Africa & The Middle East | Destination Guides

The 12 best safari destinations in the world

Recently updated on April 30th, 2024 at 03:46 pm

A safari is one of the most exhilarating bucket list experiences in the world, getting you up close to some of the world’s most remarkable wildlife and landscapes. From the iconic plains of the Serengeti to the lush wetlands of Okavango and the desert wildlife of Etosha, here are 12 of the best safari destinations in the world to inspire your safari adventure.

1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Serengeti National Park is an icon of Africa and one of the best safari destinations in the world for spotting the Big 5 and so much more. Located in northern Tanzania, this UNESCO-listed national park is one of the oldest ecosystems on earth. It’s filled with plants and animals that have barely changed over the past million years. 

The park is an epic expanse of plains and grassland, dotted with all of the Big 5 and other safari favourites like giraffes, zebra, hyenas, cheetah and the rare African wild dog. 

The Serengeti is also famed as the home of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ – the Great Migration. Over two million wildebeest, zebra, impala and gazelle cross the Mara River in a thundering mass each year in search of greener pastures. The migration sets off annually around July towards the Masai Mara in Kenya. The herd then makes the 1,000km journey back to Tanzania around October or November when the rains set in. 

The wildebeest must dodge stalking predators like lions and leopards on their journey, while huge clouds of migrating birds fly overhead. As the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, it’s an astonishing sight to behold. 

Explore the Serengeti on: African Safari Adventure

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2. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Venture over the border of the Serengeti into the Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya, the other half of the mighty Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. As one of the best safari destinations in the world, the Maasai Mara dishes up extraordinary wildlife viewing, including all the Big 5. 

You’ll also likely spot giraffes, hippos and crocodiles lurking in the rivers, along with more than two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle that arrive in a thundering mass during the Great Migration.

Besides the incredible wildlife, the Maasai Mara is renowned for its rich culture. You can visit a traditional Maasai village where you’ll meet the Maasai people and witness their colourful traditions.

Explore the Maasai Mara: African Safari Adventure

3. Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park is the oldest and most iconic national park in South Africa. It’s also one of the top bucket list experiences on the whole continent. Covering a staggering two million hectares (the size of Israel or Slovenia), you’ll have a good chance of spotting the famous Big 5, the unique Little 5, and everything in between.

There’s also reliable sightings and a high density of animals in the private reserves around the Kruger National Park. One of our favourite areas is the Karongwe Private Game Reserve. Here you can spot all the Big 5 and learn about the traditions and local deliacies of the Shangaan people at a local village.

Explore Kruger National Park on: Best of South Africa

Is Kruger or Serengeti better?

One of the most common questions we get from our guests is whether to visit Kruger or Serengeti. They’re two of the most iconic safari destinations in the world, and most people usually only have time to visit one of them on a safari trip, due to the large distance between them.

While you can’t go wrong with either Kruger or Serengeti, the best choice for you will depend on what you want to get from your safari. With Kruger, you can spot a wild range of wildife including the Big Five, and it’s more easily accessible, with a range of accommodation options. It’s ideal for those seeking convenience and flexibility, however it can also be more crowded for this reason. On the other hand, the Serengeti is more remote and typically more expensive as travel logistics are more complex. The pay off is that you can see an abundance of wildlife including the Big Five, and the breathtaking Great Migration. The park offers a more pristine wilderness experience and has unique activities like hot-air balloon rides. Ultimately, your choice should be based on the types of wildlife and activities you’re interested in, your budget, and the amount of time you have.

4. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

As one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of the continent’s best safari hotspots. Located in the Crater Highlands of northern Tanzania, Ngorongoro is an ancient volcanic crater spanning 260 square kilometres. The crater is surrounded by a 600-metre high wall, and it’s the largest intact and unfilled caldera in the world. 

It’s home to over 25,000 large game animals, including all the Big 5. The conservation area protects Tanzania’s last remaining population of the endangered black rhino. You can also spot cheetah, zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, spotted hyenas and the critically endangered African wild dog. The crater is also dotted with sparkling soda lakes where you can see hippos and massive pink flocks of flamingo. 

Ngorongoro has also been home to humans for around three million years and occupied by pastoralist tribes, like the Maasai, for the past 2,000 years. You can visit a Maasai village and even see casts of the fossilised footprints found at Olduvai Gorge. These famous footprints prove humans were walking on two legs at least 3.7 million years ago.

