Top Self-Drive Southern African Safari Routes

Top Self-Drive Southern African Safari Routes

There are numerous self-drive southern African safari routes that allow you to embrace the freedom of discovery at your own pace.

While organized safaris take care of all the logistical issues, the real advantage of doing a self-drive safari is that your itinerary – the when and where and what – is completely up to you.

Animals sightings – from big cats lazing around in the sun and elephants splashing around in the water, to grazing antelopes and the scurried movements of smaller creatures – can easily become a half-day affair. You can spend hours at a bird hide honing your photography skills, venture off the beaten path, and even include a city escape into the mix when you decide to do it on your own.

Africa is your oyster, and the wild pearls of nature are dotted along these top self-drive southern African safari routes. Go on, explore.

Top Self-Drive Southern African Safari Routes

Get in the driver’s seat and take the wheel as you discover these top southern African safari routes.

Keep in mind that going on a self-drive safari might require the use of an off-road vehicle that will be able to cope with the terrain and roads, as well as knowledge and skills on how to deal with the rocky terrain, possible water crossings and sandy roads. Never overestimate time over distance, have a navigational aid and enough fuel, remember that animals have the right of way and that you have to stay in your vehicle, drive at low speeds, adhere to park gate times, always have some snacks and water in your vehicle and be patient.

If you are thinking of tackling one of the below suggestions of the top self-drive southern African safari routes., don’t hesitate to contact us to help you plan.

Top Self-Drive Safari Routes in South Africa

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park | Southern African Safari Routes

There is a wide variety animals and different biomes that can be found in Kruger National Park, the largest in South Africa. The roads are sedan-friendly, big five and other sightings abound and there is a wide variety of accommodation and restaurant options in the park, or you can stay overnight in concessions and private lodges. Malelane Gate is the closest to Johannesburg at 250 miles.

Pilanesberg National Park

Pilansberg National Park | Southern African Safari Routes

This big five malaria-free park, just 56 miles from Johannesburg, is set within the crater of an ancient volcano. Situated between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, the area is home to a variety of game, including the wild dog, sable antelope and tsessebe, and in addition to a game drive, it can also be experienced from a hot air balloon. You do not need a 4×4 to drive through Pilansberg National Park.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park | Southern African Safari Routes

Situated in the Kalahari Desert region of Botswana and South Africa, bordering Namibia, Kgalagadi National Park is known for its arid landscapes of red dunes, black-maned Kalahari lions, leopard sightings, and migrating herds of wildebeest. Traveling in an off-road vehicle is recommended, and you can cross into Namibia at the Twee Rivieren border.

Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park | Southern African Safari Routes

In close proximity to Port Elizabeth, and between the dense thicket, wooded valleys and open areas you will find the big five, other game, and the flightless dung beetle. Off-road vehicles are not necessary, the area is malaria-free and a big section of the park can be explored on a day trip.

Top Self-Drive Safari Routes in Namibia

Etosha National Park

Etosha | Southern African Safari Routes

The massive salt pan of Etosha is regarded as Namibia’s foremost wildlife sanctuary – its crowning glory – and offers guests incredible wildlife sightings, making it one of the top self-drive southern African safari routes. This malaria-free park is accessible in a regular sedan, with well-maintained roads and there is a range of accommodation and restaurants available, as well as petrol stations.

Namib-Naukluft National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park | Southern African Safari Routes

Home to a tapestry of different landscapes, including the Namib Desert, Sandwich Harbour and the main attractions of the park, Sossusvlei and Sesriem, the Namib-Naukluft National Park is home to a lot of desert-adapted plant and animal life. A 4WD vehicle is a must if you want to experience the top sights.

Damaraland

Rugged rocks, open plains, desert-adapted wildlife, Namibia’s highest mountain, Brandberg, ancient rock paintings at Twyfelfontein and the fossilized trees of the Petrified Forest, all make Damaraland one of the most scenic areas in the country. Situated between the Skeleton Coast National Park and Etosha National Park, this unfenced area requires an off-road vehicle and a lot of patience (and time) if you are on a self-guided game drive.

