If you are dreaming of a trip to Africa but don’t know where to start, I’m happy to help pave the way for you! You see, after living in South Africa for some time, visiting many of the countries in Africa and embarking on my fair share of safaris, I think I’m qualified to share the absolute best countries to go on safari. And because these safari adventures have been some of the most meaningful trips for me, I encourage everyone and anyone to journey to Africa at least once in their lifetime and experience an African safari.
1. South Africa
We’ll start with the most popular country to go on a safari and that’s for good reason. South Africa is often the first choice for visitors to Africa thanks to its sheer amount of safari lodges, national parks and wildlife viewing opportunities. This country is vast and full of great national parks to experience the Big 5 up close, so it is little wonder this is the most visited country in Africa for a safari.
But you might be wondering, is it the best?
For first time safari-goers, yes. South Africa offers the best introductory safari experience and is a great starting point to explore Africa. Plus, you’ll be able to make the most of a city stopover in Johannesburg and if you fancy, add a visit to Cape Town onto the end of your journey.
Botswana is personally my favourite country to go on a safari. With a strong focus on ecotourism and one of Africa’s toughest anti-poaching units, Botswana is committed to conservation of the land, animals and people who call Botswana home. And of course, it is stunning! For one of the best safari experiences with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities and the unique experience of a water safari, visit the Okavango Delta during the wet season. It is here where I have encountered huge herds of elephants, large prides of lions (and their cubs), plus met some meerkats up close in the Kalahari Desert.
Over in East Africa you will encounter some of the most iconic National Parks to experience an African safari. And my top pick for a safari in East Africa is to visit Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Particularly if you can time your visit during the Great Migration, an annual wildlife event where animals cross from the Maasai Mara in Kenya to the neighbouring Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Early in the year is also a great opportunity to see newborns, with baby giraffes and baby elephants being particularly enjoyable to watch experiencing the world for the first time.
Coming in closely alongside with Tanzania is neighbouring Kenya. This is one of Africa’s most visited countries for a safari experience, but if you plan on visiting popular choices like the Maasai Mara National Park, you should prepare to share this experience with many other travellers from around the world. However, there are some great ways to avoid the crowds such as visiting the Greater Mara area (like my visit to Cottar’s Safari Camp) or heading North in Kenya to experience the vast landscapes on offer.
As far as desert safaris go, Namibia offer the best experience without question. This country is a mecca for dry deserts, sand dunes, and the desert creatures that come along with it. So, where should you go on a safari in Namibia? If you want a completely unique experience in the desert dunes, head over to Sossusvlei. This is where you will find Namibia’s iconic red sand dunes, vast open landscapes and dry heat. For a more traditional safari, head straight to Etosha National Park where you will encounter much more wildlife than a visit to the desert.
As one of the safest countries (by vote) in Africa to visit, Zambia is often a top choice for travelers looking to go beyond the beaten path of countries like South Africa and Kenya, and instead venture into somewhere you might not know anyone who has visited. And with that risk of the unknown comes great reward! Zambia is home to the Victoria Falls, an incredible waterfall on the Zambezi River with an impressive width of 1708 metres. There are also many great parks to experience a safari and an abundance of wildlife surrounding the falls.
Zimbabwe might not be your first thought for going on safari, but for travelers who are looking for something out of the ordinary and surprisingly spectacular, Zimbabwe (or “Zim” as it is affectionately known) is a great choice. Landlocked and located on the Victoria Falls, be sure to add Devil’s Pool – the world’s most scenic natural rockpool – to your list. And as for safari, you can be sure to have an incredible experience with plenty of wildlife viewing in each of the National Parks, with Hwange National Park being our top pick.
There’s a reason Malawi is emerging as one of Africa’s most celebrated ecotourism destinations on the continent. With a strong focus on preserving the land and communities who call the country home, Malawi is fast becoming one of Africa’s most talked about destinations. Safari goers who are on a budget will love this destination for offering a more affordable option, plus the people are incredibly welcoming and proud to welcome visitors.
If you’re looking for a life-changing experience like no other, then you can’t go past a safari into the wild landscapes of Rwanda. And make no mistake, a visit to Rwanda is no ordinary safari experience. Here you can encounter the elusive mountain gorillas, hiding deep in the forests. Expert tracking guides will take you on an adventurous walk to find them and admire them from close range. It is an experience like no other.
And if you’re looking for another option when embarking on a mountain gorilla safari, you could also choose to visit Uganda. This country offers a more authentic experience, neighbouring popular Rwanda. There are some surprising lodges tucked away deep in the mountains like Bwindi Lodge, so be sure to consider Uganda as a more affordable and authentic alternative to its neighbour.