Top 10 Adventure activities and destinations in Southern Africa
Southern Africa is a wonderful destination for adventurous travelers. From challenging hikes and giddying abseils to adrenaline-charged bungy jumps and whitewater rafting excursions, the region boasts a wide variety of thrilling outdoor activities. This being Africa, it also provides great opportunities to see some of the world’s most iconic wildlife on canoeing or walking safaris that expose you to nature at its rawest. Here is a selection of our 10 favorite adventure activities in Southern Africa.
Swim on the lip of Victoria Falls at the Devil’s Pool
The world’s largest sheet of falling water, Victoria Falls is formed by the Zambezi as it crashes over a 355ft-high mile-wide cliff on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Several viewpoints in both countries offer different angles on this spectacular natural phenomenon, which is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. But if you’re looking for the most immersive possible experience, then a guided day trip to the Devil’s Pool is a must-do. This surreally becalmed natural pool stands in the Zambezi on the very edge of the raging waterfall, from which it is separated by the narrowest of rock edges. To take a dip in the world’s ultimate infinity pool, you’ll need to swim or wade across from Livingstone Island, which can only be done from mid-August to December, when the water is low.
Read more about the Seven Wonders of the Natural World: http://sevennaturalwonders.org
Join a guided wilderness trail in the Kruger National Park
Few things compare to exploring the African bush on foot. Unlike a motor safari, where the vehicle protects you from wildlife, and there’s almost always a car engine running, walking in the bush is an immersive experience that adds immediacy to every wildlife encounter. It’s also one of the best ways to get away from the crowds in South Africa’s popular Kruger National Park, whose more remote corners can now be explored on seven different 3-night guided wilderness trails. You don’t need to be super athletic to join up, but you might walk up to 12 miles per day, so a reasonable level of fitness is required. It’s an intimate experience, with small groups of up to eight people being guided by two armed rangers, and simple A-frame accommodation and meals are provided.
Read more about Greater Kruger: https://fairtradesafaris.com/news/unboxing-the-greater-kruger-national-park/
Hike the slopes of the majestic Maloti-Drakensberg
Although Southern Africa doesn’t boast any mountains that approach the skyscraping heights of Kilimanjaro, it is home to one of the continent’s most extensive montane wilderness areas in the form of the Maloti-Drakensberg Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site extends across 963 square miles either side of the South Africa-Lesotho border, and it incorporates the region’s tallest peak, the 11,424ft Thabana Ntlenyana. The upper slopes of Maloti-Drakensberg are best explored with a local guide, but the foothills incorporate countless well-marked and relatively easy day trials. The stunning mountain scenery is at its most impressively verdant during the wet summer months of November to March, and wildlife includes eland (the world’s largest antelope), baboon and several endemic bird species. Maloti-Drakensberg is also renowned as one of the world’s finest prehistoric rock art galleries, with more than 500 painted shelters and caves scattered around its slopes.
Read more about Maloti-Drakensberg: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/985
Dodge hippos and elephants on a Zambezi canoe safari
When it comes to wilderness character and abundant wildlife, few African rivers match the stretch of the Zambezi that flows east from Lake Kariba towards the Mozambican border. Flanked by Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park and Zimbabwe’s Mana Pool National Park, this is also the only comparable stretch of African riverine wilderness that can be explored on guided self-propelled canoe safaris. Paradoxically, this is at once an immensely tranquil and unnervingly exciting experience. For long stretches, you’ll drift peacefully past jungle-lined shores alive with birds, antelope and monkeys. Then, just when you’re feeling really chilled, you might find yourself dodging around submerged hippos, eyeballing lions on the riverbank, or watching a herd of elephants crossing the river ahead. It’s one of Africa’s most incredible safari experiences!
Read more about Zambia and Zimbabwe: https://fairtradesafaris.com/travel/our-favorite-places-to-visit-on-a-safari-to-zambia-and-zimbabwe/
Join an ocean safari in search of marine giants
It is no secret that Africa supports the world’s most exciting terrestrial fauna, but few people realize it is also a superb destination for marine wildlife. Hermanus, for instance, offers superb cliff-based whale-watching within day tripping distance of Cape Town over June to November. The scenic Cape Peninsula south of Cape Town also offers year-round opportunities to get close to seals, dolphins, penguins and sharks. Most adventurously, half-day ocean safaris out of Tofo, a popular beach destination in southern Mozambique, are likely to get you close to whale sharks and manta rays, a pair of marine giants that feed almost entirely on plankton.
