Embarking on an African safari is exciting and should flow with ease, so knowing how to plan your experience is important. We have the answers to some of the common questions asked by travelers before they undertake such an adventure.
From magical Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda in East Africa to the popular safari destinations of South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, there are many incredible parks and reserves waiting to be explored.
Remote lodges, endless stretches of secluded wilderness, and wildlife surprises in an open-air theater, whether you are traveling as a couple or exploring as a family, having safari-planning knowledge at your disposal is extremely valuable.
The safari experience changes throughout the year. However, cooler, drier days in East and Southern Africa offer near-ideal conditions for a safari.
Traveling in June or July offers the chance to experience the Great Migration from Tanzania to Kenya, while from late September to October, thousands of wildebeest make their way back to the Serengeti.
Learn more: Best Time to Go on an African Safari
An African safari can be enjoyed in as little as four days to as many as 10, depending on where your adventure takes you.
Uncover dramatic open skies, savannas, forests, and unrivaled game viewing as you enjoy stays in lodges or luxury tents, while exploring the bush in safari vehicles and on foot.
Whether you choose to enjoy your game experience in one destination or a few, your personalized itinerary will ensure the right amount of time for you.
The following is a list of the top safari destinations in Africa, covering popular and beloved game reserves and parks in East and Southern Africa:
The best African safari countries offer unique experiences and perspectives. Whether looking for a variety of game-viewing options or interested in adding another experience to your adventure, you can find the right place for your trip in this collection of remote, luxury, and alternative safari regions.
Learn more: How to Choose Your Safari Destination
From the expanse of Kenya’s Masai Mara and the dramatic volume of wildlife in Tanzania’s Serengeti to the diverse terrain of South Africa’s Sabi Sands and the country’s well-preserved national parks, whether looking for the top African safari destinations or eager to step off the beaten path, each country delivers a little something that distinguishes itself from its neighboring wildlife destinations.
The size of Kafue and South Luangwa in Zambia make them wildlife havens for a variety of species, with rivers and lakes throughout. The land is mostly unspoiled, giving a safari in Zambia an off-the-beaten-track feel.
Choosing Botswana for your safari can boast the Okavango Delta, with its channels providing game viewing by dugout canoe or mokoro, while the Chobe Game Reserve on the banks of the Chobe River gives visitors the chance to witness thousands of elephants on a boat safari.
Discover the joy of a crowd-free wildlife experience in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, a Big Five destination worth discovering. Combine the allure of the Caprivi Strip with the breathtaking Sossusvlei dunes when visiting Namibia’s Etosha Game Reserve.
A popular reason to choose South Africa for your safari can include looking for a malaria-free safari experience in places like Hluhluwe, Addo National Park, or Madikwe Game Reserve.
The most popular way to see wildlife on safari is in a 4x4 vehicle. However, game walks and exploration by water in certain destinations are other exciting ways to do so.
In East Africa, your safari vehicles are mostly closed, with large windows and a pop-up roof for you to stand up and scout the surroundings. However, there are some open-vehicle options available. The Southern African safari circuit boasts open vehicles, some with a canvas sunshade.
Enjoy a walking safari with a qualified guide as you traverse plains and forests learning about your surroundings, all the while keeping an eye out for nearby wildlife. In Botswana and some parts of East Africa, game viewing by motorboat or mokoro, a dug-out canoe, is a fantastic way to spend an early morning or afternoon on safari. Top your experience off with a hot-air balloon ride above the powerful landscape, with a chance for some superb wildlife viewing.
Learn more: 10 Types of African Safaris
The more time you spend on the safari circuit, the more opportunities you will have for viewing your favorite animal.
It is understandable that spotting them will be high on your checklist and your qualified guides will try to fulfill your wish, especially in areas that host the famous Big Five and Little Five.
Spending time in the African bush is a treat, with time at water holes sure to enhance your chance of seeing anything from a pretty waterbuck to the elusive leopard.
Most days revolve around the best times to see wildlife, usually as the sun rises or sets. An early-morning call will get you up and after your first cup of tea or coffee, you will be taken out on your morning drive.
Enjoy brunch or lunch back at your lodge, with some downtime to enjoy the sounds and stillness of the bush surrounding you. Then, set off on another wildlife adventure in the afternoon.
Your evening is spent recapping the highlights of the day around a crackling fire or at your table, with some reserves and lodges offering night drives.
Learn more: What to Expect From a Day on Safari
A camp usually comprises a smaller set-up of mostly luxury tented accommodations, while a lodge offers a more structured design, with individual chalets or hotel-style rooms.
The epitome of luxury is an under-canvas room under a big African sky. Beautifully crafted, these tents are en-suite and privately set in the wilderness. Lodge rooms have solid walls and are either spaced a fair distance apart or set within a larger, main building.
Permanent luxury tented camps and game lodges have a communal area for dining and enjoying beverages after a long day on safari. Mobile tents are smaller, with a mess tent for meals. Seasonally, they move from one park or reserve to another.
All of Africa’s safari destinations show remarkable seasonal changes, with wildlife sightings and diverse landscapes shifting as the climate moves from wet to dry.
Vegetation becomes sparse and scarce during the cooler, dry season between the end of May and into September. Animals gather at watering holes and it is an incredible time to spot wildlife on game drives, nature walks, and water safaris.
The summer rains fall in November and December, with January and February seeing the earth suitably quenched. This brings with it prolific birdlife and new life, as the birthing season is in full swing.
There are specific hubs that safari-goers will fly into when embarking on an East African or Southern African safari. Here is a list of the top options, some international, others key connection points within that country.
Most large game reserves and parks have airstrips for light aircraft, often referred to as a “safari hop”. These include favorites such as Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, the Masai Mara in Kenya, and the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Learn more: 4 Ways to Get Around on an African Safari
Embark on your African safari knowing you are traveling responsibly by visiting ecologically friendly lodges and camps, and giving back to the communities around you.
Your team will ensure you reduce your carbon footprint by, among other things, ensuring your game drives are in eco-friendly vehicles and by offering drinking water in reusable bottles.
The focus is on sustainable tourism and your contributions through your accommodations and game park entrance fees help to maintain a healthy balance in parks and reserves. Giving back to local communities is rewarding and embarking on a sustainable safari ensures your trip makes a helpful contribution.
The African safari circuit is safe, with your experience fully guided from start to finish. Your visits include major hotels in cities and transport by air or comfortable safari vehicles.
General safety should always be adhered to and listening to your guides and the team taking care of you at hotels and lodges will ensure your experience is memorable.
Out in the wild, you are in expert hands as your safari guides direct and explain the movements of the bush. Adhering to their tips will ensure you are safe.
An African safari is an exciting adventure and being concerned for your health should not be a key focus of this experience. Lodges offer bottled water and quality services in cuisine and comfort.
For regions in malaria-risk areas, a relevant prophylactic is recommended. Bug spray and sunscreen should be in your luggage, although lodges and camps do offer insect repellent in the rooms.
Bring your own medicine and reach out to your travel advisor for help should you require services such as a fridge to store medication or ensure your room is set up for your CPAP machine, for example. For more recommendations on vaccinations, you can visit CDC Africa vaccination information.
American travelers require a visa to visit Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda. The East African visa grants access to Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda, and must be purchased before you depart for your safari. Tanzania is not part of the alliance, so a separate visa is required.
No visa is required for visiting South Africa or Namibia, but your passport must have at least two blank pages and be valid for six months from your date of return to the USA.
For the Southern African countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe, a visa is required for US passport holders and this is obtained upon arrival at the airport or land border. If you are visiting both countries, it is advisable to get a Univisa. This will grant you access to Zambia and Zimbabwe, a popular choice considering there is much to see on both sides of the famous Victoria Falls Bridge.
In the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda, as well as Zimbabwe and Zambia, the USD is used throughout. Options exist to exchange your money for local currency, noting that when paying cash, you may receive change in USD or local currencies.
South Africa’s currency is the rand and tipping is commonly made in this, especially in city restaurants, with the option to tip in USD on safari. In Namibia, the Namibia dollar and rand are accepted as they carry an equal exchange rate.
Credit cards are used in all lodges and camps, no matter where you choose to go on safari, and in restaurants and cafes in key urban areas. To purchase souvenirs or tip drivers and tour guides in East Africa, having a few USD singles is suggested. For South Africa and Namibia, the local currency is required.
English is commonly spoken throughout Africa, so communication will be quite simple. Local lingo is used in hotels and lodges, and visitors often pick up a few key phrases and words during their trip.
Swahili is the main language in East Africa, while South Africa has 11 official languages. German is heard in parts of Namibia and a mix of English and local languages occurs in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
No matter what language native East or Southern Africans choose to speak, they all speak the language of safari, a Swahili word meaning journey.
It is advisable to pack light for your safari, in weight and the kind of clothing you take. Most camps offer a laundry service, so there’s no need to overpack. Choose a few long pants, shorts, and shirts.
Lightweight and breathable fabric that covers your skin tends to work best on safari, with neutral colors recommended so you blend in with the surroundings. It is advisable to avoid blue in parts of Tanzania as it attracts the tsetse fly.
Comfortable walking shoes are all you need when on safari, so leave your hiking boots behind and be sure to pack your favorite sneakers. Sandals are acceptable for wandering around your lodge, private chalet, or tent. It’s all part of kicking back and relaxing.
Learn more: What to Bring on an African Safari
One of the most memorable vacations a family can embark on is an African safari. Incredible locations, diverse wildlife, and accommodation options that cater to children make such a vacation a very good idea for families.
Little explorers can go on game-drive bumbles around the lodge, where they will learn bush survival skills, how to track wildlife, and enjoy indoor activities such as arts and crafts, and baking with the chef.
South Africa has the added advantage of offering malaria-free game parks and reserves, making the destination ideal for multi-generational families.
Take time out in the African bush to unwind amid breathtaking scenery and incredible wildlife as you travel the safari circuit at your own pace.
Embarking on a private safari is recommended so you have the choice of game reserves and accommodations that work for you. Spend time visiting a handful of lodges, limiting connection time, and ensuring your experience is relaxing and fulfilling.
Consideration is given to seniors who prefer to have a room close to public areas and qualified guides will show you the wonders of the open savannahs and forested areas comfortably.
The African bush is the ultimate destination for a romantic getaway, with beautiful and intimate locations.
Private luxury tents or quiet chalets set among trees and animals, and under a starry sky, create the perfect scene for romance. Dinners by candlelight on your private deck or out in the bush, or a couple’s spa treatment, are not to be missed.
Sunsets are incredible in Africa and capturing this moment with a beverage of choice while listening out for wildlife is the perfect indulgence on a romantic safari.
An African safari should be enjoyed by everyone and certain lodges and ground operators have made this possible for visitors with mobility challenges.
Whether embarking on a safari that is fully catered to travelers who may be wheelchair-bound or choosing a lodge that offers easy access from communal areas to your room, options do exist and your safari expert can work with you to plan your ideal experience.
Some reserves and parks offer safaris in closed vehicles or self-drive options, perfect for those wanting to experience incredible wildlife at their own pace.
You can find helpful tips with Zicasso’s Africa safari guide to experience how a safari demonstrates the wonders of nature and the thrills of the open wilderness.
With a variety of parks and reserves across East and Southern Africa, your experience can take you looking for lions on the savanna or exploring jungle terrain for mountain gorillas, embracing a luxurious lodge overlooking a waterhole or finding unfettered starlight above the wilderness.
By filling out a trip request, you can speak with a Travel Care member who will work with you in planning your ultimate safari adventure. You can also provide your most cherished ideas and set a travel budget. Our Travel Care team will then match you with a top African safari specialist. Our safari travel specialists will use their expertise and understanding of your preferences to curate your dream trip.
With so many combinations to choose from, a variety of experiences, and length of stay, our list of African safaris will help guide you to your preferred experience.
Whether a short adventure to one safari destination or a combination of a few, there is an itinerary to entice you. Once you have a few ideas in mind, work with our experts to create your getaway.