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The 7 best safari adventures in Africa

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There’s something nostalgic about the iconic animals that roam wild in Africa. Here, the giraffes, elephants, rhinos and gorillas that you may have only seen in wildlife documentaries are free-roaming; easily spotted with a local guide, a jeep and a good pair of binoculars. What everyone says is true: seeing these glorious creatures up close in their natural habitat simply can’t be beaten, especially when a safari holiday in Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.

If you’re embarking on an African safari adventure, you’ll want to know you have the best chance of seeing the animals you’ve always dreamed of – so let us offer a rundown of our best safari destinations in Africa so you can start planning your next big trip.

1. Kenya – The Masai Mara, land of the Lion King

The sprawling grasslands of the Masai Mara Reserve – dotted with acacia trees and shimmering herds of zebra and wildebeest – are instantly recognizable even to first-time visitors to Africa. Being home to the iconic Big 5; namely lions, elephants, leopards, rhinoceros and buffalo; this reserve also served as inspiration for the scenery of Disney’s Lion King, alongside Tanzania’s famous Serengeti.

The location also boasts the incredible ‘Great Wildebeest Migration’, an annual spectacle which draws legions of wildlife fans to the Mara every year. During the migration, hundreds of thousands of wildebeest travel en-masse from Tanzania to Kenya, facing crocodile-infested rivers, hungry lions and harsh conditions to reach fresh water and grasslands as the seasons change. It’s truly a marvel to witness, and takes place in the dry season between July and October. This is generally the best time to visit as though it’s peak time, it’s when the animals are most active and visible.

Seen as somewhat of a gateway destination, the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is the perfect choice for safari first-timers, simply for its dream-like, archetypal quality. There’s an abundance of brilliant wildlife to discover and the local guides operate some expertly-planned game drives to make sure every venture onto the plains is fruitful. You could also visit the incredible Amboseli National Park and view the hippos of Lake Naivasha, all in one safari holiday to Kenya – chat to our local Kenya experts to curate the perfect itinerary.

2. Botswana – Boat down the Okavango Delta

In Botswana, southern Africa, the Okavango Delta is a wonder of biodiversity as one of the largest inland deltas in the world. Consisting of floodplains, swamps, riverine forests and grasslands, it’s no surprise that a bounty of wild and wonderful creatures reside here. Yes, the iconic Big 5 meander the Delta (leopards, elephants, giraffes, wildebeest and lions), and that’s not to be underplayed – but there’s also the chance to spot the endangered African wild dog, Nile crocodiles basking in the riverbanks, sleepy hippopotamuses half-submerged in water, and over 400 bird species including the African fish eagle, wattled crane and saddle-billed stork.

A popular and very atmospheric way to explore the Delta is by mokoro, a dug-out canoe operated by a skilled poler who slowly pushes the boat through the waterways, allowing visitors to quietly spot wildlife at a safe distance. Otherwise, there’s the chance to explore on foot or set out on some adventurous game drives with a good camera.

The indigenous communities of the Delta are deeply committed to preserving and honoring the landscape. If you’re embarking on a safari tour of Botswana, take the opportunity to learn more about how the local people sustainably coexist with the surrounding nature.

3. Uganda – Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

As far as dream wildlife experiences go, trekking with gorillas is surely one of the most spellbinding. Around 340 endangered mountain gorillas wander the elevated forests of Uganda, with other groups residing in neighboring Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Watching them live peacefully in their densely forested homeland is as impressive for its feat of conservation as it is for the experience itself.

A limited number of tourists is allowed to visit the gorillas each year, and permits are needed in advance; what’s more, once you’ve arrived at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, there are rules to adhere to. Trust that it’s worth the effort, as when you come face-to-face with a family of these extraordinary gorillas in their natural habitat, you’ll be flooded with gratitude that their lives are so fiercely protected.

4. Rwanda – Gorillas and chimps in Volcanoes National Park

Rwanda is also a prime destination for gorillas; in fact, these families of gentle giants are likely the biggest draw for visitors to Rwanda and Uganda. Those journeying to Rwanda for gorillas will likely set out into Volcanoes National Park, a truly gorgeous landscape of steep, leafy forests, with five of the eight Virumba volcanoes lingering in the distant haze. Just as in Uganda, a permit is required in advance to limit disturbance to the wildlife, while the funds from gorilla tourism means Rwandan authorities, conservation initiatives and the local community can work together to protect and educate about these precious species.

