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Unveiling the Perfect African Safari: Our Guide to the Top African Safari Countries

You’d like to go on an African safari. And the continent certainly has a wealth of breath-taking landscapes and unforgettable wildlife to attract your inner adventurer. However, choosing the ideal safari destination can feel overwhelming. There is no best country which beats all the others. All have their winning charms. Fear not! Our candid guide explores the top African safari countries, highlighting their unique offerings, and how they stack up, to help you craft your perfect safari adventure.

South Africa

“The world in one country,” as South Africa is often called, is an apt description. Varied climatic regions have led to diverse game reserve habitats that are home to an incredible array of wildlife. Add to the mix its other scenic attractions: Cape Town, the Winelands, the Whale Coast, golden beaches, and soaring mountains. And South Africa truly offers it all.

Where: At the tip of Southern Africa

Claim to Fame: Diverse landscapes harbouring a variety of wildlife. Combine a safari with scenic wonders like Cape Town and the Winelands.

Safari Style: Open 4×4 vehicles, game drives, and some walking safaris. Private reserves offer up close and personal sightings. And an exclusive experience.

Wildlife: Big Five sightings are good, with exceptional leopard viewing in Greater Kruger. Less common: cheetah. Special types of animals you may be able to see (in some reserves): arid species such as kudu, brown hyena, aardvark, or aardwolf. And of course, the extra rare pangolins and wild dogs.

Pros:

  • Combine safaris with other adventures.
  • Greatest ‘’bang for your buck” (value for money)
  • Abundant lodges to suit most budgets.
  • Kruger National Park with adjoining private reserves
  • Malaria-free game reserves for families.

Cons:

  • South Africa can feel somewhat westernized for some.
  • Limited safari activity variety (mainly game drives),
  • Less likely to see vast herds of plains game, as you would with the Great Migration in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania).

Key Wildlife Regions:

Second-time visitors will enjoy: Eastern Cape, Waterberg, Kalahari

Interested in booking a Safari or Holiday?

Chat to one of our experienced consultants that’s here to help and guide you. We use our expertise to narrow down the choices and present feasible ideas, so you can relax and ENJOY the planning process! Contact us!
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Tanzania

Tanzania beckons with the raw beauty of its savanna landscape and the iconic drama of the Great Wildebeest Migration. From witnessing millions of hooves thundering across the plains to encountering Africa’s legendary Big Five, Tanzania promises an unforgettable wildlife encounter. that will leave you breathless with an array of impressive lodges to boot.

Where:  East Africa on the Indian Ocean (Good to combine with the Seychelles)

Claim to Fame: The awe-inspiring Great Wildebeest Migration, especially in the Serengeti National Park. Diverse game reserves exist, particularly in the north.

Safari Style: With mostly closed 4×4 vehicles with pop-up roofs, some open vehicles can be enjoyed in the concessions. Game drives and bush walks are popular. Hot-air ballooning is an option in the Serengeti.

Insider’s Tip – ask your safari expert about the lodges with specially designed photographic safari vehicles.)

Wildlife: Superb predator sightings, including lions, leopards, and cheetah. Witness the unforgettable zebra and wildebeest migration. Look out for specials like the pemba flying fox. But note that wild dog and black rhino are extremely rare.

Pros for Tanzania as one of the Top African Safari Destinations:

  • Excellent game viewing, some of the best to be found on the entire continent.
  • Easy connections between reserves
  • Choice of fly-in safaris, and private guided or scheduled safaris available
  • Combine bush and beach with Zanzibar.

Cons:

  • Peak season brings crowds to Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire.
  • Park fees are expensive.
  • Mainly closed vehicles for game viewing – which some people prefer.
  • There is no limit on safari vehicles in National parks, so exclusive access can be hard to obtain.

Key Wildlife Regions:

Second-time visitors will enjoy:  Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha, Lake Manyara.

