Best Safari in Africa → Top Countries + Places for First-Timers
Looking for the best African country for safari in 2024?
You’re in the right place!
Witnessing lions stalking their prey or leopards lounging on tree branches against the backdrop of endless savannah is an unforgettable sight. Africa offers the ultimate adventure, with its fascinating and diverse landscapes, abundant wildlife, and unmatched safari experiences.
From the vast plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania to the majestic Okavango in Botswana, the best safari in Africa offers an unlimited number of options for an extraordinary wildlife expedition. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first African safari, join us as we explore the best places to safari in Africa and unique experiences that this beautiful continent has to offer.
Get ready to be immersed in nature’s wonders as I guide you through the best countries for safaris in Africa.
You may be wondering, where should I go on my first safari in Africa?
When you think of the best safaris, the first continent that comes to mind is Africa. With its vast national parks, incredible wildebeest migration and high densities of predators, it’s not hard to see why Africa is the most popular safari destination in the world.
There are many countries in Africa which are popular for safaris, each with their own unique national parks, animal species, and cultures.
Below I’m going to run through the best places for safari in Africa, so you can decide which is the best country for your first (or next) safari in 2024.
How long should I spend on an African safari?
My personal recommendation, from countless number of safaris of my own, is that you should plan to spend at least 10 – 14 days for an in-depth safari African experience. This will give you sufficient time to see plenty of wildlife and visit three or four different camps and lodges in different areas to get a good feel for the region.
The best month to go on a safari in Africa is during the dry, winter season of June to October. During this period, it is easier to spot the wildlife as the vegetation is more sparse and the animals tend to gather at water sources due to the scarcity or rain and water.
>> Read next:
- Ranked: the wealthiest countries in Africa
- Your guide to the best countries in Africa in 2024
- List: safest destinations in Africa
- Top quotes about Africa on the beauty of this land
- Where to find the best African sunset and islands
- What is the biggest country in Africa?
- The best African songs to get you ispired
Which Country Offers the Best Safari in Africa
Which African country is best for safari?
Which country offers the best safari in Africa?
Tanzania is arguably the best safari destination in Africa. Boasting the absolutely huge Serengeti National park in the north, all of the big five (elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and buffalo) and an incredibly diverse culture including the famous Maasai tribe, Tanzania has a lot to offer.
Tanzania is also renowned as having the safari with the most animals and the continent’s largest populations of safari species, with an estimated 4 million wild animals.
One of the highlights of a safari in Tanzania is seeing the legendary great migration, whereby over 2 million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle move across the Serengeti ecosystem.
There are two main options when it comes to planning your Tanzania safari itinerary — the northern circuit or the southern circuit. The northern circuit is the most popular and more cost effective option and also includes the most popular parks such as Taragire, Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater.
The southern circuit is more expensive and less visited due to the longer distances involved. However, it does include some great parks such as Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha, and Udzungwa Mountains.
The cost of a Tanzania safari is one of the highest in Africa due to the high park fees. It’s also more geared towards using a safari company vs self drive which can also increase costs somewhat. Tanzania safaris typically start at $250 pp per day for budget and from $450 pp per day for mid-range, excluding external flights.
Most Popular Tanzania Safari Circuits
Northern Circuit includes Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire National Park, Arusha National Park
Southern Circuit includes Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park, Mikumi National Park and Udzungwa Mountains National Park
Western Circuit includes Katavi National Park, Mahale Mountains National Park, Gombe Stream National Park and Rubondo Island National Park
Key Parks in Tanzania
The Serengeti which means “endless plains” is absolutely huge at approximately 14,763 square kilometres (5,700 square miles). One of Africa’s most famous and iconic national parks and the best place in Africa for safari, it’s renowned for its vast savannah plains, wildebeest migration, and high density of predators.
Game in the serengeti includes lions, leopards, African elephants, Cape buffalos, cheetahs, giraffes, wildebeest, and zebras.
Tarangire National Park covers an area of about 2,850 square kilometres (1,100 square miles) and is famous for its large herds of African elephants. The park is also known for its diverse landscapes, including grassy plains, baobab trees, and the Tarangire River which spans the park and gives it its name.
As well as elephants, the park is home to many other game including lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, buffalo, and numerous bird species.
Ngorongoro Crater is part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a world famous African landmark. The conservation area covers an area of about 8,292 square kilometres (3,202 square miles), with the crater itself being around 260 square kilometres (100 square miles).
