Africa is not only a continent blessed with amazing and diverse people but also with the most amazing wildlife in the entire world. It is not surprising that a number of people embark on some of Africa’s rugged roads to get up close and personal with Africa’s wild animals. But choosing the best national parks in Africa to go for an ultimate safari is not the easiest task.
From the famous Kruger national park in South Africa, Serengeti national park in Tanzania to Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, the list is endless given that there are over 268 national parks in Africa. But to make it easier for you to choose the best safaris in Africa, here are the best national parks in Africa to add your bucket list.
The Best National parks in Africa
1. Kruger National Park, South Africa
Located in North East of South Africa, Kruger national park is the biggest game reserve in the country and arguably the most famous in Africa. Spanning areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, Kruger national park is the ultimate safari destination for visitors to South Africa.
Designated as a Unesco site, Kruger harbors the “Big five” – Buffalo, Lion, Elephant, Lion, and Rhino (both the white and the black). You also have a chance of spotting cheetahs and the endangered African dogs that make up for 147 mammals in this reserve.
Whether you choose to book a tour company for game drives or go for a self-drive, Kruger national park will make your encounter with wildlife more closer and rewarding.
Though the main reason for traveling to Kruger is to enjoy the African animals, a safari in this place will take you back in the stone age period as you learn more about the interesting human history with evidence of people who used to live here 500,000 years ago plus the Stone age archaeological sites that were discovered within the reserve.
2. Chobe National Park, Botswana
If you’re looking for the best place for safari in Africa, then Chobe national park in Botswana is your ultimate destination. Located in northern Botswana, Chobe covers an area of 11,700 square kilometers making it the third-largest national park in the country.
Chobe national park is divided into 4 distinct areas including Savuti, Linyanti, Nogatsaa and Chobe riverfront which has the largest concentration of wildlife within the park given the fact that it is the main source of water for all animals in the park.
In Chobe national park, you will not only have the chance of spotting the big five but also Zebras, Giraffes, Red Lechwe, Hippos, big herds of buffalos and different bird species that are over 450. And with approximately 120,000 elephants in the park, Chobe national park has the most number of Elephants in Africa.
To enjoy a safari in Chobe national park, you must be having a 4×4 wheel drive (since the roads are sandy) if you’re on a self-drive in Botswana but you can also just hire a tour company to do everything for you.
Other than enjoying game drives in Chobe, you can also go for a river cruise along Chobe river to enjoy the wildlife in style as you get up close with the aquatic animals or even elephants that might be enjoying a swim in the river.
Pro tip* Sunset time is the best time to go for a cruise along Chobe River.
Chobe national park might not be the largest in Botswana but it is the most visited in the country and definitely one of the best game parks in Africa worth visiting.
To know everything about this great safari destination in Africa, read this complete guide to Chobe national park for details on when to go, where to stay, what to pack and what to expect.
3. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Commonly known for its annual Wildebeest migration, Masai Mara is one of the best safari parks in Africa located in the southwest of Kenya. It spans an area of 1,510 square kilometers with over 95 species of mammals and over 570 species of birds.
Masai Mara together with its neighboring national park, Serengeti in Tanzania is part of the greater Serengeti – Mara ecosystem which makes it one of the best safari destinations in Africa.
Masai Mara national reserve is highly populated with lions, leopards, cheetahs, and elephants which increases the chances of spotting them while game viewing. Though the big fives are all in this reserve, the major reason why tourists from all around the world embark on this African safari is to see the Geat migration.
The great migration is truly the best display of wildlife behavior in the world where millions of wildebeest, zebras, Thomson’s gazelle cross Mara river to and from Serengeti in search of greener pastures. The Great Migration is indeed one of the incredible African adventures that everyone should experience at least once.
Even though any time is great to enjoy wildlife in Masai Mara, the best time to visit would be around July and October to enjoy the spectacular show of the great migration.
4. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
If tracking gorillas has been on your bucket list for so long, traveling to Bwindi Impenetrable National park in Southwest Uganda is your chance to tick it off.
Bwindi is home to half of the remaining mountain gorillas in the world which are estimated to be around 400 (with in the park) and one of the places where you can get up close and personal with gorillas that have been habituated to be tracked.
This UNESCO enlisted national park that is part of the Bwindi impenetrable forest lies on the edge of the rift valley with impressive biodiversity. On top of harboring the endangered mountain gorillas, the impenetrable forest is habitat to over 120 species of mammals, 348 bird species, 220 species of butterflies and amazing flora. In fact, Bwindi impenetrable national park is among the most diverse forests in East Africa.
The experience of tracking gorillas in Bwindi is worth a million bucks and one to remember. From the excitement that builds up while trekking through the forest to the moment you encounter the gorillas – it is an incredible moment that can only be felt by actually being there making Bwindi one of the top safaris in Africa that should be experienced by every wildlife enthusiast.
5. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Just like Masai Mara in Kenya, Serengeti national park is most famous for its annual wildebeest migration – the most spectacular and unique show of wildlife in the world.
Spanning an area of 14,750 square kilometers with endless plains and priding its self with one of the largest populations of mammals in the world, Serengeti national park in northern Tanzania is the ultimate destination for a safari in Africa.
Serengeti national park is indubitably one of the best national parks in Africa with the largest concentration of lions – approximately 2,500 lions to be exact. The endless plains of Serengeti make it easy to spot the big cats; with cheetahs almost everywhere along the southeastern plains and leopards taking shade on the big trees near the Seronera River.
