Seeking out the best safari location in Africa? With so many destinations competing for your attention it can be difficult to know where to head. After all, there is somewhere in the region of 400 national parks across the continent, and that’s before we consider the reserves, conservancies and other protected spaces. Much of what makes somewhere the best safari location in Africa will be the range of animal life you can encounter, which is why we’ve created this detailed rundown of Africa’s finest safari spots.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Starting our pick of the best safari locations in Africa is Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. No Tanzania safari is complete without a visit to this giant of African conservation, home to the Big 5 species (lion, leopard, elephant, black rhino and buffalo), as well as the year-round attraction of the Great Wildebeest Migration.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site which is home to literally millions of game species, including 6,500 big cats, giving it one of the highest proportions of lion, cheetah and leopard of any African national park.
The birthplace of the modern safari, camps and lodges have a century of expertise at providing all safari goers could possibly want, and cater equally well to both the budget end of the market and those looking for unapologetic luxury.
Already almost 15,000 square kilometers in area, its mix of savannah grassland, woodland and riverine forest stretches all the way across the border into another famous safari hotspot: Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, giving you double the interest for your money!
Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
With royal approval behind it (it’s named after the UK’s longest reigning monarch), Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park may only be a fraction of the size of the Serengeti, but it’s still large enough to have to be split into different sectors. Each offer those on Uganda safaris something different.
Head to the Ishasha sector in the south of the park to see Queen Elizabeth’s best-known residents, it’s tree-climbing lions. One of just two populations anywhere in Africa known to climb trees (which is usually the preserve hobby of leopards) Ishasha’s acacia and fig trees can often be found to be strewn with this unusual fruit!
Meanwhile, the Kazinga Channel connecting Lake Edward and the smaller Lake George is an excellent place to head to admire the park’s herds of elephant and hippo, as well as keep an eye out for its crocs, either by 4×4 or by boat. This sector is also particularly good for bird watching. No less than 618 different species of bird have been recorded here, the highest number in Africa and one of the highest counts anywhere on Earth.
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
An expanse of pristine wilderness located around Zambia’s Luangwa River, South Luangwa National Park (there’s another northern park closed off to most) is another great pick for the best safari location in Africa.
The gentle undulations of the wide river valley are broken up in the northwest of this 9,000 square kilometer protected area by the Murchison escarpment. Elsewhere, the grasslands and plains we often associate with safaris blend into native woodland containing mopane and marula trees, alongside the occasional magnificent baobab. The park’s animal life ranges from 14 species of antelope and rare Crawshay’s zebra, to elephants and lion.
Nor are these beloved animals difficult to spot, thanks to some of Africa’s densest populations of a variety of species, which can be seen on day and night game drives, as well as on walking safaris!
Akagera National Park, Rwanda
Although discussions on wildlife-based adventures in Rwanda usually focus around the gorilla trekking opportunities of Volcanoes National Park, those looking for a vehicle-led safari certainly won’t be disappointed by Akagera National Park.
Rwanda’s most important remaining area of savannah and also a major wetland in its own right, Akagera is now run by not-for-profit organization Africa Parks, so you know any money you spend here is helping conserve the park’s species for future generations to admire and enjoy.
Although many of its species, including its 40 lions and around 30 white rhinos have been reintroduced after years of poaching, this takes nothing away from the spectacular scenes that await anyone undertaking a Rwanda safari here.
Travelers will also need their cameras at the ready to photograph the elephant, giraffe, hyenas and various antelopes that feast off this sea of grass either directly or indirectly. If you’re really lucky, you might even catch sight of the huge eyes of the park’s incredibly shy bush baby population.
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
In search of the best safari location in Africa we’ve taken you to Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda, but our favorite spots also take us to Kenya. Although Kenya safaris are arguably the best safari location in Africa to tick off the Big 5 species, thanks to the Maasai Mara and Tsavo East, Amboseli National Park holds a special place in the heart of many safari goers.
This is because Amboseli is almost unrivalled when it comes to large herds of elephant. Don’t worry though, other inhabitants of the park include predators such as leopards, wild dogs and cheetahs, and prey species such as zebra, kudu and porcupines. What’s more, spending a few days in Amboseli means roaming the plains of east Africa with a backdrop of Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, just across the border in Tanzania and often capped by a carpet of snow.
The inclusion of two large areas of swamp in the park’s boundaries helps attract a myriad of birdlife too, including an impressive 47 different species of raptor, pelicans, kingfishers, and a long list of wading birds.
Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
Located in Uganda’s northern reaches, Kidepo Valley National Park really should be better known! Its comparatively isolated position (but don’t worry, it’s still easy to reach) makes Kidepo one of the wildest and most untouched places to safari on the continent.
It primarily consists of prime savannah grassland, dotted with a handful of mountains, most notable Mount Morungole, which rises to a height of 2,750 meters. In short, Kidepo is a national park that promises big but manages to deliver even bigger. There’s an impressive array of different species – some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the country. There are almost 90 mammal species, including rare Rothschild’s giraffe, wild dog, and leopard, as well as close to 500 bird species.
But take a visit to Kidepo Valley National Park for yourself and you’re also in the perfect place to discover a little more about the country’s human cultures, with the Karamojong and Acholis just some of the tribes living authentic lives in the region.
Deciding on the Best Safari Location in Africa
Choosing the best safari location in Africa is no easy task! Our top 5 picks should go some way to making your decision all the easier, while our guide to how to book an African safari will tell you all the practical steps you need to know to arranging your dream vacation!