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An African safari experience is one of the most magical experiences you can have. Magnificent animals, rolling landscapes and the most colourful and passionate sunsets you will ever encounter. An safari in Africa will create memories which you will hold dear for a lifetime. But with so many safari destinations available across Africa, it is hard to know where to choose. There are luxury safaris, budget safaris and even ones involving marine mammals, it is easy to get quickly overwhelmed, which is why I asked some of the top travel bloggers from across the world to share the best safari destinations in Africa.
The best safari destinations in Africa
The best safari in South Africa
Lalibela Game Reserve, Port Elizabeth
Lalibela is a conservation project that currently consists of approximately 26,000 acres and is home to the Big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo & leopard) as well as other predators like cheetah, hyena, jackal and lynx. The guides who undertake the drives have a wonderful knowledge of every animal on site, as well as a great sense of humour – making for a great South African safari experience.
Aside from the wildlife, the accommodation is impeccable and worthy of its 5-star status. Private lodges look out onto the reserve with your own private decking area and a swimming pool is available during the warmer months.
When people ask me where the best place for a safari in Africa is, I always say Labibela. No matter where I have been since it always has remained my favourite, it is a place so full of life and happiness.
Nambiti Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal
Recommend by Proudly South African in Perth
Set in the heart of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, Nambiti Private Game Reserve is proof you don’t have to head to the north of the country to have an amazing game reserve experience in Africa.
Nambiti has 9 luxury lodges to choose from, 22,000 acres of bushland, and over 40 animal species including the Big 5. Ndaka Safari Lodge has luxury tents, all with outdoor showers and uninterrupted bush views. They give a real feel of being in the heart of the African bush yet still in the lap of luxury. It’s also one of the only lodges in Nambiti that allow kids on game drives making it ideal for families.
Game drives happen twice a day, and the rangers from all the lodges are in constant radio contact with each other to share their animal sightings. The Rangers also communicate in Zulu, so that they don’t spoil the surprise for the guests of what’s coming up, or disappoint them if the animal has moved on by the time you arrive. They never communicate about their rhino via radio though, only in person – they take their rhino conservation very seriously.
Nambiti has a policy of never allowing more than 1 or 2 vehicles up close to the animals. This makes it possible to get really up close and personal with them, even the big cats, as the animals are used to them and don’t get scared of vehicles in small numbers.
All game drives involve a stop for drinks and a leg stretch. Evening drives mean sundowners and snacks, morning drives mean coffee and hot chocolate with homemade rusks, and a dash of Amarula if you desire it!
For an unforgettable African safari, you can’t go wrong with Ndaka Safari Lodge and Nambiti Private Game Reserve.
Phinda Private Game Reserve
Recommend by My Adventures Across The World
The Kruger National Park
Recommend by Sol Salute
We did a mix of everything, but our favourite safaris were our self-drive safaris in Kruger. We saw just as many animals and were able to take it at own pace (which was priceless). Needless to say, you’ll have an excellent safari experience, regardless of how you choose to visit Kruger.
Aquila Private Game Reserve
Recommended by The Travelling Pinoys
Thanda Safari, Zululand
Recommend by The Boutique Adventurer
This 14,000-hectare private game reserve 260km north of Durban feels like being in another world! Thanda Safari is a stunning high-end luxury property that delivers this experience in a very relaxed fashion. It is more like visiting a great friend’s amazing home than a hotel!
The big 5 are in the reserve and if you stay for at least 2 days you are very likely to be able to see more of them. But Thanda offers so much more. One of the highlights for me was the free photography lesson with their resident wildlife photographer Christian Sperka. I learnt so much from this amazing teacher – and it is amazing what great shots you can get on your phone when on safari.
Thanda also has its own spa. A proper spa with a steam room, sauna, pool and treatment rooms in the middle of Zululand! The spa is beautifully furnished and luxurious but completely in keeping with the area and again so very relaxing and comfortable. My room or suite had two rooms, a fireplace, indoor and outdoor showers, private plunge pool, private bbq area. Honestly, it was difficult to leave the wonderful lodge to go out on the even more fantastic game drives.
