Come away with us to a wild, wild land. Such is the pull of the best African safari parks that we guarantee you’ll be coming back for more.
Hauntingly beautiful, Africa’s timeless landscapes have inspired safari dreams for centuries. On one hand lies the endless plains of the Masai Mara separated only by a man-made border from the golden Savannah of the Serengeti National Park. On the other, there’s every first-time safari goer’s dream destination Kruger National Park. The endless, untouched inland waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, and the dense, lush jungles of Volcanoes National Park – African safari parks are untamed, diverse and breathtaking.
For many, Africa is a lifelong love affair. For the first-timer however, the choices between African safari parks can be mind-boggling. Before you decide where to go, stop and consider what you wish to see and do. We’ve made a list of our favorite African national parks to make the choice easier for you.
Sounds of the Wild at Sabi Sand, Kruger
Sabi Sand Private Reserve offer exclusive and unique game viewing experiences and luxurious accommodation.
Kruger, one of the largest national parks in Africa, is only slightly smaller than Belgium! Flanked by two rivers, dense forests, savannahs and hills crisscross this popular African wildlife destination, with plenty of animals including the African big five – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes – and over 500 species of birds, calling it home. That’s not all – there are reportedly hundreds of heritage sites within the park borders, including those dating back to the Stone Age! Just outside the un-fenced border to the west, Sabi Sand Private Reserve offer exclusive and unique game viewing experiences and luxury safari camps in South Africa.
How to get to Sabi Sand Private Reserve
Sabi Sand is easily accessible from the Nelspruit airstrip to the south of Kruger, via flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. You could also take a flight to Skukuza Airport inside Kruger National Park. From either of the airports, you can easily hire a car and drive to Kruger, or have your hotel pick you up.
What to see at Sabi Sand Private Reserve
Originally established to protect wild animals from hunting and poaching, Kruger now boasts hundreds of animal and bird species. Set on its open border, Sabi Sand is particularly well known for leopards that are regularly found lurking on treetops or casually strolling about. Owing to its numerous watering holes, this private reserve is a hotbed for hordes of animals including the African big five – the animals that were most difficult to hunt. Just as popular are Sabi Sand’s African small five – leopard tortoise, ant lions, rhino-beetles, red-billed buffaloes and elephant shrews, which are regularly spotted in the bushveld.
When to go to Kruger
Kruger is great at any time of the year since the rains there are far less powerful than in other popular safari parks in East Africa. Many consider the winter months between May and October as the best time to visit Sabi Sand in Kruger, when the wildlife gathers at watering holes and are easy to view, sometimes from the comfort of your lodge. It’s also a great time for birdwatching.
Where to stay at Sabi Sand Reserve in Kruger
Londolozi Founder’s Camp
Set by the tranquil Sands River, Londolozi Founders Camp offers three beautifully furnished suites and a sparkling swimming pool for those leisurely post-safari soaks.
Arathusa Safari Lodge
Set in a prime location close to the boundaries of Kruger, expect quiet luxury under thatched roofs and a high concentration of animals and birds at the seasonal watering hole.
South Africa: Western Cape and Kruger
9 Days: $ 4,390 / person
Masai Mara: Mile After Incredible Mile
The classic Africa of your dreams, the Mara is perfect for wildlife safaris and unique excursions.
The quintessential Africa of documentaries, the Masai Mara’s open plains are the stuff of legends. Giraffes glide gracefully across the golden landscape, stopping here and there to nibble from the occasional acacia in this southwestern part of Kenya. Millions of wildebeest, impala, buffaloes, gazelle and huge herds of elephants graze on these iconic grasslands, followed closely by freely roaming big cats – lion, leopards and cheetahs.
How to get to Masai Mara
Plenty of short daily flights operate between Nairobi, Kenya‘s capital, and Masai Mara’s airstrips. You can also drive down to the Mara; although this requires a seven or eight hour drive through famously bumpy roads, it’s the ideal way to see the local culture while you pass by rural villages and to soak in the gorgeous scenery at your own pace.
When to go to Masai Mara
Typically warm and dry throughout the year, the best time to visit Masai Mara is between the dry months of July to October, when grazing ground is scarce and animals gather at watering holes.
What to see at Masai Mara
The classic Africa of your dreams, the Mara is perfect for wildlife safaris throughout the year. You’ll easily spot hundreds of animals on any given day at these open savannahs, and with some luck, some of Africa’s most famous – lions, elephants, cheetahs and buffaloes. Sightings of smaller predators such as hyenas, jackals and foxes can be just as rewarding, with many animals working in packs to bring down their big meal of the day! It’s also a popular destination for the Great Migration enthusiasts, with about 1.5 million wildebeest passing through every year in search of fresh grazing ground.
