An amalgamation of some of the best countries in Africa, Southern Africa can be referred to as the jewel at the tip of the continent. With the best that nature has to offer, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe house the most exotic wildlife, exquisite beaches and dramatic landscapes - ranging from raging hot deserts to pearly blue waters - to offer a sensually rich experience teeming with the finest of food, culture and local art.
Cheap and perfect for backpackers Diverse cuisine Culturally rich Some of the most beautiful and untouched natural landscapes
Stealing and thievery is not uncommon Hygiene issues, especially for backpackers Can be expensive for those seeking to travel luxuriously
For seasoned travellers willing to compromise on comfort and luxury in order to see and appreciate regional beauty and customs
Popular countries: Zimbabwe - known for its tourist attractions and beautiful sights. South Africa - tourist friendly; varied wildlife Mozambique - exquisite beaches and reefs Malawi - home to the Malawi lake - third largest in Africa Lesotho - huge mountain ranges; ideal for adventure lovers
In towns and cities, cheap guest-houses are usually available; however, these are in poor condition, often with no running water. Some even double up as a brothel of some sort (usually). In large cities like Windhoek and Harare however, there are decent hostels that also cater to budget travellers – they have electricity, running water and other like-minded travellers for company. In national parks and forests, budget travellers usually prefer a lightweight tent and camp – however, winter nights are very cold in most countries and especially hard on the campers. A second option is the national park lodges – these however, are quite costly.
Home to many cultures and people, Southern Africa houses a number of ethnic groups including the Zulu, Tsonga, Xhosa, Swazi, Northern Ndebele, Southern Ndebele, Tswana, Sotho, and Shona people, and they all speak the Bantu languages (owing to the Bantu expansion). Further, due to a history of colonization, a significant population of European and Asian descent also exists here. Christianity is the dominant religion in Southern Africa; a significant population is also ethno religious and the remaining people practice Hinduism, Islam and other religions. Nearly all countries in the region boast of English as their official language and majority of city folk speak it fluently. Apart from this, Afrikaans is widely spoken in South Africa and Namibia; German is also spoken in Namibia and Portuguese in Mozambique.
1. South Africa - diverse cuisine with influences from British, Dutch, German, Indian, Malay and Portuguese; popular dishes include Braaivleis (meat roasted over an open wood or charcoal fire) and Pap (a porridge made with corn meal). Local beer, wine and liquors are a must try. 2. Zimbabwe - to get a sample of everyday food, try sadza and tsunga (stew) - tasty, inexpensive and very filling. 3. Mozambique - food is heavily influenced by Portugese occupation; popular food items include Piri-Piri and P?ozinho. 4. Malawi - traditional Malawian food revolves around one main staple - maize, which is served in one form - nsima (n'SEE-ma), basically a type of thick porridge rolled into ball; a traditional local drink worth trying is maheu. 5. Lesotho - local speciality is deep fried harajja with Golumbi paste; Maluti beer is a must try.
While Malawi, Lesotho and Zimbabwe are relatively safer (there are some incidences of theft and violence - normal precautions should be taken, such as avoid venturing out alone after dark and travelling to deserted places), there are some concerns about the remaining two countries. Violent crime rate in South Africa is significantly high so appropriate safety precautions must be taken - offers from strangers should be refused; avoid wearing/carrying expensive items; distribute your valuables amongst your belongings and do not walk by alone through deserted places. Avoid taking public transport alone; instead rent a car, take a taxi or an escorted tour. Do not visit townships alone as some of them are extremely dangerous - go with an experienced guide. In Mozambique, violence between FRELIMO and RENAMO has erupted recently (August 2016), with many South African tourists having been attacked. Consult your local Ministry of Foreign Affairs for further information.
