Best African Safaris – When envisioning an African safari, the typical mental image might involve navigating the savannah aboard an open 4×4 vehicle, and undoubtedly, that’s an incredible experience! However, did you know there are five additional, distinctly different types of safaris that offer equally thrilling adventures?
Across Africa, numerous parks and reserves stand out as truly fantastic and world-class, setting the standard for excellence in wildlife conservation and natural beauty.
These diverse sanctuaries showcase a remarkable array of wildlife and landscapes. From the iconic Big Five to beloved creatures like giraffes, hippos, and cheetahs, and the awe-inspiring spectacle of the Great Wildlife Migration, these parks are teeming with biodiversity. Picture rivers concealing crafty crocodiles and hippos, wetlands alive with a symphony of birds, and salt pans adorned with a mosaic of animals. Imagine landscapes featuring colossal anthills adorned with bee-eaters’ nests, tranquil river channels bustling with waterbirds, and riverbanks hosting gatherings of thirsty antelopes and majestic elephants. In each of these havens, nature unfolds in breathtaking and diverse formations, creating an unparalleled safari experience.
If you have ever seen wildlife magic encounter, dreams become true only in Africa.
However, what’s the most effective way to witness and appreciate the stunning array of wildlife? Let’s delve into various forms of African safaris, beginning with the traditional game drive and then exploring more exclusive and unique terrain.
1. Ultimate Walking Safaris
Walking safaris are restricted in numerous parks and reserves. Therefore, whenever the chance for a walking safari arises, it is advisable to fully embrace the opportunity!
Engaging in a walking safari unveils a unique learning experience as rangers impart their knowledge on tracking animals. Observing animal footprints (spoor), examining droppings, assessing broken branches, and identifying nests become integral aspects of this educational journey.
Walking safaris extend beyond the typical settings of savannahs and grasslands; they also venture into rugged, forested terrains. Particularly noteworthy are walking safaris in dense forests, notably during gorilla and chimp treks. These guided hikes immerse participants in the natural habitats of primates, offering a rare and enriching encounter with these incredible creatures.
Some of the Walking Safaris in Africa
South Luangwa National Park in Zambia stands as an unparalleled destination for walking safaris, boasting exceptional guides and rangers who lead explorers on both short nature walks and extended multiday walking safaris.
Kruger National Park in South Africa also offers extraordinary short and extended walking safaris. As the habitat for the Big Five, a walking safari in Kruger is an indelible and immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect intimately with the diverse wildlife.
For a different primate-centric adventure, embark on a chimpanzee trek in Kibale National Park, Uganda. This trek guides you through enchanting forests, providing close encounters with chimpanzees and a dozen other primate species, including red colobuses, Uganda mangabeys, and l’Hoest’s monkeys.
Gorilla Tracking/Walking Safaris: In both Rwanda and Uganda, you have the extraordinary opportunity to hike through rugged, remote rainforests to witness mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. This unique form of walking safari is a coveted experience that often finds its place on many individuals’ bucket lists.
2. Game/Safari Drive
Embarking on game drives offers the opportunity to explore expansive areas safely and witness a diverse range of wildlife. It’s an exhilarating adventure that, when approached responsibly, contributes to the vital cause of wildlife conservation.
We thoroughly enjoy a captivating game drive, considering it one of the most exceptional ways to encounter the myriad wild animals that inhabit the African continent.
Best National Parks for Game Drive in Africa
Attempting to narrow down the multitude of African parks is a challenging feat, given each park’s unique and remarkable features. Nevertheless, here’s a select handful of parks renowned for their abundant wildlife and considered outstanding destinations for game drives:
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania:
Ngorongoro Crater stands out in Tanzania, showcasing the Big Five amidst breathtaking natural beauty. A single drive in this crater offers an indulgent abundance of wildlife, leaving visitors feeling truly spoiled.
You embark on an exhilarating Murchison Falls game drive, traversing diverse landscapes teeming with wildlife. Encounter the iconic Big Five, majestic giraffes, and elusive predators in their natural habitat. The park’s varied ecosystems, from savannahs to riverbanks, provide a picturesque backdrop for this thrilling adventure. With knowledgeable guides leading the way, witness the wonders of Murchison Falls National Park, where each turn unveils a captivating spectacle of Africa’s magnificent fauna against the backdrop of the powerful Nile River.
Liuwa Plains National Park, Zambia:
Situated in a remote and tranquil setting, Liuwa Plains National Park in Zambia is an unspoiled haven for large game. Notably, it hosts the second-largest wildebeest migration, rivaling the renowned Serengeti spectacle.
Kruger National Park, South Africa:
Spanning expansively, Kruger National Park in South Africa is a colossal reserve that shelters the Big Five and is celebrated for its diverse and plentiful wildlife concentrations.
Etosha National Park, Namibia:
Etosha National Park in Namibia is a marvel for witnessing a multitude of animals. The vast salt pan, itself a striking sight, exposes animals to the keen eyes of safari enthusiasts, making it a fantastic destination for game drives.
While the game drive holds its unique charm, there are equally fantastic, often overlooked, safari experiences worth exploring. Let’s now delve into these alternative forms of safari that we believe you’ll find equally enjoyable.
3. Cycling Safaris
The Cycling safaris in Africa offer diverse experiences, from leisurely rides across flat savannahs to challenging journeys through hills and mountains. Opt for lowland parks to spot iconic African game such as elephants, giraffes, zebras, and antelopes. For abundant primate sightings, choose terrains with more elevation, typically found in hilly regions. Tailoring your cycling adventure to the landscape ensures a unique exploration of Africa’s varied ecosystems and wildlife.
