African Safaris

Dreaming of an African safari tour?

Your choice of safari experiences are as wide and as diverse as the massive continent itself. From the impenetrable forests in Uganda and the endless savanna plains in Tanzania to the breathtaking 7 Natural Wonders of the World in Zimbabwe and the hidden safari gems of Mozambique.

Where do you start searching for the safari holiday of your dreams?

You can follow the beaten path to world-famous Big 5 destinations like the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Okavango Delta. Or you can treat yourself to an authentic safari holiday in magical wilderness parks that can’t compete with the safari superpowers but offer you just as much, if not more, for your buck.

The best African safari countries

Botswana

Kenya

Mozambique

Namibia

Rwanda

South Africa

Tanzania

Uganda

Zambia

Zimbabwe

Before we narrow down our list of the Top 20 safari destinations in Africa, there is something to consider. There are three categories of safari experiences; state-run national parks, private concessions in national parks and private game reserves.

All three offer incredible wildlife sightings in pristine wilderness regions but what you get in terms of accommodation and experiences is often vastly different.

National parks in Africa

National parks are deemed areas of incredible natural value and have been proclaimed protected wilderness areas to safeguard their natural resources. They are state-run, although often self-sustaining from a financial point of view where tourism foots the costs.

Africa’s national parks rely on mass tourism to sustain them and keep rates affordable. This is often reflected in the quality of infrastructure and accommodation. Depending on which countries you visit, comfort features and services can be hit-and-miss.

Mass tourism also means big safari crowds in season. You’re guaranteed superb wildlife sightings but you may have to ‘queue to view’. Coupled with restrictive rules that dictate what roads you can drive on and times you’re allowed to leave and return to camp are frustrating for some.

However, national parks play a vital role in protecting Africa’s vulnerable wildlife and your patronage is essential to ensure their survival. Despite a few drawbacks, a safari tour of the most popular national parks in Africa is still an exceptional experience.

Private concessions in national parks

If you yearn for a more authentic and exclusive safari holiday, you have the option of staying in luxury lodges built on private concessions within the bigger national parks. This is an excellent tourism model governments have adopted to supplement the burden of costs to sustain national parks in their countries.

Private concessions within national parks present a win-win offering, providing safari tourists with access to Africa’s most sought-after protected wilderness areas with the added value of deluxe facilities and topnotch experiences.

These luxury safari destinations operate on a low-tourist/high-price model which reduces visitor numbers. Rangers taking guests out on daily game drives have unrestricted access to the public roads in the national park and exclusive access to the concession’s private land. Guests staying in accommodation offered by the state-run national park are prohibited from game viewing in the private concessions.

The luxury safari lodges are owner- or consortium-operated and standards are generally exceptional. We’re talking ultra-luxury accommodation, exemplary service and superb facilities coupled with top-drawer daily game drives and bushveld activities with highly qualified and experienced rangers, in open safari vehicles. All to justify the sometimes eye-watering rates that these private safari lodges charge.

Private game reserves in Africa

The exclusive concept is the same as private concessions but the difference is private game reserves are located outside of the large national parks and are privately-owned and operated. They offer upmarket accommodation but tend to provide a wider choice to suit different budgets, ranging from self-catering chalets and guest houses to tented camps and luxury lodges.

Priced in the middle-to-high range, tourist numbers tend to be lower than in national parks in the busy safari seasons. Most offer a combination of budget-friendly self-drive and self-catering stays and fully-catered stays with guided daily game drives in open safari vehicles.

TOP AFRICA SAFARI DESTINATIONS BY COUNTRY

We hate to limit the choice of safari destinations in Africa to the most popular Top 20 but it’s a good starting point. It certainly helps to know which countries to target in your search, and we provide some insight into what you can expect from each country in terms of quality of experience and costs.

In no order of preference, these are the Top 20 safari destinations in Africa.

BOTSWANA

Botswana offers one of the finest safari experiences in Africa. The country is endowed with incredible natural diversity and pristine wilderness which is home to some of the best national parks and private concessions on the continent.

Northern Botswana is the safari hub of Botswana. It’s where you’ll find the country’s esteemed safari destinations, featuring state-supported national parks and remote private concessions and reserves in vast wilderness areas.

The safari model for Botswana is low-density tourism. It comes at a high price with wildlife enthusiasts choosing low tourist numbers and an exclusive experience over budget. Botswana is arguably the most expensive safari destination in Africa, made more pricey by the need for private chartered flights to remote regions.

