Many travelers dream of witnessing the African plains, of seeing herds of elephants marching through the savannah, of lion prides sunning on rocks or wildebeest making their great cross-country migrations. The best safari in Africa will draw on all the romanticism that the continent has to offer, and will deliver to its travelers not only the majesty of the unique wildlife but the beauty of epic landscapes and diverse local cultures.
Each country, from South Africa to Uganda has its own special national parks, its own iconic natural attractions, and its own great safaris. It can be difficult deciding which is really the best safari because truly, the competition is fierce.
We’ve spent a total of 6 months traveling throughout the African continent, visiting many of the best national parks and conservation areas on offer.
To help you decide which is the one for you, we’ve broken it down by country, highlighting the best safaris on offer in each one to help you figure out which is right for you.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Africa (Travel Guide)
Quick Guide to the Best Safari in Africa
(click to jump ahead to select park)
- South Africa: Kruger National Park
- South Africa: Addo Elephant Park
- Namibia: Etosha National Park
- Namibia: Skeleton Coast
- Namibia: Sossusvlei
- Botswana: Chobe National Park
- Botswana: Okavango Delta
- Botswana: Moremi National Park
- Botswana: Central Kalahari Game Reserve
- Zimbabwe: Hwange National Park
- Zimbabwe: Mana Pools National Park
- Zimbabwe: Nyanga National Park
- Zimbabwe: Matopos National Park
- Tanzania: Serengeti National Park
- Tanzania: Lake Manyara National Park
- Tanzania: Saadani National Park
- Tanzania: Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Kenya: Maasai Mara National Reserve
- Kenya: Mount Kenya
- Kenya: Lake Nakuru National Park
- Rwanda: Volcanoes National Park
- Rwanda: Nyungwe Forest National Park
- Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- Uganda: Murchison Falls National Park
- Uganda: Queen Elizabeth National Park
South Africa is one of the most accessible countries to visit to go on safari, especially for first-timer safari-goers. With a huge diversity in wildlife and scenery, many of the national parks here will allow you to see all of the famous Big Five animals – lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards, and buffalo – in one location.
While the country has great international flight connections, domestic transport, and accommodation. The best time to visit is in the pleasant dry season between May and September.
Kruger National Park is the largest national park in South Africa, and one of the largest on the entire continent. Found in the northeast of the country, you can easily reach the boundaries from the big city of Johannesburg, while inside the protected limits you will find everything from basic camping areas to luxury glamping experiences. You can find all of the Big Five animals in Kruger, as well as almost every other African animal imaginable.
- Kruger National Park Safari from Johannesburg
- Big Five Afternoon Game Drive in Kruger National Park
- Kruger Park Safari: Guided Day Tour from Nelspruit
Addo Elephant Park is found along the Eastern Cape, and this is the best safari in Africa for elephant lovers. The park is dedicated to the preservation and study of the species, and with a small population of just 11 elephants in the 1930s, Addo Elephant Park now supports over 600 of these majestic animals, alongside a whole array of other local wildlife too, including buffalo, lions and even a few rhinos.
- 7-Day Garden Route, Winelands and Addo Safari from Cape Town
- 5-Day Small-Group Garden Route Tour from Cape Town including Addo National Park
The deserts of Namibia may not seem like the best location on which to embark on a safari, but actually, despite the waterless landscapes and endless sand dunes, this makes for one of the most unique and potentially the best safari in Africa.
Visit Namibia in the dry season, between June and October, when the weather and is cool and it’s easy to find wildlife congregating around the sparse watering holes.
Etosha National Park is the most famous park in Namibia, encompassing vast areas of the Etosha Salt Pan. This arid landscape is almost surreal to see, but actually, it is full of life. Here you can find rhinos – and even the extremely rare white rhino – alongside giraffe, leopards, lions, and elephants, all of which are uniquely adapted to the dry environment.
Sossusvlei is more commonly overlooked for safari due to it being primarily a desert landscape. However, it is a place for some very cool sightings, like the one we had of the Oryx on a massive sand dune pictured above. While it’s not a place to see the big five or more traditional safari animals, Sossuvlei is a place to have unique opportunities at animal spotting.
