Where to go on safari in 2019
By Martha Hales
Tune in to nature on a wildlife adventure. After just a few moments your senses will become heightened and you will start to notice every little rustle and twitch around you. Imagine the thrill when a wild animal emerges from its hiding place and you meet its gaze; the humbling sense of wonder and awe.
These experiences are truly special, particularly considering the endangered status of many of the Earth’s wildlife. Tourism is a force for good when it comes to making a positive impact on the prospects of many of our animal friends. Providing communities with income streams which reward the preservation and protection of wildlife is already having an impact around the world.
We have put together this overview of ten of our favourite safari destinations to tempt you in 2019, from the classic parks of Africa to the lesser-known safari elsewhere in the world. Which one will you choose for your next wildlife encounter?
Think Kenya, think classic African safari, with vistas of acacia-studded savannah stalked by herds of big game. The scenery alone would be reason to visit, and when you roam the plains of the Masai Mara or explore the landscapes in the lesser known national parks, you will understand why.
Populate these widescreen views with jaw dropping wildlife in huge numbers, and it’s easy to see why Kenya is one of the greatest safari destinations on the planet. The rich cultural heritage, warm welcome and stunning coast are the icing on the Kenyan cake.
A clutch of national parks offer some great safari options if you are heading to Sri Lanka, among them Yala National Park which offers the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world. Leopard sightings are by no means guaranteed, but you have a higher chance of spotting them here than anywhere else.
This is an obvious attraction for many and can mean Yala gets busy with game drives, so consider WiIpattu or Udawalawe National Parks for a more peaceful safari experience. Both are teeming with elephants, spotted deer, crocodiles, buffalo herds and birds. The south coast is whale watching territory and offers fantastic beaches too, so makes a great base.
The beautiful, arid landscape of Namibia’s premier wildlife destination - Etosha National Park - doesn’t look very promising as a habitat for huge herds of plains game, however it harbours enough water and wooded scrublands to shelter and feed many thousands of animals.
Photographers will love the stark desert landscapes and the waterholes thronging with all creatures great and small, including zebras, antelopes, impalas, elephants, rhinos, giraffes and even lions, leopards and cheetahs if you are lucky. Birds are also a big draw, with 300 plus species from various ecosystems. Head for the Caprivi Strip in the northeast to see a slice of the Okavango Delta wildlife within Namibia’s borders.
With the reintroduction of black rhino, Malawi’s foremost national park, Liwonde, can now boast the full Big Five - elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and rhino. However it is not a destination for ticking off big African game animals as some species, especially the big cats, can be very reluctant to appear.
The highlights here come instead from the adventurous, off the beaten track appeal of safari in Malawi, which is small scale and feels pioneering. Take a boat safari on the river Shire and watch animals congregate on the banks and admire the array of exotic birds.
A big country with an even bigger range of activities and attractions to tempt you, South Africa will wow you with its safari credentials. The Kruger National Park is the major safari destination where self drive and camping options mean that you can contain the costs if you prefer.
Luxury options are also plentiful, but wherever you stay it is highly likely you will encounter most, if not all, of the Big Five during your stay. South Africa is also particularly well known for being one of the best places to spot rhinos in the wild. Broaden your wildlife experiences by whale watching and penguin spotting along the coast, or indulge in some fine dining in the Winelands and Cape Town.
Rare and endangered, mountain gorillas are now restricted to a small cluster of territories which straddle the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC. The Virunga Mountains are a chain of volcanic peaks which are mainly located in northern Rwanda.
A large swathe of these mountains are protected as Volcanoes National Park - the major destination for gorilla tracking in Rwanda, and home to the largest number of habituated gorilla groups in existence. Treks take upwards of 2 hours each way, and you can then spend a precious hour with the primates. A lesser-known but no less wonderful experience to be found in Rwanda is Chimpanzee tracking which can also be arranged by our trusted local experts.
The unbeatable spectacle of the Great Migration in the Serengeti is the cornerstone of many Tanzanian safari experiences. Huge numbers of wildebeest, zebras and various other ungulates rotate through the savannah of Tanzania and Kenya in pursuit of fresh grazing, risking life and limb as they navigate river crossings and open plains while hungry predators look on.
Beyond this incredible sight, Tanzania has many other national parks to offer, each with a unique landscape and cast of animals. The blissful beaches of Zanzibar or the challenge of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro might tempt you to extend your trip.
Making waves in the safari world is high, hilly and green Uganda, a friendly nation dubbed “The Pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill due to its lush landscapes and abundant wildlife. Probably best known for chimp and gorilla trekking safaris in its misty, jungle-clad mountains in the far southwest, Uganda is fast becoming known for its myriad other wildlife opportunities.
Big game are present and accessible in the national parks of the north and west, and for anyone with an interest in primates Uganda is an excellent choice: chimpanzee treks are popular in Kibale National Park. Birders are also spoilt for choice with Uganda being one of the most exciting destinations due to its location at the intersection of several fantastic birdwatching zones.
As well as the mighty Himalayas, Nepal has a lesser-known stretch of lowland territory within reach of the major trekking hubs of Pokhara and Kathmandu. The steamy tropical vegetation of Chitwan National Park hides a multitude of creatures including monkeys, sloth bears, jackals, leopards, antelopes, elephants and the ever present Indian rhinos.
The very fortunate may even catch a glimpse of a Bengal tiger but elephants and rhino are far easier to spot, indeed it would be very unusual not to come across them. Safari in Nepal is often an add-on to a trekking trip in the high peaks, but there are a number of national parks to explore if wildlife is your priority.
It may not be the first destination to spring to mind for a safari holiday, but Brazil is vast and offers a huge number of natural spectacles as well as the famous trio of coast, carnival and colonial treasures. The Amazon rainforest is home to an unimaginable diversity of species, but by definition it’s a tangled jungle of gigantic proportions, so the wildlife can be tricky to spot.
By contrast, the Pantanal wetlands are much more open and accessible, so it is far easier to catch a glimpse of exciting creatures such as capybara, armadillo, anteater and jaguar, not to mention the outstanding bird life. Go here for an alternative safari to remember.
So many wonderful wildlife destinations and so little time to explore them all… better get started now! Click on the links above to find out more about what each of these destinations can offer - from wildlife encounters to cultural discoveries our trusted local experts are ready and waiting in your destination to shape your perfect trip, wherever you decide to go. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.