12 Best Places for Safari in Africa
Africa is no doubt the best destination for safari in the world. It’s the place to spot the big 5, marvel at the incredible sunsets and experience something that everyone should at least once in their life – safari.
The only thing is, it can be kinda hard to choose where to go on safari in Africa. There’s endless spots and parks that offer incredible safari experiences. So, where should you go? This is exactly why I’ve rounded up some of the best places for safari in Africa, thanks to both my own experiences and experiences of fellow travel bloggers.
Where Should I Go on My First Safari in Africa?
1. Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Amboseli National Park in Kenya is easily one of the best safari spots in Africa. Located close to the border with Tanzania, Amboseli is a 150 square mile area of land that gets its name from the Maasai for ‘salty dust’. The landscapes range from dry plains dotted with acacia trees to swamps hiding hippos, but it’s the sight of Mount Kilimanjaro rising above the clouds that excites most visitors if they’re lucky enough to visit on a clear day.
All members of the big 5 as well as hundreds of other species, including cheetah, wild dogs, giraffe, hyena and plenty of antelopes call Amboseli their home. There are even said to be over 600 different species of bird!
But Amboseli is perhaps best known for its population of elephants that roam the park in huge herds. Close encounters are common and an incredible, if slightly terrifying, experience, so make sure you give them plenty of space and observe them safely.
As a National Park, it’s possible to do a self-drive safari in Amboseli, but nothing beats a guided safari in one of the private conservancies. The difference here is that you are able to go off road, while being guided by expert rangers and trackers for the traditional safari experience.
2. Chobe National Park, Botswana
One of Africa’s best safari destinations is the beautiful Chobe National Park in northern Botswana. The park is a protected game reserved near the massive Okavango Delta. This inland flood place fills with water from the mountains of Angola every year. The water flows into the Chobe River attracting wildlife as well as visitors from around the world.
Chobe National Park is the first protected lands in Botswana and the most biologically diverse national park in the country. With a strong and stable government, the country’s conservation efforts have been successful for decades and elevated Botswana as a premier safari destination. Chobe is also massive at 11,700 square kilometers.
In Chobe National Park you’ll find large herds of elephants, giraffes and Cape buffalo. It’s also home to migrating zebras and brid species. Along the marshy area of the Chope River, you’re likely to also find hippos. If you drive the trails around the park, you’ll also find antelope, warthogs and even lions.
While camping and game drives are popular in Chobe you can also find numerous other activities to indulge your safari experience. Aerial safari excursions are available where you can observe the wildlife and landscape from above in a small airplane. You can also book a river cruise to observe wildlife on the water or even hire a guide for a makoro ride. Those are the small hollowed out canoes where a poler navigates your way through the marshes of the delta.
3. Etosha, Nambia
One of the highlights of any visit to Namibia is the Etosha National Park. It’s one of the few safari reserves in Africa you can explore by yourself on a self-drive safari. You can spot the big five, camp next to a waterhole and drive yourself around the vast nature reserve.
Etosha is located in the north of Namibia. It’s a four-hour drive from capital Windhoek to either the southern or eastern gate. Though Etosha is big, you can easily cross the park in one day. We’d recommend you to plan in some more time for Etosha, especially as you can spend the night in the park itself.
One of the must do’s on your Namibia trip is camping in Etosha. Bring your own camping gear – or rent a 4WD with a rooftop tent as we did – and experience the national park in a unique way.
Most camps are located next to a water hole, offering you the opportunity to spot game during sunset and sunrise. As you’re only allowed to leave the camps after sunrise and before sunset with a guided tour, this is the perfect way to see all the wildlife at a waterhole at its busiest hours. Okaukuejo is known for its game watching and we got to see an elephant herd and two rhinos right next to the campsite.
Allow at least two days – possibly three – to enjoy this unique safari experience in Africa.
4. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, Nambia and Botswana
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is located in the southern Kalahari Desert, spanning over the border of the neighbouring Southern African countries South Africa and Botswana. This park is world renowned for predator sightings, particularly the big cats, lion, leopard and cheetah. The black maned Kalahari lions, unique to the area, are its most famous residents.
Camping in Kglagadi is the most popular way to explore this unique park located in the dunes of the Kalahari desert. Your accommodation choices are the fenced traditional camps or unfenced wilderness camps on the South African side of the park, or being more self sufficient and really getting close to the wild life by four wheel drive vehicle in the wild camps on the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park.
Lying in your tent at night and hearing a lion roar close by is an unreal experience in the Kalahari. The red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and dry riverbeds create the unique desolate landscapes of the Kalahari Desert.
The highlight of the park is to watch predators and scavengers such as hyenas, jackals and the birds of prey interact. The park is also known for some of its unique small residents including the bat-eared fox, meerkat, ground squirrel, the beautiful cape fox; and the elusive Honey Badger (Ratel) or Pangolin (Scaly Anteater).
