An African safari vacation is a bucket list trip for many people. No other continent on the planet offers such expansive national parks brimming with incredible wildlife. From elephants and rhinos, to lions as well as leopards. But, where is the best place for safari in Africa?
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The word “safari” means “journey” in Swahili. Certainly, a safari is more about the journey than a specific destination. It’s the feeling of the crisp morning air in the open roof vehicles. Also, the thrill of spotting a leopard in the scrub land or a lioness lounging in the tall grass.
An Africa safari trip is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s one of our favorite travel experiences in the world!
Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to visit dozens of safari destinations in Africa. We had the opportunity to compare destinations that might qualify for the title of the best safari in the world.
If you’re planning an African safari, here is our run-down of the are the best safari parks in Africa for all types of travelers.
Where to Go on Safari in Africa
1. Serengeti, Tanzania
Tanzania Safari Cost: $$-$$$$
The Serengeti National Park offers by far the best safari in Tanzania. If you ask us, it’s the best African country for safari!
The vast grasslands and rolling plains of this national reserve are home to an abundance of wildlife. They have the greatest concentrations of animals in the world. The Serengeti frequently earns the first place on our list of top 10 safaris in Africa.
It’s possible to see the Big Five animals here. Although, rhinos are increasingly rare. Still, the show-stopping attraction is the Great Wildebeest Migration that follows the herds on their circular journey across the Serengeti and Masai Mara each year.
Best Time to Visit: June – October
The best time to go on safari in the Serengeti National Park is in the dry season from June until October. This is when the vegetation is more scarce and waterholes are increasingly busy, making it easier to spot wildlife. This is also the best time to catch a glimpse of the Great Wildebeest Migration, which is at its peak during this season. Between June and July, you can see the spectacular and frantic crossings of the Grumeti River and in September and again in November, you can catch the water crossing at the Mara River in the Northern Serengeti.
Otherwise, the Serengeti can actually be visited year-round. The rainy seasons in March to May and again from November to December are still pleasant times to be out in the vast plains and prices are generally a lot cheaper then too.
Our Tip: Start in the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive caldera and a natural enclosure of Africa’s big five animals. Then you can work your way into the Serengeti to build up your excitement and appreciate all the animal sightings. It’s not just about the big cats though as it’s also home to the last remaining Black Rhinos and the great migration of wildebeest as well as zebras.
Where to Stay: Lemala Camps & Lodges
Lemala Camps and Lodges offer a range of accommodation options in multiple locations throughout the National Parks in Tanzania. Their accommodation options range from tented camps to lodges and villas. Also, they can coordinate a whole African safari package across multiple parks in the country. We’ve now had the pleasure of visiting every single one of their properties. And, we do not hesitate to recommend either one of their camps or lodges!
Tanzania is the ultimate destination for an Africa honeymoon and properties like Lemala’s Kuria Hills in Northern Serengeti or Lemala Nanyukie in Central Serengeti would offer a great base for the most luxurious African safari worthy of any honeymoon!
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2. Masai Mara, Kenya
Kenya Safari Cost: $-$$$
The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is one of the best African safari destinations. It’s wide open plains provide excellent game viewing opportunities, particularly of elephants, zebras, giraffes and buffalo. The Masai Mara is also one of the best game reserves in Africa for the famous spotting cats such as leopard, lion and cheetah.
From June to October, the plains are filled with herds of wildebeest. They follow the rain on their 2900 kilometer round migration spanning the Serengeti and Masai Mara.
Best Time to Visit: June – October
For the best safari in Kenya, you should visit Masai Mara in the popular months of June to October. This is when the world-famous spectacle of the Great Migration reaches the plains of the Masai Mara. However, the exact timing of the migration of wildebeest and zebras is difficult to predict and dependent on rainfall.
The calving season for the national reserve’s resident animals is in December and January, making this a good time to visit to see calves, foals and fawns. It also offers excellent photographic opportunities with a rise in predators stalking the new-born.
Our tip: Time your Masai Mara safari visit with the Great Wildebeest Migration from June to October. This is a once in a lifetime Africa safaris experience. Along with Tanzania’s Serengeti, it’s the only place to understand the sheer scale of animal movement.
Where to Stay: andBeyond Bateleur Camp
Set among the forest at the foot of the rim of the Great Rift Valley in Masai Mara National Reserve, andBeyond’s Bateleur Camp offers classic and elegant safari holidays in Africa. Consisting of two intimate camps of 9 tented suites each and a family tent, the camp offers a private and exclusive experience that doesn’t come with many other Kenya safari packages. Meals are included in the price as are daily safari drives. We love andBeyond properties and the company’s commitment to sustainable operations!