Top Self-Drive Safari Routes in Botswana

Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park | Southern African Safari Routes

The biologically diverse Chobe, also known as the Land of the Giants, is an unspoiled wilderness in northern Botswana and home to diverse landscapes and ecosystems, many animal and bird species. As a firm favorite when it comes to the top self-drive southern African safari routes, you will need a 4×4, and have experience driving on sandy roads but don’t forget to opt for a boating safari as well.

Moremi Game Reserve (and Okavango Delta)

Moremi Game Reserve (and Okavango Delta) | Southern African Safari Routes

With diverse landscapes, vegetation and views, Moremi Game Reserve protects the core of the Okavango Delta, and the lush habitat is home to cheetah, African wild dog, lion and over 500 bird species. Not all areas of the park are accessible for a self-drive safari, and you do need a 4WD. While you can’t explore the Okavango Delta by vehicle, Moremi Game Reserve provides the opportunity (and access) to go on a boat or mokoro excursion.

Makgadikgadi Pans

Makgadikgadi Pans | Southern African Safari Routes

During the wet season, the trio of salt flats in north-eastern Botswana attracts thousands of flamingos and it is home to one of the largest wildebeest migrations in Africa. Apart from game drives where you can see the likes of cheetah, lion, leopard, jackal, giraffe and elephant to name a few, you can also do guided walks with Bushmen and explore the pans on a quad bike. You will need an off-road vehicle to explore Makgadikgadi Pans.

Top Self-Drive Safari Routes in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe | Southern African Safari Routes

Mana Pools National Park

Regarded as one of Zimbabwe’s most remote parks, situated in a pristine untouched wilderness in the north – and a UNESCO Heritage Site – Mana Pools National Park is bursting with birdlife and wildlife, with the biggest concentration of hippos and crocodiles in Zimbabwe. You can go on self-guided game drives during the dry season in a 4×4 and there are guided walking and canoe safaris.

Hwange National Park

Home to thousands of elephants, Hwange National Park is a premier wildlife destination and easily reachable from Victoria Falls. Roaming the diverse vegetation of savanna grasslands and woodlands, are over 100 species of animals, including leopard, lion, buffalo and smaller game. Even though the park is so easily accessible, you will experience a low vehicle density.  You will need a 2WD, while some camps are only accessible with a 4WD.

Zambezi National Park

Upstream from Victoria Falls lies Zambezi National Park, home to a large variety of game including elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard and it is a haven for birdwatchers with more than 400 species. The park is divided by a tar road (running between Victoria Falls and the Kazangula Border Post) and there are two sections, the Chamabondo Game Drive and the Zambezi River Game drive, which has an extensive road network and picnic sites on the banks of the river. Road access is only possible in 4WD vehicles.

Matobo National Park

Less than an hour from Bulawayo, Matobo National Park – a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site – is home to numerous fascinating rock formations, historical sites, with prolific birdlife (home to the largest concentration of black eagles) and it is also a protective zone for rhinos.

Fuel can be problematic in Zimbabwe, fill up where you can, or visit the sights in Zimbabwe via entering from a neighboring country.

Top Self-Drive Safari Routes in Zambia

Zambia | Southern African Safari Routes

 

Lower Zambezi National Park

Home to unfenced safari camps, Lower Zambezi National Park is in the eastern part of Zambia, and boasts being an unspoiled and remote wilderness with elephants, hippo, buffalo, lion and more. The landscape’s diversity owes it to the Zambezi snaking along the southern edge and the Zambezi Escarpment in the north. The park has a low vehicle density and offers walking and boating safaris. To explore the park, you will need a 4WD.

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

Situated along the upper Zambezi River, the small Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park – which includes Victoria Falls – is home to a wide variety of animals regardless of its size. A visit to the park can be easily done on a day trip, there are also walking safaris on offer and the river is home to numerous adventure activities.

Top Self-Drive Safari Routes in Tanzania

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti | Southern African Safari Routes

To see the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth – the annual great migration – you have to visit Serengeti National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to thousands of lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, hippos and of course the crocodiles of the Mara River. While the roads are quite abysmal, self-driving in Serengeti National Park is often considered more expensive whereas an organized tour will also take care of unnecessary stress and the bureaucratic hassle when entering the park.