4 countries perfect for a border-hopping getaway

Posted by Matt Sterne on 9 July 2021

While South Africa holds more than enough wonders for a lifetime of wandering, there’s nothing that can quite compare to a passport stamp and entering a strange new land. These days, with Covid reshaping the way we travel, the best option for something foreign is a visit to one of our neighbouring countries. If you’re longing for the thrill of discovering a new place, then the following four old favourites might do just the trick.

Sossusvlei, Namibia

Dust created by its many visitors settles over the route to Deadsvlei. Credit: Melanie van Zyl

Why go: For the ‘oh wow’ moments one gets exploring the dunes and Deadvlei.

Covid travel protocols: Borders are open but you’ll need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, conducted within 7 days of arriving in Namibia. Travellers arriving from predetermined hotspots like India are required to take a second PCR test seven days after arriving in Namibia.

How to get there: Sossusvlei is a five-hour drive from Windhoek, and a two-day drive from Johannesburg or Cape Town.

Where to stay: Many people don’t realise that you can’t actually stay at Sossusvlei. Sesriem is the closest ‘town’ (really just a cluster of lodges, campsites and a fuel station) and is outside the park gates. It gets busy with overlanders and self-drive 4x4s, whose rooftop tents look almost ready to hatch. Staying at Namibia Wildlife Resorts’ Sesriem Camping, which is just inside the park gate, gives you the advantage of access: campers are allowed to enter the park an hour before dawn and stay an hour after sunset. R490 per person.

Also read: World’s largest aircraft lands in Namibia

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia

Victoria Falls... still running strong

The source of the 
Zambezi is a marshy 
wetland in Zambia, then it grows and grows, 
flowing through six 
countries, expanding as much as 8km in width
before it empties into the Indian Ocean on the
Mozambique coast. Credit: Getaway

Why go: For the smoke, the thunder and the lightning bolt of adrenalin you get from paddling on the world’s best white-water rafting river.

Covid travel protocols: Air travel remains open for leisure travellers, but land borders are only open to returning residents and essential services – including commercial and transit cargo carriers. Visitors who are travelling between destinations are required to provide documentation of bookings at national parks and other designated tourism facilities. Present a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate, obtained from a recognised facility within 48 hours of departure for Zimbabwe.

How to get there: Vic Falls is a three-hour flight from Cape Town, and a 1hr40 flight from Joburg. Some of the main international airlines flying the Cape Town to Victoria Falls route include Kenya Airways, South African Airways, and Air Namibia.

Where to stay: 528 | Victoria Falls is a beautiful boutique guesthouse decorated with pieces made by local Zimbabwean artisans. Located just 2.5km from town and 3km from the falls, 528 has 7 en-suite rooms and modern yet welcoming atmosphere. From R720 pp.

Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana

The Makgadikgadi pans

When rains come, so do the reflections. Credit: Teagan Cunniffe

Why go: Sun, salt, sand and stone; prolific birdlife and the world’s second-largest wildebeest migration.

Covid travel protocols: Botswana started a phased reopening of international borders from 9 November 2020. Air travel resumed at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in Gaborone, Maun and Kasane International Airports. Present a printed original test certificate of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, conducted within 72 hours of departure for Botswana.

How to get there: Drive 900 km north from Joburg, stop when you get to one of the largest salt flats in the world.

Where to stay: Nata Lodge, 9km from Nata, is a firm favourite. It has several campsites (R130 pp) nestled in the shade of palm trees and knobthorns, safari tents (R1 350 for two) and chalets (R1 750). Maya Guest Inn, in the shade of palm trees on the Nata River, is also a good option. Chalets from R590. +267 621 1296 [email protected]

Santa Maria, Mozambique

A brown scrub robin in the coastal dune forest and birding while sea kayaking the mangrove forests of Inhaca Bay. Credit: Jacques Marais.

Why go: World-class fishing and snorkelling, kayaking in mangroves and the small chance of spotting dugongs.

Covid travel protocols: Mozambique’s borders are open for international travel and land borders are also open for self-drive travellers. Provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result, conducted in your country of origin within 72 hours of departure for Mozambique.

How to get there: Maputo is a six-hour drive from Johannesburg or an hour flight. Santa Maria is on the far side of Maputo Bay, reached in an hour via speedboat.

Where to stay: Bemugis has a campsite, chalets and a beach-sand restaurant that serves cold beer and the type of half chickens we somehow can’t cook as well here in SA. The restaurant has a menagerie of driftwood, washed up boat masts, fishing nets and carved dhows. Campsites R135, chalets from R340.


Zimbabwe is open for South African travellers: What you need to know





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