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9 Best African Safari Countries and Where to Go Within Them

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Zebra and wildebeests walking along a lake filled with flamingos in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Africa is home to conservation parks and canyons, deserts and deltas, rivers and ravines, to create a canvas ideal for the dream adventure of an African safari across the following destinations.

Focus is given to east and southern Africa, where unfathomable numbers of wildlife and breathtaking landscapes set the scene for an animal adventure some only dream of. A beach and bush endeavour intertwined with capturing majestic waterfalls, tranquil lakes and off-the-beaten-path activities make planning an African safari not only exciting, but perhaps a little daunting, with options stretching from border to border.

As an entire continent that captures the soul in so many ways, you can find some of the highlights from Africa’s top safari destinations.

Botswana

Elephants on the banks of the Chobe River, Botswana

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Botswana offers some of the most incredible wildlife experiences and several must-see destinations and landscapes. The humbling natural beauty presents scenes ranging from stark desert beauty to thickets of acacia trees and the winding waters of the Okavango Delta. Exclusive safaris, adventurous exploration, and unforgettable wildlife encounters, Botswana is the ideal playground for any safari-seeker.

Okavango Delta

Where is it? The channels and grasslands of the Okavango Delta lie in north-western Botswana, the water coming down from Angola and flooding the plains to create a safari wonderland offering water- and land-based safaris.

Highlights of the Area:

  • Discover how the channels of the Okavango Delta provide a pathway through reeds and bushes to highlight some of the best birdlife and smaller wildlife in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Witness how the soil shifts from desert-like sand to stoney savannas,
  • Embrace the unparalleled game experiences to find the likes of elephants and lions, lively avifauna and foraging mongoose.

When to Visit: To see the Delta at its best, consider travel between May and September, when the days are cooler, the grasses low and the game viewing at its prime. The dryer, winter months are simply perfect to explore on water or land.

Chobe Game Reserve

Where is it? Located in the north of Botswana, Chobe is the country’s third-largest game reserve. It lies not too far from the border to Zimbabwe and a water taxi ride away from Zambia.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Great herds of elephants, an incredible sight to witness from within the reserve and from a tender boat on the Chobe River.
  • Proximity to Victoria Falls to experience it as a day trip.
  • Combines nicely with the Okavango Delta and Maun to create the overall Botswana safari adventure.

When to Visit: Winter is the best time, so consider the drier, cooler months of June through to the end of September, avoiding the heat that October brings. Combining Chobe with a visit to the famous Victoria Falls works exceptionally well during the winter months as the falls are at their most magnificent from May to the end of July.

Kalahari Desert

Where is it? Crossing several countries, the Kalahari Desert covers around 70% of Botswana, starting from the southern border with South Africa, expanding up into Botswana. It offers some of the typical topography and features you would expect from a desert experience, plus much more.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Bask in the diverse wildlife, flora, and fauna in connection to the dramatic variations in temperature.
  • Visit with the renowned Bushmen who have lived in the distinctive landscape and temporal conditions for millennia.
  • Enjoy stargazing and nature walks to embrace the encompassing majesty of the Kalahari Desert.

When to Visit: Consider the wet season to optimize this region and embrace all its offerings, most noticeably the prolific birdlife that can be seen in December through to March. Animals also congregate around the pans, so wildlife spotting is good. The cooler and drier months will make road travel easier so we could say this is a year-round destination.

Linyanti

Where is It? Located in the north-western corner of Chobe National Park, near the river border of Namibia, lies the swamp-like safari wonder of Linyanti. It is remote, rugged, and offers exceptional off-the-beaten-track safaris.

Highlights of the Park:

  • View the vast herds of elephants to experience one of the main highlights of any safari to this region.
  • Indulge in the stillness, remoteness, and incredible birdlife associated with the serene corner of Botswana

When to Visit: September stands out as a peak and amazing time to visit, with the best bird-watching months being January and February. The winter in southern Africa falls from June through to the end of August, making wildlife sightings easier as it's dry and the grass is low.

