It is a question as old as time: I want to go on safari, but how do I know where to go? Believe me, we have heard it many times before! When you first have the idea to go on safari you could spend days if not weeks researching all of your options. That is where a dedicated travel planner comes in handy to do all the hard work for you. So if you’re wondering how to pick where to go on safari, we’ve got just the guide for you! This is our beginner’s guide to planning a safari to help you understand the different regions, countries and activities on offer throughout Africa.
Where to go on Safari in Africa
Southern Africa is often the first choice for new visitors to Africa. South Africa itself is often the first port of call, with any travelers opting to add the likes of Botswana or Namibia to their itinerary for something unique and more off the grid. However, there is much more to choose from. If you fancy a bucket list item check off, Zambia and Zimbabwe are also great choices. Both of these countries border the Zambezi River (one either side). The river is of course the gateway to the world-famous Victoria Falls, some of the largest in the world. So, what are you waiting for? Here’s how to choose where to go on a safari in Southern Africa.
South Africa is often the first country of choice for new safari goers. As one of the more developed African nations, it is a great place to start if you are nervous or unsure about visiting Africa. Believe us, there is no need to be! But we understand how it feels visiting a new place for the first time.
South Africa offers a lot of options, too. You might have already heard or read about Kruger National Park, which is one of the most recognized names. There is an abundance of lodges to choose from in this park, so it is often a top choice. Neighbouring Sabi Sands, which shares a fenceless border with Kruger, offers similar wildlife viewing but is more exclusive. Most of the highest level of luxury lodges are located here in Sabi Sands.
Then of course you have your lesser known reserves that are equally is impressive. Phinda Game Reserve is a great choice for animal conservationists, or travelers wishing to contribute more to conservation efforts. AndBeyond does an incredible job of educating visitors as well as the local communities, on the importance of conservation.
Then you have Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa’s North West Province, very close to the border of Botswana. This is another hidden gem not many travelers discover on their first visit. It is quite popular among local South Africans, so you will often find this a great choice to mingle with others. It is also a fantastic malaria-free option for those traveling with younger children or who don’t want to take malaria tablets.
There are of course many more destinations within South Africa and we’d be lying if we didn’t say Cape Town is a huge drawcard for this destination! Although it is a city, many travelers add a stopover in Cape Town to their safari adventure. Be sure to allow at least a few days in the city, plus a few days in the Cape Winelands if you’re not short on time.
Just next door in Botswana adventure awaits. Botswana is said to be the most authentic safari destination and once you’ve visited, you will soon see why. Over in Botswana the experience is much more rugged and real. There aren’t fences to keep animals within an area (unlike in South Africa) and the safari experiences feels like a discovery. Perhaps because you never know what to expect!
The Okavango Delta is where most safari travelers will choose to visit. This oversized wetland has come to be known as the river that never meets the sea. Every year the Delta floods in the Winter months, which attracts many animals to the area and makes for an incredible wildlife experience.
Elsewhere in Botswana, we are absolutely besotted with the Kalahari Desert. Despite being close geographically to the wetlands of the Okavango Delta, the experience in the Kalahari could not be any more different.
A land of extreme isolation, Namibia has a lot to offer the nomadic traveler. It has become a top spot for photography enthusiasts, with its endless plains and dramatic desert dunes. But if you’re looking to spend a good amount of time here, there are many sides to Namibia. It all depends how many days or weeks you have to discover this destination!
Sossusvlei Desert is by far and large the crowning jewel of Namibia. Literally translating to “dead marsh”, the large empty salt pan is surrounded by incredible red sand dunes. But what might surprise you is that you can actually climb these sand dunes and get a birdseye view over the desert beneath you. It is not an easy feat, but one to tell the grandkids that’s for sure!
Etosha National Park is another great destination in Namibia for the wildlife lovers. If you are determined to make your time in Namibia a wildlife safari as well, there really is no better destination than Etosha.
Zambia is next up on our list because the people are incredibly hospitable, the wildlife is plentiful and the safari experience feels very real and raw. There are many great reasons to make your way to Zambia, but these are our favourite:
Victoria Falls is without a doubt the biggest drawcard for visitors to Zambia. These impressive waterfalls mark the tail end of the Zambezi River and are known to be one of the largest waterfalls in the world (depending on who you ask – they might just be the largest!)
