Print

Day by Day Itinerary

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

The open plains of Kruger National Park, South Africa … the mighty power of Victoria Falls … the idyllic beauty of Namibia’s Impalila Island, a bird-watchers' paradise at the confluence of two mighty African rivers—the Chobe and Zambezi. The gems of Southern Africa are as diverse as they are abundant with wildlife. In a safari adventure spanning four nations, you’ll experience a rich array of landscapes and species. A zebra migration … packs of giraffes ambling amiably in search of tender leaves … cheetah and leopard stalking prey. Day to day, season to season, the wildlife viewing is never the same twice–but you’re always assured of memorable sights and sounds. Every day brings new discoveries.

Travel to South Africa and beyond, and you’ll explore on foot, aboard safari vehicles, and by riverboat, with experienced Trip Leaders and driver-guides making sure you don’t miss a thing. With small lodges and tented camps as your home bases, you’ll find even the most remote settings to be welcoming. And as you meet with tribal children at a village school, learn about the flora and fauna from locals, and exchange stories with your fellow travelers around the campfire at night, you’ll be making the memories of a lifetime.

Please note: The itinerary below is for departures beginning June 27, 2014. If you reserved this adventure with an earlier departure, please refer to your Final Documents for your itinerary.

Kruger Hwange Expand All
  • hidden

    You depart from the U.S. on an overnight flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • hidden

    Today, arrive in Johannesburg. You will be met and transferred to your hotel for an overnight stay. Here, you'll be joined by those who traveled on our optional Botswana's Okavango Delta extension.

  • hidden

    This morning, you will fly to Nelspruit (Mbombela). Upon arrival, we  will be transferred to our camp in Kruger National Park.

    The largest of South Africa’s parks, with a total area of 7,500 square miles, Kruger is also one of the largest parks in the world. Bordered by the Limpopo and Crocodile Rivers, the land spreads a stunning 200 miles at its widest point. Late this afternoon, we’ll get our first taste of this vast natural canvas in a game-viewing drive. Here we may spot herds of elephant and buffalo, antelope, nyala, and eland, the kind of game you travel to South Africa to see. 

    Your game-viewing drives will be led by knowledgeable guides who know the best locations for viewing and are adept at helping you spot wildlife both near and far.

  • hidden

    Today, you'll enjoy a full-day game-viewing drive in Kruger National Park. Kruger is home to 147 species of land mammals, the highest number in Africa, including all of the “Big Five”: lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. Thousands of zebra roam the land here as well, but no species can keep up with the impala, which number more than a million here.

    After enjoying a picnic lunch in the park, our game-viewing drive continues in the afternoon. One needn’t only scan the grasses for activity—the trees and sky are busy, too. More than 500 species of birds are found here, including what African birders call “The Big Six” (in answer to the famous mammals); the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, ground hornbill, and the elusive Pel's fishing owl are all residents of the sprawling park.

    This evening, we return to our camp for dinner.

  • hidden

    We begin our day with an early morning bush-walk. Be on the lookout for species which live here in lesser numbers, including African wild dogs (of which only 150 remain).

    After returning to camp for breakfast, we’ll have the rest of the morning and the early afternoon at leisure. After lunch, you’ll enjoy a final afternoon game-viewing drive. Perhaps you’ll see giraffes “necking”—a sport for young males showing off—or hear the clucking conversations of long-horned greater kudu.

    This evening, we enjoy dinner together at the camp as evening falls and we compare notes on all that makes it special to travel to South Africa.

  • hidden

    This morning, we rise early to depart camp and return to Nelspruit for our flight to Johannesburg and connecting flight to Victoria Falls—where we will be met and transferred to our lodge near Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's largest park.

    As we pass grasslands and acacia woodlands en route to our lodge, we’ll enjoy a taste of the unspoiled beauty for which Hwange is famous. Comparatively undiscovered, the bush country park is known for its herds of sable antelope, an elegant animal with large, graceful horns, which we may see on this first game-viewing drive.

    The evening is yours to spend at leisure before dinner at the lodge.

  • hidden

    Today, we rise early for breakfast before setting out for a morning game-viewing walk. In the afternoon, we'll return to our lodge to enjoy lunch and some time at leisure, before heading into the bush again for an afternoon game-viewing drive.