2. Kenya

Giraffes in the background of Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Comprising vast savannas, flourishing lakes and impressive mountains, Kenya sits along Africa’s eastern coastline and is a gateway to some of Africa’s key safari destinations. Well-known parks lure you in and witnessing the great migration in the Maasai Mara or marveling at the tip of Mt Kilimanjaro from Amboseli are just two highlights of your safari journey. Colonial, timeless and offering a year-round experience, discover safari excellence in this incredible country.

Amboseli

Where is It? Perfectly positioned along the southern border of Kenya, the Amboseli National Park offers a frontline view to one of the most majestic sights of all time, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Enjoy the national park with one of the best panoramic views of Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Explore the wilderness to find the variety of wildlife in a park home to the Big Five
  • Indulge in the natural landscapes of Kenya as you venture through one of Africa’s most scenic national parks.

When to Visit: The drier months of winter are prime time to experience this part of Kenya. Visit anytime from the end of May to the end of September, and discover mild days and cool nights, with quality game viewing guaranteed.

Maasai Mara

Where is It? Kenya’s most famous safari park is located in southwest Kenya, bordering Tanzania and offering some of the best game viewing in Africa. The Maasai Mara is the quintessential safari destination and the place most first-time safari-goers look to experience when planning such a trip.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Discover the wilderness in the Maasai Mara as you search for the infamous Big Five and herds of plains game.
  • Explore the vast savannas with exceptional guides, inviting lodges, and premier camps
  • Take advantage of the sensational opportunity to witness the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth, the Great Migration.

When to Visit: Offering year-round game viewing, you would be assured of a great Mara experience any time of year. However, some months stand out as optimum times to visit. The great migration usually occurs around July and again in reverse around the end of October. Birding is wonderful in January and February, and the winter months of June through to August are known as the peak safari period.

Laikipia

Where is It? Centrally-located, Laikipia County runs across vast open plains, dense hilly areas and impressive mountain ranges. It overlooks the Ewaso Nyiro River, is home to Maasai and Samburu communities, and an array of wildlife

Highlights of the Park:

  • Find a refuge for a large number of endangered black rhino and other captivating wildlife such as giraffe, kudu, waterbuck, eland, and leopard.
  • Revel in the wilderness from a different perspective on walking and horse riding safaris,
  • Discover the active colors, songs, and hunting prowess of the impressive avifauna with distinctive birdwatching opportunities.

When to Visit: If you are an avid bird watcher, be sure to include Laikipia in your East African safari itinerary and visit after the short rains, so in January and February. For optimum game viewing, the drier months of June through to September are perfect.

Lake Nakuru

Where is It? Located in west-central Kenya, three hours from Nairobi, Lake Nakuru is a captivating lake lying in the Great Rift Valley. The destination is often included in a standard Kenyan itinerary, adding a splash of color to a safari.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Focus on the thousands of flamingos that cover the shimmering waters of the lake as they forage, rest, and cast a slightly pink hue across the lake.
  • Search the landscape amongst the shrubs and along the shoreline during your visit to Lake Nakuru to find vibrant wildlife such as crocodiles and baboons.

When to Visit: Make the most of the dry, winter season, and visit during the months of June, July, August, and September.

3. Namibia

Antelope in front of the red desert, Namib Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Namib Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Red desert scenery, vast safari park, breathtaking canyon and the eerie yet serene coastline sum up the fascinating country of Namibia. A strong German influence is experienced in the town of Swakopmund and spending time with the Himba tribe as its people share their lifestyle and environment is unforgettable. The ghostly experience at Kolmanskop is captivating and spending time exploring the bushman paintings at Twyfelfontein and marveling at the petrified rocks at Vingerklip round up a magnificent experience.

Etosha National Park

Where is it? Located up in the north of Namibia, Etosha is a name that resonates with safari-goers who look to explore more than the famous dunes, San culture, and quaint coastal towns of this fascinating country.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Witness the Big Five roaming through the park during the dry winter months.
  • Discover elephants and a variety of buck as they gather at waterholes amid arid open savannas.

When to visit: Consider the drier winter months for optimum game viewing. The days are cooler too, making the destination idea overall

Namib Naukluft

Where is it? Located on the southwest coast of Namibia, the Namib Naukluft Park is the largest game park in Africa and covers part of the Namib Desert.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Embark on the key highlight at Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan surrounded by magnificent rusty red sand dunes.
  • Explore the Sesriem Canyon, an impressive gorge carved by the ​​Tsauchab River
  • Delight in a visit to the lagoon and bay at Sandwich Harbour to find one of Southern Africa's most important wetlands.