It was recently separated from the Serengeti National park to allow for the Massai to live there as the Serengeti National park does not allow tribes to live inside it.
The Ngorongoro Crater has a wide range of wildlife, including all of the big five animals. This massive volcanic caldera is home to game including lions, elephants, black rhinos, leopards, Cape buffalos, as well as various other animals such as zebras, wildebeests, hyenas, hippos, and a rich birdlife. Some of the animals move into and out of the crater, while others stay here all year round.
2: SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa needs no introduction when it comes to the world of the best safaris in Africa in 2024. It is a must-visit destination for wildlife and nature enthusiasts alike with its diverse wildlife, diverse landscapes, and plethora of accommodation options.
Which country is best for first safari in Africa?
A South African safari offers an unparalleled opportunities for encountering wild animals and flora up close amidst stunning natural settings. This country boasts an incredible variety of wildlife species that can be observed during your African safari.
From the iconic Big Five (elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, and leopard) to hippos, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, and countless bird species – there is just such a large bounty and variety of safari animals to encounter while exploring the game reserves.
Safaris in South Africa tend to either centre around national parks such as the world-renowned Kruger National Park in the northeastern part of South Africa and private game reserves. You can expect to find an abundance of safari experiences with plentiful lodges, expert guides, and many intimate encounters with the wildlife.
Although South Africa caters to some very luxurious safaris in their private reserves, they also offer reasonably priced budget safaris starting at $200 pp per day, excluding international flights.
South Africa also provides world-class horse riding safaris in their game reserves. The wildlife grow used to the horses, who often live in the bush with the other animals when they are not being ridden, which allows riders to get close to the game without startling it.
For ethical tourism, avoid private game reserves that have hands-on animal experiences as these pose a number of ethical issues.
Most Popular Safari Routes In South Africa
The Kruger National Park Route focuses on exploring the Kruger National Park. You can enter the park through one of the multiple entrance gates and drive along the network of roads to explore different regions within the park.
The Panorama Route takes you through the Mpumalanga province, near Kruger National Park. This route includes attractions such as Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window. This can be combined with the The Kruger National Park Route above.
The Madikwe-Mapungubwe Route explores the Madikwe Game Reserve and Mapungubwe National Park in the North West province, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a good route for those seeking a malaria-free safari.
Key Parks in South Africa
No list of the best African safari countries is complete without South Africa. Here are the most famous parks in the country.
The Kruger National Park covers an area of approximately 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 square miles), making it one of the largest national parks in Africa and slightly bigger than the Serengeti in Tanzania.
Located in the northeastern part of South Africa this vast wilderness sanctuary that is one of the best places to go on safari in Africa is accessible for both self-drive safaris and guided game drives.
Game includes the Big Five as well as cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, and antelopes.
Sabi Sands Game Reserve covers an area of approximately 65,000 hectares (160,618 acres) and shares an unfenced border with Kruger National Park.
It is a private game reserve known for its frequent leopard sightings and luxury accommodation.
As well as leopards, animals include lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinoceros, cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, zebras, hippos, crocodiles and a wide array of bird species.
Madikwe Game Reserve covers an area of approximately 75,000 hectares (185,329 acres) in the North West province of South Africa.
One of South Africa’s largest malaria-free reserves, the park is also known for its successful conservation efforts with species such as African wild dogs, as well as black and white rhinos.
In addition to the Big Five, Madikwe is known for its populations of cheetahs, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, hyenas, warthogs, antelopes and over 300 species of birds.
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve spans approximately 96,000 hectares (237,221 acres) in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.
The park is one of the oldest game reserves in South Africa with a high concentration of wildlife. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi played a crucial role in the conservation of the white rhino species.
The park is famous for its populations of both white and black rhinos.
Still wondering where to safari in Africa? Next up we have…
Kenya is another country which is synonymous with the best African safaris. And for good reason — the Kenyan Maasai Mara, which joins the Serengeti at the Mara river, is world-class. More than 8 percent of the land in the country is protected and it offers an amazing safari experiences all year long due to its plethora of wildlife, pleasant weather, and vast open areas.
There are 23 national parks and game reserves in Kenya, each offering a memorable safari experience. One of the highlights in one of the best places for an African safari in Kenya is seeing the great migration, where millions of wildebeest and other herbivores cross treacherous rivers in search of greener pastures.
The Maasai Mara provides front-row seats to one of nature’s greatest spectacles, which incorporates the Mara river crossing in the south of the reserve.
