Which African wildlife experience is right for you?

The safari experience is constantly evolving with the likes of more sustainable options and emerging destinations. Here are some of the best areas for wildlife-spotting and how to explore them.

By Tamsin Wressell
Published 31 Mar 2021, 08:05 BST
Mountain gorilla in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park.

The bamboo and dense rainforest that covers five of the volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda form one of the last remaining refuges for mountain gorillas.

Photograph by Getty Images

Gorilla trekking

Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Forests, grasslands, heaths and swamps amalgamate to make the diverse ecosystem of this chain of dormant volcanoes in northwest Rwanda. The bamboo and dense rainforest that covers five of the volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains in Volcanoes National Park form one of the last remaining refuges for mountain gorillas. There are 10 gorilla families here, with a rare and intimate opportunity for a maximum of eight trekkers allowed to visit them for one hour each day. Rare native golden monkeys and a myriad of bird species also reside in these high-altitude forests.

January and February and June to October are the best months for gorilla sightings. Africa Sky has a five-night trip including international flights, two nights at Kigali, three at Singita Kwitonda Lodge, one-day gorilla trekking, permits and park fees from £5,799 per person. Singita Kwitonda Lodge is working to protect the endangered gorillas through habitat restoration while using natural materials to build the site and taking innovative approaches to draw in fresh air to cool the rooms rather than using air con. 

Lions resting in a tree in Serengeti National Park, in northern Tanzania.

Photograph by Getty Images

The Great Migration

Serengeti, Tanzania

Millions of zebra, wildebeest and other wildlife follow the rain north during Africa’s Great Migration between July and early October, which starts in Serengeti National Park. Of late, more local non-governmental groups have been working in Tanzania to empower local women and girls to pursue professional ambitions, making a trip to the Serengeti a great opportunity to support local female-led initiatives.

Singita runs a Serengeti Girls Run tour, raising money for local communities and conservation projects. The trip departs 28 October 2021 and includes accommodation, meals, game drives and return flights from Kilimanjaro from $3,500 (£2,528.90) per person. Qatar Airways flies from Heathrow to Kilimanjaro from £451 return.  

Marabou storks in Zakouma National Park, Chad — one of the most heavily protected areas in Africa.

Photograph by Getty Images

A really wild safari

Zakouma National Park, Chad

Zakouma National Park is putting Chad on the map with its innovative response to poaching. It’s one of the most heavily protected areas in Africa, just south of the Sahara Desert, blessed with fertile rainforest and a unique ecosystem. Heavy poaching almost destroyed the park, but in 2010 nonprofit groups stepped in with a new vision championing sustainability. 

Natural High Safaris has a seven-night trip to Zakouma’s only safari camp, Camp Nomade, with private charter access including accommodation, meals and activities from $68,000 (£49,122) for a group of up to eight. Turkish Airlines flies from Gatwick to N’Djamena via Istanbul from £413 return. 

An elephant at a waterhole in Moremi Game Reserve, on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

Photograph by Getty Images

The Big Five

Moremi Game Reserve & Khwai Private Reserve, Botswana

Botswana is one of the best countries for spotting the Big Five (elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and rhino). The Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta has an abundance of wildlife, while the private game reserve of Khwai Concession, which is just across from Moremi Game Reserve, tends to be less crowded, consisting of a network of lagoons and grassland.

Wildlife Worldwide’s new Sketchbook Safari Botswana takes place in the Khwai Private Reserve. The trip, which departs on 14 May 2022, includes a masterclass with artist Trevor Waugh, return flights from the UK, seven nights accommodation and meals from £5,995 per person. 

Marine wildlife

Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa is also one of the best places to see the Big Five under the sea — dolphins, southern right whales, cape fur seals, African penguins and great white sharks all thrive here. Cape fur seals can often be spotted at Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, while Boulder’s Beach in False Bay is known for its colony of African penguins. Numerous boat tours, meanwhile, offer the chance to see dolphins, whales and sharks.

Original Travel has a 12-day South African Safari itinerary that includes a marine safari off the coast of Grootbos Nature Park, a game drive in Madikwe Game Reserve and a bush walk in Tswalu Game Reserve. Includes flights from London to Cape Town and accommodation from £9,450 per person. 

As featured in the 2021 edition of National Geographic Traveller (UK) The Africa Collection

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