    During our safari, we'll soak in a variety of Hwange’s habitats, from teak forests to palm islands to vast, savannah plains. Adding to your sightings from the day before, you may encounter a menagerie of animals which could include lion, leopard, cheetah, and more than 400 known bird species.

    We'll return to our lodge for dinner.

  • hidden

    Today, we have the opportunity to enjoy a full day of game viewing with one of our professional guides. During this drive, you will learn about the region's flora and the intricate cycle of life in the bush. We will learn to identify which animals have passed through the area. Our expert guides may also expound on everything from how elephant dung can be used as mosquito repellent, to how the giraffe is able to eat leaves off of the thorny acacia trees.

    After enjoying a packed lunch at the park, we journey into the bush once again to continue our game-viewing drive.  Perhaps we’ll spot elephant, buffalo, eland, wildebeest, and impala, before we return to our camp for dinner. Depending on the season, we might even be lucky enough to dine with a view of elephants grazing nearby.

  • hidden

    After breakfast this morning, we depart our lodge and travel overland to Victoria Falls.

    Mosi-oa Tunya, as the falls are known in the local language, live up to their name as “the smoke that thunders.” On a clear day, you can see the mist from these crashing waters from more than 50 miles away. That’s not surprising when you consider the size of the falls: nearly twice as high as Niagara, as well as one and a half times as wide, generating three times as much water. With 1.4 billion gallons of water per minute passing over its edge at peak flood, Victoria Falls is the largest curtain of water in the world.

    This afternoon, on our guided tour, we explore walking trails and lookout points—each with different views. There are five main cataracts, including the most dramatic, the Main Falls and Devil’s Cataract. Considering the endless spray here, it may be a good idea to wrap your camera equipment, cash, and other valuables in plastic before our discoveries. We’ll find the rain forest surrounding the falls is particularly lush as a result of the insistent moisture, yielding profuse flora, including ebony, fig trees, and many flowering species.

    Dinner is at a local restaurant tonight.

  • hidden

    Today, we have several opportunities to gain insight into daily life in Victoria Falls. After breakfast, we'll set out to spend some time at a village market, which is partially supported by Grand Circle Foundation to benefit the local economy. Following our market visit, we'll venture to Jabulani Primary School, where we’ll have a chance to interact with students and staff, enjoying a glimpse of Zimbabwe’s future.

    We'll spend additional time exploring the community and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. With the rest of the afternoon at leisure, you might choose to explore the town of Victoria Falls. Or perhaps, join one or more optional tours, which include an Elephantback Safari or a Helicopter ride over Victoria Falls.

    Dinner is at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    With a full day at leisure, you might choose to continue your explorations of Victoria Falls. In the center, you can find local handcrafts, such as the famous Shona stone carvings and a variety of wooden carvings. You’ll also find a selection of brilliant African textiles, malachite, basketry, and more—and don’t be afraid to barter, which is both expected and fun. (You can even use American goods like T-shirts, sweatshirts, and baseball caps with designer logos for “currency”). Please ask your Trip Leader for advice about where else it may be appropriate to barter in this manner.

    Perhaps you’ll decide to take another one of our optional tours from the choices offered on Day 10.

    We enjoy dinner this evening at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    After breakfast this morning, we travel overland to Kasane, Botswana, where we transfer by boat for our 3-night discovery of Impalila Island. Impalila Island is one of the gems of the Caprivi Strip, a slender eastern arm of Namibia extending to Zambia and Botswana. We arrive in time to settle in and enjoy lunch together at the lodge. Our setting is beneath the limbs of a 700 year-old baobab tree that once sheltered 19th-century explorer David Livingstone.

    This afternoon, discover the serenity of Impalila, surrounded by 60 miles of waterways—including the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers. With its interconnected rivers and channels varying in personality from rapids to limpid lily ponds, Impalila’s environs offer a bounty for lovers of nature. We’ll explore its flora and fauna during a sundowner cruise along the Zambezi River.

    We return to our lodge for dinner together this evening.

