There are iconic destinations one must visit to get the essence of an African safari.
When Ernest Hemingway said, “I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy”, he truly defined the experience which Africa gives to wildlife lovers along with some of their best safari holidays. Spending a day in the African forests amongst its wildlife is a thrilling adventure and though all of them hold wonders of the wild, there are iconic destinations one must visit to get the essence of an African safari.
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Spread over a sprawling 580 square miles, Masai Mara is just the place you would like to visit for a taste of the African wildlife, especially the Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape Buffalo) and its large feline population. The park is on the southwest corner of Africa, sharing its border with Tanzania. If you are keen on seeing lions up close then Masai Mara is the place to go. You can also spot the Blue Wildebeest, antelopes and zebras among other migratory beasts. This park will leave you mesmerized as you see sights like a sleepy Cheetah lift its head to pay just a little heed to the call of a Columbus Monkey; just the kind of moment you would like to capture with you camera!
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The park shares its borders and its wildlife with the Masai Mara Reserve of Kenya. Herds of zebras grazing the grasslands with groups of antelopes close by, is just the perfect panorama you want on your wildlife holiday. The large open grounds offer a good opportunity to see the big cats out on a hunt as they send the game sprinting towards Acacia trees. What makes wildlife enthusiasts flock to the park between July and October is the Great Migration that sees almost two million animals cross over from Tanzania into Kenya across the Mara River. This is also the time when herds of wildebeest and zebras gather at the park to mate.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
The Okavango River flowing into the Kalahari Desert basin creates an inland water system at the Okavango Delta, home to an assortment of wildlife. A good time to visit is during the annual flood when you can take a quintessential canoe or mokoro to explore the delta. But if you can’t, then the dry season here has its charm as the flood brings the animals to the island and sightings become more frequent. Hippos, elephants, antelopes, crocodiles, cheetahs and lions in large numbers thrive here in the company of almost 2,00,000 migrating animals that come from the scorching desert to this refreshing oasis, drawn to the sweet water of Okavango River. Moremi Game Reserve which covers more than forty percent of the delta is covered with predator friendly mopane woodland and thorn scrub, making it the preferred area for the Big Five.
Etosha National park, Namibia
Located in northern Namibia, Etosha National Park will woo you not just with its diverse collection of wild animals but also with its gorgeous landscape characterized by the dry white lagoon of this salt pan. Animals like gemsbok and Springbok Antelope have made this park their sanctuary owing to its aridness. You can spot elephants, hyena, cheetahs and lions but not hippopotamus’ or buffaloes since they prefer wetlands. The key highlight of the park is the endangered rhino, including the White Rhino, that can be seen lounging at the waterholes brimming after the floods.
Luangwa National Park, Zambia
If you love game-viewing or if bird watching takes your fancy, then this park is for you. As you stare into a pair of beady eyes and water sprouting out of nostrils, a hippo submerged in the swamp is a sight that is sure to melt your heart. This feeling quickly changes to that of an adrenaline rush as it gets out of the water and you see the majestic creature in its full form. That is the effect an African walking safari in Zambia has on you. As you walk past herds of elephants and antelopes, you must keep an eye on the sky above to spot some out of the 400 species of birds residing in the park. The park is also home to a large number of lions and wild leopards who share the space with hippos and Nile Crocodiles.
Kruger National park, South Africa
This is one game reserve in Africa that you must visit if you are allured by the charm and mystique of the cat family. It would not be a hyperbole to say that Africa is easily the best place to spot these nocturnal predators at their best. It’s not just the Big Five that make this park one of the iconic locations for a wildlife holiday. It is also a sanctuary for the smaller members of the feline family like the African Wildcat along with their mightier cousins like the cheetah. Skukuza in the south of Kruger is where you will find leopards and Satara is where you can head for sighting the king of the jungle.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
This one is for elephant lovers as well as those who wish to see herds of buffaloes racing across the Savanna. You can also find the African Wild Dogrhay roams the park in packs along with the rare Roan and Sable. Though this national park covers a land area of 5,655 square miles, it is one of the least crowded safari destinations in Africa. Being one of the largest reserves of Africa, it offers one of the best game-viewing opportunities by self-driving and guided game-drives. If you take up lodging in any of Hwange’s game lodges, you can explore various safari options like walking safari, night safari and horseback safari.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
Had enough of the Big Five? Then head to Bwindi National Park to view members of the simian family. The park is located on the edge of Rift Valley in southwest Uganda and is home to almost half of the mountain gorilla population of the planet, a sub-species that has been declared critically endangered. You can track the gorilla groups in the park on foot with a pre-booked gorilla permit, and if luck would have it, you might get to see these apes from close quarters. Other members of the ape family that you can encounter at the park are baboons and chimpanzees that are a part of the large mammal population of the park.
Imagine the call of the wild beasts in the dead of the night and the adrenaline rush as you expect a pair of sharp sparkly eyes observing keenly you from behind the bushes. That is what an African safari is all about! So when are you booking your tickets?