Best Safaris in Africa

When driving through the scenic savanna landscape, tall grass and pristine acacia trees dot the horizon. Animals sightings are overwhelming. At first glance you will rush to your camera to take a photo of the grazing animals; giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, impala, waterbuck, and oryx.  It is incredible to think how many centuries they have roamed these lands. The real hunt while on safari is searching for the Big Five. Find elephants, rhinos, buffalo, leopards and of course lions, all come with time. On some safaris, they may come in one day.

 

We had some really crazy experiences on some of our safaris.  On the way back to our camp at dusk in Moremi Game Reserve a leopard strolled within arms length of our car. We were able to follow it for 15 minutes.  That same night wild dogs chasing prey were so close to our tent that we could feel them brushing the rain fly. Right next to Chobe, elephants share the roads with cars. We were mock charged while driving right in the middle of town! At Murchison Falls, an enormous hippo grazed for hours throughout the night right beside our tent. At Etosha, we had another encounter with an elephant charging our car, scaring us half to death.  While on our gorilla trek in Bwindi a silverback showed his dominance by growling at us that sent us flying back at least four feet. The adrenaline rush of seeing two cheetahs kill a small gazelle was definitely our highlight of Masai Mara. In the end seeing animals in their natural environment make these experiences unforgettable.

 

Have you always wanted to go to a safari, but imagined an incredibly high price? If you are looking for a good safari on a budget, we have a few recommendations. What about packing for a safari. We got you covered with a few essential items not to forget. With our top picks in Africa, you will see all the expected animals, including a good chance at the Big Five.

The Pearl of Arica, Uganda, Sipi Falls, Mount Elgon, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Fort Portal, Murchison Falls National Park, Red Chili, Enjojo, Bwindi Backpackers, Mountain Gorilla Trek, Kigali, Kampala

The Stare, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

What Animals Will I See on Safari?

We spent dozens of day on safari in 12 different parks. Aside from one weird day with limited sightings of anything, it was normal to see a lot of wildlife. Expect to see A LOT of wildebeest and antelope. Some parks have a lot of elephants and giraffe. Depending on your luck and patience, seeing Lions is common, but you may only see a few. Seeing Leopards and Rhino’s are rare. They are at many parks, but they are elusive. Leopards tend to hide in the trees while Rhino’s stay far from the vehicles.

 

Can I Go on a Safari on a Budget?

Yes, you absolutely can! Safaris in East Africa cost the most, starting with the Serengeti and Masai Mara. If you are on a tight budget, scratch your plans to visit those parks, because they will rack up a cost of several hundred each day you visit. While they are worth it, they are not budget friendly. We loved safaris in South Africa and Namibia, which have very cheap entry fees and you can self-drive in a small sedan. Renting a car is cheap in those countries, making a safari very affordable. Another way to save money on safari is to bring or rent a tent. National Parks in Namibia and SA have campgrounds and it gets expensive if you do not intend to camp.

 

Which is the Best Safari in Africa?

Each safari is unique. The landscapes create a different environment for what you are looking at each day. Some make it very difficult to spot animals, while others are wide open and much easier. Some safaris need 4×4 and typically you need to hire a driver, especially those in East Africa. Self-driving is allowed at most safaris in Southern Africa, great for those independent travelers or backpackers on a budget. Finding the best safari in Africa for YOU depends on what you are looking for, but you likely will find it at one of these park:

 

 

Best Safaris in Africa

Best Safaris in Africa 2016, Masai Mara, Kenya, Safari, Africa, Lion, Cheetah, Great Migration, Leopard

The Great Migration, Masai Mara

Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

What to Expect:

This iconic park, when one thinks of safari, rolling savannas filled with animal life unlike any other, the Masai Mara fits the bill. Popular for decades as the premier park in Africa, the action here cannot be beat. Within minutes you can see lions, rhinos, a leopard, and some cheetahs. The big 5 are all in this park and you have a good chance of seeing all of them, possibly even in one day. Come during the Wildebeest migration between July and early September for the most action and the famous river crossing, with the best time to come in early September.

  • Self driving is an option. The park requires 4×4 only.

