Going on safari in Africa is on many a bucket list. But where are the best wildlife-spotting experiences to be had, and where are the best places to stay? We have the answers…
Q: Where is the best place to go on safari?
A: This is an open question with a whole range of answers, but ultimately this would really depend on what you are looking at getting out of your trip. South Africa offers a wonderful range of parks to visit with superb animal sightings to be had in all of them. Botswana is one the continent’s iconic destinations, with amazing wildlife numbers found in the Okavango Delta whilst Zimbabwe offers an unrivalled level of guiding. Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park are home to the renowned Great Migration, one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth.
Every safari is different so speak to our Africa experts and they will be able to provide the best options for you and tailor-make your perfect safari.
Q. I have done safaris across Africa but still enjoy finding new, untouched areas. Where would you recommend?
A: As infrastructure and access to increasingly remote parts of Africa improve, fewer and fewer areas can be regarded as an “untouched” wilderness, but there are still some out there. Western Tanzania is a real favourite of ours, with the Katavi and Mahale Mountains national parks able to offer wildlife experiences unlike anywhere else in Africa. Namibia also has some incredible areas, including the Skeleton Coast and Kunene River, host to Hoanib Valley Camp and Serra Cafema respectively, which are incredible areas to visit.
Although not strictly somewhere new, Zimbabwe remains a beautiful safari area with incredible wildlife, and some of the best guides in Africa call it home. We would recommend getting out there before prices rival its neighbours such as Botswana and Zambia and the crowds return. The stunning Mana Pools National Park is a must-do for safari purists and Rukomechi Camp is the perfect spot to spend a few nights, whilst those looking to get off the beaten track should head down to Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge in the Gonarezhou National Park.
Q. From everything I read safaris are hugely expensive – is this really the case?
A: Undoubtedly safaris are one of the most expensive travel experiences out there, but a lot of this stems from the exclusivity of the camps, their remoteness and the difficulty and high costs of equipping and running somewhere so far from civilisation. However, there are some more cost-effective ways to do safaris, especially in Botswana where a number of “mobile safari” operations allow visitors to experience incredible wildlife areas for between 40% and 60% of the cost of a fixed lodge. It is also worth considering destinations such as Zimbabwe and Kenya, both incredible safari options, with wildlife and guiding to rival any of their neighbours, but offering superb value for money year-round.
Q. We have been put off safaris by seeing photos of lions with 20 vehicles crowded around them – is this a common sight on safari?
A: In some areas, mainly the Kruger National Park in South Africa and Kenya’s Maasai Mara, this can be a common sight. However, we partner with camps and lodges in more remote areas, often private concessions, where the numbers of vehicles that are allowed access to each animal sighting are limited, often to two or three vehicles. Naturally, in some areas at certain times of year, the parks can be much busier, however guides are very conscious of this and will always steer guests away from the busier areas whilst still ensuring they have an incredible safari experience.
Q. Leopards have managed to elude us on our safaris so far – where would you suggest we go to guarantee sightings?
A: Whilst it is never completely guaranteed that you will see any animals when on safari (this is nature after all), there are some areas where you will have a much better chance of seeing certain animals. Of the famous Big Five, leopards can be hard to spot, but the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, adjacent to the Kruger National Park, is hard to beat. Guides will often boast there is a leopard up every tree, and whilst this might be stretching the truth a little, you would almost certainly see leopards during a visit here. Slightly more off the beaten track, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is another leopard-rich environment and guides are very adept at spotting them.
Q. We are looking to travel with young children and don’t want them to take anti-malarials – where would you suggest we head for a malaria-free vacation in Africa?
A: South Africa is certainly somewhere that would suit you well. The two major malaria-free safari areas are the Eastern Cape and Madikwe Private Game Reserve, which is in the north-west of the country. They both offer some excellent-quality lodges, strong and well-varied wildlife populations and excellent guides, who will be able to ensure that the experience is as magical for children as it is for adults.
To celebrate a special occasion, we are looking to visit the best safari camp in Africa – if you had to give us your top five to choose from, which would they be? And why?
Shumba Camp, Kafue National Park, Zambia
A wonderful camp overlooking the game-rich Busanga Plains. ‘Shumba’ means ‘lion’, and many of these majestic beasts can be seen patrolling the plains in front of the camp.
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand Wildtuin, South Africa
Effortlessly blended into the surrounding terrain, this lodge is the epitome of luxury, with private pools for each room, incredible views and arguably the best wine cellar of any lodge in Africa.
Zarafa Camp, Linyanti, Botswana
The suites here are vast and offer stunning views across to the adjacent lagoon. Huge, comfortable beds are very welcoming after a long day on safari, and you would want for nothing during a stay here.
Singita Grumeti Reserves, Western Serengeti, Tanzania
One of the few private safari areas in the Serengeti, Singita’s Grumeti Reserves is home to a variety of stunning lodges. The beauty of the area lies in its privacy, where the wildlife can be observed with no other vehicles or visitors around – a rare bonus in this incredible part of the country.
Mara Plains Camp, Maasai Mara, Kenya
With a wonderful location, links to Africa’s fascinating past and access to some of the best game viewing in Kenya, this is a must for those looking for luxury in the heart of big cat territory.
Our expert Peter can create your perfect tailor-made safari holiday to Africa. Call him today on 020 7337 9010 or make an enquiry.