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The 9 Best Countries in Africa for a Safari in 2024

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Lori Zaino
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Lori Zaino

Senior Content Contributor

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Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lan...
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Michael Y. Park

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Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and que...
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While Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of the most popular destinations on the African continent to see the Big 5 — lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and African buffalo — many other African countries offer incredible safari experiences and once-in-a-lifetime wildlife sightings, assuming you’re willing to think a bit outside the box and get off the beaten path.

These are some of the best places to go on a safari in Africa, from Botswana’s Okavango Delta to fan favorites like the Serengeti and Kruger to a safari you can do just outside of Kenya’s capital at Nairobi National Park.

1. How To Plan a Tanzania Safari

Wildabeest and zebra
See the Great Migration in the Serengeti. Image Credit: Kai Pütter via Unsplash

Most people planning a safari trip in Tanzania should head to Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its massive migrations of zebra and wildebeest. Start by organizing travel to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) or Arusha Airport (ARK). From there, you can travel by land to the Serengeti or fly to one of the park’s 7 airstrips and transfer to your desired safari lodge.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Tanzania

Most people take a safari trip to Tanzania to see the wildebeest migration, but you can also expect to spot the Big 5, cheetahs, hyenas, and leopards in the Serengeti.

Some of the best lodges in the Serengeti National Park are the Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti (which can even arrange a hot air balloon safari) and various tented camps and luxury lodges from Singita, a company focused on sustainable exploration of the region. But start saving up Marriott Bonvoy points, as Marriott announced the opening of JW Marriott Serengeti Lodge in 2026, an ideal spot to view the Great Migration between the Grumeti and Mbalageti rivers.

Travelers can also head to the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the world’s largest intact volcanic calderas, where you can also view the Big 5, zebras, impalas, hippos, and more. You may also spot flamingos there.

Birders or those who want to avoid larger crowds should consider Tarangire National Park, which has one of the largest elephant populations in Africa, more than 500 bird species, and a wildlife migration that’s not as large as the Serengeti’s but impressive nonetheless.

Besides taking more traditional safaris, visitors can go chimpanzee trekking in Tanzania in Gombe Stream National Park, one of Africa’s smallest national parks (and only accessible by boat).

Best Time To Go on a Safari in Tanzania

The best time to visit Tanzania for a safari is June to October, the dry season in the Serengeti. This is when the bush is thin and you can see more wildlife, including the Big 5. However, May through June is when visitors can see the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. Those who want to view wildebeest calving should visit in January and February. And if you’re looking for a Tanzania safari on a budget, months like April and early May can offer better prices and fewer crowds.

See the most wildlife at Ngorongoro Crater from December to February and June to September, which are the months with the driest weather, when you can spot herds out in search of water. For Tarangire National Park, the best time for migrations is the June to November dry season, where you can spot many different animals grazing around and drinking from the Tarangire River.

When it comes to chimpanzee trekking, it’s best to go between May and October in the dry season, when the forest flora is short and trails are less muddy. Keep in mind these experiences require permits, and most companies require visitors to be over the age of 15.

2. How To Plan a Kenya Safari

Hot air balloon kenya
A hot air balloon floats over Masai Mara. Image Credit: sutirta budiman via Unsplash

Some of the best African safaris in Kenya allow you to see the Great Migration and the Big 5 (just as you can in Tanzania). Masai Mara National Reserve is probably the most popular spot. Start by flying into the main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International (NBO) in Nairobi, then pop over to the nearby Nairobi Wilson Airport (WIL) for shorter, domestic hops to airstrips closer to the park.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Kenya

Besides the Big 5, you can also expect to see animals like cheetahs, hyenas, gazelles, and wildebeest on a safari. Our top pick for lodging would be the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge, one of the few safari accommodations in Africa you can book using points and miles. The all-inclusive property features 20 luxury tents overlooking the Talek River.

Another iconic riverside camp is the Governor’s Camp, a collection of luxury tents overlooking the Mara River, where you can spot hippos and crocodiles. Both hot air balloon safaris and walking safaris are popular in the region, offering unique ways to enjoy the region’s flora and fauna. As the Maasai are one of the largest tribes in Africa, don’t forget to visit local villages and experience some of the tribe’s unique cultural practices.