With its fantastic sub-Saharan climate, Botswana is a year-round safari destination. When you go depends on what you want to see. The peak safari season in Botswana for wildlife enthusiasts is from July to October, during the dry season when the bushveld is thinner and animals congregate closer to water sources.

Avid birders assemble in Botswana in the months of November, December and March to catch the massive flocks of migrant birds that arrive in large numbers on the swampy floodplains to escape the cold European winters. January and February are too wet in Botswana for birders.

Botswana is more affordable during what is termed the Green Season, from November to March. Botswana experiences summer rainfall and the aptly named Green Season is when the country receives the highest rainfall. Water sources are abundant and game moves deep into the bush, no longer needing to be close to the main river arteries.

Many wilderness areas are inaccessible in the Green Season, in fact the more remote safari lodges close down for a period of time. Locals (those not travelling on US dollars) often opt to travel to Botswana for a safari holiday in the Green Season because they can pick up a “bargain” on accommodation, sometimes up to 50% of the Peak Season rate.

What travellers love about a safari tour to Botswana

A Botswana safari tour is an adventure, where much of the game viewing is done on foot, in a river boat or in a traditional canoe. In places like Okavango Delta, you’ll game view on an expansive tapestry of intricate waterways and deep channels. The only way to do it is in a ‘safari river taxi’.

Botswana’s national parks are unfenced and visitors have the freedom to explore the vast area unhindered by park boundaries. The choice of accommodation in Botswana ranges from ultra-luxury safari lodges to rustic tented camps on the banks of the river. You can sleep under a chandelier or under the stars. The choice is yours.

If you can’t get to the Serengeti for the annual wildebeest migration, not to worry. Botswana’s little-known zebra migration is equally impressive, being the largest in southern Africa. The mass zebra migration occurs twice a year, moving with the seasons and the rainfall in search of fresh grazing grounds. Up to 30 000 zebras, with predators in their wake, move first from north to south and then back from south to north.

#1  Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta is arguably one of the most beautiful and diverse wilderness regions in the world. So much so, it was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and selected as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.

It’s one of the world’s largest inland deltas, characterised by a magnificent tapestry of lush floodplains, narrow winding waterways, deep channels, more than 150 000 islands and the life-sustaining Okavango River. The delta is unique in that most river deltas lead to an ocean, while the Okavango River empties out onto vast savanna grasslands.

Okavango Delta swells to almost three times its size between March and August when flood waters from the north arrive, transforming the dry, arid region into a spectacular oasis. During the dry season, hundreds of thousands of animals and birds congregate on the delta floodplains. The best way to experience this incredible sight is game viewing from the comfort of a traditional mokoro canoe.

#2  Chobe National Park

Not quite as famous as the Okavango Delta but equally impressive as a premier safari destination, Chobe National Park is Botswana’s oldest and second-largest national park. Named after the vital Chobe River that forms its northern border, the national park is famous for its massive elephant population that’s currently estimated to be 120 000 strong.

Chobe National Park is divided into four distinct regions: Chobe Riverfront, Ngwezumba Pans, Savuti and Linyanti. Each region is characterised by a unique biosphere, encompassing lush floodplains, vast swamps and dense riverine woodlands.

The most accessible region is the Chobe Riverfront, which is also home to the highest concentration of animals in the national park. The Linyanti Marsh region is renowned for its strong numbers of predators. Chobe National Park is also a birder’s paradise with over 450 recorded bird species.

The best way to experience Chobe National Park is on a safari boat cruise. Get up close to incredible wildlife and bird sightings, experience breathtaking sunrises and sunsets and enjoy the warm and friendly hospitality of the people of Botswana.

KENYA

Scenes from the iconic movie ‘Out of Africa’ come to mind when you think of a safari holiday in Kenya. The country represents the essence of bygone romantic safari travel, where heavenly scenery and surreal sightings collude to offer wildlife lovers the quintessential safari experience.

The choice of safari destinations in Kenya is as diverse and extreme as the country itself. The most obvious is the Maasai Mara National Park for its legendary mass migration of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra but that’s just the tip of the safari iceberg in Kenya.

You have incredible national parks such as Lake Nakuru, home to more than a million flamingoes; Amboseli which lies in the shadow of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro; the remote Tsavo region, one of the largest protected wildlife areas in Kenya; and Samburu, home to rare species such as the Beisa oryx, Grevy’s zebra and the reticulated giraffe.

Kenya is a year-round safari destination but the bulk of visitors descend on the country between June and November for the Great Migration. Timing is everything and catching the travelling wildlife train depends on the weather and the arrival of the rains. Not to worry. You don’t need to go to the Maasai Mara to see large herds of animals in Kenya; you’ll see an abundance of wildlife and prolific birds at any time of the year.

