activities in the area date over 100,000 years, but the symbolism behind many of the paintings remains unknown. The site is sacred to the Bushmen who live here and it’s seen as a place where ancestral spirits dwell. As a visitor, there’s no denying the spiritualism and mystery of this unique place.
‘Discovered’ just over 150 years ago by missionary explorer David Livingstone, Lake Malawi is the country’s star attraction. Named by Livingstone as the ‘Lake of Stars’, it’s the third largest lake in Africa and the ninth largest in the world.
This freshwater lake is so vast, it’s thought of as an ‘inland sea’. And fringed by golden sandy beaches and breaking waves, it certainly feels like the ocean. Watersports fans can explore by kayak, paddleboard or boat. Snorkelling is also one of the top activities here, with abundant shoals of colourful tropical fish.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Forming the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls is one of the greatest waterfalls in the world. During the rainy season, columns of spray can be seen from kilometres away. And if that wasn’t impressive, a staggering five hundred million cubic metres of water plummet over the edge per minute.
The cliff over which the falls thunder is nearly two kilometres wide, with the drop to the gorge below measuring 100 metres. Facing this is another sheer wall, on top of which runs a path offering unparalleled views over the falls. So if you’re prepared to face the spray, take a walk here and admire the sheer power of one the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Stellenbosch Wine Region, South Africa
Just a 45-minute drive from Cape Town, Stellenbosch is possibly the most famous wine-making region in South Africa. And whilst the town of Stellenbosch itself is picturesque, with many historic Cape Dutch buildings, the surrounding area is simply stunning.
Gorgeous vineyards cover the landscape, against a backdrop of imposing mountain slopes. You’ll find around 148 wine farms here, where you can stop for a tasting and soak up the marvellous views.
Skeleton Coast, Namibia
Stretching from south of Swakopmund to the Kunene River, the Skeleton Coast is a barren area that’s aptly named. Thanks to treacherous fog and strong currents, many explorers’ ships were wrecked here and can still be seen rusting from the shore.
But this landscape is as stunning as it is harsh. Covering 20,000 square kilometres, the scenery takes in soaring sand dunes and seas of gravel plains. The coastline is also home to striking rock formations and ancient welwitschia plants, with dry river valleys paced by desert-adapted elephants, giraffes and more. All of which are managing to survive in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments.
Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
Set just off the coastal town of Vilanculos, this idyllic archipelago consists of six beautiful islands. Featuring pristine white sands and crystal clear waters, this paradise is often thought of as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’.
The archipelago also boasts some of the best diving in the world, with its diverse marine life including dolphins, turtles and more. Visitors to the isles can explore aboard a traditional Dhow sailboat or simply relax on their unspoilt shores.
Although these are our highlights, Southern Africa still has plenty more to offer. So why not take a look at our range of Africa group tours?