A Guide to the Best African Safari National Parks for Any Traveler
Has the thought of going on a safari to Africa become even more of an obsession after more than a year of being in lockdowns thanks to Covid-19?
Wanderlust has become a real need for many travellers. The desire to visit Africa’s best national parks and game reserves to see wildlife in their natural habitat on a luxury or budget. African safari adventure has become a real need for many travellers.
Going on safari is mainly an interaction with the vast and beautiful African outdoors. With so many incredible wildlife safari destinations around the world to choose from, how do you know where to go for the best African safari?
So, if an African destination appeals to you, do your research and be part of the great migration to this beautiful part of the world…
The Best African Safari Tours By Country, the Classic Safari Experience
Your best African safari depends on what you’re looking for — is it a particular animal species you want to see in the wild, the type of safari holiday you’re interested in such as walking tours, game drives, camping, or luxury living, and who you’re travelling with. Safaris can be as varied as the continent itself.
If you fancy a safari in a national park, you’ve got plenty of choices — check out South Africa’s national parks, or maybe the Chobe national park, Zimbabwe’s national park, in Tanzania, which is not far from Victoria Falls, or perhaps the Hwange national park, or perhaps even the Mana Pools national park – bet you didn’t know there were so many national parks to discover on safari in this massive continent?
Tanzania is the size of California and offers spectacular wildlife photography opportunities. One of Africa’s top safari destinations and one of the best African countries for safari. The Wildlife viewing, is out of this world and big cats are especially easy to spot and photograph. All members of the big five are found in various Tanzanian parks and reserves, and all five are present in the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park, Serengeti is the best-known wildlife spectacle in the world.
Masai Mara National Reserve is divided between Tanzania and Kenya. The Tanzania side is extremely popular. Sometimes there are too many tourists for some travellers who perhaps want a more exclusive experience. If this is you, perhaps head to upmarket camps in the west. Read more about Masai Mara under Kenya.
2. Ngorongoro Crater
The Crater sits a short drive to the east and is still within the Serengeti Conservation Area. This volcanic caldera has 250 sq km of plains, forest and lakes, and an abundance of wildlife, including lions, elephants and black rhinos.
Ngorongoro Crater was once the centre of an enormous volcano, that collapsed when it erupted. Approximately 10 kilometres across and 30 meters deep with a rim that rises to a height of 1,233 meters. It is surrounded by a ring-wall, having an average width of about 5 kilometres and rises to heights between 2,500 and 3,000 meters on the north and south sides. The floor of the crater is covered in ash, lapilli, small blocks from the collapse of the volcano’s walls, and a few large rocks that survived its explosion.
3. Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is the know for its miles of grasslands and plains, where the wildlife embarks on an epic cyclical journey every year, as part of the Great Migration.
As the largest park in Tanzania, and is one of the most sought after photo safari destinations. It’s home to some amazing animals, including the Serengeti lion Pride. Millions of wildebeest migrate across its vast landscape every year during what has been coined “The Great Migration”. This park is a great place for anyone looking for the best African Safari experience.
The park has over 484 square miles of savannah, but our focus here is on the Serengeti Plains where you can watch thousands of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and waterbuck, all of which are part of the annual migration, make their way every year around March.
The driving time to the Serengeti National Park from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, is 6 hours and you can expect to see many of the animals in the Park, as well as the animals that call the Serengeti home. Our favorite time to visit is between December and February, when many of the animals are on their way to or returning from a water source.
The Serengeti is a Wildlife Paradise
It is the largest park in Tanzania and a must for any avid African photo safari fan. The Serengeti is world famous for its diverse wildlife and friendly Maasai people, which you’ll be able to interact with during your stay.
Whether you are looking for the best spot to photograph wildebeest, the Maasai culture, or simply for a breath of fresh air, you will find plenty to do in the park. Alongside the wildlife, Serengeti has numerous day and night game drives where you can chase big cats, or scout out the wildlife during the dark hours.
The most striking aspect of this park it is one of the few places where the photo safari experience on the move has never been so popular.
Get Close to the Lions
Lions are one of the largest predators in the Serengeti. With their massive size and spotted coats, they can be sighted lying on the plains, standing on the grass and walking across the road at any time of the year. Be sure to have your camera ready.