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park can be visited all year round, June and July is the peak season. This is also a dry season, it gets very cold at night, but is the best time for predator sightings.
5. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Entering the gates at Kruger National Park is like stepping into another world. As one of Africa’s largest game reserves, Kruger is home to hundreds of mammal and bird species as is well known for the captivating views of the “Big 5”: elephants, lions, rhino, cape buffalo, and the elusive leopard.
The three closest airports from Cape Town or Johannesburg serving Kruger are Phalaborwa (north), Hoedpsruit (central), and Kruger Mpumalanga International/Nelspruit (south).
From self-driving tours to fully guided game drives, you’ll be in awe of the abundance of wildlife right next to your vehicle. As soon as you drive through the gate you’re surrounded by countless zebras and impala!
I could’ve easily stayed at Kruger for the entirety of our trip to South Africa. We were so fortunate to have seen the Big 5 within the first few hours of being at the park. From families of elephants and rhino with babies to herds of cape buffalo grazing on an open plain, to a pride of lions basking in the sun, to even being able to see a leopard, which would’ve been near impossible without our guide!
The evening twilight hours are magical but the sun sets early during fall and winter. The park closes at 5 pm and you have to either leave or be at your camp by that time or risk being fined (or worse!) by patrollers, since poaching is sadly an ongoing threat.
You can even stay overnight and take part in an early morning dawn safari – highly recommended! Planning a safari tour? See these 13 must-pack items you can’t leave home without!
6. Masai Mari, Kenya
One of the best things to see on an African safari is the Great Migration. The largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world is home to millions of animals and an incredible ecosystem. The migration takes place over a few East African National Parks from June through November. The most incredible wildlife viewing is in the Maasai Mara Reserve for the Mara River crossing.
Most people start their safari in Nairobi and drive to the Maasai Mara. If you’re not a resident of Kenya, admission into the park is $70 (USD) for an adult and $40 (USD) for a child. If you’re doing a safari with a company, this cost is typically included.
Going on safari in Kenya means you’ll have the opportunity to spot gazelle, zebras, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, leopards, wildebeest, and more! Near the river, you may also be able to spot hippopotamus’ in the water or crocodiles tanning on the riverbed. The number of animals in this area of Kenya is impossible to count. Keep your eyes open for smaller animals such as birds, warthogs, meerkats and wild dogs. Hyenas never seemed to be too far away from prey either.
The diverse ecosystem and plentiful wildlife make the Masai Mara one of the best places for safari.
7. Murchison Falls, Uganda
Uganda and neighbouring Rwanda may be best known for their gorilla trekking, but tucked up in north western Uganda is a fabulous national park which offers visitors the chance so see the Big 4. (Sadly no rhinos here).
Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest national park with over 76 mammal and 451 bird species. The park itself is bisected by the river Nile along which you can find the impressive Murchison Falls. This is the point where the Nile squeezes through a gorge which is just 7m in diameter.
Murchison Falls is a 5 hour drive from Kampala and most accommodation is located on the south side of the river. The park has several attractions on offer, so visits can take several days.
It’s possible to visit the top of Murchison Falls via a jeep from Paraa, on the south side of the river. This point above the gorge is incredible for appreciating the full force of the river Nile. Paraa is also the point to start a safari boat cruise. On this trip you can appreciate wildlife along the banks of the Nile such as hippos, elephants and an abundance of birdlife, before getting close up to the bottom of Murchison Falls.
Finally, the other main activity on offer in Murchison Falls National Park is a game drive itself. Game drives take place on the north side of the river, so rise extra early to get in line for the ferry crossing in Paraa. After enjoying a beautiful sunrise over the Nile, you can sit back and enjoy a safari trip on the Savannah grasslands.
8. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater was formed over 2 million years ago, when a huge volcano collapsed leaving behind the massive crater which covers 264 square kilometres. It’s easily one of the most impressive things you will ever see, and is up there with the Serengeti in being one of the best things to do in Tanzania, as well as one of the best spots for safari in Africa.
Over 25,000 animals call the crater home, and the wider Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area is home to many more. It’s one of the most densely populated safari spots in Africa, and your chances of spotting the big 5 are likely. Currently, 30 black rhinos call the crater home, and it’s one of the best places to spot them. You’ll also find zebras, lions, buffalo, flamingo, hippo, wild dog, ostrich, gazelles and cheetahs.
Ngorongoro Crater is around a 3-4 hour drive from Arusha (the best spot to start and end your safari experience in Tanzania), and on the way to the Serengeti. There’s plenty of accomodation options, from luxury to budget, in the wider conservation area, some which boast epic views of the crater. I recommend a camping safari, where you can camp on the rim of the crater for a truly epic experience.
9. Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the best places for safari in Africa.Our campsite in the Okavango Delta was simple and inexpensive. Yet, with more than six staffers pampering the two of us at our own campsite, our 3 day safari in Botswana felt glam!
To get to Okavango Delta, fly into Maun International Airport in Botswana. We stayed one night in Maun’s Old Bridge Backpackers Lodge, where wild animals roam free, getting us excited for the safari! The next morning a pickup was ready for the hour drive to the Okavango River. On the river, guides row you in wooden boats, called mokoros, to the camp. The mokoro ride is the safari’s official start, and you’ll have your eyes peeled to the sky and water for exotic birds and animals.
There are always animals in the Okavango Delta, but there are more in June-August, when they flock there for drinking water.
Here’s what you can expect on your safari in the Okavango Delta. Our hikes were twice a day for 3-5 hours each at early morning and late evening for the cooler temperatures. We saw elephants, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffes, hippos, zebras and more on our walks. Our guides told us the zebra is the national animal of Botswana, representing black and white together in harmony. Between the hikes, we ate, rested, read and napped.
The camp included our own shower and toilet, and a comfortable bed in a mosquito-netted tent. We had 3 meals a day and wine with dinner, plus snacks and tea in the afternoon. Spending time outdoors in the Okavango Delta was inspiring, and the wild animal sightings and sunsets in nature were unforgettable.
10. Pilanesberg, South Africa
Pilanesberg National Park is about two and a half hours drive north of Johannesburg, South Africa. Thanks to its altitude, it is Malaria free.
The park is located in a crater that was only turned into a wild game reserve during the second half of the 20th century. At that time all the Big 5 were introduced to the park: rhinos, buffalos, elephants, leopards and lions. Additionally, you can see impalas, giraffes, zebras, chameleons, water-bucks, wildebeest and many other species.
Mankwe Dam is the best place to start looking for the animals as it is the largest body of water in Pilanesberg Park. The park is only 550km² in size, a fraction of the famous Kruger National Park. That means, your chance of encountering animals is higher, because they are less spread out.
You’ll find several lodges and campgrounds inside the park, lookout points, braai and picnic areas and in the center, near Mankwe Dam, Pilanesberg Center. Here you can order food while watching giraffes walk past, shop for souvenirs and use the facilities.
Just outside the park gates is Sun City – an entertainment complex with hotels, a water park great for kids, a mall, movie theater and many other attractions worth extending your trip a day for.
11. Serengeti, Tanzania
The Serengeti is by far one of the most famous and best spots for safari in Africa, and also the whole world. Tanzania is easily one of the best countries for safari, and the East African Country does not disappoint when it comes to safari. Covering a huge 30,000 square kilometres, the Serengeti covers a huge portion of Northern Tanzania and stretches in to Kenya. You can expect an abundance of wildlife, vast open plains and epic sunsets.
I recommend at least a couple of days in The Serengeti to really get the full experience. This will allow you to venture out in all directions and see as much wildlife as possible. There’s a huge abundance of animals in the Serengeti, and you can expect to see lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, hippos, wildebeest, crocodiles and over 500 species of bird. There’s also lions in the Serengeti, but they are incredibly hard to find, you have a better chance of spotting them at Ngorongoro Crater.
The Serengeti is a seven hour drive from Arusha, which is a great place to start and end your safari experience in Tanzania. You can also opt to take a small plane in to the Serengeti. There’s plenty of accommodation options, from budget to luxury in the Serengeti. I highly recommend a camping safari, it adds to the experience even more!
I personally did a camping safari which included Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and of course, The Serengeti, and I loved it! If you want to make your experience even more special, you can go on a once in a lifetime hot air balloon ride over The Serengeti.
12. Tsavo National Park, Kenya
Tsavo National Park is the largest protected area in Kenya and is an underrated gem when it comes to choosing an African safari. It is budget friendly and easy to cover on a 3-day Tsavo safari making it family friendly.
It is easily accessed by road from both Nairobi and Mombasa or by train or bus to the town of Voi. Tsavo offers a range of safari accommodation from budget camping to luxury lodges. Tsavo is split into Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park with each side offering something different.
Tsavo East National Park is flat and dry with expansive plains where you can spot elephants, lions, cheetah, giraffes, cape buffalo, wild boars and zebra. Along with a great variety of birds over 500 species to be precise including ostrich, many birds of prey and blue vulturine guineafowl.
Tsavo West National Park has a more mountainous terrain interspersed with rivers and lakes meaning you will likely encounter leopards, hippopotamus and crocodiles. Tsavo West is also home to the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary.
This 90-sq-km area of the national park has been partitioned with an electric fence and 24-hour security to deter poachers and protect the 80 black rhinos that live here. You can drive through this area around the tracks to the watering holes, but the black rhinos are elusive so you may not see any.