You won’t be the first person in the world to have asked what are the best safari parks in Africa?
There are literally hundreds of national parks, game reserves and other protected areas on the continent. This can leave the uninitiated confused as to where to head for days on the trail of lion, elephant and rhino.
Using our years of on the ground experience, we’ve narrowed it down to just 10. From the chance to tick off the Big Five to the possibility of walking across plains hiding the world’s most fearsome predators, here’s our guide to the best safari parks in Africa.
10. Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
The only reason Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia is pushed down to tenth position is because the competition from other safari parks in Africa is so great. A near-pristine wilderness, it occupies a flood plain and wooded escarpment on the north bank of the River Zambezi.
Most lodges aren’t fenced, meaning you’ll be mingling with wildlife including elephant, leopard, lion and incredibly rare wild dogs (painted wolves). If they don’t come to you, you can get to them by 4×4 and canoe.
9. Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
At the heart of the Okavango Delta, Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve has some of the densest wildlife numbers anywhere on the continent. It’s a mix of drier plains and wetland dotted with islands reached in a traditional manner by mokoro canoes. The rest of the reserve can be explored by vehicle.
Rhinos have recently been reintroduced, making this one of the best safari parks in Africa for seeking out the Big Five – rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo. You’ll also find a large population of red lechwe antelope, who have evolved to take full advantage of their wetland home.
8. Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, Tanzania
Closed off from the outside world by the steep sides of an extinct volcano possibly three million years old, The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania is one of Africa’s smallest safari parks, covering 64,000 acres, but is still one of its best.
In addition to stunning panoramas from both the volcano’s edge and down on its valley floor, there’s the chance to catch sight of black rhino and some of the continent’s last remaining giant tuskers. There’s also the opportunity to interact with local Maasai, who have grazed their cattle in the region for hundreds if not thousands of years.
7. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park isn’t just one of the best safari parks in Africa when it comes to size – a massive 14,600 square kilometers. It’s also one of the most diverse when it comes to wildlife encounters.
There are 400 different species of bird alone, plus over 100 mammals. These include somewhere in the region of 40,000 elephants accompanied by antelope, giraffe and a host of species that prey on them.
6. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Naming this park after the river that flows along its eastern boundary was a logical decision since it’s the presence of this constant source of water which means so many animals make their home in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.
Night game drives offer the tantalizing opportunity to see leopards on the prowl rather than sitting out the heat of the day in a tree as hippos wallow noisily in the shallows. The park’s buffalo and elephant herds are also particularly well sized.
5. Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda
Offering up some of the most varied landscapes in the country, Uganda’s Kidepo Valley National Park can be reached by road. But it’s all the more impressive arriving by air, when it’s possible to observe the mosaic of grasses and Borassus palms – a favorite of elephant and Karamojong herders alike.
The park is best just after the rains when the valley is lush and Kidepo’s 70-plus mammal species don’t have to scatter far and wide in search of water. They include jackals, eland, cheetah, leopard and elegant oryx.
4. Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Though comparatively small at 2200 square kilometers, Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe makes it to number 4 of our list of the best safari parks in Africa for several reasons.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is well known as a place to photograph lion, cheetah, leopard and wild dogs. But if you’re brave enough, it’s also one of the only parks in Africa that allows you out on foot – without an armed ranger by your side.
3. Chobe National Park, Botswana
Northern Botswana’s Chobe National Park has been the preserve of its incredible elephant herds for close to a hundred years. The Chobe Riverfront zone has the greatest concentrations of wildlife in the park – and the largest number of tourists.
For a more personal experience, consider the Linyanti Marshes zone, which has only become accessible in more recent years, or the Savuti zone. Animals may not be as dense, but the experience is all the more rewarding.
2. Serengeti National Park/ Maasai Mara National Reserve, Tanzania/Kenya
Sharing an unfenced border between Tanzania to the south and Kenya to the north, the Serengeti is often talked about as a separate entity to the Maasai Mara.
However, they are both part of the same east African ecosystem. And both are home to one of the most magical wildlife spectacles on the planet – the Great Wildebeest Migration. It’s a 1000 kilometer route followed by an estimated million wildebeest alongside hundreds of thousand of zebra and antelope dodging lions, crocs and cheetah in their search for fresh pasture.
1. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Bigger than some countries, South Africa’s Kruger National Park takes a lot of beating. It’s long list of recorded animal species includes the Big Five as well as giraffe, zebra, hippo and over 500 bird species.
It’s northern fringes, beyond the Oliphants River, are best for elephant. But wherever you end up you’re sure to encounter the continent’s iconic species, whether on a game drive or ranger-led walk. For those reasons, Kruger National Park is our pick of the best safari parks in Africa.
The Best Safari Parks in Africa
There is nothing quite like going on safari. A must for all ages, what will have you returning to Africa again and again is the incredible diversity of experiences that can be had on safari, alongside the ever-changing action of life on the plains!