“Safari” is one of the most inspiring words in adventurous travel. Seeing some of the planet’s greatest wildlife in their native habitats is an unforgettable experience. Whether by a guided sunrise just minutes from your lodge, or the exhilaration of a jeep ride deep into the savannah, no safari will be the same -- each will reveal entirely new memories.
When Africa was still colonized, big game hunters came on safari to shoot wild animals and return home with trophies to mount. They gathered in Nairobi to compare notes on bagging what they called the Big Five: elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo.
Hunting bans and conservation-oriented TV shows have largely made the big game hunters a relic of the past (with the notable exception of poachers who kill animals for their tusks, horns or other saleable parts). An African safari -- “journey” in Swahili – is now typically populated by adventurous travelers shooting pictures and videos rather than rifles. With some magnificent African animals on the endangered lists, many travelers feel a sense of urgency to go on safari now before poachers devastate the dwindling populations of rhinos and other creatures.
Wide Variety of Safari Operators
But African countries are increasingly recognizing the economic benefits of conservation and safari travel, and a wide variety of safari operators are offering environmentally sensitive guided tours in search of big game. Seasoned guides manning four-wheel drive vehicles navigate dirt roads through vast parks in search of not just the Big Five but also giraffes, hippos, zebras, wildebeest, crocodiles and abundant bird life. And, depending on your chosen safari location, you may even encounter gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys.
While elements of wildlife viewing can be hot, bumpy, and dusty, lodging is a different story. Many African game parks now come complete with luxury lodging options, as well as more basic accommodations such as campgrounds for those on tighter budgets. But even campers can find luxury by “glamping” – glamorous camping – in tents outfitted with beds. On mobile safaris, you’ll move with your guides most evenings to new locations.
Africa is a vast continent, so it’s good to think regionally. East Africa is the classic destination. Kenya and Tanzania are home to the Serengeti, site of the largest concentration of big game animals on earth, as well as wildlife-rich Masai Mara and Ngorongoro Crater.
Uganda, Rwanda and the eastern borderlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo are best known for tracking primates – most notably gorillas -- in the wild. Central Africa’s game parks can be paired with a huge bonus: a side-trip to Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall by volume whose roaring waters spray mists hundreds of feet into the air. It straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
West Africa is less known for big game, but Ghana, Togo and other countries do offer some game viewing along with fascinating cultural exploration. Previously overshadowed by East Africa, Southern Africa is emerging as the hot new safari destination.
South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the top wildlife parks in Africa; Namibia’s arid Kunene region attracts elephants, black rhinos, and lions; and Botswana’s Okavango Delta – a wetland that forms annually from flooding in the Kalahari Desert – beckons lions, leopards, cheetahs and both black and white rhinos.
With a multiplicity of safari operators seeking your business in almost every locale, the process of selecting the right one can be confusing. That’s where Stride comes in – we’ll help you compare game parks, operators, and prices, so that you can find the African safari will best fulfill your dreams.