  • Park Entry cost is $80 per day.

  • Camping is available from $7 – $15 per person outside the park gates.

 

 

Ngorongoro Crater, Masai Mara, Kenya, Safari, Africa, Lion, Cheetah, Great Migration, Leopard

Elephant in Norongoro Crater

Norongoro Crater National Park, Tanzania

What to Expect:

The Norongoro Crater is the Worlds largest inactive and unfilled caldera, with the floor itself over 100 square miles (260 sq km). The wildlife is impressive. Elephants, buffalo, giraffe and lions graze within the crater. Elephants spend their last days in the Norongoro Crater. They travel hundreds of kilometers just to make it there. Views are stunning with crater walls surrounding the flat plains, and the wildlife is dense considering the size of the crater. It is a common side excursion as a day trip while on safari at Serengeti.

  • Self driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

  • Park Entry cost is $60 per day plus 18% VAT and $40 per day for the vehicle.

  • Camping costs $30 per night per person.

 

 

Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Masai Mara, Kenya, Safari, Africa, Lion, Cheetah, Great Migration, Leopard

Serengeti Tree Climbing Lion

Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

What to Expect:

When most think of big game parks and some of the most iconic parks in Africa, Serengeti is often the first to roll off their tongue. This famous park in Tanzania borders Masai Mara to the South and is an enormous park. Hosting over 3,000 lions and 1,000 leopards, Serengeti is home to what most say is the largest population of big cats in Africa. There are also over 2 million wildebeests, of which over 1.5 million annually migrate North into Masai Mara as part of the Great Migration. Come during the migration between July and early September for the most action and the famous river crossings, with the best time to come in early September.

  • Self driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

  • Park Entry cost is $60 per day plus 18% VAT and $40 per day for the vehicle.

  • Camping costs $30 per night per person.

 

 

Best Safaris in Africa 2016, Masai Mara, Kenya, Safari, Africa, Lion, Cheetah, Great Migration, Leopard

Rhino in Etosha

Etosha National Park, Namibia

What to Expect:

This gem of a park in Namibia, not far from the scenic Namib sand dunes, is one of the top parks in Africa. It is a very large park with a central salt plan that floods during the rainy season. The park has excellent drives along the salt pan and savanna, as well as through the forest. Many natural and artificial watering holes help the animals congregate, especially during dry season. There are three main camping areas with watering holes for night viewing. The park is dense with wildlife. Lions, cheetahs, leopards, rhinos, wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, antelope, and elephants. all call Etosha home. We had several close encounters with lions. A momma cheetah attempted a kill of antelope with her two young cubs. Hundreds of giraffe would congregate for some water. Etosha was one of our favorite safaris, and is an excellent option for those on a budget. For the quality of animals and accessibility, this might be the best budget safari in Africa. The best time to visit is from May through October during the dry season.

  • Self driving is an option and 4×4 is not needed.

  • Park Entry cost is $6 per day plus $2 per car per day.

  • Campsites up to 8 people cost $18 per night.

  • For more information, check our the full article on Etosha National Park.

 

 

How to Pick a Gorilla Trek in Africa, Mountain Gorilla's, Mgahinga Gorilla Park, Bwindi, Virunga, Volcano's, Trek, Hike, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo

Male Silverback in Bwindi

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

What to Expect:

Mountain gorillas can only be found in four National Parks all bordering the Virunga Mountains. You can visit Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in Congo, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has the most mountain gorillas of all the parks, home to nearly 400 of the 900 mountain gorillas alive. Viewings are daily, and you often can track large families with several large male silverbacks as well as young gorillas. This is unique to most African safaris, that you are in search of only one species and it is entirely on foot, but the memories of this may beat all the rest. Please read the full article on How to Pick a Gorilla Trek in Africa for more information.

  • The best time to visit is from May to September when it is not rainy season. Prices are lower during the rainy season, making this a good time for those on a budget.

  • Bwindi mountain trekking costs $600 per person during the main season and $450 during the low season (April, May and November).

  • Camping is $5 per person in the national park and $7 -$10 at rest camps outside of the park.