In fact, visiting Kenya for a safari holiday outside of the peak ‘migration-mad’ season is far better. You won’t have to put up with tourist congestion, sightings are leisurely and exclusive, and rates for accommodation at safari lodges are considerably lower out of season.

Kenya is famous for its ‘bush and beach’ packages, offering travellers a magical combination of spectacular seaside resorts and a once-in-a-lifetime safari experience.

#3  Maasai Mara National Park

Maasai Mara National Park is no doubt the top of everyone’s safari bucket list. The world-renowned wilderness area is famed for its breathtaking vistas and Great Migration as well as exceptional populations of predators that follow in the wake of the heaving herds of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra.

Known simply as The Mara, the national park is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants in the area who are admired for their age-old customs and distinctive dress. For centuries, the Maasai were revered as fearsome hunters and warriors; today, they live a peaceful existence raising cattle on the vast savanna grasslands in the African Great Lakes region.

Located in the southwest of Kenya, the Maasai Mara is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa and one of the 10 Wonders of the World. It’s exceptionally diverse, encompassing the Maasai Mara National Reserve, the Mara Triangle and several Maasai Conservancies.

#4  Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park is one of Kenya’s most popular safari destinations because it offers travellers a stunning safari experience at the foothills of Africa’s highest peak. The iconic Mount Kilimanjaro lies in the heart of Amboseli National Park, within a 3 000 square kilometre ecosystem that lies on the border of Tanzania.

The national park is famous for its abundance of animals and prolific birdlife, including strong populations of elephant that descend on the water courses in the dry season. With over 600 recorded bird species, Amboseli is paradise for avid birdwatchers.

The region comprises five distinct habitats, encompassing the parched bed of the ancient Pleistocene lake basin, lush wetlands with sulphur springs, vast savanna grasslands, thick acacia woodlands and swampy marshlands. Lake Amboseli is dry for much of the time but floods during years of heavy rain transform the area into a spectacular oasis.

MOZAMBIQUE

You’re forgiven for not including Mozambique on your list of premier safari destinations in Africa but it does deserve a mention, purely for its hidden gems that play a vital role in conserving the region’s endangered animals and valuable natural resources.

After decades of civil war which saw wildlife numbers decimated from rampant poaching and habitat destruction, Mozambique has made a concerted effort to find its place on the continent’s safari map. It’s still a safari destination for the more intrepid traveller with a yearning to escape to the most remote corners in southern Africa.

The country has a lot to be proud of in terms of conservation, with the Limpopo National Park in the south and Gorongosa National Park in the north achieving international repute for rejuvenating very troubled wilderness regions that would otherwise have been destroyed.

#5  Gorongosa National Park

As they say, Gorongosa has been to ‘hell and back’. Once one of the most spectacular regions in southern Africa, the national park and its wildlife were devastated after years of civil war in the 1960s. Poaching for ivory and meat to feed the bush soldiers left almost nothing behind.

Massive investment and dedicated conservation consortiums have breathed new life in Gorongosa National Park, restoring it to its former glory. Infrastructure has been significantly improved and money has been put into developing much-needed tourism facilities.

A safari tour in Gorongosa is best combined with a stunning beach holiday, offering a combination of spectacular scenery, thriving wildlife numbers and some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline on the east coast of Africa.

Where is Gorongosa, you may ask? The national park is located at the southernmost tip of the Great African Rift Valley in the heart of central Mozambique, inland of the east coast of southern Africa.

#6  Limpopo National Park

Limpopo National Park is located in the south of Mozambique in Gaza Province. After years of unchecked poaching and hunting, the wilderness region was proclaimed a protected national park. Today, it forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which includes, among other reserves, Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.

When the Great Limpopo National Park’s lofty ambitions are realised, the region will no doubt be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, signifying its global importance and value.

Mozambique’s flagship national park has been rejuvenated with the aid of R42 million donated by Germany. New fencing has been erected and an aggressive stance on anti-poaching has been adopted. The national park is now divided into three zones: a tourist zone, a remote wilderness zone and a hunting concession. The latter is needed to generate much-needed revenue for the national park.

Accommodation in Limpopo National Park opened up in 2005 and includes Machampane tented camp and Aquia Pesqueira campsite. On a safari tour of Limpopo National Park, you have the choice of daily game drives, guided wilderness trails, hiking trails and a 4×4 eco trail.