The big advantage of private game reserves is how close you are able to get to the animals vs national parks and at Thanda, we could almost touch some of the big 5.
Klaserie Private Game Reserve
Recommended by The Travelling Stomach
Hluhluwe Game Reserve
Recommended by Wapiti Travel
Kruger may be the most famous Safari in Africa but we loved Hluhluwe just as much. It would be wrong to skip Hluhluwe just because you visited Kruger, both parks are really different. The natural landscape in Kruger is mostly open, flat and arid. This makes it relatively easy to spot wildlife but we actually loved the wooded and hilly landscape of Hluhluwe more. The view over the park from the top of the hills is impressive. I would say that Hluhluwe is worth a visit just for its landscape and the photogenic umbrella trees. That would, of course, do harm to the big 5, the real stars of any safari.
You can spot all of the big 5 in Hluhluwe and Hluhluwe is even considered to be the best park to spot the Rhino. The scenery makes it a little harder to spot animals but nevertheless, we saw many rhinos, zebras, warthogs, giraffes and plenty of colourful birds.
The best safari in Zimbabwe
Recommended by Wanderlibre
The best safari in Mozambique
Mozambique Ocean Safari
Recommended by Monday Feelings
Doing an ocean safari is something that had never occurred to us. Nevertheless, when we were travelling around the coast of Mozambique, all we heard from other travellers was how amazing was the safari in deep water. As well as seeing many humpback whales, fishes, turtles, manta rays and dolphins, you had a pretty good chance to spot and swim with the whale shark, the gigantic – and vegetarian – shark that populate the area.
A couple of biologist friends who were travelling with us and were professional divers convinced us that it was worth paying around $50 to have this experience. So there we went. We didn’t know exactly what to expect. We met our group in the morning, at the company’s office. Over there, they explained a bit of what was going to happen and gave us some coordinates too, such as holding tight to the boat, wearing some specific clothes in the sea to avoid jelly fish sting and so on.
We were around eight passengers, the pilot and two other staff responsible to spot the animals from a distance. Once spotted, they would point it to the driver and to the rest of us.The tour lasted for around 3 hours and it was great. We saw many dolphins and humpback whales. They were breaching and sometimes even seemed to be waving for us, enjoying all the attention they were getting from the tourists. It was mesmerising. However, we were running out of time, and nothing about the so-wanted whale sharks.
But we had a very persistent captain, going at full speed, trying to find our gigantic friend. We had all already came to terms that we were going back to shore without seeing the whale shark. Though, at the very last minute, we finally found a massive black shadow just next to our boat: “The whale-shark, guys! Jump in!” he screamed at us.We were a bit shocked! We had never been in the water with such animals and Tiago was going crazy about jump in the water with a “shark”. But as everyone was getting in the water, so we did.
We can’t describe the peacefulness and marvellous experience it was swimming so close with this beautiful six-metres long animal. We stayed there for half an hour. Just our group, the whale shark and the vast ocean. Down in the water, it was his rules, and all we could do was to follow his rhythm. An incredible life-changing experience we definitely recommend to everyone visiting Mozambique.
The best safari in Swaziland
Mkhaya Game Reserve
Recommended by Planet Pilgrims
One of my best safari experiences in Southern Africa was, without a doubt, a stay at Mkhaya Game Reserve in Swaziland where we enjoyed a late afternoon jeep safari and an early morning walk to track rhinos. It is an authentic safari destination with incredible wildlife and encourages guests to really immerse themselves in nature.
During the evenings a magical atmosphere is created with candles and paraffin lanterns. When we came back from our game drive it was as if we arrived in a fairy tale. Just beautiful. Dinner is enjoyed in the boma area around the fire where all lodge guests get together and share the sightings of the day. Stone Camp offers ‘open’ cottages without windows. In the morning we found Nyala peacefully grazing next to our cottage. Children older than 10 years are allowed to stay in the camp. We experienced a thrilling walking safari at Mkhaya where we got up close and personal with Rhinos. It was truly magnificent. I feel Mkhaya Game Reserve is the hidden gem of Southern Africa where you can experience a safari similar as in Botswana but at a fraction of the price.
