The 5 Best Places for Big 5 Safaris in Africa
Looking for the best African wildlife safari? See the best places for wildlife safaris in Africa and what they have to offer.
When it comes to popular destinations for a safari vacation, Africa tops the list. The continent is full to the brim with stunning views, a large and varied collection of wildlife, astounding diversity of birds, and kind, warm-hearted people. Africa is the perfect destination for up-close encounters with the big 5 (elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, and cape buffaloes).
Game drives across its fast terrain bring you up close with the big cats and the annual wildebeest migration. Besides the big 5 and the big cats, you will spot mammals, avian, and plant species that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. These include the northern white rhinos, Guereza colobus, African Civet, Grey Crowned Crane, African wild dogs, and more. But which are the best places in Africa for Big 5 Safaris?
In this article, James Gatheru, the safari director for Ajkenyasafaris.com, takes you through the 5 best places to go for an African safari. These include the Aberdares National Park in Kenya, the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and more. Let’s start the countdown:
1. Aberdare National Park, Kenya
Nestled in the Aberdare Mountain Ranges ecosystem about 100mi/160km north of Nairobi, Aberdare National Park encompasses a stunning yet diverse landscape with steep forested gorges, open moorlands, and magnificent waterfalls.
The park offers a spectacle of wildlife that includes elephants, spotted hyenas, buffaloes, black rhinos, leopards, baboons, various monkey species, zebras, and reed and bushbucks among other wildlife.
Rarer wildlife sightings include lions, golden cats, the bongo, Elands, serval cats, Giant Forest hog, African civet cat, African wild cat, and the blue duiker.
Bird lovers will have the ultimate experience watching over 250 species of birds that include Jackson’s Francolin, goshawks, eagles, sunbirds, and plovers. Some of the fun things to do in Aberdare national park include day and night game drives, hiking, trout fishing, camping, and more.
The best time to visit the Aberdare National Park is during the dry season between June to September or January and February. A road trip from Nairobi to the park takes approximately 2½ to 3 hours.
Quick Travel Info: The two most spoken languages in Kenya are English and Swahili. The official currency is the Kenya shilling (KSH) but tourist hotels and game reserves do accept foreign currencies such as the Sterling Pound, Indian Rupee, the US dollar, and more. The best time to visit Kenya is the dry season between July to November. It is within these months that the annual wildebeest migration occurs.
2. Okavango Delta, Botswana
To call Okavango Delta flamboyant would be an understatement. With a lengthy list of attractions and activities, a wildlife safari experience here promises nothing but a sheer wild factor.
Formed by along the clear waters of the Okavango river, your safari experience here will have you choosing between a safari by boat, canoe, foot, plane or vehicle around the Delta’s grasslands and lagoons.
On a good day, the local guides will have you sight a variety of wildlife including all the major predators: lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas, along with elephants, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, warthogs, the endangered white rhinoceros and many more. Moreover, you’ll see different plant life, fish, and spot the radiant birdlife, most of which migrates from North Africa and Europe from December to April.
The Okavango Delta pretty much features almost everything nature has to offer. The best time to visit the Delta is between June to September when the bush is dry and less dense, making it ideal for better game viewing.
Botswana Travel Hints: Botswana is located in southern Africa. Most of the country is defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta. The official languages of Botswana are English and Tswana. The Botswana pula is the official currency of this African country, but the USD, the Euro, and Pounds are accepted around travel destinations.
3. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Another enthralling wildlife safari destination is the famous Kruger National Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Offering captivating sceneries at every turn, a trip to Kruger will bring you as close to nature as possible.
Kruger National Park is tourist-friendly with well-maintained infrastructure making it incredibly easy to navigate the vast landscapes. It’s home to the Big Five, an array of other wildlife such as cheetahs, wild dogs, small cat species, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, antelope, and many more animals. Another highlight is the brimming birdlife consisting of both local and migratory birdlife that frequent the park between October and March.