  • hidden

    Early this morning, you might choose to experience what life is like on Impalila Island, during a walk through a local village. Or perhaps, you'll opt to explore the Chobe River on a boat cruise. The Caprivi Strip is especially well-known for bird-watching, with 450 species found here from the Heuglin's robin to Yellow-bellied bul-buls and more. This is the best time of day to spot the black and copper-tailed coucals (a cousin to cuckoos). As you ply the waters of this legendary river, you may encounter crocodiles, hippos, and the many elephants that thrive here.

    After lunch back at camp followed by time for tea in the afternoon, your choices continue. You may opt to take a river cruise or explore the island by foot. From your boat, keep your eyes peeled for the Roan antelope, bushbuck, buffalo, and puku who call the Chobe riverbanks home.

    We enjoy dinner together at our lodge this evening.

  • hidden

    After breakfast this morning, we stroll to a nearby village to learn about traditional daily life in the Caprivi Strip. Depending on the village and season, this may include an introduction to the use of medicinal plants and trees in this region. This morning is sure to offer rich insight into the rhythms of local life.

    After lunch, you may explore the Chobe River by boat or go fishing, taking your shot at snagging the tricky Tigerfish, the king of the river. With its striped silver flank and enormous, sharp teeth, the Tigerfish makes quite an impression. It is said that Tigerfish are among the most clever river fish and can escape from hooks like swimming houdinis. Tigerfish typically tend to weigh just a few pounds, but every season someone raises a monster—up to 20 pounds—from the waters.

    Whether you seek the rich variety of wetland fowl, from herons to ibis and crakes, or perhaps a chance to angle for fish, the afternoon offers you the perfect leisurely pace. On either excursion, you’ll likely be under the watchful gaze of noble Fish Eagles.

    Tonight, we dine together at our lodge.

  • hidden

    After breakfast and your choice of either a nature walk or boat cruise, we bid farewell to Impalila Island, returning by boat to Kasane. We’ll have time to explore the town before arriving at our lodge in time for lunch. 

    This afternoon, we enjoy our first game-viewing drive in Chobe. Chobe National Park was the first national park established in Botswana and it remains one of its largest, with 4,500 square miles of area. The vast size allows for incredible diversity of terrain, from floodplains and marshes to forest and mopane woodlands. More than 50,000 elephants call this park home, making it one of the world’s largest populations.

  • hidden

    The next two safari days feature a wealth of game-viewing by land. We’ll begin our morning with breakfast at our lodge before setting out for a game-viewing drive in Chobe National Park. Then, we return to our lodge to relax for a quiet siesta during the heat of the day, followed by lunch. Late afternoon, we'll enjoy another game-viewing drive in the park. In addition to spotting elephants, we'll see zebra, Cape buffalo, wildebeest, among many other species. But it's not just land animals that fill the scene. Eagles, plovers, and bee-eaters wing through the clear air.

    In the evening, we return to camp to enjoy dinner together by candlelight.

  • hidden

    We follow our traditional pattern today, following the wildlife in safari vehicles this morning and enjoying a game-viewing boat cruise along the Chobe River in the afternoon. We're likely to encounter Chobe’s famed elephants—which are the largest in size of any elephant breed, yet have the smallest tusks. And we’re sure to see some of the beast’s African peers, perhaps including buffalo, hippo, red lechwe, sitatunga, and crocodile. 

    Over dinner at our lodge together tonight, we can compare notes on all we’ve seen during these safari days.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, we travel overland to Kasane. We then drive to the Victoria Falls airport and board our flight to Johannesburg. Both the flight for the post-trip extension Cape Town & the Cape of Good Hope and the return flights to the U.S. depart in the early evening.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

There's no better way to learn what a trip is like than from the firsthand experiences of your fellow travelers, and our Traveler Reviews are the real deal—unbiased and unedited—giving you an honest appraisal of the experiences that await you on this trip.

