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How to choose the best African safari destination

So you’ve decided to go on safari in Africa? Your next step is to decide where to go!

But, how will you decide which is the best Africa safari destination which will suit you and your endless bucketlist?

There are loads of amazing destinations to do an African safari. Your safari could take place across many different countries in this huge continent, with the most popular safaris taking place in Southern and East Africa. Each park, reserve or wilderness area offers different landscapes and animals so it’s best to do research on what you’d like to experience before deciding where to go.

Here’s our handy guide to help you decide on the best African safari destination for your next adventure.

If you want to see the epic Great Migration go to… Kenya or Tanzania

For Africa’s most famous and dramatic wildlife migration with over a million wildebeest – head to the Masai Mara in Kenya or the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Although be warned, you will have to contend with safari crowds, but experiencing this amazing wildlife phenomenon is worth it!

Masai Mara Wildebeest

Wildebeest crossing the Mara River

Check out our budget Serengeti overland safari packages

Check out our budget Masai Mara overland safari packages

If you want to go on safari on a budget go to… South Africa or Malawi

South Africa is definitely a budget-friendly African safari destination, as park entrance fees are affordable. In the all the national parks, you have a range of accommodation options, from camping to rustic self-catering bungalows.

Malawi is an up and coming safari destination. While its parks and infrastructure aren’t up to the level of places like South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, it does offer the Big Five in the Majete Wildlife Reserve. This is the ultimate safari destination without the crowds. It’s also one of the most affordable countries in Africa to travel in, so if you’re on a shoestring budget it’s a good choice.

Fishermen in Malawi

Fishermen on Malawi beach

Check out our budget overland safari packages to South Africa

Check out our budget overland safari packages to Malawi

If you want to combine a safari with beautiful desert landscapes go to… Namibia or South Africa

Namibia’s Etosha National Park is set on a giant salt pan, which dries out completely in the winter months, giving the park a spectacular and unique desert quality.

You can look forward to seeing animals such as giraffes traverse the horizon with nothing else in the landscape other than white salt crust. You’ll need to drive south out of Etosha’s gates to reach the epic desert scenery of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, where some of the world’s highest sand dunes ripple in a vast sea.

Dead valley in Namibia

Namibian Desert landscape

In northern South Africa, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a cross-border semi-desert wilderness. The landscape features red sand dunes, huge horizons and spectacular sunsets – as well as a host of animals. While on safari here, expect to see the famous Kalahari black-maned lions and cheetah, along with gemsbok and hyena.

Check out our budget overland safaris to Etosha

If you want to do a water-based safari go to… Botswana

Botswana’s Okavango Delta is one of the wildest places in Africa, and the best place to do a safari on water.

You can stay in a lodge or camp on one of the islands in the Delta and spend your days gliding through waterways on a mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe) guided by an expert poler.

Water-based safaris give a whole new perspective and allow you to experience the wildlife on land and in the water, relatively up close.

Mokoro trail in the Okavango Delta

Mokoro cruise on the Okavango

Check out our budget overlanding safaris to the Okavango Delta

If you want to see the Big Five go to… South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe

For sightings of the Big Five (buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhino) you are spoiled for choice in southern and east Africa.

There are many game parks where these animals are fairly easy to spot. Some of the best places to see the Big Five include:

  1. Kruger National Park in South Africa
  2. Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta in Botswana
  3. the Masai Mara in Kenya
  4. Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania
  5. Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe.

While Etosha National Park in Namibia is one of the continent’s best places to view big game, it doesn’t have any buffalo – though you will easily see the Big Four there.

If you want to try a walking safari go to… Zambia or South Africa

There are a number of walking safaris on offer in South Africa, both in private concessions and in national parks.

The best African safari destination for a walking safari is Kruger – where you can opt for walking for just a few hours in the bush, or doing a wilderness trail, where you hike for several days carrying all your food and supplies. South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is also another great place to do walking safaris in the bush – although often more expensive.

Okavango Delta Walking Safari

Walking safari

If you want to see wild mountain gorillas go to… Uganda or Rwanda

Wild mountain gorillas are only found in three countries in the world – Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The DRC is politically unstable and can be tricky for tourists to visit, so most tourists in search of gorilla trekking go to Uganda or Rwanda instead. Both these countries offer a similar tracking experience for a similar cost. Rwanda is a popular option as it’s a much smaller country, roads are in better condition than in Uganda, and the tourist infrastructure is more developed.

gorilla tours in uganda

Mountain gorilla in Uganda

Check out our budget safari tours to Uganda’s mountain gorillas

If you want to combine safari and beach go to… Kenya or Tanzania

After seeing your fill of animals in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park, head to the coast where you can while away relaxing days on the beautiful palm-fringed white-sand beaches of Mombasa. Travelers also love escaping to one of the islands off the north coast, such as the wonderfully exotic Lamu.

Tanzania offers a number of reserves – most famously the Serengeti – and when combined with Zanzibar Island, you end up with the perfect mix of safari and beach. Zanzibar is a top destination in its own right for its Swahili architecture and traditional culture, spicy food, gorgeous beaches and scuba and snorkelling opportunities.

So if you dreams include a bit of both then these are the best African safari destinations for you.

Check out our beach and bush budget safari tours to Kenya

Check out our beach and bush budget safari tours to Tanzania

If you want to combine safari with beach, wine tasting, road tripping, shopping and mountains go to… South Africa

South Africa is a great all-round destination if you’d like to go on safari and then also do some exciting activities on your holiday.

You could start off by seeing the Big Five in Kruger National Park in the north of South Africa, then head south to hike in the Drakensberg mountains, before flying down to Cape Town.

Cape Town has international appeal as a world-class city – home to wine farms, great restaurants, fantastic shops (and lots of fun things to do, like surfing lessons). While exploring the sights of sounds of the southern cape, take a road trip out the city along the eastern coastline to go whale watching or into the winelands.


Stellenbosch Vineyards

Check out our budget overland safari packages to South Africa

About Sarah Duff

Documentary filmmaker/ travel writer/ photographer - www.sarahduff.com
Article by: Sarah Duff
on March 13, 2024
Filed under  Africa Blog • Botswana • Destinations • Kenya • Malawi • Mozambique • Namibia • South Africa • Tanzania • Uganda • Victoria Falls • What to do • Wildlife • Zambia • Zimbabwe 
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