The world’s best safari companies – African tour operators

The best safari companies in the world

Safari. What an adventure!

But only when you do it right.

It’s not just the quality of the guiding and accommodation that makes a difference; it’s where and when you go.

The best safari travel agents provide you access to exclusive, wildlife-rich areas where you can fully connect with your wild side.

Over the last two decades, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, the very bad, but also the very best safari companies in Africa.

As they say at National Geographic magazine: “in a time when travel dollars are stretched, it’s essential that an outfitter delivers the trip of a lifetime, the first time”.

That is why the tour companies selected below are the best of the best, because they deliver on the first experience.

10 of the Best African Safari Tour Operators

Black lechwe silhouette in Zambia's Bangweulu wetlands

I have based the listing of the best Africa safari companies on my own experiences, along with National Geographic Adventure’s selection of the Best Adventure Travel Companies.

Out of hundreds of safari companies and tour operators surveyed, only the very top were chosen (based on criteria like education, sustainability, quality of service, and spirit of adventure).

Best Africa Tour Companies

If you’re looking to have an unforgettable safari in Africa, then you better check out some of the best Africa tour companies below.

1. Micato Safaris

Micato Safaris website screenshot

“The Travel+Leisure 10-Year Winner.”

Best For: Exclusive, private safaris. This company focuses on Eastern and Southern African countries.

micato.com

2. Wilderness Safaris

Wilderness Safaris website screenshot

“Creating Life-Changing Journeys.”

Best For: Exceptional safari experiences in Africa’s untouched wilderness.

Wilderness Safaris have around 40 luxury safari camps in over 5 countries, including Botswana, Kenya, and Rwanda.

They are committed to eco-friendly tourism, which is why these luxurious trips help protect biodiversity, conserve wildlife, and give back to local communities.

wilderness-safaris.com

3. andBeyond

andBeyond website screenshot

“Leaving Our World a Better Place for 30 Years.”

Best For: Luxury safaris, though they do have broader options for families.

andBeyond have a luxury safari experience in 9 different countries in Africa, including South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia.

andbeyond.com

4. Thomson Safaris

Thomson Safaris website screenshot

“40 Years of Wildlife Safaris.”

Best For: Safari in Tanzania. Their packages are well suited to every budget, which is why they are known as one of the best Tanzania safari companies.

Destinations include Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Selous Game Reserve, Olduvai Gorge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, and Zanzibar.

thomsonsafaris.com

5. Mark Thornton Safaris

Mark Thornton Safaris website screenshot

“It’s Not Only What You See. It’s How You See It.”

Best For: Tarangire and Serengeti walking safaris in Tanzania. This is one of the best Tanzania safari tour operators on the continent.

thorntonsafaris.com

6. Volcanoes Safaris

Volcanoes Safaris website screenshot

“The Number 1 Gorilla Safari Company.”

Best For: Gorilla trekking. Volcanoes Safaris is especially renowned for its gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda.

Volcanoes Safaris also organize trips to the DRC and Tanzania.

volcanoessafaris.com

7. Africa Adventure Consultants

Africa Adventure Consultants website screenshot

“Safaris for the Discerning Traveler.”

Best For: A tailored multi-destination (multi-country) safari.

Destinations include (East and Southern Africa) Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.

adventuresinafrica.com

8. Gamewatchers Safaris

Gamewatchers Safaris website screenshot

“Exclusive Safaris in Africa’s Finest Wildlife Areas.”

Best For: Classic safari experiences in East Africa.

porini.com

9. The Africa Adventure Company

The Africa Adventure Company website screenshot

“Your Passport for a Safari Trip to Africa’s Top Wildlife Countries.”

Best For: An East and Southern Africa safari specialist, this is one of the best-rated African safari tour companies for good-value first-time adventures.

africa-adventure.com

10. Africa Dream Safaris

Africa Dream Safaris website screenshot

“Experience Your Dreams.”

Best For: Activities concentrated in East Africa, including unique safari activities.

africadreamsafaris.com

More of the Best Africa Safari Companies

The above list is by no means exhaustive.

There are many other top safari companies that will also do a great job, but they do not fall within the top 10.

Abercrombie & Kent

Abercrombie & Kent website screenshot

If you are looking for the best luxury safari companies in Africa, then you have found the right one.

Abercrombie & Kent cater to those who want to experience luxurious travel but still rough it out in the African bush.

Norman Carr Safaris

Norman Carr Safaris website screenshot

Norman Carr Safaris operates in Zambia, specifically in South Luangwa National Park.

They are one of the original safari operators in this park, and the pioneers of walking safaris to promote eco-safari tourism.

Deeper Africa

Deeper Africa website screenshot

As one of the world’s best African safari tour companies, Deeper Africa is an East Africa safari specialist.

Embark with them for an enriching experience guided by African wildlife experts.

African Portfolio

African Portfolio website screenshot

African Portfolio is best for first-time visitors to East and Southern Africa looking for simple safari itineraries.

They also have trips to Morocco and Egypt.

Best Africa Tour Companies

Half submerged safari jeep in the Okavango Delta

There is no standard route in Africa. After more than a decade of exploring, I still haven’t seen half the continent.

