Best Place for Safari in Africa to See the Big 5

Best Place for Safari in Africa to See the Big 5

June 4, 2021 9 By Kerry

Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, taking over 20% of Earth’s land area. Bordering the Indian Ocean and straddling the equator, this vast country creates a bio-diverse environment for nature and animals in Africa to flourish. From the rainforest, desert, and savannahs, so many unique natural habitats exist for Africa wildlife to thrive.

Safari holidays are one of the top reasons for tourism, and there is no wonder why. This post will give you an insight into several unique parks, all contending to be the best place for Safari in Africa. Whichever you choose, you can be sure it will be an unforgettable safari trip.

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What does the Africa Big Five mean?

Before we get started, let’s take a moment to learn about the big 5. Africa’s big five refers to the notable species of mammals that you must see. The big 5 of Africa are Lions, elephants, African Leopards, Rhinoceroses, and African Buffalo. These animals of Africa are the biggest of the big, and you can see why they get their name! In this article, you will discover where you can see the big 5 in Africa.

Where is the Best Place for Safari in South Africa?

Southern Africa is one of the most popular countries in Africa for holidaymakers. The vibrancy of the cosmopolitan cities to the beautiful nature and wildlife of the Garden Route and South African Beaches are just a few reasons. Some of the most popular safari resorts are here too, and I’ll show you where.

1) Kruger National Park

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Best place for safari in Africa - Elephant at Kruger National Park South Africa
Elephant at Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve on the continent and is seen by many as the best place for safari in South Africa. The Kruger National Park first opened its gates to the public in 1927, and today its home to an abundance of plants, birds, and wildlife but mostly known for the Africa Big 5: buffalos, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos – as it’s rare to find all 5 at all game reserves across the continent. 

The Kruger National Park has been a no-hunting zone since 1926 and is also home to over 300 archaeological stone age sites. There are many things to do in Kruger, from camping, walking trails, and game drives.

South African climate is relatively dry, and it usually rains during summer. Africa has summer from December to February and winter between June and August. If you plan on visiting South Africa for a Safari, the best time to go is in winter. Prices are relatively cheap, the temperature is moderate (not too hot), and there is less vegetation, so animals tend to gather around rivers and dams.

The best way to get to Kruger National Park is by flight (50 minutes) from Johannesburg, or the drive from Johannesburg takes 5-6 hours. You can see why Kruger National Park is seen as the best place to safari in Africa and even the world.

2) Amakhala Game Reserve

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Best Places to Safari in Africa- cute baby elephant in Amakhala national park
Elephant in Amakhala National Park, South Africa

Another fantastic destination for safari experiences in Africa is the 18,000-acre private Amakhala Game Reserve in South Africa. Located near Port Elizabeth at the end of South Africa’s iconic Garden Route, quickly add it to any itinerary during a trip to Africa’s Motherland.

One of the big pulls for going on safari in South Africa is that it is a malaria-free area, so there is no need for nasty anti-malarial treatments during your trip. But of course, the reason for choosing Amakhala Game Reserve is that it is bursting with all the safari animals you would want to view in this natural environment. Expect to see mammals from the big Africa 5 – elephants, lions, rhinos, giraffes, and hippos, alongside the smaller warthogs, jackals, antelope, and a whole host of birdlife. In addition, there are two daily game drives and the option of flora and fauna walking tours to see the safer species in the bush. 

When it comes to accommodation, Amakhala has lodges to suit all budgets. From the 5-star Bukela Game Lodge with its luxurious rooms and centerpiece swimming pool to the unique Quatermain’s 1920s tented camp. Designed for an authentic experience of what a stay in the bush would have been like for the big game hunters at the turn of the century.

Amakhala Reserve is perfect for first-timers on safari. You are guaranteed to see all the safari animals, unlike a national safari park where you can drive for hours without seeing a single animal!

3) Addo Elephant Safari

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Best places to safari in Africa - Zebras in Addo Elephant Safari Park
Zebras in Addo Elephant Park, South Africa Safari

With beautiful beaches, fantastic weather, breathtaking views at every corner, delicious wine & food, and vast wildlife, it’s no wonder for the best place for a safari in South Africa.

