There is no absolute best country for an African safari. At Africa Freak we love them all. Most of all, we love the diversity that’s on offer, with each country offering a distinctive style and experience.
Each of the best countries offers brilliant animal sightings and a fully immersive safari. So where do you start? Here’s a run down of the major safari countries.
When planning your trip keep remembering that Africa is a huge continent, so it’s often improbable to combine countries unless you have more than two weeks.
Pick one, or a maximum of two countries that neighbour each other; once you’ve connected with your wild side you’ll be back for more and there’s always a new country to visit.
With its luxury lodges and accessible parks, South Africa provides the classic first-time safari experience. It’s the best destination if you’re only interested in a short safari, because there is opportunity to fly in and out of a park for just a few days. Plus there’s much more to do beyond safari.
The Greater Kruger is one of Africa’s ultimate safari destinations and is flanked by a number of private concessions. And it’s just one of the options. Before or after the safari you can go exploring Cape Town, discover the beaches and connect with culture.
Safari in South Africa is incredibly easy. It’s where you can be watching animals from a private plunge pool, relaxing in a spa as rhinos walk past, and enjoying all manner of opulence.
But South Africa is also very authentic and there are many budget safari destinations, particularly national parks in the north of the country.
If Africa sounds a little daunting and you want more from a holiday than safari, South Africa is always a premier choice.
A land untamed, home to some of the planet’s most outrageous natural spectacles. Botswana is wild and wonderful, a country that royalty and celebrities visit for a safari hideaway. There’s just so much space. And so many animals.
Safari isn’t cheap here as Botswana has always valued high-end tourism over bus loads of visitors. That only makes it more authentic. You’ll need at least a week and it’s highly recommended to combine a variety of destinations, as each has its own atmosphere.
The Central Kalahari is a classic desert landscape, a real wilderness for the mind. The Okavango Delta is nature’s greatest oasis, flooding every year to provide haven for hundreds of thousands of migratory animals.
Chobe hosts the world’s largest elephant population and there are superb private concessions for a very exclusive safari experience. It’s so wild you’ll even see elephant herds crossing the highway.
Understated and under-visited, Namibia is Africa’s hidden safari gem. Except it’s not that hidden. It’s an enormous desert, home to the world’s highest sand dunes, its second largest canyon, and plenty of adventure.
The desert landscape doesn’t support huge numbers of animals but you’ll be exploring one of the world’s most devilishly beautiful nations. It’s pure wilderness and the landscapes are as surreal as they are sublime.
Etosha National Park is the premier safari attraction, great for following nomadic four-legged wanderers of all shapes and sizes. Along the Caprivi Strip you can discover a series of smaller parks that provide opportunity for walking and riding safaris.
In such a vast untouched country you can pretty much do what you like and there won’t be any other people interrupting the experience; just come with an intrepid spirit and get wild.
Zambia and Zimbabwe
Inaccessibility has kept these two welcoming nations off most visitor itineraries. Straddling East and Southern Africa they offer a little of everything, along with the drama of Victoria Falls.
Unfortunately, they can be hard to travel around as tourist infrastructure is undeveloped (Zambia) and somewhat forgotten (Zimbabwe). But those hardy souls who make it will find good value safari and a chance to be almost alone in huge wilderness areas.
It’s adventurous and exotic, mostly suited to those who are returning to Africa for a second or third time, or are on an overland journey between East and Southern Africa.
Hwange and Luangwa are standout destinations with the standout experience being the chance to get fully off the beaten track and see what Africa was like before tourism.
The classic East African safari destination, Tanzania is home to many of the African preconceptions. This is the land of the Serengeti, the great wildebeest migration, Ngorongoro Crater and then a beach break in Zanzibar.
For a first-time safari it can be difficult to rival Tanzania’s northern circuit, taking in four national parks in a week at a relatively affordable price. But don’t discount southern Tanzania if you have more time; there are less visitors here and almost as much wildlife brilliance.
Nowhere in the world has as many wild mammals, with over 2 million just in the Serengeti. All budgets are catered for and we’d recommend avoiding the really budget operators.
Spend a little more money and the experience is far more comfortable, and more invigorating as you’ll be in the hands of better guides.
Just remember that Tanzania is a huge country so time is essential. Consider local flights to connect destinations and visit Zanzibar to round off your time in the wilderness.
However, slight political instability has meant Kenya is falling off the tourist radar. Which is great news for you. Here is a country with a fully developed infrastructure, a superb safari offering, but very few visitors other than in the Mara.
You get the best of both worlds: facilities and amenities plus wildlife and wilderness. And even though Kenya is developing into a first-world nation, you’ll still see zebra, giraffe and other animals along the side of the main roads.
Then finish off a safari on 500 miles of white sand coastline, where there’s nothing but the Indian Ocean breeze to keep you company. So while the Maasai Mara is the famous three or four-day safari, stick around and you can be entertained for weeks.
Uganda and Rwanda
Uganda and Rwanda are where you go gorilla trekking, an incredibly unique experience that’s completely different from all the other safaris. While you’re in the forests, check out the options for chimpanzee trekking as well, meaning more intimate encounters with rare primates.
Both countries also have more traditional safari destinations, the kind where lions and elephants and hippos dominate proceedings.
Uganda feels raw and it’s a massive country, so you’ll needs at least ten days just to cover the essentials. Many people would call Uganda “real Africa” but that’s a little erroneous; it’s all real Africa, people are just excited by a country with ochre-hued dirt roads and monkeys swinging in the trees.
Still not sure? Start planning your safari with personalised advice.