A safari (and we’re talking a photographic safari here) we made to create indelible memories, no matter how long, how short, or how many animals you get to see (or not). A simple glance out the window when flying over the continent of Africa is enough to inspire awe, never mind the incredible diversity of cultures, traditions, and more you’ll find once you land. Here’s are some of the top destinations for an unforgettable safari to add to your bucket list. Note: the list of animals is by no means exhaustive!
Located in eastern Africa within the African Great Lakes region, its home to the famous Mount Kilimanjaro. About 38 percent of its land is set aside for conservation, and Tanzania has 16 national parks plus a variety of game and forest reserves, including the well-known Ngorongoro Conservation Area. On another interesting note, the Gombe Stream National Park in the western part of Tanzania is the site of Jane Goodall’s ongoing study of chimpanzee behavior. The Serengeti plain comes alive once a year with the large-scale annual migration of wildebeest and other hooved animals. Animals you might see on safari include zebras, elephants, wildebeests, buffaloes, hippos, giraffes, antelopes, dik-diks, gazelles, elands, and kudus. Tanzania is also known for its predators, with Serengeti National Park one of the best places for spotting lions, cheetahs and leopards.
Zimbabwe has several major tourist attractions, including the Victoria Falls (a World Heritage Site) on the Zambezi, located in the north west of Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls National Park is also in this area and is one of the eight main national parks in Zimbabwe, the largest of which is Hwange National Park. Zimbabwe is unusual in Africa in that there are a number of ancient ruined cities, the most famous of these are the Great Zimbabwe ruins in Masvingo. Other ruins include Khami Ruins, Zimbabwe, Dhlo-Dhlo, and Naletale. Its savannah grassland, evergreen forests and rock formations give it a variety that has ranked it among the top 40 most beautiful habitats in the world. The prominent wild fauna members which inhabit this landscape are not only the “big five”—buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino—but also antelopes, zebras, and giraffes.
Zambia is home to some of the best wildlife and game reserves nature can offer: North Luangwa, South Luangwa, and Kafue National Parks have some of the most prolific animal populations in Africa. It shares the spectacular Victoria Falls with Zimbabwe. Located on a high plateau in Central Africa and geographically defined by its great rivers and basins, it is often called one of Africa’s “best kept secrets” and is the home of the walking safari. You might be able to see hippos, Nile crocodiles (both from the safety of a boat), cheetahs, leopards, spotted hyenas, lions, buffalo, wildebeest, and giraffes.
The southernmost country in Africa, South Africa also has a long coastline that stretches along more than 1,500 miles and spans two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian). Its parks system includes 20 parks across the country, including the famous Kruger National Park. There are also numerous private reserves, including the Klaserie, about a six-hour drive from Johannesburg, that offers big-five walking safaris every morning and guided game drives in the evening. Animals you can encounter include the big five, as well as wild dog, cheetah, honey badger, porcupine, aardvark, plus small cats including the civet, caracal, and serval.
With the exception of the eastern part of the country, the rest is made up of the Kalahari Desert, which hides the remarkable and wildlife-rich Okovango Delta. Rainy (or green) season highlights from December through March include not only excellent game sightings in the Central Kalahari, but it’s also a time of abundance, with plenty of births, babies, breeding—and predators to be seen. The dry season is, surprisingly, peak inundation time in the Okovango, perfect for boating. Because of the diminished availability of water in other areas, visitors will find high concentrations and density of game around water sources. This is big-cat country, so visitors might see populations of lions, leopards, and cheetahs, as well as caracals, rhinos, hippopotami, crocodiles, giraffes, zebras, primates, bat-eared foxes, wild dogs and many different species of antelope.