This packed three-week itinerary races across five African countries, starting with a bang at Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world. After a day trip into Zambia, the action only ratchets up as you hit the safari trail in Botswana and explore the biodiverse wetlands of the Okavango Delta. Marvel at hippos, crocs, and elephants, then dip into Johannesburg for cultural excursions before spending the last few days kicking back on Benguerra Island, a paradise off the coast of Mozambique.


  • Embark on a sunset cruise near Victoria Falls and fly over it in a helicopter
  • Experience local culture on township tours in Zambia and Johannesburg
  • Spot hippos and crocs on boat safaris in the wetlands of the Okavango Delta
  • Spend days relaxing on white-sand beaches in Mozambique's Benguerra Island

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Sunset Cruise Victoria Falls
Day 2 Victoria Falls Helicopter Tour, Boma Dinner & Drum Show Victoria Falls
Day 3 Day Trip to Livingstone Island & Devil's Pool (Zambia) Victoria Falls
Day 4 Victoria Falls Township Tour Victoria Falls
Days 5-7 Transfer to Chobe (Botswana), Safari Activities Chobe
Day 8 Fly to Okavango Delta, Afternoon Game Drive Okavango Delta
Day 9 Okavango Delta Safari Activities Okavango Delta
Day 10 Okavango Guided Walking Safari Okavango Delta
Day 11 Fly to Johannesburg (South Africa), Soweto Tour & Dinner Johannesburg
Day 12 Maboneng Precinct & Apartheid Museum Tour Johannesburg
Day 13 Day Trip to Pretoria, Dinner & Marabi Jazz Johannesburg
Day 14 Full-Day Panorama Tour Johannesburg
Day 15 Fly to Vilankulos (Mozambique), Ferry to Benguerra Island  Benguerra Island
Day 16 Benguerra Island Activities Benguerra Island
Day 17 Day Trip to Local Village Benguerra Island
Days 18-20 Benguerra Island Free Days Benguerra Island
Day 21 Transfer to Vilankulos, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Sunset Cruise

Spot elephants on the shore of the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe

Welcome to Africa! You've got three whole weeks to explore the southern half of this gorgeous continent, beginning with your arrival in Zimbabwe and the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls. Spanning two countries—Zimbabwe and Zambia—this is the largest waterfall system in the world, with 17,657 million cubic feet (500 million cm) of water cascading over sheer basalt cliffs every minute. It's known to the local Lozi people as Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means "The Smoke That Thunders" due to the billowing clouds of mist that rise from its gaping depths.

Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to your luxury forest lodge just outside of town near the falls. The fun starts immediately, as shortly after checking in, you'll head out for a sunset cruise. Transfer to the dock and hop on a boat for this 2.5-hour excursion down the mighty Zambezi River—the same waterway that feeds Victoria Falls.

As you travel down the river, you'll see giant crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks, hippos soaking in the water, and elephants bathing in the river. As the sun sets and gilds the shimmering river, watch as zebras line up at the banks to enjoy their last sip of the day while herons and egrets skim the water. After sunset, you'll return to shore and transfer back to your accommodation.

Day 2: Victoria Falls Helicopter Tour, Boma Dinner & Drum Show

Marvel at the full scope of Victoria Falls on a helicopter tour

Rise and shine! This morning, you're off to see Victoria Falls from both the land and the air. It begins when you meet your driver and hit the road toward the falls. Before arriving, you'll stop at the Big Tree, a towering baobab tree over a thousand years old and with a circumference of 72 feet (22 m).

Continue to the David Livingstone statue, which is dedicated to the Scottish explorer and missionary who named the falls after Queen Victoria. Finally, you'll arrive at the astonishing waterfall, where you'll embark on a brisk 1.8-mile (3 km) hike through the rainforest, stopping at various viewpoints along the way. Enjoy the best vistas of Victoria Falls when you reach Danger Point. From here, you'll be treated to unobstructed views of the Zambezi River plunging over the edge, forming the world's largest curtain of falling water.

But that's not all—after snapping close-up pictures of the falls, you'll get a bird's-eye view of Mosi-oa-Tunya on a 12-minute helicopter ride. Soar above the river and watch as the cascading water plummets into the deep gorge below. In the evening, head to the outdoor restaurant at Lokuthula Lodge, where you'll enjoy a dinner and drum show. This wildly fun spectacle involves a four-course Zimbabwean meal paired with nonstop entertainment and interactive drum shows featuring traditional song and dance. 