Read more about Africa’s marine wildlife: https://fairtradesafaris.com/news/introducing-africas-marine-giants/
Hike the majestic Fish River Canyon
Africa’s largest Canyon is formed by the Fish River as it runs through the arid badlands of southern Namibia’s Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Roughly 100 miles long, 15 miles wide and 1,800ft deep, the Canyon is staggeringly vast when seen from the rim. But the only way to experience the canyon from within is to book onto the 5-day, 50-mile hiking trail that runs south from Hobas to the Ai-Ais Hot Springs. This is one of Africa’s most iconic and scenic hiking trails, but it is also quite physically demanding, due to the intense daytime heat, the sandy or rocky underfoot conditions, and the need to carry all food, bedding and cooking gear on your back. In fact, the extreme temperatures mean that hiking is permitted only during the southern winter, from May to mid-September.
Read more about Namibia: https://fairtradesafaris.com/adventure/10-top-things-to-do-in-namibia/
Raft the churning white waters of the Zambezi
The most thrilling rafting destination in Africa, if not anywhere in the world, is the tumultuous 14-mile stretch of the Zambezi that hurtles between the narrow cliffs of the Batoka Gorge below Victoria Falls. The names of some of these Grade 4-5 Rapids – Boiling Pot, Oblivion, Gnashing Jaws of Death – give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. But while rafting the Zambezi can be a scary experience, safety standards are high, and operations cease all together over April and May, the one time of year when the river is dangerously high. The scenery, with cliffs rising to 650ft either side of the surging water, is absolutely sensational. And if you’re hooked after your first outing, you can always try river-boarding or kayaking the Zambezi the next day.
Read more about things to do at Victoria Falls: https://fairtradesafaris.com/news/12-best-things-to-do-in-and-around-victoria-falls/
Take a bungy plunge from the world’s highest single-span arch bridge
One of the world’s most impressive arch bridges spans the forested gorge carved by the Bloukrans River along South Africa’s famous Garden Route. Almost a mile long and more than 700ft high, this is the tallest single-span bridge anywhere on the planet, and the launch point for one if the world’s three highest commercial bungee jumps. You’ll need to sign an indemnity form before embarking on the 8-second freefall, but the stats are on your side – Bloukrans Bridge Bungy has maintained a 100% safety record since it started operation in 1997.
Read more about the Garden Route: https://fairtradesafaris.com/news/12-cool-things-to-do-on-south-africas-garden-route/
Travel by dugout through the labyrinthine Okavango Delta
Dominated geographically by the Kalahari Desert, Botswana is one of the world’s driest countries. Ironically, however, its most famous travel highlight is a vast inland delta formed by the Kavango River as it drains into the sandy soils of the Kalahari. Extending across 5,800 square miles at the peak of the rainy season, Okavango Delta is also one of Africa’s finest safari destinations, providing refuge to all the legendary Big Five along with aquatic specialists such as hippo, crocodile, sitatunga and a dazzling variety of kingfishers, herons and other water-associated birds. Part of the joy of visiting the delta is the opportunity to explore its waterways on a type of dugout canoe known as a mokoro. The dugouts are a little wobbly, true, but you’ll be guided by an experienced poler who knows the local waters and its hazards, leaving you sit there mesmerized as you glide silently through the delta’s jungle-lined channels and lily-covered pools.
Read more about boat safaris: https://fairtradesafaris.com/news/africas-best-boat-safaris/
Abseil Table Mountain
Table Mountain is a rewarding destination for travelers at all levels of adventurousness. Standing sentinel over Cape Town, this distinctively shaped mountain rises to 3,588ft above Table Bay to offer spectacular views in all directions. Most people ascend by cable car, but if you’re feeling energetic, you could hike up along Platteklip Gorge, which is very steep in parts but not at all technical. As for the most exciting way to get back down, well that would undoubtedly be the world’s tallest commercial abseil, a weather-dependent activity that involves a pulse-raising descent of a sheer 370-ft cliff overlooking the Atlantic Seaboard.
Read more about Cape Town and Table Mountain: https://fairtradesafaris.com/travel/12-top-activities-in-and-around-cape-town/