Day by Day Itinerary

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.

Chobe Victoria Falls Expand All
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    You depart from the U.S. on an overnight flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    • 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.


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Questions and Answers

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Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our adventures? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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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.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

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


  • 6 locations in 16 days with one 1-night stay
  • Early morning game-viewing drives on safari days, rising at 5am
  • You will have transfers of up to 6 hours to reach your tented camps on two days

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


  • The hottest months are October-February; mid-day temperatures can reach more than 104°F
  • Daytime temperature between May-August can be 70-80°F, and as low as 40°F at night
  • December-March brings heavy rain and thunderstorms


  • 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 in the Okavango Delta and at our camps


  • On game-viewing drives, we travel overland in open-sided safari vehicles with bench seating and no air-conditioning; dugout canoe and motorized boats

Accommodations & Facilities

  • We spend 12 nights in comfortable but basic lodges and tented camps
  • Our lodges use generator electricity and lantern lighting at night, and do not have air-conditioning. There could be a 1- to 5-minute walk from our tents to the main lodge
  • All accommodations feature private baths

Travel Documents


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.


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.
  • Zambia: Visa required.
  • 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


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.

  • Baobab Safari Lodge

    Chobe National Park, Botswana

    In Chobe National Park, we spend three nights at the intimate Baobab Safari Lodge, a 30-minute drive from Kasane. Its location just outside the park gives us more time to spend on game-viewing drives. Recently renovated, the open-air lodge overlooks the Chobe River. In the evening, the dining room and bar are perfect spots to view the sun setting over the river. We’ll stay in eight comfortable bungalows, each with two beds.

  • Wilderness Tented Camp

    Okavango Delta, Botswana

    In the Okavango Delta, near Moremi National Park, we stay at our private tented camp. The camp’s excellent location within a private reserve offers both water and land activities. (Water activities are seasonal and dependent on water levels.) Here you’ll find eight large walk-in tents with hot and cold running water, toilets, and showers.

  • Lufupa Tented Camp

    Kafue National Park, Zambia

    Located in the northern section of Zambia’s Kafue National Park, Lufupa Tented Camp sits along the banks of the slow-moving Kafue River. All nine tents feature two beds and en suite facilities. We enjoy river views from our rooms and the dining area. A small plunge pool and riverside campfire add to the charms of this unique lodging.

  • Kashawe Tented Camp

    Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

    Situated in the northern Sinamatella section of Hwange National Park, our new campsite offers panoramic views of the area, as well as unique birding and game-viewing opportunities. Each of the 16 tents features an en suite shower, toilet, and verandah overlooking the Sinamatella River and hillside. The camp also features a lounge and fine dining area.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Jackalberry Lodge

    Thornybush Game Reserve, South Africa

    Located within Thornybush Game Reserve, Jackalberry Lodge provides spectacular views of the Drakensberg Mountains and is ideal for big game viewing. Each room is decorated with rustic South African touches and comes with air conditioning, a private patio, a tea and coffee station, mosquito nets, and a safe. On-site amenities include a swimming pool, library, curio shop, and an open-air dining area.

  • Inn on the Square

    Cape Town, South Africa

    This hotel sits on Cape Town’s popular and historic Green Market 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 165 air-conditioned rooms comes equipped with safe, hair dryer, satellite TV, telephone, and coffee- and tea-making facilities.

Flight Information

Customize Your Trip

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to customizing your trip—and creating your own unique travel experience:

Purchase Flights with OAT

  • Choose the departure city and airline that works best for you
  • Depart from one city and return to another
  • Upgrade your air itinerary based on your travel preferences
  • “Break away” before or after your trip to explore independently or re-energize
  • Combine two or more trips to make the most of your value—and avoid another long flight
  • Extend your discoveries with pre- or post-trip extensions

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

We understand that international travel has unique challenges including fewer airline choices and limited flight schedules. The chart below provides estimated travel times and the typical number of connections from popular departure cities to help you plan for your trip.

Please note that traveling to and from Johannesburg will require multiple connections, and these flight rigors should be taken into consideration.