Make a trip to the Wildebeest Migration
Photographing the greatest migration of wildebeest is a dream come true for any avid wildlife photographer. The annual wildebeest migration is the largest mammal migration on earth, spanning over 800 kilometers. The timing coincides with the greening of nutritious grasses during the wet season, so animals can calve in relative safety. But as the plains dry, these animals are forced to move in search of greener pastures in the western corridor.
The wildebeest during this time of year comprised up to a hundred of thousands of animals, making up 60% of the total animal population in the entire Serengeti ecosystem. The stunning sights can be seen on foot and by vehicle, even from a a vast distance as the flood of wildebeest make its way southwards towards the Masai Mara.
Serengeti National Park is a truly amazing experience and one we had the pleasure of experiencing with local Tanzanians as opposed to travelers. We’re very glad we did. With many safari camps and lodges available in East Africa, it’s not too hard to find a well-located and well-run safari camp or lodge. Talk to the guides to gain a local’s perspective, as each location offers something different, and to really get a feel for East Africa, you need to go to the locals, not the tourists.
When you think of an African safari, you’re probably thinking about parks in East Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.
With its spectacular snow-capped mountains, vast sandy deserts, thick jungle and superb coastlines and beaches, Kenya has perhaps some of the best African safaris for any traveller.
Kenya is also one of the best places to visit if you want to see the Big Five of Africa. Lions, Cape buffalo, leopards, rhinoceros, wild dogs and elephant. And of course, don’t forget Victoria Falls.
5. Masai Mara National Reserve
Masai Mara National Reserve is a game reserve that is famous for its wildlife and open grasslands. One of the major highlights is The Great Migration, which takes place every year when wildebeest and zebra migrate in large numbers to the park’s water sources. Masai Mara Reserve also offers over 450 bird species in its diverse habitats. World-renowned for its abundance of lions, leopards, cheetahs and African bush elephants.
When thinking about the top safari destinations in Africa, Masai Mara is always at the top of the list. In southwest Kenya, near Tanzania, this premier national park offers everything you could want on a safari.
Botswana is known as ‘Africa’s last Eden’ and has grown as a safari destination free from fences and farmlands.
This means it is a vast wildlife haven with big game, from lions to herds of rhinos and buffalo. Its natural landscapes are incredible, from baobabs on the salt pans to its spectacular desert sands.
This Botswana safari destination is known for wilderness camping — you can spend a night or two outside the lodge and sleep under the stars.
In Botswana, there are over 130,000 elephants, more than anywhere else in the world, and other popular species include black-maned lions, big cats, herds of zebra, the rhino, hippos and a wide range of birds. 200,000 large mammals have their seasonal home in the Okavango Delta.
7. South Africa Kruger National Park
People tend to combine the best South African safari with a bit of sightseeing and shopping in Cape Town. Perhaps you’ll fancy a bit of luxurious hotel staying as well whilst you’re in Cape Town, as a break from safari lodgings.
The reserves and parks near Cape Town aren’t to be missed either. Win, win!
South Africa has a large game reserve in Kruger National Park, which makes it a perfect place for self-guided and first-time safari travellers. A game viewing safari has 22,000 sq km for all types of travellers, with plenty of rural landscapes to keep you more than happy.
The Big Five game viewing includes rhino species, cheetah, wild dog, numerous large herbivores and over 500 bird species. The habitat is really varied, from hills and deserts to woodland, rivers and forests.
Choose from exclusive lodges to large public camps and from night drives to wilderness trails. First-time safari travellers and those of you on a tight budget will probably find this one of Africa’s most accessible and most rewarding safari destinations.
8. Etosha National Park, Namibia
Etosha National Park is amazing, the abundance of wildlife is surprising. Some of the most common and rarest wildlife species live in the park. Areas with thick vegetation are home to elephants, zebras, the endangered black rhino and even the leopard. Lions are camouflaged in the pale golden colour of the grasslands, while giraffes rise-high above the dry vegetation.
Bird photographers will love the rainy season in Etosha. After a good rain, the salt pan fills with water, attracting an abundance of flamingos. There are over 340 bird species living in Etosha National Park. Ostriches the world’s largest bird, and the heaviest flying bird the Kori Bustard are residents of the park.