South Africa is very well known for its wildlife parks, and Addo Elephant National Park is the 3rd largest park in South Africa and boasts a wide diversity of flora and fauna. Spread over approximately 4.5 lakh acres of land, moving through the park is an enjoyable journey. Situated one hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, this Africa safari park is home to over 450 elephants, buffalos, and antelopes, as well as the unique flightless dung beetle.

Addo Elephant park boasts of the big 5, herds of elephants, rhinos, lions, buffalo, leopards, and the southern white whale and great white shark. Other animals that can be sighted include hyenas, zebras, baboons, etc.

Some important before visiting Addo Elephant National Park:

  • The guests should be 18 years of age And older to enter the park
  • Guests have to fill out a form detailing their passport numbers for identification.
  • One can take their vehicle or opt for a guided game drive of approximately 2 hours. Prior Booking is needed.
  • The camp has a restaurant that provides a la carte food
  • A fuel station selling petrol and diesel is available at specific hours within the park itself

Addo Elephant Park vast selection of animals means it can be considered some of the best safari in Africa.

4) Hluhluwe-imfolozi Park, South Africa Safari

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Best Place for safari in africa - giraffe in the savannah
Giraffe on Safari

Of the many places for Safari in South Africa, while not as well-known as some, the Hluhluwe-imfolozi Park is an excellent choice. This park suits travelers looking to escape the crowds that come to the Krueger National Park. Spot zebras, giraffes, elephants, and even rare animals like lions and wild dogs. You can also rent cabins or lodges within the park and even have wild animals visiting your room.

You’ll always feel safe and well cared for with a friendly and highly professional staff. If you have a permit, take a tour in an open jeep or drive your car around the park. Early morning safaris are especially recommended if you’re trying to spot the Africa Big 5 Animals. Pack your camera, as the photos you take at the park, will be unforgettable.

Hluhluwe-imfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed reserve in Africa, so it’s a great place to try a safari experience. It’s a good size but not too large, so you can easily see the hotspots in two or three days. This is the perfect safari spot with stunning scenery and lots of wildlife.

Another safari park in South Africa that is a big 5 location that you could check out is Sabi Sands.

Best Safari in East Africa

As you saw from the map, there are several contenders for the best place for Safari in Africa around the country’s east. This area is home to the Zambezi National Park, Zambezi River, and Lake Malawi, infamous for wildlife in its own right.

Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya have many national parks, and you are spoilt for choice on your safari trip. Look at the countries below to find the best safari in East Africa.

Virunga National Park – Gorilla trekking in the Congo

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Best Places to Safari in Africa - Virunga National Park Gorillas in the Congo
Virunga National Park Gorillas

Virunga National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the best place for safari in Africa to see mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking in the Congo is such an awe-inspiring yet intimate experience, and it is something that you’ll never forget.

Although you can also see gorillas in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, the DRC offers the cheapest gorilla trekking permits. Trekking groups are also much smaller, or you might even have your gorilla safari all for yourself.

Safari park rangers will escort visitors into the jungle-clad volcanoes of Virunga in search of these magnificent beasts. Scouts will go ahead in search of the gorillas, who will then send the GPS coordinates back to the rangers, which in turn will lead you to the gorillas. Once you arrive at the gorilla family, you will have 1 hour to spend with the gorilla family.

Rangers will tell you to remain at least 3 meters away from the gorillas, which is fine. However, the gorillas don’t seem to follow these rules and will, from time to time, walk right up to you and squeeze past you. The gorilla toddlers might also find your shoelaces very interesting!

In addition to gorilla trekking, Virunga also has the incredible Nyiragongo volcano. This active volcano is a beautiful sight with its enormous, bubbling lava lake. Park rangers lead visitors to the volcano rim for an overnight stay. It truly is one of the best overnight hikes in the world. It’s best to book directly with the park, as Virunga park rangers must carry out all activities inside the park, and they can also assist with obtaining a visa for the DRC.

Safari Parks in Kenya

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Best places to Safari in Africa - different animals on a kenya safari
Different species of animals in a Kenya Safari Park

Different species of animals in a Kenya Safari Park Kenya is arguably the best safari in East Africa and for a good reason. Kenya has 23 National Parks, 28 National Reserves, 4 marine National Parks, 6 marine National Reserves and 4 national sanctuaries. These areas all have protected wildlife, although they are not all fully fenced, meaning the wildlife is free to roam beyond the protected zones.

