Choosing where to have the best safari in Africa can be difficult. There are so many countries to choose from, parks to explore, animals to see, safari lodges, and a variety of unique activities to partake in that makes picking one place almost impossible.
If you’re just starting out in your safari planning I would recommend taking a look at our how to plan a safari guide to give you a basic idea of the planning involved with this trip.
When you’re ready to take the next step in choosing the best African safari vacation head back here for first-hand accounts of safaris in all these incredible parks.
Where to have the Best Safari in Africa?
Where To Have the Best Safari in Africa for Wildlife Encounters?
The Masai Mara (Kenya): What is the best place to safari in Africa for superb wildlife viewing? It’s almost impossible to beat the Mara Triangle in the Masai Mara. If it’s your first time in Africa and your main objective is to see as many safari animals as possible, then you can’t go wrong with the Masai Mara.
It is here that you stand a pretty good chance of seeing the big five. Actually, this is the only place we have traveled to where we saw all the big five animals on one game drive.
The advantage in the Masai Mara may be great wildlife sightings. However, the disadvantage is the crowds. Along with the Serengeti, the Masai Mara draws in huge masses of crowds for the great migration. Both parks are synonymous with “Africa,” and living out that Lion King dream makes them extremely popular.
All of this demand drives the cost of the best safari operators up and brings in a lot of “low cost” operators that aren’t necessarily the best value when compared to elsewhere in Africa.
We also visited the Serengeti, which was great for wildlife, but this park loses to the Mara in our mind because it was jam-packed and busy, and we found Mara’s landscape to be more open. Or maybe we’re just in love with Out Of Africa.
Read About Our Time in Masai Mara National Reserve
Where to Have the Best Self-Drive Safari in Africa?
Kruger National Park (South Africa): Asides from one trip to Morocco, South Africa was the first country we traveled to in Africa. Two days after we landed in Johannesburg, we drove around Kruger National Park in a rental car. Kruger National Park is an incredibly simple park to do on your own.
The roads are paved, directions are well posted, and plenty of other guides and rangers are around to help you get lost or point you to a sighting.
I didn’t realize how easy Kruger was to self-drive until we made our way north and witnessed just how terrible the roads in African national parks can be. The Kruger also has a few coffee shops inside it, souvenir shops, public toilets, and even a Debonair’s Pizza shop in it…yeah, we’re not in Africa anymore here.
The best bits about Kruger are definitely the paved roads, consistent wildlife sightings, and the price of park fees. 300 Rand for foreigners in a big five park that you can self-drive is a good deal, especially compared to East Africa’s costs. The worst part about Kruger is the crowds and modernity, making the Kruger seem a little bit more like a zoo than the wild.
Read About Our Time in Kruger National Park
Where to Have the Best Safari in Africa on a Budget?
Etosha National Park (Namibia): People usually gasp when I tell them the price it costs to get into Namibia’s Etosha National Park, and I’m sure you will too. Are you ready? It costs 80 Namibian Dollars a day to drive around Etosha National Park.
That’s equivalent to $6 USD or less than two cappuccinos from Starbucks. Yes, for the price of your favorite Mcdonald’s meal, you can get into Namibia’s most popular park and hang out all day!
That’s why I would suggest you head to Namibia if you are traveling Africa on a budget and still want to see rhinos, elephants, jackals, and giraffes. However, don’t be fooled that just because the price is so low, the park is crap because you would be sorely mistaken.
Etosha National Park boasts incredible game viewing, especially in the dry season when all the animals congregate at the natural and man-made watering holes.
The best part about Etosha is, hands down, the price and quality of roads; while we did find it to be a barren, arid park, the quality of the game is top-notch.
Read About Our Time in Etosha National Park
Where to See Primates in Africa?
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda): If you’re in East Africa, I would highly recommend sticking around a bit longer to see the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world. The 800 mountain gorillas can only be found in Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC, but I believe the best place to interact with them is in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
This is where we went and trekked for only two hours to spend an hour with a family of 17 mountain gorillas, cute babies included!
