If you’ve never been on safari, you probably plan to do so at some point. It’s one of the most common “bucket list” wishes in the world and something that the majority of people intend to do at least once before they die. Most of us never get around to it, and we wouldn’t want you to be one of them. That’s why we’re going to attempt to whet your appetite with this handy guide to the best safari destinations in southern Africa.
You’ll note that we said “southern Africa” as opposed to “South Africa.” That was a deliberate choice. We have nothing against South Africa’s many and varied safari destinations. They’re among the very best in the world. We want to make the distinction because we’re aware that there are dozens of websites and travel guides that offer you advice on what to do and where to go in South Africa when it comes to safari. Because of that, we feel that some of the other possible destinations in the south of the continent sometimes get overlooked. We’re here to correct the balance and hopefully give you a few travel options in the process!
If you have a safari on your mind, pack your bags, renew your passport, sort out your inoculations and insurances, and head for one of the options we’re about to list.
Etosha National Park, Namibia
This is the most popular and most visited of all the safari parks in Namibia, one of Africa’s least popular and most overlooked nations. The existence of Etosha National Park is almost a secret to those who don’t even live in Africa despite the fact that it’s even bigger than the Serengeti and dwarfs Kruger National Park in South Africa. You’ll find the park right in the middle of the Etosha Pan, which spends half of the year as a lake and then half as a salty depression in the ground. It’s the dry season you’ll be more interested in, as that’s when huge numbers of zebra turn up to drink from the waterholes. They’re joined by springbok, giraffes, wildebeest, and a whole range of other exotic animals that you can’t guarantee seeing in most other places. For those who are only interested in the ‘big’ safari animals, you can be reasonably assured that you’ll also see black rhinos, lions, and elephants. Book a visit between June and November, and stick to the more upmarket camps.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Covering an area of almost fifteen thousand square kilometers on the edge of the country’s border with Botswana, Hwange National Park is the jewel in the crown of Zimbabwe’s safari scene. Perhaps the best thing about it is that you can combine a safari trip with a visit to Victoria Falls, which is only a short drive away and shouldn’t be missed if you have an opportunity to see it. Unlike several parks in this half of the continent, Hwange offers the opportunity to see leopards and cheetahs up close. Elephants are ten a penny, and lions and giraffes roam freely, too. Any time between May and October is fine to visit, and you have a choice between ‘roughing it’ at one of the earthy camping and chalet facilities or paying a little more to stay in luxury and visit one or two exclusive hides deep inside the public sector of the park, offering views and sights that those paying less will never see.
Tuli Block, Botswana
Tuli Block sits on the sands of the Kalahari Desert, a part of the world that’s been commemorated in song and poetry many times. It’s also well known as a safari destination – so much so that an online slots game called “Kalahari Desert” was recently released to slots websites. It was considered such a big deal at the time of its release that it appeared in several prominent online slots blogs and became a featured attraction on several sites. For all the virtues of the other safari locations out there, most of them haven’t been commemorated in online slots form. We can easily see why this Botswana haven was chosen. Aside from being full of elephants, lions, wild dogs, and leopards, Tuli Block benefits from its tranquil exclusivity. That may be the reason why so many flocks of rare birds come to the area every year, making this place as popular with twitchers as it is with safari tourists. If birds are your thing, you’ll want to show up between November and April. For the best of the animals, June to October is the best season.
Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
The fortunes of Majete Wildlife Reserve have risen and fallen over the past few decades. If you were to go all the way back to the 1950s, you’d find it listed among the best safari parks on the continent, but it suffered badly from neglect and under-investment during the years that followed. That all changed in 2012 when the park returned to private ownership and new money was pumped in. The new owners went all-out to bring new animals to the reserve, including elephants, black rhinos, buffalos, and lions. They’ve recently started to advertise themselves as a “Big Five” reserve for the first time in living memory, and they’re very keen to regain their lost prestige. That makes it a great time for you to visit, as prices aren’t as high as they might be years to come. The park isn’t overly large, so you shouldn’t need to spend any more than two days there to see everything, and you’d be best advised to book between May and October to get the best possible experience from your stay.
While you’re obviously not short of options when it comes to safari destinations in the area, you should be careful with seasons and weather. What might be a dry plain in the middle of the year might be under two feet of water during the rainy season, so turning up at the wrong time would be a disaster! Do your research, pack cold-weather clothes to go with your shorts, and prepare yourself for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If you don’t do it now, when will you ever get around to it?