Partner since: 2000
Total donated: $349,026

Making a difference in Zimbabwe

Simply by traveling with OAT, you support the work of the nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation. Alan and Harriet Lewis created the Foundation with the mission of changing people's lives through travel—which includes both the travelers who journey with OAT, and the local people who welcome us so warmly into their homelands.

Learn more about our work in Zimbabwe and what you'll experience during your itinerary—and read stories about some of our projects and the people who help make them possible:

A Day in the Life of a Hwange Community

Your Day in the Life experience is a very special part of most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, a Hwange village and school. You'll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here.

Read More

A Day in the Life of a Hwange Community

Your A Day in the Life experience is a very special part of most OAT itineraries. Each Day in the Life is specially tailored to showcase daily life in your destination—in this case, a Hwange village and school. You'll get to know the local people through conversation and hands-on activities, gaining an authentic glimpse of what life is really like here.

"Our visit to a local village was an exceptional experience. Students ... met and entertained us with charming song and dance ... There was a visit to a headman's home complex where we learned about life and could ask any questions of a very educated, articulate, and candid local man."

Nancy K. Kemper, 2-time traveler
South Londonderry, Vermont

Hwange Community

Discover the local culture and traditions in a Zimbabwe village

Experience a private departure firsthand through the eyes of veteran OAT travelers.

This community is home to a school supported by the Foundation's World Classroom initiative, so we've developed close partnerships with village leaders—who are eager to welcome you into their everyday lives. Your Day in the Life begins with a visit to the local primary school, where you'll interact with both the students and the faculty. You'll also see firsthand the improvements made possible by Foundation support—and the support of travelers like you.

You'll then tour the community itself, with a respected village leader as your guide. Remember, this is real life, so much of your experience will depend upon what's happening at the time of your visit—perhaps villagers will be fetching water, assisting with farming activities, or caring for livestock. If you really want to get a sense of what daily chores are life, you'll have the opportunity to pitch in.

By the end of your Day in the Life, we hope you'll come away with a true sense of what life like in rural Zimbabwe—and of the warm and welcoming spirit of the people who call this area home.

Grand Circle Foundation

Supporting a World Classroom: Zimbabwe

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: Its children. In Zimbabwe, you'll visit a school funded by Grand Circle Foundation. Our projects have included building classrooms and lavatories; drilling water boreholes; purchasing various textbooks and supplies; and much more.

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Supporting a World Classroom: Zimbabwe

By funding improvements at local schools, the Foundation's World Classroom initiative is focused on supporting society's most precious resources: Its children. In Zimbabwe, you'll visit a school funded by Grand Circle Foundation. Our projects have included building classrooms and lavatories; drilling water boreholes; purchasing various textbooks and supplies; and much more.

"Our most profound 'learning and discovery' experience was our visit to the Foundation-funded ... school. The presentation and tour by their young principal, Moses, was unusually moving and impressive. His dedication to the education of his students, the support of his teachers, and the ongoing reconstruction of his classrooms is incredible. The whole experience left an indelible mark on our group."

Sharon & George Bloch, 11-time travelers
Madera, California

St. Mary's Primary School

Partner since: 2013

As one of our newest partners, St. Mary's Primary School is an exciting place to bring our travelers. The Foundation is excited to be part of this school's future, with plans to purchase new desks, textbooks, tools, an indoor flush toilets to help the school day run smoothly for all the eager students.

In addition to the purchase of these useful tools, we are excited to begin plans for roof repairs, ensuring that students can continue their studies in inclement weather. New housing will also be provided for the faculty, as currently there is housing available for less than half the teaching staff.

To learn more about how the Foundation has helped Zimbabwe's students over the years, you can read about the efforts of traveler and "gutsy leader" Kristina Tester, and the travelers who regularly contribute to the Samantha Johnson Scholarship Fund, which was created in honor of a beloved OAT Trip Leader.

Ziga Primary School

Partner since: 2010 • Total donated: $118,539

When we first discovered Ziga Primary School some of the classrooms had been condemned, and students were studying in buildings without roofs. So far, we have built two new classrooms, a fence around the perimeter of the school, a playground, a storage facility, and new lavatories. We've also drilled a borehole to provide the school and village with fresh water. And to further support instruction in the classroom, we've purchased teacher resource materials and new math and English textbooks for students.