When to visit: Discover the area in the cooler, winter months of May through to September. The rainy season is from January through March.

4. Rwanda

Small African farmhouse on a hillside with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda in the background

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

A land of a thousand hills as it is known, Rwanda thrills with scenery to rival many through its volcanoes, rainforests and open plains. Wildlife is incredible, with the ultimate adventure definitely a gorilla trek, with one key destination to experience just that.

Volcano National Park

Where is it? Located in the northwestern part of Rwanda, part of the Virunga Conservation Area and covering more than 48 square miles, the park is home to five extinct volcanoes, the Muhabura, Sabyinyo, Gahinga, Karisimbi, and Bisoke.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Venture deep into the dense jungle of Rwanda to uncover the endangered mountain gorillas.
  • Trek through the lush forests and trees to see the rare and rambunctious golden monkeys.
  • Enjoy wilderness hikes that take you into the rainforest for unique views and experiences with prolific birdlife.

When to visit: Enjoy the cooler, drier months of May through to the end of August. A shorter dry season runs from mid-December to early February, a perfect time for bird-lovers.

5. South Africa

Rhino eating grass, Hluhluwe National Park, South Africa

Hluhluwe, South Africa

South Africa is definitely one of the top safari destinations in Africa and with unparalleled natural reserves and breathtaking scenery, you can easily be immersed in the wonder of the Big Five and other majestic wildlife. The country offers a handful of malaria-free reserves and parks, and with safari options available throughout the country, embarking on a trip like this is easily combined with visits to other parts of the country.

Kruger

Where is it? One of the most famous safari parks in Africa, the Kruger lies on the north-eastern border of South Africa and Mozambique, and is said to be slightly larger in size than Switzerland.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Explore the breadth of the Kruger National Park to find some of safari’s most notable wildlife including the Big Five and so much more
  • Experience a day of game drives to reach deep into changing landscape across the park’s distinctive ecosystems.
  • Enjoy discovering the Kruger with a specially trained guide as you travel in either a private vehicle or an open game-drive 4x4.

When to visit: A year-round destination, one can visit the Kruger at any time of the year. Avoiding school holidays is a good idea as many locals enjoy the park at this time, but do take advantage of the cooler, drier months of May to September to get optimum game viewing.

Sabi Sands

Where is it? Lying adjacent to the famous Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sands offers a private safari experience, game drives conducted in a smaller, private area on a very popular safari circuit

Highlights of the Park:

  • Indulge in the comforts and attention a private game reserve provides as your find prime game viewing on smaller sections of land.
  • Delight in the opportunity to see more wildlife at your leisure and pace while also seeing fewer vehicles while you traverse this prime safari region.

When to visit: Winter is the ultimate time to be on safari, May through to September offer mild days, low grass, and fantastic game viewing.

Hluhluwe

Where is it? Nestled in Zululand in the KwaZulu-Natal province, inland of South Africa’s east coast. It is around four hours drive from Durban International Airport.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Revel in the opportunity to spot rhinoceros in the wild in Hlulhluwe, one of the best destinations for spotting rhino in their natural habitat.
  • Enjoy the lushness of the hills and the picturesque scenery that create an unforgettable safari experience in South Africa’s oldest national park.

When to visit: Avoid the rainy season of late December through to February - it is also very humid at this time of year. The dry winter months - June, July, and August - are best.

Madikwe

Where is it? Madikwe Reserve is located in South Africa’s North West province near the Botswana border and the Kalahari Desert, and it boasts a malaria-free status.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Explore the national park famous for wild dog sightings and the strong conservation efforts focused on the preservation of wild dog packs.
  • Discover the comforts and capabilities of safari on a smaller, less-known park while still having access to Big Five viewing.
  • Enjoy the freedom of a safari experience in a malaria-free zone.

When to visit: The winter months are the peak time to enjoy a game drive here. It will be dry and mild temperatures during the day, with low grass offering incredible wildlife sightings.

Timbavati

Where is it?

