Best Safaris in Africa
Almost everyone has a safari adventure in their bucket list. Being able to explore the vast expanses of land that different species of animals call home is not something that everyone has the chance to do. So when you get that opportunity to plan for the safari of a lifetime, you’d want to visit only the best. There’s no better place to observe some of the fiercest wild animals on the planet than on the plains and savannahs of Africa. That’s why we’re giving you 10 of the best safaris of this land.
1. Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya
With flat-topped acacia trees that dot the savannah landscape of Kenya, Masai Mara is no doubt the best safari in Africa. An extension of the Serengeti National Park in neighboring Tanzania, Masai Mara is home to a large population of lions, cheetahs, and leopards.
You’ll see East African cheetahs cuddling their cubs while zebras graze on the scattered bushes of the savannah. Umbrella acacia trees look awesome with cloud shadows on the ground. You can also expect the members of the Big Five in this part of Africa. Feast your eyes on cape buffaloes, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and lions. Jackals, bat-eared foxes, and hyenas are also present. Birds of prey patrol the clear blue skies.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of zebras, wildebeest, Topis, elands, and Thomson’s gazelles make their way from Masai Mara to the Serengeti. July to October is the best time of the year to watch the Great Migration. It’s one of the planet’s most impressive natural events. It’s a remarkable sight and one that will last in your mind forever.
2. Serengeti National Park in Tanzania
Famous for its annual Great Migration, the Serengeti National Park is a paradise for animal lovers and safari adventurers. It is the most popular wildlife spectacle on Earth. It is contiguous with the Masai Mara National reserve in neighboring Kenya. The only difference is that the Serengeti is almost 10 times the size of Masai Mara at 5,700 square miles. No wonder more than 2 million wild animals from Kenya make the Great Migration every year.
With its vast expanse, the Serengeti is home to the largest collection of wild animals. Half a million gazelles inhabit the lands of the Serengeti along with a quarter of a million zebras. There are tens of thousands of warthogs, topis, giraffes, impalas, hippos, and waterbucks, among others. If you keep your eyes wide open, you may also spot some very rare species of eland, roan antelope, dik dik, fringe-eared oryx, and lesser kudu.
Of course, what’s an African safari without the Big Five? More than 3,000 lions live in the plains of the Serengeti along with 5,000 African bush elephants. There are also 1,000-plus African leopards, 55,000 African buffaloes, and about 30 or so Eastern black rhinos.
3. Kruger National Park in South Africa
One of the continent’s largest game reserves, the Kruger National Park covers some 7,523 square miles in the northeastern section of South Africa. It is longer than it is wide, extending some 220 miles from its border with Zimbabwe. There are 147 species of mammals, 517 birds, 114 reptiles, 33 amphibians, 50 fish, and 219 invertebrates in the reserve. The Big Five reside in the savannah of Kruger along with zebras, giraffes, antelopes, impalas, and many more.
The downside to Kruger National Park is that it has far too many visitors at a time. Purists argue that the game reserve already comes with too many large camps that they now encroach on the natural habitat of the wild animals. The good news is that the natural habitat of these animals is as diverse as the animals themselves. There are riverine forests, woodlands, savannah, and hills. There are also bush camps and back roads that offer more adventure for those who crave the wilderness.
While it’s true that some parts of Kruger are already encroached by development, the good news is you’ll always have a choice. It’s the perfect safari destination for those who are not yet prepared to experience life in the wilderness.
4. Chobe National Park in Botswana
One of the most striking images of a safari adventure is witnessing a group of lions sinking their claws and teeth on a hapless African elephant. At the Chobe National Park, you’ll get to witness such an event and so much more. The park is famous for being the home of more than 50,000 elephants, including the largest of them all – the Kalahari elephant.
Unlike other African safaris, the Chobe National Park provides four different ecosystems. The Serondela area comes with dense woodlands of hardwoods like mahogany and teak. There are floodplains, too, that pay homage to storks, ibises, ducks, and spoonbills. Since it is near Victoria Falls, you can expect a lot of visitors in this section of the Chobe.
The Savuti March section features rolling grasslands and extensive savannahs. It’s home to rhinos, warthogs, zebras, hyenas, lions, elephants, and many more. The Linyanti Marsh comes with open woodlands, riverine forests, flood plains, and lagoons. It’s the perfect place for spotting sitatungas, lechwes, and African wild dogs. The Nogatsaa woodland is the ideal spot for watching elands.
5. South Luangwa National Park in Zambia
For the more discerning safari adventurer, the best safari destination is Zambia’s South Luangwa Natonal Park. It is famous for its expert safari guides and the availability of quaint, owner-run lodges. These accommodations promote a comprehensive bush experience for both adventurers and newbies alike.
Driving in the night can give you a rare glimpse into how night predators operate. Leopards are the main attraction in these grounds. An expert guide can take you through the bushes and marvel at the prowess of leopards stalking their prey. You can see hippos choking up the lagoons while crocodiles stick their eyes above the water surface of the Luangwa River. Other mammals roam the surroundings while some of the 400 bird species patrol the skies.