Day 3: Day Trip to Livingstone Island & Devil's Pool (Zambia)

You won't find views like at the Devil's Pool anywhere else on earth

Hop over to the Zambia side of Victoria Falls this morning as you take a quick minibus ride across the border to the Royal Livingstone Hotel. There, you'll receive a safety briefing before embarking on a five-minute boat ride up the Zambezi to Livingstone Island. Upon arrival at this rocky islet, the hotel staff will welcome you with a traditional African energy drink.

Then, along with your guide, you'll hike over to the eastern and western ends of the island. Here, you'll visit viewpoints that offer a totally different perspective than those you get on the Zimbabwe side of the falls. Marvel at views of landmarks like the Horseshoe and watch as rainbows arc over the river and falls.

You'll also enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime dip in the Devil's Pool. This natural infinity pool sits on the edge of a sheer drop, and the forced-perspective pics you can take here are guaranteed to wow family and friends. Afterward, you'll return to the Livingston Hotel and hop in a boat for the transfer back to Zimbabwe and your hotel.

Day 4: Victoria Falls Township Tour

Among other highlights of your day in Chinotimba, you'll visit a local school

It's time for some more culture. In the morning, you'll transfer to Victoria Falls' Chinotimba Township for a tour. This is a great opportunity to experience a traditional African urban settlement. Chinotimba is home to predominantly the Nambya and Tonga people, who are the original inhabitants of this region. In fact, the majority of all people in Victoria Falls live in Chinotimba, which has a population of approximately 60,000.

During the tour, you'll observe authentic township life as your guide leads you around the oldest houses, neighborhood taverns, local markets, and churches. During a visit to Chinotimba Primary School, you'll meet the headmaster, who will take you on a tour. If school is in session, you'll spend time with the local kids, and they might even sing you a song. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.

Days 5-7: Transfer to Chobe (Botswana), Safari Activities

See Chobe's famous Kalahari elephants (among other exotic animals) on safari game drives

Your driver will pick you up this morning for the one-hour ride west into Botswana and Chobe National Park. This 12,597-square-foot (11,700 sq m) reserve is the first national park in Botswana (it was created in 1967) and is famous for its 100,000 Kalahari elephants that congregate near the Chobe River. You'll arrive at a luxurious safari lodge a mere 1.6 miles (3 km) from the park, and after checking in, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing.

The next two days will be spent enjoying safaris on both land and water. Each morning, you'll wake early and embark on not one but two game drives. The first begins at dawn as you explore Chobe's remarkable ecosystems, which include marshland, swamp, rivers, and dry savanna. These are havens for a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, giraffes, zebras, antelope, wildebeest, leopards, and even lions. Morning is a great time to see them, as that's when many animals are at their most active.

After a break in the early afternoon to relax, you'll set out again on an afternoon game drive. Know that one of the best areas to spot wildlife is along the Chobe River, where you'll likely see crocodiles and hippos in the water. Often, herds of zebras, gazelles, and buffalo flock to these banks to drink. There will also be options for night safaris to spot nocturnal wildlife, birding hikes, and game viewing by boat. And each night, after a full day of adventures, you'll return to the lodge, where a roaring fire and a delicious meal await. 

Day 8: Fly to Okavango Delta, Afternoon Game Drive

A herd of impalas gallops across the Okavango Delta wetlands

At the appropriate time, leave camp and transfer to Kasane Airport, where you'll take a one-hour charter flight to the Okavango Delta. The UNESCO-listed Okavango is an inland river delta that, rather than emptying into an ocean, dissipates at an inland basin in the country's north. During the seasonal flooding, these grassy plains turn into wetlands that are a haven for exotic wildlife.

You'll see these animals right away when, after checking into your comfy safari camp, you'll hop in a 4WD vehicle and embark on an afternoon game drive. Because of Okavango's remote location, there are very few safari vehicles in the area. That makes for a more intimate experience, as you can marvel at the wildlife and scenery without mass tourist crowds. Each game drive is an adventure as you traverse narrow wooden bridges and splash through shallow crossings in your rugged, open-topped safari vehicle.

Set out in search of delta animals, including rare antelope like the elegant red lechwe. Look for apex predators like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and African wild dogs as you scan the open woodlands for sable antelope, giraffes, and zebras. On the delta's edges, marvel at herds of elephants bathing in the shallow channels. After the safari, you'll return to camp in time to enjoy a tasty bush dinner. 