Amboseli National Park at the base of Kilimanjaro is another Kenyan destination to experience a safari. Here, you can see the Big 5 and more than 600 types of birds. You can also get close-up views of large elephant herds. Samburu National Reserve is another popular safari destination, known as one of the best Kenyan destinations to spot leopards.

And if you’re extra short on time, remember that Kenya is one of the only countries in Africa where you can spot wildlife just a short drive from a capital city. Nairobi National Park is just a few miles outside of Nairobi, home to animals such as leopards, lions, black rhinos, and giraffes.

If you’re dying to stay at the famous Giraffe Manor (a hotel where the resident giraffes poke their heads into your bedroom window each morning) but it’s too expensive or fully booked, you can visit the Giraffe Center instead.

‌Best Time To Go on a Safari in Kenya

In most cases, the best time to take a safari in Kenya is between June and October, the dry season. You’ll be able to catch the wildebeest migration in Masai Mara in September. November and December can offer lower prices and fewer crowds. March through May is also a more affordable time to visit, but heavy rain or flooding may disrupt your trip.

Hot Tip:

There aren’t many opportunities to use your points and miles for safari lodges, but if the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge is on your list (or you want to start saving up for the JW Marriott Serengeti for a 2026 safari), building up a stash of Marriott Bonvoy points is a great plan. Consider getting a co-branded Marriott Bonvoy credit card. Amex Membership Rewards points from a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Ultimate Reward points from cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve® or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card transfer to the Marriott Bonvoy program at a 1:1 ratio.

‌3. How To Plan a Botswana Safari

Those looking for a more remote, intimate safari experience should consider Botswana. The country is a bit more difficult to get to, making it feel far-flung and offering an authentic African safari experience. As tour operators need to adhere to strict conservation requirements, safaris in Botswana are often smaller and more exclusive, which is why safari prices in Botswana can also be more expensive. Anyone in the market for a water safari will likely appreciate Botswana, as some of the best ways to spot wildlife are by boat or even canoe.

If you’re coming from abroad, you may fly into Sir Seretse Khama International Airport (GBE), just outside of Gaborone. Still, many safari camps are much closer to the Maun Airport (MUB) or Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport (LVI), which you can get to from hubs in South Africa.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Botswana

Lions Drinking
Lions drink water in the Okavango Delta. Image Credit: Christo Ras via Pixabay

One of the most unique and popular destinations for a Botswana safari is the Okavango Delta, grassy flood plains home to the Big 5 and more. Here, you can explore the area by water safari on small boats or even canoes, as well as on land — both walking safaris and driving safaris. Make sure to keep an eye out for African wild dogs. There are less than 6,600 left in the wild, and many reside in this area. Stay at Xigera Safari Lodge in Moremi Game Reserve, an intimate lodge with just 12 suites and the stunning 32-foot baobab treehouse suite.

Chobe National Park is another emblematic destination in Botswana for a safari, especially if you’re in the market to support female guides. Guests at the Chobe Game Lodge can book a female guide as part of an all-female safari guide team, the Chobe Angels. Boat up and down the Chobe River, spotting lions, buffalo, elephants, and more along its banks.

For something different, consider a safari in the Kalahari Desert. Here, you can ride horses through salt pans, sand dunes, and savannas, go fishing, ride camels, hike, or even take a cycling safari. Keep an eye out for oryx, giraffes, and meerkats.

‌Best Time To Go on a Safari in Botswana

Similar to the aforementioned countries, the dry season in many areas of Botswana runs from May to October and is one of the best times to visit, as much of the wildlife comes out in search of watering holes. However, December to April is the rainy season, turning the Kalahari Desert into a green and blossoming paradise, making it the perfect time to visit this unique region.

‌4. How To Plan a Namibia Safari

Namib Desert Antelope
Namibia is a unique destination for a safari. Image Credit: Jürgen Bierlein via Pixabay

Namibia is a special place for a safari because not only can you see 4 out of the Big 5 in places like Etosha National Park, but you can also see a distinct collection of wildlife in the Namib Desert in Namib-Naukluft National Park. Namibia is more difficult to get to than many other safari spots, especially from Europe and the U.S., so most visitors come from destinations like South Africa first.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Namibia

The most popular place in Namibia for a more traditional safari is Etosha National Park. One of the largest game reserves in Africa, it’s home to large populations of elephants, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, leopards, black rhinos, and black-faced impalas, among many others. There are several accommodations within the park, but the more luxurious, like Mokuti Etosha and Ongava Lodge (built into a rocky enclave), can be found just outside the park. Ongava Lodge is also home to an airstrip, and you can fly there from Namibia’s capital airport, Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), in Windhoek.

