One of the most spectacular locations if you want to see nature at its best, Africa offers an amazing mix of lush jungles, vast savannahs and of course bucket-list African safaris. From smaller conservation areas to huge national parks covering thousands of kilometres, if you’re looking to spot some of the world’s most extraordinary animals in their natural habitat, this is definitely the place to do it.
Here are our top 7 African safari destinations.
#1 – Serengeti National Park
Located in North Tanzania, a holiday to Serengeti National Park is probably the most quintessential African safari experience there is. Filled with flat plains, rocky outcrops and forest areas perfect for animals to hide in, there is a huge array of wildlife here.
Lions and cheetahs abound here, and there is a good chance you’ll even spot an elusive leopard.
With its long grass and rocky vantage points, the terrain is also the perfect hunting ground for big cats, and if visiting in July and August, prepare to see one of the greatest wildlife shows on earth with the mass migration of the wildebeest.
For the ultimate outdoor experience, book a 4WD safari tour with a reputable company and consider camping in the centre of the park, as it gives you the best chance of seeing the animals. Plus, because there are no fences around the campsite, you’ll have the thrill of hearing wildlife around you at night, whether it’s the cackle of hyenas or the roar of a lion in the distance. Yikes!
#2 – Kruger National Park
One of the largest and oldest game reserves in Africa, Kruger National Park covers almost 20,000 square kilometres, bordering Mozambique to the east and Zimbabwe to the north. Surrounded by swaying grasslands, tropical forests and majestic mountains, the diversity of wildlife here is astounding.
There are more animals here than you can poke a stick at (not that you’d want to), including cheetahs, giraffes, hippos, zebras, and the revered Big 5 – the African lion, the Cape buffalo, the African elephant, the rhinoceros and the African leopard.
Another thing that makes Kruger so unique is its expansive road network, which gives visitors free rein to explore the area on their own by car. Guided walking tours on camp-based trails are also a great option as these are chaperoned by experienced rangers who have finely tuned spotting skills (and who can help you avoid a cranky 700-kilo rhino!)
#3 – South Luangwa National Park
For an African safari that’s a little more subdued, consider a visit to South Luangwa National Park. Rather than vast savannah, it has lots of forested areas and the 770-kilometre-long Luangwa River. You won’t find large prides of lions here or of any animal in fact, however lodge accommodation will allow you to view hippos lounging about the waterholes and elephants crossing the river in the dry season.
In South Luangwa, all the vehicles are open which makes for some interesting encounters, and it’s also possible to do night safaris here (unlike in some other parks). This gives you a better chance of viewing animals like lions, which mostly hunt at night. If you’re on a budget it’s also ideal, particularly if you bring your own tent and supplies as your accommodation will be cheap and you can choose how many safaris you undertake.
#4 – Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Located in northern Tanzania, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is essentially a huge crater filled with wildlife, including the highest density of lions in Africa. There are also black rhinos, an abundance of zebras and gazelles and higher up in the rainforests, elephants, leopards, hyenas and cheetahs. A small lake makes up the centre of the park, which is home to a herd of wildebeest and a truckload of flamingos.
Budget safaris are a great way to experience this place, particularly because camping on top of the crater rim will have you sleeping in the midst of some of the world’s most captivating creatures. And if visiting in December, prepare for the legendary migration: 1.7 million wildebeest and thousands of zebras and gazelles move into this area so make sure your eyes and ears are prepared for the spectacle!
#5 – Tarangire National Park
If visiting Ngorongoro or the Serengeti, make sure you also consider a visit to Tarangire National Park, which is fairly close by. This park is well known for its large elephant population – they are literally everywhere! Cooling down in the mud, splashing about in the waterholes and lazing about in the heat of the African sun. Plus, there is the usual mix of other fascinating beasts including zebra, wildebeest and the occasional cheetah.
Although not as majestic or offering the variety of wildlife that the Serengeti does, it’s still a wonderful park to visit with beautiful baobab trees spread over grassy areas that aren’t too dense. And that means more chances to sight even more animals!
#6 – Lake Nakuru National Park
If you are one of those people who has a weird rhino fetish (yes, they’re out there), then don’t miss Lake Nakuru National Park. Well known for its rhino population – most white, but there are rare black ones here too – they’re also easy to spot.
You won’t find big groups of wildlife here, but the park itself is impressive with waterfalls galore, a shimmering lake and a beautifully lush deep-green forest. Wildlife tends to hang out on the huge grassy area on the southern part of the lake, including flamboyances of fluoro-pink flamingos (and yes, that’s the term for a group of them!)
#7 – Chobe National Park
For a different perspective on Africa’s wildlife, factor in a detour to Chobe National Park, located in north-east Botswana near the Zambian and Zimbabwe borders. Because this park has a large perpetually running river through it, it’s a great place to take a boat ride for some hippo or elephant spotting.
However, do take care, as apparently hippos in Africa kill more people every year than any other animal. So STAY IN THE BOAT (and organise your travel insurance before you go!)