The most famous safari in Kenya is the Masai Mara National Reserve, where you can witness the great migration, which takes place annually in July and is a bucket list item for many people. There are so many parks to suit any budget. Within these parks are plenty of options for safari lodges in Kenya, from budget camping safari to luxury 5* hotels, and Kenya is also the home of the Famous Giraffe Manor.

On any safari in Kenya, you will see ‘the big 5’ with some highlights, including elephants in Amboseli, lions in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, black rhinos in Tsavo West and even dolphins in Kisite Mpunguti marine park. The best time to travel to Kenya is during the dry season, which runs from July to September. However, it is possible to travel during the rainy seasons, which occur twice a year from March to May and October to December. The advantage of traveling in the rainy season is that there are fewer tourists, and options for accommodation and safari may be cheaper during this time.

South Luangwa National Park in Zambia

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Best Places to Safari in Africa - Lioness in South Luangwa National Park
Lioness in South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park provides some of the best safari in East Africa. The Zambian national park is unfenced and bordered by a steep escarpment to the west and the Luangwa River to the east. The park is 9050 km sq. Locals call it “the South Park.” The park can be reached from “Zambia’s Lusaka International Airport” to “Mfuwe International Airport” or from “Lilongwe International Airport” in Malawi. The driving distance is 6-7 hours from Lusaka and 2 hours from Chipata.

The dry season from June to October is the best time to visit South Luangwa National Park. Abseiling, bungee jumping, Gorge swing, elephant and horse trail, hydro speeding, kayaking, strolling with Cheetah, and white water rafting are all available here.

One of the reasons South Luangwa National Park is the best place for safari in Africa is that it offers different safaris. The safaris are Birding Safari, Canoeing Safari, Guided Safari, Mobile Walking Safari, and Photographic Safari. However, it is best known for Mobile Walking Safari.

Large animals are cape buffalo, elephant, hippo, lion, Nile crocodile, impala, puku, and spotted hyena. Thornicroft’s giraffe, Cookson’s wildebeest, and Crawshay’s zebra are unique species. Luangwa park houses over 400 types of birds. Colonies of carmine bee-eaters, raptors, lovebirds, weavers, and kingfishers add color to the sun-scorched riverbanks.

Magnificent trees that grow here are the mopane, leadwood, winter thorn, tall ivory palm, Marula, tamarind, baobab, and ebony. In addition, you can find wild, exotic flowers in the Luangwa valley.

Stay away from a self-driven safari in this area. The landscape of Luangwa becomes unsurpassable during the rainy season. You must have an experienced driver and guide when visiting the region. Book in advance as it is not easy to find availability in the open season.

Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe

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Best places to safari in Africa - painted dogs in Hwange national park
Painted dogs in Hwange national park

Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe goes big when it comes to the size of its landscape and its wildlife. At over 14,600 square kilometers, it’s the largest national reserve in the country, making it a brilliant safari destination. The park is also home to one of the world’s largest herds of elephants. Known as the Presidential Herd, over 15 families make up a single herd of around 400 elephants, and it is possible to see the entirety of this herd at once within the park.

At sunset, elephant calves trumpet and stumble down to the watering hole where their elders await. And this herd is only a tiny fraction of the total 40,000 population of elephants known to roam throughout the park. Tourists can visit the watering holes these elephants frequent as part of a guided Jeep tour. In addition, many of these elephants frequently wander through safari lodges and campsites within and around the park’s boundaries.

Wild painted dogs, cheetahs, lions, giraffes, kudus, and often spotted within the park. For the best chance of spotting these animals for yourself, visit Hwange National Park during the dry months from July to October.

As there are no large water sources within the park, many animals venture into artificial watering holes where it is easy to see them close. While one of the most underrated safari spots, a trip to Hwange National Park is well worth a visit. You can even combine a trip to Victoria Falls while you’re in the region.

Tanzania Serengeti and National Parks

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The Best Places to Safari in Africa - Elephants in Tanzania Serengeti
Elephants in Tanzania Serengeti, one of the best places to safari in the world

Tanzania is, without a doubt, one of the richest countries when it comes to wildlife and culture. The North of the country, especially, is home to one of the best places for Safari in Africa, the Serengeti. Each year you can go on a safari to observe the great migration, often referred to as the greatest show on Earth. Large herds of wildebeest, zebras, impalas, and antelopes migrate north and south each year, searching for green pastures and water. It’s a fascinating phenomenon to see when you join a safari between December and March.