Download our Guide to Tanzania Safaris

Major Game Reserves, Sample Tours & Camps, plus the low-down on Best Time to Visit! Get our Free guide here
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Botswana

Botswana is where luxury meets adventure, promising an unforgettable safari unlike any other. One of the most attractive of our wildlife destinations, Botswana offers superb game-viewing and beautiful landscapes in equal measure. This home to the Chobe River and the Okavango Delta, Botswana is a safari lover’s dream.

Where: Southern Africa, directly north of South Africa

Claim to Fame: The Okavango Delta’s watery paradise and the vast Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Experience a blend of exceptional game viewing and stunning desert landscapes.

Safari Style: Delightful variety of options – open 4×4 vehicles, boating, walking, traditional mokoro canoes, and superb fishing. Explore a mix of National Parks and private concessions.

Wildlife: Big Five sightings are possible in the Delta (except rhinos). Look out for specials like water-adapted species such as sitatunga, red lechwe, and roan antelope. Cheetah sightings are uncommon due to the terrain.

Pros for Botswana as one of the Top African Safari Destinations:

  • Excellent game viewing
  • Diverse and beautiful landscapes with both water and desert areas.
  • Efficient fly-in safaris minimise travel time.
  • Varied safari activities beyond game drives and the country is a low malaria risk.

Cons:

  • Expensive destination with limited options for modest budget travellers (except mobile safaris).
  • Chobe Riverfront can get crowded during the peak season.

Insider’s Tip: Botswana is extremely popular and can be pricey, so connect with one of our Safari experts to know the best times to plan your visit that suits your budget.

Key Wildlife Regions:

Second-time visitors may enjoy:

  • Makgadikgadi Pan, Nxai Pan and Boteti River
  • Central Kalahari
  • Linyanti Swamps
  • Tuli Block.

Download our Guide to Botswana Safaris

Major Game Reserves, Sample Tours & Camps, plus the low-down on Best Time to Visit! Get our free guide here
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Kenya

Along with South Africa and Tanzania, this is one of our most popular safari destinations in Africa. Partly because of the Great Wildebeest migration which it ‘shares’ with Tanzania. But also because of the variety of game reserves on offer and the proliferation of private conservancies which offer greater exclusivity than the National Parks.

Where: In the budge of East Africa, its terrain rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean to mountains and plateaus at its centre.

Claim to Fame: The Great Wildebeest Migration (along with Tanzania). There are diverse reserves, with a growing number of private conservancies offering exclusive wildlife viewing.

Safari Style: Mostly closed 4×4 vehicles with pop-up roofs, some open vehicles are available within concessions. Game drives and bush walks are popular. Hot air ballooning is an option.

Wildlife: Superb predator sightings with lions, leopards, and cheetah. Witness the zebra and wildebeest migration.

Look out for special sightings like gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra, and Rothschild’s giraffe. Wild dog sightings are uncommon in general, but a visit to Laikipia promises an excellent encounter with these rare animals.

Pros:

  • Excellent game viewing with more private concessions than Tanzania with a fantastic array of lodges and camps to choose from.
  • Combine bush and beach with the Kenyan coast, Lamu Island, or Zanzibar.
  • Great choice of fly-in safaris, privately guided safaris, or scheduled safaris.

Insider’s Tip: Kenyan lodges often offer great specials that include inter-lodge transfers – connect with our Safari experts to make the most of your time here.

Cons:

  • Peak season brings crowds to Masai Mara and Amboseli.
  • Park fees are expensive.
  • Mainly closed vehicles for game viewing in national Parks.
  • There is no limit on safari vehicles in National parks, so sightings can feel crowded.

Key Wildlife Regions:

Second-time visitors may enjoy: Samburu, Rift Valley Lakes, and Tsavo East & West

Download our Insiders Guide to Kenya Safaris

Best Game Reserves, sample tours & camps, and the low-down on when & where to visit! Get our Free Guide here
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Zambia

Another of our top safari destinations and a personal favourite of Kate’s. Superb game-viewing combined with several contrasting game reserves each offering something new. Zambia dominates Southern Africa, offering a safari experience that goes beyond the thrills of the bush. Here, discover the authentic heart of Africa and witness diverse wildlife roaming through breath-taking landscapes.

