The best places to go on safari in Africa
From classic safaris in Southern Africa to unique and challenging mountain summits in Tanzania and gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda – we’ve traveled, researched and explored every corner of the continent to bring you the very best African Parks
Despite being one of the lesser-known parks in Kenya, the Samburu National Reserve is a must for discerning safari goers, seeking a more off-the-beaten-track destination that offers unique experiences. It is less crowded than Kenya’s more popular parks like Amboseli and the Maasai Mara, but still provides excellent game viewing, and a unique opportunity to spot some rare northern specialist species, found nowhere else in the country. It is a vast expanse of truly pristine wilderness, home to the Samburu people, and features Kenya’s biggest river – the Ewaso Ng’iro.
Arguably one of Africa’s most spectacularly diverse and magnificent eco-systems, with some of the best game viewing on the planet, the iconic Maasai Mara National Reserve plays host to one of African’s Seven Natural Wonders, and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – the Great Serengeti Migration. Stretching over 580 square miles, this wildly sought after destination is land of astonishing views, endless plains, and an abundance of wildlife all year round.
Coming from the local Maasai word meaning ‘salty dust’, the Amboseli National Park is crowned by the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro – the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, and Africa’s highest peak. It is an 8,000 square kilometre ecosystem that spreads across the border of Kenya and Tanzania. Referred to as the “Home of the African Elephant”, this wilderness paradise is renowned for its huge herds of elephants, diverse landscapes, and abundant wildlife populations.
The Skeleton Coast National Park is a region shrouded in mist and mystery. The world’s largest ship cemetery derived its name from the skeletons of ghostly shipwrecks, and stranded whales and seals, that lie scattered along the coastline, having succumbed to the inhospitable conditions of the landscape’s thick fog, rough stormy seas, and unpredictable weather. It is considered to be one of the most pristine wild lands in Africa, possessing an incomparable natural beauty found nowhere else in the world. Far removed from the crowds, the Skeleton Coast National Park is a land of surreal and dazzling views.
The Namib-Naukluft National Park is characterized by vast shimmering savannah plains and ancient shifting terracotta sand dunes that run straight into the ocean, resulting in some of the most magnificent sceneries in Africa. The national park is one of the largest on the continent and hosts one of Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction – Sossusvlei, a vast clay pan surrounded by some of the highest red sand dunes in the world.
Etosha National Park is a vast stretch of verdant countryside and home to the largest variety of mammals and birds in Namibia. Etosha, meaning ‘great white place’, encompasses a massive mirage-inducing salt pan, making up almost a quarter of the 22 750km² park. This shimmering white expanse is so large it can be seen from space. KhoiSan legend reveals that the pan was created when a woman whose only child was killed, cried a river of tears. Her tears were dried by the sun and left the ground sprinkled with salt. There is abundant wildlife and spectacular bird sightings in Etosha, and it is one of the few places where animals still roam freely in the wide-open grasslands.
Situated far up in the northwest of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) protects the steep slopes of the Virunga Mountain Range. It is the oldest national park in Africa, and is home to more than half of the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas. Named after the chain of dormant volcanoes that make up the Virunga Massif, the park was the base for world-renowned primatologist Dian Fossey, and subsequently became the filming location for Gorillas in the Mist – the autobiographical film that portrayed Fossey’s life on the big screen. The park is considered one of the best gorilla trekking destinations in the world.
A truly pristine wilderness, the Timbavati bushveld region stretches over 53,000 hectares and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including the elusive and extremely rare white lion. The name itself is inspired by these magnificent cats and means, “the place where something sacred came down to Earth from the heavens”. A private reserve, not accessible to day visitors, the Timbavati offers a mind-blowing and intimate safari experience.
Thornybush is one of the oldest private reserves in the country, with a history dating back to 1955, when 14,000 hectares of land was fenced off from the rest of the rolling plains of the Limpopo lowveld. The reserve was made into an even more impressive wildlife hotspot when it dropped its fences and became part of the Greater Kruger National Park in 2017, embracing a new era of biodiversity into the savanna making it a truly celebrated safari destination in South Africa.
Pioneered by local landowners in the 1950s the 65,000 hectare Sabi Sands Game Reserve is a relatively small reserve compared to its popular neighbour – the world-renowned Kruger National Park. It is, however, a private reserve, meaning it is not accessible to day visitors or self-drivers which guarantees the park’s exclusivity. Considered one of the most famous of the private reserves in the area, the game viewing is quite simply unparalleled with regular viewings of the Big Five and an astonishingly beautiful landscape with over 150 mammal species and over 500 bird species calling this diverse bushveld paradise home.
After years of neglected farming, the barren soil of Madikwe was deemed to be an ideal location for a game reserve and offered a chance to uplift the surrounding communities. Founded in 1991, Madikwe is currently the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa and is a private reserve with abundant wildlife. Guests can expect an exclusive game experience as the park is not open to self-drive guests and lodges abide by strict regulations to ensure that there are not overcrowded game sightings.
Rated as one of the top wildlife parks in Africa, the Kruger National Park is a spectacular backdrop for a Big 5 safari and boasts some of the best scenery on the continent. A jewel in the African safari crown, the nearly 2 million hectare park stretches 352 kilometres from north to south and is home to six major rivers, and the greatest diversity of flora and fauna in Africa. It is the ultimate destination for a truly rich wildlife experience including African big cats, buffalo, giraffe, elephant and a variety of large antelope.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is an ancient, deep, and complex ecosystem cloaked in mist. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 25,000-year-old pristine wilderness covers nearly 130 square miles of ridges and undulating valleys lined from jungle floor to tree canopy with thick forest. The word “Bwindi” means “place of darkness” and a trek through the rugged terrain and dense undergrowth of this magnificent forest will certainly unveil why. A gorilla trekking destination for the adventurous and fit, Bwindi is home to around 300 of the world’s remaining critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most popular reserve, boasting one of the highest biodiversity ratings of any national park in the world, and home to a diverse array of large mammals (including the famed tree-climbing lions), primates, and over 600 bird species – more than the entire British Isles. The park covers an area of over 700 square miles of grassy savannah, tropical forest, and lush watering pools along the Kazinga Channel.
Split off from Victoria Falls National Park in 1979, the Zambezi National Park is a small but scenic wildlife destination. Boasting four of the Big Five amongst dense mopane woodlands and riverine forests along the magnificent Zambezi River. Covering an area of around 56,000 hectares (140,000 acres) the park offers a real African bush experience right on the doorstep of Victoria Falls.
Mana Pools is one of Zimbabwe’s most remote parks combining a mixture of rolling grasslands, lush forest, and an abundance of water that covers over 965 square miles. The name, ‘Mana’ is a Shona word meaning ‘four’, and refers to the four large wildlife-rich pools that lie inland from the mighty Zambezi river. In addition to its raw beauty, Mana Pools host hundreds of bird species and an abundance of wildlife, including the iconic Big Five of Africa. Each year following the seasonal rains, the vast floodplains spill over and spread out into expansive lakes. As the year goes on and water sources dwindle, many animals are attracted to the remaining water sources found here.
Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe is a spectacular wildlife reserve, covering an immense 5,792 square miles, making it the largest national park in Zimbabwe. Hwange stretches over a variety of diverse landscapes, including pristine Kalahari sand-velds, dense forests and undulating grasslands. Due to these diverse landscapes, the wildlife in Hwange is rich and varied. Most notable is the park’s elephant population, which is the second largest in the world. With wildlife on offer all year around, it is hard to go wrong when visiting this extraordinary Zimbabwean destination.