Day 9: Okavango Delta Safari Activities

Spot exotic animals from the seat of a traditional mokoro canoe
Plan your trip to South Africa
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Rise early and enjoy a cup of coffee as you relax and enjoy the delta views from camp. Then, set off on a morning safari to witness the glory of Okavango. Besides traveling in a 4WD vehicle, today's excursion might involve plying the maze of channels and lagoons on a traditional mokoro boat. Once carved out of ancient delta trees, today these vessels are made from environmentally friendly fiberglass. You'll sit mere inches above the water as you silently glide past the unsuspecting wildlife, like herds of elephants and red lechwe antelope, while crocodiles and hippos wade in the water.

Return to camp for a full breakfast followed by some leisure time. After lunch and a spot of afternoon tea, you'll embark on another afternoon safari before returning to camp for the evening. 

Day 10: Okavango Guided Walking Safari

Spot Okavango's famous residents, like hippos, on a walking safari

Today, you'll eschew the vehicles and instead join your expert guide for a memorable safari bush walk. As you follow the paths and trails through these delta wetlands, your guide will reveal the secrets of animal tracking. In doing so, you'll learn to identify certain animals just by their footprint, whether that print is in the soil or grass. You'll also learn to interpret the sights and sounds of the bush as you taste wild herbs and learn about the medicinal uses of native plants.

Besides the exotic mammals, during this walk, you'll also be well-positioned to observe the delta's magnificent birdlife. Spot the rare go-away bird, the iridescent lilac-breasted roller, the brown snake eagle, and the grey-headed kingfisher. After the walk, you'll return to camp.

Day 11: Fly to Johannesburg (South Africa), Soweto Tour & Dinner

Soweto is filled with color, culture, and plenty of South African history

Say goodbye to the Okavango Delta because this morning, you're off to South Africa! It's a 1.5-hour flight south to Johannesburg, the nation's capital. Known as "Joburg" or "Jozi" to locals, South Africa's largest city is both a cultural and historical hub. You'll get to the roots of Joburg when, after checking into your hotel, you'll visit the Soweto township (district) on a day tour.

A segregated area for the Black population in the decades of apartheid, this district on the western outskirts of the city was a center of civil unrest until the country's first democratic elections in 1994. On the tour, you'll see the Hector Pieterson Memorial (dedicated to a child killed by police during the 1976 student riots), as well as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu's former homes on Vilakazi Street. Fuel up during the tour on "bunny chow," a hollowed-out loaf of fresh bread filled with stew or curry.

In the evening, you'll learn about Soweto's political history from the people who lived it, with a traditional dinner and storytelling under the stars. Hear directly from freedom fighters, former students who were part of the 1976 uprisings, artists, and musicians local to Soweto as they share their experiences with you. This is a special opportunity to experience living history while you share food around the fire―you'll come away with a deeper understanding and some new friends. 

Day 12: Maboneng Precinct & Apartheid Museum Tour

Street art on display in the bohemian Maboneng Precinct

Go on a deeper dive into Johannesburg this morning as you embark on a walking tour of the Maboneng Precinct, a former industrial zone that's been transformed into a vibrant part of the city. Maboneng, a Sotho word for "Place of Light," is a fitting name for a neighborhood that has quickly become a center for creative urban artists. After visiting the cafés, boutiques, and galleries of Maboneng, you'll head to south Johannesburg to visit one of the most vital museums in the country.

Though the main focus of the Apartheid Museum is the country's policy of forced segregation (apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning "apartness"), it also offers an overview of 20th-century South African history. It does this through fascinating exhibits, both permanent and temporary, which allow visitors to bear witness to a particularly dark period in the nation's history. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel and will have the evening free.

Day 13: Day Trip to Pretoria, Dinner & Jazz

Blooming jacaranda trees line Pretoria's streets

Meet your driver this morning and head north of the city on an hour's ride to Pretoria. Located in Gauteng province, this is one of South Africa's three (yes, three) capital cities. It's known as "The Jacaranda City" due to the annual bloom of the blossoming Jacaranda trees that line the avenues. On a guided tour, you'll visit museums and famous sites, like the Voortrekker Monument, a National Heritage Site. The trip ends at the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa, and the site of Nelson Mandela's joyful presidential inauguration in 1994.