Where: Southern Africa, north of Zimbabwe

Claim to Fame: Authentic Heart of Africa (plus the Victoria Falls!)

Safari Style: Varied – Open-top 4×4 adventures, walking safaris, canoeing excursions, and night drives/bush walks (unique to Zambia’s National Parks)

Wildlife: Big Five encounters, excellent leopard sightings especially in the South Luangwa, and a chance to see the rare puku antelope. Cheetahs are uncommon due to the terrain, except in the Kafue National Park

Pros for Zambia as one of the Top African Safari Destinations:

  • Exceptional Game Viewing. Witness a bounty of predators, elephants, and plains game in stunning scenery.
  • Zambia offers diverse game reserves each offering unique landscapes and wildlife encounters.
  • Not as pricey as Botswana
  • Good flight network connecting its safari destinations.
  • Experience the awe-inspiring Victoria Falls as a contrasting drawcard.
  • Go beyond game drives with activities like walking safaris, boating, canoeing, and even tiger fishing.

Insider’s Tip – Zambia pioneered walking safaris, an activity we highly recommend as it’s a true up-close-and-personal way to enjoy your safari.

Cons:

  • Transfers between airports and lodges can involve longer drives but do offer some game viewing along the way.
  • Most camps close during the rainy season (mid-November to April/May), so Zambia is a seasonal safari destination.

Key Wildlife Regions:

Download our Insiders Guide to Zambia Safaris

Major attractions, sample tours & camps, and the low-down on best areas to visit! Get our free guide here
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has had a chequered recent history. But it’s coming into its own again as it combines some of Africa’s top game reserves with the Victoria Falls. A winning combination! Like Botswana and Zambia, its reserves vary from dry savanna to the watery reserves of Mana Pools and Lake Kariba.

Where: Southern Africa, north of South Africa and the Kruger

Claim to Fame: Zimbabwe offers the excitement ofVictoria Falls and a classic Safari all in one!

Safari Style: Explore the wilderness in open-top 4×4 vehicles. Enjoy a variety of activities like game drives, bush walks, and thrilling boat excursions on some reserves. Some National Parks also allow bush walks.

Wildlife: Encounter the legendary Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino – in their natural habitat. Zimbabwe boasts some of Africa’s most highly trained guides, ensuring an enriching and informative safari experience. Depending on the reserve you visit, keep your eyes peeled for unique sightings like the African wild dog or sable antelope.

Insider’s Tip – connect with our safari experts to create an ultimate Southern Africa itinerary that highlights the best of Southern Africa.

Pros for Zimbabwe as one of the Top African Safari Destinations:

  • Excellent game-viewing with plenty of predators, elephant, plains game.
  • Witness the breath-taking Victoria Falls, a natural wonder of the world, adding an unforgettable dimension to your safari.
  • Excellent guides – their fieldcraft exams are the hardest in Africa!
  • Take a thrilling boat ride on Lake Kariba or embark on a guided bush walk for an even deeper connection with the wilderness. Tiger fishing can also be enjoyed here!
  • Shorter Zimbabwe safaris by road are more budget-friendly than its neighbours, and rich in wildlife encounters.

Cons:

  • Be aware that some reserves may have limited access during the rainy season (January-April)
  • Zimbabwe has relatively few game reserves when compared to its neighbours.

Key Regions:

Second-time visitors may enjoy: Matobo Hills

Interested in booking a Safari or Holiday?

Chat to one of our experienced consultants that’s here to help and guide you. We use our expertise to narrow down the choices and present feasible ideas, so you can relax and ENJOY the planning process! Contact us!
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Namibia

Namibia – like South Africa – mixes up being a safari destination with a more general sightseeing destination. Its scenic delights are manifold – from the dunes of Sossusvlei, to the eery rock formations of Damaraland. Or from the drama of the Fish River Canyon, to the unique and quirky Germanic architecture of its coastal towns. All of this is combined with some top game-viewing in Etosha as well as searching for desert-adapted wildlife (elephant and rhino) in Damaraland and the southern Skeleton Coast.

