So you’ve decided to go on safari in Africa – the next step is to decide where to go!
There are loads of amazing destinations to do an African safari spread across many different countries in this huge continent, with the largest concentration 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 destinations.
If you want to see the epic Great Migration go to… Kenya or Tanzania
For Africa’s most famous and most dramatic wildlife migration – the movement of over a million wildebeest – head to the Masai Mara in Kenya or the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Be warned – you will have to contend with safari crowds, but this experiencing this amazing animal phenomenon is worth it!
Wildebeest crossing the Mara River
If you want to go on safari on a budget go to… South Africa or Malawi
South Africa is definitely a budget-friendly safari destination, as park entrance fees are affordable and all national parks have a range of accommodation options, from camping in your own tent to rustic self-catering bungalows.
Malawi is an up and coming safari destination, and 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 without the crowds of Africa’s more famous game parks. 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 on Malawi beach
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.
Namibian Desert landscape
In northern South Africa, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a cross-border semi-desert wilderness with red sand dunes, huge horizons and spectacular sunsets – as well as a host of animals, from the famous Kalahari black-maned lions and cheetah to gemsbok and hyena.
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.
Mokoro cruise on the Okavango
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 in Kruger National Park in South Africa, Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the Masai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania and 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 such as Kruger – and 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 – although these are mostly high-end and expensive.
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 gorillas go to Uganda or Rwanda instead – both of which offer a similar tracking experience for a similar cost (although Rwanda is an easier option as it’s a much smaller country, roads are in better condition than in Uganda, and the tourist infrastructure is more developed).
Mountain gorilla in Uganda
If you want to combine safari with 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 or on one of the islands off the north coast, such as the wonderfully exotic Lamu.
Tanzania offers a number of reserves – most famously the Serengeti – as well as Zanzibar Island, a top destination in its own right for its Swahili architecture and traditional culture, spicy food, gorgeous beaches and scuba and snorkelling opportunities.
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 different activities on your holiday. You could start off by seeing the Big Five in Kruger National Park in the north of South Africa, and then head south to hike in the Drakensberg mountains, and then fly down to Cape Town in the south west – a world-class city home to wine farms, great restaurants, fantastic shops (and lots of fun things to do, like surfing lessons), before doing a road trip out of the city along the eastern coastline or into the winelands.