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10 Types of African Safaris: Different Ways to Experience a Safari

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Hot air balloon safari in South Africa

Aerial safari

There are countless ways to experience a safari, from open-vehicle game drives to guided walks and horseback riding, and we have compiled 10 types of African safaris you can choose from.

From open savannahs and forested havens to breathtaking mountain landscapes with rolling hills overlooking water channels, the scene is set for a dramatic animal encounter, no matter how you choose to safari.

Whether it's a complete experience or a combination of options, your safari is bound to be unforgettable, no matter which option you decide upon.

  1. 1. Guided Game Drives
  2. 2. Walking Safaris
  3. 3. Aerial Safaris
  4. 4. Mountain Bike Safaris
  5. 5. Water Safaris
  6. 6. Horseback Safaris
  7. 7. Primate Safaris
  8. 8. Mobile Safaris
  9. 9. Photographic Safaris
  10. 10. Hideout Safari Experiences
  11. Experience the Best Types of African Safaris

1. Guided Game Drives

Game drive in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Game drive in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Stepping into an open 4x4 safari vehicle, you may get a sense that something quite unique is about to begin. The optimum viewing platform, a game drive is not only the most popular way to experience a safari, but one that allows you to traverse vast landscapes for a stunning experience in Africa.

Journey across open savannahs, through rocky outcrops, and forested hideouts, coming across a herd of elephants or a lone kudu as you quietly pass wildlife in action. Game drives are an excellent way to see the wildlife, whether on Kruger National Park safaris or Serengeti safaris.

Night drives provide an opportunity to spot nocturnal favorites such as aardvark and civet, and experience the haunting yet exhilarating sounds of the bush after dark. Guides and trackers will use spotlights to reveal wildlife in trees and on land as you navigate under a brilliant African night sky.

Best Places for Guided Game Drives: Kruger National Park, South Africa • Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa • Masai Mara National Park, Kenya • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania • Chobe National Park, Botswana • Okavango Delta, Botswana • South Luangwa, Zambia

2. Walking Safaris

Bush walk with Marataba Safari in South Africa. Photo courtesy MORE Family Collection

Bush walk with Marataba Safari in South Africa. Photo courtesy MORE Family Collection

A walking safari gives you a more intimate experience of the land and wildlife, guided by a trained professional who understands the terrain and animal life across the best African safari countries.

Tribal communities have lived in proximity to wildlife for millennia, with guides sharing their respect for the environment and its inhabitants with safari walkers.

Get a deeper understanding of the flora and fauna around you and enjoy up-close and personal encounters with the smaller members of the animal kingdom, such as beetles and small birds.

Best Places for Walking Safaris: Chief’s Island, Okavango Delta • Kruger National Park, South Africa •  North Luangwa, Zambia • Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania • Amboseli National Park, Kenya

3. Aerial Safaris

Morning view from balloon of wildebeest migration in Tanzania

Aerial safari in Tanzania

An aerial safari gives you a macro panorama of the landscape and wildlife of any destination, the action and drama unfolding beneath you.

Such a safari could take the form of a hot-air balloon ride, microlight flight, helicopter flip, or one on a small plane conducting air-hops between destinations, each providing a view of the scale and wonder of the wilderness, no matter when you go on an African safari.

You may find herds swirling across the grasslands or plains lined with marching elephants, each sighting unique in its unfolding. A safari from the air is one of the most incredible ways to enhance such an experience, with exceptional options on Masai Mara safaris.

Best Places for Aerial Safaris: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania • Masai Mara National Park, Kenya • Okavango Delta, Botswana • Virunga National Park, Rwanda • Kafue National Park, Zambia

4. Mountain Bike Safaris

Woman with a mountain bike observing zebras

Biking in Kenya

Picture traversing a vast landscape on 27-inch tires as you take a mountain bike safari through nature reserves and parks, keeping an eye out for game along the way.

Terrain changes from open savannahs to rugged pathways set among lush rainforests, with opportunities to spot animals in trees and around rocky outcrops. Your qualified guide will point out, from a safe distance, a variety of wildlife.

Enjoy the freshness of the great outdoors, the satisfaction of being active, and the thrill of cycling through parks and reserves, immediately at one with the African bush.

Best Places for Mountain Bike Safaris: Northern Tuli Reserve, Botswana • Laikipia, Kenya • Lower Zambezi, Zambia • Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve, South Africa • Gonarezhou-Malilangwe, Zimbabwe

5. Water Safaris

Mokoro boat meandering down the river in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Mokoro boat safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

With a huge focus on water for the land’s survival, it makes sense that one of the more popular ways of experiencing a safari is on water.

With predators and prey tentatively eyeing permanent water sources, game viewing from a mokoro (dugout canoe) or small boat brings you close to the action in a unique way, even when looking for the Big Five and Little Five.

Channels, rivers, and lakes reveal wildlife beneath the surface and on land nearby, creating an immersive yet slow-paced exploration. Boat safaris are one of the best ways to experience the wilderness by waterways, especially on Okavango Delta safaris.