Where: Southern Africa on the west coast (just north of South Africa)

Claim to Fame: World’s Highest Dunes. Iconic meeting of the cold Atlantic Ocean with breath-taking desert dunes.

Safari Style: Explore the vast Namibian landscapes in open-top 4×4 vehicles. While game drives are the mainstay, some lodges offer exciting opportunities for guided walks and wildlife tracking on foot alongside horse-riding and hot air balloon safaris!

Insider’s Tip – ask us about some of the most remote yet luxurious lodges in Namibia (and the world?) For the ultimate private safari experience.

Wildlife: Encounter a variety of predators and plains game adapted to the arid environment. Look out for desert-adapted elephants and rhinos, with occasional lion sightings in specific reserves. Leopards are less common due to the sparse vegetation. Witness wildlife congregating around waterholes during the dry season, creating a photographer’s paradise.

Pros:  

  • Namibia offers a fantastic safari experience at a competitive price point, as the Namibian Dollar is pegged to the South African Rand.
  • Combine your safari adventure with an exploration of Namibia’s stunning scenery, from the majestic Sossusvlei Dunes to the other-worldly Damaraland rock formations.
  • Explore the Caprivi Strip, a lush wetland area offering a unique contrast to the arid landscapes in the rest of Namibia. And with a wildlife experience similar to Botswana, but at more affordable prices.
  • Namibia is also largely malaria-free.
  • Hosts a world of eco-conscious lodges.

Cons:

  • Wildlife viewing is highly seasonal, especially in Etosha National Park. Plan your trip strategically for optimal game viewing.
  • Namibia’s vast distances can make private tours and flying safaris expensive.
  • Be prepared for scorching summer days and chilly nights, especially during winter.

Key Wildlife Regions:

Second-time visitors may enjoy:  Sossusvlei, Skeleton Coast and the Central Highlands.

Download our Insiders Guide to Namibia Safaris

Major Game Reserves, Sample Tours & Camps, plus the low-down on Best Time to Visit! Get our Free Guide here
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Uganda

Uganda is one of the few places where you can trek to see the rare mountain gorillas in the Bwindi (or Mahinga) rainforests. But it also has plenty of other game reserves, so you can combine a more traditional wildlife safari with gorilla trekking.

Where: Land-locked in Central Africa adjacent to Kenya to the east.

Claim to Fame: Gorilla Trekking AND more mainstream game-viewing.

Safari Style: Explore the diverse landscapes in open-top 4×4 vehicles, embarking on exciting game drives. But Uganda offers more – trek through verdant rainforests to encounter the rare mountain gorillas or explore waterways with thrilling boat safaris.

Wildlife: The apes and primates steal the show in Uganda. Embark on a life-changing experience – trekking through the misty mountain rainforests to see the endangered mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. (Permits are significantly more affordable in Uganda.) Encounter a diverse range of wildlife on traditional game drives. Look out for plains game species, predators, and a variety of primates, including chimpanzees that you can also trek to see. While rhinos are not currently present, Uganda offers a wealth of other unforgettable wildlife encounters.

Pros for Uganda as one of the Top African Safari Destinations:

  • Combine the thrill of a classic African safari with the unique opportunity to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
  • Explore contrasting ecosystems, from the lush rainforests of Bwindi National Park to the savannas of Queen Elizabeth National Park, where you can even enjoy boat rides on the lake.
  • Compared to neighbouring Rwanda, Uganda offers significantly more affordable permits for gorilla trekking, making this life-changing experience more accessible.
  • Easy fly-in safaris to see the Gorillas.
  • So you can combine a Uganda safari with a visit to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, for an unforgettable East Africa safari adventure.

Cons:

  • Uganda’s distances between lodges are considerable, so there are some long travel days, if you take a driving safari.
  • Not so many options for full-on fly-in safaris so these tend to be expensive.

