Cruise waterways and cross savannahs on a wild camping adventure

Discover southern Africa's waterways and national parks – plus the wildlife that call them home – on this 18-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. Canoe down the lush waterways of the Okavango Delta, watch hippos wallowing along the shores of the Chobe River, safari in the vast parks of Hwange, Kruger and Matobo and sleep under the stars in campsites and village homestays. Join Intrepid and Lonely Planet on an adventure through southern Africa’s most beautiful landscapes in search of elephants, lions, rhinos, warthogs and leopards.


Start
Johannesburg, South Africa
Finish
Johannesburg, South Africa
Destinations
Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe
Style
Basix
Theme
Lonely Planet Experience, Overland, Wildlife
Code
UBOQC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 22

A powerful partnership

Lonely Planet and Intrepid Travel share the same philosophy: we help curious people explore the world.

Why you'll love this trip

  • Track rhinos on foot with an expert local guide in Matobo National Park and support local conservation efforts with a visit to Khama Rhino Sanctuary.

  • Immerse yourself in the ancient culture of the Venda people at a two-night village homestay in South Africa's Limpopo province.

  • Camping on a remote island in the heart of the Okavango wilderness is an experience you’ll never forget. As the sun sets and night falls, the sounds of Africa come alive.

  • Explore the magnificent Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, some of the largest salt flats in the world. These mind-bending plains make for some magical photography.

  • Marvel at the unforgettable views of Blyde River Canyon. This spectacular gorge is up there with the world's largest and is probably the greenest of the lot.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is an overland trip. That means you’ll be travelling with a group in a purpose-built vehicle, visiting remote communities, setting up your own tent, occasionally roughing it in the bush with no facilities, and getting the best possible views of the Big Five. For more info on this style of travel, see our Africa overland page https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/africa/overland

  • The African wild comes alive at sunrise, so there will be some early starts on this trip. The thrill of spotting your first lion or rhino will be well worth any loss of sleep!

  • Please note that this is a combination trip – two or more smaller trips linked together to make a longer adventure. That means your leader and group composition may change in Victoria Falls.

Itinerary

Sawubona – welcome to South Africa! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive early, get out and explore Johannesburg; the country’s largest city. Perhaps visit the cultural hotspots of Newtown, Braamfontein or Maboneng. Otherwise, the sobering Apartheid Museum is well worth your time. After your important meeting this evening, why not head out for an optional group dinner and get to know your newfound travel crew – your local leader will point you in the right direction with bar and restaurant recommendations.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place.

Please ensure that if you choose to explore Johannesburg on your own that you take local advice and consult your group leader as to where it is safe to walk, especially at night.
Leaving South Africa behind, cross the border into Botswana and travel towards the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (approximately 8–10 hours). Situated on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, the Khama Rhino Sanctuary has drastically changed from a former hunting area to a conservation project. Built to protect Botswana's only remaining populations of both black and white rhinos, the sanctuary is also home to other wildlife including zebras, giraffes, leopards, ostriches and wildebeest, all of which can be seen grazing the many waterholes. Visiting this project benefits local communities and directly contributes to protecting the endangered white rhinoceros. Later on, head out on a dusk game drive to see the rhinos when they are most active.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Khama Rhino Sanctuary - Open Safari Vehicle Game Drive
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
At tonight’s camp, there may be the option to upgrade to a room for an additional cost (subject to availability).
Jump aboard your vehicle and head to Maun (approximately 8–9 hours). Here there will be an opportunity to stock up on any supplies you might need for your adventure ahead. Maun is the gateway to one of the world's most complex ecosystems, the Okavango Delta. This place is unlike anything in the world – a 16,000 square kilometre maze of lush wetlands and waterways teeming with wildlife. You might see hippos, crocodiles, elephants and big cats, but it's the animals aren’t the only drawcard here – the waterscapes and shimmering horizons will have you gazing for days.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Tonight, you'll stay on the outskirts of Maun at a simple campsite with shared facilities, wi-fi and optional upgrades.
Get right in the action today, jumping aboard a traditional mokoro – a dugout canoe steered by friendly local 'polers' – for an Okavango waterways experience. With some luck, you could spot some of the delta's unusual wildlife and exotic birdlife. Spend some time today exploring the maze of lagoons, lakes and streams on foot too, led by experienced local guides. Tonight, you’ll camp on a remote island right in the heart of the wilderness, falling asleep to the humming and buzzing of the African heartlands.
Accommodation
  • Bush camp (no facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Okavango Delta - Mokoro safari
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
In this far-out camping location, facilities are almost non-existent, so be ready to dig a bush toilet and go without a shower. This is the African wild in all its glory!
Wake up early and head out on a sunrise walk. Along the way, keep watch for elephants, and if the timing is right, you might also come across some Cape buffalo! These noble-looking beasts are more dangerous than they look, and their horns double as a kind of bone shield that's fittingly known as a 'boss'. Returning to camp for breakfast, you’ve got the rest of the day to relax. A refreshing swim, or perhaps a nap, could be on the cards – both good ideas in the warmer part of the day. Alternatively, take another mokoro trip to soak up that serene river atmosphere.
Accommodation
  • Bush camp (no facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Okavango Delta - Sunrise Walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After taking down your camp, return to the ‘poler’ station by mokoro, before continuing your Lonely Planet Experience to Maun by vehicle (approximately 2–3 hours). Today you'll visit a rural village and interact with some of the locals, providing insight into daily life along the Okavango Delta. The waterways are the lifeblood of so many in this area, so learn more from locals about how important these fertile lands are. Tonight, settle in at camp on the outskirts of town.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Okavango Delta - Mokoro safari
Optional Activities
  • Okavango Delta - Plane Scenic Flight - From USD75 - USD390
  • Okavango Delta - Helicopter Scenic Flight - From USD150 - USD450
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Tonight you will stay in a simple campsite which has shared facilities. Wi-fi and optional upgrades are available.

