They say that once you’ve experienced Africa, a piece of your heart remains there forever. With Best of Africa: South Africa, Zimbabwe & Botswana, you’re sure to fall in love with the continent on this exciting adventure into three southern African countries, all rich in wildlife and culture.
Experience the thrill of finding big game in Kruger, Hwange, and Chobe National Parks by land, water, and on foot. But this is also a safari for interacting with local people and discovering tribal culture. Whether lunching with locals in South Africa’s Soweto Township where Nelson Mandela lived or gathering by the campfire for legends and folklore enacted in story and dance, you’ll come closer to a greater understanding of the rich tapestry of African culture. You’ll even join a local Zimbabwean family for a home-cooked meal and rejoice in the song and dance of children during a school visit near UNESCO-listed Victoria Falls.
With the best accommodations, including three Vantage-exclusive safari camps, 24 included features and Cultural Discoveries, and a pre-extension to Pilanesberg Game Reserve, this truly is the African safari of a lifetime!
If you’re interested in this itinerary and want to revel in even more Cultural Discoveries and immersive experiences, check out our combination land adventure Ultimate Africa Adventure: Southern & East Africa Deluxe Safari. Explore more and save.
For those who can’t get enough of the safari experience, don’t miss this thrilling and new adventure into Pilanesberg Game Reserve! You’ll sleep in a luxury suite at an intimate safari lodge with en suite amenities, perfect for reveling in the beauty and tranquility of the bush. Pilanesberg is not only home to the Big 5, but its abundance of bird life — including the endangered blue crane and martial eagles — make it one of South Africa’s premiere birdwatching destinations. Enjoy daily safaris by open-air vehicles in small groups to maximize the thrill and excitement of spotting everything from lions to rhinos, hippos to wildebeests. Don’t miss this thrilling safari extension!
Depart home for Johannesburg, South Africa
Leave your cares behind and travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, on an overnight flight, arriving on Day 2.
Arrive in Johannesburg, one of Africa’s most important cities
Touch down in Joburg or Jozi, as it’s affectionately known, South Africa’s city of gold. A Vantage Representative will be at the airport to meet, greet, and escort you to your hotel in one of Joburg’s leafy city suburbs. Rest and recover from your journey for the rest of the day.
Tour Soweto and visit Nelson Mandela’s former home
After breakfast, we head off on a guided bus tour of South Africa’s largest township, Soweto. Known before as a shanty town, Soweto now has affluent neighborhoods. You’ll sense the significance of the anti-apartheid struggle history as you walk along the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize Laureates used to live: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Stop at the house in Vilakazi street where Nelson Mandela lived prior to his arrest. Walk around the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, a poignant reminder of how this 12-year old boy was killed in the struggle against apartheid. Taste township hospitality with lunch at a vibrant Soweto restaurant. You may just be treated to a delightful singing performance by the proprietor of the restaurant, too!
After lunch, it’s back to the hotel for an afternoon of relaxation, admiring the magnificent views over the city of Johannesburg from the poolside.
We’ll come together for a tour orientation before a Welcome Dinner.
Fly to Kruger National Park, South Africa
After breakfast at the hotel, it’s time to head to our first safari camp beside Kruger National Park. We take a short transfer to the airport and a 50-minute flight, followed by a 1-hour road transfer to our idyllic tented safari camp on the banks of the Sabie River. This is our base for exploring Kruger National Park and it’s Big Five animals.
The afternoon is yours to spend at leisure: explore the grounds, admiring the prolific birdlife, or sip a glass of fine South African wine beside the Sabie River while nibbling on macadamia nuts grown on this subtropical plantation.
Dinner is at camp tonight.
Morning game drive with picnic lunch inside Kruger National Park
After breakfast at the lodge, be sure to pack your binoculars and camera for your first game drive in Kruger National Park. We’ll drive slowly along routes known for the best animal sightings in the hope of spotting lions and their prey — including antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, and giraffes — as well as elephants. And, if we’re very lucky, we may even see rhinos and leopards to round out our first potential Big Five spotting.
With nearly 500 species of birds in Kruger, you can start the process of selecting your favorite. Will it be a majestic bateleur eagle soaring above the floodplains, or smaller, colorful little bee-eaters or lilac-breasted rollers, often perching by the roadside?
You’ll also have the opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy a lunch at a scenic spot inside the park. Then it’s a game drive back to the gate, returning to the camp for a tranquil afternoon at leisure and dinner at the camp.
