A safari holiday should be on everyone’s wish list of life’s greatest adventures
In the age of Hemingway and Karen Blixen this meant going upcountry, setting off with a tent and a rifle into the back of beyond where the wild things are.
Now the day of the hunter is done. Guns are out. Cameras are in and ecotourism is the buzzword in the bush, offering a gentler but no less thrilling introduction to the last place on earth where wildlife exists in its old abundance.
But the reasons for going on African Safari Holidays have not changed. The need to reach out and touch the wild, to spend time in the sun and under the stars and come face to face with Africa’s storybook animals, not behind bars but moving free as the wind across the savannah – these are what make this a holiday like no other.
Planning Your first Safari
For many, Africa’s main draw is its wildlife, notably in eastern and south-central countries: The International Union for Conservation of the Nature and Natural Resources estimates that more than 800 different species of mammals roam the continent. An easy way to watch wildlife is to book a private or group safari, known as an overland journey. Since safaris are often once-in-a-lifetime adventures, it’s crucial to get it right the first time.
Choosing the Right Safari
Determine what you want out of the experience, recommends Christine Dolan, who’s taken more than 50 African safaris. The great wildlife migration of East Africa? The gorillas in Central Africa? Elephants or leopards? Animal watching via horseback, elephant trek, walking tour, or mountain trek? Flying between destinations, or driving? Staying at an enclosed campsite or an unfenced one? The lap of bush luxury or a minimalist bush camp?
Researching Your Options
Get recommendations. Talk to veteran safari goers. If operators are uncomfortable providing contacts for past clients, ask them to pass along your own contact information and request a reference call. If they refuse, move on.
The Best African Safari
There are so many packages available, it’s hard for inexperienced travelers to know what the best African safari trip is when searching online.
When an experienced tour guide isn’t available to help you plan the trip, there are a few key destinations that will create the best African safari route for your next vacation.
Some of most renowned safari parks in all of Africa are located in Tanzania. Serengeti National Park is one of the most famous parks in this entire country. Tourists are able to see lions hunt, as well as herds of zebras and wildebeests migrating into the next terrain. The Ngorongoro Conservation is also located in Tanzania, this famous sites hosts the largest crater on the entire planet. There are many types of wildlife and indigenous groups living in this eastern African region.
Best African Safari in South Africa
Many people would say that the best safaris in the continent are actually located in South Africa. South Africa hosts Kruger National Park, locals and tourists say this is one of the best kept parks as far as the eye can see. People often praise this park because of the diverse and abundant sample of wildlife on display. Some of the African safari animals often found at this park include rhinos, elephants, Cape buffalo, lions, leopards, hippos, cheetahs, crocodiles and other exotic creatures as well.
African Wildlife Safari in Namibia
The most popular African wildlife safari destination in all of Namibia is the Etosha National Park. The black rhino, an endangered species, the tallest elephants in Africa and 91 different species currently call this national park home. Photographers routinely visit the waterhole at this park to see the different types of wildlife flocking to drink throughout the day. Some of the other types of animals people often see at this park include giraffe, lions, leopards and a wide variety of bird life. These animals are really the staple of the African wildlife safari.
African Safari Hunting in Botswana
The Okavango River that runs through the Kalahari Desert in Botswana is one of the most unique safaris throughout Africa. Tourists enjoy this particular safari because much of the wildlife can be observed from a canoe in the river. Most people wait until May through October to visit this safari, this is usually when the floods peak and most wildlife flocks to the islands. This is prime time to enjoy one of the many African safari hunts.
The Chobe National Park
The Chobe National Park is another destination worth visiting while traveling through Botswana. This park currently spans four unique Eco-systems and hosts over 100,000 elephants. The highest concentration of exotic animals and wildlife in Africa is located in the Chobe National Park.
It always helps to get insight from someone that has already been there, but it’s not always practical. Tourists genuinely interested in finding the best African safari experience from the vacation should make these next five destinations required checkpoints on the itinerary.
The Big Five & Top Six Unusual-looking Wildlife to see on an African Safari
The “Big 5,” which are considered the most highly desirable trophies on African safari hunts, are:
Many safari-goers travel to Africa with the hopes of seeing the “Big Five” and other iconic animals like the stunning giraffe and imposing hippo.
But what about the less flashy animals that some travelers overlook?
Sure, some might say they’re a bit strange in appearance, but their incredible adaptations have helped them not just survive, but thrive.