School in session:

Late January through early December; with holidays early April through early May, and late August through early September.

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Deflated soccer balls
  • Reading books for younger children, especially geography-related
  • Secondhand clothing, shoes
  • T-shirts from home state
  • Solar-powered calculators
  • Books about sports, especially soccer
  • Toothbrushes and toiletries
  • Any reading material about the U.S., such as how the government works, country demographics, etc.
  • Old laptop computers
Grand Circle Foundation

Inspirational Stories: In the Name of Education

A passionate ambassador for her homeland of Zimbabwe, OAT Trip Leader Samantha Jonson made such a strong impression on one group of travelers—the very first OAT group she ever led, in fact—they set up a scholarship in her honor.

Read More

Inspirational Stories: In the Name of Education

How one OAT Trip Leader has devoted her life to promoting learning in her homeland

It wasn't easy growing up in South Africa under apartheid. Especially if you were the child of a mixed-race marriage. That was exactly the case for Samantha Johnson, OAT Trip Leader, whose white South African mother had married a black man from Mozambique. The situation became so difficult, the family left South Africa when Samantha was six years old and relocated to Botswana. Yet, even there, in a tribal society, they still didn't feel that they belonged, so they moved once again, this time to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

"It was very difficult, having to deal with so much negativity in life," Samantha recalls. "But it made me a positive person." That determination to see life's bright side saw Samantha through more turmoil. An only child, she lost her mother when she was a teenager, and her father has also since passed away. Yet, through the tragedies, she has retained her glass-half-full spirit.

Pursuing her passion

Just as firmly as she resolved to be happy in life, Samantha committed herself to pursuing the career she yearned for: travel. When she was 16 years old, she finished school and began working for a family in the supermarket business to earn the money she needed to study tourism at night. "My mother never understood why I wanted to be a guide and not a doctor or lawyer," she smiles. "But I've always enjoyed wildlife and the outdoors."

Her first job in the travel industry was with United Touring Company, where she was so successful, she was approached by rival travel company Abercrombie & Kent, where she worked for a decade. Though she enjoyed the job, the time came when she felt it was time to move on. So when the opportunity arose to join OAT as a Trip Leader, she jumped at it. "I love the focus on discovery," she says. "There is so much learning, and I have so much knowledge about the different countries that I enjoy sharing. With OAT, it's all about the culture, and that's what I know, that's how I grew up."

The Samantha Johnson Scholarship Fund

Clearly, Samantha's wealth of knowledge, upbeat spirit, and joy in sharing African culture resonate with the travelers she leads—and with her OAT colleagues. "When I think of Samantha I always think of her positivity, enthusiasm, and real desire to make a difference to her travelers' lives," says Roger Clulow, OAT'S Regional General Manager for Africa. "She really gives 100% on every trip, and this is evident from her always being a top performer. In a very male-dominated environment Samantha stands out as being a true leader and has earned the respect of all of those around her."

Samantha's excellence at her job was evident from the very first time she led OAT's Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari. During their visit to the Ngamo School in Zimbabwe, the travelers in her small group were so taken by the children, they decided to set up a scholarship fund. And they named it after their esteemed Trip Leader: Samantha Johnson. "It has changed my life to be able to give back to the children, even though it's not out of my own pocket," Samantha says. "I feel honored."

Today, five years later, the scholarship continues to thrive. "I talk about the Samantha Johnson Scholarship Fund when we visit the school," she says. "The travelers love it. They love being able to contribute."

While OAT travelers are under no pressure to contribute to the Samantha Johnson Scholarship Fund, Samantha credits Grand Circle Foundation for making it easy for those who wish to give. Samantha doesn't handle the donations herself, but rather relies on the Foundation to take care of the logistics, either through credit card forms that have recently been implemented or by directing travelers to Grand Circle's Boston headquarters. "The travelers really appreciate it," she says.