NAMIBIA

Namibia is a fascinating country to visit, although not your traditional Big 5 safari destination compared to the likes of the Serengeti and Okavango Delta. It’s one of the most extreme areas you’ll visit for a safari tour in Africa but that’s very much part of the attraction. Namibia is renowned for its spectacular scenery and fascinating biospheres that are home to a surprisingly diverse number of animal and plant species.

Much of the country is covered by the Namib Desert which is the oldest desert in the world, dating back at least 55 million years. The name Namib means ‘great white place’ in the local language and this certainly sums up the extent of Namibia’s vast arid landscapes. The country is completely devoid of surface water, only bisected by several life-sustaining dry riverbeds.

What makes Namibia fascinating as a safari destination is discovering how the plants and animals have evolved and thrived in virtually barren landscapes. There are many species that are endemic to the Namib Desert, meaning they’re not found anywhere else in the world. There are many reasons to book a Namibia safari tour.

If you’re looking for a safari adventure in places that are completely remote and almost uninhabited, Namibia offers you the choice of the iconic Etosha National Park and breathtakingly-beautiful regions such as Sossusvlei, Damaraland and the mystical Skeleton Coast.

#7  Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is located in north-western Namibia in a region so diverse and spectacular, it’s hard to leave when your safari holiday is over. It was proclaimed a national park as far back as 1907 and has for decades attracted adventure travellers with a yearning for a completely unique experience.

Game viewing in Etosha centres around driving from one waterhole to another. These life-sustaining spots provide vital water sources for the animals as well as brilliant game viewing. Pack a picnic and wait patiently at a waterhole, and soon you’ll be surrounded by everything from elephants and lion to giraffe, zebra and an array of buck such as springbok and eland. The waterholes in front of Etosha’s camps are floodlit; look out for visits by thirsty leopard and hyena.

You have a wide choice of accommodation in Etosha National Park and there’s something for everyone’s travel budget, from rustic self-catering chalets and starlit camping spots to luxury safari lodges and deluxe tented safari camps.

#8  Namib-Naukluft National Park

Namib-Naukluft National Park is a located in western Namibia, situated between the misty Atlantic coastline and the edge of the Great Escarpment. It encompasses part of the Namib Desert, the Naukluft mountain range and the lagoon at Sandwich Harbour.

Unfenced and remote, Namib-Naukluft is the fourth-largest proclaimed national park in the world. It’s characterised by shifting deep-red dunes, shimmering savanna plains and arid landscapes that stretch forever. Animals and plants found in the national park have adapted to living in the harshest environment in Africa.

Namibia’s famous national park offers adventure travellers a completely unique safari experience, where scenery that takes your breath away and absolute stillness marry with fascinating biodiversity and incredible wildlife sightings.

Major attractions in Namib-Naukluft National Park include:

Sossusvlei

Located in the southern section of the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei is a vast wilderness area comprising almost entirely of a salt and clay pan. The stark landscape is instantly recognisable from the thousands of photos taken in these parts, with towering red sand dunes and sparse vegetation in what is one of the most arid regions in Namibia.

The name Sossusvlei roughly means ‘dead-end marsh’ or ‘no return marsh’. While it sounds like an apt description of the isolation and desolation of the region, it actually relates to the fact that it’s a drainage basin without an outflow for the ephemeral Tsauchab River.

The gateway to Sossusvlei is Sesriem. Truly a one-horse town, you’ll find a popular camping site, petrol stations and a few safari lodges for people on their way to Namib-Naukluft National Park.

Dune 45 and Big Daddy

These two mammoth-sized dunes are world-renowned and extensively photographed. Dune 45 stands 80 metres high and dates back some 5 million years. Big Daddy is a whopping 325 metres high, facing an equally high red dune called Big Mama.

Bring your hiking boots and adventurous spirit on a safari tour of Namibia because walking up these two famous sand dunes is part of every safari tour itinerary.

Deadvlei

Deadvlei is a massive clay pan located a short hike from Sossusvlei. It’s a veritable Garden of Eden in an otherwise parched ‘dead’ landscape. The tranquil oasis is surrounded by blackened, lifeless-looking acacia trees that create creative silhouettes against the start clay pan. Deadvlei is heaven for photographers and the animals and birds that depend on it as a vital water source.

RWANDA

Most people think of gorillas and chimpanzees when they think of a safari tour to Rwanda but you’ll be surprised at how much more the country has to offer wildlife and nature lovers. Gorilla trekking in impenetrable forests is the ultimate attraction and something we all have at the top of our bucket list. Now you can add to it, a superb wildlife tour of the increasingly-popular national parks in Rwanda.