Covering some 3,490 square miles, the South Luangwa features woodland savannahs and miombo ecosystems. In the past, black rhinoceroses were a constant feature in these lands. Today, however, these creatures are no more. What you’ll see are wildebeests and zebras with occasional parades of elephants.
6. Etosha National Park in Namibia
Bigger than the Kruger National Park at 8,600 square miles, the Etosha National Park is home to a number of endangered and threatened species of animals. These include the Southern white rhino, the Southwestern black rhino, and the black-footed cat.
Like the Kruger, there’s never a shortage of accommodation in Etosha. There are public camps that feature a busy waterhole that is often floodlit during the night. There are roads and facilities that are perfect for budget, self-drive safari. Do take note that the semi-arid and harsh terrain may not be to your liking. There are thorn scrubs, shimmering saltpans, and calcrete rubble that can get into your nerves.
Nevertheless, the Etosha National Park is ideal for watching parades of African bush elephants, Angolan giraffes, leopards, lions, and southern African wildcats. Jackals, zebras, and springboks dominate the landscape. Lesser flamingos in their bright pink colors patrol the air while white pelicans relish their time in the lagoons. You’ll see ostriches racing with buffaloes while storks and cranes wade in shallow waters.
7. Imfolozi Wilderness Trails in South Africa
Famous for the white rhino, Imfolozi Wilderness Trails is always one of the most popular safari destinations in Africa. This area not only houses the rhino. It is also home to the other four of the Big Five game. These include the elephant, lion, leopard, and the Cape buffalo. Together, these wild creatures can make any safari adventurer’s dreams come true.
The Imfolozi may be small at only 370 square miles, but it has a very rich diversity of flora and fauna. There are hippopotamuses, zebras, waterbucks, bushpigs, and impalas, among others. Baboons share the land with lizards, snakes, monkeys, terrapins, and cheetahs. More than 86 species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians reside in Imfolozi. No less than 300 bird species call the wilderness trails their home. You can check the skies for the rare Wahlberg’s eagle. The bushes can be the perfect hiding places of Klaas’s cuckoo or Temminck’s courser.
The Imfolozi is the brainchild of South African nature conservationist Ian Player. His dedication and commitment are the keys to the survival of the white rhino. We wouldn’t be enjoying this beautiful mammal today without Dr. Player’s remarkable love for the wilderness.
8. Ruaha National Park in Tanzania
Once obscure and unknown, the Ruaha National Park is now a favorite destination among first-time safari adventurers. It’s a classic safari that features wide open plains and very sparse camps.
This Tanzanian nature gem is home to the country’s largest population of elephants. You’ll see them feeding on grass, twigs, and fruits. You’ll see mommy elephant herding her young as it tries to keep up with the rest of the group. There are also buffaloes in the area. Spotted hyenas, sable antelopes, and East African cheetahs call the Ruaha their home. There are also more than 570 species of birds that flock to the region, although this number can increase during the annual migration of birds. You’ll see hippopotamuses in the waters of the Great Ruaha River while wild dogs patrol the lands.
Its 20,226 square mile area features two very distinct African biomes. One is the miombo woodlands of southern Africa and the other is the acacia savannahs of east Africa. Because of these two distinct biomes merging right in the center of the park, you can always expect a very unusual mix of wildlife species.
9. Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda
Straddling the southwest corner of Uganda is Queen Elizabeth National Park. First-time safari-goers to this 764 square mile national park will marvel at the rich diversity of wildlife. You’ll get to see African buffaloes wading in the waters of the Kazinga Channel – a water feature they share with the hippopotamuses of the land.
Head over to the Ishasha region and you will see a lioness sleeping high atop the trees. You might even see Uncle Scar’s brethren in the area – lions with distinct black manes. And if you’re already tired of these big cats, you can always feast your eyes on African leopards, African bush elephants, and Ugandan kobs. Don’t mistake the kob for an antelope, though. Check out the rare shoebill or whalehead in the park’s papyrus swamps. You can also marvel at the chimpanzees as they play in the forested gorges of the park.
What is remarkable about this safari is that it is home to more than 500 bird species and 95 mammals in a land area that is only about the size of Jacksonville, Florida. The good thing about this is that you get to explore the whole region in a much shorter period of time.
10. Katavi National Park in Tanzania
Not many people visit this national park in Tanzania as it is quite remote. But this is what makes the Katavi National Park so appealing to both first-time and avid safari adventurers. You’ll be sharing the 1,726-square mile reserve with only a few hundred visitors every year. This is the ultimate when it comes to the African wilderness.
The Katavi is a mixture of huge grassy plains and woodlands where the Kapapa and Katuma Rivers snake through. Lions tail the thousands of buffaloes that graze the plains. Hippos tend to flock and fill the two rivers during the dry season. You can also spot crocodiles sticking out their snouts above the water’s surface. Wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas, and leopards compete for the bounties of the plains that can include zebras, giraffes, and wildebeests.
This safari is not for the faint-hearted. It’s only for those who understand living in the bush and who don’t mind coming face to face with some of the fiercest creatures on the planet.
There’s a reason why man considers Africa to be the origin of life. With its unspoiled beauty, untamed wilderness, and diverse wildlife, the African safari is life in its rawest form.