Activities in the park include self-guided or guided game drives, guided walks, mountain biking, bush walks, yoga, photographic safaris, night drives, camping, and so much more. A trip to the park is also the perfect opportunity to interact with the Zulu and Xhosa people of South Africa.
Kruger National Park is ideal for first-time safari-goers best seen in the dry months of June to September. We recommend booking a safari package to the park with tour operators, including airfare, road transfers to and from Johannesburg, accommodations, game drives, and park expenses.
Quick Travel Hint: South Africa has numerous official languages including English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Swati, Ndebele, and more. Its official currency is South Africa Rand (ZAR). However, many tourist establishments readily accept the US dollar, the Euro, and the Sterling Pound.
4. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
With expansive grasslands and woodland as well as extensive population wildlife, the Serengeti is perhaps one of the best wildlife national parks globally.
Annually, the stage is set for the Great Migration, which features over 1.5 million wildebeest and thousands of zebras and gazelles. The vast herds cross over to the other side to graze, mate and give birth which is a breathtaking view that will not disappoint.
Beyond the great migration, the Serengeti National Park boasts an abundance of large predators courtesy of the thriving herbivores. Being home to over 3,000 lions, 1,000 leopards, and as many cheetahs, you won’t fall short of easily sighting these big cats as well as smaller ones. You’ll also spot spotted hyenas, giraffes, dik-diks, elephants, elands, impalas, buffaloes, waterbucks, rhinos, and more than 450 bird species just to name a few.
Owing to its vastness, the Serengeti feels less crowded, making it a top spot to explore the wildlife via guided game drives, walking safaris, cycling safaris and hot air balloon rides. It’s an all-year-round safari destination but better visited during the dry season (June to October). The park is also served by impressive lodges and campsites. You’ll find great deals for flights and the tour package if you book your safari ahead of time.
Quick Tanzania Travel Info: The Serengeti is currently ranked as the best National Park in Africa by the World Travel Awards. Most Tanzanians speak Swahili and English. The official currency of the country is the Tanzania Shillings. However, the USD, EUR, and Sterling pound are readily accepted around travel destinations.
5. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
As far as wildlife safari destinations go, the Masai Mara is a mandatory pick and for very, very good reasons. Located along The Great Rift Valley, the Mara is a northern extension of Serengeti.
Getting to the Maasai Mara will offer just as much adventure, but wait until you arrive there. You’ll be awe-struck by the beauty comprising endless savannah plains teeming with abundant wildlife.
The Mara hosts a natural showpiece — the Annual Migration, which is the Seventh Wonder of the World. The phenomena see millions of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles cross the crocodile-infested waters of the Mara river in search of greener pastures from around July to October.
You’ll also spot large predator populations such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, hyraxes, and other wildlife including elephants, giraffes, hyenas, buffaloes, black rhinos, over 450 bird species and much more.
Explore the reserve via guided game drives, walking safaris, night safaris, and hot air balloon safaris which offers a photogenic and an exceptional perspective of the reserve. Besides, sundowners and meal set-ups in the bush are available, not forgetting the luxurious accommodation with outstanding hospitality.
If you appreciate African culture, you’ll love cultural interactions with the local Maasai tribe. The Maasai will take you to their villages where you’ll sing and dance before you’re treated to handcrafted beaded jewelry and other souvenirs for a small price.
To get to Maasai Mara, you can either fly or use the road. A drive takes approximately 5 hours in a safari land cruiser, while a flight is about 45 minutes.
Wrapping it Up
Those who’ve had the chance to experience a wildlife safari in Africa will tell you there is nothing quite like it. What’s more, safari trips in Africa are affordable. For as low as $200 per person per day, you could be off for thrilling game drives in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve. The trick is to plan your African safari with Africa based travel agencies such as masaimarasafari.in. Their guides were born and raised in Africa, and they will expertly guide you to the best spots for wildlife viewing in Africa. Wishing you happy travel.