There is much more to Africa than safari, but there's no doubt the continent's natural heritage is one of the main draws for international and local tourists alike.

For the uninitiated "safari" might mean viewing big land mammals from a 4x4, and while the Big Five game drives remain a cornerstone of the experience, these days there's so much more on offer. From walking safaris accompanied by bushmen, to kayaking expeditions or hot air balloon rides over vast inland deltas, to getting up close and personal with our closest great ape cousins.

Safari in Africa can present some ethical quandaries, too. While noble efforts are being made in indigenous and community-based tourism, ownership is generally concentrated in the hands of a small, often foreign, elite. The imagery and language of safari often draws on colonial-era undertones with glossy marketing brochures full of photographs of African workers 'serving' rich, white outsiders. While the industry increasingly wakes up to its environmental responsibilities, the simple act of flying across continents to reach Africa explodes most greenwash claims of carbon neutrality.

There are no easy answers to these problems, but a good starting point is to arrive mindful that they exist and make your choices as responsible as possible.

To help, we've organised the top insights from our team of expert Africa travel writers to curate some of the Africa's very best safari experiences. Dig in!

Heather Richardson

Get the digested read

Where to begin? When to go? How to plan? So many questions, so little time. That's why we've asked leading Tanzania safari expert Heather Richardson to answer your most frequently asked questions in this handy five-part email series.

Kenya wildebeest crossing

The wildebeest migration in Tanzania, the most iconic of Africa's safari sights

Africa's best safari experiences

The best safari activities in Africa

See the wildbeest migration in Tanzania & Kenya

Sometimes called ‘the greatest show on earth’, the wildebeest migration sees mega herds of almost two million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles continuously travel thousands of kilometres in a broadly clockwise direction from the southern Serengeti, north into Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and back again.

The migration is one of Africa's classic safari experiences, drawing visitors year round to witness this magnificent spectacle.

Staying at a mobile safari camp ensures a good chance of catching the migrating herds, as these properties are moved each season to follow the migration route. If you have the time, aim to stay at two or three safari camps in different locations in the Serengeti or the Mara, depending on when you travel.

Kenya masai mara balloon

Get a new perspective over the Masai Mara

Balloon flight over the Masai Mara

Riding high on the morning thermals above the plains is a quintessential Kenyan experience and the Masai Mara is the place to do it. From on up high you'll marvel at snake-like lines of migrating wildebeest, watch the shadow fall from an acacia tree at dawn and, if you’re really lucky, see lions or cheetah readying themselves for the a pounce.

Absolute Zambia Walking Safari

Walking safari in Zambia

Walking safari

Walking safaris make a thrilling change from shuttling around in a 4x4 or, worse, a crowded minibus. With a (well trained and usually armed) guide you'll venture deep into the bush to get up close and personal with whatever wildlife you can track. Walking safaris are typically not allowed in government run parks but are arranged in private reserves and concessions.

Walking safaris are a speciality in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, and were pioneered by renowned conservationist Sir Norman Carr in the 1950s and 1960. They continue to be one of the most popular ways to view wildlife in the park. On a walking safari, guests can see lions, leopards, elephants and learn about the flora of the park. It’s not all about big beasts however; a walking safari will allow you to get up close with a termite mound and learn about Zambia’s ecosystem.

Walking safaris can also be arranged in Kenya's Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves, three interconnected reserves on the edge of northern Kenya’s vast semi-desert wilderness. Although walking in the reserves themselves is forbidden it is possible to arrange fascinating bush walks led by Samburu tribesmen on the periphery of the reserves (the best place to organise this is the fast growing village of Archer’s Post, which is the main gateway to the reserves).

Chimpanzee Gombe Stream National Park Tanzania

Tracking chimpanzees in Gombe National Park

Chimp tracking in Gombe & Mahale Mountains National Park

In Tanzania’s far west, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Mahale Mountains National Park and Gombe National Park are widely considered to be some of the best places to see chimpanzees in Africa. It is in Gombe that legendary conservationist Jane Goodall has conducted one of the longest-running wildlife research projects on earth, and the habituated chimps here and in nearby Mahale Mountains National Park can be tracked through the forest, one of the continent's great nature experiences.