There is always somewhere new to go, and something new to try. So I really encourage you to live out the Africa of your dreams, wherever and whatever that may be.

It can be a little daunting at first. To get started, check out the safari planning pages on Africa Freak.

Once you understand a little about African safari check out these incredible safari deals – you’re sure to find a wildlife adventure like no other.

Used an African safari company’s services before?

Why don’t you share your experience in the comments section.

12 thoughts on “The world’s best safari companies – African tour operators”

  1. This is not a definitive, or updated list of the world’s ”best” safari companies. I think A&K should surely make the proper list, along with & Beyond. But someone has rightfully pointed out that these companies are quite expensive. A few years ago, I enjoyed a fabulous African Safari in Kenya with Shoor Safaris ( http://www.shoortravel.com/ ) at much cheaper rates using the same properties I was being offered by a top US operator. So do shop around and book wisely.

    1. Thanks for your comment Carol. Sure, it’s not a “definitive” list. At the end of the day, it all depends on what YOU’re looking for. Choose wisely and “safari njema”! 😉

  2. Based on the dates you posted the article, that was true but now things have really changed. Those tour companies that are not keeping up with the advancement of technology especially online marketing are being overtaken by smaller operators who have invested heavily in online marketing.

    Regards,

    Raphael

  3. Most of the companies listed above are very expensive. I found a newer tour operator based in the US that runs their trips out of an office in Tanzania. They where almost half the price of the quote I got from Micato and 35% less than Thomsons. Our trip was great. I guess that the others charge more because they have a name. Anyway, check them out and see if they can do your trip cheaper http://www.etripafrica.com.

    Good Safari.

  4. I have gone through the list of safari companies listed and while it is true that they do offer great services, I am not sure that they are the top 10. There are a number of companies operating regionally and internationally that offer just as good or better services.

    Another thing is there are some good companies who have had their names sullied by one disgruntled client over the most minor issue. Tour guides are humans and something like a flat tire is something that is sometimes unavoidable. However, some clients since they book these tours way in advance a few things could have happened in the months leading up to the safari making them wish they hadn’t booked. Take the world economic crisis, a client books his safari one or two years in advance only to lose a job. So reviews by clients should be taken in totality not from one disgruntled client.

  5. Hello Michael.

    I have seen the list of the top 10 safari companies doing safaris in Africa. In Uganda you have listed Volcanoes only. There is another company that deserves space in the top 10 – Advantage Safaris ltd, website http://www.advantage-safaris.com. They organize the best birdwatching, gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tracking and family holidays in both Uganda and Rwanda. The guides and safari drivers employed by Advantage Safaris ltd are the best in the industry.

  6. All safari goers should be a little wary of the ‘group style’ safaris on offer. Remember that you are trying to get close to wildlife and be sensitive as well as be educated. Larger groups, of say 16 people or more, in numerous vehicles can find this a little difficult. Large groups are often led by ‘an expert’ with driver/guides in the other vehicles. Whilst this keeps the cost per head down some the overall ‘life time experience ‘ can get a little diluted by sharing one so called ‘expert’ between 16-20 group members.

    Tanzania is a wonderful safari destination but you cannot beat a small group of up to 8 visitors being guided by two excellent guides in two well equipped vehicles. Guides that know the back roads and want to explore.

    Camp in remote locations, don’t be surrounded by cement in a lodge. It costs more but these basic rules can get a visitor closer to that dream vacation.

  7. I agree that it is impossible to limit the world’s best safari companies down to a list of 10, especially when each safari company is focused on a different region and/or type of trip (adventure, family, honeymoon, luxury, etc.). In many cases it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

  8. Hi Johan,

    Thanks for the feedback, you definitely have a point here. Of course, they can't possibly make a "real" top 10 out of the thousands of safari companies out there. But then again, how would you do it? Did you check out their methodology? Basically, it is based on surveys that follow specific categories: education, sustainability, quality of service and spirit of adventure.

    About the "trip of a lifetime" experience. This goal should always be on top of the list, totally agree with you. The question is: are they all going for it? I don't think so. I have read a few stories where people were really not well catered for. In my opinion, there are always companies out there that are looking for a quick buck no matter what… even if it has to be at the expense of their clients.

    Not quite sure what you're trying to imply about the recession bit. Did you read that? Possible but am not aware of it.

    Cheers 🙂

    Mike

  9. Hello Michael,

    Interesting topic that is being discussed here. I must say though that the premise of NG a bit of an awkward one is. 'Delivering a trip of a lifetime the first time'?? In my opinion a safari outfitter should ALWAYS try to achieve this goal the first time. Now NG suggests that there are a number of operators out there that are not doing their utmost to accommodate clients the first time and that they will only do so in times of recession.

    I therefore dare to say that this survey is absolute nonsense, as NG will not have the possibility to survey 100's of operators. Why? Because they have other things to do than being a consumer watchdog on safaris. I am not implying that the mentioned companies are no good, I am just saying that out of all the thousands of companies selling safaris, you can not just make a list of 10.

    What do you think yourself Michael?

    Cheers from Holland.

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