Explore Ngorongoro Crater on: African Safari Adventure

5. Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha is the greatest national park in Namibia, famed for its striking desert landscapes and abundant wildlife. You’ll have the chance to spot four of the Big 5 as there are no buffalo in Etosha, however you can spot them in the nearby Waterberg Plateau and Caprivi Strip. Meanwhile, the huge populations of lions and elephants make up for it. 

Etosha is also one of the best places in Africa to see the white rhino and critically endangered black rhino. These precious creatures have been poached to near extinction on the continent, but you can still find them around the waterholes of Etosha.

The waterholes are also a great place to spot lurking lions, leopards, cheetah and hyena. You can also spot herds of elephants coming to get a drink and bathe in the water. With its unique desert-adapted animals, Etosha is undoubtedly one of the best safari destinations in the world. 

Explore Etosha National Park on: Namibia Adventure

6. Chobe National Park, Botswana

It’s all about elephants in Chobe, and this national park is one of the best safari destinations in the world to see these majestic creatures. There are around 120,000 elephants in the park and we love spotting them on a Chobe River cruise.

You’ll have the chance to see elephants, buffalo, lions and leopards come to the river bank to drink, while birds like the kingfisher hover over the water. The best time to spot the huge elephant herds is the dry season from May to October. Wildlife viewing is at its absolute best from August to October.

Unfortunately, rhinos are extremely rare to spot in Chobe after having their population decimated over the years. The good news is they are slowly being reintroduced to private areas of the park.

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7. Samburu National Reserve, Kenya

Take a journey into the wild bushland of the Samburu National Reserve on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. Here you’ll have the chance to spot a unique kind of Big 5 – the ‘Samburu Special 5’. These five rare animals can only be found in the Samburu ecosystem and include the Reticulated giraffe, the Grevy’s Zebra, the Beisa oryx, the Somali ostrich and the gerenuk. 

You might even get to spot some of these animals on a special guided nature walk. You’ll be accompanied by an expert naturalist, who will share their wealth of wisdom on the plants and animals found in the area. 

Along with the Samburu Special 5, you’ll also have the chance to see more famous animals including elephants and lions just like Elsa, the lion cub made famous in the award-winning book and movie ‘Born Free’. Samburu National Reserve was one of two areas where conservationists George and Joy Adamson raised the lion cub. 

You can get to know more about the region’s conservation and anti-poaching efforts in the nearby Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa.

Explore Samburu on: Wonders of Kenya

8. Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a unique mosaic of islands, waterways, and lagoons, creating a rich environment for an abundance of wildlife. Known for its remarkable seasonal flooding, which contrasts against the dry Kalahari desert, the delta becomes a lush animal habitat. Travelers can explore this biodiverse world by mokoro (a traditional dugout canoe), with close-up encounters of animals like hippos, elephants, leopards and an incredible variety of birds.

9. Solio Game Reserve, Kenya

Located between the foothills of the Aberdares and the slopes of Mount Kenya, this privately-owned conservancy is one of the most successful rhino breeding reserve in the world. Founded in the 1970s, Solio Game Reserve provides a safe haven for both black and white rhinos, housing the largest population of white rhinos on earth. It’s a relatively hidden gem on the safari circuit, offering guests the rare chance to see not only large numbers of rhinos but also buffalos, zebras, giraffes, leopards, and lions among the grassland and acacia forests.

10. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

South Luangwa National Park may be off the beaten track but it’s undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries. It’s home to endemic animals like Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest and Crawshay’s zebra, found nowhere else on earth. You’ll also find the world’s highest naturally occurring population of leopards. As the ‘birthplace of the walking safari’ visitors can also embrace the unique experience of tracking and spotting animals on foot. 

11. Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

With its unusual landscapes dotted with giant baobabs, flat-topped acacias and termite mounds, Tarangire National Park is unlike anything you’ll see in Tanzania. The wildlife is just as captivating as the landscapes, as the park is renowned as one of the best places to view elephants. You can also see adorable tree hyraxes and over 300 recorded species of birds. The park is particularly spectacular during the dry season when animal concentrations are among the highest in Tanzania, driven to the Tarangire River.

12. Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe

Located in northern Zimbabwe along the lower Zambezi River, Mana Pools National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its wildlife and natural beauty. The name “Mana” means “four” in the Shona language, referring to the four large pools formed by the Zambezi River. The pools attract a high concentration of wildlife, making it a spectacular spot for game viewing. The park also offers some exciting experiences such as walking safaris and canoe safaris, so you can watch the wildlife from every angle, including elephants, hippos, lions and over 350 bird species.

Have you visited any of the best safari destinations in the world? Let us know in the comments below!

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