Where to go on an African Safari

African Safari Review – which one is the best?

After spending six months travelling from Cairo to Cape Town in Africa I was able to go on several African safari in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

Check out my post on The 15 Safest countries in Africa to see where these countries rank!

I often travel to places for certain animal encounters – Tonga for swimming with humpback whales, Costa Rice for Quetzals, China for pandas and Fiji for diving the reefs so Africa was no exception. I had a ‘shopping list’ of animals I wanted to see and was looking forward to experiencing them in the wild.

I’ve wanted to put together a list of my favourite safaris and where they were and what to do.  After visiting 15 countries in Africa these are some of my top moments on African safari.

Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has something for everyone.  It’s a diverse country with something for everyone such as culture, history, food and wildlife.  I wouldn’t call it a traditional African safari but I went trekking in the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia in search of the Gelada Baboon which is only found there.  The landscape is spectacular after millions of years of erosion which has created deep valleys and jagged peaks.  There are several treks in the Simien Mountains offering amazing scenery and plenty of wildlife such as the ibex (a wild goat found nowhere else in the world), caracal, and Ethiopian wolves.  The Simien Mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth a visit as it is like nowhere else on earth.

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Our day at Nakuru was very relaxing and this was the best safari I did in Kenya. We went with a local couple in a large bus and basically spent the day driving around the lake looking for animals. How fun! Nakuru is known for their flamingoes and their rhinos. We were really lucky to see both the white rhino and the black rhino.

Samburu National Park, Kenya

My first safari was in Samburu National Park in Kenya. We were all a bit excited to see the wildlife there and they have the endangered Rothchild giraffes there.  We also saw our first lions and they had just hunted an impala and were eating it under the shade of a tree.

Bwindi National Park, Uganda

The birdlife in Uganda is amazing.  Especially around Lake Bunyonyi.  We took a morning canoe ride around the lake and watched all the birdlife first thing in the morning taking a bath and looking for breakfast.

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

We hiked about half an hour into the forest with our tracker.  The trackers go out first thing in the morning to find the gorillas and know where they are.  They radio the guides and tell them where to go.  Once you reach the tracker you must leave all of your stuff except your camera there.  I was the first one in following the guide and next thing you know I was face to face with a gorilla.  I turned to the guide and was pointing going there’s a gorilla right there and he was like yeah, I know.  I was not expecting to be that close by any means.

This picture of Kubaka was taken moments before he charged me.  Our guide was cutting down some foliage and Kubaka didn’t like him cutting down his food source so he charged us.  Can’t say I blame him! Our guide would make sounds like a gorilla to tell them everything is alright.  It was amazing to see how fast he could move towards us and watching his face get angry was just as amazing as it was scary.

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

This was my favourite African safari by far.  I spent four days exploring the park and this is where I saw the most animals on a safari.  We saw over 50 lions in a day and five leopards along with countless other animals.  Now everyone knows the elusive leopard is hard to spot (haha enjoy the pun) but we were able to see five leopards.  The Serengeti is where you go to see big cats and the big five!

Ngorongoro Crate, Tanzania

Is a world heritage site in a volcanic caldera.  Named by the Maasai and translate to the Gift of Life.  The movie the Lion King is based on this area and you will find all the big five in this area.  There are lots of zebras and buffalos here but you will not find giraffes in the crater because the road down to the crater is too steep for them to get down!

Check out this post on a camping safari in Tanzania.

Livingstone Safari, Zambia

The Zambian bush around Livingstone is teaming with wildlife.  Even as we took a cruise down the Zambezi we saw animals all along the banks including elephants.  When I took a helicopter ride over the Falls we saw both elephants and giraffes.  And lastly when we went to the Royal Livingstone Hotel for afternoon tea on the Zambezi we say giraffes on the way in and zebras joined us for lunch!

Check out my post on the best binoculars for your safari.  The biggest mistake I made was not to bring my own and I had to keep borrowing the guides.  Don’t make the same mistake as me!

Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe

This remarkable part of Zimbabwe should be on everyone’s list.  At Matobo National Park you can go on a walking safari to see the black rhino.  Yes, I said walking tour.  Its so cool to see these animals up close and personal.  Its one of the most memorable experiences walking up to these magnificent creatures.

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park is known for its elephants as there are approximately 120,000 elephants in the park.  You can actually visit Chobe as a day trip from Livingstone, Zambia as it is about an hour drive to the ferry which takes 10 minutes and then the safari trucks pick you up on the other side.

We started our day with a morning cruise down the river where we watched elephants swimming in the river.  This was such a highlight as we watched them play and completely submerge themselves except for their trunk which was above water.  After lunch, we took the open top safari trucks further into the park and saw lions, impalas, giraffes and more elephants.  This photo is of two week old baby elephant.  Isn’t he cute?  You won’t be disappointed by all the wildlife in Chobe National Park.

St Lucia Wetlands, South Africa

The city of St Lucia is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Its a more relaxed type of safari with plenty of wildlife to see.  St Lucia is along the southeastern coast of South Africa and you can often see whales from the shore.

African safari
So when we came up to a gate for the national park I tried to wrangle my way through saying that our hotel was just on the other side.  So we decided to take the most direct route to the other gate.  On the way we saw all of the usual suspects – plenty of antelopes, zebras and such but we were also able to see four rhinos by the side of the road.  And we just missed about 15 elephants at the entrance knocking down trees and such but we saw the aftermath of them coming through.