Round out your Kruger safari with an early morning game drive
As the lions in the park are naturally night owls, we’ll want to catch them in action as early as possible. We will have an early morning continental breakfast in Kruger Park while predators are still at large. It’s the best time of the day for seeing game activity! Our eagle-eyed rangers will seek out the animals while we are still waking up!
We’ll be leaving the park in time to be at our safari camp for lunch.
After such an early morning, you can catch up on rest during an afternoon at leisure.
Tonight, we enjoy an evening meal at our South African safari camp.
Fly to Livingstone and transfer to Victoria Falls
This morning we’ll check out and drive to Kruger Airport for a short flight to Livingstone in Zambia. From here we’ll transfer by road across the famous Victoria Falls bridge and through the border into Zimbabwe.
Enjoy lunch at the LOOKOUT Cafe today.
This afternoon, you can relax at the lodge, while observing the far-off mist rising up from the torrent of water falling over Victoria Falls. We'll get right up close to Victoria Falls!
Join us for a Cocktail party before Dinner tonight at the lodge.
Engage with local residents with a primary school visit and lunch with a local family, plus visit Victoria Falls
After breakfast, start the day with one of our optional tours: “Flight of the Angels” helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, or the extended “Zambezi Spectacular” flight, which includes aerial game viewing along the river. These mighty falls are impressive from any vantage point but soaring over them is a truly unique experience that promises to impress.
Later this morning, you’ll be warmly welcomed at Chinotimba Primary School. Through your patronage, Vantage Cares — our philanthropic arm — positively affects the lives of these children. These joyful youngsters often show their appreciation with vivacious songs and dance. Many guests cite this experience as a highlight of the trip! Lunch is back at the lodge.
On our way back to the lodge, we’ll stop at Victoria Falls Craft Market, where you can barter for beautiful handmade arts and crafts and Nyami Nyami Zambezi River God totems. Lunch is back at the lodge. In the afternoon, we’ll embark on a guided walk to the very edge of Victoria Falls, marveling at the immense power and majesty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
With the roar of the falls, Devil’s Cataract, and the aptly named Rainbow Falls all around you, you’ll understand and hear just why Victoria Falls is known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (the “Smoke that Thunders”). There are more exceptional viewing sites as we walk through the subtropical rainforest of this National Park (raincoats advised). Pay a special visit to the natural landmark known as Big Tree, measuring over 70 feet in girth and almost 80 feet in height.
Tonight, you’re in for an authentic cultural treat — sharing a meal with a Zimbabwean family in their own home. Known for genuine smiles and sincere friendliness, this heartfelt encounter will truly enrich your trip. Any gifts you bring along are always most welcome, such as a can of peaches, infant formula, coloring books and crayons, or any other items.
When David Livingstone wrote about his first sight of the Victoria Falls, he said that “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight”. The ‘Flight of Angels’ actually gives you the chance to see the falls as an angel — or an eagle — would. The most popular of the helicopter flights, it lifts off less than two miles from Victoria Falls town center and takes you over the Zambezi River to fly a complete circuit above the Falls in both directions. The 12 to 15-minute flight gives you the best possible views of the falls, and will certainly leave you agreeing with Dr Livingstone.
**Park Conservation Fee of USD $18 pp must be payable direct onsite.
For a longer ride than the ‘Flight of Angels’, treat yourself to an unbelievable helicopter flight over Victoria Falls and the mighty Zambezi River. This 25-minute scenic helicopter flight over Victoria Falls guarantees spectacular views, making a complete circuit over the Falls in both directions. You’ll also fly over the zig-zagging Batoka Gorge and see the eight past positions of the Victoria Falls, carved away by the water over the millennia. Finally, you’ll fly over Victoria Falls Private Game Reserve, where you can spot wildlife from the air.
Optional Elephant Encounter and Vantage-exclusive 3-course bush dinner
This morning will be at your leisure, or you can choose the optional tour: Elephant, Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust Laboratory & Local Village Interaction. Lunch will be at the lodge, and the afternoon will be spent at your leisure, or you can choose the optional tour: Trails of David Livingstone Zambezi River Cruise.
We highly recommend this 2.5-hour cruise on the mighty Zambezi, hosted by a local Zimbabwean, who will offer a fascinating cultural and historic insight to the area. Float along the very same stretch of river as David Livingstone, hearing stories that you won’t find in books, passed down through generations.
