The 5 Best African Safari Holiday Destinations to a Surreal Tour
The word safari originated from the Kenyan Coast. It is a Swahili word that means a ‘long journey’ filled with stupendous experiences, and it aptly describes the experience you are likely to get on an African safari holiday. You will get up close with the Big Five (lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos, and leopards) in their natural habitat, and explore vast national parks and game reserves teeming with wildlife, scenic valleys, and tall mountains. It is also in Africa that you will get to see the largest land migration on earth, the Masai Mara wildebeest migration. How about exploring one of the 8 wonders of the world – the Great Pyramid of Giza?
Now, whichever African country you choose for your safari holidays, you will certainly not run short of national parks and game reserves to explore. However, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Namibia are popularly known as the Big 5 African safari countries.
The 5 countries have the highest wildlife density compared to other game parks in Africa. For instance, Kenya is home to over 50 national parks and game reserves that hosts over 25,000 different animal species. It was recently voted the world-leading safari country by the World Travel Awards for the 4 th year. South Africa is home to the Kruger National Park, the largest national park in Africa. Botswana boasts the Okavango Delta, while Namibia and Tanzania have the South Luangwa National Park and Hwange National Park, respectively. In this article, we review these 5 African safari holiday destinations and exactly what makes them great.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The Masai Mara game reserve is located in Kenya, Narok County, about 7 hours drive by road or 45 minutes by flight from the Wilson airport in Nairobi city. Game viewing in Masai Mara is great all year round, thanks to the large collection of animals, including over 450 bird species, all members of the big 5, 96 different species of mammals and more.
The game reserve has been voted Africa’s leading national park for 4 years consecutively by the World Travel Awards. Did you know that the filming of BBC’s “Big Cat Diary” took place in the Masai Mara National Reserve? Also, the Walt Disney Picture, 2019 remake of the 1994 animated film titled “Lion King,” features a lot of scenes from the Masai Mara. When it comes to the best African Safari tours, the Maasai Mara carries the day.
Whether you are after the big cats, elephants, buffalos, rhinos, giraffes, wild dogs, hyenas, wildebeests, gazelles, impalas, you will spot them here. In fact, on a Masai Mara safari, you are likely to spot all members of the big 5 – including the often elusive leopards – on a single day.
If you plan your Kenya safari to Masai Mara between the months of July and October, you will witness the great wildebeest. This is a yearly spectacle that sees over 1.2 million wildebeest, antelopes, and other animals cross from Mara river from the neighboring Serengeti National Park in Tanzania into Masai Mara national reserve in Kenya.
However, a Maasai Mara Safari is not just about the wildlife there. In addition to the amazing animals, you can also visit the Maasai, an ethnic group that has somehow managed to remain unchanged by the developing world. Looking surprisingly tall and uniquely dressed in traditional red robes, you will find this tribe scattered around the reserve in mud-hut villages. The Masai are the most photographed people in the world.
As the old saying goes, there is no better way to explore a new country than with the people who were born and raised there. So, if you are planning an African safari holiday to Masai Mara National Reserve, visit AjKenyasafaris.com. The brand has been orchestrating tailor-made Kenya tour packages for its guests for over 2 decades now. Their guides are Kenyan born and bred, which means they will give you insider access to the natural wonders of the iconic Masai Mara and Kenya at large.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
South Africa is another top destination when it comes to spotting the Big Five and a melange of birds and other afrian animals. Located in the north-eastern part of South Africa on the Mozambique border, Kruger is home to over 147 mammals, 507 birds, 114 reptiles, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, and 336 trees.
Apart from the big five, you will see rare animals such as the wild dog, fish eagle, ground hornbill, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, ant lion, elephant Shrew, and rhino beetle. If you are a keen bird viewer, consider visiting between October and March when the park provides a temporary home to over 200 migratory bird species.
Thanks to its well-developed infrastructure, Kruger National Park is the best African national park for self-drive safaris. Self-drive safaris are cheaper than guided tours. Also, they add to the thrill of discovering Africa under your own terms. However, planning a holiday from a continent miles away isn’t easy. Unless you are a local or a resident of South Africa, we recommend guided tours to Kruger National Park.
Serengeti National Park, Kenya
Synonymous with the Great Migration, Serengeti is another iconic safari holiday destination in Africa. The name Serengeti means “endless space,” perhaps because of the large expanse of its extremely breath-taking landscape. The Serengeti National Park is located in the northern part of Tanzania and it borders the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It sprawls over 14,750 sq km (5,700 sq mi).
The park is most famous for the Great Migration, during which millions of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles travel hundreds of kilometers across its vast grassland looking for water and greener pastures. The climax of the wildebeest migration is the Masai Mara river crossing. The annual spectacle occurs between May – July, and this is the best time to witness this rare occasion. Note that there is no set dates for the actual wildebeest crossing. It takes only one animal to jump into the river and the migration starts. Check with your safari tour operators as the times vary yearly, depending on the rains.
With over two million wildebeest, 300,000 zebras, 900,000 Thomson gazelles, and the largest population of lions, the park has the greatest concentration of animals in Africa. Additionally, there are thousands of buffalo, antelopes, impalas, gazelles, zebra, giraffe, topi, kongoni, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, aardwolf, porcupines, warthogs, baboons, vervet monkeys, and serval cats.
Serengeti National Park has a great variety of African safari lodges and tented camps for all budgets.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
If you want an African safari trip where you can view wildlife from both land and water, then book your trip to the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The delta is popularly known as “Africa’s Last Eden,” and it is a unique inland water system found where the Okavango River flows into the Kalahari Desert basin. Okavango is also the largest inland delta in the world. So, besides game drives, exploring the waterways in a canoe is a fun thing to do while here.
The best time to visit the Okavango Delta is between June and August. This is the period when the annual flood happens and thousands of animals get confined to the islands that the floods create. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to view from a traditional canoe (mokoro). The journey, known as a mokoro safari, gets you up close to the wildlife as you wade through the Delta’s waterways.
These waterways are created by large herds of hippos as they navigate the Delta.
The Delta boasts as high as 200,000 large animals. These include large herds of lions, elephants, antelopes, hippos, crocodiles, and cheetahs. You will be happy to know that there are also endemic birds as well as several fish and plant species in the area.
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Formerly known as the Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, Amboseli National Park is most famous for its large elephant population. The name "Amboseli" is a Maasai word that means a place of "salty dust." Positioned approximately 230 kilometers south-east of Nairobi on the Tanzanian border, this park is iconic for its majestic backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The park is a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve.
It is an area of flat and open landscape that makes game viewing easy. It is the best place to view large herds of elephants up close and in groups of up to 100.
Currently, there are over 1000 elephants, including 58 families and 300 independent adult males. All the elephants here have been named and numbered, and some even coded. The park has the largest and best known free-ranging population of elephants in the entire world. Apart from elephants, you will also find hundreds of lions, buffalos, zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, impalas, and warthogs. Leopards, cheetahs, jackals, and hyenas also roam its open and flat grasslands.
For the bird viewers, there are over 400 bird species, including over 40 birds of prey.
The park has five different habitats that vary from the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli to the savannah grasslands and woodlands. Just like the Maasai Mara, you can also choose to visit the nearby local Maasai community and immerse yourself in their authentic culture. Not to forget, there are several lodges as well as campsites where you can stay around the park.
These are the 5 best African safari destinations that deliver a surreal holiday getaway. Visit masaimarasafari.in and start orchestrating your vacation in Africa.