As a huge fan of wildlife watching, I’ve spied on a leopard up close in the Serengeti National Park, observed black rhinos in the savannas outside Nairobi, and floated alongside hippos in the lush eden of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Being able to observe wildlife in a natural setting is a rare, unique and one-in-a-million experience.
Out of the numerous wildlife destinations in the world, African countries dominate the list with their awe-inspiring savannahs and untouched surroundings. If you’re looking for guaranteed sightings of wild animals, you definitely have to check out this list of best safari parks in Africa.
Table of Contents
- Best Safari Parks in Africa
Best Safari Parks in Africa
1. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Maasai Mara is always at the top of any list of best safari destinations in Africa. Bordering the Tanzanian border, Maasai Mara National Reserve is an area of preserved savannah wilderness in southwestern Kenya.
This is one of the best places for safari in Africa as you get the highest chances of seeing the Big Five (lion, Cape buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros, and elephant). The premier national reserve is home to over 570 species of birds and 95 species of mammals.
While this amazing reserve is open year-round, the best time to visit is either between July and October when the stunning wildebeest migration is happening or between December and February when the chance of spotting more of the big cats is higher.
2. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in Africa, spanning across a diverse array of terrains, from mountains to tropical forests and savannas. It’s home to over 507 birds, 336 trees, 147 mammals, 114 reptiles, 49 fish, and 34 amphibians. Chances of seeing the Big Five are also, but you’ll also see more rare animals like the fish eagle, hornbill and honey badger.
For those traveling with families, Kruger is also lauded as the #1 best place to go on an African safari with kids as it’s home to lots of family-friendly lodges that are also malaria-free. Kruger has an edge over the other safari destinations in the list — it’s so near Johannesburg you can easily incorporate other activities into your South Africa itinerary: including visits to world-class museums, wineries and other cultural sites.
3. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
A country bursting with unspoiled beauty, Tanzania is one of the best wildlife destinations in the world. Amongst them, my personal favorite is the Serengeti. 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.
This migration also puts it at the top of the list of best safaris in Africa. Every October and November over one million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras come south for the rain before heading northwest about six months later. It’s also a great place to catch cheetahs and lions in action as they prey on the
4. Chobe National Park, 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.
Amongst them, Chobe National Park stands out for having the world’s largest herds of elephants. With an estimated population of 120,000 elephants, Chobe is also nicknamed the “Land of the Giants”.
Because of the Chobe River, there’s also an unmatched amount of wildlife and birdlife – including hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes, lions, leopards, and countless bird species. The absolute best way to experience Chobe National Park is on a boat trip. It provides a unique perspective, amazing views, and stunning photographs.
5. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Mountain gorillas are some of the world’s most endangered animals in the world, with just over 1000 left on Earth. Being in their presence is an absolute privilege, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is something humbling and moving about coming so close to an animal of this size and stature in the wild — with no fence or cage between you.
Mountain gorillas can only be found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda. According to the 2019 gorilla census, there are 1063 mountain gorillas left in the world. Uganda holds 60% of the total mountain gorillas left in the world, with Bwindi Impenetrable Forest being the most popular choice for a gorilla trekking tour.
Gorilla trekking is an expensive experience — with permits costing upwards of $500. But once you lock eyes with a gorilla, you’ll know it’s well worth the money. Yes you only spend one hour with the gorillas, but it’s an intense, exhilarating and deeply soul-stirring hour.
6. Etosha National Park, 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.
Named the Etosha pan, Etosha National Park is home to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, and mammals, but it’s most known for the endangered black rhinoceros. One of the most unique things about Etosha National Park is that they have floodlit waterholes, giving you perfect lighting to admire nocturnal wildlife.
7. Ngorongoro National Reserve, Tanzania
Because of the pure concentration of wildlife, the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best safari parks in Africa. This majestic natural wonder is the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world, and it measures about 20 kilometers across, 600 meters deep, and 300 square kilometers in area.
Now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ngorongoro Crater was formed when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed around 3 million years ago. The cone of the volcanic caldera collapsed inwards and created what we know today as one of the most unique safari parks in Africa, and indeed the world.
The area houses over 25,000 large animals, not including the almost two million that pass through during the migration. Within the crater there are thousands of wildebeest, eland, gazelles, and zebras, and up in the rainforest of the crater rim there are animals like elephants, reedbuck, and jackals. In the lake within the crater are beautiful flamingos, ostriches, and pelicans.
8. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Known as “Africa’s Last Eden”, this inland river delta is one of the best safari destinations in Africa. I absolutely loved my time floating on the mokoro (wooden dug out canoes) and observing hippos and crocodiles from a close distance. Seeing these animals from the water is a complete different experience.
The best time to visit is between June and August. This is when the annual flood happens and animals are confined to the islands, making them easier to see. Typically, 200,000 large mammals have their seasonal home in the Okavango Delta, and it’s a regular home to many fish and plant species. It’s also one of the best African safaris to view from both land and water.