Find accommodation in the Mkhaya Game Reserve
The best safaris in Kenya
Masai Mara Nature Reserve
Recommended by The World in a Weekend
The vast dusty plains of the Masai Mara stretch out as far as the eye can see. Located in southwest Kenya, it is dotted with bushes, trees and cloud shadows; forming the backdrop to part of Africa’s most diverse and spectacular ecosystems.
Famous for it’s safari big game viewing, you’ll be able to spot the “big five” which includes lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinoceros. But you’ll also be able to see a cornucopia of other animals including zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, hyenas, hippopotami, crocodiles, cheetahs, jackals, gazelles, topi, elands, antelope, impalas and the bat eared fox. On top of these fascinating animals there’s a huge variety of birds including vultures, storks, hornbills, ostriches, eagles, falcons and the beautiful lilac-breasted roller, the national bird of Kenya.
One of the most amazing natural sights in the world is to witness the great migration, where millions of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and topi migrate to find fresh pastures. From July these animals journey north from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara and return south in October. This perilous expedition means they must evade predators on both land and water and involves crossing the great Mara river.
From the moment you touch down (or drive) into the Masai Mara you are immersed in nature and wildlife. You’ll see cheetahs taking down wildebeest, lion cubs playing in the grass, giraffes gliding past elephants trumpeting, and crocodiles silently waiting in the shallow waters. The sheer number of animals on the plains and witnessing their interactions just meters from you is exhilarating, exciting and unforgettable. Add to the mix the stunning sunsets, scenic views and friendly locals and you’ll understand why the Masai Mara is such an incredible and humbling African safari destination.
Samburu National Reserve
Recommend by the Conversant Traveller
The Samburu National Reserve is a bit different to the more famous safari destinations in Kenya such as the Masai Mara. Yet it’s just as good for wildlife sightings, and personally I think the landscape is much more impressive, with its wide savannah plains, dry riverbeds and high rocky mountain escarpments. Rather than having the Big Five, the Samburu is home to some rather unusual creatures that make up the ‘Special Five’, including the Grevy’s Zebra, Somali Ostrich and the Gerenuk, an antelope that stands on its hind legs to eat the leafy shoots on tree branches. Quite an odd sight! There are plenty of big cats roaming around too, and we saw multiple lions and even leopards during our three day stay.
Safari lodges in the Samburu are world class, and the bush breakfasts overlooking the riverbed were stunning, with a different wildlife show each morning. The reserve is far less crowded than many others in Kenya, making it a much more exclusive experience, one where you don’t have to share your sightings with countless other safari vehicles.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Recommended by The Expat Mummy
Kenya is the safari capital of the world and is with a doubt one of the best safari in Africa. It has even won the title four times in a row. It is not hard to see why, staggering landscapes, balmy weather and magnificent quantities of wildlife. Whilst most visitors head off to the Maasai Mara or Tsavo the best safari park, in my opinion, is Ol Pejeta on the foothills of Mount Kenya.
Ol Pejeta is home to the only two surviving Northern White Rhinos in the world. It is also the only place in Kenya that you will see Chimpanzees. It’s a vast sprawling park and its various habitats are home to all the Big 5. Its 90,000 acres provides a sanctuary for other endangered species. Ol Pejeta cares for its African Wild Dogs, Grevy’s Zebra and Cheetahs.
Ol Pejeta tends to be quieter than the very touristy Mara parks, and lots of cars and humans mean fewer sightings of wildlife, on my last trip to the park we must have seen over 100 elephants. Ol Pejeta is an easy 3-hour drive from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and there is accommodation ranging from luxurious to bush camps all within the park.
Accommodation at Ol Pejeta Conservancy: Sweetwaters Serna Camp
Hell’s Gate National Park
Recommend by Over the Edge of the Wild
The Kiswahili word for ‘journey’, safari is one of the most popular experiences for tourists on the African continent. There are many places that provide the opportunity to see wildlife up close, but Hell’s Gate National Park in the Rift Valley province of Kenya is something unique. Visitors to the park are not limited by having to stay with the tour group, inside their vehicle. Instead, they are able to independently explore on foot or by bicycle or motorcycle, and the truly adventurous are even able to camp.