Thirty years after the country experienced a horrifying genocide, Rwanda has found itself back in contention as one of the finest safari destinations in Africa. The country has rebounded off the back of a concerted effort by government to conserve and promote its outstanding wilderness regions and natural resources.

Gorillas aside, Nyungwe National Park offers a safari experience of a different kind, discovering the dense rainforest’s unique animals and prolific bird life. The only genuine wildlife region in Rwanda that offers a more traditional “Big 5” safari experience is the little-known but quite spectacular Akagera National Park.

#9  Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe National Park is one of the oldest rainforests in Africa, not only spectacularly beautiful but also incredibly diverse in fauna and flora. Located in south-western Rwanda on the border with Burundi, the national park adjoins Kibira National Park to the south and Lake Kivu.

The Nyngwe rainforest is arguably the best-preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa. The national park itself comprises a magical tapestry of dense forest, bamboo, grassland, swamps and bogs. Lying in the basin of the Congo River, one of the branches of the Nile River flows out from the forested region.

Nyungwe is home to a small population of chimpanzee as well as 12 other primate species, including the L’Hoest monkey which is endemic to the Albertine Rift. It’s also a birder’s paradise with 322 recorded bird species, many of them endemic and endangered.

For wildlife lovers, Nyungwe is home to shy species such as the cerval cat, leopard and Congo clawless otter. In fact, the number of endemic species in Nyungwe is greater than in any other forest in the Albertine Rift Mountains.

The best way to appreciate the sheer scale and beautify of the Nyungwe forest is crossing over the famous Canopy Walk suspension bridge and taking a leisurely walk to the Isumo waterfall.

#10  Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park is the largest protected wetland in Central Africa and the last remaining refuge for many endangered species that have been relocated to the savanna region. After falling into a state of neglect after years of political turmoil, the beautiful national park has experienced a rebirth with substantial investment going into uplifting it to international tourism standards.

Exciting developments include the historic re-introduction of 18 Eastern black rhino to the Park and an additional 5 captive-bred black rhino. Two male lions were brought to Akagera in 2017 to enhance the genetic diversity of Akagera’s pride. Strict government intervention has seen poaching almost completely eradicated and tourism revenue has increased by more than 1 150% in the past 10 years.

#11 Volcanoes National Park

Volcanoes National Park is located in north-western Rwanda and forms part of the Great Virunga Volcano Conservation region which spans Virunga National Park in the Congo and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda.

Blanketed in a dense rainforest, the national park encompasses five of the 8 volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains; Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo.

Volcanoes National Park is better known as a gorilla trekking destination but it has a lot to offer wildlife and nature lovers. It’s home to golden monkeys, spotted hyena, buffalo, elephants and an array of buck. It’s a birder’s paradise with over 178 bird species, of which 29 are endemic to the Rwenzori and Virunga mountains.

SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa offers wildlife and nature lovers an incredible choice of safari destinations, so diverse that’s it’s impossible to narrow the list down. The country has 21 state-run national parks to choose from and that’s just for starters. The safari hub is in the northern region, spanning over two provinces and sharing a border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Best known in safari circles is the iconic Kruger National Park and it’s adjoining neighbour, Greater Kruger. Within those two you have an array of high-end private game reserves and concessions as well as many private game reserves outside of the Greater Kruger.

Closer to Johannesburg, you have the popular Pilanesberg Game Reserve with the highest concentration of game in the country as well as Black Rhino Game Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve, both catering to a discerning safari market.

In recent years, Cape safaris have become very popular. They don’t compare to the traditional Big 5 safari experience on a scale like they do in the northern regions of South Africa but Cape game reserves offer more than enough to showcase the best of the country’s wildlife.

The reason why Cape safaris have become so popular is tourists like the idea of a ‘bush and beach’ holiday with the beautiful Cape Town, Cape Winelands and the gorgeous Garden Route coupled with a wonderful safari experience.

A safari tour to South Africa’s favourite reserves is arguably the most affordable in Africa for international tourists. Everything is charged in the local currency and on the current exchange rate, it’s highly affordable if you’ve got US Dollars or Pounds in your pocket.

Safari destinations in South Africa are less expensive because they’re more accessible. An international flight and a comfortable 3 to 5 hour drive or a short 1-hour connecting flight gets you to your safari lodge. You can opt to book a safari tour through a reputable tour operator like MoAfrika Tours or drive yourself to the reserve and enjoy a self-drive holiday.

Safari accommodation in South Africa ranges from budget-friendly tented camps, self-catering chalets, treehouses and bush lodges to glamping in luxury safari tents and ultra-luxury safari lodges. The choice of places to stay on a safari holiday in South Africa are endless.