Uganda holds 60% of the total mountain gorillas left globally, with about 400 of them residing in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. So, if I’m doing my math correctly, about half of the last remaining gorillas are in Bwindi! Add that to the fact that it costs $600 to go gorilla trekking in Uganda and $1500 to go gorilla trekking in neighboring Rwanda makes me lean more towards The Pearl of Africa.
Of course, one can always go to the DRC for $400, but with that comes the dangers of an unstable country.
The best part of gorilla trekking is seeing gorillas up close and personal! The worst part about gorilla trekking anywhere in Africa is the high price tag for just one hour of gorilla time.
Read About Gorilla Trekking
Where to Have the Best Bush Safari in Africa?
Linyanti Concession (Botswana): If you want a real African bush experience, it’s tough to think of a better place than Linyanti. African Bush Camp’s private concession located in the greater region known as Linyanti, located between the Greater Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta, is a special place in the world.
The location all plays into an ecosystem that is interlinked as the Linyanti Channel, operating as an outflow for the water that does not disappear into the sands of the Kalahari in the famous Okavango Delta.
Over the years, this extremely remote region of Botswana has grown in popularity for the access to wildlife it provides. We’d heard over the years that it was a magical region to go on safari, but we finally got to experience it for ourselves, and it now goes down as one of our favorite safaris in Africa.
In four days, we saw the elusive leopard, a pack of wild dogs on multiple occasions, neverending herds of elephants, buffalo, and all the other amazing safari animals.
Read About A Linyanti Safari
Where to Have the Best Walking Safari in Africa?
South Luangwa National Park (Zambia): Walking in a wildlife area allows you to connect with the bush in a more intimate nature; it is as close to our roots as we can get on safari. A walking safari is by all means adventurous.
Walking through the bush in search of deadly animals heightens your senses. It lets you step away from the engine noise and stretch your legs.
On a bushwalk, you are given a chance to witness the small details. Little things often get missed on a traditional safari, such as indigenous plants, methods of tracking, and even snakes. We found the best park for walking safaris to be South Luangwa National Park in Zambia.
The best part about South Luangwa was the game density (Leopards galore!) and walking safaris. We found the only disadvantage of South Luangwa to be the crowds, which still were nowhere near as bad as they are in the more well-known parks.
Read About Our Time in South Luangwa National Park
Where is the Best Safari in Africa For a Wide Range of Activities?
Lower Zambezi National Park (Zambia): For one of the best safaris in Africa, you must head to this park. Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park can partake in walking safaris, canoe safaris, night game drives, regular game drives, fishing, and river cruises. With this huge range of safari activities, it’s hard to ever get bored!
That’s why the Lower Zambezi is a great safari choice if you’re looking for a wide range of activities on your African safari or are traveling with a family with many interests. It’s likely in competition for our favorite park in Africa as its landscape is a stunning place right in between the mighty Zambezi and a towering escarpment.
The game in the park is superb! Here, we saw wild dogs, a lion kill, and the elusive leopard. Be on the lookout too! When our guide was on his way to pick us up from the airstrip, he’d seen the first Cheetah in nearly a decade, so they may likely return, or at least one! We can’t recommend this park for its activities, natural beauty, low crowds, and game density enough.
Read About Our Time In Lower Zambezi National Park
Where to Have the Best Safari For Romance?
Selous Game Reserve (Tanzania): The Selous is another area for the best safari in Africa. The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania is the largest game reserve in Africa, meaning there is a lot of space to cover. During our entire time there, we never saw a single other vehicle making the Selous one of Africa’s most intimate wildlife areas.
It’s the perfect place to escape from the crowds of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater and enjoy Africa like it used to be – undisturbed.
Most lodges will be situated on the Rufiji River, which is a beautiful relaxing location. Every night you can listen to grunting hippos as you fall asleep. A popular activity is to partake in boat cruises along the river, but the Selous also allows walking safaris as well and is well known for big game hunting the old-school way in the South of the park.