South Africa - Cape Town and Johannesburg are the party hubs in this country; popular nightclubs/bars include - Cuba?a Latino Caffe - promises an authentic Latino and Cuban experience; Tiger Tiger - known for hosting the best international and local DJs; Club Galaxy - most popular club since the 70s, known for its music programming and service. Zimbabwe - Harare is the party hotspot here and the Sam Levy Village area in Borrowdale is a well-known part place; popular nightclubs/bars include - The Eastgate Mall - known for its cocktails and live music; The Origins Caf? - plays traditional African music and international hits; The Mannenburg Jazz Club - live jazz performances. Lesotho - Maseru is the best place to enjoy Lesotho's nightlife; popular nightclubs/bars include - Maseru club; Maseru Sun Cabanas and Ouh La La Cafe (these places are popular for their authentic cuisine and original music). Malawi - Lilongwe and Blantyre are main cities for experiencing the nightlife; popular nightclubs/bars include - Discorium, The Breeze and Chameleons Bar. Mozambique – Maputo is the place to be; popular nightclubs/bars include - Coconut’s live – affordable drinks, huge dance floors; Dock’s – caters to eating and social needs; Africa Bar – popular meeting place for wealthy locals; live jazz nights.
South Africa - The Gateway Mall in Durban is the largest in the southern hemisphere; popular weekly markets in Johannesburg – 44 Stanley, Arts on Main and the Neighbourhood Market; Cape Town’s V&A Centre is also well-known for an integrated shopping and entertainment experience; For traditional African arts and craft, Johannesburg’s Rosebank Mall craft market is a must visit. Popular choice of souvenirs – intricate beadwork necklaces, carved wooden masks and six foot tall giraffes. Zimbabwe – Handicrafts such as beaded jewellery and masks can be found at Harare; popular places include – Sam Levy’s Village, Elephant’s Walk Shopping and Artist’s Village and Avondale Flea Market. Lesotho – handicraft shops and shopping centres everywhere sell souvenirs like conical hats, grass-woven articles (mats, baskets), pottery, wool and mohair rugs, textiles, rock paintings, traditional jewellery and silver/gold items. Malawi – known for colourful art and crafts (handmade items) including woodcarvings, wood and cane furniture, soapstone carvings, decorated wooden articles, colourful textiles, and pottery, beadwork, cane and raffia items. The Mua Mission, south of Salima, has an excellent shop to buy these souvenirs. Mozambique – special items include basketwork, reed mats, woodcarvings, masks, printed cloth and leather items. Maputo Market, Maputo Shopping Centre and Machilla Magic are popular shopping destinations in the country.
Popular festivals- Lake Of Stars: Malawi (September) – cited as "the world's most spectacular music festival"; performers are eccentric (once a musician played from a trees) and play for free; a fusion of local Malawian music and other international styles. HIFA: Zimbabwe (May) - Week-long festival that encompasses five main disciplines: theatre, music, dance, fine art, and poetry; marked by a number of activities like djembe drumming lessons, poetry sessions and music performances. Cape Town International Jazz Festival: South Africa (March) - Fourth-largest jazz festival in the world; encompasses a number of genres. Vic Falls Carnival: Zimbabwe (December) – three-day festival that includes exciting activities like rafting, bungee-jumping and museum visits.
Like most tropical regions of the world, Southern Africa is hot and humid. While some areas are clean and hygienic, same cannot be said for others. Drinking mineral, packaged water is advised- avoid tap water; Wear sunscreen or some sort of sun protection to guard against burns when outdoors; There's a high risk of contracting Malaria in certain parts of the region - adequate safety measures should be taken for the same.
South Africans are generally polite, friendly and accommodating to tourists; homosexuality is legal here so LGBT tourists are safe as well; a handshake is an appropriate form of greeting; barring a few designated beaches, nude sunbathing is illegal, although topless sunbathing for women is allowed in certain areas; South African people are considered very straight-forward which should be kept in mind. In Zimbabwe, people are very friendly and relaxed; some customs include - clapping twice signifies an accepted "thank you", especially when someone is handing you something; also when shaking hands with someone or passing anything valuable, the right forearm should be supported with the left hand (or vice versa). Lesotho – learning a few Sesotho such as Lumela for hello, Kea leboha for thank you and U phela joang for how are you can be very helpful; no matter what, never get angry at anyone as Basotho culture doesn’t accept a show of frustration towards others. Malawi – people are general extremely courteous, and think of shaking hands, speaking softly, and referring to travellers with respect as part of that courtesy; they don’t like rudeness; culturally, women aren’t permitted to wear shorts or mini-skirts, especially when travelling outside the lodge/camp, hence, many female travellers wear wraps, available in the stores and markets of major cities. Mozambique - song and dance are an important part of the many local customs and ceremonies here. While, in southern Mozambique, groups such as the Thonga are patrilineal, in northern areas of the country, many groups are largely matrilineal.