Here are our picks for six unusual-looking creatures that may not get the attention that their more iconic brethren receive, but they should.
It’s hard not to smile when you see warthogs prancing across the plains, which are found in most countries south of sub-Saharan Africa. Related to the domestic pig, the warthog has a large head, four tusks and a long mane down its back. The animal’s distinctive name comes from the thick bumps that protrude on either side of its head. When the males, known as boars, fight each other during mating season, the warts help protect their skin.
A herbivore, the warthog grazes on short grass and uses its snout to dig for roots and bulbs. During Africa’s dry season, it can survive several months without water. An abandoned aardvark hole is often used to sleep, protect from extreme heat or cold and rear young. If being attacked by a predator—namely lions and leopards—a warthog will often back into the hole and use its tusks to defend itself.
Warthogs can run more than 30 miles per hour. If you do spot one running in the wild, notice its bushy-tipped tail sticking straight up in the air.
The wildebeest, or gnu, is a member of the antelope family. It is found in Kenya, Tanzania and southern Africa. Both sexes have curved horns, a long head, a beard and a mane. Wildebeest bulls are loud, and when on safari, you’ll likely hear them snort and moan.
Most wildebeest need to migrate in search of grass and water, and often graze with zebra for added protection against predators—lions, cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas. The famous Great Migration occurs annually when hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra traverse more than 1,000 miles across Kenya’s Maasai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti.
Most females give birth at the beginning of the rainy season, within two to three weeks of each other. This enables more calves to survive, as predators can only hunt so many. Within minutes of being born, calves can stand and within a week they can keep step with the herd.
Nocturnal, secretive and decreasing in numbers, the pangolin is difficult to spot in the wild. The mammal is covered in overlapping keratin scales; when a big cat or hyena attacks, the pangolin rolls into an impenetrable ball to protect its vulnerable underside.
Often referred to as a “scaly anteater,” the pangolin has no teeth but uses its large, front claws; small, conical head; and long, sticky tongue to eat ants and termites from inside their nests. Pangolins have poor vision but use a strong sense of smell to find insects. While eating, they swallow sand and small stones that help grind up food in its stomach.
The pangolin typically walks on its hind legs, using its tail for balance. Found in 15 countries throughout Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, the pangolin is hunted for meat and for use in traditional medicine.
With its large beak, impressive wingspan, pink neck pouch and bald head, the prehistoric-looking marabou stork is easy to identify. It is found south of the Sahara, from Senegal to Eritrea down to the north of South Africa. The stork is sometimes referred to as the “undertaker bird” because, from behind, its wings look like a black cloak. Largely scavengers, marabou storks can often be found alongside vultures, feeding on carcasses. They also congregate at human garbage sites where they feed on scraps. It’s possible to see them in groups of several thousand.
When in flight, the marabou stork looks quite graceful, with its head drawn back and hollow-boned legs stretched behind it. The legs are dark in color, but because the bird defecates on them, often appear white.
Found in Eastern and Southern Africa, the nocturnal bat-eared fox is a small member of the dog family. It eats primarily termites, ensuring a plentiful and dependable food supply. The species’ huge ears allow it to hear prey underground, listen for signs of potential danger and communicate with one another. Sharp, pointy teeth help the animal rapidly chew its food.
The bat-eared fox evades predators by running quickly in a zig-zag pattern or darting into its den, which often has multiple entrances. Bat-eared foxes are usually monogamous. The male stays in the den to protect and care for the cubs while the female looks for food to ensure that she’s able to produce enough milk.
With its indiscriminate eating habits, cackling “laugh” and conflict with humans, the hyena has developed a dubious reputation. The intelligent carnivore is an impressive hunter with complex social dynamics.
The spotted hyena, recognizable by its dark spots and sloping, long neck, is found in many African nations, including Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Namibia. Within the hierarchy of the social group, called a clan, the females outrank the males, with the matriarch dominating. Females are larger and more aggressive than the males, and they are solely responsible for cub rearing.
Hyenas generally hunt in groups, allowing them to take down much larger animals like wildebeest. Strong jaws enable them to eat almost every part of a carcass, and strong stomach acids aid in digestion. Hyenas will also scavenge, eating what remains of another predator’s kill.
Often considered a pest, hyenas’ numbers are decreasing; farmers are known to kill them to protect livestock.
Choosing the wildlife safari which is best for your trip to Africa depends enormously on you: what you want to see, how you like to travel and what kind of experiences you want. Meanwhile we hope that the ideas above will offer inspiration.