Not all of us are like cheetahs, ready to sprint through the savannah to chase down risk and danger. Fortunately, safaris in Africa are just as diverse as the sort of wildlife you’ll find roaming the plains. There’s something to suit every sort of traveller, whether you’re on a budget, towing young children, or consider yourself just too lazy to trek across fields.
Read on to discover the assortment of safaris available, with the theme of adventure common across all of them!
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Outdoor tenting in Kruger National Park − for the budget-conscious
Safaris have a bit of a name for being expensive, luxurious holidays, but it’s entirely possible to experience the African savannah on a budget.
One of the best options is Kruger National Park, which is easily accessible by car from Johannesburg or Kruger (which means no exorbitant transport costs!) and has much lower entrance fees than privately-owned parks. And it’s not compromising on quality. The park spans over two million hectares and has a huge range of wildlife with nearly 150 species of large mammals, including the Big Five apex predators – lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants and buffalos.
A camping safari is one of the most affordable ways to experience Kruger National Park. During the day, you can opt to self-drive through the park or travel with a group in an open-top game drive vehicle to explore the glorious landscapes and spot wild animals in their natural habitat. At night, you can pitch your tent and camp with the rest of the group in one of the park’s campsites.
It’s certainly wild, but not wildly expensive.
Chalet in Pilanesberg National Park − for families with young children
If your reason for not booking a safari holiday is because you have young children, you might rethink that after checking out the options at Pilanesberg National Park.
Health concerns can safely be put to rest, as the park is malaria-free and all lodges have medical services on call. Many of them are also well-equipped to cater to children (including infants and toddlers), and some welcome them on game drives or have safaris specifically tailored for younger children. As a smaller game reserve, there’s less waiting time for restless children before they get to glimpse wild animals.
Set within the crater of an ancient extinct volcano, the natural beauty of the park’s landscapes is simply breathtaking. If your kids (or you) have been singing The Lion King songs for months, it’s time to make them come true!
Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park − for adventurous Tarzans and Janes
Gorilla trekking has to be right up there on any travel bucket list. The opportunity to observe Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat of lush, green forests is a rare treat – you won’t find them in any zoo around the world. Add in exploring the Bwindi rainforest, situated on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, and it’s an adventure lover’s dream come true.
While the trail is treacherous (Bwindi is called the Impenetrable Forest for a reason) and you’ll need a special permit to enter, when you find the baby gorillas scampering through the shrubbery, you’ll know your sweat was all worth it.
Eco-friendly glamping in Hwange National Park − for the green and the glamorous
Despite residing in the middle of a park, these lodges provide luxurious accommodation with world-class service and take an eco-friendly approach to its operations. Sleep easy in your king-sized bed knowing that your lights are solar-powered and that your visit will have a positive impact on the local community.
And why not do this next to a waterhole frequented by the world’s largest terrestrial mammals – African bush elephants? Hwange National Park not only famous as a home to one of Africa’s largest populations of elephants and as the playground of Cecil the Lion but is also the best conservation park in the country to spy gemsbok and hyenas.
River safari at the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls − for those who would rather not walk
For a completely different side to Africa, take a river safari down the Zambezi River. You’ll find crocodiles and hippos swimming beside you, big cats quenching their thirst by the banks, and elephants bathing in the shallows. Birdlife is also abundant, with rare beauties like the kingfisher and palm thrush common here. Choose from a tranquil river cruise with riverside meals, or paddle through the scenic waters yourself with a guided canoeing tour.
While you’re there, make a stop at the mighty Victoria Falls. It’s the largest waterfall in the world, spanning a majestic 1,708m in a sheet of white falling water. You’ll hear it far before you see the 400-metre high mist from the falls. No wonder the local tribes called this Mosi-o-Tunya, or The Smoke That Thunders!
Balloon safari over Serengeti National Park − for the honeymooning couple
There are few things more romantic and evocative than floating gracefully into the skies with your other half, peering down into the golden Serengeti plains in search of a sleepy lion waking up to the sunrise.
If you visit from September to July, you’ll observe one of the greatest natural wonders of the world: the Great Migration. Every year, millions of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles thunder across the Serengeti, dodging leopards and crocodiles in search of grass and water. Birthing season usually occurs in January and February, and if you’re lucky you might spy some calves talking their first steps.
Treehouse lodge safaris in the Okavango Delta − for pure luxe travellers
Botswana is renowned for the quality of its varied terrain and wealth of wildlife and is perhaps one of the best safari destinations in Africa. The evergreen Okavango Delta stands out in the region as a World Heritage-listed destination and as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. The rich populations of fauna include over 200,000 large mammals, including cheetahs, wild dogs, vervet monkeys, and huge herds of buffaloes. Protected by the Moremi Game Reserve, a wide range of safari activities are available here.
Image credit: Sanctuary Retreats
To elevate your experience to the height of opulence, stay in an exclusive secluded treehouse lodge immersed by the scents and sounds of the forest. You’ll get unrivalled views of the surrounding plains and riverbeds from a private viewing deck, take a candlelit bath in the soft glow of evening, and drift off with soft pillows on open-air sleep-out decks. You might wake up looking into the eyes of a giraffe!
Photography safari in Chobe National Park − for the avid photographer
If you choose your holiday destinations by what you can see through your lens, a photographic safari expedition through the paradise of Botswana is for you. You’ll get good pictures on any safari, but a tailored photographic safari will get you the clear, stunning close-ups that your friends will ooh and ahh at.
Chobe National Park has the most exciting opportunities to capture diverse wildlife. The teak forests, floodplains, and riverbanks of the Chobe River are teeming with all kinds of mammals, rare birds, and large raptors. You’ll get to visit special camps with photographic hides to capture the best angles, from the foot level of elephants to the surface level of a waterhole.
Join one of the safaris helmed by renowned professional wildlife photographers and hop on the specialist vehicles available, with rotating camera mounts and dustproof storage areas.
Tented suite in Maasai Mara National Reserve − for the obsessed Instagrammer
Venturing out into the great African wilderness, you might not be expecting to get good mobile coverage. But for those who absolutely must stay connected to friends and family back home, Kenya is your best bet. Most major hotels and lodges have complimentary WiFi, and the network operator Safaricom offers good bundles with a strong 3G network in most parts of the country.
While you can’t expect perfect coverage out on game drives, you’ll be soaking in the glorious golden plains of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve and keeping your eyes peeled for lions, zebras and hippos. Visit from June to August to see the other side of the Great Migration, when the wildebeests return from the Serengeti to graze on the lush green lands here.
Mobile walking safari in the Luangwa Valley − for the intrepid explorer
At the other end of the spectrum is the adventurous thrill-seeker looking for a complete immersion into the pristine wilderness of the African bush. It’s one thing to tick off the big five on a game drive, and an entirely different experience to encounter wild animals on their own terms, on a walking safari.
There’s no better place to do this than in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia, the birthplace of the walking safari and commonly referred to as The Real Africa. You can expect an old-school expedition into the untamed, feral savannah lands under the wing of one of the knowledgeable guides that Zambia is particularly known for.
When you’re on the ground, following your guide on the spoor of a wild animal, the smallest things matter: a footprint on the ground, bite marks in the vegetation, and trace scents in the wind. And you will never forget the simultaneous cold fear and blood-pounding exhilaration of coming eye-to-eye with a carnivorous wild animal!
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Whether you’d rather roam the plains with your family like a pride of lions, float down the river like a hippo, or luxuriate in the trees like a leopard, there’s a safari out there for any kind of traveller!
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