The park used to be teeming with elephants, and in the ’70s, the park had over 100,000 elephants – the largest population in Africa. Now less than 15,000 are in the reserve due to poaching. Sadly, this became a reality for us when our entire four days in the Selous only led us to see one elephant.
I loved the Selous Game Reserve for its seclusion and beauty, but unfortunately, I can not recommend it if your goal is to see elephants. On the other hand, Giraffes are as plentiful as the trees they eat!
Read About Our Time In The Selous
Where to Have the Most Exclusive Safari in Africa?
The Okavango Delta (Botswana): In terms of privacy, exclusivity, and almost downright celebrity status safaris, then Botswana’s Okavango Delta is the best place to safari in Africa. You have probably seen the remarkable Okavango Delta before on Planet Earth or Nat Geo with Sir David Attenborough’s voiceover to soothe you away.
The truth is, the Okavango Delta really is just that incredible. The Delta is beautiful, and you are almost guaranteed amazing sightings. Botswana is a superb African country with great efforts to protect their country’s assets. The country has enforced a high-cost, low-impact model of tourism. A safari here will be hard to afford unless you are very wealthy.
That’s not to say that it can’t be done on a budget, though! It’s possible to self-drive into Moremi and takes in the Delta from the comforts of a traditional mokoro ride while camping on the banks.
However, a limited number of campsites are available, and they’re extremely popular, with the best sites being booked up a year in advance by South Africans on holiday.
I loved the Okavango Delta’s beauty, tranquility, wildlife, and exclusivity. However, the high price tag is an understandable deterrent.
Read About Our Time In The Okavango delta
Where To Escape Crowds on Safari in Africa?
Mana Pools National Park (Zimbabwe): Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools is a fantastic national park you can enjoy all to yourself! Mana means “four” in Shona, referring to the four permanent pools fed by the Zambezi River found in the park. During the rainy season, the whole area gets its fair share of water, and when the dry season hits, the animals flock to the pools for a drink.
We visited during the shoulder season when the game was starting to come back, and we were in awe by the number of elephants, leopards, and buffalo we saw in the park. Furthermore, elephants are frequent camp visitors as they congregate along the river. It was here we had our closest encounters with elephants, including one elephant who visited our breakfast buffet in search of some tasty food.
Mana Pools is a great park to combine with Zambia’s Lower Zambezi. The parks are divided by the mighty Zambezi River, and even though they are so close in distance, they offer completely different safari experiences.
Read About Our Time in Mana Pools
Best Safari in Africa: Honorable Mentions!
A few other of our favorite best safari in Africa destinations not mentioned on this list:
- Hwange National Park
- Kafue National Park
- Ruaha National Park
- Gondwana Game Reserve
- Chobe National Park
- Madikwe Game Reserve
- Khwai Concession
In the end, almost any safari in Africa is bound to be enjoyable, especially if it’s your first safari! We personally have spent over 100 days on safari, and I can say they still never get old!
What To Pack For Safari
There are a few things that one should pack for an African Safari. We help you create your safari packing list and share some of our favorite safari products.
Plan Your Trip to Africa
- Travel Insurance: We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Travel Waterbottle: When we’re uncertain about the water supply we use our Grayl Purifier. It’s come in exceptionally handy around Africa.
- Camera Gear: Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. We love the Sony RX100V for a pocket-size camera and the Fujifilm XT-4 for a professional camera. Check out our favorite cameras for Africa.
- Safari Clothes: Lightweight, beige, and moisture-wicking clothing are great for traveling Africa. See our favorite safari clothing here.
- Safari Hat: A good hat is both stylish and functional.
- Safari Bag: A durable bag is ideal for traveling around Africa.
- Safari Pants: We recommend neutral-colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors.
- Safari Shirt: Shirts like these are lightweight and keep the bugs away!
- Boots: While you don’t need to wear sturdy shoes every day, at least one pair of safari boots will make your trip nicer!
- Travel Adapter: You’ll need a special travel adapter for traveling Africa. Get one before you get there so you don’t pay a premium on the ground.