A fairly small national park, Aberdare is in Kenya's Central Highlands. One of the more scenic and tropical parks, it is home to the Big 5, as well as some rare forest-dwelling game like the shy bongo antelope. Within easy striking distance of Nairobi, the Aberdare National Park has some original, historical safari lodges, and offers a unique safari experience in spectacular scenery.
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Probably second only to the Maasai Mara in popularity, Amboseli is a fairly small park known for its vast elephant herds. They're often photographed with nearby Mount Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. Only 200 km from Nairobi, Amboseli combines well with a number of other game parks for an outstanding Kenyan safari experience.
Don't be fooled by the fact that Arusha National Park is small (552 km2). Within its borders, it has a diverse topography and wonderful wildlife. From the rugged peaks of Mount Meru to the marshy depths of the Ngurdoto Crater where warthog wallow, to monkey-filled montane forest and rolling grassy hills on which giraffe and zebra graze, there's plenty to see here.
Balule Private Game Reserve is a collection of private game farms and reserves with no fences between them, allowing for free movement of game throughout the 2 million hectare Greater Kruger conservation area. The perennial Olifants River flows through the centre of the reserve, which attracts a wide variety of wildlife to this plentiful water supply.
The Chobe National Park is one of the most popular game reserves in Botswana. Situated in the far north of Botswana, Chobe includes the Savute and Linyanti regions which are known for high concentrations of lion and elephant. However, Chobe is best known for the Chobe River floodplain, where herds upon herds of animals gather in the dry season between June and October. The game reserve is most easily accessed from Kasane, a town just to the east of the park on the banks of the Chobe River, close to the border with Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.
Etosha National Park is Namibia's top game-viewing destination and rated as one of the best safari destinations in Africa. Covering some 22 270 square kilometres of dramatic landscapes in northern Namibia, Etosha is home to a rich diversity of wildlife and birds, despite its stark appearance. The open terrain and sparse vegetation are ideal for spotting animals, especially when they congregate at watering holes during the winter months from June to August. The unique Etosha Pan stretches out over about a quarter of the park in an endless dry expanse where mirages rise in the heat, except when the rains come and transform the barren desert into shimmering, shallow lakes.
Formerly Hluhluwe–Umfolozi Game Reserve, this is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa (1895) and, for many, certainly the most scenically beautiful reserve in southern Africa. It's also the only state-run park in KwaZulu-Natal province with the Big 5.
Hwange National Park is Zimbabwe's largest and most popular game reserve; arguably the best safari destination in Zimbabwe. There is a wide variety of habitats and vegetation types, including dry Kalahari-type bushveld, mopane shrubland, acacia savanna, huge open grasslands, vast wetlands and teak forests. This diversity attracts a variety of wildlife, making Hwange an excellent choice for an African safari. It's also close to Victoria Falls and the two destinations can easily be combined in one safari itinerary.
This 332,000-hectare park has three major lake systems, eight inter-linking ecosystems, 700-year-old fishing traditions, the majority of South Africa's remaining swamp forests, Africa's largest estuarine system, 526 bird species and 25,000-year-old coastal dunes – among the highest in the world. The name iSimangaliso means miracle and wonder, which aptly describes this special and scenic place.
Known for its diverse landscapes and abundance of game, Katavi National Park's drawcard is its remoteness. This has ensured that the area has remained completely unspoilt, with few visitors, allowing a safari guaranteed to make you feel like the only people on earth! With large populations of elephant, lion, hippo and more, game viewing is beyond spectacular, especially during the dry season when water sources are few.
The Klaserie Game Reserve is a privately run game reserve which forms part of the Greater Kruger Park. You'll find a variety of safari lodges here, ranging from rustic bush camps and walking trails to luxury game lodges. Klaserie offers a tranquil, private and unhurried safari experience. Guest numbers are low and the lodges are small and intimate.
