From the breathtaking Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park to the majestic Okavango Delta, big game and local cultures await on this incredible safari. Watch elephants drink along the riverbanks in Chobe National Park … interact with the residents of a small African village … learn to track wild rhinoceroses on foot … and see Zambia’s British colonial history on full display in Livingstone … Our small groups stay in small lodges and tented camps, where we easily embark on game-viewing drives with local Trip Leaders who help us spot antelope, giraffe, zebra, and more. We’ll spend our nights exchanging stories around campfires under star-filled African skies, and wake up to the roaring waters of the Zambezi River and birdsong emanating from nearby acacia trees.
4 nights from only $1545
At 34,595 acres, Thornybush is home to more than 500 bird species and 140 species of mammals. This rugged landscape—mostly open savannah, complemented by the beautiful Drakensberg Escarpment in the distance—borders Kruger National Park and is ideal for spotting a rich diversity of game. And because this is a private, isolated reserve, you’ll be able go off-road in search of elusive wildlife without the crowds.View Extension Itinerary
You depart from the U.S. on an overnight flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Today, arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa. You will be met and transferred to your hotel for an overnight stay. Here, you'll be joined by the people who traveled on our optional Thornybush: Kruger's Northern Gateway extension.
This morning, we'll fly to Victoria Falls, arriving in the early afternoon. We meet our Trip Leader at the Victoria Falls airport, then drive across the border to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Our total transfer time today is approximately 8 hours. Our lodge gives us access to the eastern side of the park, which offers excellent game viewing, plus the chance to observe wildlife by boat on the Chobe River. After a briefing on our upcoming explorations, we'll enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the lodge this evening.
The next two days are devoted to seeking out game in Chobe National Park, the second-largest (and first-established) national park in the country. This enormous region offers variety in both wildlife and terrain. Riverine forest, flood plains, and mopane are home to large and small game. During the dry season, the Chobe River attracts thousands of animals that congregate on its banks, while hippo and crocodiles are submerged in its waters.
Chobe is home to one of the world's largest elephant populations—the present herd is estimated at 50,000. Elephants gather around baobab trees, drawn by the water stored in their bark. The birdlife here is spectacular, ranging from eagles and bustards to plovers and rollers, and bee-eaters bustle near their sandbank nests. There are also water birds, such as egret, ibis, and heron, along the river.
Our safari days here follow this general pattern: After our morning game-viewing drive, we will spend siesta time quietly during the heat of the day, followed by teatime in the late afternoon. Next we head out for our afternoon game-viewing cruise on the Chobe River. In the evenings, just before sunset, we gather to soak in the magnificent views of the golden sun sinking behind a nearby watering hole. We then sit down to enjoy dinner together by candlelight.
This morning, we'll take another game-viewing drive in Chobe National Park in search of elephant, buffalo, hippo, crocodile, and many other kinds of wildlife. We'll break from our explorations for lunch at our lodge, followed by some time at leisure and tea, before we return for a game-viewing cruise along the Chobe River.
Dinner tonight is a traditional South African braai, similar to our barbecue but more closely connected to the outdoor life, culture, and laid-back lifestyle of southern Africans. We'll cap off the day with a relaxing sundowner with our fellow travelers.
Early this morning, we board a minibus that takes us to Kasane. From here, we catch a light aircraft flight to our next lodge in the Okavango Delta, which is in an area of open grasslands that offers excellent opportunities for spotting wildlife. Our total transfer time today is up to 2 hours. Upon arrival, we'll have a briefing about the lodge and the surrounding area. Afterwards, you are free to relax until dinner.
This morning, we split into groups and explore the Okavango Delta region on a game-viewing drive in the neighboring savannahs. In the delta, we'll see a stunning variety of birdlife, including the vibrant and rare Wattled Crane and the similarly striking Pygmy Goose (actually a species of duck). Hippos spend the days submerged in local waters, and Sitatunga and Red Lechwe antelope frequent the swamps, as well as dry land. We return to the lodge in time for lunch. We enjoy afternoon tea before departing on another wildlife-viewing excursion. Dinner is back at the lodge tonight.
Today, we continue to explore the Okavango Delta and the neighboring savannah. We'll split into groups and explore the area on two game-viewing drives, one before and one after an included lunch back at camp. This evening, we'll take part in a discussion about the ongoing conflict between humans and wildlife before we gather for dinner.
This morning, we take a one-hour flight by light aircraft to Kasane. We then travel by road and boat to Livingstone, where we'll arrive at our lodging in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park; our transfer time today totals about 4 hours.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is included in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, an initiative to link the national parks of five African countries into what will eventually become a 108,000-square-mile park. Its name, which translates to "the smoke that thunders," refers to the stunning Victoria Falls which are located on the park grounds. Situated along the Zambezi River, and occupying just 66 square kilometers, the park offers excellent opportunities for concentrated game-viewing. Being near the river also means our location is favorable for water-based activities including fishing and boat tours. From the decks of our safari-style tented rooms, we can view the beautiful river and the wildlife that it attracts. Antelope, giraffe, zebra, and more, roam the park grounds along with elephants who regularly venture into the park from across the Zambezi River.
After an orientation walk to get familiar with our surroundings, we'll depart this afternoon for a wildlife-viewing cruise along the river. This evening, we'll return to our lodge for dinner as a group.