Luckily, lions and other big cats are rarely seen in the park, but a variety of other animals, including giraffes, zebras, gazelles, wildebeest and warthogs roam freely. Keeping in mind that they are wild animals, it is recommended that visitors maintain a safe distance (particularly from wildebeest, which have been known to attack) but the chance to see these magnificent animals without barriers is quite amazing.
Hell’s Gate National Park was also the inspiration for the setting of Disney’s The Lion King, and visitors can climb Fischer’s Tower to have their own experience of the view from Pride Rock. The Ol Njorowa Gorge, located within the park, was the setting for Scar’s betrayal of Mufasa, and it’s worth the hike down into the gorge to experience the view for yourself.
Amboseli National Park
Recommended by The German Backpacker
One of the best safari destinations of Africa is certainly Amboseli national park in Kenya! This safari park is located in the south of the country, directly at the border to Tanzania. What makes Amboseli so special is its breath-taking location directly in front the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro! While I was a little bit unlucky with the weather and the mountain was hiding behind clouds for most of the time, you’ll have an incredible view on a sunny day.
Amboseli national park is also full of wildlife and especially known for its huge herds of elephants, which are roaming around the park. Although I spent only one full day in Amboseli, I had no issues spotting four of the famous “Big 5” – only the rhino was missing! Believe me, you certainly won’t have any issues to spot animals here. By the way: If you want to save some money, there are a few cheaper camps and accommodation options just outside of the park. A safari in Kenya is a must when visiting Africa, and Amboseli should be high on your bucket list!
Getting ready to pack for your safari experience? You may find safari packing guide useful.
The Best Safaris in Botswana
Chobe National Park
Recommended by Reflections on Route
We love a safari! One of the first safaris, and therefore maybe the most memorable, was when we did a self-drive in Botswana. Chobe National Park sits right on the border of Zambia and Botswana, and we’d arrived in the late afternoon after taking the ferry across the Zambezi River. We were itching to see some great wildlife, so we dropped our bags and signed up for one of the small evening boat cruises. The park edges up to the Chobe River, and animals of all kinds can be viewed from the boat.
We had an exciting evening cruise, and saw everything from warthogs to wildebeests. Our favourites were the hippos and elephants that were swimming alongside of us in the water. We did have an exciting National Geographic moment when a hippo came out of the water, mouth open, baring his barrel-sized teeth. Thankfully we left, so he won that territory battle.
The next day, we were up right at dawn and jumped in our truck to see if we could find the big 5. Self-driving brought its own set of unique views and challenges as we learned to drive in the park. Etiquette dictated that when you passed another non-commercial vehicle, you’d roll down the window and share info. This sharing allowed us to see a pride of lions having a tasty meal of elephant, and we were able to tell some folks where to find giraffes. Chobe is a fantastic national park, and the safari viewing is top notch.
Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Recommended by Travel For Wildlife
The Kalahari Desert spans three countries: Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana. One of the ways to experience this incredible desert (technically a semi-desert) is by visiting the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana.
This is a destination reserved for adventurers and self-sufficient travellers. It is a place so wild that you might not see another visitor for days. Only accessible by 4×4 vehicle, the Central has no services at all (no gas, no water, no electricity, and no cell coverage). During the wet season, when the deep sand transforms into sticky mud, it is best to travel in groups.
This is the land of black-maned lions, meerkats, cheetahs, and desert-adapted antelopes like gemsbok and springbok. Campsites are few, far between, and unfenced. Yes, unfenced campsites in big predator land. Be aware that wildlife like lions and leopards may walk by your tent at any time of day or night. If you want to experience wilderness and solitude on a safari, the Central Kalahari is a great option.
Recommend by Show Them The Globe
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the most beautiful places on the planet and our trip into the Delta was a bucket list journey fuelled by our love for Africa and its wildlife. The Okavango’s network of meandering waterways are home to some of the world’s greatest wildlife and the remote location only adds to its allure.