Skeleton Coast conjures images of barren landscapes and empty deserts, and that’s not wrong. This sparsely populated and windswept land is full of shifting sand dunes, lifeless shipwrecks on the coast but a surprising amount of wildlife too.
Botswana is a vast and varied land, encompassing huge areas of the Kalahari Desert, that then blends into the green, verdant deltas of the Okavango. It’s an excellent country for a safari, especially for those looking for real diversity in landscapes and wildlife.
The best time to visit is from May to September when the weather is dry, the roads are passable and the wildlife is waiting along the rivers.
Chobe National Park is one of the greatest national parks on the African continent. Famous for its huge herds of elephants, this area in the north of Botswana comprises every conceivable environment, from wetlands to open plains. It is a great place to safari if you’re looking for high concentrations of herd animals like elephants, giraffe, and zebra.
Okavango Delta is a unique safari experience in that you mostly explore by foot or in a traditional mokoro canoe. Comprised mostly of dense wetlands, you can have some incredibly exciting hippo encounters in this park. On foot, safaris are filled with adrenaline as you follow your experienced guide through the bush in search of animals.
Moremi Game Reserve can be found along the banks of the Okavango Delta in the north of Botswana. By no means the largest reserve, Moremi is one of the most diverse, and here you can find all Big Five animals as well as incredibly distinct wet and dry regions that contrast spectacularly.
- Botswana Delta Experience
- Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai village, Okavango Delta and Savuti
- Okavango Delta Fly-In Safari
Central Kalahari Game Reserve is the portion of this great desert that is found in Botswana. This is a safari for the experienced, as this is a remote wilderness, with long expanses of nothingness and sparse wildlife. It is, however, a completely unusual destination to explore.
- Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Rakops Village, Makgadikgadi Pans and Nxai Pans
- 7 Days Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Khama Rhino and Lekhuba
Zimbabwe is perhaps better known for its politics than for its safari opportunities, but actually, this is an accessible landscape of beautiful vistas and top quality wildlife spotting chances. May to October is the best months to experience the outdoors when it’s dry and cool.
Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe’s largest conservation area, and it’s perfect for those looking to experience a taste of Africa’s vast beauty. Hwange is one of the last remaining locations where you are likely to find the African Wild Dog, a species that has long been endangered across the continent.
Mana Pools National Park is Zimbabwe’s most charming and scenic safari location. Here you can find beautiful lakes, surrounded by grassy wetlands that are teeming with wildlife that flock here to refresh themselves in the cool waters.
Nyanga National Park makes for a more offbeat location when it comes to safaris. This is predominantly a highland mountain range, but it’s spectacular, and the area is full of wildlife. Although you may not be guaranteed sightings of lions or hyenas or elephants as you may in game reserves, when you do see them at Nyanga, it’s all the more rewarding.
Matopos National Park has to be one of our favorite places to safari in all of Zimbabwe, maybe even Africa for that matter. Why do you ask? It’s a unique place where you can, in fact, take a walking safari among huge Rhinos. A healthy population of heavily guarded Rhinos lives in the confines of this park and it is a magical experience to see them.
Tanzania is not only the quintessential safari destination but also makes for an excellent holiday destination at the same time, as this is a wonderful country to experience both the great African plains and the sunny coastline of the Indian Ocean. Travel here between July to October, and you will witness the epic Great Migration of wildebeest.
Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s premier conservation zone. This is the Africa of your imagination, with stampeding herds and brutal crocodiles. Visit the Serengeti to see the Great Migration, when millions of zebra and wildebeest move through the plains every year in search of new grazing grounds.
Lake Manyara National Park is a completely different safari experience from the Serengeti, which is why we like it. Instead of vast open plains, you will be searching for animals in a heavily forested area. You have the opportunity to see many of the classic safari animals here but for us, it was all about the rarities. Nowhere else in Africa have we had the chance to see a huge Green Mamba hunting on the top of a termite mound!
Saadani National Park is found on the eastern coast and is where the Tanzanian bushland meets with the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. This is a small national park, but it’s the only national park in Tanzania where you can snorkel in the morning before embarking on a game drive in the afternoon. And if you are lucky, you might just see lions frolicking int he waters too.