Sossusvlei is where the landscape changes, so don’t expect a traditional experience in this red-dune salt and clay pan. Part of Namib Naukluft National Park and Desert, it’s so vast you may want to explore it by hot air balloon to take it in from above. Hike dunes like Big Daddy, explore the ancient trees at clay pan Deadvlei, or traverse the entire area by 4×4 or quad.

While this desert landscape may seem barren, keep an eye out for wildlife like hyenas, jackals, foxes, ostrich, and geckos. Sossusvlei offers accommodation for all budgets, but luxury travelers should plan to stay at the andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, home to 10 glass suites from which you can admire the sparkling, starry night sky (the NamibRand Nature Reserve is an International Dark Sky Place).

And don’t discount Namibia’s barren Skeleton Coast — you may spot desert elephants, cheetahs, black rhinos, ostriches, lions, hyenas, and more. Named for the whale and seal bones once scattered on its beaches but now known for its numerous shipwrecks, it’s also home to Cape fur seals, too. Explore the area on foot, boat, surfboard, or quad.

Best Time To Go on a Safari in Namibia

June through September is the driest and best time to visit Etosha, as animals are crowding around sparse watering holes. The same goes for Sossusvlei when the dry season (May to October) brings crisp, blue skies that juxtapose beautifully against the ochre desert sands. However, those heading to the Skeleton Coast may prefer to travel between May and December. Although November and December bring some showers and fog, the weather also gets warmer at this time of year.

Hot Tip:

There’s a lot to know when planning a safari. Our safari adventure guide has updated tips on finding accommodation, booking travel, and packing for your upcoming African safari.

‌‌5. How To Plan a Uganda Safari

gorilla Uganda
Uganda is one of the few places in the world where you can spot gorillas in the wild. Image Credit: Max Christian via Unsplash

Although visitors can see animals like elephants, hippos, and lions on a Uganda wildlife safari, the main call of this African country is gorillas in the wild. About 400 mountain gorillas call Uganda home, which is about half of the mountain gorilla population left in the world. Gorilla safaris are different from more traditional safaris. In lieu of driving around in a Jeep-style vehicle, gorilla trekking is all about getting up into the hills to see these giant creatures in their natural habitat.

Chimpanzee trekking is also popular in Uganda, as are birding safaris. Most travelers start their adventure by flying into the Entebbe Airport (EBB) and then taking a quick domestic flight to smaller airports. However, visitors planning to gorilla trek in Uganda may find it faster to fly to Kigali International Airport (KGL), Rwanda’s capital, then drive to the national parks.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Uganda

The most popular location for a safari in Uganda is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, known for birding, forest elephants, chimpanzees, and, of course, mountain gorillas. There is some gorilla trekking in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, but your chances of spotting gorillas are higher in Bwindi, as this park has more gorilla groups.

For gorilla trekking in general, many visitors are stuck between Uganda and Rwanda. When it comes to Rwanda versus Uganda for gorilla trekking, budget travelers ready for an adventure should select Uganda, where gorilla trekking permits for either park cost $800 per person per day. (It’s nearly double in Rwanda, as we’ll outline below). You must be at least 15 to get a permit.

However, those heading to Uganda should be ready for an adventure, as the treks can be tougher and longer. Always book permits well in advance.

If you go to Bwindi, stay within the park at cozy lodges like Buhoma or just outside the park at Mahogany Springs, perched along the Munyanga River. Birders may want to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park, home to more than 600 bird species, plus tree-climbing lions.

Best Time To Go on a Safari in Uganda

Visit UNESCO World Heritage Site Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for gorilla trekking between June and September and December and February. Since you’ll be hiking along hilly, forested trails, it’s better to go during the dry season, when it’s less muddy and slippery. The same times of year are best for visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park, though March through May are some of the best times for birding.