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3. Greater Kruger Area, South Africa
South Africa safari price: $-$$$$
The Greater Kruger Area offers by far the best safari in South Africa. It is particularly popular with self-drivers as the opportunity to explore in your own vehicle gives you an opportunity to really cut down on your African safari cost.
Kruger National Park is also a popular destination for best African safari tours. You can get the taste of the park and see lots of wildlife in just a few hours.
With an expansive area covering 3 000 000 hectares, it’s one of the best places to visit in Africa to see the Big Five. The national park is brimming with wildlife with a high chance of animal sightings.
Thanks to the fact that Kruger offers great facilities and that the park boasts tarred roads. It is a great destination for the best African safari for seniors. It’s also one of the most popular African safari destinations for backpackers and travelers on a budget.
Looking for a luxury safari? South Africa is the place to go! Sabi Sands Reserve in Kruger, as well as a few other concession areas inside the park, are home to some of the most luxurious and best safari lodges in Africa.
Best Time to Visit: April – September
The best time to safari in South Africa is during the dry winter season between April and September. These months offer the most comfortable weather and game viewing is at its peak with better visibility. Wildlife tends to migrate to the water holes at this time making it much easier to predict their movements.
Our tip: Although the main Kruger National Park receives most of the attention, the best wildlife viewing actually happens outside of the main park. South African safari in one of the private concessions offers an even better wildlife viewing opportunity. Private reserves like Timbavati Nature Reserve or Sabi Sands Game Reserve offer the best safaris in South Africa with lower density of lodges and more freedom to explore off-road.
Where to Stay: Umlani Bushcamp
Umlani Bushcamp is one of a few South Africa safari camps in the central Timbavati Nature Reserve. They have eight comfortable lodges that are built from natural materials, along with a restaurant, gift shop and pool. The entire camp is run on solar power and is representative of a true bush stay experience.
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4. Chobe National Park, Botswana
Botswana Safari Cost: $-$$$
The vast Chobe National Park in Northern Botswana is an incredible wilderness full of roaming wildlife. It’s the most biologically diverse place in the country with grasslands. Also, lagoons and marshlands that are prime environments for wildlife in Africa.
In particular, it’s the best safari in Southern Africa if you want to see elephants, with the highest density of the huge mammals on the planet. Although it’s possible to catch the Big Five in Chobe, rhinos are especially rare to spot.
Best Time to Visit: May – October
The best time to visit Chobe National Park is in the dry season between May and October. This is when large numbers of wildlife are easily spotted around the Chobe River area. Which is, the most accessible part of the park from Kasane.
Most people avoid the rainy season from December to March, although it can be a good time to visit the areas around Savuti marsh where the landscape is more lush at this time.
Our tip: Chobe National Park is made up of various parts. The Chobe River area is the most accessible and popular for African safari holidays. However, you shouldn’t miss the Linyanti marsh in the northwest corner of the park. Additionally, the more arid Savuti marsh in the south of the park. They offer contrasting experiences and provide a greater chance to spot various animals.
Where to Stay: Pangolin Chobe Hotel
The Pangolin Chobe Hotel overlooks the Chobe River and offers an intimate and personal service with just 14 rooms. The rooms are spacious and there is an eco-pool and fireplace for the evenings. Pangolin is not just a hotel, but a photo safaris operator. It offers daily photo tours in Chobe National Park. You don’t have to be an avid photographer to enjoy a Pangolin Chobe safari. But, we particularly loved their unique approach to an African safari.
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5. Etosha National Park, Namibia
Namibia Safari Cost: $-$$$
Etosha National Park is one of the best national parks in Africa, despite it getting far less attention than some of the other more famous parks on the continent. Etosha covers an area of 22 750 square kilometers. It is the perfect safari destination for all types of travelers, from families to self-drivers.
It’s possible to get a glimpse of four out of the Big Five animals, as buffalo remains absent in the reserve. However, it’s one of the best safari destinations in Africa for spotting the elusive cheetah and black rhino.
Etosha is a great option for the best place for safari in Africa for budget travelers as it offers lots of cheap accommodation options and an ability to do self-drives inside the park.
Best Time to Visit: May-October
The best time for an African safari in Etosha is in the dry months from May to October. Game viewing is easiest at this time as wildlife is concentrated around waterholes and visibility is high.
Our tip: If you’re at Etosha in the dry season, head to the watering holes and wait for wildlife. This is the prime opportunity for snapping the best photographs as the animals tend to congregate around water at this time.
