5 Highly Rated African Safaris
If you’re an avid traveler, an African safari could be on your bucket list. It’s a distant and expensive proposition, so after you’ve saved and arranged the time off work, you want the best possible experience.
A lot depends on where and what time of year you go. Your safari guides will do their best to make sure you see animals, but they can’t force them to come out of hiding or block their migration.
It also depends on who leads your safari. Some providers are more dedicated to giving tourists a great, all-inclusive experience than others. Before you book your trip, study these highly rated African safari destinations.
1. Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa
Sabi Sands is set in the low veld of the Greater Kruger National Park, near the provinces of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natel. It’s known for its luxurious game lodges and resorts.
Sabi Sands is host to one of the most diverse habitats in Africa, where you can see big cats like lions, cheetahs, and leopards as well as plenty of grazing wildlife such as water buffalo, elephants, rhinoceros, and antelope. If you’re lucky, you’ll witness the unique relationship between predator and prey as big cats stalk unsuspecting herbivores.
In South Africa, your best bet for seeing animals is during the dry season between May and October. Because it’s hot, animals will congregate at waterholes where they can drink and find more grazing vegetation.
2. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The most-visited safari destination, Masai Mara offers a more typical African safari experience. You’re surrounded by grasslands and acacia woodland that teems with wildebeest, elephants, and more.
Masai Mara is a migration area, so you have a guarantee of seeing herds of animals at close range. You may see the game no matter what time of year you go, so it’s harder to define the absolute best time.
Kenya safaris are often best between January and March because that’s the driest season, but Masai Mara reserve is a little different. Herds will migrate during the winter and summer and return late August through October, which makes those your prime viewing windows.
3. Etosha National Park, Namibia
The diversity of habitats in this beautiful grassland makes Etosha a treat. It’s located in a huge salt pan that it’s visible to satellites.
Although you can take a guided tour, the park is open for visitors to drive themselves. You’re most likely to see antelope and elephant. Lions, hyenas, and cheetahs are also common, but not hippo or buffalo because the land is too dry.
Perhaps the biggest draw at this salty flatland is the chance to see a black rhino. The species is critically endangered, and to help raise awareness of its need, park rangers make it easy to spot examples. Rangers use floodlighting to illuminate waterholes near the main camps, and if you stick around long enough after dark, you’ll probably see a rhino.
Etosha is nearly a year-round destination, with eight months of peak game viewing. The best time to go is between May and December, but the rainy seasons from January to March also offer some unique wildlife viewing opportunities.
4. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Reserve, Uganda
On the southwest side of Uganda lies Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It’s the best place to see gorillas. In fact, nearly fifty percent of the world’s mountain gorillas (a critically endangered species) live in Bwindi.
A guide will help you track the footpaths of gorilla groups so you can find them in their natural habitat. Along the way, you may also see chimpanzees, baboons, and other primates. This tropical rainforest is home to elephants, antelope, and a hugely diverse population of birds as well.
June to August and December to February are the best months to visit because they’re drier and it’s easier to track gorillas.
5. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Serengeti National Park is directly adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve. It’s a quintessential national reserve filled with grasslands and acacia trees.
You’ll see your fill of zebra, antelope, and other herbivores, which attract natural predators like lions and cheetahs. Although Serengeti and Masai Mara are pretty similar, Serengeti is larger so it may feel less crowded.
From June to October is the dry season, so you’ll enjoy a large variety of animals then. But November to August can be desirable as well since that’s when the wildebeest migration takes place.