- 3 Days / 2 Nights – Bagamoyo Town / Saadani National Park
- 2 Days / 1 Night – Saadani National Park / Bagamoyo Town
Ngorongoro Conservation Area gives you an opportunity to not only explore the inside of a gigantic volcanic crater but to do so in one of the top safari places in Tanzania. For whatever reason, the wildlife of Tanzania is drawn to this massive pan, meaning the safaris there are incredible. You can see the whole spectrum of African safari animals on a one-day safari here. This conservation area is commonly included in a larger safari package that includes the Serengeti and Lake Manyara.
The great savannas and mountains of Kenya have long been a firm favorite for safari-goers. From the herds of the Maasai Mara plains to the mountainous scenery of Mount Kenya, there’s a lot to see. Visit in the dry season, from June to October, for the best wildlife viewing opportunities.
Maasai Mara National Reserve is the most famous park in Kenya, and for good reason. This is the traditional domain of the nomadic Maasai Mara people, and it’s a vast savanna that’s perfect for huge herds of animals to graze.
- 4-Day Masai Mara and Lake Nakuru Safari from Nairobi
- Kenya Safari Experience National Geographic Journeys
Mount Kenya is the second tallest mountain in Africa, but you don’t need to visit to climb the high peak. This is a huge game reserve that protects not just the mountain, the flora and fauna and that surround it. Here you can see a great array of wildlife, all int he glorious shadow of the mountaintop.
- 7D/6N Mount Kenya: Nelion – Batian Route
- 5 Days Mt Kenya Climb Sirimon – Chogoria Route
- Mount Kenya Ascent
Lake Nakuru National Park is a weird phenomenon as it’s one of the only parks where you can be on safari and see a cityscape in the background. But don’t let that deter you from checking out this park. It is not far from Nairobi and has a large population of Rhinos, along with giraffe, zebra, buffalo and an enormous salt lake that attracts flocks of pink flamingos.
Despite its traumatic, recent past Rwanda is now emerging as one of Africa’s top travel destinations because here you can find everything from volcanic peaks to gorilla sanctuaries. Make sure to visit Rwanda in the dry season between June and September to avoid heavy rains.
Volcanoes National Park as the name would suggest protects a beautiful area of land that surrounds five volcanic peaks. As well as rugged, dreamlike scenery though, this national park is one of the best places to spot Gorillas in the wilds of Rwanda.
Nyungwe Forest National Park is not a traditional safari destination, but it is an astoundingly biodiverse location to visit. This vast forest is teeming with life and is the oldest rainforest in Africa.
- 3 Days Nyungwe National Park Visit
- 7 Day Wildlife Viewing In Rwanda (Akagera And Nyungwe National Park)
Uganda is famed for the vast lakes and rivers that are found within its borders. Add to this a complex ecosystem comprising high mountains and dense rain forest and you have an excellent location for an alternative African safari.
The best time to visit Uganda is June through to August when the dry season gives you the best chance to see gorillas.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that comprises an enormously diverse rain forest ecosystem. Here you can hike through the jungle and perhaps even find the elusive gorillas that call the park home.
- Gorilla Trekking- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
- 3 Day Gorilla Fly-In Safari at Bwindi National Park
- Gorilla Trek Independent Adventure
Queen Elizabeth National Park is by far the best place in Africa to see chimpanzees. Safaris are organized to visit this unique species both by truck and on foot. This park is also a fantastic place for the incredibly rare and endangered Golden Monkey. These two attractions alone make this park one of the best safaris in Africa.
Murchison Falls National Park provides an opportunity to explore the abundant and lively waterways of the Nile River as it makes its way through Uganda. Aside from the plentiful crocodiles, you will be in awe of the Murchison Falls, a dramatic sight to behold.
Nairobi to Arusha
Trip Type: Small Group
12 - 15 People
|Masai & Tanzania Safari|
Nairobi to Arusha
Trip Type: Small Group
12 - 15 People
|Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater Safari|
Arusha to Arusha
Trip Type: Small Group
12 - 15 People
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