Where to Stay: Etosha Safari Camp & Lodge
Etosha Safari Camp is one of the most well-known accommodation options in the national park. The rustic place is made up of 50 chalets with a pool and restaurant. They also have a camping area for budget travelers.
Plan Your Trip:
6. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
Often overshadowed by the Masai Mara and Serengeti, Queen Elizabeth National Park is a great budget option for an East African safari. It offers diverse landscapes from savannah to bushland. The wetlands is home to 96 species of mammals including elephants, hippos and lions.
You can see four out of the Big Five African safari animals, as only the rhino is absent from the park. However, the benefit of visiting Queen Elizabeth in Uganda is that you can combine a traditional safari with a gorilla tracking in the nearby Bwindi National Park. This is one of the best African adventures that you can only experience in very few places in the world!
Best Time to Visit: June to September
The best time to go on African safari in Uganda is from June until September, during the dry months. Peak season for a safari tour in Queen Elizabeth is in June and July, when the park is at its busiest. January and February are also dry months and offer an alternative to the more popular safari travel time.
Our tip: If you have the time, combine a visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park with a few days in Bwindi National Park to see the gorillas. Bwindi is just 120km south of Queen Elizabeth National Park, making it relatively easy to combine a safari trip to both.
Where to Stay: Ishasha Wilderness Camp
Ishasha Wilderness Camp is a full-board eco-lodge located on the banks of the Ntungwe River inside the Queen Elizabeth National Park. They have comfortable solar-powered tents with beautiful views of the river banks. It’s a very peaceful setting during the day. However, at night, the resident hippos come out of the waters for a little munching party right outside your tent!
Ishasha Camp will happily organize community visits and local cooking classes as well as standard African safari tours.
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7. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is rarely included on roundups of the best African safari locations. However, the park is one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world home to 60 mammal species, including four of the Big Five, as well as over 400 bird species.
The Luangwa River is the most intact major river system in Africa and forms the life-blood of this 9000 square kilometer park.
Best Time to Visit: April to October
The dry season from April to October is the best time for safari vacations in Zambia. The hotter months towards the end of the dry season is when game concentrations are at their highest. The rainy season goes from November until March, which brings the migratory birds in droves and is a great time for bird watchers.
Our tip: If you are planning on traveling to Africa in the off season, consider visiting this region in the so-called Emerald Season which runs from November to May. Although this is technically the rainy season, the landscape becomes a lush green colour and the air clears, making it especially perfect for photographers. It’s also more affordable and less crowded at the popular lodges.
Where to Stay: Thornicroft Lodge
Thornicroft Lodge is an intimate and affordable accommodation on the banks of the Luangwa River. They have just nine bush-style chalets surrounded by scrubland with a restaurant onsite. They are also one of the best African safari tour operators in the national park with experienced guides.
8. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
For one of the best safaris in Africa, head to Hwange National Park in northwest Zimbabwe. This huge park the size of Belgium is home to the biggest diversity of mammals out of any of the world’s national parks. It may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of the best place to go on safari, but it’s one worth considering.
The savanna grasslands and woodlands in Hwange National Park are the perfect habitat for Africa’s Big Five as well as 100 other species of mammals. There are also over 500 species of birds, making it one of the best African safaris for animal and bird lovers.
It’s severely underrated and is rarely mentioned among other safari destinations like the Masai Mara and Serengeti. However, this also means you can appreciate the wildlife with very little disturbance from other travelers.
Best Time to Visit: July to October
Visiting during Zimbabwe’s dry season from July to October is the best time for game viewing. The wildlife are easily spotted at the water holes throughout the park. So, this is the best time to spot herds of elephants with a staggering 50,000 of them. Roaming within the park boundaries.
The wet summer months from November to April are not as pleasant and game viewing is difficult. However, it is the best time for bird watchers.
Our tip: Combine a trip to Hwange National Park with a visit to Victoria Falls. With just 100km distance between the two places, it’s very easy to combine both for the ultimate Africa vacation. Some organized Africa tours and safaris often include both experiences in their package. Or, you can easily arrange a transfer between Victoria Falls and Hwange.
Where to Stay: Elephant’s Eye Eco Lodge
Elephant’s Eye Eco Lodge has eight raised tented chalets made from recycled and sustainable materials. All with private outdoor showers and views over a nearby waterhole. Also, have a Boma dinner on-site. Additionally, an eco spa for relaxation. This popular lodge offers African safari packages in Zimbabwe with daily game drives and experienced guides.