Safaris are among the most captivating and life-affirming of all travel experiences – and no continent on earth offers the variety of safari adventures as Africa.
Whether it’s a whistle-stop tour of just one or two nights or an extended trip of a fortnight or more, there’s something to suit every preference, time-constraint and budget. Most people prefer to book their travel online nowadays, rather than go to a brick and mortar agent, and there are some great digital resources that tailor specifically for people seeking African safaris. We’ve done some research and picked out 10 of the best safari tours currently on offer across this magical part of the world.
Kruger Big 5 Safari
Situated in northeastern South Africa, and teeming with mountains, bush plains and tropical forests, Kruger National Park is one of the continent’s largest game reserves. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos, while hundreds of other mammals also make their home here, as do diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles and storks. One of the best ways to see some of the famous 5 is on a game reserve drive, with morning, afternoon and sunset trips featuring in most multi-day Kruger safari itineraries. Most of these tours start with airport pick-ups from either Johannesburg or Gauteng and include stays in an overnight lodge, while some extended tours also include trips to safari hotspots in neighbouring countries such as Botswana.
Serengeti Safari Experience
Encompassing a vast expanse of undulating plains and rocky hills in northern Tanzania, the Serengeti is widely regarded as one of Africa’s finest safari destinations. The national park is perhaps best known for hosting an annual migration comprising at least two million wildebeest, plains zebra and gazelle, but the immense plains are also home to dense populations of lion, leopard, cheetah and other predators. To witness the famous migration, you have to plan your trip for the right time of year, with the bulk of the animals making their epic journey on the short-grass plains from December to April. Several safari tours offer the chance to take in this magnificent spectacle, as well as to visit all of the other incredible national parks of Tanzania on excursions spanning anything from a few days to over a week.
Hwange Game Drive & Victoria Falls safari
Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe’s northwest should be on any safari lover’s bucket list. Roaming its abundant grasslands and mopane woods are the Big Five together with huge numbers of other mammals, including some 50 000 elephants. The park is also known for regular sightings of cheetah, leopard and lion, as well as a large population of the endangered wild dog and rare species such as roan and sable, plus 500 species of bird. One of the other big draws of Hwange is that it’s easily accessible – with most visitors flying into Victoria Falls, just an hour’s drive away. Unsurprisingly, many safari tours in the region incorporate visits to the iconic waterfall on the Zambezi River, which also provides habitat for several unique species of plants and animals.
Wildlife and Gorilla Trekking safari in Uganda
A Gorilla Trek is a highlight of any visit to Uganda, and the landlocked country in East Africa has two national parks where you can track these incredible great apes: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Here, a total of 18 gorilla groups, or ‘families’, can be found residing, with visitors restricted by law to pursuing only one group per day. There are a large number of organised safari tours that include gorilla trekking in Uganda as part of their itineraries, with the best time to visit being the months of June, July, August, September and December, when there is less rain, making it easier to hike and gain visibility of the gorillas
Madagascar Wildlife Sanctuary safari tours
With its varied terrain and wonderful wildlife, Madagascar is a great place to experience a safari. The remote island nation in the Indian Ocean, around 400 km off the coast of East Africa, boasts a unique ecological environment, enabling visitors to glimpse at some of the Endemic fauna and flora that can be found nowhere else on the earth. A focal point of its safari adventures are a number of national parks and game reserves, including Ranomafana National Park, Anja Community Reserve, Isalo National Park, Peyrieras Exotic Reserve, and Vakona Private Reserve. All Madagascar safaris include visits to at least one of these renowned destinations, while the island’s stunning, sun-kissed coastline provides the perfect place to kick back at the end of your wildlife-spotting exertions.
Bwindi Gorilla safaris
A large primeval forest located in south-western Uganda in the Kanungu District on the edge of the Albertine Rift, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest boasts exceptional biodiversity, with more than 160 species of trees and over 100 species of ferns. But the park is best known for its 450-strong population (at time of counting) of mountain gorillas, with the park itself created to protect the gorillas from poachers and habitat loss. Safari tours to Bwindi often showcase gorilla trekking as their flagship activity, but many trips also incorporate other regional highlights including visits to Queen Elizabeth National Park and border crossings into Rwanda.
Big Kenya Safaris
Of all Kenya’s world-class safari destinations, the Masai Mara National Reserve remains the jewel in the nation’s crown. An extension of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, together they constitute a huge ecosystem in which animals move freely. All large African animals are present here, including the Big 5, but also gazelles, impala, bushbuck, buffalo, Ellipsen waterbuck, and giraffe. There are also over 500 species of birds, while along the rivers, crocodiles and hippos lie in wait. Safaris in Masai Mara range from just a few days through to multiple-day excursions, with the longer tours also including several other national parks along the way, such as Lake Nakuru National Park and Amboseli National Park.
Etosha National Park classic safaris
Namibia’s foremost wildlife sanctuary, Etosha National Park is home to a unique and varied landscape, dominated by an immense salt pan edged by waterholes, guaranteeing rewarding wildlife viewing. A wide variety of species call the park home, including lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, cheetah, hyena, springbok, two kinds of zebra, eland and many more. One thing to look out for is rain, which sees the vast salt pan filled with rain water, attracting hundreds of thousands of flamingos. The park is also a nature photographer’s dream, with many lodges having private decks or verandas from which to observe the landscape. Tours to Etosha vary in length and often include visits to several other regional destinations including Victoria Falls on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Volcanoe National Park epic primate safaris
Located in the far northwest of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park encompasses five of the eight volcanoes in the Virunga Mountains: Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo. The park helps protect the steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range, which is home to the endangered mountain gorilla and a rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, including evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath. Tracking endangered mountain gorillas through the mysterious intimacy of the rain forest, alive with the calls of 200 species of colourful birds and the chattering of the rare golden monkey, is a truly unique experience, and one that can be enjoyed on a wide variety of organised safari adventures, ranging from 2-3 days through to epic 9-day trips.
Safari adventures on the Okavango Delta
One of the world’s largest inland deltas, the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana empties onto open land, flooding the savanna and creating a unique and ever-changing inland landscape. The Moremi Game Reserve occupies the east and central areas, where dugout canoes are used to navigate past hippos, elephants and crocodiles. On dry land, predators including lion, hyena, African wild dog, leopard, cheetah, and white and black rhinoceros have also adapted to life in the delta, as have many smaller creatures. Safari trips to Okavango offer the heart-stopping excitement of big game viewing, the serenity of an untouched delta, and evocative scenes of extraordinary natural beauty.