Key Regions:

Second-time visitors may enjoy Kibale, Kidepo and Mahinga

Interested in booking a Safari or Holiday?

Chat to one of our experienced consultants that’s here to help and guide you. We use our expertise to narrow down the choices and present feasible ideas, so you can relax and ENJOY the planning process! Contact us!
 

Kate Bergh

Co-founder & Director

Hi I’m Kate, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Rwanda

Apart from one game reserve, Rwanda doesn’t offer the savanna wildlife species and predators seen elsewhere in Africa. Rather, its powerful drawcard is trekking to see the rare mountain gorillas in the Virunga rainforest mountains. A secondary draw are the other primates that can be found here as and in the Nyungwe rainforest. Rwanda also has a rich cultural heritage and is an adventure lover’s dream.

Where: Land-locked country in Central Africa – with Tanzania to its east

Claim to Fame: Gorilla Trekking

Safari Style: This one is all about being on foot. Trekking means climbing and walking to where the gorillas were last seen nesting the night before. A truly remarkable experience! In Akagera, there are open top 4×4 vehicles, with bush walks and boating also on offer in this reserve. Akagera is also the place to encounter plains game, elephants, lions, and leopards.

Insider’s Tip: Make sure to ask about the range of incredible museums, both cultural and around the Gorillas to explore while you are in-country.

Pros:

  • One of only two places to be able to trek to see the Mountain Gorillas within their unique mountain rain forest within Volcanoes National Park.
  • The lodges on the slopes of the mountain are also some of the most luxurious in Africa.
  • Can combine your gorilla trek with Akagera for a more classic safari experience.
  • Or with Tanzania via a flight from the Serengeti to Kigali.

Cons:

  • Gorilla permits alone cost $ 1500 per person (though ask us about the shoulder season combo park fee, which helps!)
  • Focus is very much on the gorilla trekking in this region.
  • You need a reasonable level of fitness to complete the trek.
  • Mainly a driving destination as fly-in safaris are expensive with very few ‘seat-in’ charter’ flying options.

Key Wildlife Regions:

Malawi

While Malawi cannot offer the same quality of wildlife sightings as its neighbour Zambia, its primary wildlife reserves have improved dramatically in recent years. Great for the experienced safari visitor wanting to see something new. Or for people wanting to combine a safari with some relaxing R&R on Lake Malawi.

Where: The bridge between Southern and East Africa, adjacent to Zambia

Claim to Fame: A Land-lockedBush & Beach Destination

Safari Style: Open top 4×4 vehicles and plenty of game drives, bush walks and boating on the Shire River. Insider’s tip: Malawi has a host of great adventure and cultural activities to enjoy, make sure to include some of these when planning your safari.)

Wildlife: The Big 5 are on offer in Majete. However, Malawi excels in its sightings of elephants, crocodiles, hippos, and plain species. Look out for the special bird species. Predator sightings are less common, but Malawi’s natural beauty is awe-inspiring, nonetheless. 

Pros:

  • Malawian people are some of the friendliest on the continent.
  • Lake Malawi means that this is a perfect Bush & Beach destination.
  • Plus, its direct access to the South Luangwa Park in Zambia means you can combine these countries easily.
  • Easy and fairly quick to travel between Game Reserves and these reserves offer terrific value for money compared to other Dollar-based destinations.
  • Game-viewing is improving with the stewardship of African Parks

Cons:

  • Game-viewing is not as plentiful, or varied, as in Zambia or Zimbabwe
  • Whilst distances are short, the roads are poor, so a healthy dose of patience is required.

Key Wildlife Areas:

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Our “Guide to the Top African Safari Destinations‘ was written by Kate of Cedarberg Africa

Cedarberg Africa is a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa. We focus on upmarket tailormade safaris for discerning and inquiring people. So travel widely so we can chat to you about a possible trip from personal experience, weighing up the different options, to plan a dream safari trip that is just right for you!

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