It’s the question we safari guides all dread the most: ‘Where’s the best place to go on safari in Africa?’
My response to that would be, what is the epitome of an African safari? Is it the rolling savannas of East Africa or the tangled bushveld of southern Africa?
Africa is the birthplace of safari destinations such as the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Masai Mara and Kruger National Park. These names may certainly fill the mind with visions of an Africa that no longer exists, where herds roam unhindered on the plains, but which African destination is the best for your once-in-a-lifetime experience?
A Kenya Safari
Kenya’s Masai Mara, is renowned for its open savannas stretching to the horizon, but there’s much more to the country. The idea of vast rolling plains has been imprinted in our minds through articles and television programmes depicting the great wildebeest migration. The growth in tourism to Africa has forced Kenya to expand its safari offerings to include the lesser-known regions in the north and south-west.
One of Kenya’s most impressive reserves is the Samburu National Reserve, situated in the arid northern part of the country. The Ewaso Nyiro River draws wildlife during the dry season and here, among the lion and elephant, you’ll find curious species such as the dramatically patterned reticulated giraffe, the long-necked gerenuk antelope and the strange-looking vulturine guinea fowl.
Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks lie in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, where the postcard view of elephants walking against a backdrop of Africa’s most famous mountain was formed. Tsavo is also famous for the man-eating lions that preyed on railway workers during the building of the line between Mombasa and Nairobi.
The Hollywood movie ‘The Ghost and the Darkness’ portrays the ‘man-eaters’ of Tsavo – well, the man-eaters are happily long gone but travellers can still experience the excitement of yesteryear in what is the country’s most underrated reserve.
Breath Taking Tanzania Holidays
Tanzania boasts 3 of Africa’s most well-known names in Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro, names of legend and Hollywood blockbusters. The Serengeti’s grand scale must be experienced to be appreciated and the wildest African theme park, Ngorongoro Crater, is surely one of the most unique natural concepts worldwide. The idea of 24 000 animals living year-round in a 430 square kilometre ‘bowl’ created by an ancient volcanic eruption is miraculous.
Tanzania also boasts the continent’s most stirring new destinations in the south and west of the country. Names such as Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park are destined to be counted among the iconic African safari destinations. Coupled with the best chimpanzee viewing on the continent in Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks, Tanzania is set to become the Africa’s leading safari destination.
Southern Africa Safaris
Southern Africa’s best-known safari destination is without question the Kruger National Park. The first non-hunting tourists set out in the wilderness back in 1927 and since then millions of travellers have visited this legendary park.
Many private reserves have sprung up on the park’s borders and it’s no surprise that this is where the concept of luxury safaris, as the safari is defined today, was born. Names such as Mala Mala, Londolozi and Singita have become leaders in safari travel and it’s these private reserves that the industry follows today.
Elephants and an Okavango Safari
Botswana safaris are relatively new on the safari circuit, but Botswana has quickly staked its claim as one of Africa’s most sought-after safari destinations. Parading the largest elephant populations on the continent – most of which concentrate on the Chobe and Linyanti rivers during the dry season – and the pristine wilderness of the Okavango Delta, Botswana has leapt into legendary safari status.
Firmly implementing a policy of low volume, high cost tourism, the country is saved the anxiety, and pressures, of mass tourism. This policy translates into an intimate safari experience where guests do not overwhelm each other.
Other great safari destinations in southern Africa include Zambia and Namibia where the savannahs and woodlands of the former and the deserts and open plains of the latter provide some of the most rewarding experiences. The exceptional desert excursions of the Namib and Skeleton Coast of Namibia complement the big game of Etosha, providing travellers with an unforgettable African journey.
Zambia is one of Africa’s ‘next big things’, with wildlife-packed parks such as Kafue and South Luangwa providing the ultimate in game viewing. The world-famous Victoria Falls stands in contrast to the remote parks in the west of the country such as Liuwa Plains, where Africa’s second largest wildebeest migration is said to occur.
So where is the Best Safari in Africa?
Gone are the days when a safari to Africa involved only the celebrated names. Although many still travel to these places of legend, visitors are finding that there’s much more to a safari than a name. Zambia, Uganda and southern Tanzania are some of the remarkable new destinations providing travelers with treasured safari experiences.
Some sound advice when trying to decide on a African safari destination is to first decide what it is you expect from your safari and then to consult an expert to make it all happen.