In addition to offering iconic safaris in a region teeming with wildlife, you also have the opportunity to enjoy cultural encounters in Kenya with the local Masai tribespeople.
The best time to go to Kenya for an African safari is during the dry season of of January to February and July to October. Plan to spend at least 10 to 14 days exploring the best that this region has to offer.
The Most Popular Safari Routes In Kenya
The Maasai Mara Route which centres around the Maasai Mara National park and also includes Lake Nakuru National Park and Amboseli National Park.
The Amboseli-Tsavo Route which focuses on the Amboseli National Park, then onwards to Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks.
The Samburu-Isiolo-Meru Route which explores the northern parts of Kenya, including Samburu National Reserve proceeding off the beaten path to Isiolo and Meru National Parks
The Aberdare-Mount Kenya Route takes you through Aberdare National Park and includes Mount Kenya National Park.
Kenya offers slightly lower rates for budget safaris compared with other African countries with budget safaris starting at $150 pp per day excluding outbound flights.
Key parks in Kenya
Maasai Mara National Reserve covers an area of approximately 1,510 square kilometres (580 square miles). One of the most renowned safari destinations in Africa, it borders the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park in the south where it meets the Mara River. Located in the south, it’s famous for the great migration, where millions of wildebeest and zebras move in search of fresh grazing.
The Maasai Mara is home to a wild variety of game including the Big Five and also cheetahs, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, and a rich diversity of bird species.
Amboseli National Park spans approximately 392 square kilometres (151 square miles).
Located in southern Kenya, Amboseli National Park is famous for its views of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. The park is also known for its large herds of African elephants roaming freely across vast plains. The swamps within Amboseli are teeming with a diverse range of birdlife.
Game in Amboseli include elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, buffalos, hyenas, and a variety of bird species.
Tsavo National Park is another great option to go on a safari in Africa. Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks form one massive ecosystem divided by a railway line.
One of Africa’s top safari destinations in 2024, game viewing in Namibia is unique due to the country’s stunning dune and desert scenery such as the Namib Desert, which is one of the oldest deserts in the world. Expect to find an abundance of desert-adapted wildlife and mesmerising landscapes.
Namibia’s biggest national park, Etosha is renowned for its salt pan and numerous waterholes, which attracts a wide variety of wildlife during the dry season.
As well as Etosha national park, Namibia has a number of private game reserves and conservation areas.
Self drive safaris are popular in Namibia, however, due to the vast distances between destinations it’s recommended to study a Namibia travel guide beforehand to help you construct your itinerary to make the most of your trip.
As self drives are popular and accommodation is reasonably priced or you can sleep in a roof top tent, costs can be quite reasonable compared to other safari destinations in Africa. Prices for a budget trip will start from around $100 pp per day.
The best time to visit Namibia for wildlife viewing is between the months of July to October. This is when you will find pleasant temperatures and a low chance of rain.
Most Popular Namibia Safari Circuits
Etosha National Park Route focuses on exploring Etosha National Park, The route typically starts from Windhoek, the capital city, and includes stops at various rest camps and water holes within the park.
Namib-Naukluft National Park and Sossusvlei Route takes you to the Namib Desert and the Sossusvlei sand dunes. The journey often starts from the city of Windhoek and heads south to Sesriem, the gateway to Namib-Naukluft National Park.
Damaraland and Kaokoland Route explores the rugged and remote regions of Damaraland and Kaokoland in northwestern Namibia.
Skeleton Coast and Namib Desert Route explores the wild and remote Skeleton Coast, The route often starts from Swakopmund or Walvis Bay and takes you along the coast. The route can also include a visit to the Cape Cross Seal Reserve and the Namib Desert.
Key Parks in Namibia
Etosha National Park covers an area of approximately 22,270 square kilometres (8,600 square miles), making it one of Africa’s largest national parks and slightly bigger than the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
The park is dominated by the vast Etosha salt pan, which attracts a wide array of wildlife, especially during the dry season.
Wildlife in Etosha include the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, and buffalo). Other key animals include giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, springboks, oryx, kudus, cheetahs, hyenas, and a variety of bird species.
Namib-Naukluft National Park is one of the largest conservation areas in Namibia, covering an area of approximately 49,768 square kilometres (19,216 square miles)
The park encompasses the Namib Desert, one of the oldest deserts on Earth, known for its towering sand dunes.