Have you been on this trip? Share Your Thoughts, Sign In

Please note: If you have taken this trip, please log into your My Account & return to this page. You will be prompted to post your review. Reviews are limited to 10,000 characters. Due to our moderation process, please allow up to 72 hours for your review to appear.

loading reviews

Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.  Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 6 locations in 17 days with one 1-night stay
  • Early morning game-viewing drives on safari days, rising at 5am

Physical requirements

  • Not appropriate for travelers using wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  • You must be able to walk unassisted while carrying hand luggage; expect 2-4 hours of physical activities on some days
  • You will need to access vehicles by ladder without aid
  • Not appropriate for travelers in need of CPAP machine

Climate

  • The hottest months are October-February; mid-day temperatures can reach more than 100°F
  • Daytime temperature between May-August can be 70-80°F, and as low as 50°F at night
  • December-March brings heavy rain and thunderstorms

Terrain

  • Travel on roads in poor condition that can cause problems for travelers with leg or back issues
  • During game-viewing excursions, we’ll travel over bumpy, dusty terrain and walk on sandy, uneven terrain at our camps

Transportation

  • On game-viewing drives, we travel overland in open-sided safari vehicles with bench seating and no air-conditioning. We also travel in motorized boats
  • 3 guided walks of up to 1 hour each; and 3 internal flights on 50-passenger planes

Accommodations & Facilities

  • We spend 12 nights in comfortable but basic lodges and tented camps and 4 nights in hotels
  • Our lodges use generator electricity and lantern lighting at night, and do not have air-conditioning
  • All accommodations feature private baths

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary:

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Botswana: No visa required.
  • South Africa: No visa required, but South Africa will require either proof of a yellow fever vaccination or a waiver of vaccination for this itinerary.
  • Zimbabwe: Visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this adventure will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your adventure, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Trip Leaders and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Protea Hotel O.R. Tambo

    Johannesburg, South Africa

    Due to its proximity to O.R. Tambo Airport, the design of the hotel is inspired by an aircraft hangar with a stylized industrial look that playfully incorporates elements of airplanes into the decor. Located in the Johannesburg suburb of Kempton Park, the hotel offers a shuttle to the nearby metro station and has a pool, bar, restaurant, and health club for your enjoyment. Each of the 213 air-conditioned rooms features satellite TV, wireless high-speed Internet, a safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities and private bath.

  • Explorers Tented Camp

    Kruger National Park, South Africa

    In Kruger National Park, we stay at our private tented camp. The camp’s location is ideally situated for game-viewing activities. Here you’ll find large walk-in tents. Each unit will include en suite toilet and shower facilities.

  • Sprayview Hotel

    Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

    This Victoria Falls hotel offers an on-site restaurant, which overlooks a swimming pool and bar area. There are 54 rooms at the hotel, each with ceiling fan, telephone, patio, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath.

  • Impalila Island Lodge

    Impalila Island, Namibia

    Nestled beneath a 700-year-old baobab tree, the Impalila Island Lodge occupies a small isle near the meeting place of the Zambezi and Chobe rivers. Each of the eight chalets boasts ensuite bath and shower facilities. Walking trails among the baobab trees, alongside rivers and lily ponds, complement on-site facilities including a swimming pool, bar, elevated deck, and dining area.

  • Chobe Bakwena Lodge

    Chobe National Park, Botswana

    On the banks of the Chobe River, this new eco-conscious lodge features 10 thatched chalets. Nestled under acacia trees, the chalets are made of local stone and wood materials. Each lodge features an en suite toilet with private outdoor showers, and boasts its own raised deck overlooking the river. The lodge offers a lounge, restaurant, bar, and outdoor swimming pool for leisure time.

  • Sable Sands Lodge

    Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

    Situated just outside of Hwange National Park, Sable Sands Lodge offers unique opportunities for private game viewing. The lodge is nestled in a rosewood and teak forest overlooking the Dete Vleia long, dry riverbedand waterhole where wildlife can be spotted wandering freely around the area. Each of the eleven chalets includes an en suite bathroom with shower and flush toilet, as well as a private terrace. The main lodge area features a dining area, lounge, loft, library, and an outdoor swimming pool. 

Extensions

  • Protea Hotel O.R. Tambo

    Johannesburg, South Africa

    Due to its proximity to O.R. Tambo Airport, the design of the hotel is inspired by an aircraft hangar with a stylized industrial look that playfully incorporates elements of airplanes into the decor. Located in the Johannesburg suburb of Kempton Park, the hotel offers a shuttle to the nearby metro station and has a pool, bar, restaurant, and health club for your enjoyment. Each of the 213 air-conditioned rooms features satellite TV, wireless high-speed Internet, a safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities and private bath.

