Self-drive tours of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls and Zambia present few challenges. Beyond the main routes and over the borders, things get adventurous. We’d even go as far as to say, this special part of southern Africa is ideal for self-drives.
Our Self-drive Africa Map shows recommended self-drive tour destinations and routes, taking into account road conditions, safety, availability of services, driving times and distances, emergency services, mobile network coverage and traffic congestion.
Self-drive tours of Botswana are popular though inevitably you will combine these with a fly-in or guided transfer element to get to the remote game parks with impassable roads.
As you can see from the map above, the safari attractions of Botswana are not recommended for self-drive tours. The accessible routes take you only as far as the fringes of the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, the Central Kalahari and the Makgadikgadi. From the edge, you would normally transfer to your safari lodge by road with the lodge's custom-fitted 4x4 safari vehicles or by air to the lodge landing strip.
That doesn't mean a self-drive in Botswana is not an option. You can drive to the edge of all the game reserves and take guided safaris from there. You can also combine this with a short fly-in safari to reach the remote islands of the Delta. From Botswana it is a short drive to Victoria Falls making a Botswana and Victoria Falls self-drive tour an excellent option. Like Botswana, Victoria Falls has many safari operators offering day safaris and tours to the many, reserves, parks and activities on offer.
For experienced off-road drivers, a 4x4 camping adventure in Botswana is one of the best overland tours in Africa. The country is wild, the roads are challenging and the rewards are incredible. Roads are only passable during the dry winters - which is prime game viewing season. Talk to your Travel Expert about a self-drive tour of Botswana.
Namibia is the best self-drive holiday destination in... let's be kind and stick to Africa. Endless open roads, no traffic, great camping all year round, excellent lodges and hotels... We could wax on for days. And we do, in a separate Namibia Self-drive Safari section.
South Africa is a fantastic self-drive destination. The roads are excellent and extensive; car hire rates are competitive and because almost all of your driving is on safe, paved roads, excesses waivers are lower than the rugged neighbours up north (like Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia). Attractions and accommodation options are many and varied to suit all budgets and styles.
Perhaps the only drawback of a self-drive tour of South Africa is the great distances involved. This problem is easily overcome by flying the long haul domestic routes and hiring a car locally. For example, from Cape Town to Kruger by road is about 1900km so we'd recommend hiring a car for exploring Cape Town, then flying to Kruger National Park and either hiring another car or transferring with your safari lodge for a fully inclusive Kruger safari.
Navigating the bigger cities is easy and, despite what you might have heard in the media, driving in South Africa is safe - just follow the same precautions as you would in any large city avoiding the known dangerous areas and slums, which is easy enough. Talk to your Travel Expert about a self-drive tour of South Africa.
Victoria Falls is poised at the confluence of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia making it an ideal start and end point to your self-drive tour of southern Africa.
From Victoria Falls you can easily drive to Botswana and Namibia (via the Caprivi); through Botswana you can drive to South Africa or you can explore the southern regions of Zambia as well as the Lower Zambezi and Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe.
That being said, in most cases, unless you plan to self-drive within Zimbabwe, you'd likely transfer on to Botswana, Namibia and then start your actual self-drive adventure from there. This cuts out the hassle of taking the vehicle across the border, which can be a little tricky and more expensive and reduces the vehicle drop off fees when collecting your vehicle in Botswana or Namibia.
Within the Victoria Falls region itself you can drive to Hwange National Park and Matetsi Game Reserve in Zimbabwe or the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia. Having a car in Victoria Falls also gives you the freedom to explore the area at your leisure.
With the exception of Victoria Falls, self-drive tours of Zambia are not as popular as self-drive tours in South Africa, Namibia or Botswana.
That doesn't mean a self-drive holiday in Zambia is any less rewarding or enjoyable, you just have to be prepared for adventure. The adventure lies in the vast distances, degraded roads and lack of roadside facilities. To some, this may sound awful, to others this is the spirit of adventure getting away from the trappings of an easy life and getting back to basics.
Arriving at your destination, be it the South Luangwa, the Kafue or the Lower Zambezi, you will find a haven of luxury at odds with the rugged wilderness you've just traversed. The lodges offer guided safari activities on land, water and foot and you won't lift a finger during your stay other than to take a photo or stir your sunset cocktail.
Sturdy off-road vehicles are recommended for self-drive tours through Zambia and you can add camping equipment for a combination of rustic living and luxury lodges. Talk to your Travel Expert now about a self-drive tour of Zambia.
Zimbabwe is back. After years of economic and political turmoil, stability has returned to this jewel of Africa and now is the time to visit: before the crowds return.
The roads are still in usable condition, though venturing off-road you will soon find rain-damaged roads in need of repair. That means you can easily drive between the major attractions: Victoria Falls, Matopos National Park, Mana Pools, Kariba and the Eastern Highlands. And from there enjoy the luxury of a guided tour or safari.
Fuel, supplies, cash and goods are readily available and the official currency is now the US Dollar making logistics quite simple. The people remain as friendly and welcoming as ever the turmoil of the past few years caused by a tiny minority easily avoided on your self-drive tour of Zimbabwe. Contact us now for more information about Zimbabwe.
With a bit more planning, some extra paperwork and an adventurous spirit, a self-drive tour of Africa can include Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. While not part of our standard offering, if you yearn for adventure, contact us and we'll arrange everything for you. Our local knowledge, excellent contacts and invaluable advice will give you the best of both worlds: a great African adventure that is safe and care-free.