Traveling Ted is a blog that takes readers along on my adventures hiking, canoeing, skiing, and international backpacking. Many blogs focus on one aspect of backpacking, but I tackle both the outdoor adventure side and international exploration as well.

Sharing is caring!

When you come back from a vacation and someone asks you to name your top ten adventures, this may be difficult because you often do not have ten adventures to choose from. I found it difficult to pair down to ten after going on a five week, seven country adventure through southern Africa. I felt like I experienced something mind blowing at least once a day. After careful consideration, these were my top ten best adventures in Africa.

Kruger National Park sunrise giraffe

African sunrise in Kruger National Park with a beautiful giraffe in the foreground

Top ten best adventures in Africa

10. Eswatini sunsets and sunrises

My friend Todd has lived in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) for the past two years serving the United States in their embassy in the capital of Mbanane. For a week, I stayed at his home and from his deck and couch, enjoyed stellar sunrises and sunsets every morning and evening looking over the hills in the distant.

Eswatini sunrise Mbabane

What an incredible view from chez my friend

Todd mentioned that they don’t go out much as the view from their back balcony is as stunning as it gets. Every morning I enjoyed my coffee and in the evening with a glass of wine raided from their wine cabinet gaped out at this beautiful view. It was so amazing, I contemplated five weeks of couch surfing, but decided to finally move on before they kicked me out.

best adventures in Africa

Top ten best adventures in Africa – Sunset looking over the capital of Mbabane

9. Chobe camping and leopard visit

Number ten is the only one on the list that I would not want to repeat. Up until this time on the trip, I had camped in both Kruger National Park and Etosha National Park. These campsites featured an electric fence surrounding the whole camp, so it is pretty unlikely that any animals could sneak in. I did come across a jackal that growled at me as I was walking back from the water hole late at nigh in Etosha, but it would be nearly impossible for anything dangerous to get through.

Chobe National Park camping

Best adventures in Africa – All smiles after surviving a night with a leopard visit to our camp in Chobe National Park in Botswana

In Chobe, the campground had no fences. We saw elephants from our camp as we were leaving. After a couple of glasses of wine around the campfire, I found myself having to use the bathroom at night. I proceeded out of the tent and heard a whistling like coughing like sound. It was far away enough that I was not immediately concerned, but close enough that I knew I should get back in the tent ASAP.

best adventures in Africa

I felt at one with the impala the next day. I knew how it must feel tomato it through the night without being eaten by a predator.

Our tour guide commanded from the tent that a leopard was approaching the campsite and everyone should be in their tent. He also said we would all be safe in our tent. The sound got closer and then disappeared. I did not get the best sleep the rest of the night, and I was happy to see daylight the next morning.

Cape Town penguins

My favorite part about penguin watching was observing them come from the water to the land. They are super agile in the water, but not so much on land. Waves would come and knock them down as they came out of the water.

8. Best adventures in Africa – Cape Town penguin colony

Cape Town was originally not on my agenda, but I returned from Botswana to Johannesburg a little earlier than expected. I had a week in Johannesburg before my flight out, so I had time for one more excursion. I decided on three nights in Cape Town with a tour to the Cape of Good Hope and the penguin colony in Simons Town. It was a good choice as they were adorable and fun to watch.

best adventures in Africa

Adorable penguins at the Boulder Beach penguin colony

7. Malolotja National Park scenery, hiking, and swimming

I went on two hikes with Todd and his daughters while in Eswatini. The most beautiful was to Malolotja National Park. I was given the option of hiking to a waterfall or zip lining. I chose the former. This was an easy choice as I much prefer the more physical activity.

Hiking Malolotja Eswatini

Malolotja National Park looks like something out of Out of Africa

Malolotja was just beautiful. Even though it was really dry, the brown rolling hills were just spectacular. It reminded me a bit of Custer State Park in South Dakota. We hiked down into a gorge and went for a swim in a pool below a waterfall. It was nice to go on a hike without the fear of lions or leopards. The park probably has leopards, but too few to worry about.

Malolotja National Park waterfall

Top ten best adventures in Africa – Hike down to the waterfall at Malolotja National Park

best adventures in Africa

Nothing more invigorating than a swim in an ice cold pool below a waterfall

6. Best adventures in Africa – Chobe National Park bird life

The birding in Etosha and Kruger was spectacular, but Etosha is desert like and while there are some rivers and ponds in Kruger, the wetland birdlife was superior in Chobe National Park. The highlight of touring Chobe was going out on the Chobe River in a boat. We saw so many species along the river that I did not see previously like squacco herons, African spoonbills, marabou stork (this fulfilled my ugly five), and so many more.

best adventures in Africa

This maribou stork closed out my ugly five

African spoonbill Chobe

African spoonbill during a Chobe boat trip safari

5. Kruger National Park cheetahs

In Etosha, I saw lions but no cheetahs or leopards. I really wanted to see a leopard to fulfill the big five, but a cheetah sighting was high on my list too. In Kruger National Park, one night we went on a night safari with the park rangers. Michelle from the park took us out at sunset to explore the roads around Lower Sabie camp. We came across another ranger who patrols the park, and he said he saw cheetah on the road we were traveling a couple of kilometers away.

