Desert landscapes are probably not the first kind of landscapes that come to mind when people think of planning an African safari. The quintessential African safari images in the popular imagination are usually of the East African open savanna dotted with animals and acacia trees. While we offer lots of safaris to east Africa and in southern Africa where you’ll get those classic views, we also offer safaris that explore southern Africa’s most spectacular desert regions, which are home to more than just sand. You’ll find an array of animals, birds, insects and fascinatingly adapted plants in Africa’s deserts, as well as breathtaking sand dunes as far as the eye can see and dramatic mountain ranges.
If you’re inspired to think about an African desert safari, here are some of our best budget desert overlanding safaris to choose from:
If you want a quick desert fix, hop on our three-day Sossusvlei overland tour which starts in Swakopmund in Namibia. The overlanding tour will take you into the Namib Desert, one of the oldest in the world, to explore Sossusvlei, a famous and extremely photogenic salt and clay pan surrounded by towering red sand dunes in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. You’ll get to see Sossusvlei as the sun rises, before walking to Dead Vlei – a clay pan dotted with ancient petrified trees – and climbing some of the famous dunes such as Dune 45.
Starting in South Africa, this desert overlanding safari gives you a taste of South Africa and Namibia’s different desert landscapes. On the South African side, you’ll travel through Namaqualand in the Northern Cape, which is covered with carpets of colourful wild flowers every spring after the winter rains. On the border, you’ll go on a canoe adventure on the Orange River, paddling through an uninhabited desert world of dunes and craggy mountains, before seeing the Fish River Canyon – one of the largest in the world – and then relaxing in the natural hot springs at Ai-Ais. Then you head up to Swakopmund for some adrenaline fun in the desert. Take your pick from quadbiking on the dunes, sandboarding down the natural slopes or getting a bird’s eye view of the desert on a skydive.
Namibia’s not the only place with a giant desert – Botswana to its east also has desert beauty in abundance. On our 16-day Botswana overland explorer, you’ll get to experience the Kalahari Desert by going on a guided walk with the bushmen who’ve lived here for thousands of years. You’ll also explore the Makgadikgadi Pans – one of the largest salt flats in the world – a collection of dry pans with sandy desert between them surrounded by the Kalahari Desert. In between the desert adventuring, you’ll also spend time in Botswana’s lusher landscapes, from the Okavango Delta to Chobe National Park.
Our ultimate desert trip, the 17-day best of Namibia budget safari tour is perfect if you want dunes, mountains, vast open spaces and lots of wildlife off the beaten track.
The desert overlanding safari starts off in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a spectacular desert wilderness which spans South Africa and Botswana to spot animals such as cheetah and the famous black-maned lions. You then travel to Fish River Canyon and the hot springs of Ai-Ais, and then to the Orange River before you head to the ghost town of Kolmanskop – one of the most photogenic places in Namibia – which is being slowly swallowed by desert sand. You’ll then head into the Namib Desert to stay at a remote campsite in a nature reserve which you’ll explore on game drives and guided walks. Discover the dunes of Sossusvlei and the trees of Deadvlei before you travel to Swakopmund to do some desert activities such as sandboarding. From there, you’ll head to Twyfelfontein to see the ancient rock art before you travel to Damaraland in northern Namibia to find rare desert rhino and desert-adapted elephants.