After breakfast this morning, we'll depart for a guided walking tour through Livingstone. Named in tribute to David Livingstone, the town's first European explorer, Livingstone is well-known for its proximity to Victoria Falls and its late-19th-century British colonial roots. We'll mingle with locals and explore traces of the town's past as we stroll through a local market, witness historic landmarks, and pay a visit to the Livingstone Museum.
This afternoon, we'll return to our lodge for lunch as a group. After we eat, we'll enjoy some time at leisure. Perhaps you'll walk over to Devil's Pool, one of the most dramatic vistas Victoria Falls has to offer, which is only accessible from the Zambian side of the falls. When the conditions are just right, the river flow creates an eddy that butts right up against the edge of a cliff. Though dangerous, daring swimmers sometimes choose to take a dip and float over to the edge of the waterfalls for an exhilarating, and surely unforgettable experience. If you'd rather use this time to rest, don't worry though, as we'll enjoy a more extensive exploration of the falls when we're in Zimbabwe.
Later this afternoon, we'll embark on a rhinoceros tracking excursion by foot, during which our guide will teach us the proper method to locate and observe one of Earth's largest extant species: the rare, endangered Southern White Rhinoceros. We'll return to the lodge this evening where we'll get a better sense of local culture through music, as we enjoy a performance by a Zambian band followed by dinner.
More cultural interactions await you this morning as we depart after breakfast for a small village, where your Trip Leader will facilitate conversations with the local people. After returning to our lodge for lunch, we'll enjoy our final game-viewing opportunities in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park on both a drive and a sundowner cruise along the Zambezi River. We gather for dinner and a campfire again tonight, swapping memories of all we’ve encountered on our explorations in this truly stunning locale.
This morning, after an early breakfast, we drive approximately 5 hours to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's largest park. On the way, we'll stop to walk across Victoria Falls Bridge, taking in spectacular views of the falls.
Hwange is home to many diverse habitats, from teak forests to palm islands to vast, savannah plains. Here, you may behold a rich menagerie of game that can include elephant, buffalo, eland, wildebeest, impala, lion, leopard, cheetah, and more than 400 known bird species. This outstanding area of African bush country boasts plentiful wildlife—yet remains relatively "undiscovered." Our camp is located in the eastern section of the park close enough to a watering hole that we may even be able to see game without leaving the lodge. The park is also known for its herds of sable antelope, an elegant animal with large, graceful horns.
In the late afternoon, we'll enjoy a game-viewing drive, followed by dinner at our lodge.
This morning, we'll embark on an early game-viewing drive in the park. We'll return to camp for brunch and time at leisure. Perhaps you'll use the time to explore our surroundings, keeping an eye out for some of the flora and fauna we have learned about. We journey into the bush once again for our afternoon game-viewing drive before returning to our camp after sundown. We'll enjoy dinner together this evening.
A Day in the Life
Work side-by-side with locals to find fresh water and prepare sadza (porridge) in a Hwange village.
Today, we experience A Day in the Life of a village near Hwange National Park for a glimpse into the lives of the Zimbabwean people. We’ll visit with students at either the Ziga or the Ngamo school (when in session), supported by Grand Circle Foundation—part of the World Classroom initiative. Then we’ll tour the community with a village elder, share tea with students and their families (when schedule permits), and participate in village activities.
This afternoon, after lunch at our lodge, we enjoy another game-viewing drive, offering more chances to observe Hwange’s rich diversity of wildlife.
After breakfast, we take a 5-hour drive to Victoria Falls. Here we visit the largest curtain of water in the world—and one of the world's Seven Natural Wonders. These awe-inspiring cataracts are nearly twice as high as Niagara, one and a half times as wide, and generate three times as much water. On a clear day, you can see the mist sprayed into the air from these crashing waters from more than 50 miles away. At peak flood times, 1.4 billion gallons of water per minute pass over its edge.
At Victoria Falls, we'll 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. The flora around the falls is naturally profuse: You'll see ebony, fig trees, and many flowering species. And if we're lucky, we may even spot the rare Livingstone's Turaco, a species of bird native only to southeastern Africa's subtropical region. The rain forest surrounding the falls is particularly lush, fed by Victoria's perpetual spray. (It's a good idea to wrap your camera equipment, cash, and other valuables in plastic.)
If you like, you can join a combination of optional tours including a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, as well as an orientation walk of the town of Victoria Falls later this morning. Here, 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.
This is one of the places where bartering is appropriate, often expected—and can be great fun. American goods like T-shirts, sweatshirts, and baseball caps with designer logos can be good “currency” here. Socks are an especially sought-after item, so if you have any extras laying around—especially ones with recognizable name brands—make sure to pack them. Please ask your Trip Leader for advice about where else it may be appropriate to barter in this manner.
This evening, we'll gather for a talk on the life of David Livingstone before dinner at a local restaurant.
After a full breakfast, the morning is at leisure. From Victoria Falls, we fly to Johannesburg.
Both the flight to Cape Town, for travelers continuing on the optional extension, and the flight for those returning home to the U.S., depart later in the afternoon or evening. You will arrive in the U.S. the following day.
4 nights from only $1345
With Table Mountain as its backdrop, a bevy of bays at its feet, and the lushest foliage this side of paradise, Cape Town arguably occupies one of the most spectacular natural settings on Earth. Here is your chance to revel in it—and to witness the amazing social transformation of the “Rainbow Nation.”View Extension Itinerary