#12  Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is the oldest and largest national park in South Africa. Proclaimed as far back as 1926, Kruger Park has been a firm favourite with locals and international tourists for decades. It’s world-renowned for its outstanding biodiversity and rich fauna and flora as well as its archaeological significance.

The vast national park is core to the Kruger to Canyons (K2C) Biospheres which is designated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve. It’s also part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which is a peace park that links Kruger Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

You have a wide choice of accommodation in Kruger Park, something to suit everyone’s budget. In addition to SANParks’ accommodation in the main rest camps, tented camps and remote bush lodges; you also have the option of luxury safari lodges on private concessions.

#13  Greater Kruger

Greater Kruger lies adjacent Kruger National Park on its western boundary. Sabi Sand Game Reserve shares a 50-kilometre unfenced boundary with Kruger Park and acts as a wild buffer between the national park and the unfenced private reserves of Greater Kruger. Animals roam freely between the two.

The main difference between Kruger Park and Greater Kruger is the former is a state-sponsored national park; while Greater Kruger is made up of a group of 18 private game reserves that fall under an associate body, namely Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR).

The private game reserves of Greater Kruger are unashameably marketed to the high-end traveller and as one would expect, offer guests accommodation, service, meals and safari experiences that are a cut above what you generally find in the Kruger Park. Only the luxury lodges in the private concessions within Kruger Park can compare to what you get in Greater Kruger.

Many of the safari lodges in Greater Kruger are award-winning establishments. Famous names include Sabi Sands, Londolozi, MalaMala, Thornybush, Timbavati and Klaserie. Daily game drives in open safari vehicles with rangers that are considered to be some of the best in Africa are the main drawcard, coupled with guided walking, birding and photographic safaris.

Following a high cost/low tourist numbers model, you’re guaranteed an exclusive safari experience in Greater Kruger and outstanding wildlife sightings that you don’t have to share with the Kruger crowds.

TANZANIA

Tanzania is the penultimate safari destination in Africa, largely because it offers some of the most famous attractions ranging from the Great Migration in the Serengeti to the iconic Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro National Park and the breathtaking beauty of the Zanzibar Archipelago. For a safari tour in Africa, Tanzania is the gold standard of experiences.

The safari hub of Tanzania is in the northern region but the rest of the country has much to offer. To avoid the sometimes untenable crowds in the migration season, you can choose the less beaten path to reserves such as Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Mahale and Mikumi national parks.

United Republic of Tanzania is located in East Africa with the warm Indian Ocean on its eastern boundary. It shares a border with no less than 8 countries and encompasses the island of Zanzibar. In fact, the name Tanzania is derived from the former sovereign state of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. In 1964, Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

Combine a safari tour in Tanzania with a trip to Zanzibar for the ultimate ‘bush and beach’ holiday. Zanzibar offers travellers an exotic mix of rich history, pristine beaches, superb seaside resorts and a world of entertainment.

#14  Serengeti National Park

When you think safari in Africa, you think Serengeti. It’s the ultimate wildlife destination on every nature lover’s bucket list. And for good reason. It’s one of the finest places on Earth you can visit for not only a safari tour but to experience the planet’s greatest natural artwork. Serengeti is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa.

The beauty of Serengeti National Park is little has changed since it was first inhabited over two million years ago. Highly-prized and strictly protected by the country’s government, the Serengeti is the gold standard of safari destinations in Africa.

The national park is made up of four distinct regions: the Southern Plains, the Central Seronera Valley, the Western Corridor and Northern Serengeti. The latter is the most remote region and visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.

The Northern Serengeti is the best place to witness the famous Mara River crossing, the point where hundreds of thousands of animals cross over the border that separates the Serengeti from the Maasai Mara National Park.

The Great Migration is the largest mass animal migration in the world, where a heaving mass of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra make an annual journey running in a clockwise direction from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. In search of rich grazing grounds and for the calving season, the animals trace back their steps in the reverse direction.

#15 Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Most people think of the world-famous Ngorongoro Crater when they think of this region. It’s the whole Ngorongoro Conservation Area that should have your attention. Located in northern Tanzania, this outstanding protected region boasts scenery and sightings that are out of this world. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa.

The name given by the Maasai tribe means ‘gift of life’. Boasting an abundance of animals, prolific birdlife and a breathtakingly-diverse ecosystem, one can believe that life on Earth began in Ngorongoro. The Conservation Area comprises dense mountain forests and woodlands, vast savanna grasslands, crystal-clear lakes and lush swamps and marsh areas.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is famous for three attractions: the 2 to 3 million year-old Ngorongoro Crater; Oldupai Gorge, one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world; and Laetoli, dated to the Plio-Pleistocene and famous for its hominin footprints preserved in volcanic ash.

