Africa’s Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites

June 8th 2015  |  Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zanzibar and islands  |  by  Richard Smith
Africa's best UNESCO world sites

With UNESCO World Heritage Sites sites scattered across the African continent, I thought I’d round up some of my favourite, together with some of the reasons I believe they’re worth a visit and how you might see them on an African holiday.

Okavango Delta, Botswana

This is one of just a few major delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean. A wetland system that supports incredible levels of African wildlife, it’s home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammal, such as cheetah, white rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion. The Okavango Delta is most easily visited by light aircraft into a remote airstrip and then by vehicle to a safari camp, or by 4wd vehicle into one of the campsites within Moremi Game Reserve.

lilies on the okavango delta with horse riders

Okavango Delta via African Horse Back Safaris

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

The park, which used to be known as the Greater St Lucia wetlands, covers 137 miles of South Africa’s coastline and features a variety of landforms, including coral reefs, long sandy beaches, coastal dunes, lake systems, and papyrus wetland. South Africa has good infrastructure making self drive holidays easy, while guided tours are available for those looking for higher levels of service.

turtle on reef

iSimangaliso wetland park via Rocktail Beach Camp

Robben Island, Western Cape, South Africa

Robben Island sits in Table Bay about 4 miles west of Cape Town. Between the 17th and 20th century, the island was famously used as a prison, including for South Africa’s political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Since its declaration as a World Heritage Site in 1999 the island has become a popular tourist destination with boat tours from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

Robben Island prison, South Africa

Robben Island prison, now a tourist destination

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The vast plains of the Serengeti comprise 1.5 million ha of savannah. The annual migration of vast herds of herbivores (wildebeest, gazelles and zebras), followed by their predators, is one of the most impressive natural events in the world. With lodges and tented camps throughout the national park, safari-goes reach the Serengeti on both fly-in safaris and guided tours.

Zebras watched on a Serengeti game drive

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Established as a multiple land use area, with wildlife coexisting with semi-nomadic Masai pastoralists, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area includes the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera. It’s global importance for biodiversity conservation is due to the presence of globally threatened species, the density of wildlife inhabiting the area, and the annual migration of wildebeest, zebra, gazelles and other animals into the northern plains. As part of Tanzania’s ‘northern-circuit’ the Ngorongoro Crater has a variety of properties visited by those on holiday as part of a guided tour or fly-in safari.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania - UNESCO site

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

In the lesser known south of Tanzania, Selous Game Reserve’s vegetation varies from dense thickets to open wooded grasslands, and features large numbers of elephants, rhinoceros, cheetahs, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles. Unlike the north, the majority of safaris to Selous are by light aircraft, landing on remote airstrips and staying in small safari camps and lodges.

river boat safari family in Selous

Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania via Nomad Tanzania

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Stone Town is a fine example of the Swahili coastal trading towns of East Africa. It retains its urban fabric and townscape virtually intact and contains many fine buildings that reflect its particular culture, which has brought together and homogenized disparate elements of the cultures of Africa, the Arab region, India, and Europe over more than a millennium. A stay in Stone Town is typically part of a longer beach holiday on Zanzibar.

UNESCO site Stone Town and dhow

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe

Known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘the smoke that thunders’, Victoria Falls is among the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. The Zambezi River, which is more than 1 mile wide at this point, plunges noisily down a series of basalt gorges and raises an iridescent mist that, at some points during the year, can be seen more than 15 miles away. With international airports, Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe and Livingstone in Zambia feature on most travellers’ holidays to both countries either before or after a safari.

victoria falls - UNESCO site

Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe

Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore, Zimbabwe

Located on the banks of the Zambezi River, Mana Pools National Park features a variety of wild animals, such as buffalo, leopard, cheetah and crocodiles. Having flown into the area, safari-goers can explore on game drives, walks or canoes on the river, staying in permanent or mobile tented safari camps.

elephant and canoists at Mana pools

Mana Pools via Mana Canoe Trail

Tyfelfontein, Kunene Region, Namibia

This area has one of the largest concentrations of rock engravings and paintings in Africa, which were produced over 2,000 years. The majority of engraving and painting sites are easily accessible by vehicle either as part of a guided tour or on a self-drive holiday to Namibia.

rock paintings of animals, Tyfelfontein, UNESCO world heritage site

Rock paintings, Tyfelfontein, Namibia via Camp Kipwe

We pride ourselves on offering luxury safari holidays that are rich in cultural, historical and natural interest so it’s not surprising how many of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are included within our collection of trips and fly/self-drive holidays. We offer a tailor made service so we can incorporate any of these sites into your itinerary…Contact us