Changing lives—including her own

What makes the scholarship especially precious to Samantha is knowing what it means for the students who benefit from it. "It makes a great difference in their lives," she says. "At age 13, our children in the village don't go on to secondary school because they are so underprivileged. They go on to become young wives or street kids. The scholarship allows them to say they can go on, because education is so important to overcoming poverty." She goes on to point out that the children are eager to learn, and because they know about the scholarship, they work hard to complete the seventh grade. To date, 22 students have benefited from the fund, with more to come in the future.

Samantha's dedication to promoting education in her homeland has deep roots in her own background. "You have to understand the history of southern Africa," Samantha says. "Under the British, the government was not allowed to educate black children. I was among the first non-whites to get into school, and my mother was a driving force in that. I know how difficult it is to get an education because of that history."

While the laws have changed, in some ways attitudes haven't. "It's not easy for a lot of families to let their children attend school now," says the book lover who spends much of her free time reading. "You have to convince them that now it's OK for them to get an education."

Samantha still loves animals and being outdoors, and it thrills her to see the looks on travelers' faces when they glimpse their first impala. Even more than that, though, she delights in opening windows for her American guests to peer into the local culture—introducing them to different foods, creating opportunities for them to interact with local people, and revealing insights like these.

"It's an honor to work for OAT, doing what I love most," she says. "It's all about culture at the end of the day. I'm proud of my heritage."

Grand Circle Foundation

Inspirational Stories: A Life-changing Journey to Africa

Discover African wildlife on a safari in Chobe National Park

Now a college student, Kristina Tester was just an eighth-grader when she traveled on Ultimate Africa with her grandmother. Meeting her Zimbabwean peers literally changed her life.

Read More

Inspirational Stories: A Life-changing Journey to Africa

Learn why one OAT traveler began inspiring young people to help their peers

As a child, Kristina Tester dreamed of living in Africa one day. So when her grandparents offered her the chance to join her on OAT's Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Namibia & Zimbabwe Safari, along with her parents and twin sister, Kristina jumped at it.

It was a decision—and a trip—that would change her life. She took the trip on the summer after she completed eighth grade, and the itinerary included a stop at the Ngamo Primary School in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where she mingled with her eighth-grade peers. "They were in the middle of taking their exams for high school," Kristina recalls. "But they were so hospitable, they dropped what they were doing immediately. I was moved by their motivation, passion, and intellect, especially in that learning environment."

That learning environment encompassed a school building in bad repair, with no electricity or running water. More touching to Kristina, however was the lack of opportunity for higher education. She learned from the school principal that, while 98% of the students were expected to pass the exams they were taking, only 2% would be able to continue on to high school. "That was a staggering statistic to me," she says. "Especially since I've never had to think about receiving an education. It made me realize what an incredible gift an education is."

Upon her return home, Kristina, then 14 years old, immediately set about providing that gift for the students at the Ngamo School. She wrote letters, she spoke at churches, she enlisted the Rotary Club in her hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota … and within six months, she had raised $10,000 toward a scholarship account. Today, four years later, that total has risen to $25,000. She didn't stop there, however. Last year, Grand Circle Foundation Vice President Maury Peterson was traveling through Africa when she learned of a Zimbabwe school in even greater need of assistance: the Ziga School. "The difference between the two schools is night and day," says Maury. "Ngamo looks fantastic now, but we are starting from scratch with Ziga. The buildings are falling down, and there are no books or supplies. Fortunately, there's a passionate headmaster at both schools."

There's also a passionate fundraiser: Kristina Tester. To formalize her efforts, Kristina recently incorporated a nonprofit organization called So Others May Learn. The focus of the organization is providing scholarships and creating schools in sub-Saharan Africa, an area greatly in need of help. She points out that "fundraising is the hardest part of being a nonprofit." So, to help the Ziga School, she came up with a novel idea: having kids in her Minnesota community be the donors.

Naming the endeavor Raise the Roof, Kristina first approached her peers at the school she attended, Minneapolis's Breck School. But it occurred to her that there was also potential in the school's lower grades. She made a PowerPoint presentation to the third- and fourth-graders, showing them the difficulties endured by children their own age at Ziga. Having captured their attention—and their hearts—Kristina then told the students that they couldn't ask their parents for money. They had to earn it themselves.