During the Okavango Delta dry season, you may not be able to visit a rural village, as your night campsite may be different.

The scenic flight prices are dependent on the number of passengers in the plane or helicopter. See your group leader for more details.
Get up early and hit the road for Nata (approximately 6–7 hours). This small town is situated near the stunning Makgadikgadi Salt Pans which are some of the largest on earth, covering around 12,000 square kilometres. This afternoon, take the opportunity to explore the salt pans in an open vehicle. They are naturally dry and salty for a large part of the year, and during this time, the arid landscape has an eerie feel to it as the shimmering mirages disorientate the senses. At other times they take on a layer of grass and, as soon as the rains hit, become a refuge for migratory birds and animals.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Nata - Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Your campsite tonight is situated on the edge of the pans. It has a restaurant, swimming pool, gift shop, ATM and bar/lounge area. Upgrades are also available (subject to availability).
Hit the road to Chobe National Park (approximately 6–7 hours). Botswana's first national park is perhaps best known for its high concentration of elephants, which can often be seen swimming in the Chobe River. The river also attracts wallowing hippos, a variety of birdlife, crocodiles sunning themselves by the water's edge, and cheetahs and lions coming down to drink. Enjoy a sunset cruise on the Chobe – an ideal way to spend the afternoon and toast to another day in Africa.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with shared facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chobe National Park - River Cruise
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Your camp tonight has wi-fi available and optional upgrades (subject to availability). It's also close to a supermarket, so you can stock up on supplies while you're here.
Why not wake up early and see Chobe National Park from a different perspective, booking yourself in on an optional morning game drive. Afterwards, travel on to Victoria Falls (approximately 2–3 hours), crossing the border into Zimbabwe just in time to have lunch on the banks of the Zambezi River. Then it's free time to experience the sights and sounds of the mighty falls. This thundering curtain of water is about 1.7 kilometres wide, falling 108 metres into a narrow gorge below. In the wet season, the spray created can rise an incredible 400 metres as the falls become a raging torrent. In the dry season, the view of the falls is unobstructed by spray and you can see the little islets in the river below.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with shared facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Victoria Falls - Victoria Falls Entrance Fee - USD30
  • Chobe National Park - Open Safari Vehicle Morning Game Drive - BWP410
  • Victoria Falls - Sunset Cruise - USD50
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Your campsite tonight has wi-fi, an ATM and optional upgrades.

The Victoria Falls entrance fee is not included in the price of the trip as it is mandatory for tour groups with pre-purchased tickets to have a local escort. We feel that seeing these waterfalls for the first time should be an uninterrupted experience.

Your leader may take you to a local activity centre. Intrepid has not risk-assessed all activities and only those listed in Optional Activities are recommended. It is against company policy for leaders to facilitate the booking of anything that has not been risk-assessed or does not adhere to our company’s Responsible Travel policy and ethos. This includes organising transport to and from these activities.

