Where Should I go on Safari?

On Safari in South Africa

Most people, especially safari first-timers, don’t go on specialized safaris. Choice of country isn’t necessarily the most important factor: time of year, quality of guiding, and your control of the vehicle are just as important.

Many safari areas have different conditions depending on the season — for example, wet seasons have more vegetation and background color and harder-to-find land animals.

For the best scenery, local cultures, and iconic African sights such as Mt. Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro Crater, East Africa is the place to go hands down. Kenya & Tanzania are quite similar although between the two Kenya tends to be better value for money and also has more options for game-viewing in private conservancies, such as Lewa in Northern Kenya. However, with very few exceptions, most game-viewing areas in East Africa are National Parks (like the Serengeti) and National Reserves (like the Maasai Mara) that do not allow off-roading. Therefore, Southern Africa is better for viewing wildlife up-close. In most cases, you will approach game off-road and sometimes be literally within 25-75 feet or so from lion prides, leopards and all the big game and cats that most people are keen to see on safari including the Big Five: Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard and Lion. Botswana does offer some incredible scenery in its own right, as the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland Delta is quite photogenic and extremely unique. Both East and Southern Africa can be quite spectacular, however the big difference is that in East Africa you have incredible mountains and the Great Rift Valley, while Botswana in contrast is quite flat. South Africa does have some incredible scenic spots also in the Kruger Area and at Blyde River Canyon and Devil’s peak.

If you are most likely keen on viewing wildlife, in East Africa there is generally the chance to capture images of larger herds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope, while Southern Africa can offer better opportunities for world-class close-ups. That said, Botswana has some of the largest herds of elephants anywhere in Africa. In both places the wildlife is generally quite habituated, as long as you steer clear of areas where hunting is still taking place nearby. This can make the animals quite skittish in, for example, certain areas of Ruaha National Park in Southern Tanzania. Botswana’s Okavango Delta and particularly the Wilderness Safari Camps offer some of the best photographic opportunities in Southern Africa. So do the private game reserves in the Sabi Sand just outside of Kruger National Park in South Africa.

People who have been on an African safari will tell you that it is life-changing; that is why, despite the high costs, those who have revelled in the experience invariably come back for more. Again, wildife enthusiasts believe that these are prices worth paying.

Here are just a few worth to mention:

Duba, Botswana

Duba is a 65,000-acre concession in the far north of the Okavango Delta, with no access by road for most of the year.

As many believe that Botswana’s lions are the biggest in Africa and what is so unusual about Duba is that theselions hunt by day – most prides throughout the continent hunt at night – and so visitors to Duba can watch marvellous set pieces as the lions and the buffalo take each other on in epic battles.

Northern Kenya

Right up against the Ethiopian border, far away from the fashionable animal-stuffed parks, you can find Africa’s wild and vast huge horizons. A land that is populated only by the indigenous peoples to whom it belongs, who live easily and naturally among all its inhabitants, the lion and the elephant as well as the goat and the cow, is to have a glimpse of how things once were and how perhaps they ought to be.

The Zambezi Valley, Zambia

There are few other places in Africa that feel as unspoilt as this valley, through which the sluggish Zambezi river flows past grassy floodplains and lush riverine forests. This is not a park; it’s a wilderness that happens to have a sprinkling of rather comfortable camps and expert guides to bring comfort and knowledge to the experience

Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Over much of Africa, the wild has been broken beyond repair; but not here. Not yet.This is the Africa of long ago so you can see cheetahs, leopards and many, many lions. It beauty is of an altogether harsher kind. Its parched plains are littered with boulders and wherever you look there are grotesque baobabs as old as you can only imagine.

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve

When people think of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, they think desert. They think dust and barren earth, thirst and deprivation. But in fact there are blue, blue skies, the sun turning the grass a deep gold, the acacia trees dotting the landscape, each one topped with a chanting goshawk standing sentinel among its leaves. Up in the sky the raptors whirl; down under the thorn trees the animals seek the shade.

It’s scarcely ever visited; the camps are few. In the Kalahari, you have to mind about the small, the neglected, the unsung – the dung beetle and the snake, the African hare and the jackal. You learn to look out for the springbok, the ostrich and the gemsbok, and you get your thrills at night when you hear the roar of the black-maned Kalahari lion and the howl of the brown hyena, while up in the sky the stars are brighter and more extravagant than anywhere in Europe.

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Come rain or shine and Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve always delivers.

For cats and visitors alike, the best time of year begins in July when the migrating wildebeest and zebra herds arrive from the Serengeti in numbers beyond comprehension – the greatest wildlife show on Earth.

Driving over its boundless savannahs, you find yourself either gazing up at its wide rolling skylines on which animals – zebra, topi, or perhaps a herd of elephants – are outlined against the blue. Or else you are in the sky itself, on somewhere like Rhino Ridge, looking out over widescreen Africa.