Best Places For Water Safaris: Okavango Delta, Botswana • Chobe Game Reserve, Botswana • Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania • Lake Manyara, Tanzania • Lake Nakuru, Kenya  • Kruger National Park, South Africa • Etosha National Park, Namibia

6. Horseback Safaris

Horseback riding African safari in Lewa Conservancy, Kenya

Lewa Conservancy, Kenya

A horseback safari is one of the most unusual yet inspiring ways to experience the wilderness. Skilled and semi-skilled riders follow trails and tracks through nature reserves and forested parks where predators are a safe distance away.

Imagine coming across a tower of giraffe grazing in the trees above or leading your horse to a shaded rest spot where, once dismounted, a warm beverage awaits you.

Discover parts of a game park or reserve where vehicles may not be allowed to take advantage of snapping some wonderful wildlife shots as you quietly approach antelope, birds, and diverse and breathtaking landscapes and habitats.

Best Places for Horseback Safaris: Makalali Game Reserve, South Africa • Matlapeng Reserve, Botswana • Tuli Reserve, Botswana • Pakamisa Private Game Reserve, South Africa • Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe • Masai Mara, Kenya

7. Primate Safaris

Encounter with mountain gorilla while on walking safari in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

A primate safari takes you deep into the jungle or forested terrain of East Africa in search of wildlife like mountain gorillas or chimpanzees.

Discover the wonders of a guided trek through otherwise impenetrable forests, ending up on lush mountain slopes in search of primates swinging from tree to tree or chewing on plant matter. From Rwanda gorilla trekking to Uganda safaris, the encounters with primates are sensational on these expeditions.

This type of safari requires planning well ahead, with opportunities to incorporate other safari types before or after a gorilla or chimpanzee trek.

Best Places for Primate Safaris: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda • Volcanoes National Park • Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda • Kibale Forest, Uganda • Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania • Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania

8. Mobile Safaris

Mobile tented camp in Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

The beauty of a mobile safari is being able to wake up in one location, then end your day sipping a beverage of choice beneath the stars in a different spot.

Reducing a safari-goer’s carbon footprint and being able to relocate as often as your itinerary allows make mobile safaris popular.

Accommodations are comfortable and simple, easy to pack up and move, with all the mod cons necessary for this kind of experience. Gain access to more sites and sounds with a mobile camping safari.

Best Places for Mobile Safaris: Chobe Game Reserve, Botswana • Serengeti National Park, Tanzania • Masai Mara National Park, Kenya • Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa

9. Photographic Safaris

Photo vehicle with photographers on safari game drive photographing zebras and antelope

Game Drive Photo Vehicle in South Africa. Photo courtesy of MalaMala Camp. Photo courtesy of MalaMala Camp

Embark on a photographic-focused safari, during which time doesn’t seem to exist as you patiently wait to capture that perfect shot, the African bush your inspiration.

Professional guides help direct you to ensure you are positioned just right to get that winning picture. Staying on a siting or venturing into unique locations within parks and reserves, your time out on safari is yours to get as creative as you want.

Vehicles are fitted with special camera holders, each guest assured of optimal viewing throughout the drive. For a walking safari experience, your guide will ensure open spaces, great lighting, and perfect timing are the order of the day. How you want to experience your photographic safari is one of the many reasons to plan your trip with a safari travel specialist.

Best Places for Photographic Safaris: Okavango Delta, Botswana • Tsavo West, Kenya • Kruger National Park, South Africa •  Sabi Sands, South Africa • Amboseli National Park, Kenya •  Timbavati Game Reserve, South Africa • Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

10. Hideout Safari Experiences

Tourist watches and films wildlife from a hide at the Olifantsrus waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park, Namibia

This may seem a strange way to conduct a safari, but viewing animals from the safety and comfort of a hideout offers a unique perspective on game viewing.

Whether coming upon a hidden locale or strategically located structure, sometimes slightly underground, hides offer seating and windows to the show unfolding before you. Unseen, you have the chance to spot without being spotted, including when exploring the best places to visit in Africa on safari.

Some have you placed at eye level with game at a watering hole, while others may see you set high up in a tree, a bird’s-eye view of your surroundings offering an opportunity to spot wildlife far and wide.

Best Places for a Hide Safari Experience: Kruger National Park, South Africa • Sabi Sands, South Africa • Timbavati Game Reserve, South Africa • Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa • South Luangwa, Zambia • Etosha National Park, Namibia

Experience the Best Types of African Safaris

Safari game drive in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

With a variety of ways to experience an African safari, the choices may seem impossible. However, depending on time and preferences, options are available as stand-alone adventures or a combination of a few. Imagine a few days on a guided game drive followed by a walking safari expedition or primate discovery.

To discover a wealth of information and inspiration, visit our African safari travel guide and take a look at our African safaris. One of our expert safari specialists will be on hand to assist you when you are ready to book your specific safari style.

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