If you are looking for more action while in South Africa why not try fly fishing in South Africa?

There are several places to go on safari in Southern Africa. Check out these self drive safaris in Southern Africa.

Krueger National Park, South Africa

This was my last safari in Africa.  We saw all the usual suspects in Kruger starting with a giraffe and then elephants and zebras.  We gave our guide our ‘shopping list’ for Kruger and he helped us find a few of the animals.  We said that we hadn’t seen rhinos in awhile, we loved all the cats – lions, cheetahs, leopards, and wanted to see the African dogs.  We were able to see all of these things on our safari.

These are my top 12 African safari that I have been one.  Have you been on safari before?  If not, where would you like to go? Check out this post on the best cameras for safari.


Nicole LaBarge is a travel expert who has been traveling internationally for over 25 years and she has visited over 115 countries all while working a 9-5. She has lived in England, Scotland, Japan and New Zealand. Check out her detailed destination guides and travel product guides.

21 thoughts on “Where to go on an African Safari

  1. Great list! I would add Etosha, Namibia. I was fortunate enough to have 3 days there which meant exploring three different parts of the park. And I have no clue how but every day not only the landscape but the animals we saw changed…

    Happy continued travels!

  2. Loved reading this – you have seen so much of Afric ca. Such an amazing privilege to share your stories! I have lived in both South Africa and Botswana and adore both! I haven’t been to some of the places you have though! I think I would be scared of the gorillas and I must admit I have never viewed the game on foot either! Will be reading more of your travels!

  3. Great list, some of which I haven’t been to yet, but I agree with Carola that you should go to Etosha on your next trip. I live in Africa so have been on safari countless times, but 50 lions in one day in Serengeti?! Wow! What time of year were you there? I’m going later this year.

  4. Holy moly! You got some amazing photos! I feel like Africa might be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so I’m waiting until my kids are a bit older. What an incredible experience!

  5. What a wonderful experience you have had traveling around Africa for six months. That baby elephant is just the most cutest. And of course I would want to see the rhinos up close and personal. Reading this inspired me to spend more time in Africa.

  6. I would love to go on a safari but I haven’t made it to Africa yet! (Aside from Morocco.) I am saving this post for future reference. I can’t believe you got charged at! How scary! Are these all quite expensive?

  7. Wow! animal lover I take it? I am starting to plan for future safari options in Africa but had no idea which country to choose. Great Help! Really!! How would you say accommodation ranked in some of these countries? did any country stand out as really affordable and also MAGICAL in terms of your animal encounters/experiences in the park? I’d like to maybe visit 2 countries also, so which would be your top 2 if you wouldn’t mind sharing. and <3 ELEPHANTS!!!

  8. So many awesome animal photos! This page will be my go-to when I finally mange to visit Africa. I was thinking Ethiopia, Rawanda area, but now I need to consider Tanzania! It’ll end up a big trip, haha.

  9. We haven’t been on an African safari yet, but it’s definitely on our list. So awesome how close you can come to these wild animals! The closest we came to meeting wildlife was at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they house elephants rescued from inhumane (you know what I mean) working conditions. They were used to people. On a safari the animals are really wild, no? I would have peed my pants when that gorilla charged, how scary!

  10. How fortunate that you got to do all these safaris! I haven’t been on any safaris yet but after your reading your list I really don’t know which ones I would choose – they all look so wonderful!

  11. Unfortunately, I’ve never been to safari, but sure hope I will soon.
    All those animals are supercool. Nature is so amazing!

  12. I’m planning on going on a safari around southern Africa sometime in 2018 so this is a wonderful place to start! Rwanda is the dream but you’ve convinced me that there are other options to take into consideration. Pinning for the future!

  13. I absolutely cannot wait to go on a safari…I’m hoping to do this in 2018 but I honestly had no idea where to start doing my research – until I read this post! It’s served as a great jumping off point! Thanks!

  14. Great post Nicole. You provided so much detail in reference to the ideal place to go based on your interests. For me the Serengeti/Tanzania safari would be the way to go. As you mentioned it’s the best place to see the “big cats” and I love lions. They’re my favorite animal. The difficulty will be convincing my husband to take the trip.

  15. Would love to make some of this photographic safaris. Just wonder if the proximity of people is not detrimental to wild life and left the animal more prone to be victims of hunters. Your photos are amazing and the info really detailed and useful for any one wanting to go.

  16. Your list was painful to read in the sense that I want to go so badly!! 🙂 The Gelada Baboon looks unreal and going to see him would be worth every penny. I would be scared too if a gorilla got that close to me but your photo of him is amazing. I am keeping your list for reference 🙂

  17. First of all, I am super jealous of all of your animal-related excursions, especially swimming with humpback whales in Tonga!! That is easily in my top 3 animal encounters I want to have so hopefully I’ll get to do that. Will be heading to Fiji in a month, so I am super pumped for that.

    I love your list of animal safaris, parks, mountains to see all the different types of African wildlife. I would love to visit all but I’d have to figure out how to do a long trip to see every place. Definitely, hope to catch the great migration happening and would be great if you had any tips for that! Looking forward to my visit for African wildlife soon.

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