We also ask travellers to avoid the Walk with the Lions experience as it is contrary to our Responsible Travel policy. While wildlife viewing is a big part of many itineraries, we strive to view animals in their natural habitats and with the greatest level of respect.
Enjoy a free day to explore or relax at your leisure. There will be a group meeting at 6 pm where you can meet any newbies joining your group.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with shared facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Victoria Falls - Canoe trail (full day) - USD185
  • Victoria Falls - Flying fox - USD50
  • Victoria Falls - Gorge swing - USD103
  • Victoria Falls - Victoria Falls entrance - USD35
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter flight (25 mins) - USD299
  • Victoria Falls - Helicopter flight (12 mins) - USD165
  • Victoria Falls - Village & township tour - USD61
  • Victoria Falls - Whitewater rafting (full day) - USD130
  • Victoria Falls - Whitewater rafting (half day) - USD130
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
This is a combo trip, which means the composition of your group may change today.
Leave Victoria Falls behind and head to Hwange National Park (approximately 5 hours, depending on traffic) via the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust – one of the projects The Intrepid Foundation supports. Here you can learn about the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife, human-wildlife conflict and the Trust’s role in anti-poaching. There may also be a chance to meet any rescued or orphaned wildlife currently in their care. At Hwange National Park, you will explore this stunning wildlife arena in an open 4WD vehicle. It became the royal hunting grounds of the Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi in the early 19th century and was set aside as a national park in 1929. Today, Hwange boasts a tremendous selection of wildlife, with over 100 species of mammals and nearly 400 bird species. The elephants of Hwange are world famous – here you'll find one of the largest elephant populations in Africa.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hwange National Park - Open Safari Vehicle Game Drive
  • Victoria Falls - Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust Visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
At tonight's camp, there is wi-fi as well as optional accommodation upgrades (subject to availability). Please speak to an Intrepid booking agent or your leader for more information.
Leave Hwange in your dust as you make tracks for Matobo National Park (approximately 5 hours). Shortly after leaving Hwange, stop at the Painted Dog Conservation Centre. The loss of quality habitat and poaching are driving the painted dog (also known as African wild dog) towards extinction. Learn about how they protect and increase the range and numbers of painted dogs in Zimbabwe and the Hwange ecosystem as a whole. Then it's on to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city. Take a stroll through the streets lined with old colonial buildings and stop in at a local cafe or restaurant for lunch before heading to your camp for the next two nights. Home to a large population of black and white rhinoceroses that can be tracked on foot, Matobo National Park is also the site of the grave of Cecil John Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia and the De Beers diamond company. The Matobo area has great spiritual and cultural significance to the local people and there are many sites within the park where important ceremonies still take place.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Hwange - Painted Dog Conservation visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
Your campground tonight has shared facilities, wi-fi access and optional upgrades (subject to availability). Please speak to an Intrepid booking agent or your leader for more information.
This morning, have a unique experience tracking rhinos on foot with the help of your guides. Here there will be the chance to spot other game – the park is home to klipspringers, leopards, warthogs and springhares, among others. You can also learn about the various local plants and trees, including wild pear and paperbark, while discovering San paintings and the intriguing rock formations of the park. After a cold lunch, venture to a nearby village and meet some of the local people.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Matobo National Park - Rhino Tracking, Open Safari Vehicle Park Visit & San Rock Paintings
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Get up nice and early for a day of travel. You'll cross a very busy border post, the only direct border crossing between Zimbabwe and South Africa. The drive is about 400 kilometres (approximately 6–8 hours). Your destination today is Makushu – a small village in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. Upon arrival in Makushu, you will be met by a local village guide, who will ensure you are well taken care of. You will be staying with homestay host mothers in their family homes. With your own room within the family home, you will get a true feeling of what it’s like in the village – certainly a unique and memorable experience for travellers.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Special Information
At your homestay tonight, each room is equipped with a double bed, with some hosts having two or three guestrooms. On arrival at your home and on meeting your host, you will receive a homestay kit. Each kit is fitted with clean linen (duvet, pillow, towel, face cloth, sheet), a roll of toilet paper, hand sanitiser, mosquito repellent, tea, coffee, cup, sugar and milk. True South African long-drop toilets situated outside of each home are available. These facilities are clean and well kept. Homestay hosts supply guests with hot water every morning and evening via portable bucket baths.
Rise and shine to the sounds of local village life – enjoy a day with your hosts in Makushu. As with any small town, no two days are the same, but you will be involved in traditional village activities, depending on what tasks are required on that day. Start the day with a gentle 2.5 hour hike through the village and it's surrounds. Afterwards some things you may get up to today include traditional floor making, beading, dancing, beer tasting and cooking. Today is a true opportunity to interact with the local villagers and learn of traditional Venda ways.
Accommodation
  • Homestay (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Makushu Homestay - Floor making, Beading, Cooking or Dancing
  • Makushu Homestay - Morning hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Journey to Kruger National Park (approximately 8–9 hours). There will be an opportunity to stop at a shop or market for any camping supplies you or the group might need. One of the largest game reserves in Southern Africa, Kruger National Park is home to over 500 bird species, 100 species of reptile and 150 mammal species, including the Big Five and the endangered African wild dog. Your wildlife experience begins as soon as you enter the park. You will head straight into prime game viewing areas, spotting anything from antelopes and elands to cheetahs and rhinos.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kruger National Park - Night 4x4 Game Drive - ZAR440
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Your campground, situated within the park itself, has shared facilities, hot and cold water, and optional upgrades (subject to availability). Please speak to an Intrepid booking agent or your leader for more information.