Then there are many great National Parks to choose from, especially if you are looking for a traditional safari experience. You will see plenty of wildlife regardless of the season and to be honest, it is difficult to choose just one National Park to recommend our clients! But we often choose to send travelers to South Luangwa National Park as the wildlife viewing is incredible and the lodges are simply beautiful.
Just across the River Zambezi you will find Zimbabwe, which shares the border with Zambia to the river and the impressive Victoria Falls. Thus you could choose either country to experience the falls and for the daredevils out there, you might consider visiting Devil’s Pools on the Zimbabwean side of the river.
Elsewhere in Zimbabwe, you can’t miss the opportunity visit Hwange National Park in the west of the country. This area is renowned for being home to large elephant herds, thanks to its vast grasslands and mopane woods. Here you will also have the opportunity to track wild dogs and many other predators who call this bushland home.
Ready to book? Check out our itinerary “Waterfalls and Wildlife” in Zambia and Zimbabwe!
Over in East Africa, safaris have stood the test of time. If you ever considered yourself born in the wrong era, then be prepared to step back in time to where the safari experience began. Buckle up, you’re in for one incredible adventure!
Kenya is one of Africa’s most popular choices for safari-goers and it isn’t hard to see why. Before you even leave Nairobi (the capital city) you have the opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal at the incredible Giraffe Manor. And while securing a night here is never easy, our team of travel specialists can always try to pull some strings to get you in there!
Then of course you have the ever popular Maasai Mara, one of Africa’s most visited National Parks. This incredibly vast area covers more than 1,500 square kilometres and hosts an incredible display of African wildlife.
If you are looking for something a little more off the beaten path, consider including Lake Nakuru in your travel plans. Here you can witness a beautiful display of flamingoes who call the lake home.
But as this is one of the most popular choices for safari-goers, you’d better believe there is plenty more to choose from! You can also include a visit to Mount Kenya, a great opportunity to hit the trails for the adventurous travelers out there. Tsavo East National Park offers ample wildlife viewing opportunities with fewer crowds, making it a great addition to your trip. Or of course you could make a pit stop at Amboseli National Park for a night of glamping under the African sky.
Next door in Tanzania the wildlife is equally as impressive as Kenya, which of course is best experienced in the incredible Serengeti National Park (bordering the Maasai Mara in Kenya). The Serengeti is best visited during the Great Migration when hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra make their way North. It is an incredible sight to see, but should certainly be booked in advance.
Then of course you have the incredible Mount Kilimanjaro for active travelers wishing to seek out their adrenaline fix on the mountain. We have some great guides who will take you to the summit every step of the way in this life-changing multi-day trek.
Another favourite choice for our clients is to stay a couple of nights at the ethereal Ngorongoro Crater, an ancient Olduvai Gorge. The landscape in this part of Tanzania is unlike anything else you will see across Africa.
While still technically within Tanzania, the island of Zanzibar deserves its own recognition and accolade (you’ll soon see why!)
This is where island time kicks in, coconuts are sipped slowly on the beach and the breeze is welcomed to give reprieve from the tropical heat. Sound like paradise? We think it is! Zanzibar is affectionately known as a post-holiday holiday destination, best enjoyed after a traditional safari.
Wondering where to stay? Our team of travel experts plan incredible bespoke itineraries in Zanzibar and beyond. If a private island tickles your fancy, we know just the spot!
Rwanda has become synonymous with animal conservation and for good reason. This landlocked country in the heart of East Africa has become a sanctuary for mountain gorillas. And what more could you ask for than to see these creatures in the wild?
We plan bespoke itineraries to Rwanda to help you see the best of the country from start to finish. We’ll take you on the trip of a lifetime as you visit Volcanoes National Park and experience mountain gorillas up close. Interested to know more? Check out our sample itineraries in Rwanda!
Lastly, we have only great things to share with you about the whimsical landscapes on offer in Uganda. Neighbouring Rwanda, this country shares many similarities but also many differences. When you are trying to pick where to go on safari in Africa, Uganda might not be your first choice. But it certainly pays off to travel (and think) outside the box!
So, what are you waiting for?