 

 

The Pearl of Arica, Uganda, Sipi Falls, Mount Elgon, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Fort Portal, Murchison Falls National Park, Red Chili, Enjojo, Bwindi Backpackers, Mountain Gorilla Trek, Kigali, Kampala

The Hunt

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda

What to Expect:

This highly underrated park is possibly the most diverse of these parks. It hosts the Nile Rivers greatest waterfall, Murchison Falls, along with excellent game drives and Nile River scenic boat cruises. The delta here next to Lake Albert provides for excellent hippo and bird viewing. The savanna is stunning with rolling hills. We loved the unique landscape at Murchison which was littered with palm trees, a rare occurrence in the savanna. The park  is home to many giraffes, hippos, exotic birds, lions, antelope, buffalo, crocodiles and the occasional leopard. There also is chimpanzee treks available. The best time to visit is from May to September.

  • Self driving is an option and 4×4 is not needed.

  • Park Entry cost is $40 per day.

  • Camping is $8 per person at Red Chili Rest Camp.

  • Read more about Murchison here.

 

 

Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve, Elephants, Makoro Experience, Zebra, Leopard, Buffalo, Flight, Botswana

Leopard in Moremi

Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana

What to Expect:

Moremi Game Reserve in northwest Botswana sits next to the Okavango Delta, worth a visit in itself when going to Moremi. This park is one of the best safaris for self-drive enthusiasts. Thick sand roads make for fun but tough driving conditions through forests and smaller open plains. You can drive in for a couple of days, or make the longer trek through Moremi on to Chobe for a 5 to 7 day Safari. Wildlife is very dense with elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, antelope, lions, leopards, hyenas, and the rare wild dogs. The best time to visit is from June through September during dry season but when floodwaters are at its highest in the Okavango River Delta.

  • Self driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

  • Park Entry cost is $11 per day plus $5 per day per vehicle.

  • Camping ranges in cost from $15 to $50 per person depending on each campsite.

  • For more information, check our the full article on Moremi Game Reserve and the Okavango Delta.

 

 

Chobe National Park, Chobe River, Game Drive, River Cruise, Botswana,

Elephant Crossing the Chobe River

Chobe National Park, Botswana

What to Expect:

Chobe National Park is one of the premier parks in Africa and has some of the most dense animal concentrations in Africa. They host the second most elephants in Africa. Animals come for hundreds of miles to make the journey down to the Chobe River. Joined with Moremi, this park is excellent for self-drive enthusiasts. Their game drives are excellent, but the real bonus is the Chobe River. Take a sunset boat cruise and watch as elephants cross the river, hundreds of hippos eating, exotic birds, crocodiles laying out, and many other animals can be spotted. The occasional lion might be found on the banks of the river grabbing a drink. The best time to visit is from May to September.

  • Self driving is an option. They require 4×4 only.

  • Park Entry cost is $7 per day.

  • Camping ranges in cost from $15 to $50 per person depending on each campsite.

  • For more information, check our the full article on Chobe National Park.

 

 

 

What to Bring on Safari*

  • Wingspan Optics binoculars

  • Natrapel DEET free mosquito repellent

  • Camera

  • Zoom (telephoto) lens – we recommend between 200 – 400 mm. Check out the Canon 70-200mm lens for the best quality you can get!

  • Long sleeve shirt for the afternoon/sunset game drives

  • Hat

  • Waterbottle – try to help reduce plastic bottles!

  • Flip flops or comfortable sandals

 

 

*If you are considering buying any camping gear, hiking gear, or photography gear, please consider buying through the affiliate links on this page. You won’t pay for anything extra at all, but we will receive a small commission (usually 2%-5%) to help run the website. We appreciate the support!

 

 

Check out more information for some of the above parks in the full articles below:

Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls

 

Okavango Delta and Moremi Game Reserve

 

Etosha National Park Self Guided on a Budget

 

Uganda Country Guide: The Pearl of Africa

 

How to Pick a Gorilla Trek in Africa

 

Top 10 Countries to Travel on a Budget

 

 

 

Return to Travel Planning

 

 

Let Us Know What You Think? Comment Here...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest