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Landscapes of Africa: Facts About Savannas and Where to See Them

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Elephant in the green savannah, Ngorongoro National Park, Tanzania

Ngorongoro, Tanzania

Nothing symbolizes Africa more than the savanna and you can experience the open grasslands during your safari to capture the iconic image of the landscape and wildlife.

In some areas the trees bunch together, blossoming beside a waterway or along an unseen slope that brings mountain rains. In other areas the savanna stands open, just the odd scorched tree silhouetted against the horizon. Savannas provide a haven with a broad mix of vegetation that supports an eclectic variety of species amidst the bountiful mixture of trees and grass,  creating food for mammals and birds alike.

Savannas provide a diverse safari experience, each day an opportunity to explore how distinct pockets of wildlife inhabit the unique landscapes for a variety of active discoveries you can have during your trip.

What is a Savanna?

Chakma baboon on a tree above the savannah, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

The savanna's great trick is to support a phenomenal diversity of wildlife, elephants rustling through trees, predators in the grass, ungulate herds dappled in the open. Each savannah provides a particular collection of vegetation, making it a favorite haunt for an idiosyncratic collection of wildlife. Wet and dry seasons change the savanna’s tones. They become vivaciously green and colorful during and after the rainy season with grass rising, plants flowering, and trees sprinkled with fruit. The strong dichotomy between wet and dry seasons is found in some of Africa's savannas, particularly those set within low-altitude tropics.

This abundance is a time for wildlife to feast before these landscapes burn and wither; trees become iconic silhouettes devoid of color, rusted hues and copper tones dominate the grasses, and nomads wander to find the remaining water. While a savanna relies on rains to re-energize and reproduce, most are dominated by permanent water. This could be a series of waterholes that shrivel and expand with the seasons, or a dried-up riverbed, or maybe it's the utopian curves of a famous river, always flowing and magnetically attracting wanderers from across the savanna.

What is the Safari Experience on an African Savanna?

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa

There's an irrefutable bounty to the African savanna, and every safari becomes laced with a menagerie of surprise.  Some savannas excel in providing predatory encounters, fiercely protective of their home range, others form a phenomenal utopia for elephants or rhinos. As always, ungulates are most abundant, the savanna supporting both those seeking safety in the open and those that prefer to hide. Early morning and late afternoons are the time to explore, when wildlife is active and on the move, predators on the prowl. as they actively seek out a meal.

Like all habitats, safari experiences intensify around water. Rivers, waterholes, and lakes become fervent demonstrations of Africa's mammal diversity. Encounters can be indelibly intimate or demonstrate how the experience is about scale. These are landscapes that can be explored in a variety of ways, the different safari activities providing a succession of unique angles. In places where the threat of big cats and large mammals are removed, savannas are idyllic destinations for walking, horse riding, or a bicycle safari.

Learn more: Tanzania Safari Guide | Kenya Safari Guide | South Africa Travel Guide

Where Do You Find African Savanna?

Elephants at a water source, Botswana, Africa

Botswana, Africa

Savannas are found in most of Africa’s safari destinations, forming the de facto landscape on many multi-day safaris. Perhaps South Africa's Kruger National Park best exemplifies the diversity of a savanna, the ancient national park speckled with areas are quasi-woodland but also swathes of open grassland punctuated by a sole stunted trunk. In Botswana and Namibia, the savanna borders on being semi-desert, scorched and dusty for most of the year. In parts of Kenya and Southern Tanzania, the savanna is remarkably green, trails heading through tangled collections of ancient roots and branches.

When comparing destinations for an African safari, the term “savanna” is only the introduction to what will be on offer. Some cover areas that dwarf U.S. states. Others are snippets of wilderness best for a single short game drive, perhaps offering a well-promoted specialism, from a large crash of rhinos to the unusual sight of tree-climbing lions. Combining different savanna-based parks and reserves will always offer fresh experiences, unveiling its many layers and intricacies than first meets the eye.

Learn more: Tanzania Safaris & Vacations | Kenya Safaris & Tours | Botswana Safaris

Iconic Savanna Experiences

Giraffe in Etosha National Park, Namibia, Africa

Etosha National Park, Namibia, Africa

  • Spend a few days in South Africa's Kruger National Park, one of Africa's largest and oldest national parks and a symbol of the diversity found in a savanna.
  • Marvel at the juxtaposition of elephants and baobab trees in Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, a place of giants wandering beneath iconically broad branches.
  • Get lost in the enormity of Tsavo East and Tsavo West, Kenya's twin national park epitomizing the surprise that hides around lost corners of a savanna.
  • Explore the southern fringes of Botswana's Kalahari, a series of private game reserves offering a fluid bounty to nomadic wanderers arriving from the desert.
  • Discover the thornbush-savanna of Namibia's Etosha National Park, a habitat that seems infertile yet graced by an unusual collection of specialists.

Learn more:  South Africa Safaris | Namibia Safaris | What a Day Is Like on a Safari

How to Plan Your Safari

Sunset in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Possibly the most iconic of the safari landscapes, the savanna is the ultimate playground for animal showdowns and for a good chance to see animals gathering in large numbers. Work with your Zicasso travel expert to create your ideal safari, taking your preferred landscapes and wildlife spotted there, into consideration. You can speak with a safari travel specialist for free by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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