Where to stay at Masai Mara
There are plenty of options for staying within the national park to suit every interest and budget. Just outside the reserve, private conservancies offer secluded, intimate accommodation and far more interesting excursions such as nighttime game drives and visits to traditional Maasai villages.
Set by the Talak River inside the conservancy, this Maasai-inspired safari camp offers ensuite tents with unobstructed views and incredible sundowner experiences.
Set in the private Naboisho Conservancy just outside the Mara, indulge in the traditional bush life under the shade of old acacias, while reveling in all the comforts expected from a first-rate accommodation.
Special things to do at Masai Mara
- Hot air balloon – Take a hot air balloon ride over the golden grassland in the wee hours of the morning. As the sunlight hits the golden grass, you’ll have a bird’s eye perspective on the action down below.
- Bushwalks – Walking safaris in the private conservancies are a great way to acquaint yourself with the lay of the land, and meet curious animals scattered across the landscape. Accompanied by a Maasai guide, this is your chance to encounter wildlife in an absolutely unusual way (from a safe distance of course!).
- Fly camping – Set out on walking safaris with expert guides, travel through the land during the day, and set up your temporary camp at a designated spot for the night. Bonfires, Maasai stories, and the day’s excitement along with sounds of the bush at night – it doesn’t get more exciting than this!
- Night game drives in private conservancies – While night drives aren’t permitted in the national reserve, they are a thrilling way to discover shy nocturnal species if you happen to stay in a private conservancy. If you wish to experience a diverse range of activities, a night game drive is perfect for you.
Wings Over Kenya: Safari and Beach
12 Days: $ 5,990 / person
Kenya: Cultural Encounters and Wildlife Safari
9 Days: $ 5,680 / person
Serengeti State of Mind
Boasting some of the highest concentration of wildlife on earth, incredible game viewing is pretty much guaranteed.
Undoubtedly one of the best-known wildlife parks on earth, this African safari park was aptly named ‘the Serengeti’ or ‘endless plains’ by the ancient Maasai of Tanzania. Dotted by an occasional rocky outcrop, the golden grasslands spread over 12,000 square miles boast a stunning concentration of animals – perhaps the largest in the world! It’s most famous for an annual spectacle, when about 1.5 million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras trek through the land, followed by predators.
How to get to Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is only an hour away on a small plane from Arusha. It’s also well-connected to Dar Es Salaam, as well as Nairobi, Lake Manyara, Selous, and Zanzibar.
When to go to Serengeti
Serengeti National Park is warm and dry for most of the year. The best time to visit Serengeti depends on which part you are traveling to – the north, center, west or south. The Wildebeest Migration happens throughout the year with the herds moving across the Serengeti, so picking the right location in the right month is essential if you want to see this natural phenomenon. If you wish to see the animals cross the crocodile-infested Mara River (an absolute highlight!), we recommend that you visit between mid-July to September.
What to see at Serengeti
Boasting some of the highest concentration of wildlife on earth, incredible game viewing is on the cards throughout the year at the Serengeti. Wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, buffaloes and giraffes are everywhere, and you’ll easily spot elephants and hippos on your game drives. Not only the African big five the Serengeti is also known for its large packs of wild dogs and hyena on the prowl. Head over to the crocodile-infested Mara River in Northern Serengeti to watch a wildebeest river crossing, where the endless cycle of life and death plays out before you.
Where to stay
Serengeti North Wilderness
Set in a remote corner of the park, this eco-conscious camp offers unobstructed wildlife viewing opportunities as well as front row seats to the wildebeest river crossings at the Mara River.
Few tourists venturing to the site of this permanent camp, which means many animals do! If you’re lucky, you can even see wildlife from the comfort of your accommodation. We recommend an afternoon spent in the incredible infinity pool, watching animals amble in the distance.
Special things to do in Serengeti
Hot air balloon ride – Discover the golden savannah from up in the clouds! Setting out at dawn, you have a fantastic view of animals scattered over the endless grasslands – it’s a great time for a sky safari.
Tanzania and Kenya Highlights
9 Days: $ 7,990 / person
Classic Northern Tanzania
7 Days: $ 4,590 / person
Okavango on the Wilderness Trail
Life in the Okavango is unique and vastly different from other African game reserves, with predator and prey having to navigate marshy waterways.
The world’s largest inland delta, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a carefully preserved wonderland, benefiting immensely from Botswana’s unique safari concept of quality over quantity. Once a part of ancient Lake Makgadikgadi, the seasonal Okavango River brings relief to this parched land every year, drowning the marshy floodplains and drawing in hundreds of thousands of animals. An absolute stunner of an Africa safari park, life in the Okavango is unique and vastly different from other African wildlife reserves, with predator and prey having to navigate marshy waterways, occasional large water bodies and seasonal dry patches.
