The African continent is the place to go for wildlife. Here is the land of lions and leopards, hippopotami and giraffes. In fact, it is on this continent where the safari was born, coming from “safara” in Arabic — meaning “to travel” — via east African language, Kiswahili.
There are plenty of destinations throughout Africa to get your safari fix, from national parks to game reserves, encompassing vast tracts of land and different biospheres. Here are some of the best destinations to head to for your next holiday.
1. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The quintessential wildlife destination in Africa — taking its name from “serengeti,” a unique ecosystem that spans both Kenya and Tanzania — safari in Serengeti National Park is rightly famous. Home to cheetahs, lions, giraffe, elephants and all sorts of amazing birds, it spans a huge 5,700 square miles. The south-central part (the most popular) is named by the Masai people as “serengit” which means “the land of endless plains,” with forests and dense bush in the west, carved through by the Grumeti River. If you visit the park once in your lifetime, time it for the Great Migration; it is a sight you will never forget!
2. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
The serengeti ecoystem spills over the Tanzania border into Kenya, marked here by the equally famous Masai Mara National Reserve. Established in 1961, and covering 580 square miles, it may be small in comparison to its neighbor, but Masai Mara National Reserve still packs a punch as a wildlife destination. As well as the “Big Five” (elephant, Cape buffalo, rhinoceros, leopard and lion), there’s also cheetahs, hippopotami, crocodiles and hyenas to be seen here — alongside 470 species of birds.
3. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger National Park holds the accolade of being one of the largest game reserves in the entire African continent. Within its 7,523 square miles of wilderness, this park spans ecosystems and landscapes, with nine main gates and various camps to make visiting a relatively simple reality. Part of Kruger National Park, Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, is UNESCO-recognized and encompasses grasslands, savannahs and forests. Incredibly, the park boasts 147 different species of large mammals — more than any other reserve of its kind in Africa.
4. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Formed by the Okavango River, this delta is a lush, rich habitat with wide-reaching grassy floodplains loved by a plethora of wildlife. The Moremi Game Reserve, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, takes up the eastern side of the delta, and is a national park. The Okavango Delta is a seasonal, and permanent, habitat for a whole spectrum of African wildlife, from Nile crocodile to black rhinoceros and around 400 bird species, including crested crane and sacred ibis.
5. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
The largest national park in Zimbabwe, Hwange spans 5,657 square miles and is the place to go to spot the best of this country’s wildlife — over 100 mammals can be spotted within the boundaries of the park. Close to the edge of the Kalahari Desert, Hwange features seasonal wetlands — attracting a host of bird species (over 400) — as well as Mopane Woodlands in the north and northeast. Next to the wildlife, there’s also 18th-century ruins and pre-colonial rock carvings to see at Hwange.
Africa’s best wildlife destinations are as varied as the continent itself. From grasslands and deserts, to wetlands and the famous Serengeti, nothing compares to the landscapes here — and certainly nothing compares to the unique mammals and birds that call this continent home.