Ngorongoro is home to the famous Big 5, including stable numbers of black rhino. You should also have great sightings of African hunting dogs and the elusive Golden Cat. The largest animal migration on Earth provides action-packed sightings in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area when it passes through the region.

UGANDA

Uganda is better known for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking and doesn’t try to compete with the likes of the Serengeti and Maasai Mara as a Big 5 destination. But don’t discount it in your search for the best safari holiday in Africa until you know more about what it has to offer intrepid travellers with a yearning for a wildlife adventure that’s completely unique.

The landlocked country in East Africa encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Victoria, Murchison Falls National Park and the spectacular Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest which is a world-renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. Combined, these regions are the foundation for one of the most incredibly diverse and fascinating safari destinations in Africa.

Uganda offers wildlife lovers not only four of the Big Five but also highly-endangered mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. On top of that, Uganda is a birding paradise with over 1 000 recorded bird species in the country. This includes a combination of endemic species from Albertine Rift as well as rainforest and papyrus species.

For a Big Four safari tour, you have two options in the western region.

#16 Queen Elizabeth National Park

Founded in 1952, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular tourist destination in Uganda for a more traditional African safari tour. The QE national park is renowned for its outstanding biodiversity, strong populations of wildlife and prolific birdlife. It’s a bird lover’s paradise, with over 600 recorded bird species in the Park.

A fascinating sighting in the Park are the tree-climbing lions which are found in the Ishasha sector. It’s a sight to behold, seeing massive black-maned lions and their pride resting on the boughs of huge fig trees. Another unusual sighting is the Giant forest hog. Chimpanzee trekking is also available in the tropical forests of Kyambura Gorge.

#17 Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda. It falls within the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area which also includes Bugungu and Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserves. Located in north-western Uganda, this incredibly diverse wilderness region spreads inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile and up to Karuma Falls.

Game viewing and bird-watching is mostly enjoyed on a safari boat cruise on the famous Nile River. The national park is home to four of the Big 5 and birdlife is prolific, with the main attraction being the rare shoebill stork.

At the heart of the Park is the awe-inspiring Murchison Falls. Located on the lower Victoria Nile River, the rushing water passes through miles of rapids before it narrows to a width of about 6 metres and drops over a lip some 120 metres in a series of three powerful cascades. The sight and sound of the angry river crashing into what is called the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’ is astounding.

ZAMBIA

Zambia has always been a fantastic African safari destination but only recently in the past 10 years has the country started getting the attention of international travellers. You get a topnotch safari holiday without the eye-watering price tag, coupled with low tourist numbers. Still somewhat of a best-kept secret, you don’t get the massive safari crowds in Zambia’s national parks like you do in Tanzania and Kenya.

The real appeal of a safari tour in Zambia is you can combine a collection of wildlife reserves with an adrenalin-packed holiday to Victoria Falls and a safari tour of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Both tourist attractions are easily accessible from Lusaka and at the current USD/Zambian Kwacha exchange rate, domestic flights or travelling with a tour operator is highly affordable for foreign tourists.

Accommodation at Zambia’s top safari destinations as well as the daily activities tend to revolve around life on the big rivers. Game drives in open safari vehicles are replaced with boat cruises and canoe safaris. It’s a country that appeals to avid wildlife and nature lovers, fishing fanatics, photographers and adrenalin-junkies.

It goes without saying that the scenery is spectacular, the service and facilities at the upmarket safari lodges in Zambia are top-class and the fauna and flora is outstanding. The game reserves are wild, untamed and devoid of crowds. In fact, many of them are Africa’s best-kept safari secrets. The cherry on the top of a safari holiday in Zambia is top destinations are accessible and great value for money.

#18 South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park is Zambia’s flagship safari destination, offering travellers an intense wildlife experience in a wild and remote area that’s devoid of large safari crowds. Located at the tail-end of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, the life-sustaining Luangwa River winds through a magnificent escarpment and a natural mosaic of vast savanna plains, lush floodplains and crystal-clear lagoons and ox-box lakes.

Zambia’s pride and joy is known as the “Valley of the Leopard” because of its strong populations of the elusive Big Cat, and home to four of the Big 5. Tragically, rhino have been poached to extinction in Zambia as a whole. This is compensated by sightings of the endangered Crayshaw’s zebra as well as two endemic sub-species, the Thornicroft giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest.

