When you only have 25 days of annual leave for adventures, deciding on where to head for your next trip when you have ambitions of exploring as many countries as possible can be a challenge. Even harder in our experience when you’ve had a full year off to travel as you please and need to get used to using as few week days as possible to travel as much as you can!
After packing in trips to Iceland, Bruges and Paris between September and December, we were planning to visit more of Europe in 2018 and to take a practical, budget friendly approach that prioritised short haul travel. So of course, when I came home from work and informed Rob that I thought we should spend two weeks in Africa he said ‘sure, why not’ and we immediately booked ourselves on 13 hour flights and a whistle-stop camping tour of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.
Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with us sometimes.
So to say we had a limited amount of time to explore a lot of land is an understatement. Whilst a lot of people will spend just a day or two in Victoria Falls before heading onward through Africa, most travellers will spend at least a couple of weeks in each of Botswana and Namibia. We decided to go for all three using just nine precious days of annual leave – continuing with our preference for fast travel.
Of course we can’t say that we’ve seen all the highlights of these amazing countries in just under two weeks, but we saw a hell of a lot and if you’re looking to combine some pretty special adventures with a love of taking multiple holidays throughout the course of a year then this could be the perfect Southern Africa itinerary for you.
Worth mentioning quickly before I dive in that we used tour companies as it seemed like a better way to make use of our limited time to see as much as possible with just two weeks in Africa to travel – more on G Adventures & African Extravaganza after the itinerary itself – we were super chuffed with both of our tours.
Two Weeks in Zimbabwe, Botswana & Namibia: The Itinerary
Victoria Falls: Days 1-2
We flew overnight on the Friday night from Heathrow, a delightful 11 hours later arriving in Johannesburg ready to find our connecting flight to Victoria Falls Airport. Virgin Atlantic cover this route and to be honest, if you’re going to take a night flight there are far worse airlines to go with – even in economy!
Victoria Falls Sightseeing:
Arriving in Vic Falls on the Saturday lunchtime, we had a full day and a half to explore before we were due to travel onwards on Monday with our tour group. Whilst there’s absolutely loads to keep you busy in Victoria Falls, I have to confess that we spent the whole of our first afternoon drinking Zambezi beer, smoking too many roll ups and chilling around the pool with fellow travellers. Nothing wrong with living that gap year life when you’re 30, right?
We have a whole post on our full second day in Victoria Falls where we spent the day exploring the falls themselves, enjoying a brief foray about 5 feet into Zambia, taking a sunset cruise and adventuring into the local markets. All in all, an amazing place to spend a few days and with the benefit of hindsight I would recommend allowing yourself a night on both sides of the falls to fully enjoy your time here.
Victoria Falls Accommodation
We loved Shearwater Village – super budget friendly and just 15 minutes walk from Victoria Falls. Great facilities and food and an even better bar area with a cute pool area if you have some time to relax and enjoy it.
If you’re on more of a budget you might like to try Mawuya Lodge and if you’re looking to push the boat out then this place comes highly recommended – Ilala Lodge Hotel and looks absolutely incredible.
Chobe National Park: Day 3-4
On our third morning we enjoyed our first breakfast with our new travel buddies – 19 of us would be riding in our overland truck for the next couple of weeks – before we learned all about our daily jobs. These ranged from packing and unpacking the tents and cooking equipment from the Lando to making sure that the coolbox was always full of ice – possibly the most essential task as it was our only hope of keeping the team’s beers chilled, which in 30 degree heat is definitely a high priority.
A couple of hours in the Lando and we were in Chobe National Park, amazingly packed with wildlife and full of things to do for travellers. It’s pretty well known as one of the best places worldwide to see wildlife and is estimated to be home to up to 50,000 elephants! If you’re after the dream African safari, I can’t recommend Botswana and particularly Chobe, highly enough.
Chobe National Park Sightseeing
Our arrival in Chobe was the beginning of our safari adventure – we enjoyed four safaris in as many days in Botswana, travelling by plane, jeep, boat and on foot with local guides to check out as many animals as possible. Without saying ‘amazing’ more than is humanly decent I really can’t do justice to this place. All I can say is go, spend at least a couple of days there and go on as many safaris as you possibly can.
