Imagine postcard-perfect silhouettes of towering baobab trees in the embers of fiery sunsets, a front row seat to watch zebras grazing in the brush and a glimpse of lions hunting prey—uncensored. If you’ve ever dreamt of roaming through the savanna with nothing more than the sounds of nature, hushed clicks of your camera and the call of the wild, it’s time to grab your passport and a pen to check off that bucket list goal that’s been waiting to evoke the adventurer in you. You may be traversing vast grasslands or deserts in a modern 4X4 Jeep land cruiser, but the daily rituals of the undisturbed circle of life are certainly found off the beaten path. Here are five classic African safari destinations to provide you with the type of wildlife experience you can’t easily find at your local zoo.
Located in the Horn of Africa, this country is the most popular destination for tourists’ safari itineraries. With abundant populations of “The Big Five,” which refers to lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhinos, it’s no wonder Kenya’s national parks and reserves attract more than 500,000 visitors each year. Most notable is the Masai Mara National Reserve, which is where the “Great Migration” of zebras and wildebeest takes place from July to October, as well as a harmony between the vast range of game and the nearby seminomadic Maasai people. Kenya is also the best place to get up close and personal with majestic giraffes. You can feed these gentle giants at the Giraffe Center in Nairobi, the capital, wake up to them at your window if you stay at the luxurious Giraffe Manor or see them on foot with a walking safari led by a knowledgeable native guide.
With a combined backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest free-standing mountain, and the amber, species-rich plains, Tanzania is a truly a haven for those seeking big game in a naturally picturesque landscape. Like its East African neighbor, Kenya, famous parks like Serengeti and the collapsed volcanic crater of Ngorongoro Conservation Reserve are some of the best places to witness the mass movement of wildebeest, buffalo, zebras and antelopes. This is also where you can find dense populations of elephants, tree-climbing lions and thousands of flamingos all within close range of each other.
3. South Africa
South Africa might be among the most populated countries on the continent, but its population of wildlife ranks even higher. In close proximity to the vibrant cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, famed game-viewing gems like Kruger National Park give you the opportunity to see more species of African wildlife than any other safari, including the Big Five, hippos, crocodiles and cheetahs. And if you feel inclined to stay close to the action, there are several accommodation options available. For those looking for an all-encompassing vacation, South Africa is the most versatile safari destination because it has all the elements of an exciting getaway—pristine beaches, educational history and bustling life.
If you want a chance to see the creatures that share 98 percent of their DNA with humans first-hand, gorilla trekking in Rwanda is the way to go. The mountain gorillas here, sometimes reaching up to 6 feet tall and weighing up to 425 pounds, are an endangered species. Gaze in awe as you watch these dignified apes feed on vegetation and nurse their young within an arm’s reach. Volcanoes National Park is one of one of the prime spots to catch these primates, and whether you’re a nature photography junkie or just an enthusiastic traveler, you won’t be disappointed by the treat of seeing a male gorilla beat his chest, let out a screech or congregate with a close-knit family of up to 30 members.
Although it is one of the youngest nations in the world after it gained independence in 1990, Namibia’s crimson dunes and culturally diverse inhabitants are located in the heart of the world’s oldest desert. The country’s perfectly preserved landscape is home to the endangered black rhino, waterholes teeming with a coexisting variety of animal herds, including some of the world’s tallest elephants, and hundreds of birds, reptile and amphibian species. The dry terrain of Etosha National Park, centered around a large salt pan, provides a more flexible opportunity to discover the wildlife with a self-drive safari.
No matter where you decide to travel, any one of these extraordinary safaris will provide you with the most thrilling journey of of your life. Holbrook Travel offers trips to all of the locations mentioned above, but your options are endless in this Motherland. Pack your bags and book your flight because these animals are waiting for you—so what are you waiting for?