Visiting Serengeti National park From December to July will treat to the greatest wonder in wildlife as millions of animals including the white-bearded wildebeest and Zebras make their run as they migrate to its neighboring park of Masai Mara for greener pastures.
Whether it is to see the big fives, watch predators hunt down their prey or watch nature unfold as animals run for their survival during the great migration, Serengeti national park is one of the best safari parks in Africa that will make you fall in love with wildlife even more.
6. Etosha National Park, Namibia
Endowed with a unique landscape covered with a big salt pan of 5,000 square kilometers that makes wildlife spotting easier, Etosha National park in the northwest of Namibia is one of the best game parks in Africa.
The changing vegetation and landscape of Etosha national park from its grassland lands, dolomite hills, large camel thorn trees mixed with Mopani trees to the salt pans, make it incredibly beautiful for a game drive. The presence of numerous water holes in the park increases the chances (almost guaranteed) of spotting animals that come to quench their thirst.
The park boasts itself in having the tallest elephants on the African continent that can be seen within the thicker vegetation of the park complemented by a number of different mammal species including some of the rare and endangered ones like the black rhinoceros, lions plus the common ones like the Zebras.
Bird lovers also have an opportunity of enjoying Etosha as over 340 bird species have been recorded especially during the rainy season when the salt pans fill up with water attracting a number of them – with the commonest being the Flamingos.
So if you’re looking for Africa wildlife safaris especially in Southern Africa, Etosha national park in Namibia is a great option as it is actually one of the most easily accessible parks in the southern region of Africa even with just a 2 wheel drive.
7. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
If you’ve been longing to go for a walking safari in Africa’s bushes, then head to South Luangwa national park in Eastern Zambia in Luangwa River valley. Having given birth to the idea of walking safaris which is now a popular activity, South Luangwa national park is still one of the famous destinations for walking safari adventures.
South Luangwa or “The south” as commonly known by the locals offers an unspoiled haven of wildlife due to the few tourists who go there. This best-kept secret of Zambia harbors a large number of hippos in Luangwa river, Impala, waterbucks, giraffes, buffaloes, herds of elephants and over 400 bird species.
But the highlight of visiting South Luangwa national park is the famous walking safari where a tour guide, guides you through the African bushes as you come into close proximity with the wildlife.
Whether it is watching leopards just a few meters away or lions tending to their young ones, you’re bound to be blown away by the beauty that lies in the wilderness of South Luangwa.
8. Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana
Covering a third of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, Moremi is one of the best African game reserves bustling with incredible wildlife. In fact, it was voted the best game reserve in Africa by the African Travel and tourism association in 2008.
Moremi is quite small compared to its neighboring park of Chobe, but it is blessed with excellent landscapes of savannah grasses, marshlands, wetlands, thickly wooded areas that are home to leopards and wild dogs, lagoons and salt pans where the African safari animals congregate to drink water.
Being in the Okavango Delta region, visitors can enjoy the famous Mokoro ride (a traditional canoe) as they admire Moremi’s wildlife from the shallow waters of the Delta – this is the highlight of a trip to this game reserve.
Pro tip* Since Moremi game reserve and Chobe national park are next to each other, it’s better to combine these 2 in one trip and the best way to explore them is by going for a self-drive safari. If you don’t feel like it, you can still book your game drives with a tour company.
9. Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
One of the best safari parks in Africa that are worth visiting is Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth that is located in the southwest of the country. Over the years, Queen Elizabeth national park has become the country’s most popular destination due to the impressive lush, a number of crater lakes and the famous tree-climbing lions.
Queen Elizabeth national park has a diverse ecosystem which includes the beautiful crater laters beneath the park’s hills creating breathtaking views, savanna grasslands, ishaha plains whose trees are the resting places of the lions, views of the Kazinga channel which is filled with hippos, crocodiles, elephants, and buffalos on its banks.
The park is divided into 4 distinct areas of Mweya Peninsula for great sightseeing and accommodation, the Kazinga channel to sail on, where two lakes, Lake George and Lake Edward are connected at the same time enjoying the aquatic wildlife, the Equator and the Queen’s Pavilion for perfect views and photography of a drying salt lake and the Ishasha tree-climbing lions that provides a chance to see the tree-climbing lions.
On top of the 95 mammal species that live in the park, queen Elizabeth is also blessed with over 612 species of birds making it a great destination for bird lovers.
10. Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Famous for the backdrop view of the snow-capped peak of Mountain Kilimanjaro which is the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, Amboseli National park is the second famous park in Kenya after the Masai Mara. It is also the best place in the world to get close to free-ranging elephants.
The park is endowed with 5 different habitats including the wetland, the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli, Woodlands and Savannah creating a contrasting ecosystem perfect for nature lovers. The sparse vegetation caused by long, dry months offers some of the best opportunities to see African wildlife.
The varied vegetation of Amboseli National park has plenty of big cats like cheetahs and lions plus other animals like the impala, gazelle, waterbuck and over 600 bird species.
Amboseli National park also offers an opportunity to meet the Maasai and visit a Maasai village to get to know the way of their lives.
This list is full of National parks in East and Southern Africa which comes to show that most of the best wildlife parks in Africa are from these regions. So if you’ve always wanted to go for an African wildlife safari, I hope this list has given you great options to consider.
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