Adjacent to the Sabi Sands and on the western edge of the Kruger, in the Mpumalanga province, you will find the Timbavati Game Reserve. It is close to the town of Hoedspruit and the Eastgate (Hoedspruit) Airport.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Experience the depth of beauty in the open plains and dense bush as you traverse Timbavati with a trained guide.
  • Revel in the open views and access to wildlife among fewer 4x4 vehicles traversing the park.
  • Travel through the park in search of the famous white lions that, while rarely spotted, still roam the savannas.

When to visit: Stick to the drier months of May through to September for your safari. Mild days and low grass make for a truly great experience.

6. Tanzania

A traveler watches zebras against the backdrop of Lake Manyara, Tanzania's seventh largest lake.

Lake Manyara, Tanzania

Tanzania’s northern circuit makes up a popular safari itinerary and is definitely a key reason people visit this part of east Africa, with Swahili tradition found throughout every property. Safaris and game adventures appeal to all safari inclinations, in location and style, with famous game parks giving way to lesser-known reserves for those seeking more or different.

Ngorongoro Crater

Where is it? The famous Ngorongoro Crater is located in the Highlands of Tanzania, approximately 110 miles west of Arusha. It forms part of Tanzania’s northern safari circuit.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Embrace the wonders of the crater itself as a key feature of the safari as you travel around one of the world’s largest inactive volcanic calderas.
  • Delight in viewing the Big Five in an incredible setting that provides a memorable combination.

When to visit: Peak safari season is during the winter months, so plan to visit any time from May through to September to enjoy an incredible safari experience. If you do want to be present for the birthing season, travel in January or February.

Serengeti National Park

Where is it? Located in the northern part of the country, the Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s most famous safari destination and shares a border with Kenya.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Traverse Serengeti National Park in search of the incredible amount of wildlife, open savannas, rocky outcrops, and five famous rivers.
  • Wander the exciting stage for the Great Migration as you witness one of the ultimate safari experiences

When to visit: For a chance to catch the migration, visit in October or November to watch thousands of wildebeest cross from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara.

Tarangire

Where is it? Tarangire National Park is located in the northern part of Tanzania, in the Manyar region. It is named after the Tarangire river that runs through it.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Discover the wonderful addition to the Northern Tanzania safari circuit as you travel along the Tarangire River.
  • Search for atmospheric baobab trees and the thriving elephant population to enjoy the captivating safari ambiance.

When to visit Enjoy the dry season and winter months any time from June through to October.

Lake Manyara

Where is it? Part of the northern safari circuit, Lake Manyara lies on the East African rift of the Manyara regions of Tanzania. It boasts the seventh-largest lake in Tanzania.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Indulge in the iconic image of Lake Manyara as your find thousands of flamingos who make their home among the soda ash lake.
  • Travel the lush and wet landscape to find the distinctive sight of tree-climbing lions.

When to visit: Visit the park in the cooler months of May through to September, when the days are mild and drier, and game viewing is at its best.

Selous

Where is it? Located around 130 miles from the city of Dar es Salaam, in the southern part of Tanzania. The park is larger than the Serengeti, yet relatively undiscovered and a perfect addition to a northern circuit safari.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Embrace the quieter experience of the often-overlooked park to find dramatic landscapes comprised of waterways and forests.
  • Discover the incredible hippo, crocodile, and amazing birdlife populations as you traverse the variety of ecosystems.
  • Experience why the less-famous national park is also a UNESCO World Heritage center.

When to visit: Consider the cooler winter months and plan your visit during the months of May through to September. While birding is great year-round, April is a good month for bird lovers.

7. Uganda

Hippos in the rain at dusk, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

A diverse landscape of lakes and mountains, savannas and forests, Uganda offers a variety of views and adventures. Wildlife abounds, with gorilla and chimpanzee trekking a highlight, while the culture will touch your soul. Known as the Pearl of Africa, it certainly is a gem and offers a unique safari and scenery experience.

Queen Elizabeth Park

Where is it? Queen Elizabeth Park lies in western Uganda, between the Kazinga Channel and the George and Albert Lakes.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Enjoy the prolific birdlife and sightings of wildlife along the Kazinga Channel as you travel along the water by boat.
  • Spot tree-climbing lions in the Isasha Game Reserve, which lies in Queen Elizabeth Park.

When to visit: The park is great to visit at any time of the year, however, consider the drier and cooler months of June and July. If you are a bird lover, January and February are amazing in this park.

Murchison Falls

Where is it? The Murchison Falls National Park is located in the northern part of Uganda, just northwest of the capital, Kampala.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Experience the alluring thunder of Murchison Falls, known ae one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls.
  • Explore the diverse wildlife habitat created by the massive waterfall as you travel near the famous Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

When to visit: Consider visiting in June and July or during January and February. Bird watching is best during the wet months, which are April and May and August to October.

Bwindi

Where is it? Covering around 120 square miles, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest lies in southwestern Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Revel in the density of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as you trek through the trees in search of the renowned gorilla population.

When to visit: June to September and December to February are the drier and more desirable months to go gorilla trekking.

8. Zambia

Victoria Falls The largest waterfall in Africa, Zambia

Victoria Falls, Zambia

A southern African gem, the lesser-known, yet simply fantastic safari destination is certainly to be considered when planning your trip. Wide-open spaces and an abundance of wildlife are just two of the country’s major attractions, with walking safaris a distinct highlight. The incredible safari circuit is accompanied by the majestic Victoria Falls, which shares its glory with neighboring Zimbabwe.

Lower Zambezi

Where is it? You can find the Lower Zambezi National Park in southwestern Zambia, along the north bank of the Zambezi River.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Enjoy the pristine wilderness of the Lower Zambezi National Park safari to find quality safari experiences.
  • Discover camps and lodges that are unfenced for wide-open spaces that suggest a private and vast exploration experience.
  • Travel beneath big skies that offer incredible stargazing opportunities in the evening.

When to visit: Get in ahead of the October heat and plan to visit from June to September, when it is drier and cooler.

South Luangwa

Where is it? This park is located in southwestern Zambia in the valley of the Luangwa River and is known to locals simply as “the South Park”.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Venture through Grasslands, savannahs, riverine, and woodlands when discovering the splendor of South Luangwa National Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Zambia.
  • Travel near the Luangwa River to find a major feature of the scenery where many animals gather for phenomenal wildlife sightings.

When to visit: Most of the lodges and camps only operate seasonally and the ideal safari season is during the drier months of June through to September.

Kafue National Park

Where is it? Zambia’s largest and oldest national park is located in western Zambia, also said to be one of the largest in Africa.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Discover a sensational landscape perfect for walking safaris with a professional guide to view the local wildlife who do not migrate.

When to visit: Kafue is a year-round destination. However, the drier months of May to November are the better time to visit.

9. Zimbabwe

Antelope herd, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Once known as the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe hosts safari parks and scenery that range from lakes and waterfalls to wildlife havens that rival the more popular Africa destinations that come to mind. A country filled with a rich cultural history and a wonderful consideration as either a standalone destination or combinable with other incredible safari locations.

Hwange

Where is it? Located around 60 miles from Victoria Falls, the Hwange National Park sits on a railway path that connects the famous falls to Bulawayo.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Delight in the reserve surrounded by great herds of elephants
  • Experience the dynamism of the wilderness in which wild dogs

When to visit: Enjoy a safari here any time between May and October. If combining it with viewing the famous Victoria Falls, then June and July are the ideal months.

Mana Pools

Where is it? The Mana Pools National Park is located in northern Zimbabwe, along the lower Zambezi River. Heavy rains turn the floodplains into a bountiful lake.

Highlights of the Park:

  • Discover the waterhole popular with wildlife as the surrounding lakes dry during the winter season to find a key game-viewing destination.
  • Explore a World Heritage Site Zimbabwe’s remote corner for an authentic and wild safari experience.

When to visit: Consider the drier months of May through to the end of September, when the animals tend to gather in search of water.

Want to Find More Safari Information & Tips for Your Safari?

Wonderful sunset in Africa

Wonderful sunset in Africa

Africa is a dynamic and intriguing continent with several east and southern African countries setting the scene for unique drama and beauty in wildlife encounters and breathtaking scenery. Choosing to go on an African safari is the first step, knowing where to go may require a bit more research and narrowing options down to specific countries. Let one of our Zicasso safari experts guide you in booking your next safari. Get started by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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