6. How To Plan a Rwanda Safari

Nyungwe National Park
The green hills of Nyungwe National Park. Image Credit: Faustin T via Unsplash

Rwanda safaris can be on the expensive side, and they’re best for adventure travelers who are also ready to splurge. The country offers some of the most accessible gorilla trekking but also some of the most costly.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Rwanda

Start with a flight into Kigali (KGL), then take the 2.5-hour drive to reach the country’s most renowned destination for viewing mountain gorillas, Volcanoes National Park. The park itself is stunning, home to 5 volcanoes and a lush, hilly rainforest, home to mountain gorillas, elephants, buffalos, and nearly 200 bird species. Permits start at $1,500 per person per day, and they only issue 96 per day, so it’s important to book in advance. Stay at one of the 6 conical, luxury bird nest villas at Bisate, which overlooks an amphitheater formed by volcanic cones.

And yes, if you’re in the market to see the Big 5 after you’ve spotted the elusive mountain gorillas, head to Akagera National Park. It borders Tanzania and is one of the largest protected wetlands in Africa. Spot elephants, lions, black rhinos, buffalos, hippos, hyenas, zebras, antelopes, and more than 500 different types of birds, including the shoebill stork.

Down south, aid in rainforest conservation by visiting Nyungwe National Park, a UNESCO-listed site that’s home to 13 of Africa’s primates (including chimpanzees) and a stunning canopy bridge where you can walk amid the towering treetops

Best Time To Go on a Safari in Rwanda

The best time to visit Volcanoes National Park is during the dry seasons, which run from mid-December to early February and June to mid-September. However, if you find yourself there from March to May, make sure to view the many butterfly species that come along with the heavy rains. The dry periods are also the best times to visit Nyungwe National Park and Akagera National Park.

Hot Tip:

Some countries on this list require U.S. citizens to obtain a visa. Others, such as South Africa, require 2 full, consecutive blank pages in your passport per entry. Some require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months after your visit. Some require you to have certain vaccines, or you may need to take malaria medication. Check passport, permit, visa, and vaccination requirements before booking travel.

7. How To Plan a South Africa Safari

Giraffe in South Africa
A giraffe in South Africa. Image Credit: Kelly Arnold via Unsplash

South Africa is the most popular African country for a safari, but that doesn’t necessarily make planning any easier. With so many different game reserves, tour companies, and other options, it can be difficult to decide exactly where to go. The good news is, because there are so many choices, it’s easy to find a safari that fits your budget and travel style. Start by flying into either Cape Town (CPT) or Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo Airport (JNB). From there, many safaris have private airstrips, but you can also fly into smaller airports like Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) or Hoedspruit (HDS) and be on your way to viewing the Big 5.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in South Africa

Start by deciding if you’d like to visit a state-run or private game reserve. Popular state-run game reserves include Kruger National Park and Addo Elephant National Park, which is actually home to the Big 7 (the Big 5 plus the great white shark and the southern right whale, found within the park’s marine section). Pilanesberg National Park also features the Big 5, while Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is known for its big cats. These larger parks often offer more budget-friendly safaris, though they can get crowded during peak season.

Luxury travelers may prefer a more exclusive safari experience, where a lodge or tented camp on a private game reserve includes all the safari excursions. Some of the best private game reserves for a luxury African safari experience include Sabi Sand, Phinda, Timbavati, Kwande, MalaMala, Amakhala, and Phinda, among many others. Choosing a game reserve and safari lodge may come down to where you want to base your trip: You can start in Johannesburg or Cape Town. While Johannesburg is the most convenient hub for visiting Kruger, Cape Town is known for its immense beauty and unique cultural offerings and is a favorite among seasoned travelers.

Best Time To Go on a Safari in South Africa

‌Go on a South African safari during the dry season, where less vegetation makes it easier to spot animals, which you can often find gathering near rivers and watering holes. Most of the country’s wildlife parks see their dry season between May and September. However, this is when the Western Cape sees rain, so if you’re heading to that area of the country, it may be best to go to this region in the other months.