Cheetah Kruger National Park

Top ten best adventures in Africa – Cheetah in Kruger National Park

After several kilometers, we did not see any cheetahs; however, we did spot a rhino and a baby. I figured our chances of seeing cheetahs were dwindling. Suddenly, Michele pointed and two cheetahs were walking through the savanna adjacent to the road. We parked practically right next to them. They were completely unbothered by our presence. One of the cheetahs even climbed a tree right next to us and posed right in the fork of the two limbs.

Cheetah tree Kruger National Park

Two cheetahs along the safari truck and one posed in a tree

4. Victoria Falls swimming, hiking, and viewing

I flew from Johannesburg to the Victoria Falls airport just to see Victoria Falls. It was so worth it. I stayed at Victoria Falls Backpackers, who picked me up at the airport. The next morning I took a tour of Angels Pool. Devils Pool does not open until August. The water was too high at this time, but Angels Pool was incredible. I also hiked the national park trails on the Zimbabwe side as the pools are on the Namibia side. I will write much more about this in a separate post.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side

Angels Pool Victoria Falls

Just hanging around one of the world wonders

3. Best adventures in Africa – Mozambique dolphins and whales

I visited Ponto Do Oura in Mozambique, and I was not prepared for the beauty of this ocean shore. My perception was this was just a beach town, and it would be a good place to chill. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ocean here was as wild as an interior African national park.

Dolphin Ponto Do Ouro

Dolphin swimming along the coast of Ponto Do Ouro

They have this dolphin tour here, which is just incredible. The leader of the tour, Angie Gullan, has been studying dolphins here since 1995, so she knows them intimately and even by name. They take you out and look for pods of dolphins. When one is found, you go over board and snorkel with them. Angie first observes them to see if they are open to human interaction. If they show signs that they are unhappy with our presence, then it is back to the boat.

Dolphin tour Mozambique

Best adventures in Africa – Even without dolphins and whales, the scenery from the boat and water was first rate

The first two times we spotted dolphins, they did not approach, but the third pod swam right directly below us. It was such an amazing experience. As I got back into the boat and was digesting the experience, the captain then yelled “whales.” We maneuvered within sight of a mother humpback whale with her baby. One of the experiences was cool enough, but back-to-back was truly magical.

best adventures in Africa Okaukeujo Waterhole Etosha

Best adventures in Africa – Can you see the giraffe and the rhinos?

2. Etosha Floodlit water holes and camping

The whole Etosha National Park experience was so amazing, and so incredibly easy. It is probably the most accessible park in Africa to tour on your own. I rented a car in Windhoek, drove to a luxury lodge just south of the gate. I stayed at Etosha Safari Lodge one night and did a game drive with them the next morning.

best adventures in Africa

Flood lit beauty at Halali waterhole

After the game drive, I drove into the park myself and stayed three nights inside the park. The first night I lodged in a bush chalet, but nights two and three I camped on my own with my own tent. The best part of staying in the camp resorts inside the park is you get the benefit of visiting the flood lit water holes all day and all night if you want to. My first blog post is about my experience in Etosha. Read it below.

Related: Etosha National Park safari options and tips

1. Kruger National Park leopard sightings

After Etosha, I was hungry for a leopard sighting. Once I saw Cape buffalo in Kruger, the leopard was the last animal on my list for the big five. I combed through every tree that I passed in Etosha and did the very same thing on the first day in Kruger, with no leopard luck.

Leopard Kruger National Park

You never forget your first leopard – Kruger National Park

On the second day at Kruger National Park this all changed. I was on a tour with 11 other people with All Out Africa, and we were split between two safari cars. After lunch the second day, we were in the second car, when the first car stopped in front of us. They radioed to us that a leopard was by the side of the road. Sure enough, a leopard was lying underneath a shrub right beside the road. Our guide Sipho somehow spotted this beautiful animal.

Big five leopard

My dream came true to see a leopard in a tree

Leopard in a tree – My African dream come true

The next morning we saw a second leopard walking through a clearing, but the best sighting took place on the last day. We came across a traffic jam, and we soon knew why. About 50 yards away from the road, a leopard had climbed a tree. Our driver, Percy, expertly maneuvered to the perfect unobscured viewing spot for 20 minutes. In fact, we were stuck in leopard traffic just across from the big cat. We would have liked to have gotten away sooner and given more people an opportunity to view, but we were stuck. It was not a bad place to enjoy a traffic jam.

best adventures in Africa

Our last leopard seen was in a tree as we were leaving the park driving towards the gate at Crocodile Bridge

We came across another leopard in a tree a couple of miles from the first one. Then, on our way out of the park, we saw a third leopard of the day, also in a tree. This made five leopards on the trip, which was just incredible. I feel that you have a very high chance of seeing a leopard in Kruger.

Honorable mentions

Here are a few other awesome experiences that were great, but did not make the top 10

Best adventures in Africa

After sleeping for 20 plus hours, it is time for these lions to catch dinner

  • Chobe pride of lions starting their hunt at sunset (probably the most difficult to exclude from the top ten, but since Chobe already was represented twice, I left this out)
  • Etosha self safaris driving between camps and driving from Windhoek to the park
  • Bush walk in Kruger National Park
  • Hiking and birdwatching in Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden in Cape Town
  • 4X4 Quad bike adventure in Ponto Do Ouro
  • Surfing Ponto Do Ouro
  • Flying into Victoria Falls Airport
  • Hiking Sheeba’s Breast and Mantenga Falls hike in Eswatini
  • Pilanesberg National Park day tour
  • Apartheid Museum Johannesburg

Adventure on!