We saw hippos, wildebeest, warthogs, lions, baboons, elephants, giraffes, zebra, crocodiles and so many different birds and insects. At the very least take one game drive and a cruise on the Chobe River – they cost around $45USD each and when combined with a camping trip are a super affordable way to see these incredible animals in the wild as they should be.
Chobe National Park Accommodation
Our campsite here was somewhat less glamourous than Explorer’s Village but still absolutely fine. I was pretty shocked actually that, without exception, all of our campsites in Africa boasted hot water showers, clean bathrooms, flushing toilets and even toilet roll!
We stayed at Thebe River Safaris in Kasane, another campsite that also offers proper rooms if you fancy an upgrade, and although the pool was sadly not in action, the other facilities were great. We also did all of our activities through these guys – reasonably priced and super easy to arrange.
Gweta: Day 5
We arrived in Gweta late on day 5 after our Chobe adventures after a long drive (c.400km) and didn’t do much of note – choosing to spend the last hours of sunshine lazing around the pool with a beer and admiring the iconic Baobab trees that fill the area.
A moment on these tree as they are pretttty cool and definitely worth scoping out if you happen to be in the area – if nothing else, they help to break up some very long travel days! Locally they are known as the ‘tree of life’ – partly due to their ability to thrive in arid climates and also as a result of their fruit, which has of course recently made its way into the mainstream as a ‘superfood’. It’s unique in that the fruit dries out on the branches and takes the form of a powder once it’s been deseeded. Even if you don’t try any of the Baobab fruit, the trees themselves are a sight to behold with their strange upside down type appearance and the fact that they can grow up to 100 feet tall.
We tried (and failed) to take some of the insta pics with the Baobab trees against the nightsky, but do have a couple of daytime snaps we can share.
Accommodation in Gweta:
I don’t *think* there’s a huge amount going on in Gweta but it is a useful stopping point between Chobe and Maun. We stayed at Planet Baobab, distinguishable by the enormous pink anteater (?) statue that signposts the way to the campsite. This campsite does have a great pool and a serviceable bar, although if you’re fussy with your drinks you might want to bring your own.
Maun & The Okavango Delta: Day 6-7
Halfway through our two weeks in African and just another quick 200km down the road we stopped off in Maun, widely known as the Gateway to the Okavango Delta, one of the most amazing and unique places we’ve ever been lucky enough to visit. Wikipedia describes it as a “very large, swampy, inland delta” which perhaps doesn’t quite sell it to its best advantage… so I think we’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on this one.
Sightseeing in the Okavango Delta
Like our recommendations for Chobe, here it’s all about spending as much time as possible outside admiring the landscapes and spotting wildlife. Even though it’s a little pricey at $120USD I would highly recommend taking a plane ride over the delta. It’s mildly less terrifying than the similar trip we took over the Nazca lines in Peru and the scenery is like nothing else I’ve ever seen before. It also gives you a sense of scale – this place is absolutely immense and it’s really hard to get a true perspective when exploring from the ground.
Also, seeing giraffes, elephants and all the other African animals you could imagine from the sky as your awesome pilot dips and dives to try and give you the best possible views from the lowest altitude they can safely fly at is one of the most incredible things you’ll probably experience if you’re anything like us.
I’m going to write a full post about this – as our next day was spent winding our way through the delta on a traditional ‘mokoro’ canoe, before we set up camp in the middle of nowhere for the night. Just beyond all expectations really, Botswana is number one on my travel recommendations as we speak.
Accommodation in Maun
We stayed at the Sedia Riverside Camp – another fab campsite with a decent pool and great food.
Ghanzi & The Kalahari Desert – Day 8
Our final day in Botswana was spent in the Kalahari desert, which oddly didn’t really feel like a desert at all. Although for anyone who does any research before their trip it’s probably not hugely surprising – apparently it’s only a ‘semi desert’. So yeah, don’t expect the Sahara! It’s still a great place to see, with wild landscapes as far as the eye can see and traditional villages dotted around the vast plains.