After the sun sets, you're in for some real fun back in Johannesburg. Dinner tonight is at the Marabi Club, the city's premier jazz venue. Located downtown and tucked away in the basement of the Hallmark House, a modernist boutique hotel, Marabi has a fun, speakeasy vibe. After all, the club has its origins as an illegal shebeen (bar) in the 1920s and 30s. Once you sit down inside, the impeccably dressed staff will be there to serve fine food and drink accompanied by the best live jazz in the city.

Day 14: Full-Day Panorama Tour

Travel to incredible viewpoints around Blyde, one of the largest river canyons in the world

It's time for a road trip! Your driver will pick you up this morning for the ride along the famous Panorama Route, located in the Mpumalanga province in the country's northeast. During the excursion, you'll stop at scenic viewpoints, towering rock formations, colossal valleys, and powerful waterfalls.

It starts with a drive through the continent's largest pine and eucalyptus forest to get to God's Window, a lookout point perched on the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment. Nearby is Lisbon Falls, the highest waterfall in the province. Stop at an observation deck along the road to watch the water plunge dramatically from a height of over 295 feet (90 m).

Back in the car, continue to Bourke's Luck Potholes, a mesmerizing landscape of swirling rock formations and cylindrical potholes formed by centuries of flowing water. Your next stop is Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world. Stand at the canyon's edge and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding cliffs, rugged rock formations, and meandering Blyde River. End the tour at the Three Rondavels Viewpoint to see the three rock formations that resemble traditional African round huts. At around 4 pm, you'll begin the drive back to Johannesburg.

Day 15: Fly to Vilankulos (Mozambique), Ferry to Benguerra Island 

Welcome to Benguerra Island

Say goodbye to South Africa because this morning, you'll board a connecting flight to the coastal town of Vilankulos in Mozambique. From there, hop on a ferry for the 45-minute ride across the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean to Benguerra Island. Located in the Bazaruto archipelago, this tropical gem is a waking dream of powdery white-sand beaches, crystalline turquoise waters, and lush tropical vegetation.

Pass the billowy sails of traditional dhow boats on your way into the harbor. Then, transfer to your beachfront resort hotel, where you'll spend the next few days in tropical bliss. Know that your accommodation has the distinction of being the first eco-hotel in Mozambique, hand-built by the local community and operating in partnership with it.

Day 16: Benguerra Island Activities

Enjoy the perfect mix of relaxation and adventures on Benguerra Island 

Today's itinerary is jam-packed with memorable island experiences. Depending on your interests, you can set off in the morning in an open-topped 4WD vehicle to explore Benguerra. This island road trip will take you past local villages to the wild interior, where you'll stop to taste exotic fruits from native trees. You'll also visit lakes teeming with Nile crocodiles, hike up rolling sand dunes, and stroll secluded beaches free of tourists.

For lunch, perhaps travel to the southern end of the island for a picnic at romantic Southpoint Beach, then board a speedboat for a couple of hours of island-hopping around the archipelago. In the evening, return to your comfy villa at the resort and enjoy a specially prepared, candlelit dinner served on the deck or right on the beach.

Day 17: Day Trip to Local Village

Visit the Benguerra Island School and meet the kids

Benguerra is more than the postcard image of white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. There are also villages and communities here home to a vibrant local culture. Today, you'll get to immerse yourself in this rich culture on a driving tour to one such village.

En route to the town, your driver/guide will reveal insight into local history and customs. Upon arrival, you'll visit a charity-funded school where you can meet the kids, teachers, and possibly the headmaster. If the tour is on a Sunday, you'll make a brief stop at a village church service before attending a local soccer game. If you like, you can even join the game! Later, you'll return to the resort.

Days 18-20: Benguerra Island Free Days

Free time at Azura Benguerra Island
After a day of island adventures, return to the resort for dinner on the beach
The next three days are yours to enjoy this island paradise however you wish. There are plenty of public beaches to enjoy, and your resort even has a PADI dive center with a training pool. When you're ready, hit the water on a scuba tour to marvel at the marine life along the corals surrounding the island. Keep an eye out for tropical fish, dolphins, sea turtles, and rays—you might even spot whales, sharks, and humpbacks. Another fun activity is a horseback ride along the beach, and if you're here over the weekend, you can take in a soccer match.

Day 21: Transfer to Vilankulos, Depart

Goodbye, Mozambique

This morning you'll bid a fond farewell to paradise as you board a ferry for the ride back to Vilankulos. There, you'll transfer to the airport in time to catch your connecting flight home. Until next time!

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Map of Southern Africa Explorer: Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa & Mozambique - 21 Days
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