Top 5 African Countries for Wildlife Watching

Posted on July 15, 2010 by

As a huge fan of wildlife watching, I’ve spied on a leopard up close in the Serengeti National Park, observed a sea lion curl up before me on the Galapagos Islands and tip-toed around a snoozing koala bear in Melbourne, Australia. Being able to observe wildlife in a natural setting is a rare, unique and one-in-a-million experience.

Out of the numerous wildlife watching spots in the world, African countries dominate the list with their awe-inspiring savannahs and untouched surroundings. I bring you five of the best in Africa, based on my own experience and readings.

1. Botswana

Botswana stands out for its diverse ecosystems: on a wildlife safari in Botswana, you’re never limited to just one transport mode. Besides game-tracking by 4WD, you’ll be exploring Botswana’s mixture of salt pans and savannahs by mokoro (dugout canoe, Botswana specialty) and riverboat. Places not to miss include the Chobe National Park, home to the world’s largest herds of elephant, and the Okavango Delta, an exquisite wetland area. Botswana lodges are also world class, often found in the heart of African wilderness.

A herd of elephants in Savute Channel, Botswana Flickr photo by ebatty

An impala in Botswana Photo by Va bene!

2. Tanzania

A country bursting with unspoiled beauty, Tanzania has some of Africa’s most coveted wildlife watching spots. Amongst them, my personal favorite is Ngorongoro Crater. At daybreak, as the mist dissipates, you’ll see silhouettes of elephants, rhinoceros, lions and buffalos appearing before you. The long drive through Serengeti National Park is an epic one, as you get to witness the massive wildebeest migration. Whether you’re looking for a luxury safari or a basic camping safari, a trip to the wildlife epicenter of Africa is an essential part of your trip to Tanzania.

Zebras in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Cheetahs lounging around in Serengeti, Tanzania

3. Namibia

What’s unique about Namibia is its expansive deserts, red sand dunes and a kaleidoscope of different environments. Straddling two great deserts: the Namib, the oldest desert in the world, and the red sand dunes along the Atlantic Coastline. Some of the best wildlife-watching spots include the white saltpans of Etosha National Park (herds of giraffes), red dunes at Sossusvlei (to see gemsbok) and Skeleton Coast (colonies of seals).

Suricates, Namibia Photo by Sara&Joachim

Gemsbucks in Etosha National Park

Photo by afiedeldey

4. Rwanda

Rwanda is best known for its excellent gorilla trekking safaris. Unlike most of the other countries on this list, gorillas are Rwanda’s star celebrity in the wildlife world. The Volcanoes National Park , in northern Rwanda is home to the world’s largest number of endangered mountain gorillas. In Eastern Rwanda, the Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda is crowded with wildlife – from herds of elephant and buffaloes to giraffes and zebras grazing its savannahs and a dozen species of antelope roaming free.

Baby gorilla photographed while trekking in Rwanda

A lion sleeping on a tree 

Both Photos by hjallig

5. South Africa

South Africa’s edge over the other countries is that besides wildlife safaris, its cities have even more to offer: cultural activities, ethnical history and cosmopolitan city life. Kruger National Park, its largest and most diverse game reserve, is home to all of Africa’s Big Five. Several other game reserves are said to be malaria-free, namely KwaZulu Natal, Madikwe Game Reserve and the Waterberg.

Buffalos in Kruger National Park, South Africa Photo by Kleinz1

A lion kill in Kruger National Park Photo by jason&molly

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

11 Responses to “Top 5 African Countries for Wildlife Watching”

  1. Gray July 14, 2010 4:51 pm #

    Those meerkats are so cute!

  2. Aurora July 15, 2010 12:39 pm #

    For as long as I can remember it has been one of my biggest dreams to one day go to Africa and see/meet the wildlife there! I've never yet gotten around to it. Reading this post makes me feel that it is definitely time I did so soon! Beautiful post!

    • admin July 16, 2010 4:26 pm #

      Thanks Aurora, I’ve got a soft spot for Africa, need to head back there soon!

  3. brendanvanson July 15, 2010 2:16 pm #

    Good list… Hopefully I can get over there and see some of it soon!

  4. zina July 26, 2010 10:40 pm #

    Excellent post…

    This may sound a bit biased (im from Botswana :-) ) but if i had to choose one safari destination i would choose Botswana; Prmarily because of the diversity in ecosystems that it has to offer.

    The makgadikgadi salt pans, the chobe national park, the mashatu game reserve, the Moremi game reserve and the Central Kalahari Game reserve….All are different ecosystems with different game viewing experiences, different vegetation, and even different cultural experiences…

    I'm surprised you didn't include Kenya. How come?….

    • @njooro February 11, 2012 1:00 am #

      Yeah, am also surprised that Kenya is missing. The diverse range of parks makes it one of Africa's premium safari destinations. Even Maasai Mara didn't make the list?

  5. Jean December 12, 2010 6:58 pm #

    Where’s Kenya????

    I’ve been to Kenya and Tanzania and I had a better time in Kenya than I did in Tanzania…you should include Kenya.

  6. Kathryn November 23, 2011 1:40 am #

    Take me there with you!
    I would love to live there.
    Xo
    K

  7. Lori May 25, 2012 6:12 am #

    My sentiments exactly.In my 30 years of traveling to Africa, Kenya would be in my top five. Tsavo, Mara, Amboseli… you can't beat those parks. Also in Tanzania I would add Gombe and Mahale for Chimp trekking which I talk about on my Blog, AfricaIside.Org. Wonderful, remote and not too overrun with tourists.
    Otherwise I agree with most of your choices. Thanks for the Post. Asante sana, Lori from AFRICAINSIDE.ORG

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