Herd at water hole South Africa Kruger national park

Elephants in South Africa's Kruger National Park

See the Big Five and more in Kruger National Park

The showpiece of South African tourism, Kruger National Park is one of the world’s most famous protected areas, and for good reason. This huge (19,485 sq km) park in the far northeast of South Africa is home to tens of thousands of mammals and birds including large numbers of all your African favourites.

The scenery is classic Africa, with the diversity of safari activities the equal of anywhere and there are endless accommodation options and safari styles available, from tented camps to luxury lodges. The park is readily accessible and, thanks to an impressive road system, easy to travel around.

Kayaking okavango botswana TAW

Kayaking the Okavango Delta

Kayaking the Okavango Delta

Pretty much every Botswana safari calls at the Okavango Delta, and pretty much every visit to the Delta features an excursion on a traditional mokoro canoe. For something entirely different, try heading out on a multi-day kayaking expedition across the Delta, from end-to-end. Two to three day trips are available, but for the adventurous the full 10-day expedition promises one of Africa's few truly unique safari experiences.

022 Gorilla Rwanda 2

Meeting the mountain gorillas in Rwanda

Go gorilla trekking in Rwanda

Today the mountain gorillas of Rwanda and Uganda are both countries' biggest draw for international visitors. Perhaps there's something about these creatures' gentle vulnerability despite their colossal size that triggers a sense of empathy for our distant cousins. Do we see something in them that we wish we saw in ourselves? Whatever the appeal, visitors who come to spend a magical moment with the gorillas describe a life-changing experience.

You can see mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For a stand-out experience (which comes at a price!) our vote is Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park.

Read more

Other guides in this series

About the authors

The Best Safaris In Africa

Stuart Butler

Stuart is an award-winning travel journalist covering safari, trekking and conservation in Africa for the Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, BBC, Bradt Travel Guides, amongst many others. He is the author of Walking With The Maasai, a journey through some of Kenya's lesser-visited Maasai lands.

The Best Safaris In Africa

Hans Cosmas Ngoteya

Hans Cosmas Ngoteya is a conservationist from Tanzania, a National Geographic Explorer, and co-founder of numerous conservation organisations including Ngoteya Wild, Landscape and Conservation Mentors Organization and Tanzania Wildlife Media Association.

The Best Safaris In Africa

Heather Richardson

Heather is an award-winning journalist and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She writes for the BBC, Sunday Times, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, Departures Magazine, among others.

The Best Safaris In Africa

Anthony Ham

Anthony has been travelling around Africa for more than a decade. He has returned many times, seeking out stories about the people and wildlife of west and north Africa.

In recent years he has broadened his horizons into more traditional wildlife haunts, exploring Kenya, Botswana and South Africa. You can see his work in Lonely Planet and Africa Geographic.

The Best Safaris In Africa

Mazuba Kapambwe

Mazuba is a freelance writer from Zambia whose travel writing has appeared on CNN Travel, Unearth Women, Culture Trip and several in-flight magazines. Her travel podcast Mwende Bwino (Go Well) was recently featured on Conde Nast Traveler’s website and listed as one of the top five Zambian podcasts. Mazuba co-wrote the Lusaka Arts and Culture guide produced by the National Arts Council of Zambia.

The Best Safaris In Africa

Charlotte Beauvoisin

Charlotte is a travel journalist and guidebook author based on the edge of Kibale Forest, Uganda. She is an expert contributor on East Africa for the Bradt Uganda Guidebook and has written for Lonely Planet, The Daily Telegraph and Fodor's. She also volunteers with Conservation Through Public Health where she works with Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Uganda's most prominent gorilla vet.

The Best Safaris In Africa

Julie Olum

Julie Olum is a nomad, writer, YouTuber and architecture graduate from Nairobi, Kenya. The hands and mind behind, she makes online content around solo travel, festivals and visa hacks for holders of “weak passports". Her love affair with travel is now a near-obsession with slow travel and exploring cultural similarities across the world.

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