From the moment we soared over the vast plains of the Delta in Northern Botswana in our tiny jet we were caught in its magic. Our wildlife encounters were incredible: we were woken at 3am to hippos splashing under our bedroom deck, we enjoyed evening sundowners to the soundtrack of lions roaring across the Okavango plains, we watched in awe as a 3 day old elephant took its first tentative steps in the wilderness and held our breaths as a cheetah expertly stalked its prey. We navigated the meandering waters in a mokoro, a traditional narrow canoe used in the Okavango, absorbing our surreal surroundings and appreciating the beautiful silence. A journey into the Okavango is truly the trip of a lifetime to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Recommended by The Stingy Nomads
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park located in the southern Kalahari desert is formed by the fusion of National parks in South Africa and Botswana. The red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and dry riverbeds mould one of the best places in the world to see the big cats; lion, leopard and cheetah. Camping in the Kgalagadi is the best way to experience the park, sitting around the fire looking at millions of stars and lying in your tent at night listening to the hyenas laughing or a lion roar are memories of the African bush you will treasure forever.
With no elephants, rhinos or buffaloes it is not a place to see the big 5, it is however an excellent place to see top of the food chain predators in action, with plenty of cats and many photographers come to capture the majestic black-maned Kalahari lions.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is also famous for hosting the smaller inhabitants of the Kalahari; the bat-eared fox, meerkat, ground squirrel and the beautiful cape fox; with a bit of luck you can even spot a Honey Badger (Ratel) or Pangolin (Scaly Anteater). Plenty of action is offered by watching predators and scavengers such as hyenas, jackals and the birds of prey interact in this desolate landscape teeming with predators.
The best safaris in Uganda
Murchison Falls National Park
Recommended by the Bizarre Globehopper
Bwindi National Park
Recommended by Bren on the Road
If you ever make it to East Africa, one thing that is absolutely non-negotiable is the gorilla trek. I did my gorilla trek in the Bwindi National Park in Uganda (there are also options around the shared border in Rwanda and DR Congo) and it is still one of my fondest travel memories after all these years. The gorillas are a highly endangered species and are protected in this park. Trained rangers will track the gorillas for you, and you’ll spend up to an hour actually walking through the jungle with them, sometimes no more than ten or twenty metres away from them. Seeing a silverback gorilla in the wild is definitely something you won’t soon forget, and the experience is a must for any wildlife lover.
The best safaris in Rwanda
Akagera National Park
Recommend by Mini Travellers
Akagera National Park is located in the northeast of Rwanda along the border with Tanzania. Although the park began life in 1934, the park was significantly reduced in size following the genocide and reduced in size by half to its current size. A joint venture with African Parks in 2010 has seen Akagera National Park return to life with the return of larger animals such as leopard, hyena, lion and black rhino. After the introduction of the black rhino earlier this year, Akagera National Park has regained its ‘Big 5’ status.
Akagera National Park is beautiful that cannot be doubted and is home to an inordinate amount of birds, official sources say close to 500 species, but the big game is harder to see. Whilst the size of the park has been reduced, the number of animals that call Akagera home has yet to return to its pre-genocide numbers, meaning the animals can hide easily if they decide to do so. So why should you go?
You should go because you could still in 2019 pretty much have the place to yourselves. You can spend time on the lake and not see another soul, you can eat breakfast just you and the hippos and you can be there to support the place grow.
The best safari in Mauritius
Blue Safari Mauritius
Recommended by Globe Trotter Guru
My recent Safari was a little bit different, my honeymoon in Mauritius presented the opportunity to do a Blue Safari. Mauritius is geographically classed as Africa but lies on the border of Africa and Asia in the Indian ocean.
