Going on a safari is a must for any wildlife lover, and there’s no better place to head for a safari than Africa, where the tours originated. Coming from the Swahili word for ‘journey,’ there’s really nothing like a sun rise or sun set drive, walk, or boat trip through landscapes home to favorites including the Big 5. But with so many possible safari destinations, from Niger down to South Africa, it can be useful to have expert recommendations for the best place for an African safari. That’s exactly what you’ll find right here!
Uganda – The Best Place for African Safaris!
When talking about the best place for an African safari, it’s relatively unusual to highlight an entire country. However, unlike the giant countries of southern Africa, Uganda is small enough to open up the entire country to safari goers. At less than 250,000 square kilometers in area, it can be explored without endless hours on the road or in the air.
What’s more, safari goers in Uganda can combine a traditional vehicle-led safari, across the grassland plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park or Kidepo Valley National Park, with gorilla trekking safaris. One of the only countries in the world where this is even a possibility, it enables animal lovers to join tree-climbing lions in gazing across herds of elephant, giraffe, and wildebeest one day, and delve amongst the trees of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in search of mountain gorillas the next.
Other destinations in Uganda to consider on wildlife-based tours include Murchison Falls National Park, and the region around Mount Stanley in the Rwenzori Mountain range. Inspired? Take a look at our customizable Uganda safaris.
The Serengeti, Tanzania
The Serengeti is probably Africa’s best known safari destination for good reason. Home to the annual Great Wildebeest Migration, the world’s largest movement of large mammals, it’s a region which takes its name from the Maasai for ‘endless plains.’
It’s a stunningly apt description of what you can expect, with open savannah often stretching beyond the horizon. However, significant portions of the Serengeti ecosystem are also given over to acacia and terminalia woodlands, alongside rocky outcrops such as the popular Lion Kopje.
During the migration, up to two million individual animals can cram onto the fresh grasses that come after the rains, including zebra and gazelle in addition to wildebeest. Following them from only a short distance away are predators as varied as lion, wild dogs, and caracal on the look out for wounded or isolated animals. Despite this, some of the most dramatic scenes are to be found on the banks of the Grumeti River, a crocodile infested waterway which the animals have to cross.
For this reason, the Serengeti is considered by many to be the best place for an African safari. See our pick of Tanzania safaris for more.
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Perhaps the safest nation in Africa, Rwanda is arguably the best place for an African safari for first time travelers to the continent who might otherwise be a little nervous of what to expect.
The big attraction for safari goers in this charming east African country is its mountain gorilla population, largely located within Volcanoes National Park. Their number totals around half the entire population of mountain gorillas alive today.
The bamboo forests of Volcanoes National Park have no less than 12 habituated family groups, made up of at least one dominant silverback male, as well as several females, juveniles, and youngsters. However, with only 96 trekking permits issued for any given day, seeing mountain gorillas in their natural habitat is still a very special and exclusive experience.
Usually lasting for 2-3 days, gorilla trekking tours can be easily combined with other safari experiences in Rwanda. Nyungwe forest is known as one of the top destinations for chimp and primate sightings in Africa, whilst Akagera National Park protects an archetypal savannah landscape and its wildlife. This includes reintroduced black rhinos, lions, and incredible birdlife.
Take a look at our Rwanda safaris here.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
One of the best places for an African safari outside of east Africa, Hwange National Park has a lot to recommend it. The size of Belgium, it is hugely diverse when it comes to its wildlife, with over 100 species of mammal recorded within its boundaries.
These include around 50,000 elephants, all but ensuring sightings of these gentle giants, alongside Africa’s largest population of Cape wild dogs (also called painted wolves). Many of the park’s creatures are incredibly easy to spot, since they remain close to man-made waterholes, especially during the dry season of July to October – Zimbabwe’s winter months.
If that wasn’t enough, Hwange can be reached by rail as well as by road and by air. The nearest international airport is less than 1.5 hours drive away, at Victoria Falls.
The Maasai Mara, Kenya
It was the Maasai people that named ‘The Mara’ as well as the Serengeti. They called this vast area of southwest Kenya ‘spotted’ because of the presence of lone trees and shrubs dotting its plains. When it comes to iconic wildlife, the Maasai Mara is one of the best places for an African safari because of its large numbers of Big 5 species.
A major advantage for travelers who may be limited to specific months is the fact the Big 5 species (lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo, and black rhino) can be found in the Maasai Mara all year round. They share the grasslands with another 90-odd mammal species and almost 400 types of bird.
Covering around 800 square kilometers, game drives remain the most popular way of seeking out the animals of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and its surrounding locally-owned conservancies. Other activities including sunrise hot air balloon rides, which allow visitors to drift silently across the plains just as the Mara’s creatures begin a new day. The Maasai Mara is easily visited on many of our Kenya safaris too.
Where to go on Safari in Africa
Africa’s top safari destinations are paradises for lovers of nature. But don’t be fooled into opting for locations with a limited chance of animal encounters. Stick with our picks of the best place for an African safari, and you’ll instead enjoy wonderful sightings of everything from the Big 5 to mountain gorillas!