For many people, a safari seems like the ultimate bucket list activity. From the exhilarating feeling of getting up close and personal with the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and buffalo) to the endless beauty of sprawling plains and glistening waterways, there’s nothing quite like it. With so many countries and countless parks to choose from, it can be a challenge finding the right safari for you. While there’s no such thing as a bad safari, what kind of trip you’re looking for in terms of price, accommodation, and adventure level can determine the ideal destination. Whether you long for the exclusivity of a Zambia safari or the wow-factor of a Tanzania safari, keep reading for the best places to go on safari!
If you’re a first-timer looking for a classic experience, a Botswana safari may be for you! Chobe National Park, located in Northern Botswana, has one of the highest wildlife densities in Africa. It’s famous for its incredible elephant population, which is believed to be around 120,000. The park has become a haven for many of these gentle giants fleeing poachers in nearby countries. It’s best to visit during the country’s dry season (June-Oct), when wildlife converges on the Chobe River and other waterholes.
Another great choice of Botswana safari is the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta is breathtaking no matter the season, from streams evaporating into the desert air to floods breathing new life into the arid land. Canoe through the lush grasslands in a traditional mokoro, spotting hippos, giraffes, and buffalo—to name a few.
Home to some of the most iconic safari destinations, a Tanzania safari is a must! Visit the legendary Serengeti National Park for the finest game in Africa. Known for its versatility, the Serengeti is perfect for game drives, walking safaris, or even cycling, and there are accommodations suited to every kind of traveler. This site is famous for the Great Migration—when 1.4 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra move through the land. While traveling the Serengeti, head to Ngorongoro Crater to spot over 30,000 animals, from bull elephants to the elusive black rhino. The only downside to the area is that because it’s so popular, it can get quite crowded.
If you’re looking for a more remote destination, consider a Tanzania safari to the Selous Game Reserve. The land is larger than the Serengeti, but much less traveled; the combination of sprawling lands and a handful of lodges means you’re likely to see more wildlife than people.
Etosha National Park is the place to be for a Namibia safari. The beauty of Etosha is the animals come to you. The area is known for its salt pans and desert climate, with few waterholes. Since water is scarce, all you need to do is park by a water source and watch as animals come flocking. Public camps are set up alongside waterholes, which are floodlit at night, meaning you won’t have to stray from camp during the dry season (June-Nov). Unfortunately, the lack of rivers means you won’t come across any hippos or crocodiles, but the land is home to over 140 kinds of mammals. This park is more developed than most, resulting in roads and facilities that are ideal for self-drives and budget travelers.
If you long for a trip off the beaten path, then head on over for a Zambia safari. The country has long flown under the radar and is just starting to make a name for itself in the safari community, but that’s what makes it so great. Much less crowds and development for the more prominent safari destinations, Zambia offers an authentic feel and the essence of wilderness. The Luangwa River, in South Luangwa National Park, is world-renowned for the amount of game it attracts—the concentration is among the highest in Africa, especially as the dry season nears its end (Sept-Oct). You’ll find crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, and over 400 species of birds. This destination is also known as one of the world’s best walking safaris, providing a different perspective to the usual game drives.
The Lower Zambezi Valley offers another secluded Zambia safari. You’ll truly connect with the nature surrounding you and develop a deep connection with this untouched land. Visit here for a variety of wildlife, from the Big Five to countless species of birds. With camps set up on the serene riverbank, it’s the perfect place for all the water lovers! Fish along the shore and canoe the peaceful waters.
This northern extension of Tanzania’s Serengeti offers another front row seat to the Great Migration. Visit Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve to watch as wildebeest and zebra race through the grassland. The area is more accessible during the dry season (May-Oct), with peak migration between July and Oct. Kenya safaris are known for interactions with the locals. Immerse yourself in their culture—go on bushwalks, visit the nearby villages, and try your hand at warrior training.
South Africa Safari
Kruger National Park is famous in the South Africa safari circuit. Home to a wide array of wildlife, including over 500 bird species, this park is perfect for every traveler. There are budget options, luxury camping, wilderness trails, and self-drive options. While some purists may dislike the paved roads, there’s plenty of backroads and bush. Besides, its these paved roads that make Kruger National Park a feasible option year-round, even during the rainy season.
Addo Elephant National Park is another exciting choice of South African safari. Close to the bustling city of Port Elizabeth, this park is now a sanctuary to more than just elephants—you’ll find the Big Five, among many other animals. Addo Elephant National Park is the perfect family getaway destination. Trek short hikes, watch for whales off the coast, and horseback ride through the picturesque land.