Southern Africa - tips

In short Southern Africa may be the most varied part of the Continent. In parts, it's very mountainous, it's desert, it's a temperate coast on the west side, a tropical one on the east. Lots of variation, lots of wildlife, lots of great people, and the remote westernization of South Africa itself doesn't hurt at all. Value for money, Southern Africa is likely to be the best part of Africa.
Highlights

For nature, South Africa itself is hard to beat, boasting a seemingly endless variety of green hills, rugged montains, sand beaches and, surprisingly, penguins (at Cape Point). Still, in my opinion, Namibia is even better; probably the most beautiful country of Africa - which says a lot. The sand dunes of Sossusvlei and the amazing Etosha National Park are worth any detour.

So are a couple of the parks of Swaziland (notably Mkhaya), and also Chobe/Okavango (Botswana) or Hwange in Zimbabwe, if the political situation permits it. Apart from the Galapagos, Africa is by far the continent giving the best opportunities for watching wildlife, and the only one suitable for "big animals".

For pure landscape, the small highland kingdom of Lesotho is impossible to beat. Nestled in the southern end of the Drakensberg, Lesotho is the "highest" country on earth, here meaning the country where the lowest point is the highest - 1,500 meters above sea level.

Photo samples: Southern Africa (1) and Southern Africa (2).

Slide shows: Namibia and Swaziland-Lesotho.

Articles (in Danish): South African Drink Driving.

Places to avoid As always, the big cities. The crime rate is alarming in places as Durban and Johannesburg (South Africa), and some places in Zimbabwe are probably not safe at all due to the Mugabization. Paranoia is a terrible travelling companion, and since you can't change the situation, so just stay away, however, just outside the big cities, everything is just great.
Seasons The east is very typically tropical with periodic summer showers (= European winter), while the other side is cooler and drier. In general, the Southern Africa is best in their winter season from May to November, but check the detailed seasons in the guidebooks.
Do's and don'ts Not too much. Southern Africa is as easy as it gets.
Visa Rather easy, as most Europeans don't need visas for anywhere but Mozambique.
Value for money Ranging from excellent to poor. In general, the southern Africa is surprisingly cheap, and Zimbabwe and Mozambique could once be "done" for less than 20 USD/day if you do a bit of camping. Namibia is a bit more expensive, but still great value for money, and in South Africa itself, things may be even more expensive. Still, all over, it's great value as compared to the strange situation in West Africa: Too expensive, few attractions.
Others Get a car (preferably 4WD) and try to avoid the urban centres. The African friendliness and hospitality are amazing outside the big cities, whereas transport is quite erratic. As such, a car is a wonderful companion. Try to get underneath the skin of the tribal societies and discover an amazingly beautiful world.

Despite the rumours, Africa seems to be easier for women travelers than Central Asia and, of course, a fair share of the Muslim world. Dress a bit conservative, and you'll notice that the Africans (Blacks and Whites alike) are as good gentlemen as anyone anywhere.

 

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