An African safari is an adventure that’s unlike anything on earth, an experience that’s guaranteed to leave you with excellent memories with plans to return again.
However for many people, the word “safari” means very little. Instead it’s a vague description that’s often used to encompass any number of journeys that could be taken in Africa.
This is unfortunate, because safaris are as vast and varied as you can imagine with each country offering its own special blend of experiences, features and opportunities, making every destination different and unique with unexpected surprises.
For example, did you know that a safari in Tanzania can include a trip to world-class beaches with scuba diving, snorkeling, or boating? Or what about the fact Botswana is one of the few places in the world that you can see the Kalahari lion, famous for its beautiful black mane?
The fact is that each region, and safari, offers its own signature experience. Tour the beautiful semi-desert regions of Namibia, or visit the wide open plains of the savannah that stretch across much of Africa. See the lush, waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta or the thundering waters of Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe in the south.
There’s so much to see and do that you’re certain to find a destination that you love. The hard part, though, is deciding where to go.
While experienced safari-goers often have a must-see destination on their travel list, for everyone else, it can be difficult to know where to start. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
To help make your decision a bit easier, we’ve created this handy guide that will show what some of the best safari destinations in Africa has to offer.
Located in the south east of Africa, Tanzania is an ever-popular safari destination, and for good reason.
This country features excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, as well as a chance to view some of the continent’s most diverse and beautiful landscape. Home of the Great Wildebeest Migration, a cyclical migration which sees approximately 1.5 million wildebeest make their way across the Serengeti, Tanzania also offers a chance to see the world-famous wildebeest river crossing, where the vast herds brave the Mara River where hungry crocodiles await.
The great herds of grazing animals also means that predators like lion, cheetah, leopards, and hunting dogs will be nearby, and relatively easy to spot.
Tanzania is also known for its excellent national parks, with over 30 percent of the country dedicated to these reserves. These parks include the Serengeti National Park, one of the continent’s most famous, and best-loved reserves, as well as the Tarangire National Park, where you’ll see Baobab trees, and spot tree-climbing lions. It’s also home to the famous Ngorongoro Crater; one of the largest volcanic craters in the world, and an excellent place to spot the Big Five.
Finally, a superb way to wind down a Tanzanian safari is with a trip to the beautiful island of Zanzibar; famous for its white sand, blue waters and snorkeling opportunities.
Bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the south west of Africa, the country of Namibia is perhaps best known for its vast and wild landscape that includes the Namib dessert, as well as for its strange and fascinating rock formations.
Namibia is home to the beautiful semi-desert wilderness of Damaraland; a region that hosts the world’s largest black rhino population, as well as famous desert-adapted elephants that roam freely through the park.
Namibia is also the site of the world-famous dunes of Sossusvlei, found in the Namib Desert, a spectacular sight and a photographer’s dream (read about one photographer’s experience and see his fantastic photos of the Sossusvlei here). Namibia also features the striking and eerie coastline of the Skeleton Coast, known for its shipwrecks and dense fogs.
Check out my previous article for 10 Amazing Facts About Namibia and see what this vast and wonderful country has to offer.
In contrast to the vast wilderness of Namibia, the Okavango Delta of Botswana is a lush waterway, teeming with life.
This reserve offers excellent game viewing, including opportunities to spot the elusive Big Five, as well as many other rare and fascinating African animals.
It’s also home to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is located in the southwest corner of Botswana; this park spans both Botswana and South Africa, and is operated as a cooperative effort by both countries. This reserve features exclusive game viewing opportunities and the opportunity to see many rare African animals.
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And this is just the start, Botswana is also home to the awe-inspiring Makgadikgadi, the Savuti, Chobe National Park, the Moremi and much more (I dedicated a whole post to Botswana’s many attractions).
Botswana is considered to be some of the last untouched wilderness in Southern Africa, and the spectacular landscape, exclusive game-viewing, and many comfortable and beautiful lodges makes it a great destination for a luxury safari.
The country of Zambia many be landlocked, but there’s no shortage of water here.
This country is known for the breathtaking Zambezi River that runs along the border of Zimbabwe, as well as its world-famous waterfall, Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Zambia also features many permanent rivers that are a continual draw to wildlife, as well as visitors who enjoy canoeing and game viewing.
Many visitors arrive between June and October, during the dry season, since it’s easier to spot animals that congregate around water sources. But visiting Zambia during the “emerald” season; or, during the rains is a great time to capture beautiful, photographs of animals against a lush, green backdrop.
In fact, if you’re unsure when to go to any of the destinations in this article, take a look at my Month-By-Month Safari Guide.
It’s also worth noting, that Zambia offers a number of opportunities for night safaris; a great chance to spot elusive nocturnal animals, like the leopard, that would otherwise be difficult to see.
Located just below Zambia, Zimbabwe has much to offer to the avid traveler, and particularly appeals to those who are after a more rugged style of safari, without all the bells and whistles of upscale lodges.
This isn’t to say that accommodation in Zimbabwe is lacking though, as there are some select gems scattered throughout the country. Zimbabwe also features beautiful scenery, including Victoria Falls%