Wildlife includes oryx, springboks, ostriches, jackals, hyenas, various reptiles and endemic bird species.
Skeleton Coast National Park stretches along Namibia’s northwestern coastline for approximately 500 kilometres (310 miles).
It is named after the numerous shipwrecks that dot the coastline and often requires experienced guides to visit due to its remote location and challenging conditions.
Wildlife includes seal colonies, which attract predators such as jackals and brown hyenas. You can also see elephants, giraffes, oryx, springboks, and a variety of bird species, including flamingos and pelicans.
The landlocked country of Botswana in Southern Africa is next up on this list of best safari Africa. Its landscape is defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta and it is this fascinating range of habitats that make going on a safari in Botswana truly special.
Its main safari reserves, such as the Okavango and Chobe, are less accessible and wilder than the majority of those mentioned in the other countries above. The Okavango becomes a lush animal eden during the seasonal floods while the Central Kalahari Reserve is home to a plenitude of animals.
In addition, Botswana is often ranked as one of safest places to safari in Africa.
Botswana emphasises high-cost, low-impact fly-in tourism. With high-end lodges and prohibitive costs, you will have a more peaceful safari experience compared to some of the busier safari destinations in Africa, the likes of Kenya.
Botswana is a country that is committed to conservation, and its protected areas are well-managed, allowing for exceptional game viewing opportunities in a remote and unspoiled environment.
Botswana is arguably the most expensive safari destination in Africa. In addition to the highest conservation fees in Africa, safari costs are quite high. A safari here starts at around $250 pp per day for budget and from $450 pp per day for mid-range, excluding external flights.
Most Popular Botswana Safari Circuits
Okavango Delta Circuit includes Moremi Game Reserve, Khwai Concession and Private concessions within the Okavango Delta.
Chobe Circuit includes Chobe National Park, Kasane region, Linyanti Reserve, and Savuti.
Central Kalahari Circuit includes Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Makgadikgadi Pans.
Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi Circuit includes Nxai Pan National Park and Makgadikgadi Pans.
Key Botswana Parks
The Okavango Delta covers an area of approximately 22,000 square kilometres (8,500 square miles).
The Okavango Delta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest inland delta in the world. Formed by the overflow of the Okavango River, this extraordinary ecosystem encompasses a network of channels, lagoons, and islands.
Game includes Elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, zebras, antelopes, and many species of birds.
Chobe National Park covers an area of approximately 10,566 square kilometres (4,083 square miles).
This woodland park is known for having the large population of wild elephants than anywhere else in the world, especially during the dry season when they gather around the Chobe River.
Game includes elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, antelopes, and lots of birdlife.
Home to one of the natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls, Zambia contains a number of sprawling national parks which are teeming with wildlife. It offers real safari encounters in wild, remote destinations and is a strong contender as one of the best countries for safaris in Africa.
As well as traditional 4×4 safaris, Zambia is well known for its excellent walking safaris which allow you to immerse yourself in the nature of their unspoiled landscapes for a more intimate safari experience in Africa.
Water-based safaris such as boat safaris, canoe safaris, or river cruises along the Zambezi River or other waterways are also popular in Zambia. Water-based safaris allow you to view hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species from a unique angle.
Most Popular Zambian Safari Circuits
Northern Circuit includes South Luangwa National Park, North Luangwa National Park, Kasanka National Park, Bangweulu Wetlands, Lavushi Manda National Park.
Luangwa Valley Circuit includes South Luangwa National Park, North Luangwa National Park, Luambe National Park, Lukusuzi National Park and Luangwa River.
Key Zambia Parks
South Luangwa National Park covers approximately 9,050 square kilometres (3,500 square miles).
The park is known for its untouched wilderness, walking safaris and high concentration of leopards.
Game includes leopards, elephants, lions, giraffes, buffalos, hippos, wild dogs, zebras, antelopes and over 400 bird species.
Lower Zambezi National Park spans an area of approximately 4,092 square kilometres (1,580 square miles)
Situated along the banks of the Zambezi River, the park includes floodplains, riverine forests, and impressive escarpments.
Game includes elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, hippos, crocodiles, zebras, giraffes, antelopes and many different birds.
Africa is the perfect continent for a safari, home to some of the world’s best national parks which are absolutely teeming with life. You really can’t go wrong with any of these top African safari destinations, each one offering something unique to travellers.
And now you know where to find the best safari in Africa. What is your favourite safari destination in Africa?