Serengeti is also home to the Africa big five, even though the rhino is hard to spot here. However, you will have better chances to see the black rhino during a safari if you combine Serengeti National Park with Ngorongoro Crater.

In the North of Tanzania, there are safari parks where you are guaranteed to see some of the big fives. For example, Tarangire National Park is famous for its numerous herds of elephants and tall baobab trees. At Lake Manyara, you can observe the tree-climbing lions, who have habitually slept on branches above the ground.

While going on a safari can be expensive, you will find plenty of options in Tanzania, making the country accessible to nature lovers who are not ready to spend thousands of pounds on this experience. The budget safaris in Tanzania go to the same parks as the luxury ones but offer tent accommodation and shared transport rather than lodges and private jeeps. The Serengeti in Tanzania is truly worthy of being the best place for safari in Africa.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

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Best place for safari in Africa - Estosha National Park in Namibia large grey elephant
Elephant at Estosha National Park in Namibia, Africa safari

Namibia is one of the best counties for safari in Africa, and the Etosha National Park is one of the reasons why. Located in north-western Namibia and around 500 km from Windhoek, Etosha is a must-visit. Established in 1907 and encompassing an area of over 22,000 km², this park is unique with its characteristic salt pan that is large enough to be seen from space.

Despite being Namibia’s premier national park, Etosha still attracts travelers looking to explore the unbeaten path. As one of the wealthiest African countries, the area has the infrastructure and groundwork for catering to international visitors. This critical nature conservation area features abundant wildlife, including large mammals and other smaller species. You can see many of the African big 5 in Etosha, including the elephant, rhino, lion, cheetah, eland, jackal, wildebeest, and giraffe.

Etosha is easily reached from Windhoek by direct flight or road, with the journey overland taking around 5 hours. The park is well suited for self-drive, with the best time to visit in the dry winter months of July to October. Consider spending 3-4 days here to get a good feel of the region and the animals that call it home.

Best of all, several other great options for a safari in Namibia make this a great wildlife destination.

North Africa Safari

North Africa is not typically an African animal destination that you think of as a place to go on safari. Yes, you might not be able to see the big 5, but not all safari tours involve elephants or lions! However, a North Africa safari in the desert is undoubtedly a unique experience.

Desert Africa Safari in Merzouga Morocco

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Best Places to Safari in Africa - Merzougha Desert Safari
Best Place for Safari in Africa – Merzougha Desert Safari

One of the most adventurous and unique destinations for a safari trip to Africa is Merzouga in Morocco. Merzouga is a small desert town located in the Sahara, near the Algerian border and next to the enormous dunes of Erg Chebbi. You can visit Merzouga by rental car or guided tour from larger cities like Marrakesh or Fes.

A trekking tour on the vast dunes of the desert, watching the most incredible sunsets, singing songs at the fire camp, and sleeping underneath the bright shining stars will make your African safari experience unique. Nothing is more romantic than spending a night together in a desert camp. Enjoy it without any WIFI or mobile phone, just talking, laughing, and enjoying the magical silence of the Merzouga desert.

You can combine this romantic desert safari with some fun and exciting activities. Go dunes skiing or boarding, and there are exciting quad tours or even helicopter flights. No matter what you decide, an African safari in the Erg Chebbi Desert is pure magic and should not be missed on any Safari trip.

To make this the best place for safari in Africa, we recommend staying in Merzouga for at least two nights. Book one night in a desert camp (there are also luxury options), and spoil yourself with a fabulous desert hotel the other night. The best time to go there is autumn, winter, or spring. Avoid summer; it will be too hot. Of course, the budget can be variable, depending on your needs. But you should budget approximately 80 Euros per night for an unforgettable desert safari!

What do you think is the best place for safari in Africa?

One thing is for sure: this article gives you some of the best countries in Africa for safari. There are so many different safari holidays or trips across all the various African countries you are spoilt for choice. Have you been on an African safari yourself? I’d love to hear what country you think has the best safari in Africa – let me know in the comments.

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