The word ”safari” probably brings to mind visions of lions lying on a grassy plain, hippos poking their heads above the surface of a river, wildebeest migrating across the savanna, or a parade of elephants drinking and bathing in a water hole. If you dream of seeing these sights, here are some of the best places to go wild.
Tanzania is home to some of the most famous sights in Africa, and about a quarter of its land is devoted to national parks and wildlife reserves: more than any other destination on the planet. The most well-known safari destination in the country is the Serengeti in the northern part of the country, but Ruaha, Mahale, and Gombe National Parks, and Selous Game Reserve in the south, are just as rewarding (and often less crowded).
South Africa is famously home to Kruger National Park, one of many parks in the country where visitors can spot the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard, and buffalo) while on safari. Because many camps and lodges in South Africa are open year-round, it’s one of the best options for a budget-friendly offseason safari. Those pressed for time can head out for some wildlife viewing at the Aquila Game Reserve or Pilanesberg Nature Reserve in as little as a single day.
The idea of going on safari was born in Kenya, and this East African country remains a popular destination for exploring the wilderness. Within the legendary Masai Mara, visitors can witness the incredible sight of 2 million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle migrating through the ecosystem in search of water and grazing grounds. Millions of flamingos wade through the waters of Lake Nakuru, while Amboseli National Park is one of the best spots in Africa to view herds of elephants.
Botswana has been blessed with impressive geological diversity: a bonus when it comes to heading out on safari. Much of the nation’s wild areas remain untouched, including the stark Kalahari Desert, home to gazelle, kudu, and springbok; the lush Okavango Delta, where boat safaris search for hippos, elephants, and wading birds; and the great Chobe, Linyanti, and Kwando Rivers where it’s common to spot herds of elephants, flocks of water birds, and packs of wild African dogs.
This southern African country boasts 400 species of wildlife within Hwange National Park alone. It’s Zimbabwe’s largest national park and one of the best places in Africa to see elephant, sable, and buffalo herds. The mighty Zambezi River that feeds Victoria Falls flows through UNESCO-listed Mana Pools National Park, home to large populations of hippos, elephants, and Nile crocodiles.
Home to the world’s oldest living desert, Namibia is also home to one of the continent’s top game parks, Etosha National Park. Within this stunning park, visitors might spot tens of thousands of flamingos feeding on algae, huge herds drinking at water holes, or leopards lying in wait on a tree branch. The Big Five are all here, as well as more than 114 other species. Namib-Naukluft Park, one of the largest in Africa, is home to oryx, antelope, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, zebras, and dozens of other mammal species.