"There was an incredible response," she reports. The children cleaned closets and washed dishes, did yardwork, vacuumed, ran errands, until their parents began running out of ideas for chores for them to do. Children in the neighborhood who heard her story similarly ran home to collect their spare change to throw into the pot. Donations poured in, 50 and 75 cents at a time—until $5,000 was raised to put a new roof on the school.

"A lot of people overlook us," she said, speaking as a woman not far from childhood herself. "They don't realize the level of commitment kids are capable of. But these kids are some of the most amazing, inspiring people."

Currently, Kristina has two new projects in the works. She has recently launched a Spring into Action scholarship campaign, and she is also organizing Strides for Schools, a 5K run/walk awareness- and fund-raising campaign. "We chose 5K because that's the distance most students in Africa walk to school on an empty stomach," she says. The event will have information booths, music, and other activities to enlighten her Minnesota neighbors about the situation in African schools and to inspire them to get involved. Kristina hopes the fundraiser will become an annual event.

It's all part of a goal she has to motivate others to become engaged. "When you see a problem, like the devastation in Haiti, the easiest thing to do is turn off the TV and get back to your activities. My hope is that people will say, 'There is something I can do.' One person can make an incredible difference."

Kristina is one person who has already made an incredible difference, and she has numerous awards to show it—including Minnesota's "11 Who Care" award (the only minor among ten adults) and the prestigious Prudential Spirit of Community award. But she quickly deflects the credit to her community. "This wouldn't have happened without them," she says.

Grand Circle Foundation has also been instrumental in all of her fundraising efforts, according to Kristina, and she remains in close contact with both Foundation staff and partners on the ground in Africa, including Maury Peterson, VP of Grand Circle Foundation, and Maureen Vincent of Wilderness Safaris, one of OAT's top vendors. "Grand Circle Foundation has been phenomenal," Kristina says. "They make all this possible. I feel that I wouldn't have had any footing in Zimbabwe without them." In addition to selecting students to receive scholarships, the Foundation also facilitates contact with African partners, and reports on progress. "Just saying, 'whatever you need, we will help you' is phenomenal," says Kristina. "At first, I wasn't sure I'd be able to help, but Grand Circle Foundation inspired me and helped me."

When asked how she is able to maintain her focus on helping the children of Zimbabwe, especially at such a young age, Kristina's answer is simple. "There's no way you can turn your back on it once you've seen it," she says. "Once you see how much you have that others don't, you have to do something about it."

Today, Kristina is 18 and poised to enter Harvard University, where she plans to major in Global Health. She still hopes to live in Africa one day. In the meantime, this extraordinary young woman is busy making the world a better place for Africa's children.

Grand Circle Foundation

Solo Traveler Stories

Why Travel Solo on Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari

We're proud to offer the best value for solo travelers in the industry, guaranteed, with FREE Single Supplements on your base trip and all extensions. Travel with the leader in solo-friendly travel on Ultimate Africaand save up to $1565 per person versus the competition.

Our small group size and expert, resident Trip Leaders help solo travelers make personal connections and ensure peace of mind. Here are some thoughts from solo travelers about why this adventure was right for them.

“For me, Africa always conjured up mystery, intrigue, excitement and fascination. Just before I left, I saw a TV travel show on the Okavango Delta and in less than a week I was actually there, riding in a mokoro boat. It was surreal."

Constance Pursell, 3-time traveler,
Laguna Niguel, California

Trekking through Africa with Mom

Susan Giaccotto, 6-time traveler, Farmington, Connecticut

My mom and I always travel together. We’ve been on five OAT trips, including three to Africa. We are best friends and share the same adventuresome spirit. We love to travel “off the beaten path”—and that’s why we continue to travel with OAT.

We feel that traveling with OAT enables us to feel a part of the places and people we visit. In our small group, the possibilities for adventure and unique experiences with the locals are great, and wildlife encounters rate high on our list.