Our underwater Safari was by Submarine from Mont Choisy Bay in the North of the island, after boarding a small boat to get us to the mothership, we then descended into our sub – the BS600. Only two of these submarines are available for tourists worldwide – the other is in Bora Bora. This submarine gives a full panoramic view of the ocean bed, it is also electric and battery powered, so very eco-friendly. It’s a great way to get up close to marine life if you can’t or don’t want to SCUBA, on our decent alone we immediately saw large blue and yellow surgeon fish. Circling the shipwreck of ‘Starhope’ we also discovered Sea Anemones, Clown fish, Butterfly Fish and Lion Fish. People have also reported seeing turtles and eels with the Blue Safari.
Mauritius is one of the top destinations to see marine life, so think outside the box when choosing your Africa safari destination and take a safari under the sea.
Looking for more wildlife experiences across the world? Or interested in wildlife tourism in general? Have a listen to my podcast series ‘ The Wildlife Tourist‘.
The Wildlife Tourist is a podcast for animal lovers. On each episode, we discuss a different destination popular for seeing wildlife or different ways you can interact with animals abroad.
The Wildlife Tourist only features ethical and responsible wildlife tourism and has a big focus on preserving the planet we call home.
The best safaris in Tanzania
Tarangire National Park
Recommended by Safari Junkie
Tarangire National Park is heaven for elephant lovers! Not the biggest among Tanzanian parks, only 2500 square km. but definitely worth a visit for a day. Due to relative proximity to Arusha, (three hour ride bycar) its also perfect choice for a day trip when you don’t have a time for full safari tour that includes more distant parks like Serengeti or Ngorongoro.
Besides, Tarangire, both, for proximity and variety of animals is great place for families with small children. Besides elephants, there is large population of zebras. Other animals include hippos, giraffe, African buffalo, lions and leopards. If you are looking for additional activities, lodges outside of the park offer walking safaris, night safaris, bush dining, and perhaps you would opt for Tarangire hot air balloon flight over the park and enjoy the wildlife from the air. The best time to visit Tarangire National Park for viewing wildlife is between June and October when large herds are migrating into the park, and the vegetation has thinned out. This is also the dry season in Tarangire National Park.
Serengeti National Park
Recommended by Life of Doing
Serengeti National Park is one of the must-see destinations when going on a safari in Tanzania. It’s a huge park known as the “endless plains” as you see the flatlands span for miles and miles. If you’re looking for wildlife, this park has it all from birds, hippos, cheetahs, and more.
It’s a popular destination to see the migration of the wildebeests and zebras. Don’t worry. The migration happens all year round and you can’t miss them as they line up in a row walking to their next destination. You may also see the “Big 5” animals – lions, African buffaloes, elephants, leopards, and rhinoceros (although we didn’t see any during our visit as they are rare). We loved our four days travelling through Serengeti and would have loved to stay longer. One of the highlights was seeing the circle of life as we saw a pride of lions eating a wildebeest for breakfast. It was interesting to see the hyenas and jackals strategising to get leftover scraps from the lions. Definitely add this park to your Africa safari list.
Experience a miracle of nature and see the great migration in the endless plains of the Serengeti. Get up close to animals in the wild on a 5-day safari to the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.
Recommended by Journey With Georgie
My favourite safari destination is the beautiful Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. The name of the crater is drawn from the Maasaai phrase for ‘the Gift of Life’, and as soon as you enter the crater you will see how apt the name is. The crater was created when a volcano collapsed on itself several million years ago, creating a large indent of about 260 square kilometres. More than 25,000 animals live in the crater – so the density of wildlife is amazing.
While with many safari destinations in Africa, you need to travel long distances to spot animals, in Ngorongoro, wherever you are, you are surrounded! The density also means you’re more likely to see the ‘circle of life’ in action in Ngorongoro, as prey (like gazelle) and predators (like lions) live in very close proximity.
Not only can you see all of the most well-known African animals, including elephants, buffalo, zebras, lions and gazelle, but the crater is one of the few places where Black Rhinos still reside. As well as the animals, just the views are simply jaw-dropping. The sight of the sun rising over the crater was undoubtedly one of the best moments of my three months in Africa: a real “pinch yourself” moment.
Book your Ngorongoro Full Day Safari Tour now
The best safari in Namibia
Recommend by the Travelynn Family