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.
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.
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 for a self drive tour of Kruger, or have your hotel pick you up.
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 bush veld.
The winter months between May and October are the best time to visit Sabi Sand, when the wildlife gather at watering holes and are easy to view, sometimes from the comfort of your lodge! It’s also a great time for birdwatching.
Set by the tranquil Sabie River, Lion Sands Tinga Lodge offers ample luxury in the lap of Nature, along with a lounge deck, plunge pool, and refreshing sundowners by the riverside.
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.
The classic Africa of your dreams, the Mara is perfect for wildlife safaris throughout the year.
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.
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, and is not recommended.
Typically warm and dry through the year, the best time to visit Masai Mara is between the dry months of July to October, when grazing ground is scare and animals gather at watering holes.
The classic Africa of your dreams, the Mara is perfect for wildlife safaris throughout the year. You’ll easily spot hundreds on animals on any given day at these open savannahs, with guaranteed sightings of the African big five – lions, cheetahs, elephants, hippos, rhinos 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 1.5 million wildebeest passing through every year in search of fresh grazing ground.
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, 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.
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 zebras trek through the land, followed by predators.
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 Mombasa, Lake Manyara, Selous and Zanzibar.
Serengeti National Park is warm and dry for most of the year. The best time to visit Serengeti is between July and October, when the Wildebeest Migration is in full swing. If you wish to see the animals cross the crocodile-infested Mara River (an absolute highlight!), we recommend that you visit in September.
Boasting some of the highest concentration of wildlife on earth, incredible game viewing is pretty much guaranteed. 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 Grumeti river to watch a wildebeest river crossing, where the endless cycle of life and death plays out before you.
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.
With few tourists venturing to the site of this permanent camp, wildlife sightings from the comfort of your accommodation is guaranteed. We recommend an afternoon spent in the incredible infinity pool, watching animals amble in the distance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overlooking the Karisimi Mountains of Virunga, these cozy cottages offer easy access to the African safari park, along with a host of activities such as hiking and cycling through the countryside.
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.
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