As with any truly special location on earth, once you have a taste of Africa it is almost impossible to resist returning. Here’s the top of the top of the African safari destinations. The number of characters you meet in the bush who recount how they started off on an African safari and never left is testament to this unrelenting pull of Africa. It is home to one of the few remaining true wildernesses on this planet and each country has its own unique draw. From floating down the Okavango Delta in a dug out canoe whilst gazing at elephant, tracking rhino on foot along the banks of Zambezi river, to witnessing thousands of wildebeest crossing the croc infested Mara River or flying over the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, Africa never ceases to amaze.
So where do you start? When asked where to go in Africa the honest answer is, you need to decide what you actually want to experience. Here’s our list of top African safari destinations.
Searching for the Big Five
Okavango Delta, Botswana
This is one of our most frequently asked questions, especially from first time safari goers and it’s not surprising. You want to make sure that you’re giving yourself the best chance of seeing the most talked about species. The private reserves around Kruger in South Africa have an unbelievable concentration of the Big Five with incredible year round sightings of leopard and lion in particular. The best time of year to visit this region is June to September with warm, dry days and cool evenings when the bush is less dense making for better game viewing. The Okavango Delta would be our pick due to the sheer wild factor of your safari experience with camps that are so remote, they can only be accessed by light aircraft and due to the diversity of the wildlife and safari activities on offer. Where else can you experience a safari by boat, canoe, foot, plane and landrover?
For wilderness seekers
The more time you spend on safari, the more pleasure you derive from simply experiencing the wild, whether that’s enjoying the sounds of morning bird life or marvelling at a giraffe bending down to have a morning drink. When it comes to simply escaping and enjoying true wilderness there aren’t many locations that beat the vast expanse of Tanzania’s Selous. The best time to unwind in one of the largest and most pristine sanctuaries in Africa is during the dry season, June to August, when the temperature is not too hot. If you’re keen to get a taste of sleeping under the stars then head out into the bush on a mobile fly-camp. The Selous works really well with some beach time on Zanzibar and its neighbouring islands. Otherwise the Central Kalahari in Botswana with its moon-like salt pans and shimmering sunrises or Namibia with its never-ending sand dunes and uninhabited Skeleton Coast would be a joint second.
Walking on the wild side
South Luangwa, Zambia
Walking safaris take you back to how safaris used to be done. Away from the distraction of engines and technology. Simply you, your guide and nature. Not only does a walking safari give you a chance to reflect, enjoy your surroundings and approach game on their terms but it’s also a great feeling of stretching the old legs and feeling like you fully deserve your next feast back at the camp. Zambia, which is widely regarded as the birth of the walking safari, is our pick. Here you can walk from camp to camp giving you a great orientation of your surroundings but also an incredible sense of achievement. The open plains of Tanzania and areas of the Okavango Delta would also be high on our list of walking safari heaven.
Witnessing the Great Migration
Masai Mara, Kenya & Serengeti, Tanzania
Named as one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” The Great Migration is one of Africa’s most remarkable phenomena. The natural movement of over a million wildebeest and zebra from the plains of Tanzania in the south to the green pastures of Kenya’s Masai Mara, in search of food and water, is a sight you will never forget.
The wildebeest spend their time in the grasses of Tanzania’s Serengeti from November. Then after giving birth in February time and when the rains have ended in May the animals start moving north, crossing the croc infested rivers and arriving in Kenya’s Maasai Mara from around July for the remainder of the dry season. This is an incredible opportunity to see the predators such as lion and leopard in full swing. In early November with the start of the short rains, the wildebeest begin their journey south, back to the short grass pastures of the Serengeti, usually arriving in December with plenty of time before calving in February. And here begins the next magical cycle of the Great Migration.
Booking an African Safari
No African safari will ever be the same, you’ll always see something different. It can be a little overwhelming when there is so much choice out there. We’ve taken the guesswork out the process though by showcasing some of the best itineraries throughout Africa on the Timbuktu site. You can compare them by destination, experience, duration and cost.