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2016 Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari

17 Days from only $6195 including international airfare

Chobe • Okavango Delta • Kafue • Hwange • Victoria Falls

Courtesy David Conover
Lions of Zimbabwe

Learn why humans and lions often struggle to coexist in the lands surrounding Zimbabwe’s national parks.

Trip Itinerary

Track the Big Five through four national parks from Chobe to Hwange.   

Courtesy Kirsten Horne
Crocodile Quest: Episode 1

Explore Botswana’s Okavango Delta as you follow divers in search of fascinating (and dangerous) crocodiles.

Trip Extension: Cape Town

Ascend Cape Town's Table Mountain and spot penguin colonies on this must-do extension.

Trip Extension: Thornybush

Spot wildlife in a private reserve that is home to all of Africa's "Big Five" on this extension.

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$6195
17 DAYS
$365/DAY
including international airfare
16 DAYS FROM $4695 Land Adventure Only
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Itinerary Overview

On this African safari, you’ll observe elephants in Chobe National Park … enjoy a warm welcome when your small group visits a village near Hwange National Park … feel the rumble of Victoria Falls roaring in the distance ... and exchange stories with your travel companions around a fire under a star-filled African sky. In the morning, wake to birdsong and begin another day on the safari of your dreams.

You’ll experience small lodges and tented camps, game-viewing drives and guided walks with our sharp-eyed Trip Leaders, and local village visits. From world-famous Chobe National Park to the lush Okavango Delta, from Africa's spectacular big game to its colorful local cultures—this is the ultimate African safari.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 4 nights from only $1495

    A 34,595 acre private and intimate game reserve, Thornybush is bursting with wildlife, housing more than 500 bird species and 140 species of mammals, including the famed “Big Five.” This rugged landscape—mostly open savannah, complemented by the beautiful Drakensberg Escarpment in the distance—borders Kruger National Park and is ideal for spotting the rich diversity of game here. And because this is a private, isolated reserve, you’ll be able to enjoy activities like going off-road in search of elusive wildlife without the crowds.

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Chobe Victoria Falls Expand All
  • 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 those who traveled on our optional Thornybush: Kruger's Northern Gateway extension.

  • Encounter knowledgeable guides while on safari in Botswana

    This morning, we’ll fly to Victoria Falls, arriving early afternoon.

    We meet our Trip Leader at the Victoria Falls airport, and we drive across the border to our lodge in Botswana. After a briefing on our upcoming explorations, we'll enjoy a Welcome Drink and later, mingle with your travel companions at our Welcome Dinner.

  • Discover African wildlife on a safari in Chobe National Park

    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.

    Chobe National Park is home to one of the world's largest elephant populations—the present herd is estimated at 50,000 animals. This enormous region offers variety in both wildlife and terrain. Riverine forest, flood plains, and mopane are home to large and small game. Elephants gather around baobab trees, drawn by the water stored in their bark.

    During the dry season, the Chobe River attracts so much game that thousands of animals may congregate on its banks, and hippo are submerged in its waters. Some visitors have experienced the spectacular sighting of a zebra migration. Large groups of giraffe amble about the land, and hyena, cheetah, leopard, and wildebeest may also be glimpsed in this thickly populated habitat. 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.

    The pace of most of our African safari days follows this general pattern: After our morning game-viewing, 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 drive. In the evenings, just before sunset, we gather to soak in the views of the golden sun sinking behind a nearby watering hole. We then sit down to enjoy dinner together by candlelight.

    Today, we explore the Chobe National Park on morning and afternoon game-viewing drives, return to the lodge in time for afternoon tea, and then, after sundown, we have dinner at our lodge.

  • Discover African wildlife on a safari in Chobe National Park

    Our safari schedule in Chobe today features a full-day game-viewing drive in Chobe National Park—which has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent and is sure to be a highlight of our safari adventure. During a full day of game-viewing in the park, we’ll spot some of these magnificent elephants, in addition to zebra, Cape buffalo, hippo, and crocodile. We will be out in our vehicles during lunchtime, so we will take along a picnic lunch.

    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.

  • See Botswana's Okavango Delta by airplane

    This morning, we'll enjoy a discussion with your Trip Leader on the region's history before boarding a minibus that takes us to Kasane, Botswana. From here, we catch a light aircraft flight to our camp in Botswana.

    Our lodge is a private Wilderness Tented Camp adjacent to the border of the Moremi National Park in the northern region of the Delta. Upon arrival, we enjoy a game-viewing drive and a picnic lunch en route to our camp, where we'll have a briefing about the lodge and the surrounding area.

    Afterwards, you are free to relax until dinner or enjoy an additional game-viewing activity.

  • Encounter lions during a safari in the Okavango Delta

    We devote the next two days to in-depth exploration of the Okavango Delta. Each morning, we split into groups and choose from a variety of options for exploring the area: including a mokoro canoe ride (weather-permitting), or a game-viewing drive.

    In the Delta, we'll see a variety of birdlife, including the vibrantly plumed lilac-breasted roller and the similarly striking pygmy goose (actually a species of duck). The elusive Pel's fishing owl, though nocturnal, can sometimes be spotted here during the day. Hippos spend the days submerged in the Delta waters, and sitatunga and red lechwe frequent both the swamps and dry land.

    While on land, we are likely to see herds of buffalo, sable antelope, kudu, and elephant.

    We return to the lodge in time for lunch, and enjoy our afternoon tea before departing on our next game-viewing excursion, returning to the lodge after sundown. After dinner, we'll enjoy an informative talk about local wildlife.

    Please note: Mokoro excursions are dependent on safety and water levels, which fluctuate constantly in the Delta, regardless of the season. When you arrive in the Delta, your Trip Leader will monitor conditions and advise you of whether it's possible to explore by mokoro.

