By Andrés Muñoz

Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya. Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. You might have heard of these destinations as key places to explore when visiting Africa. You would definitely miss out if you never saw them, just like the Masai Mara National Reserve and the Serengeti and Kruger national parks. 

That being said, Africa is a big, big, BIG place! It is so big that you could fit the United States, India, China, Japan, and most of Europe, and there would still be room for more. So what places are we missing? What exciting and magical spots are yet to be discovered? While we definitely encourage you to explore all of the places mentioned earlier, here are a few lesser-known destinations to visit in Southern Africa and a few essential travel pointers. 

Preparing Your Trip

There are several vital elements that visitors should consider when travelling to Africa. First of all, vaccines. Most African nations require proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever. Other vaccinations you should consider are hepatitis A & B, diphtheria, and tetanus. Malaria is also widespread, so we suggest you pack some Malarone. This anti-Malaria drug prevents parasites from growing in your blood. 

Culturally speaking, Africa might be very, very different from your home country. Border crossings might be more complicated, overall waiting times might be longer, and timetables are to be seen more as flexible guidelines than anything else. As long as you bear this in mind and keep an open mind, you’ll be able to enjoy your adventure. Check out The Common Wanderer’s Africa Travel Tips post for a comprehensive guide on travelling to Africa. 

Namibia

With approximately 1.5 million international visitors annually, Namibia is almost seven times less-visited than neighbouring South Africa with 10.2 million. 

One of the key attractions is the Namib-Naukluft National Park, the third-largest game park in Africa, with 49,768 km2. This makes this reserve larger than the entire countries of Denmark, the Netherlands or Switzerland. As its name indicates, the park brings together the Namib desert and the Mountain range of Naukluft. A winner of the 2021 Tripadvisor Travellers Choice Awards, Deadvlei is a dried-up lake located in the park. It is next to some of the highest dunes in the world, some of them up to 300-450 metres tall.  

The best strategy is to rent out a 4×4 and drive your way around the park’s incredible offerings. This eleven-day itinerary and travel guide is particularly well structured. 

Madagascar

A large island off the southeastern African coast, Madagascar offers all sorts of uncanny and exciting activities. The Tsingy de Bemaraha National park has a stone forest of jagged limestone formations. The rocks are so sharp that people can’t use their bare hands to climb them, with the word “Tsingy” being a variation of the phrase: “place where you can’t walk barefoot”. Another spectacular location is the Avenue of the Baobabs, a stretch of road in Western Madagascar where you can see the beautiful 2,500-year-old trees lined up along the route. 

One of the unique animals to watch out for is the lemur. A species native only to the island, lemurs have evolved into tens of different subspecies. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has indicated that they are some of the most endangered mammals globally, so to combat this, six National Parks have been set up. The Rainforests of the Atsinanana are a World Heritage Site and have 97% species exclusively native to Madagascar. The Kirindy Forest is another reserve where lemurs can be observed.

The island is also famous for being a popular whale destination. The humpback whale season lasts from June to October, but there’s also the opportunity to watch and swim with whale sharks in October-December, along the Nosy Be archipelago.  

Botswana

This might be the most famous of the three locations, mainly thanks to the big game you can watch all along the Okavango river delta. Visitors can watch antelopes, lions, cape buffalos, leopards, elephants, hippos, and more! 

The country is also home to part of the Kalahari desert. Taking up over 80% of Botswana’s area, the 900’000km2 desert offers salt plains where you can watch zebras, flamingos and lions and more on the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. It has a vast cultural richness as well as its natural abundance. The Tsodilo Hills are sacred to the region’s Bushmen or hunter-gatherer cultures in Botswana and many other parts of Southern Africa. They’re one of the oldest civilisations on the planet and have painted around 4,500 rock paintings on these very hills. 

These are only three African countries. We could go on and on and only scratch the surface! What other destinations in Africa should you consider travelling to? Let us know in the comments section below!