On occasion, especially during the peak months of May, June and July we are unable to secure campsites within the Kruger National Park. In this instance we will camp outside the park.
Rise early and have a light breakfast of coffee and rusks before embarking on a full-day game drive in the truck. Most of the day will be spent game viewing, bird watching and stopping at various waterholes and viewpoints. Depending on the season, you might catch sight of a saddle-billed stork with its distinct red beak, or the blue waxbill which is commonly found foraging for seeds in the scrub. In the afternoon when it's warm, take some time out to relax. Later on, there is an optional night drive with the park guide to spot nocturnal animals and perhaps even a night-time predator or two.
Accommodation
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kruger National Park - Overland Vehicle Game drive
Optional Activities
  • Kruger National Park - Night 4x4 Game Drive - ZAR440
  • Kruger National Park - Sunset 4x4 Game Drive (from price) - ZAR325
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
It's time to head to Johannesburg (approximately 9–10 hours). There’s plenty of time to stop and explore along the way. You will take in amazing vistas at the viewpoint over Blyde River Canyon and Bourke's Luck Potholes. This trip finishes on arrival in Johannesburg at the finishing point hotel.
Included Activities
  • Panorama Route - God's Window Viewpoint
  • Panorama Route - Bourke's Luck Potholes
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
No accommodation is provided for tonight, but this can be arranged when you book this trip. If you're wanting to catch an outgoing international flight, it's important to book it for 10 pm or later, to allow for delays that your group may encounter.
This trip is a Lonely Planet Experience
Our Lonely Planet Experiences include plenty of free time so you can do the things that suit your budget and interests. Between your Intrepid Travel leader’s local knowledge and Lonely Planet’s trusted travel tips and recommendations, your trip will be more epic than ever.

Meals

17 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 14 dinners

Transport

Overland vehicle, Open safari vehicle, Mokoro

Accommodation

Camping (with facilities) (12 nights), Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (1 night)

Included activities

  • Khama Rhino Sanctuary - Open Safari Vehicle Game Drive
  • Okavango Delta - Mokoro safari
  • Okavango Delta - Sunrise Walk
  • Nata - Makgadikgadi Salt Pans
  • Chobe National Park - River Cruise
  • Hwange National Park - Open Safari Vehicle Game Drive
  • Victoria Falls - Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust Visit
  • Hwange - Painted Dog Conservation visit
  • Matobo National Park - Rhino Tracking, Open Safari Vehicle Park Visit & San Rock Paintings
  • Makushu Homestay - Floor making, Beading, Cooking or Dancing
  • Makushu Homestay - Morning hike
  • Kruger National Park - Overland Vehicle Game drive
  • Panorama Route - God's Window Viewpoint
  • Panorama Route - Bourke's Luck Potholes

Lonely Planet extras

  • Free access to the Lonely Planet mobile app for one year
  • 25% discount on all items in the Lonely Planet Shop

Dates & availability

Trip search is unavailable.

There are currently no scheduled departures on our Explore Southern Africa trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.

Prices may change, so secure your trip today!
Jump to a departure month

Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on all nights of this trip (subject to availability), excluding the homestay on nights 14 and 15.
2. This is a combination trip made up of two shorter trips. This means the composition of your group may change in Victoria Falls as some group members leave and new ones join you.
3. This trip finishes upon arrival in Johannesburg on Day 18. Please do not book any flights until after 10 pm this evening.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View Essential Trip Information

Reviews