6 of the Best African Safari Destinations

Journeying out into the African wilderness in search of elusive, exotic wildlife is an experience that ranks highly on the bucket lists of many seasoned travelers. Presenting the opportunity to observe some of the world’s most impressive and endangered creatures in their natural environment, African safaris also enable tourists to support conservation efforts, their vacation dollars contributing directly toward charities and projects dedicated to protecting local wildlife and habitats. 
In addition to supporting local communities, African safaris allow travelers to visit universally significant areas, the continent boasting numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, from Namibia’s Damaraland Region to Matobo Hills National Park in Zimbabwe. In this article, we look at six iconic safari destinations in Africa, and the fascinating wildlife that visitors can encounter there. 
1. Maasai Mara National Reserve – Kenya 
Located near Tanzania in southwest Kenya, the Maasai Mara National Reserve is home to more than 95 mammal species and 570 species of birds. In terms of encounters with Africa’s Big Five—lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros, and buffalo—this sprawling national park is hard to beat. 
The Maasai Mara is one of Kenya’s largest game reserves, stretching across an area of 1,510 square kilometers, and reaching an elevation of 2,170 meters above sea level in parts. Teeming with wildlife, in addition to the Big Five, the Maasai Mara is also home to zebras, cheetahs, gazelles, giraffes, hyenas, and wildebeest.  
The Maasai Mara is named in honor of the Maasai people, the area’s ancestral inhabitants. The park was designated as a conservation area in 1961, and today is regarded as a year-round safari destination, offering a virtually ideal climate combined with an abundance of wildlife. 
2. Etosha National Park – Namibia 
Although Etosha National Park has a lower density of wildlife than other African safari destinations, what it lacks in quantity, Etosha more than makes up for in quality, boasting some spectacular desert landscapes. Located in northern Namibia, Etosha National Park is the most popular safari destination in Namibia today. 
Etosha’s vast chalk-like salt pan is approximately 130 kilometers long and 50 kilometers wide, covering almost a quarter of the national park’s total area. Most of the year, the pan is a vast expanse of cracked white mud that shimmers and shifts in the heat haze, culminating in mirages and a stunning, otherworldly terrain. Sometimes, during the rainy season, the pan fills with water, attracting pelicans, flamingos, and other water birds. 
3. Lower Zambezi National Park – Zambia 
Zambia boasts several national parks and reserves, and Lower Zambezi National Park ranks among the country’s finest. Sandwiched between the magnificent Zambezi River and the Zambezi Escarpment, what makes the park so special are the magnificent colors that cover the landscape, from the glittering blue waters of the Zambezi to the albida forest’s pastel hues to the mysterious purple escarpments. 
The Lower Zambezi is ideal for walking safaris, with visitors spending the night under canvas in a mobile camp, accompanied by a private guide. Here, vacationers can observe some 378 species of birdlife, including kingfishers, herons, bee-eaters, and sea eagles, as well as lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, wild dogs, antelopes, zebras, kudu, duiker, wildebeest, buffalo, waterbuck, and herds of elephant up to 100 strong. 
4. Chobe National Park – Botswana 
Adjacent to the Okavango Delta in northwest Botswana, Chobe National Park incorporates four distinct ecosystems, culminating in an impressively diverse array of bird and animal life. Chobe is famous for its elephants, with around 120,000 of these magnificent creatures living within the park’s borders. The park’s Savuti Marsh also boasts one of the highest year-round concentrations of wildlife in all of Africa. 
The best time to visit Chobe is during the dry season, which starts in April and ends in October. It is at this time of year that elephants and other creatures gather in huge numbers to drink from the Chobe River. 
5. Ngorongoro National Park – Tanzania 
The jewel in Ngorongoro National Park’s crown is its spectacular volcanic crater, earning the park recognition as one of the finest national parks on the whole of the African continent. The world’s largest unflooded and unbroken caldera, this majestic wonder covers some 300 square kilometers, and is 600 meters deep in parts. 
Ngorongoro National Park is home to more than 25,000 large animals, not including the nearly 2 million migratory visitors. The rainforest surrounding the crater rim teems with reedbuck, jackal and elephant, while the lake within the crater is frequented by ostriches, pelicans, and beautiful flamingos. 
6. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – Uganda 
Located on the edge of the legendary Rift Valley in southwest Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park incorporates dense rainforest that is home to mountain gorillas, a species that is critically endangered, with little more than 1,000 individuals remaining in the wild. At Bwindi, visitors can track habituated groups of gorilla on foot and experience exhilarating face-to-face encounters with these fascinating great apes. 
In addition to being home to almost half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas, the park is also populated by baboons, chimpanzees, elephant, and antelope. 

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