Cape Town to Victoria Falls wildlife

If you want your visit to Southern Africa to be all about animals, all the time, then book yourself onto a safari. But if you’re after a balance of wild landscapes, wild adventure and wildlife, then a Cape Town to Victoria Falls overland tour will perfectly deliver. The wildlife component of this kind of overland tour is not a mere add-on, either. It’s a huge focus, with time spent at Etosha National Park in Namibia, and both the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana.

Here, you’ll get the full game viewing spectacle – huge herds of elephants and zebra in Chobe, lions stalking impala by Etosha’s waterholes – plus the chance to weave through the Delta’s channels on a mokoro canoe or cruise up close to basking crocs and grazing buffalo on the Chobe River. You’ll travel beyond the big parks, too, to find all kinds of other creatures, from seals at Cape Cross to flamingos in their thousands at Walvis Bay.

Best places to see wildlife

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park is all about spectacle. Unlike the Okavango Delta, which is a landscape of reedy channels and forested islands, Chobe is all wide open space stretching away into Namibia, with the Chobe River flowing right through it. This waterway is the lifeblood of the park, attracting huge quantities of animals and birds, particularly during the dry season (April to October), and ensuring that the wildlife here is not only easy to spot, it’s seriously impressive.

Chobe is most famous for its elephants, who live here in enormous herds. See them arrive en masse at the river to drink each night – often 80 or so animals of all ages and sizes – creating a remarkable wildlife spectacle. Watch them drink, wash, splash around and then amble off to feed or grub up the riverbank sand, to get at the valuable minerals it contains.

It’s not just the elephant herds that reach super-size proportions in Chobe, though. You can also see enormous quantities of buffalo and zebra, with evening and early morning the best times to spot them on the move, heading for the river – and across it – in a thunderous march.

Game drives along the Chobe River’s banks reveal the other animals living here. Elegant giraffe, troops of squabbling baboons, and lots of impala and kudu are all easily seen. Lions prowl the scrubland and can often be seen dozing by the side of the dirt tracks that game vehicles navigate. The birdlife is prolific, too, from African fish eagles creating dramatic silhouettes on tree branches, to marabou storks fishing in the shallows. Boat trips on the Chobe River give a watery perspective on the elephants, and can get you up very close to gigantic crocs lying motionless on the banks and buffalo grazing right by the water.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

An enormous dried out and salt-crusted lake bed gives Etosha National Park its name, with etosha translating roughly as ‘great white place’. This fabulous park in the north of Namibia supports 144 species of mammal, including lion, cheetah, elephant, black and white rhinos and plenty of kudu, impala and zebra. There are endangered species, too, including Hartmann's mountain zebra, black-faced impala, roan antelope and the tiny Damara dik-dik.

Don’t forget the birdlife, either – the park hosts some 340 species of bird, a third of which are migratory. The summer rains turn some of the pans into seasonal lakes, which attract migratory and wetland species, including flamingos, while up in the trees is an avian supporting cast, including hornbills, lilac breasted rollers and Rüppel’s parrots.

Seeing wildlife in Etosha is relatively easy and, although the bushland can be dense, there are plenty of pans, clearings and waterholes where animals cluster. Most Cape Town to Victoria Falls tours spend three nights here, so you have two full days for game drives and wildlife watching. Some tours stay in a camp overlooking a floodlit, manmade waterhole, so you can watch animals late into the night, without even leaving your chair.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Created by the Okavango River flowing into the Kalahari Desert, the Okavango Delta is a vast ecosystem. Its network of winding channels and small forested islands support a huge array of wildlife, including lions, giraffe and elephants.

You don’t just see the wildlife here, you experience it. A rhythmic rustling alerts you that an elephant is shaking the fruit down from a palm tree with its trunk, while hippo grunts boom around the waterways. Birds fly up from the papyrus reeds as you weave through the waterways on a mokoro canoe, expertly steered by local polers. If they spot an elephant feeding by the water, they’ll stay a safe distance and shout loudly, to encourage it to move off – poling right past a feeding elephant is just too dangerous.

Some Cape Town to Victoria Falls tours include a night of wild camping on one of the Okavango Delta’s many islands, which is a chance to hear the wildlife all night long. A lion’s roar can travel for 8km, so try not to panic if you hear one from your tent at night – it might not be that close. You can also take a game walk in the delta, lead by an experienced local guide. Seeing elephants and hippos with nothing between you and them but a hundred metres of bush and your own ability to sprint is immensely thrilling.

Our top trip

Cape Town to Victoria Falls small group lodge tour

Cape Town to Victoria Falls small group lodge tour

Classic route lodge safari to Namibia, Botswana & Zimbabwe

From €3695 21 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 13 Dec, 20 Dec
2024: 10 Jan, 31 Jan, 13 Mar, 27 Mar, 15 May, 29 May, 12 Jun, 10 Jul, 24 Jul, 31 Jul, 7 Aug, 14 Aug, 28 Aug, 4 Sep, 11 Sep, 2 Oct, 23 Oct, 30 Oct, 20 Nov, 4 Dec, 11 Dec, 18 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Cape Town to Victoria Falls or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Best time to see wildlife

The biggest concentrations of wildlife can be seen during the Southern African winter months, from April to October, but particularly September and October. During winter, dwindling water supplies bring animals to waterholes and rivers, and the scrub is dying back, making visibility better. For migratory birds, come in the African summer, with December, January and February the wettest months. The flamingos congregate at Walvis Bay to feed before moving up to Etosha at the end of the rainy season to breed.
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Joachim Huber] [Intro: Colin Watts] [Chobe National Park, Botswana: hbieser] [Etosha National Park, Namibia: Yathin S Krishnappa] [Okavango Delta, Botswana: Wynand Uys]