South Luangwa is the birthplace of walking safaris in Africa, pioneered by the legendary conservationist Norman Carr in the 1950s. Exploring the wild floodplains of the Luangwa River with an expert guide and immersing yourself in an intensely primal experience is the finest way to appreciate a glorious African safari.

#19 Lower Zambezi National Park

Lower Zambezi National Park is located in south-eastern Zambia on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. It offers adventure travellers an idyllic African safari holiday, with game viewing on magical boat cruises and canoes, guided walking trails, fishing and photographic safaris. It’s heaven on Earth for wildlife, birds and nature lovers.

The Lower Zambezi valley is breath-takingly beautiful, with river frontage that is thick with mopane forests, Ilala palms, acacias, strangler figs and ancient baobabs. Covering an area of over 4 000 square kilometres and home to an abundance of animals and birds, it remains untamed and perfectly unspoilt by safari crowds.

On the opposite side of Lower Zambezi National Park is Mana Pools, possibly one of the most pristine wilderness areas in southern Africa. Wildlife sightings are extraordinary, enjoyed on foot on walking safaris and floating down stunning waterways on river boats and canoes.

Accommodation in Lower Zambezi ranges from luxury safari lodges to rustic tented camps and private fishing camps. The lodges and camps are topnotch and highly affordable if you’re travelling with Dollars and Pounds in your pocket.

Plan well ahead for a safari holiday in Lower Zambezi National Park because many camps close during the Green Season from early November to mid-April when heavy summer rains make much of the Park inaccessible.

ZIMBABWE

Political turmoil aside, Zimbabwe is still one of the best safari destinations in southern Africa. It’s affordable, accessible and promises adventure travellers the holiday of a lifetime.

If you base yourself in the town of Victoria Falls, you are a 10-minute walk from Victoria Falls National Park, 15 minutes from Stanley Livingstone Private Game Reserve and the smaller Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, and a scenic 2-hour drive from Hwange National Park. On top of that, you can pop across to Botswana for a safari day tour in Chobe National Park.

Victoria Falls has rallied in recent years, having suffered the brunt of severe economic decline in the country. It’s now one of the hottest tourist destinations in Africa, and we’re not talking about the weather. The wilderness area that surrounds the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the mighty waterfall is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World.

From adrenalin-pumping white water rafting and bungee jumping off a 130 metre bridge to leisurely sunset boat cruises and canoe safaris, there’s something for everyone in Victoria Falls. For a traditional African Big 5 safari tour, Hwange National Park is close by.

#20  Hwange National Park

Hwange National Park is back on the safari map as the new Big 5 hotspot in southern Africa. The national park has been revitalised and re-energised through the concerted efforts of conservation organisations and is a safari gem waiting to be discovered.

For a fraction of the cost of the more famous Big 5 safari destinations in Africa, you can enjoy an incredible wildlife experience, pristine bushveld in a remote region and luxury safari lodges without the crowds. Most visitors combine a safari tour of Hwange with a holiday in Victoria Falls, guaranteed to be both fascinating and fun.

Hwange National Park is home to the famous Big 5 which includes elephants, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard. One of its most impressive attractions is its large population of elephant. At last count, Hwange had more than 40 000 elephants and the numbers are growing as anti-poaching programmes are ramped up.

You’ll find surprisingly strong numbers of white rhino as well as black rhino in Hwange National Park which are protected through the Lowveld Rhino Project. Despite rampant rhino poaching in the rest of Zimbabwe, the Park has seen its rhino population increasing by 10 percent year-on-year. Hwange is also renowned for having one of the healthiest populations of the highly endangered African wild dog, with a recorded population of upwards of 160 dogs.

WHY BOOK AN AFRICAN SAFARI TOUR

An African safari holiday is one of the best experiences in life. For foreigners, it’s an introduction to the rich culture and warm hospitality of a continent that is as diverse as it is massive in size. You can do an African safari on a shoestring budget or enjoy pure luxury if you have US Dollars or Pounds to spend. The current exchange rates make travelling to Africa highly affordable for foreign tourists.

When you think of an African safari, the Great Migration in the Serengeti, the vast savanna plains of Kenya and the glistening waterways of Okavango Delta are first to spring to mind. However, the continent has so much more to offer with hidden safari gems in every country, offering something completely different to the mainstream safari tours.

Sleep under the stars or under a chandelier; do a safari tour on foot, on a boat or in an open game vehicle; do it on the beaten track or in remote corners that are wild and untamed. There’s an African safari tour for everyone’s budget, and things to do and places to see that are beyond your wildest imagination. Africa, its people and its incredible wildlife are waiting to welcome you.

 

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