  • Kana Kara Tented Camp

    Okavango Delta, Botswana

    In the Okavango Delta, we stay at our new Kana Kara Tented Camp. Walk-in tents on a solid base at ground level feature en suite toilet and shower facilities. Our location is well-positioned to take advantage of land- and water-based activities depending on the season. (Water activities are seasonal and dependent on water levels.)

  • Inn on the Square

    Cape Town, South Africa

    This hotel sits on Cape Town’s popular and historic Greenmarket Square, in the Central Business District. Here, you’ll find stalls selling handmade goods, from art to clothing, as well as nearby cafes and restaurants. You may also choose to relax in the hotel’s rooftop pool or on-site restaurant. Each of the 195 air-conditioned rooms comes equipped with safe, hair dryer, satellite TV, telephone, and coffee- and tea-making facilities.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two adventures to maximize your value. Here are more ways to create the OAT adventure that’s right for you:

  • Extend your adventure and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip extensions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your adventure
  • Choose to “break away” before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of OAT adventures to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent traveler miles

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Lighting a Candle, Building a Fire

Women rising up for change in Zimbabwe

WOZA describes its tactics as “tough love,” a method of strategic nonviolence in response to aggression.


There is little doubt that Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), is committed to making a difference—after all, they have a logo resembling a flame coming to life, an acronym that also happens to be the Ndebele word for “come forward,” and a strong mission to their work. Since 2003, the members of WOZA have made it their goal to help the women of Zimbabwe speak out and better their futures.

Zimbabwe has undergone major change in recent decades, and for a long time was seen as a failure of African governance. Hyperinflation, joblessness, and a general distrust of the government permeated the country. Today, however, Zimbabwe is making progress on the road to stability—life expectancy has increased dramatically, commerce is slowly returning as the Zimbabwe dollar gains strength, and general optimism has led to a baby boom.

Empowering women to rise

Zimbabweans have learned that they need to be vocal advocates for their own futures, and the members of WOZA help them do exactly that. WOZA’s stated goals include encouraging women to speak up when their rights and freedoms are at risk, to become public leaders in their communities, and to unite across different backgrounds in identifying and working on issues that affect women.

WOZA today has more than 75,000 members, both women and men, and leads initiatives in constitution-making, democracy, education, children’s welfare, protesting police brutality, and recognizing the rights of women. WOZA members have been arrested (in fact, more than 3,000 members have spent time in jail), beaten, and denigrated in the press—but they have also been recognized the world over for leading the charge towards a freer and more inclusive Zimbabwe.

In 2009, President Obama presented WOZA and its leader, Magodonga Mahlangu, with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, which honors those who creatively and courageously defend human rights. In the words of President Obama, “By her example, Magodonga has shown the women of WOZA and the people of Zimbabwe that they can undermine their oppressors’ power with their own power—that they can sap a dictator’s strength with their own. Her courage has inspired others to summon theirs.”

Facing oppression with “tough love”

WOZA describes its tactics as “tough love,” a method of strategic nonviolence in response to aggression. As described on their website, “the power of love can conquer the love of power. ‘Tough love’ is our secret weapon of mass mobilisation. ‘Tough love’ is the disciplining love of a parent; women practice it to press for and to bring dignity back to Zimbabweans. Political leaders in Zimbabwe need some discipline; who better to dish it out than mothers!”

It is precisely because WOZA’s members feel such deep pride for Zimbabwe and have optimism for the future that they can practice tough love. However, many of those in power in Zimbabwe see WOZA as troublemakers, as evidenced by the recent arrests of both Mahlangu and founder Jennifer Williams. They were observing a peaceful WOZA protest from a distance, when officers started an argument over whether protesters should notify police before an action. Before long, both women were in custody along with about eight other protesters, but only some police officers were officially charging those detained with any crime. Incidents such as this are an indication that despite Zimbabwe’s economic gains, there is much work still to be done in terms of judicial reform.

Though there is much ground still left to cover in the process of creating a free and fair Zimbabwe, WOZA will continue their work no matter what the opposition. In an open letter, the sentiment of WOZA was phrased simply: “WOZA members believe that it is better to light a single candle than to complain about the darkness.”