If an African safari isn’t yet on your bucket list, grab a pen—you’re about to make some big revisions.
Immerse yourself in the raw beauty of this enigmatic continent, and come up close and personal with some of the most exotic species on Earth. Enter the inspiration behind countless nature documentaries, adventure movies, and picture-postcard travel photography.
Yes, the mystique of Africa lures curious globetrotters from all four corners of the world—and the biggest appeal? The chance to see some (or all, if you’re lucky) of the Big Five: lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos, and buffalos. These majestic creatures fight for their survival across savannah, wetlands, and valleys—and, with the rhino being the rarest and most endangered of all, spotting one in the wild is an experience second-to-none.
Committed to green travel? No problem: many African safari parks now offer sustainable holidays and environmentally-friendly approaches to their tours. Sure, the 4x4s still run amok, but you can also take walking safari tours, canoe adventures, and green travel alternatives.
After all, with the African wilderness being one of the few bastions of untouched nature, we must do everything we can to preserve it. So, we’ve crafted the ultimate guide to the best African safari parks for solo travellers, couples, and families alike.
The 8 best African safari parks
|4||Kruger National Park||South Africa|
|5||Serengeti National Park||Tanzania|
|7||Mana Pools National Park||Zimbabwe|
Masai Mara, Kenya
‘Safari’, for many of us, conjures up imagery of the Masai Mara Nature Reserve—whether we realise it or not. Indeed, its swathes of savannah, full-house of the Big Five, and galloping herds of wildebeest are the epitome of African beauty. Covering 370,000 acres of Kenya, the Masai Mara is similar in size to Los Angeles—however, the similarities end here (aside from the scorching rays, of course).
To explore this untamed landscape would take a lifetime, but even a scratch of the surface is sure to evoke unmatchable awe. There are countless African safari tours in the Masai Mara, allowing you to explore the harmonious atmosphere of this wild wonderland.
Not only will the experience enrich your life exponentially, but, choose your safari well, and your dollar will enrich the national park, too. Our tip: book your safari between July and November for the best chance of catching those wildebeests.
Can scarcity of water ever be a good thing? In the unique case of Etosha, Namibia, the lack of l’eau works in your favour, dear adventurer.
This dry, barren landscape is dotted with watering holes, where thirsty animals congregate to quench their thirst. Thus, local tour guides know exactly where to head for the best chance of spotting big cats, leggy antelopes, and towering giraffes (presumably not all at once—as far as we know, there’s no predator-prey treaty as yet).
If the only crowds you seek are that of exotic animals, Etosha is a must-visit. With a small smattering of accommodation and few visitors, you’ll feel like you have the park to yourself. However, it’s not just the fauna that’s mesmerising: translating to ‘great white place’ Etosha is home to a vast salt plain, making the landscape truly otherworldly.
Botswana’s first established national park and its most ecologically varied, Chobe needs quite the shelf for all its trophies. If the majesty of lions tickles your fancy, this is the African safari for you.
Home to a concentrated population of the kings of the jungle, Chobe is your best chance of glimpsing a lion pride. However, head north the Chobe river, and you might just spot a herd of elephants bathing, drinking, and playing in its rushing waters. Truly, wherever you look, there’ll be a source of fascination.
Tilt your eyes skyward, and you may see some of the 450 bird species who frolic in the region, while the Chobe savannahs are home to the (categorically metaphorical) jewel in Africa’s crown: the rhinoceros—black and white.
And the logistics? Specked with all-inclusive African safari options and eco-lodges alike, you’re sure to find an experience that ticks your boxes.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Sure, Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of the most-visited African safari spots on the continent—however, this means there are a plethora of tour options available.
From luxury African safari tours to eco-chic adventures, Kruger offers something for everyone. Big Five on your bucket list? Kruger is a one-stop-shop: spot lions, rhinos, elephants, buffalos (there are 27,000 residents in the park!), and leopards in this vast expanse of wilderness.
However, if you seek fantastic flora, Kruger is The One: feast your eyes on unique African flowers, from Impala Lilies to the extraordinary Leopard Orchid. And, when you’re all safari’d out, stay and watch an ethereal African sunset for a picture-postcard memory you’ll never forget.