Four our final evening, we'll head out for a secret location in the bush, where a three-course bush dinner awaits under a glittering night sky. If you hear drumming emanating from the darkness, it just might be the music and dance troupe coming to entertain you.
Transfer to the Vantage-exclusive Iganyana Tented Camp in Hwange National Park
After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll transfer by coach to our Vantage-exclusive safari camp on a private concession of Hwange National Park, which is renowned for excellent game viewing.
You’ll love the authentic feel of Iganyana Tented Camp, as it gives you the impression that you are the only people in the African wilderness. Throughout our 3-night stay here, we will be privileged to encounter plenty of animals, including the famous huge herds of elephants, many of which turn up nightly at camp to drink from the waterhole. Bring your camera to capture a cameo from these majestic animals.
Settle into your air-conditioned tented safari suite before having lunch at the camp. This afternoon, we head out on our first Hwange game drive. Have cameras and binoculars at the ready to get a taste of a really wild African safari. There’s a potential surprise behind every bush, like when past traveler Janis Schnabel and her group watched a tiny baby elephant emerge unsteadily from between the protective females!
After a delicious dinner, head for the campfire and contemplate the spectacular night sky of the Southern Hemisphere and its astounding Milky Way. Look for the Southern Cross constellation pointing the way south — just to make sure you never get lost!
You will surely be ready for a good night’s sleep, but if you’re woken by the sound of lions roaring or other African wildlife sounds, think of it as a “bucket list” experience, because it doesn’t happen every day (except here in the bush)!
Spot game on morning and afternoon safari drives; then, hear traditional tribal stories around the campfire
Early morning is the best time to see wildlife. So, we’ll be up at dawn in search of lion, leopard, hyena, and — with luck — rare and elusive wild dogs. But we’ll be enraptured by all the many animals of the bush however large and small.
Then, it’s back to the camp for lunch and a short rest before tea. After, we head out on another exciting game drive, this time lasting beyond sunset so we can look for nocturnal animals by spotlight on our way back to the camp. During the afternoon drive, we’ll head to a water hole and stop for a while, quietly observing who comes to drink and who gets right of the way, taking advantage of the golden light of dusk to snap some great photographs.
With special sightings still fresh in your mind, we return to camp for dinner, often cooked over the coals by our cheerful chef. To finish off this special day, make yourself comfortable around the fireside under a dazzling Milky Way, where a local storyteller will entrance you with stories and legends from the area.
Last day in Hwange: Painted Dog Conservation Center visit, nighttime game drive, and African dance troupe entertainment
After breakfast we set off on foot, camouflaged in neutral-colored safari clothes, for a game walk. You’ll be led by an experienced professional guide, qualified to walk with guests in the Big Five country. On foot, we’re much closer to the sights, sounds, and smells of the bush, and you’ll learn some survival tricks and tracking skills, like identifying spoor (footprints), so you know whether it was a lion or leopard that passed this way and how long ago! Smaller creatures are exciting too, and you may even learn how to coax a ferocious little ant-lion, a native insect, out of its lair. There are many secrets of the bush to be discovered and your guide will reveal them all to you.
Before lunch, we head over to the Painted Dog Conservation Center to hear how their community awareness, education, and anti-poaching measures are helping in the conservation of this Red List Endangered species, whose numbers are declining. There are about 700 painted (wild) dogs in Hwange. If we are ever going to see them, this is the best place to do it and what a rare privilege it would be!
After, enjoy lunch at the camp and relax a little before our next exciting adventure.
By late afternoon, you’ll be in the game-viewing vehicle for another game drive — this time, to see what’s out and about in the dead of night. As darkness descends, our guide’s well-trained eyes will find elusive nocturnal animals in the spotlight, including big-eyed bush babies, bat-eared foxes, spotted hyenas, chameleons, and even large spiders.
You’ll be ready for dinner after such a great day . . . but we’ve got one last surprise for your final evening in Hwange! We’ve arranged a special performance of traditional African dance that will get your feet tapping and hands clapping.
Travel to Botswana’s Chobe National Park for an afternoon safari river cruise
After breakfast we take an easy 2-hour drive through the Zimbabwean countryside to Victoria Falls, where we stop for lunch. Then we continue on to the Botswana border and pass through customs and immigration before arriving at our gorgeous lodge right on the banks of the Chobe River. Every air-conditioned room has river views and a private balcony.
You’ll have time to settle in before an afternoon safari river cruise on the mighty Chobe River, where you will find out why it’s so famous . . . which has a lot to do with elephants! Get your cameras ready for the famous Botswana sunset as we cruise back to the lodge after an exciting safari on the water.
