Think “wildlife documentary” and the soothing voice of Sir David Attenborough is bound to come to mind. Ever since his debut series Zoo Quest hit the screen back in ‘54, this staunch conservationist has influenced a generation of documentary filmmakers and intrepid travelers. And to think, he didn’t initially appear on television because producers thought his teeth were too big.
Today Attenborough is hailed as the “father of the modern nature documentary”. His wildlife adventures have taken the world from the icy tips of the Arctic to Malaysia, Australia, and beyond.
But there’s one place he holds dearest: Africa. His critically acclaimed series, Africa spent four years in the making and takes viewers on an awe-inspiring journey through the continent’s most diverse places.
Now in his 90s, his love of the natural world shows no sign of abating. So if, in more than a half-century of broadcasting, he has inspired you to live out your own wildlife documentary then here are the top 5 African destinations to follow in his footsteps.
Best time to travel: June to October
If you think that traveling in Namibia will have nothing to offer then think again. David Attenborough’s series showcases the beauty and wildlife of the Kalahari and Namib deserts. Yet, watching this will only give you a sample of what can be explored in Africa’s most underrated safari destination.
Although it is often referred to as “Africa for beginners”; make no mistake, Namibia is one of Africa’s best places to go on a safari. In a land of barren deserts, Etosha National Park is brimming with life. And, with more than 40 waterholes at Etosha National Park, patient visitors are rewarded with easy wildlife sightings plus exciting predator-prey interaction.
But the beauty of Namibia is not limited to the Big Five. Nature and wildlife lovers will discover a wealth of lesser known but equally fascinating animals. From the fork-tailed drongo with its talent for mimicry to the critically endangered golden catfish lurking in Dragon’s Breath Cave, there is plenty to explore.
Best time to travel: June to October
When you think of Africa, you’re probably thinking of Kenya (thanks for stereotyping the continent, Lion King.) It’s the lone umbrella thorn tree silhouetted against a golden sunset and the vast savannah peppered with migrating wildlife. Kenya, more than any other destination, is known as the land of safaris.
The abundance of Kenya’s wildlife owes everything to the successful anti-poaching conservancies and community development that have saved the region from a poaching holocaust.
With over 40 national parks and reserves in Kenya, picking just one to explore is no easy task. But no matter where you go, you’re bound to have a spectacular wildlife experience. The Masai Mara is Kenya’s best-known reserve, famed for its consistent predator sightings. But its highlight is the thousands-strong wildebeest migration.
On the other hand, Amboseli National Park is a haven to over a thousand elephant – including some of Africa’s largest tuskers. The park is brimming with dramatic landscapes ranging from expanses of dry savannah to delta-type swamps, and the snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro.
These are two of Kenya’s most popular reserves. However, chances are you’ll have to overnight in Nairobi at some point on your African overland tour. If this is the case then be sure to check out the country’s bustling capital city and its nearby game park. Nairobi is a hip and edgy city, buzzing with culture, art, and development. At the doorstep of this cosmopolitan city is Nairobi National Park, best known for its significant black rhino sanctuary.
In short, if you want your safari travels to make a difference, you’ve come to the right place.
Best time to travel: August and September
For the longest time, this palm-fringed southeast African country was well off most travelers’ maps. After centuries of resisting onslaughts of various invaders, Mozambique has emerged as a postcard-worthy destination, primed for exploration.
A messy colonial past has led to poor infrastructure which makes exploring the region pretty challenging. However, Mozambique’s fascinating mix of cultures, its magnificent coastline, well-preserved corals, and remote archipelagos make it well worth every (literal) bump in the road.
At the forefront of the country’s attractions is it’s 2,414 km strip of pristine Indian Ocean coastline. But, there is more to this enigmatic country than horizontal me-time on golden sands.
Further south, Maputo bustles with a distinct blend of African, Arab and Portuguese influences that can be tasted in the region’s sumptuous dishes and heard in its upbeat music. But if city slicking is not your vibe then the remote southern coastline is sure to delight with roads and dunes primed for extreme 4×4 adventures and secluded game parks teeming with big game.
Best time to travel: June to September
Channel your inner explorer and discover the beauty of Uganda. Sir David Attenborough’s encounter with a family of mountain gorillas is one of the most iconic moments of his time in Africa. That, combined with Diane Fossey’s famed conservation travels make Gorilla trekking in Uganda the perfect place to live out your wildlife documentary adventure.
Known as The Pearl of Africa, this beautiful country has emerged from the shadows of a harrowing history and transformed into a nature lover’s paradise. Although small in size, Uganda packs a lot into one small country.
The biggest drawcard is, of course, the iconic mountain gorillas found in the misty Bwindi Forest. However, there is more to Uganda than primate business.
The pearl of Africa is abounding with postcard-worthy scenery and cultural gems just waiting for you to explore. Murchison Falls beckons with the roaring cascades of the Nile River, while Kampala’s Kasubi Tombs give a glimpse into the lives of former Ugandan kings.
1. South Africa
Best time to travel: December to February
South Africa’s dramatic landscapes and excellent wildlife watching opportunities have been on the world’s travel radar for a long while now. If variety is what you’re after while living out your wildlife documentary escapades, then this is the place to be. From big-game sightings in the legendary Kruger National Park, to seal encounters, whale watching, and great white shark spotting in Cape Town, this is a country of astounding diversity.
And, when it comes to outdoor adventures, you won’t be left wanting either. Think, zip-lining through the verdant canopy of the Tsitsikamma forest, abseiling from the iconic Table Mountain, and bungee jumping from a 216 m bridge. South Africa’s ever-changing scenery is the perfect canvas on which to paint an activity-packed adventure.
In the words of the travel legend, David Attenborough; “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
So, what are you waiting for? There is a world of adventure out there and your’s starts right here. Go on your African overland adventure and live out your best wildlife documentary escapade.