So, take a trip to Kruger and witness these glorious animals and plant life in their natural habitat—we promise: they’ll steal your heart like nothing else.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Translating to ‘the land which runs on forever’—the endless savannah of the Serengeti National Park (1.5 million hectares, to be exact) stretches as far as the eye can see. But, it’s not all grass and sky.
Protected in 1940, the Serengeti enjoys strict governmental protection (that’s not to say it doesn’t have its problems, but the sentiment is there). Thus, visitors can absorb untouched natural beauty, inhabited only by endemic species and the Masai people themselves.
The Serengeti Plains are the true show-stealer of this national park: a seemingly infinite stretch of treeless landscape, save for the occasional Acacia silhouetted on the horizon. You can catch the emblematic wildebeest migration here, too, from May to July. Watch (from afar, please) as hordes of these magnificent beasts undertake their perilous journey across the Grumeti and Mbalageti Rivers, dodging the Nile crocodiles in their wake. Just don’t forget your binoculars!
Take one step into Luangwa National Park, Zambia, and you’re sure to leave your worldly troubles behind. Yes, this diverse national park swarms with prolific wildlife whose primary aim is survival—indeed, if anything’s going to put your office feud into perspective, it’s Luangwa.
From deep, emerald valleys to sparkling watering holes, the topography of Luangwa is a source of endless inspiration. Take your pick from eco-lodges to rustic bush camps; you can select the level of luxury you desire:
Appreciate the finer things? No fear: Luangwa boasts plenty of high-end accommodation to satiate your love of luxe. Naturally, we advise going as eco-chic as possible, and thanks to the treasure chest of responsible travel options, there’s simply no excuse.
But hey, you’re here for safari, right? Thankfully, Luangwa takes the gold for one of the best African safaris, with the (essentially) untouched land providing a tantalising taste of the unpredictable, exquisite, and exhilarating.
Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe
Leave the 4×4 at the hotel, and set off on foot or by canoe to explore this watery region of Zimbabwe. An African safari for the more industrious traveller, Mana Pools National Park offers a jigsaw puzzle of teeming pools, islands, and gloriously muddy sandbanks—be sure to bring your wellies.
Did we mention it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Yep, Mana Pools is (thankfully) deemed worthy of global protection, such is the unmatchable beauty of its landscape and ecology.
And, for all things aquatic, this is the best safari in Africa: encounter hippos, elephants, crocodiles, and other water-loving species. However, look to dry land, and you might spot a herd of zebras, a pride of lions, or a solitary cheetah on the lookout for her next meal.
If getting down and dirty (quite literally) with unadulterated nature sounds up your street, the remoteness and raw beauty of Mana Pools will occupy a special corner of your heart.
Kalahari Desert, Botswana
It doesn’t get more Lion King than the Kalahari Desert, stretching across Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Peppered with various national parks and protected reserves, the Kalahari Desert provides a haven for a multitude of exotic species.
Find the whole cast of the Disney classic in the Kalahari, from lions (naturally) to cackling hyenas to elegant antelopes, and even the elusive cheetah. And it’s not just the wildlife that’ll get your wanderlust racing: from #Insta-worthy rolling dunes to fossilised river valleys and luscious grasslands, the diverse landscape is microcosmic of the great continent itself.
Of course, the region is immense and cannot be squeezed into one safari. So, we advise visiting the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and jumping on one of the many African safari packages there. Or, head to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park for a scenic slice of this unique land. From honeymoon tours to barefoot luxury trips, you’re sure to find the perfect safari for you.
Frequently asked questions about African safari
It depends on your chosen safari, but the general rule is to book for the dry season, spanning from June to October. Since water is harder to come by, animals will gather at watering holes, making them easier to seek out.
Botswana is fantastic for safaris; we’re impressed by the country’s commitment to conservation, pioneering sustainable tourism, and green travel opportunities. With countless national parks and nature reserves, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Kenya is one of Africa’s most well-known safari destinations. However, South Africa is more user-friendly than Kenya, largely thanks to the Kruger National Park’s enormous variety of safari tours. Opt for a budget safari, a luxury adventure, or a languorous slow-travel trip (to name a few).
Take a trip to one of these national parks to up your chances of spotting the Big Five: 1. Kruger, South Africa 2. Chobe, Botswana 3. Etosha, Namibia 4. Serengeti, Tanzania 5. Masai Mara, Kenya.