Encountering one of our closest evolutionary ancestors is worthy of a trip on its own, but there’s even more to discover within the forest’s borders. Those who stick around may come across enchanting chimpanzees in the treetops, groups of rare golden monkeys, buffaloes, the Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, or even the rare forest elephant.

5. Namibia – Waterhole wildlife at Etosha National Park

Namibia is an incomparable destination in Africa, awash with truly striking scenery – from its oversized sand dunes and sun-worn deserts, to dry wastelands scattered with twisting trees. Though much of its landscapes are vast and somewhat desolate, there’s a treasure trove of wildlife to discover, most of it condensed within the borders of Etosha National Park.

At over 20,000 sq km, Etosha is one of the best places in the world to spot African wildlife, because rather than traveling in search of the animals, the potential to park or stay overnight in front of many watering holes means the animals come to you. The primary wildlife venue is the Etosha Pan – a vast saline desert that, in the dry season, becomes populated with all kinds of wandering creatures. Be prepared to see rhinoceros, elephants, lions, springbok and cheetahs either relaxing, grazing or padding around the dusty landscape, in search of their next drink or bite to eat.

Our local experts based in Namibia can offer incredible self-drive tours of the Kalahari desert and Etosha National Park, perhaps even with a stop in Swakopmund – a coastal town where you could spot pelicans, flamingoes or even dolphins.

6. South Africa – A safari adventure in Kruger National Park

A trip to South Africa wouldn’t be complete without a game drive at Kruger National Park – one of the most accessible yet wildlife-dense locations on the continent. Kruger covers almost 19,500 sq km, a stirring landscape of steep granite hills and tropical forests bordered by the Lebombo Mountains that emerge in the distance.

Once again, the Big 5 reside here – so be ready with your binoculars to spot majestic giraffes, families of elephants, grazing rhinos and reclining lions and leopards. Buffalo, wildebeest and zebra populate the plains, hippopotamuses and crocodiles inhabit the rivers and wetlands, while monkeys, baboons and a plethora of bird species speckle the treetops. Due to its abundance of sights, Kruger does draw some worthy attention – but ask your local South Africa expert if you’d prefer a more exclusive viewing experience – there are some private reserves linked to guest houses, for instance.

We’ve partnered with excellent local guides in South Africa who offer game drives at Kruger National Park as part of a scintillating tour of the country. As well as seeking out some of the world’s most incredible wildlife, you could admire iconic Table Mountain, sip local wine in Cape Town, and witness the world-class natural wonder of Victoria Falls.

7. Zimbabwe – Throngs of elephants at Hwange National Park

Zimbabwe’s biggest wildlife destination, and one of the largest viewing reserves in Africa, Hwange National Park is chock-full of creatures great and small. Notorious for its wealth of tusked elephants (there are 40,000!), it is also home to giraffes, lions, cheetahs and leopards as well as hyenas, wild dogs, wildebeest, impalas, and zebra herds. For those devoted birdwatchers, 400 species live here, too; among them the marabou stork, gray-crowned crane and greater flamingo.

Clusters of animals congregate at over 60 water holes across the park, so visitors on game drives at Hwange have pleasing odds of spotting their favorite species mingling together, catching a drink.

Later on your trip to Zimbabwe, stop at Matobo National Park – revered for its ancient granite stones and rock paintings, some of which balance on top of each other in an almost-impossible feat of physics. The spectacular granite landscape of more than 4,000 sq m is also home to an impressive population of white rhinos, which, due to their increasing rarity, make for a particularly special sight.

Chat to one of our local Zimbabwe experts to include rhino trekking at Matobo and a game drive at Hwange National Park for your safari tour of Zimbabwe.

Make it happen

If you’ve got dreams of wildlife adventures on your mind, get in touch with the local experts based in any of our African destinations to get started planning the safari trip of a lifetime.

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