We really enjoy all of the learning and discovery opportunities when we can interact with the local people—playing “Ring Around the Rosie” with youngsters in Namibia, learning about the ways of life in remote Zimbabwe from village elders, teaching schoolchildren who are learning English the song “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and relating to and laughing with teachers (I taught second grade for 33 years and am now retired).

Traveling with my mom has brought us closer together as friends. We have always been “two peas in a pod” because of our looks, sense of humor, and enjoyment of being around and interacting with people—however, traveling and sharing the same unique adventures has given us such unbelievable moments to share with one another.

Because of the experiences and memories that my OAT travels in Africa have given me (and my mom), we are easily able to understand why so many travelers have fallen in love with this continent, for we have experienced the people and places of Africa and are forever changed.

Top 10 Reasons to Explore Southern Africa

Characterized by its spectacular game-viewing and diverse, untouched terrain, southern Africa is a region where adventure beckons and discoveries are limitless. Find inspiration in the top 10 reasons to experience our Ultimate Africa: Botswana, Zambia & Zimbabwe Safari or our newest Southern Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia & Botswana adventure below.


Year-round travel options—Although exact weather conditions can vary by country and month, it’s always a great time to visit this region, which is why we offer trips throughout the year for both of our southern Africa adventures.


Endless adventure—Whether saddling up on an elephantback safari, soaring high over Victoria Falls in a helicopter, or cruising the Chobe River in search of ferocious-looking Tigerfish, southern Africa is the perfect place to unleash your adventurous spirit.


Unbeatable value—Our longstanding relationships with partners in Africa have enabled us to negotiate the lowest possible costs, and pass these savings on to you.


Rich history—Southern Africa has experienced its share of historical footprints, from the early hunter-gatherers and Bantu kingdoms, to colonial-era explorers, like David Livingstone—the namesake of many landmarks throughout the region.


Unique accommodations—From rustic lodges to tented camps located in the heart of the African bush—being immersed in the wild is a quintessential part of the safari experience. While still safely harbored, it’s a thrill to know you’re sleeping so close to an abundance of wildlife.


Friendly locals—As you traverse southern Africa, you’re sure to find the locals you meet during our Day in the Life community experience to be friendly and willing to share their fascinating ways of life.


Untouched landscapes—Adventure travelers hoping to journey into some of Africa’s unspoiled ecosystems will relish an experience in Botswana’s Okavango Delta—a vast and unyielding wetland where you have to take a mokoro dugout canoe to explore this otherwise inaccessible wilderness.


Exotic birds—Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and Zambia’s Kafue National Park are so rich in biodiversity, they each vaunt over 450 avian species. The Southern yellow-billed hornbill, grey-crowned crane, and brilliantly colored lilac-breasted roller are just a few of the highlights, making these regions a haven for birdwatchers.


Mighty waterscapes—Known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “the smoke that thunders”, Victoria Falls—one of the seven natural wonders of the world—is truly inspiring sight to behold. This impressive curtain of water cascades up to 1.4 billion gallons per minute over its edge into the Zambezi River.


Diverse wildlife—Home to some of the region’s greatest safari destinations, Southern Africa boasts sprawling national parks, such as Kruger and Chobe—where sightings of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, Cape buffalo, and elephant) and countless other animals are common.

Lions of Northern Botswana

Lions of Northern Botswana

by Leigh Kemp

Lions are the most sociable of the big cats, living in prides that vary in size from a few individuals to more than 30 and in Botswana this extreme is noticeable as the habitats are so different, from the dry reaches of the Kalahari to the floodplains of the Okavango Delta.

Lions of Northern Botswana - a study in inter-species differences

In northern Botswana the Lions display a wide range of habitat preference and prey choice. Habitats in northern Botswana range from the wetlands of the Okavango Delta to the arid semi desert areas of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Savuti - and Lions successfully inhabit all these regions.

Do lions like water?

Central to Northern Botswana is the Okavango Delta, a unique wilderness area made up of permanent channels, seasonal floodplains and islands. The seasons of the delta are intriguing in that the water is at its highest in the dry season and at its lowest at the start of the rainy season.