We didn’t do too much here, the main attraction being a local group of San Bushmen. A particular low light in human history is the genocide of these native tribes, who were forced out into reserves upon the discover of diamonds on their lands. Our campsite offered walks into the bush where the family group of San people showed us how their ancestors lived off the land, followed by dancing around the fire.
I can’t find too much information on how ethical this is… but I have to say it wasn’t the most comfortable experience we had on our trip. Not to mention that the people we met from the community were all racked with terrible coughs and didn’t seem to be thrilled by the experience, running away back to their homes as soon as we’d left our tips in the bucket.
Accommodation in Ghanzi
We stayed at the Trailblazers Camp in Ghanzi, basic but comfortable 🙂
Windhoek – Sossusvlei – Windhoek – Day 9-12
We left our group in Windhoek and spent a day relaxing in our campsite – which had proper beds! – before joining our second tour, ready to wrap up our two weeks with Africa with a trip to the desert and some completely different landscapes. This one was a small group trip where we travelled in a land cruiser down to Sesreim and the Namib desert to see those insta famous sand dunes for a couple of days. I’d love to have been able to continue with the G Adventures guys through more of Namibia and on to Cape Town, but as you know our time was short so we decided to spend our remaining days just picking out the highlights of this area of the country.
Some of the guys chose to head into Windhoek to explore, but based on their reports that there wasn’t much to see, we spent our time relaxing around the pool before picking up our next group.
Again, I’m writing a full post about our time in Namibia as this short tour was brilliant and I’d highly recommend for travellers who don’t have a ton of time to explore. The sand dunes were spectacular as anticipated, and we stumbled across a few unexpected highlights along the way – including the frontier town of Solitaire complete with famous apple pie and rusting vintage cars, and the incredible Spreetshoogte Pass.
This was probably one of our most epic road trips, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we didn’t actually have to drive ourselves, so I want to share the full details in a follow up with all the info you need to organise this trip yourselves!
Planning Your Itinerary for Zimbabwe, Botswana & Namibia
As I mentioned, we opted to use tour companies for our trip as it offered us the best way to maximise our two weeks in Africa and was surprisingly budget friendly. If you’re looking to spend just a short time in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia I’d definitely recommend this approach as it was stress free and meant we could just enjoy our trip without any travel planning stress.
Before I go into detail on our tours, I do think that if you’re not into group travel and prefer to explore independently it would be pretty simple to do this itinerary without a tour group. There are plenty of options for accommodation, restaurants and activities like safaris and other excursions to suit all budgets and they all seem straightforward to book online. I know from other bloggers that self driving in Namibia in particular is easy to arrange – and there are a couple of great blogs here and here that talk through this in more detail.
We travelled with G Adventures in South America – joining a tour from Buenos Aires to La Paz – and always check out their tour options when planning holidays.
For just £705 each (sale price plus a 5% discount after reviewing our last trip with them) we booked ourselves on their 8 day Delta & Falls Tour which took us from Victoria Falls all the way through to Windhoek. They also arranged our flights, transfers and an extra night of accommodation in Windhoek which made everything even more hassle free.
I honestly can’t recommend these guys enough – really helpful, knowledgeable local guides and packed out itineraries. Oftentimes there’s a lot of extra costs for excursions and meals that aren’t included but if you go into it knowing exactly what is and isn’t covered they are a great option.
Finding our tour to Sossussvlei from Namibia was a bit trickier. I think I emailed over ten companies to find out who could provide the itinerary we wanted on the dates we needed to travel and some of the quotes we received back were crazy expensive. We settled on African Extravaganza who were great to deal with via email, provided us with loads of useful info and charged around £420 per person for a 3 day 2 night tour. Whilst this was pricier than we’d anticipated, it was great value all in all and we’d recommend these guys as well.
All in all, our trip was fantastic and whilst we would have loved to spend much longer in the countries we visited, if you’ve got two weeks in Africa for exploring as many sights as possible this could be the itinerary for you!
*Affiliate links are included in this post – but only for places we’d recommend*