  • Explore Botswana's Okavango Delta by dugout canoe

    Today, we continue to explore the Okavango Delta. We'll again split into groups and explore the area by mokoro on the Delta (if conditions permit), or enjoy a game-viewing drive in the neighboring savannah.

  • This morning, after an early breakfast, we fly by light aircraft from the Okavango Delta to Kasane Airport. We then travel by road and boat to Livingstone, where we'll take a light aircraft transfer to Lufupa Tented Camp in Kafue National Park this afternoon. One of Zambia’s most impressive parks, Kafue is one of the first to join an initiative to link the national parks of five African countries into what will eventually become a 108,000-square-mile park, to be known as the Kvango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (also the Okavango-Upper Zambezi TFCA).

    After we settle in and enjoy afternoon tea in the cool of the shade of jackalberry trees, we enjoy our first game-viewing excursion by boat or 4x4 vehicle late this afternoon.

    Kafue boasts a distinction that we’ll appreciate on our game-viewing drives: It is home to the greatest diversity of mammals in Zambia, with 55 large mammal species, including six varieties of large cat and 20 hooved species. Leopard and lion prowl the area around the Lufupa Channel in search of warthog, hartebeest, and the elegant puku, an antelope found only in Zambia and the Congo. Elephants gather here by day, while hippo venture out at twilight. Our guide will help us to spot these animals as we explore the park.

    We return to camp in time for dinner. Our campsite is situated in the northern section of the park along the banks of the Kafue River, one of the three rivers nourishing the park. From the decks of our safari-style tented rooms, we can view the slow-moving river and the wildlife that it attracts. After dinner, we gather around the campfire to compare notes on the animals we saw today.

  • Explore Kafue National Park on a safari

    Today, we’ll enjoy two game-viewing excursions by boat or safari vehicle during the most temperate hours—early morning and late afternoon—when the wildlife is at its most active. In addition to the mammal species such as graceful giraffes, Kafue boasts nearly 500 species of bird, including the yellow-billed oxpecker, trumpeter hornbill, and grey crowned crane. Along the rivers that feed the park, we might also encounter the white-backed night heron, African finfoot, or saddle-billed stork.

    Between wildlife excursions, you may choose to linger at camp, enjoying Kafue River views at leisure, or elect to join our Trip Leader on a nature walk around the camp.

    We gather for dinner this evening around the campfire.

  • Discover Lufupa Tented Camp in Zambia's Kafue National Park

    Two more game-viewing excursions await you this morning and afternoon, as you explore the outer reaches of the park by boat or safari vehicle. It’s impossible to exhaust the discoveries at Kafue, one of the continent’s largest national parks—at 8,600 square miles, it is roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey. Kafue’s habitats span riverine forests, floodplains, woodlands, and dambos (open grasslands). There will also be opportunities to fish along the banks, as well as a sundowner cruise in the afternoon.

    We gather for dinner and a campfire tonight, swapping memories of all we’ve encountered on our explorations in this truly stunning locale.

  • Encounter rhinos and other wildlife on safari in Hwange National Park

    This morning, after an early breakfast, we enjoy a final game-viewing drive in the region during our transfer overland to the airstrip for our chartered flight to Livingstone Airport. From here, we board a minibus that takes us to Victoria Falls, the departure point for our drive to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's largest park.

    This outstanding area of African bush country boasts plentiful wildlife—yet remains relatively "undiscovered." Our camp is located in the northern section of Hwange National Park and each tented unit offers views of the Sinamatella River and surrounding hillside from the veranda. We'll have lunch en route to our camp, arriving in the early afternoon.

    Hwange is home to many diverse habitats, from teak forests to palm islands to vast savannah plains. Likewise, 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. The park is also known for its herds of sable antelope, an elegant animal with large, graceful horns.

    In the late afternoon, we gather to enjoy a talk regarding the unique geology and geography of Hwange National Park before dinner.

  • Encounter knowledgeable safari guides in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park

    This morning, we'll have the opportunity to enjoy a game-viewing drive 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. During our drive, we’ll stop to enjoy lunch in the bush.

    After our game-viewing drive, we’ll return to our camp for some time at leisure. Tonight, we’ll experience traditional African drumming, followed by dinner together.

  • 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'll take a break from game viewing to learn more about Zimbabwe's human residents as we enjoy A Day in the Life of a village near the park.

    Our first stop is St. Mary's Primary school (when in session), which is supported in part by Grand Circle Foundation. We have the unique opportunity to meet the teachers and share smiles with the children.

    Next, we meet a village leader, who takes us on a short tour that reveals how local people live, tend to their animals, and raise their crops. We'll learn a few words in the language of the local Ndebele people, before sitting down with a family to gain insight into their culture first-hand. We'll have an opportunity for hands-on discovery, when we take part in some farming activities (season permitting)—like planting, milking cows, and collecting eggs.

    After bidding farewell to the village leader, we return to our camp for lunch.

    As on previous days, we enjoy a game-viewing drive in the afternoon and return to our camp after sunset.

  • Discover Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls on a guided tour

    After breakfast, we depart our camp and 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, whose African name (Mosi-oa Tunya) means "the smoke that thunders," 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.

    After lunch, we'll enjoy a guided tour which includes exploring 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. 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.)

    This evening enjoy dinner at our hotel.

  • View Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls

    If you like, you can join a combination of optional tours including an elephantback safari or helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, as well as enjoy 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. Please ask your Trip Leader for advice about where else it may be appropriate to barter in this manner. This evening, our Farewell Dinner is at a local restaurant.

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast this morning, we’ll gather for a talk on the life of David Livingstone before we drive to the 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.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Cape Town & The Cape of Good Hope

    4 nights from only $1295

    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

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