Some of the Cycling Safaris in Africa
Exploring Africa through cycling safaris provides a myriad of options, and here are a few standout choices within national parks:
Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania: Discover sublime cycling tracks on the edge of the Great Rift Escarpment. Revel in expansive views of Lake Manyara and its diverse inhabitants, including massive elephant herds and towering flamingo gatherings.
Amboseli National Park, Kenya: Embark on a cycling adventure across the plains and wetlands of Amboseli National Park, encountering giraffes, elephants, Masai giraffes, hippos, and various antelopes. The majestic backdrop of Mt Kilimanjaro adds to the allure of this exceptional cycling experience.
Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda: Embark on a thrilling cycling safari in Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda. Pedal through the park’s diverse landscapes, encountering zebras, giraffes, and various antelope species. The gentle terrain allows for an immersive exploration of the savannah, acacia woodlands, and the shores of Lake Mburo, creating a unique and exhilarating cycling adventure amidst rich wildlife and picturesque scenery.
Parks and reserves that host cycling safaris typically provide opportunities for walking safaris as well. This allows you to appreciate the nature and wildlife of a location through multiple activities, enhancing your overall experience of the diverse landscapes and animal encounters.
4. Horse Riding Safaris
Horseback safaris, or horse-riding safaris in American terms, present another fantastic means of observing wildlife in select African game parks. Although not available in many parks, it’s worth inquiring about this option. Private reserves are more likely to offer this experience compared to national parks.
The elevated perspective and fluid mobility while on horseback enhance the joy of game viewing. For horse enthusiasts, it becomes a delightful combination of animal spotting and quality time spent with these magnificent creatures.
Explore horse-riding safaris in these remarkable locations:
Lake Mburo National Park, Uganda: Ideal for short horse-riding safaris, Lake Mburo National Park offers two to five-hour guided excursions through hilly terrain. Beyond horse-riding, the park provides diverse experiences, including game drives, night safaris, walking safaris, guided bird walks, and boat safaris on the lake.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: Embark on an extraordinary multiday horse-riding safari in the Serengeti, tracking the Great Migration herds. As predators like lions trail the migration, this adventure promises a diverse wildlife spectacle, providing an unparalleled equestrian experience amid the iconic landscapes.
5. Boat safaris
Boat safaris in Africa offer a unique and tranquil perspective on the continent’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife. Navigating rivers, lakes, and deltas, these safaris provide an intimate encounter with aquatic and terrestrial species alike. In Chobe National Park, Botswana, boat safaris along the Chobe River unveil herds of elephants bathing and drinking, accompanied by hippos, crocodiles, and a vibrant array of birdlife.
The Okavango Delta, also in Botswana, offers serene mokoro (canoe) safaris through water channels, bringing you closer to elusive aquatic creatures and lush vegetation. Along the Zambezi River, Zambia and Zimbabwe provide boat safaris with a backdrop of the iconic Victoria Falls. The calm waters of Lake
Naivasha in Kenya allow for birdwatching excursions, while boat safaris in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park reveal riverbanks teeming with wildlife. Boat safaris, a tranquil alternative to traditional game drives, promise an immersive and picturesque exploration of Africa’s waterways.
A boat or canoe safari offers a quiet, relaxing and yet also exciting way to see a park’s wildlife.
Boat Safari Destinations in Africa
Explore diverse landscapes through boat safaris across Africa’s wetlands, deltas, channels, and rivers. In Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a boat cruise during the wet season is a breathtaking journey along winding channels and lagoons, where elephants, rhinos, crocs, baboons, and waterbirds create a wild spectacle.
South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park, near St Lucia, invites you on boat cruises to spot hippos, crocs, elephants, rhinos, wild bush pigs, and buffaloes against the park’s stunning backdrop.
Along Uganda’s Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, close encounters with wallowing hippos, Nile crocs, and diverse waterbirds await, as elephants and other game gather for a drink and wallow. For a unique perspective, a canoe safari on Zambia’s Zambezi River offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness elephants, kudus, zebras, and crocs above and below the majestic Victoria Falls.
6. Hot Air Balloon Safaris
Hot air balloons offer an awe-inspiring, albeit costly, safari experience. While you won’t be in close proximity to the animals, the panoramic bird’s-eye view is truly breathtaking. The expansive landscape, wildlife, and their intricate patterns of movement become apparent on a whole new level.
During the Great Wildlife Migration, a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti is a sublime way to witness the vast herds of wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes stretching for miles across the savannah. This elevated perspective provides a unique appreciation of the scale and dynamics of this remarkable natural phenomenon.
A hot air balloon safari is the perfect add-on to a classic safari itinerary: drive and then head to the sky!
Discover three exceptional sites for balloon safaris:
- Serengeti National Park, Tanzania: Soar over the Serengeti on a hot air balloon ride to witness the vast multitude of animals constituting the Great Migration, the world’s largest land-based migration. This unforgettable experience allows you to appreciate the spectacle of the Serengeti’s wildlife. Additionally, balloon safaris are available at certain times in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
- Okavango Delta, Botswana: A balloon safari over the Okavango Delta is a must-try adventure. When the delta is flooded, it transforms into a vibrant hub, offering sightings of elephants, cheetahs, rhinos, crocodiles, and baboons navigating the seasonally lush landscape. This immersive experience showcases the incredible biodiversity of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
- Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda: Embark on a captivating hot air balloon adventure over Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda. Drift gently over the sweeping landscapes, marveling at the park’s diverse wildlife and the powerful Nile River coursing through the savannah. From this elevated vantage point, witness the beauty of the falls, abundant wildlife, and lush vegetation. A hot air balloon ride in Murchison Falls National Park provides a serene and picturesque encounter with nature, creating an unforgettable safari experience.
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