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How to choose your ideal African safari

written by Liv Bohn August 10, 2018
Zebra crossing a dirt track in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Fancy taking a walk on the wild side? An African safari offers up the ideal opportunity to get closer to those animals which fascinate us most. But with so many different reserves and parks to pick from, how do you go about deciding the right one for you?

Obviously, it’ll depend on several factors like which species you’re wanting to see, the sorts of landscapes you’re intrigued by, the activities you’re desperate to try and of course, when you’re looking to go. So, to help you choose here’s a detailed rundown of six of the best safari spots from across Africa.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

A rhino in South Africa

Photo captured by Allison McCarthy

When to go?

You can visit Kruger all year round but be warned that the summer months (December to March) can be scorching. This means that lots of safari-goers opt for winter (June to October) instead, and because of the popularity of this period expect prices to be steeper.

What sorts of wildlife could I see?

If it’s the Big Five you’re after look no further as you’ll have the chance to spot elephants, leopards, rhinos, lions and buffalo here. Kruger is also home to over 500 species of bird, 100 breeds of reptile and 150 different mammals, including the endangered African wild dog.

Which activities can I enjoy?

There’s nothing quite like camping in the wilderness of an African safari park and this is something you’ll have the option to do in Kruger. On top of the mind-blowing daylight game drives, you might also be keen to head out after dark to spot nocturnal animals and maybe even a night-time predator or two.

What’s the landscape like?

Given that it spans more than 19,000 square kilometres it won’t come as a surprise that the landscape of Kruger is pretty diverse. Arid bush plains, tropical forests, winding rivers, lush green mountains and mighty gorges all help to make up the topography of the region.

Why should I choose Kruger National Park?

Some say Kruger and southern Africa, in general, is perfect for first-time travellers because it’s so easily accessible from Johannesburg. It also provides a brilliant introduction to safari, as a one-stop-shop for awe-inspiring African wildlife.

An Intrepid trip to Kruger: 9-day Vic Falls to Kruger

RELATED: HOW TO OVERLAND LIKE A PRO IN KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

The Okavango Delta, Botswana

Okavango Delta, Botswana

Photo captured by Chris Castle

When’s the best time to go?

Peak season here runs from June to October, when the flood waters trickle down from the north to create a proper delta experience. But, this isn’t to say that you wouldn’t have an amazing time visiting during the dry season too when mokoro (traditional canoe) trips are swapped for 4×4 drives going in search of those evasive big cats.

What sorts of wildlife could I see?

Just about any animal that’s attracted to the water such as hippos, crocodiles, elephants and buffalos. Not forgetting the vast amount of birdlife that lives on the delta too including eagles and storks. Plus, if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a wild dog (dry season only).

Which activities can I enjoy?

Much like Kruger, you can also camp on the Okavango Delta. When travelling overland, you’ll leave your truck behind, pack your gear into a mokoro and spend a night in the wild. Or if camping isn’t your thing, why not stay on a houseboat to see the delta from a totally different perspective? You’ll also have the chance to explore the delta on foot during a walking safari, should you be feeling especially adventurous.

What’s the landscape like?

The Okavango Delta is made up almost entirely of sprawling grassy floodplains, which switch between lush green and sandy hues as the seasons change from wet to dry.

Why should I choose the Okavango Delta?

Visiting just after the flood waters have arrived offers something completely unique to your usual safari experience. Where else in Africa can you sleep on a houseboat encircled by wildlife?

An Intrepid trip to the Okavango Delta: 10-day Okavango Experience

RELATED: WHAT EXPLORING SOUTHERN AFRICA WITH INTREPID IS REALLY LIKE

Chobe National Park, Botswana

River cruise in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Photo captured by Chris Castle

When’s the best time to go?

If you’re eager to discover Chobe then it doesn’t matter when you’re looking to travel because it’s a real year-round destination. With that said, wildlife spotting is at its absolute best in the dry season (May to October) when the animals congregate by the water making them easier to find.

What sorts of wildlife could I see?

Chobe is famous for its impressive herds of elephants and buffalo that gather at the riverfront. Hippos and crocodiles are also a common sight. Due to the popularity of the water, predators that prey on the animals cooling off here are never far away either. And like the Okavango Delta, there’s an abundance of different birds to be seen.

Which activities can I enjoy?

In addition to the morning game drives you can also choose to take a river cruise. This provides an awesome opportunity to see those animals lazing by the water up close, and it’s not uncommon to see elephants crossing the river here too!

What’s the landscape like?

Unsurprisingly the river that the park is named after forms its main attraction and everything centres around it. Winding through sandy areas, floodplains, towns, forests and woodlands.

Why should I choose Chobe National Park?

A lack of fences within the park means animals like warthogs, antelopes and hippos graze on the lawns near the safari lodges. Elephants have also been known to stroll along the main driving tracks.