Aspiring photographers visit the park looking to enhance their skills and photo-library. In winter, the waterholes offer a unique opportunity to sit and wait for the wildlife to come to you. The waterholes that surround the camps ensure you are never left without something to photograph.
Animals in Etosha National Park
Watch real life battle for lions, leopards, and the cheetah are commonplace in Etosha. Surprisingly, lions are not the most common large-game species in Etosha National Park. A vast amount of game lives within the grasslands of the park, from zebras, giraffes, impalas, kudus and elephants. As you move through the park, you can often see lions enjoying the late afternoon sun. Just a few days into the park, you may have a sighting.
Etosha National Park a Photographer’s Haven
Etosha offers endless opportunities for photographic adventure and it’s no surprise that the big game reserves of Africa are very popular among wildlife enthusiasts, tourists, and photo-minded professionals.
However, to make the most of your trip to Etosha, you’ll need to research your destination, figure out where the best shots will be and plan your time wisely to make the most out of your stay.
Etosha National Park is split into two different areas: the dry and wet seasons are separated by a few days in August when the rains begin.
In the dry season (June- September) temperatures can reach 40 degree celsius, you’ll need to travel with plenty of water and sunscreen.
Etosha offers a unique opportunity to photography and experience some of the world’s most beautiful wildlife up close. Whether camping or the luxury hotel experience, Etosha National Park is the one of the best parks to full experience of wildlife in Africa.
9. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Visiting Hwange National Park during the dry season would be the best, which starts in June or July. The park is home to some of the most majestic animals on Earth. Including the big five lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes. There is also a high concentration of giraffes, zebras and African wild dogs.
Hwange National Park has a wide variety of activities for visitors, ranging from wildlife viewing to hiking through the bushveldt.
10. Zambia South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa National Park is one of the best-known national parks in Zambia. Home to a large range of hippos, crocodiles and lions. The river teems with wildlife and provides a lifeline of photographic opportunities of the greatest diversity of habitat and wildlife in all of Africa.
This National Park is one of Zambia’s most iconic and prized wildlife destinations. The wildlife of Zambia comprises a mix of animals from the Congo, Botswana and South Africa.
The park is bordered by a steep escarpment, and the other side is lined with lush grass. The Luangwa Valley lies at the tail end of Africa’s Great Rift System, extending 4 thousand kilometres from Cape Town to Mozambique, forming an incredible natural resource that has been unexplored until now.
The unfenced nature makes it possible for wildlife to be protected without being deterred by fences or walls.
11. Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls is a majestic waterfall on the Zambezi River. Not only does it provide habitat for many species of plants and animals, but this breathtaking cascade falls into two different countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It may not be the highest nor widest waterfall on Earth. However, Victoria Falls is the world’s largest sheet of falling water, making it a popular tourist attraction. The Falls has two islands on the crest that divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island and Livingston Island. The locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders”.
Do you want to see the world’s most beautiful animals up close? African safari tours are a great way to experience nature at its finest. You can go on an adventure of a lifetime and have incredible animal encounters that will make your heart pound faster than it ever could when watching a documentary. The national parks in East and Southern Africa present excellent opportunities for animal encounters that will make your heart pound faster than it ever could when watching a documentary. You won’t find another experience like this anywhere else on the planet!
Frequency Asked Questions
Where Are the Best African Safari Tours Guides?
The best guides are usually employed by the national parks or private game reserves. They are at the parks full time. They have the best experience and knowledge of the parks and will know where the animals linger in different seasons and where the best watering holes are.
How Many Days Do You Need for an African Safari?
Six to ten days is the optimal amount of time you’ll need for your safari experience. The more days, the better! Adding arrival and departure points will ensure that all necessary transportation arrangements can be made without leaving any gaps in sightseeing or game viewing.
How Do I Choose a Good Tour Operator?
This is the part where you decide how much you’re willing to spend for the best African Safari. This will help determine what kind of trip and when, so choose wisely! There are many safari companies out there for different countries in Africa that are a perfect fit for any adventure seeker’s bucket list. They offer tours from entry level to thousands of dollars a day.
Best Time for an African Safari?
Best time to go on an African Safari? I would suggest June through October during these months, you have a better chance of seeing lions in their natural habitat. However, the best time for an African Photo Safari is during the fall. The months of September, October, March or April are ideal because Africa’s seasons run opposite to North America’s.