Savor a delicious dinner while sitting beside this river of life and listen for the inimitable grunt of hippos as they proclaim the end of another spectacular African day.
A sensational relaxing day cruising the Chobe River after a morning game drive
We re-visit Chobe National Park this morning on an early game drive, exploring its lush riverine bush and sandy thornveld, which contain one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa. Whatever the season, large herds of elephant and buffalo are often seen near the river, while predators like lion and spotted hyena are always around. Look out for huge leguaan lizards and crocodiles sunning on the banks. Game such as kudu, warthog, baboons, and vervet monkeys find refuge in the grounds of the lodge and elephants sometimes crash their way in, too!
Back at the lodge, there’s time to freshen up before embarking on the triple-decker Vantage-exclusive Chobe Explorer cruising boat, where you can truly relax for the rest of the day. This is your time to slow down and soak up the beauty of this incredible wetland and its abundant wildlife. Sit under shaded loungers, binoculars at the ready, to tick off some of the 460 species of birds and still more animals.
When you detect the delicious aroma of sizzling food, you know the traditional braai (barbeque) has been fired up on the lower deck and lunch will be ready soon. The vegetarian options are very popular, too. If you feel an afternoon siesta coming on, there’s nothing to keep you awake, except a few trumpeting elephants or grunting hippos. To complete our special day, we cruise back to the lodge with sundowner drinks in hand and admire the sun’s golden orb sink into a watery horizon. There’s nothing quite like a sunset on the Chobe River.
Embark a Chobe River photo safari and learn photography from professionals
After an unhurried breakfast, enjoy a morning at leisure, or opt for our Four Corners of Africa private river cruise with an included breakfast.
Later this morning, we all take to the Chobe River again for what many Vantage guests say is one of their most memorable experiences: the Chobe photography safari. We board special boats equipped with swivel chairs and state-of-the-art zoom lens DSLR cameras and a memory stick for you to take home, containing all the masterful wildlife photos you took during this Feature. We’ll be spread between three boats taking a maximum of 8 people each for individual attention. Take it from Vantage traveler Maureen Robb, who said, “I had never been much interested in birds, but this photographic safari changed my mind!”
The excitement isn’t over. After lunch at the lodge, you can use your newly-honed photography skills on an afternoon game drive in Chobe National Park.
Senses saturated from a day of new adventures, we return to the lodge for a very special Farewell Dinner on your last night on safari.
Before you say your final goodbye to Chobe, take one last fascinating cruise on its iconic dark waters. This morning, you’ll be collected at your lodge for a short drive to board your private boat for a once-in-a-lifetime excursion you can’t experience anywhere else in the world. There are many Tripoints in the world, but only one International Quadripoint. The four countries of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all meet at what is called the Four Corners of the World. Your boat takes you to a spot where you can view all Four Countries at once, you’ll also see the impressive Kazungula Bridge joining Botswana and Zambia that was inaugurated on the 10th of May 2021. As you cruise past the picturesque surroundings and wildlife, a local storyteller will convey the history of the fabled rivers where four countries meet. You’ll hear some fascinating stories about the area’s journey from a war-torn region to one of the most sought-after safari destinations, the meeting of two iconic African rivers whose floods feed the mighty Victoria Falls, and much more. A continental breakfast is served onboard while on your cruise along the mighty river. Ever wondered why the Kazungula Bridge is curved and not straight? Jump on board and we’ll tell you why.
Transfer to Kasane Airport and fly home
After breakfast, you’ll transfer to Kasane Airport to catch a plane to Johannesburg and connect with your flight back home. For those on the recommended post-trip extension to Cape Town, you’ll transfer to Victoria Falls Airport for a direct 3-hour flight to Cape Town.
Cape Town’s scenic beauty is unsurpassed. We’ll drive you along mind-blowing coastal scenic routes, through the genteel Cape Winelands for wine tasting at ancient estates, around the historic city, and jet you off on a luxury motor yacht cruise
for an ocean adventure featuring a special Cultural Discovery: A lecture by one of Nelson Mandela's prison wardens. Remember: there’s no rush, take your cue from chilled-out Capetonians. They are so laid back that citizens of industrious Johannesburg say it’s called the Mother City because it takes 9 months for anything to happen!
Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or local representatives at the destination.
Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary.
Note: That hotel ratings are based on the hotel and a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.