An Intrepid trip to Chobe: 16-day Experience Southern Africa

RELATED: CHOBE OR OKAVANGO, WHICH SHOULD YOU PICK?

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Herd of zebra in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

MattiaATH/Shutterstock

When’s the best time to go?

As with Chobe, it’s possible to visit the Serengeti any time. However, some travellers choose to try and avoid the heavy rains from March to May and the small rains from November to December.

What sorts of wildlife could I see?

Incredibly it’s not unheard of to spot the entire Big Five in one day across the Serengeti. But you could also be fortunate enough to see giraffes, impala, hippos, hyenas, wild dogs and more. Cheetah and leopard sightings may be on the cards too but remember they’re pretty elusive.

Which activities can I enjoy?

On top of 4×4 and overland vehicle game drives, you can also choose to embark on a balloon safari. There’s something pretty special about soaring over the savanna and relishing views over the park. Camping in unfenced areas park is also a possibility, and you can even choose to upgrade to permanent tented accommodation with ensuite bathrooms.

What’s the landscape like?

A mish-mash of forests, swamps, grasslands and woodlands – the landscape of the Serengeti is nothing if not varied.

Why should I choose Serengeti National Park?

Four words: the annual wildebeest migration. Every year almost two million wildebeests, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles journey clockwise around the Serengeti following the optimum conditions for grazing and birthing. Around September, the migration reaches a dramatic crescendo as the animals attempt to cross the Mara River. It’s also worth saying that the Serengeti is a great spot to tag on after a climb of Kilimanjaro.

An Intrepid trip to the Serengeti: 14-day Serengeti & Kilimanjaro

RELATED: WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CAMPING IN THE SERENGETI

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Driving across the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ilyas Kalimullin/Shutterstock

When’s the best time to go?

High season here covers most of the year (July to March) but when travelling at this time prepare to share your experience with many other safari-trippers. April and May have far lower visitor numbers due to the rains, but this makes for a much more pleasant trip.

What sorts of wildlife could I see?

Black rhinos, cheetahs and lions often use the safari vehicles to shade themselves from the searing sun. The crater is a utopia for the animals living here and you’ll be able to see many of the same species that you would in the Serengeti. It’s also not uncommon for cheetahs to jump on the bonnet of 4x4s!

Which activities can I enjoy?

Only 4×4 vehicles can make it into the crater because its steep sides, which create issues for the larger overland vehicles, already making for a more intimate safari experience. It’s also possible to camp on the crater’s ridge.

What’s the landscape like?

Spanning just 100 square miles, the Ngorongoro Crater is a breath-taking natural wonder – a thriving, lush grassland fringed by looming mountains.

Why should I choose the Ngorongoro Crater?

Because of its size, the Ngorongoro Crater feels like a highly-concentrated safari experience and its beautiful surroundings make it a truly exceptional place.

An Intrepid trip to the Ngorongoro Crater: 8-day Tanzania Safari under Canvas

RELATED: WHAT IT’S LIKE TO SAFARI IN THE NGORONGORO CRATER

Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Cheetahs in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Maggy Meyer/Shutterstock

When’s the best time to go?

Lots of people are interested in visiting the Maasai Mara during the dry season, just as the migration arrives (July to October). The wet season (April to May) isn’t as popular because the long grass and muddy trails make animal spotting a tad trickier. However, it’s a massive park with plenty to see, so it’s possible to visit year-round if you’re not able to go in peak season.

What sorts of wildlife could I see?

As with Kruger National Park, you can meet the entire Big Five here, as well as cheetahs. You can also witness zebras, Thomson’s gazelles and wildebeest partaking in the Great Migration into Tanzania.

Which activities can I enjoy?

In addition to daily game drives across the reserve, you may also choose to try out a balloon safari similar to the ones offered in the Serengeti. Watch ostriches, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, lions and more strolling across the grasslands from above. You’ll also have the option of meeting the tribespeople whom this fantastic reserve is named after and learn all about their history and customs. Camping is on offer here too.

What is the landscape like?

Mara means spotted or mottled in Maasai, which relates to the patchy landscape. The scenery here is very similar to the Serengeti aside from the fact that the grasses are longer.

Why should I choose the Maasai Mara National Reserve?

If you’re looking for a sprinkling of cultural education on top of your safari, the Maasai Mara could be perfect for you. It’s also readily described as the best park in Kenya – enough said.

An Intrepid trip to the Maasai Mara: 8-day Kenya Safari under Canvas

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Now it’s important to state that these are just a small handful of the safari parks and reserves you’ll find dotted across the African continent. And, Etosha National Park in Namibia and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia are also well worth considering.

Ready to get closer to nature? Check out Intrepid’s range of African safaris today!

Feeling inspired?

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1 comment

Robin Baron December 17, 2018 - 12:28 am

Interested in short safari for my birthday o Sept. 13

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