‌8. How To Plan a Zambia Safari

Hippos in river
Hippos splash in Zambia. Image Credit: Scheidt via Pixabay

If you’re in the market for something a bit more off the beaten path, consider a safari in Zambia. Start by flying into the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN) in the nation’s capital, Lusaka. Then, catch a short flight to Mfuwe Airport (MFU), which is the hub for South Luangwa National Park, the most popular area in the country for a Zambia safari, where you can spot wildlife such as leopards, hippos, and rare Thornicroft giraffes. Or, fly to the Royal or Jeki airstrips to visit Lower Zambezi National Park.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Zambia

‌South Luangwa National Park is the ideal destination for walking and driving safaris, as the Luangwa River can be unpredictable, so boat safaris aren’t common. Those who want to see wildlife by boat should visit Lower Zambezi National Park, where you can paddle through the Zambezi River via canoe with expert guides who can help you spot all kinds of wildlife, including elephants, hippos, and birds.

The nice part about a safari in Zambia is that it’s appropriate for any budget. Stay at cozy river lodges, in luxury tents, or open-air villas. The Old Monodoro camp in Lower Zambezi has 5 chalets — and don’t be surprised if you find an elephant sipping water out of your outdoor tub in the morning. Elephants also regularly walk through the open-air lobby at Mfuwe Lodge in South Luangwa.

Best Time To Go on a Safari in Zambia

Most lodges in South Luangwa National Park and Lower Zambezi National Park are only open during the dry season between March and October. To have the full Zambia safari experience, booking your trip during this period is best.

‌9. How To Plan a Zimbabwe Safari

Elephant mom and baby
Elephants play in Zimbabwe. Image Credit: Bruce Lipton via Pixabay

Most travelers combine a visit to Victoria Falls with a Zimbabwe safari. The best way to do this is to fly to Victoria Falls International Airport (VFA), which is about a 20-minute drive to the falls.

Where To Go and What To See on a Safari in Zimbabwe

Just a short drive from Victoria Falls, you’ll find Zambezi National Park (a completely different park than the aforementioned Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia). This park features the Big 4 (everything but rhinos). You can also cross the border into Zambia via a quick drive to visit Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, where you can spot elephants, buffalo, giraffes, zebras, and white rhinos.

If you’re hoping to spot the Big 5, Hwange National Park is just over an hour’s drive away, though you’ll have to look hard to find rhinos, as they’re few and far between. You can even do horseback safaris through this park, getting up close and personal with wildlife on your horse. Plan to stay at Davidson’s Camp, where the en suite tents look out over a watering hole for prime wildlife-watching from your room.

Victoria Falls is also just an hour’s drive from Chobe National Park in Botswana, home to one of the world’s largest elephant populations.

Best Time To Go on a Safari in Zimbabwe

June to September is the best time for a safari in Zimbabwe, and June is an especially beautiful time to see Victoria Falls, as you may catch the tail end of the rainy season, bringing powerful sprays and cascades. However, those visiting Hwange to birdwatch should visit from November to April, when the migratory birds return from the north.

Final Thoughts

When planning a safari, you have endless possibilities to consider. But knowing you can visit other countries besides just Tanzania or South Africa may make it easier to create a safari trip that fits your timing, budget, and travel style. Whether gorilla trekking, birdwatching, or a traditional safari searching for the Big 5, these African countries have got you covered.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which African country has the most wildlife?

Tanzania has an estimated 4 million animals, but countries like South Africa, Botswana, and Kenya are also excellent places to view wildlife or take a safari vacation.

Which African country is the safest for safaris?

Botswana is considered one of the safest African countries. It’s politically stable and has low crime rates. Rwanda is also safe for tourists, and Namibia is also a safe country for a safari.

What country in Africa has the most safaris?

South Africa has numerous public and private game reserves, making it an easy place to find a safari, no matter what part of the country you’d like to visit. The top safari destination in South Africa is Kruger National Park.

Is Tanzania or Kenya better for safaris?

Both Tanzania and Kenya are excellent destinations for a safari. Tanzania is often considered better because it has so many animals, but Tanzania safaris can often be very expensive. However, seeing the Masai Mara villages and embracing Kenyan culture is a wonderful addition to seeing wildlife in Kenya. You can’t go wrong with a safari in either destination!

Lori Zaino's image

About Lori Zaino

Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lanka, Sicily, and Myanmar.

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