The Greater Kruger National Park is South Africa's premier safari destination: it's the largest wildlife conservancy in Africa, set in one of the most accessible yet unspoilt wilderness areas in South Africa. It encompasses the Kruger National Park and a number of adjoining private reserves which share unfenced boundaries with the park; including Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Klaserie and Balule Game Reserves, which are home to a wide variety of private game lodges, each with its own brand of style and luxury.
This vast, unspoiled wilderness area in Botswana's northern region comprises the extensive Kwando/Linyanti River system. Game-rich and scenic, this area is more remote than some of the other game reserves in Botswana. It offers private, informal safaris without any of the restrictions of national parks. Expect night game drives, bush walks, off-road game drives, canoe and mokoro game viewing and even horseback riding safaris.
What was once a farming area with huge livestock ranches, Laikipia is today one of Kenya's most progressive and biggest success stories in conservation. It's a vast, sprawling area with a wealth of wildlife said to be even better than that of the famous Maasai Mara.
The spectacular alkaline Lake Manyara forms the centre point of this small and very beautiful park with surprisingly diverse fauna and flora. A circuit drive through the park passes through forest, wetlands, grassy plains and acacia forests, offering views of different animals and multitudes of birds. Elephant, hippo, giraffe, tree-climbing lion and baboon are just a few of the game that call Manyara home.
Two of the better-known lakes in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha are within easy reach of the capital, Nairobi. Each offers a distinctive safari experience and are often included in a Kenyan safari.
Lower Zambezi National Park is found in a vast valley created by a huge rift in the Earth's crust, through which the mighty Zambezi River flows. The mineral-rich deposits from ancient volcanoes deposited here over millennia have created a lush, tropical paradise for a large assortment of vegetation and wildlife, mirrored on its opposite banks by Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe.
The Maasai Mara, Kenya. Also sometimes written as the Masai Mara. It's said that you won't find a greater abundance of game anywhere in Africa, as you will in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Park. Apart from the Big Five, the reserve is home to an incredible variety of wildlife in large numbers; like the annual wildebeest migration, involving over 1.5 million animals.
Madikwe is one of South Africa's popular Big 5 safari destinations for those looking for a malaria-free safari. It's especially family friendly as there's no need for malarial prophylactics. Most lodges in Madikwe Game Reserve welcome children and offer specially designed child-friendly programmes to keep the little ones busy and to help them really enjoy their safari experience, too.
The Mahale Mountains National Park is situated on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika in remote western Tanzania. It's spectacularly beautiful, with the backdrop of the Mahale Mountains and lush, tropical flora. The main attraction is walking safaris to observe the chimpanzees who live here. They share their forest paradise with a range of other primates, mammals and beautiful birds.
Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe is one of the few wilderness areas where it's possible to explore on foot (either guided or on your own) or by canoe. Roads are few and far between so game driving is by 4x4. It's a pristine, unspoilt paradise, with abundant game, spectacular scenery and an incredible variety of birds.
The Manyeleti Game Reserve is one of the hidden gems in the Greater Kruger conservation area. Situated adjacent to the Kruger National Park, between the famous Sabi Sand and Timbavati game reserves, this 24,000 hectare reserve is home to the Big Five and offers excellent game viewing opportunities. Manyeleti is not as busy as the Kruger Park or the Sabi Sand, and offers an excellent safari experience.
Matusadona National Park, located in the heart of Zimbabwe's Zambezi Valley on the shores of Lake Kariba, offers some of the country's most rewarding game viewing opportunities and is often best explored on foot. Walking safaris are the perfect way to investigate the ruggedness of Matusadona's wilderness which ranges from shoreline grassland and mopane woodland to mountain acacia woodland on the escarpment.
Although Meru National Park was made famous by Joy Adamson's "Born Free" books, it remains largely undiscovered and untamed. With its rugged jungle, rivers, swamps and grasslands, game viewing opportunities are excellent. Neglected on safari bucket lists for years, it has been restored to its former glory while evading the hordes of safari visitors.