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3 Top Trending Destinations for a Gap Year in Africa

Written by Milly Whitehead on 03 / 03 / 2022

Gap Year Advice

A gap year in Africa is back in the game (drive) as a top backpacking, gap year destination, after fighting off competition from its competitors of the gap year world over in Asia.

Gap Years in Eastern and Southern Africa are right back up there – offering their famous beach and bush experience for the explorer but out of the starting blocks come our top loved countries in Africa that are gapper friendly, ready and waiting for you.

So, if you want to avoid the typical gap year in Africa crowds and want your gap year to have the intrepid WOW factor then maybe one of these is just what you're after as we describe how to go from South to North on the epic African adventure.

Number 1: Gap Year in Namibia

A secret gem which is having its moment…and rightly so as it is totally different to its surrounding ‘savannah’ landscaped countries, in every way possible.

Namibia is all about unique habitats, remote Himba communities and spectacular, rugged landscapes. It’s about the desert adapted flora and fauna, the black rhino in the Damaraland, the massive sand dunes at Sossusvlei (they make for insane photos), big game in Etosha National Park (highly recommend night time watching at the waterhole – you can hear a pin drop) and the spookie Skeleton Coast.

Country Highlights

Etosha National Park

The third largest park in Africa, owing its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast shallow depression of approximately 5,000km². Great for game viewing especially at the waterholes along the southern edge of the pan.

Sossusvlei

A huge clay pan in the heart of the Namib Desert, enclosed by giant sand dunes, some reaching 300 metres, the highest in the world.

Skeleton Coast

Famous for the ghostly shipwrecks beached on the remote and inaccessible white shores. Seals in their thousands colonise lonely beachheads along the coastline. Creepy but cool.

Damaraland

A huge, untamed, ruggedly beautiful region, with prehistoric water courses, open plains, grassland, massive granite koppies and deep gorges – home to desert-adapted elephant, black rhino, giraffe, ostrich and springbok.

We have an amazing 4 week volunteering adventure which takes you across the above highlights all the way down to Cape Town.

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Number 2: Botswana

Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods. The massive Central Kalahari Game Reserve, with its fossilized river valleys and undulating grasslands, is home to numerous animals.

While you are here you must experience camping deep in the delta and hearing the sounds of the wildlife as you fall asleep. Arrange for one of the expert local guides to transport you around via a mokoro (a canoe made out of hollow tree trunks) as you paddle through the reeds watching the elephants in the distance. Utter heaven.

Country Highlights

Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta in northern Botswana. It's known for its sprawling grassy plains, which flood seasonally, becoming a lush animal habitat. The Moremi Game Reserve occupies the east and central areas of the region. Here, dugout canoes are used to navigate past hippos, elephants and crocodiles.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve

One of the most beautiful deserts on Earth it is an exceptionally varied desert, from the salt pans of Makgadikgadi to the baobabs of Nxai Pans, and the magnificence of Kubu Island in the north, to the wonderful wildlife of Kgalagadi in the south.

Fossil river valleys, light woodland, swaying golden grasses, Kalahari black-maned lions and the echoes of the indigenous San people in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve make it one of the most beautiful deserts on Earth.

Chobe National Park

Some of the world's largest herds of elephants roam here in one of the greatest wildlife destinations in Africa. It became Botswana's first national park in 1968 and is broken up into 3 main areas: Chobe Riverfront, Linyanti Marshes and Savuti.

Tsodilo Hills

Unesco World Heritage site in North West Kalahari. Dramatic and beautiful chunks of quartzite rise out of the very flat country in dramatic colours which are very special to the local community. View over 4000 prehistoric rock paintings.

Number 3: Zambia

The land of the legendary African walking safari, Victoria Falls, the wild Zambezi River, abundant wildlife,and raw wilderness, all in one friendly country. Blessed with awe-inspiring natural wonders, an abundance of wildlife, huge water bodies and vast open spaces, Zambia offers unforgettable gap year experiences. The locals are very friendly and will quickly make you feel welcome.

Commonly regarded as one of the most beautiful, friendly, diverse and unspoilt countries on the entire African continent. Aside from the majestic Victoria Falls, Zambia has more natural water resources than any other southern African country, including many of other falls dotted across the country, not to mention the famous Zambezi River which you cannot leave Zambia without experiencing - watch out for hippos and crocs.

Country Highlights

South Luangwa National Park

One of the great remaining unspoiled regions of Africa. Even as Zambia’s reputation as a spectacular safari destination grows, it retains its essence of true wilderness; South Luangwa National Park is a place that still feels relatively untouched by humans, and is therefore able to provide an unpredictable and exhilarating safari experience.

A walking safari gets you feeling even closer to nature as you roam amongst the giants with you experienced guide.

Fly into Lusaka then to Mfuwe aiport before getting in your 4x4 to explore all the park has to offer.

Zambezi River

The Zambezi River is the fourth-longest river in Africa and promises a unique experience as you raft along it. With over 400 types of birds you will be captivated by your surroundings.

Start your day with a sunrise raft - opt for a guide to be in your kayak as it can be choppy and if you come to close to a hippo you want to know how to steer safely around it (trust us).

For this trip take a waterproof phone case and a dry bag to keep your belongings safe.

Victoria Falls

Though Zambia has over 17 waterfalls, this is the one it kindly shares with neighboring country Zimbabwe. They are so close that you can even zip wire from one country to another - it is awesome.

Get here nice and early to do a walking tour across the perimeter of the falls and get those all-important photos of the falls with the rainbow and mist over it - top tip here - take a raincoat and sturdy shoes as the spray is quite something.

Lower Zambezi National Park

This covers a large stretch of wilderness areas along the northeastern bank of the Zambezi River where several small rivers flow through the park, which is centred on a beautiful flood plain alongside the Zambezi.The scenery is dotted with acacias and other large trees, and has a steep escarpment on the northern side, covered with thick miombo woodland and the best viewing is on the flood plain and river - watch out it can be very hot late October.

Lake Tanganyika

The second deepest lake in the world and containing about 15% of the earth's fresh water you can expect white sandy beaches with palm trees and snorkelling in crystal clear waters with multi coloured tropical fish. Up to 15 million years old, and lying in the Great Rift Valley. The shores reach Tanzania, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia - that's a lot to tick off your bucket list!

Finding Volunteering>

Fancy working on a reserve and exploring Victoria Falls and going on a river safari on the Zambezi? Get in contact with us and let us share the magic with you.


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Check out our gap year programs

We have award winning 'planet saving' programs across Africa, Asia, South and Central America.

Reducing plastic in our oceans, protecting turtles and saving the rhino is just the tip of the melting iceberg.

All experiences include a mix of projects and adventures, travelling with a team and, of course, are risk assessed.

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