This is due to the fact that the delta receives most its water from the highlands of Angola, 1700 km away. The water can take up to six months to reach the seasonal floodplains - long after the last rains have fallen in the delta.

The Lions of the Okavango Delta destroy the theory that Lions do not like water. When the delta flood is at its peak the dry land area of the home ranges of the Lions is limited to islands and in order to hunt they have to cross water between the islands. They do this readily. The Lions of the Okavango Delta are generally stronger in the forequarters than other Lions as they spend a great deal of time on the floodplains.

Extremes in Lion Behaviour

There are prides within 100 km of each other that display extremes in behavior, and in particular when it comes to feeding and drinking. The Lions of the drier central Kalahari regions can go without drinking water for months at a time - they get their moisture from the food they eat - and their home ranges are far greater than other parts as the prey is widely spread. The prides are generally smaller in the drier areas and the prey species are smaller.

In the northern-most parts of Botswana there are Lion prides within a fifty kilometer radius of each other that have specialized in killing very different prey species to each other. There is a pride in Linyanti that has taken to killing Hippo - not a popular prey species in other parts of Africa - and just west of this are three prides that prey almost solely on Buffalo. South-east of these two areas is the Savuti Marsh where the pride has specialized in killing adult Elephant. Why these specializations came to be is uncertain.

Elephant killers

It was in the Savute that the Elephant killing was first recorded. The pride began by taking down young Elephants that they managed to separate from the herd before progressing on to sub-adults. In time they began to hunt and kill adult Elephants. At the height of their prowess the lions were killing more than thirty Elephants a year but there has been a downturn in the numbers of Elephants killed in recent years due to the pride splitting up.

The Savute area has a fascinating geological history, in that the channel dries up and flows for indeterminate periods of time - and this has an effect on the Elephant- hunting of the Lion pride in the region. It was during a dry spell that the pride was at its 32 member peak, and killing Elephants regularly, but with the area now wet with the flowing channel the pride has split up and the Elephant killing has all but stopped.

While most Lion prides in Botswana will hunt Buffalo, there are two prides in the Duba Plains area of the Okavango that prey solely on the big Buffalo herds of the region. These delta prides have adapted to using the water in their hunting techniques.

NEW Best Price Guarantee

When you travel with Overseas Adventure Travel, we guarantee you will always receive the best combination of value and experience, at the best price.

1. Find your departure

Select the departure of this adventure that best suits your travel preferences.

2. Compare other trips to ours

Our NEW Best Price Guarantee means that, if you can find a lower price on a comparable trip from another small group tour company, we’ll match it. It’s that simple.

We encourage you to compare our prices and value to the following companies:

  • Odysseys Unlimited
  • Road Scholar Small Groups
  • Eldertreks
  • Wilderness Travel
  • Abercrombie & Kent
  • Tauck
  • Vantage Small Group Journeys
  • Discovery Tours by Gate 1
  • Alexander + Roberts Small Group Journeys
  • Mountain Travel Sobek
  • Geographic Expeditions

How do you know if you’ve found a comparable trip?

  • Does the company operate each departure with no more than 24 travelers?
  • Is their trip length similar, with an equal number of hotel nights (or ship nights on a Small Ship Adventure)?
  • If it’s a safari trip, does it include a similar number of game-viewing drives and nights in safari lodges or tented camps?
  • Prices vary by season—does their trip depart in the same month as ours?
  • If their trip has internal flights, are they included in the price?
  • Is any included airfare arranged by the company itself or a third party (Kayak, Travelocity, etc)?
  • And finally, does their trip price include gratuities for local guides, drivers, lodges, and camp staff?

3. Call us at 1-800-955-1925 to save

If you think you have a match, don’t delay. Call us today and get the best price on your adventure—guaranteed. Our Adventure Specialists will be able to either give you a response on the spot or will get back to you within 24 business hours.

Tell your friends: They can also enjoy our best price, guaranteed, and you can all benefit with our Vacation Ambassador Referral Program.

Please note: To request a Best Price Guarantee match, a new traveler is required to present to an OAT Adventure Specialist their requested OAT departure date and proof of the potentially comparable trip. See full Best Price Guarantee Terms & Conditions.