The Ultimate Safari Guide
Published 24 June 2016
Planning a safari holiday can be somewhat daunting. With so many countries, national parks, nature reserves and lodges to choose from, it’s easy for the mind to boggle. Where to go depends which animals interest you the most, when you want to travel, and what you want to do when you get there. To help you choose we’ve put together a guide to seven of the most popular African safari destinations.
For first time safari goers and families with children, South Africa is the perfect choice. It’s easy to get around, it’s more westernised than most other African countries, there’s no malaria and with the exchange rate (22.9 rand to the pound at the time of writing), it’s a bargain. Plus, safaris are easily tacked on to a trip to the spectacular city of Cape Town followed by whale watching and wine tasting along the Garden Route. Kruger National Park is the top safari spot, where the Big Five (lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo) are frequently sighted. You can also try Addo Elephant Park, conveniently located at the eastern end of the Garden Route, or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Head off on safari in Addo Elephant Park with our Garden Route & Safari Journey.
Wildlife watchers have been travelling to Kenya for over a hundred years, attracted by the high densities of game and the big cats that prowl the Masai Mara. Unsurprisingly, the long-established Kenyan tourism industry runs a slick operation and has safari-going down to a T. It offers plenty of choice of parks and accommodation, plus various styles, from cheap ‘n’ cheerful to ultra-luxury, so is naturally very popular. Plus it’s easy to combine with beach trips to the Kenyan coast or Zanzibar. If you fancy catching the Great Wildebeest Migration, head to the Masai Mara between July and October and for the ultimate in romance, watch it from above in a hot-air balloon.
See if you can spot the Big Five in the Masai Mara with our East Africa Discovery Journey.
With 16 national parks, Tanzania is right up there with the best game viewing. Choose from the popular northern circuit, which includes the wildlife havens of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, or the less busy southern circuit of the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park, ideal for fans of big cats. For something a bit different, track chimpanzee in Gombe National Park. From November to August, a million-strong herd of Wildebeest migrate through the Serengeti, a magical spectacle if you manage to catch it. Like Kenya, Tanzania combines well with beach lazing in Zanzibar.
Search for game in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater with our East Africa Discovery Journey.
Botswana is great for eco-conscious wildlife watching. The low density of lodges protects the landscape from being overrun by safari vehicles and allows the country to protect its wilderness areas. For visitors, this allows for game viewing without the crowds. If it’s elephants you’re after, head for Chobe National Park and for a safari with a difference try the Okavango Delta, where you can float down the rivers in a traditional mokoro (dugout canoe). A word of warning though, for those on a budget, you might find Botswana’s upmarket lodges a little out of your price range.
Gaze at Chobe National Park’s vast herds of elephants on our Southern African Predators Journey.
With the current political situation, should you even consider Zimbabwe? Well yes actually. The country’s problems have caused a massive decline in the once-flourishing safari industry, so any tourists that do visit will help the country get back on its feet. To avoid contributing money to the government, stay in locally-run hotels and lodges, and hire local guides. For the Big Five head straight for Hwange National Park, or perhaps try a canoe safari in Mana Pools National Park. Finally, you simply cannot visit Zimbabwe without gazing in awe at the mighty Victoria Falls.
Soar above Victoria Falls in a helicopter on our Southern African Predators Journey.
On the other side of Victoria Falls, Zambia is more about quality than quantity. Yes, the wildlife viewing is very good, but even better is the depth of guide knowledge and the real feeling of wilderness. If you fancy getting closer to the wildlife, try a walking safari; Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is the perfect place to do this. On foot you’ll pay more attention to the insects, plants, footprints and droppings, but if you’re lucky (or perhaps unlucky) you’ll get pretty close to the animals too. Take it from me – being so close to a wild elephant that you can hear it breathe is a little too close for comfort.
Head to Livingstone and tour Victoria Falls with our Kruger, Cape Town & Falls Journey.
With its vast seas of desert dunes, Namibia is unable to support the animal concentrations found in the wetter countries. But don’t let that put you off. The moonlike landscapes and wild coastline are perhaps even more impressive than its safari. You can self-drive in wildlife-rich Etosha National Park, but if you want to tick off the Big Five you’ll have to go up to the remote Caprivi Strip to find a buffalo. With plenty of guesthouses and campsites Namibia is great for those on a budget, although high-end safari is possible here too.
Chat to your consultant about creating a Journey to Namibia.