How to get to Okavango Delta
Maun, the closest town to the Okavango, is also the best and only access to the delta. This dusty little town in the heart of the Kalahari Desert has flights to Johannesburg, as well as to Livingstone near the Victoria Falls.
When to go to Okavango Delta
The high water level between the winter months of June to October allow for canoe and boat safaris, making this the best time to visit Okavango Delta. Visit in the dry months of September and October if you wish to see animals congregated near watering holes at the Moremi Game Reserve on the fringes of the delta. The rainy summer months of November to April are best time for birdwatching in Okavango.
What to see at Okavango
One of the most ancient species on the planet, the wily Nile crocodiles of Okavango lurk just out of sight from hordes of wildebeest, impala and gazelle. Giant herds of elephants, water buffalo and lazy hippos are also a common sight, along with the rambunctious packs of hyena and wild dogs looking for easy prey. Among birds, African fish eagles, pygmy goose, Pel’s fishing-owl, Bateleurs and Saddle-billed storks are a common sight among the 400 odd species!
Where to stay at Okavango
This cozy, tented camp overlooking Chief’s Island offers excellent game viewing opportunities from its viewing deck, as well as mokoro excursions, bush walks, and island camping excursions with experts.
These exclusive African safari tents are set by the Xudum River by the southwestern side of the delta in a private concession managed by safari outfitters. An aquatic haven during the flooding season, plenty of animals veer close to the luxurious campsite.
Special Things to do in Okavango Delta
- Sleeping under the stars – There’s nothing more romantic than a beautiful star bed on a raised platform under the starlit African sky, accompanied by complete silence occasionally interrupted by gentle sounds of the wilderness. Bliss!
- Helicopter ride over the delta – The vast expanse of the delta can only truly be appreciated through a helicopter ride. Flying low over the floodplains, discover the lush landscape and frolicking animals and even stop for a meal in a remote island!
- Horse riding in the delta – Get up close to the wild animals of the Okavango as you ride through the floodplains on a horse. Highlights include suspicious herbivores, mildly surprised elephants, hippo families lazing in the distance, grazing buffaloes and a host of migratory and native birds.
Gorillas in the Mist at Volcanoes National Park
Nearly half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas inhabit Volcanoes National Park.
No other wildlife encounter in Africa matches the astounding experience of coming face-to-face with a gorilla family led by a silverback. Nearly half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas inhabit Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. With the right guide, it’s an absolute joy to set out on challenging hikes tracking these families through the rainforest. Elsewhere, secret pathways lead to curious golden monkeys and thousands of native birds. Just as rewarding are visits to the local villages near Volcanoes.
How to get to Volcanoes National Park
Set by the Virunga National Park of Congo and the Mgahinga National Park of Uganda, Volcanoes is a two to three hour drive from Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, or from Lake Kivu Gisenyi to the southwest.
When to go to Volcanoes
You can travel to Volcanoes National Park at any time of the year, however, trekking and hiking in the forest can be an arduous task in the rainy season from March to May. The months of July to October are best for gorilla trekking and climbing Mount Bisoke.
What to see at Volcanoes
Behold the majestic silverbacks of Volcanoes! American primatologist Dian Fossey spent nearly two decades studying these incredible mountain gorillas, eventually writing ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ which went on to become an Academy Award-winning film. And that’s not all – deep in the forest, golden monkeys swing from tree to tree, spotted hyenas chase after bushbucks, elephants and duiker buffaloes amble around. For bird lovers too, Volcanoes is paradise. There are also five volcanic peaks within the park, with options to climb them.
Where to stay at Volcanoes
Overlooking the volcanoes of Virunga, lakes and lush jungles, this elegant hilltop lodge offers a serene getaway and easy access to the African safari park.
Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Set at the foot of Mount Sabyinyo, this picturesque lodge offers stunning views of the Virunga Mountains from each room. An excellent base for gorilla trekking, this community-run accommodation drives several conservation and socio-economic initiatives from its proceeds.
Special things to do in Volcanoes National Park
- Gorilla trekking – Meeting the mountain gorillas of Rwanda – some of the last from their race, is an absolute highlight of any trip to Africa. Experienced trackers guide you through the rainforest to habituated families busy foraging, playing and going about their life.
- Mount Bisoke – Take a guided hike up the volcano to reach a stunning crater lake at 3711 meters above sea level!
Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
6 Days: $ 5,290 / person
Gorillas, Great Migration and Indian Ocean Dreams
13 Days: $ 11,090 / person
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